Receptive Soil #BibleJournaling

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Jesus’ parables are full of artsy drawables. Yet, when I contemplated journaling the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:11-15), illustrations of the old fashioned process of sowing grain and it falling into the literal destinations named in the parable seemed like avoiding the issue somehow. And so I asked myself, what would examples of unfruitful and fruitful soil be in my life?

That’s what I tried to portray on this page. The gold oval-shaped image in the middle is a grain of wheat. Where will it find receptive soil? Social media; preoccupation with news; involvement in sports; focus on money; interaction with friends; attending church; the whirlwind of mental stress, worry, fear and anxiety; clothes and all they imply of absorption with personal appearance and image; Bible study?

Simplistic, I know, but the passage and trying to illustrate it made me think again of my day to day life and how much of it may be unreceptive soil.

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I prepared this page with gesso before doing the art work, then used brush markers and pencil crayons to do the coloring. The grain of wheat is colored with an acrylic marker (gold). The gesso worked great—there was no bleed through with the brush markers that usually seriously mark the back side of paper much thicker than Bible pages.

Hospitality #BibleJournaling

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Are you the kind of person who likes surprises thrown into your day? Or are you a scheduler who prefers to have your day outlined in your planner and then proceed according to plan?

I’m definitely the latter. So, a few weeks ago when I read, in Matthew 14, about Jesus’ botched up day plans, I took notice.

His relative John, who had baptized Him, had recently been arrested and imprisoned by Herod. Then, through the trickery of Herod’s partner Herodias, John was beheaded. His disciples disposed of his body then went to tell Jesus.

On hearing of John’s death, Jesus’ plan was to get away to a “deserted place by Himself,” no doubt to process this sad news and to grieve.

When He got to that deserted place, however, it wasn’t deserted at all. Instead, throngs were waiting for Him there with their sick.

Did Jesus express disappointment or frustration at having His plans changed? Did he dismiss the crowds or get His disciples to do it with “Sorry! The healer isn’t seeing people today”?

No. Instead, He was moved with compassion over their conditions, spent all day healing, and at day’s end, when the disciples wanted to send the crowds home, challenged them to feed everyone before they set off.

You have to be hospitable to the core to react toward the crowds like Jesus did in the face of grief, disappointment, and wrecked plans. For hospitality is first an attitude before it comes out in action. Jesus’ hospitality was the focus of my art journal entry for Matthew 14.

To make the illustration I transferred an online image of cupped hands onto tracing paper, then drew, cut out, and pasted the loaves and fishes into them. I attached the hands to my Bible page with Washi tape as a tip-out. They symbolize Jesus’ heart of hospitality.

I hope the image of loaded hands stays with me next time someone’s needs come between me and what’s written in my planner!

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“But Jesus said to them, ‘They do not need t go away. You give them something to eat'” – Matthew 14:16 (© 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

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A Traveler’s Advisory (review)

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A Traveler's AdvisoryA Traveler’s Advisory by Marcia Lee Laycock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In A Traveler’s Advisory, author Marcia Laycock takes readers from the Arctic Circle to the jungles of Papua New Guinea and home again. Each of the 52 meditations draws spiritual lessons from a travel experience (sections are titled “In the Air,” “On the Road,” “On Vacation,” and “Far Away Places”) and make practical applications to life.

Written in Marcia’s characteristic warm, easy-to-read style, they make for fascinating and uplifting reading. Some of my favorites:

– Most fun: “Sea Shells and the Process of Faith” (p. 111)—hunting for sea shells on a Papua New Guinea beach.

– Sadly relatable: “A Wrong Turn to the Right Place” (p. 34)— going in circles is not fun!

– Would make my bucket list: “Angels in the Badlands” (p. 71)—a visit to the Passion Play in the Alberta Badlands.

– Most scary: “Doubts in the Storm” (p. 41)—being stuck on a highway from the Yukon to Alaska in a snowstorm.

– Most beautiful: “Small Miracles” (p. 87)—a hike through the Sepik area of New Guinea.

– Most weird: “An Appreciation of Light” (p. 73)—a trek through some skeleton-filled caves, a relic of cannibalism, in New Guinea.

Through these devotions we discover that God’s voice, help, direction, comfort, and protection can find us wherever we are.

A Traveler’s Advisory would be a wonderful volume to read while on holiday. Or if home-bound, enjoy these travels vicariously from the safety and comfort of your reading chair. Your life will be enriched and your appreciation for the Earth, its inhabitants, and the God who made them enhanced.

I received a copy of A Traveler’s Advisory from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

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Love Triangles (review)

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Love Triangles, Discovering Jesus the Jew in Today's IsraelLove Triangles, Discovering Jesus the Jew in Today’s Israel by Bobbie Ann Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In her memoir / travelogue Love Triangles, Bobbie Ann Cole writes about her love affair with Israel. When she and husband Butch move there, it is to fill a six-month time period till their rented property will again be available to them. However, after only three months they begin thinking of applying for permanent residency, called making Aliyah* when you’re Jewish (as Bobbie is).

There is one problem. Bobbie and Butch are Christians. The interpretation of the Jewish immigration policy in the last years has kept many Jews who believe Jesus is their Messiah from gaining permanent residency. This has Bobbie constantly on edge, worried that she’ll jeopardize her chances of immigrating. And so she guards what she says, avoids establishing intimate friendships with the locals, and even changes who she associates with.

Much of the book is descriptions of biblically familiar Israeli sites. In vivid and picturesque language Cole describes what she hears, sees, smells and touches. She also recalls what happened in the Bible places like Nazareth, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem and more. Repeatedly she mentions that in Israel she feels closer to Jesus than anywhere else in the world:

What I loved, but as someone relatively young in faith had never known before, was following Jesus all around the Land. That was a powerful incentive.

In our three months there, we had met Him in the Negev Desert, in Jerusalem’s Old City, and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. … We had discovered that even though the country was constantly on high military alert, there was what Butch referred to as ‘that safe, spiritual feeling,’ a serenity rooted in faith, a trust that God ‘has it.’” KL 129.

I found this book informational and inspiring in several ways. First, it opened my eyes to the way Jews who believe in Jesus are singled out as ineligible to become Israeli citizens. Second, Cole’s descriptions of modern Israel juxtaposed against her sometimes whimsical and imaginative retelling of what happened there in Bible stories made me want to visit Israel more than ever. And finally, through Cole’s story I have gained a new appreciation for Israel’s story and the love of the people for the land both in the past and present.

You’re probably wondering if Bobbie and Butch made Aliyah. Were they successful in immigrating? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

*‘Aliyah’ literally means ‘going up,’ a term originally used to describe how Jews from all over the ancient world would go up to the temple at the very top of Mount Zion in Jerusalem for Jewish pilgrimage festivals” – KL 768.

I received the Kindle edition of Love Triangles as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

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Ex-Muslim (review)

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Ex-Muslim: How One Daring Prayer to Jesus Changed a Life ForeverEx-Muslim: How One Daring Prayer to Jesus Changed a Life Forever by Naeem Fazal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ex-Muslim: How One Daring Prayer to Jesus Changed a Life Forever is the memoir of Naeem Fazal (with co-writer Kitti Murray). In it Fazal tells the story of how he, an ethnic Pakistani from Kuwait, came to America as a devout Muslim intent on meeting beautiful blondes. Then one day, during a frightening encounter with evil, he met Jesus. Ex-Muslim also tells how his siblings converted to Christianity, how he met and wooed his wife Ashley, and how they planted Mosaic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Fazal tells his story in first person. The writing style is casual. It’s almost as if he’s sitting across the table talking to you using everyday lingo and putting in asides. The sense of ego that comes across in places did irritate me a bit, though he does his share of admitting to and apologizing for episodes of immaturity and a tendency toward cockiness, especially in evidence during his younger days.

Besides telling his story he also explores, in some of the more lecture-type parts of the book, principles of how God works in general. Fazal finds lessons in the incidents of his own life and uses them as springboards to instruct others. His experience of coming to the States from the Middle East also gives us a refreshing look at western culture through an outsider’s eyes. These things work together to make for interesting and relatable teaching.

I found much to like and take away from this book. Describing his encounter with Jesus, Fazal writes:

“Jesus’ first words to me were not, ‘Whew! You’re safe now with me.’ No, he said, ‘I am Jesus Christ, your Lord. Your life is not your own’ ” Kindle Location 859.

When speaking of ministry to people of other cultures and faiths, especially Muslims, He says:

“Incarnational living, living among people and relating to them intimately, is of far more value than anything an evangelism or apologetics course can teach us. I’m not suggesting we don’t learn to understand our Muslim neighbors and friends and coworkers, but I am saying that it is our relationships that matter most. If people don’t see the teachings of Jesus lived out in us, they won’t want to listen to a word we have to say about him” K. L. 1814.

After seeing his coffee shop barista at Target and not recognizing her because she was out of context, he sensed Jesus asking him:

“Naeem, do you know what I look like out of context? You recognize me in the places you create for me, like worship services and Christian conferences but do you see me anywhere else?” KL 2503.

I would recommend Ex-Muslim to anyone who enjoys memoirs, especially stories of God at work in people’s lives. As well, it would be a valuable resource to those reaching out to Muslims with the gospel, to church planters, and to young people in or considering going into ministry.

I received Ex-Muslim from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, as a gift for the purpose of writing a review.

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Advent project

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The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (along with the Jesse Tree decorations)

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (along with the Jesse Tree decorations)

I’m excited to be going through Advent with Ann Voskamp’s beautiful book The Greatest Gift! It’s a Jesse Tree project where each day’s reading adds another bit to the story of Jesus’ family tree.

There are 25 decorations too, one to go with each day’s reading (sorry, you have to buy the book to get the password).

I spent last night watching curling and an old Columbo movie while I cut out and trimmed my decorations. I’m going to love December! (Our Costco had Ann’s book…maybe yours does too.)

December prompt: light

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Christmas lights and decorations

Some of my 2012 Christmas lights and decorations.

In my part of the world December, and Christmas, take place during the darkest part of the year.  Our December days are short, the nights long. Perhaps that’s one reason lights are such a big part of our Christmas decor.

When I think about the spiritual aspect of Christmas and light, one of the first things that comes to mind is all the Old Testament yearning and prophecies about the coming of a light-bringer.

It starts as far back as Numbers 24:17:

“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel…”

and continues with the prophets, like Isaiah 9:2:

“The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined”

and Malachi 4:2:

“But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings…”

Light was a big part of Jesus’ birth too.

– The wise men from the east followed the light of a star: – Matthew 2:2,9.

– The glory of the Lord shone around the angel that appeared to the shepherds – Luke 2:9.

– The old man Simeon who blessed the infant Jesus at His presentation in the temple proclaimed Him “‘A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles'” – Luke 2:32.

When Jesus grew up He was recognized as light by His disciple John – John 1:4.

– He declared Himself the “light of the world” – John 8:12.

– Someday He will be the light of a heavenly city – Revelation 21:23.

This month, let’s write about LIGHT.

  • Perhaps our piece will be an essay about or poem to the lights of the season.
  • Perhaps we will write about a Christmas memory in which light (candlelight, starlight, moonlight, tree lights) played a special part.
  • Perhaps it will be a story in which the light of realization dawns on a character.
  • Or maybe we’ll want to write about how Jesus has illumined our hearts, lives and homes.

May the lights of December take on added significance as you ponder and write about LIGHT this month.