Wednesday, September 02, 2009

SPS Sabbatical

It appears that Kona with Jonah is not going to arrive from Amazon in time for us to do a SPS study without crossing over in to the holidays. As a result we are canceling this SPS study.

The delivery delay by Amazon has moved to the forefront something that the SPS team has needed for a while --a sabbatical.

We've been doing the blog for five years and it's been good, but we all recognize a couple of things.

We're all stretched pretty thin. Even though I quit my job over a year ago with intentions of giving SPS a makeover from head to toe, other priorities took over. It's been a year of great personal healing: my husband was laid off, there have been five deaths of friends and family, and my father was diagnosed with cancer. Although an extra paycheck would have been nice during this time, not having the responsibility of a job allowed me to deal with everything else.
We all agree that SPS is stalled. It either needs a makeover or a retirement. It's time to look at SPS and decide where it goes from here. It's definitely not where we imagined it would be by this time. If we move forward with SPS, it will be a huge undertaking.

Considering these factors, we've all agreed that it would do us tremendous good to step away from SPS for an eight- month sabbatical and get some perspective. We each have more things stretching us for our time and, if it isn't going to evolve then, SPS is just going to be a drip-drip-drip drain on us mentally and physically.

We've appreciated your participation and interest and hope you've been enriched.

Carry on.
Rhonda

Sandi♠

Erin

Monday, August 31, 2009

Winner! SoulPerSuit Kit

Congratulations go out to Abby, winner of the SoulPerSuit artsy kit and CHOCOLATE!

We'll be sending your prize out to you directly. :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship



""Restore My Soul" - by The Choir

I've been thinking a lot about how my decay inspires me to worship God, the divine. This was a rather easy card to put together. I mean how can you make depravity presentable? I really let myself get sloppy and it only added to the effect.

The lyrics to this song by The Choir are full of imagery:

"I crawl to you with 10 fingers blistered from turning the pages of sin...

With my vertebrae twisted from dancing with creatures of night...

Restore my soul.""

- Erin

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Song for the National Parks


Isaac Watts was born in 1674, and he is best known for penning the words to the Christmas carol, Joy to the World. Yet one of his lesser-known songs, I Sing the Mighty Power of God, has been running through my head in the past few weeks since my family took out 5,700-mile loop through six National Parks.

In all our travels I never once saw a BankofAmerica, but I did see osprey babies in a nest, watch a badger dig (impressive!), boars fighting, wild horses grazing, bison snorting... Nothing makes me worship quite like waterfalls and wildlife.

Take a moment to worship as you think on Isaac Watts's words:

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.

Why not go a step further and sing it? Here's an instrumental background for you:


We Have Winners!

The winners of the drawing for free copies of Kona with Jonah are Kelley and Katybug.

But that doesn’t mean we’re finished offering freebies!

Want to be prepared for the next round of SoulPerSuit? Rhonda is giving away an SPS kit that includes these goodies: a journal, craft paper, clip art sheets, stickers, tags, a Sharpie pen, glue stick, playing cards and (the drum roll please) M&Ms.

To enter, leave a comment that includes your favorite kind of chocolate. Are you a Nestlés girl or a Godiva guy? Dark or light? With peanuts or without? Babe Ruth or Butterfinger? Let us know and then make sure to check back on August 31, when Erin announces the winner.

(SPS specifically disclaims all warranties with respect to the SPS-kit winners, their web pages, or your use thereof, express, implied, or otherwise. Materials presented in these pages are the views and research of individual authors of the documents. Tax, title, and license separate, according to the Surgeon General’s office. Win at your own risk.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jonah - coming in September

June, July, August 2009
* We've only got one week left in our mini-SPS this summer on Worship.

Please send us your art so that we can post it on Gallery Wednesday. You can also link to your blog or web site from the comments. Next Wednesday's Gallery has not been assigned yet so submit anytime up to midnight on Tuesday.

September 7 ??, 2009 - Kona with Jonah
We'll start a full SPS in September. We're excited because we'll be going through Sandra Glahn's new Coffee Cup Study "Kona with Jonah". It's available for free shipping when you purchase $25 so now's the time to bundle your order with the new "Frappé with Philippians" and another Coffee Cup you've been wanting.

*Amazon says that I should get my book by September 2 so we should still be o.k. to start by Sept. 7. We'll keep you up-to-date here.

* I just received an update from Amazon again today. My "Kona with Jonah" may not arrive until Sept 25! This is a discouraging pattern. I think we may have made a mistake in scheduling a new SPS so close to the book's release. We will have to regroup and decide what to do. Thanks and stay tuned.

* There are three more days left to leave a comment on Sandi's post for a chance to win a free copy of the book!

Speaking of Amazon, anytime you order, we recommend that you do so by going through the Amazon link provided in the left hand column.

Sandi's husband, Gary, is Special Projects Manager for the East Africa team of East West Ministries International. If you place any of your Amazon orders through theAmazon link in the left column a portion of your order will benefit Gary's efforts! How easy is that!

Check here on Fridays for other news and scheduling updates.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship


"I absolutely love the garden. My husband and I... worked feverishly the past month to put in a perennial garden. It was such hard work! We live in an area that is filled with huge rocks and stones so digging even the smallest holes was a challenge.

I feel this way a lot of times about my relationship with the Lord. My heart is the earth filled with so many hard rocks and stones that are so difficult to work with and remove. The Lord is so gracious though - with His love for me, even as a sinner - He plants those seeds within us and as long as we are willing to nurture them and care for them by living by God's plan, in time, we will grow with much wisdom and love and in our own right become the beautiful flowers in our Father's garden."
- Trinh

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Art Cements People



The first impression from this video was amazement at the artist's skill and the simplicity of her medium. Sand on a light table... sheer genius!

As the video progressed, I was drawn into the story Kseniya Simonova wove and the response of her audience. The recognition in their eyes, the tears being wiped away as they collectively remembered a dark time in their country's history.
The entire studio audience was brought together in their understanding of her references. Ukraine shares Simonova's story line.
All of Europe can partake in the telling of this story.
Around the world, we all share in a portion of her tale- life in this fallen world is rife with pain.

Ms. Simonova's piece illustrates well how art transcends language, time and place and speaks a language common to all of humanity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship


"I wanted to create (a card about) the names and characteristics that I use to describe my God." - Dena

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Monday, August 10, 2009

FREE! Kona with Jonah Giveaway

Starting September 7, 2009 we'll start a full SPS using Kona with Jonah, the latest in my Coffee Cup Bible Study series, due off the press next week. And that means now's the time to think about a couple of giveaways with winners to be announced August 24. Here's how you enter for the drawings: Write a few lines about a storm you remember. Here's mine to get you started:

When I was three years old, a terrible storm blew through Oregon's Willamette Valley on Columbus Day. We lost power for a few days and my dad was out of town, so a friend of my parents rode his bike out to our rural home to make sure my mom and five kids were okay.

Remember, winners will be announced August 24. You may enter twice.

Voice Like a Waterfall

My family and I just returned from a 5,700-mile trip through the western USA visiting six of the national parks--The North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Crater Lake, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain.

When we were in Yellowstone, we pulled over to a lookout point and saw a path to the vista point. As soon as I stepped out of the RV, I heard the rushing of water. It sounded really close, even though the pathway to my left and right looked long. Then I saw through an opening in the trees that I was standing about five feet from the edge of deep canyon, and I was within yards of an enormous rushing waterfall. Powerful. Magnificent. Overwhelming in its force.

Later that day I read in the Book of Revelation that when Jesus appeared to John, the prophet fell as a dead man because he was so afraid. But Jesus told him not to fear.
I trembled with awe at the thought of that kind of power.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship


"I wanted a card to represent Christ and what sin did to Him on the cross. He was bruised for our transgressions. His body was beaten, torn, spit upon, hit and treated with utter disrespect."

"The scars are still there but He is healed. The visible scars remain for us to see but the bruising and violence of the cross are over. They are made right. " - Becky

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Passionate Heart of Youth

video

My three daughters went to dance camp last week. This is their recital performance.

As a child, I never knew the words "worship" and "dance" could be used in the same sentence.
I am grateful that my children have opportunities to express themselves at such a young age-- body, soul, and spirit-- in worship of the One they love.

(The whispering in the background is another dance mom and myself enjoying
the seriousness with which our daughters approached this dance. They owned their worship.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship



""You Are Holy " - by Nichole Nordeman

This was one of my most difficult themes. The Trinity is so beyond my comprehension that I am indeed inspired to worhship.

I wanted to capture the essence of the Trinity without being cliché. In the end, I had a big pile of "visual gunk". I decided to scrap it all and go simple. And I'm much more satisfied.

I chose to do the triptych design to reinforce the idea of three parts making a whole."
- Erin

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ancient Hebrew Call to Worship

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him;
Worship the LORD in holy array.
Tremble before Him, all the earth;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
And let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the LORD;
For He is coming to judge the earth.
O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
(1 Chronicles 16:29–34)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship


"This card is obviously chaotic and not very attractive. This is exactly the look I wanted in representing the chaos in my life right now. This also represents a difficult time in my life... there's too much to even mention. There were many times it was difficult for me to worship. Jason and I realized that these things were happening for a reason while our selfish desires and motives made it hard at times to believe this, we continue to pray for direction from Him." - Trinh

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Un- God


Last week my nine year old and I were thinking together about how God is The Uncreated Creator. No beginning, no end. He was there from the start, forming all that we know by His creative genius and might. The variety He has imagined is staggering.

Soon our conversation turned a corner and we contemplated how God is The Unmoved Mover. Nothing shakes, shifts or shatters Him. He goes where He pleases, when He pleases. He is a rock and solid foundation, charging Himself with keeping the rest of our universe held together and in motion.


Both Ellie and I were drawn into worship reflecting on these truths, and it made me wonder...
what other "Un"- words can be used to describe this God that we worship?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship


"Simple and elegant.

Make it "pop out" as it should in my heart. Keep the visual close and I stay closer on my path. I wanted to add color and when adding the green, they reminded me of the nails - not pointed, not round - painful.

This card represents the brightness I can look for at the cross. The nails Jesus took for me are illustrated in the green paper."
- Dena

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What Makes You Worship?

Here are some things that caused me to worship last week...

Meaningful interactions with friends.

Sunrise near Neopolis on the Aegean.


A breeze, just when I thought I'd explode from heat.

A body that works well enough to walk and carry things and go up and down steps and swim.

Delicious food. >>>

Listening to Steve Green perform.


Seeing kittens.

Perfect timing... A group of photographers rose before six to catch a sunrise over Athens on film, and just as it looked like the sun would appear, a huge cruise boat blocked our view. Oh, no!

But after the boat crept past (it seemed to take forever), we discovered to our delight that the sun had not yet appeared after all.

Then there it came.

We snapped like crazy, and then another cruise boat blocked our view.

Still, the precise moment we needed the sea clear, nothing blocked us. >>>

What has caused you to worship?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship


"I've heard it said that the blood of martyrs is the fuel for spreading the gospel. When we let go and allow God to consume us, all of us to the core of who we are, we are refined and we burn for others to see. How terrifying it is to say we are God's fuel - when a match is lit and it is near fuel, the reaction is immediate, explosive. What would it look like if we really lived as though we were God's fuel." - Becky

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Rufus M. Worships Well

Our family recently got a dog. My three daughters have never had a pet before, so you can imagine the attention this little scruffy guy gets in our home. Someone is always ready to brush, hug, snuggle, feed a doggy treat, dote, or oooh and ahhhh over him. The girls fight over loving him, in fact.
Rufus M. is well-loved by all standards.

When he joined our family a month ago, Rufus M. attached himself to the leader of his new pack-- me. I'm his Alpha dog. I show him where to potty, when to eat, what furniture he can nap on, and where we're going to take our daily walk. He looks to me to help him understand and navigate his new environment. But I appear to mean more to him than a mere guidance counselor or food provider. My children are capable enough to lead him on walks, they fill his food bowl, they brush him and play toys with him: all (easily) 10X more frequently than I do every day. And yet, when I enter the room, Rufus M. is bounding away from whichever forlorn daughter of mine was mid-belly-rub with him and adopting his position right by my side.

The Alpha dog is the center of Rufus M.'s universe. The Alpha dog is where, for Rufus, meaning is found. The Alpha dog is his anchor.


I love this picture of worship found in the book of John:

"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

John 6:67-69

To whom shall we go?

Where else is meaning found? Where else can we hear and taste the words of life?

Are we not already at the center of the universe? Why then should we leave? What's better out there than this?


In his book, The Cost of Discipleschip, Dietrich Bonhoeffer discusses following Christ for the benefits of being a Christian rather than following Christ for Christ. One is false worship, the other represents a true worshiper's heart. Do we claim the name of Christ because we want to get to heaven? Because we enjoy the Church so much? Do we pursue Jesus because we desire more grace and mercy? Is it the clean living and the feelings of righteousness that drive us in our faith journey?

Of course none of those are offensive by any means, but what if those things were not a part of the Christian's "package deal"? Thinking of Rufus M.; is he constantly beside me solely for a scrap of bacon and fresh water in his bowl, or is there a deeper need inside him for a connection with his "source"?

Would we still be following Christ if the only incentive was Christ alone?


It's a sobering thought that can help me align my focus to worshiping the only thing, person and future that deserves it. Christ the Anchor, the Center, the Meaning.

I agree with Simon Peter, to whom shall I go?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship




"Christ Before Me" by Margaret Becker

I made this card after a particularly rough couple of weeks in general. I was getting frustrated with the decay in my world and my inability to handle that decay in a godly manor.

I felt as if life was a pack of dogs nipping at my heels. No rest. No end. No resolution. And no one was going to "be nice" to me (according to my definition!). And I just kept fighting for my rights.

This is a powerful song about continuing to abide in Christ, to be filled with His power and to allow the Holy Spirit to change my perspective.

"Christ above me, Christ beside me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me..."

If only I could learn to submerge myself in Him so that I can be His perfect bride. "
- Erin

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Who and Why of Worship

As we launch into our SPS focus on worship, it’s important to consider who we worship and why.

Centuries ago King David prayed in the presence of the people saying, “Yours, O LORD [Yahweh], is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD [Yahweh], is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all."

Why worship? Because our LORD is great and powerful and glorious and majestic and splendid. The Almighty made and owns everything in heaven and earth, including us. God is King and we are subjects. No other master is worthy of our worship.

We were not made to worship money or technology or our cars or morning coffee or other people or our pets or stars or any other created thing. We were made to worship our creator and offer thanks for created things. As Augustine wrote in Confessions, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.”
Worship with joy. The object of our worship is wonder-full!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship


"I once did a bible study with two of my girlfriends called "Loving Your Husband" by Cynthia Heald. The author writes, "A wife rightly related to her Lord will be a wife rightly related to her husband." This card represents my love and commitment to my husband, Jason. He is truly such a gift from God and I adore him with all of my heart. But, as with any relationship, it takes a lot of communication and commitment. The same goes for our relationship with the Lord." - Trinh

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer and Fall Schedule

June, July, August 2009
For the summer we're doing a mini-study on Worship. This was one of the very first SPS topics so it's a great time to revisit it. A mini-SPS is more self guided so it's totally up to your own interpretation. Please send us your art so that we can post it on Gallery Wednesday. You can also link to your blog or web site from the comments. Next Wednesday's Gallery has not been assigned yet so submit anytime up to midnight on Tuesday.

September 7, 2009 - Kona with Jonah
We'll start a full SPS in September. We're excited because we'll be going through Sandra Glahn's new Coffee Cup Study "Kona with Jonah". It's so new, in fact, that it's only available right now for pre-order on Amazon, due to ship July 27. It's available for free shipping when you purchase $25 so now's the time to bundle your order with the new "Frappé with Philippians" and another Coffee Cup you've been wanting.

Speaking of Amazon, anytime you order, we recommend that you do so by going through the link provided in the right hand column on Sandi's blog:

Sandi's husband, Gary, is Special Projects Manager for the East Africa team of East West Ministries International. If you place any of your Amazon orders through this link on Sandi's blog a portion of your order will benefit Gary's efforts! How easy is that!

I guess that's enough news for now. Check here on Fridays for other news and scheduling updates.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship


"Some days are such a struggle to stay in the right mind frame. Satan attacks from all directions and sometimes he gets in the barriers." - Dena

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Worship: Music

How many ways do you express worship? Offering praise and thanks? Kneeling? Lifting hands? Writing out prayers? Contemplation? What about drums? Dancing? Worship along!



Friday, June 12, 2009

Jonah - coming in September

The spring study through Judges was intense! But I hope you all enjoyed it. I've never done a study of Judges so it was a great first time. If you'd like to go back through Judges on your own, just click on the tag "Judges" in the left column.

June, July, August 2009
For the summer we're going to do a mini-study on Worship. This is one of the very first SPS topics so it's a great time to revisit it. A mini-SPS is more self guided so it's totally up to your own interpretation. Please send us your art so that we can post it on Gallery Wednesday. You can also link to your blog or web site from the comments. Next Wednesday's Gallery has not been assigned yet so submit anytime up to midnight on Tuesday.

September 7, 2009 - Kona with Jonah
We'll start a full SPS in September. We're excited because we'll be going through Sandra Glahn's new Coffee Cup Study "Kona with Jonah". It's so new, in fact, that it's only available right now for pre-order on Amazon, due to ship July 27. It's available for free shipping when you purchase $25 so now's the time to bundle your order with the new "Frappé with Philippians" and another Coffee Cup you've been wanting.

Speaking of Amazon, anytime you order, we recommend that you do so by going through the link provided in the right hand column on Sandi's blog:

Sandi's husband, Gary, is Special Projects Manager for the East Africa team of East West Ministries International. If you place any of your Amazon orders through this link on Sandi's blog a portion of your order will benefit Gary's efforts! How easy is that!

I guess that's enough news for now. Check here on Fridays for other news and scheduling updates.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Worship


"Words that represent worship to me." - Becky

See all of the Worship Gallery.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

Worship!

This morning I'm thinking of reasons to worship God. These two come immediately to mind:

For creation - the smell of cinnamon, the feel of sand, the sound of Rachmaninoff, the taste of chocolate pie, the sight of roses blooming after a long winter

For making people into new creations - for the life of my friend who lost six family members during the turmoil in Rwanda and went on to found a reconciliation ministry with the brother of the man who murdered his own brother

Give thanks for the five senses. And share some of your favorite creations or re-creations here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Judges wrap-up

I did this little piece of art in the front cover of a book I was studying. It's in the form of a tattoo and was done in colored pencils.

To tell you about my drawing above and give my wrap-up of Judges, I'll tell you a funny method I've used for memorizing scripture.

One of the very first verses I memorized was Philippians 1:21: For me to live is Christ, to die is gain. But after that I had a lot of trouble memorizing scripture. I decided the problem was that I couldn't remember the numbers. To solve the problem, I decided to memorize all the 1:21 and 21:1 verses in the Bible instead. I mean, it's not like there are any bad verses in the Bible to memorize, right?

He Means What He says and He Says What He Means

The book of Judges is written in a very matter-of-fact style: this happened and then this happened. This form has not endeared this book to me. I want to know how these people were feeling when they made their decisions. What was going through their mind. Were they conflicted? How did they get to where they are in these events? So many questions.

But this methodical rhythm of chronicling Israel's history does make the points of Judges very clear. An obvious one is that God means what He says and says what He means. Although this seems seriously harsh because of the repercussions Israel suffered, it really is good news. For example it reminded me of one of those 21:1 verses I memorized.

The Lord visited Sarah just as he had said he would and did for Sarah what he had promised. - Genesis 21:1

What a profound little verse! You can almost hear the sarcasm in the writers tone. He's sort of rubbing it in that God made a promise and, oh, look at that, He kept it. So even if we doubt Him or try to take things into our own hands, God still means what He says. It tells me I can hold Him to it. I can count on all those promises He's made me for an abundant life.

Choose Life

God had an abundant life in mind for Israel. You can go back to when He explained how tremendously great things could be now that they were no longer enslaved in Egypt and His very chosen people:

Look! I have set before you today life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and disaster on the other. What I am commanding you today is to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to obey his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances. Then you will live and become numerous and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are about to possess. - Deuteronomy 30:15-16

Wow! Life, prosperity, numerous, and blessed. Doesn't seem like a hard choice, huh? Just love Him, pursue Him, and Obey Him. That's it, right?

Guard Your Heart

So, given this clear three-step process for an abundant life, how is it that so few, like Hannah and Samuel, end up making the choice for life when so many in Israel didn't? A verse I learned recently about life is Proverbs 4:23:

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. - Proverbs 4:23, NASB

Maybe Hannah and Samuel were diligent to protect their heart. Maybe they knew if they were going to protect their love for the Lord, they would be attacked in their heart. Samson certainly didn't protect his heart.

I know my heart has been ransacked by those I've loved who don't promise me life. I've pursued those who don't mean what they say or keep their promises and found myself empty afterward. And I've obeyed my own desires, leaving my heart vulnerable to fear and drought.

The results truly are disastrous.

So treasure God's love in your heart. Guard it with diligence and you can count on God when He says, "You will live."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Java with the Judges- Wrap Up

Here we are in our final wrap-up of Java With the Judges. Whadidya think?

What characters stand out to you?
Which passages of Judges struck you at your core?
What timeless truths have you gleaned through this study?
How has God revealed His nature, or the nature of mankind, to you?
Did you find a new role model?
What would you like to continue studying deeper?


Java with the Judges encouraged me to begin looking at the habits of my flesh. My eyes were opened to a few areas in my life, both minor and major, in which I operate on "auto pilot" and allow my flesh patterns to dictate my behavior. I end up frustrated/angry/irritated by circumstances that (surprise, surprise!) can often be traced right back to me. It's as though I am standing beside a pond, grumbling because the water splashed up, when I was the one tossing rocks in the pond to begin with!

Circles, spirals, carousels, concentric rings and spheres kept coming to mind.
I listened to Life House's song, Sick Cycle Carousel, a lot during the first weeks of Judges.


Trying to break out of the cycle of thinking only about circles (ha!) I prayed God might give me another mental image of what was going on in the time of the Judges; and a parallel to my own experience.

Nothing profound came to me until I mowed my lawn for the first time this spring. Our home is situated on old farm land, and there's enough grass here that we have to use a riding mower. There's a certain direction in our yard, that every time I mow that way I can feel the rise and fall of each of the farmer's old furrows and hillocks. I often wonder what sort of crop was sewn along these bumps that now threaten to jostle me off the seat of my John Deere. It brings to mind images of long days spent in back-breaking labor in the sun-- breaking the sod, poking holes in the dirt, counting out seeds, covering and tenderly nurturing what's been sewn, watching the sky for rain, trying to keep critters and disease at bay, and eventually rejoicing in a harvest.

This land has been tended for a long time; much longer than I've been around on it.

So it is with the book of Judges. Israel already had a history before the time of the Judges. They recounted to each other the stories of being chosen as God's people, His deliverance from slavery to Egypt, His provision for them as they wandered in the desert. They even had accounts of God's wrath against His people that chose to go their own ways in gross and egregious fashions. And yet... here we are in Judges watching the people of Israel continuing to make many of the same poor choices their forefathers made.

I think of Samson, in particular, who seemed to think that being a Nazarite (a chosen amongst the Chosen) meant that he was entitled to special treatment. His extreme strength, his position as a judge of Israel, his go-get-'em spirit somehow warranted him permission to seize whatever shiny thing caught his attention. And when he screwed up, he believed he had a never ending supply of get-out-of-jail-free cards. He was God's golden boy, after all, right?

Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.

Tend To It
Acrylic on Canvas
12 X 12

It's easy for me to think that Samson got off scot-free, but the reality is that he paid a price for his arrogance. Israel paid a price for the lustful seeds Samson sowed and nurtured. Like the furrows I bump along on my riding mower, Israel has had to bump along over the seed beds of their ancestors for centuries. Their ancients tended the spiritual fields of the nation, but the question is, what kind of seeds were they planting? God-honoring, righteousness-seeking seeds? Or self-focused, defiant, thumbing-their-nose-at-God seeds?

Israel planted many seeds of sin, and even though they were God's chosen people, that didn't absolve them. Those seeds eventually ripened and came to fruition such that the entire nation reaped and harvested some pretty ugly stuff. Some of that painful harvest was the discipline of God, but some of it was just plain natural consequences. If you plant a bitter herb, you ought not expect a sweet flower to grow up in its place.

So, what kinds of seeds am I tendng? The season of harvest is approaching.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Judges 6


Smile

I was thinking about the Play Your Hand question:

How do your actions/treatment of strangers reflect your spiritual condition?

We've talked a lot in our small group about how we can make a difference in our everyday life because we come in contact with so many people on a daily basis. Just count the number of people that simply see your face in a single day - from the cashier at the drive-thru to your co-workers, from the people standing in line behind you at the grocery to the person who cuts your hair.

This question reminded me of the gallery I did for Week 5 where I talked about how I don't use my gifts which require me to interact with people. My tendency is to sequester myself in front of my computer. But I also isolate myself when I'm out in public. You may know the moves. Look straight ahead, don't make eye contact, pretend to be looking at something in your purse, or look at the ground in front of you. I am way too good at this. So I've started working at making eye contact, smiling, and saying hi if I don't think it will freak people out. Lucky for me, people in the south are very friendly and polite, so this should be received very well.

This may seem like a silly little thing but think what my face and body language must say about my spirit. I'm unapproachable, stoic, too busy for you, and not happy. Is this a true reflection of my spirit? It shouldn't be because this is not the spirit that is really in me. Why am I hiding it away and not sharing it?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Play Your Hand

We’re in week six of our journey through Java with the Judges. This study includes both the ending of the Book of Judges (the diced-up concubine) and the introduction to the Book of 1 Samuel (Hannah). The events in the stories we’re exploring took place during a time in Israel’s history when judges ruled. In this week’s events—which include both gang rape and quiet faithfulness—we see the interplay of power and corruption as well as silent strength.

Now it’s time to engage creatively, reflectively in what we’ve read.

Below are some options. Feel free to make up your own or select from one of these:

Make your card about…
. How your actions/treatment of strangers reflect your spiritual condition.
. What sacrifice you could exchange for obedience.
. What purpose you are fulfilling--or not fulfilling.

For more info about how to do Play Your Hand exercises, you can go here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Free Key - Dragon Key

I've been playing around with the fantasy Free Key idea since Wednesday and having a really good time with it.

It started off too cutesy. It was like I was trying to force it; I don't know why. I guess I haven't completely recovered from that whole glitter incident. Bunny ears, musical notes, and sun beams are just some of the things I started drawing.

Gag.

I know!

It just wasn't working. For some reason I was fighting the compulsion to make the key look like a bat. When I quit fighting the urge, things really started to click.

Fantasy art has always been very appealing. Last week I came across a book on how to draw dragons, which I'd love to do. So this is how I ended up with a draft for the dragon key.


It's great because this is an idea I'm excited about. I just haven't decided how I'm going to execute it yet. My original plan was simply to cut it out of colored paper and accent it with gel pens (and glitter. no. just kidding. maybe glitter. snap out of it!)

This concept needs something more. I've considered watercolors (believe it or not) or colored pencils. This was spurred by a wonderful full color picture I found while researching dragons.

Now this is more like a key to a fantasy land I want to visit. I still think there will be bunnies. Let's hope they're the right kind (warning, graphic bunny violence!)

()___()
[* x *]
(u( x ) u)0

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Judges 6


Free Key

I love the way ideas come from a long line rabbit trails. I was thinking about the Shuffle the Deck idea of making a name tag for your work space. I thought I'd write on the tag all the things I was allowed to do in that work space. Then it hit me. Instead of a name tag, I'd make a key tag because keys unlock things and I needed my imagination and silliness to be freed in my workspace.

I tried to make this as simple as possible but when I was done, I didn't like the old key I used and thought of a more make believe key I could make. I'm going off now to design a key to an imaginary place where you dance on the beach, the sun plays loud rock music, bunny rabbits don't run away when you try to pet them, flip-flops are worn all year round, the sand is mixed with glitter, and cotton candy is served instead of salads.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Java with the Judges- Week 6

Civil War and Anarchy
Java With the Judges (Coffee Cup Bible Series)

Welcome to Week 6 of the SoulPerSuit Blog group venturing through the book of Judges together.

I must confess that Samson is a character that I love to hate. Even though God used him to bring judgment on the Philistines and to even act as a judge amongst God's own people, I still don't really like the guy.

There, I said it.
I'm not fond of someone lifted up in Hebrews as "a giant of the faith."

I have some more wrestling to do with the concept of God using a very flawed character to perform His purposes. Obviously, God is a God of grace. I am quite thankful for that fact, and certainly when I examine my own character next to Samson's character, I'm going to come up smelling just as stinky in just as many ways. Thank God for His sovereign grace on me!

Ready to jump into our last week together?


Here's a refresher on our schedule:

March 3- 16: Introduction and The Good Guys
March 17- 30: The Good and the Reluctant
March 31- April 13: Gideon
April 14- April 27: Jephthah
April 28- May 11: Samson the Conflicted
May 12- May 25: Civil War and Anarchy
May 26- May 31: Wrap- Up

Reminder:
- This SoulPerSuit group is hosted solely on the blogosphere. All the information this Judges group needs can be found right here on SoulPerBlog and in your personal copy of Java with the Judges.
- If you don't happen to have your own blog but still want to participate, just use the comments section here to share your thoughts on the book of Judges.
- If you're participating in this Java with the Judges study, please let us know when you've written a new blog post relating to the study.
- Be sure to visit the other Java participants' blogs to see what they're thinking about the book of Judges.

Right here on SoulPerBlog every 2 weeks I'll be posting some Shuffle the Deck activities to kick start your creative thinking. Rhonda will keep us visually motivated on Gallery Wednesdays, and Sandi will offer some additional insights to round out each study with a set of Play Your Hand questions.

(Not sure what any of that means? Click this link for an overview of each aspect of SoulPerSuit.)


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Shuffle the Deck activities for Week 6.

1) At the dinner table, each person usually has his or her place to sit. In the family room, dad has his chair and mom has hers. Each person has his or her own room, office, desk, etc.
Make a decorative name-plate for one of your “spaces” in your home. Maybe include rules for your space.
2) Alter a magazine cover! Find a magazine cover (a person’s face is a great starting point). Alter the image using pen, pencils, paint, scissors, whatever! Take a photo of your creation. * No digital work - get off your computer!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Judges 5

Locked Away

For this weeks Play Your Hand, I made two columns on a piece of paper. On the left I listed my strengths; on the right I listed my weaknesses. Then I stepped back to see if I could make any observations by comparing and contrasting the lists. Something obvious stood out pretty quickly.

My strengths had to do with interacting with people, my weaknesses isolate me. If I'm ever going to maximize my strengths, increase my joy, glorify God, and worship in the beauty around me, I've simply got to get out more.

So my SPS card is double sided. On one side, I represent the "alone me", the weaknesses side. There I am, at my computer, reading and generally... computing stuff, I guess.


On the other side I tried to represent my strengths. The computer may be in there but it's not what stands out. And neither do I. There's so many people to help and experience and I could miss that is I stay safely on the weaknesses side of the card, alone with my computer.
I didn't notice it until after I'd cut out the little picture of the computer that, on the screen, was a bunch of people, like on the strengths side of my card. I do a lot of social networking online but I thought this little bitty depiction of a group of people was a great contrast to the large group on the opposite side of the card.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Play Your Hand

This week in the Book of Judges, we read how Samson, empowered by the Spirit, killed a lion and later ate honey from its carcass. Both events foreshadowed key episodes in the story, telling us something about Samson’s strength and weakness. His lion-killing skill showed what he could accomplish through the Spirit’s power. With God’s help, he defeated one thousand Philistines, just as he killed the lion.

But his honey-eating episode suggested his failure to control lust. Satisfying his physical desire was more important to him than his status as a Nazirite. (Nazirites weren’t allowed to hang around carcasses.)

Sometimes we’re a lot like Samson. We may accomplish great good as we yield to the Spirit. But we may also indulge our flesh. All in the same afternoon. We’re so conflicted!

As you consider your inner spiritual conflict, take some time to engage creatively and reflectively in what we’ve read. Below are some options. You can either go with your own idea or select from one of these:

Make a card about…
. Your Spiritual Strength vs. Fleshly Weakness
. A way to set yourself apart for God
. In what ways do you feel inadequate to serve God

For more info about how to do Play Your Hand exercises, you can go here.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Perspective exercise

The idea of perspective really stuck with me after writing Wednesday's post. I got this idea about taking a series of photos from odd perspectives, mostly laying on my back looking up. Here's my first.
:-p

Update:


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gallery Wednesday - Judges 5

Take Me Away

For this weeks Shuffle, I'm selecting to take some pictures of my cathedral - a place where I'm inspired.
Most people know that I love the beach. You might find it surprising that I actually don't like water but I love laying on the beach. The sounds and smells are so relaxing to me.

I experienced God's cathedral when I was at Reynolda Village, laying on my back on their lush lawn looking up through the enormous pine trees at the blue sky. Suddenly I felt like I was in the chapel that God built.

There is a more readily available place I can go and I went there today. My bathtub. There's just nothing like a steaming hot bubble bath. I light a candle, put on some Benedictine monks or sounds of the ocean, and lay back on my plastic pillow. (You may notice I don't have a picture for this. You're lucky; I thought of it but not until after my soak.)

I find it interesting that all of these have my laying down which changes my perspective and shuts out as much of the busy world around me as possible. I'm able to concentrate on the sensations available.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Java with the Judges- Week 5

Samson the Conflicted
Java With the Judges (Coffee Cup Bible Series)

Welcome to Week 5 of the SoulPerSuit Blog group venturing through the book of Judges together.

Here's a refresher on our schedule:

March 3- 16: Introduction and The Good Guys
March 17- 30: The Good and the Reluctant
March 31- April 13: Gideon
April 14- April 27: Jephthah
April 28- May 11: Samson the Conflicted
May 12- May 25: Civil War and Anarchy
May 26- May 31: Wrap- Up

Reminder:
- This SoulPerSuit group is hosted solely on the blogosphere. All the information this Judges group needs can be found right here on SoulPerBlog and in your personal copy of Java with the Judges.
- If you don't happen to have your own blog but still want to participate, just use the comments section here to share your thoughts on the book of Judges.
- If you're participating in this Java with the Judges study, please let us know when you've written a new blog post relating to the study.
- Be sure to visit the other Java participants' blogs to see what they're thinking about the book of Judges.

Right here on SoulPerBlog every 2 weeks I'll be posting some Shuffle the Deck activities to kick start your creative thinking. Rhonda will keep us visually motivated on Gallery Wednesdays, and Sandi will offer some additional insights to round out each study with a set of Play Your Hand questions.

(Not sure what any of that means? Click this link for an overview of each aspect of SoulPerSuit.)


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Shuffle the Deck activities for "Samson week."

1. My Cathedral, My Prayer Closet (Inspired by Rhonda’s Week 4 Gallery post)

Cathedrals were built to be awe-inspiring places of worship. The grandeur and beauty of the cathedral was meant to overwhelm the senses of anyone who entered and, using craftsmanship and artistry, to draw visitors into adoration for God.

Think of a place that acts like a cathedral in your personal worship life. Is it the seaside? The mountains? Lying on your back, identifying stars in the summer sky? Sitting in the front row of the symphony?
Take a photo or sketch your personal cathedral. Describe what it is about this place that inspires such worship in your spirit.

The Bible speaks of each Christian keeping a “prayer closet,” a quiet place where we can individually meet with God for contemplation, conversation and intimacy.

Think of a place that acts as a prayer closet in your personal worship life. Is it a literal closet? Is it your hot morning shower? Is it in the car on your evening commute? Is it walking laps around the high school track?
Take a photo or sketch your personal prayer closet. Describe what it is about this place that enables you to climb like a child onto the lap of Jesus.


2. Describe your day-to-day activities as a warrior doing battle. Describe the enemy, weapons, fields of battle, victories, and defeat. Do it in the form of prose, a comic book, an illustrated book, or an epic poem. Or video tape it using puppets or actors.