Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brandon Bruce Speaks at Grace

Check out one of our summer and upcoming winter Blast speakers Brandon Bruce. He talks about his experience at Grace here.

Women's Scrap, Stamp and Quilt Retreat

I love the extended family of Grace Adventures. The weekend of the Fall Women’s Scrap, Stamp and Quilt Retreat (Nov 13th-15th) reminded me of this.
Every time I entered the Retreat Center that weekend, two things blew me away; first of all, I never realized how much stuff you need to scrap.
It is essential to bring every tool needed to help the creative juices flow, and let me tell you they were flowing! My favorite tool that the women had was called the Cricut.
This isn’t a green bug that makes a lot of noise, but a personal electronic cutter used for cutting paper into shapes, letters, words, etc.
Not only did they bring a lot of stuff to create with, the ladies walked away with a couple different things as well. Each woman was greeted with a goody bag filled with some fun resources for scraping. And then on Saturday afternoon Jessica Bigley and Gail Bachtel both hosted workshops.
Jessica showed the ladies how to make some holiday themed place cards and Gail, a Stampin’ Up representative, taught the ladies how to incorporate stamping into their scraping. They made some pretty cute cards! Instructions for the turkey place cards are included at the end of the blog, along with a link to the template.
The other thing that blew me away was how excited and thankful the women were to have time set aside to bury themselves under paper, stickers, and of course, pictures.
Just a bed to sleep in, a workspace to create in, and Pam’s amazing snacks was all some seemed to need.
It’s pretty awesome to look through their pages and learn their stories through pictures. I love serving in place where the warmth and friendliness of the women creates such a joyful, family environment.
“I had a lot of fun just socializing with all the other women. It's fun and inspiring to walk around the room and look at everyone's projects. It was an awesome weekend to kick back, scrap, and eat fabulous food! The goodies bags were also a nice surprise. I can't wait for the SSQ in March, it's going to be bigger and better!” -Jessica Bigley
Turkey Place Cards

To make these handsome place-card gobblers, download the templates; print and cut out. Trace templates onto colored card stock; cut out (use scallop scissors for the base), and snip a small triangle for the beak. Attach the head, body, wing, and beak with a glue stick. Cut 2 small slits in tail where indicated on the template. Secure ends of smooth yarn and textured yarn in 1 slit, and wrap entire tail with both yarns; secure ends in other slit, and cut yarn. Apply a small amount of craft glue directly onto yarn-wrapped tail, tracing the inner crescent; adhere body to tail piece. Inscribe guest's name on the base; attach tab on turkey body to base with double-sided tape.

Credit: Martha Stewart Living

Monday, November 23, 2009

Armor of God....Thrice

Things come in threes right? If God speaks you had better listen right?
Last week in a brainstorming session for our AWESOME boys only camp called Rustic Warrior, we were discussing the armor of God, Sunday morning in Sunday School it was the topic, and this morning in my daily readings it arose. Maybe God is trying to tell me something, I'm not sure.
As I was thinking about it yesterday though, I had a new thought about the Armor of God.
Eph 6:11 "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to STAND FIRM against the schemes of the devil"
Eph 6:13-14 "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day and having done everything, to STAND FIRM. STAND FIRM therefore...."
The commandment is to stand firm against the devil's attacks. So here is my new thought, the Sword of the Spirit is mentioned in vs. 17, I have always assumed it was the only offensive weapon in the armor.
I think the Sword of the Spirit as listed in the armor of God is in a defensive connotation not offensive.
There I said it, no lightning bolts yet. Here's where I'm coming from. Stand firm is a defensive or a neutral position. You're not gaining ground but you're not losing either.
The UBS New Testament Handbook has this to say about vs. 11,
Stand up against: that is, successfully resist, withstand, oppose. The English expression stand up against suggests not only defensive but also offensive action. But in many languages there is no single expression which covers both areas of meaning. Therefore one must normally choose between "to withstand" in the sense of "to protect oneself against" and "to oppose" in the sense of "to fight back against." The context would seem to point primarily to defensive action.
Every other tool in the list is a defensive tool and to be used as such. Breast plate, shield, helmet, greaves, and belt (if your pants fell down that would be down right offensive and therefore a belt is defensive).
So I think the overall context is defensive, however lets look at the sword as a weapon. It is certainly an offensive weapon. However it is as defensive as it is offensive. One must parry and block the opponents attacks with their sword. The word is "Machaira", meaning a knife or dirk. We see the same word in Rev 6:4, "...to Him was given a large sword".
The armor as a whole is description is that of a Greek soldier and specifically a heavy armored soldier. The sword used was the xiphos, usually 12 inches to 24 inches long.
Interestingly this is a secondary weapon for this soldier. The primary attacking weapon was the spear or lance which is omitted from the passage by Paul. The Xiphos was used after the spear was lost, broken, or discarded and was generally not preferred to the spear.
Again if this is an offensive passage why would Paul not mention the primary offensive weapon?
Lastly let's look at how Jesus himself uses the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God". If we go to Jesus' temptation with the Devil in Mathew 4. Satan confronts Him and challenges His authority, tempts Him physically, and then all out goes for the jugular and calls Jesus to worship him. What is Jesus response to Satan? He quotes the sword of the spirit. I think the key point is in the Ephesians passage and in Jesus confrontation it is us vs the devil. If you think about any offensive action for a Christian it must always be redemptive in motive. There really is no point in any redemptive energy being spent on Satan as we know his mind will not be turned. Therefore our actions towards Satan are defensive not offensive.
Regardless of the purpose one point that can not be forgotten or ignored is that we must know the word of God in order to use it as a sword. As Heb 4:12 says,
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
One must be familiar with their tool in order to harness it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Let Down

I remember a young lady this summer who attempted to climb the cargo net here at camp. She had no problem getting to the top. But her goal was to climb over the top. She must have tried for 15 minutes before she came back down. I was impressed with her determination and drive. She was disappointed to the point of tears. She wanted to make it over, and physically could not do it that day. I'm usually alright with letting myself down, but I really don't like it when someone else is the problem...
Have you ever had someone let you down? I know that the answer is yes. I know that others experience disappointment, frustration even anger. Here is why I am asking. I was let down yesterday.
I trusted someone. I thought they were shooting straight with me. They let me down. You know that "I feel like I got kicked in the gut" feeling.
I don't have a twelve step program of how to recover from disappointment and heart ache. But here is what I will offer: God wanted me to be faithful in my response. He wanted me to be a witness in how I responded. He wanted me to control my emotions, my frustrations. I still needed to confront, and communicate my disappointment. Oh, by the way, He wanted me to forgive as well.
So the question on my test yesterday from God: Ben, are you going to respond in disappointment in a way that honors me?
Maybe he's asking that question to you today. I know its not fun. I try to focus on the positives in life, not the disappointments. But I do know that God is faithful, and his faithfulness doesn't change with my circumstances.

Chess and Spiritual Independence

Last night Kendra and I couldn't find a movie to watch so she asked me if I wanted to teach her how to play chess. Wow I thought, I've asked her many times if she wanted to learn and always got a quick no. So I pulled out the board and tried to go back to Junior High (I think that's the last time I played chess).
I carefully explained how all the pieces can move and the object of the game. Kendra, being a quick study took it all in quickly.
The first moves were very cautious and defensive. We sort of played an "open" game so I coached her on a few things as she went along. She started to get a little more confident as the game went on. At one point early she was definitely beating me as I had "out thunk" myself a few times.
Then she got to a point where she felt comfortable with the game and the rules and started moving boldly. She moved one rook very quickly and I very quickly smiled and took it with my queen. At that point she got very disappointed because in her moment of most comfort she was taken back to insecurity and frustration.
I started thinking that was a lot like life. Imagine we are playing chess against the Devil or his plans. And the game represents our life. He desires that we fail, and winning would represent a healthy spiritual life. If you're a Christian you don't act on your own. It's like you and God double teaming the devil, similar to a new chess player and a coach helping them.
However in our lives we often quickly get arrogant and proud thinking we can act out of our own knowledge and experience. As soon as I make that move boldly with out discernment from God I all to quickly realize I've just lost something valuable, whether it was a streak of doing devotions, or snapping at someone I love. Just like the new player finds out that an opponent is many steps ahead of them, I can look backward and see where I thought I saw the whole board but was really focused on one maybe two squares.
Ps 119:133 says "Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me."
Obviously if we look to scripture God is to be a huge factor in our decisions. My questions is, Is God the only factor i.e. does he make our decisions for us? Or is God one of a few factor's we take into account before making a decision.
In other words should we wait for God to tell us where to move the chess piece, or should we pray for guidance and move the Chess piece where we think God is leading?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Women's Retreat 2009

“A time of refreshment and renewal. My emotional tank was on empty upon coming and now my tank has been filled.”

October 9th-11th, 2009 was a weekend of rest and rejuvenation for the ladies who attended the Women’s Retreat. Speaker Cathey Prudhomme shared throughout four sessions about being known and telling our personal stories, how God knows and loves us, the lies that Satan wants us to believe and the life and freedom that Christ gives, and putting our faith into action.

Elizabeth Sooy lead worship on piano and treated the group Saturday night to Steven Curtis Chapman’s Be Still and Know on the violin. Each time we gathered for worship, it felt like a little slice of what Heaven will be like,” as one of the women described. All the voices combined at times left no need for music, just the sound of hearts singing out to their God in appreciation and praise.

On Saturday, the women had opportunities to enjoy camp activities and workshops. In the morning, a prayer path was laid out along the waterfront for a time of reflection and solitude. In the afternoon, many women took advantage of the trail rides, Ropes Course, crafts, and target shooting.
There were also four workshops, led by Elizabeth Sooy, Eva Kostal, Elda Ann Harden, and Amie Clay. The topics ranged from seeing God’s goodness even in the hard times, the different behavioral styles and how they affect our relationships, and living the Grand Adventure in obedience to God’s will and loving it. Eva’s workshop was a huge hit; focusing on “using what we have to make our home environment beautiful and put personal beauty to our faith.”

One of the highlights of the weekend had to be the food, from Spinach and Artichoke dip, to Pumpkin Chowder soup, to Chicken Parmesan and Herbed Asiago Mashed Potatoes. Pam went above and beyond preparing delicious spreads that left everyone saying, “she’s coming home with me!”

Out of all of the activities and teachings from the weekend, the most powerful part had to be Saturday night. Cathey shared a story of her time in Jerusalem after a Sabbath. She and her husband were dining in a hotel restaurant, trying to eat while a slew of children were running around. But when it came time for the meal, the father sat down and the children ran to his side. He then blessed each of his children before their meal. Cathey then asked the large group to break up and share a blessing with one another. There were many tears and hugs as the women spent time being vulnerable and deep together.

So all of this to say, we hope that if you weren’t able to come this year, you would consider coming next fall! We would love to provide this experience for you as well!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

This week's sign of apocalypse... Traffic Cameras

This may get personal but bear with me.
I waffle back and forth on speeding. When I have lots of time I generally am a very obedient vehicle operator. However when running late, I have a tendency to stretch that "suggested" speed limit (my wife told me it was suggested not required, we still haven't tried that one out on an officer yet). Maybe it is justification but I also never go more than 5-9 miles over carefully abiding under the old adage, "if you're 9 your fine, 10 your mine". And I have not gotten a speeding ticket in a long time.
I often joke around about speed limit;
1. On dirt roads I take it up to fish tailing and back it off a few notches
2. Corners with a posted speed limit can usually be taken at double
3. If I'm bigger than they are they'll get out of my way
However if I willingly choose to go over the speed limit and I get caught I will accept the consequences. Most commonly this is a ticket, I wish it was some kind of gift exchange or something, I have some really "interesting" presents that I would love to re-gift to an officer.
There is a rising phenomenon in our country called traffic cameras. You know the ones that eliminate officers interaction and catch you blowing a red light, speeding, or making illegal turns. To my mind if you get caught BY CAMERA it is pretty hard to argue that you were indeed speeding or breaking another traffic law. Because of this conviction rates on traffic camera infractions are over 98%.
The controversy is that these camera's are so effective many communities are voting them out of the county. Most studies show that the camera's decrease traffic accidents, particularly fatal accidents. From an old juvenile delinquency class what prevents crime is not the potential severity of punishment but the certainty of getting caught. People will engage in far riskier behavior if they're less likely to get caught. With the traffic cameras, you will get caught. This is really pretty effective at reducing a law from being broken.
So what's the problem? People don't like to get caught. They don't like accountability. People will go a long ways out of their way in order to avoid punishment fair or unfair. This is coming from the kid who used to put on 30 pair of tighty-whitey's when he was 5 in order to deaden the blow. We all try to get out from punishment, it's part of our sin nature.
What baffles me is that people are willing to stand and argue that it is unconstitutional because it is so effective, because so much money is being raised for local governments, and because they're getting caught.
1. A law is not unconstitutional because it catches the majority of the population, that's a reflection on our country not the justice system.
2. If you don't like the government making money on you..... STOP SPEEDING! This isn't rocket science.
3. I couldn't care less about these camera's because they don't affect me. If you don't speed in the city, or run red lights, it can't hurt you.
Bottom line, if you play the game, pay the price. We can't all be winners, and just because you don't like something doesn't make it wrong. Too many kids are being taught that there shouldn't be consequences if every body doesn't like them. We see this with marijuana, prostitutes, illegal downloading and more.
I wonder if this attempt to get out from under consequences drives people spiritually. Are they looking for a way to "cheat the system" and not pay the price for their sin? It's a shame that God already "cheated the system" for them. They don't have to suffer the consequences. What if somebody paid for all the traffic tickets of all these individuals? They'd be ecstatic, and yet their Creator has paid their eternal traffic ticket and no body wants to take advantage of it.
You can be sure if it was a tax loop hole, a legal loop hole, or a sports advantage they'd be all over it, however when it comes to their souls they are content to wear a gorilla mask over their head and try and hide from the cameras.
Here's a treat for those who made it to the bottom of this article;