Archives For My Life

Salt of The Earth

February 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

386171060Note to the reader: This post is made up of pieces of the sermon I preached at Presbyterian Church of Henderson, KY on Sunday, February 9. The whole sermon doesn’t make as much sense on paper as it does in person, so I’m editing to include the highlights.

 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” Jesus speaking in Matthew 5:12

In the Hebrew Bible, there are 35 verses that mention salt; in the New Testament, there are 6 verses that do the same. In the Bible, salt is a symbol of durability, purity, loyalty and value. It’s most prominent mention in the Old Testament might have to do with Lot’s wife, but it was mainly used by the ancient Hebrew people in their covenants and offerings. The covenant people even rubbed their newborn babies with salt, as a sign that they would grow up to be truthful and honorable. The new testament use of salt relates mainly to this verse and verses like it. The idea that Jesus’ followers were to “be salt.”

In this particular verse of Scripture, Jesus focuses on the taste of salt. “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt has lost its taste, what good is it?” Humans have 5 different types of taste receptors, and saltiness is one type of taste that is detected. The need for salt is universal among all human cultures. We crave salty things and our body needs a certain amount of salt to survive. Now, of course, this is delicate balance as we also know that in our food world full of preservatives and salty foods, salt is the culprit blamed in some instances of bad health.

But flavor is important. We keep salt in table-friendly shakers so we can sprinkle it on foods that need a little extra something. If our salt did not add flavor, why would we add it? It’s useless to us if it’s lost its saltiness!

So it is in the Kingdom of God. If we’re flavorless, not adding any good to the situations we’re “sprinkled” in, we’re not much use in the scope of Christ’s mission.

What makes us flavorfull? Well, we might have to look around a little bit and even read the verses right before Jesus’ words about salt. It’s the Beattitudes in Matthew 5:1-11. Blessed are…

the pure in heart

the merciful

the meek

the ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness

the peacemakers…to name a few.

We’re called by Jesus to add flavor to the world…but not just any flavor. Anyone with eyes and ears can see that the world is anything but boring. You could say a lot of things about the current state of culture and affairs, but you’d be hard-pressed to convince your average person that it’s boring. More than ever, we have lights and sound and color and hundreds of televisions channels and billions of websites and phone apps and movies to watch in theatres or on demand at home. The world is wildly exciting at times. Believe it or not, in less technical and modern ways, this was also true for believers in Jesus’ time. They didn’t have Xbox or Candy Crush Saga, but they had other intriguing, exciting things happening.

Jesus wanted his followers to add a specific type of flavoring to the culture and we’re called to do the same thing. The flavoring of peace and mercy and love and humility and purity. This flavoring was relevant and needed in Jesus’ day and it’s needed in our day as well. Romans 12:12 stands out as relevant here: “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We are called to add the flavor Jesus teaches us to add to a world that needs a taste of the Gospel.

Salt is a preservative. Ancient cultures used salt before refrigeration was available. Meat and fish were salted so that they could be transported and traded across deserts. Today, salt is still used in the preservation of foods.

Jesus calls his Church to preserve The Way of truth. It boggles my mind and leaves me scratching my head when I realize that when Jesus left earth, he left his message with his disciples—a rag-tag band of hippies at best. The same guys who seemed to have lots of trouble understanding what Jesus was saying most of the time, such that when Jesus was arrested and crucified—a thing he had been predicting and preparing them for all along—they fell apart! These guys were the leaders of a new church. They were called to preserve Jesus’ words, Jesus’ ways, and Jesus’ story. This is a huge job, but they did it. We have Jesus’ words and we have Jesus’ story and example to follow.

As modern-day preservers of these things, we have a task. We need to study our Scriptures. We need to line up what the culture tells us—even what the Church tells us–with what we see in the red letters. We need to be questioning church leaders and religious experts when what they are teaching does not reflect Jesus’ heart and hope. Love of neighbor…lack of love for money…peacemaking…humble service…love of enemies…the list continues—how are we preserving these teachings so that future generations receive them in tact?

Christians, are his values our values? Are we living in such a way that we’re preserving Christ’s mission? It’s a question we need to ask if we are to preserve.

When you add salt to water, the salt is more dense than the water. The ocean, as I mentioned already, is about 3.5% salt. In Israel, The Dead sea is about 33% salt. People float in the dead sea. If you can’t float in your swimming pool—my husband for example sinks straight to the bottom every time no matter what—you can float in the dead sea. The dense salt creates buoyancy for objects that attempt to float in it, such as humans.

Our saltiness as followers of Jesus should create buoyancy. The world is hard. There’s bad news everywhere, children and friends sometimes make terrible choices, the toast is bound to land with the buttered side down, people get sick for no apparent reason, horrifying accidents happen just feet from the doors of our schools…the world is hard enough. Life is hard, but God is good and that should be the message we carry, not just on our lips but with our actions and our care for others. In every interaction you make a choice: you can beat up or you can lift up. You can offer complaints and criticism, or you can offer encouragement and kind words and hope. That doesn’t mean we say things we don’t mean…that means we choose our words more carefully and seek to be loving first. We look for possible solutions or ways we can help and even if we don’t find any of those, we stand by people who are having a tough time. We hold their hand, we offer prayer, we find reasons to hope in Jesus, who cried and mourned with Mary before he raised her brother, Lazarus, from the grave.

We’re called to be salt. To be flavorful. To be preservative. To be buoyant.

We are not called to be boring or bored…to simply flow along with whichever way the tide turns…Not called to rejoice when others fail or participate in bringing others down.

Being salt is a big calling, but just like the first disciples, we are called nonetheless. So pick one thing—any thing from the “salty” list—and live that way this week. Trust in God’s provision and grace to guide you as you seek out your salty calling. And don’t lose your flavor!

Shhhhh….

February 8, 2014 — Leave a comment
"Help!"

“Help!”

Shhhh….

Today is Jonas’ birthday. I’ve never not commemorated it on my blog (since I started blogging nearly 9 years ago).

But now he’s 15 and if there’s anything he really dislikes, it’s being the center of attention. Or being the subject of a blog post.

I can’t not post about it, though. You understand.

So….happy birthday, jonas! You are loved more than you can imagine!

Never, Never, Never Give Up

January 29, 2014 — 2 Comments

GS Cards 023These ten Girl Scouts are amazing.

When they had to think of a project to “take action” after they worked through a series about friendships, bullying and self-esteem, they all agreed: they wanted to do something to help kids who might be bullied at their school. I think that’s awesome.

Their solution? Give each student in their school some uplifting words. They picked out quotes they wanted to share, we printed them on card stock and then the troop personalized each one. All eight hundred of them had the words, “From your friendly Girl Scout Troop.” (It took them twenty minutes to agree on that phrase.)

So, they picked quotes, wrote their message, attached a small magnet to each one, had a meeting with the principal and brought notes to school so they could stay after yesterday.

Here’s something: there are about 700 students in the school.

Here’s another thing: there are about 1,100 lockers in the same school.

This created some adversity we had to overcome. We divided into four groups and, of course, ran out of cards in all of the sections very quickly. We had enough cards for all of the students, but not for all of the lockers. In some cases, it was easy to tell if a locker was unoccupied. In other cases, we had no idea. Pretty soon we discovered that the seventh grade hall only uses the top lockers, so we fixed that by taking back all of the bottom locker cards. Then we tried to cover sixth and seventh grade and figured we’d make it up to the eighth graders later.

GS Cards 012But that didn’t seem right to some of the girls. We said we were going to do the whole school. Why would we quit until we figured out a way to do it?

So they figured out a way. I know I was ready to just throw up my hands and call it a day, but I learned a good lesson instead. There’s usually a way and there are usually people who are willing to help if you tell them what you need.

We are thankful for the ladies who were working in the library with a group of students this afternoon. They helped us copy some of our cards so we could finish our project. It wasn’t the same–the copied cards were white and had no magnets. They were kind of crookedly copied and crookedly cut (I’ll take credit for that), but every student in the school has a card hanging 1/4 of the way out of his or her locker this morning and that was the dream.

Feeling beaten down todayt? Here are a few of Troop 1884’s quotes!

“It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends.” J.K. Rowling via her character Albus Dumbledore

“You’re Worth More Than Gold!”

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney

“The greatest thing that you will ever accomplish has not happened yet.” unknown

“When you get into a tight place and everything seems against you, and you think you cannot hold on any longer, don’t give up then. That is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” Harriet Beecher Stowe

A quote we could have included:

“Never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill

Beating Wheat

January 27, 2014 — 1 Comment

Jan 19-27 036It’s Monday morning, January 27. I’m on day 8 of a no-wheat diet.

To clarify, I use the word “diet” the way it’s truly intended, as in the foods one eats, rather than as a plan designed for weight-loss.

I’ve tried a week of gluten-free (essentially, no wheat) eating before and it was hard. I knew at the end of that week that there was no way this was going to become a lifestyle change. Life is too short, you know?

But then last year, I gave up sugar. I ate less sugar over the course of the entire year last year than I have most weeks of my lifetime. It was hard at first, but then it was easy. People asked me all year long: “How do you do that? I could never do that.” Truth is, I never thought I could do it either. But then I did. And I discovered that sugar-free was much better for me. I gave up sugar because I want to avoid diabetes, because I linked it to mood swings, because I felt like it was poisoning me and keeping me from losing weight.

I’m giving up wheat for basically the same reasons. Plus, it’s linked to joint pain and body aches and I’ve had plenty of those lately.

Honestly, there are a lot of studies lately about the nutritional uselessness of wheat, and studies about how it affects blood sugar, and studies about how it’s packing weight on our mid-sections and inflaming our insides. I’ve been studying that for awhile, but still felt there was no way I could stop eating bread and pasta and breaded things (remember, I already gave up cakes and cookies and pies, so that didn’t figure into my decision).

On Monday morning of last week, I woke up very early, as I did this Monday morning. I wasn’t ready to get out of the warm bed just yet, so I flipped through my Stitcher podcast list and remembered that Monday mornings mean a new “A Decided Difference” podcast. Honestly, right now, I can’t remember the exact words LouAnn said that specifically caused me to get out of bed with a resolve to kick my wheat habit, but you can listen to the excellent episode here.

I got out of bed and, aside from the mid-week headaches, I have not had any trouble avoiding wheat. The process is really similar to avoiding sugar, actually.

The first step to wheat avoidance is label reading. Well, I’ve been a label reader since middle school, when my best friend Maggie taught me how to do that. Wheat is listed as an allergen now, so it’s even easier to spot.

The second step is planning ahead. My lunch for today was packed last night and includes snack foods. It’s full of fruit and veggies and a bowl of the potato soup I made in the crock pot yesterday.

The third step was telling people that I’m doing it. I kept my mouth shut until Thursday when the headache was really bad. I realized at that point that I could forget about this insanity and go get a foot-long veggie delite at Subway and the only person who would know I quit was Jason. And seriously, if Jason ever starts judging me for the food choices I make…(have you seen that guy eat?) So I posted on Facebook. I can’t quit now–everyone knows I’m giving up wheat and if I quit, they’ll all know I couldn’t hack it in the no-wheat world.

Other things I’m doing aren’t really steps, but are important to the process for me: reading about other people giving up wheat (blogs and websites), exercise, lots of water, prayer and self-pep talks.

I’ve made it to Day 8. The only physical change I’ve noticed so far is that my legs hurt a lot less and I am able to move more “lightly.” That may only make sense to me. I’ll try again: It feels less like my feet are glued to the floor when I’m doing Zumba or walking–less resistance, I guess.

I do appreciate your support! Let me know if you’re embarking on any new endeavors so I can support you as well!

Keep Calm GS Cookies1. They sell cookies. Good cookies. My troop is selling them now. If you’re local, you should probably order some from us. If you’re not local, you should find a Girl Scout.

2. They grow into girls of courage, confidence and character.

3. They are wildly creative.

4. They aren’t afraid of hard work. Girl Scouts work to earn merit badges and awards.

5. They are community minded. Girl Scouts will do millions of hours of volunteering and community service this year.

6. In a world where it can be so easy to tear each other down, Girl Scouts are a team. They support each other and help each other achieve goals.

7. They are leaders in their troops and in their communities.

8. They leave no trace.

9. Girl Scouts do fun activities and can even get patches for their uniforms that represent these fun activities.

10. They can be found in almost every city and community and all over the world.

Interested in being a part of this great organization as a volunteer or as a parent of a girl? Visit girlscouts.org to find your local council!

Pictures and video from this year’s Polar Bear Plunge! Jason looks forward to this every year. He’s the only Durham to brave it this year.

Last night:

Me: Know what?

Jason: What?

Me: If I had a magazine, you’d be it’s Person Of The Year!

Him: (in that sarcastic voice he reserves for talking about my blog) Well, you have a blog…

 

So, I present to you, my blog’s person of the year:

jason 19

 

Amazing husband, wonderful father, adventurous backpacker, dedicated friend, fearless leader, kayaker, biker, writer, smartass extraordinaire.

Here’s a gallery of some of the year’s best moments:

 

holy 001

 

At our house this year, we’ve gathered around fires a lot.

For Mother’s Day, I was given a firepit in the backyard. In our house, we have a fireplace.

There’s nothing quite like gathering around a fire with loved ones. It’s a tradition as old as…well, fire. In the winter, we gather in our living room and enjoy the warmth of our gas fireplace. It makes winter all the more bearable in my opinion.

 

A Decided Difference

December 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

I’ve mentioned before that my friend, LouAnn Clark, has a podcast and a website called “A Decided Difference.”

One day, when LouAnn is evenlouann more famous than she already is, I’m going to be able to say: “LouAnn Clark?!? I know her! I know her! She’s my friend!” (I may have just watched “Elf.”)

She gave me a shout-out in her podcast, released yesterday, and I just wanted to say hi to her readers and provide some links for my friends. LouAnn blogs, speaks and podcasts about coping with depression and anxiety and making healthy changes from right here in Henderson, KY. She has had many excellent insights into my own life and I’m grateful for the things she’s said to me in person or via a speech at Toastmasters or her podcast that have either comforted me or caused me to change my point of view.

Her website is louannclark.com

Her latest podcast is here.

She’s also been taking pictures and blogging using the Rethink Church list like I have been.

Check out her site and give her podcast a listen!

Sunday Dec 1 081

 

I am the Christmas Tree Sale Chairperson for BSA Troop 280 in Henderson, KY. This means that I coordinate most aspects of the tree sale, from the ordering to the scheduling shifts to the wringing my hands and worrying if the trees aren’t selling fast enough.

When the trees are delivered, they are bound in twine and netting. Obviously, this is for easier shipment and loading and unloading. It also ensures that the branches are not damaged during transport and all of the loading and unloading.

It’s pretty easy to unbind a Christmas Tree. The guys take their pocket knives and rip through the netting and twine and pull it all loose. The branches unfurl and the tree experiences freedom. The Scout will shake, shake, shake the tree and the branches begin to relax. Unbound, the tree returns to it’s beautifully created state. Unbound, the customers can see the tree for how it really is. Of course, this means that the customer can also spot any flaws in the tree, but that’s the price the tree pays for being unbound and free, I suppose.

I sometimes wonder what it must be like to have to bind a Fraser Fir or a Scotch Pine in twine and netting. To take what was beautifully free and wild and wrap it up tight for shipping and consumption. Do the branches protest? Surely it must be more difficult to bind than to unbind…

We’re sometimes bound creatures as well. We are bound by expectations or by trials. Bound by sin or by our own bad choices. Bound up tight with little or no ability to move.

Until we are set free. Until our netting and twine is ripped off and we can rest in the knowledge that we are now, once again, what we were created to be.

This is a season where I’m reminded once again that I have been set free by God’s good love and grace. I can be who God created me to be, flaws and all. I no longer have to be bound by expectations or by sin.

Thanks be to God.