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"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Monday, December 31, 2012

Do You Feel it, Too? (On Why We Write)

A little teary-eyed pouring out these thoughts here today . . .


When he returns my email with unexpected compliments, I think about it:

Why I was afraid to check my inbox for his response.

Why I was afraid to send the message in the first place.

Why I tremble even when someone listens in on me practicing.

Why I love the last verse of this song.


I say often that I write because I need to,

Because I can't help it,

And that's true.

It's very true.

But there's another reason I write, too.

It's because I feel alone.

Because I'm afraid that,

In spite of everything I've heard,

In spite of everything I believe,

No one else feels what I'm feeling.


So I write.

I pour out my heart on hundreds of pages that no one else will ever set eyes on,

But somewhere,

Deep down,

I'm hoping that someone will see,

And that someone will say,

"You're not alone.

I feel it, too."


Every night, I write a song.

Most of them are really bad,

Scribbled down hurriedly because I need to go to bed sometime before 2 AM,

But I put myself into all of them,

All six hundred nine of my attempts

To process life,

This world,

These feelings,

And try to convince myself I'm not alone.


I put so much self into them that,

If people don't like them,

It's hard not to feel like they don't like me,

But,

Even more than that,

It's hard not to feel that I am alone,

That no one else understands any of this mess I'm struggling through,

That I've made myself vulnerable and all it got me was a broken heart.

Do you feel that?

Please say you feel it, too.


I think it's one of the reasons we bloggers love getting comments so much.

It lets us know someone is listening,

That someone appreciates what we have to say,

That someone feels what we're going through,

That someone understands.

So we type words on screens

And lay hearts bare,

Taking the risk that we might be left wounded and bleeding

Because we believe the reward to be worth it.

 
It's even harder with music,

Because it's so much easier to accidentally say something corny or cliché,

So much easier to come up with a bad melody or accompaniment that ruins the whole thing,

So much easier to be criticized because of tiny, insignificant details,

And end up feeling like there's something wrong with more than just the chord transition in measure fifty-five,

There's something wrong with you.


And it's not that artists and writers don't want to be criticized, either -

Really, I believe it's one of the things I need most,

That it will help me to grow,

But I also know that someone could easily take it too far,

Say the wrong words in the wrong order,

Or even the right words in the right order,

And it will tear into the part of me I made vulnerable,

Leave me wounded,

Scarred,

Bleeding.

To write is to risk,

To risk everything we humans hold most dear.

And that's why we write.

Because,

At the end of the day,

All these things I'm afraid of?

They're me holding on to pride,

Me searching for worth in other people's opinions,

Me believing I deserve recognition.

I make myself vulnerable because these parts of me need to die.


But there's another reason, too.

It's why I write these words here,

Pour out my heart where the whole world can see,

And this Christian blogging community,

These bloggers who have become my friends,

They respond to my raw emotions,

And they say,

"You're not alone.

I feel it, too."


Sharing these words I scribbled out last night,

As I pondered all these things.

Rough, but maybe -

Just maybe - 

You feel it, too?

Vulnerable

If I lay out my soul on the page,
Someone might come in hate,
Rip it to shreds,
Leave me half-dead.
I'm vulnerable.

If I lay my heart down here,
Someone might give me reason to fear,
Stab it right through,
Blood gushing from the wound.
I'm vulnerable.

And it's dangerous
To live life like this,
'Cause, if I willingly step into the light,
I'll have no place left to hide,
And someone will come,
Someone will come
When I'm vulnerable.

If I pour myself in the song,
Someone will call it "wrong",
Pierce through the dream
Right into me.
I'm vulnerable.

If I offer it to all,
Someone will come to call,
And what they say of what I sing
Is what they say about me.
I'm vulnerable.

And it's dangerous
To live life like this,
'Cause, if I willingly step into the light,
I'll have no place left to hide,
And someone will come,
Someone will come
When I'm vulnerable.

And I am so afraid,
I am so afraid
Because there's so much more at stake
Than simple words on a page.

The song is who I am,
The song is where I stand,
And, if they rip it to shreds,
I'm sure they'll leave me dead,
I'm sure they'll leave me dead.

And it's dangerous
To live life like this,
'Cause, if I willingly step into the light,
I'll have no place left to hide,
And SomeOne will come,
SomeOne will come
And whisper, "It's alright,
You don't have to hide,
And, if your heart breaks right in two,
I'm here to see you through.
I know that you're afraid,
But, in Me, you are Safe,
Even when you're vulnerable."

Even when I'm vulnerable,
Vulnerable.
©2012 Mary Schieferstein
So, do you feel it, too?

Please tell me . . .

 
Grateful today for:
~ This online community.  Each and every one of you means a lot to me.  Thank you for your friendship and constant support.
~ The chance to pour raw emotion into lines and rhymes and melodies.  So good to let it all out.
~ A different kind of Safe - His Safe, a Safe that involves risk and danger, but leaves me resting in His arms
~ What's coming later this week.  So excited!
~ A new year.  So amazing how He makes things new!
 And, of course, thanking Him for who He is,

Counting these reasons today,

Reasons 2639-2802 today,

Wanting so badly to seek after Him,

And to see Him as He is:


  1. He rescues the poor from those too strong for them (Psalm 35:10)
  2. He rescues the poor and needy from those who rob them (Psalm 35:10)
  3. He delights in the well-being of His servant (Psalm 35:27)
  4. His love reaches to the heavens (Psalm 36:5)
  5. His faithfulness reaches to the skies (Psalm 36:5)
  6. His righteousness is like the highest mountains (Psalm 36:6)
  7. His justice is like the great deep (Psalm 36:6)
  8. His unfailing love is priceless (Psalm 36:7)
  9. People take refuge in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 36:7)
  10. People feast on the abundance of His house (Psalm 36:8)
  11. His house is abundant (Psalm 36:8)
  12. He gives His people drink from His river of delights (Psalm 36:8)
  13. With Him is the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9)
  14. In His light His people see light (Psalm 36:9)
  15. He gives to those who take delight in Him the desires of their hearts (Psalm 37:4)
  16. He makes the righteous reward of those who commit their way to Him shine like the dawn (Psalm 37:5-6)
  17. He makes the vindication of those who commit their way to Him shine like the noonday sun (Psalm 37:5-6)
  18. Those who hope in Him will inherit the land (Psalm 37:9)
  19. He laughs at the wicked (Psalm 37:13)
  20. He laughs at the wicked, for He knows their day is coming (Psalm 37:13)
  21. He upholds the righteous (Psalm 37:17)
  22. The blameless spend their days under His care (Psalm 37:18)
  23. The blameless spend their days under His care, and their inheritance will endure forever (Psalm 37:18)
  24. Though His enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke (Psalm 37:20)
  25. Those whom He blesses will inherit the land (Psalm 37:22)
  26. Those whom He curses will be destroyed (Psalm 37:22)
  27. He makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him (Psalm 37:23)
  28. Though the one who delights in Him may stumble, he will not fall, for He upholds him with His hand (Psalm 37:24)
  29. He loves the just (Psalm 37:28)
  30. He will not forsake His faithful ones (Psalm 37:28)
  31. He will not leave the righteous in the power of the wicked (Psalm 37:32-33)
  32. He will not let the righteous be condemned when brought to trial (Psalm 37:32-33)
  33. He exalts those who hope in Him and keep His way to inherit the land (Psalm 37:34)
  34. Those who hope in Him and keep His way will see the destruction of the wicked (Psalm 37:34)
  35. The salvation of the righteous comes from Him (Psalm 37:39)
  36. He is the stronghold of the righteous in time of trouble (Psalm 37:39)
  37. He helps the righteous (Psalm 37:39-40)
  38. He delivers the righteous (Psalm 37:39-40)
  39. He delivers the righteous from the wicked and saves them (Psalm 37:39-40)
  40. He delivers the righteous from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him (Psalm 37:39-40)
  41. His arrows pierce people (Psalm 38:2)
  42. His hand comes down upon people (Psalm 38:2)
  43. He will answer (Psalm 38:15)
  44. He will answer those who wait for Him (Psalm 38:15)
  45. He makes people's days a mere handbreadth (Psalm 39:5)
  46. The span of people's years is as nothing before Him (Psalm 39:5)
  47. Everyone is but a breath to Him (Psalm 39:5)
  48. Everyone is but a breath to Him, even those who seem secure (Psalm 39:5)
  49. He places His scourge on people (Psalm 39:9-10)
  50. He strikes people (Psalm 39:9-10)
  51. He rebukes people for their sin (Psalm 39:11)
  52. He disciplines people for their sin (Psalm 39:11)
  53. When He rebukes people for their sin, He consumes their wealth like a moth (Psalm 39:11)
  54. When He disciplines people for their sin, He consumes their wealth like a moth (Psalm 39:11)
  55. People dwell with Him as foreigners (Psalm 39:12)
  56. People dwell with Him as strangers (Psalm 39:12)
  57. He turns and hears people's cries (Psalm 40:1)
  58. He turns and hears the cries of those who wait patiently for Him (Psalm 40:1)
  59. He lifts people out of the slimy pit (Psalm 40:2)
  60. He lifts people out of the mud and mire (Psalm 40:2)
  61. He sets people's feet upon rocks (Psalm 40:2)
  62. He gives people a firm place to stand (Psalm 40:2)
  63. He puts a new song in people's mouths (Psalm 40:3)
  64. He puts a hymn of praise to Him in people's mouths (Psalm 40:3)
  65. Many will see and fear Him (Psalm 40:3)
  66. Many will put their trust in Him (Psalm 40:3)
  67. Many will see and fear Him and put their trust in Him (Psalm 40:3)
  68. The one who trusts in Him is blessed (Psalm 40:4)
  69. Many are the wonders He has done (Psalm 40:5)
  70. Many are the things He planned for His people (Psalm 40:5)
  71. None can compare with Him (Psalm 40:5)
  72. Were people to speak and tell of His deeds, they would be too many to declare (Psalm 40:5)
  73. Sacrifice and offering He does not desire (Psalm 40:6)
  74. He opens people's ears (Psalm 40:6)
  75. Burnt offerings and sin offerings He does not require (Psalm 40:6)
  76. His people proclaim His saving acts in the great assembly (Psalm 40:9)
  77. His people do not seal their lips (Psalm 40:9)
  78. His people do not hide His righteousness in their hearts (Psalm 40:10)
  79. His people speak of His faithfulness and His saving help (Psalm 40:10)
  80. His people do not conceal His love and His faithfulness from the great assembly (Psalm 40:10)
  81. He is His people's help (Psalm 40:17)
  82. He delivers those who have regard for the weak in times of trouble (Psalm 41:1)
  83. He protects those who have regard for the weak (Psalm 41:1)
  84. He preserves those who have regard for the weak (Psalm 41:1)
  85. He does not give those who have regard for the weak over to the desire of their foes (Psalm 41:1)
  86. He sustains those who have regard for the weak on their sickbed (Psalm 41:1)
  87. He restores those who have regard for the weak from their bed of illness (Psalm 41:1)
  88. His waves and breakers sweep over people (Psalm 42:7)
  89. By day He directs His love (Psalm 42:8)
  90. At night His song is with His people (Psalm 42:8)
  91. He is His people's joy (Psalm 43:4)
  92. He is His people's delight (Psalm 43:4)
  93. With His hand He drove out the nations (Psalm 44:2)
  94. With His hand He planted His people's ancestors (Psalm 44:2)
  95. He crushed the peoples (Psalm 44:2)
  96. He made His people's ancestors flourish (Psalm 44:2)
  97. It is not by people's swords that they win land, nor do their arms bring them victory, but His hand, His arm, and the light of His face (Psalm 44:3)
  98. It is not by people's swords that they win land, nor do their arms bring them victory, but His hand, His arm, and the light of His face, for He loves them (Psalm 44:3)
  99. He is His people's King (Psalm 44:4)
  100. He declares victories for Jacob (Psalm 44:4)
  101. Through Him His people push back their enemies (Psalm 44:5)
  102. Through His name His people trample their foes (Psalm 44:5)
  103. His people put no trust in their bows, He gives them victory over their enemies (Psalm 44:6-7)
  104. His people's swords do not bring them victory, He gives them victory over their enemies (Psalm 44:6-7)
  105. His people put no trust in their bows, He puts their adversaries to shame (Psalm 44:6-7)
  106. His people's swords do not bring them victory, He puts their adversaries to shame (Psalm 44:6-7)
  107. In Him His people make their boast all day long (Psalm 44:8)
  108. He rejects and humbles His people (Psalm 44:9)
  109. He no longer goes out with His people's armies (Psalm 44:9)
  110. He makes His people retreat before the enemy (Psalm 44:10)
  111. He allows His people's adversaries to plunder them (Psalm 44:10)
  112. He gives up His people to be devoured like sheep (Psalm 44:11)
  113. He scatters His people among the nations (Psalm 44:11)
  114. He sells His people for a pittance (Psalm 44:12)
  115. He gains nothing from the sale of His people (Psalm 44:12)
  116. He makes His people a reproach to their neighbors (Psalm 44:13)
  117. He makes His people the scorn and derision of those around them (Psalm 44:13)
  118. He makes His people a byword among the nations (Psalm 44:13)
  119. He allows things to come upon those who had not forgotten Him (Psalm 44:17)
  120. He allows things to come upon those who had not been false to His covenant (Psalm 44:17)
  121. He allows things to come upon those whose hearts had not turned back (Psalm 44:17-18)
  122. He allows things to come upon those whose feet had not strayed from His path (Psalm 44:17-18)
  123. He crushes His people (Psalm 44:19)
  124. He makes His people a haunt for jackals (Psalm 44:19)
  125. He covers His people over with deep darkness (Psalm 44:19)
  126. He knows the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21)
  127. For His sake His people face death all day long (Psalm 44:22)
  128. For His sake His people are considered as sheep to be slaughtered (Psalm 44:22)
  129. He blesses people forever (Psalm 45:2)
  130. His throne will last forever and ever (Psalm 45:6)
  131. A scepter of justice will be the scepter of His Kingdom (Psalm 45:6)
  132. He sets those who love righteousness above their companions (Psalm 45:7)
  133. He sets those who hate wickedness above their companions (Psalm 45:7)
  134. He sets those who love righteousness above their companions by anointing them with the oil of joy (Psalm 45:7)
  135. He sets those who hate wickedness above their companions by anointing them with the oil of joy (Psalm 45:7)
  136. He is His people's refuge (Psalm 46:1)
  137. He is an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1)
  138. Because of who He is, His people will not fear (Psalm 46:1-2)
  139. Because of who He is, His people will not fear, though the earth give way (Psalm 46:1-2)
  140. Because of who He is, His people will not fear, though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea (Psalm 46:1-2)
  141. Because of who He is, His people will not fear, though the waters of the sea roar and foam (Psalm 46:1-2)
  142. Because of who He is, His people will not fear, though the mountains quake with their surging (Psalm 46:1-2)
  143. He has brought desolations on the earth (Psalm 46:8)
  144. He makes wars cease (Psalm 46:9)
  145. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth (Psalm 46:9)
  146. He breaks the bow (Psalm 46:9)
  147. He shatters the spear (Psalm 46:9)
  148. He burns the shields with fire (Psalm 46:9)
  149. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
  150. He says, “I will be exalted among the nations” (Psalm 46:10)
  151. He says, “I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10)
  152. He is the great King over all the earth (Psalm 47:2)
  153. He subdued nations under His people (Psalm 47:3)
  154. He subdued peoples under His people's feet (Psalm 47:3)
  155. He chose His people's inheritance for them (Psalm 47:4)
  156. He loved Jacob (Psalm 47:4)
  157. He has ascended (Psalm 47:5)
  158. He has ascended amid shouts of joy (Psalm 47:5)
  159. He has ascended amid the sounding of trumpets (Psalm 47:5)
  160. He is King of all the earth (Psalm 47:7)
  161. He reigns over the nations (Psalm 47:8)
  162. He is seated on His Holy throne (Psalm 47:8)
  163. The king of the earth belong to Him (Psalm 47:9)
  164. He is greatly exalted (Psalm 47:9)

(Sylvia's already made it to - past - 10,000!  So amazing to think of who He is like this!)

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Counting in community:

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The "Christ" in "Christmas"


A month ago, I was excited for Christmas.

Day after Thanksgiving, the Christmas music went in the CD player,

A Christmas playlist was created on my computer,

I started searching for Christmas presents.

Problem was, the Christmas presents were hard to find,

The schoolwork piled up,

And all my fancy plans for remembering the "Christ" in "Christmas" were soon put to the side -

Not forgotten,

Just not possible.


No sooner had I escaped the endless work,

The late nights and early mornings,

The struggle to find time,

Than we flew south,

To sun and warmth,

Short sleeves and sunscreen,

Where, to us Northerners, it felt nothing even remotely like Christmas,

And no amount of fancy lights and Christmas trees could convince us otherwise.

On top of that, we were so busy trying to see absolutely everything

That I got about the same amount of sleep I'd been getting the weeks before,

And the seven sermons and fourteen sermon jams I'd carefully put onto my .mp3 player

In the hopes that I would listen and keep my focus

Remained there, untouched, for almost the entire vacation.


We finally returned home,

And I was busy trying (and failing miserably) to catch up on three to four weeks of lost sleep,

Finish buying Christmas presents before we exchanged them on Christmas Eve,

And helping my poor mother prepare Christmas breads and pies,

Get tables set,

Put presents under the tree;

Helping my father watch children,

Wrap his presents for my mother.

I tried to listen to sermons Monday afternoon,

Christmas Eve,

While I wrapped presents from me and from my father.

Unfortunately, everyone else was trying to use the Internet at the exact same time I was,

And nothing would buffer.


Today is the day after Christmas.

Family has left,

The dishes are clean,

And my new Sara Groves CDs are settled safely in my bathroom,

Ready to be listened to when I take a shower tonight.

No urgent fists pounded upon my door this morning,

And I slept 'til afternoon,

Which was needed,

Considering I was up late last night watching one of the movies I got, October Baby.

I emerged from my room,

Ate a little lunch.

My littlest brother points out the window at snow falling from the sky,

Coming down fast in big flakes,

So that we couldn't see too far past the bushes in our backyard.

"Look, Mary, snow!

You should take some pictures!"

And, after a sermon,

After some study and counting,

After they've all gone out to clear a path for expected tires,

I do.

Gloved hand protectively cupped around the lens,

I go outside

And carefully snap pictures of wonder falling from heaven -

The wonder I've been missing all season.


I didn't read the devotional DesiringGod put out this year,

Didn't listen to a bunch of sermons,

Didn't listen to all of my favorite Christmas music,

Didn't really read much of the Christmas Story,

Haven't yet watched The Nativity Story -

All my fancy plans always come to nothing.

But I know there's a reason for that,

That His plans are better.


He's put my feet exactly where He wants them to be -

Where I have to search,

To seek Him in order to find Him,

And seek Him a lot harder than I have been -

Even when I was back at school,

Listening to at least one sermon a day,

Taking long walks to get alone with Him.

This place,

It's one of my least favorite places to be.

That,

Combined with how frequently I've been feeling like this lately,

Tempts me to complacency.

I don't want to be complacent.


When I opened the file on my computer today, it was number four or five among the "Recent Documents" list.

It's meant to be number one.

I can't even tell how long it's been since I've gone on Bible Gateway

And clicked through pages of Scriptures

In search of who God is.

Today was the first day in many that I've had time-

Or, I should admit to myself, the first I've made time.

I go through Psalm 32,

33,

And, not wanting to stop,

Tell myself, "Just one more."

I finish unwillingly,

Knowing how much else I have to do today.

(Some "break", right?)

Something catches my eye,

Document statistics at the bottom of the window.

"Page 66 / 73"

Sixty-six pages.

Sixty-six pages of things to say about who God is,

Things I am learning about who God is.

The one that really, gets me, though, is this:

"Words: 36800"

Thirty-six thousand, eight hundred words.

Admittedly, some of those are in red,

Pending the completion of an investigation that has recently fallen by the wayside,

But, still, I'm only in Psalms.

I know there will be more.

Thirty-six thousand, eight hundred words to describe God.

Saying God is infinite is one thing,

It's incredible,

But, at times, it can be so abstract.

Thirty-six thousand, though, I can wrap my head around.

And it's big.

Very big.

I sit,

Eyes lingering for just a moment longer on that rather large number,

And wonder if maybe,

Just maybe,

I might get ahold of the the "Christ" after Christmas?

It's not too late.

It's not too late.


Reasons 2581-2638 today,

Seeking after who He is,


This Christ,

The center of Christmas,

The center of everything:
  1. His hand is heavy upon people (Psalm 32:4)
  2. His hand is heavy upon people day and night (Psalm 32:4)
  3. He forgives the guilt of people's sin (Psalm 32:5)
  4. He forgives the guilt of the sin of those who confess their transgressions to Him (Psalm 32:5)
  5. He forgives the guilt of the sin of those who acknowledge their sin to Him and do not cover up their iniquity (Psalm 32:5)
  6. He is His people's hiding place (Psalm 32:7)
  7. He protects His people from trouble (Psalm 32:7)
  8. He surrounds His people with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7)
  9. His unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in Him (Psalm 32:10)
  10. His Word is right and true (Psalm 33:4)
  11. He is faithful in all He does (Psalm 33:4)
  12. He loves righteousness and justice (Psalm 33:5)
  13. The earth is full of His unfailing Love (Psalm 33:5)
  14. By His word the heavens were made (Psalm 33:6)
  15. The starry host were made by the breath of His mouth (Psalm 33:6)
  16. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars (Psalm 33:7)
  17. He puts the deep into storehouses (Psalm 33:7)
  18. He spoke, and it came to be (Psalm 33:9)
  19. He commanded, and it stood firm (Psalm 33:9)
  20. He foils the plans of the nations (Psalm 33:10)
  21. He thwarts the purposes of the peoples (Psalm 33:10)
  22. His plans stand firm forever (Psalm 33:10)
  23. The purposes of His heart stand firm through all generations (Psalm 33:11)
  24. He chose people for His inheritance (Psalm 33:12)
  25. From heaven He looks down and sees all mankind (Psalm 33:13)
  26. From His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth (Psalm 33:14)
  27. He forms the hearts of all (Psalm 33:15)
  28. He considers everything people do (Psalm 33:15)
  29. His eyes are on those who fear Him (Psalm 33:18)
  30. His eyes are on those whose hope is in His unfailing love (Psalm 33:18)
  31. He delivers those who fear Him from death (Psalm 33:19)
  32. He delivers those whose hope is in His unfailing love from death (Psalm 33:19)
  33. He keeps those who fear Him alive in famine (Psalm 33:19)
  34. He keeps those whose hope is in His unfailing love alive in famine (Psalm 33:19)
  35. He answers those who seek Him (Psalm 34:4)
  36. He delivers those who seek Him from all their fears (Psalm 34:4)
  37. Those who look to Him are radiant (Psalm 34:5)
  38. The faces of those who look to Him are never covered with shame (Psalm 34:5)
  39. He hears the call of the poor man (Psalm 34:6)
  40. He saves the poor man out of all his troubles (Psalm 34:6)
  41. His angel encamps around those who fear Him (Psalm 34:7)
  42. His angel encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them (Psalm 34:7)
  43. The one who takes refuge in Him is blessed (Psalm 34:8)
  44. Those who fear Him lack nothing (Psalm 34:9)
  45. Those who seek Him lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10)
  46. His eyes are on the righteous (Psalm 34:15)
  47. His ears are attentive to the cry of the righteous (Psalm 34:15)
  48. His face is against those who do evil (Psalm 34:16)
  49. His face is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth (Psalm 34:16)
  50. The righteous cry out, and He hears them (Psalm 34:17)
  51. He delivers the righteous from all their troubles (Psalm 34:17)
  52. He is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18)
  53. He saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18)
  54. The righteous person may have many troubles, but He delivers him from them all (Psalm 34:19)
  55. He protects all the bones of the righteous person (Psalm 34:20)
  56. He protects all the bones of the righteous person, not one of them will be broken (Psalm 34:20)
  57. He will rescue His servants (Psalm 34:22)
  58. No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned (Psalm 34:22)


If you're struggling like me,

Or even if you're not,

And you haven't heard this yet?

Beautiful interview at DesiringGod with Ann Voskamp

About the cross-centered Christmas.

Never too late or too early to listen to this.



(Sylvia's already made it to - past - 10,000!  So amazing to think of who He is like this!)

<a href="http://maryschieferstein.blogspot.com/search/label/10000%20Reasons" target="_blank"><img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8zkGH23srZ8/T2i3Bun0O9I/AAAAAAAABSw/8giPvnJmCPI/s320/10000ReasonsButton.jpg" /></a>

Counting in community:



 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Final Assignment


So, #itsaboutgiving is coming to a close.

Tomorrow.

As of Monday, Compassion has raised $532 through the Christmas Gift Catalog for children in poverty.

That's $532 out of a $20,000 goal.

But it's still possible.

There are more than 2,000 Compassion Bloggers.

That means that,

If each one posts,

And if readers respond . . .
  • If ten readers give $10, we will reach our goal.
  • If five readers give $5, we will reach our goal.
  • If two readers give $50, we will reach our goal.
  • OR, if one reader gives $100, we will reach our goal.
So, what do you say?

$10 could provide garden seeds for a family in Africa.

$20 could provide a Christmas gift for a mother and her baby.

$30 could give children access to safe and sanitary bathrooms.

$40 could care for a child who is waiting for a sponsor.

$40 could also treat potentially deadly illnesses.

$50 could provide emergency shelter for a child and family.

$50 could also provide medical care for a child who has been injured.

$100 could protect twenty-five children from parasites.

And there are so many more gifts to choose from!

Please, consider giving,

Even just a little?

You can visit Compassion's Christmas catalog here.

You can change a child's life.

It only takes a few minutes.

It only takes a few dollars.

It only takes a heart that's received so much

To break at the need around it

And allow the grace of receiving to spill over into the joy of giving.

It only takes you.


It's About Giving Posts:
     - It's About Giving (Intro)
     - What Does Giving Mean to You?
     - What Does Giving Look Like?
     - Final Assignment

  

What Does Giving Look Like?


When I was a kid, giving was done in envelopes on Sunday mornings,

In putting folded bills in red kettles,

In addressing and stamping envelopes to various charities,

In wrapped trinkets under a Christmas tree.

As I've grown, the Internet has changed things.

Now most of our giving is done online.

Our fingers touch keys instead of money,

Address emails instead of envelopes,

And even some Christmas gifts aren't as tangible as they used to be.

With the invention of the Internet, however,

We can also know more about what we're giving to,

What our money does.

It's easy to be detached from suffering we don't see.

The Internet has put images of that suffering in front of my face over and over again.

It's still not the same as being there,

But maybe,

Just maybe,

It's better than an annual flier in the mail?

And it's so much easier to give!

I don't have to go anywhere!

All I have to do is click a few links,

Type in a few numbers,

And, voila!, I have given.

Of course, there's a sense of detachment with that, too.

It's easy and fast, just like everything else in our culture.

(One of the things I find very interesting about Passion is that they have people wait in line to give -

Hour-long lines -

And the people do it -

Happily!

It is so incredible to me to see people put so much effort into giving!)


As for giving Biblically, I'll go back to the article I pulled verses from in my last post:
Deuteronomy 15:10
Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
Deuteronomy 16:17
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.
1 Chronicles 29:9
Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly.
Proverbs 3:27
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
Proverbs 11:24-25
There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.
Proverbs 21:26
…the righteous gives and does not hold back.
Proverbs 22:9
He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.
Proverbs 28:27
He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.
Malachi 3:10
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
Matthew 6:3-4
But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Mark 12:41-44
And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
Luke 3:11
And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.”
Luke 6:30
Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.
Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.
John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him wouldn’t perish, but would have eternal life.
Acts 20:35
In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Romans 12:8
…Or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.
2 Corinthians 9:10
Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness;
Philippians 4:15-17
And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you send a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.
James 2:15-16
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
The Bible has so much to say about giving (see previous post) -

Primarily, that we should do it,

And do it generously,

Even sacrificially!

It's hard to think like that in the culture that surrounds us,

But doing it is so easy!

We've been so blessed to have resources like the Internet,

Credit cards,

Money with which to pay credit card bills . . .

So many don't have these luxuries!

So, what does giving Biblically look like?

Like the woman who put in all she had to live on.

Like the churches in Macedonia that gave beyond their means.

Like the pastor who writes books and donates every cent he makes as an author to a worthy cause.

Like the exhausted college student who spends hours talking with a friend in need instead of catching up on sleep.

Like the 50,000 supposedly poor young adults who went to Passion last year, were told that no one believed they could raise 1 million dollars to free people in slavery, then blew away everyone's expectations by raising 3 million.  (And most of them waited in long lines to donate that money, too.)

Like . . . well, you get the picture.

Next question.

Are you living the picture?

I'm not.

I'm trying, but I have so much still to learn.

Learn with me?

Compassion International is currently doing 20 Days About Giving.

They are trying to raise $20,000 dollars to help children in extreme poverty.

So far, they have raised $532.

Will you help?

Visit Compassion's Christmas gift catalog and buy a gift that will change someone's life

Because, really, everything we have is a gift,

So, really, it is all about giving (#itsallaboutgiving).


It's About Giving Posts:
     - It's About Giving (Intro)
     - What Does Giving Mean to You?
     - What Does Giving Look Like?
     - Final Assignment
   

What Does Giving Mean to You?


During finals week, I went out with two good friends to dinner at our favorite restaurant,

Then went back with them to their room,

Where we exchanged Christmas presents.

One of my friends was caught off-guard.

She hadn't bought our presents yet.

She was also very, very excited.

Growing up, she had never celebrated Christmas.

She couldn't wait to tear into our gifts.

I didn't give her much.

Of the two, she's the one I know least.

I wasn't entirely sure what to get her,

Hoped that she'd like what I found.

I will never forget the look on her face,

The expression of pure joy and happiness

To receive our gifts.

It wasn't the first time she'd ever gotten presents,

But it was the first time she'd ever gotten Christmas presents,

And seeing her expression,

Her joy,

Was a much better present than anything money could ever buy.


In our culture, we often give to get,

Give presents to family and friends we know will be giving presents to us,

Put money in the Salvation Army kettle to get rid of our extra change.

Sometimes we give because it's convenient,

Or because we think it's the right thing to do,

Or because it makes us feel good about ourselves.

For a long time, this was how I gave,

But SomeOne's been changing me,

Teaching me new things.
Deuteronomy 15:10
Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
Deuteronomy 16:17
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.
Proverbs 21:26
…the righteous gives and does not hold back.
 Matthew 6:3-4
But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Mark 12:41-44
And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
Luke 6:30
Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.
Philippians 4:15-17
And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you send a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.
James 2:15-16
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
(source)
 The key behind it all, though, is this:
John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him wouldn’t perish, but would have eternal life.
When you've been given to like this,

It changes everything.

Suddenly, it's not about you,

Not about what you can get.

Instead, it's about what He's done,

And an insatiable desire to share that gift -

Through giving.


Compassion International is working hard to help children in poverty,

And, this Christmas,

Through their #itsaboutgiving campaign,

You can buy a gift that will go a long way toward helping people in desperate need.

Their goal is to raise $20,000 dollars before December 22nd.  So far they have $532.

(I know.  That's tomorrow.  For more on why I'm posting about this now as opposed to three weeks ago, see this post.)

Please, please, please consider visiting Compassion's Christmas Catalog

And giving whatever you're led to,

Whatever you're able to,

Or even more than you think you're able to, as the churches in Macedonia did.

When we've been given everything,

Should we not also be willing to give everything?

(Harder than it sounds.  I know.  Preaching to myself here.)

Please think about it,

Pray about it,

And let the joy of Christ spill out in love for others,

Whatever that looks like for you.

Acts 20:35

English Standard Version (ESV)
35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

It's About Giving Posts:
     - It's About Giving (Intro)
     - What Does Giving Mean to You?
     - What Does Giving Look Like?
     - Final Assignment
    

It's About Giving


Due to the insanity of the end of the semester

And the fact that I only got around to reading my 70 unread emails today

And still haven't caught up on sleep

(At all)

(Actually, I think I may have lost even more)

I've been neglecting this place,

And neglecting the responsibility I accepted -

No, requested -

To advocate for children in poverty.

I made the choice to neglect those things because of limited time and other priorities -

God,

Grades,

Five hours of sleep a night -

But,

Now that I am once again able to post,

I can put it off no longer.

I have received three assignments from Compassion in the past three weeks.

I have not written about any of them.

But I am going to now.

In the next few hours, I am going to write three blog posts.

There is only one day left in the "It's About Giving" campaign (#itsaboutgiving).

I'm not sure if this will make any difference in that period of time.

But I'm going to try.

So, here we go:

Three posts about giving.

Everyone ready?


It's About Giving Posts:
     - It's About Giving (Intro)
     - What Does Giving Mean to You?
     - What Does Giving Look Like?
     - Final Assignment



  
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