Tuesday, July 31, 2007

40-Day Fast: In conclusion . . .

Wow, has it been forty days? Indeed, today is the final day, and Toby writes about his wife and remembering the soldiers. Anyone reading this is also encouraged to join in fasting as a collective today, or if not fasting then be filled with prayer. (I, myself, am not fasting today for a couple of reasons. But my thoughts are with Toby and also with Jim, who fasts today and prays over the Samaritan Center, and with anyone else who fasts today.)

There is still time to
get another goat, as one has already been provided for and another is on the way.

How has this period of devotion effected me? In some ways, the change is small. The focus on touching lives for God with both spiritual and physical blessings has been something the Spirit has been molding my life to for several years, now. So, to me, praying over groups like Compassion International, Blood:Water Mission, the Dalit, International Justice Mission, Big Brothers, Big Sisters - this is natural, a normal part of my life.

But, in other ways, the impact of this 40 day devotion has been huge. The focus it has brought in my thoughts and actions is greater than any I've previously experienced. The community, especially experienced through encouragement and prayer, has been awesome. We were never made to walk this path alone, but with the body of which we each are a small part. I honestly don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow, without a new post from a new person participating in the fast; the expectation of looking for a brother or sister to encourage in their devotion has become ingrained in my life.

Maybe that's where I go from here. I continue in my acting to live the image of God through helping people directly and indirectly. I continue to seek out those who need encouragement, strength, blessings emotional and spiritual and physical. And I act. I do. I pray. I weep. I rejoice. I speak. I devote myself to knowing Jehovah, not through words and descriptions but through companionship and working side by side with Him.

One last thing, as these forty days close out. When I think of fasting, I always think about David's fast over his dying son in
2 Samuel 12:16-23. Despite the pain of his loss, and having fasted for a week, the first thing David did upon hearing the death of his son was not eat. He got up, he prepared himself, and he presented himself before Jehovah in worship. After this, after worshipping God, he ate. As we finish this period of group devotion, let us not forget to bring worship to Jehovah in His holiness. It is to Him we have devoted this time; let us also thank Him for giving us reason for devotion.

Monday, July 30, 2007

40-Day Fast: Baa! Baa!

We are reaching the end of the 40-Fay Fast, initiated by Kat in response to being moved to action by a picture. We are on day 39 - Tressa is highlighting the Dalit today, and also the practice of intentional mutilation of beggars that is common in India.

Tomorrow is the final day, and Kat has pulled one more thing out of her bag. She is suggesting we each spend one dollar and buy a family a goat, through World Vision.

The early-morning bleating of a dairy goat is a happy sound for children in countries like Haiti and Kenya. They know it’s ready to be milked! A goat nourishes a family with fresh milk, cheese, and yogurt, and can offer a much-needed income boost by providing offspring and extra dairy products for sale at the market. It even provides fertilizer that can dramatically increase crop yields. A perennial favorite, both to give and receive!
A dollar, just 100 pennies that you probably either throw away or hoard in a drawer, will make a difference. Go to Kat's page by midnight on Tuesday, July 31st to add to this project.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

As if you haven't seen enought family pics

Lil'E with some flowers
Lil' Euphrony with flowers

Lil'E with her Build-a-Bear cat "Innie"
Lil' Euphrony with Innie the Cat

Lil'er E showing his disco moves
Disco Lil'er Euphrony

Our laughing boy
Laughing Lil'er Euphrony

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pray, and pray

I've nothing pithy to share today. Instead, I'm asking for prayer from you, as I pray for friends.

Tonight Mrs. E and I are going to spend some time with a dear friend, praying over her. She's had hard times these last two years, as her husband first distanced himself, them moved out and divorced her. The divorce is final, but legal action continues over the settlement and custody rights/care for their little girl. She still loves him, I believe, but needs encouragement. Lots of it. She can neither continue the life she had with him nor really move on with a new life as long as the legal action persists. Frustration, fear and hurt are a big part of this limbo, and tonight we want to pray specifically for God to encourage her, to strengthen her, to let her know the love of her friends, and to find joy in the darkness and to give her patience as she learns His plan through this troubled time.

I ask you, my friends, to please pray for us, as her friends, to be a part of that encouragement and strength from Jehovah she needs. It is honestly about the most difficult thing I've ever done to try to be supportive without offering judgment on either of their actions. Offering encouragement and Godly wisdom without fueling bitterness and contention in their ongoing relationship (with a child, the relationship will never end). This is most especially hard when we see obvious actions on his part which can be discerned as sinful, and we may speak to his actions but not his heart.

I have also prayed much over the marriages of several other friends. Let’s face it, no marriage is the fairy tale ideal. We're sold on the lies of marital bliss, perfect love between a man and woman, perfect emotional and physical relationships; and it is in general a load of crock. There is only one perfect love, that of our Farther and Savior, and the only relationship we humans have with perfect love is our communion with Him - and the perfection is one sided, at that. We set our expectations for love, for sex, for parenting and marriage so high that anything short - that is, anything real - is too often considered failure. We have placed more stock in the words and rite of a ceremony than in the union of a couple. And this shows in our willingness to take back words, nullify the rite; but the union can never be undone. (Forgive me, I ramble.) So I ask, too, that you pray with me for marriages in general – mine, yours, everyone – that faith and love conquer expectations and disappointment.

One last thing on my heart is a couple, friends who have been trying to adopt and are still searching. Pray that God give them patience and bring them a child. And it you know anyone considering placing their child for adoption, point them to
Brian and Mel.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Little epiphanies

I had a couple of little epiphanies last night. First, I decided that hearing loss is not a natural process of old age. It is, instead, a natural process of parenthood. From infants who scream in your ear as you try to sooth them to kiddos who scream for no reason at all, parents seem doomed to deafness.

Baby Blues screaming kids

The second epiphany came late last night. It is, in my humble opinion, the secret to exercise and weight loss for the chubby parent.

Step 1: Pick up the aforementioned screaming infant (or toddler, as the case may be).
Step 2: Find an open area or trail through the toys on the floor, preferably a circuit of between 30 and 50 yards.
Step 3: Walk the circuit, while simultaneously swaying and rocking the loud child and singing/cooing in a futile attempt to calm them.
Step 4: Repeat Step 3 ad infinitum.

I have great expectations for this potentially next great exercise fad, both personally and in the arena of infomercials. Look for the programs on your TV, coming soon!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What we got to do last night

Some Monday nights are crazy. Some are lazy. Some times we just want to crash as we get back into the normal week after a weekend together as a family. Last night, Monday night, was a little different for us. We had a chance to live out what has been talked about so much in the posts of the 40 Day Fast.

Impact childrenLast night, we went shopping - not for ourselves, but for two sisters who needed school supplies. And not by ourselves, but with these two sweet girls. And not just us: around 200 kids were blessed in this event, besides the two we shopped with. It was "Back to School" night. Our church, partnered with the Impact church in inner-city Houston, managed to bus these kids (in around six buses) up here to the 'burbs. Impact does a great job of ministering in the inner-city areas (they do a lot more than preach, though, and were profiled in The Wall Street Journal for their efforts after Hurricane Katrina), picking up these kids to bring them to church every week, and every day this week for VBS. Most of them are on government lunch grants at school, and their families come short of being able to afford needed school supplies and uniforms. That's where we were able to step in.

We met at the church building at 6:15, waited in line a few minutes to find the girls we would sponsor, and then left for a sumptuous dinner at CiCi's Pizza (hey, kids everywhere love a place that serves macaroni and cheese pizza). It was then on to Wal-Mart, who had kindly provided pre-packaged school supplies and a 10% discount on all purchases (but please, next time, open more registers for checkout!). After buying shoes, khaki's, polo's (to meet school uniform standards), and a backpack there was just enough time and money left to get them some gum to take home with them (we were asked to limit purchases to $65 per child). The girls loved talking and playing with Lil'E, and she hated saying by to them when we dropped them back at the buses at 9:30 - Liler'E was of the opinion that it had all gone on too long and was want to get home, as most 5-month olds are.

It was a great night, overall, even if it resulted in not getting the kids to bed until around 10:30. We loved meeting the girls, and seeing all the kids there; as a bonus, Mrs. E got to do some shopping, even if it wasn't for herself. And the kids all had a great night, as well. Our girls even asked if we would take them again next year!

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday musical mash

Go check out FreeCCM.com if you like free music. They are currently offering downloads from

  • Todd Agnew - "Don't Say A Word" from his new album Better Questions
  • Chris Rice - "What A Heart Is Beating For" from his new album What A Heart Is Beating For
  • Decyfer Down - "No Longer" from the album End Of Grey
  • Mike Farris - "The Lonely Road" from his new album Salvation In Lights
  • The Afters - "Love Will Make You Beautiful" from the album I Wish We All Could Win
If you didn't catch the theme, these are mostly new songs from new albums from artists on the INO label. All they ask is registration, and they will only send you e-mails when new music is offered. Check them out; they've given some good music.

On a side note, another INO artist is celebrating the birth of her third child. Ruby Cate Groves was born to
Sara Groves a couple of weeks ago. Congratulations to Sara and Troy, and the big brothers. And be looking for her new album this fall - I'm sure it'll be as good as her other offerings.

(Disclaimer: Neither myself nor my family works for INO records. The preceding was not, in fact, a paid advertisement but a notice of free music and a congratulatory note to an artist whose music I really, really like. It is only by coincidence that it all ties in to the same label. Really!)

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Because Mrs. E had never heard of this

Flowbee man!You remember our old friend, the Flowbee©! Well, come to find out that Mrs. E had somehow never heard of this. We were chatting about cutting the Lil'E's hair (Lil'E recently cut her own hair! without permission! beaut!) and I mentioned the good ol' Flowbee. Ah, the memories of the commercials for this when it first came out. How can you not make fun of this (even if you use it, it begs mocking).

Robocut manI never realized until recently that Flowbee has a competitor. The Robocut! In form, it seems similar to the Flowbee. Who do you think looks happier to be vacuuming their hair away? Personally, I think the Rococut man looks happier (in a digitally whitened, buck-toothed sort of way).

I really don't have anything else to say about these products. It's too easy, but I'm too tired to try. Okay, what to you think about the Flowbee and Robocut? Do you use them, or something similar at home? Do you secretly mock your own use of such products?

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Day 30: Amy

Amy gives a sobering reminder today of the problems the sex slave and human trafficking industry. Please read it and pray for the women and children trapped in this horrifying situation.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Day 28: Monsters in the Land

"Long sleeves or short sleeves?"
This has not been a question of fashion; this has been a threat intermingled with a terrible choice. Do you want your hand cut off at the wrist or at the elbow?

There are, indeed, monsters in the land. Man's cruelty to his brother has proven boundless over the millennia. The Assyrians were feared and hated for their atrocities, just as surely as Nazi Germany still is today. A man or group of men seek to control their country, funded by control of diamonds or oil or whatever, and those innocent villagers in their way are given the above choice of "fashion". A peasantry is afeared of bathing, simple sanitary bathing, because they might be mistaken as affluent Jews and seized by the Inquisition. Nearly a million countrymen die in a hundred days, slaughtered by friends and neighbors for being of the Tutsi tribe and not the Hutu. A man compels a thousand men, women, and children to drink poisoned koolade because he would rather see them dead than out of his control.

Oh, yes, monsters abound though our history. Terrible monsters, with devil faces and black hearts.

We have no shortage of atrocities to respond to, as the people of God. We cry for those who are hurt, by man and by nature. We rush to help, more often than not - and this is to our credit as the image of Christ. There is no shortage of groups that spearhead efforts to "rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave". International Justice Mission, Compassion International, World Vision; the list goes on. Some are more efficient than others, but they still seek to live as Jesus example and Jesus description or righteousness ("I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me"). Do not turn from the truth of their need.

But there are other monsters in the land. Monsters whose faces are less like the devil and more like your's and mine. Oh, they don't see themselves as monsters (they rarely do) and so don't paint there faces with evil. Their faces, more often, are painted with indifference. Painted with stony, cynical expressions:
You realize that it's all fake, don't you? I mean, yes, your money goes to help poor people, but the idea that YOUR money is going to this SPECIFIC kid is bogus. Do you really think they refuse to help some kid just because nobody has "chosen" them yet? The letters are written by volunteers and your money goes into a general fund. The photos are just random shots they take in the community, and they make up the names.(A deleted comment from Kat's post on Day 1.)
Eyes are covered with gauze, blinded to all but the brightest, the most terrible, or the greatest disasters. The great monsters, they stand out but are more rare; it is much more common that we are the monsters.

We see the genocides, we see the disasters, and we respond. Living in Houston, it was amazing to see the response when thousands flooded into our city fleeing the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Homes opened, hotels paid for, food and other necessities given. To our credit, that will long stand as our finest hour. But we are not alone when we fail at the more mundane needs. The
man on the street corner. The child alone in this world. The grieving widow, the abandoned spouse. The lonely, the depressed, those broken down by this life. Too often, our mask of indifference blinds us to these people and their needs. We turn inward, concerned with our needs, our problems, our solutions: I am a rock; I am an island! How wrong this is; how foolish and selfish. "A rock feels no pain; an island never cries." But we are the children, the living image, of a loving God.

This is grace, an invitation to be beautiful. For too long, I saw the monster in my own mirror. The monster of apathy, of a careless heart, of a self-focused life and religion. This song (from Sara Groves) was not a turning point in my life, but it was a coalescence of the thoughts and ideas, the stirring of the Spirit, that had been growing inside me. I want to see the imprint of Jehovah, not a monster, when I look in the mirror - or, for that matter, when the world looks at me. I want to add to the beauty of God's creation, as He has intended for me since before the dawn of time.

I am fasting today, as a result of a collaboration that more or less began with a plea:
Please don't look away. Do not dwell in inaction, break the inertia and step into action when God calls you. Both in global and local needs, simple actions or grand, organized or spontaneous, find the place where God has prepared for you to act. Open your hearts in love to the whole of humanity. In this vein, I present two organizations that I fast and pray over today.

Blood:Water MissionNorthwest Assistance Ministries (NAM)
"The human body is 70% water. A 3% loss of water can reduce a person’s ability work by 20%. For your average 60lb school-age child, that amounts to a standard nalgene-bottle full of water. Under exertion, the human body can sweat twice that in an hour. Now imagine sub-Saharan Africa, 90 to 110 degree heat depending on the season and a 2 mile hike to get water... one way. The average size jerry can used to carry water is 5 gallons, which weights a whopping 40lbs. Now imagine that you are a 7-year old girl. And you make this trek 3 times every day." (source)
Did you know that $1 provides one year of clean water for an African? Seriously. $1. Did you know that people living with HIV/AIDS are dependent on clean water to survive? Water-borne pathogens greatly complicate any chance they might have for survival.

Blood:Water Mission is committed to building wells in a way that empowers communities to take control of their own development. Sustainability is key. It does no good if a well is dug but not maintained over time because the people in the community have no connection to its building. It also does no good if sanitation is not maintained. That is why Blood:Water Mission partners with community based organizations, which provide appropriate training that is specific to their communities' needs for clean water and overall health. They also provide sanitation solutions such as latrines where they are needed. They work with the communities to create committees overseeing the use, maintenance and repair of their wells.

Woman at the wellTell you what, instead of strolling up to the coke machine and buying that bottle of cold, fizzy goodness why not walk on by. Take that dollar and give someone else a chance to have a drink of something that won't kill them as surely, if not as quickly, as not drinking at all.
NAM is a local community service organization, and I am sure you have something like it in your area. It is a collaborative effort between some thirty churches in this part of Houston, along with various businesses supporters, which provides just about anything you can name to people who need it. Their programs include
  • monetary assistance (to meet rent, etc.),
  • a food pantry,
  • a resale shop for low-cost clothing,
  • meals on wheels,
  • a children's health clinic that charges on a sliding scale,
  • shelter for the homeless,
  • education and help in finding jobs,
  • counseling, and
  • a shelter for victims of family violence.
They, quite literally, do it all. NAM helped more than 100,000 area residents in need during its last fiscal year, with approximately $.87 of every dollar donated going toward helping people in need. Of the people NAM assisted, 51 percent were children and senior citizens.

NAM is a great organization, that helps so many people in our own back yard. They accept donations in just about any form, and need volunteers about as much as they need money. Look for someone like this in your neck of the woods, and help them help the people around you in need. But don't stop with indirect help; reach out your own hand to the man on the corner and lift him up.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

End Of The Line

What happens when you put five good friends in a room together, to write and record album, with a 10-day deadline? It the five happen to be George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty, well then you get some might fine music. In 1988, Harrison was having dinner with Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison when he asked the two to join him in writing a filler song for the B-side of his latest single. They agreed, and thought about recording it that night at a little studio Bob Dylan had - a phone call later (and actually getting Dylan on the first try) they were set. Except for Harrison had left his guitar at Tom Petty's house; so they drop by and invite him along, as well. Five great musicians from three eras of rock, good friends all, record a song on a lark: "Handle with Care".

The record company wisely refused to let "Handle with Care" be hidden on a B-side and encouraged the friends to fill out an album. Dylan was heading out on tour in ten days, so that was their timeline. And what came out was The Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1. In June, a collection of the Wilburys' music was released (having been unavailable since first released): in a month it has sold close to a million copies. And for good reason. The mix of these five is magical - no preening or jocking for position, they shared equally in writing and singing, even auditioning amongst themselves for who would sing what. A little rockabilly, a little classic rock, a lotta good listening.

This video is "End of the Line", from Vol. 1. Sadly, before the video could be shot Roy Orbison died of a heart attack. He carries the chorus in the middle of the song, and is remembered with a picture and a guitar in a rocking chair. This song is their way of saying to let go, don't sweat what you don't have, but be glad in what you do have - it'll carry you through. A pretty good message, actually; contentment.

Enjoy!


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Friday, July 13, 2007

Pseudonymity

No Bull!So, I'm coming clean here: my real name is not Euphrony. I do not sign that on checks or IRS forms, nor is it even listed in my profile on my resume. Whew! Glad that's off my chest.

Okay, I've talked about
where Euphrony came from in the past. I want to know about the secret origins of your pseudonym. How did you choose your on-line identity? Or, was it chosen for you? For example: did Kat get her name from a love of Krazy Kat; or did FancyPants take her name from a Bob Hope / Lucille Ball comedy?

And while you are at it, you can take a stab at this question: Which of the following nicknames have I not carried at some point in my life?

  1. Orenthal P. Wisenheimer
  2. Mr. Fix-It
  3. Blond Jewish Whale
  4. Popo
  5. Funny Guy
Ready? Set? GO!

UPDATED: No winners were found. I guess everyone thought I have been called Mr. Fit-It. Alas, no, I have never held that nickname. Read the comments for full disclosure.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Preparing my thoughts: Inertia

Today is Day 21 of the 40 Day Fast. They say 21 days of doing something forms a habit; in this case a good thing. Mark Jaffery blogs today about the work he and others are doing in Cairo to help the Sudanese, and asks us to pray for South Sudan in particular.

In preparation for my day of fasting next week, I have been thinking a great deal about inertia. Not the physical inertia which Isaac Newton layed out in his laws of motion. No, I'm thinking about psychological inertia: that thing which we allow to hold us back when we know we must move.

Marianne, in her fasting post yesterday, talked about having known about Blood:Water Mission for a year or more before finally really doing something in response. How true is this for many (if not most) of us? An object at rest tends to stay at rest, Newton posed, and this can be equally true for physical and mental movement. But the opposite is also true, as Newton observed, that once you start it is hard to stop. Getting a taste for action can be addictive.

So right now my thoughts are on inertia. An age-old problem, it is, where we would rather sit and fondly reflect on slavery as luxury because the true road to milk and honey seems to difficult.

Sara Groves
"Painting Pictures of Egypt"

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Promise Kept

One of the things I love so much about the Bible is its vibrancy - how it truly speaks to and relates to people today, two or three millenia after the words were first put down on paper, or even spoken to man. Jehovah has given us promises, words with power because of the faithfulness of He who spoke them. Promises full of hope, guiding us on into the steps ahead. Promises full of despair, with destruction for those who deny the Creator and Savior of all mankind. Promises, that tell us that the Word of God to man is not a rulebook, to be kept and checked off, modified when expedient or discarded as irrelevant. Promises that the Word of God is written on our hearts, alive in each of us.

One promise that I hold dear is in Psalms 139:

1O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
3You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
4Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
5You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

7Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
9If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,"
12Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
Psalms 139:1-12 (NASB)
A promise of both safety in His hand, of His eternal presence with us, and a reminder that we cannot escape Jehovah - His dominion is all-encompassing. A good thing to pull me through the darkness that at times distracts me from Him. A promise Jehovah has kept many, many times.

What promises do you hold dear? What words from God give you hope and fill your mind constantly?

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Abandon hope, all ye who ride with the Euphrony's

You may remember that I've written about the joys of car ownership before. You may also remember that I became a small-time celebrity to some local rednecks after a recent accident. Well, it is time for full disclosure (you can't handle the truth, but you can handle some of it) on these accidents. What prompts this revelation, you may ask? Well, of course, it is yet another accident.

Car crash in FranceJust the facts, ma'am
This is the city: Houston, Texas. I work here. I'm a rheologist. It was the evening of July 9th, a Monday, at about 6:20. Mrs. Euphrony had just picked up Little Euphrony from swim lessons; Littler Euphrony accompanied the two older family members in the family mini-van. The driver (Mrs. Euphrony) was attempting a right turn on red, yielding to cross traffic, when their vehicle was struck from behind. The second vehicle was driven by a girl - college age - who was as shook up about this as were the Little E's: Mrs. Euphrony was calm with the experience of someone who had been there before. Only minor damage was incurred - scratched paint and some wear of the rear bumper. No injuries were reported. A claim is being filed for reparation of damages.

Car crash in FranceIronically, this was almost expected. You see, Mrs. E's car was in a fairly bad accident when Lil'E was four months old; and since Liler'E is now four months, it was his turn for some excitement. Not that these are the only times, because I could mention the accident that totaled the car and sent Mrs. E and Lil'E to the ER. I'm not immune to this bug, either. My car has been hit twice this year. A few years ago I went through three cars in a month. No joke: my car (totaled when a lady turned out in front of me while I was going 70-mph) and two rentals (one I ran off the road in a case of highway hypnosis, and one side-swiped by an 18-wheeler on the interstate). One of my favorites was when we did a squeeze play, where I was smashed in my compact car between Mrs. E's SUV and the 18-wheeler that rammed be from behind. Crumple zones work: trust me.

So, if you're ever our way, be sure to look us up to say hi. We can go get some dinner, play glow-in-the-dark indoor mini golf, or let kids play at a park. But, you might just want to drive yourself. Take a different route, and leave ten minutes ahead of us. Or, you can hop in our car and let the good times roll.

See ya' soon!

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Part III: What is a Spirited life, and why do we have the Spirit?

(After long delay, I am returning to this series on the Holy Spirit. I had hoped to post about two a week for about a month. Instead, I haven't published one in over a month. Oops.)

How has the Spirit moved in your life? I'm not asking for generalities, but can you name specifics of when the Spirit has lead you to (or away from) an action, or given you specific insights, or comfort. Where have you actively considered the action of God's Spirit in your life?

I know there have been very tangible times when I have known the Spirit to be with me, guiding me. We know and are assured that God has freely given us His Spirit, a promise extending back to before Christ spoke of this gift.

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions
Joel 2:28 (NASB)
The problem with recognizing the touch of the Holy Spirit arises in that we live in a post-modern, post-Christian, post-(pick your own filler) society. Our views as Christians have been influenced by the world: Darwinian thinking, Freud, world religions, societal goals (money, fame, ease), etc. have all been stamped on our views of living a Christian life. These, at times, lead us to seek answers and explanations which are self-reliant, naturalistic, and jaded when the truth is we have experienced Jehovah moving His Spirit to change our lives. Am I wrong on this? Honestly, have we not all found ways to explain away the action of the supernatural with the machinations of the natural?

So, what does a Spirited life look like? An easy example is to look at Stephen in
Acts 6-7. Read these two chapters, and see a man who was characterized by the Spirit of God: full of the Spirit (6:3, 5), full of grace, power, and signs (6:8), wisdom (6:10), face like an angel (6:15), boldness (7:51-53), seeing God (7:55), and loving of others who hated him (7:60). I am convinced that much of what Paul taught on the Spirit he learned from watching Stephen on this day, though the lesson took some time to sink in. Read 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 2 Timothy 1:7, among others, and see just how much Paul wrote about was exemplified by Stephen.

Beyond the biblical example, I also like to look at the Quakers for one example of Spirited life. Their belief in being lead by the Spirit is so deep that they do not have prepared lessons in their times of worship; instead, characterized by prolonged silences, they wait until someone is moved by the Spirit to speak. Bizarre? Maybe a bit, but I love their dedication to not speak and lead from their own personal desires and the reliance on and intimacy with the Holy Spirit it shows.

Another view of the the Spirited life can be characterized by the difference of how the Spirit works in a life. I think of this as having been touched by the Spirit verses having the Spirit abide within you. Consider the differences between King Saul and King David, in 1 Samuel. We are told several times that the Spirit of God came upon Saul (1 Samuel 10:10 and 11:6). But we are then told how the Spirit departed from him (16:14). In contrast, we see David in his anointing as king, with the Spirit coming on him "from that day forward" (1 Samuel 16:13). We see that the Spirit touches lives, even those not wholly dedicated to Jehovah - and therein lies a purpose. Go back to the above mentioned
Zechariah 12:10 and see that the Spirit is pored out to touch the hearts of a people dead to God, convicting them of sin and bringing them to repentance. This we see fulfilled in Acts 2:37. It is the difference of God sending His Spirit to touch mankind, moving them to repentance, and the indwelling of the Spirit we receive in putting on Christ as our lord and savior; but both are pictures of life with the Spirit.

So then, why have we been given the Spirit? Why, also, is life in the Spirit important? I take the parable of
Matthew 12:43-45 to heart: we are slaves to someone. If we choose not to be filled with Jehovah's Spirit, we will be overridden by the evil spirits of this world. We can either choose to be a slave to Christ, in His Spirit, or a slave to sin and death.

But then, look at the Gospel of Mark. Writing primarily to the Greeks, Mark spends a good deal of the
opening of his gospel acquainting them (and us) with the Living Spirit. In Mark 1:8 we are introduced to baptism of the Spirit and then, in verse 10, see it exemplified in Jesus own baptism. We watch as the Spirit compels Jesus to enter the wilderness and a time of fasting and temptation (also verse 10). We then see Jesus casting out an unclean spirit (vs. 23-27) and, when word of this got out, demon-possessed people are brought before Him, and the demons cast out (vs. 32-34). What can we conclude from Mark's introduction to the Spirited life? We have been given the Spirit to live a life of danger. The Spirit did not lead Jesus into the desert for a picnic; more like to pick a fight. When we seek to do God’s will, we will be assailed, but in His Spirit we are hedged in and shielded. We are not removed from the battle; rather we are carried through it. As Jesus was, we are baptized with a Spirit of power. This Holy Spirit within us has authority and dominion over unclean spirits of this earth. We do not have to fear possession by one of these demons when we have first become the possession of Jehovah and His Spirit.

To be sure, this is not the only reason for the gift of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also our comforter and speaks for us when we cannot. Jehovah's Spirit is our teacher; in His Spirit,
we have the mind of Christ. But, in all honesty, we are in a fight for our lives - our eternal lives - and we are not up to the challenge alone. God is with us, having given us His Spirit, so that we may be able to endure this boxing match without being knocked out.

Have you experienced the work of the Spirit in your life? Have you seen first hand what a Spirit-filled life looks like? How so? Recognizing the Spirit's actions is easier when we share how our own lives have been touched - the big and the small.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

Prayer answered

Our friends Connie and Joel write:

We started working with a second adoption agency a couple of months ago. Almost as soon as our paperwork was in (not a small task!), they presented us with a birthmother in Las Vegas, Nevada. They told us she was due toward the end of July, then at the beginning of July. We were thinking about it and trying to get more information when we got a call last Monday saying the birthmother was in labor. If we were interested, we needed to get to Las Vegas ASAP. We hadn't yet committed, but in the three hours after we first discussed it, we decided to go, we packed us and Matthew for an unknown number of days, we drove to Connie's brother's house to drop off Matthew, and we got to the airport, where we sat around waiting to see if we could make it on a 10:30 flight as standbys (Thanks, Mom!). Finally, the 10:30 flight boarded a little after midnight, and we made it on as standbys #24 and 25. Then we arrived in LV, found a hotel, took a suicidal taxi ride, and finally got to bed around 4 am Texas time.

OK, that's the first few hours. The next few days are a blur, but four hotels and LOTS of stress later, we are in possession of a beautiful baby girl (sounds like a crime, doesn't it?) that we can bring back to Texas in 7 to 10 business days. The details of the past few days should fill many e-mails or telephone conversations, so they'll have to wait for now.
Connie and Joel have been trying to adopt a second child for two or three years now (it's been so long I've lost track of the time). They have an adopted boy and now, at long last, a little girl as well! It has been a long road, with multiple birth mothers backing out after the child was born (under circumstances that lead to the belief they never intended to give the child up for adoption in the first place) breaking their hearts. But now the wait is over!

Rejoice with them today, and pray that they all make it back home safely and soon.

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