Monday, May 31, 2010

Jesus Manifesto



I had the opportunity to read Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola's newest book, Jesus Manifesto. I have read two other Len Sweet books and find him to be quite provocative in thought. He is a master storyteller and his prose oftentimes nearly become poetic. Some may love this, but for me, in the past I have found that while much of it sounds beautiful, is he fully explaining all these thoughts? Sometimes I just blame it on my not being smart enough. The good thing about this is I wind up chewing on what he has to say. At times he says things in such a way my initial response is to challenge it and in doing so I take a deeper look at things. Mr. Sweet has a way of looking at things quite differently than I ever have. (and probably would never otherwise ponder if it wasn't for his books!)

I guess you could say I have a love/hate relationship with Mr. Sweet's writing style. He and Frank Viola have authored a beautiful, well crafted book. I have always found Mr. Sweet to be infinitely quotable and yet.... still, there is much I don't fully agree with or understand.

The premise of this book refers often to Colossians, which makes complete sense. Colossians is a book about the supremacy of Christ. It's all Christ: Christ is all and is in all.

This book brings up that point that many churches and people have forgotten that; that oftentimes Jesus is tacked on as a side note in church. Indeed, this is true in many churches today with an emphasis on either social justice, or social "gospel" or so legalistic it is all about living right and self help than it is about Christ.

As always, Len Sweet is wonderfully quotable and his work is well researched. While there were several parts that I'm still musing over, I enjoyed this book. I especially enjoyed some of his illustrations.

Now the big question: Would I recommend this book? I would, but not to those that don't already have some basic beliefs down. To those that do, I think they'll delight in slowly chewing through some of the almost shocking ways he introduces concepts. (the whole concept of not being "like" Jesus but being Jesus is one that took some extra thought for me but I could see where he was coming from)

I am enjoying the trend of non-consumer church books and I love that his answer to it is a simple one: More Jesus. Not programs, self help, doing more in the community, but simply loving Jesus and living sacrificially.

Because I enjoy quotes, I'll end with one I found on page 68:

"What would Jesus do?" is not Christianity. Christianity asks, "What is Christ doing through me..... and through us? And how is He doing it?" Following Jesus means to "trust and obey," as the old hymn goes. But faith and obedience to Christ isn't self-effort. It's responding to God's will and living by His indwelling life through the power of the Spirit. "

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Carefully Crafted


Words are pretty funny. This morning my daughter came into the bedroom and said, "Daddy, look at this!" and David said: "Neat-o." She looked at him funny and solemnly asked what "neat-o" meant. I was laughing pretty hard.

Words are so interesting; they can be meaningful or mundane. There are things we say so often it becomes automatic, just routine Words can instill hope and comfort and also devastate.

Words can mean so much, and yet, oftentimes so little.

Promises are easily broken.

Some things and phrases we say we really don't mean.

In an effort to be polite, we lie.

Sometimes our words are not meant to be dishonest; sometimes we really do mean "I'll pray for you" yet get busy and forget. Perhaps there are times when we intend on keeping a promise but it just won't work out well. All kinds of fairly innocent ways that words lose their meaning.

When I was growing up I attended what I considered a "big" church. It was the largest in the city it was in, prominently perched on a hill near the outlet of a freeway and along a busy section of road many traveled. It was almost an icon. Everyone in the neighboring towns knew this church. My pastor was videotaped each week and broadcast on a local channel.

When I was in jr. high there was a church member who was running for some type of local or state office. He was a politician, already involved in local government with aspirations of a national stage. My church rallied around him, encouraging others to get behind him. He was what we needed: A Christian in politics. We were called to put Christians in public office. (and this may sound judgmental but I would be very surprised if their family wasn't divorced today)

I don't remember all the details but I leaned that someone I knew, just a few years older than myself, was paid to memorize pages of a report each week and recite it to him. That way he could honestly say he had never read the document. (don't ask my why this was so important)

It has stuck with me: this idea of dishonestly being honest. A play of words. Of course, this is expected in the realm of politics. We naturally distrust most things they say, look for loopholes and carefully crafted words. But I expected more from my church, from a Christ follower.

This is complex. I know that the person was just doing things that he thought was right. He wanted to be honest with others and in his mind, that was honest, but to me it has always been misleading. Though technically correct, he was relaying one idea to others that was simply untrue.

A friend of mine posted on her Facebook page that she was not happy with things she heard the last 24 episode was going to be. Jack had gone rogue. He was killing people he did not need to kill and was no longer the hero who always did the right thing, and the greater issue: does the government do wrong things and give up integrity for the "good of the people"?

A different subject perhaps, but I do wonder about all the little things I say that are intentionally worded to be encouraging yet don't always convey what is actually true in entirety. In an effort to protect and help someone I word things carefully to be honest yet I often wonder: Am I being honest?

I know in my life I want to believe people's words, not look for loopholes. I want to trust them, not figure out ways in which they are honestly being dishonest. I want to be able to take a word of encouragement at face value instead of turning it over and discounting it.

Can it be better and more helpful at times to be dishonest? Is honesty always the best policy?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Paint-By-Numbers



I was an unusual child, and those that know me probably think that makes sense, as I'm still pretty strange. Though I have never been an extrovert, I think there was a time when my shyness was different than it is today: more self assured and happy. I did not care so much about others and if they thought I was strange and did not quite realize that I was even odd!

As a child, I was interested in everything : I collected rocks, coins, stamps. I had a magic set that I loved though I was miserable at it. I had a pottery wheel, chemistry set, microscope and, through learning how in a book, of course, created my own greenhouse and terrarium to grow plants.

One birthday I was given a little paint-by-number set. Do you recall those? It consisted of a stiff piece of cardboard that had a LOT of little blue lines on it. Each area had a number. The set also contained several plastic vials of paint, and on top of each vial was a number that corresponded to the numbers on the cardboard. Without the paint, the "canvas" did not even remotely look like the photo on the box, but that was to be expected. It was up to me to make the painting emerge as pretty as the way it was designed to be.

The only problem was I could never paint the "canvas" in such a way that could even begin to resemble the photo on the box, let alone rival it! It was all messy; I couldn't ever stay perfectly in the lines. My paint mixed with other paint. I'd get about halfway done and discard it. It never looked right, never even was recognizable, all these (seemingly) random little paint circles, sloppily applied.

Such a disappointment.

This morning I woke up with a sense of calmness. (I'm not usually calm) I realized that, in my life, I try to paint by numbers. I take what I think is right and fit it into my life, all good, right things, and then look at it really up close and think: what a mess! The picture isn't taking shape; I can't see it and it in no way looks beautiful. I don't understand why the colors are together as they are. I don't understand why it's messy when I want it perfect.

I just don't see what I want to see.

There is a part of me right now that feels like I need to be a blank page, free of my own "numbers" that I think belong. A letting go; a way of saying: I don't know what the picture is but that is fine. Paint away.

Yet the more I thought about this blank slate of emptiness realized that, though perhaps it is good to "let go" of what I think is right and perfect, maybe life is a bit more like my paint-by-number set than I realize. Perhaps there are lines and it already has a shape; I just don't see it yet.

Since I never finished any of my "artwork" I never got to see if they would turn into something beautiful. Perhaps all those circles, no matter how messily the paint was applied, worked. Perhaps the strange colors that were assigned to be side-by-side actually harmonized to make it beautiful, even though it made no sense to me at the time. Perhaps, if I had just hung up the painting and stood back, the picture would have emerged. The messy brush strokes would have revealed something of meaning.

Is it possible to be too close to something that it distorts what is really true?

Can it be that sometimes things makes no sense, but in time, and distance, it not only makes sense but is beautiful?

Silliness


Do you ever make up words? I'm not sure I make up words as much as I make up shortcuts. I was realizing this the other day. I'll make up contractions that probably don't exist but I've been writing them/spelling them like that so long, it makes sense to me!

In a way, is it a double standard? Because I don't like and always notice when another misspells something.

I attribute my shortcuts to the code that I learned in high school because it combines certain shortcuts in words, making the code a bit more tricky and easier to write in.

Still, even though I excuse it it myself, there are a lot of words that are so common that they are now accepted yet still makes me cringe:

Irregardless. (it's not a word, makes no sense because "regardless" says it all)

Literally. I may be the only person left that defines literally as actual LITERAL.

Can you think of some other words that are misused/abused? Does it bother you?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lemon:Aid



California weather is interesting. It is generally pretty mild. I remember posting photos up in February of flowers and blossoms; making my Facebook friends in other states jealous that they were still experiencing snow, while my photos obnoxiously declared sun and blue sky. They were looking at the slightest promise of spring and I was already basking in it.

Ha! This May has been one of copious amounts of rainfall. It's nearly the end of school and they had to cancel their fun warm weather activities.

It appears that this next week will bring warmer weather and for that I'm grateful. I'm also thankful for the rain; I love rain but even I am done.

Summertime is one of those words that is full of meaning and possibilities; and they vary from one person to another. Around here, summer means beach trips, a lot of outdoor play, swimming, barbeques, lazy days of spending time with friends, spontaneity, outdoor patio dining at restaurants, popsicles and ice cream, summer fruits and tomatoes, amusement parks, bike rides, creek walking.... and of course: Lemonade!

In the past my kids have set up a lemonade stand to raise money for themselves. A huge part is just the fun. For some reason, lemonade stands are the epitome of childhood summers and my kids have been clamoring for months to do one. So when I discovered Blood:Water Mission's Lemon:Aid I knew it would be a perfect fit!

Blood:Water Mission is an organization committed to bringing safe, clean drinking water to countries that are lacking. I believe all their projects to date are in Africa. It is hard to believe, but one dollar will provide a person with an entire year's worth of water! They also help in the area of HIV/AIDS.

This is from their website:

" Rather than providing a hand-out, which inevitably leads to dependency and failed projects, we seek to transform communities from the inside out, enabling them to be the agents of change within their own context. While safe water access, hygiene, and sanitation are core objectives within our water programs, the process of enabling these skills and technologies in a community ultimately leads them on a journey of self-discovery, giving communities a platform for understanding their own capabilities, assets, and most importantly self-worth. It's not until communities are able to understand and embrace their potential, that they are fully able to utilize and sustain the projects they have worked so hard to achieve. "

If you recall, I gave up diet coke and all beverages but water for 40 days during their Forty Days of Water campaign, but in fact, they have many campaigns you can get involved in. Their Ride:Well tour where cyclists are raising money by cycling 3,172 miles cross-country, Water Walks, where people raise money and walk a mile to a water source and back, carrying their water just like so many Africans must do every day to access water, 2 weeks of sacrifice, which is similar to the 40 Days of water only on a smaller scale, Active:Water, and this one I'm planning on participating in:

Lemon:Aid

Of course the cause of providing clean water is a major motivation in this, but I love the fact that I can help teach my kids about people in other countries that don't have basic things we take for granted like clean water. Lemonade stands are notorious for helping kids learn about money and salesmanship but this is even more special because I can help my kids learn about compassion and sacrifice. Since they have used their lemonade stand money on themselves in the past, they are aware that they are giving something up to help others and further a greater cause, all while having fun and engaging community.

Community. This is another reason that I have fallen in love with Blood:Water Mission's campaigns. They all center around community. Community with others that are participating nationally, community with others locally. A lemonade stand really invites my neighborhood to join in. Join the cause, join in friendship and join in conversation.

It is so much more than just sending in a check; I feel like my family, friends, community is invited to be a participant.

Blood:Water Mission is providing a Lemon:Aid campaign kit for free, only asking for 2.50 shipping. The kit includes postcards, a bracelet, poster, balloons, flyers, tattoos, t-shirt iron ons, and a tip sheet. You can even download the graphics to make your own posters, etc. for free. It is easy, colorful and fun. You can upload your stand photos, share your stories on the website, or if you are reading this and simply want to donate, you can do that HERE.

Have a beautiful, meaningful summer! And I hope you take some time out to enjoy some ice cold lemonade, coming to a neighborhood near you!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Disappointment


There is too much to go into but right now I am wondering about disappointment.

Does it exist because one has too high an expectation? Is it inevitable? Does it reveal discontentedness?

Can one go through life avoiding disappointment by simply not having any expectations of others? And if that is possible, wouldn't that be quite a shallow, unfulfilling relationship? To expect absolutely nothing?

Never Ending

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Numb



I'm so glad that I attended the Pasadena U2 360 Tour because it looks like I will not be seeing them in 2010.

Of course, I want Bono to recover completely but, selfishly, I am so disappointed. I bought my tickets at the beginning of November 2009, just days after I attended the Pasadena concert. I purchased advanced sale general admission tickets. I've always wanted to be on the general admission floor. It always seems to be the most exciting, energetic spot, yet the only concert I've been up close to was Toad the Wet Sprocket. (a long time ago!)

Add to that I was going with some of my favorite people: My husband (of course!) my friend Ellyn, who has traveled even to Seattle to visit me and attend a U2 concert there, and I think I've gone to every U2 concert with her since I was in high school. My friend Robby, another person I've known forever and his wife Dena. Add to that a few new friends and my jr. high youth pastor and his wife who I've not seen in years and years!

All this to say: I've been counting down the days until this concert, and now it is postponed until 2011.

I'm sad. But grateful I journeyed to Pasadena, and happy that their concert tour DVD comes out very soon. (June 3rd)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gungor in Concert


I have really been enjoying the Beautiful Things CD by Gungor and so excited to hear that they are playing somewhat near me in just a few weeks! Tickets are 8 dollars in advance, 10 at the door and you can get more information and order tickets HERE.

This is supposed to be a must-see concert. I have no idea what to expect but I'm quite excited about going.

(Click on the video to see it in larger format; I couldn't get it to fit quite right)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Rain....



I like the rain but even I am beginning to tire of it.

I still can't complain, though. I know this month has brought heavy rainfall to many cities, many resulting in flooding. In fact, just this month Nashville experienced a horrible flood and many people, churches, are still helping with the clean-up and assistance. I loved seeing on Facebook some church members there opening up their homes, not only to their church community affected by the flood, but also to anyone affected.

Just beautiful.

There's no flooding here, but I'm tired of the rain. It is nearing the end of May and we've had quite a few days of rain and more is forecasted this week!

This is the reason we left Seattle over 12 years ago!

I know I should be thankful for the rain, and I'm glad that this rain is manageable and hasn't resulted in much damage or loss of life, but on a selfish note, I'm really ready for summer. I'm looking forward to the warmer weather, bbq, picnics, summer activities, swimming, etc.

What are you looking forward to this summer?

Friday, May 21, 2010

More


I'm reading a few really amazing books right now! Oh, this makes me so happy! But my favorite of the week is one called Radical by David Platt. But a warning: though easy to read the concepts it addresses is difficult! He quotes Bonhoeffer in chapter one: When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."

I hope to write more about my impressions about this book later but I just wanted to mention it now. It is a challenging book, and in the end, after writing so passionately that I actually wanted to follow Christ to the level he describes, he invites people to participate in The Radical Experiment.

The Radical Experiment is this: "To commit to a one-year experiment of radical living according to the gospel...and to making myself open to the permanent changes God wants to perform in my life as a result of this experiment."

The Radical Experiment includes committing to:

1. Pray for the entire world. (and asks you to write down how you'll specifically fulfill doing that)

2. Reading through the entire Word.

3. To sacrifice my money for a specific purpose.

4. To spend time in another context. (2 percent of the year)

5. To commit my life to multiplying communities.

If this sounds like a chore, the amazing part is that after reading this book, realizing all that Christ had done, is doing and what we are called to do, one wants to embark on this year long journey!

We sing on Sunday mornings about how our life belongs to Christ, how He is worth everything. This book challenges me to live it. I truly want my life to echo the Hymn The Wondrous Cross:

"Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

As I sated, I hope to post more about my fascination with this book but couldn't help but highlight it today. It is a short book that is only about 10 dollars on Amazon right now. I recommend reading it, as I'd love to have a discussion with others about the book. There is so much to it and yet...... nothing is "new" or novel. He calls us out to live the Gospel. He calls us to make disciples, have a passion for the Word of God, and, as he quoted Bonhoeffer, to die to ourself..... because Christ is worth it. Making much of Christ and His glory.

As I finished book a song I used to hear when I was in high school kept playing in my head . One by Steven Curtis Chapman:

We will abandon it all, for the sake of the call. No other reason at all, but the sake of the Call. Wholly devoted, to live and to die, for the sake of the call."

This concept is not a new one but for some reason right now it just excites me. I have no idea what this will mean in my life practically. And it is not just because I'm told to do it; it is because after looking at what God has done for me, I want to trust him more, obey him more, share him more and learn to love him more.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Jesus Series: Life and Miracles: Read and Share DVD Bible



I just received this in the mail as part of my involvement with Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program. I handed it to my five year old daughter who was instantly delighted! Within five minutes the DVD was playing.

My little girl loved this DVD, as she enjoys all Jesus stories. It is simple animation and the stories don't always go into much detail but she still enjoyed it. As a parent, I also enjoyed this, and delighted listening to her realize that this was the same stories we read in her Jesus Storybook and in her Sunday School class.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their [...] <[...]> book review bloggers program. 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

Happiness


I love all correspondence but there has always been, and always will be, a soft spot for "real" mail. A real handwritten note. A real book to hold and smell..... and oh, yeah... read! A highlight of my day is going to my mailbox to see if anything "fun" has arrived. I enjoy looking at the Costco coupons and magazine. I enjoy even junk mail flyers and coupons. I look forward to my magazines every month and it always delights me when I get a "real" note from a "real" friend. (such things are growing more sparse these days)

Ever since I signed up for a few blogger review programs, I'm even more excited to go out to the mailbox, anticipating a new book pretty much every week/every other week.

Today there was a package in my mailbox. I tore it open and was so happy to see a book! I love books! As I walked to school with my newly acquired hardback (free!) book.

Truly; it put a smile on my face! And I began thinking of things that made me happy: books, friends, internet, my computer, mail, email from friends, diet coke, gifts, kind words, going out to lunch with a friend, spending time with David, spending time with the kids, California poppies, my Bible, sorbet, ducklings, tulips, any color, chocolate chip cookies, bookstores and coffee shops, bakeries, vacations to warm places, watching my husband race, daisies, the smell of rosemary and wild lavender, frogs and lizards, black ink pens, picking fruit off trees, caterpillars and ladybugs, my church, how cute my kids look when they are asleep, the ocean, vast expanses of wild mustard flowers, newts, oak trees, the sound of rain, river or ocean waves crashing. I love to learn from others. I'm happy with a camera in my hand, and I am constantly trying to get a photo I LOVE. In my mind, there is a quest for the best, perfect photo. I've never attained it yet and I have a feeling I never will, which is why I never tire of taking more and more photos. I love looking at a wall of books on my shelves. Music makes me happy, especially seeing U2 in concert. I like being in my bike when the world is not yet quite awake. I love certain restaurants and certain food, and I always wonder why there are certain friends that I've known forever yet hardly ever see, yet when we finally get together it is like no time has ever passed and I wonder: Why don't I make more of an effort to be with them?

I could go on and on but as I listed just this small list, I realized that some things I enjoy but is my happiness contingent on these things?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Church

I've been thinking a lot about church lately. I love my church, but sometimes I'm at a loss as to why I love it so much! There are lots of things I love about it and it mostly centers on the people.

And yet, some of my greatest disappointments at time also come from the people.

It makes no sense, but I think a big part of it is that I make no sense.

Yesterday my church went for a hike/rock climb in a beautiful part of the area we live in. So close, so accessible and yet, seldom do most go there, despite the fact that we have all the rock climbing gear and my husband is a good climber.

I feel my church had a great time. I was surprised at the turnout, and even more intrigued that for an event targeted to families, a wide variety of folks came out, with young kids, older kids and even those with no kids present..... and we all had a good time. We cheered each other on, talked amongst ourselves. I took over a thousand photos....

Sunday I felt like I was truly connected to community. I had a nice time sitting with a friend in church. (our sinning husbands chose to race that day instead of keep the fourth commandment) Later my pastor asked how David did ini the tri and I felt good that he remembered that he was racing (and not just sleeping in and ditching church!) Later, went to the rock climbing, had a great time and then..... since we hadn't yet spent enough time with each other, a group of us went out to dinner.

For some reason, I just loved the day. It wasn't elaborate or expensive. But I loved watching the kids run around wildly. I loved being outdoors in such a beautiful location. I enjoyed just spending time with my church family.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday!

It is so nice to not have an early morning baseball game with the kids. 10am is a nice time slot. David fed them breakfast of eggs and toast, I'm not yelling at them to hurry up, get their uniform on, find their cleats.

It's restful.

Of course, that could all change when it is finally time to get out the door! Plus, once we close the door, we'll be busy. A game at 10. A game at 12. Then package pick up for David's triathlon tomorrow where we'll join good friends. I anticipate hanging out there for a while. There's a pasta feed, and that kinda scares me. I think I'd rather go out to dinner.

I really enjoy silence and relaxing days, but I also enjoy ones like these: Jam packed with fun and friends.

Maybe even frozen yogurt.

Yum!

What does your weekend look like?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Conference Crashing

Today I crashed my second Unleashed Conference, actually, it was more of a forum. The first one I attended was considered a conference and had Nancy Ortberg, another person and Reggie McNeal speaking on the subject of church. I loved it. Today's was considered a "forum" and had 7 speakers, I believe all were pastors from around the Bay Area on the subject of their church's best practices. Pastors from Walnut Creek, Santa Clara, the "deep south" aka Gilroy, San Jose, Redwood City, and Los Gatos.

Every pastor had a unique vision and passion for The Church, not just their personal church but the churches in the entire Bay area and beyond. Though all unique, many shared many common themes along the line of reaching outside the church, into the community and the world, showing compassion to all.

I was impressed with all of them but the first speaker really got my attention. Maybe it was because he spoke so quickly I had to listen to intently to understand it all. Maybe it was because he used words I only read in books about missional and incarnational church and community.

Loved it!

After the conference, everyone had the opportunity to have lunch with the pastor of their choice. It was hard to choose. I knew 3 people at the conference but only one of them was staying for lunch, and he was one of the speakers which meant he was "hosting" a lunch. (unfortunately he was given Round Table Pizza to be at while others were sent to Bucca di Beppo, Frankie Johnnie and Luigi's, Sonoma Chicken Coop and another place.) I'd have gone anywhere one of my friends went, but neither of them stayed for lunch. So I was torn: I could go to Round Table with my pastor's group, or get a little out of my comfort zone and meet some new folks.

But then I realized: I have no business going to the lunch anyways! I wasn't a "real" conference attendee. My questions and comments don't "count". Oh, I wrestled a long time figuring out where I wanted to go. One was more comfortable, and though I enjoy listening and talking to my pastor, I am fortunate to hear him speak every Sunday. This was a great opportunity to hear someone else's ideas.

It was such a tough decision but I chose to be uncomfortable. I was convinced I'd be in a sea of 20 others, situated at the very end of a table, so far removed I'd not get to even hear the speakers, let alone interact with him personally. Part of me liked that and part of me truly wanted to learn.

I can't tell you how many times I almost turned around en route to the restaurant. I did not know how to get there from the location I was at. (even with my iPhone) But eventually I made it here, 20 minutes late. I hate being late.

To my horror and surprise, there were only 3 others gathering for lunch. The speaker and his friend, and a guy from the hosting church. Wow.

I was partly happy because I could really learn from this guy, and partly scared to death because I felt so exposed. No hiding at the end of the table. No being in the back row. It was just me and these three other men.

I instantly admitted I had no reason being there; I wasn't a church worker. Just a church attender. No worries, they welcomed me anyways. I literally was shaking..... and after 4 cold diet cokes, I continued to shake! After about 20 minutes I realized I made the right choice. It never got easier, but I started to enjoy it more. His story reminded me of The Tangible Kingdom but it wasn't just in a book..... It was being lived out! Community, Compassion. Engaging with others on a variety of levels. Discovering God together, and discovering our own passion and service in Christ.

I felt I was given a bit more credibility when I listed some of the books I've read. Unleashed is doing another conference this summer and out of the 4 authors/speakers I was familiar with all but one's books. Added to my credibility: my pastor was one of the speakers and my church is "known" as a good church. Yeah, I'm strange to be so interested in church but they were too so it worked out well. I still did not say much, just listened, took notes and drank my diet coke. I was happy I attended and got out of my comfort zone, but I think I'd have enjoyed it more if I wasn't so jittery!

Still, it was a great day and Beautiful Day.org put on a well planned out, engaging conference. I loved that they are committed to bringing in authors and speakers to the bay area so we don't have to travel to hear them. If only I'd be in town the next conference.... I'd enjoy listening to Jim Belcher, Alan Hirsch, and Dan Kimball. I'm really bummed.

I love crashing these conferences.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Attractional?

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.



This video has made its way around countless other blogs.(TSK's blog, Justin Taylor's blog..... the comments are interesting) Many think it is cute we can laugh at ourselves, others think we should look deeper at the consumer driven, materialistic nature of our churches.

I have read many books, and they all contradict each others. Some say that we Christians have designed church service catered to our "insider" needs and we are irrelevant to our culture today. Some cite studies that reveal that we are a media saturated culture, and to reach this culture we (the church) should employ technology, drama, music, video, etc and to not do that is not following the call to go and reach the world.

Yet another book, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church, makes the claim that even having traditional church, with children's Sunday School, music and a message, is consumer driven.

When I think of "consumer church" I think of one that is attractional, with programs that meet every insider's whim and designed to "draw non church people in" but in reality is what the insiders want and rarely will an everyday community person join in. It does happen, I'm not saying it doesn't. I grew up in a church with programs and I loved it and brought a slew of people from my high school to youth group (so I could win a trip to Disneyland) but looking back today I wonder if the programs were enough to provide something sustainable for the folks I brought to church. I don't know.

Right now, my kids are attending a Christian church-sponsored and organized baseball league. At this very same church, my kids could go to their AWANA program. even though we don't belong to to this club. (I mean, church) There are churches with a sub group for every need, desire and interest. To me, that is program-driven, consumer oriented church.

The church I go to has little programs, so there's a part of me smugly thinking that I don't go to a materialistic, consumer-driven church....... and yet, now I'm forced to wonder and re-evaluate what is consumer oriented? Is it what the "world" wants in a church? Is it what Christians want in their church? Either way, are we all consumers?

Do we spend our time consuming church? Consuming the music? Consuming the message? Consuming each other?

I'm still bothered by this assertion of consumer church, partly because I do have expectations of church. I do want it to "meet my needs". Is it wrong? I want my kids to be well cared for and to learn about God. I like that my pastor has a carefully prepared, planned message that he has prayed over and dillgently studied. I like much of my church. (and disappointed too but that is another post and I think it is easy to criticize the tiny things) but overall, I love my church and what it is doing and moving towards.

It is fun to laugh at the video, but I wonder sometimes if I'm almost numb to church because it is exactly what I expect. Sometimes I do wonder if it is a performance. I know the people are sincere and I know there is nothing wrong with doing something with excellence, but I wonder if I arrive anticipating a "show" instead of simply expecting Jesus?

Sometimes I wonder if I and everyone in church is part of The Sunday Morning Show, acting the role of cheerful, God-Loves -Me type that is expected of us. Sometimes I wonder how "close knit" this community really is? Are we really "friends and family".... willing to work through difficult stuff together or is it a matter of convenience? Or expectation, social standing, or responsibilities? Is it a strong bond, or one that is easily broken?

The reality is, I haven't formed an opinion on this.... but find it interesting. I love the "formula" of my church. I think I get a lot out of the message, I know a lot of friends get a lot out of the music. Is hoping and wanting to come away with something consumer-based?

Is there ever a place for churches that are attractional and consumer driven? Do you think that non Christians are enticed by the "relevant" format of churches? Do you think this way of church, with top notch, culturally relevant music and carefully prepared, engaging messages, is what Outsiders are "looking for" in a church? Or do you think that there are other and better ways to be "attractive" to the World and to the community?

Yes, I know I think too much..... and now you have just joined me in my downward, intense thought spiral!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Can't Get Enough


I'm about to ask a very personal question:

How many Bibles do you have in your house?

I have well over a dozen and yet I'm sitting here, perusing on Amazon for another one, one that I already have 2 others of the same version!

Why?

Because they are cute and I currently have a very small (called "compact") ESV Bible and a VERY LARGE ESV Study Bible, and in my twisted, warped, consumer mind, I NEED an in-between "just right" size so I can tote it to church. Basically, my Very Large Study Bible is too conspicuous to bring to church, I'l bring it to Bible Study where it fits in. My teeny-tiny compact one is for travel. I need a basic, good-for-everything, not too big, not too small ESV Bible that I can bring to church.

It is crazy, yet I'm still one click away from having a new Bible sent to my home,

Nearly 2 years ago I bought a New Living Translation (NLT) because it is what the pastor of my church preaches out of. I bought a tiny Compact one but then decided I "needed" a medium sized one, and have to say I really like the one I got. I wish it wasn't brown and pink, but the quality of the Bible, the very white, thicker than the usual razor thin Bible pages were a surprise that I really liked, and all for 10 dollars!

The only thing I did not "love" was the translation.

Don't get me wrong; I like the NLT; it is very readable. I just like the English Standard Version (ESV) more.

Which is why I feel I "must" get a medium sized Bible, yet, do I really need to bring YET ANOTHER Bible in my home? My bookshelf is groaning under the weight of all my books and Bibles. It really is amazing that in some countries people feel blessed to have one intact Bible and here I have an abundance, and really only ever use no more than 4.

How many Bibles do you have? What is your favorite? Do you still drool over new ones or have you learned the secret of contentment? Do you have a special Bible that is an "old friend?"

BTW: You can look up any verse in the ESV translation by going to the ESV ONLINE website.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Smitten



I was on another blog several days ago and came across a video of Michael W. Smith's Place in This World. Watched it, and realized I rarely watched Christian Music Videos back in the 1980's..... in fact I don't think I ever really watched Christian music videos! There was no Christian MTV station; no internet until later.

After watching that video, Place In This World, I was happy I'd never seen it. No offense, Michael. I liked the grand piano in the desert, could even overlook the mullet, but a guy and a girl, roaming the desert independently while the music plays:

Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world.

And then, the guy and girl find each other, hug and walk off into the sunset.

I always loved this song, never thought that finding my place in the world meant finding true love. (while roaming the desert, and putting my hands through the long, beautiful hair that I don't have) Not saying that he's wrong, just that the song always meant so much more to me, and I never equated it with finding The One person I'd marry. (or date)

It is a bit like reading a wonderful book: in your mind you have created an elaborate set of characters and what things look like, how things sound. It is really quite wonderful and then you watch the movie and are a bit disappointed because oftentimes they get it wrong.

Nonetheless, I still like Michael W. Smith. I grew up listening to his music after discovering it in jr. high. My friend loaned me her record. Yes, a real vinyl record, which is big and makes the picture stand out even more. His first was simply titled Michael W. Smith Project, and the second album was called Michael W. Smith 2. I remember looking at this guy, in a purple and pink sweater vest, jumping through the same argyle pattern on his sweater.

Still, I liked both his albums. All my friends did. I think from then on I bought all the rest of his albums, but usually a tape and later CDs, usually the day it came out. I attended so many of his concerts! Still love his Christmas Album and listen to it every year. Read through all the lyrics, I really enjoyed his music.

In College I was on a cheerleading squad. Those that know me will laugh at this because I'm not a cheerleader but I attended a small Bible college (I know; a Bible college had CHEERLEADERS? Obviously I did not go to a "real" Bible college!) Anyways, the routine we did was from his song Musical Instruments, which I always sung the words to Great is the Lord too. Looking it up, I am now listening to a simple piano arrangement of Great is the Lord and it is absolutely beautiful, but then (early 1990's) we did a routine to a fast tempo electronica sound. I wasn't a very good cheerleader.

Listening at Michael W. Smith brings back memories of when I was a schoolgirl, as well as current. He's still an amazing artist; I still enjoy his songs. I haven't seen him in concert since the early 1990s because I rarely seen ANYONE in concert these days since I have 3 kids that I'd have to get a babysitter for, (though I always make it work to see U2) but there will always be a soft spot in my heart for Michael W. Smith. I'm quite thankful for his music, his ministry and that he is still reaching people today with his love and passion for Christ.

Really glad he doesn't have a mullet anymore, though.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Change Your Church For Good



Change Your Church For Good is written by Brad Powell, senior pastor of NorthRidge Church. It is primarily about the insight he has gained through successfully transitioning his church from culturally irrelevant to a dynamic, culture-engaging church that exists to draw others to Christ, with the primary emphasis on reclaiming the Church's role to be "the hope of the world."

At first this book started out with basic principles that I've read countless times. Being that this is a revised edition of a book initially published in 2007, it may have been more innovative information then but in the past year or so there has been a huge influx of churches transitioning to be more "outside" friendly.

As I read more of this book I gained a greater appreciation, as I could see his love for the church and it's people shine through. He gives some excellent advice, inspiration and encouragement that is much needed for a pastor and a church that is embarking on transitioning a church to a vision that is more "others" oriented. While I did not agree with everything written, it was encouraging to read an account of a balanced way of transitioning a church. I don't envy pastors in this position; I'm sure it would be much easier to just start new and hand pick the types of people that already have a shared vision, but this pastor effectively shares some ways of changing the church, and changing lives while not compromising the essentials of faith.

Again, there was much I did not agree with in this book, yet still found quite a bit valuable and worth reading and pondering. Change and transition is never easy for a church, so it was good hearing the insight he had to give from his own personal experience as well as his understanding of the BIble.

Does your church provide hope for it's community?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their [...] <[...]> book review bloggers program. 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

Same

I'm a strange person. First, I enjoy reading books about the Church. I enjoy church history, I enjoy the current books about how to better "do" or "be" church. I don't know why but it fascinates me.

Except that it seems that most of the books all begin to sound alike and are a waste of time reading what I already know. I am finishing up one that I started out really enjoying but then "offended" me by discounting the value of corporate worship and a good message as being "consumer-driven."

Although the book started out being kind to all, I pick up a tone of superiority. Though it espouses inclusivity, it seems to shout that there are certain people who don't "get" the missional mindset and you are better off without those consumer-driven pharisaical heathens. So, while it challenges a "social club" mentality, isn't it in a way being it's own inclusive "club"? A hip, young, social justice oriented "we rock!" kind of club for the Christians who TRULY follow Christ?

I'm not even going to give the title of the book because, to be fair, I'm super sensitive to stuff like this. I've read so many books that "bash" churches it makes me sad. Though this one doesn't "bash" churches, there are certain parts that treat certain people with disdain when I feel they shouldn't be given up on; they should be patiently brought into this lifestyle of following Christ more fully. Is transformation possible only to non-Christians? Can God also change the heart of His people to greater follow Him?

Right now I just started a different book that is mundane so far. Like I said, it is all stuff I've heard before and I'm getting tired of hearing how one pastor turned a dying church around and how we can do the same. While reading this other book I found myself thinking about the more offensive book I read, pondering its questions I disagree with. I wonder if it perhaps is a better thing to be offensive and memorable then mundane and basic.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Church Life

It is church life like this [Philippians 2:16-30] that really conquers the world, as it did the ancient world. Men and women saw something in the Christian society that they had never seen anywhere else.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Life of Joy and Peace (Grand Rapids, 1989), page 225.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Inspirational Zingers Jumble


I had never heard of this type of puzzle before I was sent this book to review. My children and I had a wonderful time with this book of Inspirational Jumbles, titled Inspirational Zingers Jumbles by Christopher Hudson. The puzzles are challenging enough for me yet my ten year old also enjoys them. In fact, we've used this book as a part of our family time together and have had a lot of fun!

If you and your family enjoy puzzles, I can't see how you would not enjoy this delightful and challenging book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. 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 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Augustine


"There are some things which are to be enjoyed, some which are to be used, and some whose function is both to enjoy and to use. Those which are to be enjoyed make us happy; those which are to be used assist us and give us a boost, so to speak, as we press on towards our happiness. . . . But if we choose to enjoy things that are to be used, our advance is impeded and sometimes even diverted, and we are held back, or even put off, from attaining things which are to be enjoyed, because we are hamstrung by our love of lower things.”

Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana (Oxford, 1995), page 15.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Plan B by Pete Wilson


Plan B by Pete Wilson attempts to tackle the question of pain, suffering and disappointment when things in our lives don't go as planned. This is such a tough subject and I've read several books on pain, suffering and God.

On one level, this book disappoints because it did not delve as far into the issue as I would have liked and expected, yet the more I reflected on this, I thought that no book could adequately explain pain, suffering and the sovereignty of God because we simply don't know the answer, at least in the way we want. Pete Wilson did a great job communicating that and pointing to a loving, kind God we can trust, and pointing to the Cross as our hope and focus. On page 149 he says,

"You need to know the cross is not just the starting line. It is the very centerpiece of your story with God. It's the place where the pain of "you will have trouble" meets the triumph of "I have defeated the world."

While we may never have the easy answers of the "whys" when life disappoints us, it is good to reorient one's life to what has already taken place and the hope we have in what God has already done, which gives us hope for what is happening now, even if it is not what we anticipated or desired.

I enjoyed this book, thought the Biblical illustrations were engaging, and the personal illustrations were ones I could easily identify with. This is an ideal book for a person with questions that won't read C.S. Lewis' Problem of Pain or other more in-depth books. Mr. Wilson's writing is engaging and his love and care for others, as well as God shines in these pages.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy to read as part of Thomas Nelson's book blogging program with the understanding that I'd give it my fair review.

A First



Last weekend, I journeyed to Monterey County to watch my husband's first 70.3 triathlon. Basically, it is a half ironman.

David says it was the toughest thing he's ever done. Yet I think he secretly loved it.


What can I say? Beautiful weather, (though a bit cold at night! Brrr!) We met up with some FCA-E friends we met least year and they are just the most wonderful family, we so enjoyed being with them! Just a really special weekend and a memorable first half IM for David. He put in a lot of hours training for this, had a lot of great advice from our pastor, Dan Perkins. He was ready.

Or at least thought he was!


As he tells it now, it really hurt! Still, he's happy with his results. Overall rank of 202, a 5:26:29 time. 37 in his class rank of over 200 people. No major mishaps, other than he forgot his swim cap and had to scramble to get a new one in time.


It was really special and I'm quite proud of him.