Lalapalooza

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Lalapalooza: an extraordinary or unusual thing; an exceptional example.

In 1883, Henry Bridgeman started a dairy business in Duluth, Minnesota, carting milk from home to home by horse drawn wagon. Fifty-three years later, Henry’s sons, Chester and Roy, decided to strike out on their own and opened the original Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Shoppe. Ever since, Bridgeman’s brand has been known for high quality ice cream in crowd pleasing flavors like Caramelicious, Coconut Commotion and Raspberry Fudge Torte.

They are also renowned for the La La Palooza.

This over-the-top dessert is a sundae made up of eight scoops of ice-cream (two each of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and butter brittle) drenched in decadent caramel, pineapple and strawberry toppings, with handfuls of chopped walnuts, cherries, and sliced bananas and crowned with a mountain of whipped cream.

Anyone who eats a whole Lalapalooza in their restaurant receives a certificate commemorating the feat. Finish off two Lalapaloozas at one sitting and you get both desserts free. Along with a bellyache. And a possible life-long aversion to ice cream.

Grace is God’s great Lalapalooza.

Grace is eight scoops when two would do.
Grace is rich sauce generously poured on top.
Grace is toasted nuts and sweet cherries in syrup.
Grace is bananas at that just-right stage of full flavor.
Grace is a mountain of genuine cream whipped to perfect peaks.

Jesus came to earth full of grace
and poured out His favor on us undeserving rebels.

“From His fullness we all have received grace upon grace.”
John 1:16

Jesus piles on grace
and then more grace.
Grace served
on top of grace.
Grace running over.
Grace dripping down.
He dishes out grace in
huge,
heaping
helpings,
lalapalooza style.

Minus the bellyache.

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This week’s reading: John 1:35-51 (deeper study on John 1:14-18)
Next week’s reading: John 2 (deeper study on John 2:13-22)

Unwelcome

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Imagine you are the matriarch (or patriarch) of a large extended family. You know every person intimately and remember the joy you felt welcoming each new life. The generations make a plan to join together for a family reunion. You look forward to seeing everyone again.

But when you walk in, no one recognizes you. Certainly age could have altered your appearance – a few more wrinkles, a bit stooped over – but the family resemblance is undeniably striking.

They turn to look at you with bewildered faces.
When you say, “It’s me,” they shake their heads and say,
“Who are you? We don’t know you.”

Then all your own people turn their backs on you.
You are not received.
They say, “You are not welcome here.”

You say, “None of you would even be here if it weren’t for me.”
“We don’t believe you,” they laugh.

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Just imagine.

He was in the world
and though the world was made through him,
the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own,
but his own did not receive him.
John 1:10-11

This week’s reading: John 1:19-34 (deeper study on John 1:6-13)
Next week’s reading: John 1:35-51 (deeper study on John 1:14-18)

Something to think about: If Jesus came to your door, would you recognize Him? Would you invite Him in? 

My Top Books of 2019

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Here are a few of my favorite books from 2019.

1. Holy Bible, God
I read the whole thing cover to cover in 58 days. This was a “reader’s” version which had no chapter or verse numbers, so it read like a story. I was amazed at how that changed the reading experience.

2. The Worship Pastor: A Call to Ministry For Worship Leaders and Teams,
Zac Hicks

Zac Hicks was the speaker at a conference I attended in March. I used his book as a basis for our worship team devotions for the rest of the year. He expanded my understanding of what it means to be a worship leader.

3. Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season of Your Soul,
Mark Buchanan

I would read anything Mark Buchanan writes, but this topic is near and dear to my heart so I gobbled it up. He used the seasons of the year to connect with the ups and downs of our spiritual lives. As always, he tells great stories while weaving in solid truths.

4. The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows, James Bryan Smith
We all probably have some skewed ideas about God that we’ve picked up along the way. Smith looks at what Jesus had to say about God to help straighten out our misconceptions. After all, “the most important thing about a person is what they think about God.” He is good and beautiful.

5. Upside-Down Spirituality: The 9 Essential Failures of a Faithful Life, Chad Bird
Bird is another really engaging writer that a friend introduced me to this year. He’s an ex-pastor, ex-seminary professor and current truck driver who challenges his readers to continue the upside-down, countercultural way of life that Jesus presented in the gospels.

6. Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, D. A. Carson
I borrowed this book because of one chapter I wanted to read in preparation for leading our women’s Bible study. Then I read the whole thing. It’s a book of theology for non-theologians like me who just want to better understand the scandalous cross of Christ.

7. Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul,
Hannah Anderson

Another borrowed book from a friend — a community of book lovers is a beautiful thing. I loved the way she used a garden theme to show how to cultivate humility, something sorely lacking in our contemporary culture.

8. Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling and the Mystery of Making, Andrew Peterson
My gold medal book of the year. If you are at all interested in community, creativity, art, and connecting with the Creator, read it. Just read it. Peterson is a gifted writer, songwriter, singer, teacher, publisher, filmmaker and grace-filled lover of beauty. His work is a treasure.

Of the 38 books I read this year, I did manage to squeeze in 12 works of fiction: Dickens, Austen and C. S. Lewis being my favorites.

What were your top reads in 2019?

~She reads books as one would breath air, to fill up and live.~
Annie Dillard

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

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When the four gospel writers set out to write an account of Jesus’ life, they had to decide where to start. Luke began with a detailed narrative of Jesus’ birth story. Mark skipped all that and jumped right in with Jesus as a 30 year old man. Matthew went way back — 42 generations, in fact — to Father Abraham. Each of them had their reasons, based on the audience they were trying to reach.

But John?
He did something very different.
“In the beginning….”
John’s started his gospel by plagiarizing Moses’s opening line in Genesis 1.

John’s point?
Jesus was here in the beginning.
Jesus was here before the beginning.
Jesus was here before the beginning began.

To accurately tell the story of Jesus’ life, John decided to reach back farther than John the Baptist and the Jordan River and the dove.

John comprehended that he needed to push past the immaculate conception and Bethlehem and the manger and the shepherds and the angels.

John understood that he had to venture beyond Jesus’ great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Abraham.

John was compelled to somehow communicate that Jesus is beginning-less, that He existed before time and space and the created order as we know it. So, John started at the very beginning.

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“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God
in the beginning.”
John 1:1-2

Each gospel provides a unique picture of Jesus.
Matthew shows us that Jesus came from the line of Abraham and is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
Mark shows us that Jesus came from Nazareth, portraying Jesus as a Servant.
Luke shows us that Jesus came from Adam, presenting Jesus as the Perfect Man.

But John?
He goes where no gospel writer had gone.
John shows us that Jesus
came straight from heaven,
declaring Jesus is God.

That’s a very good start to 2020.

*My 2020 Bible reading plan will take us on a slow stroll through the first ten chapters of the gospel of John over the next three months. Come along! Treasures await!

This week’s reading: John 1:1-18 (deeper study on John 1:1-5)
Next week’s reading: John 1:19-34 (deeper study on John 1:6-13)
Something to think about: How does Jesus’ eternal nature (no beginning, no end) impact you? 

Keeping Christ

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It seems we really do want Christ around at Christmas time. We do want the baby in the manger and the shepherds and the angels. It’s such a nice story. There’s a longing to hear that story, evidenced by the number of people who come to church once a year on Christmas Eve. Without it, Christmas would simply be a commercial boon to those who want to get into our pocketbooks. Without the nativity, Christmas would become a secular day off because of a fictional man in a red suit. Without Jesus, we’re left with trees and twinkly lights and paper and ribbon. We do want Christ in Christmas — it’s the only way it can mean anything.

But the sign in my neighbor’s yard will come down soon. And it won’t be long before it’s obvious that we don’t want to keep Christ in the rest of the year. Certainly not in the public square. Certainly not in our personal space. Most of us are not too keen on letting that sweet baby who is asleep on the hay, wake up and grow up to rule the world with truth and grace. So the sign comes down and the decorations get put away and we get on with our lives until next year.

Let’s keep Christ in Christmas, yes. But let’s free Him from the manger bed and see what happens when we give Him the right to rule and reign in our lives every day, all year long.

2020 Vision

FOCUS.
That’s my word for the year because, well, 2020.

focus

When I was in 2nd grade I got glasses.

I walked out of the optometrist’s office and said,
“Wow, I never noticed that church steeple before.”

I went to school and said,
“Wow, I can see the chalkboard from the back of the room now.”

I sat down to watch Gunsmoke on TV and said,
“Wow, I don’t have to squint anymore.”

I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing until my first pair of cat-eye glasses helped me focus. The steeple, the blackboard and the TV didn’t change, but my ability to see was altered by those corrective lenses and everything around me changed.

I have a feeling there are beautiful sights in front of me
that I’m not noticing.

Maybe there are lessons for me to learn if I step back
and get a deeper perspective.

It’s likely I’m trying too hard, straining to sharpen
what seems blurred and confusing.

I need the corrective lens of God’s truth to bring perspective and clarity to this nebulous, secular culture. I need the light of God’s Word to distinguish what’s true and what’s false. Most of all, I need to keep my eyes on Jesus.

“Stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith.”
(Heb. 12:2)

This is my prayer for 2020 vision:
“Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth Thou has for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now, I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.”

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2020 Bible Reading Plan

Well, hello there.
Let’s get reacquainted, shall we?
It’s a good time for a fresh start.

plan

I’ve got to have a plan or else I tend to wander aimlessly. A guide helps keeps me on track. I may stumble and fall off at some point during the year, but it’s easy to get back on and keep going. At the top of the home page, you will see an update  — “2020 Bible Reading Plan”.

This year’s plan is a balanced diet of Old and New Testaments.

  • 3 months in the first ten chapters of the gospel of John (Jan.-Mar.)
  • 3 months in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (May-July)
  • 3 months in the historical account of Joshua (Sept.-Nov.)
  • 3 months in the Psalms (Apr., August and Dec.)

Click on 2020 Bible Reading Plan for all the details!

I hope to write weekly reflections based on the readings. Please feel free to share your insights in the comments as well.

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