Challenge | Classical Conversations | Faith

How to Use Comparison to Enhance Bible Study

By on August 19, 2019

Of Aristotle's Five Common Topics, Comparison has always been the easiest for me. Perhaps it is because I grew up comparing things, whether good or bad, all of my life. This summer I led a seminar in using the topic of Comparison to generate ideas for an entire paper.

The topic of Comparison generates a wealth of ideas. Sometimes it is hard to get a conversation going about the Bible because as we get older we forget to wonder about the Bible. We've heard all of the stories before and so when we get to familiar subjects, we glance at them to see if they're still the same thing we know them to be, and then we move on. But what if you could slow down and wonder? Is there anything new to find in those old familiar stories?

Comparing Rahab and Zacchaeus

Our first character for comparison is Rahab, from Joshua 2. She is living in the ancient city of Jericho and works as a prostitute. When two spies arrive from Israel, she takes them in, hides them, and helps them escape. Her life is forever changed by this encounter.

Zacchaeus, a New Testament character who we meet in Luke 19, is a tax collector living in Jericho 2.0 about a mile south of the old ruins. I know him from the song we used to sing in Sunday school about him being a "wee little man", how he "climbed up in a sycamore tree" to see Jesus as he passed by, and how Jesus said, "Zacchaeus, you come down. For I'm going to your house today." His life is forever changed by this encounter.

How are they similar and different?

At face value, these two characters seem to have little more in common than a city name and a life change. When you work to find their similarities however, it really makes you consider how well you really know the characters, and it brings about a new sense of wonder.

In comparison there are three helpful categories to investigate as you look for similarities:

  • What do they both have?
  • What are they both?
  • What do they both do?

As you identify similarities you can also note how they are different in those areas. You can look for differences in two categories as well:

  • kind - is it a totally different type of thing
  • degree - is one better/worse than the other

So let's see what we can discover about these familiar Bible characters.

What do they both have?

I love the brainstorming process. This is a time when all ideas are considered and none are thrown out. One thing at a time. Once you have all of your ideas, you can start to weed out the weak from the strong. Right now, don't judge, just consider:

- High Vantage Points

Rahab's home was situated in the wall where she could see everyone who was coming and going. This gave her a place to watch for newcomers to the town, and it seems that she gleaned a lot of great information from her high perch. It makes me wonder how often did she sit and watch? What else did she know about the people coming and going from her city?

Zacchaeus, on the other hand, was just a short guy in the right place. He was curious about Jesus, but he couldn't see over the crowd. Thankfully, he was resourceful and spry because he found a nearby tree to scale. How old do you think he was? What was he wearing? Did he do this often?

- Wealth

Rahab's wealth is shown in a more subtle fashion through the fact that she has a house and stalks of flax laid out on the roof. This means that she had the basics provided for and seemed to be living a pretty comfortable life. Compared to the Israelites who had been wandering in the desert, she was doing pretty well. It makes me wonder, did the king pay for her place or if she was self sufficient?

Zacchaeus's wealth is evident to all. It is expressed in his short bio in Luke 19:2 - He was the chief tax collector and he was wealthy. It makes me wonder why was he looking for anything else? Didn't he have everything he needed?

- Homes in Jericho

We've already briefly noted this, but it is fascinating to me that Jericho, which is leveled in Rahab's story - actually the event that even gives Rahab a place in the Bible - is mentioned again in the New Testament. Why did someone rebuild this city? Who would name it Jericho even if the land was reused?

After a little bit of research, I found that God told Joshua to tell the people that whoever tried to rebuild the city would be cursed (Joshua 6:26). This came true when Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho in King Ahab's time (1 Kings 16:34). When we encounter Jericho in the New Testament, it is a buzzing Roman city where King Herod had built a winter home and eventually died (Encyclopedia Britannica).

So maybe this Realestate wasn't as much of an advantage for either Rahab or Zacchaeus as it seemed.

What are they both?

Our next category looks a little deeper into what kinds of people they are, but we're still just identifying the obvious. The deep epiphanies come when you least expect it.

- Workers of Odd Jobs

Let's face it: Rahab's job was not a career with a 401k retirement plan. She was a contract worker with a job that didn't generate respect from the Israelite religion. Yet, the spies trusted her. I wonder why.

Zacchaeus worked for the enemy. In the New Testament, the Israelites were now living under the thumb of the Romans, so a Tax Collector, while it was a lucrative and stable job, was not popular with the Israelites. Yet, Jesus sought Zacchaeus out and went to his house to eat with him. I wonder why.

- Robbers of Their Community

Even though Rahab's clients were willing participants, the act of prostitution robs the actors from the blessings of sex within the protection of a marriage relationship. It is no wonder Rahab was looking for help from the God of the Israelites.

Zacchaeus took money from people who did not wish to give it up. They were forced to give their precious resources to a regime they did not support. I wonder what sparked Zacchaeus' interest which led him to that tree on that day.

- Looked Down Upon

Both held occupations that did not generate esteem among their peers. One could make an argument that the city of Jericho was so corrupt that they esteemed Rahab as a prostitute, but the fact that the word "prostitute" is always attached to her name doesn't seem like a blessing.

When Jesus says he's going to Zacchaeus' house, the people all grumble around about how great of a sinner Zacchaeus is. Nobody likes him very much. I wonder what he thought about Jesus coming over to his house.

What do they both do?

Our final category for exploration is what do they both do.

- Pursue Truth

When Rahab talks to the spies, it is clear that she's been watching the God of the Israelites for some time. She's collected stories, watched for stagers, and seized the opportunity to seek out the truth. It's taken a long time, but then again her resources for accessing the truth were very limited. I wonder how long she'd been contemplating this idea.

Zacchaeus is actually fairly impulsive in his pursuit. It is more of a curiosity than a determined investigation like Rahab's. As a collector, it seems he's stumbled upon a richer pot than he imagined. I wonder if he realized the wealth he'd found.

- Take Risks

By hiding the spies, Rahab risks everything: her career, her life, and her family's lives. She was "all in" on the bet that God would win the battle against Jericho and she was willing to risk it all. I wonder how many times she's worked out the odds on this bet.

When Zacchaeus climbed that tree, he was really just improvising. He wanted a good look at Jesus, but from a safe place at a distance. Surely he didn't bet on Jesus walking up to him in that tree, calling him by name, and going home with him. I wonder if he realized the risk he was taking.

- Repent

In the end, Rahab leaves her life of prostitution to live with the people who serve the living God. She changes her ways, and ends up being known not for her sin but for being in the line of Christ (Matthew 1:5). She's commended for her faith (Hebrews 11:31) and righteousness (James 2:25). I'd say that she's changed. I wonder what her family thought of the change.

Although he's only mentioned in Luke, Zachhaeus has clearly repented since Jesus himself clearly vouches for him. Not only does Zacchaeus trust in Jesus, he also vows to give back more than he took from the people. He will no longer become wealthy at the expense of others. He's found the true source of wealth that will never perish. I wonder what his family thought about the change.

Lasting Impacts of Extravagant Faith

In my seminar with high school kids, they picked three similarities to attend to in their paper: both Rahab and Zacchaeus pursued truth, repented sins, and took risks. In the end they decided that Rahab had the greater faith and impact because of her place in the lineage of Christ.

What did we glean from this comparison? Extravagant faith impacts not just the person who is trusting God. Both Rahab and Zacchaeus impact the future of their immediate family, but additionally, their stories of faith are still being read today and impacting lives beyond their imaginations.

We don't make choices in isolation. Rahab and Zacchaeus are great examples of extravagant faith that we can follow.

Curiosity in Bible Study

We cannot let our familiarity or unfamiliarity with a Bible story shut down our wonder. Slow down. Consider the fact that these aren't just made up stores, but they are real people with real circumstances encountering a real God. It's powerful.

Each of these ideas sparked a new idea for wonder which could take your understanding of either one of these people to a richer and deeper level.

What do you wonder about?

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Crafts | Faith | Printables

4 FREE Inspirational Coloring Sheets

By on June 24, 2019

I love the pace of summer. Even though we generally have a variety of different events that mess up the routine, the overall pace of summer is restful. The sun slows me down, invites me to soak in its goodness, and reminds me of God's faithfulness.

Sometimes we need reminding of these truths that seemed so obvious to us at one time. I've shared some coloring sheets before because I love the way that they help one meditate on ideas. When you're creating something lovely that speaks of something beautiful, your soul responds to the harmony it hears. Here are four coloring sheets to encourage your soul!

I Am Worthy

Often we don't feel worthy of much, and that is true because we can't bring anything good to the table without God working through us. We often miss God's goodness, however because we decide that he can't use us because we know how lacking we are. It's that law of protection that rejects someone first before you get rejected. It doesn't work in God's economy though.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Oh How He Loves Me

The reason that we can trust Him is because of His great love. His love isn't dependent upon our performance, because he loved us before we were lovely. His love is relentless, reckless, and reliable. We can learn to trust Him more as we ponder His great love.

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Bloom With Grace

Learning to trust is a bumpy road. There will be many missteps along the way that can tempt us to turn away. However, if we allow God's love to grow in our hearts, we can show ourselves grace as he works the impurities out of our lives. It is a process that requires much grace.

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God is Love

Our relationship will continue to grow as we learn that our mistakes are not bothersome to our God. He's not impatient or harsh. He's not waiting for us to learn our lesson, but he's calling us to a relationship. It's his nature because God is love. Isn't that a glorious thing?

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Enjoy these free coloring sheets and remember the beautiful truths as you make lovely art!

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Gardening | Travel

Seattle Spotlight: Chihuly Garden and Glass & Space Needle

By on June 5, 2019

I am a sucker for a garden. Everywhere we travel, I try to find a local garden to explore. When we went to President Clinton's library in Little Rock, AR, I saw some of Chihuly's work displayed there. It also is featured in Atlanta's Botanical garden which is incredible! So when we were heading to Seattle, and the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit was at the foot of the Space Needle, I thought it would be a great opportunity to see them both.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

From the moment you walk into this exhibit, you know that you're in for a treat. Not only is the glass artwork exquisite, but it is displayed in such a masterful way that every time you turn a corner, the beauty takes your breath away.

One of my favorite surprises was the hallway in which there was a glass ceiling with top-lit blown glass pieces casting a beautiful light on the whole area. It was stunning.

This hallway leads you into a giant room filled with garden inspired pieces. Every angle of the artwork this pretty magical.

It is really hard to capture the beauty and enormity of some of the pieces displayed in this exhibit. You really do need to see it for yourself!

One of my favorite rooms was the boat room. Chihuly loved to throw his blown glass pieces in the water to see how they would interact with it. This display plays with that idea. The glossy black stage on which the art was set reflects all of the beauty back, creating a stunning presentation.

Just when you think the artwork can't get any more beautiful, you walk out into the garden area where playful plantings mix with graceful glass for an incredible effect. All of the colors and shapes were whimsical and awe inspiring. Chihuly truly has a masterful eye.

While this exhibit might be a little pricy, it was one of our absolute favorite places we visited while in Seattle. If we had to do it all over again, this would be at the top of our list.

Space Needle

Right after we toured Chihuly Garden and Glass, we walked next door to the Space Needle to visit Seattle's iconic architecture and check out the view. There was a local artist with a cute sign right outside that let us take a picture with his work for $1!

Even though it was a rainy day, we enjoyed getting to look out across the city. At that point, we had no idea that on a clear day this view would have Mt. Rainier as a feature. This would be a great way to view the mountain!

When the Space Needle was constructed, it was a showpiece for the 1962 World Fair. Equipped with a five star restaurant, you could enjoy the high life at a high altitude.

Now the restaurant has been replaced with a snack bar, and they've installed a glass floor on their rotating level so you can really get a view of the surrounding area. It was pretty incredible!

One of the coolest structures is the Museum of Pop Culture or MoPOP. We didn't make it to this one simply because after walking a couple of miles to the Space Needle, we were pretty worn out and opted for the Monorail instead.

While it was fun to go up in the Space Needle, there are so many hills that give you incredible views, that I don't think it was as awe inspiring as the Chihuly Garden and Glass experience.

If you're looking for that iconic Space Needle photo though, Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill is the place to go. It offered a stunning view of the unique architecture of Seattle and a really crazy introduction to Queen Anne Hill driving. It will make you feel like you're in San Francisco!

This area in Seattle is so rich with attractions, it was really hard to pick just a few. However, if you get a chance to make it to Seattle, I highly recommend Chihuly Gardens and Glass. I'll be looking for other opportunities to see his work in our next travels!

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Fun | Travel

5 Beautiful Seattle Day Hikes for Beginners

By on June 3, 2019

My husband and I got away for our 20th Anniversary to Seattle. When we arrived at our Airbnb, we found this great guide for exploring the city: Best Easy Day Hikes Seattle. As a way to make sure I stayed active on the trip, we decided to try out a different one each day. This helped us explore the city of Seattle in a unique way. Here are five beautiful Seattle day hikes for beginners.

1. Alki Beach Trail

If you're looking for a beautiful view of the Seattle skyline mixed with beautiful beaches and a touch of history, the Alki trail is a great option.

We parked free on the street near Salty's in West Seattle and walked down the paved trail to Alki Beach. It is probably the longest of the trails that we walked, but the views were stunning. You start off with an incredible panorama of the city skyline and as you head towards Alki Beach, you're looking at the Olympic Mountains with the Puget Sound sprinkled with a variety of boats heading in and out of the port.

At the Alki Beach end of the trail there are lots of cute shops and restaurants. Since the trail is 2.5 miles, taking a break for dinner was a great option to rest. We ate at Pegasus Pizza and Pasta which was amazing.

After dinner it was a little chilly, so we grabbed a cup of coffee for our sunset stroll back to the car. The only mistake there is that the bathrooms are few and far between! But the views were worth it.

Bike and kayak rentals are all over the place, so if you're looking to experience the trail and views another way, you have lots of options.

2. Elliot Bay Trail

Elliot Bay is the body of water right on the west coast of downtown Seattle. As you sail north, you cross over into the Puget Sound. So if you're looking for a fun way to get to downtown Seattle without driving, this trail is a really beautiful way to do just that, and get a few steps in along the way.

I really love all of the trails in Seattle. They are wide and paved and make it easy for people to get outside and enjoy the beautiful shoreline. As you walk down the Elliot Bay Trail, you'll see several beautiful outlooks and benches to stop and enjoy the view.

Just before you enter the city, you'll find the Olympic Sculpture Park. This is an extension of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), and a beautiful free exhibit to enjoy. My favorite was Echo, a 46 foot sculpture of a young girl with her eyes closed facing Mount Olympus. It was stunning from every angle.

If you're up for a little more adventure, the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass are only a couple of blocks up Broad Street. You could even catch the Monorail to take you all the way to the center of downtown.

It "rained" on us throughout most of this hike, but the rain in Seattle was more like an intermittent sprinkle. I enjoyed walking around without an umbrella without any intense frizz problems like I expected!

3. Burke-Gillman Trail

On the east side of the city, Lake Union is the natural freshwater lake that is bustling with recreational boaters, seaplanes, and sailboat races. This was one of the shortest trails we walked, but it offered a great glimpse into another side of the city.

If you don't want to hike the trail, Gas Works Park is a great destination by itself. You get a great view of the skyline as well as get to explore some fascinating historical Gas Works and watch the boat activity. On a clear day you can also see Mt. Rainier and the Olympic Mountains.

We followed the trail from Gas Works Park to Fremont Park. This trail follows the Lake Washington Ship Canal that connects Lake Union to the Puget Sound. If this trail made it all the way down to the Ballard Locks, that would have been really cool, but it is just too far away.

We walked down the trail and then headed back to our car down 34th street where there are some really interesting restaurants and bars. We ended up eating at Pablo y Pablo which was incredible.

One really interesting aspect of this trail is that it walks past the Google Seattle campus. It looks like an incredible place to work!

4. Snoqualmie Falls Trail

If you want to get outside of the city, an hour's drive will lead you to a stunning waterfall hike through a beautiful forest. Hiker beware: the way down isn't too bad, but the way up takes some hiking stamina.

This waterfall became famous from the show Twin Peaks, but this 270 foot waterfall is an incredible sight. Parking and admission into the park is free, so that also makes it a great place to visit.

When we made it to the lower observation deck, we were rewarded with an incredible view, and at the same time hit with the realization that it was a long way back up the hill! There is a parking lot at the bottom of the hill if you want to catch the view without losing your breath.

In order to make it back up the trail, we took it slow and paused frequently to take pictures. It was a great way to catch our breath and make it back to the top. Just watch out for those Washington slugs! Yuck!

After our strenuous hike up the hill, we headed downtown to grab some lunch. The Snoqualmie Downtown is a great place for cute cafes and antique shopping. I loved looking through all of the shops down Railroad Ave. You could also visit the Northwest Railroad Museum to catch a little history.

We ate at the Black Dog Arts Cafe and Theater which offered an eclectic environment filled with local art, fresh baked bread, and cozy seating. It was a great place to rest after a long hike!

5. Arboretum Waterfront Trail

We attempted to go on the Arboretum Waterfront Trail, but with all of the recent rain, the entry to the path was flooded.

Although I truly hope this path gets restored, the good news is that the Washington Park Arboretum and Seattle Japanese Gardens are just around the corner, so the hike was saved.

The Washington Park Arboretum is always free. There are some beautiful paths to stroll along. The path from the main gate to the Seattle Japanese Gardens is about a mile in distance, so it makes a great day hike.

The Japanese garden does have an entry fee, but it is worth it.

Any of these hikes offer a great way to get outdoors and enjoy taking in the sights and unique living opportunities Seattle has to offer. I loved that they gave a novice hiker like myself many beautiful paths to enjoy without killing myself!

Have you tried any of these Seattle day hikes? What was your favorite?

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Challenge | Faith | Family Life | Printables

Creative Graduation Gifts that Come with a Blessing

By on May 6, 2019

My husband is tutoring my son's Challenge IV class in Classical Conversations this year, so we're full on in graduation season. I tutored this class for a couple of years and my husband has had them for the last three, so these kids seem like family to us. As I thought about what I'd like to give them as graduation gifts, I thought it would be fun to bless them with some wisdom for their journey.

You could pick and choose from any of these ideas and throw in a gift card (or cash) to bless your graduate. Make sure to read to the end where you can find a printable version of these words of wisdom to add to your gift.

1. Reusable Bag

When life gets heavy, remember you don’t have to carry it alone. 

Come to me, all you 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

As they walk out into the "real world" they can feel invincible until life comes and knocks the wind out of them. It's good to remember that Christ didn't ask us to follow Him alone. He gave us His Spirit and the church. Community is such a blessing for bearing burdens.

I found these cute reusable shopping bags at World Market for the girls, but I got the boys drawstring backpacks.

2. Hot Drink

When the heat turns up, remember that God never wastes suffering. 

"Taste and see that the Lord is good."

Psalm 34:8

When you think about the transformation that happens when you dip a tea bag into hot water, you can see how God can turn a difficult situation into something unexpected.

Hot drinks are the favorites of our coffee-shop loving kids. We opted for hot chocolate with a fun twist and hot tea. World Market has some really unique options!

3. Coffee Mug

Coffee is never just coffee...every pursuit can be to the glory of God or man. 

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

1 Corinthians 10:31

It's easy to get distracted by plans and goals and miss the people that God places in your life. Having coffee with friends can be an opportunity to "unearth holiness" as Eugene Peterson calls it in Godspeed.

There are always cute coffee mugs everywhere. We picked the earthy glazed option from World Market.

4. Highlighters

You’ll focus on what you highlight. 

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

Philippians 4:8

This is true for everyone. If you practice highlighting the lovely things God brings your way, you'll be surprised at how God will bring those stories back to mind in conversations.

5. Extra Gum

Always go the extra mile.

"If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

Matthew 5:41-42

Servant leadership is rare these days. This can apply to any of their pursuits as they launch out on their own. Professors and employers will notice this and reward the effort.

6. 100 Grand Candybar

No matter how much money you have, the real prize is not found in your bank account. 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Matthew 6:19-21

Our world often tells this tale very differently. When people ask what my kids want to do when they grow up, it is generally assessed by how finically lucrative the career will be. Money isn't the only measure of success.

7. Nerds

Nerdy is in the eye of the beholder. 

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'”

1 Samuel 16:7

Trying to be what others think you ought to be is generally what gets people in trouble. I love that God looks beyond the outward appearance and sees the beautiful creation that He designed.

8. Index Cards

Notice godly character in others and pursue relationships with them

"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..."

James 1:19

This goes with the idea behind the highlighters. If you seek out people with godly character, you'll find a group that will help you run the race of faith with integrity.

9. Sour Patch Kids

When you hit a sour patch in life, consider it joy. 

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

James 1:2-4

My son's class was especially fond of Sour Patch kids, so this one had to make it into their basket! This can be the hardest challenge they'll face in the next couple of years. Often, things do not work out as expected. The difference is how you respond to those hard times.

10. Ramen

Desperate times do not call for desperate measures. Trust in the Lord. 

"Then Jesus said to his disciples: 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.'"

Luke 12:22-24, 31

I'm not as much of a fan of classic college ramen as my teens are, so they might not think it's a desperate time to have this as a staple in their diet. Worry, however, is something that we all seem to hold onto without any problem. So if they can think of trusting in the Lord every time they eat ramen, that would be a great reminder.

11. Thinking Putty

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. - Albert Einstein 

"On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me."

Psalm 63:6-8

My kids love thinking putty. I love how playing with it reminds me of meditating on scripture. Thinking through God's word transforms your mind which transforms your life.

12. A Good Book

Harry S. Truman said, “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” 

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."

James 4:10

I always love a new book to read. This is a great way to remind them that education never ends. It will be something that they will pursue for the rest of their lives. Here are some great options:

Graduation Gift Basket

I found a fun little storage basket at Target that fit all of the treasures.

It looks really fun when you use some of those clear basket bags with a cute tag. I picked these globe luggage tags as a fun way to encourage them as they go explore the world.

Grab the printable here to add these wisdom messages to your graduation gifts.

I cut some of my brown paper roll down to 8.5x11 size to put in my printer. It worked really well!

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