Friday, February 27, 2009


My apologies for being AWOL for the last several days. Between illness, busyness and just plain LIFE, I haven't really had much reflection time, or even felt much like finding old stuff.

And I will confess that even today's post isn't a Stacy Original. My niece sent it to me in an e-mail, and although I'd seen it before several years ago, I love it and thought I would share it. Maybe some of you haven't seen it yet and would like it as much as I do! I first read it when I was going through a period of severe depression and was struggling with why God wasn't stepping in and DOING something. This, plus the "Footprints" poem really helped me see that He wasn't abandoning me, and that He did have a plan for my life, that even the blackness that I was in at the time would serve its good purpose.

Malachi 3:3 says:

"He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."

This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study, and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.

That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it." If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has his eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

The picture is a very clear picture of how God deals with His children. Silver is most often taken from lead (from what I read on the Internet), which is a lot like us being taken out of the world, or out of our old selves. In order to do that, to get rid of the lead and get the good stuff, it has to be burned at very high temperatures. So, in order for God to get us out of the world/our old selves, He has to pour the heat on. I don't imagine it's a process He enjoys any more than we do, knowing that it's painful to us, and difficult -- except that He knows what the end result will be and exactly how long we have to go through the fire. And in the end, we, like the silver, will be able to reflect the face of the Refiner.

So, yeah, that was incredibly obvious, but it made me feel all wise and "rabbonical", KWIM? lol But hopefully this image will help someone who's going through a period of refining to realize that it's not for no good reason. And God really DOES know what He's doing. (And in looking on the Internet for the above picture, I realized that I am FAR from the first person to post this story in a blog, or to illustrate it, either! lol)

I would like to take a moment to thank Jamie and Mel for your recent comments on my posts. Especially the ones concerning the materialism post. They've given me good "food for thought" and helped me not feel QUITE so bad about myself! I don't come from a tradition that "does" Lent, neither does my current church observe it, so it's a difficult thing for me to get my head around. Not so much the "going without" -- I mean, on a sort of superficial level I get that, on a kind of "legalistic liturgical" level (don't take offense -- I'm not done with my thought yet). That part is because I know ABOUT Lent from "the culture" (i.e., the things that float around in the world around me that I hear about), and I know there are lots of people who observe Lent from a strictly "tradition" point of view and give up whatever just because they're "supposed to." What I mean about getting my head around it is ... well, I guess I want to understand the depth of it, from those of you who truly OBSERVE LENT, like Jamie mentioned. For you it's not just a "tradition" but a time of focusing on your relationship with Christ and what the season means and all of those things ("all of those things" being the things I'm woefully lacking knowledge of). Sometimes I think I'll "do Lent" because it sounds "cool" (from a devoted-Christian kind of perspective), it sounds so "holy" to GIVE UP something for forty days in honor of the run-up to Easter. But then I don't do it because I'm a non-liturgical Protestant who has No Clue. Not really. And I don't want to do it "wrong," for the wrong reasons. And I know that because I'm not part of the group that understands Lent and does it for the right reasons, I'd give up after a few days anyway. It'd be kinda like a New Year's Resolution.

So, I'm truly interested in Lent, in what it means to those of you who practice it. I think it sounds like an amazingly wonderful thing, actually focusing for forty consecutive days on Christ. I mean, yes, we're supposed to focus on Christ every day, which I am more or less successful at depending on what's going on in my life at the time (ugh, I hate how superficial that sounds!). But to TRULY FOCUS, to have a specific season of focus like that. We non-liturgical Protestants miss out on so much. (I love liturgy, BTW. I wish we had more of that kind of thing in my church.)

I'm sure I just showed my TOTAL ignorance of Lent. Feel free to set me straight! Lovingly, of course. ;-)

Okay, I need to go give my family material sustenance (or whatever you call feeding them actual food as opposed to spiritual food). I bought U2's "Live Under a Blood Red Sky" DVD at the grocery store today. I have the video but can't watch it now since we don't have a VHS player anymore. It's a very iconic concert/vid for me. I'm glad to know that Bono is a Christian. An unconventional one, to be sure (and I'm not sure God really approves of Bono's, *ahem* colorful use of language), but I think we need more "unconventional" Christians sometimes. Bono definitely lives out Jesus' message with his initiative to help with the HIV/AIDS relief effort in Africa. You go, Bono!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The poverty of the Prosperity Gospel

I am NOT a believer in the "prosperity Gospel" -- you know, the whole "but God LOVES to bless His children materially, so it's okay for me to have this nice, million-dollar house and drive this Mercedes and have two others in the garage, not to mention the big boat and the lake house and ..." Yes, I do believe God may choose to bless His children materially, but I don't think it's so we can live in big, fine houses and drive nice, expensive cars.

Of course, I am also the world's biggest hypocrite about this (as are most of the Christians I know who would agree with my first paragraph). If I lived up to my own belief, I wouldn't have a room full of scrapping/stamping supplies that I don't even WANT to put a value on (i.e., how much money I've spent filling it up). I'm ashamed to think about how many starving children that stuff could've fed, or how much AIDS/HIV or cancer research it could've funded, or whatever. I don't think God intends that I don't have a creative outlet and do fun things -- for one thing, I do think He gave me the creativity and wants me to use it, especially when I can do so for His glory. But when I buy compulsively, when I "collect" more rubber stamps than I will ever use, when I have a paper stash that would get me through a hundred or more scrapbooks ... I don't think God is very happy about that. I think it's HARD to live in America (or Britain or France or New Zealand or Australia ...) and have any kind of comprehension of what the rest of the world is like, of what it's like to be a parentless child in Africa having to raise your siblings -- and, yep, we've got those here, too -- or being a single mother with HIV/AIDS, which you caught somehow because practically everyone in your village has it, trying to cope with raising your children as you grow increasingly weaker, as you have little or no money, etc.

I got a newsletter in my e-mail inbox yesterday with a link to this which is why all this is pouring out of my brain today. And you wanna know what's really awful? I don't know that I'll ever read this book because I don't want to have to feel guilty about what a shallow, lukewarm Christian I am. It makes me think of the Gollum/Smeagol exchange in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where Smeagol ends up covering his ears and saying, "Not listening! Not listening!" God, please forgive me! And please, break my heart with the things that break Yours whether I want You to or not!

I found this that I had written several years ago while reading a book about Rich Mullins' life that ties in perfectly with this:

Consumption is the opposite of the Cross. Be indifferent to the world's view of consumption as all-important. "The world will respect us if we court it, and it will respect us even more if we reject it in disdain or anger; but it will hate us if we simply take no notice of its priorities or what it thinks of us." -- Brennan Manning

A "prosperity gospel" is no gospel (good news.) Money is dangerous. God doesn't "bless us" with money. It's a curse! We're so proud of ourselves for giving God ten percent -- we ought to give Him ninety percent because He knows how to handle money a lot better than we do!! -- Rich Mullins

(I'm writing this stuff down, Lord, because I'm trying to get it through my thick skull! I'm afraid to pray that You'll change my outlook on "stuff," because I'm afraid You will! I feel secure being able to buy "stuff" -- it terrifies me to think of having to go back to penny-pinching and "doing without," when, really, "doing without" materially = having more spiritually. Why don't I value the spiritual more than the material? I'm a Christian, for Pete's sake! "This world is not my home" sort of thing. But, boy, do I want to be comfortable while I'm here! I'm afraid to ask You for help with this, Lord, because I'm afraid You will help, and I see visions of lost jobs, smaller incomes, financial crises, and that's hard and uncomfortable and very, very frightening. Help me not to fear first, then help me with the rest!)

Isaiah 55:2 "Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?"

Ouch, ouch, ouch. Ouch.

I stand here busted, Lord. Utterly, utterly busted. Is there ANY hope for me?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Jesus' Apartment

Well, my post yesterday was so gloomy that I thought I'd spare you that again and go back into the "archives" to bring you something much more upbeat. So here's a little something I wrote back in 2001. I don't remember exactly what brought it about -- maybe I was just thinking about what things would be like if Jesus were walking around physically on earth today. But, anyway, it's an image I like. I hope you will, too!

Jesus' Apartment
copyright 2001 by Stacy Aannestad, all rights reserved

If Jesus was bodily on earth today, I think I know what his place would be like:

First of all, as Jesus’ friends, we’d have to all chip in and rent Him a place, because He wouldn’t be worried about where to stay at night. We would worry about Him, though, so we’d get him some little loft somewhere, probably just a one-room job with the kitchen, living room and bedroom all together (like an efficiency). I picture it with uncovered brick walls, smack in the middle of downtown. You could see the fire escape outside his living room window. He would have kids’ drawings all over the place from all the children who love Him so – they’re always giving Him stuff they’ve made. His rickety bicycle would be propped against a wall, and there would be a bowl of cat food near the door to feed the strays He so often takes in. There wouldn’t be much furniture, just what we’d brought in from garage sales, etc., because we were tired of having to sit on the hard floor all the time, and, besides, Jesus ought to have a proper bed! His dishes wouldn’t match, his ‘fridge would be old, and he wouldn’t have an electric dishwasher.

But all that wouldn’t matter to Him at all, and it wouldn’t really matter that much to us, either, after awhile. Jesus is so warm and caring that when we go over to visit, we don’t see the sparse, shabby furnishings and the crack in the wall, and one of us usually winds up doing His dishes for Him because He’s too busy helping people to notice they’ve stacked up.

So, this morning I went over to see Jesus, just to say hi. He greeted me at the door in scruffy, worn bluejeans and a slightly faded blue plaid shirt. His hair was a bit disheveled and He seemed tired, but He looked so happy to see me, as if I were the exact person He’d been hoping would walk through His door! He explained as He pulled his hair back into a ponytail and smoothed his beard that He’d been up with a troubled friend half the night. He asked if I’d had breakfast yet, and I said no, so He went to the fridge to see what there was. He looked a little sheepish as He offered me a choice between a can of tunafish and leftover pizza – that was all He had at the moment. I laughed and said the pizza would be great. I knew from experience that Jesus gets so busy helping people that He sometimes forgets to eat. But, in all honesty, cold pizza with Jesus is better than a sumptuous breakfast at the finest restaurant anywhere. He asked me what I’d been up to lately, and I filled Him in. He really listens. His eyes just bore right into you with this most incredible kind of love! I noticed that His dishes were stacking up again, so I offered to help Him with them. After that He showed me some of the things His kid friends had made Him recently. Some of them were pretty awful, artistically speaking, but Jesus displayed them as if they were the greatest works of art straight out of the Louvre. In the middle of His old, scratched Formica dining table I noticed an orange juice can with some mangy-looking dandelion blooms drooping over the edge. He saw me looking at them, and with the biggest smile told me about the little girl who had brought them to Him yesterday on her way to school. She had picked them from her front yard. She thought Jesus would like yellow flowers because they were so sunny looking.

I really enjoyed my visit with Jesus this morning. He made me feel so important, even when I was just chatting away about little stuff. Tomorrow we’re going to go for a walk in the park. It’s always an experience to walk with Jesus – He points out the neatest things you’d never notice otherwise, and He likes to tell how His Father and He got the ideas for creating them. And, if I know Jesus like I think I do, we’ll probably wind up helping someone in need, and inviting at least a few people over to His place for lunch. He always manages to scrape something up. Served with His kind of love, any food is the best food around.

Grace & peace!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

God, I beg You ... smile!

So, today has not been a good day. Not just an "off day," but not good for ongoing, frustrating, upsetting, seemingly never-ending and hopeless reasons. So tonight I picked up one of my recent journals and found some verses from Psalm 119 in The Message version of the Bible that had spoken to my heart one day and I had written down. They speak to me tonight, too. So here are some of them:

Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?

... train me well in Your deep wisdom. Help me understand these things inside and out.

... build me up again by Your Word.

Barricade the road that goes Nowhere; grace me with Your clear revelation. I choose the road to Somewhere.

... God, don't let me down! I'll run the course You lay out for me if You'll just show me how.

I beg You from the bottom of my heart: smile, be gracious to me just as You promised!

Oh, love me -- and right now! -- hold me tight! just the way You promised. Now comfort me so I can live, really live ...

In Your great love revive me so I can alertly obey Your every word.

... put me together again with Your Word.

Let my cry come right into Your presence, God; provide me with the insight that comes only from Your Word.

Give my request Your personal attention; rescue me on the terms of Your promise.

... Invigorate my soul so I can praise You well.

Yes, God, again. Once again I find myself standing in this same place (or a similar one farther down the road), hurting again, angry again, confused and weary and all the stuff You already know so well. Angry because this isn't the life I signed up for. Hurting because ... well, You know why. Confused because I thought things were looking up again, but once again the Big Cloud comes and I can't do anything about it, no matter how hard I try. I need to quit trying. It's not something I can fix, anyway, God, only You can, since there are other people involved and ... It's like hitting my head against a brick wall so I might as well just build one and protect my heart again, Y'know? I know, I'm giving in to the Enemy. I don't want to. I want to win, God, I really do, but this is too big for me. It has been for years. Help! Again.

So ... yeah, only You can get me on my feet again. I am trying to stay in Your Word, and I'm hoping that will "build me up again." But You definitely have to barricade that "road to Nowhere" that I keep trying to go down.

And honestly, Lord, sometimes I just have no clue how to run the course You lay out for me. I'd be happy to do it if You'd just show me how, just like the Psalmist asked.

I need You to smile on me again, God. I know, You have been, in lots of little ways and one or two big, totally unrelated ways, and I am SOOOO grateful for those! They definitely give me hope. I just need a Really Big smile, Abba. One I can see through the clouds. Because right now they're pretty thick. Help me remember to look up, though, too, Abba. To keep my eyes on You. Because I can't exactly see You smile if I'm not looking.

Friday, February 13, 2009

God, Are You There? (Probably Part 1 of many)

"Experience cannot heighten the certainty of His presence any more than fear of His absence can lessen it." -- Brennan Manning

Whether I feel God or not, He's there. Sin can damage my relationship with Him, of course, but even then I believe He is there, waiting for me to come back to Him and repent, restoring the closeness. But even in those times when sin isn't a factor and I just can't feel Him, He's there. He has promised that, now that I'm His child He will never leave me nor forsake me. I cannot possibly make Him love me more -- nor can I make Him love me less. It's not about my feelings or my performance; it's about His passionate love for me, and His forever presence.

Grace & peace ...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The "unforced rhythms of grace"

Taken from my deliberatePeople journal entry of 1/16/06:
(Writing as a prayer to my "Abba" -- which is the Aramaic word for Daddy, and one we can use in addressing our Heavenly Father, according to Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6.)

Abba, thank You that You're teaching me about the "unforced rhythms of grace," as The Message puts it. I know I have such a long way to go, such a lot to learn still. But I've come a pretty good distance already and I am so grateful for that!

Thank You, Jesus, that Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30)! Sometimes I get to thinking that being a Christian is so hard, that dying to self is so painful, that the whole road is so long and full of steep climbs and difficult stretches. But when I stop and remember that You are on this road with me, helping me, communing with me, even carrying me sometimes, well, I wouldn't trade it for all the smooth, flat, wide, "easy" roads in the world!

So thank You for Your grace! Thank You that I don't have to bring a report card with me for entry into the Kingdom. Thank You that my works are filthy rags and that it's all about the ticket You bought for me with Your blood, Jesus. Thank You that all I have to do is accept the ticket and I don't even have to worry about losing it! It's permanently engraved on my heart and in Your Book of Life!

So take my heart, my life, today, Abba. I want what You want for me. Please help me remove the veil of self-centeredness so I can see what that is.

I love You!

In the Beginning ...

Okay, that was really cheesy, but anyone who has ever read my crafting blog knows I struggle with titles. I promise my writing is better!

I've decided to start a blog where I can explore my walk with Christ more in depth than I can in my crafting blog. I mean, heck, there people want to see my scrapbook pages and handmade cards, not hear me wax philosophical (or theological, or whatever you'd call it). And it seems like since I started a Christian Crafters group on the social networking site Paper Craft Planet, and started a Faithbooking project there for the group ... well, somehow I've just wanted to be more verbal about my walk. I used to journal my faith a lot, but for the last couple of years I'd stopped doing that. Hopefully this blog will give me a little kick in the pants about getting that going again.

I will also be including previous writings that I've done over the last, oh, ten, fifteen years or so. Occasionally I wrote what I consider to be some Good Stuff, so I'll be posting that here, too. Especially when I can't come up with anything new because not only are my "specs" fogged, but so is my brain!

So I hope you'll join me on my journey. You'll see from my writings that I certainly don't have everything about Christianity, God, Christ, etc., figured out. In fact, the longer I'm on this walk, the less I realize I really do know! (And I've been on this walk for 38 years now.) But we can be fellow travelers on this Kingdom Road, ay?

Now, the biggest issue is ... what to put between paragraphs to break up all the text, since I won't have pictures of my crafts to post ...?

Grace & peace.