Thursday, September 9, 2010

Resurrection in May

I just finished a book from the blogger book club that I am in--and it was fiction for a change. I really recommend the book, because it made me take a mirror to my own life. Resurrection in May is a novel authored by Lisa Samson.

Revolving around the main character, May, we are able to witness the transformation from frivolous, self-centered young woman to contemplative, God-loving soul. In between, May travels to Africa on a missions trip, and witnesses severe tragedy that wounds her deeply and puts her into an emotional, social, and spiritual coma for years.

Through the unassuming love of the people God puts in her path, and the beauty of a secluded farm and animals, May slowly comes back to "life."

She must choose between trying to protect her wounded heart from further sorrow and living a life that includes loving and vulnerability.

While questioning the evil that surrounded her in Africa and why it was allowed by a loving God, May chooses to give up and become a hermit. She was challenged by a loving friend, "You can't accept that. You participate in making things better. The only way we can see how
God works is when we join in."

The way I see it is that everyday I make a choice to choose life or hopelessness. Am I watching where God is working around me and joining Him, or am I living a life that revolves around my selfish endeavors?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How's Your Heart?

The word "heart" is used 75 times in the book of Proverbs. That is what Beth Moore told Hannah and me as we were working through an online study this morning.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.


Whether we like it or not, our heart is a wellspring, and whatever is in it will spew out constantly on our surroundings and unsuspecting 'victims.' My heart is dangerous--not only to myself, but especially to others.

Other translations of the Hebrew word translated "wellspring" are exit, boundary, source, outgoings and my favorite ISSUES. Just take a moment and substitute each of these words for wellspring in the verse above. They each speak to me in a different way--and add to my understanding.

We were challenged by this question--"How is your heart?" I had to think about that one. Who or what does my heart really belong to? In my head, I would tell you that the answer, of course, is Jesus. But what do my actions say? What does the 'spewage' (not a word--but very descriptive!) communicate?

Have I really given Him my heart--or am I still protecting it. Not really trusting God with the most precious, personal and dearest part of me. Our heart is our deepest treasure.

It is the most difficult thing for me to surrender to Him. At first glance, it may seem that it may be harder to surrender other areas in my life--children being utmost, husband, dreams, health, etc--but the reality is, that it is my heart that I am afraid will be broken. I just don't trust Him completely.

What if I surrender wholeheartedly my heart to God, and something tragic in my life occurs to those I deem most precious? Can I still trust that the God who I've given my heart to is worthy of that love-- that He will heal and bind that heart and that He is truly a good God that will work all things for my good?

I have grown leaps and bounds with that trust--and I know the right answers in my head, but I must admit I still wrestle in my heart.

I'm thinking that surrendering my heart--giving it to Him completely is not a one time shot. Maybe it's more like 're-gifting,' over and over, a million times a day, if necessary, whenever I feel it creeping and crawling, sometimes running, away from Him.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Small World

One of the greatest blessings about serving, while on a missions trip, is the change in my perspective, that inevitably happens. No longer am I able to think in sweeping generalizations, like "those African children." Those generalizations are transformed from a vague video in my mind of starving children to faces and names of individuals I have had the privilege to hug, play,laugh and worship with. Oh--what a blessing.

As I went to Kenya for the second time--the best part was to build on relationships that were started the previous year. Oh--what sweet reunions when my eyes met those eyes that I had not seen in 365 days.

The world has become a much smaller place, and in that understanding, God has continued to teach me how big He is. Stephen Curtis Chapman wrote a song entitled, "Yours" that sums it all up and wraps my thoughts in a neat, succinct package. (If that's even possible!)

I walk the streets of London
and notice in the faces passing by
something that makes me stop and listen
My heart grows heavy with the cry
Where is the hope for London
You whisper and my heart begins to soar
as I’m reminded every street in London is Yours

I walk the dirt roads of Uganda
I see the scars that war has left behind
Hope like the sun is fading
and they’re waiting for a cure no one can find
And I hear children’s voices singing
of a God who heals and rescues and restores
and I’m reminded that every child in Africa is Yours

It’s all Yours God, Yours God, everything is Yours
From the stars in the sky to the depths of the ocean floor
and it’s all Yours God, Yours God, everything is Yours
You’re the maker and keeper, Father and ruler of everything
It’s all Yours


I'm a processer--and I've been mulling. I'm also a procrastinator--and I've been procrastinating. So, between either the processing and/or the procrastination, I have not taken the time to notice and solidfy how God is working and how He used Kenya to change me. I need to get on that.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Kenya

I am going to try to continue the blog that was previously posted at ">http://frcckenyatrip2010.blogspot.com/. We had a day of R and R--before we start a busy part 2 schedule to our trip. Relaxing on the beach this morning, I caught up on my reading and had an awesome time with God as I overlooked the Indian Ocean. As big as the ocean is, our God is so much bigger and it humbles me each time I am by the sea.


Most of us walked to Ule's--which will be familiar to the rest of the group that is home. They have better ice cream than Culver's! We shared a pizza--a Margarita pizza- (sliced tomatoes and cheese) and chips (french fries). And the ice cream flavor that is the best? Dulce Latte--just caramel ice cream with a lot of goo in it!!)


Before eating, we decided to take a walk out to sea--as the tide was very low. As we walked, we were confronted by two Kenyans that wanted to take us on a "Sea Safari" and show us many creatures. We told them that we wanted to walk on our own--and they persisted as in not uncommon here!! At first, it was annoying, but after awhile we went with it, after we told them that we had no money to give them afterwards. "John" and "Ben" found a sea spider (looked kind of like a starfish with tentacles), sea cucumber, octopus eggs, sea urchins, sea anenome with cute little clown fish swimming around. They invited us to hold many of the creatures and we put our finger in the sea anenome and it closed around it!


During the walk, I had some good discussion with the men as they shared the facts. I found out that John lived near our school at Bomani and that he was a christian. Ben said he believed in God--but was not a christian, so that spurred on some good conversations. Afterwards, I went up to my room--retrieved a few hundred in shillings, along with a Bible, a couple of granola bars and the gospel tract--(given to me by Grace, from Texas!, along with a happy meal toy for John's daughter. I was able to share the tract with the men--and they read it out-loud. Ben said he understood--hopefully that is true!


Brooke and Nora did some intense bartering along the sea shore as they saw a scarf and purse they wanted. They used t-shirts, pens and McDonald's toys to make a fair trade! Ask Nora to see her scarf when we get back!


The acrobats that had performed at Crossroads Fellowship Church nearly a week ago, recognized Brooke on the beach, and called out her name! We have been humbled many times during this trip as Kenyan's memory for details is far superior to ours!

Going to bed now--busy day tomorrow as we have a Super Saturday for a school that is near Crossroads Academy in Vipingo. (A Super Saturday is much like a day of VBS at home.)

It is very strange here without the rest of our team. We miss you all--and am so thankful that you made it home, safe and sound. Family and Friends--miss you, and see you soon!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I AM

I have been studying the names of God--because the true grounds for peace and comfort is to be found only in the sort of God we have, and in Bible language, name always means character. Names were always given to describe the character or work of the person named. So as we study His names, we learn more about who God is--and as I do that, I am able to trust Him more freely.

The name that fascinates me the most is I AM. "I AM" includes everything the human heart longs for and needs.

Exd 3:14 God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

John 8:58 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"


For example, if I am distraught--Jesus says, "I am your comforter." Scared? "I am your protector." Tired and weak? "I am your strength."

This unfinished name of God is like a blank check signed by a rich friend. It is given to us to be filled up with whatever sum we desire. The whole Bible tells us what it means. Search the Bible and look for all of the names of God. That is who He is--and that is how we finish His name, I AM.

When I focus on my own 'I am's'--I am a loser, I am a liar, I am weak, I am a fool, I am selfish, I am a bad mom/wife/friend--my spiritual ears are unable to hear His glorious, soul-satisfying I AM.

If I focus on all that I am--rather than God's I AM, I am miserable and as I ignore the blank check of God's character, I live a defeated life.

I am--a child of the great I AM. That's pretty much all you need to know about me.

But I am motivated to search out the other names of God that finish this name, to find out who He is. I AM pretty much covers everything, don't you think. He is our ALL!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring and Grace


What is it about spring time, getting my hands in the dirt, pulling out weeds and hoping to get the whole root, that gets my spiritual analogy juices going. God just speaks to me when I am outside in His creation--it is when I worship Him the most freely and feel the closest to Him.

Today was another bonus, nice day--the kind we don't often get in Wisconsin, during the rainy month of April. (Now, as I type--we are getting our April showers and grass greening lightning. Thank you, God.) But today was one of those days where the sun and warmth just begs for me to get out in the flower beds--and I was blessed with a non-busy day for a change!

Working in the garden today correlated with a chapter entitled Growth, in the book I am loving, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, written by Hannah Whitall Smith, in 1880 or some year close to that.

As Christians, sometimes we understand that our salvation is by faith alone, but when it comes to our righteousness, or changing more like Him, we like to take things in our own hands--or at least I do. I try-try-try to be more like Him. I work-work-work to possess the fruits of the Spirit.

How's that working for me, you ask? Ummm--not so good. It is like trying to plant a flower in rocky soil. Even though I do all the right things--watering it, putting it out in the sunlight, fertilizing the stones, etc., it's just not going to grow very well. That flower needs to be put in good soil.

I am like that flower, but my good soil is God's grace. When I grow in grace, I put my 'growing' into the hands of God, and leave it with Him--"to grow as the babes or lilies grow without care or anxiety. He who planted us has planted a growing thing and has made us on purpose to grow."

"The slightest barrier between my soul and Christ may cause me to dwindle and fade as a plant in a cellar, under a bushel, or rooted in rocky soil. Bask in the sunshine of His love. Drink of the waters of His goodness. Keep my face upturned to Him."

Flowers naturally turn towards the sun--in the morning, they are facing east, late afternoon?--west. Isn't it awesome the lessons that His creation teaches us, if we just take the time to notice?

I grow in the rich soil of grace when I am spending time with Him, when I realize that I am unconditionally loved--no matter what good or bad things I do, and when I abide in Him, and say a continual YES to My Father's will.

Finally--check out how Miss Whitall Smith described GRACE.

"Grace is the unhindered, wondrous, boundless love of God, poured out upon us in an infinite variety of ways, without stint or measure, not according to our deserving but according to His measureless heart of love. Put together all the tenderest love you know of--the deepest you have ever felt and the strongest that has ever been poured out upon you--and heap upon it all the love of all the loving human hearts in the world, and then multiply it by infinity, and you will begin perhaps to have some faint glimpses of the love and grace of God."

Awesome...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Problem With Feelings...

I have a struggle at times when I pray. My words 'feel' as if they are bouncing off the ceiling and not really going anywhere. Sometimes, I 'feel' as if I am talking to myself and wonder if God is really listening; it's as if God is vague and not concrete. I can't see Him. I can't touch Him. I can not 'feel' Him.

The huge error in my thinking is that my 'feelings' are not reliable, and faith has nothing to do with them, whatsoever. My focus is inward--I can't see, I can't touch, I can't feel. I, I, I. Faith is believing, regardless of our feelings and regardless of any earthly outcome. Faith's focus is on God--and the truth of who and what He is.

As a conversationalist, I am not so good at chit-chat, and if you have ever spent time talking to me, you will soon realize that I feel much more comfortable asking questions--then I can get you to talk! Sometimes it can be used to deflect off of me, but most of the time, I just am truly intrigued by stories, and how God is woven through each and every one's life.

Maybe I need to use that tactic when talking to God. Spend way more time listening, asking questions, and less time rattling on and on--wondering if He is really listening. (He is--that's a fact and my feelings can never change that.)

Proof--taken straight from God's letter to us that supercedes any feelings that might be lying and deceiving-

1John 5:14,15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Focus on Marriage--Francis Chan


For quite awhile, Mark and I were quite burned out on anything "marriagey"--we felt as if we had had our fill on marriage bible studies, marriage conferences, marriage small groups, etc. I am not implying that we felt like we had it figured out--nothing could be further from the truth, just had a 'been there, done that' attitude.

After attending the simulcast at church, Focus on Marriage, I am overflowing and blessed with an abundance of information, and knowing that I am really good with acquiring info, but not so good with application, I want to rehash as I blog--hoping that some of that info will really settle in and find a home in me! So this may be part 1 of many.

Francis Chan spoke on the importance of our commitment to God--and how that affects our marriages. He stated, "God created us for purpose--not just to have happy little lives, with happy marriages and happy little kids." Nothing wrong with all of that--but I can't strive for that alone. I need to focus on my relationship with Jesus.

"The answer...isn't a list of do's and don'ts, it's falling in love with God."

"We need to love each other eternally--focusing on our meeting with God." So if I am more worried about Mark as a husband to me, more than I am concerned about him as a servant of God, my perspective is all wrong.

Chan put it all in perspective by reminding me that someday, my time on this world will end, and I will spend eternity with my Lord--and Mark will spend eternity with his Lord.

Another interesting thought--"If there is conflict in our marriage, there is conflict in our relationship with God."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Veggie Tales and Fear

Through my life, fear has been a companion of mine--not a friend, but more like a ball and chain.

At times, fear has immobilized me--kept me from going to the places God has wanted me to go, and/or saying the things He has wanted me to say. It has wasted my days--dragged me down, so I missed the joy and peace that my Lord wanted me to receive.

When God has freed me of that fear, my life feels like a prisoner's reprieve and a soaring eagle, all wrapped up into one joyous package. Freedom from fear--fear of cancer, fear of the death of a loved one, fear of what others think, fear of failure, and on and on--is the life that God intended me to live when He became the Lord of my life, Savior of my eternity, and forever Friend.

Today--I was reminded of that consuming fear that controlled my life for so long. As I was helping with childcare for Mom-time at church, I watched as a little guy, about 4 years old, experienced fear. We played a DVD for the last few minutes before the moms came for pick-up, and it happened to be a Veggie Tales movie.

For some reason, our little guy was terrified as soon as the Larry and Bob started doing their thing. He stood in front of the TV--with terror filled eyes (I am not exaggerating), screamed, and refused to look away.

I urged him to look at me, rather than at the TV. As he sat on my lap, I turned the rocking chair the opposite way--and he turned his head to look around the chair so he could stare at the TV and be petrified. I grabbed a book, and said, "Samuel, look at the book. Don't look at the movie."

He just kept looking at the thing that scared him the most. And that is exactly what I used to do. I looked at the scary thing--rather than at the God who would always be with me and never leave me, no matter what the circumstance.

When Samuel kept looking at the talking vegetables, even though they terrified him, it was exactly like me--looking at my worse case scenarios that I concocted in my head.

This is the verse that God used to begin freeing me from the ball and chain of fear, and it all began with my thoughts--and my focus.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Where Is God?

As I look back at my life, while experiencing difficulties, I know I have asked the question "Where is God?" That is why this book, written by John Townsend, interested me--and I chose it from the Thomas Nelson Blogger Club.

When I go through difficult times--I need some answers. When those that I love struggle--I want to be able to point them in the right direction, while providing hope at the same time.

"You will be most successful in a tough life when you come to a point in which you place your trust in God's unseen care rather than what you see around you. Faith is the only way to keep difficult times from causing you to despair or give up."--Townsend

This book provides a firm foundational support, along with practical 'helps' when going through rough times.

Faith is trusting that an unseen God is constantly at work in our situation--and that He has our best interest at all times. Faith requires humility--"I may not know what is best for me--but He will turn this bad situation into something good, most often that is manifested in our spiritual relationship with Him.

Here are a few practical hints that I gleaned from the book.

--Stay in relationship--not only with God, but with others who care about you--especially during tough times. As stress increases, increase structured support. "Find your people and let them in!"

--Mark the experience--When God shows up and prayers are answered, celebrate, speak about it, journal and memorialize it. When we dwell on things that God has done for us in the past, our faith grows. We then KNOW He will come through for us in the future. This helps create a relational history.

--Move beyond a relationship with God based on 911 calls--although necessary at times, God wants to have a relationship that is not based on necessity and obligation. Move out of the 'have to spend time with God' and into the relationship of 'want to spend time with my Father.'

That last point is a 'biggie' for me. I was really forced to evaluate my attitude concerning my Quiet Times with God. Is it based more on 'Have tos and Shoulds' and guilt then being thrilled to spend time with my Creator, Father and Best Friend. No relationship thrives when we feel we have to spend time with someone--He is not shaking His fist at me--demanding my time. He waits patiently for me to come to Him. Love is not forced.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hearts for Haiti



When catastrophes and calamities strike, a hopeless feeling can come over me. What can I do? If only I could...bring over an orphan, travel to Haiti, supply a million dollars worth of supplies, etc. After I realize that those options aren't possible, I am tempted to throw my hands up in the air, and resolutely decide that my 'job' is to pray. Oh to be a prayer warrior for Haitians--there is no other role more important than to join the front lines on the spiritual battlefield of despair.

But there is no need to stop there--maybe we can all ask ourselves, "What can I do--in my corner of the world to help those in need?"

I have a sweet, sweet friend who took up that charge--looked at what skills she had, and used them for the heartbroken. Laura has a heart as big as I have ever witnessed, and not only that, she is brave and unafraid to step out and DO SOMETHING! I get big ideas--but often times, they stop right there, as they suffer in the 'follow-through.'

Here is Laura. She decided to make Valentines Day cards, and sell them at the local Pick-n-Save on Saturday, with all funds going to those in need. I was so privileged to do a little paper cutting and gluing beside her. So you see, she is the brains, supplier, initiative, and inspiration behind this whole gig.



As we did our jobs, I couldn't help noticing how each and everyone contributed in their own special way. Mavis is always so encouraging and willing to do whatever task is asked of her. She is my big sister--I have looked up to her for a lot of years and plan on doing so for many more!


Sam was in charge of making envelopes. No nonsense--in a room full of women--he folded and glued, not once distracted by a possible new design. "Is this heart too big for this card?" I believe FOCUS is his middle name. And thanks, Sam, for taking time out of your envelope folding business so that I could take your pic!


There seems to be two categories of people when a creative product is being processed, there are the creative, artsy-fartsy dreamers, and the 'just get it done' types. Some are a little of both--depending on the mood, the project, is it before or after lunch, etc. Jessie and Hannah fall into that category. They can work both sides of the fence.



These two, Nora and Abbey fall on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Designing what papers look good together are a lot more fun for Nora than actually putting the card together. And Abbey? She was cranking out those cards Nora designed almost as fast as Nora was moving on to a new design--because frankly, she was rather bored with the old one already!!


As I was writing this post, thinking about the strengths of each card-maker, I thought of those Haitians. God has given each and every one of those individuals, the ones who have cried more tears in the last two days then maybe they have in their whole life, strengths and abilities. They too, are different and special from each other. Each special broken heart, needs hope in this terrible situation to be able to become all God created them to be.

Let's just do what we can do--as small and little as it may seem, to keep their hope alive. If you get creative for Haiti, I would love to hear about it. But most importantly, let's fall on our knees, praying for redemption and hope, and may we never just shut the TV off, and go on with our own lives.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Resolutions Just Don't Work For Me!

"Good habits are not made on birthdays, nor Christian character at the New Year. The workshop of character is everyday life. The uneventful and commonplace hour is where the battle is lost or won." --Maltbie Babcock

New Years resolutions are on everyone's mind. I wish mine from the past had magically changed me--and I could say that I had completed all of them successfully. Eat way more vegetables--CHECK. Read my Bible more than I watch TV--CHECK. Less Computer time--CHECK. Organize my meals each week--CHECK.

Nope--can't really say CHECK on any of the above. I just don't think I operate very well using the resolution technique to change my life.

The problem for me is that it is so all or nothing. If I mess up--just one day out of the year--I feel as if I have failed. And if I have failed, I feel like giving it all up.

A better way for me is to look at my life through God's eyes--rather than through the grid of the "all-or-nothing" grid of the resolution. God looks for progress, never expecting perfection, but success comes in progression.

I guess that is why I like the quote that I copied and pasted above. Someday, my character will not be based on the resolutions that I made and later failed. Rather than making rules for myself that I can never keep, I hope to walk more with God--each second of the day, so that I can show grace to those He puts in my path, extend forgiveness when it seems humanly impossible, take care of my body each moment when I know I shouldn't be eating through my anxieties and stresses, and spend time with the Lord--not because I have made a rule at the beginning of the year, but for the sole reason that I just want to spend time with my Father who loves me.

My New Year's Resolution? Walk with God each moment of this year, 2010, and when I don't, and I mess up?--yes, this will happen umpteen times--look to God, ask for His forgiveness, and continue forward.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter Snow

Luke 2:6
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Friends went to the Chris Tomlin concert, and afterwards, I listened in as they recapped it. One of the highlights was a song called Winter Snow, sung by Audrey Assad. I looked it up on YouTube--found it.

The next day we had a snowfall of 10 inches or so. Tuesday night, when Mark and I came outside after our journey group--(Home teams), the snow falling was so beautiful, with huge snowflakes silently falling onto everything.

I recalled the song I had looked up earlier in the day. In the song, Jesus's arrival on earth was likened to a gentle, quiet snowfall. Isn't that amazing--the God of the universe, the creator of you and me, who has more power in His little pinky than we could ever witness or imagine, chose to arrive in a quiet, obscure, humble way.

I hate to say it, but if I was God--and I was coming to earth to save humankind--I would have chosen an arrival with fanfare and "Hey, Look at me--I am coming to save you wretched little humans. How dare you not notice my arrival!" (I am very thankful that He is God--and I am not.)

I don't know about you, but one of my biggest weaknesses is my need to be noticed. "Hey, I did something good here--check it out!" Humbleness, not so much.

So that is why it is so amazing that God was so very patient--knowing His time to be revealed would come later, in His perfect plan.

The Almighty, All-Powerful God chose to contain Himself in the most helpless being possible, and He chose to make His arrival in a humble barn, with animals being the first to see Him in person.

That is truly a Christmas miracle. Check out the song I was writing about earlier. I will never look at snow the same way again.

Friday, December 4, 2009

He Just Wants to Spend Time With You!

Last night, while I was breaking bread and eating soup at Panera's with a dear friend, she shared the truth with me that God desires relationship with me over the trivial activities that I do for Him.

As we looked out the window and watched the snow falling to the ground, we laughed at the comparison of ourselves to little ants, busily hurrying and scurrying around DOING 'great' things for our God. As if God is actually so relieved when He sees what we do--knowing that He would never be able to accomplish these things without our help. How absurd!

The all-powerful, mighty God needs nothing of our works for Him, He only desires relationship with us.

The cool thing about it is that He chooses to allow us to help Him where He is already working.

Kind of like when my kids were toddlers and I let them pull up the kitchen chairs around the mixer as I made peanut butter cookies. Could I have made the cookies faster without them? Yes. Would it have been a more peaceful activity doing it by myself? Most definately. Could I have made those cookies with less chance of the batch being botched up?

Oh, that reminds me of the time when all three kids had their chairs pulled around the mixer. I had given each child their turn in pouring in an ingredient. It was one of those hallmark moments that my kids would someday thank me for in a Mother's Day Card.

Then--my almost 2 year old youngest daughter opened up the junk drawer--quicker than I could realize what she was doing, she proceeded to place 3 Christmas tree lightbulbs into the batter as the beaters were agitating quickly.

Our cookies quickly turned into a science experiment--what happens when you put 2 green and 1 red bulb into peanut butter dough while mixing? We still laugh about that now.

I didn't let the kids help me make cookies because I needed their help--I let them help me because it was something we could do together. I cared about spending time with them--and I valued that over getting the cookies done.

(I wish I got that message then--during the time I was throwing the dough with the shards of glass away--all while my son was asking if we couldn't just pick out the pieces and it would be all good.) I was ticked--and exasperated like I was so often as a young mom staying home with kids all day.

But God, on the other hand, is the perfect parent. He really just allows us to help Him--even if we mess things up a bit--all for the reason that He values a relationship with Him. That is so cool.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Do You Want To Be On My Team??

The world will know we are christians by our love. It's a song--most of us are familiar by it, but I have been convicted by it. God wants to use the church to bring people to Him--and instead, it seems like people look at the church as a reason to stay far away from Him. We've been hurt--talked about--ignored--excluded--judged, and the people outside the church have experienced the same things, and they don't want any part of it.

I am thinking that that breaks God's heart. At times, I tend to be an island. Thinking that being a christian is just about having a relationship with Jesus--and then He will 'work' on me, and then maybe I can go out into the world and tell someone else about Him.

I am missing the point--and I really am a pretty relational person--but only up to a point. The old Simon and Garfunkle song comes to mind...

A winter's day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I've built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Don't talk of love,
Well, I've heard the word before.
It's sleeping in my memory.
I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.


I wonder--does the world see us loving one another--so much so, that they want to be apart of it all?

Are we such a team, that we would do anything God asks us to, for one another? Or are we caught up in our own dramas with one another?

I watched a Francis Chan message/podcast. He talked about this issue and compared it to a few years back when Koby Bryant and Shaq were playing for the Lakers. They had so much talent. They should have won the championship, but they were too preoccupied fighting with one another. They were too involved in their own drama--that they forgot there was something big happening--like the possibility of the TEAM winning a championship.

Good analogy--I think. Am I too occupied with my own personal dramas. Am I worrying about how someone has hurt me and refusing to forgive? Am I too busy looking at other's faults--thinking they are harming our reputation, and ignoring the huge plank in my own life? Am I forgetting about what is really supposed to be happening--the big show, and not my little puny drama?

Do those who have yet to believe know I am a christian by the way I love other christians? When they come in our churches--do they feel that we authentically care about each other--and are they just yearning to be apart of our family or are they finding more community, love and caring at the corner 'Cheers' bar or athletic gym?

Not sure how to end this post...I need to spend some time on my knees.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Setting Up the Tree--09

Years ago, Mark and I use to talk all big about when our kids would leave the nest--and how we would be doing high fives and breaking out the cotton candy and ponies. (That is what we would jokingly tell our kids we did when they were sent to bed.)

Now that we are getting closer to that flying the coop day, I am not feeling as strong--in fact, last night I had a bit of a melt-down.

The Christmas tree was up--thanks to Mark--and wrapped properly and abundantly with lights. Usually, the next step would be that everyone would break out their own boxes of ornaments--and while we ate chili, hot chocolate, etc. the ornaments that the kids had received each year were placed on the tree. Usually this involved playful reminiscing and lighthearted arguments. I love that sound of us just being a family.

When the kids were little, I would have to move the ornaments after they went to bed because they were all concentrated on the lower limbs--and they were never evenly spaced out.

Other times, I would complain to Mark that it was impossible to keep a 16 month, 3 year old and 5 year old from rearranging the ornaments constantly. Then there were the times when they would take their Star Wars figurines and play hide and seek with them among all of the ornaments. One year, Luke Skywalker almost made it into the Christmas tree box!

To tell you the truth, I really miss those days.

And that brings me to my meltdown. We could not find a time when everyone was at home. Between work, hanging out with friends, dates, etc., there was no time during the holiday weekend for everyone to work on the tree together. I had to talk them into at least hanging up a few of their favorites before they left the house.

Then, Mark and I were hanging up the rest of the kids ornaments--and as I hung up the "Baby's 1st Christmas--89", Ballet Bear, and "Strawberry Shortcake Baking Cookies," I got kind of weepy. Well, not really 'kind of.'

I am not gonna lie--I didn't much like it and I told Mark that I am not sure I am ready for just me and him!

I know I have 2 years before the last kid is officially off to college--I sure hope that is enough time for me to prepare for the next chapter. I better get right on that!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Give Me Your Eyes...

These books keep getting placed into my path. Books that take me out of my reality and place me in a spot that enables my empathy to expand. One of those books that I have read lately is What Difference Do it Make? This is the follow up book to Same Kind of Different As Me.

Continuing the hard-to-believe story of hope and reconciliation, Ron Hall and Denver Moore, "unlikely friends and even unlikelier coauthors--a wealthy fine-art dealer and an illiterate homeless African American--share the hard-to-stop story of how a remarkable woman's love brought them together."

The mark of a good book is one that after closing the cover for the final time, I am changed. I see my world differently because I spent a little time looking through the eyes of someone much different from myself.

Both of these books gave me new insight and compassion for the homeless. They don't need our sympathy--they don't need us to be their rescuer, giving hand-outs when it is convenient. Homeless individuals need relationships that give dignity and point them to hope.

Check it out--and let me know what your thoughts are!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rainbow

I really wish I had my camera with me today. I was pulling weeds in some flower beds--it started to rain and I saw the most beautiful rainbow, ever!

Instead of going inside during the rain, I decided to put on a raincoat and stay in the elements.

This is the lesson learned--In order to see a rainbow, you need to stay out in the rain.

I know--it sounds like a hallmark card--all sappy and obvious.

Just realized that if it wasn't for the rain--bad times in our lives, we would never see the rainbow, ie. hope.

So, if you are going through storms--hang in there, the hope is just ready to pop up over the horizon.

Alright--Hallmark moment is over!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Painted Lines and Cement Handprints

Yesterday, as I was running, I noticed that there were orange cones on the middle line on the road. The lines were fresh and dark yellow--they had just been painted.

As I had hit my half way mark, and it was time to turn around to go home, I looked both ways to see if it was okay for me to cross to the other side of the road. While running over the freshly painted lines, I had a quick urge to brush my running shoe across the wet paint--just to see if I could make my mark. Then the next thought--every time I pass this as I am driving, I could see where I had been!

I am very pleased to report that I resisted the urge to mess up the line and create an act of vandalism. But...

Why does my mind work the way it does? Why do I think the things I do?

That made me think about the time when I was kid and was able to press my hand into new cement. Why do we have a desire to do these things?

I think it may be the same reason that a toddler gets naughty and noisy while mom is talking on the phone--and the same reason that a teenage girl gives away more of herself than she intended.

God placed in all of us a desire to MATTER. We all want to look upon this work and say--"I existed, I was loved, I mattered, I had a purpose--I was HERE."

God must have placed that desire in us so we would search for Him. Because it is only through Him that we find our purpose. It is through Him that we feel special and chosen.

I can still feel those butterflies in my stomach as I waited to see when I would be picked in gym class and whose team I would be on. Nobody wanted to be that default team member that had to be picked--just because they were the only one left. (Gym teachers--Please find a different way for team picking!!)

The good news that I am thinking on today is that I matter, and you matter, too. I have been chosen and I am accepted--and that acceptance does not depend on anything I have or haven't done on this earth. Unconditional love and acceptance is a good gift from my Father!