Tuesday, June 23, 2015

War of Words - The Word in the Flesh (Chapter 3)

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." John 1:14

It's a good thing that God doesn't demand that we meet his standard for communication in our own strength, for we are utterly incapable of doing so! Our communication problems cannot be conquered with adequate skills, training, and vocabulary. No, our war of words is a spiritual battle, a heart issue, one that can only be won because the Living Word came to provide what we need to speak as he designed. Jesus provides the following resources in our struggle with our words:

1. Hope - Biblical hope is a confident expectation of a guaranteed result. "In him we can win the war of words. We do not have to settle for bitter, angry, destructive, divisive communication. . .No, we live and speak with faith and courage, believing that something better can be achieved because of what he has done." (p. 41)

2. Riches - Ephesians 1:15-23 says that we have glorious riches in Christ, everything we need to live and speak in a godly manner. "The Lord will never put you in a situation without giving you everything you need to do what he has called you to do."  (p. 43)

3. Power - "God hasn't issued us a series of grand and lofty directives and then sat back to see if we would obey them. No, he understands that our sin has rendered us powerless, and that we will not know what we need to know and cannot do what we need to do apart from him. . .The Word has made us his dwelling place so that we would have the power to speak as he designed." (p. 44)

4. Rule - We will never encounter a situation that is not under God's rule. Our words, though, often indicate that we are trying to control a situation to get what we want, rather than trusting in the Lord's will and purposes. Christ calls us to submit ourselves to him and live for his glory, not our own.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

War of Words - Satan Speaks (Chapter 2)

Since God created words and gave them to us to be used according to his
standard and design, why do we have such a difficult time speaking as he intended?  As with all our other sin, we look back to that fateful day in the Garden of Eden when Satan spoke (Genesis 3). "Into the perfect world of the Garden came the voice of the Serpent. For the first time, the position, the authority, and the very words of God were being challenged. For the first time, words were not consistent with God's standard and design. Satan spoke, and with his words the simple world of human communication became a confusing arena of sin and struggle. All of our trouble with talk has its roots here, in this dramatic moment of change in the Garden." (p. 20) Our communication legacy is now one including lies and deceit, false interpretations of life, and blame against God and mankind. No longer do we only reflect the image of God, but we also reflect the image of the Serpent. 

The book of James says that "the tongue is a small part of the body but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. . .no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be." (James 3:5-10)

There is a battle raging within us that manifests itself in the words we speak. Our words flow from the abundance of our hearts, and, when we speak, we are either imaging our Creator and Lord or we are imaging Satan. There is no neutrality. That is a sobering thought! But there is hope in the gospel! We are not left without help. His grace is sufficient to forgive us and deliver us from the sins of our hearts that flow to our tongues. 

Next chapter: The Word in the Flesh

Friday, June 12, 2015

War of Words

It's been a few years since I've led a ladies' Bible or book study, so I was excited to be
given the opportunity to do at our church this summer. The book selected for us is Paul David Tripp's War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles.The book is really a theology of words and how they reflect the condition of our hearts. It's often said that the teacher/leader is the one who benefits most, and, as I began reading, that became my hope for this study. I also decided this would be a good reason to revive my blog with some meaningful content, so I plan to journal here as I read through each chapter.

Paul David Tripp got my attention even in the Preface when he stated, "I have not written this book out of expertise, but out of desperation. I have told many people during the writing process that I did not write this book, it wrote me!" He is very candid about his own shortcomings with communication weaknesses, to the readers' benefit. I find myself often relating to his own examples and appreciate his godly insights. He wrote this book because each of us is waging a great battle in our hearts that manifests itself through our words. "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit -- you choose." Proverbs 18:21

I don't think any of us would have to think too far back into our past to

remember a time when our communication was less than loving and kind. More likely, we've been guilty of that several times during the course of this very day. Our war with words is not hopeless though. Tripp's desire is that "this book is meant to be a book of hope. It is a book about change, and that change is possible because of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word who is the only hope for our words! In him alone do we find victory in our own war of words." (p. 5)

By living out the gospel, we really can change our communication. God's plan is that our words would reflect His holiness. Man's dilemma is that we are sinful and have no ability to conquer our sin apart from Christ. If we are in Christ, he provides all the grace we need to repent and speak in the manner that pleases God. And we have the help of God's Word to teach us God's standard.

Our words are powerful and significant because God has ordained them to be so. The first words Adam heard were the words of God. God revealed himself through his gift of language. "God is not just a God who does, he is a God who speaks--powerfully, elaborately, consistently, comprehensively, and clearly to his people. . .God reveals what he is about to do; as he is working, he talks of what he is doing; and when he has finished, he interprets what he has done. . .Through his words God defines his character, his will, his plan and purpose, and his truth." (p. 9) God's words define and direct his creation as well. He tell us who we are, what he wants us to do and the manner in which he wants it done.

My take-away thought from the first chapter is that our words belong to the Lord because He is the Great Speaker. He, in essence, has loaned words to us so that we can talk with Him and others, and that we can also understand His truth. Godly communication is a high calling. "Every word we speak must be up to God's standard and according to his design. They should echo the Great Speaker and reflect his glory. When we lose sight of this, our words lose their only shelter from difficulty. Talk was created by God for his purpose. Our words belong to him." (p. 15)

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Rhine River Cruise - Amsterdam Day One

Amsterdam lived up to its reputation for sure - over 1200 bridges spanning beautiful canals, rain (180 rainy days per year!), and bicycles everywhere! City authorities estimate there are over 600,000 bicycles in the city.  Because of the narrow streets, canals, and lack of parking spaces, it's a major source of transportation. We found it interesting that we saw no one, I mean no one, wearing a helmet. And we were told that if there is a pedestrian/bicycle accident in the biking lane, the pedestrian is automatically at fault. Another interesting observation was that we saw very few overweight people. . .actually, that was true everywhere we visited. Europeans obviously benefit from their diet and natural exercise. And finally, we couldn't help but notice the height of the citizens of Amsterdam. Joel's brother Darren, standing at 6 foot 7 inches, did not stand out in the crowd! The women were also very tall, many in the 6 foot range. I guess the Netherlands is now the world's tallest country, but, interestingly, over 100 years ago, it ranked among the shortest. A number of studies have been done to explain the increase, and natural selections seems to be the most logical. Taller men were marrying taller women and having more than the average number of children.
Some of the "dancing houses" along the canal which are leaning as their pillar supports are shifting.
Houseboats (some not actually boats) have been added along the canals to provide more housing for the city's population.

Amsterdam is adding more bicycle parking barges to eventually accommodate over 50,000 additional parking spaces.

We were disappointed that our bicycle excursion into the countryside was cancelled due to rain, 
but we thoroughly enjoyed our time at De Zaansche - an industrial windmill village. 
Authentic windmills have been moved to this site, still operating and providing livings for the village residents. 

Changing the direction of the windmill blades of the paint mill.
One of the quaint homes

The village surrounding the windmills. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Rhine River Gorge - Castles and Villages

Castle day arrived at last! As we sailed the Rhine River Gorge, we were treated to pastoral landscapes, quaint villages, and numerous castles towering above the river. Some of the castles were in ruins, but several had been restored. Our cruise director shared interesting stories and history of the castles and surrounding areas. Shown below are a few of my favorites. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Rhine River Cruise - Mainz and Rudesheim

I guess if I HAD to pick a favorite day of our trip, this would be the one. During the morning we had a guided walking tour of Mainz, which included the cathedral (dating back to the 12th century), the Gutenberg Museum (and a Gutenberg Bible), and the Church of St. Stephen, known for its stunning stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall. After lunch, we sailed on to Rudesheim for an afternoon exploring one of Germany's best known wine towns. The community has an atmosphere of "cozy good cheer" - "gemutlichkeit" in German. After touring the Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments, we were treated to a cup of their special Rudesheim coffee (a blend of caramelized sugar, brandy, coffee, whipped cream, and chocolate), and then rode the chair lift up to the Niederwald Monument, which signifies the reunification of Germany in 1871. A leisurely stroll down the hill and through the vineyards ended our afternoon in this quaint German town. I hope to return some day!
Mainz Cathedral

Our tour guide demonstrating a Gutenberg printing press replica

A few of the Marc Chagall stained-glass windows in the Church of St. Stephen

In Rudesheim

Debbie and Darren overlooking Rudesheim, the Rhine River, and vineyards

Jeannette and Joel 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Rhine River Cruise - Our Day in Speyer and Heidelberg

Horse Chestnut Trees

On Tuesday morning, we had free time to roam the quaint city of Speyer, Germany, and, as we began our walk into town, we were greeted by these beautiful Horse Chestnut trees in full bloom. Not so common in the United States, but they seemed to be everywhere in Germany. I love their upright plumes.
Joel, Jeannette, Debbie, Darren

Also abundant in Europe were massive wisteria vines growing on walls, trellises, and buildings. So lovely! 
Jeannette in the front of the Rhemish Helm
History notes: The Romans established a fortress and settlement in Speyer during the 1st century A.D.  Pictured above is a portion (with some reconstruction) of the original fortification. 

Heidelberg Castle
Many of the cities we visited along the Rhine had historical significance for the Protestant Reformation. I can't hear Heidelberg without thinking of the catechism of the Reformed Church, published in 1563. Heidelberg is also famous for its magnificent castle, dating back to 1225 A.D. Most of the castle, along with the Old City, was destroyed by the army of Louis XIV in the last 1600s. The city was rebuilt in 1720. 
A reconstructed portion of the castle
View of Heidelberg from the castle courtyard

Friday, May 22, 2015

European Vacation - Strasbourg, France

Avalon Felicity
Cruising on a river is quite different than on large cruise ships. Avalon's Felicity hosts around 130 passengers, making for a much more intimate group of travelers. And unlike large cruise ships, river boats don't offer much in the way of entertainment. Think of the boat as a floating hotel, with the entertainment being on shore. But some of us consider food to be a great source of entertainment, and we were treated to an array of European fare reflecting the cuisine of each city visited. We were never bored. 

Petite France
Our first excursion was a boat ride through the canals of Strasbourg, France (the heart of Alsace Wine Country). We loved the winding canals and streets flanked by the half-timbered houses and shops of Petite France. 

Joel is front of the Strasbourg Cathedral

After the canal ride, we did a walking tour which included the Strasbourg Cathedral. The cathedral is the sixth tallest church in the world at 466 feet and is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture. One of the more interesting features is the astronomical clock housed at the rear of the cathedral.

Joel and I opted to do more exploring and shopping in Strasbourg in the afternoon, while Darren and Debbie visiting an area vineyard and village.

As the day ended, we set sail for our next port - Speyer, Germany. 

Astronomical Clock

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

European Vacation - Day One. . .and Two

Ready to leave home
After over a year of careful planning, our first trip to Europe for a Rhine River cruise became a reality. We were so excited on our day of departure as we drove to the Denver International Airport where we met our traveling companions, Joel's brother and sister-in-law, Darren and Debbie. But sometimes the best-laid plans go awry, and we found that our flight to Zurich via Iceland Air was cancelled due to the plane's mechanical problems. We were booked on the next flight three hours later, and we knew we were going to miss our connection in Reykjavik (Iceland) unless the airline decided to hold the plane. They didn't.  When we arrived in Iceland, we received the disappointing news that we wouldn't be leaving until the next morning, meaning we would miss our excursion to Mount Pilatus in the Swiss Alps. Bummer! The airline made "lemons into lemonade," however, as they put us up in the Hilton, fed us three scrumptious meals, and made us feel very welcome. The hotel even provided after dinner entertainment in the form of a local brass band - a fun evening!

A view of Reykjavik, Iceland

In the afternoon, we had time for a trip to the Blue Lagoon Spa and enjoyed the comfort of geo-thermal springs. The weather that day was a cloudy 45 degrees, and the life guards were wearing parkas, but we were toasty warm in the 100 degree mineral water. Surprising to us, Iceland has much to offer tourists, and we just might choose to make that a layover destination on a future trip.

Debbie and I are in the middle of the photo.

The next morning, we flew to Frankfort to catch a short connection to Zurich. As we made our way through the Frankfort Airport, we recognized American music playing loudly over a sound system. . .Elvis' Burning Love! We got off the escalator and rounded a corner to see that, not only was it Elvis music, it was an Elvis impersonator entertaining a crowd!  I guess there is no escaping them!  ;)

The Rhine River had experienced high water from rain and melting snow in the days leading up to our cruise, so the cruise line changed our departure location from Basel, Switzerland to Strasbourg, France. A two hour bus trip through the French countryside was the next leg of our journey. We were so thankful when we finally set foot on the boat, and felt both relieved and eager for the amazing week ahead. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Biking Obsession

I have to admit it became an obsession. As part of our weight loss program (begun last year), Joel and I decided we would get our exercise through bicycling. It was innocent enough at the beginning - ride for 30 minutes or so a few times a week.  Then January came, and I was bitten by the New Year's resolution bug.  I had to have a goal, and 1000 miles seemed like a good attainable distance.

As spring rolled around with warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, we extended our riding time and increased our speed. We followed a daily route through surrounding neighborhoods, switching it up by either going "frontwards" or "backwards." And at the end of each ride, we recorded the distance traveled. We were driven, and the closer we got to reaching the goal, the more biking became work for me, not a source of joy as it had been in the beginning. After we surpassed the 1000 miles at the end of August, I reduced my bike riding to a pace that is once again pleasurable. No more goal setting; I want to keep it in perspective - and fun! 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Why Read?

If you've been reading my blog for some length of time, you know I love
books. But that hasn't always been the case. I wasted way too much time as a child glued to the television, indiscriminately watching game shows, variety shows, sitcoms, and even boring fishing shows (when Dad controlled the television knob). Sadly, I usually only picked up a book to complete an assigned book report.  Mark Twain said, "A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read," so, as an adult, I've been purposeful in making up for lost time, loving every minute of it. 

I am thankful to be a member of a book club, sharing the love of literature with other like-minded women. Along with the monthly selection, we are working our
way through Honey for a Woman's Heart by Gladys Hunt, a guide to good books and the joy of reading. In the first chapter, the author develops her philosophy of reading. She says we read to feel life; authors' expressions of feelings cause our own spirits to soar. We read for pleasure; "Learning to see, to laugh, and to enjoy encounter with others is reason enough to read. The world has comedy built into it; the ridiculous is but to be explored." (p. 26) We read to learn. Good books give us information and perspective not only on history and those who have influenced the world, but on humanity and differing worldviews.

Books develop our hearts.

Gladys Hunt writes, "Life has a story-shape. Stories are built into the very structure of the universe.  A good writer takes the materials of our experience and makes it into a story and helps us understand. . .The Great Story of the universe can be told in many forms, and when it is told well it involves you and me, and makes us see that our lives are stories too.  The stories always involve a view of truth and what we will make of the choices given us. . .There are many reasons to read.  Read as a way to work through problems in real life; read as a way of celebrating your joys, read for enjoyment, read for entertainment, read because you love beauty. Read to savor your memories." (p. 29) 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What's for Dinner?

Even if you're not a big fan of sauerkraut, you might enjoy this recipe for Polish Kraut and Apples. The recipe was given to me years ago by a sweet, older, dyed-in-the-wool Polish woman, and it's become one of our favorite Fall dishes.  The apples, brown sugar, and apple juice provide a balancing sweetness to the kraut - very tasty!


1 can 14 oz. sauerkraut, rinsed and drained 

1 lb. full cooked polish sausage or kielbasa, cut in thin slices

3 tart apples, peeled and cut into slices

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 t. caraway seed (optional)

1/8 t. pepper

3/4 cup apple juice

Place half of the kraut in a slow cooker.  Top with sausage, apples, brown sugar, caraway seeds, and pepper.  Add remaining kraut.  Poor apple juice over all; cover and cook for 4 - 5 hours or until apples are tender.  Stir halfway through cooking time.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

If It Looks Like Rome. . .

From blogger A Daughter of the Reformation:

"I’m not sure why so many Catholic practices are finding their way into Reformed Presbyterian churches. It seems to me that these things have the “feel” of worship, and maybe that is the attraction. Maybe there is boredom or discontent with our own traditions. Maybe there is a desire to “do church” differently. Whatever the reason, maybe we should stop and reconsider. All of these things are part of a religious tradition that our spiritual ancestors broke away from."

Read her complete blog post discussing the trends here.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Cheap Grace

"Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God.  An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. . .no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin.  Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.  Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner.  Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before."

"Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."  

~quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Lord, forgive us for those times when we love our sin more than we love and value you and our redemption purchased with the blood of Christ.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Homemade Vanilla Extract

A couple years ago, we received homemade vanilla extract as a Christmas gift, and I discovered how amazingly simple it is!  The only items needed are vanilla beans, vodka, bottles with caps or corks, and time. I ordered Madagascar vanilla beans online (getting a better price on a larger quantity of beans).

With a sharp knife, I cut a long slit the length of each bean, leaving about 1/4" at each end, and placed the beans in washed bottles (using 3 to 4 beans per 8 ounces of vodka).  I poured the vodka into the bottles, completely covering the beans. After placing the cork in the bottles, I placed them in a cool, dark location.  The vanilla should be ready to use in about eight weeks, but additional time will provide a more intense vanilla flavor.  

After I add pretty labels, the homemade vanilla will be ready to be given as gifts to friends and family. 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Quotable Thomas Watson

"The devil blows the coals of passion and discontent, and then warms himself by the fire.  Oh, let us not nourish this angry viper in our breast."

Friday, February 07, 2014

Idols of the Heart

 "The human heart is an idol factory...Every one of us from our mothers womb is an expert in inventing idols"  ~ John Calvin

I recently heard one of my favorite Bible teachers say that if you're wondering what your idols are, just reflect on what you usually think about as soon as you wake up in the morning and right before you fall asleep at night. Those are the times when we are alone with our thoughts. We are free to dwell on matters of our own choosing, so naturally our thoughts will drift to those things which are important to us, or maybe even control us.

Scripture has much to say about the practice of idolatry, and, although Christians don't worship graven images of other "gods," we certainly are prone to create attachments to things in the world that replace the affections for our Heavenly Father. I John 5:21 states "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."  The Lord desires, even commands, that we love him above all else and look to him to as a child would to an earthly parent. He alone can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. I believe that is why we should start and end our days reflecting on the Lord and his goodness.

When the alarm clock sounds, my tendency is to race through my mental list of people to see, places to go, and things to do. But Psalm 5:3 says, "My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up."  I love this verse. It's a reminder to start my day by thanking him for his faithfulness that is new every morning. I also pray that, by "looking up," I will remember that each moment and situation of the day will pass through his sovereign hands. The Lord is working all things together for my good and his glory. It's my desire to faithfully walk through the day in a manner worthy of his love for me.

Likewise, when we I put my head on the pillow, my impulse is to mull over the day's pleasures, accomplishments, irritations, failures, disappointments, etc. It's not necessarily wrong to do so, but I know I have a loving Heavenly Father who is always waiting for me to bring those cares before his throne of grace. I am faced with either trusting in my own wisdom and strength, a form of idolatry, or obediently casting all my burdens on him, and thanking him for. . .well, everything!  What a blessing it is to drift off to sleep after a time of worshipping my Lord.

"Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord." Psalm 4:4b-5

Friday, January 31, 2014

Quotable John Calvin

The cross makes for discipline:

"That we may not become haughty when we acquire wealth; that we may not become proud when we receive honors; that we may not become insolent when we are blessed with prosperity and health, the Lord himself, as he deems fit, uses the cross to oppose, restrain, and subdue the arrogance of our flesh.

And he does this by various means which are useful and wholesome for each of us. For we are not all equally afflicted with the same disease or all in need of the same severe cure.  This is the reason why we see different persons disciplined with different crosses.  The heavenly Physician takes care of the well-being of all his patients; he gives some a milder medicine and purifies others by more shocking treatments, but he omits no one; for the whole world, without exceptions, is ill (Deut. 32:15)."  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Refrigerator Ever-Ready Rolls

A friend who is a caterer gave me this wonderful roll dough recipe. I prefer the flavor and texture of these rolls over a traditional bread dough for making bierrocks, cheeseburger or breakfast pockets. Very yummy!

Refrigerator Ever-Ready Rolls

1 T. rapid rise yeast
1 cup warm water - 110 to 115 degrees
2 tsp. sugar

Dissolve first three ingredients and set aside.

2 cups very warm water
1 1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
8 cups flour

Add the remaining ingredients to the first three and mix by hand or with mixer for approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Turn out into a greased bowl and allow to double in size. Punch down and either make your rolls or refrigerate dough for up to two weeks and use as desired.  

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes.