Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Mark 14:3-9
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly.

"Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."

Busy, Busy, Busy...doing what?

We're all busy. Work and play and exercise and kids and church and community and...and...and.... We fill our days from sunrise to well-past sunset with activities, but do we really have a purpose in all that activity?

Jesus knew the day He entered Jerusalem amongst the crowds chanting "Hosanna" that each minute mattered. Between that Sunday and the following Thursday (Passover) He cleared the temple, taught about prayer, defended His authority, taught about His purpose (in the form of a parable), discussed paying taxes, debated with a Sadducee, commended a Pharisee, warned the people about showy religious leaders, talked about the end of the earth, spent an evening in Bethany, and exhorted His followers to "Watch." (And that's just in the book of Mark!)

Not one moment was wasted, not one opportunity passed over. Every word He spoke was important and His sense of urgency is unmistakeable. Even if Facebook was part of the culture then as it is now, He didn't have time for frivolities like Farmville and Mafia Wars.

Jesus focused His attention on the critically important things--those things that people needed to know in order to keep their faith in the coming dark days. In the clearing of the temple, He taught that we must not allow material things to come between us and God. In cursing the fig tree, He taught that prayer is powerful. By defending His authority before the Sadducee and commending the wise Pharisee He revealed that He knows the motivations of man and that nothing is hidden from Him. When He warned against proud religious leaders, He gave people permission to question authority and to test their actiosn and words. He recognized the widow's small offering as superior to show us that the heart of the giver is more important than the amount of the gift. In His teachings of the end times, He gave a hope and a future to all the generations that came after. And finally, at Bethany, when Mary poured expensive perfume over Him, He comforted those who give all they have to serve Him.

How much time do I fritter away on insignificant things when there are so many needs around me? How often do I miss the teachable moments---for myself, my children, my friends? I must refocus my mind so that I use my time the way Jesus did, with priority on the really important things. Let me not get so caught up in the frivolous trivia that I miss the meaning of the message!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Good Question.

One of the thing I love as a high school teacher is students who, after some consideration, ask questions. Not the "how long does this essay have to be" questions, but the deeper philosophical questions about the literature and its relevance to their lives. Even better is when they make connections between classic literature and their own spiritual walk---something that will impact them for life.

Jesus apparently liked thoughtful questions, too. He rebuffed the religious leaders because he knew their motives, but when one of the religious lawyers heard him debating in the temple area, he asked a question that must have made Jesus smile. Jesus had been debating with the Sadducees, who did not believe in an afterlife (which is what made then sad, you see?--sorry couldn't resist.) They had asked him about marriage in heaven (which they didn't believe in anyway), and Jesus basically told them that a) heaven is not about who is married to whom and b) God is the God of the living, not the what difference does it make?

One of the Pharisees (the teachers of the law) liked the way Jesus answered the Sadducee. Part of his appreciation was probably in the fact that the Pharisees and Sadducees didn't like each other much. However, the question this particular religious lawyer asked next also came from a heart that was really seeking after God's truth. So he asked Jesus, "Of all the commandments, which one is the most important?"

Wow. Great question. Keep in mind, that, beyond the original ten commandments, tradition had added a plethora of other laws, dictates, statutes, and requirements. This man, whose job it was to uphold the whole law, wanted the core principle. How many times do I focus on all the extraneous stuff and forget to examine the most important thing? Too many times to count.

So, what did Jesus say? Is it sacrifices? Family loyalty? Being a good person? Nope. Not one of these. Jesus pulled everything into a succinct statement:

"The most important one is this: 'Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this" 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31)

The Pharisee had obviously thought long and hard about the issue, because his response was a pretty enthusiastic "That's what I've been saying!" (Okay, not in those words, but he did agree that to love God and to love others is more important that ALL offerings and sacrifices.) Jesus not only gave the man a nod of approval, but told him that he was very near to understanding the kingdom of God.

It's really as simple as that: Love God with everything you are and then show His love to those around you. That is all it takes to be in the center of God's plan. It's so simple---and yet so hard to do. To love God with EVERYTHING requires an end to ego, an end to pride, an end to selfishness and all that goes along with stubborn human nature. To make it even harder, once we are completely emptied of ourselves, we then turn around and shower others with the love and grace and compassion and mercy of God. It's a simple idea, but cannot be mastered in this lifetime.

What a tremendous challenge for a culture that values the superficial over the substance. How much more, then, must I rely on God's grace and mercy to give me the strength to give up for His glory. May I faithfully walk in a manner worthy of His calling, and , like the wise Pharisee, stay close to the kingdom of God.

Righteous Judge

Monday, March 29, 2010


One of the first things I look for in a new doctor, trainer, nutritionist, etc, is credentials. Where did he (or she) study and in what field and with what degree? Then I look at what they tell me and see whether it matches up with their practices. (I want my trainer to be MORE fit than I am!) If I am going to take someone's advice, I want to be assured they have some expertise in the issue.

Jesus' credentials were always under scrutiny by the religious leaders. He changed the game, broke the rules, and told the people that HE was the way, truth, and life. Those who made a living enforcing a code that they created over time were afraid of this new teaching. Of course, had they looked at their own scriptures, they would have seen that what they preached was a far cry from the simplicity of the Law. They were more interested in eliminating this threat to their influence than they were in Truth.

All three of of synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tell of the day after Palm Sunday when Jesus was teaching in the Temple courts. None say exactly what he was teaching, but apparently He was on message because the priests, lawyers, and elders surrounded him and asked where his authority to say these things came from. They didn't enquire about the content of the message---but the source of Jesus' right to speak it.

Jesus knew that they really didn't care about his credentials; they wanted an excuse to get rid of Him. So, in typical fashion (so Socratic in His methods), he asked them a question: "I will ask you one questions. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John's baptism--was it from heaven or from men?" (Mark 11:29)

Well, that was a conundrum. John the Baptist was adored by the people, and everyone knew that Herod had beheaded him without cause and without due process. So, the religious leaders had a problem. If they said that John's baptism was from heaven, they gave him credibility--and they had already tried to discredit him. However, if they said his teaching was man-made, they figured the people would revolt and probably stone them all. So, as do most politicians, they took the easy way out and said they didn't know.

Jesus then informed them that, since they didn't understand John's baptism and his authority, He wouldn't try to explain His own. With no answer, the leaders were rendered helpless in their quest to eliminate (or at least discredit) Jesus and His message. They went away--embarassed, angry, and more determined to find a way to get rid of Jesus once and for all.

The people, however, listened as Jesus continued to teach.

The question comes, when I worry about the minutiae of my life--how well I eat on a given day, how far I run, whether I'll meet my next goal--how much of what I do is "on message" and how much time do I spend trying to work out my own will the way the religious leaders did?

The message of the Gospel is clear: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31). There's no work I can do, no form I must fit, and no expectation I must meet. The "pharisees" of today may try to convince me that I must look a certain way or do certain things, but they are just as wrong as the religious leaders of old and their intent is the same: whatever it takes to eliminate Jesus.

I want to stay "on message" for Jesus---and whatever I do, let it be to His glory.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

In the Shadow of the Cross

In the Shadow of the Cross

“Blessed is He

who comes in the

Name of the Lord!”

The crowds cheered.

Palm branches waved.

Colorful coats covered

the road,

the donkey’s back.

But Jesus wept

over the city

over the people

over hardened hearts.

A vibrant celebration,

but no one saw

the shadow

of the cross.

Stephanie Loomis March 28, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

At the Hop (Blog Hop, that is...)

Are you enjoying the bunny trail so far? This is stop number ELEVEN of seventeen for the Penny Wise Arts Blog Hop. Make sure you see them all!  If you're hopping along in order, you've just left Stamper's Quest Magazine and are hanging out with the Accidental Artist for a few minutes. I'm so glad you're here!

My project includes both original art and two sizes of clear glass microbeads from PWA. I like unusual projects, and so I decided to created a nightlight with glimmer.

The nightlight itself came from a craft store. The "lamp shade" was even sticky.

I began with a photograph I took of an iris. I played with it in Photoshop Elements 7.0 until I was happy with the "artsyness" of it. I then created a new letter-sized document and put three of the iris images together.

Several months ago I discovered a product called "Bubble Jet Set 2000" that would allow me to print on fabric without making the fabric super stiff.  I prepared several pages of fabric at once so that I had them ready to go when I needed them--like for this project!

I printed the three irises onto white cotton fabric using my ink jet printer. (This printer does a TERRIBLE job with photos, but works well on fabric--go figure.) I trimmed it using the lamp shade pattern and put it in place.

I used the pattern again to cut an "O'So Sticky Tape" sheet that I put over the fabric. I poured the regular size clear microbeads over the entire shade and then poured a layer of mini-microbeads to fill in some spaces. Once I pressed the beads firmly into place, I edged the top and bottom of the shade with craft glue and added the fun fibers that I got from a dollar bin at a craft store. Assemble the nightlight, plug in, and voila~soft light with sparkle~and all original art!

Before you run out to buy your materials for this fun project, hop on over to my friend, Michele Aiello-Zendejas, and see what wonderful ideas she has for you!!!  (She's a genius--you're sure to love her creation!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010


It's not artistic, but it is significant to me:  I completed the first of two planned half-marathons today and I took three minutes off my most recent half. I even managed a sprint at the end.  It feels good to plan and train for something and then be able to succeed.

On to the next challenge!

Monday, March 08, 2010