Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

10 Minutes with God: The Way of Salvation February 11, 2014

Filed under: Scripture Reflections — Stephanie Rische @ 8:08 am
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This week I wrap up my writing of the online devotions for my church. After being immersed in Psalm 119 for the past six weeks, I have a new appreciation for this longest chapter of the Bible and a deeper love for God’s Word.

 

Here’s a peek at today’s devotion:

 

airplane

 

Imagine you’re a pilot, taking your small plane out for a quick flight. When you took off earlier in the day, the sun was shining and conditions seemed ideal for flying. But now the wind is starting to pick up, and before you know it, a dense fog has rolled in. Visibility is low, and it’s becoming more difficult to see landmarks—particularly the horizon.

 

Then it happens: suddenly your body is saying you’re going one direction, while the instruments are telling another story.

 

You’re heard warnings about this before—spatial disorientation, they call it. Which voice will you believe? Your inner ear, which is convinced that you’re flying straight, or the plane’s instrument panel, which clearly says you’re banking left? What will you use as your standard to determine which way is up? Your choice could very likely mean the difference between life and death. . . .

 

To keep reading, click here. And to hear the audio version, read by me and recorded by the talented Daniel Rische, click here. May you, too, fall in love with God’s Word! 

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10 Minutes with God, Part 2 January 28, 2014

Filed under: Scripture Reflections — Stephanie Rische @ 7:59 am
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I had the privilege of writing the devotions for my church’s series on Psalm 119 again last week. The theme for the week was “The Way of Understanding.”

 

Here’s a peek at the beginning of one of the devotions:

 

compass

 

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.

—Psalm 119:130

 

As we look back over the course of human history, it’s striking how universal the quest is to find direction for our lives.

 

Horoscopes and the zodiac calendar have been around since the sixth century BC as methods of divination.

According to some estimates, Americans spend about $300 million a year on psychic hotlines.

Around one million Magic 8 balls are sold each year.

 

These attempts at seeking guidance range from pure nonsense to practices God has specifically commanded his people not to dabble in. But their very existence indicates two truths about human nature: (1) we want someone wiser than we are to show us the way and (2) we want the quick answer, the shortcut….

 

To read more, you can click here. You can listen to the audio version here.

 

 

God’s Favorite January 24, 2014

Have you ever wondered if God plays favorites? I’m over at Pick Your Portion today, writing about Genesis 25.

Gods favorite

 

Time magazine recently ran a cover story with the evocative title “Why Mom Liked You Best.” In it Jeffrey Kluger makes the claim that all parents—even those who vehemently deny it—have a favorite child. Since Kulger’s Time article came out, scientists, psychologists, and parents have engaged in heated discussion about whether this is indeed the case for all parents. It may be difficult to prove his theory scientifically, but there is no denying that parental favoritism has been around since nearly the dawn of time.

 

In ancient Greece and Rome, parents who knew they couldn’t care for all their children would commit infanticide, killing their newborn daughters in favor of their sons.

 

Princess Amelia, the youngest of George III and Queen Charlotte’s fifteen children, was widely known to be her father’s favorite, and she was treated as such from her birth.

 

Author Charles Dickens felt the effects of not being the favored child. His family didn’t have enough money to send both him and his older sister to school, so they sent his sister to school while he slaved away in boot-blacking factory.

 

But perhaps one of the most well-known cases of parental favoritism dates back to the book of Genesis.

 

To read the rest of the piece, you can visit Pick Your Portion here.

 

10 Minutes with God January 10, 2014

Filed under: Psalms,Scripture Reflections — Stephanie Rische @ 8:00 am
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Over the past week, I’ve had the privilege of writing daily reflections about Psalm 119 for my church’s 10 Minutes with God initiative. You can read the devotions (or listen to an audio recording of me reading them) here.

 

psalm 119-1

 

Here are some things I’ve been learning along the way:

  • Did you know that Psalm 119 is the longest chapter of the Bible?
  • Did you know that Psalm 119 mentions God’s Word in some form in all but one of the 176 verses?
  • Um, really? That’s what my voice sounds like?
  • There are apparently a lot of words I know how to read in my head but don’t know how to pronounce out loud. My apologies to Noah Webster and my first grade phonics teacher for any butchering of the English language.

 

Here’s a sneak peek from one of this week’s devotions:

 

The Way of Truth

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
—Psalm 119:103

 

If you looked down the aisles at a grocery store, you’d likely find a smattering of products with the word delight in them: Kellogg’s Chocolatey Delight Crisps, International Delight Iced Coffee, Quaker True Delights Bars, Yoplait Parfait Delights, Hershey’s Air Delight Kisses, and the list goes on.

 

Likewise, if you leafed through the pages of a cookbook, you’d find countless recipes featuring the word as well (allrecipes.com turned up 917 results with the word delight in the title—everything from Chocolate Delight to Raspberry Delight to Turkish Delight).

 

It seems that in our culture, delight is something we tend to associate with food, with our taste buds, with sweetness.

 

And in a way, that’s precisely what the psalmist says about taking delight in God’s Word. In part of his long prayer to God in Psalm 119, he exclaims, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

 

Stay tuned—I’ll be writing the devotions to go along with this whole sermon series (for the next five weeks).

 

psalm 119-3

 

6 Gifts You Need This Christmas December 20, 2013

Filed under: Christmas — Stephanie Rische @ 8:07 am
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The words of the great prophecy came not in a time of triumph, trumpeted from the rooftop of a palace or on a victorious battleground. Instead, they were whispered in the dark, underneath the rumblings of an enemy invasion and a sweeping defeat. They trickled underground, slow and quiet, to a people huddled in the cold—a people whose hopes had been crushed, whose candle had all but been extinguished.

 

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.

—Isaiah 9:2

lights2

 

Today Christmas meets us wherever we are, too, whether in a patch of light and joy, or stumbling along without a lantern, trying to fend off the encroaching darkness. And so this Christmas, here are the six gifts all of us need—the six gifts I wish for you, no matter how dark the night may be.

 

For those times when life is a gerbil wheel and you find yourself going through the motions day after day, wondering where the joy went . . . may you know Him as WONDERFUL.

 

For the times when you’re seeking clarity, but all the paths before you are overgrown with weeds . . . may you know Him as COUNSELOR.

 

For the times when you feel powerless, trampled down by the very ones who were supposed to protect you . . . may you know Him as MIGHTY GOD.

 

For the times when you have to say good-bye too soon . . . may you know Him as EVERLASTING.

 

For the times when you are lonely and scared and longing for someone who will love you unconditionally . . . may you know Him as FATHER.

 

For the times when your world is spinning faster than you can keep up, with your soul close behind . . . may you know Him as the PRINCE OF PEACE.

 

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder.

and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

—Isaiah 9:6

 

lights1

 

Christmas through the Eyes of a Carpenter December 17, 2013

Filed under: Christmas — Stephanie Rische @ 8:10 am
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My family has a unanimously agreed-upon no-Christmas-gifts policy, and my dad hasn’t set foot in a mall since circa 1986, so I was surprised when he told me he had something for me in the basement—something I needed to open before Christmas.

 

Intrigued, I made my way downstairs to find a large lump sitting on the Ping-Pong table, draped unceremoniously with a black garbage bag. I raised an eyebrow at Dad before pulling back the plastic to unveil the mystery item.

 

When I realized what it was, I’m pretty sure I squealed louder than I did the Christmas I was eight and awoke to find my pink-and-purple banana-seat bike under the tree. “It’s a stable!” I exclaimed. “For my nativity set!”

 

Ever since I’d gotten a nativity set, I’d been looking for a stable big enough to fit the figures, but I’d had no success. And since I didn’t want Mary and Joseph and the rest of the crew to look freakishly disproportionate in their Bethlehem abode, thus far the crèche figurines had been without shelter. Until now. Dad, being the handyman he is, had come up with a solution to my dilemma: he’d built a custom-sized stable himself.

 

My dad, Joseph, the carpenter.

 

He pointed out all the details of the stable: the ladder that led to the loft, the perch where a bird could sit, the spotlight that would shine on Baby Jesus, the place where he’d had to cover the blood after cutting his finger. His voice grew animated as he told me that the whole thing was made of found materials—scrap wood, paint-stirring sticks, twigs he and Mom had found in the backyard, sawdust shavings from the basement floor.

 

stable1

 

On my way home that night, glancing at the work of art in the seat beside me, I couldn’t help but think of another Joseph, another carpenter, another father. Why did God pick Joseph as Jesus’ adoptive father? I wondered. Mary features prominently in the Christmas story, but we don’t hear much about Joseph, and I guess I’d always pictured him as her silent sidekick. But surely God had a reason to write him into the story too.

 

As I thought about my dad pounding and sawing for months leading up to December, it struck me that at a carpenter’s very heart is the ability to believe in a crazy, far-fetched dream. A carpenter is someone who can embrace a vision before it’s a reality, someone who can take ordinary scraps and see them not as they are but as they could be one day. A carpenter is someone who believes the impossible . . . and then gets to work building it.

 

Thousands of years ago, when Joseph heard his fiancée was pregnant, an angel appeared to him in a dream:

 

“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

—Matthew 1:20-21

 

Joseph was given a dream that day—a dream made of ordinary-looking scraps: A pregnant girl. A common laborer. A family without clout or fortune or political connections. A community skeptical of his fiancée’s claims. But somehow Joseph was able to take those found pieces and believe that the God-given vision was true: that this baby really would be the Messiah, the promised one, the one who would save the people from their sins.

 

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.

—Matthew 1:24

 

In the face of the impossible, Joseph rolled up his sleeves and got to work, doing his part to hammer a miraculous dream into reality.

 

So every time I see that stable on my mantel, I’ll think of two Josephs. Like those dreamers, I want to see in the scraps around me the visions God is building in my life. The pieces themselves might not be much to look at on their own. But in the deft hands of the Carpenter, they just might become something beautiful.

 

God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.

—Elizabeth Barrett Browning

stable2

 

On the Brink of a Miracle November 26, 2013

Filed under: Faith — Stephanie Rische @ 8:00 am
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I’m privileged to be over at Pick Your Portion today, writing about a beautiful mystery: how Jesus could pull off miracles all on his own, but how he invites us to join him anyway. Here’s a sneak peek…

 

PYP 11-13

 

When I was little—much too little to know the rules of the road, let alone reach the gas pedals—my dad would sneak me onto his lap when he was driving so I could “help.” As soon as we reached the dead-end road leading to our house, he’d put my chubby fingers on the wheel and cover them with his own big hands. I’d squeal in delight as we made our way past the old barn, past the palomino horse’s pen, past the neighbors’ house on the hill, and finally into our driveway.

 

At some level I knew that Dad was the one operating the vehicle, not me, but I thrilled to think he would want my help. And I loved being in such close proximity to him as we embarked on this daring (and unsanctioned-by-mom) adventure. . . .

 

You can read the rest of the story here.