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Monthly Mashup #6

Welcome to my monthly mashup! These are some of the things I’ve enjoyed or pondered this month. Health is the emphasis on this month’s mashup. From the Beloved Apostle, John on the isle of Patmos: “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2 

ProLon and the USC Longevity Institute

I read The Longevity Diet by Valter Longo a while ago. I was so inspired by his research at USC that I decided to give the ProLon fasting diet a try. It’s a 5-day fast where you get to eat, but your body “thinks” it’s fasting. This fasting mimicking triggers “autophagy,” which is your body’s natural way of cleaning house. Longo’s research discovered that doing this 5-day fast in three consecutive months cleared your body’s slate of many diseases. In 2018, TIME nominated Dr. Longo as among the top 50 most influential people in health. I did the 5-day fast three times and it kicked my lagging thyroid into gear- a welcome change for sure! I found that after doing the ProLon fast I was more mindful of my eating habits and more committed to healthy, non-processed, non-genetically modified foods. I’ve recommended this fast to my friends and family and I’m about to start the fast again for a second round. Check out @prolonfmd

Healing with Hyperbarics

I got Covid back in February and in June my lungs still didn’t feel 100%. Even on a moderate hike my lung capacity was noticeably less. Because Sun Valley is a pretty darn athletic/adventurist town, I learned about a medical treatment called Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. Pro athletes do it before games to improve oxygenation and after to reduce inflammation. In the treatment you inhale 100% oxygen while resting in a chamber with increased atmospheric pressure. The 45-minute treatment injects 400x more oxygen into your tissues and mobilizes stem cells. It regrows healthy tissues and reduces pain and swelling. And at my age, who wouldn’t want to reduce some pain and swelling? The long story short is wow did this thing work for me! My lungs are at 100% and my energy levels are through the roof. Look it up- there may be a hyperbarics clinic near you.

A Related Rant

Because hyperbarics is a medical treatment, you may need a doctor’s referral. Back in June, I went to a clinic to inquire about a referral for hyperbaric treatment. I was ranting to the doctor about how the medical system in the Bay area was no help when I had covid. Sick as a dog, I went to my healthcare system which was a leading provider in the Bay and was told take a Tylenol for any fever and Robitussen for any cough and good luck. So, get this my friends: the doctor in Idaho responded to my rant by saying, here in Idaho we’ve been treating covid patients with Ivermectin and we are seeing great results! Interesting. So, I tuck that piece of news in my pocket and shuffle on over to hyperbarics. Two months later, the exact same doctor at the exact same clinic says they are NOT ALLOWED to prescribe Ivermectin for covid.  What could possibly have changed his enthusiastic endorsement of an effective medicine? Who would NOT ALLOW effective medical treatment? It seems like there is a medical mafia that is not interested in treating this thing- they require us to take the experimental jab that, as of this month, 14,701 people have died from. Which leads me to the only thing I know to do…

PRAYER

This psalm was read aloud at a recent gathering and we were in tears. Listen to the timeless beauty of God’s word and pray this prayer dear one: Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for Help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. 

For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; the Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You.

O Lord, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; Make Your way straight before me. There is nothing reliable in what they say; Their inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave; They flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God; by their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, for they are rebellious against You. 

But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” Psalm 5, a Psalm of David

Aren’t you glad that God surrounds you with favor like a shield? I pray blessings on your home and I hope you will pray blessings on mine. My days on fb are numbered, so please sign up to get my blog in your email. Go to www.MargaretAllen.org/Mondays  And it’s officially ‘wear a sweater in the morning and regret it in the afternoon’ weather which means Holidays are coming up–my book makes a beautiful and personal gift! Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion is sold wherever you buy books.

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Reader’s Question: What are Your Habits Surrounding Scripture Study?

*These notes come from a talk I gave at Women of the Word in Los Gatos, CA. This group studies scripture at a pace of around 8 chapters each week.

What is the purpose of all Bible study? Beyond gathering data and increasing knowledge, our purpose is to know Christ and be transformed by Him. In our reading and studying, whether it is for ten minutes or for hours, we start with a prayer like God I am coming to Your word because I want to know You. Please open my eyes to spiritual truth and open my heart to friendship with You. Let my life be transformed by what You say.

Here are a few suggestions to help our studying:

  1. Repetition is our friend. The more times we can simply read the assigned chapters, the better our insights and study will be. Merely reading and combing through the chapters will drop fruit in our lap. If time to study is limited, I recommend reading through the assigned chapters and then rereading the one or two chapters that seemed most significant. Reading and rereading a group of 6-8 chapters at a time greatly increases comprehension compared to a single look. 
  2. Make it a habit. Quietly sitting down to pray, read, and commit our day to God every day, even if it is only 15 minutes is more effective than an hour cramming on Tuesday night before a Wednesday group meeting. Here’s a rhythm that I live by: spend time with God every day, once a week (usually the weekend for me) I spend a longer time studying, once a month I take a Saturday morning to myself to pray and study about the issues that have been simmering in my mind that month. This is a time to go deeper with God. Then, once a year I take a spiritual retreat for two full days where I am alone with my Bible and a notebook. I am there to worship and get down to business with God. The vision for parenting, for marriage, identity, life direction and so on have been established in these retreats. 
  3. Ask good questions. Here are two possible ways to study: as we read the chapters, ask the questionswhat does this passage reveal about God? What does it reveal about people? What does this passage reveal about the interaction between God and people? Or, another direction to take is to follow the pattern of observation, interpretation, application. This means first reading the chapters almost like literature and making observations throughout. For ex, these words or phrases are repeated, or these phrases are in contrast with those. This passage sounds similar to previous ones or it points to future events etc. After all observations are noted, then take time to interpret what is the significance of these words being repeated, or contrasted. What does this passage mean? Finally, after observing the text and interpreting it, ask how it can be applied. Is there something we should DO in response to this chapter or anything to emulate?
  4. Fatter is better. I know we all like a thinline Bible to carry around but a big fat study Bible is nice to have! At minimum, get a Bible that has cross references (every page should list all the other verses that use the same or similar words). I adore the Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible compiled by Jack Hayford. It has helpful maps, charts, cross references, and commentary. With my large print version it is thick as a brick but absolutely beautiful and helpful! Online, Bible HUB is a wonderful resource. After studying scripture for myself, I like to read all the com (commentary) on Bible HUB for the passages I either didn’t understand or was drawn to. Using these tools of a study Bible and an online commentary provide yet another layer to our interaction with scripture and thus deepen our understanding.

I’ve never met a dynamic Christ-follower who wasn’t a student of the Word. Hear it spoken, read and study it, memorize key verses, meditate on it and apply it. When we do this, our experience in relationship with Christ grows even sweeter and our impact in the world deepens. May God bless you this week dear friends. My Monthly Mashup is coming next week with some of my favorite products yet!

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Quiet Waters

The beautiful thing about hiding God’s word in your heart and mind is that it seeps into the little mundane moments of a day and transforms it. Here’s a scripture you probably already know:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23, a Psalm of David.

I’ve been praying this psalm, whispering it actually, all week as I prayed for people trapped in the conflict in Afghanistan. I’ve prayed it for the families of the 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul attack—25, 23, 22’s, and five twenty-year old killed evacuating civilians because our government left all our military gear and withdrew troops before civilians. God help them, guide them, comfort them as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It is such a tender psalm, especially knowing that David, the author, had seen so much trouble and heartache in his life.

I was hiking this week with my dog, Sophie. We went up to Pioneer Cabin outside of Ketchum, Idaho. What a beautiful climb through the trees and wildflowers, up 3000 ft vertical over a seven-mile hike.  Several times we crossed over or next to streams and each time I stopped so Sophie could drink. But it’s funny with a little dog, you have to choose a bend in the stream where the water is not rushing rapidly. If the water is too fast, she’s afraid and won’t drink, even though she is thirsty. While I was carefully bringing her to the right sections of water, God’s word came bubbling up in my mind: He leads me beside quiet waters.  Turns out that sheep are similar with little dogs in that they need still water to drink. And maybe people need a safe and quiet place to be refreshed as well. That’s why the Lord is our shepherd. He carefully and tenderly leads us to rest and replenishment. When we are exhausted by a wicked and unjust world, God thoughtfully leads us into a place of peace. When life is wearing us down we can remember that He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.

How has God brought you to quiet waters recently? Starting the day praying Psalm 23 out loud can be our choice to center our lives peacefully in His word. Blessings to you this week my friends. Be sure to sign up for my blog to hit your email rather than social media

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Lessons Learned in L.A.

I recently enjoyed a weekend in Los Angeles with my three daughters. This momma learned a few things and I thought I’d share them this week:

  1. We never know who may be encouraged when we read our Bible in plain view. I was walking on the beach within an hour of my flight landing. I could feel the tension just sliding off me as soon as my feet touched sand. In the mile or so that I walked in the sand along the ocean surf I saw three different young adults sitting and reading their Bibles. Maybe locals will tell you differently, but this was not what I was expecting to see on the beach in LA! Whenever I read my Bible at a coffee shop, café, or park people say stuff to me like Oh I should do that more, or good for you, or wow, what a reminder. So here I was experiencing that visual: People all over the world love and follow Jesus! I came away encouraged just seeing these folks and resolving to live my faith out in transparent ways. (Jesus said it in the Sermon on the Mount: Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16)
  2. I am working at practicing more acceptance and less judgment. I’ve realized how often I judge people and situations by first appearance. For instance, I learned that Nicki Minaj is a believer and has a sweet rap in the Tasha Cobbs Leonard gospel song, “I’m Getting Ready.” An employee at my hotel looked tough as nails but then God prompted me to pray for her and He gave me a prophetic word for her. She literally hugged me when we said good bye. I learned that San Francisco has already instated laws and LA is close behind that prohibit anyone not waccinated from entering a restaurant, bar, concert venue, hospital visitation, or event center. At first glance this might seem to carry logic, but I don’t see how this isn’t a new version of you can’t sit at my lunch counter! Kaiser found that over half of African Americans and Latinos are not waccinated and don’t want to be. I know many people who have already had the virus and believe their natural immunity will last. I know several women with health issues that prevent taking the jab but now, in California at least, they are shunned from society. I’m not going to judge anyone if they have it, don’t have it, don’t want it. I know that we each are trying to live our lives in the best way possible that fits for us. (Jesus again has the lowdown: “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2)
  3. We will reap what we sow, especially in the investments we make with family. I was in LA because my daughters wanted to have a mother daughter weekend together. They are successful, grown women who could fly anywhere for a weekend and be with just about anyone, who wanted to spend a weekend moving slow with their mom and each other. I felt so loved and honored. These are my favorite people on the planet! Every night as we got into our matching pjs (thank you Brooke!) laughing, cuddling, and eating chocolate I was reminded of the investments of love, patience, compassion, and listening that graced their childhood. To all you mommas out there—you will reap a precious reward one day! Keep your love on, keep smiling and laughing, keep speaking words of life over your children. (“Whatever a person sows, this he will also reap. Let’s not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary.” Galatians 6:7-9)
  4. When in doubt about where to go for dinner, always get tacos! This one needs no explanation. If you can think of a good scripture to go with it, please put it in the comments!

I received such a lovely text this week from a woman who recently received my book. She said she devoured half of it on a flight and said it had changed her entire outlook. As she was ordering ten copies for friends I was reminded (because yes, I forget or I doubt) God inspired me to write this book for the times we are in now! If you haven’t already, please get my book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion anywhere books are sold. It will encourage you, make you laugh, and give you fresh insights for this crazy life.

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Strong and Courageous

There’s a familiar passage written around 1400 BC that is helping me work through anxiety today. Memorizing and meditating on scripture is surprisingly helpful in anchoring our identity and calming our fears. Let’s look at this together:

“Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may achieve success wherever you go.  This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success.” (Joshua 1:7-8)

Many say we are entering into a time of persecution; others say that great revival is soon. Either way, the conclusion of this passage in Joshua rings true: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Blessings to you this week my friends! Keep me in your prayers as I’m traveling. Remember to get this blog in your email by signing up at www.MargaretAllen.org/Mondays with Margaret.

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Entering In

I’ve heard the saying “people are as close to God as they want to be.”  I understand we are responsible for our spiritual life, but here’s why I disagree with the statement: I think most of us either don’t know how to be close to God or we are misinformed as to what we could possibly hope to gain there. 

Whenever I meet with someone who complains they just can’t seem to find the time to read their Bible and pray, I instantly know they have misinformation and hurt around the goodness of God. If we believe that God punishes us, withholds good from us, doesn’t help us or come through for us, then yes of course it makes sense that we can’t find time to meet with Him. Who would want to meet with that? It gets tricky though because cognitively we may say no, I don’t believe unkind things about God, but deep within our hearts there may be disappointment toward God in very personal ways. 

How do we work through this duplicity? Press in. Be honest—God can handle what we have to say!  We can ask Him to meet us, speak to us, comfort and guide us. We can choose to consciously align our heart and mind with the truth of scripture. Well, I don’t feel like God is close to me. Feelings don’t create truth—they follow truth. “… the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) We believe that God is good and has good for us based on the truth of scripture and our feelings of closeness will follow.

Did Jesus in fact encourage people to draw near and follow Him? Jesus urged a close relationship, saying “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Jesus knew that He had good to offer us—peace and gentleness, partnership in life, learning and wisdom. He knew that His sacrificial death on the cross would defeat darkness and spiritual oppression. Jesus lived a perfect life so that we could enter in to relationship with God.

Listen to the tenderness of God’s heart toward us: “For the Lord God says this: ‘Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and look after them. As a shepherd cares for his flock on a day when he is among his scattered sheep. So I will care for My sheep and will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing place will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down in a good grazing place and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will feed My flock and I Myself will lead them to rest,’ declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken, and strengthen the sick.” (Ezekiel 34:11-16) This doesn’t sound like someone we have to beg to come close to us, does it?

I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken, and strengthen the sick.” This, my friend, is the heart of God toward us. Do you feel lost right now? Is your life scattered or broken? Catherine Marshall wrote, “God seeks us out at a point in our own need and longing and runs down the road to meet us…At the same time, there is one central core of the entering-in or commitment experience that is common to everyone who undergoes it. It is the act of putting oneself—past, present, and future—into God’s hands to do with as He pleases.” (Beyond Our Selves, p 44)

Are we as close to God as we want to be? If not, we can put ourselves—past, present, and future—into God’s hands to do with as He pleases. We enter in, because we know that He is good.

Go to my website www.MargaretAllen.org for more resources. Please share this blog with everyone who is pressing in!

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The Love of God

I’ve had some rainy afternoons, perfect for reading, during this past week. I found an old favorite of mine at the thrift store in town and I was eager to dive in. Beyond Ourselves by Catherine Marshall has truly surprised me this week. Ideas that I thought so revolutionary and radical—like God is Good, He’s better than you Think by Bill Johnson or Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, were preceded by the wife of U.S Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall in faith. Published in 1961, Beyond Ourselves by Catherine Marshall is a radical exploration of the goodness of God in the midst of human suffering. Early in the book, she writes: “A few years ago there were those who said that the atom could not be split. The atom has been split. Why should we not go forward in the same spirit to explore the spiritual world where lies the answer to a greater riddle—the riddle of the nature of man and his relation to the universe? This spiritual world is a real world. There is terrain there still to be discovered; peaks yet to be scaled; new truth to be mined; in short, the spiritual atom to be split.” (p. 14)

Her earnest and thorough pursuit of God have reminded me of the Apostle Paul’s language in Ephesians 3:8 “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.” The truth and beauty in Christ are unfathomable riches—boundless, endless, unsearchable—and yet we will gladly spend our lives plumbing those depths!

Marshall asks the question, in watching Jesus, what did His disciples learn about God? She answers, “Jesus acted as if there was never any question of the Father’s willingness to supply all needs—even such material ones as appeasing hunger. God was concerned about men’s bodies along with their souls: Divine love delighted in dispelling pain, in restoring sanity, in straightening crooked limbs and opening blind eyes, even in banishing premature death. Jesus said that in heaven there was an instant readiness to forgive and great joy over finding the lost.” (p. 32) She goes on to say, “The gospels make it clear that to Jesus the Father is all-loving, is of the essence of love, cannot help loving. Moreover, this love includes the attributes of love known to all of us—good will, unselfishness, consideration, justice, wanting only good things for us, desiring our happiness. It is not a love dependent on our earning it. God is “for us” first, last, and always. By every word and action, by all the force of His personality, Christ sought to tell us that the Father is always nearer, mightier, freer to help us than we can imagine.” (p.33)

“By every word and action, by all the force of His personality, Christ sought to tell us that the Father is always nearer, mightier, freer to help us than we can imagine.”  My friend, let that sink in for a moment. Where do you need God’s nearness? How do you need His help? In studying the words and actions of Christ, we find that God is more than willing to come alongside of us. In listening for His voice in prayer, we discover the goodness God has for us.

As we reflect on the love of God this week, here’s a good word to ponder, memorize, meditate on: “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” (Psalm 145:9) All His works! How do we enter in to the kind of relationship with God where we experience His tender mercies as our reality? How to Enter In will be next week’s blog.

If you would like to receive this blog in your email every Monday morning, just go to www.MargaretAllen.org/Mondays with Margaret and sign up!

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Monthly Mashup #5

Welcome to my monthly mashup! These are some of the things I’ve enjoyed or pondered this month:

Book I’m reading: “Your Power in the Holy Spirit” by John G. Lake. 

This book was compiled by Roberts Liardon and published in 2010. The material comes from sermons and papers given by John G. Lake around 1908 to 1920. This is a beautifully tender, powerful book. Here’s a little taste: “We live in order that our souls may grow. The development of the soul is the purpose of existence. God Almighty is trying to obtain some decent association for Himself. By His grace, He is endeavoring to have us grow up in His knowledge and likeness to that stature (see Ephesians 4:13-15) where, as sons of God, we will comprehend something of His love, of His nature, of His power, of His purpose, and be big enough to give back to God what a son should give to a great Father—the reverence, the love, the affection that comes from the understanding of the nobleness and greatness of His purpose.” P. 124 It’s hard to find a book about the deeper walk with God that isn’t stuffy or too heavy with dry theology. This tender story of transformation and the impact of John G. Lake on hundreds of thousands of people will walk you into the goodness of God.

Song I’m enjoying: “When I lock eyes with You” by Maverick City Music.

This is eight minutes (that’s the short version) to linger in God’s presence. I love the expression “when I lock eyes with You” because we don’t “lock eyes” with strangers. No, to lock eyes, or to gaze intently is an intimate thing. To take the time in our busy, fragmented world to gaze into the eyes of God and linger with His Holy presence, is so refreshing. Here’s the short version: https://youtu.be/mVlv0hSJGSw Here’s the long version: https://youtu.be/5xvCY0_vaDA

Quote I’m pondering: “The Fading of Forgiveness” Tim Keller quotes Baylor professor Alan Jacobs: 

“When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering or receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness.  Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors. But like every addiction, this one suffers from the inexorable law of diminishing returns. The mania for punishment will therefore get worse before it gets better.” Read the entire article here: https://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/the-fading-of-forgiveness/

T-Shirt I’m smiling at: You stay safe, I’ll stay free

Thanks to my young friend Lauren standing up for medical freedom. She asks, “Will you stand against segregation? It’s simple, but it won’t be easy. Pledge to not support or participate in anything that segregates human beings. History will thank you.”

Have a beautiful week everyone! Please share my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion with anyone needing some inspiration!

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Host or Guest?

I learned a new word this week and have already put it into practice. The word is XENIA. It is an ancient Greek concept of hospitality, translated as guest-friendship. The Greek god Zeus is sometimes called Zeus Xenios in his role as protector of strangers. We are much more familiar with the negative use of this word, as in Xenophobia, which is a fear or dislike of people from other countries or who are different from us in some way. But I prefer the positive use of the word.

Xenia is a big part of many Biblical stories. In fact, many times that we as modern western readers don’t understand a story, it’s because of xenia elements that are foreign to our culture. The story of the Good Samaritan is an example of this. We secretly wonder if we meet Jesus’ definition of a neighbor. Let’s consider several references to anchor the idea of xenia: 

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2) In the first century church, hospitality was included in the job description for leaders. Our western culture does not value this Biblical requirement for church leaders today, but what if it did? What if the church, specifically Christians, were where someone could go when they were a stranger in town or needed help? I don’t know if I’ve entertained any angels but I do know that every time I’ve shown kindness to a stranger, I’ve been blessed in some way.

Jesus said, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; in prison, and you came to Me.” In the story the righteous asked, “When did we do these things for you?” And Jesus answered “To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-40) Truly this is one of the most sobering passages spoken by Jesus.

And going back even further in time, to the very beginnings of the Judeo-Christian faith just after the Ten Commandments were given, we read: “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9) So there it is, the foundation of xenia. We understand what it is like to be a stranger because we each have been a stranger in some context. We understand what it is like to be the new kid at school, starting a job, a stranger in a town. We understand being vulnerable, unsure, lonely, or insecure. We have been a stranger in some Egypt somewhere.

In California we walk right past people—at church, in our neighborhood, standing on the corner, shopping next to us. It would be odd to talk to a stranger. But in Idaho, we have had the privilege of being the new kids in town. The number of people we know in Hailey/Ketchum, Idaho can be counted on one hand. I decided to try out my new word, xenia. At the little 4th of July parade in town, I invited people on the street to come to our home afterward for a BBQ. The hilarious thing is that they came! It turns out many people around us feel like strangers. They are grateful for hospitality. Hopefully we have deepened their definition of Christian to include xenia, a kindness toward strangers. Either way, I’m happy to meet new friends!

Check out Romans 12:13 this week. At first glance it tells us to show hospitality, but if we dig deeper, we find it expresses a command to eagerly pursue hospitality. We are called to be a host, not a guest, in almost any conversation or encounter. Pursue xenia this week and see if you are not blessed!

Next week I’ll post my monthly mashup. Be sure to subscribe to my blog and visit www.MargaretAllen.org for resources. Please share your stories of xenia in the comments. Have a beautiful week, everyone!

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Give Me Understanding

Do you ever find yourself returning to a passage of scripture but not knowing why? I am stuck on Psalm 119.  I want to look away, I promise. But God keeps turning my gaze back to this Psalm. So here I am, in the longest chapter of the Bible, almost dead center of The Book. I’m sure He can feel my squirming.  Verse after verse about the word of God, the testimony of God, His precepts, judgments and decrees (eight different Hebrew words are used to refer to God’s Word in this Psalm) A few weeks ago I mentioned how precious His testimonies are and the very reference to His testimonies in this Psalm wrecks me! This week I’ve been struck by the phrase, “give me understanding,” which is repeated six times in Psalm 119. Have we not whispered this prayer as we read the day’s headlines? Haven’t we shaken our head and said this as we consider our friendships or perhaps even our marriages? What are these patterns in our life? What’s our purpose? Why do we struggle to walk out the Christian life in this world? Lord, give us understanding.  Let’s dig deeper.

In Psalm 119:34 we read: “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.” It makes sense that we can follow whole heartedly if we only understand. Clarity is curative, right? Lord I so want to understand to be whole toward You. C.S. Lewis said, “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.” Our hope, delight, and trust are in God. Our head knows this but sometimes our heart has to catch up!

“Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.” (Psalm 119:73) Our identity and purpose flow out of this fact: God made us and fashioned us.  Yes, how desperately we need understanding on this point today. WHO we are is designed; we are not an accident. God made us for His heart. At the most basic level, our identity is literally stamped on every cell in our body. But so much greater than that simple fact, God chose every unique aspect of our existence: our eye-print, lip-print, fingerprint all unique. Our laugh, our gait, our thoughts, family background and experiences are unique. Who doesn’t want greater understanding in the why behind their identity?

“I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every false way.” Here in verse 104 the writer shifts from asking for understanding to stating an impact of clarity received. We hate the false, fake ways that lead us away from real life. When we see the truth, beauty, and goodness in God’s ways, we realize the short-comings of all other options.

In verse 125, the writer states: “I am Your servant; Give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies.” I’ve prayed this one. I’m all in, God. My answer is Yes to You. Help me understand what You are saying right now! I don’t want to be the person who reads story after story of Jesus feeding the 5000, the 4000, taking care of people and not understand He wants to take care of me! Give me understanding that I may know Your testimonies! Jesus healed every.single.person who came to HimGive me understanding when I need healing Lord! We want His testimonies to be our story as well.

“The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting; Give me understanding and I shall live.” (verse 144) I’ve questioned this one: are His ways right? It hasn’t always felt right but the older I get the more I see the rightness of God’s ways and the permanence of them. Give me understanding and I shall truly live.

“Let my cry come before You, O Lord; Give me understanding according to Your word.” (verse 169) Give me understanding clearly communicates I have no resources in myself. I’ve exhausted all of my means of problem solving and gathering insight. An understanding remains which can only be revealed. God is hiding things for us not from us! He is waiting on that prayer of Lord, give me understanding!  Dear friends, may you dig into His Word this week and dance in God’s presence! May His understanding and revelation be the highlight of your week. I would love to hear what catches your heart in Psalm 119