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TruthNotes

Timeless truth in a changing world

What Does This Mean? (Beyond Confirmation Class)

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I can practically sing “Phantom of the Opera” in my sleep. My son is in the marching band, and their program was “Phantom” this year. Besides the fact that he practiced it at home, we also have the advantage of living but two blocks from the school, and therefore we can hear the band when they practice outside. We heard “Phantom” every school morning, every Monday night when they had three-hour clinics, every halftime show for home games, and every weekend in October for competition.

But here’s the thing–the harder the competitions got, the more they practiced. You’d think by the time they’d done it a few times, they had the thing pretty well under their belts, but no. They worked on fine tuning the performance, sometimes quite literally. They held chords to figure out which instrument was out of tune. They played the same sixteen measures over and over to make sure everyone was stepping exactly where they ought. They needed to know every single detail about their part, and know it well. It was inspiring to observe their focus and dedication. And it’s a good lesson on what it means to live as Christians in the world.

Continue reading “What Does This Mean? (Beyond Confirmation Class)”

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Exposed by the Light

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It is a beautiful sunny morning today; a welcome relief from the gray days we’ve had recently. So I opened the blinds to let in the light. That was a mistake. We have tile floors through much of the house, and the natural light that brightened the day also illuminated the dirt and crumbs on the floor. Every. Single. Particle. It looked awful. Without the natural light, I could almost fool myself into believing that the floor was clean enough, but once the light was shining on it, that illusion was gone. There was no other way around it. My floor was dirty.

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How do You Smell?

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Every house has a unique smell, and ours is no different. Most of the time you don’t notice the particular scent of your own house, but the past few days that hasn’t been the case here. I noticed a distinctly awful smell that wasn’t going away. At first I tried my usual tricks. I pulled out my air purifier, I sprayed air freshener, I washed towels and washcloths, all to no avail. The smell was still there, underneath it all. So I decided to sniff out the source. Shockingly, it wasn’t the bathroom this time. It was definitely emanating from the kitchen. My journey took me to many exotic places until I came to a remote one I’d never before visited—under the oven. I tugged the thing slowly out of its place and was shocked at the abject squalor I found there. Months (or years…) of neglect had taken its toll. Who knows what had long since spilled and been forgotten? Even the sides of the oven were dirty from food drippings and crumbs brushed aside. It was disgusting and humbling, but once it was scrubbed squeaky clean and everything put back into its place, I realized the smell was gone. I’d gotten to the source.

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When You Don’t Get Anything out of Church

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“I didn’t get a thing out of that.”

These words were spoken by a resident of a nursing home some years ago when I was in college. A group of students went to a local nursing home every Tuesday evening to sing with the residents and lead them in a short devotional time. One week after the Bible message, a man who was hard of hearing turned to his neighbor and announced rather loudly, “I didn’t get a thing out of that!” We laughed about it then, and it still brings a smile to my face now. Clearly, he meant he couldn’t hear the message. But have you ever felt that way after church or a devotion? Like you didn’t get anything of substance out of it? And that begs the question, is it even worth it?

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Caution: Work in Progress

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Had anyone stopped by my house yesterday, they would have been greeted by complete chaos. The kids and I were taking down the Christmas tree, so ornaments, boxes, storage bins, and strings of lights were strewn about the living room. Branches of the artificial tree were tossed around haphazardly. My two-year-old’s blocks and wooden train track pieces were mixed in with the Christmas stuff. One could hardly walk through the room, it was so cluttered. It was a total disaster. But that was okay. It was, after all, only temporary. It was a work in progress. Continue reading “Caution: Work in Progress”

This is the Year

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This is the year I stick to my diet.

This year I’m gonna get into an exercise routine.

This is the year I finally lose those extra pounds.

Most people start a new year off with high hopes and good resolutions, and many resolutions center around one’s health. Gyms do their best business around the end of December and beginning of January, because so many people join as motivation for a New Year’s resolution. This is all fine and good. There’s nothing wrong with committing to a healthier lifestyle. But what if we took our spiritual health as seriously as we take our physical health? What would those resolutions look like?

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Less-than-Ideal Circumstances

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His circumstance were hardly ideal. He had been beaten, was falsely imprisoned, and there was a price on his head and a plot to kill him. Not the sort of situation In which I’d want to find myself. But the apostle Paul didn’t look at the unfairness of the situation or complain about it. Rather, he looked at the people God was placing in his path. These were people to whom he could witness: fellow prisoners, Roman soldiers, even the king. God used Paul’s circumstances to further the spread of the Gospel. In fact, one could say God even orchestrated those less-than-ideal circumstances.

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Perpetual Children

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I’m ready to be done with the toddler years. I mean, don’t get me wrong–I love my toddler like crazy, but I’ve had a baby or toddler in the house for nearly 14 years now, and it’s starting to wear on me. I’m over fun surprises like a fire starting in the bottom of the oven because my toddler thought it would be neat to stuff crayons into those nifty holes down there. I don’t particularly relish finding pins scattered across my carpet after my toddler got into my sewing kit. I’m not keen on finding hot chocolate powder scattered all over the bed and floor during so-called “nap” time. I’m done with temper tantrums and potty training and sippy cups and inane conversations. It sometimes feels like my kids will be children forever.
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Christmas isn’t about pomp and pageantry. It’s not about the gifts or the feast or how many people are in church. Christmas is all about God’s grace.

Sure, we get that, but what does that mean? To get a full picture of “grace,” join me in taking a look at the word in Greek. In this article I wrote for the Concordia Publishing House blog “The Word Endures,” I explore the nuances of God Extending Grace to us at Christmas and beyond.

 

Photo is A Blessed Birth by Carol VanHook

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