Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Excellence in Excess

Today we took a field trip to the Reif Theater in Grand Rapids, MN, to watch a mini-performance of the Golden Dragon Acrobats. Wow!--Fabulous! What an incredible troupe from China! What talent, training, balance, and discipline! Each act was beautiful and emotionally climactic, performed with excellence...in excess! Our applause were wild, and it was an honor to bestow them. By the end of the hour I was so over-stimulated that I couldn't keep from crying as I watched!

I know God had His eyes on these young people today, too. They're in the niche He created them for, and He loves watching them. They, like us, live their lives for a very special audience of One, and He applauds us based not on our performance but on the fact that we are His. The Golden Dragon Acrobats don't have to perform perfectly to impress Him! But I'm not sure if they know it. I hope there is an age limit--that at some point their tenure on the team is up--just so they can do something besides train and perform for human applause.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  --Colossians 3:17

Monday, October 27, 2008

Six Quirks & A Talent Or Two

While I was on "blogging break" I was tagged by Far Side of Fifty to do a "meme list" of six personal quirks. Ahem! I know it's supposed to just be a fun way to get to know people, but wow!--this actually turned out to be quite a struggle for me! To whoever thought up this game, I don't like it very much!!!

It's not that I mind confessing.  James 5:16 exhorts us "Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." Quirks might not be faults exactly, but some of mine probably are. And I could use some healing! (More on that later...) So how about if I take a chance on the semantics, step out in faith, and see what God wants to do???

Except...well, check out these rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you
   Check.  You can link to Far's blog by clicking above, or on the link in "My Blog List" in the sidebar...

2. Post these rules on your blog
   Check.  Here they are...!

3. Tell about your six quirks
   Check.  Actually, I could only think of three off the top of my head. Then I got out my secret weapon (aka, my kids and husband) and they had no problem coming up with the others! (And theirs are the best!)

4. Tag six bloggers to do the same
   Okay, so here's the problem: I enjoy sharing, and receiving comments on my blogs(!), and just a tiny bit of browsing, but I'm kind of an "introverted blogger" (an oxymoron, I know...). I lack the quota of blogger connections, especially six whose sites seem particularly suited to memes. I've enjoyed a visit from one person I've never met outside of cyberspace, but her site doesn't seem suited to it, either. For fun I would love to tag a few friends and family members, but they don't blog and now that I've said that they prob'ly never will!  ;~)

5. Leave them a comment to let them know you've tagged them
   If I ever get past #4, this one will be a piece of cake. But...!

I procrastinated on this through our holiday celebration, then last night finally decided to dig in, "be an overcomer," and play this game with Far (thanks for your patience!). I stayed up late constructing and wrestling over a list of bloggers I could potentially tag (my highest tally was only five), and in the wee hours of the morning fell into a fitful sleep; then arose early with a full day's agenda, and...cold feet! (Funny how getting just a few hours of shut-eye can have the opposite effect of getting enough sleep...)

For awhile I didn't have to care, though. The morning was busy and I was nowhere near my computer. But then, as I was standing at the stove preparing a late lunch, I received inspiration. Suddenly I was reminded of the Parable of Talents (Matthew 25:14-28), in which a master entrusts different amounts of talents (a form of currency in the Middle East) to his servants, each according to their ability. Then he leaves on a long journey. When he returns, he finds that the servant he entrusted with five talents has invested and doubled the money. Likewise, the servant entrusted with two has doubled his. However the third servant, who was entrusted with only one talent, was afraid, and simply buried his talent until his master's return. 

The first two servants risked what was entrusted to them, and received praise--"Well done, good and faithful servant." The third guarded what was entrusted to him, and was condemned--"You wicked and lazy servant."

Seems like a curious and rather serious lesson to associate with a just-for-fun little old meme game, doesn't it?!

People blog a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. Some journal, some discuss, some inform, some just connect. For most of the people I'm linked with, blogging is a tool for making spiritual food gracefully available to all who visit--fresh manna served in a timely fashion and usually in small bites, so no one overeats. The burden of my heart is that this site would serve that same purpose, although having descended from a hearty bunch of gold miners, I often view my offerings less as food and more as nuggets of pure gold--treasure dredged out of rubble and entrusted to me by my Master.

I believe He would have me invest the treasure I'm entrusted with, too. Though the skillful presentation of just one nugget at a time still eludes me, and I'm not as talented at panning out all the rubble as I'd like to be, blogging is already one of my "investment tools." I'm uncertain what else I'm supposed to risk here, though--how I'm supposed to apply the Parable of Talents to this game. Later today I happened upon a blog site in which this author who'd been tagged posted her answers but chose not to tag anyone else, and I thought, "Hey!--I could just do that!" But I have a nagging sense that I'm supposed to go ahead and tag the five people on my list...

Whew!--seems like it has taken an inordinate amount of time, energy, and agonizing to get to firm ground on this, but now that I'm finally settled, here are my top six quirks:

1. I scratch and clean my right ear--and only my right ear--with the skinny barb of pen caps. (And please DO pray, as Father God leads you, for healing in this ear! It has a fungus that is incurable according to modern medical standards, and sometimes it really drives me crazy.)

2. I serve lots of awesome renditions (and occasionally a flop) of lots of awesome recipes, but never the same rendition twice. Especially when my kids aren't helping in the kitchen, I never follow a recipe to a "T" (modification is the name of the game), and I estimate rather than waste time measuring.

3. When loading the car for errands or whatever, I never remember everything in the first load. (I sometimes imagine this is a God-thing, to help me get more exercise!)

4. Despite evidence in #3 to the contrary, I'm a planner and a scheduler. I value spontaneity and love that my life and times are truly in God's hands, but spend a lot of energy planning and imposing ordered structure. My husband says many people prob'ly think this should be thought of as a "gift" rather than a quirk, but that if so, it's only because they haven't walked a mile in his shoes!  ;~)

5. Left over from my days working in salmon cold storages in Alaska, I love the smell of ice, freshly shaved in ice-making rooms or just quietly building up in warehouses and walk-in freezers when they're "On." When Christian women talk about "the fragrance of Christ," this clean, refreshing odor is what comes to mind for me. So far no refrigeration guru has been able to tell me what makes the odor, though.

6. I like to compare people to beverages. For instance, my friend Far--you remember her--she's the one who tagged me with this whole insane quirks exercise--is like a warm caramel apple cider: mellow sweet comfort that disguises a surprising tang! (But my husband thinks she's more like peppermint schnapps--sneaks right up and steals your breath away! I don't know--check out her blog and see what you think...  [That is an encouragement to meet Far--not to drink schnapps!])

Okay, that was the easy part. Now for the tagging. Please don't feel obligated to play, but I hope you'll be blessed if you do. So then...(drum roll, please!)...you're it: Czech This Out, East Side Professor, Jen & Jan, Forever His, and Truthportraits!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Feast of the Fall

Okay--the garage is painted! Also, the leaves are raked and tucked around the shrubs like warm blankets, our first snow is falling in gentle fat flakes, and just outside my window our first sukkah stands bare and empty but not forgotten. It is yet a reminder of recent reminiscing, family fun, and God's graceful provision. In case you are wondering what a sukkah is, this is my "very last first time" at placing an image in a blog:

Oh good!--it worked!  Still hard to tell what a sukkah is, though?! A sukkah is a tent--a temporary dwelling, like the Israelites lived in during the years they wandered in the wilderness. As God directs it to be constructed, it is a basic, four-sided frame covered with fabric walls and a roof made of four different kinds of tree branches--something like evergreen, deciduous, flowered/fruiting, and flexible (like willow). Our walls--long swaths of purple and blue fabrics I've used for many purposes over the years--are not pictured because we only hung them when we were actually in the sukkah. Our sukkah happens to be "furnished" with benches we made several years ago when a beaver took down one of the largest remaining popple (aspen) trees next to our swamp (he only wanted the leafy branches); but furnishings are not a significant element of a sukkah.

And why do we have such a dwelling in our yard? We are not Israelites; and we are not in need of temporary shelter. We have several tents in much better shape, and have besides, also in our yard, a much more stable, protective, permanent dwelling! Well, throughout this year our family is studying and celebrating biblical holidays, and from sundown on Tuesday, 10/14, until sundown on Wednesday, 10/22, we celebrated the Feast of Booths (aka Feast of Tabernacles). The Feast of Booths is, in part, a Thanksgiving celebration. In Israel it is closely tied to agricultural harvest, and is a time of acknowledging and thanking the Lord for all His provision. There is even supposition that when the pilgrims celebrated the first American Thanksgiving holiday, they were actually celebrating the Feast of Booths. (This is a festival which is to be celebrated still and in the future, as evidenced in Zechariah 14, and the pilgrims were very religious people, committed to following God's ways.) God appointed this feast as a time for people to remember that we dwell here only temporarily, and it is He (not we, "pulling ourselves up by our own boot straps") who faithfully sustains and prospers us just as He sustained the Israelites in the wilderness and then prospered them after He led them into the Promised Land to dwell permanently.

As the subject of biblical holidays has come up in conversation this year, a lot of our listeners have equated them with "Jewish" holidays, but this is a misnomer. Biblical holidays are the feasts and special days God told His people to keep long before there were such things as "Jews" and Jewish customs, rabbis, rabbinical law, tabernacles, or temples. The special days and feasts are delineated in Exodus 20, Leviticus 23, and Deuteronomy 16, when the Lord was beginning to form the Hebrew people into a nation. The holidays are also mentioned in various other places in both the Old and New Testaments. They are celebrations pregnant with purpose, reminding all celebrants of God's credibility and capability as evidenced by His faithful hand on His people in the past. Thus, many Jews (a relatively modern term most widely used to mean "people whose traditional religion is Judaism, and who trace their origins through the ancient Hebrew people of Israel to Abraham") do celebrate these holidays according to customs they've established through tradition, but the roots of "biblical holidays" are pre-Judaism; likewise, many "Jewish" customs and holidays are not found in the Bible, and we are not studying those.

God's appointed feasts also foreshadow the arrival and work of the Messiah. Many Jews are still waiting for a messiah (savior) that meets their expectations, but since we accept Christ as the Messiah, who was born Immanuel (God with us) and sacrificed Himself to redeem us from our debts, we've enjoyed learning how He fulfilled the Messianic intents of the biblical holidays. Christ, in fact, gives the holidays even richer significance.

I know we didn't keep the letter of the Law (for instance, we never quite got our "lulavs" together to wave...), but I think we discovered and embraced the spirit of it. For us, God's appointed time for the Feast of Booths was perfect timing. We were thankful not only to set aside some pleasant days for celebration, but also feasted on rich, nourishing lessons for ourselves and our children. We savored the reminder, permission, and time to reflect. We enjoyed the extra time outdoors in the fall weather. We warmed ourselves at the fire, admired the stars, and imagined the arrival of Immanuel in circumstances in which many scholars believe He was actually born. And we dwelt expectantly on the future, studying about the time when Christ will gather us as a groom gathers his bride, to establish us in our permanent home!

Since we also had time to finish preparing for winter, I have a little more time for blogging again!

Thank You, Lord!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Painting in the Rain

I eased into leaf season feeling free--even responsible!--to pause in my work to admire the Fall scenery... Now, however, we're racing the weather to button up several outdoor projects before snow arrives. I will have to take a short break from my indoor hobbies, including recounting/journaling our vacation... (But I'm NOT done yet!)

The project of highest priority at this time is repainting the garage. We had a lot of scraping to do, particularly on the south side, so the painting had to start over from the bottom up--priming. My husband and son finished that Saturday. Yesterday I shivered in my thin old painting shirt and shorts (the only clothes I have to sacrifice) as we tried to get the first coat of paint on over the primer before it began raining. I was nearing the end of "my" side when light sprinkles began to filter down from the darkening clouds. I picked up my pace, and thought of my friend, Alicia.  

Alicia paints, too. She paints portraits with words. Beautiful portraits! Masterpieces! That is her current career, and one of her ministries. Since it's a career, Alicia has commitments and deadlines, which means that sometimes she even has to paint on what we might call "rainy days."

Is it possible to paint Masterpieces in the rain?! Oh, yes! With the Master, all things are possible! But sometimes it can be a bit tricky. Yesterday I painted for just a little too long, and the rain washed the paint right back off of the last two boards... 

I admire the way Alicia remains on track in the midst of struggles and sad times, but yesterday reminded me to pray for her (and others) who seem so strong that they can weather ANY...weather.