Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In Other Words--Eating The Whole Cake

"The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian."

~ A.W. Tozer ~

I think I will bake a cake today. But in perusing the recipe, I am not impressed with the list of ingredients. I think I'll make some changes.
*Eggs aren't that good for you, so I'll just leave them out
*I'm really fond of salt, even if it is unhealthy, so maybe I'll add some extra
*There is so little baking powder in the recipe, it's probably not important so I'll skip that as well
*Flour is so boring. I think I'll stop after 2 cups. 3 cups is too much to measure
*Waiting for 45 minutes before my cake is ready? No way! I want instant results. I'll take it out of the oven after 20 minutes--because that is actually a long time!

What do you think my cake will look like? How will it taste? No binding element of eggs, no leavening element of baking powder, too much salt, not enough bulk of flour, not cooked long enough--it will be a sad mess of a cake with all the wrong flavor. Silly, huh?

But isn't that how we often approach Scripture.
*I really like the Proverbs, so I'll spend all of my time there
*Lamentations is soooo depressing, think I'll skip that
*Those rules in Leviticus, so outdated; no reason to read that part
*Paul is so judgemental to women--I'll skip him too.
*Revelation is too hard to understand, so no reading there either
*A regular, quiet time? Emphasis on the time? I'm too busy...I'll give God 20 minutes and no more

And then we wonder why our lives are a mess!

But Tozer saw a bigger picture. Now before you get caught up in "spiritual perfection" note that Tozer does not use that word as "never doing anything wrong" but in the idea of "perfection = wholeness". We become the people that God created us to be, wholly put together, by spending time in God's Word. But reading it is not enough. We must "religiously obey" it. Again, I don't think that this is about legalism. It is about actively applying the Word to the situations of our life. And we can't pick and choose what parts are the most appealing--God ordained all of Scripture for our use.

Paul says it like this,
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

It's all good! And, it all has a purpose! The more we study it, the more God is able to illuminate our eyes to the purpose. I don't know about you, but I long for spiritual wholeness--to be the woman that God created me to be. I know that it is a life-long process of being. But I'm willing to take the shortest path. And that path involves the hard work of truly studying and seeking to know God. Just like I want my cake to be completely cooked with the right ingredients, I want my life to be flavored with the ingredients of God's Word and brought to fruition in His timing. I guess that means it's time to dust off some of the passages that I tend to pass over because they seem irrelevant or difficult.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates...
~Deuteronomy 11:18-20~

Father, God, you are the God of wholeness and perfection. I long to know you in perfection. Teach me your ways Father. Draw me to the whole of Scripture. Guide my heart to desire to read it all, to know it all. But Father I pray that reading Scripture does not become an academic effort to know. Help me to apply what I read, to obey what I learn. Use my Scripture study to develop me into the person You desire me to be. Amen.

The hostess this week for In Other Words is Debbie at Chocolate and Coffee. Come and be blessed!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In Other Words....Emotional Purity

"We women must realize how visual men are, and because of that we should wear modest clothes. Not because we don't have the right to wear what we want, but for the benefit of the spiritual life of our brothers in Christ."

~ Heather Arnel Paulsen ~
Emotional Purity: An Affair of the Heart

If I'm being perfectly honest, this quote does not inspire me. Perhaps it is because dressing modestly is not an issue for me--for years I didn't want anyone to see any part of my body so I happily covered it up and in the past few years I have concentrated on pleasing my husband in my dress, and his preference is attractive but modest. I do live in a culture that celebrates the immodest (even more so than the US). Many a discussion takes place between my husband and myself about how inappropriately people were dressed at different functions (work parties, cafes, even church). But since it is not an issue I struggle with, I find it hard to seriously address.

But Emotional Purity, the topic of the book that the quote came from, now that is something that interests me. How do we keep ourselves emotionally pure in our relationships with other men? How do we not lead them on in such a way that they lose their emotional purity? Those are tough questions that we should consider at some point in our Christian walk.

My closest friends have always been male. In high school and college, if I was going to turn to someone with the deep questions in my heart, it would be a male friend. They were more apt to tell me the truth than empathize with me and I like that quality. When we were all single, this issue was not nearly as difficult. We would meet for coffee, get ice cream, go for a walk, or sit in our mothers' living rooms and share our hearts. When we lived apart, we would spend hours on the phone sharing our prayer needs and praying together. We even, at times, talked about the "what if" this relationship could be more than friendship, but we always came to the conclusion that it wasn't what God intended. Everyone around us probably saw us as people out on a date--emotional connectedness looks like physical connectedness in many ways. But we remained emotionally pure by always being honest about what the relationship was...and what it was not.

That was very important as we all got married. Actually, the two guys I spent the most time with at college got married first. One of them even said that it was so great that he could reassure his fiance that nothing had ever happened physically in our friendship because we had always talked about why nothing was going to happen. Unfortunately, that friendship wasted away after he got married. His new wife had never had a "just male friend" and was threatened by it. One of the bases of an honest male-female friendship is that you willingly walk away if it is threatening the greater relationship of marriage. It is hard--but it is what keeps it pure. If we had continued a relationship (all by phone at this point due to distance) against her wishes we would have both been emotionally unfaithful--him to his wife and me to our friendship. Choosing emotional purity often means we can't take the easy road.

I am thankful that in the other friendship he married a good friend of mine. In fact, she was my friend before either of us met him (and no, I didn't set them up). Since she already knew my heart, she was less threatened. And we occassionally talk on the phone and catch up and share our deepest prayer requests. More often, we correspond in emails that our spouses are allowed to see. And the few times we have met since getting married, one of our spouses has been present. Some people say that we are overly cautious--but we would rather err on the side of caution than for there ever to be a hint to ourselves, our spouses, or anyone looking in that the relationship is anything but pure.

Commitment to emotional purity in relationships is for our sake, but it is also for the sake of others. Spouses want to trust--but we hear stories everyday of good Christian people succombing to an affair, and often those affairs start in a relationship to talk about problems or finding someone to share hurts and get advice. If we have talked about the boundaries with our spouse and with the other party, that kind of temptation is less likely. I love my husband and never want to give him a reason to doubt his trust in me. I love the fact that he is someone other people, men and women, trust with their problems. But I don't ever want to have to worry that someone is blurring the line with him. Boundaries of emotional purity enable us to share with others without worry. But they are also for the sake of others. Two last examples, because I think that they are important.

When Jewel was a baby, German was participating in the Christmas program at church and Jewel was going to be baby Jesus. So she and I attended most of the practices. At one practice I had a migraine. I asked the director's husband (a good friend) to give me a lift home so German would not have to leave rehearsal. Since he and his wife have a pact not to be alone with the opposite gender, he asked the boyfriend of another participant to come along. That boyfriend was a seeker, but not yet a believer. After they dropped me at home, my friend was able to share why he needed a "chaperone" and about Biblical pureness. It made an impression. Now the boyfriend is a Christian and a husband and I have heard him admonish others on pureness. Others are impacted when we take a stand for pureness.

My final story shows the sadness that the stand can take--and why it is so important. For years we spent, as a couple, lots of time with another couple. The husband in that relationship and I have a lot in common and became quite close. We never allowed ourselves to be alone together--one of our spouses, other friends or his teenage children were always present. Their marriage hit some very rough waters and lots of accusations flew. Some of those accusations were made to my husband about me and his friend. We knew they were not true, but it is hard to defend yourself in the face of total ugliness. But my husband had no doubt about the verity of the statements because he knew that we were never alone together. No doubt. Total trust. Because we have stood for emotional purity. Sadly, due to this situation, our friend is even more vulnerable. We (husband, friend, and myself) all decided it would be best if he and I were not together except in the presence of both spouses--an absolute impossibility with his wife's refusal to be with us. So, I lose a relationship. But purity wins. (added note...my husband is still friends with him and we pray that his marriage will one day be restored and our friendship as couples can be repaired).

Some people say that I am too legalistic in expecting boundaries in relationships. I believe that God calls us to honesty and fullness in relationships. Those things cannot happen if we are forever wondering "how far is too far." The world sees us when we take a stand for purity. They notice when we dress and act differently than culture allows. I want to give myself fully in relationships. And in order to do that with male friends, I need boundaries. I don't want a Christian brother to ever get the wrong idea. I don't want their wives to ever question our relationship. Purity matters. And I choose to stand for it.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes. Psalm 19:8

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.

He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.
Psalm 24:3-5

Father, God, we thank you that you have created us relational beings. We thank you that you can knit our hearts and our minds together with others. We ask that you keep our relationships pure. We ask for honesty in sharing but in sharing that honesty that we never imply that there is something else in the relationship. We thank you for spouses who trust us and that you guard our hearts and our minds against anything that could tarnish that trust. And, we ask for strength to draw boundary lines and walk away if anything should enter our relationships with friends that would dishonor you. Father use us to touch other people, but in that keep our hearts pure and focused on You. In Jesus' loving name, Amen.

Our hostess for In Other Words this week is Loni at Joy in the Morning. Come, read, share and be blessed.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Searching for Laodicea

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Sorry to tease about another excursion and then not post for 3 days. Life conspired against me and my phone and internet lines went haywire on Friday, when I was planning to post. They were working by 7 pm but then we had an impromptu night out with the family and I rarely post on the weekends. So here it is Monday morning, and I am sure you have been hanging onto the edge of your seat. Or not. Whatever.

Our next to the last day in Turkey we had decided to drive up to Laodicea and Pammukale. It was a 4 hour drive each direction, and across mountains that we were not too sure how tall or difficult to drive they would be. But our pastor has been doing a series of sermons on "letters to the young churches" and we really wanted to go. So plans are made. And then...

During dinner the night before, Jewel gets sick--three times before we ever leave the restaraunt. Since she had only eaten a couple of bites of bread, we didn't blame the food. We get her home. She gets sick again. We put her to bed. I'm beginning to believe we are destined to not go. German says after a good night's sleep she'll be fine. We go to bed. At 3a.m. German is up--sicker than I have ever known him to be sick in the 13 years we have known each other. We all collapse back in bed about six. I'm sure we are not going to go. At 8:30, German says, "I still want to go." I tried to talk him out of that kind of drive since he was wiped out. He said he believed it was a spiritual and physical attack to keep us from a blessing, and the attack was not going to win. Jewel was tired but said she felt fine. We got ready to go.

The drive across the mountains was glorious. God's creation in its glory.
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Jewel slept the entire trip, and Flower happily talked and sang the whole way. It turned out to only be a 3 hour drive to Denzili (the big town near the ruins), so we were feeling incredibly blessed. The map showed a big intersection in Denzili. The Laodicean ruins were marked up the road to the left maybe ten miles. Pammukale was off the road to the right. We decided to go to Laodicea first. We drove about 15 miles reading every sign there was. No sign of Laodicea. We reached a town that was clearly past the ruins on the map. We turned around, and carefully read every sign possible. We turned off the road at the interesection that best looked like where it was. Still no Laodicea. Then German did the unheard of: he pulled into the carpark of an official looking building and said, "I'm going to go ask for help."

I sat in the car kind of stunned. He came back and said that the people didn't know where it was, and only one spoke English, but they were going to help if we would come in and have a cup of tea. I'm thinking two things: 1. will the girls be good in this official looking building? and 2. I wonder if we can also use the toilets--Flower has gone 3 hours without asking and I'm worried. We had a lovely cup of tea. The girls were given juice--a real treat for them. The guys in the office were buzzing around, using the internet, calling people on the phone, talking amongst themselves. German asked about toilets and they quickly showed him where. Just as he came back, they said they could show us where to go. I started to speak up, but German whispered that it wasn't a good idea. Okay...this was the toilet...
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He didn't think a hole in the ground would be that helpful for very Western-minded Flower. I agreed. (ahh the joys of traveling)

They gave us directions, back to the big intersection and to the road to Pammukale where we would see the sign for Laodicea. If we had only gone to the other destination first, we would have found it. But then we wouldn't have met the nice people and had a cup of tea either.

We got there and the first thing I saw was the sign for toilets. Nice, big, modern, clean. Yay! And Flower had stayed dry! Double blessing. That taken care of, we set off on the ruins.

To the Church in Laodicea
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Revelation 3:14-22

Here is what is left of the church that would have received this letter.
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The town, once prosperous, was laid to ruin by an earthquake in AD 494. Excavations have unearthed much of it and several of the columns have been set back up as they might have been along the columned road.
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The two large amphitheaters can be seen. One was able to hold 20,000 people in its day.
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I walked through the ruins singing the Steve Camp song, "Living in Laodicea".

Oh Lord, take Your plow to my battleground
Let Your blade dig down to the soil of my soul
For I've become dry and dusty, Lord I know there must be
Richer earth lying below

For I've been living in Laodicea
And the fire that once burned bright, I've let it grow dim
And the very Word I swore that I would die for all has been forgotten
As the world's become my friend

We have turned from Your Law to try to find a better way
Each man does today what is right in his own eyes
We will pay the price for our sinning
We can never know true living, we've exchanged His truth for lies

CHORUS ("we")

It is no small of a thing that He's done for you
By shutting the gates of hell upon the cross
We were sentenced once but now we are pardoned
And He chooses to use us though we fall

So while we're living in Laodicea
Keep the fire burning bright, don't let it grow dim
For the very Word we swore that we would die for, it must not be forgotten
Fear the world become a friend
For the very Word we swore that we would die for, it must not be forgotten
Fear the world become a friend

I thought about how easy it is for us to build our lives on things that are not substantial. We put up columns in our life representing things that have no eternal significance. And then, one major storm--one major earthquake--comes along and shakes our world.
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The temporal falls. The unsubstantial cannot last. Sometimes those storms have nothing to do with us. They are the natural consequence of living in a fallen world--illness besets, disasters of flood or storm deluge. Sometimes they are storms of our own making--materialism leads to financial disaster, unhealthy eating leads to disease, selfishness leads to relationship breakups. And, sometimes, God uses the storm as discipline to wake us up and draw us back to Him. As I set in the ruins of that once great city, this was on my mind. Although painful, I pray that God will lay waste to the things in my life that keep me from serving Him with my whole heart. I'd rather Him do this out of love than to reap the consequences of the sin later.

Father, I want to serve you with my whole heart. I want to be hot and cold for you. I do not want to be lukewarm--ineffective and annoying. Father tear down the columns of self-sufficency that I have built up. Lay to waste the things that do not please you. I pray that my life never lays in ruins of disobedience, but is constantly being rebuilt by You to be stronger and a witness of Your faithfulness. In Your Son's Precious Name...Amen.
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Some Excursions on Holiday

We were able to do a couple of day trips while in Turkey. The Greek Island of Meis lies just 2 km off the coast of Turkey. So one day we took a 20 minute boat trip to the island--to be able to say that we had entered Greece. Unfortunately for me, it was the morning after I had managed to eat/drink something that did not agree with me at all. We believe that it was probably from the ice at the villa--that the guests before us must not have been as diligent to use bottled water as we were. To say the least, anything involving being on the water did not enthuse me that morning. But the trip was booked, and it was a beautiful morning, so I tried hard to be a good sport.

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The trip across was uneventful. The girls wanted to see the castle ruins that were on the top of the hill. So we started up the steps.
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Then wandered along the path.
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Finally got to the castle and discovered this is the way in.
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Did I mention I was not feeling well? And it was almost 90 degrees? And I'm trying hard to get hydrated and be a good sport? German knew I was in no shape to do it, so he offered to take the girls himself. And they loved it. But at the top there were no guard rails at all. And he spent most of the time scared he was going to lose one of them. But the pictures from the top are great!
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We came down the hill to eat lunch. While we were eating a thunderstorm blew in. And the rain came down.
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And we ended up being drenched rats. But, thankfully, by the time we had to run for the boat I was feeling much better. :) And now I can say I've been to Greece!

Our other excursion was to the town of Myra. The trip started out rather eventful, but they soon cleared the road.

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Myra is the hometown of Nicholas (later St. Nicholas)where he was bishop. I got the coolest hand knotted rug of St. Nick to display in December. We don't do Santa Claus as a gift giver in our home, but we will talk about how the myth came to be and who the person behind it was. (gotta love homeschool rationalization for buying decorations). Myra was also a port town in Biblical days. According to Acts 27:5, Paul, as a prisoner, changed boats here on his way to be shipwrecked err..on his way to Rome. We visited the ruins of Myra--the necropolis and the stadium (amazing). It was a lovely day out. Well worth it if you ever visit Southern Turkey.

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I promise to stop boring you with holiday pictures soon (we only took 1300!), but I do have one more excursion to tell you about and some reflection. It'll be worth coming back for...I promise.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's a Good Thing She's Cute...or is it?

It's a Good Thing She's Cute...

You know, moms, when you have had one of those days, and dad comes home and you tell him how bad it has been and he says something kind of supportive, but in your heart you read his eyes saying "why are you being such a wimp, they're kids"? We've all had those days. And the dads in our life try, but they really don't get it.

Until it happens to them.

German was such a sweetie on our holiday, and would get up with the children at the crazy time of 715 and allow me to sleep a little longer. (note to self: don't put children in only bedroom with east facing windows!) Day Six of our holiday dawns, and this set-up is working great for me. Around 730, we hear children and off he goes to get them and go downstairs. Then I hear an "Oh Flower!" followed by complaining, although mainly under his breath. Flower had had one of *those* diapers, you know the ones that get everywhere--in this case all over the stark white linens on her bed and the marble floor. I took this as my cue to come and help--I cleaned her up, he cleaned to floor up and then I put all the linens in to wash. Catastrophy avoided.

Since we are all up, we head down for breakfast poolside. Flower is goofing off at the table and drops her fully jammed up toast onto her shirt. Two outfits and it isn't even 830 yet! *sigh* I strip the shirt off of her. We finish breakfast. We send the little angels (ahem) in to get dressed--Jewel was still in pjs and Flower is in shorts only at this point. Peace at last.

We finish our drinks, gather all the dishes up to go inside, get to the door and....Flower has locked the sliding door! And the girls have gone up to the third floor so they can't hear us knock. We are locked out for 22 minutes before they wander back downstairs to see what we are doing! The entire time German is fretting. I keeps saying "it happens" and he keeps shaking his head, as if this type of thing has never happened before. *heeheehee*

The girls let us in. German looks at me and says, "that has to be everything today, right? I mean three things before 930!" I just smiled knowingly, because this kind of day is just beginning.

Don't you love it when they get a glimpse of our world?!

And she is cute (here playing hide and seek with a friend). Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

But then again...is it good she's cute?

Flower was the belle of the ball in Turkey. Everyone loved her fair hair and blue eyes. People fawned over her. Ladies pinched cheeks, men stopped her in the street to give her flowers "for a kiss on the cheek", we were offered, tongue firmly in cheek, 15 camels for her. She ate it up! And the waiters...oh the waiters! The pictures speak for themselves.
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The sweetest story, was on night two when the waiter (first pictured) was asking Flower if she would like to stay and help wash dishes. She was nodding her head and we were joking about it. All of a sudden, Jewel burst into uncontrollable sobs. She really thought we were going to leave her! Ah, bless her heart.

Funniest story was the last day. German was doing a "wrap-up" video with the girls of what we had seen and done. He asked Flower if she liked it when "all those men kissed you?" She vigorously nodded her head and just giggled. *sigh* What are we going to do with her? I'm proposing locking her up until she is 30. Any suggestions?

Food, Glorious Food!

One of the many highlights of a holiday is experiencing the new food offerings of where ever you are. Turkey was no exception. The food was lovely (the water, on the other hand, is another story entirely).

Most of the restraunts were roof top terraces. There is something incredibly romantic about sitting on a rooftop, watching the sun dip behind the mountain, staring at the boats coming into the harbour. Romantic even with a 2.75 and 5 year old in tow. Imagine what it would have been like without the kiddos, lol. Here are a few pics of us at the various places to eat.
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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketLast night at Turkuaz, our favorite

And the food was glorious (and I forgot to take many pictures). The kebabs, the Calamari, the Shrimp, the Lamb, yum!
The stuffed lamb (stuffed with rice, potatoes and herbs) had been roasted whole for 12 hours! It was butter knife tender and oh, so good!
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This was called the Sultan's Harem and described as being fit for a king! German loved it.
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The presentation of the Ishkender Kebab was almost as nice as the dish itself. Almost.
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One of the restraunts was owned by a magician, who entertained the girls (and us--the card tricks were incredible!)
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German did a lot of playing around with photographing lights and glass. Here are two of our favorite shots from the trip.
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Even breakfast was an event! Eating poolside! Fresh bread delivered to our door each morning. Lovely jam. Amazing Apple Chai. Yum!
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