Friday, April 29, 2011

This is my solomn vow....

In honor of William and Kate, here's a re-post:

I love weddings. I never used to cry at them, until I got married myself. Now I can hardly even watch one without crying - even if it's on TV. I think it is because once you enter into that marriage covenant and live a few years together, those vows really take on meaning. A starry-eyed bride can not begin to understand what she's saying. But don't try to tell her that... She's making them in faith.

Here is a copy of the vows my groom and I made to each other: 

I, (Karelin/Mark),

take thee (Mark/Karelin),

to be my wedded (husband/wife),

to have and to hold from this day forward,

for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,

in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish,

'til death do us part,

according to God's holy ordinance;

this is my solemn vow.

During my quiet time this week, it dawned on me that a prayer of surrender to the LORD is very much like the vows I made at my wedding. When I give myself fully to my Savior, it is for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish.... I make these vows in faith, too. A new believer can't really know what lay ahead in his journey with Jesus. But there is a trust, a knowing that God is a good and faithful God. "Perfect love casts out fear," and day by day, those vows take on new meaning.

There is no better groom than Jesus. He remains faithful, even when I do not. He loves me completely, even though I am just learning to love Him. The best part is, there is no "'til death do us part."

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

Now that's romantic! *sniff*

This LORD's day, I want to come to Him with my heart given to be fully His. There's no better love than the love of God.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Had a beautiful run this morning.  The rain had just passed through and the air was clean and fresh.  With Rachael's driver's ed. class forcing me to get up and out three mornings a week, my road running has improved. 

Since I posted about finding that pacesetter, I keep coming back to that image.  While I run, even though there is no one a head of me, I can imagine those feet and see the pace.  I don't have to have a physical pacesetter, in my mind's eye, I can see them.  It has improved my time.  I don't start out too fast and use up all my energy.  It helps me run more and walk less. 

I passed a man on the street today.  He looked like the "old coach" type of guy.  He actually commented as I went by him, "Nice pace, real comfortable."   I thought, "Yes, it is comfortable.  I could run a long time at this pace..." 

A little further on, I passed a woman running just a bit slower than I was.  (yes, I can actually pass people...)  I began to wonder if I might be a pacesetter for her.  Not that I'm such a super-star runner.  But I know how much I was helped by a passing runner. 

It got me thinking.  Isn't that how our journey with Christ is supposed to be.  We find a pacesetter for us, Jesus and others, and we also become a pacesetter.  Paul repeatedly talks about running the race in his letters to the churches.  He set an example for us to pursue Christ at all costs.  Paul new that he hadn't "arrived" to perfection, but that didn't stop him from urging them (and us) to imitate him. 

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead...
Philippians 3:13 NIV

...For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. 
So I urge you to imitate me.

I Corinthians 1:15-16 NLT

Before my come-back to road running, I was content to run on my treadmill.  It was enough to keep me going.  I could mark off a few miles a week and not feel too guilty.  How many years of my Christian life have I been content to run my own private race?  It's enough for me to get by, but that's not what Jesus commanded as He left this planet.  He said, "Go and make disciples of all nations..."  If I'm not running my race as a pacesetter, who will come after me?  How will I obey this command?  I'm coming to the strong conviction that this journey is not to be lived in isolation.  There is no "plan B" for reaching the world.  I am a part of it and I have a role to play. 

As I was coming back to my starting point, I passed the same lady again.   This time as I passed her, she was walking.  I'll never know if I was a pacesetter for her, but when I was finally at my car, I saw her a third time.  But this time she continued past me - running.
Do you have someone who can set the pace for you?  Are you setting the pace for someone else.  The truth is, people are watching us.  What kind of pace will we set?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Offenses of Jesus: The Faith of a Gentile Woman

Usually, the offenses of Jesus make me cringe.  This is one that inspires me. It is found in Matthew 15:21-28.  Jesus leaves the offended Pharisees and travels to the north, to the region on Tyre and Sidon.  A gentile woman comes to Jesus, pleading for Him to deliver her daughter who was possessed by a demon.

Don't you hate it when you are talking to someone and they ignore you?  That's what Jesus did.  (Offense #1)  He didn't say a word - no reply to her pleading.  Evidently that didn't put her off.  She keeps begging.  So much so that the disciples ask Jesus to send her away, "She is bother us with all her begging."  So Jesus speaks to her.  "I was sent only to help God's lost sheep, the people of Israel." (Offense #2)  She is not deterred.  Her response?  She came and worshiped Him, and pleaded again, "Lord, help me!"

Jesus comes back with this, "It isn't right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs."  (Offense #3) Ouch!  Basically, Jesus is calling this woman a dog, unworthy of His attention.  But this woman is amazing.  Her love for her daughter and her belief that Jesus is the answer gives her the chutzpah to push on. She ignores His insult and replies, "That's true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their master's table."  Wow.  Such boldness.  She passes the test.  Remember, Jesus only offends the mind to reveal the heart. Her heart for her daughter and her faith in Jesus is revealed  ~ and impresses Jesus.  Now Jesus can drop the offenses.  His tone changes completely.  "Dear woman,"  Jesus says to her, "your faith is great.  Your request is granted."  Finally, the intended result.  His offense of the woman revealed a heart of faith.  Her daughter was instantly healed.  If there was any doubt that our persistence and faith can move the heart of God, here it is.  Jesus stated that His purpose was to bring salvation to the Jews.  But her bold faith pleased Jesus so much, He extended His grace to her, even before the dispensation to any other Gentile.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. 
Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists 
and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 NLT

In our day, the salvation and grace of Jesus is fully available to everyone.  But do I persist in prayer, using bold faith to lay hold of what I need from Jesus?  Does my faith please God, enough to move Him?  Do I believe it can?

Monday, April 25, 2011


On Good Friday, I tried something I had been wanting to do for some time.  Spend a day in silence.  I always wondered how I could pull it off.  I knew I couldn't take off to a convent....  How would this work with a family and a schedule to keep?  Stepping out of my usual perfectionist trap (if I can't do it exactly how I want, I wont do it) I decided to go for it and see what happened.   I couldn't keep my outer world silent, but was determined to be personally silent in the midst of it.  Here are some of my observations.

I woke up early and went down to the dock to clean up our boat.  It was a beautiful day, and I was enjoying the silence immensely, that is until I started talking to myself.  Oops!  Didn't realize how much I do that.  Had to turn it off.

Back at home, it was a real adjustment for my kids.  They are used to me barking orders and keeping the peace between them.  So, I found that without that, things where decidedly more peaceful.  Why argue if Mom isn't going to step in.  Not worth it.  There were a few times that I had to speak to the kids.  Andrew, not one for change, needed me to assure him that I was just fine, not mad, and this was only temporary.   It was really kind of fun.  I took them all to town for Rachael's dentist appointment, then to pick up ballet leotards.  After that they didn't know where I was taking them.  They kept asking where we were going.  Of course, I didn't answer, so they were pleasantly surprised with a south shore drive and a lunch stop at our favorite 50's-style diner for burgers.  (I was fasting words, not food!)

After our outing, we were back at home for the afternoon.  With the big Easter weekend ahead of me, I started in on preparations.   It was nice to be busy with my hands, since my mouth was idle.  I got a lot of cleaning done.  It made me think of Brother Lawrence and his "Practicing the Presence of Jesus."  I was being active on the outside, but the silence brought an inward rest that refreshed my soul.

Why silence on Good Friday?  It was a day of noise and confusion.  The false witnesses were not silent, "..he said he'd rebuild the temple in three days."  The crowd was not silent, "Crucify him!"  The mocking soldiers were not silent, "Hail, king of the Jews."  The thieves that were crucified beside Him where not silent, "You're the Messiah are you?  Prove it by saving yourself, and us too while you're at it."  The curious on-lookers to His death were not silent, "..come down from that cross."  Even the executioners argued for Jesus' robe.

But with all the noise of Good Friday, there was silence too.  The silence of his disciples.  They weren't around to stand up for Him.  Jesus' closest friends ran away.   There was the silence of Jesus before Pilate.  So many things He could have said, but didn't.  He humbled Himself, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7, "...And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth."  But the most dramatic silence of that day was the silence of the Father.  God himself had to turn away from His beloved Son.  Silent.  Unlike Abraham and Isaac, there was no other sacrifice waiting in the bush.  No voice came from heaven staying the death of the Only Son.  Lastly, the tomb was silent, deathly silent for three long days.

It was good to be silent last Friday.  I learned the value of my words.  It was actually hard to get started again.  I found myself choosing my words more carefully.  I actually was more conscience of giving a "good word" to those around me.  That's something I've been working on for a long time.  Who knew that it would take silence to give me a better perspective on words of encouragement.  Sound's like God to me...

Even today, Monday, I find myself less talkative than last week.  I'm praying that the trend holds.  I've been careless with my words of late.  The impatient words that come out of my mouth really sting my ears.  I may need a few more doses of silence to ride me of that.  I'm open as the Lord directs.

Have you ever tried silence?  I'd love to hear your insights.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Offenses of Jesus: Honor God with your heart, not just your lipsl

Jesus, on occasion, was intentionally offensive.  Don't believe me?  You can see my introduction  here.

The first offense of Jesus I want to explore comes in Matthew 15:1-20.  Jesus and the disciples are near the Sea of Galilee in the city of Gennesaret.  The Pharisees come all the way from Jerusalem to see Jesus.  Why the long journey to talk to Jesus?  What urgent business do they have that must be dealt with now?  They want to confront Jesus about his disciples' neglect of Jewish tradition. They are appalled that Jesus would allow such a breech in religious etiquette.  "Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition?  For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial  hand washing before they eat."  Jesus has been healing the sick, driving out demons, and has fed a multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish, and they come all this way to discuss the a neglected tradition!  Jesus knows their hearts and immediately gets to the core of the matter.  He gives them a question in return.  He asks them why their traditions violate the direct commandments of God.  The Pharisees had created a "loop hole" in the law that got them out of honoring and financially providing for their parents under the guise of giving to God.  Jesus was not fooled and could see right through their hypocrisy.  He tells them so by quoting from the prophet Isaiah (29:13), "These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me."  The crowd is still watching and listening, so Jesus calls to them and says, "Listen, and try to understand.  It's not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth."  It's a great teaching moment, and Jesus makes His point.

The disciples come to Jesus.  They need to inform Jesus that He has just stepped on some big toes.  "Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?"  ~ Uh, Jesus, we're just trying to help you out...

Jesus  knows exactly what He's doing.  "Ignore them... they are blind guides."  The point of the law is to point us to God.  Man's traditions had come before the heart or spirit of the law.  Jesus came to cut through the traditions of man and reacquaint the people with God's heart for them.

Then Peter, always to be counted on to ask the questions that everyone else is just thinking, asks, "Explain to us the parable that says people aren't defiled by what they eat."  (He really should have written this down ~ God had to remind him with a vision....see Acts 10.)  His answer kind of catches me off guard.  He says, "Don't you understand yet?"....uh, no.... "Anything you eat passes through the stomach and into the sewer.  But the words you speak come from the heart - that's what defiles you.....  Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you."  ...Okay, now I get it!  Thanks, Lord.

The Pharisees must have been really miffed.  To come all this way, just be leave offended.

So what do I glean from this lesson?   Being on this side of the resurrection, I don't follow any rituals of hand washing or food restrictions.  But it is easy to get caught up in the outward trappings of religion.  Am I miffed if we don't sing the right number of choruses on Sunday morning?  What about hymns?  Heaven forbid that someone should sit in MY place in church (third row, far right) or if that homeless man wanders in to the service in front of the visitors.  How do I react when someone new to the church does something (anything) other than what we've done for (insert number) years?  Am I offended and self-righteous?  Or do I look at the heart of the matter - my heart.

When the prophet Samuel anointed young David to be the next king of Israel, Samuel looked at Eliab, Jesse's oldest son.  He said, "Surely this is the Lord's anointed!"

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7 NLT

There are so many times when I think I know what is right in a religious sense.  But God's perspective is always better than mine.  My prayer is that when I find myself offended, that I will stop and look inside.  What is God's heart on this matter?  Has my sense of tradition been challenged or is it one of God's commands?  

Let me end with this:

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. 
For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. 
And always be thankful.
Colossians 3:13-15 NLT

I have a feeling I'll be returning to these verses.  Grace be with you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I needed a pacesetter

This morning I took a run along a beautiful beach-side road.  It was a gorgeous morning.  The sun was shining, a gentle breeze was blowing, and I was so glad to be outside.  I love to run while listening to my ipod.  Music really helps me keep my mind off the pain...  Unfortunately, I didn't have it today.  I found myself distracted by the sound of my own feet.  (I kept looking behind me to see who was following me - blond moments...)  I didn't have the music to make the miles go by a bit faster.  I found myself reaching the end of my energy before the end of my route back to the car.  I kept stopping to walk.  I had just reached my turn-around point when another runner glided by me.  She was about my age, very tall and slender, and was keeping a steady, manageable pace.  I decided to match her, step by step, to see if I could keep up.  I glued my eyes to her feet and fell in about 50 feet behind her.  Wow!  What a difference it made.  The pace was just perfect for me.  The ground that had taken me over 5 minutes to cover only took me 4 when I kept in step with her.  Then I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit speaking to me.  "That's how I want you to be with Me."  He longs to set the pace if I'll just fall in step behind Him.

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me.
Get away with me and you'll recover your life.
I'll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

- Jesus, Mt. 11:28-29, The Message

Yes, Lord,  I hear.  Thanks for reminding me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Offenses of Jesus: An Introduction

As I begin this study, I want to talk about the premise.  At first glance, the "offenses of Jesus" sounds like something totally against everything I know about my beloved Savior.  How can anything Jesus does be offensive?  He is love.  He is compassion personified.  He champions the down-trodden, the lonely, the forgotten, the untouchable, and the outcast.  He makes friends with sinners.  He calls the common man to follow Him.  Offensive?  That just can't be.  But when I take a closer look at the gospels, I see that Jesus was indeed offensive to those who thought they knew how to be religious. Jesus wasn't just being rude, not at all. He used offensive language and actions to catch the religious elite off guard.  Bill Johnson puts it best when he says, "Jesus offended the mind to reveal the heart."  That's the idea I want to explore in this study.

Of the many people that Jesus encountered, there were two main groups:  the common people and the religious leaders. Jesus dealt with the common man or woman with unrestrained love and care.  He spoke to them in parables.  He healed and delivered them.  He fed them.  He blessed their children.  He raised their dead.  So much of what we know and love of Jesus is learned by watching how He moved among the people.  But then there was that other group of people.  They were the Pharisees and other leaders of religious law that were always trying to trap and eventually kill Jesus.  They were not moved by Jesus's compassion.  But Jesus loved them, too.  (He's not willing that any should parish.)  With all wisdom, motivated by love, Jesus crafted His words and actions in order to rock their religious boat and in doing so, revealed the deeper status of their heart.

In the 28 chapters of the gospel of Matthew, I have come up with 15 instances where Jesus used offensive words and actions, and this is by no means exhaustive.  It seems that Jesus thought this a worthy method of reaching the lost.  Was it effective?  Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.  In all cases, the hearer's heart was revealed.  How they responded was up to them.  Some believed, some went away sad, and some became murderous.

So why study the offenses of Jesus?   I must confess that in the stories of Jesus and His encounters with the Pharisees, I often see my own sin in their example.  I grew up in the church.  I know how to "do" church with my eyes shut.  And that is a problem.  It's all too easy for me to be legalistic.  I need my heart to be revealed. I need to be thrown off guard once in a while.  I don't want to miss the true message of Jesus because I think I know better.

So join me if you will, as I journey down the road with Jesus.  Let's see where we end up.  I want to have a heart like His.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path
of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 NLT (Emphasis mine.)

The picture of Jesus (at top) hung in my room as a child.  I'm sure He looks just like this!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Compassion killed my joy...

I woke up last night to thunder.  It troubled me.  I used to love severe weather.  Call me crazy, but living in such a beautiful place where the weather changes very little, I would secretly wish for thunder and lightening, an extra "cold" night (low 60's), or torrential rain.  But compassion changed all that.  I'm finding that my joy at the severe weather forecast is severely hampered by the thought of those who must be outside in it.  I'm talking about those with no choice and nowhere else to go.  I can no longer sit back and fully revel in the bad weather.

There was a time when the suffering of others didn't cross my mind.  Don't get me wrong, there are many days when it still doesn't.  I'm just beginning to have my eyes open to the poor around me.  Whenever I've taken those "Spiritual Gifts" tests, compassion was always dead last on my list of strengths.  That was an easy excuse for not getting out of my comfort zone to help others...  sad really.  Actually - wrong.  But Jesus, in His compassion for me, is not content to let me get away with that.  He has opened my eyes and now there is no going back.  There is no way to just forget.  What a gift.

Jesus was no stranger to the poor.  While on earth He said,
“Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests,
but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

(Matt 8:20 and Luke 9:38)
This life is not about my comfort.  It's about giving glory to God and spreading His love.  So the question is, what do I do now that I see?  Well, that's between Jesus and I.  Everyone is different and called to respond in very personal ways.  But one thing is for sure, seeing is just the first step.  Seeing makes me accountable.  Seeing is the ball being tossed into my court.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and the goats.  The day of reckoning has come and the King is separating those with compassion and those without.  It's a harsh tale with a only one test:  did you or did you not meet the physical needs of those who needed it.  It's either thumbs up or thumbs down.  No room for discussion, "I didn't score well in compassion..."  Some tried the old, "I never saw you..." excuse.  The King is not moved.  (This parable scares the spit out of me.)
There is only one way to bring back the joy of severe weather....  Doing for the "least of these" brothers and sisters of mine.
The view out my front door this morning, after the thunderstorm cleared.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Picture of Procrastination

This is what happens when I put off filing my music for four months...

Just keeping it real!  *:)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Great weekend ~ and new inspiration!

Our family had a fun weekend.  I hope you did too!  Rachael, my second-born, had her birthday so we celebrated with a last minute surprise birthday party.  Friday night, a few of her friends came over for pizza, Apples to Apples, and the new Disney movie Tangled.  She was so surprised!  Very fun.

On Saturday, we headed up to the North Shore.  We had a new friend, Mary, along.  It is so much fun to show off our island to first-timers.  We brought the surf boards and everyone (except me) hit the waves!  I've never learned, and I didn't want to start with North Shore waves.  I will learn, someday...

On Sunday, we had a really nice service at church.  It's so nice to have new faces.  Then, Mark and I led a short hike to a great watering hole.  We had about thirty people show up!  It was fun.  This just proves that "If you plan it, they will come!"   One of the goals that Mark and I have is to intentionally build community right where we are, starting first with our faith family, and then branching out to those in our geographic community.  This was our first attempt and we were very pleased with the turnout.

So that's a recap of the weekend.  The new inspiration part came today while talking with my first-born, Steph.  She is the one who continues to encourage (read: nags)  me to write - especially this blog.  She reminded me of a study that I have been saying I want to do and write about.  So, I have committed to start.

The idea came from hearing Bill Johnson, senior pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California speak.  (This is Steph's pastor.)  He mentioned something he called the offenses of Jesus.  He points out the method Jesus used so many times.  When dealing with people, Jesus often "offended" their minds by his words to reveal what was in their heart.  That phrase stuck with me, and the more I read the gospels, the more I see it.   It is a topic that is begging to be explored.

So that is my plan.  I will begin my search of the gospels for the offenses of Jesus, and share what I find here. Thanks for your grace...