Category Archives: Faith

Inspirations, aspirations, and cogitations about all which gives life purpose.

Merry Christmas

Hosting Christmas Traditions has been fun this month, like sneaking a peek in the family room window of those who submitted stories for us to enjoy.  It is such a treat to share holiday stories and recipes that create special memories. Gift-giving, baking, drawing near to family warms our hearts and homes as we celebrate the good news of this wondrous season. Immanuel, God with us, is the greatest of all miracles.

May the peace of God reign in your heart and the joy of the Lord be your greatest gift this Christmas.  Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:1-14

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

(NIV – emphasis added)

Savoring Thanksgiving

Hands clasped around the table; heads bowed for blessing,
Family, friends, neighbors, and the like,
Young and not-so-young trade glances and warm hugs.

Thoughts linger over those afar and those gone-on,
The holiday, an excuse to ruminate on deeper things,
It’s the people in our lives that stir these emotions.

Gathering around the food we enjoy is simply the setting,
A moment to eat, connect, give thanks,
Grateful to God for each one.

Freedom’s Call: Standing Firm in Liberty

by selimbk

As patriotic prose stirs the hearts of Americans on the 4th of July, let us consider the freedom we hold dear and its resounding call.  From Pharaoh’s palace, to Calvary’s hill, to Pennsylvania’s State House in 1776, people have proclaimed freedom.  A parting sea, the cross, and the ringing Liberty Bell have all symbolized the triumph.

Freedom’s call is not only to those oppressed by chains or laws, but to the fettered soul as well.  Woven into the pattern of history is humanity’s struggle to attain freedom, often through intense sacrifice.  This beckoning song of liberty resonates in every human heart, regardless of culture, creed, or circumstances—embedded in our DNA by the Author of freedom.  Though hopelessness, intimidation, and fear may tout an advantage, our God-breathed spirit echos any whisper of deliverance.

As much as the heart yearns to be free, the threads of liberty are often intertwined with the propensity to relinquish it through apathy or insecurities, exchanging one form of slavery for another.  The Israelites were free from their taskmasters, but the desert heat and seeming uncertainty left them longing to return to the security of slavery.  Believers receive salvation in Christ, yet forgo the abundant life for institutional religiosity.  America’s founding principles of liberty and justice inspire hope around the world, yet are gradually relinquished through apathy and the complacency of prosperity.

Each year, we celebrate the freedom we enjoy in this great country on July 4, remembering the courage and sacrifice required for our benefit.  Each day brings opportunity to celebrate our liberty in Christ and His authorship of freedom, allowing it to saturate our lives.  Whether it is physical, cultural, or spiritual, there is always a price for freedom, a requisite diligence to maintain it, and someone waiting to take it (or convince us to give it up).  Galatians 5:1 affirms the responsibility of the individual for freedom’s keep—it does not endure if it is not guarded.  May we learn from the annals of human history and stand firm in our liberation.

Sonnet “The Liberty Bell” by R.R.R. Moore

Ring loud that hallowed Bell!
Ring it long, ring it long;
Through the wide world let it tell
That Freedom’s strong:

That the whole world shall be free —
The mighty crowd, the mighty crowd —
That the proud shall bend the knee,
The haughty proud.

Ring, ring the mighty Bell,
In the storm, in the storm!
Brothers! It shall herald well
Fair Freedom’s form.

Ring it Southward, till its voice
For slavery toll, for slavery toll;
And Freedom’s wakening touch rejoice
Both limb and soul.

Ring it o’er the negro’s grave!
Ring it deep, ring it deep;
Its tones are sacred to the slave,
In Freedom’s sleep.

Ring it, till its startling tones
Thrill young and old, young and old;
Till despots tremble on their thrones,
And their blood run cold.

Ring it, till the slave be free,
Wherever chained, wherever chained;
Till Universal Liberty
For aye be gained.

Ring it, till the young arise
To Freedom’s fight, to Freedom’s fight;
Spring gladly toward the kindling skies,
All clothed in light.

Ring it, till the bonds of sect
Be torn away, be torn away;
Till every man, as God’s elect,
Kneel down to pray.

Ring it, till the world have heard,
And felt, at length, and felt, at length;
Till every living soul be stirred,
And clothed with strength.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Hall
Photo by: http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/pp171/selimbk/Cross-Flag.jpg
http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/07/losing_the_republic.html
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+5%3A1&version=NIV
Sonnet “The Liberty Bell” by R.R.R. Moore, Published by the Friends of Freedom, 1844

The Light at the End of the Tunnel (via Marsala, Marriage and the Mysteries of Life)

Poignant, revelatory, and gut-level stuff by a tried and tested young wife (Laura Tucker) with a heart for God. This one is worth printing and pondering.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel David Perkins spoke at church a couple weeks ago.  I have a great respect for David as a person and admiration for him as a man who loves God.  Nevertheless, sometime over the last 12 years at New Life I somewhat shamefully admit I developed a bit of a reluctance to hear him speak.  It was mainly a style thing…over the years I began to be drawn to quiet, thoughtful, sometimes intellectual or theologically-flavored preaching, especially that whi … Read More

via Marsala, Marriage and the Mysteries of Life

Glory to Glory

photo by Kristen Purcell 2009

In study this week, the scripture that came alive was 2 Corinthians 3:17-18.  It is a familiar verse and from time to time has been a solace when I fall short, a reminder that God is not done with me yet.  Overall, I had pictured transformed glory to be linear rather than cumulative—a next step of glory (horizontal) rather than glory on top of glory (vertical), more akin to marks on a ruler than the filling of a vessel.

Looking back on a journal entry from years ago, it became even clearer.  I remembered writing it and the circumstances surrounding life at the time, but reading this scripture again—on the other side of a glory-transforming event—I “got it.”  I am so grateful for fresh revelation!

Metaphorical journal entry about a painful season in 2003:

We walked together in a dense and tangled forest.  The path was unfamiliar and difficult to maneuver.  Everywhere I looked the vegetation was overgrown, making it impossible to see much further than just a few steps.  This wasn’t a couple of friends out for a stroll.  It was clear I would have to depend on my Guide if I had any hope of making my way through.  There was only one way to transverse this labyrinth called grief.  No byways, no shortcuts, it would require everything I had, and more.

At times, He held my hand to stabilize my footing or pull me up an incline.  Other times, He picked me up and carried me over fallen trees or across raging waterways.  He was always sure-footed, confident, caring.  Along the way, we would look into streams as we bent down to drink.  I fixed my eyes on His reflection, noticing how beautiful and refreshed He always was, and how tear-stained my face would be, weary, heavy, and aged.

It was hard to keep going with no end in sight, all I could feel was pain.  I often felt so fatigued from pushing branches aside or crossing ravines that all I could think about was how I just wanted to be done.  I trusted my Guide, but I had to lift my own legs to walk.  Judging its fairness or questioning how I got here made no difference to the briers or rocky slopes.  The only thing dangerous about this footpath was resting too long in one place. Though He never pushed, there was an ever-present readiness to move along when I was willing.

After one treacherous storm that seemed to add insult to injury, the course began to widen and level out just a bit.  Our impetus to keep moving through the discouraging wind and rain took us farther than I had even dared to hope.  With each step my legs were stronger, the terrain easier to anticipate.  Toward the conclusion of this pilgrimage, we rested beside a clear and peaceful pool of water.  As we knelt to cup the water in our hands, I was amazed to see how my reflection had changed.  No longer wearied and worn, it was mysteriously more like His—permeated with His glory and beauty.  The water even looked different. It was then I realized the refreshing streams from which I drank during this long and painful trial, were Himself—renewing, life-giving, transforming.

Baby Shower

This last week I attended a baby shower for a gal in our bible study group.  Colorado Springs was only a short stint for her and her husband while he was in school and she prepared to give birth to their second child.  Considering her time here would be brief, she was certain the year would be a write-off with respect to having girlfriends, though a bible study seemed like a good way to pass the time. Not only did friendship develop during the course of the study, but she also found godly women full of grace and wisdom.  Along the way, she too was a woman of grace and wisdom for others.  That is the beauty of authentic community.

We prayed over her, shared this delicious cake made by Care Young, and as she unwrapped gifts each of us offered words of encouragement and insight about mothering more than one.  Much of the advice of the evening revolved around the importance of enjoying this season that passes all too quickly.  A couple of the women did not have children, so they reminisced about their own childhood and their moms.  The collective wisdom in the room was palpable and the consensus: don’t hurry, enjoy it.  Household duties, working, projects, ministry positions can wait—babies aren’t babies very long.

What is it about the season of life when babies are being born and a woman decides to “stay home,” that we wonder if we’re missing out?  In my own experience, contentment during this stage in life is greatly impacted by those we spend time with and unity with our husband.  Our desire to fast-forward is at least two-fold; we want to see the result of our sacrifice now, as well as the desire to get back to the goals, dreams, endeavors we may have put on-hold to be mothers.  We want to feel significant beyond the loads of laundry, trails of toys, and moldy sippy-cups (you know, the ones you find later, sure it will cost you Mother of the Year because you didn’t find it before they tried drinking it!).

Modern women have a difficulty with the notion that once they choose to become mothers, motherhood is their ministry and lifework—anything else is a bonus.  I am not suggesting that motherhood is all we can do; just that it takes all that we have to do it, and then some.  Not a single weighty accomplishment on the planet even comes close to the nurturing, training, and launching of another human being.  In fact, it is our greatest privilege.

God fashioned woman, uniquely equipped to give life.  Beyond the ability to produce life from the womb, is the capacity to impart life through our words, our touch, and our reach into the community around us.  We must not succumb to the beguiled thinking that daycare centers, youth pastors, school yards, coaches, or Sunday school teachers are an adequate substitute (though great resources).  There is desperate need today for young mothers to have seasoned women and like-minded girlfriends to link arms with when the days are long and purpose seems elusive.

Parenting in the midst of this you-can-have-it-all culture requires a community rich in valuing the appropriate things.  Each of us need to be reminded what a precious gift we hold in our hands, especially when they are sticky with jelly or strained carrots.  I am forever grateful for the godly women in my own life who know how important it is to celebrate new life and encourage each other to embrace and value motherhood at every opportunity.

Mortar and Pestle: The Benefit of Pressure

I love kitchen tools and techniques, especially those that save time or enhance flavors.  Since Christmas, I have been honing my craft through select recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, noting her affinity for the mortar and pestle.  She wasn’t opposed to modern devices, but she did like cooking as hands-on as possible.  With my birthday not far off, I did everything just shy of smoke signals to convey my desire for this ancient tool; and on Monday, this beautiful marble version sat on my countertop ready for duty.

As I began pulling herbs and spices from my cupboard to marinate some chicken for grilling, I also grabbed the mortar and pestle.  Tellicherry peppercorns and Italian herbs seemed like a great way to begin this new adventure, so I was on my way.   As I began to crush the herbs, the fragrance from the dried oregano and basil leaves surprised me, as though something dormant was released.  The peppercorns took a little more pressure to grind, but the bright, peppery scent was well worth it.  The chicken marinated in a host of juice and spices, did its time on the grill, and with the first sampling, the distinct flavors were noticeable.  I was convinced my new tool would have a permanent place in my kitchen.

While relaxing that evening, my mind wandered to the savory aroma of the herbs and peppercorns, thinking about all the times I had used these items without their full potency.  Evidently, the pressure of grinding and refining brought out the hidden potential of these common ingredients.  Of course, each one was useful in its present state, sure to produce an adequate result, but when the outer covering was bruised and crushed, something rather exquisite emerged.

A picture began forming in my mind’s eye of this benefit of pressure and its parallels to life—my own life.   At times, our circumstances can feel as though the pressure is so intense there will be a bruise or mark left on us.   If a difficult season lasts too long we might feel discouraged or even crushed under its weight.   It didn’t take much for me to recognize the challenges in life are the mortar and pestle that refine our character.  Scripture even uses this age-old apparatus as a character refining metaphor in Proverbs 27:22 − Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding him like grain with a pestle, you will not remove his folly from him (NIV).

This would infer that our response to the difficulty we face is most crucial.  In my experience, the only way to emerge from a mortar and pestle type event without the residue of foolishness is to allow God to do the refining.  He knows the right amount of pressure that will liberate the fragrance of Christ in each of us (2 Cor 2:14-15).  I believe it is our willingness to yield to His plans and purposes in the midst of adversity which gives opportunity for something rather exquisite to emerge.