Friday, August 29, 2014

Marriage vows and the Bride of Christ

It's a Scripture Saturday on a Friday, because really Scripture shouldn't just be talked about on Saturday!

I recently finished a book called Found in Him by Elyse Fitpatrick.  I really enjoyed it.  It was about the incarnation of Christ--Christ becoming man to dwell with us--and all that that entails.  The second part of the book talks about our union with Christ that His death on the cross accomplished.  In the Bible, God paints this picture of Christ as the Groom and the church as the Bride.  In her book, Elyse (I've read several of her books, so we're on a first name basis) talked about vows that a bride and groom exchange during a wedding ceremony.  It is a part of being the bride of Christ that I had not thought about before.  And it has been something I have continued to dwell on since I read the book.  So, although some of my thoughts come straight from the book, some of them are my ponderings as well.  I might not always point out which is which, so if I plagiarize, please forgive me!

Here are some traditional vows I found on the good ole' Internet:
I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

The best part of thinking of these vows in terms of my relationship with Christ is that I know that that relationship is so much more than the vows spoken between a man and a woman.  I'll try to explain what I mean.

To have and to hold from this day forward:
In a human relationship, the vows start at the time of the wedding.  From this day forward.  But with Christ, the church/bride, has a future marriage in heaven.  Our commitment to Christ began when we surrendered our lives to Christ.  But Christ's commitment to us started way before that.  His commitment started before the foundations of the earth, before the fall of Adam and Eve, before I was a glimmer in my mother's eye.  He knew me before I was born.  Ephesians 4 says, "He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will."  From this day forward and in eternity past!

For better or for worse
In wedding vows, I have always assumed this means that my spouse will love me whether I am lovable or not.  Whether I am putting my best foot forward or whether I am throwing an adult-sized temper tantrum.  In Christ, we were loved while we were completely unlovable.  In her book, Elyse makes the point that the vows should say, "I, Christ, take you, Sinner."  We've grown up hearing about the type of man or woman we should seek.  And most likely your parents did not say to seek out the worst of the worst, the one who will break your heart time and time again.  The one who has done nothing and can do nothing to earn your love.  But that's what God asked Jesus to do!  He chose to marry a bride that could never earn His favor, could never do anything deserving of His love.  Romans 5 says, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." For the Groom, there really is not a "better" in these vows, except what He makes better for us through His death.  His bride does not bring a "better" on her own!

In sickness and in health
I read a fiction book recently where the main character got married and his wife died nine months later of cancer.  He probably didn't see that coming when he said those vows.  In terms of being the bride of Christ, I see these vows two ways.  The first is in true physical sickness and health.  I mentioned in a recent post that I have a friend who is battling cancer.  As I was praying for her today, I was thinking about the fact that God is not surprised by her cancer.  And He loves her no differently now then He did before she knew she was sick.  The Groom is going to love me regardless of my physical health.  But He is also going to love me regardless of my spiritual health.  My sin doesn't stop once I choose life in Him.  I still have a fleshly nature that is going to turn me time and again to sin.  And Christ will not abandon me during these times of sickness.  He will patiently wait for me to turn back to Him. He will lovingly forgive me for the adultery of looking to sin for my pleasure instead of Him.  He will also love me in times of health, when I am glorifying Him through my service and through studying His Word and growing in knowledge of Him and pursuing holiness.  He will remain faithfully devoted to me in spiritual sickness and health.

To love and to cherish
Obviously, when a bride and groom say their vows on their wedding day, they say these particular words with ooey-gooey stars in their eyes.  Loving and cherishing probably seem so easy on that day.  Christ looks at me in the same way!  And it never stops! Psalm 17:8 says, "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings."  Zephaniah 3:17 says, "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Ephesians 5 says, "After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church."  In the New American Standard Bible, "feeds and cares" is translated "nourish and cherish".  I love the word "cherish."  Just pause for a second and let the word conjure up images for you.   Now take those images and multiply them to the nth degree, because that is what Christ cherishing you looks like.  It is so great we cannot comprehend it!

Until death do us part
Did you know that marriage is just temporary?  And I'm not talking about divorce here.  Actually, that's not what these vows are talking about at all.  I mean, marriage is only an earthly thing.  Because when the believers in Christ enter into heaven, they will no longer be married to their earthly spouses.  They will be the Bride of Christ.  So the best part of these vows is that this vow is not true at all.  It should instead say, "until death and then on into eternity."  There is no end to our marriage to Christ.  It will go on for eternity!  An eternity of being loved and cherished by Someone who can never hurt us or wrong us, who can only do us good, who will only love us forever.  It is almost too much for me to wrap my itty-bitty brain around!

Monday, August 25, 2014

On the Interpretation of Dreams

Because I was a psychology major, many people assume that I can interpret dreams.  I have no idea what they mean!  And I wish I did because I have some of the craziest dreams.  Very vivid and full of detail.

Last night I had several dreams that I can interpret.  And two of them caused me to wake up praying for others.  If God wants me to remember to pray, I will be thankful for the dreams like the one's from last night.

My first dream was about me attending college.  I have said before that I think there should be a time when I stop having college dreams!  But this one made sense because my sister started her junior year of college at the University of Arizona today!  I know she was anxious, so I have been focused on praying her through this first week of classes.  Thus, the college dream (or so I assume).

The second dream I had was that I spent the day with a friend who started chemo today.  I was with her for chemo and to hang out with her two daughters.  I woke up feeling a little teary but it reminded me to send up lots of prayers for her as the time approached for her first treatment.

The last dream was about missing client appointments.  But as I got ready to leave to go to an appointment, I had to bundle up in an extra sweater because it was so cold outside.  That was me obviously trying to beat the heat that has finally hit Illinois summer!

I love my crazy dreams even though I wake up half the time wondering what in the world goes on in my head while I am sleeping!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

On letter writing

It's a lost art.  Or a dying art.  Or a dead art.  I'm not really sure.  But I know that I love it.  I love to send notes in the mail to people.  It's not something I talk much about, because it's just one of those quiet ways I like to be able to bless people.  There is nothing quite like getting a hand written note in the mail.  To know the time, effort, and thought that someone put into sending it.

I grew up five states away from most of my family.  I had one cousin that I wrote back and forth with through a lot of my childhood.  I mean, pages and pages of letters.  It was not uncommon to give or receive an eight page letter.  I have no idea what we talked about.  Most likely a whole lot of nothing, but it was important to us.  And my Grandma has always been a great letter writer.  Her letters often come with the bonus of a newspaper article.  I think Grandma reads the newspaper with everyone in mind every time she reads it.  And she will cut an article out if it pertains to someone in the family.  I love that about her.

However, the second I know I'm supposed to send a note (such as a thank you note), I no longer want to send it!  I'm kind of stubborn that way.  I think it's because when it is expected, I just don't feel like it is as appreciated as a surprise note in the mail.  Maybe I'm wrong.  I still send out thank you notes about half the time.  I'm just not super consistent about it.

And I realized a random difference (because it wouldn't be my blog if there wasn't something random in it) between sending a note to someone you appreciate and sending a bill.  There are obvious differences in these two things, so we'll skip over those.  This random difference, for me, is in the return address section of the envelope.  If I am mailing a bill, I always put my last name (no first name) and then my address.  If I am sending a note, I put my first name (no last name) and then my address.  Because sending a note is personal, and the person receiving it should know my last name.  But the bill people?  They don't care what my first name is.  They just want my money!

I'm thankful that I grew up in a time before email and text messages.  When the only way to communicate was with some paper and a stamp.  I know there are advantages to email and text and I am not saying I want to go back.  I just wish there were more letters floating around out there!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Just to say hello

I really want to have something witty or profound to say today.  But I've got nothing.  But I wanted to be out there in blogger world saying fascinating things.  So, if you don't want to read the rest of this average post, you don't have to.  I just wanted to say a Happy Saturday to you!

Last week I finished a non-fiction book about friendships.  I read it in just over a week!  That is quite the feat for me, because it sometimes takes me 5 months to read a non-fiction book.  I got a lot more out of it reading it so quickly because I could actually remember what I had read from the previous chapters.

Next week starts the beginning of the fall schedule.  AWANA doesn't start yet, but training starts on Wednesday.  And then BSF starts back soon.  And all the kids start back to school next week, so I'll be working later.  I'm ready to have my schedule a little more filled.  But I will also miss lazy evenings being able to read and catch up on stuff.  I didn't have a lot that I wanted to accomplish this summer, but I feel like I missed out on something.  I don't know what, but there was just something more that I wanted to do.

Anyway, that was neither profound nor witty, just a little bit of real-life ordinary-ness (I don't think that is a real word, so I didn't want to try to spell it like a real word.  Would it be ordinariness?)

PS.  I almost just bypassed Smartie lying on the couch to go find Flip in order to text someone.  Some old habits die hard!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Memorial for my "dumb" phone, Flip

It may take me awhile to catch up with technology, but when I decide to take the leap, it is usually a quickish decision.  Almost two weeks ago, I took the smart phone plunge.  The keys on my trusty flip phone (Flip as he will be named from here on out) were starting to stick, making texting a rather frustrating endeavor.  I know what you're thinking, you long-time smart phone users..."Wasn't texting always frustrating?  Hitting one number 4 times to get the 's'?"  But, to be honest, I didn't know any different, so I didn't really think about it. Texting wasn't laborious to me. (And I'll clue you in a little later about whether texting with a smart phone is faster, in my opinion).

So far, I have been neither unimpressed nor impressed with my smart phone, Smartie.  Everyone keeps asking me how I like it, and my usual answer is something like, "It's a phone."  Do I like that I have quicker access to the Internet?  Yes, I like it.  But this was also one of the greatest deterrents to me getting a smart phone in the first place.  I didn't WANT greater access to the Internet.  Didn't it already suck enough of my time when I could only get on it while at home?  Yep, it sure did.

I have been pleasantly surprised with myself at how little I am on Facebook on Smartie.  Something I really like, because it was also one of the things that I was afraid of.  Was I going to be one of those people who started putting 50 status updates a day about random things that happened in my day that no one needed to know about or cared to read about?  Yes, I could easily turn into that person.  Because I know this about myself, I have been on guard.  I expect that guard to slip, but I'm hoping not.  Also, I have already had to set a rule that there is absolutely no reason for me to check Facebook the second I wake up or the second before I go to bed at night.  No reason at all.  It should not be the first or last thing on my mind.  Sorry, "friends", you don't get to have that place in my life.

Have I already found two games to consume much of my time?  Yes, yes I have.  I feel like I have kept a good balance, but I also find myself gravitating to those games rather than doing other things I need to do.

Did I already use Smartie at Target to get a $5 off coupon for buying school supplies just by texting a certain number and getting a reply that could be scanned from my smart phone.  Yes, I did.  But frankly, I call discrimination on this one.  Why should I have to have a smart phone just to get the $5 coupon.  More and more stores were doing things like this and it would make me mad because I couldn't save the money that other people were saving.  Not really fair, in my humble opinion.

And as for texting?  Here is the conclusion I have come to.  Being able to type on a keyboard does not really save time in texting.  Why?  Because the faster you type, the more you tend to say.  I was somewhat good about being choosy with my words on my flip phone because I didn't want to sit and text endlessly.  If it was going to be too long, I'd think, "Hey, maybe I should call that person."  What a novel thought, I know.

Lastly, the thing I dislike about Smartie the most?  It takes about two million steps to make an actual phone call.  Unless I use Siri.  But I almost called the wrong person the other day because Siri heard me wrong.  So, to make that phone call, I have to 1) wake my phone up, 2) swipe to unlock the phone, 3) enter my four digit password, 4) select "phone", 5) select contacts, 6) scroll to the contact I want, 7) select the contact, 8) hit the phone button to call the person.  Or follow steps 1-4 and then 5) select "keypad" and then type in the number I know by heart (yes, I still have a few numbers memorized).  For this, Flip, I miss you the most.  Flip and dial.  Flip and hit a number for speed dial.  Flip and select contacts and type one letter of the name and hit send.

And don't get me started on this whole, I have to charge my phone every. single. day. thing.  Did you know that Flip could go at least a week, if not more, before he would even lose one bar of battery?!  Not dead, just one bar.  I'm pretty sure I could have gone over three weeks without having to plug Flip in even once.  That was nice.  I miss that.  Smartie, I just don't think it's very smart to drain a battery that fast.  If you were that smart, I just think you'd figure it out.

Oh, Flip, it was a much simpler time when it was me and you.  I could even text without looking because I had the number/letters memorized and could feel what key I was touching.  I miss actual keys.  And you fit so nicely into the front pocket of my jeans, with your compactness.  Now, me and Smartie, we have to form a new relationship with the back pocket because she is so much longer, even if she is a lot slimmer.

As time goes on, me and Smartie are going to form a pretty good relationship.  There will be times of frustration, but isn't that true in all new relationships?  Flip, you may be a part of my past, but I'll never forget you.  And I may even long for those days when we were the best of friends.  So long, my old friend!  You kept me well connected for 7 years.  I appreciate it!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Law of Jeans (not Genes)

If someone can explain to me how this works, I will be forever grateful:

Yesterday I wore a pair of jeans that fit perfectly for approximately 2.5 seconds.  Okay, so it was more like an hour and a half, but who's counting?  Then all of a sudden, the jeans were magically 2 sizes too big and I thought I was going to have to walk bow-legged in order to keep them up!  I mean, I get it jeans stretch.  That's how they make them nowadays.

But explain to me how the reverse is also true.  Today, I wore a pair of jeans that is a size smaller than yesterday's jeans.  So, they started off pretty snug, but I was confident that they would stretch throughout the day so that I would be comfortable in them.  No.  N.O.  If anything, they shrunk throughout the day!  Seriously, I thought I was gaining poundage by the second today!

So, the moral of the story is...I'm wearing pajama pants to work tomorrow!  If only.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Photo Blocks

If you've been reading all my Mission Peoria posts, you'll remember that I said I got photo blocks from Dad and Amy for my birthday. Amy is super creative. I wish I had just an ounce of her creativity! So, she pulled together 6 pictures and put them on blocks for me. I love the randomness of the pictures and how much they brighten the shelf I put them on.  Here are the six pictures:
Dad at the Georgia Aquarium when John was a toddler.
Daynah and I two Christmas's ago.
Josh, Daynah, and I at Disney in 2006.
Chris, Ann, me, Josh, and Daynah at Dad's 50th birthday party.  I love Josh's face in this picture--it is not a distortion, he was really making this face!
John and Michael holding hands...too cute.  I actually don't know where this picture came from, but it's recent and I know Amy "borrowed" it from Facebook.
Josh and Dad pretending to ride a motorcycle.  I also don't actually know when this picture was taken or what year it was.  But Josh is definitely taller than that now and in less than a month will be able to drive that motorcycle by himself.
And the blocks are sitting on top of my bookshelf in the living room.  I love how they look with the plan surrounding them.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mission Peoria/ Post Five/ Sunday

The last full day everyone was in town we headed out to the country.
Amy's cousin and wife live in Edelstein, where Amy grew up.  Isn't the above picture perfect?!  Brianna took a lot of great pictures, many of which you'll see below.  Amy's family--brother, two cousins, and their families--all came over for a picnic.  So there were A LOT of people.  It was a lot of fun.  I told Amy that when she and Dad come into town, it's like they bring all these other people with them (even though they live in Illinois, I really only see them when Dad and Amy are in town).
the kids played lots of games throughout the day.  Volleyball and soccer were the longest running games.  The Acres kids loved all the grass.  They don't have grass in Arizona.  When we were first walking into the backyard, one of the girls said, "Do you think they would think I was weird if I laid in the grass and rolled around?"  I said yes, but told her she should do it anyway.  She didn't.

I love the perspective in the above picture.  And that Brianna caught Josh mid-backflip.
Played some bags (or cornhole, depending on who you're talking to).  Ethan, who is the youngest in the family, held his own really well throughout the day.  He won knock out twice playing against the big kids.
Max, Stephen, and Gemini were fascinated by the trains that would go  by every 15 minutes or so.  They decided to walk down to the tracks.  First they tried to go through the corn.  But as Gemini put it, "I kept hearing lots of things in the corn!"  So, they took the road.  We also enlightened them to the joy of putting a coin on the track for the train to flatten it.
A lonely track through a bunch of corn.
And then we took lots of family pictures for Amy's parents, who were still in Arizona.
I love this picture of the three of us.  Kim pointed out the fact that we were in order of both height and age, just in reverse order.  So I'm the oldest and the shortest.  Just great!
The whole Harms' crew.  Earlier in the day, when we were lining up for food, Amy told the kids to go first.  I asked Josh whether I was a kid or an adult.  He informed me that if I have a parent present, I was a kid.  Yay for me since I was hungry.  But for this picture, I chose to be an adult because I didn't want to sit on the grass for the picture.
Brianna had us all line up, again in height order.  I tried not to think about the fact that I was fourth in line behind a 7 and 10 year old (and Brooke, but I can't remember how old she is).  It made me feel better that Lou was right behind me and Daynah behind her.
And then we did a funny picture.
That evening, we attended Sean and Ann's community youth group.  The above picture was taken during group games.
And then Brianna noticed this old car in the field and took some pictures.  This is one of my favorite cards.  It could be an advertisement for Ford!

Thanks for journeying with me through my week with the family participating in Mission Peoria.  I saw my family off on Monday afternoon and then took the afternoon off to recuperate.  And then it was back to the grind on Tuesday!

Mission Peoria/ Post Four/ Random Pictures

Really I only titled this Mission Peoria, because the pictures are from the week. These are just a random assortment of pictures of the Acres kids and family for you to enjoy.
Caitlyn, Marc, Josh, Max, Dad, Daynah, Rhane, and Stephen.  This was the afternoon of BackPack Peoria.
A group picture by the river Saturday night while we waited for dinner.
Add in me and some of Josh's friends to make the group even bigger.
Remember Audio Adrenaline "A big, big table, with lots and lots of room."  For as far as the eye could see at Joe's Crab Shack.
They pretended it was Joseph's birthday so that the waitresses would sing to him and he could dress in the coconut bra and hula skirt.
And every single one of the guys took pictures and video!  Crazy boys!
More group pictures by the river.
This one (above) might be my favorite.  A wonderful group of kids that I was excited to hang out with for the week.

A really bad picture of me, but this is a lot of what I did during the week...hung out with Amy and Daynah.  In this picture we were waiting for Dad so that we could go visit some of the kids at their MetroKids sights.
Daynah and I!
Possibly one of my favorite pictures of Dad and I!
And throw Daynah into the mix too! :)
Amy will probably kill me for this picture.  But she got in the van and the seat was moved as far forward as it could possibly go.  It took her, Dad, and Josh to figure out the controls to make the seat go backward.  She was feeling slightly claustrophobic being that close to the dashboard!  Daynah and I tried not to laugh!

Scripture Saturday

I have slowly been studying through the Psalms this summer.  Today, as I was looking up some meanings to words in Psalm 18, I was again struck.  I love slowly working my way through a passage, because then something I ordinarily pass over has a neon light showing onto it.  It's nothing very profound, but it caused me to pause today.

Verse 36 says, "You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip."

As I read this verse, I pictured the opposite of "a wide place."  I pictured an extremely narrow path on a mountain precipice.  I pictured someone clinging to the side of that mountain as they traverse the narrow path, barely able to put one foot in front of the other.  With every step, afraid one foot might slip.  Peeking over that cliff to what waits below. In this place, I sense fear and constant worry.  A sweaty brow and hands.  A rapidly beating heart.

But God gives us a wide place where our feet won't slip.  When I trust in Him, when I make Him my refuge, verse 33 says He will  make my feet like the deer and set me secure on the heights.  I don't have to cling in fear that at one wrong move, God will cast me from Himself, because He holds me securely and my salvation is secure because I have placed my faith in Him.  In this place I sense peace and quietness.  A steady heart.