Psalm 119: Wide Places

I started following along with Christ Church Ladies’ Fellowship’s Bible Reading Challenge.

Today’s reading was from Psalm 119.

Two themes stood out to me:

  1. Shame – Since I’m currently working my way through Edward T. Welch’s Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest in attempts to deal with my own fear and worry, this word stuck out to me immediately while reading Psalm 119.

    Psalm 119:5-6 (ESV)

    Oh that my ways may be steadfast
    in keeping your statutes!
    Then I shall not be put to shame,
    having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

    Psalm 119:80 (ESV)

    May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
    that I may not be put to shame!

    And in other verses as well. Shame comes from breaking God’s commandments. There is no reason that we should feel shame when we are living within His law. Embarrassment at miscommunications or incidents, sure. But not shame.

  2. Wide places – Okay, so that phrase only appears once. But the theme of walking and God’s path is throughout the Psalm.

    Psalm 119:44-45 (ESV)

    I will keep your law continually,
    forever and ever,
    and I shall walk in a wide place,
    for I have sought your precepts.

    In this verse I imagine walking in God’s law as being a place of great freedom. There’s no shame there, there’s no fear. It’s not a constrictive thing; it doesn’t bend you into a lifeless, soulless thing. It’s the only freedom there is. There we walk in the path of what we should truly be (God’s image); there we draw life directly from the Life-Giver.

Psalm 109: Before the Lord

I began reading Psalm 109 aloud, as I occasionally do when reading Scripture. Once I hit verse 6, that became uncomfortable:

Appoint a wicked man against him;

let an accuser stand at his right hand.

When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;

let his prayer be counted as sin!

May his days be few;

may another take his office!

May his children be fatherless

and his wife a widow!

10  May his children wander about and beg,

seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!

11  May the creditor seize all that he has;

may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!

12  Let there be none to extend kindness to him,

nor any to pity his fatherless children!

13  May his posterity be cut off;

may his name be blotted out in the second generation!

14  May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD,

and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!

15  Let them be before the LORD continually,

that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!

Setting aside the question for now of how we should use the imprecatory psalms, I wanted to look at what verse 15 indicates. David summarizes his prayers against his enemy with the phrase “Let them be before the LORD.”

Do a word search for “before the Lord” and look at all of the entries – it’s overwhelming. Being “before the Lord” is not always a bad thing, but it is a very serious thing. Abraham is described as being before the Lord while he intercedes for Sodom (Gen. 18:22). Everything that takes place in the tabernacle is before the Lord (Exodus). The sacrifices and offerings are done before the Lord (Leviticus).

When you are before the Lord, you want to be clean (Lev. 16:30), because judgment occurs before the Lord.


Beginning the Coupon Journey

Before I get into the couponing bookmarks that I plan to save in my bookmark project, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite resources for beginning couponing.

First word of advice: Unless you have to coupon to avoid a financial crisis, master meal planning and your diet first. If you are struggling with meal planning, work on that to begin with. This will help you transition into using sales and coupons to influence your meal plans. But if you have no framework of how to manage your household meals, couponing will confuse and frustrate the process. Also, if you have ambitions of improving your family’s health through diet changes, work on that before you fully embrace couponing. It will be much harder to give up that junk food if you have a six-month stockpile that you don’t want to go to waste. Of course, if you just want to coupon household items and clothing and such, ignore my advice and plow forward!

As an introduction, I recommend Jill Cataldo’s Super-Couponing System. Just the video excerpts and clipless system instructions should be enough to get you started.

If you’re doing the clipless method, you’ll need to follow a couponing blog that publishes coupon deals for your store(s). My favorites are The Krazy Coupon Lady and Hip 2 Save.

Also, learn your store coupon policies. This will help save you some frustration and embarassment. As you begin to shop with coupons, you’ll get a feel for the stores and cashiers that are the most coupon-literate. Honestly, they can make or break your couponing experience.

Once you’ve gotten past your extreme couponing high, you’ll more likely settle down into a pattern like this:


Bookmarks: Couponing

Two years ago I went through an intense couponing phase. It was a lot of fun and I was very successful with it. Laundry detergent for pennies, free toothpaste, super cheap cosmetics. There were frustrations, though. I got really upset each time I made a “mistake” – like my printer malfunctioned and I couldn’t print the right number of coupons, or something didn’t scan right and I didn’t save the max amount that I could. It was a little stressful and honestly it led to a lot of waste. I would buy things I didn’t need or too many things to reasonably store. So gradually the phase wore off.

The question is, do I plan to go back? Have I given up couponing completely?

I have 20+ couponing articles or sites bookmarked. The highlights:

  • How to save on ink. My printer refuses to use refilled or generic ink cartridges. Therefore, I save by buying branded but unboxed ink cartridges off of eBay. Delete.
  • Posts of old deals. Delete.
  • Couponing and tax-deductible donations. Since I’m never planning to extreme coupon again, this won’t really apply to me. Delete.
  • Couponing blogs. Because evidently the two that I already follow weren’t enough? Delete.
  • Store-specific couponing tips. Not anything earth-shattering or difficult to remember. Delete. [Note: this is very different from store-specific coupon policies. Those are important.]
  • Healthy couponing tips, several of them. Basically, pick good stores, buy in bulk, print off organic coupons etc. Some of these tips become second nature (in your memory, at least) once you’ve couponed for a while. Delete.
  • Coupon clipping service website. Nah, that’s okay. Delete.

Turns out, there may be a few couponing bookmarks that I’m going to keep. To be continued.


Bookmarks: Wardrobe

Capsule wardrobes are all the rage these days. For good reason, actually. I discovered this summer that I pretty much have a functional capsule wardrobe. I go through the same outfits every other week and used to feel self-conscious about it. “Will people think I don’t do laundry?” Obviously I need to not worry about what people may think, but it was encouraging to know that there’s a move towards simpler wardrobes that aren’t about wearing a new combination every single day.

My wardrobe may be functionally capsule, but it’s not truly effective. There are some pieces that need to be replaced because they’re getting worn out or are not very comfortable.

In pursuit of a good capsule wardrobe, I had bookmarked 5 (maybe more) pages on forming a simple wardrobe.

  1. A sample mix and match wardrobe. Not very useful as this none of these are clothes I own. Delete.
  2. Tips for a minimalist wardrobe. Fairly straight-forward. It gives me some action steps:
    1. Identify my colors. Actually, looking through my bookmarks, it appears I’ve already completed this quiz: Bright colors and silver or gold. Done.
    2. Purge accessories.
    3. Identify accessories that I know would match my wardrobe and style but are affordable (so that I can pass them along if they don’t work out).
    4. Find and purchase said accessories.
    5. Purge through closet. Box up and store items that I don’t wear but like, donate items I won’t wear in the future. Salvage any clothing that I like but need repairs.
  3. A listing of how many items of clothing a person needs. Delete.
  4. Another listing of what pieces of clothing one needs plus shopping tips. Delete.
  5. Building a Remixable Wardrobe. This is a great series of post that I highly recommend. However, it’s a lot like a new cooking recipe. It’s too many tips/techniques for me to take in now while I’m still just getting my feet wet (oh, the mixed metaphors) with a capsule wardrobe. I prefer simple, so I’m going to skip this one. Great resource, but not for me.

Bonus: Facebook lets you bookmark links now too. I had an article saved on reasons why a capsule wardrobe is a good idea. Highly recommended, but intuitive once you’ve started putting it into practice. Delete.

I’d like to take a moment to recommend another great resource: Missus Smarty Pants. I had a subscription a few years ago, but never really used it. However, it’s a great service to use if you find that you’re struggling with your wardrobe. I feel like I’m in a good place of knowing what I like and what I look good in (I’m just struggling in acting on that knowledge…).

So, there we have it. Five bookmarks discarded and clear action steps on what I can do next to make those resources useful. I’ll post a follow-up once they are completed.


Bookmarks: Intro

Last night I finished reading Deniece Schofield’s Confessions of an Organized Homemaker (at the recommendation of Auntie Leila). Many of the ideas are similar to what I’ve learned from the FlyLady, but it was still a very valuable read because it made me rethink how organizing works. I probably knew this before, but it was made even more clear to me that organization is not about arrangement, it’s about function. Lining objects up in a pretty row is of no use if it prevents you from being able to use them in a natural, logical way. Beautifully arranged objects are not necessarily any easier to use.

Putting physical clutter aside (figuratively) for just a moment, I’ve been collecting loads of informational (i.e. digital) clutter for years now. I see an article online or start researching a topic and find a bit information that I think, “Oh, I need to keep that for later.” So I bookmark it or download it and it piles up. Now, this clutter doesn’t really get in the way of anything. I have plenty of space on my computer, I don’t even think there’s a max of bookmarks that you can save in Google Chrome. However, the more time I’ve spent in this habit, I’ve realized the futility and waste of it. I find myself re-researching the same information over again and never really benefitting from it.

This is my idea: purging, organizing and using this informational clutter. If there’s anything of value in an article that I want to remember, I can quote or summarize it here. If there’s a method or lifestyle I want to adopt, I can analyze it here and discard the multiple articles that say practically the exact same thing. If there was a joke or comic I was saving for a laugh, I can share it here for others to enjoy.

Part of this project will be a chronicle of my interests, part of it will be a testament to my lack of self-discipline. But mostly it will be a way for me to really think about and put to use these bookmarks I’ve saved. I remember and understand things that I write about better than things I just read about. By writing about them here, maybe I can commit more of this information to my memory than to my computer’s. Then maybe I’ll find it useful, and if I don’t, I can let it go.

So here’s to an experiment!


New City Catechism – Week #7

I was out of town last weekend, so there is no post about last week’s study on Question #11 (What does God require in the sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments?) and Question #12 (What does God require in the ninth and tenth commandments?).

13. Can anyone keep the law of God perfectly?

I’m most convicted of this truth – that no, we can’t keep God’s law perfectly – when I examine my attitudes about things. I may say or do the right thing in lots of situations, but it usually is more from habit, pride, or fear than from righteousness. Without the Spirit, anything good things I do “are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6, ESV).

14. Did God create us unable to keep his law?

Without Christ, our inheritance is that of sin. Our father Adam, the originally perfect representative for us all, chose with Eve to transgress God’s law. Ever since then, we have been enslaved to a corrupt nature that desires transgression. Christ, our new, eternally perfect representative, through His perfect obedience and sacrifice has bought for us a new inheritance – that of life in the Spirit. Our new inheritance is righteousness and peace. Only when we live by the new inheritance of the Spirit rather than by the old inheritance of sin can we fulfill God’s law.


New City Catechism – Week #5

9. What does God require in the first, second, and third commandments?

God introduces the ten commandments by saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2, ESV) God has set the Israelites free from the Egyptians and now He is teaching them how to live as free people. He has released them from physical bondage, but will they live that way or will they remain as slaves to the gods, traditions and passions of Egypt? Likewise, Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death. We can know we are truly set free because we live as free people, in accordance with His Word and His Spirit.

10. What does God require in the fourth and fifth commandments?

Hebrews 4 speaks of a Sabbath rest that we have entered, to use a common phrase, “already but not yet.” This Sabbath rest, which we experience now as the people of God and which we will experience fully at the restoration of all things, is a rest from work, but what work? I think it could be referring to two kinds of work, which go on simultaneously:

  1. The work of striving against sin, being sanctified, obeying God’s law. One day we shall be fully sanctified and we shall rest with God, praising Him for the work that He has done in recreating His people.
  2. The work of the original dominion mandate that man was given (Genesis 1:28), the work that Christ is completing through His Church. In six days God created the earth and filled it. Christ is now recreating the world and filling it with the glory of God. One day this task will be complete and we shall rest with God, praising Him for the work that He has done in redeeming the world.

So, perhaps, these two sorts of work are not that different. They appear to be our work, but they are ultimately Christ’s work through us.

Now, we celebrate the Sabbath day by remembering God’s work (in the past at creation and in the resurrection, in the future at the fulfillment of all things) and enjoying its fruits at the table of the Lord’s Supper. One day, we shall celebrate the eternal Sabbath by seeing all of God’s work in its fullness and enjoying the wedding feast of the Lamb. Every Sabbath is “already but not yet.”


New City Catechism – Week #4

7. What does the law of God require?

The Law of God is similar to wedding vows in that there are expectations built into the covenant relationship. We often think of expectations as bad things, as unjust constrictions or demands. But every agreement comes with them – you do this and I will do that. When you wed, you vow to love and honor in any situation. If you don’t, you have broken your vow and the covenant relationship is hurt. When God desired to establish covenant relationship with the Israelites, the Law served as the vows. He vowed to redeem and bless them and they vowed to obey His commands.

8. What is the law of God stated in the Ten Commandments?

Two questions came to my mind while looking at this question in the Catechism. I’ll link below what I find to be very helpful answers.

  1. What is the difference between the first and second commandments? See New City Catechism Question and Answer #9. (Sometimes it’s beneficial to look ahead.) Summary: The first command is to recognize God as the one true God. The second command is to worship Him properly. Many other cultures would create idols of their gods to worship. Sometimes the things that we do or make to aid us in our worship are false images of God and break His commands.
  2. Is it lawful for us to call Sunday the Sabbath? See Douglas Wilson, “Sabbath Rest.” I find his list of six evidences very helpful.

New City Catechism – Week #3

Missed a post? Catch up here and here.

5. What else did God create?

My two favorite parts of the answer to this question are:

  • by his powerful Word” – God created through the word and the Word, through speech and through Christ. Hebrews says that Christ upholds all things by the word of His power. Christ actively sustains, upholds, undergirds, and preserves all things. Every molecule, every cell, every creature, every breath, every star, all exist because He wants them to.
  • everything flourished under his loving rule” – “Flourish” is such a beautiful, majestic word. It brings to mind the blooming of a flower or the elegance of a brushstroke. Under God’s rule, all things find their telos (their end or ultimate purpose). God’s rule does not bind us or constrict us, it makes us come alive. Only under His authority and in His presence can we thrive.

6. How can we glorify God?

In Question #4, we saw that “it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.” Here in Question #6, we find how we are to do so. I don’t have much to comment on this question except to say that glorifying God is an individual and corporate activity. We glorify Him in our unity, in our covenants, and in our community. We also glorify Him in our callings, our passions, our faith and our righteousness.


New City Catechism – Week #2

We’re going through the New City Catechism. Check it out:

3. How many persons are there in God?

My thoughts during our discussion quickly turned to the Athanasian creed. The section on the Trinity goes like this:

…[W]e worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.

14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;

20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.

21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

That may seem really belabored. It’s not belabored though, it’s an attempt at being comprehensive. The trinitarian nature of God is an incredible mystery. Yet, God still desires for us to know Him and reveals Himself in His trinitarian nature. Though it’s a mystery, we are called to live in faith of it and to understand it in as much as He has revealed it to us. Our minds can’t fully comprehend everything that the Trinity means, but through the Scriptures we can do what the Athanasian creed does – repeat over and over again what the Trinity is and repeat over and over again what it is not.

The repetition and re-search of the Trinity is not a trivial activity. Many teachers will remind us how important it is to preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday. Since we are finite and still prone to sin, we forget so easily the wondrous work that God has done, is doing and will do. The Trinity is inherent to the Gospel. God together wanted a people for the Father, a bride for the Son, a temple for the Holy Spirit. Preaching the Gospel to ourselves necessitates preaching the doctrine of the Trinity to ourselves. Over and over again. God is like this, God is not like that. We will never come to the end of knowing Him, but let us draw as close as we can.

4. How and why did God create us?

Imago Dei. The image of God. We are told in the Law not to form idols in the image of any created thing. It is impossible for us to create an image of anything except created things. Only God can create something in His own image. And He has.

“And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.” Why is it right? Because it is our purpose. The image of a thing brings the thing glory. The statue of a person commemorates or glorifies the person represented. In the same way, as His image we are made to glorify Him – He who is “eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth.”


New City Catechism – Week #1

This summer, our women’s bible study is going through the New City Catechism. I’m not sure when I first learned what “catechism” is. It definitely was not a feature of the church I grew up in, but I think I must have been introduced to the term at some time in high school or college, probably in reference to the Westminster Catechism or Roman Catholic catechism.

Catechism is like an introductory crash course in systematic theology. Here you find all the key doctrines that the Bible teaches are necessary for the Christian faith. What an immensely valuable tool. Would our evangelism be more effective if it involved training such as this? I think so.

We began this week with the first two questions. I encourage you to take a look:

1. What is our only hope in life and death?

So often the gospel message is presented as hope for death – believe in Christ because then you’ll be saved from death. But what about life? How can Christianity possibly catch our attention if it doesn’t also provide hope for the living?

2. What is God?

One of the ladies brought up the question, “Why isn’t the question ‘Who is God’ instead of ‘What is God’?” Great question! It is really odd to our Christianized ears to hear God termed a “what” and that’s because we already know Him to be personal and knowable – someone we can love and have a relationship with. But all people don’t know that. They aren’t even sure a god exists, let alone what god is. What good news to hear that He is infinite and yet also immanent (in our midst, approachable).

Life by the Church Calendar

Unfortunately, I rarely ever note-take when I read. It’s a bad habit. It was especially bad in graduate school. Try reading a 300-page book and then summarizing it in a paper, all in the span of one week, and not taking notes. Maybe that’s why I did poorly in Medieval History. Maybe.

So, I have very little to say as far as a review goes with the book I finished reading most recently – Ancient-Future Faith by Richard Webber. But I can say that I loved it and that the ideas Webber puts forth were fascinating for me to read. I grew up in large, mainstream, non-denominational churches and college ministries. Liturgy and tradition were (and, to a large extent, still are) foreign to me. In college, though, I met people (and read bloggers) who spoke of liturgy with reverence and love and lived with the weight and joy of tradition in their faith. Then I met my husband and his family, who strive to honor and incorporate the rich elements of God-glorifying tradition within a modern, non-denominational framework.

One of the concepts that the book covered was the structure of the Church’s liturgical calendar and the value of structuring evangelism and discipleship within the natural spacing of the liturgical year. For example, give extra focus to bringing in new disciples during Ordinary time, baptize at Easter Vigil, etc. If you’re familiar with or part of High Church traditions, this would be old hat for you – the way it’s always been done – but it was all new to me.

I don’t intend to spend a lot of energy advocating that we utilize more liturgical and calendrical elements in our local church service; the leadership is already taking steps towards that. However, I do plan to begin exploring how to put such elements into effect within our own home and family unit (just the two of us now, but how helpful it would be to build good habits early). I’ve seen books and articles online to help me, but haven’t delved in yet. Partially this is because it seems like such an odd part of the calendar to begin. I look forward to preparing an Advent wreath for our home when the time gets closer, but what can I do now to celebrate Ordinary time? Reaching out and helping with the work of the Church, yes. How do I commemorate this visually or physically within our home?

Concerning Syria

A few days ago, I jotted off a quick note to my Representative about my opposition to a military attack on Syria. However, today, when I took the time to write to my Senators, I spent a bit more time crafting it. I’ve spent the past week listening to NPR and reviewing opinions that have been rushing by me on social media channels. This was the best summary of my current feelings that I could come up with in 15 minutes without editing.

Dear Senator …

I write to urge you to oppose the President’s plan for military strike against Syria. Although I find the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people to be a tragic and despicable crime against humanity, I do not believe that military action on our part at this time or in this way is in the best interest of the US or the Syrian people.

Firstly, I do not have complete confidence in the evidence provided to the public. While I do not doubt the numbers or the atrocity of the incidents that have occurred, I am troubled by the lack of solid, open evidence that proves that it was in fact the Syrian government that released the weapons. What if it was in fact an attack by the Syrian rebels? There is no “good” or moral side in the conflict between the rebels and the Syrian government.

Secondly, it is not and should not be the moral imperative of the United States to involve itself in foreign conflicts such as these. There has been no attack against us to suggest that we would be entering into a “just” conflict. Acting through a military strike would be to claim that we are the father of the world, and we have the authority and the moral right to “correct” wayward “children.” This is a prideful and fallacious position.

Thirdly, it is not logical to think that any military strike could be effective in producing outcomes desirable to the nation of Syria and the world at large. On one side I would argue that it is not possible to bring peace to this situation: there is no peace to “keep” and peace cannot be made through violence. On the other, more pragmatic side, I would argue that a limited military strike could end in only two possible scenarios: 1) Assad’s government is bruised, but not disabled. If Assad is so evil as to commit the crimes he is accused of, we cannot expect to stop him by giving him a slap on the wrist. In this scenario, our efforts would be fruitless. 2) Assad’s government crumbles. This is not the outcome Obama is suggesting will happen, but it is entirely possible. Who will take power then? Are we suggesting that we pick out the leader for the new government in Syria? It is not our right to do so!

Fourthly, it is too much of a risk for our own nation to enter this conflict. Our very recent history in Iraq should be enough to convince us that unprovoked (true provocation would be an attack against our nation on our territory) action can lead to lengthy, bloody, expensive war. We should not spend our money on this conflict, when there is urgent need for our tax dollars elsewhere (especially to pay off our federal government’s appalling debt). I do not trust that boots will not be on Syrian soil – if the conflict goes on, that inevitably will happen.

Finally, I argue on behalf of the Syrian people. How many innocent victims will be caught in the crosshairs of this conflict? There is no way for us to 100% guarantee that a military strike would claim only the lives and property of guilty men. If we engage in this conflict, there will be innocent lives lost. Such action would leave blood on our hands. We cannot cover the crimes of Syria with the innocent blood of its people.

Once again, I urge you to oppose the President’s plan for military strike against Syria. Please do much more than vote against it. Argue against it, pray against it, fight against it.

Thank you for your service to the State of Ohio.

Emily Weis