Thursday, December 31, 2009

I don't like New Years Resolutions


I have a few pet peeves. I hate to even write them because I think that by making them known it alienates others and leaves them uneasy in interactions with me. Of course, I'm sure I'm thinking too highly of myself here and now one CARES what I think about them, they aren't going to change because I don't like a particular word or mannerism.

Of course, I DO care and if I know you hate nuts or the certain words or actions, I'll be painstakingly sure I'll never be offensive in those ways around you. It's a horrible trait: To be a people pleaser.

There are some things I don't like, and I KNOW that most people do them and aren't going to stop because I don't like it! One is the twitter-speak/text abbreviations. I don't mind certain things like IDK, FWIW, IMO, that type of thing. I dislike the "How r u doin hope ur doin ok" type of thing. It just bugs me! Misspellings bug me and I KNOW I also mistype and misspell words and I know that not everyone spells perfectly and it means nothing. I'd rather have a friend send me an email filled with misspellings and even text-speak than not at all. I'm just sayin' that I do find in less preferable.

I can't believe I admitted it.

One thing that I dislike and I have to deal with every year at this time is New Years Resolutions. It's a universally accepted thing to personally and publicly make goals and I suppose I'm a person that doesn't like setting goals because I don't like to fail.

It's interesting because I'm married to a guy that has goals and keeps them. He has short term, 5 year and 10 year goals... and he fulfills them. The things he sets his mind to he accomplishes. I love that about him and yet feel like he's special. People like me aren't like that.

Lately I've been reading some good blogs and they somehow lately have been addressing topics I don't wish to think about. Goals, life, not wasting life, experience, adventure, making life meaningful and rich and with no regrets.

So I ask you, what would it mean to live a life with no regrets? Is it possible? Will you look back at some point of your life wishing you'd done more? Risked more? Participated more?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gabriel The Elf


It has come to my attention that not everyone has their own personal elf.

Last year, a sweet, cute, perpetually jolly elf came to join us in creating a new family tradition. It came in a package with an elf reminiscent of an older era, and a book that explains how Santa knows if all the boys and girls are being naughty or nice. Santa's secret weapon? Spies. Little elf spies.

Of course, my kids don't view Gabriel as a spy; he's a trusted friend. They eagerly await his arrival and we read the book about Gabriel. In the book it is explained that families have elves that watch over us and then at night report back to Santa. He can relay messages, so my kids all go up to Gabriel and excitedly tell him "The List" of what they want. I'm not sure I'm a fan of this because it enables my kids to change their minds on what they want Santa to get them. It all worked out this year.

There are a few elf rules: He can't talk, but we can talk to him. No one can touch him or he'll lose his magic, and he leaves on Christmas Eve and will not come back again until Dec. 1st of the following year.

The best part of the elf? Every morning, after he reports to Santa, he flys to a new part of the house to observe. My kids love to get up and hunt for the elf. The laughter can be heard every morning as they are delighted with some of Gabriel's hiding places!

This Christmas has been absolutely magical on so many levels. My kids received gifts they wanted but did not expect. I have a 5 and a 6 year old in the house and it's the sweetest, cutest thing ever! The delight in the tree, the lights, setting out cookies and milk for Santa, carrots for his reindeer.... it was just amazingly cute.

I've much more to say but wanted to say that I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! In the words of Charles Dickens,

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Simple Act



Christmas is touted as a season of giving. We're always supposed to be "giving" and I know that; but there's something special about Christmas. My family tries to be generous of our time and money at Christmas. Sometimes I think I do "more" stuff like that just because I have kids to be an example to. (I know, not a great motivation!) So, when there are opportunities I like to engage in them.

Yesterday was one of them.

My church gathered a small group of mostly kids to go to a nursing home and sing Christmas Carols to the residents. When I was in jr. high my church would also do such things and I do remember that it touched them so much! Some of these people won't see their family and don't see many kids. I knew it would be a blessing to them.

I set aside one of Katie's best Christmas dresses, a red old-fashioned one with smocking and a bow in back. I paired it with white stockings and shiny black patent leather mary jane shoes. For her hair, I tightly banded two little pigtails, topped with HUGE bows. I personally prefer medium sized bows; these were really big! (texas-sized a friend of mine jokes) But they were white and matched and she looked really cute. She easily could've been a child from the 1920's or 1930'. Or anytime. She was classic.

It was all deliberate; I wanted to dress her up. I thought the old men and ladies would appreciate it. I also wanted to attend this event because people love little kids and Katie is little. I knew she's not be able to read the verses to all the songs. Perhaps her sole "worth" was just her smile and being cute.

She WAS cute! I love my kids. My boys were singing and looking at their songsheet. They were focused. Katie was unencumbered by a paper with words so she looked out to the audience, sang her heart out to them. At least the songs she knew. If she did not know the song, she jingled her bells, put her hands high in the air, danced a bit, and did a large amount of jumping up and down!

Not perfect, conformed behaviour? It was priceless. It was worthwhile. It was joyful!

The residents loved the carols, loved the kids. Afterwards some of the older kids that weren't too afraid went out to the audience and touched them, held their hands, said Merry Christmas. A small gesture of kindness but it meant so much to these precious people! Katie received so many hugs and she wasn't afraid of them. It made me happy, seeing her interact with others. The joy on their faces, the laughter, it was all indescribable. I was happy to share my little girl with them and happy that she was so comfortable.

Later we went to some rooms of those that couldn't move around to go to the meeting room to hear the carols. Many of these folks had trakes and were hooked up to various machines. One wanted Katie to draw nearer and she did, but later told me she was afraid of the noise. (of the machines) My wise friend Kim lovingly, gently explained to her that the noises were a good thing and that the machines were working and helping the person in the bed.

At the end, I could tell that my kids were tired. (for Katie I'm sure it had to do with all the jumping up and down she did in the songs!) It was all greatly rewarded to her, not just in the joy of helping bring joy to others (which is the proper reason we adults do things) but because she was given cookies and juice at the end. (2 cookies!) It was a highlight. I know when she's older seeing and knowing the joy she gave to others will be important but right now I'm happy for this little exposure to life and how well and comfortable she was. It brought tears to my eyes, seeing what an impact my church kids were to them.. Not just Katie or my other kids but ALL the kids!

I will definitely make it a point to go back next year. It was so simple; just taking time out to sing a few carols. In a different setting I'd probably be trying to calm Katie down, telling her not to jump around, stand up straight, etc. but it was in her natural kid demeanor that made her so endearing to the audience. Had she not been herself, it wouldn't have been as precious as it was. (it also helps that she's just 5)

I know this is s rambling post but I just wanted to express my happiness that my church invited all who wanted to attend to be a part of this. It was worthwhile and was a meaningful addition to Christmas for my family. I'm just so thankful I was there, and my kids were a part of it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Discovering Christmas


Already, this has been a really wonderful Christmas, and a huge part of it has been the excitement and wonder. Even before December (and how can it be that it is already December 17th?) I began reading quite a few books about Christmas and the birth of Christ. One was a compilation by various authors, O Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. In it are a selections from a few favorite authors, including Timothy Keller. Many of the contributions were meaningful to me, but one that I read first really made me think in a way I hadn't before. It was written by Martin Luther.

As you know, Martin Luther is credited for starting the Protestant Reformation. He protested the status quo of the Roman Catholic church when he nailed the 95 theses to the door. (Okay, I have to say here that I'm fascinated by Luther, the Reformation and the entire early history of the church)

In the past I've only read about him; I've never read his writings. Martin Luther is amazing! I loved reading his chapter in this book. It was on Mary. Growing up non-denominational protestant, I'd never thought much about Mary. The emphasis was always on Christ. Jesus was revered, not Mary. Luther wasn't saying otherwise but he painted a beautiful picture of the Maiden Mary, slightly speculative, but compelling and beautiful at the same time. I guess I'd expected something dry, something concrete and though he did provide that, this concrete truth came with the nuances of a story, speculating Mary's thoughts. I found that his writings were a joy to read.

In this chapter I read he ended with, "Truly it is marvelous in our eyes that God should place a little child in the lap of a virgin and that all our blessedness should lie in him. And this Child belongs to all mankind. God feeds the world through a Babe nursing at Mary's breast. This must be out daily exercise: to be transformed into Christ, being nourished by this food. Then will the heart be suffused with all joy and will be strong and confident against every assault. "

Monday, December 7, 2009

To The Hills


I'm really enjoying a new album I recently purchased. The band is Leeland, and my friend Tracey recommended their album, Opposite Way, several months ago but I failed to pursue it. Last week their new album, Love Is On The Move was on sale via MP3 download through Amazon for 5 dollars and I bought it...... I love it. Really, love it and now I have to get Opposite Way too!

The funny thing is that there's a part of me that loves art in most forms. I've never been an artist but I appreciate it. I love experimenting with my camera but I've never claimed that as "art"..... just playing. I've spent about 13 years either in symphonic bands, ensembles or private lessons playing flute. I love music. (can't sing at all though!) The other day I was at a friends house and she had music note flash cards. I could correctly finger the note on flute before I could verbalize the actual name of the note...... it's just so ingrained in my mind. I almost miss it, yet in the past 10 years I've deemed art as not that important.

So imagine my surprise that I'm being so touched lately by art! I see things more clearly; truth hits me harder through artistic mediums of creative stories, music and poetry. Here's the lyrics to Leeland's song Lift Your Eyes Up. Love the words; such a great reminder.

Lift Your Eyes Up

Feels like your world's crashing down and solid ground is hard to be felt
It feels like the walls are closing
And then night has fallen and the sun is gone
Your heart is dry, you need sometime to find God

Come on, come on, lift your eyes up
Lift your eyes up to the hills

Even in the testing fire God supplies every need in your life
And He'll come like the morning star and wipe away your hurts, fears
And the dark will fall and the light will shine
It's all alright with God here

Come on, come on, lift your eyes up
Lift your eyes up to the hills
Come on, come on, lift your eyes up
Lift your eyes up to the hills

Here the sun it will shine, it's a holiday

It's a brighter day for you
The sun it will shine, it's a holiday
It's a brighter day for you

Come on, come on, lift your eyes up

Come on, come on
Come on, come on
Come on, come on
Come on, come on, yeah

Come on, come on, lift your eyes up
Lift your eyes up to the hills
Come on, come on, lift your eyes up
Lift your eyes up to the hills

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Theology of Santa


Santa came to my church today. I wish I had my real camera! He was instantly recognizable; everyone knows what St. Nicholas looks like! And he did; he was! Kind yet penetrating blue eyes, white beard, red shirt, old fashioned glasses. He was indeed Santa and he was at MY church!

Katie was the first child to see him. All by herself she timidly went up to him, told him all she wanted. Then she went and got her brother and her friends to shyly show him Santa.

My 10 year old, Conor, has only stopped believing 2 years ago. He's "figured it out" that it's not true yet is true in other ways. He also went and spoke to Santa. He says he's a firm believer. He believes yet he knows it's not true. (at least I'm pretty sure he knows it's not true!) In the car today he asked why rich kids get better presents than other kids.

Reid is 6 and a skeptic... he has a lot of questions, all quite logical. How can Santa make all that toys? How can a sleigh fly with reindeer? How can Santa go to EVERY house? How can he fit down the chimney? Yet, seeing Santa this morning, he went right up and told him his (rather lengthy) list. He wants to believe. Sometimes does but then goes through all the reasons he can't. (BTW, Reid's the baby crying in both the photos)



I bring this up because I wonder.... when it come to Creation.... what is true and what is "right" for a Christian to believe? I don't want to "know" it's not true but believe anyways. That seems so wrong.

For me, If I don't believe that the Creation story is real, then why should I believe that everything else the Bible says is real too?

It's a hard one. To say that the creation story is true doesn't seem to be credible in this day and age where science casts so much doubt, yet to admit that the creation story is not credible opens the door to if the whole Bible is credible.

I know that faith is believing even when we can't make sense or see something, and yet, I don't want to be a person that knows that it may be untrue but believing anyways because I'm supposed to or because that is what faith is. There's a wonderful line in Miracle on 34th street that I recall. It states " Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to."

Sometimes I wonder if others view my faith in Christ as shallow as they do faith in something like Santa or the tooth fairy. We claim the Bible as our authority and yet doesn't that hinge on it's being true?

What do you think? About Santa? About Creation? About truth and faith?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December


It's December.... it's not even the first week quite yet and I already feel behind! Today I want to the Women's Christmas Luncheon. It was a very nicely planned event. This is just the beginning of a very busy month. I'll go to my inlaws tonight, next week Katie has a Daisy Scout community outreach singing to Senior Citizens somewhere. Then the Christmas Run at my inlaws again, a Christmas party with my side of the family, several more Christmas parties.... it's a lot.

Did I mention I've barely gotten any presents yet? I haven't even taken a photo yet for my Christmas cards.

How about you? Are you busy and swamped or joyfully, fully embracing this wonderful time of anticipation?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Impossible Union


Men’s curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint -
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood is
Incarnation.
Here the impossible union
Of spheres of existence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled.
-T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets (1943)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Favorites


I've nothing to say so I thought this would be a fun time to ask you what your favorite Christmas songs are and if you have a favorite artist or version.
What's your favorite Christmas Movies?

Personally, I've not listened to much Christmas music this year yet but I know I adore Downhere's How Many Kings.
I've a soft spot of O Come All Ye Faithful and O Holy Night, but I like several Christmas Hymns/carols.

For Movies, It's A Wonderful Life is DEFINITELY my favorite but I like many of the "old" Christmas movies. I'll have to see them again before I list them though!

How about you?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Little Things


Things are quite different this year than last. I'm not sure it's a good or a bad thing. Last year and in years prior, I'd have purchased new outfits for Thanksgiving for my kids weeks in advance. They'd coordinate nicely and I'd have laid them out days before the big day. This year I'd no idea what my kids would wear until that morning! They did not coordinate. Katie wore a simple skirt and shirt, that was adorable but something that she's had in the closet for months.

The day after Thanksgiving is my day. My inlaws bring out the tree and boxes of decorations. My kids delight in decorating the tree. Normally, I do spend quite a bit of thought in what my kids will be wearing for this event; inasmuch as they love to decorate the tree, to me it's all about the photo opportunity.

Yet, once again, I'd not planned this. I "allowed" Katie to choose her own dress and she chose one at the very back of her closet that still had tags attached. It was a 3T. She now wears a 5, sometimes a 4. Not a 3. I tried it on her. It was short. I liked it short. She decided she was a "Peppermint Fairy" since the white tulle dress had a cranberry red sash. I said yes, indeed, she was a peppermint fairy. She then wanted to wear her tap shoes. Sure, we were only going to the grandparents house.

Normally, I'm a bit set about what I wish my child to wear but it was fun saying "yes". (besides, I had a feeling the too-small white dress would photograph well)

In the past I bought my little girl way too many clothes. I spent way too much money on her. The past several months I've spent nothing. (I haven't needed to; she still has way too many clothes)

I feel freedom. Freedom to not feel I "have" to have buy the latest beautiful dress for my child. Freedom to see that she's beautiful no matter what she wears. Freedom to allow her to choose her outfits and feel good about her choosing her outfits. It was just a wonderful experience.

The pictures are beautiful too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tradition



It's December 1st!

What Christmas traditions do you value to celebrate this beautiful time of year?

I'd love to know!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Reset


I want a reset button. Wouldn't that be nice? To start with a clean slate? To be perfect again and not have any blemish until, well, until the inevitable mistake is made!

A part of me wonders of the abuse that would be made if there was a year where things were "reset" and all things started afresh. Like one's credit card. Would people spend like crazy knowing that their debts would be canceled? If there was no consequences to our actions would we behave differently? If you knew that you'd be forgiven no matter what, would you be even more tempted to sin and make mistakes if there were no long term effects?

A friend of mine had weight loss surgery. She was pretty big prior and now she's tiny. I looked at her the other day, completely envious. In a way, it's not fair. How come one has to be severely overweight to be rewarded by getting thin more easily? I know; she did a lot of work. She exercised, she ate less but she had help. In a way I think of it as an unfair advantage and she was rewarded for being big. There is no weight loss help for a person that is heavy in a "normal" range. I know there was a price to be paid for her decision to have surgery but in less than 8 months she's lost 120 pounds! I just want to lose 30 and it's not working.

She now says that since she's at her goal weight, here's to a life of healthy eating and exercise. I want the same thing: To easily "reset" myself to an acceptable, happy weight. I know that if i magically lost 30 pounds in a month, I'd be able to maintain that loss. It's getting there that is the hard part for me.

And while we're at it, I'd love a reset button with my kids. To take back all the harsh words and have them not have any lasting impact on them and no guilt over what I said. I want all those library books that were overdue to experience something like the biblical jubilee days where all debts are forgiven. Or all the other things that I look back on and wonder: why did I do that?

It just seems that sometimes things just grow too big and too overwhelming to control, and wouldn't it be nice to just start anew? Sometimes it seems the demolition is the hardest part. All the debris and rubble that one has to sift though, clear out, get rid of, to finally start right again.

How about you? Do you wish there was a reset button? Is reset the same as restore or is it different?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What to do?


It's the weekend of Thanksgiving and the last 2 days have been so hectic that we really don't want to do much, yet want to do SOMETHING. We're tired of driving, so David doesn't wish to go to surfing today. We're saving money so there's not a lot of extra cash to do much.

The big question: What do do? To make it even more complicated: What to do with 3 kids?

Thanksgiving was great; spending lots of time with family on Thursday and Friday. Thursday for turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, salad, pumpkin pie, persimmon pudding and something else. Earlier in the day David and Conor went out on a long mountain bike ride in demo forest. They had a great time and I think this will become a Thanksgiving tradition. Friday to decorate the tree and have multiple bowls of steaming tortilla soup. It was perfect; a stormy day, fires in the fireplace, beautiful tree to decorate and 3 excited kids!

Today our extended family is traveling home to Portland, and my family is having a lazy day. David observed that "Laziness begets laziness" and it seems true. I have one child camped with a blanket atop a heating vent, watching Mickey's Clubhouse, one playing on a flight simulator on our ancient PC, and the other quietly playing with Legos.

Not for long! Davids on the phone, calling up friends, inviting them to go to to the coffee shop for hot chocolate (or real coffee) We have a set of bocce balls and thinking about exploring a new bocce ball court that is nearby. We're still contemplating a hike or other fun things to do. I'm sure the kids will plead for David to put up the Christmas lights on the house, and I'll make my bare bones list of what to buy, what to make, and what to give to friends and family for Christmas. Oh, I also need to take photos of my kids for our Christmas Card but I don't have clothes for them yet. Hmmmm what to do?

What about you? What are your plans for the weekend after Thanksgiving?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


It's nearly thanksgiving. My daughter emerged from her kindergarten class Tuesday wearing a pilgrim's bonnet her class made out of construction paper. It was pink. Somehow I don't picture pilgrims wearing pink but it made her very happy. The boys in her class wore a typical pilgrim's tophat with the prerequisite gold buckle. The other class were all indians, with an indian headdress of construction "feathers" and a fringed vest made out of a brown grocery bag. I think she secretly wanted to be an indian but the pink bonnet was pretty cool too.


This morning was similar to most mornings, except David was off work! He and Conor awoke early to go for a mountain bike ride, and not just an easy ride, a nice challenging one! Still, not challenging enough for David who is already planning on either going for another ride later or a run. I'm sure they will have a wonderful time; my 10 year old has really been looking forward to this. I awoke a bit later but they were still around, the aroma of eggs and toast in the air and the garage door open as they were putting more air in their tires and other little last minute preparations for this rather chilly bike ride.

After catching a glimpse of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, Katie figured out that today was Thanksgiving and joyfully stated shouting, "Thanksgiving! I love Thanksgiving! When are we going to Grandpa and Grandmas?" She even joyfully put her hands up as in victory. THANKSGIVING!

I received a note on Facebook from a friend thanking my family for our friendship. Also on Facebook I've read so many thankful posts. Some cited things that they were thankful for that I'm not sure in the past they would have been so acutely aware of it to be thankful. Things like employment; a gratefulness to have a job and food; a home. Basic things.

Indeed; I am quite thankful for so much. A wonderful reminder of gratitude. Spending time with family, enjoying the abundance of great food and drink. (I'm bringing my own diet Coke) Truly this is going to be a special day!

Our Thanksgiving agenda? Besides the bike ride David and Conor are embarking on as I type this, we'll go to my inlaws home up in the mountains. It's truly a special place. The air is crisp, trees so green. They'll be a fire in both fireplaces and the table will be set in a creative, lovely, absolutely perfect way, for 14 people, perhaps more! Lots of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, two types of stuffing (if tradition is repeated) lots of perfectly cooked vegetables and the highlight: Thanksgiving Rolls! Homemade bow-knot rolls, with an orange "icing" on top. Yum! This is a huge family tradition and will be repeated later for the Christmas Run. Of course, there'll be dessert, a homemade everything-from-scratch pumpkin pie and another dessert. Peet's coffee. I'm sure I'm forgetting something

Today we'll just enjoy family and each other. Tomorrow we'll go back to the in-laws for some more family togetherness and we'll decorate the tree and I'll take photos of the tree being decorated. We'll have the most satisfying, wonderful soup ever: My Mother (In-laws) turkey tortilla soup. Ah, it's just perfect. I love this tradition!

What are your favorite family traditions? What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Solo Christo


I don't believe in basing the decision of which church to attend based on worship styles. I know that is a huge factor for most but I've always thought it was a poor thing to base a church on. However, after church yesterday I realized that I DO have a worship style preference; and it's simplicity. I loved the acoustic worship leading of JJ Heller and her husband Dave. It was simply heartfelt, beautiful, and touching. I know we've sang these songs before at church but simply not often enough. I absolutely love what is considered "modern day hymns". The words just make me cry.

In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend, Keith Getty

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.


How Deep The Father's Love for Us by Stuart Townsend


How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocing voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that helf Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I knoww that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast inJesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
(REPEAT)

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Have Questions

This is not news for most that know me. I constantly have questions. I'm quite annoying. Really. Ask anyone. I simply have a lot of questions. Right now I have 4 in my head that I don't understand, yet the one I want to address right now is about Prayer and God's provision.

About a year ago, I read a biography called Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life. It was absolutely fascinating; I really enjoyed it and it was my first introduction to Francis Schaeffer. After reading about him, I wanted to read his books.

In his biography there were several times that he and his wife would pray for things; for God to provide in many ways, such as money, etc. Only they hardly ever announced their need. They felt to announce and tell people their need that it wasn't quite trusting God; this way they could be assured that their answer t prayer was God and all the glory went to Him.

I'm not sure I agreed with his sentiments; aren't we the "hands and feet" of Christ? Aren't we how He blesses others and provides for others? Isn't it right to let others know of our needs in the body? How can someone know if they aren't being told of a need?

I haven't a clue, actually. I don't feel it is wrong to alert others of a need or have them pray for a specific thing or outcome; yet I do know in my own life I don't fully give God the glory as when something happens without my telling others of the need. For me, by not telling that is total reliance on God and it's amazing what happens out of it. I know for myself I have a tendency to take charge of my problems, work on fixing them it my way without relying or being open to God's way. Or I want someone else to fix my problems.

How much of things are WE supposed to do and fight for and at what point do we resort to silence before God? How much of something is OUR will and how much is GOD'S will? How can we know the difference?

At church last Sunday my pastor talked about money, just a bit. He's an actor and reprised his role of "Pastor Fakker" Oh, it was funny. He quoted the "verse" God helps those who help themselves" and there was much laughter. Yet.... I think we are all so guilty of that.

I don't think it's wrong to rely on others or do fight for things we want and feel we need to do, but I wonder.... how responsible are we? If God is sovereign and His will shall be accomplished anyways, what is our role? I'm not advocating fatalism or giving up or not trying; I still think that God has commanded us to work diligently, obey His commands, share the gospel, give and share with each other, provided for those that can't provide for themselves and of course pray, but I do wonder when is it, or if it is, appropriate to just relax sometimes. To pray quietly. To not reveal the need and see how God provides.

What do you think? Really; I've no idea. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Accepting Freedom



Instability is immaturity, or so I've heard. I've looked back this week and my immaturity is glaringly obvious. I proclaim total apathy and then the next day am hit with such concern and care that it physically hurts. I suppose there is a part of me that WANTS to not care but the reality is I surely do; I can't help it.

I have heard that community, like family, is sticky. With ups and downs and differences. It's how we learn; how we grow and what keeps it all so very interesting. (though I'm sure I can think of some different, more stronger words to use) I'm not too happy about this often but I see it's value; it's purpose and that it should be celebrated. It's hard to see it in that perspective at the time though!

Last night I stayed up well past midnight creating a slideshow. It was a slideshow that I was asked to help out with but declined; stating that I did not like how my photos turned out. That was partially true; I did not like my photos but another part of me was simply bitterness. I've been harboring up bitterness and unforgiveness for months, thinking I had let it go but the hurt floods back, in great detail alerting me that I'd not forgiven at all.

Yesterday I attended two sessions of the bible study in James my church offers. Why? Because I missed my morning group friends and because one of the girls brought brownies. I love brownies, but more than that, I love my friends. Had a nice time. got a little argumentative on a certain section but was quick to let it go. One thing that did jump out on me during discussion was my friends referenced the passage of Matt 18; the king who canceled the great debt of his servant yet the servant showed no such mercy and compassion to his fellow servant. Basically, how can I not forgive this ever so slight offense and my perception of injustice when Christ has forgiven me so much more! Plus, what does it really say about me and how much I love God if I refuse to forgive, even though I am commanded to forgive; and more than commanded...... simply of love. The love, gratitude and awe of a God that has forgiven me; loves me.

I'm reading an excellent book called Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller. I love to quote this guy! Oh, his books really capture my attention. Although in this quote he's referencing the idol of money, I think this is a good thing to keep in mind whenever I feel like choosing what I want over what God wants: "When you see him dying to make you his treasure, that will make him yours." When I realize the cost he bore to grant me forgiveness, how can I in turn not forgive another?

I realized that this was serious. I was allowing it in my life, without even thinking of it's ugliness; that it indeed was sin.

So last night, and I have no idea why I did this but I looked over my photos that I deemed "not good enough" and discovered I loved them; they actually had a beautiful quality to them. Not all, but some. I wondered what they'd all look like if I converted them to black and white. As I looked at the photos, saw the beauty in the people my apathy, resentment, and bitterness began to fade away. People are beautiful; my community is stunning. All of the sudden, as I am working through the photos I just started feeling happy and excited. As I chose which images to put in my project, I just felt myself relax and enjoy. Timothy Keller writes, ".... when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly."

I finally was ready to forgive; absorb the loss.... ironically in doing so, with each photo I turned to black and white, I began feeling lighter and lighter. Joy. Happiness. Delight in working on my little project. It was not for any specific project; this was just in a way therapy; with each image I played with, chose, I felt a release. This was my tangible representation of surrender; of letting go and absorbing the cost of forgiveness yet it did not feel like a grudging burden; it felt light and free.

So, I turned my photos to black and white, looked at them, liked them and then decided to put it to music. But what music? Such a hard decision. I wanted something unknown; something that was new yet "fit" in the feel and spirit of my photos. I finally chose one, organized my photos loosely around it, cut it down to a very short clip and burned a CD. I did not go to bed until after 1:30 am yet it was so worth it. This was my sacrifice of forgiveness. My peace offering. My letting go and a reminder that I let my unforgiveness and bitterness go.

Before I went to bed I played my DVD one last time and it made me so happy. This was made for me; it meant something special to me. It far surpassed just the images and song; this was my heart as well as my art. This was ME. Not a typical slideshow but this was the type of slideshow I enjoyed creating. This was done to represent forgiveness but it was also done purely for me. I did decide to offer it to share; and in doing so I felt a bit of a risk. I felt exposed. Oftentimes in my photography I create things for someone else and not always happy with the results. This project was purely for me and what I liked, so it was a bit risky. To not like my creation was in a very real way to not like me. I know I shouldn't make things so personal but that is just how I felt; this DVD was an extension of me...... and though it was scary it also felt good, and I wanted to share my art. I wanted to share a part of me. A better me; a me that felt happy and free from the bitterness.

I'm sure I'll still have to remind myself of my decision and commitment to forgive; I'm sure there'll be other things that come up that I feel slighted, but now I have a visual and a song. Just a powerful reminder that I have been forgiven much. If I fully understand the gospel, then I will find myself with unlimited forgiveness, generosity and love.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tears


I went to my James Bible study and did something I never really enjoy doing: Crying. Lots and lots of tears. I was fine through the entire study and then we went to prayer requests.

The only thing on my heart was my child's preschool Sunday School teacher, Miss Lily. Miss Lily is the most amazing person I know in my church, and that says a lot because amazing people are in abundance in my church.

I've just never encountered such a dedicated, loving, giving person. Miss Lily truly loves my child as her own; she delights in the kids in her class. It's overwhelmingly evident; truly beautiful. And my kids love her! Especially Katie; she just loves Miss Lily; talks about her during the week. Katie so looks forward to church. In fact, just last week I could not find her to leave church; turns out she decided to go back into the preschool room; she just loves her Sunday school.

And she adores Miss Lily! Last week we met Miss Lily at the grocery store. She brought an SD card filled with video to us on behalf of another friend. My kids ran to meet her, hugging her, just delighted to see her out of the context of church. It really impressed upon me the tight bond my kids have for her; and realizing that all the kids feel that way about Miss Lily.

I don't know all of Miss Lily's story, but I know her husband of over 20 years is confined to a motorized wheelchair and requires much care. She's been caring for him daily without hardly a break, as well as tirelessly serving my church in teaching preschool and a part of the prayer ministry. This touches me; to be so giving; giving at church and giving at home, in a challenging situation.

Tonight at study, my heart just was with Miss Lily and her husband. He was rushed to the hospital Tuesday morning and feared he would not live. He seemed to improve but he's still not out of the woods yet, in fact, the information I was given still seems rather grave. I'm sure tonight I looked like such a spectacle as the tears flowed down during prayer. I don't normally like to pray aloud but I was asked to pray in my small group for Miss Lily and how could I say no? It hurt and I cried and I could barely get any words out; for some reason her situation just touches me, hurts me. I'm crying now as I write this! I don't know why it affects me so much but it does.

We're studying James. Real Faith. Though we are finally just getting into chapter 2, we've learned about trials and wisdom, having joy in trials and suffering knowing that it brings us closer to God and to His glory. We've gone through subjects such as endurance and temptation, hearing and living out our faith, and true religion and what the means. I suppose when I look at Miss Lily I see Christ's love in action. True faith that serves, loves without expectation, a faith that perseveres. She truly LIVES her faith in every aspect of her life. I know she doesn't have it easy and yet she is the most joyful person I know. Joy exudes from her. She love Jesus, loves others and loves my daughter. She delights in my daughter.

I felt silly, all these tears during study. I wonder what the others thought. I suppose I don't really care. I just want to say please pray for Miss Lily's husband, Ron. Pray for Miss Lily. She's the most gracious person and there is just so much love I have for her. Please pray.

It's interesting; yesterday I was filled with apathy; tonight it's all compassion and prayer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Doctrine

I was thinking about doctrine the other day. A friend of mine was talking and she kept bringing up theology and how we don't know theology. Well, is it that we don't know theology or doctrine?

I have to say that I grew up with a keen interest in theology and doctrine. I'd spend my allowance buying books and concordances and all kinds of Bible helps. i have always had an interest in these things, but then after college it went dormant for a bit and has recently reawakened in me.

Unfortunately, I come across as argumentative and difficult. I obviously need to work on that but it seems that no one else really cares about the things I care about. In fact, as much as I see that I isolate myself through my questions, I really don't care today. I don't care at all if people like me or think I'm strange. I don't care.

I've embraced apathy. As one of my favorite 80's Christian artists once sang:

"Life unwinds like a cheap sweater, but since I gave up hope I feel a lot better." - Steve Taylor

I don't care anymore. About people. I still care about doctrine. Wait; is that even a proper doctrinal thing to say? ;-)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Foundational

Last week I went to my James study. It's a great study and normally there's about 15 people or so. It's definitely flu season because there was only 6!

None of my usual group was present; instead a eclectic group of people. Some I knew, some I'd only really met over the weekend and one that I'd hardly even said hello to.

An odd group to define "community" and yet.... it was a good study. I don't know why this surprises me, but James in many ways parallels much of what I hear about in church Sunday mornings....... probably because it's Scripture. I love that; I love seeing how it interconnects and how clear God's word can be. We looked up verses in both the Old and New Testament about caring for the poor, oppressed, widows and orphans. We looked up several verses that outlined compassion; Christ showing compassion on others through healing the sick. feeding those that were hungry, showing compassion on the helpless..... meeting real, physical needs.

There's a big push these days towards social justice... doing instead of hearing. This is good, yet I have concerns and I was pleasantly happy to hear the speaker at the retreat, as she relayed the proper "order' of things and when one gets weary to go back to the beginning; the beginning is always Scripture. I can't find my notes, but I think it was something like Knowledge, Trust. Obey. Serve... but I distinctly remember that it started with relationship and that relationship was through Scripture. (I really liked this speaker!) if one started to get discouraged in obedience, or find they are lacking in trust, to go back to scripture. Discouraged in serving? Go back to scripture.

I have long held that Scripture is so very important but many I speak to don't believe so; they think that it's about relationship and God is so personal and so relational that one doesn't need scripture to EXPERIENCE Him. I don't agree and was happy to listen to a speaker that truly loved and knew scripture, yet it wasn't merely academic; the relationship and love she had for Jesus was evident in her face, attitude, words and actions.

Back at church, it seems that this speaker has really inspired so many people to study the Bible. I think it exposed a great thirst that we women have; to study Scripture, to apply it. To dig deep and embrace Biblical truth. It's so exciting! I think that even before the retreat there were several that really were excited to study James and I think that our speaker, Julia, fueled that excitement. I spoke with a friend tonight that really would love to do BSF. (Bible Study Fellowship) I mentioned it was an 8 year course to cover all it's curriculum. She was just in awe of Julia's knowledge of both the New and Old Testament; but it all comes from study.

The James study we're doing was complied by a friend of mine. Her objective? To get women to read the Bible and not just read it but apply it. She broke down James into very small chunks; this week we went over 2 verses! We had five days of homework studying 2 verses, but during those five days we cross references things like compassion, what it means to be undefiled by the world, what opportunities exist to for us to be doers of the Word, not just hearers, a warning on not to just set up a "to do" list, examples of faith and what are the marks of true religion? It's a good study, in depth and yet accessible to all.

I'm just excited. For some, this is their first time in a "real" Bible study and they are doing the homework, even enjoying the homework. I think James is such a good, (though difficult to hear) straightforward book! He is clear and concise. No poetry. No ambiguity.

A friend of mine from another church was lamenting the fact that her Bible study isn't a real "study". I agree; it's wonderful to be in a real Bible study She said that her friends don't know much about theology; it's really not taught these days, especially to women. I think that we perhaps know more theology than we realize just by listening to the sermon and reading our Bible daily. Like I stated earlier, It surprises me how this James study coincides with the Sunday message; they tend to complement each other well. That's a good thing!

I think too often we base our faith on feeling and experience. I know that there has to be feelings and experience in faith; if it's devoid of it then it's just an academic study and there's no point in studying scripture if one isn't going to apply it and have it change them, yet I think that anyone who starts to read the Bible will soon find themselves wondering, questioning, and struck by who Christ is and what He has done and the amazing love God has for His creation. It's not just about knowing the right theology; that won't "save" a person; definitely a relationship with Christ is needed, but as we learned this weekend.... we need to know God, spend time in His presence, and that is through prayer and Scripture. The more we KNOW and spend time with God the more we love and trust God; the more we trust then we delight in serving Him. I think that too often we get in out head what we know we should DO or what our pastor says we should DO and we jump into the DOING part without first going through the KNOWING part; sitting at Christ's feet.... being in His presence, but that is where the power comes from. Where we get our endurance, power and grace to do and know His will.

I really thought this speaker was going to be all fluff. I'm so glad she disappointed me in that area! I'm really in awe that I attended the retreat. I'm so against believing that "the women that attended were the ones God chose to attend" (Yet, it's probably true, especially if I believe God is completely in control) But upon even more reflection, I'm very happy that I had this amazing opportunity to attend. I had a fun, relaxing time, learned a lot about myself and community, and really enjoyed the speaker; plus I'm just thrilled that she inspired so many women to read their Bibles, and for me, to really allow to see and embrace a God that loved me; that thinks I'm special. For some reason, I struggle with that. Indeed, I know it but this is one area where it is truly head knowledge.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Field Trip!


Today I accompanied my 10 year old on a fourth grade field trip. His class had the opportunity go travel by light rail downtown, (of course, we had to walk to the light rail station) to the Center for Performing Arts. I was assigned 6 boys and I have to say, they did an excellent job listening to me and behaving well. My son was also in my group and this gave me a chance to see how he interacts with is classmates. He's a confident, happy, leader-type person. He helped them all stay together with me, rallied them to quicken their pace, gathered them together, and his peers seemed to listen to him. He seemed to have a group he enjoyed more than others, and they were a more intellectual group but he interacted with all. I was proud of his confidence and helpfulness. He also doesn't seem to be affected by his peers; when he wanted to jump in and play tag he did so; when he was tired he opted out of tag and sat down to read a book. Except for the wiggles, he behaved very well.

We caught the train just a minute after we arrived at the train platform and boarded, I have to say, I was paranoid I'd "lose" a child but things went smoothly. We arrived at our destination, let the kids eat their snack and waited for the doors to open. We were over an hour early. That's tough on kids.

We were led into the theatre to wait again for over 30 minutes. Again, my small group did well, just quietly talking amongst themselves.. I was disappointed to realize that my iPhone was almost out of power so I turned it off. Since we were right across the street from my husband's work, I called him to see if he could charge my phone up for me. He must've been in a meeting because he did not answer. I had brought my camera and a book with me so I began reading until the house lights went down. The theatre erupted in screaming and clapping, as a lone figure stepped to the right of the stage, welcoming us and introducing what was to be shown. It was an Asian performance troupe that was going to do demonstrations in Kung Fu fighting, drums, and then a dragon at the end.

The Kung Fu fighting started it off, and the kids were immediately drawn in. After each person's demonstration, the kids really showed their delight and appreciation. A bit too much; my first thought was: "that's not what you do in a theatre!" Theatres are for polite applause, not catcalls and shrill screams. But then I thought it was good; a pure expression and response of their enjoyment. I wondered if the performers liked it and were energized by it.


The 2nd part of the Kung Fu fighting was a segment that the speaker warned us not to try this at home. This part basically showed a lone person, preparing mentally for what was to come. What was to come was not what I expected. To show that one's mental ability controlled one's physical self, the guy had another person strike him with a stick on his head and later kicked him in the crotch several times before hitting him with a stick in the same area, while doing a handstand and splitting his legs apart. All this to show his superior strength. Later, there were further demonstrations of this mental/physical strength, but it wasn't quite as violent as what I described. Later the drummers came onstage, then the drummers with the dragon and it was over. We filed out, walked over to a field to eat lunch at and I turned on my phone, tweeted, checked my email and called my husband to see if he'd like to meet us in the field for lunch. He happily did. It was a beautiful day out and just really fun watching all the kids play and interact.


After a bit of all this, we threw away our garbage, boarded the light rail train and headed home. I had a great time, very thankful that my group listened as well as they did and were just a very pleasant group of kids. I had fun chatting with Conor's teacher; we discovered we were the same age and discussed my very precocious, but disorganized, unique child. If I may say, she mentioned that his reading comprehension is incredibly high; he understands math and science concepts that are way advanced for fourth grade, but has a problem staying focused and organized. He's a bit of a daydreamer. Knows his stuff but she's working with him to fulfill his obligations. I agree with her 100%. Still, as frustrating as Conor can be, I'm thrilled with who he is and his strengths and intellect.

All in all, a good day. I survived a fourth grade field trip!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bind Us?

I did not go to "real church" last Sunday, nor did I listen to the podcast. (yet) I did hear the tail end of the pastor's message and it seemed to be a very good one. He made us do things. I normally don't like that but it was good. Hands up. Hands out. Hands together or something like that. When he instructed us to clasp one another's hand he prayed and began singing this worship chorus that I'd not sung in many years yet will never forget. I wasn't sure if he wanted us to sing with him or just listen to him sing. Those around me were not singing but perhaps they did not know the words to the song? Not sure.

Bind us together Lord
Bind us together
With cords that cannot be broken
Bind us Together Lord
Bind us together
Bind us together with love

There is only God
There is only one King
There is only one body
This is why we sing


Only, he did not sing the 2nd part. Just the Bind Us Together part.

Bind us together with love. What does that really mean to you?

Fleeting Wonder


I can't believe it's nearly mid-November. Thanksgiving is approaching. I've not even thought of it. Christmas is coming up and I have not even begun to think of Christmas. In fact, I don't know what to think of Christmas. My family doesn't need anything; my kids of course want things but they also don't need anything. We just looked at out budget and we don't have a lot of extra money for presents yet..... presents are a necessity, right? It's a way of showing love to those around us: my in-laws, family, friends. teachers. And they are so important, one wants to spend a lot of money on them.

Not this year. This year will be a simple Christmas out of necessity. I once would get so elaborate at Christmas, giving my kids so many presents to open they tired of opening them! I have learned that they don't even appreciate it if it's done in excess.

I'm trying to be creative. I know that my in-laws will appreciate creativity just as much as monetary gifts. I have my photography and David his video skills; surely we can figure out something fun and unique that they will appreciate. I know that my family appreciates time; going on outings together, cooking together, sharing meals together. My kids most oft requested things to do is to ride their bikes with David or at the BMX park.

With this in mind, I'd love some suggestions. What do you do to let you family and friends know that you cherish them at Christmastime? Do you have any inexpensive yet homemade, special projects that you do for them? I only have a month and a half left to get ready!

I know that Christmas is not just about presents; and in a way I'm happy that things are forcing me to keep it simple this year. I still believe that tis could be the best Christmas ever and share with the kids the real meaning of Christmas, not just by our words, but through our actions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Wordy Post


Words are funny. I really like words but sometimes I say a word and it sounds so...... strange! So strange to say. I wonder why words are what they are. I was talking with a friend who wondered why Adam named certain animals what they are: Giraffe. Zebra. Lemur. Ummmm..... does my friend even realize that the Bible we love and read from is translated from another language? It reminds me of some that believe the the King James Version is the only truly inspired Bible.

As I was reading through my blog posts from the other day I thought of words. I like words. My 10 year old has always had a gift for using unique words. People enjoy his vast vocabulary. It sounds so impressive. I don't speak well but I write. I enjoy writing. I also notice other's misspellings. I know I'm not immune from mistakes; I have plenty of misspellings and mistypes. I also know I misspell lots of words.

The thing that struck me funny is that I generally spell things correctly. I've always been a very good speller. So I notice misspellings and I don't correct people.

I wonder if people think that my correct spellings are incorrect? They'd be wrong, of course, but does that matter? Today at prayer my pastor remarked that opinions were like belly buttons; everyone has one. (I've heard this before..... from him) I chimed in that yeah, but some (my) opinions are always right! Everyone laughed but it's true. We all think we're right, regardless of what is truth.... and in this postmodern society, truth doesn't even really matter these days. It's all opinion and experience.

So, even though I have correctly spelled something right, does it even matter if the the person never realizes that its correct? In their mind, I'm wrong, they are right. It won't matter who is actually correct. I can definitely see why there are many different variations of "reality" in this world.

I don't know. There's a part of me that does feel I am right and yet I know that in this situation, the others will never realize that I'm right. (trust me: I'm right!) So I can live in my bitterness and cry out this injustice but does it even really matter if they never realize it?

I try to let it go.... but then I become insistent: Why should I "let it go" when I'm the right one here? Yet it's destroying me. Even though the truth and reality is that I'm right. (In My Opinion, but I truly am!)

Words are funny. Words are harsh. They can lead to understanding and confusion at the same time. They can hurt, they can heal. Words are powerful and a good reminder to watch what I type. And say.

(Photo taken by my 5 year old daughter)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Retreat Revelations Part 2


I've read so many books about community. I hear stories of community and I so long for something more. I want to be a part of a group that really, deeply loves each others, shares meals and family together. Enjoys each other and knows each other.

I have concluded that in this area it's impossible. We simply don't have time to get to know each other. There are so many demands on our time: Family, friends, kids activities, homework, grocery shopping, laundry, dinner preparation, even church can sometimes get in the way.

I love my church but have to say that even though prayer is always offered, after church is not a conducive time for community and being open. I was reading a book about internet church and most of the objections about the church online are objections that may not be obvious in "real life" church but are indeed present.

One such concept is masks. It's really easy, accepted and perhaps even assumed, that people aren't really who they appear to be online. Likewise, I think that people also wear masks in "real church"..... yet I wonder at times if it's deliberate; I wonder if it's just not a conducive place to be "real" and open.

When I was in jr. high I was part of a drama team. We did a sketch about going to church. A typical family headed to church. The mom and dad fighting, kids in the back fighting as well. Actually, my bible study leader shared this VIDEO from the Desiring God website with us last year; It's about James 3 and it just hits me.

Why is it that the ride to church can sometimes be so difficult? Unkind words? Short tempers? Some would blame satan; I don't know that to think of that. I just know that it's so easy to be so wrapped up in getting out the door that one doesn't behave very Christ-like on the way to praise Christ! How can this be? It's not a common occurrence in our house but I bet most families have experienced the same at least once. And once at church, do you plaster a smile on your face and pretend everything is great? Or is one supposed to pray, put it behind you and focus on God, but again, never acknowledge the struggle? There was one time I freely admitted a difficulty in getting to church, my frustration with my family. The other couple looked at me with pity and horror; I think they put me on Marriage Watch, certain mine was in trouble, needing intervention at any time.

I don't want to wear masks to church; I want to be open yet I don't think it's wrong to be selective in what and who one shares with. I wonder at times if that is considered cliquish. I wonder if it's okay to share only a certain side to most people, and yet the truth is not everyone cares. Not everyone wants to know of one's struggles.

This weekend was a wonderful weekend but I realized that there is no perfect community. People like who they like; are drawn to some more than others. It's just how it is. I am quite foolish to expect much more than this. So, knowing this; that most of the people that one sees only on Sundays at church are people one will only see on Sunday, is it wrong to be selective or wear a mask?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Retreat Revelations Part 1

I had a difficult time getting to the retreat center. I don't like driving alone, especially in the dark and in the rain yet with the help of a solid hour of U2 songs and my map application on my iPhone, I made it there without any big problems. My problems arrived once I entered the retreat center.

It's a simple thing. Finding a place to park. I could not. I'm not one to utter prayers for parking spaces. There were a few by the registration area that were 10 minute spots but they were full. Finally, my 4th drive around the whole place, a few of these interim spots were vacant and I went inside to register. I was still not too happy, and even less happy when they informed me of where I was staying and the parking lot to that area. I had circled around that very spot several times. I knew with certainty there were NO SPOTS in that location. I mentioned that. The attendant feigned empathy but cheerfully told me I could park elsewhere. I trudged out. I KNEW there were so few spots open that were remotely near this area. I wanted to just flee. To run home but it's over an hour away, and I was here. I needed to stay.

I found a spot. Not incredibly near my room but I was grudgingly thankful and made my way straight to the dining hall, lest I miss dinner. Keep in mind I'd never been here and had never been on a retreat with this church. (my church) I enter and look out on a sea of people, but none I recognized. There was no attendant to assist me. I stood for nearly a minute, surveying the groups of diners and finally, feeling foolish just standing there but not knowing what to do, I walked out. The tears began to fall and I so wanted to leave and go home; but knew I could not. I could hear the waves of the ocean and moved down the path in that direction, tears falling, thinking of my inability to be bold and confident. I then heard my name being called. It was my roommate, wondering where I was going. I foolishly felt rescued, and journeyed back with her, grateful it was dark as I wiped away my tears. Turns out that they were situated at tables in a corner so I could not see them when I arrived yet they could see me as I walked down the path away from the dining area. I was happy to be with the group but still couldn't shake this feeling of not being wanted and not fitting in, even though I truly was surrounded by friends.

Dinner was fine. My roomie and I missed the icebreaker portion of the evening since we were hiking a vast distance to my van and back to get my luggage. The room and bed were quite small but i have a deep love for wood and older buildings. I loved the large windows, and just the charm that this place had. I was happy with the accommodations. The only thing I sorely missed was internet access but even that was fine since I had my phone.

Worship began and it was beautifully led. I wanted to take photos. I wasn't asked to, but I wanted to and one made me feel that my photos were distracting. It hurt. So I did what any overly sensitive, people-pleasing person would do: I went and sulked at the back of the room, thankful for darkness, as I once again cried. And then just got defensive. So nothing would reach me; I allowed nothing in. The songs were moving, yet I found them to be too emotional; too touchy feel-y. They were bonding and agreeing and I could not bond and agree. If anything, my posture, attitude, outlook, was all of defiance. I am NOT one of them. I was not part of this group. I was either the photographer and therefore not expected to be "in" or I was just not "womanly" enough to be "in". I realized I did not want to be womanly enough to fit in.

And then it hit me. I get upset because I feel isolated; feel "out" and yet I am the first one to bring about the separation. My declaration of I Am Different and I am Not Like You nor do I wish to be. Then others respond accordingly and I lament the fact that I am not included and don't fit in.

It makes no sense, does it?

So..... you think that by this realization things would be great the rest of the retreat for me, but nope. I am stubborn. I do not learn lessons quickly. I'm at this point still in self pity over the fact I'm not taking pictures, sill enjoying the bitterness so I don't allow the songs to touch me. As I said before, I critically deem them as too emotional, women-oriented. The worship leader prays, a powerful prayer that would touch me if I let it. I don't let it. Then the speaker is introduced in such a way that it again turns me off. It was such a stern: She coms with great credentials but her real credential is she was called by God to speak to us. So you better listen or else" was what I heard. Of course, no command was actually given but it was my interpretation.

So, Julia began to speak. I immediately admitted she was good but she'd shown a video of a little girl, a girly-girl with the words "My daughter...... I love you.... you are the apple of my eye....... blah blah blah" and again, I just shut down. It was too emotional. Too reminiscent of Captivating. I expected the speaker to be the same way.

I was wrong, but it still took me a while to give her my full attention. I knew instantly she was a very good speaker. I knew instantly that had a heart for God. Yet I still struggled not to listen. A friend of mine not at the retreat sent me a message: How's the retreat? How's the speaker?

Too Cute. Too Skinny. Too Perfect.... was my reply. Indeed, she was. I really thought her and I had nothing in common. Knowing where she lived concluded she was quite well off financially. She seemed to have a perfect life. She was engaging, fun and beautiful. So skinny. A leader in her church and community. Well liked. I thought she had no hardships. I would later find out I was wrong; she'd endured many hardships, yet that was never what her message was about.

Long story short, there were so many little things said that echoed my own private questions. I was reading a book that paralleled much of what she was saying, so even though I might somehow be able to discount what she was saying about a God that loves us and is so very close to us, I could not discount this from this book, Counterfeit Gods, written by a favorite author. So I began to take better notice, and reflected back to all the things Julia had said that I tried so hard not to listen to, which enabled me to begin listening more intently to the rest of the night. It was good. Later, in discussion with a group, it came out that Julia (the speaker) and I knew quite a few of the same people. I have friends very involved in BSF ands she taught at the same church I had attended for years in College and after I married. It was fun making those connections and I was sad I had "shunned" her in my mind the whole trip. It turned out that though she was Too Skinny, Too Cute and Too Perfect, she still seemed to enjoy chatting even with people like me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cause Or Allow?


I love my kids. They see such wonder and excitement in everything; it's truly thrilling being around them, hearing their conversations and outlook on life. God is such a part of their lives right now, and Katie and Reid have some interesting, thought provoking conversations. (actually they sound like an old married bickering couple!) Oh, they debate back and forth. Katie calls things "God's World." It's really hard at times to figure out if she's referring to Heaven or here on Earth. For her, there really is No Line On The Horizon; no differentiation between Heaven and Earth..... and yet, there is. It's really hard for me to understand her thoughts and questions; they are so fluid. Sometimes they make sense. Sometimes they really don't!

Some examples: Katie asked if the manholes in the street were doors to "God's World". Interesting; I'd never have thought that God lived DOWN..... God lives UP; in the Heavens, right? Hmmmm.... something to think about. Reid and Katie argue about where God lives: In our heart? In Heaven? On Earth? Is he all around us? is he only in Church? Is He in the bathroom with us? Is He around always? Is He invisible? When we're bad does He go away? They go back and forth, arguing. (and yes, it truly is an argument! There is no subtlety!)

Then Conor, my 10 year old gets into the discussion. He's the authority on All Things. (at least in his mind) Classic older brother. He tries to set them straight. They listen to him. Usually.

In the car the other day Katie asked if God made candy. (it's after hallowe'en after all) Reid said no. Stores make candy. They aske me. Well......I say God did not make candy, but he made the ingredients and all the things necessary for us to make candy. But man made the candy that she was eating. To this Conor disagreed; Surely God made candy; God is in control of All. He made the people that made the candy. He made the trees, plants, and all the things that go into candy. He gave the person the idea to make the candy and the creativity to name it and the senses to taste it. God made candy.

Oh my! God is in complete control. I've a little Calvinist on my hands. I like it!

It's truly a matter of perspective I suppose. Conor is right; God makes everything. But then one gets a little older and sees things that aren't so warm and fuzzy. Does God make atomic bombs? Did he make guns? Did God create cancer? And mental illness? He gives us the tools to create and think and form; Is he still in control of what we do with what's been given to us?

What do you think? Does God cause things to happen or does He allow things to happen? I've been studying this in Bible study and yet, it's still a question of mine. I thought I knew the answer and then in Study yesterday got all confused again! I've asked my pastor. He gave me an interesting response to mull over. I'll post it perhaps another day. (with his permission, of course) But for now, I'd love to hear your input.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Retreat!

I don't like retreats. I even think the name is funny. Because when I think retreat I think to run away from. Run away from a retreat! But I suppose others are retreating TO a retreat. Plus, it has the word "treat" in it and I don't consider it a treat..... and it's too close to the word "retweet" which is kinda like forwarding a tweet. (twitter message)

Regardless, I'm going on a women's retreat with my church this weekend. It's last minute; I'm taking someone else's spot who is sick. I'm really thankful for the generosity but also a bit sad that this friend is sick. However, it's still exciting. I'm rooming with someone that I really like and would enjoy getting to know more.

I have good reason to not like retreats. It started at an early age.... when I was just 6 I went to camp. That's the equivalent to an adult retreat. It was a bad experience. Long bus rides, people throwing up, one girl showing UP to camp with the worse case of poison oak I've ever seen. (bumps on top of bumps!) It was a baptist camp, which meant a LOT of Bible verses to memorize.... and a sense of chastisement if one couldn't get it right. Bonus points for memorizing the New Testament books of the BIble. Which I did; but was too scared to go to the front and recite them. I'm still mad at myself for not being bold enough to go up there. Plus, I was 6 which meant I was pretty homesick and the camp smelled funny.

I continued to go on retreats and camps. On every winter snow retreat the van broke down. Oddly, I liked that part. I went to camp for a week and out of mere defiance brought a walkman, hidden in the bottom of a specially devised kleenex box, complete with kleenex coming out of the top. I was rather stupid I guess, because I prominently put it on the shelf next to my bunk. No other jr. higher brings kleenex to camp and yet, there is almost always tears...... so, I'm sure you can guess what happened. My kleenex box felt a bit too heavy and I was discovered. My youth pastor confiscated it, supposedly for 6 months but I never saw it again.

I've only been a part of 2 other adults women's retreats, and the first was really awful. I knew no one. I'm not even sure most knew I was a part of the church! It was very isolating and very difficult. I had such high expectations to get to know others but it never really happened. We were assigned secret pals and I love the idea of secret pals. I had my little small gifts all planned out because that is something I love. I had handmade note cards, I spoke in riddles and poetry, giving hints to who I was that she'd never realize. I lavished upon my secret pal and yet I never got up the boldness to introduce myself or meet her. The whole weekend; I never once said hello. Why? Because she was popular. Everyone seemed to love her. So, I was content leaving little notes, verses of encouragement and candy and other goodies for her enjoyment.

I left in tears. It was not a good retreat for me. In their defense, I looked awful, I couldn't speak. I did not realize it then but I had a medical condition that made my thoughts sluggish, cause me to look pale, hair falling out, and all puffy. It was not easy to have a conversation with me. I guess it was more convenient to ignore me.

But my bad story actually has a happy ending: My secret pal finally got to find out who I was. She sent me a little note saying how much she enjoyed my gifts. How thrilling that was for me! I so wanted to know if she liked them. It opened up a dialogue between us and later I read in the church bulletin of the church I attended then that she led a Bible study. I don't think I'd have just been bold enough to go to a class I had no connection with, but for some reason, knowing it was my kind secret pal that wrote a personal note of thanks to me, I thought: I can do this. I can go to her Bible study. So I did. And again, she showed me much kindness. Through her, I met the other "in" women in the church. Most were really nice. I don't know why it's so hard for me to get to know people. Because my friend accepted me, others also began accepting me. It also helped that at this time it was realized I had a thyroid problem and that was addressed and I began speaking a bit better, my hair returned to normal, I wasn't so puffy. Things were better. I braved another retreat and actually had a really good time.

So.... if I had a good time on the last retreat I went on, why am I still so scared for this retreat?

Last year at my church when I heard about the retreat I laughed. I was so against retreats! No interest at all. Of course, this was over the summer and I really (once again) hardly knew anyone. But this year, I know more people. I'm cautiously optimistic and have been assured that it's their best retreat ever. Great speaker, great facilities, location, food, fun, people. How could one go wrong?

I hope so. but I'm bringing a stack of books just in case.
And my laptop.
And my iPhone.
And my iPod.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Let Your Kingdom Come

Your glorious cause, O God, engages our hearts
May Jesus Christ be known wherever we are
We ask not for ourselves, but for Your renown
The cross has saved us so we pray
Your kingdom come

Let Your kingdom come
Let Your will be done
So that everyone might know Your Name
Let Your song be heard everywhere on earth
Till Your sovereign work on earth is done
Let Your kingdom come

Give us Your strength, O God, and courage to speak
Perform Your wondrous deeds through those who are weak
Lord use us as You want, whatever the test
By grace we’ll preach Your gospel
Till our dying breath

© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).

No Understanding

I don't get it.

There's grace. We're supposed to have great freedom and liberty in Christ. Yet we are still called to obey, right? I know that there are so many issues that are gray areas..... areas of Christian liberty that we all define differently. I know some that don't celebrate Hallowe'en. I know of friends that only listen to Christian music. I know of some that pride modesty to the point that they refuse to even go to the beach because people wear swimsuits there and he thinks that is immodest. I know there are several other controversial issues that I failed to mention.

I don't want to be legalistic and I don't want to be live in a "christian ghetto" of sanitized, christianized versions of the world. I want to engage in culture yet I wonder how to do that in a right way? I have expectations of how a "Christian" should behave but is that right? Are we all called to live a life above reproach and what does that really mean? It varies for everyone! To some it means we can't "do" anything. To others, we should be "doing" everything that outsiders do. How can there be unity when there are so many views?

That's my post for today.

Monday, November 2, 2009

In the Name of The Father.....


My son was baptized yesterday! Last month he said he learned about baptism and was thinking about it. My husband and I impressed upon him how important that was and what it meant, and in the process I think we scared him or gave him the idea we weren't in approval of it. So, he decided he had questions and until he got the answers he wouldn't be baptized. I tried to ask what were the questions, to address them but he had a hard time articulating them. Finally, this week, he decided that yes; he wanted to be baptized. He knew what it symbolized, he knew what he was doing. He was ready.

As a parent, I must say that it was thrilling watching the kids get baptized. One child could barely make eye contact with the crowd and yet she was the only one that spoke when asked if she had something to say. Her comment? "I just want let everyone know how much I love Jesus!". And it showed. The person who spoke about her said she was already the first to pray in any situation and that she was a quiet, gentle person. It was beautiful.

All the other kids were precious as well. One girl was baptized by her daddy. It was a truly tender moment; I have a picture of their embrace; her wet face smiling happily in her daddy's arms. Truly touching.

My own child's face just radiated joy. He seemed excited and so ready. He did not speak, which may have been a good thing because he can talk FOREVER. His children's pastor said that he was such an "engineer type". I'm not sure what "type" he is, but I do know that I'm glad he was baptized today.

After that they dried off, changed clothes, had the rest of their message and then they cranked the music way loud and threw so much confetti I felt like I was on a TV show or something! Wow! The kids LOVED it; so much fun and celebration. As I was walking today with a friend that saw my photos on Facebook, she commented that it looked like so much fun. Quite a difference from the solemn, sacred affair she'd done in her youth. I agreed with her; my experience was also a far cry from what transpired yesterday. A part of me is excited that it was so memorable and such a celebration, party atmosphere, and part of me wonders why it was separate from the rest of the congregation? I think that the rest of the church would've loved seeing these young kids, fervent in their faith. I think it would have been encouraging and inspiring. We talked about persecution and fruit in "big church" and I think that watching the baptism later in Kid's Church just reinforced the message to me: Fruit grows; it develops. It's exciting to see the kids in church grow in God and develop in His character. And persecution? These kids were ready; they wanted to show the world no matter what the cost that they were following Christ. They knew what they were doing, aware that they were making a decision to proclaim and follow Christ no matter what the cost. When I think of persecution I do think of other countries, but I also know that my times of greatest faith and greatest "persecution" was at school when I was a child. It saddened me a bit that the rest of church was perhaps oblivious to the kids being baptized that same morning. (though I do wonder if they heard the noise and the music afterwards! It was so loud!)

I keep reminding myself that things don't have to be the way I did it to be "right" or "valid". I was baptized in front of the whole congregation. It was a solemn experience, yet joyful at the same time. But serious. I knew what it meant. I think Conor's experience was a bit different: his experience was one of joyful celebration yet I know he knew the seriousness of what he was doing as well.

In the end, I'm happy with how it all played out. I still wish I could have shared it with the whole congregation. This was the first baptism I've seen in the last 15 years. It seems no one gets baptized anymore. (which begs the question: Does the Church welcome "unsaved" people through it's doors or are we all baptized believers already?)

I still have questions. I wonder about baptizing young kids; will Conor look back and think that he did it because his friends did it? Will he look back and think he was a child when he made that commitment and it wasn't as valid as when adults choose baptism? We are invited to have faith like a child but I know that his faith will grow and develop..... is it right to forgo baptism until one thinks they are "grown" enough? That they understand enough? If that's the case people will be getting rebaptized all the time; as God is constantly growing us, revealing things, drawing us closer. I just wonder about these things. I suppose there was a part of me that did think that Conor should wait but now I'm glad he did not. He's knows what it meant; he is serious.

It was truly a special time. I'm not sure I would have watched if it wasn't my child being baptized yet I left there feeling energized and blessed by viewing all the young kids being baptized and their stories of faith. I don't know why but it just seemed so real to me; so exciting. It totally affirmed the message that morning on persecution and evidence in one's Christian faith, and it was just exciting to see such young kids in love with Jesus, knowing that this is just the tip of the iceberg for them!

And for me.