Two Great Reads – Stargirl and Eleanor & Park

Stargirl (Stargirl, #1)Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I ❤ Stargirl! I have read this book twice, aloud with each child at the right time.

Stargirl is a gust of flowery-fresh spring air. She leaves change where she finds it, and drops more for those who might need it. She reads community bulletin boards and newspaper fillers as research and sends handmade greeting cards of condolence, congratulations, or encouragement to neighbors, often perfect strangers. She serenades the Mica High lunchroom with her ukelele. She takes pictures of the little boy across the street and creates a scrapbook of his everyday moments to give him when he’s old enough to appreciate it. She is everyone’s biggest fan.

And that is also her downfall.

Her boyfriend, Leo, tries to explain that “they” don’t want you to cheer for the opposing team. That’s not “normal.”

But she is not normal, even when she tries. Stargirl’s nonconformity is what makes Leo – and the reader – love her. She shines the spotlight on the uncomfortable ways we choose to live normally instead of spectacularly. And we could all use more spectacular in our lives. May we all be so blessed to find, or be, a Stargirl.

 
Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Romeo and Juliet are just two rich kids who’ve always gotten every little thing they want. And now, they think they want each other.”
“They’re in love…”
“They don’t even know each other.”
“It was love at first sight.”
“It was ‘Oh my God, he’s so cute’ at first sight.”
“Then why has it survived?”
“I don’t know, because Shakespeare is a really good writer?”
“No!”
“Because…because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? And in love?”

Eleanor and Park are no Romeo and Juliet. They’re not spoiled rich kids. They didn’t “Oh my God, he/she’s so cute” at first sight. They become star-crossed lovers, however. And we hold on that their story will end with hope.

Rainbow Rowell may not be Shakespeare, either, but she’s right that people do want to remember what it’s like to be young, and in love, and this book took me right back to high school in the 80’s. It’s beautiful and true and heart-breaking and, maybe, just maybe, hopeful.

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Meatless Monday – (Almost Healthy) Treats!

Last week our high schooler had finals. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad this time around as he had a nice balance of academic and electives each testing day, and none of his grades were at a tipping point one direction or the other. He studied well, and it wasn’t stressful.

A year ago we had a whole different situation. He had suffered a severe concussion playing freshman football. Some of his teachers ignored doctor’s requests to modify his coursework to accommodate his injured brain and he was seriously in danger of failing at least one class, which would mean summer school and we had plans to be out of the country all summer. It was a horrible week, longer really as we helped him prep for weeks in advance and tried to negotiate with a teacher and the school who might as well have had their hands over their ears as they sing-songed, “Nah, nah, nah, nah!”

I had promised Teen I’d make one of his favorite treats, our neighbor’s pumpkin bread, the one she makes for all the neighbors each Christmas, the whole loaf of which Teen claims and won’t share.

But by the end of the week we were all thrashed and, though we got the recipe, we never made it. So I made it this year, to celebrate what a difference a year makes.

And, as my neighbor had predicted I would, I took her completely decadent recipe and make it healthier. You know what? My kid, who tends to have a fairly discerning palate never suspected. Hooray!

This recipe makes a lot – three generous loaves, or in my case, a loaf, a small cake, and at least 16 muffins (I wanted variety – good for quick breakfasts, snacks, lunch boxes). I put the loaf and half of the muffins straight into the freezer so we have some for this week as well. But it’s an easy recipe and if you’re gonna make it, you might as well have some in the freezer.

And just for fun, I’ll throw in one of my new favorite smoothie recipes, my take on Bon Apetit’s “The Greenest Smoothie” (from January 2015). It is indeed a funky green, and I will admit that I was skeptical about this particular combination of ingredients, but I swear it tastes more like a treat than healthy. Just put it in a colored cup with a lid and straw and you can enjoy its delicious flavor without distraction.

Pumpkin Bread
Makes 3 medium bread loaves

1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
1/2 c quick oats
1 c whole wheat flour
2 c organic sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 c unsweetened applesauce
4 “eggs” (I used EnerG Egg Replacer)
1 c cold water
1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
1/2 c agave syrup or your favorite natural sweetener (e.g., brown rice syrup or honey)

Sift and mix all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well. Grease and flour 3 medium bread pans. Pour mixture into pans, fill half full, and bake at 350 for 1 hour or until done.

Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

The Greenest Smoothie
Serves 1

1 c almond milk + more if you need it to blend smoothly
1 Tbsp flax oil
1/2 tsp grated peeled ginger
1/2 c frozen pineapple pieces
1/2 frozen banana
1 large handful spinach leaves
1 tsp Trader Joe’s Super Green Drink powder (or matcha, but I couldn’t find any matcha)
1 Tbsp almond butter

Puree ingredients in a blender. Add more almond milk as needed.

green juice

Give

Do you know what gift(s) God has given you to build up His Church? If not, I highly recommend taking this quick test. (There’s also a test for youth if that’s you or someone you love).

Similar to family chores, we all have a role to play in God’s family and through our God-given gifts God directs us to particular works of service.

A few initial thoughts:
*God gives gifts to His children.
*God’s best gift is faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
*God intends us to use the gifts He gives us.
*Using our gifts will give glory to God and build up His Church.

It should be easy, and thankfully sometimes it is.

Prepping for this post, I had a great conversation with Tween. I asked, “What great gifts have you given and received?”

He mentioned a video game we bought him that encouraged creativity and community. And he mentioned two gifts he’d given: his well-loved but in great shape tricycle to a young friend, and “God” to his friends.

Mama’s heart skips a beat: Tween recognizes that he introduced some of his best friends to His Best Friend, Jesus.

I asked what gifts he thought God had given him to serve the church, and at first he didn’t think he had a gift, that God had skipped him or not yet come to his name on the divine list.

But as we talked, he began to realize that he has Faith, that he “knows things about God” that might not come as easily to other people (Teen took the “youth” version of the spiritual gifts test and has the gift of faith, too). And he cares deeply that his friends know Jesus. So faith and evangelism, maybe. He’s still young.

Tween decided that a great way to develop the gift of faith, to be sure he knows the Truth of God and not just his own ideas about Him, will be to keep the Bible and a headlamp next to his bed so he can read the Bible when he can’t sleep. This kid has never slept well and I can’t think of a better thing for him to do when he’s not sleeping.

Other times, evidence of the fallen world we live in, using our gifts isn’t as easy.

I’ve seen the movie “Frozen” three times, once in the theater when it first came out and twice since. It ranks up there with “The Lion King” as one of my favorite Disney movies.

New Year's Eve "Frozen Fractiles" on our windshield

New Year’s Eve “Frozen Fractals” on our windshield

The main story line centers on the relationship between sisters. But I see a story of giftedness and love, one with definite implications for God’s people.

Elsa has a gift. Fear and criticism have caused her to hide not only her gift but herself, have cut her off even from those who should be and long to be closest to her [hide the girl, the gift, and the love]. When an accidental use of her gift outs her she walks away, again, this time determined to let her gift flow free [hide the girl and the love, let the gift out]. But the gift sans love has drastic far-reaching consequences. Elsa’s gift can only be used rightly, and Elsa herself will only be free, when the girl, gift, and love intertwine.

The impossibly catchy, played-to-death song “Let It Go” says what we might like to say to our critics:

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door!

I don’t care
What they’re going to say…
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!

In other words, I no longer care what you think! I will be myself, use my gifts, see what I can do, rules-free, to hell with your fear and criticism.

But Elsa’s plan backfires, as do our attempts to hide ourselves and our gifts because of fear and criticism.

Fear and criticism can rock us straight out of comfort and onto the ground, beat up and bruised. The temptation to dust ourselves off and walk away, to hide, to stop using our gifts, can be enormous. Likewise with the temptation to stop caring, to think we’re free sans community.

But it’s not true, folks. God designed us to use our gifts, the very gifts He grace-fully bestows upon us, to build up His church and bless the world. Only when we use our gifts with love, in community, to His glory will we truly be free.

So what do we do with fear and criticism? Honestly, I’m not sure I have a good answer, just some thoughts:

*We need to listen, ego aside, to the reasons behind the fear and criticism. Maybe we have used our gifts inappropriately, or untimely, or without love.

*We need to develop our gifts to God’s glory. Maybe we have used them prematurely.

*We need to pray and pray some more. Did we use our gifts prayerfully, under the Spirit’s guidance? Can we together prayerfully resolve the conflict caused by fear and criticism?

*We need to seek refuge in God alone. God will direct us to the proper use of our gifts in His time and place. Maybe God is using fear and criticism to redirect us to another ministry.

*We need to seek the Spirit of peace and unity and resist our own fears and criticisms. Why should we fear someone using their God-given gift? Why would we criticize their giftedness? Sometimes we need to bite our tongues, to step on our egos and let God do His work without our meddling.

*Finally, we need to ask the Lord for courage to be the best US He has created us to be, and to use our gifts despite fear (our own and others) and criticism, because from time to time we will face both.

Justin McRoberts sang at our church yesterday and shared with us an original song, Courage to Believe. The chorus says:

Lord, give me eyes to see
Lord, give me strength to believe
You give me all I need
So give me courage to believe.

Lord, give us courage to believe that you have given us all we need to believe and to serve You!

Alright, already, on to Ephesians 4 which has some great stuff to say about gifts. I pray that God will release you to serve Him in love and grace.

Connect
Describe a significant gift you have given or received. What made that gift special?

Study
Read Ephesians 4:7-13.
Read Ephesians 1:20-23. What light can this earlier passage from the same letter shed on Eph. 4:7-8?
How would you explain to someone the significance of Christ’s ascension into heaven (vv. 8-10)?
For what purpose did Christ give the gifts mentioned in this passage (vv. 11-13)? In other words, what is Christ’s desire for His people and His Church?

Live
God gives gifts to people and He gives people as gifts to the Church. Describe some people you appreciate as gifts from God.
Paul lists other spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30. How do these gifts add to the list in Ephesians 4? Where do you see your gift(s) listed?
What “works of service” do you particularly enjoy? Which works of service would you like to try?
How have you been equipped for service? How have you equipped others?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that your worshiping community will experience the unity of the Spirit as we each exercise works of service.

Frost made even ordinary leaves something spectacular

Frost made even ordinary leaves something spectacular

Snake Surrender

A gift from someone who thought I needed a snake of my own

A gift from someone who thought I needed a snake of my own

Teen purchased a second snake last weekend.

You read that right. There are two, count ’em, two snakes living in our home.

Along with three leopard geckos, a tortoise, three cats, and one (or two) dogs (our dog and our neighbors’ dog are best friends so we – or our neighbors – often have two dogs).

It’s a zoo. Add four active, dramatic human family members, and it’s a zany zoo. The animals might be the sanest beings in our midst.

How did this happen? I swore no snakes would reside under my roof. Ever. End of story.

Except clearly, the story doesn’t end there.

Teen has been an animal guy since before he could speak. By three years old he knew more dinosaur names and facts than his preschool teachers (aren’t preschool teachers de facto dinosaur experts?); he even nicknamed himself Dinosaur Boy. He watched animal documentaries for adults as the child-friendly documentaries were too simple, too cutesy. He wanted the facts, all the facts on all the animals. We went to the World Famous San Diego Zoo weekly at least, sometimes biweekly, and he played tour guide, probably better than many professionals. He knew his stuff, and still does.

Lucky for Teen, a pet store occupied the shop three doors down from his first preschool. Three days a week, Teen and a parent visited the pet store. We got to know all the store clerks who implemented a “Three Hold” rule: Teen could hold any three animals each visit. Bunnies, guinea pigs, hamsters, and yes, snakes.

Ball pythons, to be specific. And every time he held an animal, invariably, he’d say, “Here, Mom! You hold it, too!” He was so excited to share incredible creatures with me. Maybe he didn’t notice that I seemed relaxed with the furries and a little less so with the scales?

Here’s the thing: I believe God created all the creatures, even the (to me) creepy ones. Snakes serve a valuable purpose on God’s green earth. I can appreciate their usefulness in the world and their unique colorations; some of their colors might be flat-out, down-right beautiful.

If their colors weren’t on a creepy-crawly snake body.

I don’t think it even occurred to me that one of my worst fears would be a snake loose in the house until Teen started commenting that he’d like a snake for a pet.

Egads! Not under my roof, buster!

I’d take him to pet stores. I’d take him to the reptile emporium over the hill. I’d take him to the zoo. I’d even take him hiking in spots he’d be likely to find snakes (he knew the harmless from the harmful long before I did).

The day after his first hike as a Boy Scout, only eleven years old, the recently retired Scout Master found me at church.

He said, “It was my pleasure to hike with the rookies yesterday, and I’ll tell you, that boy of yours has a talent!”

Oh geez, what now?

He said, “I’ve been hiking that trail for 34 years, and I had no idea how many species of snakes there were out there! Your kid has a real knack for finding reptiles!”

Yes. Yes, he does.

Church friends wanted to introduce Teen to their nephew, a 20-something reptile enthusiast. Teen called from the nephew’s house: “I’m bringing home a snake. He said I can have – for free! – a six-month-old red tail boa!”

Um, no. I’ve said it and said it and will say it again: No!

They brought kid home without the snake. My friend pulled me aside. “My sister hid her fear of reptiles for years. She loves her son, she hates reptiles. Just thought you should know.”

Uh huh. Thanks.

Teen kept asking. He did research. He did extra chores. He talked about snakes, and wanted to talk about snakes with me. Constant chatter about red tail boas.

And I thought the snakes in the pet shop had been red tail boas. Silly mistake.

He told me he’d been praying that I would let him have a snake. So we talked about prayer (more comfortable for me than snake-talk). About how God says Yes or No or sometimes Wait. He said God had already told him Yes, but that maybe he had to Wait. He had to Wait for me. That sometimes, through prayer, God changes people.

Yes. Yes, He does.

Weeks of snake chat and prayer went by. And then, Ash Wednesday. Our church has the coolest Ash Wednesday service.

It’s thoughtful and somber, focused on repentance, and only half the service happens “up front.” The rest is participatory prayer stations. Every year is different, but every year we actively participate in what God wants to do in our lives that night.

We taste grapes because the Lord tastes good. We turn screws in wood to focus on our own turning from sin and to the Lord. We wash one another’s hands (because washing feet might be beyond our comfort zones). We burn paper to represent our sins, or we nail sins to a cross. And we draw pictures and write prayers to give praise to God.

I turned a corner and came upon Teen drawing this picture…

Ash Wed snake thanks

And before you accuse him of manipulation, there were hundreds of people at prayer stations spread throughout the sanctuary. There was No Way he could have known I’d turn the corner just then.

I had a come-to-Jesus moment that night. Would my fear of reptiles prevent me from honoring the child God had created? This kid wants to be a herpetologist (snake scientist)! Could I let God do His thing with my kid, in my house, and let’s not forget, in me, even if that meant a snake in my house?

Honestly, it took a few more weeks. Picking up a new “pet” just before we went away for a long weekend didn’t make sense. When we came home Teen cleaned up and fixed up a terrarium, formerly his dad’s fish tank, with locks for the top (a Mom requirement), new heating pads and lights, and a water dish. He called our friends who wanted to accompany him to Nephew’s house.

And then he called Nephew. Who had sold all the snake babies, forgetting the promise he’d made to a snake-loving kid.

Even behind closed doors, Teen’s sobs broke his parents’ hearts.

So his Mama searched the reptile emporium website to see what they had. And they had – not for free, but for a hefty fee – exactly what he wanted. And his Dad drove him over the hill and paid the price.

I will honor my son as the person God created above my own fears. That was my decision that day. It has been my decision each day since.

We have rules, but really only two:
1) Cage must be locked.
2) No flaunting snakes in front of people without asking.

So now Teen has two snakes. One will have lived in our house two years this Lenten season. The other is still a baby, but is the ball python he has wanted since preschool. The first involved a major faith movement for me. The second, more of a parenting movement – Could he make space in his room? Did he have the money? Had he found exactly what he wanted? And when he could answer Yes! to all three, then it was his decision to make.

It’s finals week at the high school which makes for wonky school-work-life schedules and attitudes. I picked him up yesterday and he was grumpy, critical. I asked, “Hey, you. Is there anything you like about your Mama?”

“Ew, Mom, c’mon. I’m tired.”

Silence, two, three, four…

“You let me have snakes.”

“I’m sorry, didn’t catch that. What’d you say?”

“I like that you let me have snakes.”

And he knows I’m his biggest fan.

You know what, friends? My Teen knows that I honor his passions over my fears, and I will wear that as a badge of honor.

red tail boa

Snake #1: red tail boa

When you realize the kid is over 6' tall, you get a sense for how bigt this snake is (and he's not done growing)

When you realize the kid is over 6′ tall, you get a sense for how big this snake is (and he’s not done growing)

platinum ball python

Snake #2: platinum ball python

Fortunately this one won't grow too long

Fortunately this one won’t grow too long

Meatless Monday – Veggie Sloppy Joes

I’ve been savoring a new book for DIY mini spiritual retreats: Awaken Your Senses by J. Brent Bill and Beth A. Booram. This book serves as a reminder to allow our physical beings to connect us to God, and with quotes like this –

“…God is in all beauty, both the simply amazing and the amazingly simple” (18) –

this book is right up my alley.

And a little bit of a stretch. On the whole I’m much more intuitive than sensory, which means I need this book more than those who naturally connect with God through the senses.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8.

Some teacher or preacher I once heard said that the Jews poured honey on Scripture to teach their children that God and His Word are delicious. I imagined an old rabbi holding high a gigantic, black hard-cover Bible with embossed gold lettering, with honey oozing down its cover and children catching the drips on their tongues. I don’t know if it’s true or anything like the picture in my head, but that’s what I see when I hear that verse.

Yes, the Lord is good! He provided manna for the Israelites and the Lord’s Supper for the Church. He provides for us and sustains us. But there’s more in God’s Word about tasting, craving, being hungry or thirsty than just those two examples. Check it out: do a biblegateway.com search and see what you find when you type in taste-related words.

“Have you ever thought about tasting God in what you put in your mouth? The idea that food can remind us of the different attributes, ways and stories of God is a novel thought for most of us” (J. Brent Bill, 26).

Those two sentences compelled me to action.

The pantry had gotten out of control and had been driving me nuts. Except that I could shut the door and ignore the problem. The notion that the tastes hiding in my pantry could convey God to me, to my family, motivated me to clean it out. God does not taste like stale chips.

[And behold, as I typed that last sentence, Guy walked in groceries in hand – yes, he does most of our shopping and I am a lucky gal! – and handed me a bag of my favorite multigrain tortilla chips. Hallelujah, Amen!]

So what does God taste like?

This week, God tastes like homemade good for me food, like lentils and quinoa with roasted broccoli. Like fresh guacamole on chips Guy bought as a loving surprise. Like breakfast out with dear friends, kids and adults enjoying company and yummy goodness together. Like crisp chardonnay shared with my love. And the ooey-gooey comfort of veggie sloppy joes.

Veggie Sloppy Joes
Serves 4

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 jalapeno, diced (or to taste – you can use less or omit)
1/2 bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloved, minced
2 cans black beans, drained & rinsed
1 c tomato sauce
1/4 c ketchup
3 tsp hot sauce (I used a combination of chipotle Tapatio & sriracha)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 whole wheat burger buns

Heat oil in pan, then saute onions, celery, peppers, and garlic for 3-5 minutes. Add beans, tomato sauce, ketchup, and hot sauce. Turn heat to low and allow to simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toast buns (if desired) and serve alongside a crisp salad.

Eating across the rainbow! I used white and red onion in this recipe.

Eating across the rainbow! I used white and red onion and yellow bell pepper in this recipe.

Our favorite bag salad - Costco's Superfood Salad has kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, chicory, dried cranberrries, pumpkin seeds, &  poppyseed dressing

Our favorite bag salad: Costco’s Superfood Salad

Dinner is served

Dinner is served

Grow

God has rarely been subtle with me. In my life, He definitely tends toward the dramatic.

Before she knew she was pregnant, God woke my mom up in a London hotel room to tell her she would have a baby girl. When three doctors told her I would be a boy (before ultrasounds, of course), she told them she had it on Good Authority that I would be a girl.

Having heard that story from an early age, I knew that God created me and had plans for me. I live God’s promise in Psalm 139:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:13-15).

When He called me into relationship with Himself, it was again with no small drama. My sister and I fought almost from the day she came home from the hospital. One day in the course of a scuffle during a mall trip with Mom, my sister managed to pull my eyeglasses off my face. They fell to the floor and broke. I was almost seven years old so my sister was just two. Flooded with shame I owned the blame; as the Big Sister I should not have been fighting with the Baby.

Surely frazzled, Mom headed for a coffee break. Seated next to her at the coffee counter, sipping my ice water, I quietly prayed. I wanted to ask God’s forgiveness, but I remembered something some Sunday school teacher must have told me: “God doesn’t have to forgive me because I don’t have a relationship with God. I need to ask Jesus into my heart.” And so I did.

Shame lifted, I leaned over and told my mom what I had prayed. Surprised, she recognized the peace of God washing over me. Many years later she told me she hadn’t experienced God’s peace quite like that ever before. Miracle of miracles, I stopped fighting with my sister, too. At least for that day.

God called me into professional church ministry through a prophetic dream. No kidding. Had you asked me before that time if I believed God still spoke through dreams, I’m not sure how I would’ve answered. But that particular morning I awoke from a vivid dream. Married just about a year, I rolled over and told my still-sleepy Guy, “Our high school director is going to announce his resignation during staff meeting this morning. He’s taking a job in Washington. You’re going to take his job and I’m going to take your job as junior high director.”

Guy scoffed, “Yah, right.”

As I left for my morning commute I laughed, “Call me after staff meeting!” He didn’t call.

But when I returned home, he had dressed to take me out to dinner. The high school director had announced his resignation during staff meeting, just like I’d seen. He was, in fact, taking a job in Washington. Guy’s job would be restructured and I was invited to interview for a staff position, one I joyfully filled for several years.

So, yes, I tend to be dramatic. But then, I am created in the image of a God with a strong dramatic flair.

Without a doubt I know God has been calling me to Himself since before I was born. He calls all of us, though admittedly He often whispers. He doesn’t always use 2×4’s and loud exclamations. Still, He loves us and wants us to know Him, to love Him more fully today than yesterday, tomorrow more than today.

Which means God also calls us to Grow in our relationship with Him.

Growth should be simple. With basic healthy ingredients – water, nutrients, sunlight, love – kids grow, plants grow, animals grow. Relational growth requires time, commitment, love. Spiritual growth requires the same – time with, commitment to, and love for God and His people. This looks like worship, study, prayer, service, relationship, and outreach. It should be simple, but don’t kid yourself that that makes it easy.

I love God and I love His Church. But I don’t always like what God asks and sometimes I don’t like the Church. Truth be told.

But Ephesians 4:1 tells us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” And what does that worthy life look like? It looks like humble, gentle, patient, loving relationships with God’s people. It looks like unity, like making every effort to maintain the Spirit’s unity as there is only One Body despite our myriad denominations, churches, theologies and worship styles. It looks like peace, like bearing with one another, like love.

To grow in relationship with God, we must grow in relationship with God’s people. We don’t get to choose One or the other – it’s a package deal. Like it or not, Love is the answer.

And hopefully, when the rubber meets the road, when we come to life’s dark twists and turns, our investment in God’s family will hold us and keep us safe in God’s hands.

Connect
When did you first discover your professional vocation/calling?

Study
Read Ephesians 4:1-6, 12b-16.
What is the “calling you have received” (vv. 1, 4)? What does a life “worthy” of this calling look like (vv. 2-3)?
What does the end goal of our growth as Christians look like (vv. 12b-16)?
What do you think it means to attain to the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13)?
The phrase “in love” appears three times in this passage (vv. 2, 15, 16). Why is love so important in Christ’s body?
What does this passage say about unity? How is unity an indication of growth as disciples?

Live
During which time in your life have you seen the most growth in your relationship with Christ? To what do you attribute that growth period?
Where do you see examples of disunity among God’s people? In your own life?
What practical difference does it make in your life that God intends for His people to be “joined and held together,” to “grow and build itself up in love,” as each person does their work of service (v. 16)?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that your worshiping community will reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature disciples of Jesus Christ.

Thankful Thursday

A leaky faucet has replaced my nose.

I have tried cranking the spiggot tight with extra fluids, quality nutrition, sleep, and meds. To no avail. Two nights ago I took one big green liquigel tablet from a two-pack, because one usually knocks me out for a solid eight hours, and it did; last night I took the other tablet – is it even possible that the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, best sleep you ever got with a cold medicine was all in the first tab, and the one I took last only had the coughing, fever components, neither of which I need?

To switch metaphors completely, the shock of this night owl hooting that she’d be nesting down for the night at 8:30pm two nights in a row threatened to shake the rest of my flock off their perch.

This morning I got up, determined to power through (a skill that on most days might be one of my lesser superpowers), and felt so woozy I landed back in bed.

Still, I will put myself in the way of beauty. It’s a decision, an act of will. Even flopped out in a fog, I can choose beauty.

Today I am infinitely grateful for my soft and cozy bed, my warm house, and that I had nothing so urgent on today’s agenda that I couldn’t skip it.

I am grateful that I normally feel so much better than this, and that I will again soon.

I am grateful for a friend who picked up Tween for school and will keep him for some hang-out time this afternoon.

I am grateful that God loves me, that He can give me a good attitude even while I feel crummy.

I am grateful for my laptop computer – seems like a silly thing, but really, I am grateful.

I am grateful for the beautiful story I am in the midst of reading, and for two more library books already in my reading basket.

I am grateful for the beautiful flowers I bought myself at the grocery store, and for the lovely joy-filled greeting of a mentally disabled woman shopping with her caretaker.

flowers

I am grateful for the flock of quail that live beyond our fence, roost in our plum tree, and eat at our feeder. Tween and I laughed as they crowded in, black and white heads bobbing, plume feathers bouncing.

I am grateful for Tween’s laugh.

I am grateful for the winter roses blooming on my not-yet winter-pruned rose bushes.

winter rose

I am grateful for dog snuggles, and for the cat sleeping in a circle on my feet.

I am grateful that our Christmas amaryllis bloomed a second time.

amaryllis

I am grateful that Tween’s poison oak is going away at last.

I am grateful that my guys are competent to manage without me, at least for a time.

Wishing you beauty in all your circumstances!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).