From Fever to Fervor

Two little verses — that’s all I read.
And then this happened.

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Now, that’s what I call a Bible party.
I usually keep these celebrations private,
but maybe somebody needs to listen in today.
“Put wings to my words and send them to whoever needs them.”

Two little verses — Matthew 8:14-15. “When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.”

Mark’s gospel reports that this happened on the Sabbath. Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James and John were in Capernaum and had just been to church (synagogue). They must have been going to Peter’s house for lunch, after all, he had a wife who could make a mean falafel. Peter might have said, “Hey guys, come on over. My wife won’t mind a bit.” (Holy imagination is at work here. The Bible says nothing about Peter’s wife’s cooking.) Really? Peter was married?

“Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Peter?” 1 Corinthians 9:5

So yes, Peter was married and his wife’s mother lived with them. Did they have any children, I wonder? Did any of the 12 apostles have children? Jesus’ brothers probably had children. Did they refer to the Messiah as “Uncle Jesus”? Ah….probably not. However, at one point, Jesus’ family thought He had lost his mind. Did they ever talk about their crazy uncle? (Time to reign in that imagination.) Back to the story.

Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever — but no one asked Jesus to heal her. Jesus just saw her lying in bed. (Greek word for fever = pyresso, to be on fire.) I’m sure Mrs. Peter was concerned about her mom. Then her husband showed up at lunchtime with four other men (2 were business partners, 1 was her brother-in-law, and one was a preacher.)

Oy vey.

Lunch wasn’t happening with m-i-l down in bed and Mrs. P tending to her. So Jesus went to the older woman’s bed and touched her hand. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t feel her forehead, he didn’t close his eyes and pray a long prayer. He touched her. And just like that, the fever broke. No, the fever fled, disappeared, ceased to be.

What did she do? She did what any good Jewish grandma would do — she got up and started fixing lunch. There were no residual effects of the fever, no decreased energy or lack of strength. She was good as new. (Greek word for “got up”= egeiro, resurrected) This was a mini-resurrection, a foreshadowing, a miracle for an unnamed, insignificant old woman. The dear soul got up and served, which was the only logical response to Jesus’ touch.

What a time they must have had around that dinner table! The ladies hadn’t been in church that morning, so they missed the amazing teaching Jesus gave and the dramatic driving out of an evil spirit. (Mark 1:21-28) Peter and company must have recounted that morning’s unusual worship service to the women. What a day to miss church.

They lingered long over lunch and deepened their relationship with this amazing Teacher. Mrs. Peter was so grateful for her husband’s new friend. Now she could see what drew her man to this Man. He was unlike anyone she ever knew. Could it really be Him? Messiah? Here in her humble home? Eating her falafels?

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I live a fevered life sometimes.
I lie in bed, agitated by concerns and worries about the future.
I burn up with resentment and painful memories from the past.
Jesus sees me lying there, huddled under my burdens.
He touches my hand. I grab ahold. He helps me get up.
My fever is transformed into fervor to serve.

Every morning He resurrects us
so we can be about the Father’s business.

Jesus is aware of the needs
in your home,
in your heart,
in your body.
Ask Him in.
His touch changes everything.

Don’t Spit in the Buffet

I don’t like pickles.
PB loves pickles.
pickles
Especially the variety of pickles some of the ladies at church make.
Say the word “potluck” and PB’s mouth starts watering
for those crispy, crunchy, briny bites.
Not me.
I walk right by the sour, vinegary, pickled cucumbers.

However, my aversion to anything pickled
doesn’t give me the right to spit in the pickle dish as I walk by.
That would ruin it for for any pickle aficionados in line behind me.

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That’s the beauty of potlucks — you get to load your plate with whatever pleases your palate and skip over the dishes that are disliked. I won’t be offended if someone turns up their nose at my pistachio/pineapple/mini-marshmallow salad (you know the one I’m talking about if you’re a Methodist). And the pickle-making ladies in the kitchen won’t feel bad when I pass by their contribution.

In our fellowship hall,
every parishioner’s heart is thrilled
to see tables laden with a plethora of dishes from which to chose.

A good time is had by all, pickle-lovers and pickle-haters alike.

I like to think of the start of our church year as a wide and varied potluck of opportunities. Choir, Bible studies, kitchen crew, help with youth ministries, nursery duty, quilter’s group, teaching Sunday school, attending Sunday school, serving on committees, visiting shut-ins, cleaning the pews, running the sound board, praise band, Supper Club, retreats, Mom’s group, Men’s group, — it’s enough to make your mouth water.

So, step right up, folks.
Heap up your plate with whatever looks appetizing.
But, please, don’t spit in the buffet.

P.S. — Don’t miss the grilled turkey potluck this Sunday!

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10 Things I Learned This Summer

1. It’s okay to stop and start again. It’s also okay to stop and not start again. It’s perfectly acceptable to start something entirely new as well. But I think I’ll just pick up the old thing and keep going like I didn’t check-out all summer long. Any of the above is fine, though, really.

2. Surprising things happen during VBS week. We had a Safari themed VBS in June complete with a giraffe, a giant savannah tree, and a waterfall. And tons of kids. We also had a funeral. A dear saint from our church family passed away and we had no choice but to send him off with a safari themed memorial service. Someday I hope I graduate to heaven during VBS week, maybe with a Beach Party theme.

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3. The best thing about summer is green beans. Well, one of the best things. We grew Blue Lake Bush beans in the garden and we had beans coming out of our ears. Many bags are safely tucked away in the freezer for winter suppers. There is a certain delight in walking through the backyard, picking a handful of produce and eating it while still warmed by the sunshine. Makes me feel extra healthy.

4. Peaches would normally be my best thing about summer, but, alas, the peach truck came with no peaches on board. I huffed and puffed and stomped my way across the parking lot back to my car. As soon as I got home, I wrote an email to the company expressing my displeasure. A few days later, a box of 12 gorgeous Georgia peaches was delivered to my front porch. I forgave the company and ate the peaches.

5. It’s a long road from China to Wisconsin. I ordered a new MacBook Pro and that baby spent six days in transit. I tracked this much-anticipated package and was amazed at the journey it took: China to Hong Kong to Taiwan to Anchorage, Alaska to Louisville, Kentucky to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Florence, South Carolina to Baraboo, Wisconsin. That side trip to South Carolina threw me a little bit. The laptop arrived when promised, though, and in one piece. Good job everyone!

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6. Junk mail sure can be funny. This landed in my mailbox one day and it made me hoot out loud. Even if a cruise was in the budget, I’m not sure I’d go with a bunch of pastors’ wives and leave PB behind. I’m also not sure people in ministry want to go on a cruise as much as they want faith-filled parishioners, prayerful support and enthusiastic service. But then, Jesus did take the disciples on several excursions across the Sea of Galilee, so I guess you could make a case for a Pastors’ Wives Cruise. In February.

7. The Family Talent Show never disappoints. This year we had a wrestling demonstration, sleight of hand card tricks, a dramatic reading from “Ten Apples Up On Top”, a puzzle reveal with the last piece set in place before our very eyes, Opa’s magic tricks, a beautiful song, colorful artwork, and a rockin’ dance party. And I made my ukulele debut with “You Are My Sunshine”. There were no surprise announcements this year, but there was much applause.

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8. I spent my summer studying seals and trumpets and bowls in preparation for a fall Bible study on the book of Revelation. It’s the most exciting, beautiful and mysterious book I’ve ever read. I absolutely can’t wait to go on this wild ride with my Bible study friends. (Spoiler alert: Our Jesus rides in on a white horse at the end. There is fire in His eyes and a crown on His head and a tattoo on his thigh. Then he invites us to supper. It’s gonna be awesome.)

9. You can go back, but it’s a mixed bag of emotions. In August, PB was invited to preach for an event at the church where his dad served from 1972-78, when PB was a teenager. It was fun to see the high school football field where he blew out his knee with 50 seconds to go in the last game of his senior year. It was entertaining to hear PB and his brother reminisce about old friends and mischief they got away with. But the best part was sitting in the audience listening to my man preach a grace-filled gospel to people who only knew him as a goofy adolescent. The second best part was remembering the day we first set eyes on each other in that church in 1974. I was a 14 year old farm girl and he was a 16 year old pastor’s son. It was the start of something good.

10. I read some great books this summer (“Letters to the Church”, Francis Chan; “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way”, Lysa TerKeurst; “A Tale of Two Cities”, Charles Dickens), but they were all written with the same 26 letters of the alphabet. I listened to some wonderful music (“Parallels + Meridians”, Jess Ray; “Music for the Lifegiving Home”, Joel Clarkson; “Hymns Live”, Shane and Shane — especially “His Mercy Is More”) but every song was written with the same 12 musical notes. I guess there is still room for more creative words and tunes in this world. I’ll try to do my part, for the glory of God.

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The Last Shall Be First

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This is the kind of story ESPN loves to throw in their sportscasts.
They’re called human interest stories.
But I’ve never heard ESPN report on church league softball.
They should.
It’s intense.

Emanuel put together a promising team, but our intrepid players came up short week after week. (See above graphic.) You know how teams in the basement are regarded — sometimes with pity, sometimes with disdain. Often, without respect.

But there’s no crying in church league softball.

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So Emanuel went into the end-of-summer tournament
with humility and a hunger to make its parishioners proud.

In the first round of the double-elimination tourney, Emanuel saw its first win of the season, beating St. Joe’s. In the next game, Emanuel lost to Graceway sending the E team to the Loser’s Bracket. Fighting back in the second round, Emanuel knocked off New Life and St. Joe’s. Their confidence carried them into the semi-finals, where they out-dueled Graceway once again. That set up the championship showdown with first-place team, Walnut Hill. Emanuel had to beat them in two straight games to win the trophy.

And they did.
It was one for the ages.
What a way to end the summer!

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“So the last will be first……..”
Matthew 20:16

How to Have a Bible Party, part 4

In this final post on how to develop a personal Bible study time, I’d like to offer three additional steps for those who wish to dig deeper.

A word of advise: these steps are optional and should only be considered after spending time on Reading, Receiving, and Responding. Let God’s Word speak directly to you before researching what other people have to say about it. If you have a study Bible with notes, I’d encourage you to use self-control and avoid reading them until the very end of your study time. When we don’t fight for understanding on our own, the learning process is short circuited. God might give you an insight unique to your situation that you won’t want to miss!

There are three websites I routinely visit when studying a passage:

1. www.biblegateway.com 
Enter the verse you are studying (ex: “Luke 8:22”) in the search bar. Below the verse you will see “Luke 8:22 in all English translations”. Click on the link and 59 translations of that verse will come up. It’s helpful to read other versions to catch nuance and expanded interpretation.

For instance, the Message Version of Luke 8:22 says, “One day he and his disciples got in a boat. ‘Let’s cross the lake,’ he said. And off they went.” Did you catch the difference? It’s subtle! Jesus got them into the boat first before saying, “Let’s go.” How does that impact your thoughts on this passage?

2. app.wordsearchbible.com/reader 
This site will give you access to the original language of the scriptures (Hebrew for Old Testament, Greek for New Testament).
Go to “Library” on the left menu and choose The Holy Bible: HCSB Digital Text Edition. Then go back to the “Reader”. Choose a book, chapter and verse from the drop down menu. Then click on the Greek symbol on the top toolbar. Numbers will be added to the text which you can click on and see definitions and usage.

Example: The word “cross over” in Luke 8:22 has “G1330” above it. Click on that and you will see other words that have that same number and how often they are used in the Bible. Included in the dictionary definition of the Greek word used here is the phrase “pierce through”. How does that aid in your understanding of what Jesus was doing? (He was crossing over the lake in order to pierce through the evil that was on the other side.)

3. www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/guzik_david
This link takes you to a commentary written by David Guzik. There are many wonderful commentaries you can choose from, but I like this one because it explains things clearly and simply. There are cultural and historical insights that we wouldn’t otherwise be aware of without the research and knowledge of other scholars.

Guzik cited this fact about Luke 8:22 — ““The Lake of Galilee is 13 miles long at its longest, and 8 miles wide at its widest. At this particular part it was about 5 miles across.” That helpful information gives details to enhance our study. The disciples rowed for 5 miles while Jesus slept!

Feel free to take or leave these extra study ideas!
I’d love to hear about resources you find!

One last word: Many people love devotionals which contain inspirational thoughts and reflections based on scripture verses. I enjoy them too, and have even written some myself. But don’t let devotionals take the place of focused time engaging with God’s Word. Consider using devotionals in the evening (or in the bathroom!).

Blessings on you as you commit to becoming a student of the Word.
May you find much joy in the journey!

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How to Have a Bible Party, part 3

Enough already. Let’s get to it!

Plan to set aside 15-20 minutes in a place where you can have some peace and quiet.* I’m a fan of early morning because it sets the tone for the day. I like getting in some Good News before being hit with the bad news. I have found that once I turn on the TV or open up the newspaper or look at the news feed on my phone, I have entered the world. My spirit needs some bolstering up before entering that war zone.

My Best Tip for Staying Consistent

This is going to sound deceptively simple, but it is surprisingly effective.

Before going to bed at night, go to your chair or desk or wherever you plan to study, and set out your Bible, notebook, pencil and glasses. Open up your Bible to the passage you plan to read in the morning. That’s it.

There is something about the open book that produces expectancy. When tempted to skip a day and snuggle down into my warm bed for some extra sleep, the image of that book waiting for me is motivating. God is waiting. To speak to me. Treasures abound. I must go.

3 Step Method: Read, Receive, Respond

Let’s walk through an example together.  Let’s say Luke 8:22-25 is your passage for the day. Some Bibles are nicely divided up into sections with headings, but you can take one verse at a time, one paragraph each day or one section per week — whatever pace you want. As you get situated, pray “Lord, open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word.” (Psalm 199:18)

1. Read the passage slowly and deliberately. Try to read it out loud or whisper it to yourself. Then, pick one verse to zero in on and copy it word for word into your open notebook. This helps you see every word and think about the meaning.

2. Receive, or take in the verse by doing 2 things: 1) make an observation, and 2) ask a question. Write them in your notebook. Start with one observation and one question. As you progress, you might make a list of observations and questions. The point is to engage with the words.

Here is Luke 8:22 — One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out.

Possible observations:

  • It must have been a pretty big boat to hold 13 men.
  • They didn’t just take somebody else’s boat – it must have belonged to Peter or James, the fishermen.
  • Jesus was the one calling the shots, in charge.
  • The disciples obeyed without questioning.
  • Jesus had a purpose for going but the disciples didn’t know the reason.
  • One day – Jesus chose the day for this trip.
  • Today Jesus wants me to get into His boat and let Him direct the course.

Possible questions:

  • Why did Jesus want to go to the other side of the lake?
  • What was on the other side?
  • Who did the rowing?
  • Did the boat smell like fish guts?
  • What did the men in the boat see, hear, smell?
  • How far was it to the other side? How long did it take them to cross?
  • Am I willing to get into the boat with Jesus, not knowing where He’ll take me?

The observations are meant to help us enter the scene and connect with the people in it. The questions are to help us dig into the passage. Don’t worry about the answers! Gradually move from the surface to deeper, underlying meanings.

3. Respond by turning your observations and questions into a prayer. You might consider using the acronym A.C.T.S. to give some form to your prayer. Example:

  • A (Adoration) — I praise You, Lord, for knowing where this day is going. You know everything. I love that about You.
  • C (Confession) — I admit there are times when I dig in my heels and don’t want to get in the boat. Forgive me for being resistant.
  • T (Thanksgiving) — Thank You for inviting me to come with You into this day. I don’t know what’s coming, but I know You’re with me. Thank You.
  • S (Supplication) — Help me to trust Your plan, Your purpose. Help me to jump in when You say, “Let’s go!”

There it is. Copy a verse, write an observation and a question, pray a 4-sentence prayer, and you have the beginning of a life-long habit of hearing God’s Word and letting it work its way into your heart and life.

Next Up: 3 Additional Steps to Deeper Study

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*15-20 minutes of peace and quiet are attainable for some people, but not everyone. If you are a mom of a newborn, in a household with several “littles”, or transitioning in life, you are in a season when personal study time is challenging. Grace abounds for you! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Snatching a prayer time during a 2:00 a.m. feeding or singing a praise song in the shower may be all you can manage for now. Someday, bigger blocks of time will come your way. Stay faithful in the small things now!

How to Have a Bible Party, part 2

Where Do I Start?

The old adage, “If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail,” is especially true when trying to develop a personal Bible study and devotion time. It doesn’t need to be a detailed or complicated plan, just a loose guide to help keep you on track. There’s not one right way to do this. Different personality types will be drawn to different methods, systems, or tools. Regardless of your temperament, regular time in God’s Word will prove to be life-changing.

Ephesians 4:16 says, “Grow and build yourself up…” God wants His people to step up and take some responsibility instead of depending on others to feed them spiritually. I’ll offer some suggestions but you can tweak them to fit your preferences. It may take some trial and error and you may want to change things up from season to season. Just start!

Where to start?
Ask God. You might be drawn to a book of the Bible after hearing a sermon or a podcast or a song — follow that lead. If you don’t sense any direction, start with one of the gospels. There’s wisdom in spending time in the gospels. We need to watch Jesus, hear His words, keep falling in love with Him. Some people think the gospels are “JV” material and that studying the deep theology in Paul’s letters is for the mature. I beg to differ. Get a front row seat and watch the Master. Start with Mark (the shortest gospel and most action-packed) or Luke (the only gospel written by a Gentile for a non-Jewish audience).

If you’d rather start with a shorter book, try Philippians, James or 1 John. You can’t go wrong! The main thing is to pick one and go straight through the book, taking a small passage or paragraph at a time. (Details coming in next post.)

There are two methods I would not recommend for personal study.

1. The Flip and Point Method
You are looking for help with a problem, so you flip open the Bible, close your eyes and land your finger on the page. This is not a good plan. This is how cults start because it is easy to take words out of context and make the Bible say anything you want. For instance, if your finger lands on Matthew 27:5 (“Judas went out and hanged himself”) and then for a second swipe at it, you land on Luke 10:37 (“Go and do likewise”), you could make a case for something the Bible doesn’t actually say. Context is key. Stay put in the same book for a while. Soak in it, savor it, take your time.

2. The Read Through the Bible in a Year Method
There is nothing wrong with reading the Bible from cover to cover. It’s just not conducive to lingering over passages and it’s hard to engage with the scripture at the pace required to get through it in one year. This is not a race. Take a long term view. Read slowly and deliberately. Volume doesn’t equal blessing. God want us to enjoy this!

Next: How to Have a Bible Party, part 3
My Best Tip for Staying Consistent
My 3 Step Method: Read, Receive, Respond

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