November 18, 2011

Puttin' the Advent in Adventure

Time for a new blogging bible study, courtesy of my friend over at Abigail's Day! This time around, we're reading scriptures on an advent schedule that enrich our knowledge of the Christmas season. Today, it's two selections in Genesis: chapter 3:8-19 and chapter 22:15-18. But first, let's get all geek-glasses and talk about intertextuality!

Have you ever been amazed at the way a really good author can weave a complex story throughout the length of a novel or series of books, tying up all the loose ends perfectly? It's so pleasing to have "aha" moments where you realize that you've totally been sucked in to a story that someone planned out with great care and forethought.

For instance, I recently finished the Harry Potter series (if you have spiritual problems with Harry Potter, please forgive my liberties and insert your favorite series title here) and was BLOWN AWAY by the skill of J.K. Rowling's storytelling. She creates a world so concise and well-crafted that by the final novel, I was left unable to guess any sort of finale, and willingly let myself get carried away in the detailed perfection of it all. Names, colors, places, the slightest details mentioned throughout all of the books came into harmonious union as the story's end was revealed. The answers were there all along, mirrored in each other's pages. That's intertextuality.

And so it is with the Bible, except that it's not fiction. It's the honest story of mankind and God. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals Jesus, the man who was God who came to save us from sin. And so we begin in Genesis, in two passages; the first (chapter 3) describes the fall of man and the second (chapter 22) describes Abraham's testing.

After reading both sections of scripture and thinking about them for a day or two, I can't help but feel that they reflect each other in great sorrow and great hope. God created Adam and Eve in perfection, only to see them fall into their own sin. Abraham must have anguished over God's request, but told his son Isaac (who he was instructed to kill!) that God would provide a sacrifice.

I think that it is such with our lives and God's faithfulness to us throughout the years. In my life, I have had sorrow and joy, pain and hope. Events and circumstances, which I didn't understand at the time they happened, like my miscarriage, made perfect sense months later when God revealed the necessity of it. I am convinced that that is His beautiful nature -- the slow, steady (intertextual) presence of Providence, of Jesus. When Adam and Eve fell, God hinted at Jesus. When God asked great sacrifice of Abraham and then intervened, he again hinted at Jesus.

And now, a few weeks before Christmas, there are nativities, advent calendars and tinkling carols hinting at Jesus. He's already come, and yet there are still some who don't know that He has and will come again. I hope that in this season, I can lift the veil to those who can't see the epic story of a birth that brought salvation. Maybe it will start as simply as them reading the story for themselves!

Open Up Wide

Of all the baby messes that come along with baby, a crusty high chair bothers me the most. I'm not sure why, but it does. It beats out diapers and vomit and boogers and bothers me. If there's a crusty high chair in the other room, I'm discomforted to know it exists and needs to be clean, now! Maybe it reminds me of greasy windows, crumbs on the table and sticky syrup bottles at a busy restaurant.

 Emmy loves to slouch in her chair, pureed plum smeared across her cheeks and egg yolk crushed into her pants, and throw bread at Petey. He gobbles it thankfully and after a few days of this game, he realizes that he has a new guaranteed snack at every mealtime.

My baby is big enough to eat real food.

Uhhhh, so full. Must feed Petey the rest.

Those eyebrows, they kill me!

November 11, 2011

And Crown Thy Good With Brotherhood

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
 - Greek proverb

I know of no better way to describe the sacrifice of men and women in our U.S. armed forces than this proverb. Replace "old" with "young" and it's a more perfect thought.

This Veteran's Day, I don't have enough words thank all who have come before and those who serve now. Thank you, veterans, for your commitment to our security, whether in a long-ago conflict, peacetime or in these last ten years of war. Thank you for putting aside your own pleasures and free time to make our country safe. Thank you for putting yourself in harm's way so our children can live freely. Thank you for bearing the sights, sounds and scars of violence so that we don't have to. Thank you for serving honorably in the midst of misunderstanding, political turmoil and even hate. Thank you to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, one you knew might one day come. Thank you for loving a cause, a flag, a nation more than yourself.

A very special thank you to my own veteran, my husband, 1LT Anthony Rea. I am so proud of you and your service. Your quiet determination to lead soldiers and train them to the highest standard inspires me. Our small family is grateful for your tireless spirit and will always stand by you, because this is our calling too.

God bless America and may we never forget the cost of our liberty.


November 7, 2011

Pilgrims and Indians - Philippians 4

Thanksgiving is only two weeks away! I am so excited to see Emmy crawling around with both sets of grandparents, begging bites of pumpkin pie and doing strangled turkey impressions as I try to put her down for a nap while everyone else is awake. Okay, maybe not so excited about that last one.

As I was reading the last chapter in Philippians for Abigail's blogging bible study, I started to see themes of thankfulness, contentment and gratitude -- the same sentiments we celebrate in the U.S. on Thanksgiving -- in Paul's final thoughts. Check it out...

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (4:6-7)

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn't have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. (4:10-12)

At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.  And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. (4:18-19)

{bold emphasis mine}

As I meditate on and absorb Paul's attitude about material things and God's constant provision, it makes me wish that supermarkets and department stores didn't skip straight from Halloween to Christmas. Because it's less commercial than the other holidays, they miss out on a heartwarming celebration that gives us ample opportunity to reflect on all that we have. I will remember to stop, slow down and be thankful this autumn. Maybe rereading the book of Philippians on Thanksgiving Day can be a part of my personal celebration?

One last thing to chew on: Paul didn't have it easy. 2 Corinthians 11 details all that he suffered. And yet, he gentle, ever so gently, reminds the Philippians to give thanks and be content. Let's listen and understand this.



November 2, 2011

Yup, Even When I'm Sleepy - Philippians 3

I'm sitting here in my freshly-vacuumed living room. Emmy is fast asleep, thankfully. She's been night-waking CONSTANTLY, like every hour, for the past few weeks because of fluid in her ears. We held off on antibiotics until the last minute because she's so young, but they were definitely needed, and I'm happy that she can rest easy now. Ear pain is no joke! I had a bad head cold/ear infection in high school and my eardrum burst because of it. I had to wear cottonballs in my ear for a few weeks, and I picked up the nickname "Dolores Cottonball" from the boy who sat behind me in Spanish class. Get it, dolores... pain... haha.

Anyway... these past few sleepless weeks have made me examine who I am in times of inconvenience. Can I be honest for a minute and say that we as humans are probably at our worst when we are hungry or tired? I have zero tolerance for tomfoolery when I am seriously hungry, and when I'm exhausted, I get super emotional. Thus, a very weepy, frustrated, down-and-out mommy emerged last Sunday after two weeks of begging Emmy to sleep and not knowing what the problem was. I know that there are worse things in life than not getting enough rest and your baby barely sleeping at all, but it really took a toll on me.

I needed to read only the first verse in Philippians 3 to get the reminder that I needed:

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Whatever happens. Hmmm. Around here, we get lots of happenings in the form of Army maneuverings. Our schedule is never completely set, and often gets upended at a moment's notice, as it was last week. Yet, Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord. And he tells us that rejoicing safeguards our faith. It secures it.

Rejoicing looks different to everyone, but to me, it's an expression of joy in the midst of life -- good or bad. I used the online tool Blue Letter Bible to search for "rejoice" in the Scriptures. Here are the results, and just reading through them encourages me.

The rest of the chapter focuses on how Paul believes that we should live out our faith in simplicity. We must be on guard against people who try to add burdens and unnecessary and unscriptural burdens to the act of belief (3:2), should let go of all the religious and social standings and qualifications that we think make us something special (3:5-9), and we must focus on Christ alone as our Savior and the one who can bring us into eternity (3:10-14).

Even when Anthony is gone suddenly for weeks and Emmy is sick, I will choose to rejoice. I will choose joy so that my faith will continue. I will choose to pursue righteous living, and to listen to those who remind me to rejoice.

Last thought here, and I hope that it gets you pumped up to keep running the race! ...

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (3:14)