Monday, January 2, 2012

What I Like About...Joel

What I like about Joel: The inner nature of repentance

As an undergrad, I minored in German. That has nothing to do with this post, except to introduce a girl who was in one of my German classes. I don't remember her name or even what class it was, but I remember that she missed a LOT of classes, ostensibly because she was sick. On the days she was in class, she often went to great lengths to let the rest of us know that she was on the brink of death. (Please note: If I had even the slightest feeling that she was actually sick, I'd be a lot nicer. I'm fairly convinced that most of her illnesses were brought about by alcohol consumption paired with an aversion to early-morning classes.)

One of the ways she signaled her under-the-weather-ness to us was to put on all her makeup - except for eye makeup. I later noticed that this was a common signal for "I'm too sick to put on my mascara, but there's no way I'm letting you see me without the rest of my makeup." My contention always was that if you are well enough to put on base and powder, you're well enough to put on mascara. The point wasn't that she was sick, it was that she wanted us to think she was sick.

That's  round-about way to get to my point about Joel. The people of Judah had gotten really good at leaving their mascara off. They could put on sackcloth and weep and wail and moan and tear their robes, but all that posturing did not necessarily mean anything. Joel's call for repentance included the outward signs of mourning, but he urged an inner repentance along with the outward signs. All the sackcloth and wailing in the world meant nothing unless it was paired with real sorrow and a real recognition of Judah's sin.

Unfortunately, this makes me reflect on my own "repentance." How often do I put on the outward signs of sorrow, without feeling anything deeper? Joel serves as a reminded that God sees the heart, not the garnishes. The doctor is not fooled by the makeup.

Verse of the post: "'Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' Rend your heart and not your garments." Joel 2:12-13

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What I Like About...Hosea

What I like about Hosea: Restoration

Every time I read Hosea, I marvel at his total willingness to obey God, even when he knows it will completely screw up his own life. Some of the other prophets knew that following God would lead to persecution, and for many of them it did, but Hosea knew that following God would lead to his personal life being turned upside down. Hosea really is a love story, but it's a heartbreaking one: God used Hosea's own marriage and family life to model how Israel had behaved toward Him - with infidelity, illegitimate children, and prostitution.

The ending of this otherwise tragic story, though, is what redeems this book for me. Though God could have easily ended the story with the display of how Israel has behaved, He goes on to show how He will behave. He sends Hosea to buy back his wife, to bring her home, and to raise her children as his own. In the latter 4/5ths of the book, which deals with Israel and God rather than with Gomer and Hosea, God does not just point out and condemn Israel's sin, He also looks forward past Israel's betrayal and rejection of Him to the day when Israel will be restored.

People often say that the Old Testament is full of fire and brimstone and God's judgement, whereas the New Testament is the story of His love. I can't buy that, though. In so many of the prophets, and especially in Hosea, God's love and His plan to redeem His people is laid out clearly. Yes, there is judgement, and there are the consequences of sin, but grace is freely promised. Even before God's plan for restoration and redemption through Christ is kicked into high gear, it is in place and is conveyed to His people. And that's what I love about Hosea - that it doesn't end at anger and judgement but looks forward to acceptance and forgiveness.

Verse of the post: "Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him: 'Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.' ... 'I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.'" Hosea 14:1-2, 4

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Whew

'Tis the season for wrap-ups of the year. Right now, my life is pretty calm, but it's been a pretty eventful year!

In January, I began the last semester of my Master's program at OU.

In February, I was snowed in for several days, finished my thesis proposal, and my computer died a bitter death.

In March, I bought a new computer and defended my thesis proposal.

In April, I coded 417 articles for my thesis, then spent countless hours interpreting data and writing it up.

In May, I defended my thesis and graduated.

In June , I completely crashed for a while, then floated the Illinois River with friends from church.

In July, I went to Dallas to be in Ronni's wedding and continued trying to recover mentally from 19 years of school.

In August, I helped with VBS at Norman Community Church of the Nazarene and co-hosted a wedding shower and a baby shower in two consecutive weekends.

In September, I moved home to Prague and interviewed for, was offered, and accepted position as circulation clerk and shelver supervisor at new Southwest Oklahoma City Public Library.

In October, I began my new job and immediately began shelver interviews

In November, I trained five new shelvers and visited New Orleans for NCA and some time with Erin; officially became a member of NCCN.

In December, I trained one more shelver and moved into new apartment in OKC

So yeah, it's been a pretty busy year, with some very big changes and some very big ups and downs. In all, though, it's been a very good year. Now, to see what 2012 brings!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What I Like About...Daniel

What I like about Daniel: Wisdom makes for great job security

Here's the thing about Daniel. In pop culture (i.e., Sunday school), he is usually depicted as a somewhat young guy, facing lions and coming out unscratched. He is stuck in a sort of perpetual youth, never to age. The truth is, though, that by the time lions entered the picture, Daniel was getting up in years. He was over 80 years old.

Back up a few decades, and you get the young man, coming as a captive to a new place and being thrown into a different kind of lions' den - the palace. Daniel and his closest friends navigated the intricacies of Babylonian politics while managing to obey the law, and they all rose to positions of power, Daniel most of all.

And he stayed there. He served in the courts of four kings of two empires. Daniel outlasted King Nebuchadnezzar, King Belshazzar, King Darius, and went on advising well into the reign of King Cyrus. He was the third most powerful man in Babylon, yet he was kept on as an adviser even after the Medes and Persians conquered the Babylonians. He was close to power - at that time the greatest human power in the world - for more than sixty years.

His longevity wasn't because he was a flatterer or because he knew how to make kings look good. He had been the bearer of bad news; sure, he told Nebuchadnezzar that he was the "king of kings," but he also told ol' Nebi that he would go completely insane. He predicted the overthrow of the Babylonian empire, yet he was immediately rewarded and promoted.

His wisdom and his devotion to God and to the truth are what protected his job, not his schmoozing skills or his shrewd political acumen. Coming from an education background where both political sense and schmoozing skills are highly valued, I like that about Daniel.

Verse of the post: "There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar your father - your father the king, I say - appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and diviners. This man Daniel, whom the king called Beltshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems." Daniel 5:11-12

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I Like About...Ezekiel

What I like about Ezekiel: Object lessons

Many times in the Bible, God uses stories, pictures, or drama to communicate His messages. This is especially clear in Ezekiel. In a vision, God literally put His words in Ezekiel's mouth: Ezekiel had to eat a scroll with the words of God on it, "words of lament and mourning and woe." (2:10). For the rest of his ministry, Ezekiel became, in many ways, the physical manifestation of God's messages. In fact, he is called a sign to Israel four times in this book: Ezekiel himself, not just his words and actions, was a sign of what was to come.

He built little model siege works against a drawing of the city of Jerusalem. He figuratively bore the sins of Israel and Judah, lying on his sides for a total of 430 days. (I always wonder if he got bedsores from that.) During that time, he ate only a little bit of a mixture of grains, cooked over manure - God backed down from having him cook it over "human excrement". He shaved his hair and burned part of it, then scattered part of it, and saved the last few strands, to model what would happen to the people of Israel. He actually dug through the city wall to show the people what would happen to them.

What I like about all that - other than that it adds a little flavor to a book of prophecy - is that Ezekiel is an example of (1) how God is a pretty great communicator and (2) the lengths too which He will go to communicate with His people. God understands that we can be pretty dense; sometimes we need someone to act things out for us. Moreover, He is willing to meet us more than halfway. Considering that I can be pretty dense sometimes, that's encouraging.

Verse of the post: "Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD." Ezekiel 24:24

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What I Like About...Lamentations

I know, it's been a long time since I posted any of these. I finished reading through the Old Testament months ago, but I haven't taken the time to post what jumped out at me from the last books. I'm taking time now.

What I like about Lamentations: The depth of emotion.

Lamentations is a terribly - well, honestly, it's a terribly terrible book. Jeremiah wrote it as a lament for the fallen city of Jerusalem. It's essentially a dirge, sung over the city and its people. Jeremiah is known as the "weeping prophet," and here you can practically hear the tears in his voice.

His tears were merited. His capital city had been destroyed, but only after it had been tortured into submission. The city was cut off from food and water and its people driven to madness until the worst parts of human nature were revealed. Jeremiah does not argue with God's punishment, but he does mourn it.

Lamentations really can be a very depressing book. But even if it isn't my favorite book of the Bible - I've never just sat down and thought "Oh, I'll read Lamentations! That will cheer me up!" - I am glad that it is included. It adds a layer of depth to the Bible and acknowledges the breadth of human emotion. If some of the psalms are the high points of the Word, Lamentations is its low point, its shadow. Lamentations models how we should respond to judgement of sin: Not gleefully, but with deep, almost passionate sorrow. Lamentations does not gloss over the cost of sin or the anguish of loss, but accepts and expresses the natural and proper reaction to tragedy. It isn't glib or self-righteous, which it could so easily be. And I like that.

Verse of the post: "My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief, until the LORD looks down from heaven and sees. What I see brings grief to my soul." Lamentations 3:49-51

Sunday, December 25, 2011

God bless us, every one

"I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round - apart from the veneration due its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that - as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!" - A Christmas Carol

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Gift!

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

It’s Christmas Eve! Have a wonderful time celebrating the birth of our Savior with your family. As you enjoy this great day, don’t forget why you are celebrating.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Family Joy!

Today, you get to share the joy of what you have been planning and preparing with your family! Have fun!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pamper

In the envelope: A bag of hot chocolate mix

Pamper yourself tonight. Take a hot bubble bath or a long hot shower, give yourself a pedicure, wrap up in a soft robe, and have some hot chocolate.

If you didn't get an envelope, use some of your favorite mix, or you can make up a big batch of Mom's homemade kind if you want to be authentic. All you do is mix together 1 lb. of powdered sugar, 1 lb. of Nesquick, 6 oz. of coffee creamer, and an 8 oz. box of evaporated milk. Add 1/3 cup to a mug of hot water and enjoy!