Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Avoidance

I don't have anything interesting to say. I am simply avoiding cleaning the kitchen. For some reason, the kitchen is my least favorite room to clean. It looms over me with icky dishes (yes, even though we have a dishwasher now, I still hate icky dishes) and counter tops that need wiped. I think my problem is that no matter how clean it is or how much work I put into it, it doesn't make a difference. the next meal happens and all that work is for naught. I can vacuum and not have to worry about it for the rest of the week. But not the kitchen. Nooo. It has to be the annoying room in the house.


That being said, I decided to blog instead of clean the kitchen.

Life is still good here in Okoboji. It's really feels like summer with sunny days and temps in the 80's and even 90's! We were actually feeling kind of miserable for a while because our AC wouldn't work. And without a fan, our apartment got really hot really fast. We had plans to call our property manager to see about getting it fixed when our lovely friend Dave Steffen reminded us that the switch in the fuse box probably hadn't been flipped. Embarrassed, we discovered that we were fighting the heat for no reason. With a flip of a switch we soon had cool air circulating through the apartment. As least we were saved from an even more embarrassing visit from an AC repair man! Thanks Dave!

We purchased a grill last weekend. Which consequently meant that we had burgers 3 nights in a row. Yummy, but a but repetitive. We're aiming to try steaks this weekend when the Board's are here.

Our trip to Arnold's Park on Friday was a lot of fun! We got to check out all the rides for free, which was awesome! Found out that if you sit in the back car of the roller coaster, it is extremely bumpy (as in you-need-to-see-a-chiropractor-afterwards bumpy) and you are actually lifted out of your seat a few times. Also discovered that Anthony is terrified of ferris wheels! Ha! You should have seen him... hilarious! Something about the rocking motion of the cart freaked him out. The roller coaster he handled just fine, but the ferris wheel? No way. He wouldn't sit next to me for fear of unbalancing the cart, and he held onto the pole in the middle the whole time. Didn't even enjoy the view of the lake. It's a shame. But it provided some entertainment for me. And he survived, so all is well.

I think that's about all. The Board's come tomorrow night, and we are pumped! So excited to show them where we live and to hang out and to enjoy the sunshine.

Alright, I guess it's to the kitchen I go. Wish me luck!

Emily

Friday, May 21, 2010

Unofficial Start of Summer

Summer has unofficially started here in the Iowa Great Lakes area. Every day it seems that more and more shops and restaurants are opening up (we tried this great new smoothie shop!). And of course, this Sunday marks the first Sunday meeting in the conference grounds. The sun has been shining all week and the temperatures are supposed to be in the 80's this weekend and into next week. Even though it's not Memorial Day Weekend yet, in my mind it's summer.

Backing up a bit, our trip back home to Indiana was wonderful, though a bit crazy. We thought that extending the trip from 4 days to 9 would make things easier as far as seeing everyone. Nope. Not really. I don't even want to think about how hard it would have been if we had stuck to our original 4 day visit. Even though we spent a lot of time hopping back and forth, it was definitely worth it to see everyone! We got some good family time in on both sides as well as some good friend time. We got to play games, eat at Hacienda and Cold Stone, celebrate a graduation, and relax and laugh with people we love. Oh and we managed to do a bit of shopping too (I really miss having a mall or department stores near by!). We battled my mom's concert week, a good friend's grandpa getting sick, a choir tour, and Anthony's parent's leaving for vacation and still managed to see everyone! I consider that to be quite an accomplishment! To give you an idea of how much running around we did... the trip from Iowa to Indiana is somewhere between 600-620 miles depending on which route you take. While we were in Indiana alone we put on about 350 miles to our car. That's a lot of back and forth! But well worth it!

Now we are back... got back just in time for the prayer vigil and move to the conference grounds. The prayer vigil went... ok. It was kind of disappointing that so many slots were left open. But Anthony and I camped out at the church Saturday for a good long while and covered a lot of it. We/the church was praying for the summer, for the move, for outreach. For those who don't know/don't remember Good News changes location in the summer. One reason for this change is that we simply cannot fit the congregation in the current sanctuary with the summer traffic. Another big reason is that the conference center is downtown, right next to the lake, and it provides a great way for us to reach out to people. The building is like a big pole barn with garage doors on the side that roll up. Very camp-like. Anyways, we did the big move on Monday and it went pretty well considering this was Anthony's first time. The big problem is with the wiring and the projection. Getting everything to work right and go through the right channels is tricky. Hopefully everything will be set to go this Sunday. It'll be an adventure, that's for sure.

In other news, we have the privilege of entertaining our first guest next weekend. The Board's are driving out to spend Memorial Day Weekend with us! We are so excited to hang out with them and show them around. Especially since they will be moving to South Korea at the end of the summer. We are definitely spreading out!

Well, I think I've made this post long enough. And it's about time to enjoy the weekend. Arnold's Park (the local amusement park) is opening tomorrow and they are having a free preview night tonight, so I think we are gonna check it out. I'm excited to ride the roller coaster!
Much love,
Emily

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bible in 90 Days: Days 7 and 8: Exodus 29—Leviticus 14

 The later part of Exodus and the entirety of Leviticus are infamous for being some of the most difficult Scripture to read. Verse after verse of descriptions of furniture, the slaughter of animals, and different sort of sins can cause even the most dedicated reader stop dead in their tracks. It’s chapters like these that make us take a look at 2 Timothy 3:16 (“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching”) and think to ourselves, “Are you sure?”

But it is in these chapters that we see some aspects of God that are crucial to understand. First of all, we can see that God does indeed care about the details. The end of Exodus details the building of the Israelites’ first place of worship, a tabernacle. What we have to understand now is that if we are in Christ, we are now temples of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 6). The Holy Spirit of God resides, lives, and abides in us and us in Him. If that is the case, and if it is the case that God cared so deeply about how the tabernacle (and eventual the Jewish temple) was treated, how much more, then, does He care about how His new temple is treated?

Secondly, in Exodus and Leviticus, we discover God as the great Forgiver and Provider. The middle third of Exodus details punishment for sinning against God and against His people. Leviticus, however, shows us that God provides atonement and forgiveness. Atonement is a (if not THE) key word in Leviticus. It is repeated over and over again. Despite our sinning against God, He provides a way to be reconciled to Him.

So, yes, although reading about how to wash the intestines of sheep may not immediately seem inspirational, it is in these chapters that we come to find that God is a God who cares about our lives and is a God who desires relationship with His creation, even if we keep screwing up over and over again. God wants us to know Him and Leviticus shows us a glimpse of the ultimate reconciliation between creation and Creator that will culminate in Christ Jesus.

Craig Keener, "Gift & Giver," Chapters 5 and 6


Chapters 5 and 6 of Keener’s “Gift & Giver” focuses specifically on spiritual gifts. Chapter 5 asks, “Are the spiritual gifts for today,” and chapter 6 presents some ideas about the specific ideas.

Perhaps for most (all?) of the Christians I know, asking “Are the spiritual gifts for today?” seems a bit silly. We are well acquainted with spiritual gift inventories; I cannot tell you how many of those long, tedious exams I took in high school. We readily admit that God’s Spirit still works miracles and gives gifts to His children. But the post-enlightenment/anti-supernatural society we live in many times causes many of us to be closet “cessationists,” i.e. those who believe that the gifts ceased to be given after the time of the Bible. As Keener notes, “Many other Christians who acknowledge that God can still do miracles in answer to prayer claim that supernatural gifts have ceased, thus doubting that God does miracles the same way he did them in biblical times. Given the frequent abuse and feigning of some gifts today, this position has a measure of appeal” (p. 90).

I have to admit to at times being dangerously close to this view. In high school and in college I saw some manifestations of what people called “spiritual gifts,” but what was actually deception and spiritual flashiness. Since then, I never came out and declared that I didn’t believe in spiritual gifts, but whenever I heard of miraculous healings, speaking in tongues, words of knowledge, etc. I always met the news with an unhealthy bit of cynicism.

But after being a student of Scripture for many years, I simply cannot believe that the gifts have stopped. Keener notes three reasons (p. 95-96) for this:

1)  1) “Luke presents the empowerment of the church at Pentecost as a normative experience for Christians.”
2)2)      “...[T]he Gospel writers...present Jesus’ miracle-working ministry as a model for disciples.”
3)3)     “Paul’s presentation of the gifts is inseparable from his view of the church.”

Keener concludes chapter 5 by saying “we must seek the gifts” and now only seek them but seek them “with the right motives”(p. 112). This is something where I and most of the Jesus communities I have been a part of have utterly fallen flat on their face. I have either sought the gifts for the entirely the wrong motives or stopped seeking the gifts at all. But Paul specifically says to “desire spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 14:1) for the sake of the edification of the body (see entirety of 1 Cor. 12-14).

In chapter 6, Keener moves on to specific gifts. Keener immediately says, “we should not limit God’s gifts to those discovered in...inventories” (p. 113). We have to find the balance between gifts we are born with and gifts that are given from us seeking them in prayer. There are some who will focus only the supernatural gifts and some who focus on their “talents.” But God gifts both to the church and both should utilized to their fullest.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bible in 90 Days: Day 6—Exodus 15:19—28:43

These chapters contain so much action, theology, and detail that it’s hard to decide what to write on. I’ll try a little bit of everything.

The Importance of the Desert
First off, we find God has led the Israelites out of the Red Sea...and into a desert! A series of deserts, actually. But each desert is important in that it allows God to show His great power and grace to the Israelite community.

1)     The Desert of Shur: turning bitter water into sweet water.
2)     Desert of Sin: giving of manna (bread) and quail (meat).
3)     Desert of Rephidim: water from rock; victory in battle
4)     Desert of Sinai: Giving of the Law

Each of these deserts is crucial to the growth of the Israelites. And yet in each desert the Israelites grumble, complain, or outright sin against the Lord.

Wisdom from a Father-in-Law
In Exodus 18, we find Moses sitting alone as judge for the entire community of Israelites. Jethro, the father of Moses’ wife Zipporah, sees this ridiculousness and says, “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out...select capable men from all the people...and appoint them”! Moses was trying to do the job of dozens all by himself. Jethro shows Moses the wisdom of NOT trying to be all things to all people.

Justice and Mercy in the Law
Perhaps where most people struggle with the Old Testament is in the Law. It is in the Law that we find such difficult verses as

“Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death”;
“Anyone who beats their male or female slave...are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property”;
“...life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth...”

This is rough stuff. But also this is where we see God begin the process of getting things back to the way they were before the Fall. But it has to be incremental. This is why Jesus declares, “I did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill the Law.”

For instance, slavery was NOT abolished in the Old Testament. But God sets up guidelines of proper and improper ways of treating a slave. “If you guy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything” (21:2). Or “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result.”

Polygamy is NOT abolished in the Old Testament, but God says about concerning husbands and second wives, “If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing, and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.”

And then we find such gems as
“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (22:21);
“Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan” (22:22);
“If you lend money to one of my people who is needy, charge no interest” (22:25);
“...help your enemy” (23:5);
 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits” (23:6);
“...during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it” (23:11).