Archive for the ‘Melissa’ Category

Melissa’s Fall 2008 Top Ten

Greetings blog-land! I do believe it has been months since my last entry and I could not wait another minute to say hello. Seriously, I miss all of you fine women! Unsurprisingly, my Mom has been working me harder than ever before over the past few months. The name of the game has been ‘focus’ and ‘more focus’ and so unfortunately my blog time was obliterated. So, in an effort to catch up with you, I’ve composed a list of my top ten Fall 2008 highlights. You’ll find that they are in completely random order. I know, how predictable, right? So here goes:

1. Living Proof Christmas Pictures. Have I mentioned how awful our Christmas pictures were last year? They were beyond hideous. The weather was so humid in Houston that not even photo-shop could cover the multitude of our hair sins. Well, this year we were determined to have better results. All was going well until my Mom looked at me half-way through and said, in front of everyone, “Melissa, check your barn-door.” This was my Mom’s archaic way of telling me that my zipper was wide open. Yes, apparently, my fly had been open throughout the entire first half of the photo-shoot. So much for earning respect from my fellow LPM staff!

2. Seeing a true Autumn season for the first time in my life. I walked around my neighborhood in Atlanta last weekend with tears in my eyes. The trees were raining leaves in all kinds of glorious colors. I will ponder that moment in my heart for as long as I live, a moment when I was content with merely having a set of eyes to see the beauty of God’s creation.

3. Reading Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright. What a great and refreshing read. Here is just one quote I love, “the Bible isn’t simply a repository of true information about God, Jesus, and the hope of the world. It is, rather, part of the means by which, in the power of the Spirit, the living God rescues his people and his world, and takes them forward on the journey toward his new creation, and makes us agents of that new creation even as we travel” (191). Just a glimpse into this wonderful book.

4. The Siesta Fiesta in San Antonio still makes the list! Not only did I have such a wonderful time seeing many of you in the flesh, but I am still pondering the profound implications that the theme of inheritance has for us as the covenant people of God. I have a feeling that we have barely scratched the surface of that one. What a great time of fellowship, worship, and the Word!

5. Walking into my home in Atlanta last week to find an embarrassing display of flowers and a new sweater from Colin Fitzpatrick. The best part was that it was completely unexpected. I mean, we weren’t in a fight or anything! I never knew that a little bouquet of flowers could mean so much. I’m learning more and more that little thoughtful things make the big things in marriage a whole lot smoother. I love my husband madly and I’ve had so much fun settling down into ‘normal’ life with him.

6. Auditing a Hebrew Reading class. We have translated Deuteronomy, some of the Psalms, and are scheduled to translate some of 1&2 Kings for next week. That is a whole lot of Hebrew, let me tell you! It has been so fun to be back in the formal classroom. My strength as a Biblical Research Assistant would be greatly diminished if I did not keep up with my Hebrew and Greek reading skills.

7. Driving to Macon, Georgia to visit our very own Georgia Jan. She is even more charming in person than she is in blog-world. We ate at a quaint little French-country restaurant called “The Back-Burner.” If you live near there, I strongly recommend it. Georgia Jan is my kind of woman- she can cook and talk some Scripture. A rare woman, indeed.

8. Teaching LIT. My Mom and I have been co-teaching a class for 17-25 year old women. This Bible Study is unlike anything we’ve ever done at Living Proof. For better or worse, I planned and outlined the study. It has been fun to actually see it run its course, in spite of how absolutely over-ambitious it was. I am really proud of my Lit ladies. They’ve paid attention to all kinds of tedious things, including transmission issues, translation theory, and biblical genres. And that is only a start. Just in case you may be interested, we asked them to do the following for their bonus project:

  • Choose any passage (about 5-9 verses) of interest, preferably a passage that you are not overly familiar with.
  • Read the passage several times, at least twice out loud.
  • What book of the Bible is your passage in? Who is the author? Who are the Recipients? What is the occasion and genre of the book?
  • Compare your original Bible translation (whether it is NIV, NASB, etc.) to other translations- use at least three or four translations. Make note of the significant changes/differences in a chart or some other helpful way.
  • If there is a word that sticks out to you in your original Bible translation, use a concordance to do a word study on that word. What is the Hebrew or Greek word that your English translation is rendering? Where else is it used?
  • Are there any topics/places/concepts in your passage that are unfamiliar to you? Use a Bible Dictionary to look up unfamiliar concepts and to answer general questions.
  • After you have done as much of the leg-work as you know how or have time to do, then consult one or two solid commentaries on your passage.
  • Conclude with how these resources contributed to your understanding of the passage. (P.S. I just noticed that I created an outline within an outline. I am annoyed by my own self. Anyhow, I really am so proud of the Lit girls. Some have already turned in their assignments. I could have cried reading one of them today. I was astounded by the spiritual insight. We all bring something important and different to the interpretive table, with our various experiences and backgrounds. It is beautiful. I can’t wait to read the rest of them.)

9. Making the entire Thanksgiving menu in Mid-October for our next-door neighbors. I made my very first Turkey! I labored for two days straight. I stuffed it with fresh sage and quartered onions and all kinds of stuff. I also made two different kinds of stuffings, a traditional cornbread stuffing and an apple-rye stuffing. Both were divine. Did I mention that my husband has gained ten pounds since we got married? Blush. I’m so proud.

10. Waiting in anticipation for my sweet niece that is coming into the world this February! Glory to God in the highest! I got her the cutest little diva boots. I am not sure Amanda went for them, though. Boo. (Amanda says: Whatever! I LOVED them!)

Enough talk about me, though, what the heck have y’all been up to? What have been the highlights of Fall 2008 for YOU? So please, de-lurk and tell me how you are, if only for the sake of proper social reciprocity!

Much Love,
Melissa

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Keeping it Real & Reverence for God

So, I’ve been reading Leviticus. Yep, you read that correctly, Leviticus.

Many of you have graciously inquired in your posts about how I approach biblical research. At some point, I would love to type out a step-by-step process and post it for you, but for now I will simply say that my first step before consulting any biblical resource is always to read the book of the Bible that I am studying in full, all in one sitting. Sometimes I even read the text aloud. I do this because I find that I gain a much better comprehension of the book if I read it all in one sitting than if I break it up into little segments over a longer period of time. After I read the whole book in its entirety a couple of times, I go back and study the chapters, then the verses, and finally the various phrases and words. In brief, my methodology being a very simple-minded woman is to start with the whole so that I can understand the parts.

Well, the last couple of nights I have read Leviticus in full because for the life of me, I cannot remember the last time that I read it. I think it was during my first year at Moody Bible Institute in Old Testament Survey. And mostly I was reading it to get the grade, if you know what I mean. Okay, I was only reading it to get the grade! Anyway…I know reading a book of the Bible in its entirety might sound daunting at first, but ya’ll, Leviticus is only 27 chapters, which means that it took me less than two hours to read it the first time and just a little over an hour the second time. This is not that much time if you think about it, considering we spend at least two-three hours a day feeding ourselves and almost half that much time blow-drying our hair and putting on make-up. If a book can’t be read all in one sitting, then the next best thing is to break it up over two sittings. You get my drift!

Back to Leviticus…Since we are living on this side of the cross of Jesus Christ and are not “Levites” per se and are certainly not camped out in the Sinai wilderness, what relevance does Leviticus have for us? Perhaps the main theme of Leviticus can point us in the right direction as to how we can apply this significant text. In quick summary fashion, the book of Leviticus gives instructions to the Israelites about how to be holy before a holy God, and how to live amongst the people of God and even foreigners in a way that reflects this holiness. The Hebrew noun that is rendered “holy” in our English texts is used in its various forms over 120 times in Leviticus. Since I am a little slow sometimes, I really love it when an author slams a term, phrase, or theme over and over again so that I simply cannot miss it or disregard it. But, what does it mean for God to be holy? I love how one of my favorite professors, Dr. John Walton puts it: “God’s holiness is not a separate attribute but the result of the sum total of all of his attributes- including but not limited to his sovereignty, omniscience, love, and righteousness. Holiness is a term that implies comparison. God is holy in relation to the people he created. When God asks his people to be holy as he is holy, he means we are to maintain distinctions between ourselves and the world around us by imitating God himself” (The Essential Bible Companion, 19).

I am sure there are a number of good applications that we could make from Leviticus, but I can only mention a few that hit me between the eyes as I re-read Leviticus. First, Leviticus reminds us that it takes incredible sacrifice to eliminate or wipe away the effects of our sin so that we can be in the presence of God. Bottom line: Sin is serious. This is convicting to me personally because somehow over time I have worked-up a nonchalant relationship with my sin. For example, when I sin I tend to do so in a way that deliberately predicts the grace that I will receive immediately when I confess. I personally do not have to participate in any intricate process for my sin to be obliterated, so I think to myself, “there is now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus” and that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ (Romans 8). While these things are certainly true, the New Testament reiterates that grace should never cause us to feel some sort of stagnant peace with our sin (see Romans 6:1,15; Hebrews & James, also). As Christians each of us have been given the confidence to enter the “holy place” by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10) and though we may not offer up grain offerings or animal sacrifices like the ancient Israelites did, we do well to recall often that our merciful standing before our holy creator God required the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s flesh. Texts like Leviticus 10:1-3 provide a good corrective to my inappropriate abuse of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. If you don’t have a Bible with you, that text presents two sons of Aaron as offering unwarranted incense before the Lord. Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, were immediately consumed (a.k.a killed) by fire that came out from the presence of the Lord. The Lord’s words that follow directly after this incident give me goose-bumps. He says, “By those who come near me I will be treated as holy, And before all people I will be honored.” And then the text follows, “So, Aaron, therefore, kept silent.”

I’m just relieved Aaron kept silent.

Sometimes we can get so comfortable in our theological constructs that we need to read something shocking to awaken us from our spiritual slumbers. One of the things that the wonderful and legendary Dr. Greg Beale used to say in class at Wheaton was: “Sometimes you need to comfort the afflicted, but other times you need to afflict the comforted.” I have this phrase written in the front page of my Bible because I have found it very useful in my own walk with the Lord. Sometimes I am so broken and so desperate for hope that I need to meditate on a comforting passage in Scripture, but other times these dry bones need a rebuke so that they can dance once again.

My second application is perhaps a little more questionable, maybe even controversial, and has proved difficult for me to form into words. Forgive me in advance for my lack of precision. It tends to characterize my generation more than it does my Mom’s generation. It has to do with my generation’s all-too-often nonchalant relationship to our holy Creator. While I am sure we could exposit this for hours, I just want to give one main example. Lately I have overheard several staunch believers publicly utter words like “I am so ticked off at God” but the word used wasn’t ‘ticked’, if you know what I mean. I’ve heard even more crass statements than that one to describe this same sort of thing but do not feel comfortable quoting these words on a blog because most of them involve swear-words. I am sure you can imagine the type of thing I am referring to. Most of these people connect their confession of anger toward God with “being authentic” and “keeping it real”. I am getting the feeling that there is some sort of underlying and unquestioned assumption that “keeping it real” and “being authentic” means sharing and expressing to others most everything that our soul emotes, even in its darkest and most wicked places. A few times I have actually gotten the sense that some might even parade their anger toward God as some sort of boast of their own authenticity. Something about this makes me unashamedly queasy. One of the reasons crass comments like “I am so ticked off at God” bother me is that they sound suspiciously similar to the rants of the rest of the world which continually condemn God for everything gone wrong, minor or major. We should be set apart from the world, especially in our confessions of God’s faithfulness and justice.

Having said all of this, I do think my generation’s love and passion for authenticity is tremendously commendable, I am just not sure it is always fleshed out appropriately. I think the reason we prize authenticity is because the temptation of the generations before us might have been toward quietly bottling up their anger with God while serving Him ingenuinely in their local churches. But, I guess my question is, in our desire to “keep it real”, “to be authentic”, and to flee far from hypocrisy, are we disrespecting our God? And if so, where is the line?

I don’t think there are any simple answers and I am certainly not out to offer solutions, because I simply don’t have them. I do think, however, that the thin line here lies somewhere between the paradox so eloquently described in Matt Redman’s words in the song “Face Down”. The lyrics go something like this, “Welcomed in to the courts of the King, I’ve been ushered in to your presence…Lord, I stand on your merciful ground, yet with every step tread with reverence.” The paradox that we experience as a Christian is this: we may stand on merciful ground, but we do so ever mindful of God’s other-ness. The paradox gives us the luxury to confidently pour out hearts before our God who is our refuge and with whom we have a personal relationship through Jesus Christ. The paradox, however, never allows us to do so in a crass or unacceptably colloquial manner that undermines the holiness of God. The hard truth is that we are going to endure times that we feel God is absent or even that He is forsaking us in a certain situation but we should be careful how, when, and to whom we verbalize it. Perhaps, in smaller matters that mostly have to do with our distrust in God, we may need to repent of our unbelief. In matters of great disasters that leave our heads completely spinning in devastation, perhaps we should first confess to Him our anger and grief in our personal prayer lives or maybe even with an individual and very trusted accountability partner. He obviously knows when we are angry with Him, so we should confess this to Him, plead with Him, and pour out our hearts to Him in truth, but must we always publicly express our displeasure toward God? Perhaps you have better answers and solutions than I do, but I do fear that our crass expressions may expose our disrespect for an almighty God more than they expose our personal authenticity.

Jesus promised that in this world we will have trouble, so let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10). And when those moments come that we feel abandoned by God, let us take heart knowing that for now we see in a mirror dimly, but there is going to be a day when we will see face to face. Yes, sister, one of these days, we shall know fully (1 Cor. 13:12). God simply has not revealed all of the information we need to be able to judge and assess all the trials in our lives and all the suffering in our fallen world. We may never understand the trials we go through on this side of glory. Consider Job’s sufferings and how he never once knew the reality behind his suffering. We, the readers of Job know why he suffered, but he himself never knew and after forty chapters of questionings and turmoil, all Job could do was utter to God: “Behold I am insignificant…” and “I know that Thou canst do all things…I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…But now my eyes see Thee, Therefore I retract and I repent…(Job 40-42). I believe that when we know in full, we will declare God just and true, and that perhaps we will wish that we hadn’t been so quick to condemn Him for all our earthly trials.

“Great and marvelous are Thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Thy ways, Thou King of the nations. Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE THEE, For Thy righteous acts have been revealed.”
Revelation 15:3-4

Anxiously waiting for ALL of God’s righteous acts to be revealed,
Melissa Moore Fitzpatrick

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While Edouard Drops By Town

Hey, Siestas! While many of you are doing the usual thing, a lot of us in the Houston-Galveston area are holed up in our homes waiting for Tropical Storm Edouard to drop by town. (What was someone thinking? If it’s coming to Texas, it would be more aptly named Tropical Storm Bubba. If you must call it “Edouard,” please roll a very long “r.”) I was planning to take a much needed day off but I’d intended on doing it at the Galleria shopping with AJ while our darling Jackson was at Mother’s Day Out. As it turns out, most of the LPM staff has been instructed to stay home and only a few that live just down the street from the ministry are going to the office. It’s really not a day for getting your shopping bags to the parking lot of a large mall. It’s that kind of day when your umbrella turns inside out (I hate when that happens) and you nearly do the Mary Poppins.

So here we are at the Moore home, rain peppering against the windows: Keith, Amanda, Jackson, Beckham (very large sweet, sweet Golden Retriever), Queen Esther (AKA: Star – 3 month-old very happy, very active Border Collie), Angelina (AKA: Geli, Keith’s 2 month old German Shorthair – ADORABLE and has the cutest antics. She acts a lot like a bucking bronco at this point) and Little Fig (no trouble at all, mostly just causes AJ a few waves of nausea at this point). Curtis is speaking at a camp so he’s missing all the action. Amanda adds: Pics of the puppies are coming soon! They’re on my laptop but it’s at my house.

These are some highlights from the morning:
*Amanda very sweetly and patiently to Jackson at the breakfast table with his fruit cocktail: “Son, when you need to wipe off your hands, can we use a napkin instead of your hair?” (There’s not a bit of fresh fruit in the house. That’s why he had to have fruit cocktail. I hate having to feel guilty. And I hate fruit. Come to think of it, I do have cherries but Amanda swears they were the very things that caused the Great Diaper Blow-out of 2008.)

*It is 10:40 and AJ is on her third breakfast. Amanda adds: First my toast and canadian bacon, then Jackson’s uneaten toast, and finally some Cocoa Pebbles.

*The TV is messing up because of the storm so we’re watching Lion King. Jackson loves it. It only took Amanda a record 17 seconds to start crying. That “Circle of Love” opener gets her every time. Amanda adds: Um, that would be “Circle of Life.”

*I’ve given Jackson some multicolored stick notes to amuse himself and the room is well wallpapered in them. If you really squint, it kinda has that stained glass look. Now Jackson’s mad. A green one is stuck to his heel.

*I’m hungry but I can’t think of what I want to eat. Since Edouard decided to drop by at the very last minute, we just weren’t prepared with the great snacks I prefer for a long hold up. Most of what’s in the kitchen are the extra ingredients we didn’t need for our LPM lunch feast by Melissa last week. Today we can eat all the Ricotta Cheese and dill weed we want. (Don’t call CPS. We have plenty of Jackson food. It’s me I’m whining about.) Amanda adds: I’m not gonna lie. I got excited when I saw Spaghetti-O’s with meatballs in the pantry this morning. That’s what I’ll be having.

We love you. We hope you love us. Especially today. We need love.

UPDATES: (I know you are sitting on pins and needles.)
*Yes, Mr. Ed it is. Very good, Siestas. Very good indeed. I should have thought of that myself. I was late taking my vitamins this morning or I would have.

*Many rousing rounds of hide and seek. Oh, the joy Bibby brought Jackson when she hid in the dog crate.

*Keith went to the store! What a man!!! Groceries galore!! Fruit for the Mister: Grapes, nectarines, strawberries. Snacks for AJ and me: moon pies, stuff for queso. Real food for Keith to actually cook. Ick.

*AJ is eating spaghetti-o’s with meatballs.

Please, stay tuned. This is liable to be a nail biter.

*Yes, that’s exactly what we’ll do with the Ricotta. Almond flavoring and almonds. Yep. Great idea. Y’all are brilliant. I’m not doing that tomato thing though. That would require cooking. And my oven mitt is out on the bike seat.

UPDATE FROM MELISSA IN ATLANTA:
UM, I JUST GOT OFF THE PHONE WITH MY MOM. I ASKED HER HOW SHE WAS DOING AMIDST THE TROPICAL STORM/HURRICANE EDOUARD AND SHE ANSWERED LIKE A THIRTEEN YEAR OLD. SHE SAID, “WELL, I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOO BORED, MELISSA.” AND THEN SHE SAID SOMETHING THAT REALLY SCARED ME. SHE SAID, “OH, AND I JUST BAKED A CAKE.” YOU KNOW WITHOUT A SHADOW OF DOUBT THAT MY MOM IS BORED TO TEARS WHEN SHE BAKES A CAKE FOR NO GOOD REASON. WELL, I GOTTA GET BACK TO MY RESEARCH…SOME PARTS OF THE COUNTRY ACTUALLY HAVE TO GO TO WORK TODAY. LORD, THAT THIS EDOUARD WOULD PASS SO THAT I COULD GET SOME OF MY BRAIN CELLS BACK.

Beth: WELL, THEN ALL OF YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT THE REASON I AM SO BORED IS BECAUSE AMANDA AND JACKSON ARE SOUND ASLEEP AND HAVE BEEN FORRRRRRR-EVERRRRRRRRRR. AND YOU MIGHT AS WELL ALSO KNOW THAT I HOME MADE CHOCOLATE ICING FOR THAT CAKE, TOO. IT LOOKS LIKE THEY’D SMELL IT AND WAKE UP. MAYBE I’LL TRY TO TAKE A NAP, TOO. OR MAYBE I’LL JUST HAVE ANOTHER CUP OF COFFEE.

3:00 PM. Amanda and Jackson still asleep. Watching Rachael Ray. (Why? Because I just baked a cake, didn’t I???) Did you know you can get Ecoli (sp?????) from your purse?

7:40 PM. 20 minutes before Jackson’s bedtime. All three dogs look like very happy drowned rats…and smell like them, too. Keith is watching the hunting channel acting like the rest of us aren’t here. He earned that right after making King Ranch Chicken for all of us for dinner. And used every pan in the kitchen. I’m sending those to Washington State, too. All of our hair looks like lightening struck the house and we were all holding golf clubs. Amanda and I are in the corner of the kitchen floor playing matchbox cars with a two and a half year old who does not appear to be in the remotest ballpark of sleepy. We knew we were descending into delirium when, a few minutes ago, we broke out in an impromtu duet of the 80’s version of “Pass It On” with our best Tiny Tim voices. To which Jackson yelled, “NOOOOOOOOOO!”

Oops. The matchbox car just broke.

Amanda’s having more cake.

It’s the circle of love.

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Melissa’s Soapbox of the day…

If you haven’t gotten the memo…

It is really “hip” to be “green.” To be “green,” for the purposes of this blog entry, is to be environmentally sound or beneficial. There are a million ways that this very fashionable word can be defined, so I want to make sure that I limit the definition. We also need to do that with our revered term “Siesta.” Mom, can you do that? I know you’re hurting for things to do. Now back to the point. Being green is hip. So hip, in fact, that organic produce and spaceship looking automobiles have become the next best thing since white high-top Reeboks and leg-warmers in the 80’s.

These days I never feel cooler than when I walk into “Whole Foods” with my reusable bag made from 80% post-consumer waste. My fellow organic shoppers and I gaze in dismay as “the others” walk out of the store with several brown paper bags that they will undoubtedly throw away after just one use. Gasp.

And as I make my way out of Whole Foods, I sneak away quickly so that none of the other eco-friendly shoppers can see me get into my big SUV with a Texas license plate. I have to be careful exiting the parking-lot, so as not to run over their three-foot scooters. I then make my way back to my apartment, and I sense freedom. I am sure that none of them can see me anymore. I approach my front door, set down my 80% post-consumer waste bag, and I do the following things: 1) I flip on almost every light switch in the house. 2) I drink a bottled water to refresh me from my hard work. 3) I crank up the air-conditioner full-blast. 4) I throw the bottled water in the trash, without even thinking about recycling. 5) I throw away all of the little plastic bags that the fresh produce comes in because I just want the mess out of the kitchen. 6) I clean up everything with paper towels. The really thick kind (only Viva brand). 7) I take a second shower for the day, because I feel gross. 8) I throw a load of two towels in the washing machine and each towel has only been used once.

The dead-honest truth is that after I get my approval-fill for the day at the local Whole Foods, I go right back to my over-consumptive ways. I can only think of one word for this: HYPOCRISY. Big time. Though my husband does not know about my self-righteous and childish behavior at Whole-Foods, he told me a few weeks ago, semi-lovingly, that my answer to most everything around the house is: “just throw it away.” Ouch. That hurts. And the worst thing about it is, it’s true.

Well, the Lord has really been confronting me not only about my wastefulness but also my apathy about taking care of the world I live in. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that when I walked into church on Sunday morning the title of the sermon was “God is Green.” I will say honestly that the title “God is Green” sort of creeps me out. There is something about this blanket statement “God is Green” that I don’t feel comfortable with. I don’t really want to equate anything with the person of God that can be interpreted as a peppy political agenda. It seems like an easy way to claim and market that God is on board with our current passion. I thought to myself, “Perhaps my semantic disagreement with the sermon title can help me be cynical enough not to receive this holy chastening I am about to get…I mean, good grief, my husband has already left me limp.” The problem is that not liking the sermon title did not rid me of the responsibility to listen to the pastor’s words. One thing I always want to be willing to do is to approach the Bible with an open and willing heart, ready to change any actions that are incongruent with what the text says. And I’ve got to admit, this preacher kept his finger in the biblical text, and presented a clear and timely word for Christians to be better and more informed stewards of the earth. Well, conviction came, even in spite of a catchy sermon title. I even went home that Sunday and did some more research about what the Bible says about the relationship between the people of God and the environment.

Here are my top three reasons for wanting to get more informed about how I can do my part. I know there are a million reasons, but these are simply the ones that are most significant to me:

1. Theologically, taking care of the earth is significant because creation is one of the ways that God reveals himself to mankind. The preacher on Sunday equated damaging or destroying the earth to ripping a page of the Bible. His point is this: God reveals himself in creation (Psalm 19), so when a person is a poor steward or caretaker of the earth, he or she suppresses God’s revelation in creation. I thought this was an interesting comparison. Obviously, God’s general revelation in creation is not salvific, so it is not exactly the same as tearing a page out of Scripture, but he certainly has a point. Since people look at the wonders of the earth and often see the beauty of God, not taking care of it is simply foolish. Since God’s revelation through the creation is a sort of apologetic to all of humankind, we need to be careful not to suppress its witness.

2. In the creation account in Genesis, God gives man dominion over the earth. He says, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them rule over…all the earth, and over every creeping thing” (1:26). He then takes Adam into the garden “to cultivate it and to keep it” (2:15). Some have interpreted this sort of dominion language as some sort of beastly mastery over the earth. This is a blatant misinterpretation of the text. As the preacher said on Sunday, “We do not beat the earth into submission.” As Philip Hughes says, “God, in short, gave man the world to master, but to master to the glory of the Creator, by whom man himself, to be truly human, must first be mastered” (Philip Hughes, The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ). The earth remains God’s earth, and we are simply stewards over it. A very important part of our function as human beings then is to carefully rule over the earth as the Lord God would see fit. Stewardship in general is a very significant theme throughout Scripture, especially in the gospels, and should be applied wholistically to each of our lives (see Matthew 25).

3. Christians have been known to argue that since the earth is just going to burn up in the end-times, our efforts to save it are futile. This is not only a very negative application of eschatology, but it is a good example of how our theology affects our behavior. My very favorite professor Dr. Douglas J. Moo has briefly discussed this sort of attitude in an article called “Nature in the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment” that was published in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49 (2006) 449-88. Dr. Moo is in my humble opinion in the very top tier of New Testament evangelical scholars. His point here is that apathetically thinking “the earth is just going to burn up anyway” flies in the face of the “biblical mandate for Christians to be involved in meeting the needs of the world in which we now life”. As Dr. Moo remarks, “I may believe that the body I now have is destined for radical transformation; but I am not for that reason unconcerned about what I eat or how much I exercise…To be sure, our efforts must always be tempered by the realization that it is finally God himself, in the future act of sovereign power, who will transform creation. And we encounter here the positive side of a robust eschatology. Christians must avoid the humanistic ‘Green utopianism’ that characterizes much of the environmental movement. We will not by our own efforts end the ‘groaning’ of the earth. But this realism about our ultimate success should not deter our enthusiasm to be involved in working toward those ends that God will finally secure through his own sovereign intervention.”

So there they are, the top three arguments that beckon me to change my ways, even if it is inconvenient. In case you haven’t noticed, this blog is RANDOM. In many ways, this blog is a reflection of what it is like sitting at the Moore-Jones-Fitzpatrick family dinner table. RANDOM. The conversation goes from the intense to the absurd, the devastating to the triumphant, and the controversial to the mundane, all in record time. Oh and if you get this memo before we run onto the next random subject… don’t just jump on the eco-friendly bandwagon because it’s cool or trendy, but please don’t rebelliously avoid it for the very same reasons. At the end of the day, do it because as Christians we should be at the forefront of those who care for God’s earth. Perhaps acting as good stewards and taking excellent care of this earth for God in the here and now will somehow prepare us for a time when we will reign along with God in the new creation (see Revelation 5:10; 20:6; 22:5). So, if you are like me, a complete dummy when it comes to eco-friendly consumption, let’s take it upon ourselves to learn a little more about caring for God’s earth. I think I’ll start by trying to figure out where the closest recycling center is.

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The Miracle of Divine Revelation

I am not sure how you first came to know Jesus Christ. You may have first heard Him speak to you at an evangelism crusade or perhaps you sensed His immediate comforting presence during a certain extraordinary life experience. I have friends who have witnessed miraculous moments with Jesus Christ and I even have friends who have heard Him speak to them in their dreams. For reasons unknown to me, the Lord has never chosen to communicate with me through these sorts of experiential avenues. And I, in the past, have become a tad envious of those who have experienced God in these phenomenal ways. Please don’t read me wrong, Siestas. I am not questioning if God really does communicate with human beings in these miraculous ways, I ABSOLUTELY believe that He does. I am just saying that I myself have yet to experience Jesus Christ like this.

In brief, I was raised in a Christian home. Yes, I was raised by a woman who I like to call “the- Titus- woman- from-you-know-where” (but I say the word). I heard about Jesus Christ every single day. I was encouraged, if not enforced, to do a “quiet time” at a very early age. And I am so glad that I was but it remained vital for me to actually experience God for myself. So, in High School I began to question if I really “knew” Jesus. It wasn’t that I was living in a bunch of sin at that particular time; it was simply that I did not feel very connected to Him. I didn’t feel in my heart that He communicated with me.

So I called to mind a very basic verse in Matthew that says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). I certainly hadn’t had any exegetical training at that point, but I figured that what this verse meant was that the Lord would communicate with me if I truly sought His face. So I said to the Lord in my teenage heart, “Okay, Lord, I am going to spend the next few months seeking your face with all of my heart and then if I don’t sense your presence, then I really am done with all of this Christianity.”

So what I had intended to be a few months of seeking God through rigorously reading the Bible has become a lifetime passion for me. Yes, even more than cooking. What I found when I read the biblical text was something other-worldly. To me the biblical text was self-testifying. It simply spoke up for itself. I didn’t have to defend it or try to make it sound true, I simply read it and knew it was truth. This skeptic’s heart began to melt like butter. My mind had never been so stimulated, my heart had never been more encouraged, and my own worldly intentions had never been so thwarted. When I read through the pages of the Bible, the Holy Spirit testified to my spirit that I was a child of God. And even today, dear Siestas, when I distance myself from reading the biblical text, I feel my mind beginning to drift. I feel my heart slowly harden and I feel more prone to depression and despair. And not surprisingly so, I begin to feel more intoxicated by the pleasures of the world around me. It is like John Bunyan said, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book”.

One thing that my research of the Book of Esther has taught me is the significance of intentional remembrance. I have purposefully been bringing back to mind my first experiences of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what I remember most: I came to know Jesus Christ when I took the time to read the actual content of the Bible for myself. This is why I have devoted my life to a shameless study of the biblical text. This is why I work for Living Proof Ministries, because we exist to exalt the power of God through the biblical text. We exist to loudly proclaim that “the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

I have been reminded afresh of the wonder of the Scriptures. I have found what my Mom said all of those years to be true. I have found that indeed, “there is no other book like it”. When you sit on your couch with your Bible in your lap, you are a witness to a miracle. This miracle is called Divine Revelation. And the miracle of divine revelation is not a “lesser miracle”; it is not merely what the rest of us “get” by default because the Lord doesn’t have to time to appear in another one of our dreams. There is no greater phenomenon than an almighty and holy God speaking to and through humankind. God has chosen to speak to you, dear Siesta, and to reveal to you the mysteries of salvation history: the knowledge of his glorious Son. Take a minute today to behold the miracle of the written word of God…take a minute to read the very best of all books. Behold and then tell of His glory.

I love you, Siestas, and wish sometime soon we could all have an old fashioned “pot-luck” around a massive round table together.

Melissa

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Mosh Pit

Siestas!

Howdy from Hot-lanta, and when I say “Hotlanta”, I hope you are not sensing any trendy connotation, because I am simply alluding to the miserably hot weather we have had around here as of late. Wow. I didn’t think that a city could get hotter than Houston, but Atlanta is a tough competitor right now. Since newlyweds don’t have a bunch of extra money to spend on cranking up the air conditioning, I have been sleeping with my hair wet to keep me cooler at night! It almost works, y’all!

So, yesterday I got to experience something that I am sure I will not soon forget. Colin and I headed out to go and listen to a good friend of ours preach at the youth service at his church. He is the youth pastor there and since they have a sizable youth group, they have a completely separate worship service. They even have their own building. We walked in and saw a familiar sight- a dark room with bright lights and kids jumping up and down. They actually had formed a mosh pit of sorts in front of the worship band, which was itself composed of students in the youth group.

It was amazing what happened as I made my way to my seat. I began to shut down. Even though it was only seven or eight years ago that I would have easily found myself in their exact positions, I quickly became one of the dreaded frozen chosen. What a bizarre and devastating feeling. All of the sudden I was a spectator in this youth service rather than being a participant. I even began to critique all that I was surrounded by, surveying our younger generation’s heartbeat for Christ to discern whether it was authentic or not. I suppose the older we get, the more power we think we have to take our place in the judgment seat…I had to remind myself that I will never be old enough for that position, for that throne is reserved for none other than the Ancient of Days. In my shame, I thought to myself, “So this is how this happens…this is how one becomes one of the frozen and cynical chosen…and I’m only 25, I’m so doomed.”

Well, I am so glad that I went yesterday to this youth service because I left with conviction, encouragement, and exhortation. After my friend preached a solid sermon out of the book of Esther no less, he exhorted the students to seize the moment to pursue the purpose God had for each of them in such a time as this. He then asked several of the students to make their way to the front to give their testimonies about what God had been doing in their lives.

And then it happened…I was awestruck. A girl, clearly unacquainted with southern church jargon began to describe her recent experience with Jesus Christ. She described herself as feeling completely ecstatic, almost bubbling over with life. She was so overjoyed that she couldn’t even put it into words. She said, “I think about Him (Jesus Christ) all of the time…every second, I just can’t stop thinking about Him. And I am just so tired of being a person that I don’t want to be!”

There it was: trans-generational truth. You see, she was still trying to emotionally recover from the almost too phenomenal realization that Jesus Christ can really change the jacked up person she knows she is in her heart. And I pray that she never does recover from this divine reality. Too many of us do.

Worship styles and preferences change pretty quickly but our need remains the same. Our need for God and the hope that He instills in our hearts, it translates to every generation. I am so glad that students around the world are worshipping God, meeting together and exhorting one another and praising God together in their own contexts. I am so glad that they continue to follow hard after God in spite of frozen chosen adults like me who stand in the crowd with their arms folded, because I think they are doing exactly what Paul exhorted Timothy to do. They aren’t letting people like me look down on them because of their youthfulness, but rather in their speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, they are showing themselves to be examples (1 Tim. 4.12). I am even more thankful that these students have leaders like my friend Jamie who gives his life to point students upward to acknowledge the supremacy of Christ.

Praise God for a younger generation of students who are showing themselves to be worthy examples to some of us who allow our hearts to get a little bit too hard. I am so privileged to be associated with them in Christ. I, too, like my young new sister in Christ am so tired of being someone I don’t want to be. I am so glad that we know that the solution is in Christ. It is for this that she and I will continue to labor and strive, because we both have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men” (1 Tim. 4.10). Well, perhaps I’ll even join the mosh pit with her next time. Okay, so maybe I won’t bodily join the mosh pit, but I will be there in spirit!

Cheers to the only Wise God, the Lord Jesus Christ who gives us hope, and the Holy Spirit who empowers us!

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Airmail from Atlanta

OK, Y’all. I’m not even kidding. A half hour ago I opened a box Melissa overnighted to me filled with home-made goodies. I’m not talking chocolate chip cookies here (but I do like those). I’m talking – are you ready for this? – Russian Tea Cakes, Seasoned Parmesan Cheese Sticks (FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!), and this thing she called an “Apple Crostata.” (Different than that apple tart on her last blog. Did it come from one of your recipes or is she outsmarting us again??) Y’all, as I live and breathe, I have never had a more pleasant taste in my mouth – delicate, crusty, buttery, apple-y – than that darn thing. I stuck it the the oven per her instructions for 15 minutes to reheat it and it came out looking like a French chef’s masterpiece. I took it downstairs to the staff (she sent it to work so it wouldn’t sit all day on the front porch at home) and my LPM sisters and I lost our minds, it was so good. It honestly melted in our mouths with flavors so delicate you had to stand up to eat it. I could taste the slightest hint of orange in it. Don’t know what that was. Orange I guess. (Laughing at my own self.) The Apple Crostata doesn’t throw a party in your mouth like a kickin’ salsa. It offered more of an afternoon tea with Princess Diana, God rest her soul. This is a dessert for the unhurried. For those with a discerning pallet. And mine discerned all right. Mine discerned, “DANG, CHILD! THAT IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I’VE EVER PUT IN MY MOUTH!”

(I just grabbed the dictionary to see if I spelled the right “pallet” that meant taste buds instead of a thing you take to mother’s day out for your three year old. I didn’t spell the right one but I can’t find the right spelling to save my life. I found a word “pallette” but it means an armpit plate from a suit of armor. I sure am glad I didn’t use that word because this post has nothing to do with armpits but it does have to do with plates and with food so good you could work up a sweat. I guess, then, you could use a discerning pallette to keep it covered. Hey, did you know that Paraclete is in the Webster’s Dictionary? I just found it. WOW! Way to Go, Merriam!)

OK. That’s all I wrote to say. I don’t have time for blogging today. But sometimes matters of highest urgency arise and you just have to stop and post.

I hope if any of you Siestas are having a crumby day, it’s coming from a home made Apple Crostata. I’ve gotta go wash my hands now. They’re sticking to the keys. Apple. With a hint of orange.

PS. I’m going to wait just a tad longer to have Melissa deprogrammed from the cooking cult. She’s still studying Scripture between oven buzzers best I can tell.

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Why Do You Worry?

Hey, Darling Siestas!

It’s 4:00 or so on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Keith has gone to play a round of golf with his buddy, Roger Parker, and Beanie and I are sitting out on the back porch. It’s hot but beautiful and I have a ceiling fan on the porch wearing itself out on my humble behalf. I’m having a cup of coffee and Beanie’s trying to have a squirrel. She’s had the hardest time since Sunny died. She’d been really lethargic before she and Keith left town for a few days but when she got back and still no Sunny, she decided to wage a hunger strike. It’s not like she doesn’t know where Sunny is because Keith purposely let her see that he was burying her. The sweet girl’s just never been alone before. Curtis and Amanda let us borrow Beckham (the Golden Retriever version of Clifford the Big Red Dog) last weekend and that helped. Maybe they’ll let him spend some time over here again this week. Until then, we’re throwing out a few handfuls of dried corn to attract squirrels in the yard to fire up some enthusiasm in our depressed birddog. And it’s working. She wants squirrel meat for supper in the worst way. Keith might be a redneck with a spade in the Bluebell but he’s not liable deep fry a squirrel and stir up some brown gravy in the skillet with it. We’re just giving Beanie something to dream about.

This morning in my quiet time before church, I read something that spoke to me and I thought I’d share it with you. Pastor Gregg has our whole congregation go through the same devotional book every year and this year he chose the classic “Streams in the Desert.” (L.B. Cowman) Like many of you, I’ve done it before but not in five or so years and it’s well worth doing again and again. You can tell from the title that it’s geared particularly to people going through very difficult trials and sufferings. If that’s you right now (and I’m so sorry if it is and love you so much), you really ought to look into getting ahold of a copy. Restoration after a deep hurt or loss can take longer than our flesh and blood encouragers can stand sometimes. They can wear out in the length and breadth of our need and, to be honest, rightly so. They were never meant to be saviors for us. A book like this can be used of God to encourage you through a painful time every single day for a solid year. And, oh, what a difference a year makes!

The lead verse for this morning’s entry was Isaiah 28:12. Of God the prophet Isaiah wrote, “He said, ‘This is a resting place, let the weary rest’; and, ‘This is a place of repose’ – but they would not listen.” Here’s a little of what followed (originally written by Charles Spurgeon):

“Why do you worry? What possible use does your worrying serve? You are aboard such a large ship that you would be unable to steer even if your Captain placed you at the helm. You would not even be able to adjust the sails, yet you worry as if you were the captain or the helmsman of the vessel. Be quiet, dear soul – God is the Master! Do you think all the commotion and the uproar of this life is evidence that God has left His throne? He has not! His mighty steeds rush furiously ahead, and His chariots are the storms themselves. (Pause, Siestas, and hear the sound of those mighty steeds in your spirit. Feel their hoof-beats pound in your chest. He’s on His mighty way!) But the horses have bridles, and it is God who holds the reins, guiding the chariots as He wills! Our God Jehovah is still the Master! Believe this and you will have peace. ‘Don’t be afraid’ (Matt. 14:27).”

My favorite line: “You are aboard such a large ship that you would be unable to steer even if your Captain placed you at the helm.” So, we might as well stop trying. Anyway, with the best intentions we’d steer that Titanic smack into the next iceberg with all our loved ones on board. You don’t let your two-year old steer the car no matter how she might kick and scream from the backseat. God’s too wise to let our control issues work out for us. If we keep insisting, He might let us give it a hand for a while but, sooner or later, we’ll hit the iceberg. And the iceberg is He.

Regardless of how convinced we are, God has not placed us in control of our environments nor are we responsible for how everyone is behaving or how things will turn out. He is still God and, yes, even over “this,” whatever your “this” may be. His, Beloved Siestas, is a LARGE SHIP. Something much bigger than we can picture is going on from a God’s-eye view. Our trials are allowed so that Christ may be formed in us and then, through us, serve that greater purpose. Worry always and only forms thicker flesh in us and weights us down until we cannot walk where the Spirit would take us.

I’ve come to learn from God that worry is a waving red flag to the enemy. It is a dead giveaway that the person owning it does not trust God. The shield of faith is down. So fire when ready. Every time we’re tempted to take it all on and worry something to death, let’s say aloud from the depths of our souls, “I choose to trust You, Lord. I choose trust. I choose You.”

Be quiet, Dear Soul! God is the Master! Don’t be afraid.

With dearest love,
beth

PS. Melissa just called me and said, “Mom, be sure and tell the Siestas how proud we are of the ones who tried making the tarts!” So, because I love her and love you, here’s a huge “hats off!” to each of you and especially to Katie and His Treasured Possession for posting links to their pictures! I’m floored at this multi-talented group! And hungry. I think I’ll get off here and go check the fridg for a can of whipped cream.

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Behold Him There – A Post from Melissa

Siestas! Greetings from Atlanta!
First and foremost, I want to say a big thank-you to the many of you who took the time to submit your tried and true recipes to this greedy siesta! They were all wonderful, and I can honestly say that I have tried more than a few already. I believe it was “Warm in Alaska” who submitted the recipe for the roasted sweet potatoes, please correct me if I am wrong. Wow! Who would ever believe that fresh rosemary and crushed red pepper could transform a sweet potato into something heavenly??!!! They were unreal…and to be true to myself, I also had to add a few garlic cloves in the mix. Wonderful, I really could go on and on, but I will stop, for all of your sakes.

I am not sure if I informed you siestas that since I moved to Atlanta, I now work from home. This has brought about quite a few challenges, not the least of which is that I really miss the camaraderie that I have in my co-workers at Living Proof. Well, I have embraced this season of change from the hand of the living God and so have my mind set on staying positive about the minor difficulties. This has been quite difficult since about a month ago, not one but two of my computers were stolen, and then after losing an entire month of work, my brand new printer completely broke down. Now you can see why I am attracted to the kitchen as of late, since apparently my home office has some kind of demon.  I am seriously not exaggerating and this morning I woke up with such intense ambition to tackle my work day with both hands. Well, my BRAND NEW AND PRICEY computer apparently was not ready to wake up, because it honestly took an hour and a half to start the stupid thing. Well, as you can see, I did finally get the computer working, but as for my good attitude, it was completely shot out the window. I realized, after calling my Mom and vomiting my discouragement all over her at 8:30 in the morning, that something was going to have to happen or I was going to be a foul person to be around today.

The good news is that I know what almost always obliterates my bad attitude. This may sound silly, but when I know that I am inconsolable, I listen to the song “Before the Throne of God Above” about three or four times, or however many times it takes to change my bad attitude. I happen to listen to Selah’s version from the album “Hiding Place” but I am sure that there are many good versions of it since it was written in the mid-late 1800’s (written by Charitie Less Bancroft).
To use South Beach Diet jargon, these lyrics are not just white bread; these lyrics contain whole, unprocessed oats. I am humiliated by the metaphor I carved, but I mean seriously these lyrics are heavily saturated with great theological truths. Take a minute to read through them if you will:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there! The risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless, Righteousness
The Great unchangeable I AM
The King of Glory and of Grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God

By the time I get to the third verse in this blessed song (“Behold Him there! The risen Lamb”), I can barely fight the tears back. My mind is always drawn immediately back to the vision that John sees in the book of Revelation of the risen Christ! If I could, I would take all day to break down the many wonderful theological truths that are offered in this song, but since we don’t have all day, I just want to record three of my favorite ones. To begin, the first verse presents Jesus very similarly to the way the book of Hebrews does, as our great high priest who is ever interceding for us. What could be better than that, I ask you? Next, the second verse reminds us of the great doctrine of imputed righteousness- namely, that when sinful man truly acknowledges Christ’s lordship and places faith in Him, that immediately the righteousness of Christ is transferred to his or her account. Truly, one of the major scandals of the gospel message is that just as Adam’s sin is imputed to every human being, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to every believer and subsequently they are being changed into his likeness (Rom. 5:12; 2 Cor. 3:18). What great news! Especially when I have been cursing the computer all morning long!

Lastly, the third verse lifts our eyes to focus once again on the unchangeable I AM, who is equated with the person of Jesus Christ, I might add. Okay, now that we’ve gotten to end of this, there is just one more theological truth I have to mention- our union with Christ Himself! This is one of my favorite doctrines ever! Romans chapter 6 is one of the main biblical sources that we derive this doctrine. I encourage you to read it today, it is just awesome. Our lives are hidden with Christ on high, and we have the privilege of identifying with Him in His life, death, and His resurrection. In a very real way, ladies, we not only died with Christ but the text says we were raised with Him in His glorious resurrection. Our lives are hidden with Him until the future age when we will reign with Him forever in the new creation.

Oh Siestas, take a moment with me to forget about flawed computers and broken printers and behold Him there! The risen Lamb! Our perfect spotless Righteousness! The Great Unchangeable I AM! THE KING OF GLORY AND OF GRACE!

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Older Sisters and Milestones

Hey, My Darlin’ Sistas! Thank you so much for celebrating Melissa’s graduation with us! You are such a blast to do this God-life with! We want you to know that we celebrate God’s glorious work in your family, too. When Amanda and I read your comments, we react over your news just like you react over ours. We wish we could write back personally to every single one. Before I get to what I want to share with you (next paragraph), I need you to humor me for a second while I say something about Melissa’s big sister. Something that Melissa’s big sister is going to want to snap me in half about but I’ll take that chance. Melissa is all of those things Amanda said she is and in addition, she honestly is one of the funniest people on earth. But she will tell you what I will tell you. She has the most incredible big sister on earth. (Amanda, just don’t read the next few sentences.) Amanda Jones is one of the most caring, loving people I’ve ever known. One of the best friends to people I have ever seen. So tender hearted that she would cry with you in an instant. So witty that Melissa and I have to order an extra shot in our Starbucks just to keep up with her quick mind. With your loving patience, I will only take this moment to boast in Christ’s gift to me in these two young women but, in light of what Amanda wrote about her sister, I cannot let the gap go unfilled. Each of my daughters has become indispensable to me in ministry, just as God in His great mercy planned it. (Melissa will soon join Amanda and me at LPM. It is their heritage.) Melissa’s education and experience in the academic world has already (even in the last two Bible studies) had a huge impact on my research and the resources I can access for study. She also has well-surpassed me in formal language studies so I now have a resident assistant who can aid me tremendously in Hebrew and Greek. Melissa will undoubtedly be my greatest help on the research side of what God has called me to do. Amanda, on the other hand, is my greatest help on the other side of any project. I never write anything she does not proofread for me and reflect upon with me. Just as I trust Melissa’s help on the front side of a project, I trust Amanda like no one on earth on the back side. She is my number one editor and my absolutely uncontested number one encourager. They are equally amazing young women – just as I can tell so many of you blog sistas are.

Now, here’s what I want to say: God has been so lavish – so scandalous, for crying out loud – in His outpourings of grace and mercy upon our family. None of us Moores or Jones are the least bit confused about how on earth we arrived at this or any other milestone in one celebratory piece. Jesus. J-E-S-U-S. And He will be the only way we make it to any other. At staff prayer time yesterday, my beloved coworkers were about to burst with enthusiasm to hear every detail about our weekend and Melissa’s graduation. They were so proud for us. I told them something I want to tell you. The beauty of finding yourself at a milestone of any meaningful kind in life is not that the journey there was so pretty. Or so successful. In many ways, the mysterious beauty of the whole thing is that the “getting there” was so awkward, wobbly, inconsistent, and even down-right messy that most of the time, you thought you’d never make it. What makes life on this frightful sod so exquisite is God’s merciful propensity to perform divine tasks amid deeply flawed people. To paint intricate colors on a torn-up canvass. We can recognize a miracle when we see one because we know that, for God to use us, redeem us, or complete one stinkin’ thing of value in us, it would have taken nothing less. That’s what He calls getting the glory.

I don’t know if you happen to be under heaps of discouragement right now over how messy your trip to any place good – even any place “God” – tends to be but I’d like to clear something up. No one does this life-thing perfectly. NO ONE. Not your biggest hero. Your favorite pastor. And certainly not your Bible teacher. At least not this one. No one’s kids grow up perfectly. No one’s marriage is one hundred per cent healthy. No one’s character is beyond wrecking. I don’t care how people around you seem, they do not have it together. At least no one I have met, been around, or known anything about. I know plenty of God-seeking, authentic followers of Jesus Christ with humble hearts and sacrificial service…but not even they are perfect. And if they were, I probably wouldn’t want to have coffee with them. (They wouldn’t drink caffeine anyway.) Don’t misunderstand me. Everyone of us is called to live in victory and authenticity. You’ll never get permission from me to be hypocritical and I never want that permission from you. We must be what we seem. I’m just suggesting we quit trying to “seem” perfect. Because we’re not…and sooner or later people are going to find out. I’d just as soon tell them in advance.

The four Moores have a TON to be thankful for. But not because we’ve done it so well. Because Jesus has. And because He has graced us when we didn’t deserve another chance and held us when we squirmed to get loose.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love,
Here’s my heart. O take and seal it; Seal it for thy courts above.

Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wand’ring from the fold of God,
He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed his precious blood,
/Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love./
O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let they goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to thee”

(Lyrics to the hymn “Come Thou Fount”)

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