Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lent is Coming

We have been doing a Bible study through Matthew, and I have been itching to read through the Gospels in parallel, chronological order for a long time now. I found a good list, and divided it into Lent, which is actually 47 days if you count the Sundays. Perhaps you would like to join me?

Lent: Drawing Closer to Christ
Reading through the Gospels (in parallel, chronological order) in 47 days (Includes Sundays)
“Lent is the Christian season of preparation before Easter. In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the first day, or the start of the season of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter (Sundays are not included in the count). Many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ - his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.” http://christianity.about.com/od/holidaytips/qt/whatislent.html
A full outline (summarized below) of the parallel Gospels is found at www.LifeofChrist.com

Day 1: Preparing for Jesus
John 1:1-18
Matthew 1:1-17
Luke 3:23-38
Luke 1:1-80
Matthew 1:18-25

Day 2: Jesus is born
Luke 2:1-38
Matthew 2:1-23, Luke 2:39-52

Day 3: John and Jesus
Matthew 3:1-17, Mark 1:1-11, Luke 3:1-23
Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4: 1-13
John 1:19-34

Day 4: Disciples
John 1:35-51, 2:1-25, 3:1-36
Matthew 4:12, Mark 1:14, Luke 3:19-20

Day 5: Samaritans
John 4:1-42
Luke 4:14-30, John 4:43
Luke 4:16-30
John 4:43-54

Day 6: Healings and Miracles
Matthew 4:13-22, Mark 1:14-20. Luke 4:31-32
Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:33-37
Matthew 8:14-17, Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:38-39
Mark 1:32-38, Luke 4:40-43
Matthew 4:23-25, Mark 1:39, Luke 4:44

Day 7: Fish
Luke 5:1-11
Matthew 8:2-4, Mark 1:40-45, Luke 5:12-16
Matthew 9:2-17, Mark 2:1-22, Luke 5:17-39

Day 8: Passover
John 5:1-47

Day 9: Sabbath
Matthew 12: 1-21, Mark 2:23-28, 3:1-7, Luke 6:1-11
Matthew 4:23-25, Mark 3:7-12

Day 10: Sermon on the Mount
Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-19
Matthew 5:1-81, Luke 6:20-49

Day 11: Jesus and John
Matthew 8: 5-13, Luke 7:1-17
Matthew 11:2-30, Luke 7:18-35

Day 12: Generosity
Luke 7:36-50, 8:1-3

Day 13: Rebuked
Matthew 12:22-45, Mark 3:20-30

Day 14: Parables
Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21
Matthew 13:1-53, Mark 4:1-34, Luke 8:4-18

Day 15: Across the Sea
Matthew 8:18, Mark 4:35, Luke 8:22
Matthew 8:23-34, Mark 4:36-41, 5:1-20, Luke 8:23-39

Day 16: Back to Life
Matthew 9:1, 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56

Day 17: Sent
Matthew 9:27-34
Matthew 13:54-58, Mark 6:1-6
Matthew 9:35-11:1, Mark 6:7-13, Luke 9:1-6
Matthew 14:1-12
Mark 6:14-29, Luke 9:7-9

Day 18: 5,000
Matthew 14:13-23, Mark 6:30-47, Luke 9:10-17
 John 6:1-15

Day 19: Walking on Water
Matthew 14: 24-36, Mark 6:48-56, John 6:16-7:1

Day 20: Faith
Matthew 15:1-28, Mark 7:1-37

Day 21: Pharisees
Matthew 15:29-39, 16: 1-12, Mark 8:1-21

Day 22: Peter
Matthew 16:13-20, Mark 8:22-9:1, Luke 9:18-27

Day 23: Transfiguration
Matthew 17:1-27, Mark 9:2-32, Luke 9:28-45

Day 24: The Greatest
Matthew 18:1-35, Mark 9:33-50, Luke 9:46-50
Day 25: Jesus Chooses
John 7:2-9
Luke 9:51-56, John 7:10
Matthew 8:19-22, Luke 9:57-62

Day 26: Feast
John 7:11-53

Day 27: In the Temple
John 8:1-59

Day 28: Blind
John 9:1-10:21

Day 29: 70 Sent
Luke 10:1-42

Day 30: Wash your Hands
Luke 11:1-54

Day 31: Be Ready
Luke 12: 1-59

Day 32: Mustard Seed
Luke 13:1-21
John 10:22-42
Luke 13:22-35

Day 33: Cost of Discipleship
Luke 14:1-35

Day 34: Lost
Luke 15:1-32

Day 35: Teaching
Luke 16:1-31, 17:1-10

Day 36: Lazarus
John 11:1-54

Day 37: Thankful
Luke 17:11-37, 18:1-14

Day 38: Like Children
Matthew 19: 1-12, Mark 10:1-12
Matthew 19: 13-26, Mark 10:13-27, Luke  18:15-27

Day 39: First or Last
Matthew 19:27-30, 20: 1-34, Mark 10:28-52,
Luke 18: 28-43

Day 40: To Jerusalem
Luke 19:1-27
John 11:54-57, 12:1-8
Matthew 26: 6-13, Mark 14:3-9
John 12:9-11

Monday, Day 41: Into Jerusalem
Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19: 28-44, John 12: 12-19
Tuesday, Day 42: Fig Tree
Mark 11:12-14
Matthew 21: 12-17, Mark 11: 15-19, Luke 19:45-48

Wednesday, Day 43: Questioning
Matthew 21:18-26:2, Mark 11:20-13:37, Luke 20:1-21:38
John 12:20-50
Matthew 26:3-5, Mark 14:1-2, Luke 22:1-2
Matthew 26: 14-16, Mark 14: 10-11, Luke 22:3-6

Thursday, Day 44: The Lord’s Supper
Matthew 26:17-20, Mark 14:12-17, Luke 22:7-14
John 13:1-20
Matthew 26: 26-29, Mark 14: 22-25,Luke 22:14-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Matthew 26: 21-25, Mark 14:18-21, Luke 22:21-23, John 13:21-35
Luke 22:24-30
Matthew 26:31-32, Mark 14:27-28
Luke 22:31-32
Matthew 26:33-35, Mark 14:29-31, Luke 22:33-38, John 13:36-38
John 14:1-31
Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26, John 14:31
John 15:1-16:33
John 17:1-26

Friday, Day 45: Crucifixion
Matthew 26:36-68, Mark 14:32-72, Luke 22:39-71, John 18:1-28
Matthew 27:1-10, Acts 1:16-20
Matthew 27:1-66, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 23:1-56, John 18: 29-19:42

Saturday, Day 46: Rest and Wait

Sunday, Day 47: Easter and on
John 28:1-15, Mark 16:1-13, Luke 24:1-32, John 20:1-18
1 Corinthians 15:5, Luke 24:34
Luke 24:33-43, John 20:19-25
Mark 16:14, John 20:26-29
John 21:1-23
1 Corinthians 15:6-7
Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:15-20, Luke 24:44-53, John 20:30-31, 21:24-25
Acts 1:4-11

Friday, February 21, 2014

10 Things I learned from my First Wedding

Since wedding #2 is next month (with #3 to follow a week later), I feel like I should write down what I am learning about putting on a wedding. And yes, they are all to the same man.
 (color us!) 

1. Figure out (together) what the main point of the wedding is. For us, it was celebrating with the people we loved--and since we loved people in Brazil, Indiana, and Connecticut, it made more sense for us to go to them than have them come to us (we are more mobile).

2. Start a wedding Pinterest board. I spent random times clicking on things that caught my eye--so by the time it was wedding time, I already had a pretty clear picture of what I wanted. Pinterest is great for that, so you don't have to remember all those good ideas--it is pinned for later. Besides, looking through BRIDE magazines really only helps you with the dress, which is just one detail of the wedding.

3. Once you have your goal for the wedding, you can talk money and who you want at the wedding--that will narrow down things so you can pick a date and location.

4. Once you have the date and location, you can pick your theme (Pinterest!). From there, your dress, colors, and flowers come easily, and you can do invites and wedding programs.

5. There are TONS of free ideas/templates online for invites and wedding programs (Pinterest as well). I really enjoyed making a coloring book program of our own pictures with http://ipiccy.com. Best idea? Steal and copy other people's genius.

6. Choose wisely--each extra thing (centerpieces, decor, bubbles, music, popcorn machine, food...) you add to your wedding takes time and someone in charge of running it at the wedding (oh family...). Or you end up like me--trying to find the cotton candy sugar in my wedding dress.

7. There is a reason why you have a dress rehearsal (I didn't have one in Brazil).

8. A wedding is a big deal, but in the end, it is just a big party. Plan well and then have fun.

9. Make sure to have people who love you there--because they will make sure that everything ends up turning out well.

10. Shop around. Look online. There is always something cheaper or online. Hobby Lobby/Michaels have regular 40% off coupons every week--so buy one thing every week. Sam's Club is the cheapest place for plastic ware, hands down. Oriental Trading Company is cheapest for most everything else unless you make it yourself.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I Love Spring

I am in love with Spring.
Or perhaps I am just in love with the idea of Spring.
Maybe I only long for Spring because it has been a year since I have seen it.
Maybe only because I am sick of Winter and chapped lips and wind blowing through my heart.
Have I divorced Spring from it's essence, picking and choosing characteristics that I desire, that I want--is it all about me?

Do love Spring only for what it does for me? What it rescues me from? What it brings me to?
Do I even truly know Spring?
How can I love Spring if I don't know Spring and I don't know love?
If love is what makes me happy, what brings a smile to my face, what makes my day better--yeah, I love Spring.

Spring will never take it personally, but maybe I should.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Three Months Married

This is from a conversation with a friend:
“This whole marriage thing is high maintenance. It is one person who wants all of me, really. I talked with Anna and she was like, "Well I guess that is all you need Rachel, someone to appreciate what you do." And it probably is true. Caid makes me perfectly happy. Completely happy.
“I feel guilty about not talking with you more. I am in this husband phase, and I am trying to figure it out. I am pretty sure the honeymoon ends when my focus on him ends. The problem is I don’t know how to do this—I used to just tell you all my secrets as my best friend, and I can't say everything now. Now I have Caid and Rachel secrets. I've never had any secrets I didn't tell you before. I don’t know how to balance my time, my sharing, my life.”

Her response:
“I will wait until you're ready to add in heart-to-hearts with girlfriends that are sort of separated from Caid, until you are secure and solid in your heart being together and on the same page with him that you can have your own separate thoughts/feelings/problems/solutions without needing to filter it through an establishing relationship first.
“I want to assure you that your phase, even if it seems to separate other friendships, is not just normal but healthy and necessary. In the Bible it was about a year right? That for the first year of marriage they didn't even work? That the dude was supposed to "cheer up his wife" or something? Just a year of getting bonded before moving on with life. (Deut. 24:5)
“I think that's about how it works. After a full year than you're ready to add in other things. And you don't have to wean yourself off - it just moves that direction. And I was scared of that idea at first - I never wanted to lose that magic and complete satisfaction. But it doesn't really die, it just sort of gets layered with contentment, with... security.
“Marriage just sort of works itself out... you'll include more people slowly and steadily and yet find a balance. Your husband IS your priority and until you two have really gotten to know each other (and more than conversations, but for example, watched and experienced each others work ethic etc... know how you tie your shoes... know exactly how he brushes his teeth... know how to inspire him, know what to do when he's depressed, know what to do when he's lazy, know what it takes to keep an open full relationship...) EVERYTHING takes a lot of time and focus. And this is when that it supposed to happen. So I not only get that you're a little busy right now, but I RESPECT that. And I'm guessing within a year you usually have gotten a pretty good grasp on marriage and sort of are ready to embrace more.”
This is a lot of what I am learning in this third month. We are moving into schedules and jobs and homework and “how does it all fit” questions. Some of the warm fuzzies have worn off and then it is about choosing to love. And love comes best/easiest through gratefulness.

After a tiring day of little tifts, Caid turned off the car, pulled my forehead next to his, and started a list of “Thank yous.” It went from “Thank you for sharing your family with me,” to “Thank you for still listening” and on. It was beautiful. 
Above-quoted friend also told me to make sure to record how I feel about marriage these months--because they set the tone--especially once kids arrive and time zooms more quickly. I feel happy. Complete. I am not so productive, but a better person for it. It is easier than I thought it would be, but more time consuming as well. He is always more layers than I first saw. I will always be wondering if I will ever stop learning him. It is a great adventure. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stop and Think

I scrolled down facebook and saw this: http://beliefsoftheheart.com/2013/07/23/i-wonder-if-sunday-school-is-destroying-our-kids-2
1. I thought "Sunday school destroying our kids? That is overreacting."
2. I thought "Oh dear, I do see some of a point to that."
3. I thought "Shoot, this means I have to think about this more because I teach Sunday school and write curriculum for Living Stones classes/Sunday school"
4. Well that is darn inconvenient

So I read through it again. I don't think Sunday school is destroying our kids. In the first place, if your kid is only "getting Jesus" on Sunday morning, it won't be Sunday school that is the issue. Second, not all teachers tell the stories in ways that "gloss over" the facts and make the Bible to a pretty little fairy tale. That said--there is a point, and it needs to be seen. And I am all for making sure the gospel is CLEARLY understood in a million different colorful and creative child-friendly ways.

"Look at almost any Sunday school curriculum. You’ll find:
  • Abraham was faithful, and God made him the father of a nation. So be faithful like Abraham.
  • Joseph was a good little boy (unlike his “bad” brothers), and God made him Prime Minister of Egypt. So be good like Joseph.
  • David had a pure heart (unlike his brothers), and God made him King of Israel. So have a pure heart like David.
  • Esther was an obedient girl. God made her Queen of Persia and she saved God’s people. So be obedient like Esther.
  • Finally, if we fail to be good, Jesus will forgive us (a “P.S.” tacked onto the end).
What’s so bad about these Sunday school lessons? Nothing really. Except that they lie about God, they lie about these “heroes of the faith,” they lie about the Bible, and they lie about the gospel. Apart from that, they are pretty good. Oh, they also create “younger brother” rebels and “older brother” Pharisees.
Is the gospel our central theme, or is it a “PS” tacked onto the end?" ...Our Sunday school lessons teach us to be good little boys and girls, and God will love us and use us. It’s the total opposite of the gospel. It’s a counterfeit of the worst kind.
Let’s teach the wonder of the gospel. Let’s show our kids that God loves us … simply because he loves us. In our beastliness. That he loves us before we are good.That his love isn’t vague sentimentality, but it cost him his most precious treasure to turn us into his prized possession; that the storyline of the Bible is God’s Search and Rescue mission to find the dying Beast and kiss him into joyous life.
  • How Abraham was an idol worshiper and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How Joseph was a narcissistic boy and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How David was a murdering adulterer and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How Esther had sex outside of marriage with a non-believer and God loved her and pursued her. *
Our heroes weren’t loved because they were good; they were good because they were loved.We may believe in the innocence of youth, but our children know better. They see the children in the schoolyard (and they see us at home!). They don’t need the counterfeit gospel of pack-mule-moralism; they need the kiss of the Beauty." 
I am all for the things he is saying, although I must say Esther threw me in for a loop and I quickly clicked the link: http://beliefsoftheheart.com/2013/09/30/was-esther-an-unwilling-sex-slave-or-a-compliant-collaborator
"I was surprised by the many readers who were upset at my negative description of “good” Abraham, Joseph, and David. I wondered, “Have they even read those stories?” But I was astonished at the hail-storm of hundreds of angry emails that hated my history of Esther. Esther is beloved. Many think she was forced into sexual slavery. I think she was a complicit adulterer.            
Let’s put aside (for a moment) Esther’s willing compliance or innocence. Why do we begin reading the Bible with a built-in bias for these heroes to have an innate goodness? Nowadays we want think Esther was pure as the driven snow, but readers for over two thousand years thought otherwise. When early readers read Esther, they saw moral ambiguity at best." 
the article then tells a story about a broken women, asking "How would a person who is broken receive Esther?" then why are we taking away hope from broken people to protect ourselves from feeling queezy when we share Bible stories? 
"Let’s not falsely disparage biblical characters, but let’s not ignore their failures either. Because we are no different: flawed, confused, outright disobedient, and proud. Why do we want our heroes to be better than they really are? Because we think we are better than we really are. We would see more of God’s transforming grace if we spent more time acknowledging our own failures, just like the Bible does of its heroes." 
 It is a lot to think about. And in general, I feel like I have been on a journey of honesty as a Christian. Being open to question, to hear other opinions, to say "I don't know, darn it, and I wish I did." So that journey will continue as I teach children Sunday school. 
In the end, I think the Sunday school teachers who are honest and real and following Jesus are going to realize what should be said and how it should be said/explained in a real/true way for the children, that shows Jesus. And the Sunday school teachers who don't will just read off of the curriculum.  

Porn Training

This is a little...painful to read: http://www.covenanteyes.com/2013/03/20/porn-training-motivation

5 Sure-fire ways to motivate your child to use pornography:

1. Non-Romantic Marriage

Porn Training: Only certain kinds of women are porn-worthy.

2. Instant gratification

Porn Training: Cyber women are downloadable and extinguishable.

3. Non-Communicative Couples

Porn Training: Married couples communicate less and less, a requirement for porn enjoyment.

4. No Consequences for Actions

Porn Training: Teaches a false confidence through a risk-free relationship.

5. Critical Community in the Home

Porn Training: Criticism and anger are the most common ways we devalue others.
If the home is not a refuge of encouragement, your child will be tempted to find refuge in other places. 

What are you selling?

I have come to find that I enjoy...or at least appreciate the world of marketing. I read books about leadership in business and non-profits and realize we are all in sales. Every person who has a dream (which is hopefully every person in the world) has something they want to share and they want others to see, because that is just how dreams work (at least at some point of a dream).
My dad always said that "Everyone is always selling something." And I used to think that was really pessimistic, but it seems to be true.
"Liking isn't Helping." 
Amazing how powerful a picture and three words can be. Wow. You might have seen this or something like it: 
But to tell the truth, it never really hit home. Most of the time I whisper something to myself of "Really? Where are they getting that statistic? Then in Brazil it must be 3 in 5 or something..." UNTIL I saw the billboard that read: 

1 of 6 Americans are hungry5 of 6 can help

Genius. I love it. And as with most ideas, I am jealous that I didn't come up with it first, and hope that I can change it just enough to be call creative. Art theft rules:).

Speaking about art, I just finished reading a book by Emily P. Freeman called "A Million Little Ways." Here are your highlights:
"Our gifts are not from God to us, but from God through us to the world." --Janice Elsheimer
"Our lives are at once ordinary and mythical. We live and die, age beautiful or full of wrinkles. We wake in the morning, buy yellow cheese, and hope we have enough money to pay for it. At the same instant we have these magnificent hearts that pump through all sorrow and all winters we are alive on the earth. We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded." -Natalie Goldberg
"If God is speaking, then nothing else matters but listening." -Brennan Manning
"From more to less. Served to service. From honor to degradation. From eternal to time-bound. Heaven to earth. Is it possible that the descending way of Jesus might be God's way for me? I am thankful for the Josephs who govern from Pharaoh's side for the good of the masses, for the Esthers who influence the influencers and change the trajectory of history.
But where are those people called by God to step down, leave behind, earn less, influence fewer, to follow? Does God only call His Son to downward mobility? Or does God call me downward too and i fail to recognize His voice because it sounds too backward?" --Shawn Groves (http://shaungroves.com/2012/05/downward-mobility)
"For every brave yes, there is often a no that comes right along with it. To say no could be just as artful a response as saying yes ever was. We have to be confident in our decisions that a narrowed eye from a parent doesn't sway us, that pressure from a church leader doesn't force our hand, and a harsh but well-intended word from a relative doesn't derail our priorities. Don't let the easily offended critic set the agenda. Believe in your yes. Hold fast to your no. People may look up to you, want to be with you, but they will not say no for you. They will let you lead and be strong and move ahead if you want to. Only you know your boundaries. Yes can be brave, but it can also be bossy. it can become an addiction. Before you realize it, all of your yeses are to obligations and duty and you are forced to look passion and intention and desire in the eye and say, NO, I don't have time for you. You may have to search for your brave yes, but you will have to fight for your strong no." --Emily Freeman

What am I selling? A close friend wrote me while I was job hunting and said that I was a valuable worker, and shouldn't settle for anything less than 12-15$ an hour. And I was offered that job. But I had already accepted another. That is definitely NOT 12-15$ an hour. It is less. Much. But I love it.
I work with two women who are mentally/physically challenged. I am their friend, companion, helper, and smile for the day. And they bless me more than you could imagine.
It isn't paying much. I am not using any of the talents I have worked hard for. I am doing the same thing as I did when I was 13 and asked to baby-sit. It isn't a career job. But I am happy. I am stress free. I feel good about what I am doing. And when I thought about it, I realized why I turned down that salary job--because I already have a job/career/passion: Living Stones.
And yeah, I told Caid it wouldn't be something that took up my time--oh, maybe 10 hours a month (try a week!). And he knew the truth, it just took me a little longer to get it. I might not be in Brazil anymore, but part of me will always be. And I am so glad to be able to continue working with it--and Caid joining me! So I won't be making a lot of money, and I am really hoping that verse about "Lay up your treasure in Heaven and all the rest will fall into place" (my paraphrase) works. And that the student loans...well...sheesh.
I am selling the idea that we can make a difference. That "liking isn't helping," but I will give you a link that you can put your money where your like-button-finger is. I am selling the idea that people in their own communities can change their communities, and those of us with resources can help them. I am selling the idea that churches are God's idea and they can do so much more to reach those on God's heart. I am selling the idea that we are the 5 out of 6 who can help. I am selling the pain I feel when I see my kids suffering in the trash dump. I am selling the joy of reading with child who has never owned a book before. I am selling hope that God really does see you, no matter what country you are from and how much money you make.
I am trying to "Believe in your yes. Hold fast to your no."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


So there is more snow. And all my Brazilian friends are posting pictures of them at the beach. And sometimes I get grumpy about this. Often I get grumpy about this. We were stuck at a friend's house last night, because that snow was not fun. And they were fantastic--we had a lovely time. And we got to be lazy with a reasonable excuse (snow) today.
I feel like this. Trudging through. And there are a million little ways God shows me love and grace and everything good. And one of those ways was www.aholyexperience.com--a site that continuously blesses me. So this picture? This guy? I stole it from a story from that site (so see the whole story there). Because this man makes art.
In the cold, in the wind, in the elements which will soon wipe away his work--he makes something beautiful. And that hits me way down deep. I want to make art. I want to create beauty. Just not outside in the cold.
"Our gifts are not from God to us, but from God through us to the world." --Janice Elsheimer