Dreams Really Do Come True: A Women’s Theology Conference

Dreamer Yesterday I stepped away from the registration table and stood in the back of Melton Hall on Trinity International University’s campus and reveled in the sight of 132 women gathered for Identity: A Women’s Theology Conference.  The dream had come true.

In August 2012 an idea was hatched on the sun porch of a recent Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) graduate, Carol Marshall,  and M.Div. (Masters of Divinity) student, Nancy Bartell.  Why not have a conference on theology which targets women?  Great idea, but how to go about doing this?

Ingrid Faro, Ph.D. candidate at TEDS, recently announced she would lead the on-campus student group, Trinity Society of Women (TSW), for the coming school year.  Carol and Nancy thought TSW could serve as the “front” for the conference and provide credibility, since who would come to the Carol and Nancy Show?

I count all three ladies as friends and was thrilled with they invited me to join the planning process early on.  They knew of my love for theology and desire to inspire women to love it as well.  I also needed to fulfill a Field Education requirement for my Masters in Christian Studies, and planning the conference would give the hands-on training needed.  The Fabulous Four was formed, and the date of February 23, 2013 was set aside for the conference.

Nancy’s softball coaching and TIU sports department responsibilities  pulled her away from organizing, but the planning continued.  Over the course of the next few months, the theme, format, target audience and marketing methods were discussed and defined. Ideas for speakers were floated and considered, and the fuzzy shape of a “maybe” was becoming a “this is really going to happen”.

Esther Theonugraha, Ph.D. candidate, brought the World Cafe idea to the planning group and helped narrow and refine the theme further. She also agreed to be one of the plenary speakers, as did Ingrid.  Writer Michelle Van Loon came on board to help with writing and marketing and held the team to a working timetable.  She stepped into Nancy’s cleats and the Fabulous Four was at full force again.

Yesterday the fruits of all the labor on the part of the planning team, speakers, and various Trinity departments was in plain sight.  The sold-out conference showed the hunger of women to wrestle with the question of Identity.  When all is stripped away– the roles, the careers, the relationships, the finances, the personas — who are we really?  If everything I’m attached to in life were stripped away, who would I be?

Ingrid started in Genesis with the imago Dei, the concept of our being made in the image of God.  Esther challenged all with her theme of “Identity in Relationships:  Advocacy and  Representation”; a look at the responsibilities each of us have to fulfill these roles as Jesus modeled them.

Dynitta Lieuwen, Ph.D candidate, shared the struggles and challenges of a tough childhood in inner-city Cincinnati that has been redeemed and made beautiful through her relationship with Jesus Christ.  She challenged all to re-examine the expectations received from home, community and church and determine which are true and which are lies.  The work then is to replace the lies with theological truth.

Rosalie de Rosset, Professor at Moody Bible Institute closed out the day with thoughts on “A Theology of Dignity” drawn from her newly-published book, Unseduced and Unshaken.

What a thrill it was to see a room packed with women hungry to dive into theological concepts, wrestle with new perspectives and listen to challenges to be godly human beings first and foremost.  No matter where we are in life or our spiritual journeys, we are always daughters of the King.  And don’t forget that!

The sell-out crowd was beyond the expectations of the final Fabulous Four, but not Nancy Bartell – she envisioned 1000 women gathered; maybe that dream will come true one day, too.


Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks, aka Neuroplasticity

Brain as play doh

With the advent of each technological advancement comes a discussion of its impact upon culture, society and how people think.  The printed page, typewriters, radio, television and now the internet have undergone such analysis. Journalists and researchers are now pulling the alarm as the rewiring which occurs in the physical brain through frequent exposure to the internet becomes increasingly apparent.  The relatively new field of neuroplasticity provides insight and an explanation of the actual physical changes to the brain and the resulting impact on learning .

Early brain research led to the formation of the localization theory.  Scientists found particular spots in the brain were responsible for specific functions, such as speech, control of the left arm or hearing.  They concluded that damage to a specific area would lead to the irreparable loss of the specific function controlled by that area.

But researchers working with victims of war or serious accidents discovered patients could learn a skill even when the part of the brain which handled that skill was damaged; the plasticity of the brain was acknowledged.  The easy, quick learning of children and their brain’s plasticity was accepted, then in the 1970’s Dr. Michael Merzenich demonstrated that this plasticity exists from the cradle to the grave.

His cleverly designed studies show that radical improvement in cognitive thinking is possible no matter the age of the individual.  Paying close attention to something which requires highly focused attention will redesign the brain and change the mapping system the brain utilizes to perform the function.  This adaptability has upsides and downsides.

Adult learners can acquire a new language or take up dancing, while habitual liars will increase their facility in lying as extra white matter in the prefrontal cortex develops to handle the task.  Oversurfers of the internet will stretch out their brains and be distracted more easily; and multi-taskers will become less deliberative and less able to think and reason out a problem.  They may think they’re more skilled, but it is at a superficial level.

Internet users touch keys and a mouse, click here, drag there and receive a steady stream of input through physical, visual and audio sensations.  That and the quick results of Google searches and the unending trail of hyperlinks actually create a need for mental stimulation, information and impressions.  Users become adept at scanning lots of data, recognizing patterns and quickly deciding what is relevant.  The plastic brain adapts to handle the bombardment of stimuli, but to the detriment of other skills.

Inductive analysis, critical thinking, reflection, and deep thinking become harder and harder to do.  The brain struggles to follow lengthy narratives or involved arguments, and the movement of new information into long-term memory occurs less frequently.  As restlessness is hardwired into our brains, concentration becomes increasingly difficult.

I have experienced aspects of this phenomenon myself.  Three years ago I enrolled in a masters level graduate program thirty years after graduating from college.  Heading back to school is challenging in and of itself, but I think my online activity made it even more challenging.

For years I’d followed hyperlinks, multi-tasked, and bounced from site to site. I quickly scanned sites using an “F” shaped movement of my eyes rather than reading thoroughly, flitted from blog post to blog post, jumped between multiple browser tabs and along the way began to crave sensory stimulation.

Then came my rude awakening. Graduate school classes consisted of 2-5 hour lectures with outlines on an overhead projector or a PowerPoint presentation at best. Readings were often dense, linear arguments (particularly in theology classes) and research papers required critical thinking and analytic skills. Not much sensory stimulation happening, unless you counted trying to avoid watching other students flit between screens on their laptops.

It took a year to shift my brain into academic mode.  Gradually my attention span lengthened,  the ability to follow convoluted arguments improved, and my writing reflected improved critical thinking skills. I noticed the regained skills diminished over breaks when I utilized the internet and social media more. Granted, some of the learning challenges may be related to being a Middle-

aged Student, but my re-acclimation to streams of sensory input and mental stimulation certainly wasn’t helping.

I’m not a Luddite and I’m not about to cancel my ISP, but as a result of my exploration into neuroplasticity, I am more intentional when I use the internet.  It’s a fabulous tool for communication and information, but I want to use it more than be shaped by it.

What’s been your experience?

I researched the topic for a class on teaching methodologies.  If you want to explore further, here are some links.  Follow them at your own peril.

Anderson, Sam. “In Defense of Distraction.” New York 42, no. 18 (May 25, 2009): 28–101.
Bush, Harold K. “Brain Memoirs:  Thinking About Thinking.” The Cresset. Accessed January 13, 2013. http://thecresset.org/2012/Advent/Bush_A2012.html.
Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic, August 2008. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/.
———. “The Juggler’s Brain.” Part of a Special Issue: Technology; Excerpt from The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.  Kappan,  92, no. 4 (December 2010): 8–14.
Carr, Nicholas G. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. Norton pbk. [ed.]. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011.
Neulieb, Christine. “Changing Our Minds.” Commonweal 137, no. 22 (December 17, 2010): 15–18.




Lance and “Limitless”

Lance ArmstrongLance Armstrong’s taped confession to Oprah scheduled to be aired this Thursday, January 17, 2013, brings to mind the concept and message underlying the 2011 movie, “Limitless“. In the movie, a writer, Eddie Morra, suffering from writer’s block discovers an experimental pharmaceutical, NZT, which enables him to access the underutilized 70-80% of his brain.

Suddenly he can recall everything he’s experienced or read in life, read financials and predict a stock’s performance, charm women, write the Great American Novel, and learn a new language in a day without Berlitz or Rosetta Stone. Eddie has become all he hoped to be and then some. He’s popular, rich, courted by the beautiful and powerful — he has arrived.

Course there are some downsides to his success and drug usage.  Unsavory characters want his stash of the drug, a greedy Wall Street tycoon seeks to profit from his financial acumen, and his body is ravaged by the drug’s side effects. Even with the known negatives, Eddie finds the surpassing of normal human mental limitations appealing enough to continue taking the drug.

In a similar vein, Lance Armstrong’s 7 Tour de France wins after battling and beating testicular cancer surpassed normal human physical limitations.  In years past, I completed a century ride of 100 miles in a day, and could not imagine the endurance and strength needed to cycle through the mountains and plains of France riding 100 or so miles daily for nearly 21 days.  That anyone can win one Tour de France is an amazing feat; winning seven is phenomenal; winning seven after cancer treatment is a superhuman feat. A superhuman feat now acknowledged to be accomplished by the usage of pharmaceuticals.

The feats of the fictional Eddie Morra and the real-life Lance Armstrong highlight the innate human desire to surpass or bypass limits. Much of sport and entertainment revolves around people who have broken the limits, set new records, or turned in the best performance of their life.  Much of reality TV pokes fun at people who have limits and can’t surpass them.  Let’s fact it, we humans don’t like having limits – even if it’s only one.

The Garden of Eden was a wonderful, stupendous, magical place to live where God walked and talked regularly with the human dwellers.  The food supply was amble, the work load manageable and pleasurable; and the co-worker beautiful and naked.  How much better could life get?

Well, Adam and Eve thought it would be better if there weren’t any limits. God had given them one limit in Genesis 2:16-17 – don’t eat from one tree.  One tree; one dietary restriction, and they weren’t happy. Eddie Morra took NZT, Lance took PED’s, and Eve swallowed the serpent’s lie (Genesis 3:6-7).  All three wanted to surpass  their natural or imposed limits, and all three suffered for their choices.

Whether it’s speed limits, the number of items I can take in a dressing room, or the weight of my checked luggage, I don’t like limits.  But I recognize it was God who instituted a limit before the fall, and limits have their place.  I don’t like how long it takes me to learn a new skill, a new language or a new dance step; I don’t like limits.  But I recognize God is calling me to acknowledge the limits of my humanity and accept these limits as a good thing.   After all, God created me that way, he created Adam and Eve that way and declared his creation to be “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

I’m sure I’ll continue to celebrate the achievements of the Usain Bolts and Michael Phelps of the world and hope they aren’t using.  But if they are, I’ll recognize our common humanity and desire to beat the limits.


Laughing About Punctuation

Cover of, "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" book

Cover of, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” book

Lynne Truss made me laugh out loud while reading her best-selling book on punctuation, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”.  Any author who can make a reader laugh, even silently, about punctuation is to be respected and commended.  If the reader loudly guffaws, they are to be knighted.

My indoctrination into punctuation and sentence diagramming came under the boring tutelage of my seventh-grade teacher, Mrs. Barr.  I found her descriptions tedious and often hid other reading material behind my English textbook and was regularly reprimanded for not paying attention.  If she had taught as Truss writes, I would have listened.

Truss artfully weaves the history and development of punctuation marks into this primer on proper usage.  Though she writes from other side of the pond, she regularly points out the distinctions between UK and USA terms for the marks and the variances in usage.  For example, a “full stop” is the UK equivalent of the period; and “inverted commas” are only American quotation marks in disguise.

A self-described stickler, she speaks of the “little shocks endured” when she looks in horror at badly punctuated signs and the world goes on, completely blind to the plight of the sensitive stickler.  She compares herself to the little boy in The Sixth Sense, “who can see dead people, except that we can see dead punctuation”.

Truss appreciates punctuation properly used and portrays the necessity and usefulness of these printers’ marks.  She writes, “Another writer tells us that punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language: they tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour, and stop”.  Punctuation lets the reader “hear” the words as though they were spoken rather than written, and tell actors how to speak them.  For example, commas serve to delineate the “rhythm, direction, pitch, tone and flow” similar to musical notation.

Punctuation is essential for clarity of communication. Truss employs numerous examples to drive home her point.  One of the best is the following:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Further examples include, “A re-formed rock band is quite different from a reformed one. Likewise, a long-standing friend is different from a long standing one. A cross-section of the public is quite different from a cross section of the public”.  I had to read the last one twice before I caught the subtle difference, but it is there. Many of the distinctions are nuances; and the examples require careful reading with a proof-reader’s eyes.

I confess to writing these comments with a sense of apprehension.  Several times I’ve wondered if I am using the punctuation marks correctly. Wait, was that the US or the UK usage of inverted commas at the end of the sentence? Are they to appear before or after the full stop?  Nevertheless, (a comma is definitely required here!), I am pecking away at the keyboard in hopes that you, too, will pick up the book and marvel and laugh at those little marks who use often confuses, but whose absence would leave us truly confused.






Do I Really Want To?

crutches_wallJesus asks masterful questions.  One of the most masterful is his question to the invalid of thirty-eight years whom he found lying by the pool of Bethseda in Jerusalem. Jesus sees him there with the blind, the lame and the paralyzed, and asks, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:6

At first glance, this appears to be a silly question, “Of course he wants to get well!”  He’s been an invalid for more than three decades; why wouldn’t he want to get well?  Surprisingly, the man doesn’t directly answer Jesus’ question nor respond as I expected. Instead he makes excuses: “I have no one to help me into the pool…While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me” (John 5:7). I’m often quick to reel off my excuses; does it sound familiar to you, too?

Last fall I enrolled in a Counseling Skills class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School from which I gleaned many helpful tips for active listening, expressing empathy and helping others. One of the best takeaways was the understanding that no one can help another person change or heal until they have decided that is what they want to do.

Many people in pain will come seeking advise and counsel and gain helpful insights into a situation or relationship or whatever it was that brought them to the decision to seek help in the first place.  But until the individual decides that the pain of the current situation is worse than the pain of changing and stepping into the unknown results of change, they will listen and decide to keep on doing what they have already been doing.  There isn’t a thing a counselor, spiritual director or therapist can do to help the person unwilling to own and commit to the process of change.

The text in John doesn’t specifically address this, but I can surmise that if the man were to be physically healed, his life would be drastically different.  He would no longer be at the mercy of timing nor require the assistance of someone to help him into the pool; thus he wouldn’t have the same excuses anymore.  Now he would have the ability to be responsible for himself and not depend on benevolence. The burden for providing for his needs and care would shift to his shoulders. That realization is what stops many from progressing further in the healing process.

Yes, we want the pain from a bad relationship, unkind words, unjust actions or bad circumstances to end, but sometimes we want to stay rooted in the hurt more than we want to do the work that full healing and restoration entails. I’ve parked in that spot, sometimes it seems like my personal reserved parking place. I’ve  regularly made the choice to hang on to a hurt and repeatedly replay the tape of the wrong even when I heard God’s still small voice telling me to forgive and find healing. I claim I want healing, but do I really?

Jesus’ question is utterly powerful, and one I want to answer in the affirmative more and more. What will be your answer?


Evidence of Healing: When Our Scars No Longer Define Us

Band aid on heart

Healing the heart

The thoracic surgeon walked into the surgical waiting room carrying a large magic marker in hand.  He drew an 8″ line from the top to the bottom of my sternum and said, “That’s the line we’ll follow when we make the incision”. At that moment the reality of the size of the cut, the resultant scar, and the seriousness of the upcoming open heart operation struck me full force.

I was born with a congenital heart valve problem which led to the development of an aortic aneurysm.  Once discovered, the cardiologist, internist and thoracic surgeon agreed this wasn’t a situation of “wait and see if it keeps getting worse”.  No, this was a situation of “some urgency” and a time for action. Well, the date for action had arrived.

For six months after the surgery, the scar was ugly, red, swollen and incredibly obvious; not to mention painful and sensitive. I kept it covered and tried hard to keep my back turned so as not to shock anyone in the ladies’ locker room at the health club.  To say I was self-conscious and self-aware was an understatement.  I bought make-up designed to hide scars, and  wore scarves and jewelry to cover the top of the scar which I thought everyone who looked at me must see.  How could they not?

Twelve months later the scar had lost the redness and swelling, yet I remained self-conscious . A helpful sales clerk in Nordstrom’s fitting room told me she hadn’t even noticed the scar until I mentioned it, but I was suspicious. How could she not see it?  I gradually stopped using the scar make-up and realized I enjoyed wearing the scarves and necklaces as more than camouflage.

Over time days would pass between thoughts of the scar and the surgery.  Yet I still defined myself by the surgical procedure and wanted others to define me in the same way.  I was an open heart surgery survivor and quick to weave the operation into the life story I shared with new acquaintances.

Four years post-surgery I found I wasn’t sharing the story very frequently and certainly not in initial conversations with people.  In fact there were many people who didn’t even know about the surgery.  I shared my experience with those facing the same or a similarly dramatic procedure to offer encouragement and express compassion without trying to garner sympathy. I had reached the point where I was no longer defining myself in terms of the operation or the chest-opening scar. Instead, other personality and character traits, and interests took center stage.

By God’s grace a major wound was healed both inwardly and outwardly; the miraculous and mysterious process of healing worked its magic. My sternum bones grew back together, my skin reunited though a few nerves quit their job, and I believed people when they said they hadn’t noticed the scar.

I offer my story to encourage those whose scars of whatever ilk still define them.  Please hang in there and stay in the healing process.  I don’t believe the passivity of  the line,”time heals all wounds”, is true. While the process can’t be hurried or rushed; it does require a desire to move beyond the point where the scar or trauma is how you self-identify.  You can choose to remain stuck in the past and seek the sympathy that comes with the revelation of a traumatic event, but I encourage you to move on.

The time when you self-identify as the real “you” will come again.  The major life event or trauma will likely remain a  force in shaping who you are, but there can come a time when it doesn’t define you.

Psalm 30:2.


Black Thursday Next?

First Thanksgiving

The focus at Thanksgiving on family and friends gathered around food in an expression of gratitude has grown sweeter and sweeter to me with each passing year.  As a child nothing could top the joy and excitement of reaching into my stocking and opening presents on Christmas morning.  The longing and waiting for Christmas morning was barely containable, and I can still bring the incredible sense of anticipation to mind.  Thanksgiving seemed terribly lackluster in comparison.  Yes, the food was wonderful, but no presents?  BORING.

Now I relish the simplicity of Thanksgiving. The familiar recipes are comforting, not boring.  Eating turkey, mashed potatoes, wild rice casserole, green beans and buttermilk pie year after year could be a foodie’s nightmare, but I find it reassuring.  There’s no need to decorate the house and the yard, send cards, write a holiday letter or throw parties, the day is complete in and of itself.

It’s a day to focus on the faces around the table, on thinking over the year and remembering the wonderful blessings even in the midst of challenges and hard times.  A day to include people who can’t get home to be with their families.  A day to watch football and movies and play games and let life move more slowly.

So when Black Friday encroached on Thanksgiving Thursday this year, I was truly bothered.  If anyone wishes to rise at 4:00 a.m. on Friday morning and hit the sales with coupons and coffee in hand, have at it.  You won’t talk me into joining you, but I’ll be happy to share in your excitement over bargains and great finds – when I wake up at 8:00 a.m., that is.

But stores opening on Thanksgiving this year crossed the line I didn’t think would be crossed.  Thanksgiving has long been the day set aside for gratitude and kept separate from the day which often depicts materialism at its worst.  Not any more.  Gratitude and greed commingled in 2012, and I’m not sure they’ll be separated again.

I hope in the end the financial analysis will show the cost of opening on Thanksgiving was not matched by the sales made.   But knowing the American consumer’s penchant for a bargain, I’m not optimistic.

I intend to do my part to keep Thanksgiving orange and Black Friday black.  Won’t you please do yours?


More than Brain Power

On Thursday, November 15, I traveled to Milwaukee with two friends from TEDS to attend the 64th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.  Many of the greatest minds,

thinkers and teachers in the worldwide evangelical community were in attendance and presenting

academic papers.  Hundreds of papers were read and discussed during the conference’s three days.

I attended 8 such presentations and the evening banquet and drove home with an enriched, but overwhelmed brain.  The exhibit hall alone with tables and tables of books published by the academic divisions of IVP, Baker, Brazos Press, Tyndale, Eerdmans and Crossway put my gray matter into overdrive.

One of the greatest challenges in attending was deciding which presentation to attend, particularly when 2 or 3 favorites were happening at the same time.  Some papers were narrowly defined subjects, such as “Theology Without Idolatry or Violence:
I counted it an awesome privilege to hear N. T. Wright, Craig Keener, Bingham Hunter, Kevin Giles and others speak in person, and was disappointied that there were so many others I couldn’t fit into the schedule.  Yet as I sat at the banquet surrounded by nearly 800 people who have devoted their lives to study, teaching, preaching, writing and researching God and the Bible, I realized all the brain power  and collective knowledge present in the room was only a drop in the bucket when compared to the awesomeness of an infinite God and Creator.A Critical Response to Keven Hector’s Theology Without Metaphysics” by Michael Rea.  Others were much broader, such as “Contemplative and Centering Prayer” by James C. Wilhoit. Multiple readings of some titles still left me clueless; “The Problem with the Proposal of a Peripatetic Provenance for the Lexical & Conceptual Source of Paul’s Ethical Catalogues in Colossians 3, and a Proposal of ‘Two Ways’ Forward”.

The doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God was made concrete for me at that dinner.  Here we are 2,000 years after the birth of Christ building upon the foundation laid by two millenia of Ch

ristian theologians, archaeologists and exegetes who have gone before us, and we aren’t even close to comprehending fully the nature, power and glory of the knowable, but  not fully knowable Yahweh.

Rather than feeling defeated or overwhelmed by this realization, I felt a wave of worship rise up and wanted to praise this amazing God who desires a relationship with me.  Though I am an incredibly lowly human who can’t read ancient Hebrew or Koine Greek, debate Barthian theology or do textual criticism of ancient manuscripts, I can still approach his throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) and know I hav

Evangelical Theological Society

e peace with him through Jesus (Romans 5:1).  How phenomenal!

What a privilege to have attended and how wonderful to be humbled again by the

awesomeness of God.

What leads you to those points of awareness and humility?

When Fear Muddles Thinking

© Kim Karpeles

The herd of pigs rushing down the steep bank into the Sea of Galilee is usually where my attention goes when reading the account in Luke 8:26-48.  The other day a different aspect to the story stopped me in my tracks, and verse 37 struck me as one of the saddest verses in the New Testament.

When Jesus sailed across the sea and reached the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, a demon-possessed man was there to meet him.  This man was so tortured by the many demons who inhabited him that he had not worn clothes or lived in a house for a long time.  Instead he had been chained hand and foot and kept under guard though he often broke the chains and sought refuge among the tombs.

When the demoniac sees Jesus, he recognizes him as the “Son of the Most High God” and begs Jesus not to torture him.  The many demons dwelling within him beg repeatedly not to be cast into the Abyss and request to go into the herd of pigs feeding on the hillside instead.  Jesus complies.

I’ve stood at the high point on the eastern shore where tradition holds this scene most likely occurred.  Today there is a barbed wire fence at the top of the hill and signs warning of land mines buried on the hillside hang on the wires, so it takes work to envision the rest of the scene as it unfolded 2000 years ago.

The shocked herdsmen run off to tell what they had seen to people in the town and surrounding countryside.  To this I can totally relate – pigs rushing down a hillside to drown in the lake would have been quite an event to witness.  But when the people arrive on the scene and see the demoniac sitting at Jesus feet dressed and behaving like a normal man, they are afraid.  This reaction is harder for me to understand. I like to think I would have been thrilled to see the local “crazy” healed, been excited for him and wanted to meet the man who made all this happen.

Luke’s next words are a very sad; “Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear.  So he go into the boat and left.”

As Leon Morris comments in the Tyndale Commentary on Luke, “With all the evidence before them that a great miracle had been wrought, these people proceeded to reject the greatest opportunity of their lives.” Perhaps the material loss caused the fear, perhaps the supernatural power made them afraid. Either way, “they saw Jesus as a disturbing person, more interested in saving people than in material prosperity.”   He had demonstrated power over spiritual forces and healed a man, but instead of being celebrated and worshiped, he was rejected.  The people chose to allow fear to overcome them and muddle their thinking.

As I consider the scenario, the words “afraid” and “fear” pop out, as does the realization the people had sent the God of the universe packing when he was right there among them. While it’s easy for me to think I would have behaved differently, how many times have words or a response motivated by fear been one I later regretted?  How many times has fear kept me from pursuing a relationship with God or others?  More times than I would like to admit.

Next time I recognize fear has overtaken me, I want to realize my thinking is very likely muddled and I might be missing the opportunity of a lifetime.  I truly don’t want to see the back of Jesus as his boat pulls away from the shore and know I was the one who asked him to leave.

When have you seen the back of Jesus?



Sabbath and the Health Club

A boot camp class at my health club was the last place I expected to hear the Sabbath concept extolled, but that’s exactly where it happened.

This class was one where the instructor’s stated goal is to tap you out.  In fact this instructor said she wouldn’t be doing the workout with us because her class was so tough and she had another one to teach that day. This was not a great way to inspire confidence or encourage the twelve suckers standing alongside their mats and hand weights in the gym.

After warming up, she put us  into a cycle of 10 exercises for one-minute each with a two-minute rest before beginning the cycle twice more with some variations thrown in.  We did exercises like walking planks, knee bends into overhead presses, push-ups with hand weights, superman planks, prisoner knee bends; you get the picture.

As the class wrapped up and she lead us through a cool down with stretching exercises, she inserted the Sabbath.  Well, she didn’t use the word, but she used the concept.  She talked about women who did this class and didn’t use the two minute rest period to rest.  They kept moving, pushing, running, jumping rope or jogging through the rest periods and ended up not being able to finish the class.

She cautioned us, “Pushing hard can be good, but the body needs rest”.  In fact, it’s impossible to work out seven days a week and not crash or get injured.  The body must rest and be allowed to recover.  It can’t function at a high level without a break to restore and to heal.

I seriously doubt she knew she was echoing God’s example in Genesis 2:2 where the story of creation concludes with the following:  “By the seventh day God had finished the  work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work”.  But she was.

God and his truths often show up in the strangest places – even a health club boot camp class.

Where has God surprised you with his truth?