Monday, April 28, 2014

Psneaking in a late Psalmody Psunday

Oh Greek "ps-" diphthong, you never fail to amuse me.  

Here's my reflection on Psalm 83, and unlike last time, I actually stuck to my five minute time limit.  This was mostly thanks to my children fomenting a pre-breakfast rebellion.  

Here goes:

This psalm seems to be written during a time of persecution and danger from neighboring nations.  It does not feel particularly applicable to me. How gentle a life I lead!  There are Christians (and Jews) all over the world who are probably clinging to this psalm as a lifeline, whispering “Deal with them as with Midian...make them like the whirling dust,” as they see those in power oppressing them and threatening them with unjust imprisonment or death.

There are quite a few voices in America today who would argue that Christians are becoming targets of persecution that will turn out the same.  I am of two minds about this.  First, I agree that there is a trend that would like to declaw the Lion of Judah and make God more of a cute fluffy LOLcat instead: cute but optional, especially if you’re allergic.  In order for this trend to take place, it means that those who hold the strong line will be ridiculed or removed from office or places of influence. 

But I also can’t help but feel a bit irked when I hear “war on Christmas” pundits saying that we are in a time of “real persecution.”  Some in this nation are facing real persecution, and many in the world are facing persecution unto death: to equate a cashier saying, “Happy Holidays” with those things seems fatuous at best.  

And my five minutes is up

Don't forget that you can also read my awesome cousin's reflections on the same Psalm here.  

Next week: Psalm 24

Friday, April 25, 2014

7 QT: The clothes, shoes, and hair edition

As of today, I have finished up a very big project for a friend and am at leisure to do more blogging again.

Luckily, I'm not a psychopath.

You should all be glad that I don't have a smart phone.  If I did, I would have been live tweeting my shopping adventure last night.  That's right, I went shopping…for clothes…for myself…by myself!  Well, nearly by myself. I took Ben with me, because he's a great companion.  That baby is game for just about any expedition at any time.  It is so nice.  

I went to Nordstrom Rack.  I was trying to remember the last time I did serious clothes/shoe shopping for myself. A few years at the very least, and I'm planning that my purchases from yesterday will last me many years.

Do you ever have, "I'm becoming my mother" moments?  I did, last night.  I found a shirt I liked that was flattering and promptly bought two more of the same style in different colors. My mom is all about that.  Don't mess with success.

According to the style column in our local newspaper, that's a rookie move, but I don't care.  I think the shirt is awesome and flattering and with a "mummy tummy" (as the Brits say, apparently), you have to go with that.
I was also on the hunt for nice shoes.  I have one pair of dress shoes right now, and they are technically dance "character" shoes (meaning basic strapped pumps that are suitable for swing dancing or dancing in musical theatre, etc.).  This means they have a leather sole with no traction.  That's great for a slick dance floor and spinning around and turning on a dime.  It is not good for a mom trying to chase kids around.

I finally bid adieu to a pair of flats I bought for my sophomore (in high school) formal dance.  I loved them.  But the soles were so worn that they too had lost all traction, and I actually fell down in the hall at church while trying to hustle my flailing toddler out.  It was time to say goodbye to them.  Aren't you proud of me?

Not impressed.

Back to the shoe search: apparently nude peep toe pumps are in this season.  This would be awesome, since I love peep toe shoes and nude/beige is a very versatile shade that goes with everything non-black; alas, I am terrible at wearing heels.  I just wobble all over the place, and given that I have small children to corral, it seems like a recipe for  broken ankles.  
Oh, stilettos, why must you tempt me?

But all was not lost.  I found some nice wedge heel sandals that are actually comfortable, cushy, and don't look too lame.  I also got a pair of Keen sandals because, well, Oregon.  If you don't own at least one pair of Keens you are clearly not trying hard enough to look like you belong here.  Besides, they are comfy.
In high school, one of my favorite pastimes was to go to the mall or to stores like Ross or Marshall's with my BFF, try on six million articles of clothing, maybe buy one of them, and make fun of silly and trendy clothes on the rack.  I am pleased to announce that most trendy clothes still look silly and I saw plenty of them on the racks last night.  I also find brand names to be hilarious.  One pair of jeans I saw was made by a company called "Skinny and Rich."  Well, if that doesn't disqualify me right there, I don't know what does.
As I was trying on clothes, I kept thinking, "I need a haircut."  Doesn't a fresh haircut make everything look better?  I've always thought so.  And I must say that I'm ready to go short again.  I last had my haircut in December 2012.  The last time I had it all chopped off was in December 2011, and it was disastrous.  I used a Groupon to a place I'd never been.  There were some communication difficulties, as the lady cutting my hair had a very thick accent and also thought I was nuts for wanting to have a short haircut.  "Oh, that would not look good.  That would look like a man," she said when I showed her a picture of my DRIVER'S LICENSE PHOTO.  Ummmmm, what?? Did you just call former me a man?  Wow.

But nonetheless, she did cut it short, except it looked awful.  I got one compliment on it from someone I worked with, but my husband was horrified by it and my brother-in-law and his wife both said the same thing (at separate times) when they saw it.  "Well…it's short!"  Sigh.

I grew up with short hair.  I think it suits me.  My husband likes my hair long.  Why do men like that? Is it because they do not want their wives to be mistaken for dudes?  I think a lot of women look gorgeous with long hair.  I see them at Jazzercise all the time.  The problem is that my hair doesn't look like that when it is long!  It grows out into an unruly shrub.

So, this is the haircut I would like to try (the cut, not the color! I would make a horrendous blonde):

When I showed it to Allen, however, his reaction was something like, "Aww heck no, I am not married to Justin Bieber OR Miley Cyrus."  He later (with great resignation) said that I could do what I wanted, but he did not like it.  I think what I'm going to have to do is to take the picture to a really good stylist and explain the situation and see if he/she has any good compromises.  

But hey, hair grows back, right?  It isn't a permanent commitment, thank goodness.  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

It's Easter!

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia, Alleluia!

It was a fairly simple day.  We got dressed up and went to church (Pro Tip: do not arrive late on Easter Sunday and expect to get anything other than standing room only).

We tried to take pictures of the kids while they were all dressed up.  I took many, hoping that statistically at least one would be good...

Then we got some kind gentleman to take some family pictures for us, which went slightly better…

Went home and let the kids get into their Easter goodies from Grandma Laurie…
She looks good in this hat!

Garden themed Easter Baskets!

Max contemplates his Lamb Lolly

Then the kids took naps played mostly contained in their room and I cooked dinner…and I am pleased to say that I had a non-Pinterest Failworthy table!  Look at those cute cupcakes!!! For once, my cupcake decorating skills have worked out well for me.

While we waited for Andy and Alishia to arrive, Allen decided to chill with the kids in his truck.  Some quality Daddy time, you know…

The kids' evening ended with a short Easter Egg hunt in the backyard.  

 After the kids were in bed, we played "The Newlywed Game" (based on the old TV show) with Andy and Alishia, which is always good for some awkward laughter.  There are not many couples I feel like I could play that game with, but since Allen and Andy are similar in a lot of ways and Alishia and I are similar in a lot of ways, it works out pretty well.

Just wanted to check in and share some pictures with you. I'm hoping to be done with a very large project this week, and after it is done I hope to get back to my much more regular blogging schedule.  I know you've missed me (she said facetiously).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Psalmody Psunday: (Catching Up) on Psalms 71 and 19

Let me dust off the ol' blog here…

Yes, back to that magnificent idea I had to meditate on and write about the Psalms.  It was a fine idea, wasn't it?  So fine that I did it once and then have missed a few weeks.  Sigh.  Enough about me, though, let's talk about God!

Psalm 71 (the entirety of which can be found here)

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for inspiring David to write his psalms and for inspiring the founders of the canon to include them.  There are plenty of parts of the Bible that modern folks can point to and laugh at its old-fashionedness or just bizarre stories (I'm looking at you, Leviticus and Judges).  "What an irrelevant religion," they might scoff.  Still, I'd wager that most of us have felt the emotions called to mind in the Psalms (and certainly in Lamentations). Psalm 71 is a great example.

"Oh God, do not be far from me!  Oh my God, hasten to my help!"  (v. 12)

I think it is Anne Lamott who says that her favorite prayers are "Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God," and "Thank you, thank you, thank you."  I remember feeling scandalized the first time I read that.  How can you call it a prayer to take God's name in vain?  If you're not taking it in vain, of course! if you are legitimately calling out to God, your God!  That is what David is doing.  He is crying out for help.  People are conspiring against him in his old age and frailty.  That must have been scary.  And yet, two verses later, he says:

"But as for me, I will hope continually,
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteousness
and your salvation all day long.
I do not know the sum of them.
I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God.
I will make mention of your righteousness, yours alone." (vs. 14-16)

Hmm, that usually isn't my automatic response.  Wow, my life is falling apart…I know! I'll openly and publicly praise God and talk of his mighty deeds!  Perhaps it wasn't David's automatic response, either. Perhaps it took him years of practice, and part of why he wrote the Psalms down was to remind himself continually what to do in times of trouble.

How should I, then, praise you yet more and more in my time of trouble, Lord?

Psalm 19 (the entirety of which can be found here)

My mother-in-law read this psalm as a toast to us at our wedding reception.  At the time, I was not sure why she had selected it, since the beginning of it seemed to have little to do with marriage.  But I'm sure she was thinking more of the latter half of the Psalm.  

"They [the judgments and laws of the Lord] are more desirable than gold, yes, much fine gold.
Sweeter also than honey, than the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them your servant is warned,
in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
Acquit me of hidden faults.
Also keep your servant back from presumptuous sins
let them not rule over me;
then I shall be blameless
and acquitted of great transgression." (vs. 10-13)

How often do I treat the laws of the Lord as being better than gold and sweeter than honey?  

Not very often.  In fact, I usually feel neutral towards them at best and resentful of them at worst. Does this passage only refer to the laws of the Old Covenant?  In other words, should Christians still be able to agree with David that the judgments of the Lord are better than gold, sweeter than honey (or in my case delicious vanilla macchiatos, since I don't really like honey), or should Christians look upon this Psalm as being essentially old in its nature and no longer relevant to us who seek our righteousness apart from the law and are under grace instead (cf. Romans 6)?    

In looking up that passage in Romans, I was intrigued to see some neato-mosquito parallels (color coded for your convenience.)  

"Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.  What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  May it never be!…but thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you became obedient to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having become freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness…But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome is eternal life.  The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:12-15, 17-18, 22-23)

Compare that with this part of the psalm:

"They [the judgments and laws of the Lord] are more desirable than gold, yes, much fine gold.
Sweeter also than honey, than the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them your servant is warned,
in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
Acquit me of hidden faults.
Also keep your servant back from presumptuous sins
let them not rule over me;
then I shall be blameless
and acquitted of great transgression." (vs. 10-13)

And here we have--from my analysis, at least--a beautiful example of the harmony of the Old and New Testaments, and also a beautiful harmony of faith and works.  It is God who frees us from being slaves to sin by his grace.  We do not un-sin our way out of death to life.  God's free gift to us is eternal life in Christ Jesus.  We do not accomplish that on our own.  It's grace. 

The Apostle Paul, of course, predicts where we might go from there.  "What then, shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  May it never be!"  We don't get to kick back and do whatever we like just because we have faith in God's salvation by grace.  

What ought we to do?  

Framed negatively, not to offer ourselves and our energies to the whims and lusts (or passions) of sin, just as David asked to be kept back from presumptuous (or willful) sins.  

Framed positively, to offer ourselves and our energies to God to be instruments of righteousness, just as David said that in keeping the laws of the Lord there is great reward.  

One last parallel passage, this one spoken by Jesus:

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Do not think I came to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps them and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:16-19)

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and he is the giver of endless grace.  And He asks that we follow and teach the commandments of the Law (the same ones that David pronounced to be better than gold and sweeter than honey), so that we will be great in the kingdom of heaven.  

Ties together pretty well, I'd say.  

[This should go without saying, but I completely and utterly broke my rule about only spending 5 minutes to write about Psalm 19!  Oh well, time meditating on God's word is always time well spent!]

Next week's randomly chosen Psalm: Psalm 83