Friday, May 17, 2013

A Week to Review Romans 1

Sometime in mid-February I began the Romans Project. 

I began about a month and a half later than others who are participating in this year long challenge to memorize three chapters in Romans, so I am just getting to what others were during the first week of May. 

After 13 weeks of memorizing, this week begins (for me) a week to review Romans 1.

As I think about the time spent pondering God’s word in this letter of Paul and hiding it in my heart, I realize how rich it has been.  The weeks have all held different blessings—I have drunk in the promises, wrestled with truth, embraced the challenges, and received the grace poured out.

I want to share it with you today.
Read Romans 1.

Notice what captures your attention.  Is it a promise, a truth that is difficult to read, a challenge to embrace, or perhaps a grace to receive? 

Explore your thoughts.  Talk with God about them.  Listen for Him.  What He might have for you to discover about Him?  How He might lead you to respond to Him?

Leave changed and live in the truth you have received. 

Romans 1:1-32

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Through him we have received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.  And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.

God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last, by God’s will, the way may be opened for me to come to you.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now), in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.  That is why am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  For in the gospel of God the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Although they claimed to be wise they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.  Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.  Even women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.  Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have not understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we seek to let the Word of God soak into our hearts and take root, as we receive and God to change us.  May we find that in Him we bear fruit that will last.

Jessica :)

P.S. The emphasis in the text is mine.  They are some of the phrases I really thought about.  So many through the last 13 weeks.  The version of Romans 1 is what is used in the Romans Project booklet--NIV or TNIV, I think.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A New Variation

The beat goes on.

But the rhythms—
they’re changing.

So I pause…
in pregnant


Preparing for a new movement,
a shift in life’s seasons.
Embracing the gift of what has been,
while looking to intentionally step into what will be.

It will be a new variation.

Its core Essence the same

As Jason and I explore rhythms with Crossroads I find myself wondering what rhythms of life will be like with the addition of a Little Love.  Maybe it will look a little like this?

I think of how I have taught and read about spiritual rhythms.  I think of how during pregnancy I have been trying to be open to changing rhythms while still keeping Christ central to them.  I think of our family rhythms—the ones we have followed well and the ones where we have sometimes skipped a beat or two.  I think about the patterns worth holding onto and others that can be let go.  I think about others that are, as yet, unknown and untried. 

I want to be intentional in the way I live as a person, a wife, a parent.  I want to be intentional about the way we live as a family.

I think this is the most important thing—to let Christ shape the rhythms that form and change as life does too. 

So I’m waiting in this pregnant pause...

…and choosing to trust the One who will pick the variation for the next season in life.

I know Him.  His Essence is will permeate whatever it holds.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we step into each new season of life surrendered to Christ and allowing him to lead us to the rhythms of abundant life.

Jessica :)

P.S.  Just in case you were curious about the rhythms series this was the video portion of a video/live rhythmic immersion.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Bulletin Prayer

This week has been full of coming and going around our house. 

This morning I slowed down a little and found myself sitting quiet enjoying a prayer from a bulletin a relative sent me.  I thought I would share it with you.

“Almighty God, there is no other subject of meditation that can fix our wandering thoughts, purify our sinful thoughts, harmonize our perplexed thoughts, sooth and comfort our sad and mournful thoughts as to think upon you – your love, your power, your holiness, your wisdom – this alone will sweeten the solitude, smooth the roughness, and illumine the path homeward across the desert of this life.  Most of all, we rejoice not in our thoughts toward you, O God, but in your thoughts toward us!  You – upon whom all the worlds and all the creatures depend – you have thoughts of love toward us.  Oh, wondrous grace that entwines us, your beloved children, in your thoughts of peace, and care, and sympathy, with an intensity, individuality, and minuteness.  You have engraved us on the palm of your hands.  Amidst all our mental wanderings, our fickle, faint thoughts of you, you still remember us, through Jesus Christ your beloved Son.  In that we rejoice!  Amen.”

 -adapted from Octavius Winslow, reflecting on Psalm 139:17

Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we think on God.  May we encounter His great love for us in a way that penetrates deep—healing hurts, revealing truth, guiding us through decisions and uncertainty, and giving us confidence to trust Him more with each passing moment.

Jessica :)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Epic of Eden: A Book Review

When you think of the Bible does the word epic come to mind?

I recently finished a book called Epic of Eden, by Sandra L. Richter. 

This fall two of my lovely friends and I took up the endeavor to read the book together.  We read and discussed.  We tried to drink in the content and let it change us.

Epic of Eden has the subtitle “A Christian Entry into the Old Testament.”  It is that.  It provides a framework for understanding the patriarchal, patrilineal, and patrilocal culture of the Ancient Middle East, as well as an understanding of the geography of the Fertile Crescent, Palestine, and Egypt. 

Understanding the context in which the Old Testament takes place is critical, since often times we readers bring our own experiences and biases from our own upbringing and cultural understanding when we sit down to read the Bible.  If we do not understand the context we readers, who come from a modern Western background, might find stories odd and disturbing because we lack the information that make sense of that which is strange and foreign to us; and in the midst of our own biases we may miss the critiques of culture that are being pointed out in some instances or the provisions of God’s generosity in others.

Richter tackles the ideas of redemption and covenant, by explaining their significance in the broader culture of the Ancient Middle East.  In doing this, she highlights how God uses these cultural customs to reveal himself in an epic way through Israel’s history.

After setting the stage with this background, we began to explore creation and God’s intent for humanity.  It is a beautiful picture.  We looked at how the story is headed towards a restoration to God’s original intent; and what follows is the unfolding history of a God who works to redeem humanity.  He works through a man, a family, a nation, to draw all people to Himself.

Richter uses several patriarchal figures of the Old Testament to set up a basis for understanding the history of the Old Testament—Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David.  These men are used to define different periods of time in Israel’s history and to describe the significance of how God is working toward reconciliation with humanity in the midst of these times. 

The insights along the way have been enlightening.

When my friends and I began to read this fall, it was my third time to begin Epic of Eden.  As much as admitting that may not lend itself to seeming like a good read, I promise that has never been the case!   

I truly have enjoyed rereading all of it, each time, because it has deepened my understanding of Scriptural context in a way reading it once would not have accomplished.  I have also found with each reading, Jason and I have been in different locations of the Old Testament reading Scripture together; and each time it has seemed to match up perfectly with the content of the book to lead me to a deeper understanding of the character of God and his love for humanity.  I could not have orchestrated that and count it as a gift.

Recently, Jason and I have been reading through 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings.  (We will soon get to 1 & 2 Chronicles!)  This was very appropriate as I was reading about David and the monarchy in Israel.  There was so much that I did not understand about the distinctions of the role of a prophet, priest, and king in the midst of the monarchy in Israel. 

The priest was to speak for the people to God.  The prophet was to speak God’s word to the king and the people.  The king was to know God’s law, and lead the people by example in relationship and devotion to God. 

What made David a good king was not that David was perfect.  He definitely was not.  However, he loved God and sought to serve Him.  When he did not follow God’s law, he listened to the word of the prophet and was repentant.  In reading, both Epic of Eden and Scripture it seems to me that it was David’s repentant heart that was special.  David was receptive to what God was saying; and it his response to God that sets David apart from all the other kings.  This is why he is the standard.

The words about each new king introduced in 1 & 2 Kings say something about the king’s heart and the way he leads God’s people.  They are either like David or not. 

“[Abijam] walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, like the heart of his father David.” 1 Kings 15:3

“Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father.” 1 Kings 15:11

“[Hezekiah] did right in the sight of the Lord according to all that his father David had done” 2 Kings 18:3

There are many instances where the Kings of Israel and Judah are compared to the example of a bad king (usually from Israel) as well.  These are in contrast with David.

In the past, I read through the parade of kings noticing a king’s behavior but not really understanding the full picture of what God was doing.  (I still probably don’t see the whole picture, but more of it.)  What I have seen is that God responds to His people based on the way they keep their covenant with Him.  If they follow the covenant, they live in peace in the land.  If they do not live according to the covenant, they are attacked by foreign nations and the land (or a portion of it) is taken from them.  It is fascinating to watch God’s consistency, His patience, His mercy—even with the worst of Judah’s and Israel’s kings.

As I have read, there is something else I have been learning.  Understanding the Old Testament is key to a deepening understanding of the gospel.  It is important to understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises made to God’s people.  Jesus’ claims are tied to these Old Testament promises where God is calling all people to Himself in a kingdom.  Jesus’ death and resurrection prove his identity as King.  The New Testament is in this regard about the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ and learning to live under His kingship.  It is a call to live in reliance upon God, trusting Him. 

I can’t think of a book that I would recommend more highly.  Epic of Eden will deepen your understanding of Scripture and God’s heart toward people.  I invite you to stop by and borrow a copy if you are in the area.  If you are not in the area, you might consider ordering it.*  I would love to sit down for a chat to hear what you are learning if you do!


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we open up the Bible and drink heartily of God’s word to us.  May we find that it excites in us a posture of loving obedience to the heart of God.

Jessica :)

P.S.  I am so sorry if you stopped by last week looking for a post.  I got carried away with getting ready for our Little Love and found that the day slipped away.  That may happen again in the near future when she actually arrives and we try to find our bearings around here.  I will try to do a better job of communicating when that happens if I can.  Thank you so much for grace!

*Jus in case you are wondering, I am not receiving any compensation by linking you to order here.  I am just providing access to this resource.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Showered With Love

When I was first asked to pull together a list of people to celebrate with me I was at a loss. 

Family and a small circle of friends whom I do life with came to mind.  The list was small.

My far away heart family that has now become a little scattered (though our stories together all began in Utah) crossed my mind.  My heart always aches a little bit for them—joyful, sorrowful, and filled with loving prayers for their good.  It would be impossible for any of these to come. 

Yet, as I thought of these loved ones, I pulled out my address book and looked through to try to capture the many that have walked through different stages and events of life with me as friends, mentors and encouragers.  The list grew. 

I worried.  Would they wonder why I had invited them?  Would they want to come?

So as they all began trickling through the door on Sunday I was a bit overwhelmed by everything—the amazing food that had been labored over with love; so many dear ones in one place; so many gifts.  It felt like too much.  I had a hard time receiving.

How does one begin to drink all of it in?  How does one receive such a precious gift?

I was being showered with so much love.

I felt so undeserving of all this time, all these friends, all this love. 

I felt like I would burst from it all. 

(Truth be told, I did eventually—held close and heaving—late at night, long after it was all over.)

Now, I look back, reflect and realize a little bit more in my heart what I already know with my mind.

Grace is never earned or deserved.  It is a gift.

This shower, the people and presents—they were all a gift of love.  Grace.

The crazy part to me is that the blessing of love these dear ones poured out upon me and my little life of grace was just a small example of the way God loves and extends his grace to me. 

His love is wider and longer and higher and deeper than I can fully grasp.

I will keep trying to grasp it though. 

Perhaps the way we recieve is by living changed—bursting to overflowing with tears and joy and love and life again and again.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we receive grace as God’s gift to us.  As we are humbled by the way we don’t deserve any of it may our lives be lived overflowing with gratitude and filled with love.

Jessica :)

Friday, April 5, 2013

For Always

Inspiration came as I was doing the dishes while listening to Matt Maher’s Alive Again album a couple of weeks ago.  I sat down during ‘Garden’ and began writing this.  I love it.  I can just imagine Jesus’ words to me in the midst of this season of resurrection.  I think of the story from fall to eternity and I am amazed at the love of God for man, for me.  Enjoy!

Redemption, Love.
Restoration, Love.
That is where we’re headed, Love.
We've traveled a painful road, Love.
But there’s beauty ahead, Love.
We’ll replace the ashes with fruit from the trees
And be full, Love.
Ever what I’ve wanted;
It’s what you’ve been made for all along.
Together, Love.
For always


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we receive the gift of love we have been offered in Christ and respond to it.  May we find that we live abundantly a quality of LIFE we’ve been made for all along as we trust God in the midst of all things.

Jessica :)

Friday, March 29, 2013


I just want to share the song I’ve been singing this week as the church remembers the scandalous beauty of God’s love for us—Christ’s death and resurrection.  It is a song by Jeremy Riddle and it's called Acquitted. 

Blessings to you as you remember His death and celebrate His resurrection.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we receive this gift of love.

Jessica :)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Enter Into the Ritual

It was two years ago, in the midst of a Lenten series, when I first heard the word—Haggadah. 

It was described to me as the means by which the Jewish people remember the Passover.  They enter not only into a celebration, but they enter into the ritual retelling of the story as the enslaved Israelites themselves.  They begin the evening as slaves.  They end the evening a free people. 

I was captured by this idea and began wondering what it might look like to consider our story in this way—from the Fall to the Resurrection. 

I sat down again today and picked up the idea where I left it in 2011 and drafted ‘An Easter Haggadah.’

Enter into the ritual...
as slaves
bound to lives serving a hard master
breaking backs, carrying heavy loads.

Enter into the ritual.
Each day
captive to the same hopeless task,
serving death.

Enter into the ritual.
Cry out.
Perhaps God will respond.
Perhaps He will save.

Enter into the ritual.
A leader
prepared and brought forward.
To lead.  To guide.  To save.

Enter into the ritual.
A Seder invitation—
eat His body,
drink His blood.

Enter into the ritual.
A Lamb
rejected and sacrificed to cover over sin,
an offering to purchase our freedom.

Enter into the ritual.
life restored to crown a King,
unexpected, yet true.

Enter into the ritual.
Be free.
A people proclaiming peace won for them,
A living body renewed.

Enter the ritual.  Remember.  Live it all anew.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we enter into Holy Week remembering.  May we take time to pause and enter into the story of Jesus in a new way.  May we find that as we do He meets us there and leads us to receive the gift He has for us—Himself.

Jessica :)

P.S.  Can I recommend an album to you as you spend time remembering this week?  Matt Maher’s Alive Again is still my very favorite album for Lent and Holy Week.  I would say it is an Easter Haggadah of song.  I never get tired of listening to the story as he tells it.  Grace and peace.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wholly His, Holy Life

“John is seeing the holiness of God manifested in the life of the church as it lives in the world.”

When I read it in the Revelation study I’ve been working my way through something is stirred—a memory opens up. 

Didn’t I pen something like that—living holy and others seeing God?  I wonder as I run to the kitchen for an ice pack.

When I finish reading, I search through files of poetry from a few years back and find it—a few untitled lines, written in June 2011.

As I read them, I begin to remember something else.  These lines were inspired by Scripture and I was stirred enough to encourage my small group with the thoughts I had been thinking about. 

I wonder.  What was that Scripture?

I think I was reading through Hebrews or James about then.

I pull up my email and go searching through old sent mail.  After a few dead ends, I find it, a line of Scripture and a few wonderings.
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many”  Hebrews 12:14-15

I wondered to my friends. 

Is it when we live life wholly His that we live holy lives?

And in living this way, wholly His, that through the things we say and the things we do, we pour forth the grace of God so “no one misses the grace of God”?

I read it and smile.

This.  This is the way we are meant to live in this world.  The more I read through Revelation, the more I become convinced of this.  When we live wholly His, we live manifesting the holiness of God to the world around us.

The words of Robert Mulholland, about the bowl imagery I’ve been reading through, come to my mind once again:
To be part of the community of God’s people means—to become part of God’s response to the rebellion; to be drawn into the very being and nature of God so as to be shaped in the image and likeness of God; to be thrust out in the midst of Fallen Babylon to participate in God’s costly, redemptive response to the rebellion.  The vision portrays this meaning in the bowls, which, on the one hand are the prayers of the saints that open them to the shaping presence of God, and, on the other hand, being filled with the presence of God, are then poured out into the life of the world(p.97)

I am struck by the way the lines I penned two years ago are in such alignment with what I’ve been reading about today, the bowls.  I would never have imagined it.

When I am wholly given to God
A life of grace pours forth—
Light, a shining beacon in this dark world
Mirror spilling out radiance
Present reminder of His glory.
A surrendered vessel
I live holy
And the world sees the Lord.

What a gift He has given to me by leading me back to these words of poetry today.

They are a gift He is reminding me to live--wholly His, a holy life-- as a surrendered vessel (a bowl filled with the presence of God and poured out) so others around me do not miss the grace of God.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we live wholly God’s.  In this may we find that we live holy—pouring out the grace of God on everyone we meet.  When they encounter us may others see the Lord.

Jessica :)

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Reaping

I have been reading through Revelation lately.  I have been working my way through the Journey through the Bible guide as I go.*  I have also spent time going over the text again to really think about it and let the message sink in a bit more.  Sometimes when I do this poetry is the way I process it all.  That is what happened for me this week.  Here is a bit of the journey I have been traveling in God's Word:

"I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.  Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”  So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle.  Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.”  The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them in to the great winepress of God’s wrath.  They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia."

The Reaping

The time for the reaping has come.
Sharp sickles gather in the crop—
A harvest of hearts
Ripe with what their lives have sown.

A crop that has died
To rise as stalks gathered close;
Having received the gift of the cross long ago,
Meeting the end that leads to life.

Another crop that has spent its time ripening
Connected to the wrong kind of vine.
These impressive clusters of dark red, collected in a bad bunch,
Now crushed in a wrathful winepress; in the end, the blood flows.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we realize that we will reap what our lives have sown.  May we find that as we trust Christ and lay our lives down to follow him that we live fully and abundantly.

Jessica :)

*I would definitely recommend this study resource.  It discusses Revelation in a way that is very applicable to life in the present. In this, I have found it challenging me to live as Christ has called me to live and drawing my attention to other lessons I feel like God has been teaching me in other areas of my life, especially the way I interact with the world around me.