Created to Create #2

I didn’t want to let September go by without sharing some of the pages I did from the “Created to Create #2” kit from Illustrated Faith.

I’ve been pondering some of the questions from the devotional…

What are your goals for your art?

At an Illustrated Faith event in Virginia, I heard Shanna Noel encourage everyone to share their Bible journaling on social media.  She said:  “Maybe your art is beautiful and inspiring or maybe you are the one that helps others realize they can do this.”  When I heard the second part of her sentence, I thought, “Yes! I want to encourage others to try Bible Journaling.”  I would encourage anyone, regardless of artistic ability, to just enjoy the process!

(I’ve been using this kit together with my Inspire Bible with line art to color.)

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What are my joys?

It’s a joy for me to spend time in the Word and to be more aware of God’s presence as I spend time in the Word.  Responding to the Bible in creative ways helps me reconnect with how I first experienced the Bible as a child in Sunday school, in a loving and devoted way.

I also enjoy supporting the creative efforts of others; I have fun using the devotional kits and printable pages that artists make.  I especially love when I do a devotional created by someone else and it turns out to be just what I needed to hear or helps me understand a passage more deeply.

(In the passage below, I picked some Pitt Artist brush pens to match the color scheme for the kit.  I’ve been reluctant to use markers in my Bible, so I was surprised to discover that these really don’t bleed.  Colored pencils work wonderfully, but if you like markers, these are a good choice.)

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Here’s the backside of the page colored with the Pitt Artist Brush Pens.

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What is your idea behind what Bible journaling means to you?

For me personally, Bible Journaling is just a fun and relaxing way to spend time in the Word.  The creative process helps me to focus on the passage, to make it personal to me, so that I can live into the Word in my daily life.

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How does my Bible Journaling glorify our amazing Father?

From a young age, I learned that our purpose in life is to bring glory to God and enjoy God’s presence forever.  I know that Bible journaling helps me enjoy God’s presence and I hope that it brings glory to God.  God has given us the gift of a Bible, a book that has spoken to countless generations telling the story of God’s people and our savior Jesus Christ.  When my children look through my Bible, they can tell how important it is to me.  They can see the verses that spoke to me.  My Bible journaling demonstrates that the Bible is not just a book on the shelf, but the book that shapes who I am as a person.

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It’s hard to believe that three years have gone by since I first started Bible journaling (and this blog–I just renewed the domain name).  At the time, I wasn’t sure how to begin, what supplies to use, what pens wouldn’t bleed.  My first Bible is filled with trial and error!

Now that Bible journaling has exploded, it is easy to find all kinds of supplies.  Illustrated Faith offers washi tape, stickers, stamps, and tip-ins.  Michaels sells supplies for Bible journaling.  You can buy introductory books on the subject.  When I started, there were only a few Bibles to choose from when I started and now there are many Bibles like the Inspire Bible, with line art to color.  New Bibles are coming out with thicker pages!  See the new Inspire Bible and this Bible from Crossway.  I started with a Bible, some pens, and a few stickers.  Now my craft supply area is overflowing with fun supplies to inspire me to spend more time in the Bible.  I almost can’t keep up!  I can’t wait to start the next kit!  I’m so proud to be a “Word Nerd”!

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Inspire Coloring Books

The Inspire coloring books are a fun addition (or alternative to) Bible Journaling.  The pages are thick like other adult coloring books and work wonderfully with markers and colored pencils. Bleedthrough is not a concern!  Pictured below is Inspire Proverbs and Inspire Psalms.

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Each of the above books contain the text of the whole book from the Bible in the New Living Translation with pictures to color and room to journal.  Some verses have whole-page coloring pages.

Here’s an uncolored page from Proverbs:

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Other verses are illustrated in the margins.  This is from Psalms…

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The pages are often very detailed.  Coloring the page below took me as long as it typically does to do three or four entries in my journaling Bible.  Still, I really loved meditating on this verse, especially after my recent self care dare.  For Christmas last year, I received some Faber Castell Artist pens, which I used for this page.

IMG_7860 I love to collect motivational/inspirational quotes, so I’m going to add quotes to the margin space and pictures in my Proverbs book.  If I put them all in one place I can find them again!

I may add the lyrics to my favorite Christian songs to the book on Psalms.

As I colored the verse “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body” on the page above, I kept thinking of the Reiki precepts:

If only for today…

  • I will not worry.
  • I will not get angry.
  • I will be grateful.
  • I will work diligently.
  • I will be kind to other people.

Reiki is a form of alternative healing that can be practiced with traditional medicine; all of the above are considered “good medicine for any illness.”  It’s easy to see why!

I was thinking about how worry and anger are both forms of discontentment.  Worry and anger are not effective responses; the best thing they can do is tell us that there’s a problem.  Then we have to make a choice about how to move forward.  There are two remedies:  1) Change the situation (work diligently) or 2) Change perspective (practice gratitude).  Sometimes it’s not a choice:  once we have done everything we can do, we may have resort to a change in perspective.

The serenity prayer just popped in my head:  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.  (The key is the wisdom to know the difference!)

Putting all these thoughts into practice, along with practicing kindness to others, leads to a peaceful heart.  And as Solomon says, a peaceful heart is good for the body!  The wonderful thing about the Reiki precepts: it’s enough to put these in practice, just for today!  It’s ok if you were bad at putting them into practice yesterday and as Jesus says:  “Do not worry about tomorrow; the problems of the day are sufficient!”

In some ways, coloring can be more relaxing than journaling.  My favorite thing about working on the page above is that my own kids and some neighbors sat down to color with me.  One of life’s great joys for me is talking and coloring!

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Self Care Dare

I love that the Jewish New year, Rosh Hashanah, is in the Fall.  I think the fall is such a good time to start fresh:  it’s a new year for school and a great time to start a new routine.  For the past two weeks, I have completely changed my morning routine and today with its “New Year” energy seems like a good day to share what I’ve been up to.

Here’s the big change in my life:  I’ve been waking up an hour before my kids and spending the first moments of the morning in peace and quiet with my Bible.  Waking up and spending a little peace and quiet time with God gives me more peace throughout the whole day.  And everything in life goes better if we have more peace!  (Especially our mornings!!!)  Starting my day with Jesus and coffee has taken me from “Rise and Whine” to “Rise and Shine”!

If you need some encouragement to care for yourself, to rest, or to stop worrying, read on!!!  Two weeks of daily Bible Journaling produced a lot of pictures!

I’m not sure how to tell the story of what brought about the big change, so I just share the real sequence of events….

Around the time my youngest daughter started kindergarten, I watched this video on Facebook…

On the first day of school, I came home and made my bed.  After listening to the Admiral, I made my bed really well.  I put brand new sheets on and arranged the pillows.  And cried and cried and cried.  I laid down on the bed when it was made and cried some more.  I’ve been making my bed every day since (without all the tears!).

I guess nobody can tell you how you will feel when your youngest child starts kindergarten.  It’s a huge life change to go from being a mama of littles to a mom of big kids.  I had that feeling everyone warns you about as you are holding your tiny infant:  “It goes so fast.”  I also just cried because I haven’t had time to make my bed before noon in years.

It’s taken me some time to unpack my emotions that day.  At least part of the puzzle was intense tears of contrition for all the little things that I’ve let go (like making my bed).  And as Admiral William McRaven says:  “The little things in life matter.”  Little things, like getting enough sleep, eating nourishing food, spending time in the Word, getting exercise (beyond just chasing kids!), making our living space more welcoming.  I get that it was just a season of my life, but as I move from one season to another I was surprised by how quickly my priorities shifted back to little things, especially toward caring for myself.

Somebody who has taught me so much about caring for myself and using my time well is Holly Rigsby.  She posted a video on Facebook about how she makes her bed in the morning and shared that she was going to host a “Take Back Your Morning Challenge” on Facebook.  So I signed up!  And about the same time Illustrated Faith offered a printable called “Self Care Dare.”  Everything started coming together…

One of the things, that I love about Holly is that she often teaches by asking quesitons.  For example, she doesn’t describe her dream morning, but asks:  “What does your morning look like and what would you look like it to look like?”  Truth-be-told, my mornings were chaotic, usually beginning with kids jumping on me and pulling me out of bed, and the word “quiet” came to mind when I thought of what I wanted.  Focusing on that one word, “quiet” set everything else into motion for me.  Maybe another person would prefer “energetic” or “productive”, but for me waking up slowly and alone is a good thing!

The next morning, I set my alarm for 6:00 AM, with the idea that I might actually get up by 6:30, and I would have a little quiet.  But I woke up right away and then I was like, “Now what?”  How do I want to use this quiet time?  Well, one of my favorite things to do is color in my Inspire Bible, so that’s what I did…I started with one of the recommended verses in the Self Care Dare printable.  It was a strange experience to wake up and read an invitation to rest, but I sure enjoyed the peace and quiet and a little time to play before the day starts.

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Holly encouraged us to map our morning, plan it out.  I found that it was even easier to wake up the next morning, knowing that I would enjoy the first few moments of the day.  The next day felt like waking up on Christmas as I journaled more about rest and played with one of my gelatos.

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In one of her morning pep talks, Holly says we can either “Rise & Shine” or “Rise & Whine.”  (Most of my life, I’ve been in the “Rise & Whine category.)  According to Holly, there are two major reasons why mornings are tough:  Sleep deprivation and attitude.  For a long time, sleep deprivation was the issue for me, especially with little ones in the house.  But that problem resolved itself, so I need to fix my attitude about mornings.  Holly says:  “Life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change.”  It’s been a good change for me to start the day with Jesus, his Word, and some grace…

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One of the suggested Bible passages for the self-care dare was 1 Corinthians 19:  “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?”

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Throughout the years, I have seen so many people use the above verse as motivation for fitness and weight loss.  I’ve always silently objected.  Paul didn’t say lift weights and eat right, he said don’t have inappropriate sex.  As I worked on the page above, I wondered if maybe I should explore the topic more deeply.  I thought “Maybe I should read all the verses in the Bible about the Temple and to appreciate this verse more fully.”

So I printed the verses out after finding them on Bible Gateway and copying them into a Word document…As I read through the verses, I could see some parallels between the temple of the Bible and our own bodies:  There are times we build up, times we neglect, times we take things into our temple that we shouldn’t, times we restore and rebuild.

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I picked another verse to journal…I focused on the passage about the pillars of the temple named Jachin and Boaz because I was thinking about the pillars of self-care.

Holly shares that the best practices of a morning routine fall into three categories:  movement, mindset and nourishment.  She calls this the trifecta of a good morning to supercharge your mood, energy, and momentum for the day.  From my notes:

  1. Movement is life; movement is energy.  In the morning, stretch or take a walk, or both.
  2. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.  Read something inspirational every morning.
  3. Each and every time you eat or drink is an opportunity to nourish your body.  The simplest starting point is the first thing that goes into your body.  Wake up and drink a glass of water!

 

More quotes from Holly:

  • Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day.
  • Don’t strive for perfection, but shoot for daily continuous improvement.

I decided to work all these thoughts into an illustration of “my temple.”

I wondered if it was ok to put three pillars instead of two as described in the Bible.  I thought “That’s probably fine.”

The thought occurred to me, “The middle pillar is you.”  Then I had an epiphany “Oh, you have to have the mindset to balance the nutrition you take in with the movement you give out to keep the temple in good shape.”  For a moment or two, I may have gotten lost in some sort of mystical moment, thinking about contrasting energies represented by Jachin and Boaz.

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One of the things that I love about Holly is that she can speak tough truth.  She calls it the “shoulder shake” we all need from time to time.  These words hit me hard….

You cannot be too busy for you.  You will always have time for the things you put first, and for all the busy, frazzled moms out there, you have to put yourself first because the quality of what you give will decline if you are not replenishing and restoring your reserves.  It is not selfish.  There is not reason to feel guilt…If you claim to be super mom and everything to everyone, but you are not taking care of yourself than what everything and everyone is getting from you is crap. -Holly Rigsby

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In many ways, taking care of yourself is a prerequisite to loving God and others…(my page from the next morning.)

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A big part of self-care, of course, is watching your own self-talk.  It is so important to talk to ourselves, the way we would talk to someone we love.  I loved this little reminder from the Illustrated Faith Self-Care Dare…It didn’t quite fit on the page where I thought it belonged, so I just wrote the message where there was room on the page.

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I’ve been following Holly for about six years.  I was first drawn to her fitness program, but I quickly discovered her most helpful advice was about how to manage time better.  She taught me that productivity means doing the right things at the right time.  For example, there are times during the day where an e-mail can be written in 20 minutes and times when takes 3 hours because of foreseeable interruptions.  If it’s important, get it done when it’s possible and save yourself some frustration.  During times when your not as productive, lighten up.  She says almost everyone has three power blocks during the day.  Know ahead of time how you will use them.  As Holly says, “You don’t need more time.  You need more reason to use your time well.”  I never learned to love “15-minute intense interval workouts,” but this wisdom has made all the difference in my life.  During some of my lighten-up moments of the day, I colored this page from Habakkuk.

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One morning, Holly talked extensively about mindset.  She shared that the quickest way to improve our mindset is to practice gratitude.  It’s impossible to feel grumpy while remembering things you are truly grateful for.  She suggests just taking five minutes in the morning and again in the evening to write down three things that bring about feelings of gratitude.  It never occurred to me that gratitude is as form of self-care until Holly Shared this quote from Melodie Beattie, author of Co-dependent No More:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

I love this quote, so it found its way into my Bible next to the verse:  “Give thanks.”

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As Holly discussed attitude, she asked the question:  “What do you need to let go?”  We all have hurts and sorrows and frustrations in life.  Holly reminded me, “You have survived 100% of your worst days.”  Sometimes, we need to rest in God’s promise…

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When I asked myself the question, “What do I need to let go of?”, I found that there was a conversation I needed to have.  I kept going round and round in my head wondering why someone had a change of mind about something.  It would be easy enough to just ask the person (so that I could stop asking myself the same question over and over again).  I had a good conversation and gained some clarity and felt better…

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I thought I let it go on Friday, but on Monday, I had another conversation about the same topic with someone else.  I became really worried that I was misunderstood, not just a little bit worried, but obsessively so.  Maybe it was the death throws of letting something go, but I wrote three letters I never sent, one in the middle of the night when I had terrible insomnia.  I was seriously annoying myself and I found myself distressed that I was distressed.

Some people have eating binges on a diet, but I had a full-blown, worry binge while making so much progress on feeling more at peace in life.  (Life is never a straightforward path!–Something else I learned from Holly.)

At moments like this I think of a quote by Hermann Melville that always makes me laugh:

Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.

I realized that I have a deep-seated fear of being misunderstood.  I also realized that as part of my self-care dare, I need to address this tendency to worry obsessively.

I woke up early again the next morning.  I couldn’t just jump out of bed because I had such trouble sleeping, but at 7:00 I got out of bed, drank some water, and did some stretches; I started feeling better.  It was a new day!  I had a little time to color in my Bible, too.

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That night I went to a Bible Journaling workshop taught by my friend Tess Crawford. She taught a devotion on Paul’s speech to the Athenians regarding the unknown God from Acts.  She asked us how we would live differently if we had a full awareness of God’s presence with us.  I said that “I would worry less. God only told me in Scripture not to worry about 100 times.”  Everyone laughed.  This is the page I did that night.  It’s good to be reminded that God is always with us.  The beautiful tip-in was created by my friend Tess Crawford of “Recess with Jesus.”

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While I was at the Bible Journaling workshop, which was in a Lifeway store, I bumped into a retired pastor from my church, who is fond of saying “There are no coincidences!”.  He sat down and flipped through my Bible.  He talked through numerous scriptures and it’s always a joy to listen to him illuminate the text.  At some point in our conversation he told me “You know Oswald Chambers says that worry is irritation with God.”  I responded, “That helps me right now because I’ve been struggling with some anxiety.”  He went searching for Oswald Chambers’ book If You Will Ask and gave me a reminder:  “God is in charge.”  (It seems every time I share a problem with a Presbyterian minister, I receive a book to read!  This is a good one on prayer.)

The next morning this quote found its way into my Bible.

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Toward the end of my challenge I ran out of pieces in the Self Care Dare printable. I couldn’t decide if I should do “Thrive” or “Sleeping Beauty” next, so I combined some paper pieces from both.  I love the page below because it summarizes so much of what I’ve learned over the past few weeks.

 

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I stumbled upon this quote from Brene Brown over the course of my two-week challenge:

Creativity embeds knowledge so that it can become practice. We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands. We are born makers, and creativity is the ultimate act of integration — it is how we fold our experiences into our being… The Asaro tribe of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea has a beautiful saying: “Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.”

Weaving together Bible Jouranling with a 10-day course on how to have a better morning helped integrate so many lessons in self-care so that they are now living in my muscle!

I am embracing the Jewish new year.  I am going to stick with a few small changes:  Waking up on purpose and spending some quiet time with God and making my bed as soon as possible.   After just making these few changes for two weeks, I’m feeling inspired to also eat better and move more, to speak kindly to myself, to practice gratitude, to let go of anything that steals my joy, and to stop worrying!

One more quote from Holly:  “What you do today will improve all your tomorrows.”

L’shanna tova!

What happens when the Bible Margins meet an Accounting Professor…?

Thank you Lisa Nichols Hickman for this guest post!

This was just the question I had to answer this past week when asked to serve at the funeral for an accounting professor at our local college.

In his office of forty years, tucked onto his desk – was a Bible filled with margin notes regarding accounting in the Bible:

2 Chronicles 24:11-12 discusses how the Israelites practiced the dual custody of assets as an internal control measure.

Micah 7:5-6 provides a rationale for internal controls.

Luke 14:29-29 outlines the lack of a budgeting process.

Luke and Matthew share the value of surprise audits.

2 Kings 12:16 speaks of fraud and the lack of financial accounting.

Also, extended teaching on financial resources in Matthew 25 and Luke 16.

Can you believe all these verses – and more – were highlighted in his Bible?

The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, fewer than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money. Sixteen of 38 parables are about money. One in every ten verses in the Gospels is about finances. In fact, 15 percent of everything Jesus ever taught was on the topic of money and possessions-more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined.

As I lingered over these texts this week, I realized two things regarding the Bible’s discussion of money…

First, we think the story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is a story of creation, the fall, redemption in Christ, and living into a new creation of the kingdom of God. We don’t often think of the salvation story having to do with investments or accounting.

But the Bible is concerned with accounting concepts, internal control procedures, and financial management – because these good and wise measures create space and the right ordering of life – so there can be much more room for love of neighbor, love of God. When things are decent and in order – there is gracious space for loving and living and worshiping God.

Second, Jesus tells a different story than balanced books. He spoke of trusting God enough to be generous.

Another verse circled in the accountant’s Bible was Matthew 19:16-31 – the story of the rich young ruler.

The rich man thought he had his accounts in order – and then in this conversation with Jesus he experiences a crazy upheaval.

For all the balanced budgets throughout so much of scripture – here is a moment of throwing out the spread sheet.

This is a story that bears witness to a kingdom making generosity through an upheaval of all of life’s savings…Here s a radical act of accounting that has impact for eternal life.

I share the story of this professor’s Bible – because what I love about the Bible is that its depth and breadth creates room for everyone – even an accountant! The order of wise and right bookkeeping made sense to this professor, but also, and even more importantly – kingdom generosity made sense as well!

If you wish to explore these and more texts on money, right accounts and generosity – you might try some money stickers (as in the picture below), ledger stickers,  or numbers stamps.

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You might also consider leaving a trail of dollar signs – marking all the times in scripture – God invites us to reflect on our relationship to our financial resources so that we can be in right relationship with God and neighbor.

 

Praying

Praying for troubled times:  Hurricane Harvey and flooding in Houston, flooding in Asia, fires in the Northwest, an earthquake in Mexico, Monster Hurricane Irma making its way to Florida, Hurricane Jose following close behind.

I know that by early next week, our country will be a different place, the landscape changed and people in new places.  I’m praying for everyone right now, especially those that are travelling out of harm’s way.  I can only imagine how stressful and uncomfortable that must be.

This morning I found myself opening the Bible to Psalm 46.  The verse “Be still and know that I am God” is good to remember in the midst of troubles.

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Praying Christ’s words over everyone facing storms. Jesus is always near those in the midst of storms.

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Praying for Texas

It’s hard to know how to write about a flood as big as Harvey.  I tried reading every verse in Bible about water to gain some understanding from a faith perspective.  I was reminded that in the beginning it was just God and water:  “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”  When we see a flood, we can be reminded that the Spirit of God is hovering over the waters still and creating something new.  I read the story of Noah:  when God destroyed life on earth due to the evil of the time, he did so with water not fire, which is a powerful reminder of how devastating floods can be.  I read the stories of Moses, how water played a role in his rescue as a baby, and how as a grown up he was given power to control the waters.  When we see the devastation caused by water, we realize how completely powerless we are over water when it’s moving where we don’t expect (just try stopping the flow of water from a faucet with your thumb!).  We also gain new appreciation for Moses and also for Jesus calming the storm and walking on water.   I read the stories scattered throughout the Old Testament about finding water (and love) at wells.  We need water to live and yet we are not prepared to live in it!  In Psalms, water is mostly associated with flourishing, but there all also cries of anguish from moments of peril caused by too much water.  By passing through the waters of baptism, we are joined with the church in Christian fellowship and life will be different going forward.  I know an event like Harvey draws people together in unexpected ways and will change lives for many going forward.

As an ordinary person just wondering what to make of this from a faith perspective, I found plenty of verses in the Bible about God and His role in it all:  “He who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them upon the surface of the earth–the Lord is his name.”-Amos 9:6.  I read accounts of floods in the Bible as both trials and judgment, and after pondering this for some time, I reached the conclusion that the response to a crisis like Harvey determines whether the problem was experienced as a judgment or a trial.  When a flood shows the strength of character and the genuineness of faith and the love for neighbor of those who experience it, then a flood is another one of life’s many trials.  Jesus promises us in this world we will have troubles, and God promises:  “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”-Isaiah 43:2.

I was thinking about the distinction between a time of trial and a time of evil.  When we say the Lord’s prayer:  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we are really praying that we don’t want either!!!  Don’t bring me to a time of trial and save me from the evil one!  In Christ, we are called to come alongside others in their trials and to stand against evil.  When God brings us to a time a trial, we are never supposed to go through it alone.  Unlike a time where evil happens, there’s nothing to fight; we just work together.  I give God thanks for the many ways that people have been moved to help others through this experience.

I was surprised to find my very favorite passage on water and floods in Song of Solomon:

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A quality of water is that it reflects our image back to us.  Below is just a few of the images I saw that reflect what was happening of the hearts of those in Texas.

I admit that often see news first on Facebook, especially on weekends.  And the first moment I realized that Houston had flooded was seeing a picture on Facebook of a street with the water level up to the stop sign from the front door of Brene Brown (the awesome author of Daring Greatly and Rising Strong).  Facebook can make the news more personal, more real, and this post grabbed me.  (Brene’s next post was from a shelter, where she volunteered her skills as a social worker to help with intake.  She posted a video to raise awareness about what people at the shelter needed–fresh underwear!  Three days later, she posted that 20,000 pairs of underwear arrived at a shelter housing 10,000.)

After the post above, I turned on CNN (TV at our home is a rare occasion.)

I watched as an elderly man was rescued from his home…I was touched by the compassion the News Reporter showed for this family.

I listend to Anderson Cooper talk with members of Team Rubicon, a group of volunteer veterans who share their skills and experiences with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.  I was just filled with gratitude to know these guys exist and could be there so quickly!  (His interview begins at about 58 seconds into this video…)  It was heartening to hear about the Cajun navy and volunteers with boats working along side our Coast guard to get people to safety in a hurry.

Later in the week, I read the story of some bakers who were trapped at work by the storm, so they just kept baking.  By simply doing what they knew how to do, they were able to provide food for first responders.

 

In all this mess, perhaps nobody seems more big-hearted that Matress Mack, who opened his furniture showroom to those displaced by the flood.  He took care of people, made them comfortable, and fed them good food.  He opened his doors wide and chose love over fear.  And the delight, especially on the face of the children, says it all.

While some people jump into action, others need a moment to take in what happened.  I’ve watched this video of a man playing hauntingly beautiful music on the piano in his flooded living room about 10 times.  The message he shared in his Instagram post is more beautiful than the music.  From his own heart-felt, authentic response, he offered hope in the midst of trouble and encouragement to others.

I went back to our street today because as you guys have probably seen the water has come back with a vengeance. I hope this was its high point. I grabbed the kids' favorite stuffed animals that we had left behind and a couple of games to keep the kids occupied. I think it's all finally sinking in a little. What we used to have going as a city is gone. I really think God is going to do something completely new here. I am excited to see the new beauty in the suffering. Our pastor @bruce_wesley reminded us of that truth from Romans 8 this morning on his Facebook Live broadcast. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:18-28‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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Then I saw the story of a woman, who said she wanted so badly to help, but didn’t know how.  she said, “I can use my voice.”   She simply goes to a shelter to lift some spirits…

I feel so grateful to all these people, whose hearts were moved to do what they could do:  compassionate news reporters and veterans who used their advanced rescue skills and a famous author who returned to her social work skills and bakers who made food for first responders and the owner of a furniture store show room and a reflective pianist and an outgoing singer.  And it is inspiring to me to know that these people were able to help others simply by being in right place and using the resources and skills and wisdom available to them.  This is how we see the hands and feet of God and how we experience God’s promise in concrete ways that he is always with us in deep waters.  The best way that we can help others in times of trial is do well what God has created us do:  pray and give as our hearts leads us to do.   There’s a long road ahead for those affected by this flood.  Texas, I am with you in my thoughts and prayers.  You will rise strong!

Wherever you may live, there are people facing storms in their personal lives.  Be present and give of yourself!

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