Fresh Friday – Devotions

Last year, I decided to make the commitment to read through the Bible within the calendar year. I found out how many chapters there were and divided them by the number of days in a year. The number came out to just under 4/day, so I rounded up to read 4 chapters each day (with Psalm 119 taking up the spot for 2 chapters). I marked them off and plotted it out for the calendar year. With that set-up, it landed me at finishing the Bible just before Halloween. That would give me a whole lot of wiggle room if I missed days throughout the year…which I did. In fact, towards the end, I would frequently skip my readings on Sundays.

I enjoyed my reading times. I fit them in to the 1st half hour of my day – plopped down in the corner of my couch with a cup of coffee and read away. I found some amazing chapters that I hadn’t read before, relived some of my favorite Bible stories, found fodder for research throughout the day, particularly through parts of the Old Testament. Some of it was monotonous -genealogies and the rigid Mosaic laws – but some surprised me as being way more interesting than I gave credit for.  I’m really glad that I did this for the first time. I will probably read through the Bible again at some point in the future. I’ve been trying to break it down a little better so that certain days wouldn’t be so overwhelming and the reading pack would be more equal and spread more evenly throughout the year.  It could be fun to read the Bible in chronological order and not just in the Canon. I’ve even joked about reading through alphabetically! Could be fun.

I used an ESV Global Study Bible and I pretty much used it just for my daily reading, but there are some amazing gems of information in there. I love having a historical context for events and traditions. There are so many things that I don’t understand from the Bible just because I live in a 21st Century developed nation.

Now, I have this allotted time each morning which I could easily fritter away with either more sleep or just mindless perusal on the internet before getting ready for the day.  I started looking for devotionals that I could find online to do each day. It is tough! Crosswalk.com has some devotionals, but as I’ve found over the last week, they are not always updated by the time I have my quiet time. In some cases, they are too story-ish and fluffy for my taste. I want Scripture. I want depth. I want substance, not frills and feel-good.

On instagram, I kept seeing some of my favorite grammers posting screenshots from shereadstruth.com. I went through their “O Come, Let Us Adore Him” plan throughout the Christmas season. I LOVED it! On the mobile app (available on both platforms), they have a great layout. Each day has three pages. The first, Scripture. The second, commentary by one of their contributing writers and a cool square graphic with a key line or verse featured which is easy to share on social media. The third, and probably the coolest, are comments from other women readers from all over! It makes this online devotional accessible, real, and so utterly encouraging as you hear tidbits and gems gleaned by other women who are really not so different from us (no matter what we might believe).

Starting January 1st, they began a study on the Book of John. I’ve only done two days of it now, but I’m already pretty pumped to get through it.  Another AWESOME thing they just unveiled, though, is a 365-day Scripture reading plan! It’s right there on the app and, while some of the studies they offer cost a small fee, this one is FREE and allows comments just like the others. I’m all for more organization, especially when it comes to getting more Bible-reading in your daily life.

How about you?!? Do you have a favorite devotional? What do your quiet times look like? Are you a crazy, earlybird (I know for those who have kids, it might be the only down-time you have) or do you just cram it in whenever you have an opening? I would love to hear how YOU get your daily dose of God and His Word.

And if you are struggling with getting this to happen, I would highly recommend adding She Reads Truth to your daily activities. Also, feel free to check over on the Bible Verse Calendar tab at the top of the page. I am humbled that it has been getting a steady stream of hits each day. It includes free printables for a daily Bible verse calendar – each month represented. Heads up that is is US-based in any reference to holidays in the graphics. I’m not very skilled at design, so please be gracious when you see them. 🙂

Happy New Year!!!

Storytelling – My Grandpa

Storytelling is one of my favorite things. I grew up in a storytelling family, well at least on one side. On my mother’s side, we are Italians, and it seems like Italians are top-notch for storytelling – with our hands, especially. Mom has always been a storyteller. She got it honestly from her parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and passed it on liberally to me and my sisters. Growing up, my sisters told me so many stories of their own memories that sometimes I don’t even know which was a true story, something I experienced myself, or something completely made up. Maybe sometime I’ll share stories on here and have you guess if it was true or not.

On my father’s side, storytelling has never been a strong suit, unless it was related to Bible stories. I have never known much of my family history on that side besides what I or my mother experienced herself. I know some of the high points of my dad’s grandparents. During the war, while Henry was over fighting, my great-grandmother worked with other wives of factory-workers in the jobs they left vacant. Leona, along with the other wartime women workers, were honored for their services eventually. That is most of what I know about them. For a long time, I thought that Henry had been hit by a train (not really sure where that even came from) but actually, he died from emphysema developed from years of factory work. Leona lived to be 97, but suffered from Alzheimer’s.

My grandmother, Ann, passed away just before my husband and I started dating. He never got to meet her, but we have spent some time with my grandfather Ed. Like I said, I never heard stories from their past, not really. I think it subtly led to a disconnect between me and that side of the family because we never had those connections. I seldom ever saw them as anything younger than my parents. I seldom saw pictures of them from before they looked like grandparents. It was bizarre, but I can see now how essential storytelling is for connecting across generations. I always felt closer to my grandparents who lived a whole state away from us than the ones who lived in the same town.

Formals031

On a recent visit with my grandpa Ed, we got him talking about life before my dad came around. Life before and during the war, when everything changed for that generation. He grew up in the city and grandma grew up on a farm. He was 17 when he decided to enlist. He went downtown and had himself the biggest, fattiest meal he could and then went to the recruiter’s office. He took his shoes off to be weighed just like the rest of the guys. The recruiter squinted, told him to put his shoes back on and then said he was within weight. Hah!

Grandpa had had some training with repairing radios and whatnot with an after-school job. When he got on his first ship, the skipper said the radio wasn’t working on-board. He pointed to grandpa and said, “Your file says you have radio experience. Go fix it.” Grandpa didn’t have much of an idea what to do, but he went to look at it. Someone had attached a wrong part and he just twisted it a bit and got it to work. He said that after that, he was pretty much gold. Was promoted two ranks and got a raise!

I don’t think he ever saw combat, but he did have some crazy stories to tell about being on ship.

One night he was on deck and noticed a streak in the water coming straight for the ship. He alerted the Skipper who came over and commented that it was indeed a missile probably fired from a U-Boat. He said it would miss them. They watched it. Watched as it shot straight toward them. Watched as it passed under the ship and went off to the opposing horizon. Watched as it blew up as it came up to the surface. That would be crazy!!

He was on the ship that landed troops on Utah Beach at the invasion of Normandy.  He showed us a picture where he and the other guardsmen were walking on the beach right with their ship. The tide had gone out and left a good 100 feet behind their ship stranded on dry land. They had to wait for a few hours for the tide to come back in before they could get back to sea.  There was a great shot of him in his uniform, leg propped up in front of him and his elbow bent towards his knee. He looked sharp! And really, that picture looked JUST like my nephew currently serving in the USAF. What a neat thing!

These stories were new to me. I am hopeful that I can learn even more from him before he’s gone. I hope that I can glean more stories from my family history.

———-

Today is Veteran’s Day. I am so grateful for those men in my life who have served in the Armed Forces. Whether they saw combat or not, their sacrifice has determined the freedoms I have in life. If YOU have served, are serving, or have a loved one who served in the military, thank you so much!

Fresh Friday – Thoughts Edition (Church Ceremonies)

Coming from the Protestant Christian slant of faith, there is a general distancing from ceremonies or similar terms within the church setting. Some denominations cling to them more readily than others, but it does seem like the idea of “ceremony” has, in general, become an archaic form of worship. Sure, most churches you visit across the nation will have their Baptism and Communion ceremonies, but these are like the minimum requirement.  (I’m going to buffer this with a qualification, though. There are some churches that are making a return to a more regimented, ceremonial format to worship. It’s kind of a new thing, but more of a renewal of an old thing. Dig?)

I’m not going to say that one is wrong and the other right. I think I would be ok with the minimal stated above, but there are some pretty sweet ceremonies that I have witnessed and been a part of over my life. One such is a foot-washing ceremony. That is mostly based on the text from John 13:1-20, and has a lot to do with encouraging humility among the brethren and servanthood and is often part of a commissioning service for those going on the mission field. It was sweet and beautiful and I loved every minute of it.

Another ceremony is one I mentioned, the Commissioning ceremony. This is for those going on a mission trip or into missions as a career choice. There are several aspects of this type of ceremony: typically, Laying on of Hands and Collective/Individual Prayer for the commissioned. I’ve even had my head anointed with oil. This type of ceremony has the purpose of encouraging the ones going to be brave, purposeful, and to have success on their journey. It also is to encourage those sending them out to pray while they are gone and for the hearts of those they will meet. I also really love this type of ceremony. I believe the format for this ceremony and the following is based on Act 13:1-3.

Another, which I recently witnessed and have been to a few times before, is the Ordination ceremony. The purposes of this ceremony is to ordain, order or authorize, an individual for a life-career in ministry. This can be as an elder in the church or as the actual pastor. This type of service can have many facets, but it typically involves the one chosen, a committee who did the choosing, and the congregation to act as witnesses. The committee will state why they think this person is a good candidate and, with the blessing of the congregation, they will lay on their hands in prayer.

I was so excited to find out that a dear friend, the husband of a dear friend, was being ordained this past weekend. In my own church, we had just covered the first chapter of Titus, where Paul is speaking on the qualifications of an elder in the church, so everything was pretty fresh in my mind. Here’s the list:

  • anyone who is above reproach
  • husband of one wife
  • children are believers
  • not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination
  • not arrogant, or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain
  • hospitable, lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined
  • hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, able to give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it.
    (Titus 1:6-9, ESV)

I am proud to say that this all fits my friend to a T (aside from the third point, because his kids are both under 5 yrs old). We discussed in church the meaning of the phrase “above reproach.” This doesn’t just mean that they have a good reputation, but that if anything bad is said about them, it is immediately quelled because everyone knows him to be good. That is something special to be said about anyone. It’s not that this person is perfect, but that in every part of their life, they strive to follow God’s Word and commands. The Huz and I attended another high school friend’s ordination ceremony a year or so ago. It was such a special evening. I feel so blessed to have such friends in my life.

As the ceremony was progressing, I was reminded of how important it is to continue praying for those who are ordained or commissioned for ministry. It seems that when someone is set apart like this, they immediately begin to face spiritual attack. Pray for those in spiritual leadership positions to withstand spiritual attack and keep their spirits up. They have an important task ahead of them – pray for sound wisdom and teaching. That’s a lot of responsibility and they need our support.

As someone who has been on the mission field before, I greatly valued the prayers and encouragement from friends and family back home.

Is there any ceremony in church that you particularly enjoy? It can be one mentioned above or one I missed. I’d love to hear about it!

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Titus 3:1-7, ESV

Philanthropy Under Ice

Let me start this off by saying that I have no real issue with the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. There was a family at my old church who was directly affected by ALS and I think that we definitely need to raise awareness for this disease and raise money for research to fight it.  I think the Ice Bucket Challenge has succeeded at that goal. Kudos to all of you who have participated and donated.

Let me say, secondly, that….I can’t stand being cold. There, I said it. I’m sure everyone who has done the challenge is feeling it. I’m not a big fan of fads, either. I’m fine with others participating in them, but I’m probably going to hold off. I want some time to think about it.

We are also on a budget. I know that if I dumped ice water on me, then I would only be expected to donate $10, which wouldn’t break the bank. But it’s the idea of it for me.  We have so many people telling us where our money NEEDS to go, for bills and such, stuff that we don’t have much option with. The money that we give to charity is precious to us, and we put a lot of thought into it.  At this time, the donation bucket in our home has already been emptied.

So all of that aside, I want to address some things that I’ve noticed with this recent internet phenomenon.

1.  The general public does not read the fine print.

NPR came out with an amazing April Fool’s Day prank this year. They posted an article with the headline, “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?” It was accompanied by the blurb preview of “In an age of readily available information and countless ways to get it, we seem to be losing touch with our powers of comprehension,” and a picture of lines of books on library shelves. The comment section was already filled by the time I got there with incensed individuals across the WORLD who were infuriated that NPR would make such an awful generalization and how little they actually met the purported claim. And yet, they were proving NPR correct by their own comments in a pointed sociological experiment. When you actually clicked on the link, you were directed to a page congratulating you on being a “genuine reader,” and to like the post and to “not leave a comment.”

We are a society where there is so much information available that if we are not fed it in one sentence at the top of our computer/phone screen, with an appropriate picture or video (albeit short), then we’re not going to give it our attention. I am saying “we” because I am so guilty of this too.  I was under the assumption with the Ice Bucket Challenge that if you dumped the water on your head, you did not have to give. But if you didn’t, then you had to give $100. That’s incentive enough to not give, but it still gets the word out about the disease so I figured it wasn’t completely terrible.  I’m glad that I found out it was a tiered donation concept. Whether you participate in the ice bucket, you are donating, little or much. That’s a great fundraising technique!

2. Do you know exactly what you are giving to?

First off, do you think that all the people who are dumping ice water on themselves really know what ALS is?  I feel like I have a pretty good idea about it, but I definitely don’t know all the ins and outs of the disease.  I definitely don’t know all the ins and outs of what “research” means. I’ve been hearing/seeing things about stem-cell research, and that makes me uneasy. I’ve also heard that ALS allows you to designate whether your funds will go to stem-cell research or to other functions (like support/comfort/therapy/etc). So, I’m glad for that option. I would probably give to them since I could make a distinction as to where my funds would go.  Here are some good vids I’ve seen about the disease and challenge:

Are you giving because you know what is going on and you are supportive? Or are you giving because someone nominated you to and now you feel like you’re obligated?

3. Do you give to anything right now?

I’m talking besides ALS research.  As a couple, the Huz and I give our tithe to our church, we give to a couple of radio stations and then also to a handful of missionaries in the US and overseas.  We feel that God gives us financial liberty so that we can be generous to others. We pray about it, we discuss together, we make commitments and we make sure we have extra just in case a need arises. Anything that we have is gifted to us by God. It’s not even ours. God tells us to be good stewards of the blessings He has given us, but not to be stingy with them – and to give cheerfully! If we have the resources, we LOVE to give! It is such a great feeling knowing that we were able to meet a need.

But that’s the difference between the kind of giving we strive to make a habit of and the giving from this campaign. It’s not thought out, it’s not a habit, and it probably won’t stick. I’m not saying that now that you’ve given to ALS, you have to always give to ALS. I’m saying that if we had a habit of giving in our lives, the world would be a better place.

and

4. Giving should most often be something done unseen.

Part of this campaign is that the videos will be seen by many and raise awareness of the disease. I get that. When Human Trafficking was becoming a buzz-word on the interwebs, we were sharing as many videos and articles and cleverly designed gifs as possible to get the issue out there. There is a purpose and that’s inherent to the Ice Bucket Challenge. But for the most part, giving to the needy (and the sick are included in “needy”) should be done in secret, out of the public’s eye.

I’ve been working my way through the Bible this year and I’m currently in the book of Matthew. I just read the other day from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus teaches on principles for giving to the needy:

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:1-4, ESV

This was a problem in Israel, back in the day, where people would make a huge deal over how much money they were going to give to the Temple. It could get pretty wild, a party in the streets – where everyone could see them and oo and aah over it.  Jesus was telling them that the reward for their good deed was received right at that moment. That fleeting moment of fame and adoration was all they would have to show for it. Yes, the money would go to help a need, but that was all the giver would get out of it.  Later in the chapter, Jesus encourages the people listening to store up their treasure (read, “reward”) in heaven and not on earth because it is all fleeting here on earth. In heaven, rust cannot get to it and thieves cannot steal it.

I’m not saying that everyone who is taking part in the Ice Bucket Challenge is doing it just to make themselves look good. I’ve watched several videos, and many of them make mention of someone the participant knows personally who is suffering or has passed with ALS. (Geez…it’s hard to right a blog post about ANYTHING in current events without feeling like you have to cover your tail at every phrase.) I’m just saying that the best way (I’ve found) to give is without anyone else knowing and sometimes even spur of the moment.

Conclusion

So, be mindful of what it is you’re participating in. If you are going to give your money or support to a cause, know it inside and out, as best you can.   There are so many eyes on us nowadays, and we are constantly being scrutinized – be a good steward. But also be giving – to whatever organization or cause you believe is worthy. If you are a Christian, prayerful consideration is a must.

For my part, I will not be participating in the challenge nor giving money. I’ve been nominated, but I’ve also been doing “my part” and sharing videos (like those above) about real people really fighting this disease. My money is already earmarked, but I can definitely join my voice with others to spread the word about this and other worthy causes.

My prayer is that anything you are doing (or not doing) is decided while you have two feet firmly on the ground and with a sound mind.

Bible in a Year

I’ve been a Bible student for most of my life. I was raised in church, so I’ve been learning the Bible stories since I was a little child, and compounding on those learnings with more complexity through my own study and then through Bible college. This is the first time I have really committed to reading the Bible within a year. I was following a more complicated year break-down plan that had me hopping through four different books each day. It just wasn’t to my taste, and I decided that I was just going to read straight through from start to finish. I took how many chapters there are in the Bible (1,189) divided by 365 days, which came to somewhere over 3 chapters a day. I rounded up to 4 chapters a day, just so I could be sure to get through it within the year. It is the 4th day of February and I am already more than halfway through the book of Numbers. I have been learning so much! I would love to share some of what I’ve been gleaning with you today.

There are some things I could share throughout each book, but some have been bouncing around my head for a long while. I’m going share the NEW stuff I’ve discovered. One thing I love about Scripture is that it is God-breathed and living. I can read one verse one day and then read it another day and it has a different application to my life. It’s saying the same thing, having the same truth, but it takes on a new meaning, especially when the awareness of context, or parallel stories, come into play.

Case in point:

I was re-reading in Genesis (Chapter 34) where Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, was raped by a man from a nearby village. The man loved Dinah, though, and wanted to make things right (not sure on the probability of that, but at least he had the intention). Jacob gave him and all the men in the village the option to be circumcised and then they would gladly intermarry with them. Every male conceded to the plan and it was done. While they were still healing, Simeon and Levi went into the village and killed all males and plundered them.

I’ve read this story before, but one thing that struck me this time was which of the two brothers it was who did this thing. I don’t know much about Simeon, but Levi was the “father” of the priests God chose for the Tabernacle and Temple. I know certain stories of my own family heritage – acts of my ancestors – and I am grateful for stories like this that show family redemption. Not saying all the priests of Levi were saints, but God made something great out of that family, which started from a man who was a murderer.

Plagues of Egypt

The book of Exodus is so exciting and eventful in the beginning and then it kind of gets monotonous towards the end. The 2nd half of Exodus and Leviticus can lose casual readers easily. One thing I found interesting in the beginning of Exodus that I had never noticed before was that a couple of the plagues on Egypt included the people of Israel. I had traditionally applied all the plagues exclusively to the Egyptians because they were to prove the inefficacy of the Egyptian gods. After living in Egypt for 400 years and the Israelites’ propensity for following other nation’s gods, it would seem logical that some of the plagues included the Israelites because they had embraced the Egyptian deities. This is extrapolation, but it’s a reasonable conclusion. After the plagues of the Nile turning to blood, the frogs swarming out of the Nile, and the gnats coming out of the dust, Egypt is the sole afflicted nation and Israel is kept separate.

The Golden Lampstand

I’ve not really spent much time studying the articles of the Tabernacle. I’ve been through casual studies of them, but this was my first time really reading through them and their descriptions. The lampstand, in particular, stuck out to me and I reread the description a few times. In Exodus 25: 31-40, the lampstand was described to resemble an almond tree, with blossoms on each branch and as the head for the flames. I had the question in my mind of “Why an almond tree?” Israel is typically represented by the olive tree, so why not here? The first obvious answer would be because of Aaron’s staff that budded, but that isn’t mentioned until the book of Numbers, well after the Tabernacle has been established and in use. Sure, God could have been looking forward to that particular event, to show even more preference for Aaron’s family line as the priestly tribe, but could there be another answer?

I asked several people and got mostly, “I have never thought about it,” or, “Well, what about Aaron’s staff?” and “What have YOU found?” One church member mentioned that he had just read something that might be related in the book of Jeremiah, of all places. In Jeremiah 1:11-12, God asks Jeremiah to say what he sees. Jeremiah sees a “watchful tree” and God confirms his vision by stating that He is watching over His promises to put them in action. Some translations will say that it is an “almond tree” that he sees. This is because the Hebrew words for “watch” and “almond” are very similar, shoqed and shaqed, respectively, and sometimes used as a word-play.  I investigated this some more and found that the Franciscans traditionally held this view. The lampstand represents God’s presence – light helps to see – the almond blossoms would echo God watching the people of Israel. This rings true even more when compared to the passage in Numbers 8:1-4, where it says the lampstand was to be arranged so that the light shone in front of it, or rather, across the holy place to the Table of Showbread. On the Table of Showbread where twelves loaves of bread, each representing a tribe of Israel. This signifies God watching over Israel and keeping His promises.

Saul’s Vow and Jonathan’s Ransom

There are three boys from our church that are participating in something called a Bible Bowl. We called them Bible drills when I was a kid, but surprisingly, I never participated in a formal one – just ones in our own church or at church camp, and they were kind of impromptu events. We’ve been helping the boys study on Wednesday nights, as a church, by reading through the book of 1 Samuel and being quizzed by the pastor altogether. It’s been a blast. I’m such a nerd!

Last week, we covered the story where Saul makes a vow that no one should eat anything until the battle is won or else they would die. This is found in 1 Samuel 14:24-46. Jonathan, Saul’s son, didn’t hear the vow made, and finds honey in the forest. He has some and it “brightens” his eyes and he feels all the better for it. The men tell him what his father vowed and Jonathan says that it wasn’t a good vow and that they should eat because it will keep up their strength. Some other stuff happens, but in the end, Saul finds out that Jonathan broke the vow. He’s distraught, because he will have to kill him, according to his vow, and Jonathan resigns himself to this fate. However, the people rally around Jonathan and pay the “ransom” for him, so that he will not be killed. Then they go fight some more.

I have read this story before, but I missed the “ransom” part of it. I was puzzling over it a bit, when my daily reading the next morning took me through the end of Leviticus, where it talks on Laws About Vows. In it, it states that if someone makes a vow, his life can be redeemed by making a ransom payment to the tabernacle. It’s one way that the Tabernacle could be funded, but there were multiple reasons to pay this ransom to the tabernacle, not just because of a vow. God commanded that the firstborn of everything be His. A person could buy back their firstborn cow, ram, or even son, from God by contributing to the Tabernacle. It thought it was a neat “God-cidence” that I would just happen to read about it the very next day after getting the question.

I’m looking forward to finding more gems as I read through the Bible this year. By the way, with my four-chapters-a-day plan, I should be finished on October 30th. I will have to read 5 chapters that day, but all in all, I think it’s a very good plan. I have the ESV Global Study Bible that I got for Christmas this year and am learning a ton from the maps and footnotes. The intros to each of the books is really neat too. Each one highlights these important points: Authorship and Date, Theme and Purpose, Key Themes, Outline, and then any maps that might be helpful, as well as certain key topics, such as “Place in Redemptive History,” “Universal Themes,” and “Global Message for Today.” I highly recommend this study Bible, but using any study Bible is a tremendous help when reading through Scripture on your own.

7 Months Married- Things I’m Learning

1. Married life is such a blessing. I’m glad I waited for it. I’m glad I went for it too!

2. If you don’t do it, then it won’t get done. My hubby is tremendously helpful, but between the two of us, if we don’t do a chore, it doesn’t happen. Mom will not come to the house overnight and fill the sugar bowl for us. Those knives sitting in the sink will not clean themselves and go back in the holder.

3. If I was prone to laziness before the wedding, it doesn’t change much after the wedding.

4. Having someone else around shows you how many of your activities are exercises in futility.

5. We are each other’s spiritual encourager – we’re still working out the whole “spiritual leader” bit, but right now, encouragement is what is called for.

6.  Division of chores doesn’t have to be assigned by gender, but sometimes it’s for the best.

7.  Status checks are great. It’s always a good idea to know where each other is standing in the relationship and make adjustments accordingly.

8.  It’s ok not to tackle all projects at once. One, it costs too much money. Two, there aren’t enough hours in the day. Three, most projects can wait.

9.  If you do something the other likes more then there’s a good chance they’ll reciprocate when it’s something you like more. Car shows for a pro tennis match is an even trade. 🙂

10. Generosity is something that is not optional. It isn’t just about money; it is the unnamed fruit of the Spirit.

11. Cooking can actually be fun! I’ve always been a baker, but I’m really enjoying the cooking-side of the kitchen. I’m very grateful for a husband who is willing to try anything I make…even if just once.

12. Some TV shows are best shared. But be careful of introducing LOST to your husband’s repertoire…it will cause serial runs of the show for days. How my friends and I managed to wait for a week between episodes is beyond me!

13. Remembering is important. Remembering successes, fun times, bad times, mistakes, etc…that’s a good thing. Dwelling on them and not moving forward is not.

and 14. (because it’s 2014!) Cleanliness may not be next to godliness, but it sure is a good idea!

Time to clean up all this Christmas stuff!!

What all did you learn this last year? I know there is more to this list than just 14, but it’s all I could think of right now.

Christian Halloween Thoughts

I came across a bunch of my newsletters from when I was in Japan. Considering Halloween is fast approaching, I thought it timely to repost this – my thoughts on Halloween as a Christian. This was originally dated 10/29/08. Take it as you will.

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Some of you might not agree with what I am going to say in the following paragraphs, but I hope that you will at least read it with an open mind.  This Friday is Halloween.  People everywhere will be celebrating it, and Japan is as well (although they embrace it because it’s something American, and they don’t really do the trick-or-treating but they do have a lot of parties).  On Sunday, I helped out with a Halloween workshop for some kids near Yamaguchi City.  It was a lot of fun!  I really enjoyed helping them carve the pumpkins and playing the games.  We always celebrated Halloween when I was a kid, and I would even dress up when I was up to high school.  There’s just a fun atmosphere around the holiday.

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Now, I know a lot of people do not like to celebrate it because of its origins.  I completely understand, and if that was what Halloween was in these days as well, then I would not want anything to do with it.  But the truth is that it has changed.  For the majority of people who enjoy it, it is not about worshipping spirits and divination or kidnapping little children and boiling them in stew (although that makes a really good scary story).  It’s the one night of the year that people all over are willing to put down their guard a bit and actually meet their neighbors with their children.

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Some might say, “Well, it’s just not an important holiday for a Christian.  We have Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving…Those days are so much more important for us to celebrate, we can forget about Halloween and no one will hold to our discredit.”  But I want to ask you…do you know your neighbors?  You might know their last names from their mailbox, you know how many cars and kids they have, how late they keep their dog out at night, but do you know how their parents’ health is doing?  Are they struggling to keep their marriage together?  Did they just move here and have no connections with anyone except at their workplace?

I think God has given us a great opportunity.  Most people who are not Christians think that Christians are stodgy and cannot have any fun.  They see a Christian’s closed and darkened house on Halloween and think that they have no interest in the community.  I am sad that I can’t be home this year to hand out candy, to show my neighbors my face so that they can know that I am not some religious freak incapable of real human interaction.  Yes, we know that we are very social creatures, within the safety and protection of our church community, but are you willing to step outside of that and invite some less than savory (or so you think) people into your life…people who are not already following Christ?  There is a special blessing for someone who leads another to Christ.

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Oh, and by the way…I looooove how some churches do the “Trunk or Treat”.  It provides a nice, safe, environment for kids to get candy and play games.  Last year, Mom’s church did that, but we still sat at our home and handed out candy.  As the kids came by, we let them know that they should go over to the church to get a lot of candy.  It was a great way to get people over to the church and see Christians actually enjoying life and in a non-threatening setting.  Just throwing some ideas out there for you…and again, if you don’t agree with this, please don’t hate me.  We have different ideas of evangelism and different people are gifted for different things.  Some of you, I know, do not celebrate Halloween, but you also make it a point to know your neighbors and be involved in your community.  If that’s the case, then good for you!  But if you are a regular “church hermit” and don’t know anything about the people down the street from you, I would just suggest that you should find a way of doing so.  It is a command that Christ gave us – to love your neighbor as yourself.  Can you say you do that?  I know I sure don’t…but it’s something I am working on.

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The Huz and I will be passing out candy this year at The House. I’m super pumped for it! He said that we don’t get many kids down this street, but I am looking forward to it. We never had many kids at my mom’s, but it was worth seeing the kids and neighbors for a little bit. We are all so isolated in America! Ugh, it drives me nuts and yet I perpetuate it all the time.

Halloween costumes last year...Goldilocks and a bear.

Halloween costumes last year…Goldilocks and a bear.

What are you doing for the holiday? Handing out candy? Taking kids around? Doing something with your church for the community? I’d love to hear how you use the holiday to reach out to others.