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


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.


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

- 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.)

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.