"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"The Prophet"

It's the end of September already! Wow!

Today I got to talk to my friend who recently left for Germany. Samer will be starting classes next week if all goes as planned. Here is a picture he took by a lake while visiting Ilmenau the other day. I told him I wanted to use it on my blog. I just thought it looked serene and I liked it. Don't you?

In other news, I stomped on crunchy leaves while walking the neighborhood streets this morning. Crunchy leaves are quite fun! But I saw a dead deer on the side of the road, too. Must have been hit by a car last night or early this morning.

This afternoon I was enjoying the fresh autumn air while reading my Bible on the porch. After awhile I got to thinking of a couple of passages my dad wanted me to read. He requested that I read John 5 & 6 and share with him what stood out and what comments or questions that I had. There were several things I brought up to him, but the thing that came to mind this afternoon was this part from the end of chapter 5. This is Jesus talking.

39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

I remember asking my dad how did Moses accuse these religious Jews and what did Moses write about Jesus. (Remember from verse 18 that these Jews wanted to kill Jesus "all the more" because He made Himself equal with God.)

So I was dwelling on this a bit and then remembered from chapter 6 where Jesus had just fed a huge crowd of 5,000 with only two fish and five loaves of bread. And when everyone had eaten his fill, they gathered 12 baskets of leftovers! John records:
13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Could it be that one place where Moses speaks of Jesus is Deuteronomy 18?

18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.

Jesus said in John 10

30 I and My Father are one.” 31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?”
33 The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’? 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”

Do you believe Moses was speaking of Jesus when he mentioned the prophet in Deuteronomy 18? Can you think of places where Moses talked about Jesus?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September Books

Islam: The Religion and the People by Bernard Lewis and Buntzie Ellis Churchill - deals with such topics as the pillars of faith, how Islam differs from Judaism and Christianity, the scripture, tradition and law, diversity and tolerance, Islam as it relates to the economy, dress, women, language and writing, war and peace and other such topics.

The Faith Club
by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner -- three women explore each other's faith; of interest the views of the crucifixion and why the Jewish woman felt threatened by that; after having never learned too much about Jesus how the Jewish woman read stories about Jesus and watched a movie about him and felt she finally met Jesus and had good thoughts about him...Jesus became a "good friend" to her and she told her teenage sons about him; the topic of anti-Semitism and how talking about the Jewish state of Israel brought emotions to a head

Priscilla (Jew) -- struggled with whether or not she even believed in God at times; thought of herself as a "M.O.T." -- member of tribe -- minority in this world; said the
Holocaust was with her and with Jews every day; shared that Israel was important to Jews in case another Holocaust happened -- at least this one nation would accept them

Suzanne (Christian) -- raised as a Catholic in the Midwest, went to NYC and became Episcopalian (more liberal in re: to women priests, priests ability to marry, not hypocritical on areas such as birth control and abortion); found her faith challenged by new doubts after meeting these two ladies; became a bit more "Universalist" (her word) in her approach to who would make it to heaven

Rayna (Muslim) -- non-hijabi, wine-drinking Palestinian who never attended the local mosque because it was too conservative; raised in Dubai, but college educated at Georgetown; lived several years in the US and became US citizen; searching for a faith community where she would not be judged for being a non-traditional Muslim; interesting to read her views on Israel and also how she claims Muslims and Arabs have a "habit" of blaming all of their woes on America

Interesting to hear the Jewish views of the book of life as opposed to the Muslim one. Enjoyed the Yom Kippur service and how Jews prayed for another year of life. No promise of an afterlife in the Jewish faith so they pray for another year and seek to find beauty in each day of life on earth.

My Hope for Peace
by Jehan Sadat -- quote from her on page 171, "I hope I will be remembered as a feminist, an Arab and a Muslim woman dedicated to the struggle for women's rights. I do not want to be remembered as a radical, because I am not. True, I have always expressed my opinions, but I have never been extreme in my views - except when it comes to passivity. I hate watching and waiting as if an injustice can correct itself or an ill of society can discover its own cure." In this book Mrs. Sadat discusses the importance of her faith, her husband's legacy, how pro-women Islam is, a brief overview of Middle Eastern (especially pertaining to Egypt) history since 1948 and her work in America after her husband's death and in recent years.

The Dead Don't Dance
by Charles Martin -- a man tells his story in rural SC as he waits for his wife to awake from a coma. He learns to find God in the struggles of life; fiction

Maggie by Charles Martin -- the sequel to the above-mentioned book. Shares Dylan and Maggie's life after her coma and as they seek to have or adopt a child among other things.

I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires
by Cathy Gohlke -- the fiction story of Robert, a young abolitionist, and his journey to see his uncle in a Union prison and how he helps a wounded Confederate soldier make his way home in time for the Moravian Christmas Eve service and his quest to help the southern branch of his family and return his mother home

My favorite part was Robert's talk with a chaplain working at the Confederate field hospital. Chaplain Goforth said daily he'd hear soldiers from both sides asking God for help and then continued, "What I know is that the Creator of Eternity is not a marionette, thrown this way or that by our arguments or by our blood baths. The question is not whose side is God on, but whose side are we on? Do we stand for God or against Him? Do we stand and serve where we are called or where it is convenient?" (pg. 98-99)

How Did We Get the Bible?
by Tracy Macon Sumner is a short version of how the Bible was transmitted, preserved, compiled, translated and how the printing press transformed Bible distribution.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Turn Your Eyes"

"When we worship God, . . . He is exalted, and our problems shrivel in His presence. 'Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace' . . .

When He is exalted, everything about us -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- is decreased as we focus on Him."

~ Extravagant Worship by Darlene Zschech as reported in InTouch magazine

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Abiding and Following -- how?!

This picture just screams "Wheeee, I'm free!" I have recently felt no such freedom. Rather I was in bondage to my fickle emotions. It's like I just let them drag me down into a sad, irritated, angry, frustrated pit. Can't say I'm fully set free, but I did finally realize that while I can't really control my initial feelings and hurt, I can control whether or not I dwell on those things and allow them to bring me down.

I was allowing that and, boy, was I sinking low. Really very miserable, yet I felt like I couldn't break free from it as it was sucking me down further.

That's why I like those verses I quoted in last night's post. Finally I realized that I have to trust God to lead me along whatever path and purpose in life that He has for me. On Sunday at church I saw the verse again about he who follows Jesus will never walk in darkness. Yet I felt in many ways I was staggering through the dark and I felt at odds spiritually with what I knew to be true. So I've been wondering, "How do I abide in Jesus? How do I follow Him?" He says to follow Him and He will make us fishers of men. And without Him we can do nothing. So we should always abide in Him (John 15.) But how do I do this exactly? Read the Bible more? Pray more? What?

I had the radio on yesterday morning as I was doing things in the house. The words of this song caught my attention especially the first verse. It just seemed to express my heart's cry (or what I want it to be) quite well.

Can You take me by the hand
Can You use me as I am
Break me into who You want me to be

When the time is finally right
Will You open up my eyes
Show me everything You want me to see

This life is not my own

To God alone be the glory
To God alone be the praise
Everything I say and do
Let it be all for You
The glory is Yours alone
Yours alone

To God Alone
by Aaron Shust

Reminds me of Psalm 19:14. What a prayer!

"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"The Light of Life"

Psalm 37

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the LORD upholds him with His hand.

Proverbs 3

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

John 8:12

12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

I don't know about you, but I like the idea of never walking in darkness and having the "light of life." I would love for God to delight in my life! Kind of reminds me of a baby taking his first steps and then watching the child grow older and learning. Fascinating and, yes, delightful seeing them learning about new things. I wonder if our Heavenly Father is the same way about His children.

Just some thoughts on my mind. What do you think the "light of life" is?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Michael - CFA and B&N

Michael in May 2009
Myrtle Beach

Last Monday I decided to take Michael to Chick-fil-A and Barnes & Noble since most of our outings here lately had been only to see Mema and Pop. I picked him up after he finished most of his school work, and we headed to CFA for the first time in a long while! I had one of those calendar coupons so the 8-piece chicken nuggets were free. I bought some waffle fries and a Dr. Pepper for him and got ice water for myself. He told me he loved salt so he was glad to see salt crystals on his waffle fries. :)

We stayed there a while -- Michael sat at the table playing with his Transformer and showed the nice lobby worker how it transformed after she showed some polite interest in his toy. (The workers at CFA are incredibly sweet and helpful!) I think the Decepticon Shockwave was the toy with us this day. I read a bit in my book, The Faith Club. The CFA cow came inside and asked Michael for a high five which Michael sheepishly gave with a smile and a look that said, "This is embarrassing. You aren't real!"

Next we drove over to Barnes & Noble where Michael located a "find these things" Superhero book which entertained him for the next 15 minutes or so. Even I was drawn into helping him find certain objects and characters on the colorful, busy pages. I glanced through a few Middle Eastern and Arabic language books out of curiosity, and Michael spent time in the children's section looking at books on snakes and castles and knights and mummies. Actually he brought the mummy book over to show me and since the back cover had a colorful picture of a decomposed body which had been mummified, he refused to place the book in his lap. No way would a picture of a body lie on his lap. He put it on the chair's arm instead. He seemed pretty creeped out by it, quickly put it back on the shelf and got something lighter and funnier -- a Sponge Bob coloring book with lots of stickers. I ended up purchasing this for him because he told me he really would like it, could make comic books with the stickers and it was the last one. Indeed when I took him home, as soon as he got there, he started working on his comic books. Stephanie said he did that all evening except for the hour they were at the library where he read to Emmie the golden lab. Yes, a real dog who likes having children read to her on Monday evenings!

Last weekend Michael had his friend spend the night with him. First of all they went swimming at Blake's house for about 4 hours on Saturday then Steph and Will picked up both boys and they had a good time that evening playing at Michael's house. Steph made them go to sleep around 11:15** and they were asleep within 15 minutes (probably all that swimming!) The next morning was church (they know each other from there) and then they went to the Winston-Salem air show with Will. So it was a fun and busy weekend for them.

** Contrast this with Austin who spent the night this summer and Steph heard the boys running through the house after midnight. They came into her room, asked if they could do some exercises in order to get tired enough to fall asleep. :-) Steph and Will heard them talking. Austin said, "Now, Michael, if you wake up and are scared just wake me up and I will hug you." And then they talked about "even now Jesus and Santa are watching over us."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bridges & Faith

I've heard of a bridge over troubled water, but what about . . .

a troubled bridge?

May we all be bridges in life - and not walls -
no matter how troubled we may be.

"Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace,
and pursue it." ~ Psalm 34:14

I read a quote yesterday in a book. Something about the opposite of faith not being doubt, but certainty. Do you agree?

I'd not thought of it that way before, but it makes sense. If we see God sitting in the room with us, we can believe in Him easily and that doesn't require faith. We are trusting because we see with our eyes, hear His voice speaking to us, feel His hands if we take hold of Him. If we see the next step God has planned for us and the next and the next, we are certain and that require no faith. It's interesting how God told Abraham to get up and leave his father's house and country and go to a land where God would lead him. Abraham didn't have a detailed 15-year plan, a map, or even a set of instructions like we'd receive in order to set up our computers. He just - as far as we can tell - obeyed God without question. And even today Abraham is held in high esteem, a man honored by billions in this world. Several months ago I was talking to someone and he mentioned that there is no real friendship without trust. So how can we claim God as our loving and caring Heavenly Father, yet not trust Him? It seems rather insulting to Him in some ways, doesn't it? Faith - not certainty - is so important! We can't please God without it.

Do we walk by faith or by sight?

Hebrews 11:6 -- "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Stand

So I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all

So I’ll stand
My soul, Lord, to You surrendered
All I am is Yours

We sang this song in church today and I really liked these words. I hope one day I can pray them and mean them. Surrendering is tough.

Friday, September 11, 2009

One Word

September 11, 2001

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Just some stuff

Today's date of 09/09/09 was pretty cool, wasn't it? I was talking to Samer on Skype earlier and he started teaching me the Arabic alphabet. I was using this list at Wikipedia, trying to just say the names of the letters. Wow, it was pretty hard. And that's not even the sounds of the letters or what they look like. I had to just look at the "name" column. I looked something like

I took Michael to visit Mema and Pop today. On the way home I was telling my dad how Pop was asking me where I was from and such things as if I were some nice stranger who just came over to help them clean. Michael heard me talking and said, "Pop sounded like a psychiatrist" when he asked me those things only Michael pronounced the "p" when he said "psychiatrist." And he said the middle part a bit wrong as well if I recall. Said he'd learned about psychiatrist from the extra features on a Looney Tunes DVD...hmmm.

Michael asked me why God wanted to destroy the earth and create a new one. He said that and the killing in the Bible bothered him. "I really wish God would have given those people a second chance." Then Stephanie told me he was learning the Ten Commandments for school and he asked her "what is adultery?" Ahhhh, the things you have to explain when seven-year olds start asking tough questions!

Monday, September 7, 2009

One Year!

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

~*~Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!~*~


Friday, September 4, 2009

Wandering Thoughts

The moon sure has been lovely the last couple of nights. I love when the full moon comes and shines so brightly in the sky.

I watched Michael three days this week because my sister worked at her church's preschool. (She had two year olds and Michael told me today, "Sus, can you believe mom said she liked me more than two year olds?") Two days we visited Mema and Pop and today we just stayed at his house. He wanted to bake something as a gift for his mom and dad so we found a box mix of cinnamon muffins. He poured in the oil and milk and stirred it. I cracked and added the eggs. Then we both worked on greasing the muffin pan and putting the batter into it. Michael told me I was a good helper. :-)

Thankfully they turned out well and Michael seemed very proud to present them to his mom when she returned around 12:30. She was appropriately appreciative of his thoughtfulness.

I told him about a friend of mine whose brother needed prayer and when he went to do his homeschool work, I said, "Michael don't forget to say a prayer for ____" to which he replied, "I already did and when I finished I made a perfect G." (He was practicing his cursive S and G today in writing. I guess he thought his praying for others caused him to do good in writing.)

A week ago today we left for Myrtle Beach, and we stayed until Monday. Michael went with us, and we had a good time. The weather was great on Saturday and Sunday -- hot like you want it to be when you are in the water. Andrew enjoyed riding the waves (there were some good ones maybe thanks to Tropical Storm Danny in the Atlantic!) and Michael dove into them, rolled with them (rather they rolled him!) and punched them with a huge smile on his face. I stood out there with him and had fun watching him enjoy the salty waves! In fact I smiled so much my face hurt. I guess I'd not exercised it by smiling much lately. :)

When we came home the weather was much cooler and most days this week were lovely indeed! Very fall like in the upper 70s for highs and into the 50s at night.

I noticed recently that I have worn a groove in the left "shift" key. Must be doing a lot of capitalizing and writing ???? ... hmmm. I showed Andrew last night and he did a double take and laughed. Why yes, I DO use my computer right much. :-D But I hardly watch the TV in the other room. I have only watched the news this whole summer, I think. OK..maybe Andy Griffith and Seinfeld once or twice while doing some bookwork. I did watch 3 movies this summer with Andrew. DVDs we borrowed from my sister. That's like a record for me since I am so not a movie watcher.

I helped with my church's food pantry last week. We met for a couple of hours, put dates on the fronts of cans (partly to make sure they were still in date) and then sorted them by type. All the corn goes in one place, green beans in another, spaghettios in another and so on. Then we made up boxes of assorted foods so the deacons could take them to needy families. I plan to help with that a couple times a month. I signed up for two Tuesday mornings so far in September.

I can't believe it's September already. It seems I was just in Damascus not that long ago, but it's been 7 months. I still miss it a lot. Presently they are in Ramadan so I know it's quite different this lunar month than when we were there. Yesterday I had a hankering for babaghanoush. I wasn't sure if I'd like this stuff, but the taste was really great and I liked it everywhere I had it (three places, maybe.) I thought it might taste like pickled veggies, but it did not. I don't care for strong vinegary foods. But babaghanoush and pita bread? Yum. And how about a bit of that Turkish lamb kebab while we're at it . . .

I think I've rambled on long enough. Good night!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September: The Prodigal Son

It's the first day of a new month and September 1 is rather special. I am reflecting on the three parables from Luke 15, the last one in particular. God used the story of the prodigal son in a powerful way one year ago today. Just picture this story as Jesus told it long ago. Consider this Jewish audience of tax collectors, "sinners," Pharisees (the religious folks) and scribes and the Middle Eastern culture as you read it.

11Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.

13"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.

15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' 20So he got up and went to his father.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

22"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

25"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "

Today I am praying for wayward children, men and women who have left home and are living apart from their families and most importantly apart from God. I know God is powerful and can change hearts and lives. I pray today for Him to soften hearts and draw these wayward people back to those who love them. And I pray that we will always have attitudes of forgiveness and unconditional love towards those who have hurt us.

May God be merciful and bring our lost loved ones home.