Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's Beginning.....

.... to look a lot like Christmas! Okay, I suppose I'm rushing things; it's not even Labor Day yet, but I worked in retail for so many years and as soon as September hits, we're all thinking CHRISTMAS! Last year Christmas meant so much to me, and there's almost a fear: Will it be that special again this year? Can it possibly be even more special? Last year I read Athanasius' On The Incarnation and was pretty much blown away by the wonder of God sending His son to save us. If you've never read it, I encourage you to do so. It will change your Christmas outlook.

Anyways, here are a few quotes I've found about Christmas.

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.
The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.
I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."

- Ebenezer Scrooge
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

"Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,"
Stars and angels gave the sign."

-Christina Rossetti

"I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays--let them overtake me unexpectedly--waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: "Why this is Christmas Day!"

-David Grayson

"...God's visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants present and nowhere to lay the newborn king but a feed trough. ... For just an instant the sky grew luminous with angels, yet who saw the spectacle? Illiterate hirelings who watched the flocks of others, "nobodies" who failed to leave their names..."

-Philip Yancy, "The Glory of Humility" in Christmas Stories for the Heart

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Silence

It is an inward battle; knowing that I need to and in some slight way, even want to, go to the pool to swim. I know that it will be good for me. I know I need to practice swimming and improve. I know that I'll feel better once I do it instead of procrastinate.

But that did not stop me from waiting a whole hour before finally deciding to go.

I took way too long packing up my bag. All I really needed was flip flops, a swimsuit, a borrowed swim cap from David that says Wildflower Long Course on it, and his pair of goggles because I like them better than the pair I've been using. Oh, I also use some higher end conditioner because with all this swimming, my hair feels like straw. All this fit neatly into my new workout bag, given to me by David, courtesy of his SF Triathlon at Alcatraz race from yesterday. It's a perfect size bag and I really like it.

As I get in my car, there is an overwhelming desire to go and do anything but swim. Maybe I could go shopping. Or visit a friend. Perhaps a few errands.

But I head to the gym.

Once there, I'm still thinking of excuses! Maybe I'll go work out on a machine. Someone suggested the elliptical. That sounds good and I don't have to get into a wet, cold pool.

Instead I slowly put on my swimsuit and head out to the water, almost hoping all the lanes would be full. They aren't. Only one swimmer is in the water.

I stand at the edge...... knowing there is no turning back but almost wishing there was. Wishing that my work out buddy was there so I'd not have to consider fleeing. I think of her, recovering from surgery and realize that someday there might be a chance I'll be unable to swim. That choice could be taken away from me, and then I'll wish I had used the time to do all those things. I recall watching the triathlons with folks that are blind or with other hardships. I have no health concerns or hardships and yet, I do nothing.

I don't want to do nothing.

So I take a deep breath and...... put my legs in the water. It's not really cold but colder than I wish. I ease in a bit more and finally, all the way, knowing that it is best to just get it over with.

After three or four strokes I start to enjoy it. After four laps I am struggling but remind myself to relax. The more I relax, focus on breathing, where my arms are, and kicking, the more it becomes a bit easier and more enjoyable to me. By lap 10 I'm tired but figured out my pace and now I'm finally beginning to enjoy the silence.

The Silence.

As much as it took to get in the pool, I enjoy the silence. I wonder if I'm beginning to crave The Silence. There's a part of me that is solely focused on exactly what I'm doing, but sometimes my mind starts to wander about other thins. The only constant is this strange sound of silence and water and bubbles and effort.

I keep going. There once was a time I thought 20 laps was good. (10) But now I'm getting better and don't feel I'm doing much until I do at least fifty. Then I try to get out of the pool and it is difficult and I hurt.

So I sigh and am happy, and hope that tomorrow I won't have to convince myself that I enjoy this. I do enjoy this, so why is it so easy to forget that I like this?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

SF Triathlon at Alcatraz

David had a great time!

The Heavens Proclaim His Glory - Book Thoughts

As soon as I saw this book, The Heavens Proclaim His Glory: A Spectacular View of Creation Through the Lens of the Hubble Telescope, offered on Thomas Nelsons' booksneeze site I knew I wanted it. With authors like Francis Chan, John MacArthur, Stephen Young, Max Lucado, I had high expectations.

What I did not fully realize was just how awe-inspiring the photographs from the Hubble Telescope was! Page after page of just incredibly beautiful images. I normally am drawn more to words on a page but the photographs definitely overshadowed even my favorite author's writings. Or perhaps I should say it enhanced them?

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishing. 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

Thoughts on: Mockingbird Parables

I've always enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird, so when I saw The Mockingbird Parables by Matt Litton on Tyndale's blog site I was quite interested and requested to read it. Plus, the cover art is really pretty.

It is actually a fun little, thought provoking book. I was fun to read alone, but I can easily see this used in a small group, reading To Kill A Mockingbird and using the chapters from this book for discussion. To give you a feel of the topics let me mention some of the chapter titles:

The Parable of Boo Radley: Discovering Our Divine Mysterious Neighbor
The Parable of House Fires and Church Collections: Our Responsibility to Care for our Neighborhood
The Parable of Atticus Finch: The Model of Christian Courage
The Parable of The Missionary Tea: Our Responsibility to the Global Neighborhood Begins at Home

These are just some of the chapters in the book, and the author does a delightful job guiding through the ideas presented. The one thing that I disagreed with was the chapter The Parable of Scout Finch: The Role of Women in Faith simply because I have different views, but overall I enjoyed the book and could see it perfectly suited for a small group, but if you are a To Kill a Mockingbird fan, I bet you'd enjoy this book even without having others to discuss it with. It is 240 pages that are fun to read and complement the book nicely. I enjoyed it and think anyone who loved To Kill a Mockingbird will too. If you've not read To Kill a Mockingbird, you really should! It is the 50th anniversary and as of this posting, you can order a hardcover version through Amazon for only 14.71 (normally 25.00) Or a paperback version for even less.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishing. 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

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Butterfly Circus

This made me cry; beautifully done and such a great message. To see it in without the edge being cut off, just double click on the video and it will take you to the website.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Like

I think I like to swim. Believe it or not, I've always been a good swimmer. My mom insisted that us kids have swim lessons every year, and she herself was a lifeguard in high school. Growing up my parents had a little trailer near a lake and we'd spend summer weekends there and usually a good week or two during the summer. At one time I think my brother and I could swim to the other side of the lake. When I was in high school I joined the swim team. (and quit.... because I got the lead in the school musical and knew my priorities!)

All this was 20 years ago and I really thought I'd forgotten how to swim. I definitely forgot that I enjoyed swimming. It seems so inconvenient..... to go in that cold water. To be seen in a bathing suit..... I could go on and on with excuses as to why I did not belong in a pool.

This is the beginning of my third week attempting to work out to meet the goal of competing (completing!) a sprint triathlon next summer. The first week I attempted to run and walk. That only accomplished my being very tired and sore, especially since we went swimming that day too. I came home and took a nap, getting more and more sore the less I moved around. It was painful. My training partner and I have walked up a Very Steep Hill and done a bit more swimming.

It has been hard! First, I"m a really awful runner, and getting in a pool and doing laps after 20 years of not doing stuff like that was PAINFUL! The first two swims were near impossible; I don't think I could do 2 laps without stopping or rolling over on my back and taking a rest for a bit. My training partner started getting really good...... a steady pace of back and forth with no rests while I was resting and gasping for breaths!

It took me a bit to figure out , but I began to notice that if I concentrated in relaxing and slowing my pace down a bit, I could actually go back and forth with minimal pauses. Because I was so excited by this, I went back to the gym on Friday night and did 40 laps, with very little stops. It tired me out like crazy. But I liked it. I wanted to be sore. My friend Maxine did her thing, mostly laps with a kickboard.

Monday I went back to the gym with Maxine at 10 and did about 48 laps...... then went back that night and did another 24. This time a bit faster.

Tuesday I didn't get to the gym til 8, and the pool was packed! Thinking I'd go upstairs and do the gym equipment, I changed out of my swimsuit and chose the stairmaster. Huge mistake! I managed for about 10 minutes.... climbed 27 flights of stairs and then almost passed out!

So I knew that today I had to go to the gym, and actually made it there before prayer. Got in the water at 5:45 and swam only 15 minutes, but surprisingly managed to do 20 laps. My fastest times ever! My first lap was a minute and most of the others were under 1:20. Still slow by anyone's standards, but I was happy. Then frantically showered so I could be at church for prayer on time. I was about 5 minutes late, but pretty much everyone else was late too.

I went back to the gym tonight and swam 52 laps. They were slow laps, 1 minute and 20 to 1 minute and 30 seconds, but I did more than I usually do. I think I am sore.

I know this has been a boring post, but I don't tweet or FB my laps and I don't want to forget this journey. I am hoping that this excitement I have now won't get lost in the coming months.

I'm really happy that I found out that I enjoy swimming.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

First Day

Tomorrow is the first day of the new school year, and I'm really not ready! Normally by now I've purchased all the school supplies and new school clothes. I usually have their clothes laid out neatly.

Not this year! David's been on sabbatical and the summer has been crazy!

I hope and pray my kids have a great day tomorrow. I pray I'll wake up early, and have a nice walk to school with them!

It is so exciting!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Would I?

I saw this on Facebook and thought it was an interesting question:

" If someone gave you $10,000 for the purpose of giving it away to a "not 4profit" ministry of your choice would you give it to your church?"

I love my church and I do think it would be the non- profit organization of my choice to receive the money. But it is funny; I think there is a natural inclination to want to see someone else spend the money as I'd spend it. Which, of course, as a gift, one cannot and should not do. It is a matter of trust that the organization will put it to the best use possible.

But what if you don't agree with what is deemed "the best use possible?"

I'm not saying I have doubts or disagree with how my church spends money; I'm really just talking in a broader sense and I'm using my own flawed perspective. I think just as we Americans think that we have a "say" on how our government spends money, that we have the same right to expect and criticize the church in its spending choices.

But do we?

In a way, I expect more of a church. More responsibility. More oversight of things. More "results" from "investment." What is considered a waste of time? What is considered a waste of money? Does Kingdom purposes differ greatly from other purposes and sense?

I wonder at times if I consider and expect church to be like a business, a very well run business. I don't like mistakes. I don't like typos. I don't like it when things get canceled last minute or rescheduled with little communication given. I wonder sometimes if I'm being a consumer, or just expect more excellence and skill from Christians than I do in The Real World. Does the church realm have to be sub-par?

Does grace equal less expectation? Less accountability? Lower standards?

I really wonder at times if I'm looking at things from a Kingdom perspective or a consumer perspective. I wonder what I define as "results" and what I define as "valid"....... because I think at times churches operate in a different mode; grace. Seeking the best in others. Giving others a chance or money when they might not "deserve" it by my standards.

My church values community involvement and outreach. Do I? My church is passionate about missions and is sending a team to Togo. Am I passionate about that? There are so many little things my church does, much that I don't even know about. Would I be passionate about those things too, or judgmental?

So, would I give my church the 10,000.? I think I would. I also wonder if I'd be able to realize this is not my money but God's and to have no say of what they did with the money, be it buy beautiful Macs that would make me jealous, or replacing the windows in another ministry.

I'm such a legalist that I want someone to earn or deserve the "right" to help. I have so much to learn by the example set by churches. I'm sure I would not always agree with the decisions my church makes, but luckily that is out of my hands. I guess the real question is:

Do I really believe that God has given authority of the church to my pastor and elders? It is kinda an odd thing: God giving authority to flawed people that earnestly are loving and seeking Him and His Kingdom, yet still prone to making mistakes and wrong decisions.

I'm rambling and it is late, but these questions pop up at times and loom in my head. Do I trust God by trusting others? Is there ever a place for disagreement? Am I really in line with the core values of my church? What is more important to me? Money or changed lives?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Just Fades Away

"Most people, if they have really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some object that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we have grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job, but something has evaded us. "

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity,
as quoted in Timothy Keller's book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope That Matters, page 38

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Yesterday I joined a gym. It wasn't the inexpensive gym that is closest to my house. Instead, I joined a really nice gym with fluffy, white freshly laundered and still warm towels. A gym with mint scented shampoo, body wash and conditioner and individual showers with a real door.

It's a nice place.

And the reason I'm at such a nice gym? Because my workout buddy goes to that gym and I know I'd be tempted to not go if it wasn't for her encouraging me and meeting me there. I have a harder time with justifying the money, but I try to think about it as an investment in myself. If I could actually lose weight and be healthy, isn't it totally worth it?

I'm still really excited about my goal of doing a sprint triathlon in Summer '11 with my friend. She's a lot better than I am and I hope I can rise up to her level soon, though I know she'll just keep getting stronger and better too. It is a friendly bit of competition and I am so thankful to have a buddy to motivate me and just join me in this endeavor.

So, my local friends, would you like to join me in training for a sprint triathlon next summer? Get into shape and healthy?

I have to admit, as I type this I'm so sore and know that the next few days I'll continue to be sore, and probably feel even worse! I am so out of shape and swimming is not easy for me and works muscles I never seem to use in everyday life. Yet, I'm strangely drawn to the swim. It is quiet and I have to focus on breathing because I'm not very good at it.... but when I finally climb out of the pool (if I can climb out of the pool) I feel really relaxed, and I actually like it.

I think there are a lot of things I like right now about this endeavor and resolve to get into shape. First, I really have to get in shape! I want to be healthy and I want to look good! Second, it has been incredibly difficult for me to do something this foreign and out of my comfort zone. I feel so exposed. (something about being in a bathing suit lends itself to that, I think) Third.... I really am enjoying having someone to work out with and challenge me and get to know a bit better. It is much more fun doing it with someone else that all alone.

And fourth.... I really want to compete in a triathlon!

Inside The Lines

After 9 years of living in our house, we're finally remodeling a bit. In fact, we're changing the layout of the whole house since the biggest room in our home we seldom use. So, we're thinking that if we opened it up off the kitchen and put the TV in there, it would become the new gathering place.

That's the hope.

So we opened up that space, still working on that, and the next step is painting. Most of the walls in our house are a mundane white color, with the unused room being more of a beige. I really want to add some color to it, have an accent wall, etc but I am having the hardest time figuring out what color!

Then, after that paint comes putting in hardwood flooring. Actually, laminate. (since we have 3 kids) I'm excited about this but once again, I have to make a choice! What color wood?

Down the road we're thinking of replacing our windows and remodeling our kitchen, drastically. (And did I mention we're adding a study?)

Such exciting changes but I'm a bit scared it won't work out as I envision it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Black and Blue

How many others have a distinct preference of ink color? I prefer black ink. I don't like too fine a point, but it can't be too broad either and it has to have a nice flow to it. The darker the better.

Of course, if I must, Ill use blue ink. But I prefer to take notes in black.

However, I also like pencils, especially now that I've started occasionally underlining in books. I like my pencil marks to be dark as well, and I guess I prefer a soft graphite pencil. My favorite pencil is a yellow Dixon Ticonderoga. it feels right, smells right and I is a perfect balance.

I know; I sound like an infomercial! Who thinks about pen ink and pencils? But I read this little article in WIRED about a new type of pencil by Sharpie that is a Liquid Pencil. It writes like a pencil, erases easily but after 3 days the mark is permanent.

Not sure if that is compelling enough for me. I'd really like to write with it!

The other day I was furiously erasing all the I underlined in a book before loaning it so a friend. It took a good half an hour! If I had used a Sharpie Liquid pencil I wouldn't have been able to erase it.

What do you think? Are you picky about the types of pen you use? Do you like blue or black ink? Do you still find pencils appealing? Would you spend extra money on a permanent liquid pencil?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ready, Set.....

I only have one more full week of summer vacation before my kids start school, and I'm not ready! There is a part of me ready for their routine to start, but I've enjoyed the summer and the lack of structure, and I believe they have as well.

Plus, it is not easy to get ready for school! I have yet to go buy their back-to-school supplies. Both my boys seem to have outgrown ever piece of clothing I purchased last year. (though my 10 year old will still but on a size 5 pair of shorts) I think they can use last years' backpacks, though of course, they want new ones. Katie still has an impressive wardrobe, in fact, I doubt she'll even be able to wear all the clothes she has in one season before she outgrows them and the weather changes.

Yet, they are ready to go back to school. They miss their friends and they like school and enjoy learning. They are eager to find out who their teachers are this year, and I think every parent might be even more stressed about that detail too! Teachers make such a huge difference. I'm not worried about Katie's first grade class assignment; it seems all the first grade teachers would be fine for her, but Reid is in Second grade and there are several teachers I don't want him to have! In fact, I'm hoping he'll get the same teacher that Conor had...... Conor blossomed in her class in 2nd grade. I don't want to even think of my oldest being a fifth grader. Wow. When did that happen?

I'm looking forward to this school year and I hope they are too. I know there'll be challenges and disappointment, but for the fun and excitement and positive things far outweigh the difficult moments.

And for me? I'm looking forward to my free time again. I need to get into a routine to workout. (I've committed to do a sprint triathlon next summer) I'm looking forward to my Thursday Bible Study starting up, and I'm curious if the women's ministry at my church will have some type of study offering. I enjoy the fall; October perhaps is my favorite time to take pictures and I have a deep affinity towards pumpkin patches.

I think I'm ready for school to start but I do wonder if I'll look back three weeks into it and mourn that summer was so fleeting.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Not-So-Sweet Retreat

It is that time of year again, retreat time and I'm confronted with a decision: Do I really want to go on a retreat with 30 or 50 other women, or however many show up for these things.

Last year I had the last minute opportunity to attend my church's women's retreat so I did. And, I will admit, they do a really good job of making a memorable retreat. The speaker was way better than I expected. Everyone was friendly. The accommodations were good and the location was beautiful.

And I'm still trying to figure out why I did not "love" it. Was it my own fault? I definitely could've made an effort to be a part of things more; there were times I deliberately chose not to be involved and I think I made it clear that I separated myself. There is a part of me that thinks I made an effort. I attempted to talk to others. I had some good moments.

Yet, in retrospect, I felt like an observer instead of a participant. Indeed; I played the role of a photographer. I was an outsider, yet I feel my photos benefitted from that

I never let myself feel like I belonged there and now I'm trying to figure out if I want to go this year. The most compelling reason for me to attend is simply because I hate feeling left out. (and I do enjoy taking photos) Yet, if the reason I want to go is because I hate feeling left out, why do I make it so I still feel left out even though I'm there?

So I'm running through my list of why I don't want to go. I'm sure there are some silly, invalid reasons. I'm stubborn, I'm selfish, etc. I am scared of not fitting in; I'm scared of feeling like I'm only accepted if I pretend to be different than who I am. I know there are bad reasons for not wanting to go.

Yet..... could the reality be I simply don't love retreats? Once upon a time, I did. So what has changed?

My list of valid reasons I don't like retreats

1. I'd rather stay home away from everyone and read a few books by myself.

2. Being with others, especially a large group, is exhausting for me. I can only handle people, even really great people, in small doses.

3. I hate spending a few hundred dollars on something I don't "love." Nothing personal; I feel the same way about paying for a lift ticket to go skiing. I don't "love" skiing enough to want to pay the money.

4. I generally don't like women speakers.

5. I don't like emotional worship and I don't like songs that are centered around one's emotional response towards God instead of Who He is and what He has done.

6. At the end of the day, I'd rather just read a book. I guess I said that!

Last year I actually did have a good time. I enjoyed my roommate and we stayed up super late and she even brought diet coke for me. Though I enjoyed getting to know her more, I did not really get to spend much time with others, which probably was my fault.

In the end, retreats are really good but I don't really like them and I don't know why I am convinced I have to make myself like them! There is no rule that says I have to go........ but deep down, I really don't like being left out.

But I always feel I'm left out, if I go or if I don't go.

Do you enjoy retreats? What are your favorite parts of a retreat? What do you expect from a retreat?

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I just started training for a sprint triathlon with a friend.

Ironically, the things that scare me most are not how sore I'll be or the hard work and learning curve of swimming, biking and running.

What scares me most is that I'm absolutely horrible at stuff like this, and yet, I have to do this.

I want to do this! I want to be healthy; get in shape, hopefully lose some weight.

Yet there is a deep fear. I'm fearful of being vulnerable. I don't let anyone see me in a swimsuit. I am so imperfect in so many ways. There is much I don't like and yet the only way to change is to expose it. To be honest and share that this is how I am and then begin to get better.

I hope I get better!

Tuesday I ran/walked for an hour and then swam for half. I though I was going to die. It was hard work, and I was scared of revealing how out of shape I was, and yet, there was a freedom to it as well. My friend and training partner was accepting, helpful and kind. She was encouraging and I'm beginning to really get excited about working out with her. The fear I had of being this vulnerable is dissipating and now there is excitement.

I'm still scared. I still hate being so bad at this working out stuff. I know so very little about swimming, running and biking. This is truly brand new for me. And before, since I was so uncomfortable and afraid of being so lousy at this, I just refused to try. Here I am, not only trying but committing to do a race come next summer. A little, tiny sprint triathlon but I'm still excited. It is a step in the right direction and it is not easy for me to be this vulnerable and to do things I'm clearly not good at.

Yet, I'm happy. I'm finally doing this something I want to do and not letting fear stop me. It might be difficult but I'm thankful to be doing it with a friend. I'm looking forward to this journey and blessed to have someone to share it with.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stuck In My Head

It has taken me many months to post this, almost against my better judgment. It makes a sharp point, perhaps too sharp? When I first viewed this a few months ago it was sent to me by this guy, who also blogged about it. He is very insightful and his post is worth reading.

I watched the video and immediately after really wished I did not. It was tough to watch. It disturbed me. If only I could get some of the horrid images out of my mind! And yet, I liked the video and song. I liked the "Screwtapish" feel it had to us, the perspective it presents.

So..... I'm posting this version on my blog BUT I'm warning you: it is not easy to watch and you may not thank me afterwards. There is a "nicer" version that Chris posts on his blog HERE. I'm posting the words too, so you can at least read it if you don't want to look at the video.

(of course, if you are like me and someone told you or warned you not to watch...... it is a good chance I'll watch it!! I'm so rebellious)

I’ve been here since the beginning
Know exactly how you work
I know all of your cravings
Know what makes you go berserk
Been lying from the start just to make you play a party in my infinite rebellion against the Father God
Everything he is
And I make you hate him too
Make you hate him with your actions it’s so easy for me to do
‘Cause you like it…
Sin feels good for the ego…
You love it…
Oh, come on baby
And all the time, I’m winding you up
Like my perfect little puppet, you’re my favorite robot, welcome to the show but I’m watching you and all of hell is with me too, helping me make my lies look true
Oh and there is a lie that works for everyone, everyone
A lie that opens your hearts so I can get me some more of your free will
I’m winding you
Winding you
Give me the control that’s why I’m telling you
Selling you
Appealing to your human way of being and I use it all against you to just keep your eyes from seeing past the life you’re living
Past the moment you’re in
Past the pleasure of your sin
Or the cigarette you’re smoking
Choking on your lust
I’ll make you drunk with pride
So deeply spun into my system that you won’t see the light
Never mind that I’m drowning you
I keep deceiving you…
‘Cuz I don’t tell you
That God in heaven
Who loves you
Who yearns for you
I don’t tell you
That the freedom of forgiveness and truth
Why would I tell you?
Why would I tell you the truth?
But I’ll say that millions of years ago an accident exploded
And you’re the result of this cosmic unknown with no real purpose
Created for no real intent
The reason for your living is just coincidence
So all the remains is what you can gain
Whatever meaning you attach to your days you decide
Mmm, but I help you recognize important things in life
Introducing money, it’s the root of all, evil they say so
I attach yourself worth to the salary you’re paid, be a slave to your property
Your jewelry
Your cars and things
Advertise that lie up on the TV so you’ll want that bling
Selling bit by bit the little pieces of your soul
Climbing up the ladder of economic control
Oh, the greed of man makes it so easy to pervert the Father’s plan
Or I’ll tell you…
There is a heaven but there’s many ways to get in
Keep you so confused that you stay bound to your sin
Tell you there are many ways to the same God
Keep you distracted with your methods so your heart stays hard,
I’ll make you think you’ve got spirituality, but it’s really just emotional alchemy
Oh, the vanity of self-idoltary I never let you see that it breeds
Hedonism! Whoo!
And it’s the answer of this generation
Come on, drink it, snort it, smoke it, swallow it
Chew on my illusion of freedom till you vomit it
And still I don’t tell you
That God in heaven
Who loves you
Who yearns for you
I don’t tell you
That the freedom of forgiveness and truth
Why would I tell you?
Why would I tell you the truth?

(Thanks Chris for the video and the words!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Saint Francis -Book Thoughts

Once again, I really like the size, feel, and length of this series by Thomas Nelson. This one is by Robert West and the title is Saint Francis, because it is on the life of St. Francis.

I had not known too much about St. Francis. I have heard that the oft-used quote "Preach the gospel often. If necessary, use words" that many attribute to him was probably not uttered by him. (he was of a preaching order) and I had known that Francis is the patron saint of animals, and I knew of one blessing that he wrote that was used in Yancey's book on Prayer. This book must take some liberties in the events of his life to make it more readable and exciting. The narrative seems to be speculative since much of St. Francis' childhood is not recorded. Because of the narrative, this book is very readable and draws one in, but not always factual.

If you are like me and haven't read much about St. Francis, this is a good book to start with. There are definitely points I question, as I am a skeptic in some regards, but this book was fun to read and gave greater insight to the life and achievements of this man of faith.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishing. 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

BTW: Here's the blessing.

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. Amen.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection,starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. Amen.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

And the Blessing of God, who Creates, Redeems and Sanctifies, be upon you and all you love an pray for this day, and forever more. Amen.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Soul of C.S. Lewis - book thoughts

I had the pleasure of reading The Soul of C.S. Lewis: A Meditative Journey through Twenty-Six of His Best Loved Writings, written and edited by Wayne Marindale, Jerry Root and Linda Washington.

I wasn't sure what to expect but this book is similar to a devotional type of book. Each entry is inspired by one of Lewis' stories, with a little quote an then the authors' reflections and insight on that part of the book. For those that know the books, this is delightful! I have a feeling even if you were not familiar with the writings of Lewis, you will still enjoy the thoughts and probably be inspired to read Lewis' books!

I especially enjoyed the thoughts and reflections of the Narnia books and Screwtape letters. I gleaned so much more information and contemplated his writings a bit more because of some of the entries in this book.

While I prefer the actual writings of C.S. Lewis more than just taking an excerpt and expounding on it, I found this book interesting to read and insightful. I enjoyed it.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishing. 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

A Bookish Curiosity

What are your favorite books? (notice I'm not making your choose simply one favorite book...there are simply too many to choose from, and every genre is so unique and satisfying!)

Are you drawn to biography? Fiction? History? All and do have books that you love from each? Do you favor books that are enjoyable and allow you to "escape" to a different world? Do you read for information? Do you have a favorite author or series?

I'm just curious.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Sense of Belonging

Yesterday I received a phone call from Jon Talbert, comedian, pastor and founder of Beautiful Day. He knows I like conferences and had some extra spots available for Willow Creek Leadership Summit and asked f I wanted to go. I think I squealed and got off the phone, vowing to make it work out so I could go.

I managed to find friends to care for my children for half the day. I was so excited this morning as I tried to get my kids ready. The Summit was at a church that I hadn't been to in over 20 years. As I neared the front doors memories came back of my Jr. high science fair experiment that earned 2nd place at the Regional level and the time in high school where my youth group piled in a van to go see a concert/performance at this church. I think it was David Meece. It was pretty funny thinking of the times I'd visited this church.

As mentioned before, usually I feel I have no purpose for attending a conference. I feel like I don't belong. Since I've been to two Unleashed conferences, I'm getting a bit more confident. No one can tell that I don't belong. Besides, today, I felt invited. I felt like I belonged.

Belonging changes everything.

I arrived excitedly, confidently. I parked, walked up to registration, got my name tag and went in, looking at the books. I had a smile on my face. Jon Talbert, the person who invited me was there and I said hello. He was quite welcoming and came across as excited for me. Excited that I'd enjoy this conference, and that made me even more happy. I then looked around a bit more before deciding to go inside and get a good seat.

Now, usually at these things I'm afraid. Afraid of getting in the way of the "real" attenders.... the people that are "important." But today, feeling like I actually belonged, I went up and sat in the second row, a perfect seat to watch the large video screen. I even met my "neighbors" . Now, usually at church, the greeting time is the most difficult for me, but today, I was excited to greet those around me. The folks near me hailed from San Mateo and Redwood City, both places familiar with me, churches I was familiar with. We were all on equal ground, just people excited to hear and learn from the speakers.

Again, I felt I belonged.

The event started with a creative video of declarations. "I will......." I was so well done in its simplicity and message. Then a few worship songs, starting with a beautiful solo rendition of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing into a praise song we all participated in. (even me!) Soon Bill Hybels got up to speak. I had never listened to BIll Hybels and the last time I read any of his books I was in college when we did a study of his called Who You Are When No One's Looking. I have to say, I am biased against mega church leaders, but that bias was quickly melted away as I listened to what Pastor Hybels had to say. He was warm and genuine. His passion for the church and helping others was easy to see. I liked his message and will probably blog about that more later.

We took a break and normally I don't like breaks. They are awkward and I don't know what to do, even if I know folks from my church at a conference I don't know what to do! Do I talk to them or would they rather talk to others since they see me all the time? Do I just do my own thing independent from them? Remember, at other conferences I feel that I don't belong and am unimportant since I'm not a church leader and that I have no business being there, whereas the other people attending from my church had a Purpose and were invited to attend. Truly, I just crash these things and hope no one questions or says I really shouldn't go. So I always feel like an outsider during the breaks.

I even brought a book to read during the break times, but I did not need them. Since I was invited, it meant I belonged and was welcomed. So I once again said hello to Jon Talbert. (hard to know what to call him.... Pastor Jon? Mr. Talbert? Pastor Talbert? )
Again, he was kind and introduced me o the person he was talking to, a women who lives in Palo Alto who moved here from New York with a ministry called 1-800-Jesus-Christ. I really enjoyed chatting with her and then it was time for another session. This time with Jim Collins, author of several books that I'd heard of but never read. I was very impressed with him, which really surprised me because he spoke a great deal on leadership and that doesn't apply to me; I'm not a leader. He spoke on his newest book, Too Big To Fail and I was entranced. He's an amazing speaker and said so much that made sense. I took a lot of notes and knew I'd have to buy his book(s).

The final speaker was a women, and she wasn't a speaker, she as a preacher! Her name is Christine Caine. Her message was inspiring but quite different from the more easily outline-able speakers prior to her. At one point I just stopped trying to take notes and simply enjoyed her. She was quite passionate and spoke on human trafficking and a myriad of other things which I'll discuss in a different blog. Did I mention she is passionate? She came across as more emotional, which personally annoyed me a bit, but she was an excellent speaker with an inspiring testimony and a great many insightful things to say.

After Christine, we broke for lunch. Panera was catering and I've never been to Panera bread. (hard to admit) I did not know what was in the boxes and asked Jon Talbert what was in the box. He said a sandwich and mentioned that his church, Westgate had a room that they meet and discus stuff and invited me to join in if I was inclined. I bought my box lunch and boldly went into the room and sat down at a table. Now, this is so unlike me! This is not my church; no one from my church seemed to be a part of the conference. Here I was, sitting in Westgate's lunch room, talking to Westgate people and actually ENJOYING it. The person I was talking to was kind and sweet. Everyone at my table was really nice to me. A bit later, the lead pastor shut the door and started to talk, asking us what stood out to us, what God was saying to us..... our "ah-ha" moment, and reminding us that we'd all have different things that resonated with us. Pastor Steve Clifford was warm, humorous and had a way of setting the tone to be easy to speak up. Several people jumped up to tell what resonated with them. I was really surprised because nearly everyone brought up things from the final speaker, Christine Caine. She was definitely emotionally engaging and there was much to like, but I was sill surprised because I found that I took more notes on what Bill Hybels and Jim Collins had to say. Everyone loved her, and I did too. I guess I enjoyed Hybels and Collins' style a bit more. Still, she was excellent and there were a lot of "takeaway" that I gleaned from her.

I was very impressed with Westgate church. They had a large group of folks attending this conference who were enthusiastic to be present. I was warmly welcomed in "their room" and felt like I belonged there. In turn, it made me happy and even bold. I loved that the pastor addressed his group, asking them for their personal observations and experience, as well as giving some helpful hints to the newbies that were at the conference for the first time, warning us that it will be easy to forge what Billy Hybels and the earlier speakers said and challenged us to write down the things that we thought of, that grabbed us, what God was telling us during the conference. With his relaxed style and words, he seemed to convey that they (us?) were important and they were willing to invest in its people. He seemed to really want his people to learn and grow and be challenged, and reminded people that they have the DVDs of past conferences and would be happy to loan them out to the Westgate people. (provided they return it)

I rarely feel like I truly belong. My penchant for conferences I usually regard as an oddity. "Normal" folks don't love this stuff like I do. I'm not an actual leader and don't feel like I fit in around other leaders at my church, and yet, here in this conference, in this Westgate room I felt like I belonged. It almost made me wish I was a leader. It made me smile more, talk more, be more bold and assertive. Instead of being self conscious, I had a great time every second today. I enjoyed meeting new folks. I enjoyed this send of belonging.

The funny thing? What really changed? The big change was simply my attitude. I went in feeling that I had a right to attend; that I belonged and because I felt I belonged, I think I actually did belong.

Perhaps I've always belonged. Perhaps I have always had a "right" to be and talk to others and enjoy myself. Nothing really had changed except that I felt welcomed and felt I belonged.

It made me really excited to do more, be more involved in some type of ministry or leadership. To serve others. I felt I had something to offer. Not sure what, but it sure was a great feeling being a part of this group. Feeling like I belonged and yet that feeling was contingent not on others but on myself.

It did, of course, take someone to invite me and help me feel that I was welcome to attend this conference. And now I feel I have the "right" to go to other conferences, sit wherever I want and enjoy myself and enjoy others.

I belong.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rules Rule?

I claim to be a rule follower. I think it is important to follow rules. A few weeks ago, the pastor of my church asked how many agreed that "rules were made to be broken." Surprisingly, it seemed half the congregation were in agreement with that. (though I think it was a bit of a trick question; it sounded like that was our pastor's assessment and I do think that people naturally want to side with the Pastor..... does he really believe that? I don't know)

I have read Tim Keller's The Prodigal God and I identify with the elder brother character. I tend to drift towards legalism and I like things to be spelled out, with little gray area. I like absolutes and I don't think things are relative. Right is right and wrong is wrong, regardless of the situation.

As I was contemplating about my propensity to follow the rules, I realized how often I break them myself! I don't like to copy music but the other day when I couldn't find a CD I wanted from iTunes or Amazon (it was an old CD) I borrowed it from a friend and copied it. I sometimes ride my bike with headphones on, listening to my iPod. It is not a secret that I tend to speed while on 280. (that stretch of freeway is impossible to go the speed limit on) I don't always stop at stop signs while on my bike, and sometimes even stoplights if my bike doesn't trip the sensor.

This is only a small sampling of the myriad of rules and laws I don't always obey. Certain ones, like speeding on 280, I try not to. Other things, I know full well I'm being disobedient and not even trying to change it. I pretty much feel I can decide which rules are "important" or makes sense and which rules really won't hurt anyone or seem rather wacky.

I guess everyone does that, too. Only the rules they might think seem "wacky" and ones that don't matter if they aren't enforced, are rules that I find important. It bothers me when I'm at the Under 15 item checkout line and the person in front of me has 30 items instead of 15. I find that important to follow. Likewise, the carpool lane. I could go on and on about the little things I obey and expect others to obey and when they don't...... It bugs me.

But like I said...... I'm sure there are the rules I disobey that others think are "important."

So, as much as I believe in following the rules and absolutes, I guess I'm not so absolute.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Psalm One

I have this memorized in the NIV but here it is in the ESV.

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his g delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked n will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Crazy Circle

A few months ago I was complaining that a book I loan out rarely comes back to me. With a few exceptions, I rarely ask for a book back. I just take it as a loss if it goes missing. I'm supposed to assume that I'll never see a loaned book again and that way there is no hard feelings towards the person if/when it goes missing. But deep down, I want my book back!

This is beginning to change a bit.

Last summer I loaned out my first copy of Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I had purchased it a week before and read it quickly. It is such a good book on many levels; very though provoking and challenging. I put on Facebook that I'd just finished reading Crazy Love and a friend the next day at a BBQ asked if she could borrow it. Of course.

That was a year ago. Within a few months I decided to buy a new copy. I had that about 4 days when I was asked if I had a copy and loaned it out. The person read it while on vacation, loved it, and was going to give it back when she asked if she could loan it to a friend. (trustworthy friend) Of course! And I know she meant to give it back, had it in her car, but somehow, it never was returned.

I bought another one and guess what? Once again, it was replaced too! And there was a part of me that was disappointed. Though the book is only about ten dollars, it adds up to continually keep replacing it! I vowed to have a few copies next time and just give it away as a gift rather than expecting it back.

This book, though it created a bit of guilt in me for not doing "enough" is good. So good that everyone that I've loaned it to has loved it. So good that I recommended it to a small women's Bible study to do as a book club together. (they loved it as well and I purchased the DVD to go with it...... speaking of that, I have to get that back too!)

The other day I was chatting with a friend and she mentioned she needed to read a book. I asked if she had any good books and what she was reading. She replied Crazy Love. I couldn't help but ask how/why that book and she replied that her friend had given it to her as a graduation gift. Her friend is the daughter of the first person I loaned Crazy Love to!

This book gets around. Or at least my copies of it seems to! And right now, I'm content and happy. It is a worthwhilel 10 dollar investment to see this Crazy Circle continue. I hope it continues. I was so wrong to begrudge loaning it to others.