The only sword in the world sharp enough to cut through our crap

I have always heard the Bible called a sword. When I was little, we did sword drills, which basically were contests to see how quickly you could find a specific verse. I wasn’t ever sure why we called the Bible a sword until I realized that that Scripture actually calls itself a sword in multiple places.

I think it’s fitting. After all, if you rush into battle, you have to take a weapon to defend yourself with. It’s the same with spiritual battles too. We have to have a weapon to fight with, and Scripture is the only thing that will work in the battles we have to fight.

Today’s verse is Hebrews 4:12.

12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

I’m going to demonstrate a portion of my geekiness this morning. There’s a Japanese anime that I really enjoy watching called Rurouni Kenshin. What I like the most about it is that it really lacks the odd, strange things that permeate most anime (at least in the first two arcs). Most anime is based around spiritual stuff or weird things, not that I mind that generally speaking, but Rurouni Kenshin is different. It’s actually a historical anime, based on the life of an actual assassin during the Meiji Revolution in 1858. The show revolves around sword techniques.

Basically, without going into too much detail, the main character has taken a vow never to kill again to atone for all the lives he took during the revolution, and to help himself keep that vow, he carries a reverse-blade sword. It’s a sword that has the blade on the wrong side. So when he swings it at people in self-defense, he can’t kill them. He’ll give them a good bruise, but he won’t end their life.

I thought about this aspect of this show today when I read our verse. This is one of those verses that I’ve grown up hearing, but I’ve never really thought about it.

What’s the big deal about the Bible being a two-edged sword? I get the fact that it’s sharp. Obviously. But why the metaphor?

Going back to the show, the main character has to be careful to swing his sword a certain way. Becuase if he flips the sword around and uses it, he’ll kill people because the blade of his sword is on the wrong side.

If you have a sword that is sharp on both sides, it doesn’t matter which way you swing it. It will cut no matter what direction it goes. And I guess that’s what hit me this morning when I read this verse.

It doesn’t matter who uses the Bible to reach others. It doesn’t matter where you’re located or what language you speak. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how educated you are. The Bible is a double-edged sword, and no matter how you swing it, it will cut through barriers.

The last part of this verse says that it “exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” The Amplified Version puts it this way: “exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.”

The Bible cuts through the crap that we use to hide our motivations and our intentions. It cuts through the stories we come up with to use as a shield to protect ourselves. It cuts through the lies that we tell ourselves. And it makes us understand that we are insufficient on our own.

The only way it can do this is because it’s the Word of God. It’s the sharpest sword there is, and there is no defense against it. But even though it can cut through anything, it never leaves us bleeding. Christ already bled for us.

The Bible reveals our faults and our failures and reminds us that Christ already took care of them.

Every day is a battle, no matter where you are. If you’re a Christian, you’re in a war. So don’t forget to take your sword and don’t hesitate to use it today to defend yourself and to charge the enemy’s line. Nothing can stop the Sword of God and no one can escape it. Not even the ones who wield it.

Peter and Paul

Do you ever read verses in the Scripture when you feel like it’s beating a dead horse? It’s funny to me how whoever chooses the Bible Verse of the Day at kind of seems to choose a topic and then finds verses to support it. But it’s also funny to me that the topics the Verse of the Day often repeats and repeats and repeats are the same topics people have a hard time remembering. So maybe that horse isn’t dead yet after all . . .

Today’s passage is Philippians 2:1-2.

1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Unity. Be of one mind. Work with one purpose. Agree wholeheartedly with each other. Love each other. Sound familiar? A lot like yesterday’s post. But different. Because it was written by a different person.

Yesterday’s verse (1 Peter 3:8) was written by Peter.

Today’s verse (Philippians 2:1-2) was written by Paul.

Yet they wrote the same thing, almost word for word.

And let’s just say this, folks, if Peter and Paul could find a way to be of one mind a purpose, anyone can. 

Peter was a fisherman, loud mouthed, abrasive, impulsive and uneducated.

Paul was a scholar, a high-ranking Jewish leader with more education than he probably knew what to do with.

Peter was flamboyant, an intense, emotional person.

From what I can tell, Paul was more reserved, more of a thinker.

Peter was one of the original twelve disciples Jesus chose, who lived with Him for three years.

Paul was chosen after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension (still chosen by Christ, but Paul didn’t follow Him while He was alive on Earth).

Peter was older.

Paul was younger.

And let’s not forget the most obvious disparity in their relationship. Peter led many to the Lord following Jesus’ ascension. . . . . And, at first, Paul killed them.

That was Paul’s job. Persecuting Christians. I believe He was present at the stoning of Stephen, another Christ follower mentioned in Scripture. It’s likely he held the coats of the men who threw the rocks.

Of course, when God got a hold of Paul, his life changed (and so did his name, as previously he was named Saul). But even if God forgets our sins, it’s hard for the people around us to do the same. Imagine the Disciples’ shock when Paul, who had murdered scores of their freinds and colleagues, walked into their midst claiming to be a follower of God. I can imagine the look on Peter’s face, as the impulsive one of the group. And I’m sure a great number of disagreements broke out. And I’m sure Peter and Paul may not have been the best of friends, but they were willing to put their differences aside and work together because they could agree on what mattered.

Is there a Christian you know who’s solid theologically but that you have a hard time getting along with?

Compare your relationship with that person to the relationship of Peter and Paul. And if you don’t know what to do with that person follow their example. Put aside the things that you don’t like and put aside the picky little details you can’t agree on and focus on the big picture.

Do you have to be best friends? No. When it comes to close friendships, you need to be with someone who encourages you or enriches you, and even though other Christians may mean well, they don’t always speak your language.

But you do need to agree. And you do need to support each other. And you do need to be of one mind and one purpose.

And if God could help two people as different from each other as Peter and Paul work together for the same goal, He can do the same for us. We just have to let Him.


Happily Ever After


I should have spent last night writing, but I was so tired I didn’t think it would be a good idea. So I decided to watch a movie instead, and what I ended up watching was a little different than my usual fare. I love movies with a lot of action but last night I watched Ever After, which is a realistic take on the story of Cinderella. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a really good movie.

What is it about fairytales that catch our interest? I mean, even I love them, and I prefer movies with car chases and things that blow up. But there is something about fairytales like Snow White and Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty that fascinate me. Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic and I just refuse to admit it (that’s probably likely). But I guess what I love most about fairytales is that they usually involve someone common being raised to the rank of someone important because they were loved.

Fairytales usually work according to a formula. Usually the princess is a beautiful person inside and out, and the handsome prince comes along and — even though it’s inappropriate for him to love someone of lower status — he does anyway. And in spite of all opposition, it all works out in the end, and they live happily ever after.

Now, granted, I would love to visit Cinderella and Prince Charming a year or two into their marriage and see how happily ever after is working out for them. In general, most fairytale relationships (if they were real) would fall apart, mainly because they’re based on looks. I mean think about Prince Charming and Cinderella. How would that even work? She’s been used to scrubbing floors all her life. How would she truly adjust to being a princess? And she may be beautiful, but she probably snores. And I’m sure that would take some getting used to. My point here is that no one lives happily ever after in this world. It’s too broken for that. But that’s a topic for another post.  What I really want to focus on is the fact that the prince who is above everyone else chose to love someone who was beneath him. That is the very foundation of many fairytales, and that’s what I thought about when I read the verse this morning.

1 John 4:10

10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

 God didn’t have to love us. He didn’t have to sacrifice anything for us. After He made us and we turned our backs on Him, He had every right to drop us and let us flounder and rot and die alone. But He didn’t. Even though He could have left us to die, He chose to send Jesus to save us.

That sounds an awful lot like a fairytale story to me, except that this story is true.

I don’t know how many times people have told me that the Bible is a love letter from God, but I guess I never really thought about it in the context of the whole story being something like a fairytale. How cool is that? God telling us the story of His love for us. What He’s done to be with us. What He’s done to redeem us?

Don’t get me wrong. I hesitate to compare anything in the Bible to a fairytale lest someone misunderstand me and think I’m saying it is a fairytale. It’s not. The Bible is true. But I’m wondering if the concept of someone of high rank and status redeeming someone of low rank and status didn’t come from the Bible to begin with. I’ve always said that every story ever written has its foundations in the Bible. So I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what inspired the people who created our much beloved fairytales.

I was the lowest of the low, a sinner and a fool, and even though God could have left me behind, He didn’t. He came back for me and through His love, He has made me a princess in His kingdom. I am the daughter of the King, and not just a king. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And I love Him because He loved me first, with real love, sacrificial love.

If that’s not the stuff of fairytales, I don’t know what is. And what’s even better is that this story really will end happily ever after.

I hear cows

So it’s Christmas Eve 2010. How did that happen so fast? It’s ridiculous.

Something really odd is going on at my house. It’s like the wildlife all decided to come out for Christmas. I mean, I’m sure if I knew half the critters that wandered around my property at night, I’d never want to go outside again, but this is crazy.

I pulled in to my driveway late last night (was out Chili-ing with friends after rehearsal) and what to my wondering eyes did appear? But the biggest stinkin’ skunk I’ve ever seen. This thing was H-U-G-E.

If I had been my mother, I would have swerved to run over it (ask her sometime; she’ll verify this did happen). But I remember what it smelled like back then, and I’m certain it would smell the same now. So I just waited to see what Skunkzilla was going to do. He/She/It decided to take refuge in the culvert in front of our garage. Great. Spectacular. So I drove into the garage and got the door shut before I got out of my car. I bundled up all my stuff (because everybody knows I must carry a ton of stuff with me everywhere I go) and tried to get into the house without getting sprayed. I was successful.

But the one cat that still inhabits this crazy place (she’s utterly and totally useless; I love cats and I’m ready to shoot this one) decided that last night was the perfect night to try to jump in my car. She’s never done this before. So it’s like Midnight and I’m freezing and want to get back into the house before Skunkzilla gets me and my arms are loaded with stuff and the stupid cat is inexplicably trying to get inside my car. I managed to fight her off and stepped out the back door of the garage onto a lovely patch of ice that sent me sliding. I stayed upright, but I felt like I was in the Ice Capades. . . .

I made it to the house and of course the battery backup for the sump pump had decided to freak out while I was gone and it was squealing at a high pitch strong enough to hear all through the house (you know it’s loud when it’s in the basement cellar with cement walls and I can hear it on the second floor clearly). I couldn’t get it to shut off so I gave up and went to bed.

It was still squealing when I woke up this morning, and I made it a few hours into the day before I finally called Dad and asked for help in either shutting it off or blowing it up. He suggested I reset it. That worked well, actually. Mental note for next time.

It’s been a very productive morning. Dishes and laundry and cleaning and stuff in preparation for the family coming out tonight after the Christmas Eve service at NewSpring.

I had a few minutes and thought I’d take the time to blog and I was sitting in my office (in my unheated second floor) all bundled up typing when the 23 head of cattle in my pasture decided to all start mooing at the same time. Maybe they’re cold? Or hungry? I don’t know. But that was quite a sound hearing all the cows mooing together. Maybe they’re singing Christmas carols? Or maybe they’re just dumb future hamburgers. That’s more likely.

Oh, and I also saw a squirrel skittering along the top of the old chicken coop . . . maybe it scared the cows.

In any case, this old farm is nutty.

I’m leaving to pick Mom up in about half an hour. Four services at NewSpring later, and we can all come home. It will be an interesting service this year. A lot has changed (and will continue to change) but what is nice is that the reason we’re celebrating is the same. And that won’t ever change.

To anybody who takes the time to read my random ramblings, I wish you the best Christmas you’ve ever had and a wonderful New Year. God has done incredible things in 2010; I can’t wait to see what He will do in 2011!


My first pet was a gray gerbil. I named him Stephen in the inestimable depths of my youthful wisdom because I didn’t know if he would be a boy or a girl (he came from a school teacher), and I figured if he turned out to be a boy Stephen would work—if not, she could be Stephanie. Stephen was also coming with another gerbil—also gender unknown. The second gerbil would be for Andy. I convinced Andy that we should name the second gerbil Nicky (the same logic applied—Nicole/Nicholas). Well, both of them turned out to be boys, so they were officially Stephen and Nicky. They were cute and pretty good for indoor pets. I remember watching them for a long time, laughing at the silly rodent things they did. I can’t say I ever really connected with them, though. I mean, they were gerbils. And while I enjoyed having them as pets, when their time was up, I wasn’t really devastated. Granted, I insisted that we bury them in our backyard with rocks as headstones (their little matchbox coffins are still buried in the backyard of our old house on Birch; we didn’t tell that bit of info to the folks who bought it). The headstones came with us when we moved and are out in the school house yard at home to this very day, but that’s mainly because I’m entirely too sentimental for my own good. We tried another set of gerbils, but they were evil. So we sold them.

Sometime in there, I got a parakeet. I think he had a different name at one point, but shortly after purchasing him, we discovered that this crazy bird would only twitter and tweet and sing at two specific times—when we were watching television, either the Aladdin movie or the Rush Limbaugh show. So, because I was a goober even then, I named him Rush Aladdin Limbird. I’m serious. Not even joking. I wish I could tell you I wasn’t this strange of a child, but that was what I did. I called him Al for short. Al had hygiene issues, though. He didn’t like to bathe, so we had to grab him and dunk him in a coffee cup of water—until we discovered he loved mirrors and found a birdie bathtub with a mirror on the bottom, then he didn’t have a problem with it. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but somehow I decided that we needed to sell him. So we sold him at a garage sale. I didn’t really grieve much.

Shortly after that, I think, we got a pair of rabbits. Two lop-eared bunnies—one named Bugs and the other named Fudge. Fudge was mine, and that’s not what he was full of. You could always tell where Fudge went because he left a trail . . . . I loved them both, but we never really bonded. (Have you ever tried bonding with a bunny full of poop?)

All my life I had really wanted a dog and a cat, but because of my allergies, it would never have been possible while we lived in town. So when we found out we could move to the country, I was excited that I would be able to have a dog and a cat for the first time. The cats came with the place, and they were nuts (and to this day, I am still very much a cat person). But having a dog was something I had wanted for a long time. I still remember being at a garage sale with my mom and grandma trying to think of names for my dog. I finally settled on the name Trixie, in honor of my favorite book series at the time, the Trixie Belden Mysteries.

We went out to this random farm out in the country to pick out our puppies. I remember watching all the puppies run out of the owners’ barn. I saw the one I wanted pretty quickly—she ran sideways, kind of like a crab. I don’t know. She just looked quirky, so I thought that would be fun. (Andy picked one that was black and white, and I convinced him that he should name her Oreo . . . . I think he just let me name his pets because he knew it made me happy.)

The first night we had Trixie and Oreo, we were actually still in town. They spent the night in our garage on Birch Street.

The whole thing was a good experience for me. As a young child, I had always been frightened of dogs. I loved them, but they scared me. I remember even going out to play with our puppies in the garage and they loved my loose shoelaces and started chasing me around the garage.

They were the strangest dogs ever. They did things and got into things and ate things you wouldn’t think a dog could possible do or eat. I swore they were part beaver after they ate two sapling trees and then started gnawing on the chicken coop—but then they started eating rust off the truck, and I didn’t know what to classify them as. They dug stuff up and dragged it into the yard. Dead animals we thought we had gotten rid of. I remember Trixie dragging a duck’s foot into the yard one day and eating it whole when Mom tried to take it away from her. We had found a duck decoy at a garage sale or somewhere. But the dogs loved it. Often times they would both curl up inside their little dog house with it jammed in between them.

The trouble was we couldn’t get them to stay on our property. Together, they were like some kind of weird crime-fighting duo—always running off to get in trouble or save the world or something. We learned that a lot of our neighbors out there would shoot a dog that came anywhere in sight of their livestock (completely understandable), but try as we might, we couldn’t get the dogs to stay on our five acres. So, we built them the coolest dog run we could, converting the old chicken coop into a massive dog house, and we’d take them out on walks and play with them as often as we could. I hated to lock them up, but at the time it seemed like a preferable option to them being shot.

Their personalities were so very different. Oreo was the crazy, dominant one who was always bouncing around, being goofy. Trixie was the follower who was scared of her own shadow. The crazy mutt was scared of everything. If we put a new water dish out for them to drink out of, she wouldn’t go near it until three or four days later when she was sure it wouldn’t bite her. Oreo was bright, but it always seemed to me that Trixie was really intelligent. I could tell her to “go be Snoopy” and she’d go jump on top of their little doghouse.

And somehow, I don’t know how this was possible, but these crazy dogs would lure animals into their run and pounce on them. Opossums. Raccoons. Birds. Snakes. Skunks. Yes, skunks. They’d lure them inside the dog run, kill them, and they wouldn’t even smell skunky. It was ridiculous. They were like ninja pooches or something.

Well, Oreo caught something—some kind of bug or disease or got bit by something, I don’t know. She died a few years ago. In all honesty, I really did expect that Trixie would follow like she always had. After all, Trixie wasn’t really much of an independent type of critter. But she surprised me. She surprised all of us.

Since she had never been the wanderer of the two of them, I decided to let her out to wander around the yard on her own. She never left the yard. She hung around the house. Her hips were bad, she couldn’t hear, she couldn’t see well, and she was missing some teeth, but she was so happy and she had so much life in her.

Trixie and I had a routine. Every morning (if she were awake), she’d walk me to my car and wag her tail at me as I left for work. And every day when I came home (if it were daylight), she’d meet me at the driveway and follow me to the house. I’d feed her, and we’d say goodnight. It was like that for two years.

Well, last weekend, when I was up in Manhattan, I guess Trixie must have gotten confused because she fell into our storm window well. Mom and Dad were out checking the house and found her, pulled her out, got her back on her feet. She was hurt pretty badly though. By the time they came back into town, though, she was up and walking around. Still following them around like she always had.

I got home on Saturday evening, and she was pretty bad off. I had to come to a decision in my own mind that if she didn’t improve quickly, I wouldn’t let her suffer. She could hardly walk when I got home. I don’t really know what happened, but on Sunday morning, she was good. She was up, moving around, wagging her tail, being herself. She was moving more slowly than normal, though. Sunday night, I got home, and she started for the end of the driveway to meet me, but she didn’t couldn’t quite get there. So she sat in the yard and waited for me to come to her. I scratched her for a while and fed her a whole bunch of canned soft food (a major treat). And I went inside to bed.

Well, I didn’t see her on Monday morning. And I checked all her normal sleeping places. I would have preferred to keep looking, but I couldn’t be late to work. So when I got home on Monday evening, and she still didn’t show up like she had for the past couple of years. I looked around in all the places I could think of, and I couldn’t find her. Tuesday morning came, no Trixie. So Dad went out after he got off work to go look for her, and he found her. She had stretched out in the pole barn (which was the first dog run we built for them) and had gone to sleep. She just didn’t wake up.

Trixie would have been 16 in July. I think it was July. Pretty good for a large-ish size dog. Pretty phenomenal actually.

Going home to a house without a dog was kind of hard last night, as silly as that might sound. And as silly as this sounds, some part of me really hopes that there’s a heaven for dogs. Isn’t that silly? A place where she can run around and not be scared of water bowls. I never really saw myself putting up a post dedicated to my dog, but that’s what this is. Trixie was unique, and I’ll miss her. I guess what amazes me more than anything is that she was still the same dog I always had, even down to the last day. She never changed. I guess I never really comprehended how loyal a dog could be. Trixie was the first pet I had always really wanted, not that I disliked my gerbil or my parakeet or my pooping bunny rabbit, but Trixie was different. She was pretty amazing.