An Invitation

Hi Friends!

I have something new for you today…an invitation.

Your kids are headed back to school. Most of your life is narrowing into a straighter line, a tighter tunnel. Not so much less busy as it is just more focused: classes, ball games, practices, lessons, homework. Monday through Friday – wash, rinse, repeat.

So, I’m wondering, are you headed into deeper study of Jesus? While your kids are learning the fundamentals of arithmetic, literature and history, are you studying the one and only thing that will fundamentally prepare you to face each next chaotic day, each next difficult relationship, each new phase of parenting or married life?

Several months ago, a very dear friend introduced me to Good Morning Girls, a groud-breaking group of women who have harnessed the Internet in order to internationally declare Jesus and to bring to women everywhere a feeling of community as they study God’s Word.

I am finishing up the training to become a leader/facilitator for the next Good Morning Girls Bible study that starts on September 2. We will be studying in the book of Luke, following the theme, “Loving Like Jesus.” I’m inviting you to join me in this study!

The simplest of explanations: The study is conducted on Facebook. We will have a secret group once all of our participants have joined. Each day you will individually “SOAP” (Scripture, Observe, Apply, Pray) a passage of Scripture. Then, beneath a heading on the Facebook page, everyone will leave their comments about that day’s lesson. There will supplemental, short reading from Good Morning Girls and the authors of the study. The FB group will become interactive as we read each others’ insights, talk on a personal level and share our lives. I’ve done four studies like this now and I love it!

Again, the study starts on September 2, and enrollment, which will allow you to have access to the materials (reading guide and printable book) is from August 19 -September 1. Please let me know here by a comment or email that you would like to participate in my group and I’ll keep you informed with the details.

In the meantime, I wrote this poem today, an overflow of my study in Good Morning Girls, “Women of Influence.”

Faith is an unlikely thing,
In the trembling hands of a prostitute, a crimson cord.
Faith, unlikely in an ancient man to wait another year,
nine months, youthful years.
Faith, unlikely in a puny army,
To route the enemy at the hand of a woman.
Faith, unlikely in the sands of Egypt, the hungry woods,
After nine plagues, after forty years.
Faith unlikely, is an untimely thing.
Forever tardy, slipping in on the last cool breeze,
The dying breath of hope.
Faith untimely after 400 years of Heaven’s stony silence.
Through generations of sunrise, sunset.
Waiting on. Baited breath.
Past a wish. After hope. Often after life.
Faith slips in on the last cool breeze,
Hope’s dying breath.
And grips with one last talon,
The shred of light remaining.
Faith clings till sunrise, one more time,
And sees just a little farther, over the horizon,
And waits…

A Beautiful Wilderness

Most of us can be persuaded that there is some purpose in our pain. Trite, but well-meaning people quote Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good, for those that love God and are called according to His purpose.”

However, as I spiraled through loneliness, anorexia and depressions, I often wondered if I loved God enough for Him to plan good things for me. Perhaps, nothing could work out for me until I learned to express a more pure love for God.

In my pain, I kept making the same mistakes over and over and over. I chose other gods, gods of thinness, popularity, attention, perfection, admiration, fear and selfishness. My intentions became black and blue from abuse. Best laid plans of eating well tomorrow or moderating exercise were dashed with feeble strength. Every single day, I lied again, starved again.

Surely, God had banished me to this wilderness. I could see no avenues of hope, no yellow brick road leading out of my valley of the shadow of death. Perhaps it was simply time to follow the winding, ugly trail into faithless abyss and resignation.

However, I clung to a mirage that if I could by some strange means, clean myself up and present to God a hopeful situation, then He might help me.

“He withdrew to desolate places.”

Wait, you mean Jesus is here? Jesus is in a desolate place too? At least I’m in good company. So I sat down beside Jesus to recount my grievances. Maybe, just maybe, I could convince Him, with His good behavior, to plead my case before God. But, why was He here?

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14

Wait, Jesus, you mean you led me here?

Jesus began to show me how many of His loved ones He had escorted into the wilderness so that it in the silence of a desolate place, they could hear His voice and see Him, unblinded by the chaos, glitter and glare of a seductive world. He spoke of Abraham and Joseph, Moses running from Pharaoh and becoming a shepherd, the nation of Israel, John the Baptist growing up in the wilderness, David fleeing from Saul, Elijah hiding from Jezebel, the disciples in Luke 9:12, Hagar as she prepared to watch Ishmael die and Jesus in His temptation. Jesus even taught in desolate places. (Mark 1:45)

“Do you see, Beloved? I brought you to the wilderness. Just like I was tempted in the wilderness, you have been too. And many, many times you have failed. But I did not. I redeemed every single one of  your failures in anorexia and faithlessness. And now, now you call me ‘My Husband.’ No longer do you call me ‘My Baal’ for all those old idols have been smashed. You no longer even remember their names. In the wilderness, I wed you to me. I betrothed you to me in righteousness and in justice and in steadfast love and in mercy and faithfulness. Now you know me!”

It’s true! In no other place could I have been stripped of all distractions. In no other place could I have so clearly heard His voice. In no other place but the wilderness would I have sat still enough to inhale His grandeur. In no other place could I have committed to Him with such abandon.

Oh my Lord! Other gods besides you have ruled over me, but your name alone I bring to remembrance. Is. 26:13

In the wilderness, I have heard you speak tenderly to me. And you have won my heart.

Traveling with Luke

I’m not even to Chapter 1, and Michael Card has already given me a lot to digest. This week I am reviewing Card’s newest book, Luke, the Gospel of Amazement. Don’t forget to leave your comments this week for your chance to win a copy of Card’s book.

Albeit perfunctory, I admit I was first amazed at Card’s knowledge of the Greek language. The book will appeal to a more educated audience than I expected.

We are still spending some time getting to know Luke as an author. Luke is believed to be the author of Acts, as well. There, he is Paul’s companion through myriad missionary adventures. Without stretching our imagination far beyond the information  we already possess, it is a safe assumption that Luke spent a good deal of time on the road. Indicated by use of the pronoun “we,” Luke joined Paul in Acts 16. From there we follow the pair on an attempted journey to Macedonia. Luke details their stops in Samothrace, Neapolis and Philippi.

This is getting a little confusing (as does the book here) but draw back with me again to the book of Luke. Beginning in Luke 9, fully 40% of his narrative tells of Jesus’ determined journey to Jerusalem. Perhaps Luke enjoyed travel? Luke gives us a sense of urgency not felt in the other gospels. We are going somewhere, and we are intent on our destination. Consider Christ’s purpose, His foreknowledge of His death and His unwavering decision to fulfill His Father’s will.

How will this trivia serve us as we journey through his story?

Card finishes his focus on the Major Themes of Luke by presenting the gospel as a bridge. Just as the imagination is the bridge between the heart and mind, Luke, he says, serves as a literary bridge. Thankfully, Card provides the information we need to make that mental leap. Without the external facts that Michael provides to his audience, it would be dangerous to use our imagination on the Bible.

Luke As A Bridge

1. A literary bridge – some believe that Luke’s gospel was origninally a cover document for a collection of Paul’s letters to be used at his trial

2. A generational bridge – spanning from the first generation of Christian believers (eyewitnesses) to the second generation (those who had only heard of this wonderful Jesus)

3. A bridge between leadership styles – the church being led by one perfect leader, Christ, into the church that is led by many decidedly imperfect leaders, under the direction of the Holy Spirit

4. A bridge between testaments – the Old Testament world in which faith meant waiting in expectation like Simeon, and the world in which having faith means following the Messiah who has come

Interesting, huh?

 

The Amazing Gospel of Luke – A week-long book review

Last night I started reading Michael Card’s new book, “Luke, The Gospel of Amazement.” My interest was piqued when I heard Michael interviewed on In the Market with Janet Parshall.  In case you haven’t noticed, I reference Janet’s show quite often. She is a wealth of information, from current events to book reviews, close looks at biblical prophecy and its impact on today to how to survive our wobbly economy, from estimating the value of your record collection to understanding your family’s dynamics. She is a skilled orator and passionate lover of Jesus Christ. And she’s a writer. In short, she’s the woman I want to grow up to be!

On to the book…

OH, one more thing…don’t miss a day here this week. Like the week-long review of Will Davis’ book, “10 Things Jesus Never Said,” we’re going to take an in-depth overview (oxymoronic, but true) of this book. When you finish reading my blog this week, you are going to have to read Michael’s book. And lucky you! I am giving away a copy of Michael’s book on Friday. So make sure to leave your comments each day so you can be entered in the drawing.

Now, on to the book…

Remember the dazzled, amazed look in a child’s eye when their imagination really gets going? When you’re reading that silly book with talking animals and they look up at you with a query like, “Can dogs really talk?” That’s the purest form of imagination.

Dictionary.com says imagination is: the faculty of imagining, or of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses.

Dictionary.com: Informed: having or prepared with information or knowledge

In Michael’s book he calls on the reader to use his “informed imagination.” My first collision with Michael’s use of the word “imagination” in reference to the Bible, had me concerned. I know people who consider the Bible to be a moralist, fictional story. They believe it was composed by various writers’ lively imaginations and strung together to make a point: live a good life. Fortunately, as I continued to read, that is not Michael’s approach.

The Bible calls upon us to love God with all of our hearts, souls and minds. In secular circles, it is largely believed that Christians employ their hearts and scientists employ their brains. But Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And to keep his commandments, it follows that we must KNOW what they are and UNDERSTAND the person making these demands. So somehow, we must bring our hearts and minds together. Michael says that, “the imagination is the vital bridge between the heart and the mind.” (pg. 13)

Michael calls on readers to prepare their minds with facts about the culture, the geography, the society of the writer’s time (information). Then, to combine this with “mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses” (imagination). As a writer, I hope that people read my work with a mind toward original intent. Obviously, everything I write is predicated on the world around me. The same is true of biblical authors, in this case Luke.

In the introduction, Michael lays out a few basic facts that an informed reader knows about Luke.

1. He was not an eye witness of Jesus’ life.

2. He was a doctor

3. He was a Gentile

4. He was a companion of Paul

There are more, but I want you to read the book! Next, Michael begins linking these facts with social norms like, the relationship between doctors and slaves, (now your curious – right?) how individuals got their nicknames, and why there are so many songs recorded in Luke’s gospel. These aren’t things that are spelled-out in Scripture, but they are logical deductions that help us to engage with the TRUE story of Jesus in the gospel of Luke.

Keep reading!