Saturday, February 25, 2012

Instead of Worrying, Pray

A few days ago I received a review copy of  a side-by-side Bible comparing the NIV, NKJV, NLT, and The Message. These happen to be the four translations* that I usually use to pull Scripture for the Jesus Boat Facebook page.   It's good to be a reviewer!

I've been thinking about my effort to really focus on the positive and on joy during this Lenten season.  So I was delighted to see that this week's daily scripture readings for Lent 2012 included Philippians 4:1-9 (Friday) and 4:10-20 (Saturday).  Having a comparative Bible has slowed down my reading, but enabled the Spirit to speak to me in fresh new ways.

I love this paraphrase of Philippians 4:4-7 from The Message:

"Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! 

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."

Shalom y'all!

*technically a paraphrase

Friday, February 24, 2012

Beautiful Weather

Chambers of Commerce all over Florida must be in high spirits this winter. We've had weeks of daytime temperatures in the upper 70's along the coast. We're loving it because we haven't had to run our heat but twice all winter (and our AC twice--mostly to pull out the humidity).

School was out today so we took a welcome trip over to Lakeland to visit my folks.  Since it's still too cold for the pool, we took a drive down to Lake Morton to visit the beautiful Lakeland Public Library then stopped for a picnic across from the Methodist Church.  The wind was blowing so hard that the seagulls hovered like kites over the lakeshore. The brisk wind didn't stop us from visiting Lakeland's famous swans.

While we were sitting in the children's section of the library I read the boys On Beyond Zebra, and I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. I'd forgotten what a great book that is.  I think it's time to give my troubles some trouble too.

I added a new "frugal joy" over at the Frugal Family Friend.  Yesterday's was "coffee"; today is "public libraries".

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bless This Mess

Credit: Vincelli Designs
I rarely see this phrase anymore, but it was big in the 1970’s. It seemed like every mom had a kitchen wall plaque reading “Bless This Mess”.  Were we an incredibly untidy generation of kids? Or did this sentiment address feelings about the mess our country was in: the last big recession? 

I’m feeling deep in the midst of a mess right now.  The current recession has hit my family hard and we’re looking at some tough choices this year.  Things are getting messy and I approached Ash Wednesday with a heart loaded down with worry.

But something else has been tickling the back of my mind.  Over at the Jesus Boat Blog we’ve been writing about the Psalms this month.  Our bloggers come from different backgrounds, but several of us are battling the economy.  The Psalms are teaching us that God is our stronghold in the midst of trouble.  The Psalmists lay out their troubles (and they are many) but never fail to give praise to God.  It’s an incredible act of defiance against trouble. 

I’m going to try here (and over at my Frugal Family Friend blog) to consciously look for and write about things to praise during the Lenten season.  I need to fix my eyes and thoughts on something other than the ever present bottom line.

To my surprise and delight, one of today’s daily readings was from Habakkuk.  I needed this today and that’s my first praise:  God speaks to us through his word.  He comes to us where we are, as we are, and lifts us up.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine;
even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength!
He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Books I Like

I have no memory of not being able to read.  According to my family I started in early and never quit.  We didn't have a tremendous number of books in the house, but my mom and I made frequent trips to the library, usually on Monday nights when Dad worked late and we went out for what we now call a "girls night out."

The best part of our library trips was the freedom to browse the children's section all by myself.  Now I'm a mom and I just realized that my mom was probably enjoying browsing the adult section all by herself.  But I digress...  The worst part was when I didn't check out enough books to make it until the next trip. Dang.

The last big book I read was Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  It took the better part of my first pregnancy and I frequently discussed the finer points of the book with my unborn son. Now I read all the time, but the books usually contain a fast talking pigeon or Jedi Knight.  I miss having the time to absorb an entire novel at a few sittings.  Most of my adult reading falls under the excuse of "book review."

Still there are Books I Like. There's no pattern here and it's by no means a complete list.  But these are books that resonated somehow.  I've either read them multiple times or think about them as the door to which a genre opened.  They're a mixed bunch: Pride and Prejudice,  Fahrenheit 451,  A Christmas Carol, Ender's Game, Time and Again, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, This Present Darkness...

On a shelf of our bookcase sits a collection of children's Books I Like:  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; Alice in Wonderland;  The Phantom Tollbooth.  They're "newer" books; my childhood copies are long worn away by repeated page turning, so these replaced them in college. Old friends--and I look forward to the day when my kids can meet them too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: Then Sings My Soul, Book 3

I’ve purchased copies of Robert J. Morgan’s books as gifts in the past, but I’ve never sat down and read one. Until now.  Morgan’s third volume in the series focuses on the history of Christian music and the development of western hymns.  He still includes the familiar stories behind the hymns, but this time he places them more directly into their historical context.

It’s fascinating to read about the historical struggle the church has had with music.  The early church sang “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” until music was taken from congregation and given to the clergy.  But Christians kept on singing outside of church and a thousand years later hymns began to find their way back into worship services.  There were the early “worship wars” between Psalm-only hymns and inspired poetry and a strained relationship between popular tunes and traditional forms.  Many of today’s beloved “traditional hymns” were not intended for Sunday morning services, but for camp meetings and revivals.  Morgan celebrates tradition, but reminds us that Christian music is always evolving.

One section worth reading are the “Six Hymn Stories I Love to Tell” where Morgan provides the longer version of the story behind “It is Well with My Soul” and the story of the sisters who wrote the most famous childrens’ hymn: “Jesus Loves Me.”  Morgan makes a good case for reviving the hymnal as a devotional book and for embracing interwoven worship where old and new songs meet.  I heartily agree.

I thoroughly enjoyed Morgan’s book and highly recommend it.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze program.