Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Post" Modern

A little over 3 years ago my husband purchased a laptop for me. Prior to that we had an old PC that I used to organize and edit my photos and check the occasional email. That's it. I did not check out blogs. I did not even like the word "blog". I did not understand web forums or their appeal. I really only used my computer to look something up, check email, or play with my photos.

That was then. With the introduction of this beautiful MacBook Pro my life has changed. I love being able to bring "my life" with me wherever I go. When I was in jr. high and high school I'd willingly bring a backpack with me wherever I went with a book, a pen and paper, cds and a CD player.... all kinds of things. To me, my laptop, and now my iphone as well, is it's equivalent.

I am now quite accomplished at finding information, looking at various blogs, and going on various forums. Facebook and twitter have become indispensable and I no longer think I can live without an iPhone. (I'm sure I could....if i can go without diet coke I'm hopeful I'd be able to go without an iPhone. (but I do admit it would be harder; I love that thing!)

Today's title is "Post" Modern because I realize I post things without thinking. I'l learning to be better. I like discussion but do I come across as difficult? Argumentative? On FB I could have had an interesting discussion but at what cost? If someone knows me there is an understanding of who I am; but what about those reading that don't know me? I have just created an impression that may not even be quite true.

It is good to think before posting, and I'm not good at postponing posting!

Yesterday I posted a picture of my 10 year old asleep at the kitchen table. He had attended a sleepover the night before and stayed up really late. While eating his sandwich, he fell asleep at the table, his hand actually in his empty glass of milk. It was pretty cute and reminded me of when he was little; he could sleep anywhere and did fall asleep at dining room tables!

I instantly snapped a photo and uploaded it to facebook. Later when I mentioned it to Conor he wasn't happy. He did not like the idea of all his friends seeing it on facebook.

I guess I have to be a little more careful of posting things.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Picture of Me

I received another letter from Ayoko Yvette. (She goes by Yvette but Katie always calls her Ayoko) It was a wonderful "Thank you for your gift letter. I love how she always begins her letters; greeting me in the Lord with a kiss. Isn't it sweet?

Though I showered her with too many gifts and made a little photo album with my kids and some of their drawings, what Ayoko asked for was a photo of me.

It's the one thing I don't have. I'm the photographer; I'm the one always behind the camera. I like it that way for a reason! Really, there are very few photos of me and the ones that exist I don't keep.

Yet she wants a photo of me.

I think I signed up to sponsor a child through Compassion International because my church encouraged us to do so and I thought it'd be a wonderful experience for my children. And it has been; most definitely it has been! We're all very attached to our sponsor child.

In a way it would've been easier if my church family had not gone to Togo to visit the kids. Now Ayoko wants me to visit; wants to be one of the "special" children whose sponsor loved her so much she/he came to visit.

In her most recent letter she again asked when I was coming to visit. At least this letter did not seem so disappointed as the last one.

I do know that she is so loved.

Friday, February 26, 2010


I went to the library today without my kids and truly experienced the awe I once had going into a library as a child. It was awe. I think I wanted to bring home hundreds of books but settled instead for 12.

Twelve! What was I thinking? Add this to the other 12 I'd checked out previously. In just the twelve I chose today it is over 3,100 pages..... and one of the books is by Dallas Willard so his count as double.

Yet I couldn't put them back and wait for next time; I wanted the joy of having them in my arms immediately.

But what good is having 24 books in my house if I don't have the time to read them?

I guess I'll be staying up late this coming week.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Harder To Believe Than Not To.

"There is, in the end, no such thing as a simple faith." - Dennis Porter

I'm simply a strange person. At times I really doubt my faith. I wonder, if I truly understand the Gospel message, truly realize the sacrifice Christ made for me and how much God loves me to send His son to die in my place....... would that radically change every decision I make?

I'm fairly "good". I try to be obedient to the laws of the country and state I live in. I try to live "right" in accordance to scripture. I read my Bible, pray, and attend church faithfully every Sunday.

Is it enough?

The first book I ever read by Timothy Keller was The Prodigal God. In it, and I found out later he also writes a similar statement in Reason for God, "There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good."

Sometimes I wonder if it's almost harder for those that "grew up church". Being fed easy answers to problems that are anything but easy, yet we grew up hearing them so much we can recite them in our sleep.

I grew up hearing about grace and how "easy" it was and "better" it was to be a Christian; and now I wonder why it is I'm not finding it so easy. Am I actually a Christian? Can a Christian have so many questions and doubts? Can I be a Christian and still be wary of God's power to transform others, especially myself?

I know I have a lot of questions and doubts, but I am also trying (probably too hard) to figure out the whys and what's behind all the things I grew up learning. It's easy to just believe something, but how do we know it is truth? Recently it was pointed out to me that there are certain answers I just don't like/accept because they sit in conflict with my hopes. This hurt me; as I don't want a faith that is easy and "me-centered"..... a faith that just says what I'm comfortable with and what I want. I want truth. If what I believe or put my hope in is false, what will happen when I lean on it? When it is all I have?

In Jr. High and High School I was a huge fan of a band called Steve Taylor and Some Band. I saw them so many times in concert; loved the energy and excitement, loved the creativity and the music. It took me a few years to understand fully some of his lyrics but I have to say I've not forgotten them nor have I "outrgrown" them. As I was contemplating on belief I remembered this song and though I'd share it with you. Circa 1987.

Harder To Believe Than Not To

Nothing is colder than the winds of change
Where the chill numbs the dreamer till a shadow remains
Among the ruins lies your tortured soul
Was it lost there
Or did your will surrender control?

Shivering with doubts that were left unattended
So you toss away the cloak that you should have mended
Don't you know by now why the chosen are few?
It's harder to believe than not to
Harder to believe than not to

It was a confidence that got you by
When you know you believed it, but you didn't know why
No one imagines it will come to this
But it gets so hard when people don't want to listen

Shivering with doubts that you left unattended
So you toss away the cloak that you should have mended
Don't you know by now why the chosen are few?
It's harder to believe than not to

Some stay paralyzed until they succumb
Others do what they feel, but their senses are numb
Some get trampled by the pious throng
Still they limp along

Are you sturdy enough to move to the front?
Is it nods of approval or the truth that you want?
And if they call it a crutch, then you walk with pride
Your accusers have always been afraid to go outside

They shiver with doubts that were left unattended
Then they toss away the cloak that they should have mended
You know by now why the chosen are few
It's harder to believe than not to

I believe"

Flannery O'Connor writes in one of her letters that there is a cost involved in being a Christian. That it is " much harder to believe than not to believe." What do you think?

Could a Garden Come Up?

I find the most amazing things on the internet. I'm a perfect test candidate for social media and social media marketing. If a blogger recommends a book, and I like that blogger, I'll buy it. If he or she says this is the best music ever, I'll definitely preview the album, and if I like it, I will purchase it.

I'm quite an obedient "student."

On Tuesday a band I've only heard about in tweets released their new album, Beautiful Things. The band is called Gungor. I have learned it was called The Michael Gungor Band but now they just go by Gungor. The tweets were abuzz with how stunning they were in concert a week ago at a worship conference, and I couldn't comprehend how they could be THAT different; It's "worship music". How can it be so revolutionary?

When pressed, I could not get an adequate answer as to what made them so special, but supposedly they are AMAZING in concert. Exactly how? I'm not sure but 2 people just say they are not to be missed in concert. Revolutionary.

Intrigued, I went to their website. So far, there are no tour dates in the west coast at all. Hopefully that will change, as, like I said, I'm obedient and if someone says "go" I go.

On Tuesday their album was released. After previewing it, I thought it was worth purchasing. After listening to it twice I realized I was falling in love with it; and not just the lyrics; I loved the sound. It's varied and interesting. Some are playful and light; others are serious in tone and words; with raw honesty, yet always coming back to the goodness of God.

This album is one to be savored. It is a delight and has a certain intentional flow and cohesiveness to it; but it's simply beautiful as well. Some albums I'll just pick a couple songs I really like but this album is meant as a whole; it builds on each other. Of course, it's just my opinion but I have so enjoyed listening to this album in it's entirety.

I wonder if partly because, now that I've listened to the music over and over, I'm beginning to really pay more attention to the words. Normally, I'm words-oriented and the words are what endears me to an artist but this time around, it was more the music and sound than the lyrics. However, now the lyrics are just flooring me.

I love all the songs, and they all echo a similar theme to me.

Beautiful Things
Written by Michael Gungor and Lisa Gungor

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make me new, You are making me new

We’ll see a brighter day

© 2010 Songs (ASCAP) and
Michael Rossback (ASCAP)

In another song, Dry Bones, the chorus is so simple and yet I find myself so often in such desire to be "made new". A God that is loving and powerful and capable of transforming me.

"Jesus, You’re the one who saves us
Constantly creates us into something new
Jesus surely you will find us
Surely our Messiah will make all things new
Will make all things new "

Isn't it beautiful?

I think I'm in love with music; Im most definitely in love with the idea that God creates us into something new. He will surely find us.

I love this album.

A Hymn to God the Father

A Hymn to God the Father
by John Donne

Wilt Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done;
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sins their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow'd in a score? 10
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done;
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I've spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by Thyself that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as He shines now and heretofore:
And having done that, Thou hast done;
I fear no more.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

God as Center.

"At first what our heart feels is that we cannot square this with our God as we imagined Him, as we had dreamed Him to be. The God we had, we lose, and then it costs so much bitter conflict of soul, before refined and purified in our knowledge of God, we grasp another, and now the only true God in the place thereof . . .

We fancy ourselves the main object at stake; it is our happiness, our honor, our future and God added in. According to our idea we are the center of things, and God is there to make us happy. The Father is for the sake of the child. And God’s confessed Almightiness is solely and alone to serve our interest. This is an idea of God which is false through and through, which turns the order around and, taken in its real sense, makes self God, and God our servant . . .

Cast down by your sorrow and grief, you become suddenly aware that this great God does not measure nor direct the course of things according to your desire; that in His plan there are other motives that operate entirely outside of your preferences. Then you must submit, you must bend . . .

This is the discovery of God’s reality, of His Majesty which utterly overwhelms you, of an Almightiness which absorbs within itself you and everything you call yours. And for the first time you feel what it is to confront the living God. And for the first time you feel what it is to confront the living God. And then begins the new endeavor of the soul, to learn to understand this real God."

A. Kuyper

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why Did You Not Come?

As many of you know, my church went to Togo, West Africa to see the children we sponsor. A team of 8 people went in January, laden with gifts to hand out to all the children and special gifts to the 50+ kids our church sponsors through Compassion International.

My family had such a wonderful time preparing our gifts for our child, Ayoko. We overindulged her, just so excited for the opportunity to give her gifts of coloring book, bubbles, dolls, candy and a special photo album with drawings and photos of my kids. None of me. She's never seen me. Unfortunately her gift was lost until the last day but recovered and given to her after my friends left.

I received two letters today from her. The 2nd one she excitedly said yes! She saw my friends and they gave her gifts. But then she asked a very difficult question:

"Why did you not come? I was not happy because I did not see you among them."

She wanted me.

It brought tears to my eyes. How to explain to a 6 year old why you did not visit her when others did? How do you explain to anyone why you did not go?

A few weeks ago a child in Katie's class was doling out birthday invitations to the Jungle. If you are lucky, you are not familiar with it but it's a big destination birthday party play place for Katie's age.

She did not get one initially, she just watched her friends open theirs up. She stood in line, hoping to be handed one of the coveted white envelopes; a sign of friendship and acceptance. Waiting for the bell to ring, she looked at me with a puzzled face and tears. How could she not get one? As I hugged her, tried to make her feel better she was handed an envelope with her name on it and instantly her expression and demeanor changed and she went into her classroom happy.

It's one thing to see your child upset at an "injustice" even if it wasn't really an injustice; things like that happen. It's life.

But to little Ayoko Yvette, I am the one that excluded her. And I can't help thinking what if she was Katie? In a way, she is my Katie.

And I ache knowing her hurt. Knowing that I hurt her and wondering how much is really enough? It's one thing to bemoan the disparity in the world, but here, I feel I am the cause of it. It hurts.

I think that I'm doing "enough" by sponsoring her, by sending letters and gifts, but I can't help feel her hurt when I see it though the eyes of not an abstract person but a real one.

It's a harsh reality that some get more than others in life. Sometimes it is based on merit and what one deserves, sometimes it is not. In this case, it's jut the luck of who is her sponsor and if I'm willing to go that many thousands of miles to visit her.

What excuse is good enough? I wasn't "called" to Togo? It was not convenient? It is expensive? I have other obligations? Are these real reasons or mere excuses?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Into Temptation

It's day five on my nothing-but-water fast.

Surprisingly, it's been easier than most would have expected. I'm often chided as being "addicted" to diet coke. I describe myself as addicted. I'm asked how many diet cokes I drink a day and I'm scared to admit to them the answer. it's a lot. I probably have a 6 pack a day habit. Maybe even 8 cans. Depends on the day.

With so much caffeine dependence, I can see why people would assume I'd have a difficult time with headaches, tiredness, dizziness, etc. Surprisingly, I've had no headaches.

But I do miss the taste, feel and even sound of a diet coke.

I discovered that, in lent, supposedly, Sundays are a "free" day. A "feast" day. A day where I can indulge in my diet coke. Only I'm abstaining. I don't think I can handle the responsibility. It's either all or nothing for me. And so, until April 3rd I will not consume a diet coke.

It's not that hard; it's hardest when dining out. Pizza and diet coke taste so good together! I haven't ventured out to fast food because I can't even fathom having a burger and french fries without a diet coke.

I'm definitely committed to this, and when it gets really bad I think of my commitment and I think of the money I'm putting towards people in Uganda to have clean, safe drinking water. For a whole year. Such a simple thing..... going without a few diet cokes today will impact a Ugandan for an entire year!


I'm happy to have a reminder. I put on my little 40 Days of Water bracelet daily. It really does help my resolve, and I enjoy sharing about this ministry/cause. Ironically, the other reminder I have is prominently placed in my fridge: Its an ice cold can of diet coke. Just sitting there on the inside shelf of my refrigerator.

For some, this is temptation and the best course of action is to get all cans of diet coke out of the house. But not me. It's my reminder. I find it gives me strength. I feel powerful; I feel I'm overcoming it. I like having it there. It's almost a friend to me.

Mark Twain wrote a short story called The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg. On the last page it says the former town's motto was "Lead us not into temptation" and the new one (after the ordeal the story chronicles) says "Lead us into Temptation" (it would take too long to summarize the story in a manner befitting it) Basically, to have no temptation, no struggle can lead one weakened when struggle and temptation comes up (and it will come up) but if one is prepared, knowing what it means to be tempted and the cost involved, once is more likely to withstand.

For some reason, that lone can of diet coke in my fridge is my beacon of willpower. Perhaps I just like torture. Perhaps I just like the power I have. Or perhaps I just like knowing it is there, waiting for me on Easter.

The big question: Will it taste even sweeter and more desirable since I'll have gone without it for 6 weeks? Or will it (gasp!) lose it's appeal to me?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

These Are A Few (Of My Favorite Things)

I am infinitely curious as to what books people read, and what constitutes as being their "favorite" and why. It's hard not to judge, as I think one's favorite books can reveal a lot about a person.

But is is accurate and fair to judge that way? I'm not so sure! I know I read a wide amount of books. To base what I think or believe on what I'm reading currently would definitely misrepresent me! Some books I'll read even knowing I won't agree with them, yet I glean more understand, perhaps even different perspective

Since I love so many books, it's truly difficult to pinpoint the books that are my favorites, but here is a small list that I can think of off the top of my head.

1. C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. A must-read staple in my opinion. (as is several of his others books)

2. Crazy Love by Frances Chan. A very convicting, thought-provoking book!

3. Forgotten God by Frances Chan. I think I like Chan. This one is on the Holy Spirit.

4. How Should We Then Live? by Frances Schaeffer. Wow. But a book you'll need to read at least twice!

5. On The Incarnation by St. Athanasius. Because I read it at Christmastime and it blew me away. (FREE online version HERE )

6. Desiring God by John Piper. Because everyone needs to read at least once John Piper book and this is a great one!

7. The Call by Os Guinness. Guinness is brilliant and this is a book to be read and re-read again and again.

8. Adopted For Life by Russell Moore. For some reason, I just really enjoyed this book.

9. Reason For God by Timothy Keller. Also The Prodigal God and Counterfeit Gods.

10. Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity by S. Michael Craven

Oh, I know I have to re-organize my bookcase, and I do realize this list is all Christian Non-FIction. I read fiction and non-Christian books too. But that is another list.....

Friday, February 19, 2010

I Have Favorites

I read a lot of books. I've always been a reader. I wasn't the most outgoing, social kid in school and even as young as elementary school I'd sit at recess and read a book either alone or with a friend, rather than play games with the other kids. I was never good at sports and it's so hard growing up knowing that no one wants you n their team, getting picked last. If I could I'd just avoid the whole situation.

One of my favorite authors these days is a Presbyterian pastor of a large church in Manhattan. Certain authors I just really connect with and Tim Keller is definitely one of them! I'll ask a question in my mind while reading and he'll answer it. It's like he anticipates it. His books are always well written, deeply engaging and definitely points to the Truth.

My pastor of the church I attend is doing a series based on Keller's bestselling book Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. In the book he addresses exclusivity, suffering, absolutism, literalism, hell doubt, and injustice. Questions and doubts people have about Christianity. It's a wonderful book and deserves to be an every Christian's bookshelf. (buy it!)

His other books, while smaller, are both wonderful and expound on some things he brings up in Part 2 of his Reason for God book. I enjoyed both The Prodigal God and Counterfeit Gods, but I think The Prodigal God was most surprising to me. I really hadn't thought to look at the familiar parable of The Prodigal Son the way he presented it.

I just really enjoy Tim Keller's sermons, books and writings.

I just got a new book today. It's reflections bout Easter called Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, It's a compilation of writings from various authors, both contemporary and classic. Timothy Keller is one of the contributors and the first chapter I read. I loved the whole chapter, but I will share with you this one excerpt:

"It's one thing to believe that Jesus loves you in a general way. It's another thing to have his love come down. That's what it means to know Christ. Have you experienced that, or do you just say your prayers? Has his love come down and touched the inner spot?
Religious people are very busy in their religion doing lots of religious activities, and then they expect their lives to go the way they want them to go. And if they find their career or their love life isn't going very well, they say, "What good is all this religion? I'm doing all these things, where's God.?"
But what a Christian says is, "If trouble in my love life has helped me to know Christ, if a lack of success in my career helps me know him better, then great. I count it all as rubbish because the surpassing thing is to know him."

I encourage you to read Timothy Keller, and if you go to my church, I hope you will enjoy this series based on his Reasons for God book. If you don't go to my church, I invite you to come. I know I'm really looking forward to it.

Maybe next post I'll reveal a few more of my favorite authors and books!


Redemption is a word that I normally only hear about in church but lately I've been hearing it a lot, especially during the Olympics.

An athlete will fail to win gold or win a medal at all, even though he or she was the favorite. Something happens, usually something where they just blow it completely. They choke.

And to me, watching, I see how that could happen! So much expectation! Such a huge portion of one's life preparing for This Day and in a matter of minutes, it is either realized triumphantly or it all fades away.

But the following Olympics, there is a chance at Redemption. Of righting that failed mistake. Of making it all better and fulfilling that goal. Does it make it easier? Harder? Does victory bring even more sweetness after such a taste of sadness and defeat?

I was watching a TV show several months ago that somehow stuck out to me. I think it was Law and Order. I wasn't paying much attention to it but nothing else was on. In it, the person was talking about how his livelihood was dependent on the collection of cans and bottles, and with the growing number of people recycling their own cans, he was suffering to be able to live. He says "How can I live without redemption?"

Of course, "Redemption" in these two areas mean something quite differently. In the Christian belief of redemption. Mark Driscoll writes in his new about -to -be released book Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (Release date March 31st but you can read it online HERE) That redemption is "synonymous with being liberated, freed, or rescued from bondage and slavery to a person or thing." In Christianity, we can't redeem ourselves. Only Christ offers redemption.

It's not our own efforts, or achievements. It's not in exchanging cans for cash. Real Redemption comes from God.

Still, the TV show echoes in my mind: "How can I live without redemption?"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Isaiah 58

True and False Worship

1 “Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast.
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people Israel of their sins!
2 Yet they act so pious!
They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
3 ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
4 What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
5 You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?

6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.

Day Of Ashes

It is Ash Wednesday.

I belong to the wrong denomination because I really want to observe Lent and Ash Wednesday. I complained and my pastor said he'd be happy to burn some letters to make some ash for me.

Ha ha.

Regardless, I'm really determined to go 46 days without diet Coke. I've been warned that since I'm addicted it will be horribly difficult for me. (that comment made me even more determined)

So far today, it's been fine. I'm a bit more tired than usual but that's really it. I do miss the TASTE of diet coke and I'm realizing that, for me, junk food and diet coke go hand in hand. So, by forgoing diet Coke I'm also not eating junk food as well.

This could be a really good deal! I'd love to lose weight too!

But the biggest outcome I am looking forward to is the money I'll be donating to Blood:Water Mission at the end of Lent. I think it's a wonderful cause, and makes sense to have this small sacrifice really count for something and make a difference.

There's a part of me that realizes that sacrificing something for lent is supposed to be more of a private thing but I think that for this cause, it's good to let people know and raise funds and awareness for clean water in other countries. Also, for me, it causes me to think how cutting out something and putting that money towards a good cause can really add up. I'm excited about this.

Thanks so much for all of you that have joined my team "Crazy". I have 10 people participating with me, giving up all beverages but water during lent. It makes me happy to be among friends that is not only supporting me in my giving up of diet coke but also joining with me in this cause to raise money for Blood:Water Mission. Thanks so much!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I've been enjoying the new library nearby but it's brought about a LOT of questions for me!

I know! How can that be?

I've enjoyed borrowing a few CDs and this is where my questions arise.

I've written about this before: I have friends that are professional photographers, professional musicians, authors, etc. Add to that David works in the software industry where pirating software is a BIG deal, so I am perhaps a bit more aware of copyright issue than some people.

To me, it makes sense not to copy music, software, or books for someone because it, in a real sense, is stealing. You are taking their property and not compensating them for it.

Now, there is a "nice" part of me that thinks it makes sense to support musicians, photographers, authors and artists because if you really enjoy them, then you want to help support them so they'll be able to make more music, art, etc. and we can enjoy even more.

With bigger corporations, it is a bit easier to think that they are the ones "ripping us off" and deserve to have their stuff copied. If they weren't so greedy then their stuff would be priced better and we'd be able to buy things legally instead of copying it.

I know that many don't believe that stuff like this is "stealing" but I really believed it was.

And then the Library has caused me to wonder.

One of the reasons I don't care for ebook readers, Kindles and iPads are because how can one legally, ethically share books with friends? With a real book you don't think twice about loaning them a book. Libraries do it all the time. We think we "own" the book and the right to allow someone else to read it, keep it for a time and then give it back.

At the Library, I can borrow a CD. Not a problem, I suppose that legally it is my responsibility to not download it or make a copy and instead just enjoy it during those two weeks, and then give it back. It's hard to do that!

Also at the library, for certain books you can choose to download instantly a PDF version of the book.

So..... if a library will allow that, is it really legal and okay for me to forward on to a friend a PDF version of a book? Do libraries have special permission?

Out of respect for artists I have often chosen not to burn CD's for others, yet there have been times when I have burned a CD for a friend so they'll learn more about that artist. I encourage them, if they like the music, to buy their own copy. Most do.

The other day I forwarded a PDF version of a book I finished reading. I was tempted to delete my own copy because isn't that just like loaning out a "real" book?

I know I think too much. I know this is not an issue for most people. I know that many think that these laws are stupid or "everyone does it" yet I am still hesitant. I don't judge others that are more lenient on this issue than I am, and with the realization that the library offers PDF versions of books, CD's etc, I am re-thinking my views of what to believe.

I don't know. What do you think?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Uncompromised Faith

"As Americans, we enter the church with nearly overpowering individualistic inclinations. We come with and cling to expectations and demands that are centered on ourselves. We expect people to talk to and welcome us, but are unwilling to reach out and talk to them. WE have a myriad of petty personal preferences that we impose on the church about worship styles, music, carpet color and the like. We grade the pastor on whether or not he has met our needs through his sermon or kept us attentive. And we certainly aren't interested in anyone getting in our business! We don't humbly submit to one another. We refuse church discipline. We argue, gossip, and divide over inconsequential issues. We attack those outside our traditions, doctrinal convictions and theological framework; we rarely listen to those with whom we disagree. Often our attitudes and actions toward each other are shameful and bring disgrace to the name of Chirst - and we frequently do so in the face of the unbelieving world. We simply do not fulfill this essential part of God's mission because we fail to demonstrate the reign of God within this authenticating community.

If we don't get this right, our service will remain indistinguishable from any other, and our proclamation of the risen Christ will appear shallow and without basis. If we want to overcome our culturalized Christianity to worship and serve the King of kings, we must recover this broader understanding of our mission as Christians in the world. We must learn to properly analyze and intelligently engage the culture and we must interact with each other and the world in a spirit of grace, love and charity. The church in America must repent of it's radical individualism and independence that separates us from the community of Christ and once again humbly submit to one another. This we mustdo if we want the world to know whose disciples we really are!"

Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity by S. Michael Craven


Saturday, February 13, 2010

40 Days

I grew up in churches and denominations that did not observe Lent. In fact, though i knew about the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, but I never heard of "lent" until I was married and attended a Presbyterian church in Seattle. They encouraged people to observe lent and had an Ash Wednesday service, which I attended, though I don't recall being faithful to my lent promise.

For some reason, after that experience, I've always been a bit mindful of lent. Since then, I've once again not been a part of a church that observes Ash Wednesday or Lent, but I've always been aware of it. Perhaps there is a bit of catholic envy in me because this idea of Lent and Ash Wednesday appeal to me. It makes no sense but I do wonder if being aware of sacrificing something, however small, in some ways pulls one to be a bit more mindful of their faith, Christ and the resurrection.

That's what I'm hoping for. I know this past Christmas I really enjoyed being aware of Advent and the concept of waiting and anticipating the birth of Christ. I suppose I hope for the same with Easter and that observing Lent will be heighten the meaning of Easter for me.

A few weeks ago I decided to give up something for Lent. My first thought was facebook but I'm not sure it would be for the right reasons. I think if anything it'd call attention to myself, since I'm such an avid online addict.

Which leads me to what I've chosen to give up. While perusing a blog the other day I came across Blood:Water Mission. In the past I've supported other water ministries but I really liked the idea they posed: Of giving up beverages other than water and instead giving the money I'd normally spend on diet Coke (for those that don't know, I'm a diet Coke addict) and at the end of 40 days donate that money to Blood:Water Mission. I even signed up a "team", named it "Crazy" because I KNOW I'm crazy to attempt this, and requested 10 bracelets. Of course, the problem is I don't currently have 10 team members! But I'm collecting them. If you'd like to join my "team" let me know and I'll give you a bracelet to wear. I know this will be a HUGE challenge for me since I am so addicted to diet Coke but even if I just chose to order water at restaurants instead of a soda, I'll be donating a some money to help people in Africa have safe water.

It's only 40 days, right? Actually, it's NOT 40 days; it's 46. February 17th through April 3rd.

It's going to be a long forty days.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Gift

I'm reading a book called Adopted for Life by Russell Moore. I highly recommend it.

Here are 2 quotes from the chapter titled Joseph of Nazareth vs. Planned Parenthood, page 77.

"Churches that don't celebrate children aren't going to celebrate evangelism."

Later he writes:

"If the people in our congregation become others-directed instead of self-directed in the adoption of unwanted children, they are going to be other-directed instead of self-directed in their verbal witness to people in their community. On the other hand, the same self-interest that sears over the joy of birth will sear over the joy of new birth. The numbness to earthly adoption is easily translated to numbness to spiritual adoption. But if people in our churches learn not to grumble at the blessing of minivans filled with children-some of whom don't look anything alike- they're going to learn not to grumble at the blessing of a congregation filled with new people, some of whom don't look anything alike. If our churches learn to rejoice in the newness of life in the church nursery, they'll more easily rejoice in newness of life in the church baptistery, and vice versa."

Agree? Disagree?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


What was I thinking? A few weeks ago I came upon a FB friend's post advertising Unleashed Conference: a conference for church leaders about culture and the rethinking church. I immediately wanted to go.

But why? I'm not a church leader.... I'm hardly a church volunteer!

Yet I'm strangely drawn to church stuff: The history of church, church movements, culture, future of church. It fascinates me. I hardly understand it. In fact, I don't understand it. How can this be? I don't like things I can't understand!

When I found out the price of the conference, the date and time, I knew I had to go. I talked to a few other moms who also were interested in going but couldn't. One bravely decided to join me, even before I told her who was speaking or what it was about. (She's crazy like that)

My only reservation was the fact that it was for church LEADERS. My friend Maxine is most definitely a leader but she's not officially involved in church leadership, and I am most definitely NOT a leader and involved in nothing..... would it be okay for us to attend? Would we find it enjoyable or valuable? Would we even be welcome there?

After a quick question to the organizer I was encouraged to attend. Possibly they just wanted my money but I did not care; I so looked forward to going! The speakers that would be there I had heard about: Ray Johnston, Nancy Ortenberg, and Reggie McNeal. I'd read 2 books by Reggie McNeal and books by Nancy's husband, John Ortenberg and I thought it would be fun to hear them speak.

Overall, I really enjoyed the conference except it was too short! The time flew by so quickly. I think I needed all day or even several days to listen to the speakers; as I'd love to hear more. Nancy Ortenberg said some things that really resonated with me, even though she was addressing leadership. Ray Johnston spoke on Nehemiah; on momentum, vision and passion. And Reggie McNeal was perhaps the most humorous and interesting of the bunch. I had read his book The Present Future several months ago, and while I enjoyed much of it, some caused me to pause and question. It turns out that 2 others from my church were also there, and they were also excited about Reggies' message about church not being a "what" but a "who". Reggie truly surprised me; I did not "get" that he so funny through reading his books. (really; he's quite humorous!)

I'm too tired to address all my thoughts and I will say that I enjoyed and was challenged by all 3 of the speakers. Most surprising for me was the fact that I did not feel out of place. Perhaps it was because I had a friend with me; perhaps I just knew that no one could tell I wasn't a church leader. Or perhaps I simply did not care and was there to learn and glean as much as I could from the speakers. Regardless, it still surprised me the freedom, comfort and enjoyment I felt being there.

I'm still processing my thoughts and if I embarked on stating what I learned there it would take too long. Perhaps another blog post.

The Incidentals: Unleashed was amazingly well run, staffed with friendly people, lots of coffee and donuts. Lunch was burritos by Chipotle, complete with chips and salsa. The best part of the incidentals? DIET COKE!! (not Pepsi) and WiFi that I did not even need to sign in to.

I just might become a Church conference junkie; I love this stuff.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Grace Notes

In the past few days I've thought quite a bit about grace. It's still a mystery to me. What truly is it? How does one come to grace in daily relationships and interactions? Is grace just a "free pass" to do anything we want? (I think Romans 6 makes it clear that isn't the case)

Still, the amazing thing is grace is always more abundant than sin. It is inexhaustible. I love that and yet, still struggle with this concept. Doesn't grace demand something? Remorse? A resolve to be better? Should we still expect consequences or are they truly erased?

It's a paradox to me.

To some, grace means we shouldn't impose our expectations on others, yet how is that possible? How can faith survive without some semblance of order, accountability and truth to uphold?

The "grace" I'm most familiar with baffles me. It's rarely truthful; instead it's just avoidance of addressing what one expects or desires but chooses to keep silent about. We're told to speak truth in love but doesn't "speaking truth" denote judgment? And don't we all believe judging others is wrong and not a characteristic of love and grace?

Grace is beautiful, wondrous and mysterious; it heals and restores, values and makes right. Is the law a demand to fill expectations? Or is it a way of expressing the joy and beauty of grace to choose to live in obedience and holy, righteous living? Shouldn't grace free us to and compel us to fill expectations? Not abandon them?

I struggle with this concept of grace because like CS Lewis states everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely concept except when we have something to forgive.

When I was growing up I heard it say that one of the biggest objections to going to church or hearing about Christianity was because it was full of hypocrites; those demanding excellence from others but not themselves..... but nowadays do we even demand excellence from ourselves? And from others?

I'd love to know your thoughts on grace, living right, and if it's right to have expectations of others.

Sex, Lies And Religion by Randy Elrod

I'm a day behind. I was supposed to put up a review of Randy Elrod's book Sex, Lies and Religion but it's been difficult for me to express what I gleaned from or felt about this book, mostly because it's a difficult subject. In fact, I had a hard time writing Sex, Lies and Religion as the title of this blog post!

I suppose I've just proven one of Mr. Elrod's points, because I am one that grew up in church and am uncomfortable with this subject. I know this is not the way God intended and I shouldn't be and so I force myself to talk about issues of this nature when it comes up, knowing that it's not a "bad" thing. I don't even believe it's a "bad" thing; yet I still feel a bit uncomfortable candidly addressing it.

I don't know why I agreed to review this book. I think a part of it was curiosity and the fact that I participated in Randy Elrod's "Sex Survey" several months ago, and follow him on twitter. Perhaps a part was knowing, intellectually, that this is not a taboo subject, and yet here I am, having a hard time writing a review!

Mr. Elrod deals with several topics about sex and spirituality in a straightforward yet sensitive, even beautiful manner. I was struck by his use of words and ideas that have stuck with me, one being the idea that we long for God with all our being; our whole body and this longing is built into us, for the purpose of knowing God and being fulfilled by Him. I think most Christians are quick to say that in Christ alone we find satisfaction, but it's a bit uncomfortable to talk about how sexuality and spiritually are entwined at the very root of existence. I enjoyed his view on art, nudity, and beauty, yet other topics I had a harder time with. I'm not sure if it's because I truly disagree with them or if I'm just uncomfortable with them.

This book stretched me in many ways; I had to keep reminding myself I was a married adult and to look at this all objectively yet I wonder if this is a subject that can't just be viewed as an intellectual exercise. As he purports later, there is a intrinsically felt, emotional part of faith that is deep, mysterious and even "sensual". This book has also reminded me of what Grace truly is and it's redemptive power. It was a good reminder to see that all of us are reaching out for God's grace, whether we know it or not. It's what we long for above all and we search to find it.

I'm the absolute worst person to review a book like this. It has challenged me deeply, provoked me to thought and questions. It has made me re-think certain beliefs I have and has also brought me up in arms insisting that certain parts of faith are not the way he paints it.

Yet for that very reason I recommend this book. Will you agree with everything? I'm not sure. Will you see things differently, question things? If you are like me, you definitely will. As Mr. Elrod states in his book, some will find this tame, some shocking. For me, I don't think I thought it was "shocking" but I did find it uncomfortable at times..... but in a good way.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from cre:ate 2.0 Publishing to read and post a review on my site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Lifelong Love....... Reading!

Saturday our local library reopened after having been torn down and rebuilt over 2 years ago. Yesterday I took my kids to get a few books and replace their very old, unreadable library cards. Katie was so thrilled with the idea of going to a library and getting her own library card.

Our new library is a simple, utilitarian structure with high ceilings and lots of light. All the books are brand new. I've always loved the library, loved checking out book after book. I grew up in close proximity to a library and would spend many hours there after school, choosing books about nature, biographies, and fiction, even very old fiction. I loved mysteries and biographies but I'd read all books. I loved science and art. Does anyone else remember Ed Emberley's thumbprint drawing book? I'd spend hours perusing his books. I was never a good artist but did enjoy the creativity.

The library, for me, was a sense of freedom and joy. I could easily lose myself for hours there. It was a safe haven for me. Books have always been something that I loved; I could learn so much, be inspired, see beauty, and be entertained for hours. The library was exciting; reading was exciting.

So you can imagine the thrill of breathing in the aroma of a brand new library filled with thousands of brand new books! And as wonderful as that was, it was nothing in comparison to the joy and excitement I felt re-introducing my kids to the library. I've often wondered how I'd feel if my kids did not LOVE reading the way I did; I hold reading in utmost esteem. What if my kids disliked it? I am so very passionate about learning and reading, and I love to share and impart this passion to my kids. It's a lifelong love that is invaluable in my opinion.

I need not worry; my kids LOVE books and love to read. It's a ritual that can't be missed in our home: Bedtime stories. (usually read by David) The plea of "just one more."..... Catching the oldest in his top bunk reading by flashlight until the wee hours of the night. How can one dissuade reading? I once did the exact same thing. It's so hard to put a good book down!

We went to the library yesterday. My kids are already clamoring to go again today.

I don't think I have to worry about them having a passion for reading!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Easily Missed

I went for a bike ride today after learning that when David works out he burns around a thousand calories an hour, at least according to his little heart rate monitor and software. Of course, he exerts a lot of energy. I don't.

Still, he encouraged me to go on an hour bike ride. Sounded simple; 30 minutes out, 30 minutes back. How hard is that? I agreed and after his nearly 10 mile run, we switched places and I went out on my bike.

I meant to grab some water but forgot, however I DID bring something equally important: my iPhone. It makes sense because I left with no spare tube or tools or even the knowledge to fix a flat tire, so my phone was absolutely essential. Besides, I decided to use it to listen to music.

My ride started out good. It's amazing how much I actually saw riding a bike rather than driving in a car. My thoughts seemed clearer on a bike and though I was still amazingly tense, I have to say that I felt like I as beginning to relax. Later I realized I wasn't so relaxed.... I grip my handlebars so tightly!

On my way out I passed by a little church advertising free family movie night every 2nd Saturday of the month. I wondered how it was doing with that; were they bringing in families from the neighborhood? Was it for the church goers to build community by enjoying a good time together? Did they have people critical of the type of movies they played? (because even "G" rated movies I can easily find fault with!)

Then as I went passed this little white, traditional looking church, I saw that right across the street was a house that sustained fire damage. I wondered if the church was helping this family, regardless of if the people attended. I rode on but wondered.

As I got out a bit further, open fields replaced houses, I saw a beautiful mountainside with tall green grass intermittent with bright yellow mustard flowers. The trees were uniquely shaped and had no leaves; it looked so beautiful. I wished I could take photos there, really appreciated it's beauty. Again, something so easily missed by being in a car.

Before the Big Hill that is perhaps only "big" to me, I heard the ding of my iPhone going off. Ah, an email! Of course, I should ignore it but I'm so curious so I stop. This was a bad decision, because though I felt I was doing pretty good, as soon as I dismounted off the bike I instantly felt nauseous and lightheaded. I couldn't figure out what to do first: Throw up or pass out? So I did neither. I just sad down which began to help both feelings subside. I shakily got on my bike and have to admit, I felt pretty dizzy for the next several minutes. I was tempted not to climb Big Hill since I only had 7 minutes before needing to turn around to go home, and yet I HAD to make it to the top of this tiny Big Hill. So I did. Of course, then I had to go down a ways because it felt so good to go fast. I failed to realize that by doing so I'd just have another incline to face on the way back home.

I will admit that coming home, I was quite slow. Instead of focusing on pushing myself of going faster I just wanted to get home.

On my way home, I of course almost got in an accident, and I again saw things I'd not be aware of if I wasn't on a bike. I saw a flyer asking if I'd seen a teenage runaway boy. I said a quick prayer for him also, wondering if the family went to church, if they had people in their life to be with them, helping them. That the boy would be safe and return soon.

I was happy to be home, and David eagerly asked how my ride was. I said slow. I took off the heart rate monitor and he looked at my results. It's pretty disheartening. I was out there for over an hour and, well, basically David can run faster than I can bike! How sad is that? I was also saddened to see that I don't burn 1,000 calories an hour..... it was substantially less! David enjoyed analyzing my results, noting when I got stuck at a light, where I went, average speed, average heart rate. He sent me out saying to try to keep my HR under 150 but that was impossible. I seemed to average closer to the high 160's..... supposedly one time spiking to 191 but I don't recall noticing that.

Will I bike again? I think so. It was a nice hour; I enjoyed the time of reflection and solitude. I enjoyed being alone with my wandering thoughts and questions, without being in front of a computer. It was just a bit easier to let my thoughts go rather than demand an answer for them.

I kinda liked it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Life Together

“God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren.”

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wrestling with Questions

As a church goer all my life, I consider myself pretty well versed in the Old and New Testament. Of course, some of my OT knowledge has a bit more of a "fairy tale" quality to it, because looking back at some of the favorite Children's Bible stories makes me realize it wasn't quite the simple, sanitized versions I learned in Sunday school.

If you are up for a challenge, I encourage you to reflect back on what Sunday School taught you about the story of Jacob and Esau. Most of the things I learned were more moral centered.

Yet when I look at this story, I now see a lot of questions. How could God favor Jacob? And inside the womb, before he was even born God decided that the older would serve the younger. Before he even did anything to secure a Esau's birthright or trick his father into bestowing him the blessing.

Then there's the whole fact that God favored someone that deceived. And blessed him for it/in spite of it!

I have heard that this is a story of God's grace and yet I don't get it. To favor one means to not favor the other, so while grace and blessing was bestowed upon Jacob, what about Esau?

Yes, Jacob struggled and had to wrestle with God for his blessing.... but what does that mean? What does it mean that he had to wrestle with God for his blessing?

A simple children's story has filled me with numerous questions. Yet I think the most difficult to grasp is God's grace.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I did not want to wake up this morning. My kids were up by 7, my oldest had gotten himself dressed and made himself breakfast within 20 minutes. I did not see this, but I know it happened. Somewhere along the line my very easygoing child that I once had to remind every 10 minutes to get dressed, brush teeth, etc. decided that he wanted to be autonomous. (I do admit: I still have to bug him about staying focused on his homework)

My middle child is learning from Conor's example. He too was up early, dressed and would have poured himself a bowl of cereal as well but all we had was "healthy" cereal and that's not appealing so he asked Daddy if he'd make eggs. He knows enough not to ask me. I don't make breakfast and when I do it never turns out as good as David's.

When it was nearing the time to head out to school I noticed it was slightly drizzling. So slightly. The news said a 30% chance of rain. I began walking to school, Katie's little hand in mine, pointing out all the wonders to behold during our short walk to school. We saw a squirrel and later her friend. Passed by some road construction digging holes. I smugly looked at the line of cars and was so happy that I lived close enough to walk my children to school rather than be in the line to drop them off or find a place to park.

Then it started raining. Not a big deal. I tucked the book I brought with me in my jacket. (I have a terrible habit of reading my book and walking after I drop off the kids) Then it really began raining, and I was not prepared. No rain jacket, no good shoes for the weather, no umbrella. Nothing. Katie did not mind. She did not even have her hood on and was instead sticking her tongue out in an attempt to taste the rain. I laughed. We finally got close to the classroom door, she said bye and hugged me and walked so confidently in. I stayed by the door, just watching her as she took her chair off the table, starting taking off her backpack and her jacket to prepare for school. The other kids were also doing the same and some were already reading silently and looking at books. I was amazed in some ways how my baby, this little 5 year old, could be so grown up?

As I lingered at the doorway, catching this fleeting glimpse of Katie, she turned, gave me a quick wave and almost a puzzled look like why am I still there? I smiled and left, near tears realizing how quickly time goes by. I already miss her.

Sounds pretty silly.

As I turned to walk home I realized that tucked inside the book I was protecting was a Daisy Scout cookie order form. I was sternly warned via email that the form was due today and MUST be turned in that morning!!! Luckily the person's house was close, but still added some time on my walk. I decided it would be quicker to go home a different way. By this time the rain was pretty heavy and I realized there was nothing I could do but enjoy it.

So I did. it's amazing the change in perspective. All of the sudden I was completely tuned into things I hadn't noticed: the gentle sound of the rain, the smell, how beautiful it paints reflections, more beautiful and "watercolor-y" than the original. I wished I had my camera. I always wish I had my camera when it rains and of course cameras don't like rain. But I did appreciate the sights, sounds, smell of the rain. The silence. The solitude. I felt like I was the only person around and it was beautiful.

Now I'm home and reflective. I think rain encourages reflection on one's life. On what is important. It gives one pause to think and appreciate. I'm quite thankful every day doesn't contain rain but I am thrilled with rain. Even when it happens and I'm not prepared.