Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Christ, our Passover....

Growing up, our church always celebrated Passover, complete with yarmulkes and real lamb. The children always went on a search to clear the church of leaven (pieces of bread). Another child was picked was ask the traditional Jewish questions about when the Israelites first came out of Egypt. We ate lamb, matzah (unleavened bread), bitter herbs, charoses (a mixture of apples, walnuts, cinnamon, and I don't know what else), and parsley dipped in salt water (to represent the tears the Israelites shed in slavery). I didn't always understand exactly what was going on, but it always felt like such a holy experience.

I also didn't understand--simply because I was too young--the spiritual significance that Passover has today for followers of Jesus. It is amazing to me how so many things in Old Testament are shadows of what Jesus was to bring later by his death and resurrection. For Passover, originally, it was a celebration of the angel of death passing over God's people because of the blood of the lamb on their door posts. Because of that, they were then able to leave their life of slavery in Egypt.

In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul says, "Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed (NASB). Traditionally, Jewish people get rid of all the leaven in the house before preparing for Passover and making their unleavened bread. After Jesus' sacrifice, this became a symbol of the way that we, as followers of Jesus, should cleanse our lives of sin and become a new person, free of sin. Because Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed for us (once and for all!!!!!), we are now covered by His blood, (just as the Israelites covered their doorposts with the blood of a lamb) so that eternal death passes over us. We can journey out of sin and into the new life and the eternal promise that God has for us.

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." The word fulfill here is "pleroo" (Greek), which means "to fill up". Passover was (and still is) a celebration of the awesome and miraculous thing God did for His people, but now--it's a symbol of the awesome and miraculous thing God did for His people (now made up of Jews AND Gentiles) through the lasting sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus filled up the meaning of Passover--he gave it it's full measure of meaning. He also did that in many other ways obviously; I'm just focusing on Passover today.  In the last several years, I have just realized how everything Jesus did in the New Testament filled up the meaning of everything in the Old Testament. It's just mind blowing to me! And we can celebrate because the things Jesus did have lasting, eternal value to us! He gives us a place to call home for forever, that no one can ever take away.

Happy Passover, y'all! Resurrection day is coming!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Palm Sunday tidbit

This isn't really about Palm Sunday. Or come to think of it, maybe it kind of is.....

I was just doing some dishes, which is when I do some of my best thinking. I was so stinkin' angry about something. The more I thought about it, the more angry I got. Finally, my anger threatened to spill out of my eyes. I walked over to my laptop for a second and the first post I saw on my Facebook news feed was from Casting Crowns. It said, "We love, because He first loved us. John 4:19" And then I did start to cry. We don't love because other people deserve it (they probably don't think I deserve it sometimes, either ;) ). We don't love only our friends or family. We don't love just the people we agree with. We love because God loved us and sent His Son to die for us when we didn't deserve it. Man, talk about a revelation I already knew that God had to remind me of in the moment I needed it.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He knew it was almost the beginning of His earthly suffering. He knew who would betray Him, who would deny Him, and who would cry, "Crucify him!" by the end of the week. Still, He showed love. Still, He was led as a lamb to the slaughter and let Himself be beaten and nailed to the cross. Whew, what a standard to try to live up to!

Jesus knew His future, though. And so can we, if we love and follow in His steps.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Our new journey

        In just a few months, our family will be starting a new journey--homeschooling. It's hard to believe I began this blog almost 5 years ago, when Kade was just a few months old and in August, he'll be starting kindergarten! I considered opening up a new blog just for our homeschool adventures, but I decided that 1) that would be too complicated and 2) I know God will be teaching me plenty through this particular "new thing" and I would love to share it with you.

        So, I'm sure many people (in real life) will be asking, "What made you decide to homeschool?" It was definitely not that I had a bad experience in school. I graduated from 13 years of public school as valedictorian of my senior class and feel like I received a good education. I had fantastic teachers. I was able to resist any negative peer pressure and temptation. I also met my husband when I was in 10th grade, so that was also a major plus. However, school is not the same today as it was 10 years ago and I don't mean morally (though things aren't great in that department, either). I (with Michael's support) have decided that I want to give my children a unique educational experience, one that I can tailor to their individual learning styles and interests. I'm no helicopter parent and I'm not trying to keep my children hidden from the world, but I also plan on taking this time to help them build a strong foundation of faith. I was blessed to have parents who helped me build a strong foundation of faith every moment I wasn't in school. We all live in this world; whether children go to public school or not, they're going to run into situations that test their faith and obedience.

         Anyway, I never dreamed I would homeschool my children, but here I am! Even better, I also never dreamed I would have so many homeschooling friends! When I was pregnant with Kade and starting to regret not being able to stay at home, I became friends with Tracy, who started kindergarten with her oldest daughter this year. We've recently created our own homeschool group, with 6 or 7 other moms. There are around 17 young children between all of us. We've been getting together every Friday morning to play and we have quite a few field trips and other activities planned for the rest of this year.

         The only part of homeschooling that made me nervous was the actual teaching part. I know I'm qualified, but I felt overwhelmed about choosing curriculum and deciding exactly what style of pedagogy I wanted to use. I think I've finally settled on something that feels comfortable to me and that Kade will enjoy. I didn't want to just do regular school at home; I wanted something different. The Charlotte Mason method seems like exactly what I've been looking for. It's not a particular curriculum, it's more of a certain style. To be brief, Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived during the mid-1800's to early 1900's. She believed that all children should have a education with a broad and generous curriculum. She also believed that "Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life", meaning that one-third of a child's education is made up of the atmosphere in the home and the parents' beliefs; another third was made up of the cultivating of good habits, especially forming good character; and the "Life" part was made up of her belief that academics should be taught through living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts to memorize. (Taken from Simply Charlotte Mason) It is very cross curricular, which I like and everything is sort of based on literature, which is definitely my forte.

              I'd better save some info for another post (and get to bed, since tomorrow is Sunday), but look out for many more homeschooling posts! And if you don't care about homeschooling, never fear! There'll be plenty of my regular posts as well.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

You might have gone to ESGUMC if....

Know what's always made me love my church so much? They're my community. My parents taught me all about God at home; everything I did and all the people I loved at church just reinforced that. When you go to a particular place consistently for 28 years, you get kind of attached. You develop relationships with people because you share common bonds.

I've always seen ESGUMC as a pretty unique place. I've visited different churches over the years for revivals, youth services, etc. and there is no place quite like it. I was thinking today while I was cleaning about some of my best memories there over the years and thought I'd share.

--Growing up, we pretty frequently had potluck meals or finger foods outside on the church patio after Sunday night church. We called them "fellowships", so for years and years, I thought the word "fellowship" meant "finger foods on the patio."

--We've always had awesome praise and worship. My mom was part of the praise and worship team when I was little and I learned to harmonize by listening to her sing. We did some songs so frequently that we developed certain things to go with them like special claps or different movements. "Like David Did", "Celebrate, Jesus, Celebrate", "Ancient of Days", "The Battle Belongs to The Lord", "Romans 16:19 Says", and "Ain't No Rock" were some of my favorites. I liked the song "God's Got an Army", but every time we sang it, somebody (I'm not saying who!) started marching around the perimeter of the church, trying to pull everybody in to the line of marching people. I'm pretty sure that every time that happened, I scooted as far to the inside of the pew as I could! 

--Children's church has always been a big thing at ESG. When I was growing up, my parents and some of their best friends were the main children's church leaders. We did all kinds of fun things. Every year, we had a jamboree at a farm right outside of our town. All the kids (and some of the parents) dressed up like cowboys/girls. There were horse rides, wagon rides, tons of games, all kinds of food, and finally, an extra special service at the end with songs, an object lesson, sometimes people dressed up as different characters, sometimes there was a puppet show, and skits. The third Sunday of each month was "store Sunday". Throughout the month, we earned play money for different things like good behavior, attendance, and memory verses and on "store Sunday" we got to watch shows like "Gospel Bill" and later "Veggie Tales", while everybody took turns going to the store (a room with little prizes laid out on tables) to spend their play money. Our regular children's church Sundays were just as fun. Norman (one of my favorite people in the whole world) and my dad taught the lessons together and that was never boring. Norman sometimes dressed up like a funny looking bald Professor and did hilarious, but very memorable object lessons. We learned things like the 10 commandments and the fruits of the spirit through some awesome praise and worship.

--At one point when I was little, my parents and quite a few other people would meet at the parsonage (which was 2 feet from the church) once a month to have "intercessory prayer". We kids would stay in the nursery at the church and several of the older kids would take care of the rest of us. I was just telling my parents the other day that I remember one time when the older kids decided to make us younger kids do a "challenge". They took different condiments from the church kitchen refrigerator, mixed them together, and told us to drink/eat them. Ha! I still remember mine being a mix of water, shredded cheese, and ketchup. Bleh!

--Judy, my first pastor's wife, made a roast for Sunday lunch I'm pretty sure every Sunday and we could always smell it (and wow, did it smell delicious!) when we walked by their door on the way back to our car after church.

--Every summer, until I was an early teenager, our church went to Six Flags over Georgia. On the way there, we stopped to swim at a state park and then had a Sloppy Joe/Moon Pie picnic (I'm sure there were other foods, but that's what I remember most). In the morning, before we left our hotel for Six Flags, we all had to circle up in the parking lot (and it was a huge circle), sing a praise song, and pray. We all had to stay together and ride "Monster Plantation" first and I would ride through with my hands over my eyes because I didn't want to see the monsters.

--I remember the night that Dave (our pastor) had a stroke that the doctors said should have killed him. We rushed to the hospital and I remember everyone in the waiting room praying. I remember lots of prayer. Friends of ours would come to the house when Callie or I were sick and anoint us and pray for us. Every Sunday night (and every week night during a revival), people would gather in the prayer room before the service and pray and sing. 

--One time, my dad lost his job and I remember my parents, crying because members of the church had sent money in the mail to help with bills. That is the body of Christ. People brought meals when my mom had cancer and was taking chemo. When I had both of my boys, people brought us meals. All sorts of people immediately showed up at the hospital when Michael posted on Facebok that Kade was on his way into the world. lol When my grandparents passed away, people from our church family came, even though none of my grandparents went to our church. 

--Uncle Charlie (he wasn't really my uncle) was a Vietnam missionary who used to visit our church when he was in town. He got really excited about the blood of Jesus so when we did songs like "Power in the Blood" or "Nothing But the Blood", he would whoop, holler, and wave a handkerchief around in the air. We kids would always try hard not to giggle. Uncle Charlie knew I liked to read and gave me lots of books--children's editions of some Dickens books, a biography of Susanna Wesley, I think Ben Carson, and tons of others I can't remember. 

I have so many other memories (I haven't even hit my later years yet) but I'm going to have to take a break. If you've ever been a part of ESG, I'd love to hear some of your favorite times! I wish I had some good pictures at my house to go along with this post, but I'll have to get some from mom and dad's and scan them.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dear Girls:

        There are so many commercials, magazine articles, and blogs out there telling you that you are beautiful just the way you are. And you are. These ads and articles talk about your self-worth and how you should love yourself.

        But there's not much out there about purity, which, to God, is far more important than how beautiful you or others think you are. You might be thinking, "Oh, here we go again with the sex talk; I get enough of that at home/at church/at youth group". However, purity is so, so much more than abstaining from sex.

        Phillipians 4:8 says: ".....whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

       Purity starts in your heart and mind. What do you spend your time thinking about? What words and pictures do you put into your brain? Every day, most of you watch television shows or movies, videos on the Internet, listen to music, or read magazines or books. The images you see and the things you hear are what you think about. And the things you think about influence what you say and do.

       A few nights ago, one of the girls in our youth group asked me if I thought listening to secular music was a sin. My answer was pretty much this: There are many secular songs that don't have terrible lyrics. The act of listening to them is not a sin. The question is this--what do you want to fill your mind with? Music is a huge part of my life and there have been times when I have listened to only Christian music and there have been times when I have listened mostly to secular music. I will tell you that I am focused on the things of God much more when I fill my.mind with song lyrics that are about my walk with God or that praise Him. Some of those other songs may seem harmless, but they're definitely not helpful. Other songs may seem harmless, but give us a completely skewed view on what love is or should be. And like I said, it's not just songs, but all other forms of media and even the people we hang around with the most.

        So, purity, or lack of, starts in the heart and shows itself in the way we act. You know the saying, "Garbage in. Garbage out" or Proverbs 3:27, which says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." You will become what you think about the most--whatever that is. If you get up in the morning and read God's Word, surround yourself with Godly friends, listen to music that reminds you about Him, and pray, your heart and mind will be on God. Your focus will be on God and what you can do to live for Him--in every area of your life--by the way you dress, what you say, your relationships with the opposite sex, how you treat others, whether you respect your parents, by saying "no" to things that you know you shouldn't do or watch or listen to. It's not always easy, but it's easier with God's help.

         Please don't settle for being anyone less than who God called you to be! He made you beautiful, but He's called you to be pure. He makes you pure if you trust Him to help you.



Monday, January 20, 2014

What's your ID?

I just ran by the credit union to pay Michael's car payment, and when I handed the lady at the window his statement, I said, "I need to pay my husband's car payment." She took the money and went to enter it in the computer and when she came back, she said, "Can I help you with anything else, Mrs. Bowman?" Immediately, I felt that familiar thrill (I am totally serious) that I get anytime someone calls me "Mrs. Bowman", simply because I love having that identity.My husband loved me enough to marry me and give me his last name. I love sharing his name and having a connection to who he is--an awesome, godly, hilarious, hardworking, loving guy. Even if the person has no idea who my husband is or anything about him, I know who he is and I'm proud to be his wife and to be Mrs. Bowman.

I was thinking, as I drove away with that mushy feeling, what if we felt the same thrill about the identity God has given us. 1 John 3:1 says, "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" We are sons and daughters of God, because of God's love! He loved us enough to sacrifice His son so that we could be close to Him. Think of the life changing things that would happen if we were so proud of that name and that identity that we went out and told everyone about Him. I love to brag about my husband and how cool he is, but what if we went out and bragged on God and how incredibly, unbelievably awesome He is. I'm doing a Kay Arthur Bible study with some friends right now, and one of the lessons said that the word "glory" means to give something or someone it's full worth. God wants us to bring glory to His name and the only way we can do that is to show and tell the world His full worth.

I'm not going to share my identity as Michael's wife with anyone else, but I'd be glad to share my identity as a daughter of God. He wants everyone to have that identity and to be proud of it. He wants everyone to have the benefits of being His child.