Friday, May 30, 2008

A Week of Family and Friends

I love spending time with my family and close friends, whether it's just hanging out, working out together, or celebrating life's special moments together. This week was a great week, because I was able to do a little of all of that.

First was Memorial Day. Last Memorial Day we had our whole Sunday School class over plus some other friends for a cookout at our house. We ended up with over 50 people - about half adults and half kids - in our back yard. Every one had a great time, but I ran myself ragged that day. (It didn't help that I was in the early weeks of my last pregnancy and no one knew about it yet.) This year, we decided on just inviting family and one of my best friends, so we had Preston's dad, one of my brothers and his finace, and Meredith Quintana. We cooked hamburgers and hotdogs and just had a fun, simple get-together. Once the kids went to bed, we played a board game called Imaginiff. It was so much fun! I laughed so hard that I couldn't catch my breath several times throughout that game, and we learned a lot about each other. Take, for instance, my crazy brother, Darrell. During the course of the game we learn that one of his favorite secular songs is the MASH theme song, and his other favorite one is the BeeGees' "Stayin' Alive". Someone points out that the real title of the MASH theme song is "Suicide is Painless". The total extremes of these two songs strikes us as hilarious, because it fits the extreme kind of person Darrell is to a "T". As a result of that night, we are planning a monthly game night for our little group. I can't wait!

The next night, I was able to hang out with my future sister-in-law, Cindy, and my friends Laura Atkins and Monica Slaughter at Monica's house for a girl's movie night. (I don't mean to imply in any way that Cindy is not a friend. If we had met before she met Darrell, we would have been fast friends anyway, and I am so excited that we are going to be sisters-in-law!) We are currently watching the whole "Anne of Green Gables" movie series. It's been so relaxing and fun. We come in our comfy clothes, and lounge around on Monica's sectional sofa and watch Anne on a huge flat-screen TV while munching on all sort of goodies - because calories don't count on Girls' Movie Night. Cindy and I especially are huge "Anne" fans, and we find ourselves quoting some of the lines along with the movie and laughing at the same parts. I discovered that watching these movies with a fellow "kindred spirit" or two makes the movies so much better!

Then, on Thursday, one of my sons' best friends, Joseph Falgout, graduated from Kindergarten at my old alma mater, Shades Mountain Christian School. I took both of the boys to see him graduate, while my sweet husband stayed at home with the baby. They enjoyed most of the program, and were especially excited to see Joseph up on the stage. (He did a great job with his parts in the program. We were so proud of him!) It was a good experience for Harris, since it will help him know what to expect next year when he graduates Kindergarten. (I must confess here that I grew teary-eyed a time or two during the program, thinking that my first baby will be graduating from Kindergarten this time next year.) After the program was over, we were able to visit with Joseph and his family, as well as other friends that were there that night. I also saw some of my former teachers and enjoyed visiting with them.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling a little depressed and lonely. Since then, God has been so good to fill my life up with friends and family who love me and with whom I can have fun. I am blessed to have each of you in my life!

More Thoughts on Worship

I thought I was done with the devotional thoughts about worship, but God keeps giving me other little pieces that I want to share with you. After last week's description of getting into the manifest presence of God (which is a very different thing than the omnipresence of God), the question came to me, "Why then does it seem that some people can get there so easily and quickly, and others it takes a long time - if they are able to get into that intimate place of worship at all?" God immediately put Luke 2:25-38 on my heart. I will only point out a couple of verses from this passage. Luke 2:25, 27 - "Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him....Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God." And Luke 2:36a, 37 - "There was also a prophetess, Anna....She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying."
Simeon was righteous and devout. The Greek word for devout in this verse is eulabes. The prefix, eu means "well". The rest of the word comes from a Greek word lambano which means "to get hold of". Simeon desired to get a hold of the presence of Christ, and lived in such a way as to make sure he was able to hear from Him and follow Him. As a result, he was tuned into the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Who led him into the physical presence of Christ. In this passage, it also says that God had promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen Christ, and when he does, his prayer includes the line, "Now let your servant depart in peace". In other words, Christ was all he was living for.
Anna made her home at the Temple and worshiped constantly. Verse 38 says, "And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." (KJV) Because she dwelt as close as she could to the presence of God and was constantly worshipping God, she was instantly in the physical presence of Christ when He was brought to the Temple.
The application to our lives is very clear to me. We must be living for Christ, always desiring "to get hold of" His manifest presence, living righteously as God enables us. We must also live as close to Him as we can. Continually desiring to be in His presence, in fellowship with Him, so that when His manifest presence comes, or when we enter into corporate worship, we will be able to immediately be in that Holiest Place, immediately worshipping. For me, when I do get into that place of worship, I don't want to leave it and I don't want it to end, which motivates me to live in such a way that I don't have to waste time trying to get back into that place. I just want to be with Him. It reminds me of the chorus of a song (that I can't remember the name of),

I just want to be where You are,
Living daily in Your presence
I don't want to worship from afar
Draw me near to where You are.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Birthdays According to Preston

This past Thursday was my husband, Preston's, birthday. I have struggled since we were dating to find out how to make his birthday the kind he would really enjoy. My idea of a great birthday is the kind I had last year. A big party with lots of friends and good food, with nothing in particular planned but great fellowship - and maybe a fun game or two. Preston has always maintained that he would prefer a quiet celebration with just the family. Being the understanding, intuitive wife that I am not, I didn't quite believe him and thought he was just trying to make things easier on me by not having to plan anything big. I've thrown him two big parties before, one a surprise and one that he had a hand in planning. Both of them were huge successes, in my opinion.
However, this time, I didn't have time to plan anything. We are going out to dinner with his dad and my parents in a week for it, but I hated the idea of the actual day passing without something special to mark it. I've also been thinking a lot about "Love Languages". Preston's love language is acts of service. So, I decided I would do everything I could to speak his language all day. The kids and I picked up all the toys and things that were laying around our house. (It looked like a Toys'r'us had blown up in there.) I spent a lot of time cleaning our bedroom, putting away clothes, shoes, and the odd toy that wonders in there from time to time. I also put fresh, clean sheets on the bed and turned the sheets down and arranged the pillows that made it so comfortable-looking. I was tempted to crawl into it and take a nap, but there were 3 little ones running around (well, 2 were running, the baby was just lying there watching them). I also turned on the window unit AC that Preston insists on keeping in our room (in case the central AC ever goes out, he says) so that the room would be nice and chilled when he got home from a hot day at work. I had the boys make birthday cards for him, while I prepared the kind of dinner I knew he liked.
When Preston got home, the boys jumped out (they were hiding so that they could jump out and surprise him) and yelled happy birthday and handed him their cards. I greeted him the way a wife should greet her husband every day - especially one like mine who has been standing in harm's way to keep the rest of us safe - with a warm hug and lingering kiss. I must confess I don't always do that. I need to get better at that. While he was relaxing, and dinner was cooking, the boys and I made a cake - a vanilla one because that's his favorite. He didn't know about the cake, so we were able to surprise him with it after supper. We lit the candles and sang "Happy Birthday". (by the way, it's so much more fun to sing that song with 2 very enthusiastic boys singing along with you than to sing it by yourself.) I had noticed throughout the evening that Preston's smile was getting bigger and bigger. After we enjoyed our cake, he thanked me for the best birthday ever! I was shocked. "What about the surprise party or the party when you turned 40?!" I exclaimed. He said, "Those were nice, but this is what I have always wanted for my birthday, just a quiet celebration with my family."
Well, it's only taken 11 years of marriage, but I have finally figured out how to make Preston's birthdays happy ones.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Some thoughts on worship

God has been teaching me a lot about worship lately, and I would like to share it with you.

John 4:23,24 - "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (NIV)
The Greek word for worship/worshipers in these verses is proskuneo and means "to kiss, like a dog licking the master's hand; to fawn or crouch to; prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore)". The Greek word for worshiper in these verses means "an adorer".
In our culture, and even in our churches, we have a hard time understanding what worship is. We tend to be very good at praise, though, because we see it everywhere we look - your favorite team scores a touchdown and everyone jumps to their feet and raises their hands, shouting and clapping and rejoicing; at church we always see people standing to their feet and raising their hands in praise to God. Now, granted, once upon a time even that was not seen at church, and I praise the Lord for releasing us from tradition into praise in that sense. However, considering the meaning of the word worship in the verses above, when was the last time you saw that demonstrated - even in church? In order to worship in the way the Father wants us to, we must first become completely humble, which is probably why it is so rare to see true worship. We are not a culture or a people that are very good at being humble. We think conditions have to be the way we want them to be in order to worship. How many times have we said, "Well, I just can't worship with that song" or "The music was awesome today. I really got into the worship!" What worship were we getting into - the worship of the Father, or just the music? True worship is not about music, it's about relationship to the Father. That Greek word for worship has as its prefix, pros, which is a preposition meaning "towards, to, with, along side". If you have really worshipped, you come away not with an appreciation for the music or prayer time or preaching, you come away with an awe for the Heavenly Father and the Lamb of God, and a closer relationship with Him. Worship is when we "see the Lord, high and lifted up, and His train fills the temple."(Is. 6:1) and we realize how lowly and abased we really are.

I was going through Revelation the other day, reading the awesome worship passages that are in it, and I noticed something. Every time it mentions anyone worshipping God/Christ, it says they "fell down and worshipped" or something similar. It goes back to humbling ourselves as I mentioned above. You can't ask for truer or more Spirit-filled worship than the kind that is going on in heaven. Our Worship Pastor at my church is always encouraging us to worship in every Biblical way. So that means if God so moves you to do so, it is perfectly Biblical for you to bow in worship during our services.
Here's my other thought: Worship cannot be forced. There is a progression that must be followed. The pattern of the Tabernacle is our example (disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on the Tabernacle, and it is with much fear and trepidation I even mention it. If I get something important wrong - and everything about the Tabernacle is important - please correct me). In order to enter the gates of the Tabernacle, you had to come through the tribe of Judah. Judah means "praise". In Psalm 100:4 it says, "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name," Praise is the vehicle that takes us into His gates, but your first stop inside those gates is at the Brazen Altar.One could not enter into the Holy Place without first coming to the Brazen Altar and making atonement for their sins. The Cross is our Brazen Altar, but we need to confess our sins to Christ every time we seek to come into His presence.
The next stop was at the Brass Laver where the priests had to wash with water every time they went into the Holy Place (Tent of Meeting). The Word of God is the water with which we must allow the Spirit to wash us, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we are not conformed to this world. (How many times have we struggled to get into the praise and worship on a Sunday morning because our minds were on something else?) Only then, can we come into the Holy Place, where we feed on the Word of God (table of shewbread), where the Light of Christ (golden lampstand) to direct our path and the Spirit (oil in the lampstand) are, and where the prayers go up (table of incense). Finally, we pass through the curtain that was rent from top to bottom at the death of our Savior (Hallelujah!) and into the Holy of Holies and the very presence of God. And there is where we worship, falling on our faces before the majesty and glory of the Lord Most High.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My First Blog Ever!

Well, here goes something.. my first attempt at my very own blog. I never thought I would be a blogger, but after reading some friends' blogs and seeing how God is using their gift with words to bless others, and after being encouraged to do this by one of them (thanks, Meredith), I decided to give it a try. Besides, God is doing so much in my life right now, that I need this to help process it all. He amazes me with His incredible love for me, His long-suffering patience with me, and His ability to use me even with all of my flaws, and then there's all the many blessings He has poured into my life. This blog will cover my thoughts from the natural to the supernatural, hence the blog's name, but I hope all of it will glorify my Lord Jesus Christ because He alone is worthy.