Archive for February, 2011

East of Eden

Six months ago I devoured John Steinbeck’s mythic tale, East of Eden.  Steinbeck creates fantastic and believable characters in a larger than life sort of way.  He even gives one of his characters a horse named Doxology.  Doxology is only the most amazing name for a horse ever. I really must buy a horse just to name it Doxology.  Anyway, some of you may remember Liza Hamilton.  If not, allow me to introduce you to her.  Liza is a small, strict woman with a rigid set of moral standards.  Life is black and white for Liza Hamilton.  On one occasion, in the book, Liza’s husband Samuel stays out all night hanging out with some neighbors.  Now, Samuel was not out doing anything scandalous but was just out later than Liza deemed appropriate.  The next morning Liza disapprovingly chides Samuel, saying, “Maybe you can find it healthy to rove all night, but the Lord God will do what He sees fit about that.”  Now I am not interested in discussing whether or not the fictional Liza was justified in her conviction.  What I am most interested in discussing is the narrator’s comment immediately after her rebuke:

“It was well known that Liza Hamilton and the Lord God held similar convictions on nearly every subject.” (Penguin Books, East of Eden, 178)

The narrator’s quip is both amusing and illuminating, don’t you think?

I have all too often discovered myself assuming that God thinks similarly to me on a variety of subjects.  If I am in a fight with Colin, I might say something like, “Well, why don’t you pray about that?”  Hmmm, I’m pretty sure that what I really mean is, “I’m going to give you a couple of minutes to testify that you fully agree with me that God is on my side in this argument and not yours.”

Sometimes we get so overconfident in our understanding and knowledge of God that we simply assume all of our opinions are synonymous with His heart.  We seem to think that if only we knew Scripture word for word then all of our thoughts and opinions would be in continuity with God’s own. There are so many problems with this assumption, not least of which is the sin in our hearts that causes us to, at times, misunderstand or misappropriate the Scripture that we have so impeccably memorized.  Now, this is not about disparaging knowing the Bible or memorizing Scripture. This is about resisting the assumption that if we know the Bible well we can co-judge with God.

The other day as I was scrolling down my twitter feed I read a tweet by one of our siestas, Fran Thomas.  She typed the following:

“Just because you have the gift of discernment doesn’t make you right all the time.” And then she wrote in parentheses: “talking to myself.”

Her tweet was a gorgeous reminder and it took me back to the Liza Hamilton in myself. Thanks for that word, Fran, if you are out here in these interwebs today.

The LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. Deuteronomy 10:17

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My Favorite (Fill-in-the-Blank) EVER

(OK, I’m coming back on here about four or so hours after putting up this post so that I can tell you that it turned out to be one of “My Favorite Comment-Sections EVER”! I’m not kidding. You guys are the world’s biggest blast. But, I’m now in the shopping mood again.)

Good Monday Morning, Sweet Things!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and that you were able to observe some Sabbath rest and be still for a few moments, knowing that He is God. I had an usually wonderful weekend with unexpected joys. For starters, this was a weekend off. That means I got to awaken slowly on Saturday with no plans whatsoever then had an impromptu call from Amanda saying that she had a few hours to hang out. Turned out Melissa did, too. (The joys of having her back are too many to count!) As we were trying to think of what we wanted to do (and were shopped out and grossed out at the thought), Amanda said, “Let’s go see Aunt Gay’s new apartment!”  I’m hoping it won’t be long before you get to know my big sister here on the blog. She has a story that might hit those of us presently slogging around in faithlessness with a fresh bolt of lightening. Her boys (25 and 15) also headed over to her new place at the same time and the thought of us all being together was better than a bubbling plate of cheese enchiladas with chili gravy running all into the rice and beans. (Man, I hate that I just did that to myself.) The six of us were inseparable in the early years when my mom, our Queen of Everything, was still alive and in complete control. (I say that with great affection…and without deception.) I have almost as many pictures of my sister’s boys as I do my own girls. Then a whole lot of life happened and that’s a story for another time. We had a blast together Saturday and laughed our heads off, which has always been a Green (my maiden name) family trait. What we lacked in emotional health, we made up for in humor. As my older brother, Wayne, says, we all have a keen sense of the absurd. And I might add, we earned it.

If you only knew the whole story…but, then again, you could say the same thing to me. Some whole stories don’t need to be told in public but they do indeed need to be redeemed. (To me, the line is drawn where the glory to God and the good to the listeners profoundly exceeds the pain of the testimony. If the listener will likely be left with graphic visuals and oppressive thoughts or pervasive sadness, we need to refrain from telling it in detail. In those occasions, generalities are best. We don’t have to tell people everything to tell them an important something. We also have to be very sensitive to the other people – often family members – whose secrets are inadvertently told as we tells ours. These are HUGE issues that need to be worked through with great sensitivity. Mind you, I’m talking about audiences here. I’m not talking about counseling sessions. We do indeed need to find someone trustworthy and mature in the faith, with a gift for counsel, to hear our whole story.) All this to say, if you’re alive enough to read this blog, you’re story is not yet finished and you’ve got time for a really great turn in the narrative that leads to a brilliant finish. I know that for a fact.

OK, can you switch tracks really fast? I thought we’d do something fun today. I was thinking again yesterday while I was putting on my make up and getting ready for church how ticked I am that L’Oreal discontinued the mascara Melissa and I used to use. It was our favorite EVER and no other mascara does lashes like it did. It’s so annoying when that happens. And what a double whammy after my favorite pen got discontinued! Some of you remember that nail biter. No wonder it’s been such a hard year. (Of course, I’m being ridiculous. I don’t want to insult those of you going through tremendously hard times. Like many of you, last year actually was really rough but, oh, that it would have been over pens and mascaras.) I decided it would be fun today to share your favorite ___________ ever. By all means, don’t share something that’s been discontinued or you will dangle a plastic carrot in front of your Siestas. Beyond that, it can be anything! (Suitable to this blog, of course) It can be your favorite mascara. It can be your favorite book. It can be your favorite recipe. It can be your favorite meal. It can be your favorite memory. It can be your favorite song. Share ONE FAVORITE THING of yours (only 1!) with your Siestas today. It may mean that some of us find a new favorite something this very day.

Start it like this: My favorite (fill-in-your-blank) EVER is… (then, for crying out loud, tell us)

I think this is going to be fun. I’ll start with a really stupid one.

My favorite lip plumper EVER is Sally Hansen “Lip Inflation.” It’s dirt cheap and it feels like you’ve rubbed Tabasco all over your mouth. If it plumps like it hurts, move over Angelina.

What’s your favorite something, Siestas??

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2011 Siesta Scripture Memory Team: Verse 4!

Hey, you Scripture-memory buffs! I pray that your verses are bearing fruit and that they’re right there on the tip of your tongue when you’re tempted to say something the polar opposite of God’s will. That’s one of many things I like about memory work. It’s seems out of place to use the same mouth that has been spouting Scripture to spout off a bunch of trash. That doesn’t mean we never do it but it does mean we’re likely to feel miserable over it and think twice the next time.

Two times in a row our SSMT has fallen on a Bible study day so I am forced to be much briefer than I’d like. My heart toward you is bigger than my words, particularly today. Tonight’s lesson is especially pressing because I’m further behind in preparation than I’d normally be if I hadn’t had a taping over the weekend and spent the end of last work-week getting ready for it. Yada yada yada. I am woman, hear me whine.

I bet some of you feel the same way I’ve felt over the last week: too much on your plate. Looking at all of it in one big heap on your desk or your calendar can be demoralizing. Thursday I had one of those days when you can hardly make it to your car after work without bursting into tears. On the way home I felt like God was telling me to humble myself and get the word out that I needed prayer and by the next day I felt a world better. (Some nights you just go to bed early out of love for the people who live with you.) A couple of other things have really helped me today. They seem elementary but, if so, why don’t we ever seem to learn them once and for all? Here’s what they are: Remembering to…

1)   TAKE ONE THING AT A TIME! God’s grace really is sufficient and He really does meet all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. As much as we want to see all that manna heaped up in a mountain of provision a week in advance alongside those upcoming demands, His promise in Philippians 4:19 is to meet each one AT THE TIME WE NEED IT. Thank You, Lord. If we could learn to live in this present moment with this present provision, oh, man, life would be so much less stressful, wouldn’t it?

2)   SAY NO. I have managed to get that most distasteful word for the people-pleasure out of my mouth two times today to people I really, really, really didn’t want to say no to. People I love a ton. People I want very much to please. But the fact is, I don’t have a single other yes in my pocket right now. Not one. For this moment, I am completely bereft of extra yeses. Anybody else? So it’s got to be no. Help us, Lord. We need so much help to say yes to no.

Anyway, that’s not what we’re doing on here today. We’re on here to spout off our Siesta Scripture Memory Team Verse 4!

I am continuing out of the Book of James. This round I’m going with James 3:17 –

Beth, Houston. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical.” James 3:17 The NET Bible (Is that a mouthful or what??)

For any of you who could use some ideas, the alternative verse I’m selecting for today outside of James may as well be the one I mentioned a couple of paragraphs earlier. If you’ve never memorized this one, stick it toward the top of your list. It’s a staple in the mental pantry of the believer.

“And my God will supply your every need according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 The NET Bible

And from The Message:

You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, His generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.

And that is a promise, Sweet Thing. Eyes up. Chins up. Joy up.

And maybe…just maybe…say yes to no.

Just for fun, here are a couple of pictures from Valentine’s dinner last night. We didn’t have the Fitzpatricks with us because they had their own plans for their third anniversary. Can you believe it’s been that long? We missed them but had a ton of fun anyway. Here are two darling couples I got to stare at across the table. I love them each so much.

We are ecstatic to have Travis and Angela in town and the rest of the worship team lands today. They’ll lead us tonight at Bible study. Wooooohooooooo!

Are they darling or what? For any of you newcomers, that’s Amanda, my firstborn, and Curtis, her wonderful man.

This picture didn’t come out well because the lighting was so bright so I did it in black and white and it looked even goofier but, anyway, at least you know I really did go with them to dinner.

And, in case I haven’t yet bored you to utter oblivion, here is one more that Trav took with his phone:

OK, that’s it! If you’re missing my Valentine, he had to be out of town for a work thing but I will see him soon and got beautiful roses and funny text messages all day.

Let’s hear each of your fourth verses, Siestas! Name, city, verse and translations please!

I love you guys.

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Valentines in Siestaville

Hey, Sweet Things!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you and, if you’ve got a romantic interest or a lifelong love, I hope he pays very special attention to you today. If he doesn’t, may he be stricken with a serious case of athlete’s foot before Tuesday morning. (I started to say chafing but then got scared it might mean something that I don’t.)  If you’re not in love, well, maybe you can at least have a laugh on Siestaville today. Keith and I watched one of the Rocky movies for the gillionth time a couple of days ago. They somehow have a hypnotic effect, don’t they? It’s like you really want to turn them off but you can’t. It’s like Rocky won’t win this time if he loses you. It was the one where Apollo Creed goads Rocky into a rematch but Adrian refuses to give him her blessing and thereby smothers the heart of a champion right out of him. Just when it looks as though things could not get worse, Adrian collapses at the pet store where she works and is rushed to the hospital where she gives birth to their first child (with more hair than me) and then falls promptly into unconsciousness.

Of course, Rocky refuses to leave her side and, in a particularly poignant moment, unfolds a piece of paper upon which he has crafted a poem. He leans over her and reads as only he can:

“Remember when we was on ice skates

And I thought you were supposed to be great

But I kept giving you lip

And you kept trying to slip

So I could catch you

That was our first date

And after that, every day was great

So now I want you to know

That wherever you go

Atlantic City or in the snow

Don’t worry about a thing

Cause as long as I got this ring

I’ll always be there to catch you.”

And in no time at all, she wakes up and tells him to whip that scoundrel Apollo Creed. And up thumps the heart of a lion and he sprints to the gym with the eye of a tiger.

A classic.

The Jones and the Fitzpatricks and I had lunch together today after church and Amanda told us that, when she picked Jackson up from Sunday School, she saw a little girl give him a side hug (I loved that part) and hand him a Valentine. A mother to the bone, she could hardly wait to get the Valentine to the car and see what this darling girl-child had penned to her son. I mean, what would a five year-old have to say? Amanda tore off the envelope and, lo and behold, the child had written her ABC’s. It made me impossibly happy.

OK, tell us some funny Valentine stories. If you don’t have one, tell us about the worst date you ever had (if it’s funny in hindsight) but don’t you even think about giving his whole name…unless you married him. That’s game.

I heart every single one of you.

PS. For you in the Houston area, I am so jazzed to have Travis and Angela Cottrell and a big part of our Living Proof Live band with us on Tuesday night at HFBC to lead worship. Trav and Ang are coming in a day early and we’re having Valentine’s dinner together. Can’t wait to lay eyes on them. We’ll see some of you Tuesday night!

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Monday Challenge!

Hey, Sweet Things! God prompted me to throw a Monday challenge out on Twitter early this morning and on my way to work it occurred to me that I should extend it to my dear fellow Siestas. Here’s the challenge: to go through this entire day (starting now, in case it’s a little late) until shutting our eyes on our pillows tonight without a single criticism or complaint. Consider it a deliberate exercise in Philippians 2:14-15. What prompted the challenge was my own feeling that I could get cranky today if I let myself. (I didn’t have room to explain it on Twitter.) I’ve told you before about my sleep issue (it runs in my family of origin and, no, I don’t drink caffeine later in the day) and a lot of days I just shrug it off but somehow, when Monday morning follows a short Sunday night, I feel fussier about it. This morning I could see the handwriting on the wall. I made up my mind to choose joy in the power of Jesus’ Name. While turning those pedals on my exercise bike, I told the Lord out loud that I wanted to make it all day long without voicing one single complaint. I could not believe how quickly my mood improved and I feel as happy as one who’s had 10 solid hours of sleep.

Now, let me quickly say this. I’m not a fan of living in denial. Some complaints are legitimate and NEED VOICING! I already had one of those this morning on a good friend’s behalf who is in rough situation. So, what do you do then? Voice it to God! Lord have mercy, don’t think I’m posing as some huge example here this morning. I’m just asking you if you want to join me in being very deliberate about our mouths and our attitudes today. If you have a valid complaint, take it to God and, if possible, say it to Him out loud. It increases the sense that you really did get it off your chest. Sometimes a silent prayer doesn’t carry the same power as one spoken with passion and holy intent. Make some declarations today so even your enemy knows you mean business.

What do we do if we get to noon having already blown it? START OVER!!! How many times we have to start over helps us see how habitual our complaints may be. We may have no idea that some of the people around us think we’re habitual complainers and perpetual nay sayers. We are also part of a culture that shouts from every corner of social media, “If you think it, say it!” and the discipline of self-restraint is circling the drain. Lastly, it just doesn’t help. Murmuring and complaining and dwelling on how much something or someone annoys us only adds to the bad mood.

Think up, Siestas! Let’s choose joy! And let’s choose it out loud. No time to proof this post and write it well. Lots of work to do but I’m doing it with joy. I’m crazy about you guys and think of you every day.

Jesus loves you. This I know.

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This Shall Turn out for My Deliverance: An Exercise in Intertextuality

Greetings, Siestas!

I am cold.

How are you?

I will have you know that Houstonians have been notified that we have a 70% chance of snow flurries over the next twenty four hours. We are all nestled at home by the fire, awaiting the likes of the Chicago blizzard. The doors of schools and workplaces have been locked and abandoned. Food stuffs have long since been purchased. Shelves are practically empty. In short, we are all certifiably insane.

In other news, on Tuesday night at Bible Study my Mom read out of Philippians 1.19:

For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (NASB)

Every time I hear this verse, a bell starts ringing in my head and it drives me crazy because I can never identify it. But, at last, the other night I finally discovered that the echo is coming from Job 13.16. We can see that the phrase “this shall turn out for my deliverance” in Philippians 1.19 (τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν) finds a word for word correspondence in the Greek version of Job 13.16:

Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him! (NIV)

For those interested, you can see the correspondence in the Greek below:

Philippians 1.19 οἶδα γὰρ ὅτι τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν διὰ τῆς ὑμῶν δεήσεως καὶ ἐπιχορηγίας τοῦ πνεύματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

Job 13.16 καὶ τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν οὐ γὰρ ἐναντίον αὐτοῦ δόλος εἰσελεύσεται.

The Greek versions of the Hebrew Bible are known collectively as the Septuagint (commonly abbreviated LXX). The LXX is overwhelmingly the Bible that Paul uses in his letters. What is fascinating about this instance in Philippians 1.19 is that Paul does not use any introductory formula (for example, something like, “the Scripture says”) to introduce his allusion or echo of Job 13.16.  This discussion is a conversation in intertextuality.  Intertextuality, in simplest terms, is the relationship between texts. So what I am getting at with this particular discussion is, how is Paul using Job 13.16 in Philippians 1.19? If that question does not make sense, think of it this way: what is the relationship between Philippians 1.19 and Job 13.16?

There are several explanations as to what may be going on but here are just a couple of general options:

1) In spite of the verbatim verbal correspondence, Paul has not consciously invoked Job 13.16. It is sheer coincidence and no implications should be drawn about the relationship between these two texts.

2) Paul has uttered the words “this will turn out for my deliverance” in passing, without too much thought. It is noteworthy that we do this all the time, not because we are trying to invoke entire contexts of biblical passages, but because of our familiarization with a certain verse. For example, when we have a friend who has suffered a loss, we might say, “All things work for the good of those who love him” without even realizing we just quoted half of Romans 8.28. Our intention was not to point our friend to the entirety of Romans 8 but simply to quickly apply a very familiar verse to a new and relevant situation.

3) In Philippians 1.19, Paul has intentionally echoed the language and context of Job 13.16 because he is identifying himself and his circumstances with Job, the paradigmatic righteous sufferer who, in his suffering and affliction, hoped in God for ultimate vindication and redemption.

Discussions of intertextuality, like this one, can be quite fascinating and complex since the line between option two and option three is often difficult to discern. If you wish to do so, take a look at the pertinent verses and let me know what you think. First, look at Philippians 1.19 and its surrounding context. Second, check out Job 13.16 (read all of Job 13 if you really want to make the most of the discussion). Finally, go back to Philippians 1.19 and try to discern the nature of the relationship between the two texts.

As a side note, today I forgot my Bible, so I am using one of my Mom’s old ones and it is dated to approximately 1990. The marginal notes are full of stars, exclamation marks, and observations in curly little cursive handwriting and it is making me so happy.

Have a great evening, dear ladies.  Whatever you do, do not make your way to Houston; Chicago, Antarctica, the North Pole, anywhere would be safer than Houston.

Love,

Melis



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2011 Siesta Scripture Memory Team: Verse 3!

HOUSTON AREA TUESDAY NIGHT BIBLE STUDY GIRLS: If by chance we end up needing to cancel tonight over the storms, I will put a cancellation notice right here on the blog so keep an eye on this spot off and on all day. Certainly check it before you set out for HFBC tonight. We love you and want to be wise!

NOON UPDATE FOR TUESDAY NIGHT BIBLE STUDY: As of right now, Bible study is ON for tonight. It will really be cold for us south Texans but it’s supposed to be dry. We are planning on starting the lesson a little earlier and ending it at 8:15. See you there with our coats on!

Now, for SSMT:

Hey, Siestas!

Happy February 1st! Did January fly past us or what?? We’re at least two Scriptures the richer for it, though. I’ve been using my time on my exercise bike in the mornings to practice my memory verses so I’ve mostly only heard myself repeat them gasping for breath. (If you like picturing things, it’s in my garage sandwiched between boxes and stacks of 26 years of Moore paraphernalia and everything else besides an actual car…which is in my driveway. You also might enjoy picturing my Border Collie Star sitting right beside me, fixating on the bicycle pedal as it goes round and round. Bless her poor sweet obsessive-compulsive self.) I might have to haul the bike up there with me to the Siesta celebration next January so I can say them to my partner the same way I’ve practiced them. Or I guess I can just sit on the floor and pump my feet in the air and play like. My partner might have to sit back from me just a tad. And if none of that works, I’ll get my man to haul Star up there to watch me and see if the right conditions are responsible for the recollections. And, of course, they’re not. In John 14:26, Christ says it is the Holy Spirit who reminds us of everything He has taught us so press on! With Him, we can do all things.

Tuesday is Bible study day for us at LPM this time of year so I don’t get to talk long on here today. So, let’s get to it! It’s already time for Verse 3!

As I told you two weeks ago, I’ll primarily be working through verses out of the Book of James for much of this year. I’ll give you mine each time but I’ll also give you an alternative that I really love outside of James in case you need some ideas. Here’s the portion I’m memorizing this time around with my information:

Beth, Houston. “Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:12-13 The NET Bible

I love that last statement. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Aren’t you thankful we have a Savior that feels that way?

The alternative I’ll suggest to you today is on my mind because someone I care deeply about struggles terribly with fear of death. This person isn’t chronically ill. Just oppressed and tormented by possibilities. Maybe some part of this segment might minister to you today.

Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15 The Message)

Anybody “scared to death of death”? These passages are also really rich out of the NIV if you prefer it:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV)

Oh, there’s nothing like the power of God’s Word. And that’s because there’s nothing like the power of God.

You sure are loved around here. OK, let’s have it, 2011 SSMT! Verse 3! (Your first name, city, reference and translation please.)

I’ll talk to you soon!

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