Friday, November 28, 2014

Listen and Give

“A winter storm in November?  Before Thanksgiving?  It seemed too soon for cold and snow”  I thought to myself as I headed into the parking lot toward my car.  A co-worker was walking slightly ahead of me wearing a hooded sweatshirt and telling me how he was not going to purchase a coat for himself,  money was tight and food on the table was more important.  
“You need a coat, what if your vehicle broke down and you had to walk to get help,  buy yourself a coat.”  
“No, not this year,  I will be fine.”  
I got into my car and remember when a friend gave me her coat.  I had a coat…but it was not warm enough or long enough.  My friend gave me her long black coat with a hood.  It was not just any coat, but a nice wool, beautiful coat.  I still wear today.  I thought that I had only received a coat but….Not only was this coat a gift to me but it would a gift to someone else also.  I turned the key in the ignition and pulled out to buy some candles for advent.  In my head I heard in a small quiet voice, “Buy him a coat.”  
 Target was not busy because of the snow storm everyone must be sitting at home. Not me!  Advent candles were important and one week left,  I was on a mission.  Target had nothing.  Santa’s, snowmen, stars…no advent anything.  Ugh!  Meijer was the same, I could not even find a manger scene.  I did find the word H. O. P. E on gold lettering dangling from a string.  
The winter storm did not bother me in my four wheel drive GMC.  I had no problem driving all the way to Baker Books on 28th and East Paris, an out of the way trip.  I was sure advent would be swimming all over the store.  
“I hope they are opened in this wicked snow.”  I thought
I walked into the book store as the sole customer, and immediately became distracted by pictures in my head of the used book section.  I beelined it to the back of the store where I Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems was displayed on the end cap.  Ohhh, I opened the book to page 75, We Seem To Forget.
What Concerns me
what lies on m heart 
is this:
That we the church
papered and programmed 
Articulate and agenda-ed
are telling the faith story 
all wrong.
are telling it as though it happened two thousand 
years ago
or is going to happen
as soon as the church budget is raised
We seem to forget that Christ’s name is Emmanuel
God with Us,
Not just when he sat among us
but now
when we cannot feel the nail prints in his hands.
Ann’s beautiful poem was so wonderful.  Now…the Christ with us, now.  Then I remembered the advent candles.  I tucked Ann’s treasure of Christmas poems in the crook of my arm and looked for advent candles.  There were only a few advent special features on the tiered round table by the front door.  I found a box of just plain white candles with a manger scene for a holder, the only one. 
Finished with my task I carefully drove toward home.  I was excited to beginning reading the poems.  Then in my head I heard, “Buy him a coat.”
Oh yes, buy him a coat, but where?  Target?  I was just there and never looked for a coat.  This should be convenient.  Target had no men’s coats.  Ridiculous, I thought.  Meijer next door had coats, but not in the size of 2x.  Walmart!
Walmart had one 2x coat that looked just like the one my co-worker had before the fire.  They lost everything when their house was burned to the ground.  I purchase the coat hoping that it fit him and drove home.  I was too tired to read the poems or open the Advent surprise to help me get ready for the hope of Christmas. 
I could not wait to give the coat.  The next morning I was excited to go to work so that I could give the coat.  I laid the coat out on his desk and waited for him to come in.  As he put his arms in, he said, “I usually wear a 3x or 4x.”  and then the next arm, and the zipper.  
“It fits perfect, I guess I buy coats that are too big.”
Wow, I wondered, If I had knew his size I would not have purchased the coat that fit him perfectly.  I suspected that it was possible that he would someday be asked to buy someone a coat. 
I thought of poem, 
God with Us,
Not just when he sat among us
but now.

Although the candles were important….and the poems were fun, practicing hope by listening to the quiet voice is the real Advent of God with Us Now

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pride Jokes

Dear Friend of Jesus,
Are you willing to hold the hand of your neighbor, cover them in prayer?
Die with them in their anguish, cry, feed them with tears.
Or fix, diagnose, ripe open, hammer them with fear?
Are you willing to bear their prickles, bath in prayer, let them be despaired?

Dear Friend of Jesus,
Open your eyes.
People jokes are sick compromise for praying, gentle care, compassion.
Or shout at your neighbor, "you have no faith, get on your knees, recuperate."
Help yourself , smash the Jesus loves.

Dear Friend of Jesus,
Turn to Him, who breaks the yoke, heals, removes pride jokes.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Summary of Romans

Paul longs to arrive in Rome and settles for writing to the Romans as their minister who is not ashamed of the Gospel.  Paul proclaims the Grace that comes from recognizing sin in humanity and transformation that occurs through the Spirit enriching his unmerited favor.  This is the goodness of God.  The Romans will hear the gospel from Paul in this precious letter revealing the righteousness of God.  Oh how Paul loves the Romans!

Paul describes what we easy can observe from our tangible surroundings all that God has made and we are "without excuse" of the knowledge of God.  Paul has clearly set up our need for God that the law cannot provide.  To Know God is not enough.  We must internalize, take in, soak in, and live in obedience the riches provided through a relationship of the living God.  Eugene Peterson writes, "Readers become what they read.  If Holy Scripture is to be something other than mere gossip about God, it must be internalized."  Knowing God cannot save us from the deep sin that has made a home in our inmost being.  Sin has power over all people.

Paul speaks to the Romans "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."  (NIV)  Therefore, however or whatever means we may try to use to declare ourselves good and righteous before God is futile.  Paul confirms that the Jews and the Gentiles are both offered eternal life through belief in Christ Jesus.  Paul goes on to explain that in faith we are justified.  Abraham did not have the law and he was justified by faith.  Abraham trusted that God would grow him in God's image, setting everything right.  Abraham did not work to pull himself up by his bootstraps and out of his sinfulness to present himself worthy.  He soaked up God.  This is a generous gift from a loving, good God, who sacrificed Jesus in order to set us right before God.

Sin is nothing and God in Christ Jesus is everything.  "For sin shall no longer be your master, you are not under the law, but under grace."  (NIV)  We no longer need to rationalize our sin and try to figure it out.  We cannot fix ourselves or work hard to do better; there is no need to go to the trouble of all the worry about getting it right.  We do not have to work to try show that we are good, that means God has already done the work for us in the sacrifice of his son Jesus.  Jesus died so that we will not.  Jesus defeated death when he came up from the grave.  Paul tells the Romans that this does not mean we are to go on sinning. 

We have died with Christ; the old self of trying to rationalize our sins has died with Christ.  We live now in our new self and sin is defeated.  Paul explains that we are human and have an inner conflict that says, even though we delight in God's law, we cannot be good.  Paul calls this "the law of mind" Then describes his struggle, "for what I what to do I do not do, and what I hate to do, I do".  (NIV)  The law did not keep us from sinning and it still does not keep us from sinning.

There is no punishment!  Christ took our punishment upon himself when he went to the cross and set us free from the entanglement of sin and gave us life everlasting.  Beating ourselves up with, "I am worthless" or "I can't get it right" is like punishing ourselves when our punishment, has been paid in full.  Paul talks about the Spirit that lives in the ones who have Christ.  The Spirit lives in us and we have life.  Our life is eternal with God alone and we will never spiritually die. 

We struggle many times daily with the inner conflict of sin.  We make choices to listen to the Spirit or listen to the flesh.  To turn, turn, and turn again toward our God and listen is the moment we repent.  Listening to the Spirit involves the action of turning.

The fall season is a reminder of death.  Brilliant colors emerge from fall casting paths of reds and yellows, purples and browns.  Golden paths of pine needles fill the pined woods.  Our bodies will die and decay and return to the earth and become fertilizer for new growth.  Our life here on earth is the "flesh" that Paul talks about in Romans.  Turning toward the Spirit is Repentance.  Repentance is not what some think as only the words, "I am sorry".  Repentance is an action we choose to turn to God when we have listened to the Spirit within us.  Dying from our old self or our flesh and turning to God is like the season of fall dispersing color on the Spirit of God.  The suffering of death in our flesh follows God's Grace.  His grace is a tiny sample of what is to come in the future. 

We suffer many times in this life and in many ways, physically and emotionally.  Paul tells us that our "sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us".  (NIV)  God's glory revealed of dying from our old selves and turning to Jesus is not worth comparing with what will be in us.  Yes, in us!  Adopted children of God deeply loved by our father! 

 "What, then shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?"  (NIV)  Can you hear the excitement in Paul's voice?  God is for us!  God gave up His son to suffer.  Jesus suffered.  Jesus was condemned.  Jesus took our place.  The good news is that Jesus conquered death and lived again.  Therefore, nothing can get in the way from the love that God has for his adopted children.

Israel displayed their unbelief by laboring to attain salvation.  Paul was heartbroken and wanted to help them and even said he would give up his own salvation for them to see Jesus.  Many Christians today work to do good in hopes to be right with God.  When it comes to following God during suffering, reconciliation and proclaiming Jesus and then they stumble on the rock and fall.  They have turned to their own flesh and are basking in pride.  "Brothers and sisters, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved."  (NIV)  Paul's heart was aching for his friends to turn away from trying to look good in front of others and soaks up Jesus.  Pursing the law and doing good will not produce righteousness. 

Looking good may be pretending that you do not sin.  Many may refuse to acknowledge that they are not responsible for any wrongdoing.  Many people today blame others and claim they did nothing wrong.  They may cover up their garbage with good things, like helping the poor or giving to charity.  This is like Israel, they did good and followed the rules, and then they hear Paul say guess what?  Hey, the Gentiles are invited and actually, everyone is invited.  Hey, Israel, by the way, all the good works you were tallying, it is all for nothing.  Lay down your back patting and get up and turn, or repent.  Jesus is Lord, not you.  Paul desperately wanted his friends to repent.  "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  (NIV)

The Lord is near and saves us from inside our hearts.  The work of God in us is transformation.  When we look to God for help, we are waiting and yearning for his work to make us more in His image.  The transforming power happens when God does the work as he chooses.  We only have to live our lives, turning to God. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Are you inviting me? I want to come. 
On a hard wooden pew, she twirled her white eyelet dress,
And clicked the buckled, white patent leather shoes.
She pined for Jesus, requested bread and wine.
Adults scold, "You're too young for this party."

Are you inviting me? I want to come.
On her banana seat, she flew down the road making a party all her own.
Sparkled handlebar tassels blew in the wind.
She breezed to the shoreline to fish out cobalt ferry glass,
Battered and smoothed by Lake Michigan.

Are you inviting me? I want to come.
On her stomach, she rested under large tented pines.
Her eyes glued to clues in Nancy Drew mysteries.
A rolled up paper tied with string, a pencil, a blanket, and water to drink.
She rested from the thorns, thistles, and prickles inside.

Are you inviting me? I want to come.
Huddled friends promised not to laugh,
If she sang aloud.
As that Carpenters' record spun
They snickered at her voice

Are you inviting me? I want to come.
She emptied her purse, gave everything,
Lavished Jesus with all she had,
Gave parties, honored friends,
Aching for love

Are you inviting me? I want to come
The shoreline rippled a beckon, deeper than thorns, thistles, and prickles,
A harboring, well within.
Come sit with me.
Bring nothing.

Jennifer Oosterhouse 2014

Published August 2014 by D.S Martin on  The Project 55

Pour out the ALS Ice Water

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is sweeping the nation for a great cause.  The challenge is a request for donation to ALS.  Pour a bucket of ice water over your head and donate $10.00 or skip the icy water and donate 100.00.  Then, show your icy video on social media and challenge others.

The challenges originate with a 100.00-dollar donation made by the professional golfer, Chris Kennedy.  The donation made by Kennedy was out of lovefor his suffering friend Anthony.  Kennedy challenged his trainer, James Whatmore, who in turn challenged threefriends.  On July 14, Kennedy posted his video onto the social media and challenged three friends.  The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is not only about money, video image competition, nor is about finding a cure; it is about community coming together in love.

One friend, Jeanette Senerchia accepted the challenge from Kennedy in honor of her husband Anthony who suffers from ALS.  Family and friends joined in the challenge to support the Senerchias.  Chris' wife, Ariana Kennedy started posting the videos on YouTube and in one week with over 400 videos,they cannot keep up.  You can view the Kennedy videos at,

ALS affects the brain cells and spinal cord.  According to ALS Association at, ALS is "The progressively degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death.  When motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to imitate and control muscle movement is lost."  There is no cure.

Some oppose the challenge for various reasons, wasting of clean water; ALS is involved in brain stem research and ALS researches using animals.  These are good concerns and should be noted and weighed in love and care for the ones suffering.  These concerns can also challenge some givers to donate to the ALS research without donating to brain cell research and animal research.  Some are joining without donating to encourage ALS suffers by just pouring the bucket.  As for wasting the water, there is no waste.  Dumping water is a miracle cure that runs deeper that the disease. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge is not only about the money.  The Ice Bucket Challenge has created awareness of ALS and donations have exceeded 53 million. While the money may or may not find the physical cure, the beauty lies in the support of friends loving on hurting friends.  ALS awareness has helped the many who are suffering step out in courage.  According to the golf channel, Jeanette explains, "But he said he actually feels more comfortable in his own skin.  He doesn't feel like he has to hide from people." 

Those suffering from ALS have received the gift of courage from the loving support.  There is hope for physical cure because of the donations. Like Anthony, many ALS sufferers are encourage and cured from the feeling of hiding.  Nothing is wasted.  I am proud of my friends that joined the community to pour icy water in the name of love. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The 55 Project: Poem 015Invited

I am so excited D.S. Martin published my poem.    The 55 Project: Poem 015Invited: Are you inviting me? I want to come. On a hard wooden pew, she twirled her white eyelet dress, And clicked the buckled, white patent leat...