Thursday, February 25, 2010

Genesis: A Portrait of Hope

You are my hope
Hope like no other
Hope like no other
Reaches to me

To me, that stanza encapsulates Genesis.

In the beginning God spoke into being His
Beautiful creation - perfect and life-filled. Then
Darkness came. And the
Deceiver was victorious. Sin replaced light. But
Do not despair. A glorious plan of hope was
Immediately put into motion.
"He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel." (3.15)

All throughout Genesis God is bringing hope & blessings. There are approximately 70 references to blessings in Genesis. In most instances God is speaking to His chosen people, the Israelites - Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob and their descendants. He blesses them financially, blesses them with children, and blesses anyone who comes into contact with them (Laban, Potiphar, etc.). Yet, not only is this certain people blessed by God but He promises to bless us through them.

"all peoples on earth will blessed through [Abraham]" (12.3)
"all nations on earth will be blessed through [Abraham]" (18.18)
"through your [Abraham's] offspring all nations on earth will be blessed" (22.18)
"through your [Isaac's] offspring all nations on earth will be blessed" (26.4)
"all peoples on earth will be blessed through you [Jacob] and your offspring" (28.14)

God brings hope to His people and hope to all nations through His people. This is the big picture of Genesis.

And yet, there is also a detailed picture: He is intent on bringing hope to individual lives. Interaction, compassion, caring, frustration, correction . . . God is intimately involved in the lives of His humans, right from the beginning. I think another title for Genesis could be The Book of Stories. Cain & Abel, Noah, Abram, Lot, Melchizedek, Hagar, Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, Jacob, Leah, Joseph, Tamar, Pharaoh . . . (It makes me wonder what stories weren't written down. In heaven, will we hear about others who called on the name of the Lord during the time of Genesis?)

Two stories capture my attention:

  1. Hagar is the first person to give God a name: "You are the God who sees me." (16.13) El Roi. The God Who Sees. And, following custom, she marks the place where He met her, as a reminder, naming it Beer Lahai Roi, "well of the Living One who sees me." God pursues and saves a foreign slave woman and she gives Him a name. What a precious story. A story to give hope. A story to demonstrate hope.

  2. Thirteen chapters of Genesis are devoted to Joseph's story and yet not once does God talk to him directly (as He does with Abraham, Isaac & Jacob). God most certainly blesses Joseph: "When his [Egyptian] master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant." (39.3-4) God gives Joseph strength to resist temptation: "She caught him by his cloak . . . But [Joseph] left his cloak in her hand and ran out the house." (39.12) God gives Joseph dreams and also gives him answers to dreams - a gift of insight & prophecy. I see a special and different connection here. And also a picture of hope . . . hope that even after a stint of slavery & prison (and in the midst of it!), God brings purpose & life.

Do you see a theme here? I most certainly do. The promise of blessings to come, for all peoples. Life in the midst of a sinful world. Individual stories of God-interaction. Hope.

This is how I see Genesis.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

i promise i didn't hit the snooze

For Lent I decided to fast from the snooze button. I really need to do a better job of getting up in the morning and I need to spend more time with Jesus. That = getting up when the alarm goes off (and not 20-60 minutes later as I've been doing lately).

The first 2 mornings I did great.

The third morning I put my phone across the room so that I would have to get out of bed to turn it off. But I forgot one important thing: to switch the volume from vibrate to high.

Bryce turned on the light at 7:10 a.m.
"Jana, it's seven ten."
My first thought: why didn't my alarm go off?
It was quiet for a minute and then I heard the alarm vibrating softly.
I say, "It's been going off for 40 minutes?"
Bryce says, "Yep."
I peek with one eye at Bryce and grin.
I say, "At least I didn't hit the snooze."

It went something like that.

I technically did not break my fast but I'm not sure that this morning actually counted. I promise that I did not do it on purpose. I do have some time this evening to spend with Jesus, so I'll make sure I get it in. I want to get it in. I need to be with Jesus.

Disclaimer: I may not actually get up early on weekends. But, if I do need to get up and I do set my alarm, then I will not hit the snooze.

Friday, February 19, 2010

this is all wrong

Sometimes God reminds me of things at the most random times. I came into work at 9:30 this morning (because of an 8:30 a.m. physical therapy appointment) and, as I was hanging up my coat in the hallway behind my desk, suddenly it occurred to me that all of this time I keep trying to live my own life plan. Just like that, the thought came to me.

I don't even mean to have a life-plan; I don't have one on purpose. (It was already messed up 2 years ago when I met Bryce right at the beginning of my 3-year-just-work-and-no-marriage plan.) But deep within me I have somehow determined what is the right/best/good way for Jana's life to go. And when it doesn't match up with that, when my life may not be going according to Jana's pre-decided-inner-plan, I start becoming worried and anxious. Subconsciously there starts to build up feelings of insecurity and frustration and unbalance.

And then the lies come (bringing with them guilt and panic):
Something must be wrong.
Something is wrong.
I've made a mistake.
I'm failing.
This is going to turn out all wrong.
I'm going to pay for this for the next 4 (or 24) years of my life.
I'm wrong.

WRONG. The wordsmith in me decided to go look up this word in the thesaurus right now, because I just realized that it seems to come up so often in my subconscious.

wrong = wide of the mark, erroneous, mistaken, sinful, amiss, not right, damage

How can one live with this continual inner accusation? You can't; it's exhausting. I must remember truth:
God does not lead me wrong.
God forgives and gives grace - even to me!
God is in the business of bringing redemption.
God is consumed with bringing glory to Himself - and He will do this in my life!
God will redeem the next 4 (or 24!) years (if I have actually done something wrong).
I am loved!

So, I say to myself: Hello, Jana Alexis! Do you realize that Jana's "wrong" direction or decision may in fact be God's right? Do you remember that He knows you and is leading you? Do you realize that His plan is best and good, even though you may not fully comprehend it? Do you trust Jesus?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

4 week blur

For those of you who are wondering what has been going on in my life, let me enlighten you with moments from the last 4 weeks.

4 weeks ago:
  • Met with a spine surgeon (this is a story for another time)
  • Starbucks coffee (actually, tea) with my friend Danielle from church
  • Bryce sneakily wrote "I love U" in my calendar
  • Looked at 7 houses on Saturday
  • Baby shower for a friend from small group (fyi: the baby's name will be Noah)
  • El Salvador meeting with the entire team + parents

3 weeks ago:

  • Grocery shop (which I do every 2 weeks)
  • Apply for a new passport that says "Jana Alexis Langebartels"
  • Sister-in-law Kristin's birthday dinner
  • Got my hair done for the first time since October
  • Met with a middle school gal that I am mentoring
  • Jordan signed at Grace!
  • Put an offer on a house!
  • Jessica had her baby!

2 weeks ago:

  • Pilates at 6 on Monday with 2 girls from small group
  • Met with Samantha, a fiance of one of the part-time guys at Bryce's work
  • Drive 1.75 hours (one way) for dinner with the Chipman's (newly married, friend's of Bryce) - this made for a very late night in the middle of the week
  • Brought fruit tray to work for "tailgating" lunch with the secretaries
  • Took movies back to the library
  • Visited FHC, a ministry to children in downtown Indy

1 week ago:

  • More physical therapy (that's sort of connected to the above story for another time)
  • Run into Target to purchase another baby shower gift
  • Finalized offer on the house!
  • Olympics begin! (I love the Olympics!)
  • Tobogganing at Pokagon State Park with 2 couples from church
  • Spent an afternoon & evening with Dad & Jason
  • Skyped with Jessica & Nehemiah!

Just typing that up makes me tired. It's been a whirlwind . . . a very fun yet crazy whirlwind.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

my girls

I would like to pay tribute to my eight wonderful bridesmaids . . . new friends & friends for years. Different ages. Different walks of life. Living in different parts of the world. All so precious to me. I don't know if they saw it at the time, but I wrote a note to each of them on the back of our ceremony program. . . .

jessica “eberly” bernier (matron of honor)…….my sister. my best friend. my favorite dance partner through the years. i miss your hugs, your smile & random photo shoots.

christina schenke…….tlf. no one could ask for a better friend and confidante. praise God for a friendship that just gets deeper. “entertaining angels.” psalm 55:13-14.

alexis cooper…….who would have guessed what would come from a dance class when we were 6. crazy how time flies. fellow red shoe lover - you make me laugh!

brenda miller…….mentor, good friend and mom #2. i am more than thankful for you and our conversations at your home, a.k.a. “the hole.”

holly nichole birkey…….roommate of 4 years, i fondly remember our times of laughter, doing laundry at your home, homework parties, & rollerblading at notre dame.

amy fagerland…….my australia sister. God did a great thing during our semester there. i miss our deep coffee conversations, coogee beach, exploring, & tim-tams.

charity lane…….the friend most like me. egle 101 was one of my favorite times - running with you, drinking tea, & random discussions at sufficient grounds.

kristin langebartels…….i’m so excited to have a sister-in-law and look forward to future memory-making. you should come spend the night at our apartment!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Australia Chili Fiasco

Bryce and I made chili last night and it turned out pretty well even though we kind of made it up as we went (let's add more tomatoes, maybe more beans, etc.). Plus the deer-burger was amazing. The whole experience reminded me of my chili cooking nightmare when I was in Australia. So, I searched for the blog where I wrote about it and decided to repost. Without further ado, a guest blog from the Jana of almost 4 years ago . . .

August 28, 2006
Ten happenings from the life of Jana Alexis Eberly.
  1. Heavenly Man rehearsals are going well. Partnering is sure a learning experience for me. Daniel, Amy, and I are having a lot of fun putting the dance together. We perform the last week before I leave for New Zealand and the dance will be videotaped. No worries.
  2. Tuesday was my day to make chili. Well, the dinner didn't go so well. First, everything was great until we tried it. The chili was way too spicy. I guess their chili powder is a lot stronger than ours at home. We put in the correct amount but even I could barely eat it. So, I added a bunch of sour cream and water. It helped a little bit but Aussie's don't like spicy things at all. Half of them couldn't eat it. And then we were going to make cornbread. Alli went to find cornmeal and tried 3 stores but it doesn't exist in Australia. And then the rice wasn't done on time. However, the nachos were a big hit--thanks Amy. So, all in all, it was very discouraging. I know it wasn't anyones fault and not mine but it was still really disappointing. Add on top of that the fact that the house was packed--probably 6 extra people were here. Afterwards, the girls made me go out for coffee and surprised me by renting "In America.” A big group of us watched it together. So it ended up a good night.
  3. Wednesday I was exhausted. Probably the most tired I’ve been since I arrived here. My dance classes were killing me. I think I would have cried if we actually danced for jazz in the afternoon. Instead, we ended up sitting and talking. Sarah, my teacher, told us eight girls her love story. Great class.
  4. Thursday morning I called to talk to Brad and Brenda Miller, good friends from Church of the Good Shepherd. I also talked to their girls: Lydia, Emma, and Molly. Hello Miller family! Thanks for talking. Love you all!
  5. Canberra was a great trip. We left at 5:45am Friday morning and returned around 9:30pm Saturday evening. While there, we visited the US Embassy, Papua New Guinea High Commission, an art museum, Old Parliament House, a history museum, and the war memorial. We stayed at a youth hostel that had a swimming pool. I didn’t bring my suit, of course, but Shannon and I got up early Saturday morning to swim in our clothes. Great fun!
  6. Friday evening we had pizza for dinner. Then a few of us went to Starbucks. David, Amy, Shannon, and Jesse put money together to buy me a hazelnut white hot chocolate—because brilliant me forgot her money back at the hostel. Mmmm. My favorite place to visit was the war memorial. We even got to watch the closing ceremony with the bag piper.
  7. I did the projector for the morning service at All Soul’s Anglican Church. It was wonderful to be able to help out and to be involved. I didn’t even mess up once.
  8. Sunday evening Alli, Amy, Rosie, Camilla, and I went to St. Mary’s Catholic Church down town Sydney. The building is old and beautiful and I did enjoy the service. I love observing different services.
  9. On the way back, Alli and I stopped at a Woolworth’s to buy chocolate. I finally tried Flake with ice cream. It was delicious! My Aunt Kate has been telling me to try it—you were right: I loved it!
  10. I led devotions at the beginning of our ASC class this morning. I prepared last night and God just brought it all together. Here’s part of what I shared: John the Baptist is a radical, advocating change, extreme, revolutionary, rebellious, unusual, breaking with tradition, uncomfortable, abnormal. Jesus was the same. He completely blew out of the water all that they thought was spiritual and good. Jesus broke all of their spiritual rules.

“Jesus Christ demands the same unrestrained, adventurous spirit in those who have placed their trust in Him that the natural man exhibits. If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything . . . Trust God and do the next thing.” Oswald Chambers

It’s 11:00pm. Way past my bedtime. Must hit the sack.
Love you all.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Fabulous > an adjective: exceptionally good or unusual; marvelous; superb; extremely pleasing or successful

Fabulously > an adverb
Fabulousness > a noun

It looks kind of funny when you study it for awhile (as most words do).
But I have a theory.
I think most women love to hear this word.

That's a fabulous dress.
What a fabulous thrift store find!
You take fabulous pictures.
Those earrings go with your jacket fabulously!
You look fabulous in those shoes.
Your garden is fabulous! Look at those flowers!
What a fabulously clean & organized garage!
That was a fabulous vacation to Italy (or Louisville - let's be practical here).
What a fabulous idea!

*Ideas on how to use the word fabulousness? I can't quite get it to fit in a sentence....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

JOB: A Portrait of Poverty & Power

(I am reading through the Bible again this year. For the fifth time I decided to read it chronologically. And when I finish a book, I'm going to write a "portrait," if you will, of what God showed me.)

Job is such a fascinating book (it should be read more often!) and most likely the oldest book of the Bible. In the plan that I am reading, it comes in right after the Tower of Babel, Genesis 11. I am amazed that even before Abraham, God was pursuing men and making His name known.

The word poverty comes to mind when I think of Job. Poor materially and poor in spirit. Such desolation in his life and yet confident in his righteousness before God. His life was shattered and still, "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing." (1.22) His suffering was very great . . . Job grieved in a pile of ashes and yet still worshipped God. Lesson learned: I do not know what is going on "behind the scenes" and I cannot see God's greater plan. Who am I to blame God or question what He is doing? Yes, I can (and should) cry out to Him but I need not assume that He is punishing me or for some reason overlooked me. He is still God, regardless, and I should be a "poor" woman before Him.

Another lesson learned is from Job's wife, unfortunately. She is nameless and there are only two significant verses about her in the entire book: "[Job's] wife said to him, 'Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!' He replied, 'You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?' In all this, Job did not sin in what he said." (2.9-10) Heaven forbid that I should be remembered as a wife in this way! Instead of grieving with Job (this woman just lost her ten children!) and clinging to God with him, she encourages her husband to curse God and give up. And Job calls her foolish which the NIV note says "denotes moral deficiency." Oh God! Please help me not to be a wife like Job's wife!

The final portrait I see: God's incredible power. And, specifically, His power displayed through His creation.

earth. morning stars. angels. sea. clouds. dawn. springs of the sea. recesses of the deep. gates of death. abode of light. darkness. storehouses of snow. storehouses of hail. lightning. east winds. rain. thunderstorm. desert. dew. ice. frost. Pleiades & Orion & the Bear. laws of the heavens. lioness & lions. raven. mountain goats. doe & fawn. wild donkey. wild ox. ostrich. stork. horse. hawk. eagle. behemoth. leviathan.

God speaks in only 4 chapters of 42 . . . in the midst of a storm . . . and those 4 chapters overwhelm all of the rest. He questions Job 67 times. "Who is it that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?" (38.2) "Who endowed the heart with wisdom and gave understanding to the mind? Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?" (38.36-37) "Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread his wings toward the south? Does the eagle soar at your command and build his nest on high?" (39.26-27) "Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God's, and can your voice thunder like his?" (40.8-9)

Yes, Job was righteous. Yes, Job did not sin. BUT . . . God says: "Who are you to accuse me?" And Job aptly replies, "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you and you shall answer me.' My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (42.2-6)

Certainly a fitting, awe-inspired response.
A place of appropriate poverty before an all-powerful God.
Seeing God . . . despising yourself . . . and repenting in dust & ashes.
This is how I see Job.