He Came

Joy to the world, the Lord is come…

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Jesus came to earth
which means
He had to leave heaven.

I’ve been thinking about what it was like for the Father to send the Son off on this holy mission. I’ve been wondering if the heavenly hosts threw a going away party or if He slipped away quietly with little fanfare. I’ve been pondering what heaven was like without Jesus for the thirty-three years He spent on earth.

Did they miss Him? Was something a little “off” in the heavenly realm without the Son? Were the angels on the edge of their seats in the unseen world, watching over the birth, the life, the death? Did the Father count the days until His Son’s return in a glorious, resurrected body?

Jesus left the splendor of heaven
to be born in a barn,
sleep in a pile of hay,
hang with stinky fishermen,
take a lot of abuse,
and be misunderstood.
Why?
For love of us.

How kind of the Father to lend His Son to earth for a time.
How generous of the Son to leave His home to come here.

The return trip can’t be far away.
Let every heart prepare Him room.

He came

10 Things I Learned This Fall

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1. The Byrd’s stole King Solomon’s poem for their hit song “Turn, Turn, Turn” in 1965. Other than the added lyrics, “turn, turn, turn,” the words are straight out of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. I wonder if all those flower children knew they were quoting the Bible. Studying Solomon this fall has been a fascinating look at wisdom and folly. And how they both can reside inside a human being at the same time.

2. Kindness is still alive and well in the world. PB and I watched “The Kindness Diaries” this fall — a Netflix series that records Leon Logothetis’ travels around the world. He takes no money with him and relies entirely on the kindness of others for his food, gas and lodging. What a pleasant surprise to find something uplifting but not cheesy (sorry all you Hallmark channel lovers) on the television. Kindness doesn’t make for a sensational headline, but our hearts are starved for it.

3. Roasting is magic. Put any old vegetable in the oven at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes and it is transformed. Ever since listening to The Lazy Genius spell out the dos and don’ts of roasting, PB and I have upped our veggie intake dramatically. I have a friend who also is genius when it comes to roasting tomatoes. I tried her method — in this case, putting halved tomatoes in the oven overnight at 250 degrees — and then freezing them. Oh my goodness gracious. Chili and goulash this winter will taste extra good.

4. MVP. Need I say more? The last time we played baseball in October, I was expecting my first baby. She’s 35. The Milwaukee Brewers exceeded all expectations and gave us a thrill this fall. Christian Yelich was National League MVP, and did it without any arrogance or swagger. I was ready to hit “send” and buy World Series tickets, but, alas, it was not to be. Next year.

5. In preparation for our winter women’s Bible study, I’ve been trying to figure out what Sabbath means for believers in our time. To Sabbath, or not to Sabbath? Can “Sabbath” be a verb? Didn’t Jesus set us free from the law? Is rest biblical? So many questions. We’ll have seven weeks to dig for answers.

6. There’s more than one way to shoot a buck. On opening day of deer hunting season, PB got his fluorescent orange out of the mothballs, trekked into the back yard, and found himself face to face with a buck stomping the ground with his front hoof. Happily, my man was ready and loaded and got off a great shot. With his camera. He enjoyed his time in the woods and I enjoyed not having to deal with a dead animal.

7. I might move to Iceland. A friend alerted me to the lovely Icelandic tradition of “Jolabokaflod” or “The Christmas Book Flood”. Every Christmas Eve, books are exchanged and then Icelanders spend the rest of the night in bed reading and eating chocolate. Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country. The 4 hours of daylight in December probably has something to do with that. Okay, I might not move to Iceland, but how about a Book Flood right here in the USA?

8. It’s possible to host 25 people for Thanksgiving dinner without a working refrigerator. It helps if the temperature on the back porch is below 40 degrees. Our two-year old fridge went on the fritz back on Oct. 26. Three repair appointments and two compressors later, we are still waiting to move the butter and Cream Soda off the porch steps. All I want for Christmas is a working refrigerator.

9. I like opera. Kind of. If I know someone in the chorus. Our daughter was in a performance with the Madison Opera this fall and I’m still not sure what the storyline was all about, but the staging and the costumes and the music were glorious.

10. Our fair town made national headlines this fall. The good people of Baraboo are picking up the pieces and moving toward healing the hurts from all sides. I learned first-hand the power of the national media to swoop into a town and destroy everything in its wake for the sake of a story. PB and I are learning to be careful when exposing ourselves to social media and national news. When we start feeling anxious, less is better.

In the words of Solomon:
“Get the truth and never sell it;
also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.”
Proverbs 23:23

hello winter

The Message

The guy who wrote the Bible died last month.

I should clarify: the guy who wrote “The Message” version of the Bible passed away in October. His name was Eugene Peterson. Last January, I made a list in my bullet journal of most of the books he wrote, with the intention of one day checking them all off. And then I’ll start over and read them again. He’s that kind of guy.

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As you can see, I’ve only just begun.
Three down, eighteen to go.

One of the things I loved about Eugene Peterson was his humility. He was a brilliant scholar, teacher and pastor, but he never served a church with more than 250 members. It was his belief that a pastor should be able to call every parishioner by name. He spoke forcefully against the “mega-church” movement and “CEO-type” pastors. After years of pastoring and teaching, he went home to Montana where he wrote books and lived in a house without a TV.

Peterson undertook the mammoth task of singlehandedly writing a translation of the whole Bible. It has become a beloved version to many because of its accessiblity to modern readers.

For instance, the Revised Standard Version of Psalm 35:1 says,
“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me.”
Peterson’s rendering in “The Message” reads,
“God, punch these bullies in the nose.” 

It’s fun to read this Bible.
Thank you, Eugene.
Well done.

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“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-3, The Message

This Wobbly World

This week someone dear to me said these words:
“Your world seems to lack a wobble that is so prevalent today.”

Then I went grocery shopping and pushed a cart with a wobbly wheel all around the store. I started paying attention. Lord, what am I to learn about wobbling?

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By the time I noticed the odd roller under my cart, I was in the dairy section, so I decided to push through. My usual glide through the aisles looked like a crazy zigzag as I tried to manhandle the defective cart. Steering around the end caps was particularly challenging. Plus, that loose wheel was noisy, spinning around in circles while the other three stayed the course. More than one sympathetic shopper smiled in my direction.

Why the wobble?
Something got loose in there.
Something made it unbalanced. 

This is a wobbly world, for many reasons. But we keep pushing through. Some days we are able to glide through life, but most days feel defective — like we’re navigating with an unsteady wheel base. Challenging circumstances can put us into a spin that seems out of control. So we try harder and talk louder, adding to the confusing cacophony of culture.

Something is coming loose.
We need to tighten up a bit.
Do more by doing less.
Control the calendar.
Say no to self.
Sit still.

Something is out of balance.
We need to recalibrate.
Every seven days or so.
Put first things first.
Say yes to God.
Rest.

This wobbly world needs a few steady voices, a few balanced souls, a few glimmers of hope. We should be people who can offer more than a sympathetic smile. A little lack of wobbliness might speak volumes.

God will be the stability for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Isaiah 33:6

“Our hope is real and true, an anchor to steady our restless souls.” Hebrews 6:19

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This Is Not Us

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PB and I just finished watching season one of the NBC hit show “This Is Us”. I know — we’re a little late to the party. With season three in full swing, it will be awhile before we are up to speed on the Pearson clan. Don’t spoil it, please. I’m assuming there are many more tragedies in store, many more gut-wrenching, tear-jerking episodes in our future.

The endearing characters have wormed their way into our hearts. The concept of weaving together the generations is intriguing and compelling. The theme of family and struggle and growth really resonates. The Pearsons try hard to build a good life. They make plenty of mistakes and poor choices along the way, but we forgive them and keep on rooting for them. We hope Jack and Rebecca and Kate and Kevin and Randall find happiness.

But when season 1 episode 18 rolled the credits,
I didn’t feel inspired or heart-warmed.
I just felt sad.

Sad because these dear characters are empty —
yet trying so hard to find fulfillment.

Sad because they are all looking for significance and security —
things only a relationship with their Maker can provide.

Sad because they are seeking freedom from painful pasts —
something only God can redeem.

If “This Is Us” is an accurate portrayal of contemporary life in America, then its depiction should cause us to wonder, “What’s missing here?” Because what’s missing in the show is also what is missing in our increasingly secular culture.

If we are believers in the power of the resurrection to heal and bring hope into people’s lives, then we should be willing to display what that looks like to the watching world.

We need to be couples who take hold of each others’ hands and, in humility, pray together about our problems. We need to be families who seek out the direction and support of pastors and spiritual leaders when things get too hard to handle. We need to be people who understand sacrifice and selflessness in light of eternity.

I get it — a drama like this can capture the television viewing public.
But this is not us.

Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ….
without hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 2:12

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, he who formed you:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Isaiah 43:1

The Seed House

corn

I grew up on a farm that raised seed corn. Across the road from our house there was a large building where the dried corn was sorted, bagged and stored. We called it “The Seed House”. On late fall evenings, my dad would go over there and bag corn. He would set a bag on the scale, open the shoot and let those golden kernels pour in, then sew the bag shut. Over and over and over.

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Sometimes I went to the Seed House with my dad. I would watch him for a while, sitting on the ever growing stack of seed corn bags. Eventually, I would wander away to pretend that the warehouse was my castle, or my theater, or my business office. No matter where I went in my imagination, it always smelled of fresh corn and aged wood and good country air.

I don’t live on a farm in the country anymore.
I don’t plant seeds in fertile fields or harvest a corn crop.
I don’t bag kernels or stack bags or fill a warehouse.

But I have a Seed House.

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Years ago, I wistfully mentioned to PB that someday I’d like to have a tiny cabin in the woods. Nothing fancy — just a place to sit with my thoughts, put those thoughts into words and put those words onto paper.

PB doesn’t forget things like that.
He’s the kind of guy who loves to take a dream and make it come true.
He’s been making my dreams come true for years,
but he really outdid himself this time.

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I hope the seed of an idea will germinate in my little cabin in the woods.

Like a good farmer, I will give that precious seed a safe place to land, cultivate it, make sure it has time to grow and hopefully, bring forth fruit.

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“For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer.” 2 Corinthians 9:10

Tomato Wisdom

This week in Bible study we talked about wisdom and knowledge.
Are they the same thing?
Or not?

So, what’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

There were many helpful thoughts on this:

  • Knowledge is a matter of knowing facts. Wisdom is understanding and applying principles.
  • Wisdom is knowing what, how, when, why, where to use the knowledge.
  • Wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective.
  • Wisdom is knowing how to navigate the realities of life when the rules don’t help.

But, by far, the best definition came from a guy named Miles Kington:

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.

Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

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We learn some good stuff in Bible study.

“Wisdom is more precious than rubies.” Proverbs 8:11

(And ruby red tomatoes.)