Reflections from Duluth, Minnesota – The Women’s Conference

This past weekend I attended the Vineyard Women’s Conference entitled “Engaging in the Kingdom.” It was a meeting of Vineyard women from the Midwest North Region of the US. It was hosted by the Duluth Vineyard in Duluth, Minnesota.

I had been looking forward to this conference for weeks. I love the Vineyard and I always enjoy the opportunity to experience Vineyard conferences. I’ve also been looking forward to it because Duluth has been on my mind a lot. I had never been to Duluth and I was really excited about a chance to experience it.

The conference was awesome. I feel like I really gained some useful insights and I would like to share them with you:

  • One theme of the conference was that we each have a unique place in God’s narrative. I have a role to play. One of our speakers used the book of Ruth as our text. Ruth went through a difficult time. She lost her husband. She was a foreigner in Israel, yet she had a part to play in God’s narrative. Because of her choice to believe in the God of Israel she became a part of the ancestry of Jesus. (I have been wondering about my place in God’s story. An interesting thing happened. I found a book called Storyline by Donald Miller and it’s all about finding your subplot in God’s story. I’m really excited about going though this book.)
  • I became aware of the tension between what I want and what God wants. My life doesn’t look the way that I want it to but I have a feeling that it looks the way God wants it to look. I am trying to be okay with that. I’ve been angry and I’ve been fighting it but I wonder if I’ve been using that anger to shield me from the truth.
  • Perhaps the most important insight that I took from the conference is that God redeems everything. Even the bad things. Especially the bad things. Both of the speakers had experienced great hardship and trauma but God redeemed their bad experiences and created something beautiful. This really spoke to me because things are really hard right now, but going to the conference gave me hope that God will redeem all the bad things and make something beautiful for me too. This alone was worth attending the conference.

I can honestly say that the Vineyard Women’s Conference was really great for me. I feel like God gave me some insights that will prepare me for what he is doing in my life. What I heard at the conference encouraged me. It challenged me. It changed my way of thinking and that may have been exactly what God intended. There was also a lot of time for rest and reflection, which always fills me up. Now, I’m pumped.

The city of Duluth was beautiful. Aside from the snow, it was a great visit. The people were friendly. The food was great. The hills were scary sometimes but we made it. I have a feeling that this will not be my last trip to Duluth.

Have a great week!

 

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Christians and the Environment – Thoughts on Earth Day

The word “environmentalist” evokes images of tree-hugging hippies passing joints, tripping on LSD, and talking about free love. This image is just a stereotype, but it is a prevalent one. The environment seems to be one of those topics that Christians are silent about. The Church seems to have little to say about the environment.

I believe that we, as Christians, are called to take care of the planet and all its life forms (animals included!). I believe that every Christian should be an environmentalist. Two very important reasons come to mind:

God is Creator and he declared all creation good. God took great care in creating our world and the various forms of life. He created the heavenly bodies and the features of the earth. He created the birds, the fish, the animals, the plants, and he created humans in his own image. He declared that all of it was good. God carefully created the perfect conditions here on Earth to support life. God cares a great deal about his creation. So should we. If for no other reason we should care about it because he does.

We are entrusted with the care of this planet. God put Adam in charge of the earth. Adam was to work the ground and keep it. That was Adam’s job from the beginning: to take care of God’s creation.That task has passed to us. As people made in the image of God we should be taking care of the earth and all its inhabitants.

Since we should be actively taking care of the earth why are so many Christians content to ignore the environment?

Apathy. I believe that a lot of Christians just don’t care. We are so concerned with getting dinner on the table that we have no time to think about the environment or animal rights. Many Christians will happily go about their everyday business without giving the environment a second thought.

Overwhelm. We have other problems. People are going to hell. Who cares about the rainforest? We do. The fact that we are busy and that we have other problems does not excuse us from doing our part to care for and protect the earth. We can, and should, be addressing the many problems of our day.

We are entrusted with the care of this planet. Therefore, we should all be doing everything we can to care for it. We should be recycling. We should be using stainless steel water jugs and using cloth grocery bags. We should be supporting merchants that care for the environment. But more than anything, we should unite our collective voices to tell the world that we care about the environment. We cannot afford to keep silent. Silence on important issues is the reason that the church has become irrelevant.

Speaking out, followed by taking action, is the only way to get back on the world stage. We have been silent for too long about the environment, animal rights, hunger, human trafficking, and human rights. Because we have been silent the Church is seen as a group of people that think about Jesus and nothing else. We gather in buildings on Sunday to hear sermons and go back to our lives unchanged (rather than evoking change around us).

It is time for the Church to take a stand on important issues. We can’t continue to believe in a false dichotomy, where we can either address spiritual or social issues. We are called to do both. So this Earth Day think about what you, your family, your community, and your church can do to take care of the earth and to raise awareness about the care of the planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Resurrection

Luke 24 is one of the most triumphant chapters in the bible. It tells about the resurrection of Christ. It is nothing short of amazing. Even as a 21st century reader familiar with the story, Luke 24 is still an emotional whirlwind.

The chapter begins with women, hearts heavy with grief, going to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body. They arrived to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Two angels appeared to them asking why they sought the living among the dead. The angels reminded them that Jesus foretold his death and resurrection on the third day. Remembering Jesus’ words they went to the disciples to deliver the good news. The disciples didn’t share their excitement. They didn’t believe them at all.

Later, two of the disciple were traveling on the road to Emmaus and discussing all the recent events with heavy hearts. Jesus appeared to them and joined the conversation while hiding his identity. The relayed to him all the recent happenings in Jerusalem. Jesus’ response is classic: “O foolish ones, slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” He then explained the scripture to them, telling him how all the scriptures about him had been fulfilled. The disciples urged him to stay with him and he did so. As they ate together that night Jesus broke the bread.When he blessed and broke it they realized that it was Jesus and he disappeared. They got up and went right back to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples.

While they were talking Jesus appears in the room. The see and touch him and they share some food. Jesus then opens their minds to understand the scriptures. He then charges the disciples to proclaim the forgiveness of sins to all in the name of Jesus, beginning in Jerusalem. He blessed them and was carried into heaven. From then on, the disciples worshipped and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Luke 24 tells a story of triumph but it also tells a story of unbelief. The disciples had been told what would take place and yet the did not believe. I can almost feel their grief. Then there is the wonderful news that Jesus upon seeing Jesus. They thought it was over, but everything changed the instant Jesus appeared. He had conquered death and hell. He rose! One beautiful thing about this chapter is that it doesn’t end with the news that Jesus rose from the dead. We read about his interactions with the disciples and his instructions to preach the gospel. Even better, the bible goes on to tell about the early church and how we are to live as followers of Christ. What the disciples thought was the end was only the beginning. History was forever changed and life would never be the same.

The disciples had no idea that this would happen. The didn’t believe. Unfortunately, I am often among the foolish ones — slow of heart to believe all that God has promised. I see promises in the bible but I wonder if God will really do what he says. Will he deliver me this time? I am even slow of heart to believe all that God has spoken to me personally. Why are we so reluctant to believe? The problems of life loom large and we lose sight of the promises of God. We also lose sight of the faithfulness of God.

I believe that is the real message of Easter: God is faithful. He promised from the Garden that he would redeem humanity. He foretold that he would rise from the dead, and so he did. God is faithful to do all that he says no matter how improbable. We can be forgiven and healed and empowered. We can live lives of freedom because God is faithful.

As Easter approaches, I look forward to commemorating the resurrection of Christ and celebrating the faithfulness of God.

Spring Cleaning

It’s spring! At least that’s what the calendar says. It’s still a bit chilly in Chicago. Still, it’s a time of hope and renewal.The days of winter are over and the season is changing. There’s something about spring that makes people want to change too.

Most people take advantage of the change in weather to shake things up. Everybody prepares for summer differently. Most people, however, use spring as a time for cleaning and rearranging their homes and lives.

The Changing of the Wardrobe

We are expecting 50’s and 60’s this week so the time for the wardrobe change is drawing near. It will be time to exchange the sweaters and turtle necks for tee shirts and tank tops. It will be time to exchange boots for sandals and pants with shorts. I am waiting to break out the summer skirts because that’s of my favorite things about summer.

This wardrobe change is a great time to purge. There are two things you want to do before putting winter wear into bins. First, examine your wardrobe. Is there anything you don’t want to wear next year? Are there things you’re just tired of looking at? If so, donate them. Also be sure to check the condition of your items. If you have sweaters that look worn and socks with holes now is the time to throw them out. Don’t bother storing things that belong in the trash.

Second, you should wash everything you intend to put away. If there is a chance that you wore it be sure to wash it. Moths are attracted to body oils, perspiration, and saliva. You don’t want to pull your items out in the fall only to discover that they are full of holes. Once you have pared down and put things in storage it will be time to continue cleaning elsewhere.

Down and Dirty

This is the time to give your home a deep cleaning. There’s just something about a good deep cleaning that feels good. Here are some ways to clean yourself happy.

Focus on the furniture. I may dust from time to time but in the spring I like to polish the furniture. I also go through the pile of mail that accumulates in my bookshelf. I also evaluate old magazines to see if I still want them or if they should be recycled. I like to make things neater as I go into summer. Make sure to vacuum your furnishings (sofa, chairs, etc.). You may even want to move things around for a new look.

Next, clean out the cabinets. Check for food that has gone bad. Look for boxes and bags that have been opened and check to see if the contents are still fresh. If they’re stale, throw them out. If there are nonperishable goods you know you won’t use donate them to a local food pantry. This is also a good time to clean the shelves and the doors of the cabinets.

Do some mattress maintenance. This is a good time to vacuum your mattress (dust mites!) and to rotate it on your bed. You can turn it, flip it, or both. If you use a mattress pad be sure to wash it. Mattress pads take a while to dry so be sure that you start early enough in the day.

Consider cleaning the carpet. If you have a carpet shampoo machine this is the perfect time to clean the carpets of all the salty residue from the winter. If you don’t have a machine, consider having your carpets professionally cleaned.

Washing windows? Some people do it, some people don’t. If you are among the latter, consider hiring a professional.

Prune your plants. Check for any dead leaves and pull them off. Also check to make sure that your pot is big enough. Your plant may need to be repotted. If you’re ambitious you can attend to your plants in your yard and garden as well.

What about the random things? Shower curtains can be washed, linen closets can be purged and organized, freezers can be cleaned out, and refrigerators can be sanitized. If you’re really ambitious you can even tackle the attic or the garage.

Clean Inside

This takes Spring Cleaning to a whole new level. A friend of mine does a body cleanse every season to remove any toxins from her body. She does fruits and vegetables, and supplements with protein shakes. I have done a similar cleanse in the past. I haven’t decided whether I will do it this year but I am thinking about it.

Check In

This time of renewal is a good time to reevaluate your Life Plan and see how you are moving toward your vision. Making good progress? Great! Keep it up. Is there room for improvement? Don’t beat yourself up. Just make some adjustments and move forward. Spring is a great time of year because it holds so much potential. New things are coming. Get ready. Make this your best Spring Clean ever.

Rest and Refreshment – Getting The Most From Your Weekend

Weekends seem to come and go way too fast. By the time you finally get into the swing of things it’s time to go back to work. If we are not careful the entire weekend can be filled with activity, leaving us tired and irritable on Monday. This makes the work week seem even longer.

I used to have a teacher that prayed that we would have rest and refreshment over our weekends. For a short while I thought that this was just a nice phrase. Soon I began to see the wisdom of those words. We need to feel rested and refreshed at the end of our weekends. That is what weekends were created for. It is essential that we make the most of our weekends. It is even more important if we work on one or both weekend days. The time that we do have must be spent well to ensure that we go into the work week feeling rested.

With the weekend being only three days away, I thought I’d share some tips for making the most of your weekend.

Protect your time. Don’t take on any commitments you don’t need to. The work week is busy enough. Don’t feel pressure to fill every moment of your weekend too. Leave time for you.

Slow down. Everyone has stuff to do on the weekend. There are things to take care of: laundry, groceries, shopping, cleaning. Some people take on additional activities such as remodeling the bathroom or painting a bedroom. These things are great, but they can take over your weekend if you let them. The key is to limit these activities and take time to slow down. Plan some time where you aren’t shopping or cleaning. Set aside a block of time for rest.

Take a Sabbath. If possible, take a complete Sabbath. If you are not familiar with the Sabbath, it is a day of religious observance and rest. No work is done on a Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath is Saturday and the Christian Sabbath is Sunday. The Sabbath is a time of rest and connection with God. I will write more on how to observe a Sabbath in a later post.

Silence. Our world is filled with noise and activity. A number of sounds assault our ears each day; televisions, cell phones, conversations, and traffic noise to name a few. Getting away from the noise goes a long way in promoting relaxation. Instead of stressful sounds, try to spend some time in silent reflection.

Quality time. Weekends are a great time to connect with friends and family. Quality time with loved ones can fill us up. Laughter, affection, and connection are just a few things that family and friends offer us. These connections make us feel good and help us to feel purposeful.

Limit technology. Technology is all around us. We have laptops, tablets, and smartphones. We can be connected to the internet almost everywhere we go. These things can be good, but they can also suck up valuable relaxation time. In fact, they can, and often do, add to the stress of our day. To really maximize weekend time we need to pull away from the glowing screen and be present to those around us. We need to be in the moment. We cannot do this with our eyes glued to a screen.

There are many ways to get the most from your weekends. These are just a few. The important thing is that we get the rest that weekends are supposed to provide. In order to do that, we must balance rest and activity. How do you get the most out of your weekend?