Thursday, April 30, 2009

Learning to Live Financially Free Blog Tour

For all of us who have ever struggled financially...and by that...I mean most of us- settle in for an encouraging read and embrace the financial future with a better outlook, strengthened relationships and the knowledge to make better choices in the future.

About the Book:

(North Carolina) - The fear and reality of tough economic times, foreclosures, bailouts, bankruptcies and falling stocks strike fear in the hearts of many Americans today. With investors, newscasters and bankers giving advice, who can you trust? Marybeth and Curt Whalen share their financial successes and failures in their new book, Learning to Live Financially Free: Hard-Earned Wisdom for Saving Your Marriage & Your Money. If a family parenting six children can get out of debt and live financially free, anyone can. The Whalens readily admit they made their share of mistakes the first ten years of marriage. Becoming more disciplined and intentional in spending and saving helped them learn valuable lessons for better financial stewardship--lessons you'll want to learn too.

Learning to Live Financially Free not only focuses on building a stronger financial understanding in the home, but also encourages couples to communicate, thus building better, stronger marriages. The Whalens clearly comprehend the need for careful money management and commitment in marriage. Money-strapped families will find peace of mind as they begin the process of becoming financially responsible and debt-free.

About the Authors

Marybeth Whalen is a speaker and contributing writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. The author of For the Write Reason, Marybeth has also written for Parent Life, Money Matters newsletter, The Old Schoolhouse, Hearts at Home magazine, and Homeschooling Today. She contributes regularly to the daily online devotions of Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Curt Whalen is a trained financial counselor through Crown Financial Concepts. He has years of experience helping couples establish budgets, solve financial problems, and learn to communicate more effectively. He has written articles for TEACH Magazine and Money Matters Newsletter and has contributed to books by authors Lysa TerKeurst and Melanie Chitwood.

Are You A Financially Focused Couple?

Instructions: Give yourself 1 point for every "yes" answer, 0 points for every "no."

1.Do you have regular budget meetings?
2.Do you communicate about daily expenses?
3.Do you discuss large purchases before they're made?
4.Does each spouse have an equal vote about money decisions?
5.Have you planned for your future through life insurance and a will?
6.Do you agree about tithing and giving?
7.Can you both list out your debts, including the amounts and monthly payment for each account?
8.Do you have a plan that was written together for paying off debt and saving money?
9.Do you encourage each other to save money?
10.Have you discussed the spending habits and attitudes about money that you carried into the marriage?

Tally up your score and use the guide bleow to see what category you fall into.

0-2 points: Don't get discouraged. There's nowhere to go from here except up!
3-5 points: You are taking steps towards being a financially focused couple.. Keep working together and you will get there.
6-8 points: You are almost 100% financially focused. Keep up the good work and get intentional about those trouble spots.
9-10 points: You are a financially focused couple and could show us all a thing or two! Consider sharing your wisdom with other couples who are struggling in today's uncertain times.

Top Ten Tips For Saving Money In Tough Times

1. Make a budget (and stick to it). A budget overwhelms many people but it is really nothing more than devising a plan for every dollar you bring in. Having a budget helps you spend smarter and think more. It also helps to improve your buying power. The best way to make a budget is to start by sitting down with your spouse and deciding how much you spend on regular categories like groceries, gas, medical, etc. each month. Talk through these things and get them down on paper. Then spend accordingly. An article that goes into step by step detail about making a budget can be found at:

2. Stop using credit cards. Studies show that people who use credit cards buy more and think less about their purchases. By learning to spend cash and limiting your purchases, you make your money work for you rather than against you. Credit card companies are getting craftier as the economy struggles. 25% of all credit card users in this country will have their rates raised this year, or their monthly payment raised. When you are in debt, you are at the mercy of the company you owe. Don’t let yourself get bogged down by credit card debt.

3. Cook at home. It sounds so basic and yet how many of us resort to eating out because we just can’t deal with dinner? By taking a few moments once a week to devise a menu plan, shopping for the needed ingredients for that menu plan, and cooking the meals in your home, you can save lots of money and have more time to gather as a family and enjoy a slow evening at home. Eating at home not only saves money, it saves valuable family time.

4. Buy clothes at thrift or consignment stores. This is especially true with children’s clothes. When you are in a department store, always shop the clearance racks and avoid the other racks so you aren’t tempted. It’s also an income generator if you consign your own clothing. You can then take the money you earn on consignment and buy clothes for a new season without being out of pocket any money!

5. If you must eat out, only go to places you have coupons for. Keep a small photo album and arrange restaurant coupons so they are easy to find as you are heading out the door. It’s also a great idea to look for “kids eat free” nights and frequent those. Other ways to save on eating out include ordering water (big savings on this), share meals, order a kids’ portion if the restaurant allows it, and go out for lunch instead of dinner. For people who work, it’s always a good idea to pack your lunch regularly instead of running out to eat. A jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread will go a long way.

6. Learn to play the coupon game. Many people devote themselves to clipping and organizing coupons—and reap great savings from doing so. There are many frugal websites and blogs that detail exactly how to save a lot of money with coupons. A great one to start with is And here is a great tutorial video you can watch:

7. If you have children, limit the number of activities they do to one per child, per year. If you are struggling to pay for even one activity, consider asking for the activity as a gift from grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, etc. Instead of another toy that will end up broken or lost, your child can receive a gift that truly keeps on giving as well as one that invests in their future.

8. Think about the things you regularly spend money on like gas or utilities and research ways to save money on those things. For instance, tells you where to buy the cheapest gas according to your area code. Bundling services with your cable provider can save money each month. Calling your energy company to find out when their off-peak hours are and doing your laundry or dishes during those times can save on your monthly bill as well.

9. Don’t shop as a recreational activity. If you can’t see it, you won’t feel a need to have it. Use time you used to spend shopping to go for a walk, visit a park, exercise, read a book, or spend time researching money-saving sites on the internet! If you have a friend you used to enjoy shopping with, sit down and list out other alternatives for your time together.

10. Look for ways to generate additional income. Whether it be an additional part-time job or a way to make money from home using a skill or talent you possess, get creative, get motivated, and get excited about the potential you have to generate income that you didn’t have before. Every little bit helps, so put on your thinking cap and don’t be shy about stepping out and trying something!

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey

It's Thankful Thursday over at Truth for the Journey Please be sure to leave a comment below and tell me what you are thankful for:

1. A good week of accomplishing little projects around the house. They make such a big difference.

2. For a surprise financial gift that helped meet some of our home improvement needs.

3. I am headed to Georgia on Friday....HELLO MOMMA!!!!...and the rest of the fam/clan

4. Feeling better- I was sick over the weekend. It was horrible. I still am not 100 percent but sooo much better.

5. Unbelievable kindness from near strangers tonight. It really is amazing how kind people can still be!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

House for Sale

This is the house we currently own...and as of today....are officially selling. The sign is in the yard and another one is at the end of the street. There's no turning back now.

The reason I posted the pic is because I would like for you to pray that this house sells quickly. I am not worried. God knows just the right family for this home and I can't wait to meet them. Hopefully the pic will help you remember! Thanks!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mr. Clean Is My Hero

I have had a housekeeper for most of the last two years. I guess I am a little spoiled. It is a luxury I have afforded myself (since I DO work) like other women might get their nails done or people pay to get their yard done or a deer lease (I know...if you are a guy and are reading this you might disagree that a deer lease is a most men I know they think it's a necessity for survival). Anyway, Wendy has been super and I love her, and I don't ever want her to go away....but in light of our recent job switch, Wendy and I have talked...and her days are numbered. She won't be coming to my house to clean toilets too many more times. I'm sad. It's been more than just cleaning. It's been catching up, counseling, crying, laughing until we cried, comforting, fun, hard work. I will miss our weekly "meetings". (However -she did mention I wasn't getting rid of her that easily)

BUT, I have found a replacement for her. Well, not really, but let me continue. As I was deep cleaning (washing walls and baseboards) in my kid's rooms. I noticed some creative artwork....ON THE WALLS and ON THE BACK OF THEIR DOORS, that I had not seen before. At first I panicked. Was I going to have to repaint. What exactly did they use to create this it crayon, marker, colored pencil, paint, smashed vegetables, bodily fluids? So, I sent Bruce to the DG (Dollar General) to pick up the miracle worker- MR. CLEAN. Have you met him?

There he was. His arms crossed on the front of the box. His muscles buldging from beneath the white t-shirt. He looks like he can get the job done. I followed the directions on the box- wet, ring and wash. Do you know that Magic Erase Mr. Clean Sponge did the trick. It took every bit of the artwork off the walls and doors. I am so thrilled....I gave Mr. Clean a hi-5 on the box as I tossed him in the trash. He's my new best friend, hero, boyfriend.

For a free sample go to this link.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Bruce is out with the police. It's the third time in a week. They call him. Ask him to ride with them. He comes to me, with the excitement of a child when they know their birthday is tomorrow, and asks "Would it be ok for me to go ridin' with so-n-so" and I say yes....everytime. (Like I tell him what to do anyway!)

It's been going on for months. He loves it. He loves riding with the officer, getting to know them, their lives, their family, their fears, dreams and prayers. He loves the Adrenalin rush of a speeding ticket and the comedy of seeing a church member get pulled over for a busted tail light (and yes...Bruce helped talk the officer out of giving him a ticket!)

Most of all I like it because it enables him to talk to men who are under an incredible amount of stress (yes, even in a small town) and he gets to encourage them, pray for them and help keep them awake during those late night hours. It's one of the things he is really good at- Being a friend to his neighbor.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hungry...for Gray's Papaya...NYC

A friend of ours has been in NYC this week on business. When I heard he was going I told him he HAD to eat at Gray's Papaya Hotdog Stand.

Gray's has been in the background of more than a few movies. Seems you can't see a movie about NYC streets and not see the Gray's sign.

Here's what Wikipedia says about Gray's:

Gray's Papaya is a hot dog restaurant with four locations on the West Side of Manhattan, open 24 hours a day year-round. The four locations of Gray's Papaya in Manhattan are: 539 Eighth Avenue at 37th Street, 402 Sixth Avenue at 8th Street, 2090Broadway at 72nd Street, and their flagship location 116 Waverly Place where founder and owner Damien Reilley started the hot dog empire. Somewhere between a street vendor and a fast food restaurant, Gray's Papaya is famous for its very inexpensive, high-quality hot dogs. The "papaya" in the name refers to the fruit drinks sold at the establishment, which include orange, grape, piƱa colada, coconut champagne (non-alcoholic), and banana daiquiri (non-alcoholic) in addition to papaya. As of October 2008, the "Recession Special", (2 hot dogs and a drink) is US$4.45 instead of the previous cost of US$3.50 [1] and a single hot dog is US$1.50, with tax included.

Since I mentioned it, I have been craving one of these dogs. I mean seriously craving!!! Sure hope he made it there, then at least he can tell me about it!

Ever in NYC? Eat at Grays!....and then tell me about it!

Potentially Dangerous

I've been trying to sort out just what God might be trying to teach me during this time of transition. Stepping out by faith is taking on a whole new meaning for us. In the past when Bruce and I have ventured's just been us. This time, add a couple of crazy kids and a ton of toys and stepping out takes on a different look.

Currently, job offers are coming in for Bruce, which in and of itself is a miracle in this economy. God has definitely showed Himself in that area. We are headed to Atlanta to see my family next week and I can hardly wait. Seems like forever since I was in the Peanut State!

Total surrender is something I am wrestling with daily. I "think" I am totally surrendered and then I find myself arguing with God about how things should be. It's that spiritual warfare thing that makes this a bit difficult. I really just need to slow down and allow God to take care of all the details...big and small. He's gotten us this far...why do I question the path ahead!?!

I was thinking if (when) we sell our house that we are potentially a very dangerous family. Willing to go anywhere, do anything. Pretty scary. Pretty exciting. Pretty much right where I want to be.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I'm in a pouting sort of mood tonight. I was suppose to be attending a ladies retreat this weekend with the ladies of my church. Instead...home with a fever and sore throat that feels more like I've swallowed sand. YUCK!

I really wanted to go. It was going to be my last official fun thing to do as the pastor's wife with this great group of ladies. Does this seem odd? Leaving a church and still loving them? I know it's a little weird, but thankfully that's the way we are exiting.

Anyway, I am just as disappointed as a child who just discovered who Santa is. Wishing I could be with some incredible ladies.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey

Check out Sonya's Blog over at Truth for the Journey to read more Thankful Thursday posts.

My Thankful Thursday Includes:

1. Thankful for our church family, who is understanding, kind and comforting during this time of resignation. They are an incredible body of believers. Check them out at GBF
2. Finding someone who can do the carpentry sprucing up in our house so we can get the "For Sale" sign up in the yard.

3. Children who roll with the punches.

4. New Pizza Place in town. Mama Mias! YUMMY!

5. God's faithfulness and peace during this transition time.

I would love to hear something you are thankful for today! Leave a comment below.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clearing Out!

For the last 3 days I have been clearing out all the junk we have excessively accumulated over the last couple of years. Wow! I thought I had done a pretty good job of de-junking the house every 3 months or so....but there is still so much that is going to freecycle and the trash.

As i have been cleaning out I have been thinking of how this resembles a spiritual cleansing. You know sometimes I junk up my life with things I don't need. Even good things and it gets in the way of me living my best life. I have trouble finding things when my life is junked up...things like time with God, in prayer, in worship, in praise, in stillness. So as I've been clearing out old bills, old clothes, old toys and old stuff I've been thinking about the things I need to clean out spiritually. Old guilt, old memories, old bitterness, old sin, old junk. I want the new...the new life, the new creature, the new mercies, the new body. Thankfully the old can be put away and a new woman can emerge. The cleaning out of my earthly house is never done, it's gonna be a constant "pick up your stuff" for the next few months as we try to sell our home. It's no different spiritually speaking. There is a constant battle in my heart to put on this "new" that I have in Christ. It's daily, constant, forever.

I don't know about you, but at the end of the day, when my house is clean, all is well with the world. And spiritually speaking, at the end of the day, when my heart is clean, all is well with my soul.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mission Auction Tonight!!!

If you live in the Gunter area, don't forget First Baptist Church has a fundraising auction for The Mission tonight at 6:30pm. Bring canned goods and items to donate for the auction. This is a ladies only event....sorry guys! You can check out more about The Mission here. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


For all my non-Grace Bible Fellowship Friends, I need to fill you in. After a ton of prayer and another ton of tears, Bruce resigned his position as pastor of Grace Bible Fellowship this morning. The hardest and best thing we have ever done in our entire lives.

Let me explain. GBF was a great place for Bruce to work. It has allowed him to do what he does best. Love and encourage people and in that way help build the eternal kingdom of God. Small towns are a perfect fit for us. We love the hands on, hard work of small church ministry. Thing is...churches grow when you do ministry that way! And a small church doesn't stay small (praise God!). These last few months we have felt the tug of God on our hearts. And so, Bruce felt like it was time for us to move on and sit and see what God has next for us.

And we sit. The announcement has been made, tears have been shed, hugs have been shared and words of encouragement have been spoken. A congregation has loved on us and now reality sets in.

As I was thinking of all the things that have happened over the last 2 1/2 years, my hope and prayer is that people I have had the priviledge of knowing would love Jesus more as a result of being with me. In the scheme of things it matters so little what people know of's what they know of Jesus that is the most important thing in the world.

Next Sunday is our last Sunday with this body of believers...and friends. May God lead and guide their steps.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Kids Say the Sweetest Things

Every year at Christmas time we have a little tradition with the kids that in order to get the real meaning of Christmas across to them, we reenact the Christmas Story. One of the first times we did this, Savannah dressed up as Mary and held her baby doll. She had the covering over her head and her bathrobe tied around her waist. But, as you can imagine, when Tucker came along, things got rather interesting. Tucker has a December birthday, so he was just the right size to play baby Jesus in our homemade reenactment. So, We dressed Savannah in her traditional Mary outfit and swaddled Tucker in a blanket and had Mary and Baby Jesus in our living room. And so began the years of a live Nativity at the Stinson's home.

Occasionally throughout the year, they will dress up as the characters (although Tucker is now too big for Savannah to lug around as baby Jesus. I tried to explain to her that he could be a shepherd or wiseman....still she'd rather him be Jesus.

The sweetest words that have ever come out of Tucker's mouth were heard yesterday. The kids were playing in Savannah's room. I heard Savannah giving Tucker a "Bible Quiz" (I'll have to save that story for another day), when I heard Tucker's little voice say "Make me like Jesus". WOW! What precious sweet words. "Make me like Jesus". Innocent, softly spoken, more sincere words have never been spoken.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I pondered the wise words of my three year old. Sure, he doesn't fully understand what he's saying- for that matter, neither do I when I say them! The surrender and the sincerity behind the words is what matters most. My request today is the same as Tucker's "Make me like Jesus"...whatever it takes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey
A few things I am thankful for this week:

1. God's relationship with me. His faithfulness is forever. His presence is real and the unfathomable depth of His love leaves me speechless.

2. The Mission's tutoring program has been so enjoyable to be a part of. The kids have even asked if it could go on until the end of the school year. Several teachers have been really appreciative and overall, I think the tutors have really gained something from it.

3. Taxes are done- enough said!

4. The spring- I planted 6 dozen flowers in my yard and they look like they are going to all make it! Love the new life that is so apparent during this season.

5. A friends new baby. Samuel is just a cute one!!!

Click on comment below and share what you are thankful for this Thursday.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Noticer

I'm a huge fan of Andy Andrews. He has a new book coming out called The Noticer. With the release of this book is also the launch of The Noticer Project. The project urges you to notice 5 influential people in your life and call them out. You can do it privately, like in the form of a personal note, or you can do it publicly, like on your blog, facebook, or twitter.

I love this idea because in our hurried world we don't take the time to pause and really give serious thought to who has influenced us. I'm getting on 'bout you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Diggin' In

Late this afternoon I had the great privilege of breaking ground on the garden for the Mission. What an awesome site!

At 5:30pm The Garner and Nevil families from First Baptist Church in Gunter arrived and planted 120 cucumber plants. They built 20 large mounds and planted 3 seeds per mound. The kids chipped right in and helped. Unfortunately there are some pretty muddy clothes going home with these families, but the work they put into the garden is very much appreciated. Thanks FBC!

At 7pm the Gunter Cub Scouts showed up and planted at least 100 okra seeds. Krissy Caperton led the efforts there with help from the boys and their parents. What a great job they did. They hoed both 50 foot rows and did all the planting! Way to earn your conservation badge boys.

Things are underway....more planting 8am on Saturday.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Worship Music

If you know anything about me and my love for music, then you know that I love PRAISE and WORSHIP music. There's not a day that goes by that I don't have it on in my house, singing right along, doing my own made-up dance moves (yes... I know it is totally scarey to think of me doing that!) Anyway, the music you hear on my blog comes from a site Kathy told me about. You can download it on your blog super easily following the directions at It plays different music everytime you log in, so I don't have to worry about putting together a customized playlist. Anyway, thought you might be interested and wanted to pass on this great site! Happy Day!

TJ has done it again

This guy is amazing! The mission is sure blessed to have this graphic designer on our team!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

Random Reactions from the Rugrats

A couple of really random things have happened that I want to be sure I document before I forget.

#1- Savannah talks to herself in the mirror. I was putting her to bed the other night and she said that I needed to turn my head while she talked to herself. So, on command, I turned my head (and then turned it back) and found her whispering to her image in the mirror. All I caught since she was whispering was "I knew you'd come back"...I'm sorry but I was snickering...I think a snort even escaped...trying to keep the laughter low key. What a hoot!

#2- Savannah begged for a "jammie" day today. Is that normal for a 6 year old? Maybe we've been a little busy lately????

#3- Tucker has slept passed 9am 2 mornings this week. What's up with that? Growing? Sick? Tired? Who knows! But I did enjoy the extra quiet time!!!

I'm trying hard not to miss the moments this year. What a blessing and delight these rugrats are to me!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Reflections on Good Friday

I've often wondered how Christians can call such a horrible day in our faith history "good". Oh, I understand it was because of Jesus death that mankind received a good and perfect gift, but somehow I think it might also ease or at least diminish what Christ did for us 72 hours before the resurrection. Below is something that Bruce has shared in a sermon before.'s graphic, but unlike Hollywood, will give you a more clear picture of what happened on the cross that day. May we never forget the high price that was paid.

A Physician Testifies About the Crucifixion
by Dr. C. Truman Davis

About a decade ago, reading Jim Bishop's The Day Christ Died, I realized that I had for years taken the Crucifixion more or less for granted -- that I had grown callous to its horror by a too easy familiarity with the grim details and a too distant friendship with our Lord. It finally occurred to me that, though a physician, I didn't even know the actual immediate cause of death. The Gospel writers don't help us much on this point, because crucifixion and scourging were so common during their lifetime that they apparently considered a detailed description unnecessary. So we have only the concise words of the Evangelists: "Pilate, having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified -- and they crucified Him."

I have no competence to discuss the infinite psychic and spiritual suffering of the Incarnate God atoning for the sins of fallen man. But it seemed to me that as a physician I might pursue the physiological and anatomical aspects of our Lord's passonate some detail. What did the body of Jesus of Nazareth actually endure during those hours of torture?

This led me first to a study of the practice of crucifixion itself; that is, torture and execution by fixation to a cross. I am indebted to many who have studied this subject in the past, and especially to a contemporary colleague, Dr. Pierre Barbet, a French surgeon who has done exhaustive historical and experimental research and has written extensively on the subject.

Apparently, the first known practice of crucifixion was by the Persians. Alexander and his generals brought it back to the Mediterranean world -- to Egypt and to Carthage. The Romans apparently learned the practice from the Carthaginians and (as with almost everything the Romans did) rapidly developed a very high degree of efficiency and skill at it. A number of Roman authors (Livy, Cicer, Tacitus) comment on crucifixion, and several innovations, modifications, and variations are described in the ancient literature.

For instance, the upright portion of the cross (or stipes) could have the cross-arm (or patibulum) attached two or three feet below its top in what we commonly think of as the Latin cross. The most common form used in our Lord's day, however, was the Tau cross, shaped like our T. In this cross the patibulum was placed in a notch at the top of the stipes. There is archeological evidence that it was on this type of cross that Jesus was crucified.

Without any historical or biblical proof, Medieval and Renaissance painters have given us our picture of Christ carrying the entire cross. But the upright post, or stipes, was generally fixed permanently in the ground at the site of execution and the condemned man was forced to carry the patibulum, weighing about 110 pounds, from the prison to the place of execution.

Many of the painters and most of the sculptors of crucifixion, also show the nails through the palms. Historical Roman accounts and experimental work have established that the nails were driven between the small bones of the wrists (radial and ulna) and not through the palms. Nails driven through the palms will strip out between the fingers when made to support the weight of the human body. The misconception may have come about through a misunderstanding of Jesus' words to Thomas, "Observe my hands." Anatomists, both modern and ancient, have always considered the wrist as part of the hand.

A titulus, or small sign, stating the victim's crime was usually placed on a staff, carried at the front of the procession from the prison, and later nailed to the cross so that it extended above the head. This sign with its staff nailed to the top of the cross would have given it somewhat the characteristic form of the Latin cross.

But, of course, the physical passion of the Christ began in Gethsemane. Of the many aspects of this initial suffering, the one of greatest physiological interest is the bloody sweat. It is interesting that St. Luke, the physician, is the only one to mention this. He says, "And being in Agony, He prayed the longer. And His sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground."

Every ruse (trick) imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away this description, apparently under the mistaken impression that this just doesn't happen. A great deal of effort could have been saved had the doubters consulted the medical literature. Though very rare, the phenomenon of Hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress of the kind our Lord suffered, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process might well have produced marked weakness and possible shock.

After the arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus was next brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiphus, the High Priest; it is here that the first physical trauma was inflicted. A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiphus. The palace guards then blind-folded Him and mockingly taunted Him to identify them as they each passed by, spat upon Him, and struck Him in the face.

In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night, Jesus is taken across the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. You are, of course, familiar with Pilate's action in attempting to pass responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate. It was in response to the cries of the mob, that Pilate ordered Bar-Abbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.

There is much disagreement among authorities about the unusual scourging as a prelude to crucifixion. Most Roman writers from this period do not associate the two. Many scholars believe that Pilate originally ordered Jesus scourged as his full punishment and that the death sentence by crucifixion came only in response to the taunt by the mob that the Procurator was not properly defending Caesar against this pretender who allegedly claimed to be the King of the Jews.

Preparations for the scourging were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. It is doubtful the Romans would have made any attempt to follow the Jewish law in this matter, but the Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than forty lashes.

The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus' shoulders, back, and legs. At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.

The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.

The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with His own blood. The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be king. They throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again there is copious bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body.

After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from His hand and strike Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and the robe is torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, and almost as though He were again being whipped the wounds once more begin to bleed.

In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return His garments. The heavy patibulum of the cross is tied across His shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion begins its slow journey along the Via Dolorosa. In spite of His efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance.

The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock, until the 650 yard journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha is finally completed.

Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic mixture. He refuses to drink. Simon is ordered to place the patibulum on the ground and Jesus quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action being careful not to pull the arms to tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" is nailed in place.

The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The Victim is now crucified. As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain -- the nails in the writs are putting pressure on the median nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.

At this point, as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences recorded:

The first, looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

The second, to the penitent thief, "Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

The third, looking down at the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John -- the beloved Apostle -- he said, "Behold thy mother." Then, looking to His mother Mary, "Woman behold thy son."

The fourth cry is from the beginning of the 22nd Psalm, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?"

Hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain where tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins...A terrible crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.

One remembers again the 22nd Psalm, the 14th verse: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels."

It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissue; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain.

Jesus gasps His fifth cry, "I thirst."

One remembers another verse from the prophetic 22nd Psalm: "My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death."

A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine which is the staple drink of the Roman legionaries, is lifted to His lips. He apparently doesn't take any of the liquid. The body of Jesus is now in extremes, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brings out His sixth words, possibly little more than a tortured whisper, "It is finished."

His mission of atonement has completed. Finally He can allow his body to die.

With one last surge of strength, he once again presses His torn feet against the nail, straightens His legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters His seventh and last cry, "Father! Into thy hands I commit my spirit."

The rest you know. In order that the Sabbath not be profaned, the Jews asked that the condemned men be dispatched and removed from the crosses. The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the legs. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; thus the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest and rapid suffocation occurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers came to Jesus they saw that this was unnecessary.

Apparently to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance through the fifth interspace between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. The 34th verse of the 19th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John reports: "And immediately there came out blood and water." That is, there was an escape of water fluid from the sac surrounding the heart, giving postmortem evidence that Our Lord died not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure (a broken heart) due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.

Thus we have had our glimpse -- including the medical evidence -- of that epitome of evil which man has exhibited toward Man and toward God. It has been a terrible sight, and more than enough to leave us despondent and depressed. How grateful we can be that we have the great sequel in the infinite mercy of God toward man -- at once the miracle of the atonement (at one ment) and the expectation of the triumphant Easter morning.

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey

I'm posting 5 things every Thursday that I am thankful for:

1. A God who knows, understand and accepts strings attached.

2. A new restaurant nearby...Braums! Ice cream and frozen treats galore!

3. A husband who follows God.

4. The Internet...allows me to be a "virtual" assistant across the miles.

5. Spring. New life.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mission Minds

In January of this year a group of 6 determined The Mission should pursue beginning a tutoring program in the Gunter Independent School District. Never in a million years would I have forecasted the eternal change this program has made on my heart.

The students we tutor come from different backgrounds. It's been fun watching them interact with other adults and I am amazed at their politeness. They are either really putting on a show...or they are genuinely behaving their best!

The volunteers for the Mission Minds program have been awesome. We have 3 teenagers and 9 adults who have been faithful to work with these kids each week. The great thing about having such a great group of volunteers is that I actually see the kids bonding with their tutor. In fact, just last week I heard about a couple of the girls telling one of the tutors they wished the program would go on until the end of the year! Wow....who would have ever thought we would be hearing that from a student.

I've eyewitnessed hugs initiated by kids. I've overheard wonderful words of affirmation from tutors to students and mostly I've seen Jesus in action. No, we aren't preaching a sermon, or opening our Bibles, but we are loving, sharing, affirming, building up and teaching. And along the way, maybe...just maybe, someone will ask a question, build a relationship or wonder what's different.

This program has really got me thinking a lot about the "church"- and I don't mean the one you might attend. I'm talking about the body of believers. So often we expect lost, hurting or unchurched people to find their way to us...and maybe instead we need to be finding our way to them. Just a thought I am chewing on right now. I'm not sure the church has been as affective reaching out as we could be and I'm wondering if it's not because we have always had an alterior motive...that in reaching out...they will come in to our church. Maybe our goal should really be that in reaching out...we leave the comfort of our churches and go into the streets, neighborhoods and schools and just act like Jesus. Wonder what would happen then?

Life I said, I don't have all this sorted out in my head or heart yet. All I know, is the more I work out in the community the more my heart cries for more strategic ways of reaching others with the sweet message of Christ.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Meeting with a Mentor and the Power of Words

Today Bruce and I had dinner with his almost life-long mentor. It's amazing to see a man in his 60's who has lived the majority of his life in ministry, still loving it. Oh- He doesn't leave you thinking there haven't been ups and downs. On the contrary, he is brutally honest about hurt, failures, hope and dreams. I watched as the two men interacted. I saw one older man breathing life, encouragement and wisdom into a younger, slightly discouraged, seeking man and I saw something- the power of words.

It's something that I have been dealing with recently anyway. In just a short hour I watched this older man speak to Bruce in a way that helped him sort his feelings out and encourage him. I watched Bruce's eyes well up once as this mentor/friend said kind and affirming things. I saw Bruce's shoulders go from slouched to straightened. I watched him leave a more confident man.

The power of our words, whether spoken to someone or about someone is unmistakably the strongest controlable force we obtain. I have heard and participated in careless words that did nothing to edify and build up the body of Christ. Shame on me! I have watched as someone's face went from glad to sad in just seconds because of the power of words. From sarcasm, gossip, empty promises and slander, to truth, compliments, kindness and thankfulness- our words have the power to build or tear down.

I guess as I watched Bruce's demeanor change today, I was reminded of how little it takes to build up another person. Mostly it takes listening to the person and hearing what they really want you to hear. Bruce's mentor did that today.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Whirlwind of a Week

Thankfully this week is coming to a close. Ever had one of those horrible, terrible, no good, very bad days? Try a week of them and let me know how you're doing! I'm glad tomorrow begins a brand new week. It won't erase the pain of last Monday. In fact, that's sort of the oddity of God's sovereinty. I am confident, God has everything sorted out about the hundreds or more people who have pain because of Logan's death. God's big enough to handle our tears, our questions, our worries, our emptiness, our lack of faith, our anger. In fact, he says to bring your burdens to Him and He will give you rest. Rest. -Something that hasn't come easy to me these past few days. In the sorrow I find comfort only in the fact that Logan Matak knew Jesus. Much more often are the questions, the sadness, the empathy for his family, the sadness for his friends. I go from laughing about Logan's silliness to crying because life was taken so early. I rejoice in the impact his life and death had on others for the cause of Christ, and I turn around and in the same breath of joy, hold back tears of grief because of the emptiness his death leaves in so many lives.

My randomness will soon return to normalcy. In time to come, things will get easier and there will be more joy than sadness. For his parents, my prayer is they find strength and comfort in the many hands and feet of Jesus that surround them, that the body of Christ will step up to the challenging task of bearing one another's burdens and that the community will know and love Jesus more- not less- because of this circumstance.