Tuesday, August 27, 2013

14!


Happy Birthday, Calli!

My prayer for you this year is that, like the sparrow, 
you may dwell in the house of the Lord, ever singing his praises...





How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! 


Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! 


Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Psalm 84



Saturday, August 24, 2013

Augustine: Finding Time to Read the Bible



In my early morning reading, I'm working my way through Peter Brown's amazing biography of Augustine.  This morning Augustine was beginning to feel the tugs of the Holy Spirit toward what the gospel of Christ means for the meaning of life:

"...is it true that nothing can be grasped with certainty for the directing of this life?  No: we must search the more closely and not despair.  For now the things in the Scriptures which used to seem absurd are no longer so.... 
I shall set my foot on that step on which my parents placed me as a child, until I clearly find the truth.  But where shall I search?  When shall I search?  Ambrose [the pastor of the church Augustine was attending] is busy.  I am myself too busy to read.  
And in any event, where can I find the books?  Who has them, or when can I procure them?  Can I borrow them from anyone?  
I must appoint set times, set aside certain hours for the health of my soul.  A great hope has dawned: the [Christian] faith does not teach things I thought and vainly accused it of.... Do I hesitate to knock, that other truths may be opened?  
My pupils occupy the morning hours [August was employed as a professor], but what do I do with the rest?  Why not do this?  But if I do, when shall I have time to visit powerful friends of whose influence I stand in need, or when prepare the lessons I sell to my pupils, or when refresh myself by relaxing my mind from too close preoccupation with my heavy concerns?"
~St. Augustine
This is exactly the struggle we all have when God begins to call us out of the shadows & into real life:

Is it true that life is as shallow as the world would have me believe?  No.  I must search and not despair, for the Scriptures no longer seem absurd to me.  They are true.  I will search them until I find this truth.  But when?  How?  There are 1,000 excuses.  And yet, I must do this for the health of my soul.  A great hope has dawned!  Am I just scared of what this truth will end up requiring of me?  What will I have to sacrifice in my "busy," cluttered life to search the Scriptures?

"Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?"  ~ Matthew 16





Friday, August 23, 2013

16!

Happy Birthday, Jonathan!  

My prayer for you this year is the eagle prayer... 




Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40.27-31



Saturday, August 10, 2013

5 Ingredients for an Epic Vacation (plus a bonus)




1.  FRIENDS

Consider inviting friends to enjoy a vacation with you!  Many years ago my wife & I were in a Bible Study with several other young adults, all newly married.  We became especially good friends with two other couples -- before any of us started having children.  And then the children gradually started showing up, basically 3 at a time (one from each family).

We've shared several vacations together now.  Just us six adults.  And 15 children.  The 21 Marleedinks.



Do friends on vacation for a week or more sometimes get sideways with each other?  Sure.  But repentance, forgiveness, and love is the very language of true friendship -- even friendship with God himself.  It's worth every moment, even the moments when someone gets grumpy for a few minutes.

2.  FUNDS

We do our best (interpretation: my wife is very wise) to make vacations very affordable.  By the time we get back, I don't want to see another peanut butter & jelly sandwich for a month.  But still, there is a cost, and that cost is going to be more than what can be pulled out of a regular monthly budget.  We discipline ourselves to set aside a certain amount every month for 24 months.  "Epic" vacations don't take place every year; they only happen once every 2 years.

And in those 2 years, there are many months where we think we really need to borrow against the vacation fund.  But do all that you can reasonably do to resist.  You're investing in family memories.

3.  WORSHIP

One of the lamest things I see Christians doing is taking a "vacation" from worshiping God.  How ridiculous.  On the Lord's Day the Risen King is summoning his children to assemble in worship all over the world... except for the ones on vacation?

Rather, this is a wonderful opportunity to expose yourself and your children to another part of Christ's kingdom!  During vacation weeks I've taken my family to a small country church of 20something worshippers... to a large African American church of 2,000 worshippers... to a "hip" inner-city church with a thousand young adults, no children in sight... to an exclusive-psalmody-no-music church... etc.  Broaden your experience with & understanding of God's family.  It'll do you good.

Also, consider short daily devotions throughout the vacation.  On this last vacation all 21 of us made a week-long study of Revelation 1-3, mostly in 3-minute devotions, in the middle of the day, while surrounded by majestic mountains.

4.  EXPLORE!

Stretch yourself & your kids.  Do something out of the ordinary.  Climb a mountain, walk up a mountainous sand dune, go white-water rafting, go kayaking, hike "up" the middle of a mountain stream for a couple of miles, take an old-fashioned train ride.

Have them do something they've never done before, and perhaps didn't think they could.

5.  NO ELECTRONICS

Take a fast from all rectangles... phones, computers, ipod, ipad, etc.  The world will still be pretty much the same when you get back.  (But maybe you will have changed?)

Instead, use your downtime to play some basketball, some ultimate frisbee, have some wrestling matches, look at maps, read a book to some kids.  They don't even have to be your kids.  Any kids will do.

BONUS

The dad should start the week off with something fun & out-of-the-ordinary, because this is vacation week & the rules have all changed.  Set the tone by doing something unexpected.  Bring your wife home her favorite pretzel order from Mellow Mushroom... bring home a donut dinner plate for the kids... or maybe shave your head... whatever strikes your fancy.