God’s Beautiful Embroidery Work

(Dedicated to those in the challenging arena of life issues.  You serve in Pregnancy Centers, counsel on sidewalks, speak up as  government officials, pray without ceasing.  As we finish January, Sanctity of Human Life Month, I wanted to chime in with one more reminder of why you do what you do and do it so sacrificially!)

Read Psalm 139, but especially vs. 15

Wow!  Pretty awesome and intricate embroidery example pictured above.  At first, I thought it was a painting.  But nope! It’s embroidery.   

Embroidery is quite the fascinating art form.  Take a moment and think about how detailed the work, how gifted the embroiderer, the plan in mind, the beautiful outcome that reflects the mind and heart of the gifted embroidery artist.

Thoughts about embroidery draw me back to the rich soil of the Old Testament to a place where we find a very interesting example of this art form.  Turn to Psalm 139:15. It would bless you greatly to read the whole Psalm today, to remind you of God’s care for you.  But, for this blog post let’s focus on vs. 15:

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.”

Did you catch it?  Skillfully wrought.  Some translations say, “woven together” or “intricately knit together”.  The word in Hebrew is Raw-kahm which means to variegate, mix colors.  Okay, I didn’t know what “variegate” meant either.  It’s the word used in the Hebrew lexicon.  Webster’s defines it this way –

to diversify in external appearance especially with different colors.

God chose such a marvelous way to have the Psalmist describe what every human being experiences – life in the womb.  We are told that in the womb we were intricately and beautifully embroidered with each passing day.  Wow!  What a picture! 

This truth was unbelievably driven home to me some years ago when I serving as head of a Pregnancy Medical Group.  One of our donors was a post-doctoral fellow with a major pharmaceutical company and served on the team that developed a well-known arthritis medicine.

We went to lunch one day and were chatting about life issues and particularly the awesome nature of ultrasound images.  During this discussion, he explained his work – microcellular biological research.  He made the comment that with today’s technology, he can see each and every cell.  Not only that but he can watch them in action – they know what they’re supposed to do; when they’re supposed to do it; with whom they are to interact, etc.

He went on to comment on how many of his colleagues around the U.S., many of whom are atheists or agnostics, are being challenged to their very core.  Could this embroidery, this intricate detail really be the product of evolution?  If not, is there actually a Creator of this whole picture?  If so, how would I find out who He is?

When one looks at an ultrasound image of a developing baby, you quickly recognize it isn’t just a mass of tissue without feelings, form or purpose.  There is a little life being formed in that womb – a life that is unique, intricately woven, filled with purpose and destined to make an impact on their world!

21st Century Applications?

  • Next time you are doubting that God cares for you, read Psalm 139, especially vs. 15.
  • Since God took time to intricately weave you in the womb, be encouraged that in your life right now, no matter what you are facing – God is intricately weaving all for good.
  • Contact your local pregnancy center and pray about volunteering, donating, praying for them.  Speak up for life, get involved at the polls, get informed, impact your world!

Your in good hands…with the Ultimate Embroiderer!

Advertisements

“In the Eye of the Hurricane”

Blog purpose – to dig around in the rich fertile soil of the Old Testament and draw out relevant, practical applications for 21st Century living.

Read Lamentations 3:22-23

Just what is the “eye of the hurricane”?  

The eye is a region of mostly calm weather found at the center of strong tropical cyclones.  In other words, it is a place in the middle of a fierce cyclone or hurricane where it is eerily quiet and calm.

In the midst of a crazy storm, there is actually a place of peace or calm.  Sound like your day or mine?  Things are out of control; yet in the midst of the chaos a peace overtakes you.  A peace that passes all understanding.  

Before we delve into the fertile soil of the Old Testament, I’d like to give you a quick view into Hebrew writing style and symbols. Acrostics were a very popular form in the ancient days that helped in memorizing and/or passing on truth to the next generation. 

Examples?  Proverbs 31:10-31 talking about the virtuous woman.  If you were to view this passage in the Hebrew language, you would notice that there are 22 traits described.  There also happens to be 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.  So, as moms would teach their daughters about being a virtuous woman, they would literally be teaching them the ABCs or, better yet, the ABGs (Aleph Bet Gimmels) of how to be that type of woman.

Psalm 119 is another great example – 22 sections of 8 verses.  Each verse in each section begins with the same letter of the alphabet.  In other words, all verses in the first section begin with the letter “Aleph”, all verses in the second section with the letter “Bet” and so on.  How cool is that?

Another place where an acrostic is found is the book of Lamentations.  Open to Lamentations.  Okay, before I give it away, what do you notice about the structure of the five chapters?  I’m waiting.  Don’t worry; I’ve got plenty of time.  Take a look.

Yup.  You’re right.  Five chapters in the book.  Chapters 1, 2, 4 and 5 each have 22 verses. 

So, what does that mean?  Each verse in those chapters begins with one of the Hebrew letters of the alphabet.  

Notice anything different about the third chapter?  Bingo.  There are 66 verses, made up of 3 sections of 22.  Yup!  Each section contains the whole alphabet as the beginning letter for each verse.

Why an acrostic in Lamentations?  The book was written as a way to express national grief after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.  Perhaps God wanted Israel to have an easy way commit to memory the truth about their storm but also His presence in the midst of that storm.

I find it quite fascinating that Lamentations 3:22-23, some of the most encouraging verses of the Bible, are found where?  Smack dab in the middle of a book of Israel’s lamenting.  Where is the eye of the hurricane?  Smack dab in the middle of a chaotic, destructive storm.

What are some 21st Century applications?

  • Storms are inevitable.  No matter how we pray or hope or wish, often times God teaches us huge lessons during times of storms.
  • Even in the greatest storms of your life, there is a place of uncanny, unfathomable peace – resting next to God’ heart.
  • This peace in the middle of the storm isn’t cooked up by our PMA (Positive Mental Attitude).  No, it is the power and presence of God in your life.
  • Right now, you may be in the midst of your biggest storm ever.  Know that even there, peace is available – Philippians 4:6-7; John 16:33.
  • 

    God’s eye is on you in the eye of the storm!

 

 

 

“Buying up EVERY opportunity”

(Blog Post by Stan Kellner – www.stankellner.com)

Read Ephesians 5:16

As a follow up to my post last week “To Life, To Life, L’Chaim…” I want to continue mulling over the idea of being fully engaged in all that God has for us – whether it’s good, bad or ugly.  (Amazing how a crazy Clint Eastwood movie title has become such an all-encompassing catch phrase.   Also reminds me of the folks that say, “Watch out!  It’s going to get ugly!!)

Just in case you haven’t discovered by now – life isn’t always pretty.  Thankfully, it isn’t always bad or ugly either.  But, remember about L’Chaim – a full measure of joy and sorrow; a life fully engaged in the midst of both successes and failures.  That’s all part of the whole Megillah. (Hebrew word for “scroll” and specifically relates to the scroll of Esther; modern day meaning, similar to “the whole enchilada!”)

So, this brings me to the title of my blog post – “Buying up EVERY opportunity”.  As some translations say it, “Redeeming the time…” or “Making the most of every opportunity”.  I like the idea of buying maybe because I’m Jewish (Oy, such a deal I have for you!).  No, but seriously, the idea of buying brings with it the idea of depleting my resources so as to gain something special.  Sort of like God emptying me out for the sake of serving Him.

Making the most of every opportunity – you failed recently? Then squeeze that experience for all it’s worth; broken relationship?  what could you have done different (if anything).  A recent success? how did it happen?  What good principles did you apply” Who’s getting the glory – you or God?

While life has certainly dealt its harsh blows at time, I’m still a hopeless optimist (but now with a twinge of pessimism firmly planted).  Not a bad combo as far as I’m concerned.  I still hope for the best in a situation, in people, etc. but recognize that isn’t always going to be the case.

As my mom and I talked over the years (she passed on back in 2002) she would tell me that I was always in the thick of things.  I remember when my older sister had friends over, it wasn’t hard to find me standing right in the middle causing some type of trouble or cracking jokes. 

I have this insatiable sense that if I close my eyes just for a minute I’m going to miss something important.  (Yes, I do sleep at night and quite nicely thank you very much).

Side note – I heard a joke about one mogul talking to another.  So, Abie, how do you sleep at night?  Abie answered, “I sleep just like a baby.  I wake up every two hours and cry!”

Okay back to the original thought.  I have this sense that when I came out of the womb my first words were, “Okay, world, what did I miss?”

My point in all this?

All of us face the challenges of life to varying degrees.  Some handle them better than others.  However, how are any of us doing when it comes to engaging fully (that L’Chaim principle”) in the day God has given us rather than obsessing over what’s going to happen tomorrow, the next day or the next week? Yeah, I don’t like my answer either.

Key application points:

  • Opportunities are everywhere.  Take time to notice.  You don’t have to change the world for another person but how about changing their day!
  • We all have our pre-judgments concerning people we deal with every day.  Some we like to be around, some we like to avoid.  How about stepping out of your comfort zone by reaching out to someone “unlovely” and “unloveable”?  Last I checked, “God so loved THE WORLD…”
  • Okay, I’ll say it – I know Politics and Religion are the big taboos.  How about reaching across the “boundary line” and honestly engaging with those who don’t believe the way you do.  Not necessarily to change their mind but maybe just to understand where they are coming from.  Last I checked, we all bleed the same color.
  • Finally, I dare you to make it a daily prayer.  “Lord, help me to have my eyes, ears and heart open today that I might encourage someone who is in need.”

I’ll never forget the line from the movie Joe vs. the Volcano, where Meg Ryan is quoting her dad –

My father says almost the whole world’s asleep.  Everybody you know, everybody you see, everybody you talk to.  He says only a few people are awake.  And they live in a state of constant total amazement!

Are you awake?  Do you live in constant total amazement regarding how many opportunities God has given each of us in our daily lives; opportunities to change someone’s day, maybe just a little.  I pray so!

 

 

“To Life! To Life, L’Chaim”

(Blog post by Stan Kellner – www.stankellner.com)

Read John 10:1-10, esp. vs. 10

Remember the part in Fiddler on the Roof…wait a minute.  You haven’t seen it yet?  How shameful of you.  What would your mother think?

Quick, go to Netflix, download it, watch it, then come back to my blog post.  Just kidding.

But what I’m not kidding about is the awesomeness of the movie, Fiddler on the Roof.  So many moments, so many poignant thoughts.  Oy Vey!  What’s not to like?

One of my favorite parts is the scene where Tevya and Lazar Wolf struck a deal about Tevya’s daughter.  They lifted up the glass and sang “To Life, to Life, L’Chaim, L’Chaim, L’Chaim, to Life…” (You can view it on YouTube – just type in “to life l’chaim Fiddler on the Roof”)

Okay, first, a little Hebrew lesson.  (By the way, I know a little Hebrew.  He owns a tailor shop down the street!)  Okay, okay. Back to the lesson.

L’chaim.  Chaim is pronounced – cha – yeem.  How do I explain the “Ch” sound?  It’s like the “ch” in the German word “Achtung” – guttural, throat-clearing.  The root word in Hebrew is Chai – pronounced “chy” like, “Chy, how ya doin’?” (tee hee)

Chaim is the plural form of Chai.  So, as Chai generally means “to live”; Chaim tends toward the meaning of living a multitude of days or a full life. The “L'” on the front of a Hebrew word means “to”.  So, L’Chaim – to living a full life.

Thus, the reference to John 10:10 – “I have come that they may have life and life more abundantly”.  Abundant life.  Full life.  A full experience.  My cup runneth over.

I want to be careful not to step on too many toes of some TV preachers but abundant life doesn’t necessarily equal how much financial wealth someone has, how many cars, houses, toys, etc.  I’m not dissing those to whom God has blest that way. 

But the modern-day application of this term has been born out, especially as I know from my Jewish heritage, with life that has been oft lived in a ghetto setting or in the shadow of a cruel dictator or whatever.

The point being is this concept of full life or abundance goes MUCH deeper than material possessions or life circumstances.  It hits straight to the heart.  It strikes to the very core of our being.

L’Chaim is a phrase used in all kinds of Jewish settings.  It is often repeated at weddings, even funerals, Bar Mitzvahs, Shabbat (Sabbath) or all kinds of other get togethers or special events.  In our upbringing we would say it after having some Manischevitz wine (even though to this day I’d much prefer a nice White Merlot by Beringer…but that’s a whole different topic).  It’s much like the word “Salut” in the French language.

Okay, let’s dig a little deeper to see how it relates to you and me today, this idea of a full life or abundant life.

A key part of the Jewish wedding ceremony comes when the couple drinks from two separate cups of wine – the cup of joy and the cup of sorrow.  They can’t just drink from one or the other.  They both must drink from both cups.

The symbolism?  They can only experience full or abundant life when they experience a full measure of both good and ill in their lives. 

Scripture even tells us that all good makes us think we can do it on our own.  (Read Deuteronomy 8:11-20)  All ill can bring bitterness to the heart.  (Read Job 7:11)  A proper mixture of both reminds us of the fact that both the joys of life and the sorrows of life are allowed by Almighty God, our Abba who cares deeply for us.

So, as we journey through 2011, what are some of the take aways of this post?

  • GOD is sovereign, not YOU or ME.
  • Whether He allows it or causes it, both good and ill will come to the life of a follower of God.  (check out Lamentations 3:38 but also don’t miss 3:22-23)
  • If you are experiencing good times, be sure to give God all the glory for His blessings.
  • If you are experiencing ill times (as so many are in the U.S.), work hard to see God’s hand in your life.  Boy, do I know this one!
  • Give thanks IN all things.  (I Thessalonians 5:18).  This has been the toughest one for me during this most recent journey.
  • “To Life” brings with it the idea of celebration.  In the midst of your challenges, take time to notice moments that you can celebrate. 

My recent moment of celebration

  • Just today, as I crafted this blog post, I noticed an unbelievably red cardinal sitting on a branch in our backyard with the backdrop of freshly fallen white snow here in Ohio.  What a stark but beautiful contrast and evidence of God’s handiwork in His creation.  If He cares that much about a cardinal and snow, think how much He cares for YOU and ME.

So, to the snow and to the red cardinal I say, “L’Chaim!”

Talk About a Breath of Fresh Air…

Blog Post by Stan Kellner – www.stankellner.com)

(Read Acts 2:1-12)

Some time back we were attending a music venue to hear some friends who are in a traveling band. The hall was packed, the A/C was broken, the music was blasting, the crowd was crazy.

At a certain point in the evening I just had to get away to take a break. I stepped outside and felt an instant revival as I breathed fresh air, got a bit cooler and was able to give my eardrums a break.

Have you ever been at a point in your life that things were just caving in around you and you knew you just had to get away? You make a decision to hop in your car, ride out of town and up a favorite hill overlooking the city. You either stay in your car or get out and walk. All of a sudden you stop and just take in the fresh air, the quiet, the peace. And soon, you feel a mini-revival taking place.

Let’s transport ourselves back about 2,000 to first century Jerusalem. Long story short, that area became a virtual pressure cooker for the early followers of Jesus. Think about the life they had with the Master and then having to witness His arrest, murder and crucifixion. Talk about needing a breath of fresh air.

One of the last things Jesus said to Him in His resurrected body and before ascending into heaven was to wait in Jerusalem so they could receive the Holy Spirit. But, how long were they supposed to wait? How was this going to happen? What would this mean in practical terms? Many questions left unanswered.

Along comes Acts 2 – one day as they were gathered, a monumental event took place – a noise like a mighty rushing wind invaded their atmosphere and tongues of fire rested on their heads. This was the evidence of the Holy Spirit coming to indwell the believers and give birth to the Church.

The word Spirit in its original Hebrew form, means “Breath or Air”. So, in essence, the Breath of God breathed on the believers and new power came upon them. The rest of the book of Acts describes how they went about with this new power doing miracles that pointed people to God and His grace and mercy.

So how does this apply to you as you begin a new year?

  • Are you in a tight place, feeling like you can’t breath? Your world falling in around you? Feel like you have no place to turn? Turn to God, the One Who will breathe on you and bring revival. (Psalm 46:1 can actually be translated, “God is our refuge and our strength; abundantly available to help in TIGHT PLACES.”)
  • Literally get away from your circumstances, as soon as you are able, go to some place secluded, reach your arms up and ask God to breathe on you in a fresh and new way. Receive His strength and power in a way you never have before.
  • Daily take in God’s “air” by spending time with Him – in His word, talking to Him, listening for His voice.
  • Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart does good like medicine”. Doing good like medicine brings forth the idea of taking a bandage off a wound so as to allow the fresh air to promote proper healing. As we take stock of 2010 and look toward 2011 maybe there are wounds in your life that you have covered over but actually need to be exposed to the breath or air of the Holy Spirit to promote full and complete spiritual healing.

Ah! Take a moment right now to breathe in the air of God’s love, truth, mercy and peace! Allow 2011 to be a year of healing and restoration in your life. I’m certainly praying toward that end.