Monday, April 30, 2012

Inspiration::Power of Words::In Real Life

Look where I was this weekend!

This Saturday I attended this wonderful "national/local" conference of sorts that invited Christian women bloggers to come out from behind their screens and attend local meetups in real life. The concept to me was brilliant. I've read about blogging conferences before and have thought about how cool it would be to meet up with other women writers. But my blog is not one that is a business for me and flying across the country to a blog conference is not an expense in which I can afford to indulge. So, when (in)courage announced it was going to be having "video-cast" driven gatherings all over the United States that anyone could host, I got excited. Though I've got family and friends here in the Twin Cities that I am thrilled to have come back to, I am still a new resident again, starting over building community and building community was precisely the focus of this first (in)RL gathering.

Plus, they made it incredibly affordable to attend: $10. That's right. Ten dollars got you a beautiful t-shirt, a pack of greeting cards to send to your girlfriends - new and old - and entrance into drawings with products from the (in)Courage line by Dayspring.  I won, by the way. :) I didn't even realize I was entered (everyone who registered was) until I got a note in my e-mail inbox. I and 99 others were sent this bag absolutely free. Cute, huh? :) It's a makeup bag, but I think knitting or art supplies are going in mine. The photos are blurry... I don't know why... but there's a sweet Scripture verse from Ecclesiastes on the front of the bag.

So, on Friday, all participants gathered round their computers for introductory videos. Nearly 2 hours of inspiring, moving content to prepare us for Saturday. And then we showed up... in real life. :)

One of the first things I was happy about was the fact that I was not hosting the event! Now this may not sound nice, but it's not as plain as it seems. As someone who's number one spiritual gift is "hospitality" it is a delight to be treated to an event in someone else's home, especially as someone new to town.

Allison and Anna hosted our event at Allison's in-laws' beautiful home just east of the Cities. We met and chatted, ate good food, yummy treats (chocolate ~ of course!), and watched and enjoyed, laughed and cried over more wonderful content provided by (in)courage.

And I came away from all of this... inspired. Inspired and encouraged to keep building the kingdom, keep building community. And also, to keep writing. We were reminded that our words are powerful:

Proverbs 16:24 - "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Proverbs 10:11 - "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life..."

Proverbs 10:20 - "The lips of the righteous nourish many..."

Ephesians 4:29 - "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for builiding others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Proverbs 25:25 - "Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land."

Do you ever have times when you come away from someplace changed? I experience this sometimes at big family gatherings - weddings and funerals, reunions, and such - or after returning home from traveling. There is just a lot to think about and process after events such as these. Certainly, I wasn't feeling that this was going to occur in a 4 -hour block of time this past Saturday. But it did... and I'm still thinking about it. I feel so blessed to have gone and am curious to see what God is going to do next!

In the meantime, I am thinking about words: written and spoken, journaled and blogged, in prayer and in Scripture, in letters and e-mails, texts and social network posts. Can you think of a way that your words may become a "fountain of life" to someone today?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cousins: In Series

Earlier this month the bigger cousins gathered to celebrate and await the newest's homecoming:

Oh my. They are a silly bunch. You have no idea what you're in for Miss Hazel Alice. Check those toes! And she's already sporting the Hazelnut Hat I knit for her! Lookin' good, baby girl!

Big sister, Celia, is no longer our littlest cousin. Oh, no. In fact...

She listened mighty closely as Papa Jerry told her about all the things she needed to teach Hazel that only a Big Sister can.

One of the happiest things in life is just... life! Congratulations to Mike and Lael and Celia. We just love our new, little Hazel!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Favorite Book

A couple of weeks ago, after a few years of living the "snowbird" life, my dad moved into an apartment nearby to us here in the Cities. I took him over to his new place to sign his lease and settle some last minute details. And after a walk to the bluff at the urging of two, eager granddaughters, we came back to my house.

A few minutes before he left, I was talking with Dad about some of the reading we had been doing for school on Iran. A history buff, Dad mentioned that it used to be called Persia. I told him I knew that and, in fact, we were studying a bit of that particular history in depth in my women's Bible study group at chuch via the fantastic study of the book of Esther called Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman, by the incomparable Beth Moore.

I read an interesting fact or two from the study to Dad and then was reading a passage from Esther to reference what I had read and Dad said, "What book is that you're reading from?"

"This one?" I asked, holding my study guide. "It's the study guide for the Esther study."

"No, the one in your other hand. What's that book?"

"Oh.. it's my Bible."

I showed him the cover and he commented nonchalantly, " Oh, it's just a study Bible."

*ouch*  Now, I know Dad meant absolutely nothing by this and was just looking for clarification considering the state of the somewhat ratty, blue-covered paperback book I held in my left hand. But in a split-second I thought, "Just a study Bible? Just??? This book changed my life!"

Oh, I have such affection for this ratty, bent up, taped-up version of God's Word. Since this prodigal daughter returned home 14 years ago after a decade away, there were times when I wondered if I should get a new, nicer-looking Bible. But I just can't do it, and here's why.

First, my paperback cover with its packing-taped edges and binding is comfortable to hold (more comfortable than the hard-cover version that this particular Quest Bible is limited to at present) and it's not leather. It's not that I don't own anything leather, but I avoid it when I can find alternatives.

More important than what the book looks like on the outside though, is what it contains inside. And this particular Bible has so many notes, references, and favorite underlined passages that it would take a great deal of time to transcribe into a newer, handsomer Bible.

When I contemplate even beginning to transcribe everything that I've noted I give a little, involuntary shudder.

More importantly than that, however, is that copying my notes would almost be like making a replica - a facsimile- of the original to me. It may look the same, but it would not contain the moments of discovery and awe that I have experienced over the years when making a note.

Some pages, like the photo above, might be considered too messy and distracting for someone to read who likes a neat Bible. But those pages represent to me when I learned how to do inductive Bible study. And using symbols above or on the words - "love", for example, in this shot - show you instantly where there is a passage regarding this topic and/or how much is it being talked about. Using color-coding in the book of John, for example, I can quickly see how much Jesus refers to Himself as "light" (underlined in yellow) and "life" (underlined in green).

Below, I show a page that has a note about the original Greek of a word that I'd noted. Incidentally, I do not recommend writing or underlining in your Bible using ball-point ink. Sometimes, this has proven to be unavoidable to me, but as you can see below, and the photo is not blurred, the ink, not being acid-free, begins to bleed over the years. Obviously, you could use acid-free ink if you have it handy and are diligent, but I just pretty much stick to pencil these days.

Which leads me to another reason for all my scribbling. Like my saved journals, my Bible is a record of my history. It is my love notes, alongside God's Love Note, to the future generations of my family. 

Perhaps you recognize the feeling of connection when you find a handwritten recipe of a grandmother or even her notes of preferred additions or corrections in the margin of a recipe book. For the same reason that I continue, in addition to sending scads of e-mail, to write hand-written letters that won't be deleted in the seconds it takes to be read, I make notes in my Bible. It is my own history... alongside mankind's history.

Most of my notes, of course, are for me, but I am very purposeful in one regard, toward my descendants. I once read in a children's book called, His Mother's Bible, of a boy who, in looking at the very thing had to ask what the little initials, "T.P" meant that were scattered throughout the Book.  "That means," said his mother, "that it is 'tested and proved.' Try it, and you'll see for yourself."

Isn't that wonderful? It is a practice I immediately added to my own!

So, though it may look as if it needs relplacing, I won't be upgrading my Bible anytime soon. I am pleased with its worn pages and will continue to make repairs as needed. It's a little bit like the Veveteen Rabbit, that well-loved little, brown bunny. But even better, because it really is alive! (Hebrews 4:12)  :)

I hope you're all enjoying this Holy Week leading up to the grand, Resurrection Sunday and are taking just a little bit of time to check out that Love Letter written just for you!
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