Monday, November 29, 2010

Bible Highlighting System

Is it too early to think about goals for the New Year?  (aka: New Year's Resolutions)  I've been reading through the Bible this past year (last year's goal for 2010) and had a desire to go deeper in to the Word, but wasn't sure about a consistent system that I could use for marking my Bible to achieve this.  This article is a helpful resource for marking your Bible in a way that will increase scripture knowledge/ memory and help you (and me!) study the Bible more deeply.  Thanks God for the internet - there are tons of articles like this all over the world wide web :) Here's to a new-years-resolution in advance... cheers! 

"I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you." - Psalm 119:11

Deeply desiring more of the Word, the Truth,

Friday, November 26, 2010

Handel's Messiah Intro

Disclaimer:  This post will likely reveal the choir nerd inside of me.

The most well known part of Handel's Messiah is "The Hallelujah Chorus."  (One of my favorite sections occurs at 1:32-1:57 in this recording on youtube.)  Short music lesson - Messiah is an oratorio, which is like an opera (story that is all sung), but with no costumes, scenery, etc...  So, it was written to be performed in its entirety so the audience would hear the whole story Handel was communicating (all of which comes from scripture).  Especially at this time of the year, we often hear the "Hallelujah Chorus," but not the rest of it.  I'm not trying to harp on the people who only perform the Hallelujah Chorus.  However, Handel composed Messiah, brilliantly setting to music another writer's libretto (text written for music) which intertwined prophecies about the coming of the Messiah with scripture testifying about Christ's life, death, resurrection, and ultimate victory over sin and death at the end of time.  (It's written in 3 parts.)  Handel actually composed it for secular theater performance.  Back in the day, an oratorio would have been common entertainment for the upper class.  Most people that could afford it would have gone to see Handel's Messiah when it "premiered."  I've tried to think of a modern day comparison... maybe semi-similar to when Mel Gibson directed Passion of the Christ.  This movie got a lot of hype, so I'd assume a lot of non-Christian people went to see it, and they heard a LOT of scripture in those 2 hours.  I'm not sure if that's the best comparison.  Anyway...

Some of the blogs I write over this holiday season will include scripture from Messiah in the order it's performed in the oratorio, so I wanted to give a little background on the piece.  (I'll use NIV, although Messiah uses King James Version.)  Regardless of whether or not you ever get to hear it performed all the way through (which I highly recommend, even if opera isn't really your thing), the scripture is true.  The message is true.  More than a beautiful work of art, Messiah testifies to God's grace and love for the people He created.  From the beginning of time, God told us a Savior was coming.  The Savior came, fulfilling every prophecy made about Him.  He lived a sinless life on earth, died on the cross bearing the weight of the sin of the world, and rose from the grave conquering death!  He promises to come back and defeat Satan once and for all.  We know how the story ends - Handel knew how it ends too.  He quoted Revelation 5:12-13 at the end of Messiah, the choir singing, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!  To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever!"

Anticipating Christ's return,
- Ren

p.s. If you want to see Messiah performed in Chicago, I've heard this performance is great, although I've never been.   

Stolen Organizing Ideas

I like things to be organized.  I like finding new ideas for ways to organize things and I enjoy cleaning out the junk drawers, closets, filing cabinets, etc. (Of course, the ultimate goal is to not have to clean them out because they're already organized...) Anyway, here is an idea for keeping track of all the random recipes, centerpieces, and decorating ideas you find in magazines.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

can you post another blog's article as the only thing in yours?

This blog I read today has something relevant for anyone who has been, is, or will be in any circumstance that is not ideal :) Check it out here!

thankful for a God who is with me,

Friday, November 12, 2010

When you get a husband?

The Friday before my birthday at school, a student asked me what I was doing over the weekend.  I told her it was my birthday on Sunday so we had plans to celebrate. 
Kahliya: How old you gonna be Miss Cook?
Me: Guess.
Kahliya: 30?
Me: down.
Kahliya: 29?
Me: down.
Kahliya: 28?
Me: down.
Kahliya: 27?
Me: down.
Kahliya: 26?
Me: Come on….
Kahliya: 31?
Me: Down…
Kahliya: uhh 25?
Me: Down
Kahliya: 24?
Me: down
Kahliya: 23?
Me: Finally! 
Kahliya (in one breath): Ms. Cook!! How you a teacher? 23? Are you sure?  Don’t tell the boys!
Me: Kahliya, I’m married.  Even still, there are so many things wrong with that statement.
Kahilya: Ms. Cook!  You married? When u get a husband?
(Sierra runs down 3 risers and up to my face, grabbing my left hand to stare at the rings)
Sierra: A husband? You got a husband?
Me: I got a husband this summer
Sierra: why you didn’t invite me to the wedding? Man, I be dancing up and all over the place and you gotta invite me to those weddings Ms. Cook.
Kahliya stands silently still stunned.  Then interjects: I’m glad you cut your hair.

Last thing – I introduced myself as MRS. Cook the first day, and had a name tag on my desk for a month that said Mrs. Cook on it.  I always wear my wedding rings and occasionally tell stories about my wonderful husband.  These girls must take frequent trips to la-la land.  Gotta love ‘em.

A woman who got a husband,
- MRS. Cook 

Women's Retreat (Part 2)

Women’s Retreat – Part 2
In the afternoon, Dee discussed the relationship between Ruth and Naomi in the Old Testament as well as the impact of pride on our relationships with others. 

-       The “dark side” of a woman’s relationship gift of intimacy is that she has a greater tendency to cling to people, to find security and identity in earthly relationships.  (Take anything wonderful that God has created and in this world, there will always be a “sinful twist…”  The original intent of God’s design gone wrong.)
-       Ruth said goodbye to her terrible past and latched on to the family of God.   Naomi showed Ruth grace by accepting her (though she might not have been the daughter-in-law she’d hoped for), and then Ruth in turn showed Naomi grace when Naomi wanted to be stuck in bitterness.  In Phillip Yancey’s book, What’s so Amazing about Grace? he explains that grace is amazing because it’s unnatural.  Hurting and withdrawing is natural, but forgiving and loving is unnatural. 
-       Ruth and Naomi had both experienced suffering.  Dee pointed out, as a recent widow, that suffering opens up one’s ability to have compassion towards others who are suffering. 
-       Jesus’ last commands were “others-centered.”  He wanted believers to love each other – by believers’ love for other believers, the rest of the world will notice that we are different.  That we are disciples of Jesus.
-       Dee showed a video clip of the testimony of Carla Faye (I forget her last name)- in the 80s, she was the first woman in Texas to be executed for murder in over 100 years, and she was born again while in prison.  In her testimony she stated that Jesus came into her heart and changed everything – prior to knowing Jesus, she didn’t care about how she’d hurt lots of people, and Jesus showed her the depth of her depravity and for the first time, she cared.  Dee asked us, how many times do we not care?  Pass by homeless people on the street, hear about domestic abuse, sex trafficking, etc… because we are saturated with such stories, we become hardened – which shows us the depth of our human depravity caused by pride.  And Jesus loves me? How much I need a Savior!

All in all, the retreat was great.  In addition to all that God showed me, He helped me to make a few new friends.  Plus we got to stamp our own stationary – woohoo!  (If we’re close, you know how much I love cards) J

Random note – my friend Kristen signs her blogs with a clever thought about what she had been writing.  I don’t know how to explain it really, but I’m going to copy her.  You’ll see.  (The best form of flattery… right?  Thanks for the idea, KG!) ;)

A better friend than I was yesterday,

Women's Retreat (Part 1)

Last weekend, I went on a women’s retreat where the featured speaker was Dee Brestin, a Christian author who focuses on Bible studies for women.  She is the mother of lady in our small group.  Anyway, this retreat blessed me SO much and I wanted to share what I learned.  It’s a lot, so I’ll write it in two parts.  J  

The retreat’s focus was women’s friendships, based on Dee Brestin’s book The Friendships of Women, which I’d highly recommend to anyone!  Her writing and wisdom certainly apply to women of all ages.  She first outlined the unique ways men and women are wired.  Because of the way we (as women) are wired, we innately desire and seek out more intimate relationships with other women.  Men generally do not seek out intimate relationships with other men.  She pointed out, as a side note, that men who are perhaps more spiritually mature will often be able to name 1 or 2 other men with whom they feel comfortable sharing deep concerns – Jesus was close to others and he valued intimate relationships.  I agree with her – I always notice when a man seems to care deeply about the concerns of others because he sticks it out in our macho-man society and seems to represent Jesus a little more clearly.  Anyway, you can read the book if you want all the scientific details of how men and women are wired differently and the impact on our friendships.  Otherwise, take my word for it and let’s move on.  

Dee spent the majority of the morning session focusing on the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1).  Main principles:
-       Elizabeth was Mary’s mentor.  She gave the best definition of a mentor I’d ever heard (for which she credits someone else).  A mentor is like the car in front of you in a blizzard.  When you are driving in a blizzard and can’t see the street or road lines, you can follow the tail lights of the car in front of you to safety.  A mentor is someone who is going where you want to go and doing it well a few years ahead of you.  It is much wiser, she noted, to run to a mentor instead of a peer, who has no idea where to go next usually.
-       Mary went to Elizabeth’s house when Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant with John the Baptist and Mary had become supernaturally pregnant with the baby who would be the Messiah.  Imagine Mary on foot 70 miles to see Elizabeth.  Might she be thinking did that really happen?  Did an angel just tell me I’d be pregnant?  When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, before Mary could say anything, Elizabeth began prophecying over Mary.  How encouraging to Mary!  In an age of technology, it hadn’t really occurred to me that Elizabeth wouldn’t have known about Mary except by the Holy Spirit.
-       Elizabeth affirmed Mary’s faith and character – “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”  These are the types of affirmations we, as Christian women, need to give to our friends. 
-       Mary knew scripture, evident in her famous Magnificat where she quotes 4 different Psalms.  Even as a young teenager, she had the psalms etched into her heart, so that as she prayed, the verses poured out.  Jesus said “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  What if the Word of God was overflowing in our hearts so much that it came out all the time?  Dee quoted Bonheuffer (a young pastor who stood up to Hitler which eventually cost him his life – about which there is a new biography) who said, “It is a dangerous error among Christians to think the soul can pray by itself.”  Wow.  Convicting.  There is immense power when one prays God’s Word to Him.  Lord, this is what you promised and I believe it.  That is how I should be praying.

To be continued...
- Ren