Best thing since the printing press!

My renewed commitment to blogging is a good way to share treasures I have found while exploring cyberspace.  I can hardly believe it was only in March that a young friend directed me to one of the richest resources on the internet.  For the past three months,  I’ve been obsessively recommending The Bible Project to friends and family, and so it only reasonable that I extend that recommendation to all of you as well.

I have the same deep and abiding level of appreciation for Tim Mackie and Jon Collins that I have for Johannes Gutenberg.  And as a dyed-in-the wool bibliophile, that is not something I would say lightly.  I am not using hyperbole when I say that I believe that The Bible Project does more to make the Bible accessible to all people than anything since the printing press.  The brilliant combination of biblical knowledge and imaginative art has created a 21st century gateway into an ancient book for anyone and everyone who is even slightly interested in the Bible for any reason whatsoever.

I have heard Bible stories all of my life.  I remember turning the pages in My First Book About Jesus as I learned to recognize the printed words .  I have been seriously studying my Bible for over forty years, and yet brighter light shines on the familiar and beloved stories and poems whenever I watch the short, fast-paced videos created by Tim, Jon, and their dedicated team.

However, the most remarkable thing about The Bible Project is certainly not that I learn new things.  I constantly find teachers who can add to my understanding through books and lecture series.  The most remarkable thing about The Bible Project is that the videos bring an Ancient Middle Eastern text instantly to life even for a novice.   It seems almost supernatural to me that every video has something for the child and for the scholar and for everyone in between.

But don’t take my word for it! Follow the link to the website and check it out for yourself.  Judge for yourself whether or not they are accomplishing their mission “to show that the Bible is one unified story that leads to Jesus.”

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God’s voice in the storm

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From early Friday morning until late Saturday afternoon, images of whirlpools and roller coasters flitted into my mind again and again, as seven women plunged deep and soared high exploring the endless love of God together.

It began with a rather humorous reminder that our loving Father in heaven cares about the details of our lives.  If we watch carefully we can see His hand in the what, the when, the where, the how, the why, and the who of everything.  On Friday morning we were paying close attention.

Our plan to overnight at Camp Harmony to discuss the feminine in the image of God had been in place for two months when an impending ice storm threw everything into question.  On Wednesday Kristina and Mary Ellen cancelled, but Shari accepted a last minute invitation. Teresa was still undecided, but Joy, Natalie, Anna, Elaine and I were committed in spite of the ominous forecast. Just before I went to bed on Thursday, I emailed Camp Harmony to confirm reservations for six and possibly seven.

Friday morning while I was still asleep, Elaine and Natalie exchanged a flurry of messages to explore the possibility of meeting somewhere along the turnpike for a few hours instead of overnight at Camp.  Anna awakened me with a text to tell me that a location for our meeting was under discussion. I emailed Deb (the office manager at Camp) to warn her of a possible cancellation, and sent a text to Joy.  The hook-up along the turnpike presented a few problems: Natalie wasn’t free until four, we didn’t have immediate contact with all involved, and I can’t drive on unfamiliar roads after dark because of my cataracts.

It was after eight when I discovered that Elaine and Natalie were not texting as Anna had assumed, but rather they were using Facebook messenger.   I still had no contact information for Shari who I hadn’t met, or Judy who decided to come with Shari after I signed off Facebook on Wednesday. I emailed Deb again to say there were three possibilities: reservations for five, reservations for six, or complete cancellation.  Then Teresa joined in on messenger to say she decided not to venture out into the coming storm. (Reservations for five)  I acknowledged her wisdom and wondered if perhaps we should all just follow her example.

Joy finally entered the fray at 8:30 and she was game for anything! She suggested that the two of us meet Anna and Elaine for just two hours, but for me the appeal of staying warm and safe in my own home during an ice storm grew stronger.  So I asked the Lord to make our path clear—and the phone rang.

Elaine was on her way to pick up Anna (without night gear). They would drive the entire distance to Camp, meet us in the cabin from 1-6, and drive the four hours back to reach home before the ice hit. Of course Joy was totally in favor of the new twist in our ever-bending plan. We agreed to stay in the cabin overnight and drive home Saturday after the roads were cleared and the sun was high.  Natalie was at work and off the grid, but we assumed she would join us.  Both the identities and the plans of Shari and Judy were still a mystery to us as we moved forward.

This time I called Deb to confirm that we would have at least three for the overnight with two day visitors.  She laughed and said that the cabin was open on Saturday night and we could stay till Sunday when the roads would be completely clear.  I called Anna and told her Joy and I would meet them at the cabin, and mentioned that it was open the next night. Without Elaine’s night gear (which includes bedding), that option was off the table for the two of them.

I picked up Joy just after eleven.  We laughed about the ups and downs in the five hours of wild texting, messaging, phoning, and emailing that brought us to that point. That point, to be precise, was less than a mile into our journey. Joy’s phone pinged. Elaine’s message said they would not reach Camp until two because they were circling back to get her night gear so they could stay with us until Sunday morning!   While I got gas, Joy called Deb to confirm the cabin for two nights.

We didn’t do the normal thing, the tempting thing. We didn’t cancel our plan to gather in His name because of the storm, and heaven alone can record the powerful blessings God poured out on that tiny cabin in the hours that followed. Total strangers became close friends. Charismatic and Anabaptist worshiped in harmony.  Democrat and Republican experienced unity of Christ!  Together we found insight, healing, and direction for the days to come.  We were paying careful attention, and with our minds fixed on Him, we saw the mighty hand of God moving constantly in our midst.

The Lord speaks most often in a still small voice. We only need to listen.

The Precious Death of Nabeel Qureshi

 

The end of Dr. Nabeel Qureshi’s life in this world pours light on Psalm 116:15 for me.

Each time death claims someone I love, or someone who is loved by someone I love, I find peace in the knowledge that the Lord God sees the death of His children as precious.

Precious!

Highly valued!

Of great importance!

In grief, I always think of the Lord welcoming His beloved one home as though He is receiving a treasure that will be placed in suitable surroundings at last.

When Nabeel died, for the first time, I had a clear image of the heavenly treasure the King received. I saw a perfectly cut diamond with light shining from a thousand facets.

I saw a gemstone crushed by mining,

cut with precision,

and polished to perfection.

I think it may be possible that Nabeel surrendered his life so completely that the Lord was able to finish all the work He planned for this one precious life in just a few short years.

I often think about judgment, not fearfully, but curiously.  I wonder about the timing, the process, the duration.  I think about the Lord bringing to light the deep things I’ve hidden from myself.  I think it will be a time of purifying, refining, and even detoxing.  I am certain it will be a removal of all things that are contrary to the character of Christ.  I regularly ask the Lord to show me stuff now so I don’t have to deal with it in the judgment.

Perhaps Nabeel is an exceedingly rare gem who passed through judgment completely while still in the body of flesh.  I often wonder if that’s what happened to Enoch who walked with God and was not, for God took him.  I wonder if Enoch had his own personal rapture because the Lord had nothing more to teach him in this world.

Of course Nabeel was not raptured. His body was destroyed from within by a relentless disease.  I empathized with the spiritual battle he fought as he prayed for the physical healing that did not come, because I fought the same battle for years after I found a lump on my breast in 2002.   I watched Nabeel’s vlogs with ambivalence when he spoke of those who were certain he would be healed.  I heard that same certainty repeatedly as cancer ravaged my body through chemo, radiation, chemo, radiation, surgery, surgery, radiation, radiation, surgery, surgery.  I can’t count of the number of times I received anointing, laying on of hands, and assurance of healing over the past fifteen years.  And still I live with a terminal illness.

I watched Nabeel’s vlogs with hope when I heard that he was investigating nutritional support. My healthcare providers are frequently surprised by my tolerance of and recovery after the damaging treatments that are normal protocol for cancer.  I think my ability to endure and bounce back is, at least in part, a result of my effort to eat food as God made it.  However, my hope for Nabeel was never in food.  It was always in the God who loves him beyond my imagination, the God who continued to use him mightily even as his body was wasting away.  I empathized with Nabeel because I know what it is like struggle through cancer with a hundred different people offering a hundred different solutions.  For me that may be hyperbole, for Nabeel, it is probably a gross underestimate. Still I know how loving and well-meaning people can add to a burden they only want to relieve.

I watched Nabeel’s vlogs with deep compassion because years ago I reached precisely the same conclusion he reached from searching the scripture: It is always God’s will to heal.  But even as I received sure knowledge that it is always God’s will to heal our mortal frames, I also received sure knowledge that healing these mortal frames is never His highest priority.  That’s the comment I left on Nabeel’s Facebook page even as I continued to pray that we would see a miracle.  I think I also shared what I learned of the relationship between faith and healing.  Too many Christians have an idea that faith means you must believe that you will be healed without doubt, and if doubt creeps in you cancel the promise for healing. That’s another thing I can’t count: the number of times I was told that expressing doubt about my healing is the reason I still have cancer.  (sad sigh)

I doubt that I will be healed, but I don’t doubt Jesus. He used cancer to deepen my understanding of faith, and whenever Jesus speaks to those he healed, I know to read “faith” as “faith in me”. Their faith in Jesus made them well.  My faith in Jesus gives me peace and joy even though breast cancer metastasized to my liver and lungs. Nabeel’s faith in Jesus empowered him to pour out his life in service to the end.  With the last of his strength Nabeel displayed to the world that his unshakable faith was in Jesus who is worthy of praise even if He does not heal in a particular instance.

Nabeel’s faith was unquestionably in Jesus and not in healing.

That perfect gem of faith in Jesus was buried in Nabeel’s heart long before he knew the name of the One in whom he believed. His faithful friend, David, mined that gem with truth for years before it became visible to others.  The rough-cut stone was crushed through heartbreak as Nabeel chose to love his Lord more than his family.  And even when the process of refining had only just begun, the value of the diamond was recognized by everyone who heard him speak of Jesus. In his final year, Nabeel opened his life to the world and allowed us all to watch as the Lord cut facet, after facet, after beautiful facet to reflect the love of the God who does not always heal, but who always suffers with us.

I don’t wonder why Nabeel died because I know the King has the right to claim His treasure whenever He judges the time is best to do so.  Nabeel Qureshi joins the ranks of men like Oswald Chambers, Peter Marshall, and Jim Elliot.  Their lives were all cut short, but they will continue to bless millions of people for generations to come in ways that God alone can understand.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of Nabeel Qureshi.

Peterson and Parables

parable of the sower 3

Some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up.

Jordan B. Peterson’s talks on The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories have tamed a wild thought that has been taunting me on and off for decades.

One day while I was vacuuming, two unconnected snippets of scripture merged in my mind to form a question.

The snippets: “I speak what I have seen with My Father” and “without a parable He did not speak to them”.

The question: Does Jesus see His Father using parables?

Instantly I began thinking of history, all the times, all the places, all the people, and all the stories that were told and retold, remembered or forgotten.  I wondered if God were using history itself as a perpetual parable for humanity, and in that moment two of my favorite thought streams merged into one.  The first stream is the way God interacts with the many people in the many places that are beyond the boundaries of the biblical narrative.  I often think of God’s dealing with people who are neither Jew nor Christian. It seems obvious to me that He is always interacting directly with every people group, even if they are unaware of His character or deny His existence.  It seems just as obvious that He has always interacted with all people, in all places, at all times.

The second thought stream is the marvelous selectivity of the scripture. It originated as I considered John’s claim that if everything Jesus did were written down, the world could not contain the books that would be written.  Whether or not John uses hyperbole, he made me appreciate that the Bible is a masterpiece of editing.  Whenever I think of about the millennia of human existence and activity, I am still amazed that fewer than 800,000 words are needed to tell us everything we need to know to have a deep and meaningful relationship with the Almighty Creator of the Universe.  If you compare the length of the Bible to the endless volumes of commentaries on the Bible, you will see what I mean. God’s editing skills are truly supernatural:-)

The Lord alone knows how many hours I have expended over the years considering all histories of all peoples as God’s ever-growing collection of parables. I have long been convinced that God uses the stories each people group preserves to give them truth and moral lessons.  That is the essence of a parable.  The day that wild, elusive, taunting thought sprang to life, my perspective of history transformed forever.

Then just four years ago, the power of myth joined my on again off again contemplation of history and parable. I considered creation myths with enough care to write about it in Grammas’ Guide, but subsequent liver surgery distracted me from the series I had envisioned.  Now at last, thanks to Jordan Peterson’s examination of the biblical narrative through a psychological lens, I am once again seeking to understand the mingling flow of history, parable, and myth that makes up so much of our knowledge of the world that was, that is, and is to come.

Jordan Peterson’s 12 part series on the biblical narratives is fascinating and inspiring.  As I listened to him compare Bible stories with the stories of other cultures, my two little thought streams suddenly hit the current of a mental Amazon.  I can’t remember experiencing this level of excitement about the Bible since I first discovered apologetics nearly forty years ago.  It seems to me that Peterson is building a foundation for a stronger line of evidence than any of those we currently have in our apologetic toolbox.

If someone is genuinely seeking the truth and honestly asks the question whether or not there is a God, then the cosmological argument is sufficient evidence for the existence of God, the manuscript evidence is sufficient evidence for the reliability of scripture, and the historical evidence is sufficient for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But that is one very big IF.   We can easily live our lives without studying cosmology, archaeology, or history, and understanding any of those three lines of evidence requires intentional investigation.  Sadly, far too many of our species choose to follow our natural proclivity to dismiss without investigation anything that challenges our biases.

BUT (and it’s one very big but) we can’t escape psychology! Of course few of us will do formal work or research in the field, but day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute we all encounter the subject psychologists study: the human mind and behavior. The problems in our minds and in our relationships bombard us constantly.  Far too many people are far too consumed with the issues of daily living to ever even fleetingly wonder if there is a substantial case to be made for the existence of God, the reliability of scripture, and/or the resurrection of Christ.  But, with rare exceptions, people want solutions to their problems.

Jordan Peterson taught me that understanding the psychological significance of Bible stories will prepare me to share the good news of the kingdom just the way that Jesus did.

Collision of Visions (Part 2)

When atoms collide they often release extra energy as a light wave.

colliding atoms

I think the same thing must be true of colliding visions.

The collision of Heart Working Women and Gramma’s House created greater light and clearer vision for women’s ministry in Central Western Pennsylvania.

Joy was ready to seek non-profit incorporation for Heart Working Women  when she arrived in Purchase Line last November, and I was eager to pass on the In His Hand by-laws for her use.  The IHH by-laws, I thought, would be a helpful guide since they had already passed legal examination in the incorporation process.  I had only one request: I asked her to keep Ken Sande’s Peacemaker Pledge in her final document.  A light wave released and we saw the mighty hand of God.  Joy rejoiced in my request because she is a Certified Instructor for Ken Sande’s Relational Wisdom ministry.

We realized that we shared a passion to see believers live in the provision of Christ’s high priestly prayer in John 17.  The vision God gave me focused more on the outward expression of Christian unity.  I imagined what would happen if the world could see that we are one as the Son and the Father are one.  The vision God gave Joy focused more on the inward expression of Christian unity.  She imagined what would happen if wounded and weary saints would seek to be one with the Father and Son.  I see the body as a whole relating to the world; she sees the individual cells that make up the body relating to each other.  I see our skin; she sees our internal organs.  We both see our one Lord, one faith, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.

And it is to that one God and Father in us all that we pray for a place and a name in our community.

The building that recently housed Tony’s Small Engine Repair (245 Franklin Street) in Clymer is for sale for $150,000.

tb street view

Tony’s Small Engine Repair, 245 Franklin Street in Clymer

It is spacious and open to easily accommodate any ministry we envision together.  tb show room The front has plenty of room for the things that Heart Working Women might imagine doing together at Gramma’s House

like cooking, crafting , sewing,

and teaching, learning, growing.

tb front room

There is room for a shared kitchen,

a Wi-Fi café,

a tea room,

 

 

with little nooks for bookshelves

tb shelves

and secluded conversation.

 

 

But there is so much more! 

Above is a family-sized apartment,

tb apartmenttb sink and stove

and in the back there is a large garage with an added storage area

where hard-working men can gather

to imagine how the Lord wants to use them to bless the community as well. tb garage The possibilities are limited only by the scope of our constantly colliding imaginations.

tb office

Tony’s office

The colliding visions of Heart Working Women and Gramma’s House give us clear direction for ministry now.  We are reaching out to women especially, learning how deepening relationships bring us closer to the unity of the body of Christ.  We do not need any particular building to continue the work He has laid before us.  But if the Lord wants us to have a building as a tangible expression of that unity, we can trust Him to speak to His people to make it so.

We ask only that you listen for His call and imagine!

Imagine a place where congregations connect, and network, and serve together with a power we don’t have whenever we work apart.

Imagine a place where the visions of the believers in our community constantly collide to release ever more and more light into the surrounding darkness.

Imagine a place where young people discover the wonders of the lost art of homemaking and learn the blessings of shouldering God ordained responsibility.

Imagine a place where lonely, hurting people just drop in and find Jesus through His people waiting to show His love in great ways and small.

Imagine a place where our neighbors know they will find the church with her apron on, serving her Lord throughout the week in the routine activities of daily life.

If you think this idea is so crazy that you dismiss it, I understand.  If you think this idea is crazy but you are still willing to pray for us, we thank God for every faithful intercessor.  If you think this idea is crazy, but you still want to be updated, let us know here at Grammas’ Guide, at the Heart Working Women website, or find me and/or Joy on Facebook.

And if by His grace, you recognize God speaking in our visions, hopes, and dreams, join us in the glorious quest to restore hearts and homes, with or without a building dedicated to that purpose.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.

A Collision of Visions (Part 1)

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Tony’s Small Engine Repair, 245 Franklin Street in Clymer

Habakkuk 2: 2-3 is one of the first scriptures I claimed as my own.

Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
 For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.

I started this blog in 2011 to write the vision of the homemaking ministry that has been nurtured in the hearts of many women in our rural Appalachian community for nearly twenty years.  But those who know me best realize that my vision of a building, for ministry beyond the walls of our numerous church buildings, reaches back more than twice that long.

In my early teens, I began to imagine a beautiful building where everyone is always welcome and always finds comfort and support.  My first thoughts centered on a dream house for my mother where all her children, and all their yet-to-be chosen spouses, and all her yet-to-be-born grandchildren could stay overnight at the same time.  But when my grandmother died in 1974, I began to think of something more like a super great room, a kitchen-dining-recreation room combo where the growing families of the 26 cousins who grew up on Prosperity Hill could all gather to share meals and visit comfortably on special occasions.

My mind has constructed countless buildings over the past 50 years, but since 1977 when I rededicated my life to Christ, those fantasy buildings all had one thing in common: every house, every complex, every campus in my imagination has been a tangible expression of the unity of the body of Christ in our community. The many and varied buildings of my mind are always used for the many and varied works God wants to work outside the walls of our places of worship.

When Gramma’s House became a legally established ministry of In His Hand, it seemed as though it was finally the appointed time for the vision to speak to our community.  We looked at real buildings in Hillsdale, Purchase Line, Commodore, and Cookport.  But the vision tarried.  Our meetings ended, I went to Texas for cancer treatment, and In His Hand lost incorporation status through a legal technicality.   It was not God’s time to grant Gramma’s House a place and a name in our community.

Though it tarries, wait for it.

During those years, while God burdened my heart with a longing to see the body of Christ united in service beyond the boundaries of our church programs, He was also working in another heart.  Joy was just a child when she first felt the pain of broken relationships in congregations where her father pastored.  As she matured, her desire to see Christians experience the healing of God’s love led her into counseling.  Through her marriage, her motherhood, and her work as a therapist, Joy gained an ever deepening understanding of how God uses relationships to transform us into the image of His Son.  She longed to share the healing power of life-giving relationships with others, especially those in the body of Christ.

In 2013 God brought Joy, Natalie, Jenn, and Lorraine together.  Having bonded at a weekend retreat, they began gathering together weekly.  Through these informal get-togethers, they discovered firsthand how transparent friendships can encourage, heal, and inspire.   With the support of her life-giving friends, Joy’s vision focused clearly into Heart Working Women, a platform to tell other women how God uses relationships in His work to make us whole.  It was the appointed time!

While Joy was bonding with her friends, the vision of Gramma’s House faded into the background of my life.  In January of 2015, I learned that cancer had metastasized to my liver and lungs, and I focused on the rapidly approaching portal of the world to come.  Then last year, totally unexpectedly, Joy’s pastor husband received an invitation to serve in our little congregation miles away from her precious CORE of friends.  She was certain that abandoning the newly launched Heart Working Women ministry and her CORE support would not match up with God’s character, yet it seemed that God was mysteriously working His plan to move her and her family to the tiny village in the center of the Appalachian range.

And our visions collided!

Joy found heart working women in the hearts and faces of women in Purchase Line, and surrendered to God’s evident plan to extend her tent pegs.

I will stand my watch
And set myself on the rampart,
And watch to see what He will say to me —Habakkuk 2:1 

Now we are watching, and waiting, and praying and together about a very real building in Clymer (pictured above) where Heart Working Women can glorify God in Gramma’s House.

We invite you to watch and wait with us as our visions continue to collide.

My Tyndalian Quest

William TyndaleI have finally returned to my long neglected blog with a renewed sense of direction and purpose thanks to Reasons To Believe’s online class Creation versus Evolution.  I expected to learn from the class, but I was also surprised and inspired.

To make very long story exquisitely short: I entered the class believing that there is no compelling scientific evidence that humanity and chimpanzees have been evolving for millions of years from a common ancestor, and the class thoroughly confirmed that belief.  However, the surprise and the inspiration came in my discovery that many (if not most) proponents of Darwinian evolution seem to be blissfully ignorant of the lack of concrete evidence to support the descent of man.  I came to that conclusion while reading Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells, and I would now call the book a must-read for every creationist with children enrolled in public school.

I finished the RTB class with a clear mission patterned after William Tyndale’s famous response to the priest who called it heresy to offer the word of God in English instead of Latin.

“If God spare my life, before very long I shall cause a plough boy to know the scriptures better than you do!”

I state my goal with less flare, but hopefully with just as much desire to please the Lord. 

By God’s grace, I will do all that I can to help creationists in grade school have a better understanding of our origin than many of the celebrated Darwinists in academia.  

Secure in the knowledge that God uses the weak things of the world to confound the strong, I am about to begin Gramma’s Guide to Origins, which will eventually tell you two things:

  1. How I chose the myth that undergirds my belief about life,
  2. How I choose the prophets who interpret God’s word and God’s world for me

I hope that as you read, you will recognize your own myth and become curious about the myths of others.  I hope to convince you that you are obligated to be aware of the myths of those who write textbooks and teach in public schools because those myths are being impressed on young minds around the nation.

Eventually, I plan to put this all in a single document that I can share easily.   So you could wait for my final edit, but God alone knows how long that will take.  Or you can just follow along, offering encouragement and/or critique, on my Tyndalian mission of translating the speech of creation into the language we all understand.