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! 

 

10 Minutes with God: Obedience February 7, 2014

Filed under: Scripture Reflections — Stephanie Rische @ 12:28 pm
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I had the privilege of writing the devotions for my church’s website again this week. Here’s a peek at one of the posts about obeying God’s commands.

 

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Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.

—Psalm 119:5-6

 

Let’s just say for a moment that the standard for getting into heaven is being able to long-jump all the way across the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean. (It’s not, of course, but just humor me for a moment here.) Imagine that the standard has been set, and everyone knows the expectation. Some people train for this moment from early childhood, building their muscles and doing exercises to improve their jumping abilities. Some athletic types are inherently better suited for the event than others. And some people have longer legs, giving them an inborn advantage over their peers.

 

When it comes time to jump, however, no one could ever come close. Maybe the person with short legs who hadn’t trained at all would make it a few feet. Perhaps the person with the strong quads would make it a foot farther than the average person. And maybe the Olympic long jumper would set a world record, launching his body a whopping 29 ½ feet.

 

But do you know what? It wouldn’t matter, because none of them would come anywhere near the goal. None of them would get far enough to even see the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, let alone jump there. Even if one person jumped three times as far as everyone else, they would all be so far from the target that the difference would be practically indiscernible. Whether you made it one foot across the ocean or 30, the more important issue is the thousands of nautical miles you have yet to go.

 

To read the rest of the devotion (or to listen to the audio), click here.

 

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.

 

 

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).

 

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Where Is God? July 23, 2013

Filed under: Grace — Stephanie Rische @ 12:58 pm
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This summer our small group is taking a break from our usual routine of studying and discussing and making our way through a book together. In an attempt to go deeper with each other, we decided that at each gathering we’d have two people share about what God has done in their lives.

 

All the stories are different—some of us grew up knowing about God; some of us didn’t meet him until later in life. Some of us went down such dark paths we probably shouldn’t be here to tell about it; some of us were more subtle in our sins of choice. But there’s one thing we all have in common: we’re all broken and in desperate need of grace.

 

As we started sharing our stories, we noticed a pattern woven throughout each one. As we looked back, the places we could see God at work most clearly were the lowest points in our lives—our most grievous sins, our darkest seasons of failure, our struggles through grief and loss and loneliness.

 

After one person finished her testimony, there was a moment of sacred silence. Finally Daniel broke in: “Isn’t it amazing to think how we’re hemmed in and held, even when make the wrong choice . . . even when we don’t do the right thing?”

 

I thought of the three men in the Old Testament who were thrown into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)—how if I’d been in their shoes, I’d no doubt have asked God to take me out of the fire. But as it turned out, God was right there in the midst of those flames.

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And I thought of Peter walking on the water to Jesus as the storm raged around him (Matthew 14). Scaredy-cat that I am, I surely would have asked God to calm the storm. But Jesus surprised Peter with something even more profound: he was right there in the midst of the waves.

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So what about my own life? I beg for the fire to be quenched, for the storm to be stilled. Sometimes he does just that. But other times Jesus is right there with me—in the midst of the flames, in the midst of the waves.

 

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me. . . .
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
—Psalm 139:1, 5

 

Even in the storms and the fire—maybe especially in the storms and the fire—we see the face of Jesus. It’s then that we are hemmed in, held.

 

God is here.

 

Sweet Sundays, Part 5: Multitaskers Anonymous July 12, 2013

Filed under: Sweet Sundays — Stephanie Rische @ 11:31 am
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Hello, my name is Stephanie, and I’m a multitasker.

 

I haven’t always been this way. When I was a kid, I’d get so caught up in whatever I was doing that I was prone to lose all track of time and occasionally even miss my bus stop. Maybe it comes with the territory of adulthood or womanhood, or maybe it’s exacerbated by the various technologies itching at our fingertips, but whatever the reason, it can feel foreign and disorienting to only do one thing at a time. (Let alone rest!)

 

The other day I was reading Psalm 92 (while finishing my breakfast and drinking my coffee and doing the laundry), and I was struck by the epigraph at the beginning of the psalm: “A song to be sung on the Sabbath Day.”

 

And it got me to thinking: What is so special about music that God would have us set aside certain songs for the Sabbath?

 

One of the bonus gifts I received with the Daniel-package is the gift of music. On any given day, our home is graced with strains of live music—anything from the Beatles to Bob Dylan to worship music. Daniel plays the bass guitar for our church band, and on the Sundays he goes early for practice, I like to go with him. In the spirit of efficient multitasking, I usually I bring along something I’m working on—a book to read, a letter to write, some scribbles I’ve been wanting to put to paper.

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But after reading Psalm 92, I decided to just do one thing on a recent Sunday: soak in the songs for the Sabbath Day.

 

As the melodies and chords washed over me like so much grace, it occurred to me that music engages our hearts in a way that short-circuits our swirling minds and goes straight to our souls. The church father Athanasius suggested that God paired the words of the Psalms with melody to serve as a metaphor of sorts. Music, he said, serves as “a symbol of the spiritual harmony in a soul.” As a Christian sings praises, Athanasius said, he “brings rhythm to his soul and leads it, so to speak, from disproportion to proportion.”

 

While I sat there listening, I noticed something interesting about the rest notes. As lovely as the music is, the rests make you appreciate the melody all the more.

 

Just like Sundays.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,

to sing praises to the Most High.

 It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,

your faithfulness in the evening,

accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, a harp,

and the melody of a lyre.*

Psalm 92:1-3

 

*Or an ice-blue Fender bass guitar.

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The Mother-Love of God May 13, 2013

Filed under: God's love — Stephanie Rische @ 1:24 pm
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My friend Sarah had a baby shower not long ago, and I was asked to share something before gift-opening time. I found myself stymied at first, not knowing firsthand what it’s like to be a mom, but as I pondered more, I realized I do know what it’s like to have a mom. I’ve been given the incomparable gift of a mom whose unconditional love has pointed me to the love of God. So whether you are a mom or have had a mom, I’d like to share Sarah’s shower message with you.

***

When we think about God, we usually picture him as a Father, and it’s true—he’s everything a good dad should be: loving, protective, strong, fair in his discipline. But who knew? The Bible also says that God is like a mother. Apparently there’s something about the love of a mom that shows us a side of God’s character nothing else can.

 

1. Like a mom, God loves his children before they’re even born.

Sarah, when you and John announced that you were expecting a baby, the room could barely contain your excitement. We could tell how overjoyed you were about this little person, even before you met her. Even when you were so sick you could barely get out of bed, you were already forming a special connection with her. The truth was obvious to the world: you loved your little girl.

 

God feels the same way about us, his children. He knew us even before we were born, just as he knows your baby girl even now, all four pounds of her. He knows every little detail about her—what color her eyes will be, if she’ll be musical or artistic or social, what will make her giggle, what will make her cry, what will make her heart pound with passion, what will make her heart break. And God loves her, even now.

 

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

and knit me together in my mother’s womb….

You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.

They cannot be numbered!

—Psalm 139:13, 16-17

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2. Like a mom, God loves his children when they’re completely dependent on him.

Sarah, when that baby is placed in your arms in the hospital, the love will be a little one-sided at first. She won’t be able to pay you for taking care of her, she won’t be able to do any chores around the house to earn her keep, she won’t even be able to say thank you. But you know what? You’ll love her anyway, even though she can’t reciprocate your love.

That unconditional mother-love is the kind of love God has for us. We don’t deserve it, we can’t earn it, and we’re totally dependent on him. Yet he showers his love on us anyway.

 

Can a mother forget her nursing child?

Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?

But even if that were possible,

I would not forget you!
—Isaiah 49:15

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3. Like a mom, God loves his children as they grow up.

Sarah, as your daughter grows up and starts to spread her wings, your love for her will only grow deeper. The way you show her love will look different—you won’t be changing her diaper or feeding her mashed peas anymore—but your love won’t change. You’ll always be her mom.

 

Psalm 131 talks about the beautiful bond that takes place between a mother and a child when the child chooses to be close—not because they need something, but just because they love their mom.

 

I have calmed and quieted myself,

like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.

Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
—Psalm 131:2

 

Sarah, I see that in your relationship with your own mom. You talk with her, you laugh with her, you share things with her—not just when you need something, but because she’s your friend. The same is true in our relationship with God. He wants us to come to him with our needs, yes, but he also delights when we come to him simply because we want to be in his presence. Like a weaned child.

 

So, Sarah, as you enter motherhood and as your daughter goes through each stage, I pray that you will grow in your love for her. And along the way, I pray that God will give you new glimpses into his own love. His unconditional, extravagant, mother-like love.

***

Postscript: Sarah and John’s baby girl, Hannah, entered the world two months ago. Happy first Mother’s Day, Sarah!

 

SarahK