Areopagus or Rock of Ares is a large rock near the base of the Acropolis of Athens. The Areopagus functioned as a place of appeals for criminal and civil cases in the classical times and before that it was where high ranking public officials would meet, similar to a Senate. When we were in Athens last month, we went to the Acropolis of Athens and saw the Areopagus. We didn't walk around on Areopagus, it was blazing hot and after 1.5 hours at the Acropolis the kids were pretty much done with the historic site and ready to find our cab driver who promised the car would be ready with the a/c full blast when we returned, but we were there, we saw it, and we walked the paths that so many important historical figures would have walked to get up there. Of all the places that we have travelled I think I am most impressed that my sandals (ok comfortable walking shoes) walked where Paul walked in Athens. The account is recorded in Acts 17:16-34. "While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there". Some philosophers began to debate with him, asking what he was babbling about and they decided to bring him to Areopagus. There they asked him to explain what he was talking about. The teaching was something they hadn't heard before. There at Areopagus Paul stood before the people and proclaimed the Gospel "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being." Paul was there, in the center of the philosophical world, proclaiming that God is the one true God and that all these temples and idols that have been built to honor pagan gods serve only as obstructions to seeing and knowing God. Paul was there nearly 2000 years ago while those buildings at the Acropolis were still standing. The buildings are now just piles of rubble and works of reconstruction by archaeologists but Paul's message still applies today.
My friend Angela is the mastermind behind our family photos. I met her just over 2 years ago when we become her downstairs neighbors in the apartment in Mannheim. Shortly after we moved in, she told me she was starting a photography business. I needed family pictures, so I signed up for a photo-shoot in Heidelberg. We loved our pictures and I knew as long as we were in Germany Angela would be stuck taking our family pictures. As it turns out we love their family too and so now they are all just flat stuck with us! Angela's business and talent has flourished in the past few years. She has an absolutely amazing eye, great ideas, and is just simply the most fabulous photographer ever!
This year I asked her to do a session for the boys separate from our family. I really wanted to get some great pictures of the boys in their element apart from the whole family gig. She met us at a park on Monday and spent a few hours with my rascally boys.
She just sent me a link to her blog with some sneak peaks of the pictures. Needless to say, I am SO. COMPLETELY. HAPPY! I expected great pictures but these are just so fabulous.
Alrighty then, this is what you came for, check them out!
If you are living in Germany and ready to invest in gorgeous photos.....give her a call!
I thought Rahab was a tough topic to teach my middle school kids....at least I was just trying to explain faith with that one. The latest lesson I had to teach was Ruth. Simple enough right? Ruth goes with her grumpy mother in law Naomi to Bethlehem, works in Boaz' fields, finds favor in his eyes, asks him to become the kinsman redeemer to Naomi's property, he accepts, and then Ruth and Boaz get married and everyone lives happily ever after.
I have heard this story a few dozen times. However, it wasn't until I was studying for my lesson that I really read the part where Naomi gives Ruth instructions to head over to Boaz' threshing floor after he has eaten and is feeling restful, lay at his feet, and then ask him to cover her with his robe. Something was telling me the kids were not going to let me just breeze past this one. I needed to be prepared! I did some reading and most of what I found points to this little midnight meeting as something very innocent and symbolic for the times. "Covering" Ruth with his robe was a symbol that Boaz was going to take care of her and her family. As I read the scripture, the girls' eyes were wide and they started to snicker and then just came right out and said "WHAT?" I simplified the threshing floor scene by comparing it to a modern day proposal. Instead of a man getting down on one knee at a fancy restaurant or romantic spot and asking those four sweet words "will you marry me?" It was Ruth laying at Boaz' feet, in a dirty barn asking "will you cover me?". Same thing, different time. At least that is my working explanation and it seemed to pacify the kids.
As quickly as possible I diverted their attention from the threshing floor and started talking about the most important part of the lesson. Kinsman Redeemer. Naomi's land was for sale. She needed someone in her dead husband's family to buy the land and provide for Naomi and Ruth so they would no longer have to live in poverty. Boaz was a relative, so he qualified, but not the closest living relative. Legally, the closer relative had to have the opportunity to redeem the land before Boaz could. So Boaz went to the other relative and asked if he wanted to buy it. At first he said "yes". He was thinking "awesome! More fields, more money to be earned". But when Boaz explained that along with the land came the little matter of taking on the responsibility of caring for Ruth and Naomi, the guy backed out of the deal. The cost was too great for him. However, it wasn't too much for Boaz. He bought the land, married Ruth, and took care of Naomi. He paid the price for the land and gave Ruth and Naomi a new life.
Christ is our kinsman redeemer. The price of our sins was too great for anyone else to redeem. But Jesus paid the price, we became his "bride" and now we are given a new life. All we have to do is go to the threshing floor and acknowledge that Christ has already "covered" us. He did it when he shed His blood on Calvary.
It truly amazes me how much I am learning as I prepare each week to teach the Trek kids. It isn't enough for me to know about the story, I need to really know it, understand it and be able to answer questions about it. It is through teaching these kids that I too am learning.
This is perfectly normal right? Not the part about boots being in a window sill, but the number of boots I own. Everyone has at least 6 pair of boots....right? I was cleaning out a closet the other day and realized that I need the entire bottom flooring of one of the closets in order to properly store my boots. I do have big feet so that definitely contributes to the fact that I no longer have any room in the bottom of that closet - but the lack of room in there made me realize that I don't have anymore room for another pair of boots. Not that I am actively shopping for boots, I'm just saying that even if a pair of perhaps dressy black boots found their way into my home, I don't have anywhere to put them.
If you happen to have read this post about where we will be moving next, you will recall that the prospects for an excitingly awesome new duty station were looking grim.
We spent a few weeks thinking about what we wanted to ask for and devising a plan and then this past Friday Matt sent an email to his branch manager with his request. The plan was simple. Matt would sell his soul to the devil in order to get a duty station other than the ones the branch manager had previously offered. We were willing to have Matt do an unaccompanied tour in one of many unpleasant places in order to have a chance to get to one of our stations of choice when he returned. It was a risky move. Perhaps life in Texas or North Carolina would be better than volunteering for an unaccompanied tour? But we made our decision. We felt good about it. We were ready to get this ball rolling.
The email was short and sweet.
"Sir, I'll do anything you want me to do short of giving up my right arm if you don't send me to one of those less than wonderful duty stations. I really pretty please with sugar on top want to go to Fort Lewis, Hawaii or Fort Carson."
Next step. We wait.
We figured it would be a few days at least before getting a reply but it ended up being a few hours.
Matt got the email on his work Blackberry and raced upstairs to tell me.
The conversation went like this.
"Yes he did"
"What is it?"
"Not cool. Don't mess with me"
"I'm not kidding"
It went like this for a few seconds until Matt just let me read the email.
And this is where I start to cry.
There was nothing official about the email so we were cautiously excited. We told Tom and Mika and then spent the next few days talking about all the things that we were excited for. We didn't tell the boys or anyone else because we feared that the branch manager would suddenly recall that he told us we had to go to one of those other duty stations. Fears were squashed when we received a RFO (request for orders) on Tuesday.
While this is still the Army and things can change, an RFO is the next best thing to actual Orders.
The branch manager didn't originally see a spot for Matt in Fort Lewis, but I think God opened his eyes a little and revealed a great job for him there.
About 16 years ago Matt began his military career as an E2 at Fort Lewis, Washington. A year later we were married and made our first home there. In the past 15 years we have made our home in 6 additional duty stations, met wonderful people from all over the world, lived a life we never dreamed of, and in about 10 months we will make our way back to Washington, back to where we started, to finish off our military career and pave the way for life after the Army.
I simply could not be more grateful for the places God has taken us and for the plans He has for our future.
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see". Hebrews 11:1
This week I am teaching a lesson on Rahab to my AWANA group. It is a huge challenge for me to try to explain the faith of Rahab when I don't quite understand it myself.
I was raised in a Christian home and have been surrounded by stories of faith my entire life. I've read, listened to, and studied Bible stories about people who have acted by faith and I have been taught over and over again the importance of placing my trust in God. And still...my faith is often wavering.
Yet Rahab, a prostitute living in Canaan, didn't have any of these positive influences encouraging her to have faith in the one true God, and when it came down to it - she rocked it. She heard stories of the Israelites release from Egypt, crossing of the Red Sea, and conquering other cities in Canaan - and by these stories alone she knew the God was real and she trusted that He had the power to save her.
She was unworthy, and yet she believed. She was a prostitute, and God used her. She was a sinner, but saved both herself and her family. Her faith is hard to grasp, let alone explain.
Rahab didn't know much about God but she didn't use that as an excuse. She used what she did know to be true to make her decision to hide the Israelite spies and rely on God instead of the gods of the Canaan people.
Oh to have her faith. I don't know what tomorrow will bring and it is hard to base my faith on what I think God will do in my life, however, if I simply look back on the things that I do know about God, if I look at the many times that he has held me in His hands, the times He provided for us, protected us, and the countless times He has forgiven me, it shouldn't be too difficult to place my faith in Him.
Rahab believed in God and asked the spies to save her. The thief on the cross next to Jesus recognized that he was the Messiah and asked him to save his life. My greatest hope for my AWANA kids is that they too will recognize God as the Living God and believe that Jesus is their Messiah and profess their faith so that they too will be saved.