Friday, December 30, 2005

Just in case you were wondering...

I'll be back blogging soon I hope. I just don't have much to say right now. I think being sick is taking a huge toll on me. Or maybe emotional stress isn't allowing me to get better? At any rate, I can't think of a single thing to say. Not one. At least not one that isn't whiny....
Well, maybe one. Tonight we're going to our friends Phil and Betsy's. Some of you know Phil is our small group leader. Anyway, the plan is for the girls to watch Shadowlands and the guys are gonna go to a Blackhawks games (hockey.) That's the plan. But now I hear Betsy is having trouble locating Shadowlands. Bummer. I'm sure we'll still have a good time whatever we do - or as much as one can when they still are sick and grouchy. ;)
And tomorrow Dana - who is back from Michigan - woo hoo! - is coming over and we're just gonna hang. Maybe do a movie, play games, talk, ya know, girl stuff. And tho I am sick, I am really looking forward to that. Dana can always make me feel better. I am so blessed to have a friend like her!
Christmas was good. My hubby got me a NIV/the Message parallel Bible. And one of those alarm clock/am fm radio/ speaker thingies for my IPOD. Obviously I don't have a clue what it's really called. But it is awesome and now my IPOD is much more functional here at home.
I got him The Ransomed Heart, a devotional book by John Eldredge. He is really enjoying it. He doesn't read a lot, it's just not his thing. I did good last year to get him to read Adventures in Missing the Point, and then he read it twice.....
Knowing he won't sit for long periods of time to read, I got him Velvet Elvis on CD several weeks ago. He loved it. Raved about it, and talks about it all the time. Striking while the iron is hot, I ordered Blue like Jazz on CD as well as A Generous Orthodoxy(abridged, but better than nothing!) He travels about 50 minutes to work daily and this is when he listens to the CD's. So we see how he does with those. Maybe he'll get more curious and this reading thing will just sneak up on him someday.
Oh, and if I didn't tell you, Carissa got one of the two female leads in the winter play, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night. She is so excited, but obviously it will be a lot of work. Her friend Rachelle got the other female lead. (Mike and Julie you may remember her from SHINE) If anyone is interested the play is February 17th - 19th. Just let me know!
Oh, and I'm so excited - I went to the bookstore and bought three new books. I bought another book by Mark Buchanan called The Holy Wild:Trusting in the Character of God because I loved his book Your God is Too Safe. I also bought Richard Fosters Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, as well as The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God by Willard. I still have several others by my bed - like Soul Survivor which I'm currently reading, What's So Amazing About Grace, a couple McManus books; Seizing Your Divine Moment: Dare to Live a Life of Adventure and Uprising: A Revolution of the Soul; Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God; Eldredge's Captivating, a couple CS Lewis books, Grenz's Theology for the Community of God, and Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Peterson. I'm anxiously awaiting the new McLaren book, as well as the new Donald Miller book. Oh, I also have The Sacred Way by Tony Jones and The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Curtis/Eldredge. So I'm all ready to brew a pot of tea and snuggle under a blanket on a cold wintry night and enjoy a good book. I'll let you know how it goes.
Well, that was a lot of nothing to say. Not my typical blog fare, but hey, I'm throwing you a bone here....
Hope you all have a Happy New Year, and a safe and fun time no matter how you choose to celebrate!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Obligation versus worship...or "What were they thinking?"

Church services were a bit weird this year. And I felt kinda lost. I know that's weird too, but I think a bit of worshipful celebration and quiet communion on Christmas Eve would have helped me feel more reflective and honoring of this great event and drawn me more into worship and thankfulness. Apparently you either got candles or communion this year. Not both. I guess it's always awkward when Christmas falls on a Sunday, but why do our leaders feel so locked into things that they can't move outside the box? Our church had Christmas Eve services at 6:00 on Christmas Eve. I realize inconvenient is not a word I should use when talking about God, but our church made it inconvenient. And then they took what could have been a meaningful, beautiful, reflective service and neutered it. Candles and carols. That's all. As one friend's son said, "mom, we coulda sung carols at home without getting dressed up and going to church...." Yeah. So my family - we chose not to go. And I usually really enjoy the Christmas eve service. We went Sunday morning instead - basically because our women's ensemble, which my daughter and I are in, had to sing. Mary Did You Know? Beautiful song. So in the bright "normal" light of a "regular" Sunday service we had a song or two and communion. Finished. Hardly worth leaving the warmth of home and family for...
Now, in my mind, one service - pick either day, tho I would prefer like around 8 or 9 on Christmas Eve - or later.... and do it all. Lovely carols, narratives, candles, communion - make it special, and meaningful, and spirit filled. I'm glad Sunday Christmases are done for another eight years. Maybe by then us churchgoing folk will be able to put aside our notions of having to have the doors of the church open because it's Sunday, and instead be able to celebrate the birth of Christ without getting all tangled up in worrying about how to make it all work so no one gets upset or offended. Maybe we can get things in proper order, with proper perspective. I don't know. A girl can dream......
...Or maybe I'll just go to midnight Mass at St Johns....

Friday, December 23, 2005

Silent Night, Holy Night

Amid the hustle and frenzy of what we have made Christmas to be these days I find great comfort in the familiarity of Luke's account of the birth of Christ. I love the rhythm and beauty of the King James version of this great story. Somehow it draws me in to the Christmas season, slows my heart, stirs my soul and brings me joy:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Can't you just picture the small town of Bethlehem on this magnificant night?

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth !
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth !

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given !
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell,
O come to us, abide with us,
Out Lord Emmanuel !


I can't wait til Derek Webb's new album comes out. December 26th. Here are a few sample lyrics:

Derek Webb - In his words….lyrics from the new album "Mockingbird"

“there are two great lies that i've heard: ‘the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die’ and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him” -from “A King & A Kingdom”

“peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication it's like telling someone murder is wrong and then showing them by way of execution” -from “My Enemies Are Men Like Me”

“are we defending life when we just pick and choose lives acceptable to lose and which ones to defend” -from “Love Is Not Against The Law”

“don't teach me about moderation and liberty, i prefer a shot of grape juice” -from “A New Law”

“my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man, my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood it's to a king & a kingdom” -from “A King & A Kingdom”

“come on and follow Me, but sell your house, sell your suv, sell your stocks, sell your security and give it to the poor” -From “Rich Young Ruler”

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A couple quizzes I took.....

Quiz #1
How cynical are you?

My results? Apparently I am a Severe cynic..... ;)

You scored 22, on a scale of 0 to 30. Here's how to interpret your score:

0 - 10
Risk-free. Your Cynicism level is very low.
11 - 20
Somewhat cynical. Your Cynicism level is probably high enough to be of some concern.
21 - 30
Severe cynic. Your Cynicism level is very high.

Quiz #2 - Just for fun.... Which Narnia Character are you?

You are...Susan. Sensible and practical, you are not always comfortable with new situations, preferring the tried-and-true. You are a gentle person, very considerate of, and sympathetic to, others.
Take this quiz!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

She doesn't get it from me....

Last night we had a house full of kids. Carissa gave her 2nd annual Christmas Dinner. She plans for weeks, grocery shops, decorates and spends hours cooking and cleaning. The dinner is dressy and they use the good dishes and stuff, and it's pretty neat. I'm not an entertainer by nature. It frustrates me, especially if everything is not perfect. She does what she can, and then doesn't stress. I wish I could be more like her. They had a gift exchange, dinner, games and movies. I had to kick 'em all out a midnight, cuz I'm still sick and I needed to sleep instead of chaperone!!

The pictures here are last years party.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Parental Joy

This morning I was sitting in the choir room before the church service. We were running though a couple of songs to warm up and do some last minute fine-tuning. Since I have been sick (bronchitis, laryngitis) I have not been able to practice. Even in this warm up I was not singing, I had to save all of my voice for the service. I was sitting observing and the song that was being sung was absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous harmonies, a simple but haunting melody...and as I listened I suddenly realized that not only was my husband in choir with me, so were two of my children. And they were contributing to this lovely song with joy and grace, tenderness and passion. Their voices were instruments lifting praise and adoration to their God. And I had to catch my breath and blink away a tear. I was so very, very proud to be their mom, and to have the privilege of participating in this act of worship and celebration with them. They have beautiful voices, and they were using them for God, and though I can't truly find the words to describe it, it was a very touching, special moment. A God moment. A sweet reminder of the joy our Father must take in us when we willingly and joyfully participate with him in his plan for all creation, when we celebrate his love, and when we spend time in his presence. I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth....

Last night was the orchestra/choir "Holiday" concert (don't even get me started on that....) at the High School. My daughter plays the oboe - so she is in the High School Orchestra as well as the Band. Which means we had a concert last night and we have another tomorrow night. Tis the season I guess. I don't mind the concerts terribly, except when I am sick, as I am right now. The concert didn't start well, the cello trio was terribly out of tune despite the fact that you could tell they knew the mechanics of the piece. Another time and place I'm sure it would have been beautiful. Four different choirs later, with pieces ranging from mediocre to not half bad, it was time for the orchestra. Who did a decent job. Winter Wonderland was very good, as was Bohemian Rhapsody (don't ask...). But the last two songs were worth everything I sat through prior to them. They did an excellent job on Sleigh Ride - one of the choirs sang with them. Just a great job. But the last piece gave me goose bumps and made me feel jubilant. The orchestra and all 4 choirs performed the Hallelujah Chorus. Excellent. Inspiring. Joyful. It's amazing how a little praise, a little honor, a little repetition of God's words back to him changes your attitude - almost instantly.
So, maybe instead of just being frustrated, and sad, seeking and stymied by not finding, I need instead to just thank God for who he is and what he's doing. Praise him for all he has done and will do. Maybe I need to find those great passages of praise and honor and send them up as prayers of gratitude and humility. God is there. I know he is. He is beside me, waiting. I just need to move a bit closer seeking out what he desires of me. I need to rest in his arms and wait on his timing as he works in me.
I know people have been praying. I can feel changes in my heart - slow changes, but definitely there. A couple days ago I had to go run some errands in the middle of the day and I was feeling pretty down. But as I drove suddenly I felt happy. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the air was frosty. Traffic was terrible, but I didn't care. I'm way behind on shopping, and cards, and baking etc.etc. But it suddenly didn't matter. A slow, but sure, feeling of contentment began to creep into my heart. Wow. It didn't come from me. But it was there none-the-less. I don't know if it will last - I'm almost afraid to say anything about it because I'm afraid I'll get my feet knocked out from under me again. But for now, for a day or two I'm just resting in his arms and letting things spin on around me. I'm taking myself out of the Christmas rat race and rediscovering what is really important. That's where I am today. Tomorrow could be different. But I'm thankful for today and the knowledge that God is still there, still hears me and is still at work in my life, and that he has chosen to give me this respite from my struggle. Hallelujah!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Can you hear me?

The past few weeks I have been lamenting the fact that I don't seem to feel connected to God. I feel lonely, vulnerable and cut off. I know that he is there. I do. I also keep reminding myself that feelings are not a reliable indicator of how things are truly going in your spiritual life.. For example, I have been struggling lately with feeling that when I pray I am just saying words to blank walls and low ceilings. They are just words uttered but not heard by anyone other than me. Because of that I find it difficult to be passionate about them. They seem like words just rolling off the tongue in a world so saturated with noise that they can't be heard. I feel a barrier between me and my God who is the intended receiver. Of course God wants me to pray. He commands me to pray. Even if I don't feel like praying, and lately I haven't really felt like it because I perceive a huge gulf between me and God, he still is waiting and listening. Tuesday as I was driving I forced myself to pray. Which made me feel a bit guilty - forcing myself to communicate with a God I love? I should be thrilled that I have that opportunity. Still, I was forcing words and thoughts, praise, and petitions. And I felt awful. Fake. I don't know any other way to describe it except to say that I felt the words were not even heard beyond the interior of my car. And I was frustrated and sad. I felt the weight of my ineptitude in such a small thing. I couldn't even pray and be heard!
My friend has been dealing with a situation lately. Not of huge proportions, but something that could be costly and this is just not a good time of year for costly. She is a landlord, and something just had to be fixed in her building. For many reasons this was a bad week to get people in to fix this problem. So, on Tuesday, in my attempts to be a caring and good friend as well as to reconnect the communication lines between me and God, I stumbled through a plea to work out this situation. I crossed every t and dotted every i. In the back of my mind were all the reasons he could say no to this request - and I tried to argue with each one of them. Finally, in exhaustion, I came to the place where I just gave in and said - Do what you will, and give her the grace and strength to deal with it. Instead of just praying, and letting him work, I was so cognizant of my recent disengagement and pessimism that I kept giving God "outs" just in case nothing resulted from my prayers. That way if he did nothing I had not failed to help my friend.... How silly. But so me right now. I muddled through it all, and waffled around and finally gave up. I prayed, but did the message get passed the windshield? Not if my feelings about the situation were any indicator.
Yesterday (Wednesday) my friend called me and told me it was the strangest thing, the situation seems to have taken care of itself. Things seem to be working all right again. Huh? As of when? She told me. That was about 15 minutes after I had prayed. I was dumbfounded. Not that God was able to fix the situation - of course he is, but that he heard me even when I felt he didn't. To me it was a strong message saying "Why do you doubt me? Why do you rely on feelings? Why do you think I wouldn't listen to you? I always listen. I always care. Even if you're not feeling me, I am always right there by your side." It shook me to the core. I was taking a human reaction to a situation and assigning it to how God had to be feeling about me. I had wanted nothing to do with God for a few days - and had that been a human friend of course they would have thrown up their hands and walked away. But not God. He's still there waiting. Patiently, lovingly, rejoicing when I choose to let him participate in my life.
And it also reminded me that I can't rely on feelings when it comes to God. I felt alone. I wasn't. I felt unable to communicate. I wasn't. I felt the words I said hadn't made it out of the car. They had. I felt lonely, and worthless and inept. I wasn't. No matter how tangibly I felt that all my words fell on deaf ears - they hadn't! I need to keep talking to God. He is listening. He is hearing. He is right there with me. No matter how disconnected I feel - it is my disconnect, not Gods.
Truthfully, I don't feel much more connected today than yesterday. But I know he is connected to me and working in my life despite my doubts and in spite of my inability to "feel" his closeness. He has not moved.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Casting Crowns

Talk about sobering and convicting. Though thoroughly enjoyable, not exactly a feel good concert. Don’t get me wrong. This was an awesome concert. I loved it all.(Well except the little sermonette which I felt was a little over the top - the music could certainly stand on its own, the words of Mark Hall need no supplemental explanations....) The energy, the passion, the speakers being 15 feet from my ears – tho I have to sing in exactly 3 hours and I still can’t hear out of my left ear. No, this concert was a reminder to all of us that we are broken people, and hurting and sinful just like everyone else. We are not better in our “Christian-ness”, not an exclusive club that only people with perfect lives can join. It was a reminder to reach out to those who are different, who are thought “not good enough” by not only our world, but also our churches. A reminder to embrace the hurting, comfort those in their suffering, and befriend the lonely. Not only that, it was a reminder that in our attempt to be holy we often play a game – plastic and pasteboard. Where we pretend we are above mistakes and hurts and needs like probably whoever we sit next to on Sunday morning who is also neatly packaged and disguised. Casting Crowns sang about loneliness, judgmental people, the messiness of life, the storms we endure. They sang about pain, and brokenness. About missing the point. About loving like Jesus, and compassion for all people, and for unity in the body of Christ. About being afraid, about not being good enough. About the subtle voice of Satan mocking us and persuading us that we are inept and incapable. About how we all fall victim to the concept of the American dream until there’s no time left for family or God. About a nation blind to the Lord, as Bethlehem was so many years ago. About the Voice of Truth, the power of prayer, praising God, lifting our hands and hearts and dancing. And above all being true to our God and being able at the end of the day to say:
Let my Lifesong sing to you – I want to sign your name to the end of this day knowing that my heart was true – let my lifesong sing to you.

I came home with a new desire to reach out to people, to truly Love Them like Jesus – no matter who they are or what the circumstance. Even after sleeping I still feel the weight of the task. I was uplifted; I was encouraged. My heart was touched deeply and convicted. I truly can’t find the words to express what I am really feeling in my soul today, other than that I need to be reaching out, embracing, encouraging, sharing, going – so My Life and it’s song are truly reflections of the God I love, of Jesus who sacrificed his life for the whole creation to reconcile every last bit of it to God. Why should I do any less?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Stop the tantrums already!

Contentment. Now there's a concept. And a difficult one at that. Some days it seems like life is so full of what if's, I just shoulda/coulda's, or situations that beg for a "do-over." Experiences you wish you'd had, or some things you wish weren't part of your life. Everybody has 'em. I realized the other day that this situation that has really been frustrating me may not ever get better. And am I gonna be mad at God forever if that is so? I certainly don't see the big picture - I have tunnel vision of the worst sort when it comes to this problem. The other night I was sitting, thinking, and I realized I need to change the way I look at these things. Accept them. Become content despite where I find myself in life. I'm trying to learn contentment. Not wishing, and not demanding of God, and not being angry at circumstance or what ifs. Just being content with what I have, and who I am because of it. That doesn't mean not wanting to grow and change, but it means realizing that some things may not ever change, and I need to see the good in them and go forward from there....and not only that, I need to humbly pray that if God chooses not to change the situation or the other person, for whatever reason, that He will(and I will allow him to) change me.

Monday, November 28, 2005

tra la la la la la bah humbug...

Yep - I'm still in this stupid mood. Not that I wanna be, but I just am. Traditionally we always decorate the house for Christmas the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Needless to say it was not on my priority list this year. In fact it wasn't even on the bottom of the "to do if I get everything else done" list. Pathetic, I know. So my sixteen year old decides we have to decorate the house. Now. No way, I say. I can't, I won't. I don't feel well. Which only made her dig her heels in more and express just how rotten of a mom I am these days. Probably true - it's been a long month. But that just gets me upset, and now I feel even less like decorating. So I go off to my room to have a good sulk and wallow in my misery.
Life goes on. As always. Moms are not indispensable ya know. She apparently talked her father into taking her to the store to get lights for the exterior of our house. In the six years we've lived here we have never decorated the outside of our house. For a different reason each year. This year she is having none of it, and wants to see lights out there. Period. So they go get lights. When I come down several hours later I find Carissa and her three friends (cuz she's not about to do it all herself, Tom Sawyer that she is...) just finishing up decorating the Christmas tree. My living room was decorated, the tree was up, and all the lights outside were up, the latter courtesy of my hubby, and Brad and Merrick, two of those friends she manipulated into helping her. The Christmas music was playing merrily, and they were laughing and having a really good time.
I don't feel any better, but at least my house looks like my children expect it to for the holidays. And it sure helps cover the fact that I feel like a grinch. None of my neighbors will know, will they? Uh, maybe when they don't get a Christmas card this year? I think I'm boycotting that tradition too.......

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Yes! That's what I mean.....

Next week I am going to see Casting Crowns in concert. So this morning I popped their new album in the CD player. I hadn't really listened to it yet - I just got it. In light of my post yesterday there was a song that really jumped out at me - so yes, I know, I'm gonna post lyrics yet again. But after what I was writing about, when I found this I had to say - yes that's what I mean!

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that fails
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small

'Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they'll soon discover that I don't belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness and smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation's open to every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who's been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who's traded in the alter for a stage

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person that you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus be enough to make you stay

And, yes, the whole album is equally as good. So much good stuff this group can feel they really understand hurting people and country club Christianity. I'm really looking forward to the concert....

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I’ve been ruminating tonight on why we as Christians feel the need to come across as always being in control of situations, always right, as well as never looking bad to non-believers. Why we pretend our life is perfect, and we have a handle on living sin-free. Sometimes Christians make me crazy. They are not authentic. They are fake, false, always trying to look as though they have no problems. Why? Do we think if we don’t portray the Christian life as some perfect, sin free, problem-free existence that people (both believers and unbelievers) will either A) not see the point of choosing that life, or B) will judge us for not being a “good” Christian? I think the true hypocrisy here is this lack of honesty. I don't think it so much bothers the world that we sin, rather it bothers them that we act like we don't! If we were honest to the core, I think people would respect us more. Why is it so hard to let our mask slip? Are we afraid to let unbelievers see that down deep we are just the same as they are? That we have the same problems, the same faults, the same temptations, we make the same mistakes. Being a Christ-follower is not a magic pill that suddenly makes us perfect, sinless, and without problems! We are still real people, in a real world, facing the same challenges as everybody else. The difference is, we have a goal, a purpose, we have a desire to change and transform our lives. We want to be more like Christ, and let him shine through us. But it’s not easy. It’s pretty messy. So, non-believers aside for a minute. Why do we as Christians feel the need to pretend with other Christians? That is insane. We all ought to know exactly how this life is! It’s a struggle for all of us. I know I haven’t spoken about a lot of my struggles because I fear others judgment and/or condemnation. And I fear the questioning look in their eyes - are you truly a Christ follower? The thing is, we need each other. A single stick is easily broken. A tightly bound bundle of those same sticks is impossible to break. That is why we need community. For support, encouragement, understanding. We need others to stand by us, and pray with us and for us. By being fake, not letting others see us for who we truly are, we not only alienate others, we hurt ourselves. We are easily broken. God made us to be relational. With each other and with him. Why do we try to do it on our own? What fools are we? We need to exist within a group who knows us, and loves us anyway. A group who will help carry our burdens, and whose troubles touch us in ways that make it impossible not to reach out to them with grace and compassion. We need less judgment, more compassion. Less self-righteousness, more grace. We need to accept each other where we are, and hold out a helping hand in encouragement and friendship. We need to see Christ in each other, and be Christ to each other. We are all wounded - we all have times when we need someone else to paddle the boat. Some days it’s all we can do to get in the boat! Other times we need to be willing to carry those who hurt until they can walk again. The more people working on the problem, the less daunting it seems. Even to share your heart with one person is so very freeing. Just to know they are there for you, they have your back, and they are praying for you - that is the most encouraging and comforting thing I know. It’s also encouraging to know that we don’t struggle alone, and that others have gone through similar struggles. If they haven’t isolated themselves behind a mask, and we haven’t built a protective wall, then we can truly connect and begin to find ways to deal with situations, and begin to heal. We so desperately need this sense of community. To live with each other, be invested in each others lives, sharing everything - joy, pain, good times, bad times, work, play, food, sorrow, crisis-whatever comes our way. We need to grow as one, each with our own part to play in the whole. And we need to treat each other with as much forgiveness, grace and compassion as we ourselves would want to be treated. I don’t know where I’m going here. I just know it’s something I have really been thinking about. And I’m gonna keep wrestling with it. Now I have to figure out how to begin to find that community, or to build that community. I guess it will be done one person at a time. I need to stop limiting myself by dwelling on how others will see me, and be willing to become even more vulnerable. In doing so, I may be surprised by what I find - other broken people who also desire to be real and incarnational.
Anyone wanna join me?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

What I need....

OK - so I saw this on Julie's blog and thought it looked fun. So I tried it. You google your name followed by the word "needs" and post the ten funniest things that come up. Didn't know which ten to choose, so ya got 13. :)

1. Karen Needs to Grow Up!
2. Karen needs money to buy the roller skates she desperately wants.
3. Karen Needs a New Blog.
4. Karen needs to be an efficient student.
5. Karen needs a rest.
6. Karen needs a new haircut to make her look glamorous.
7. Karen needs a truly portable, battery-powered, off-camera light.
8. Karen needs to lighten up.
9. Karen needs to make her day bright.
10. Karen needs to swallow her pride.
11. Karen needs to keep her mind busy in order to feel challenged.
12. Karen needs to learn the basics of spending and budgeting.
13. Karen needs a lobotomy.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Shaken till my teeth rattle.....

My thoughts today.
And some thoughts they are. Spinning around and around - making me dizzy and frustrated. It's just that I have been dealing with yet another problem in my life. Yeah - I'm getting tired of 'em too. I swear it must just be a phase I'm going through. I dunno. It is what it is. And I'm not really gonna elaborate on the problem, because it's way too personal for this public forum. TMI and all that. But it's making me rebellious and hard. I don't like that side of me, but I feel it happening. Lately, despite my best efforts (and yeah that would be a red flag huh?) I just can't seem to hear God - I feel a gulf there that I am uncomfortable with, and wedge that makes my heart sad. But as this week progressed and all the little aggravations of the week snowballed and melded with all the other concerns in my life I started getting pulled under. And it made me mad. I don't wanna give thanks, be joyful, or hear the song "Blessed be your name" one more time. Yesterday after work I was sitting on my bed in a funk, trying to work it all out. And I heard a voice saying - "you know, the things you are thinking in your heart are the reality of who you are." Whoa - outta the blue that came. Well, not really but it seemed so. So I ignored it and went on thinking my angry thoughts, I kept on whining and complaining. No, more than that, I'm pretty much in a shouting match with God about the unfairness of life. (like he has to be fair - remember the story of the vineyard workers and the denarius in Matthew 20?) And the voice comes again with a more pointed message totally relevant to what I'm dealing with. By now I'm humming with my fingers in my ears. How ironic is this. For weeks I've been sad that I am not hearing God, that I can't connect, and now here he is and I'm blatantly ignoring him? I'm running like Jonah - as fast as I can. Not wanting to see the big picture, rather wanting to bend things to go the way I want them to go. Not wanting to see grace for others, but wanting huge doses for myself. Or maybe, I'm like Jacob, wrestling all through the night with God. Not only wrestling, but yelling, and fighting and complaining, yet still wanting to be blessed. The question becomes how wounded will I be when all is said and done, after all Jacob was left with physical consequences. And yet again I felt a voice beating in my heart "You are my child, I will not hurt you." Why am I fighting so? This is so silly. I am so stubborn!
I know better. Last night at choir ( pretty painful this was) we were working on all the thankful, grateful songs. How faithful God is - no matter what and no matter what the situation is. He alone is what will fill our needs - no matter what shape they come in. Good times and bad, he is there for me. Aaargh. I feel like God has taken me by the shoulders and is literally shaking me. Till my teeth rattle. Cuz right now, though I get it, and I know he is and will be faithful and meet every need, desire and hurt I have, I really want no part of it. I want what I want. I want to feel sorry for myself. I want to rant and yell about the unfairness of it all. Sure I'd love to run to him and let it all be better - let him fix it - but I just can't do it. Not this time. Not today.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Holding back the sea

I went to the city with my friend Saturday. I just needed to be somewhere where things were bigger than me and my problems. Where energy pulsed around me and I could plug in to the vibrancy. I didn't care if it was day or night, sunny or rainy - or even where we went. I just needed to feel I was part of something bigger. I know I wasn't being still and listening. That's probably what I should have been doing. But instead I ran the other way. I circumvented what in the long run would have helped the most because I wanted instant gratification. I wanted to feel better quickly, never mind that it wouldn't last more than a day and I would need another fix. It was like plugging the hole in the dike with my finger. I held the flood at bay by filling the hole in me with movement, excitement, energy, passion, delight, exuberance, joie de vivre. It worked. I felt good from head to toe. Until my finger couldn't stem the flow any longer and it burst through the dam as it was bound to do because of the way I tried to make things better. I need to quit running and listen. Even if it takes time to hear that still small voice again. Even if I don't like what I hear. I need to fix it the way God intends. I need to fill the hole with his finger - not mine.

Twyla reminded me of this song....Petula Clark's great escape to the city.... Yep, that was me all right! Check it out.....

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I think I can, I think I can.....

Did you ever work for days on a jigsaw puzzle only to find when you got to the end that a piece was missing? How frustrating is that? There's a hole in the picture, a place that only a piece that is a specific size and shape and color will fill. I've been thinking about that lately. How each of us is made by God to fit into his story. His big picture. Sometimes we think we have to be like everybody else. On maybe just like someone else. When we are asked to do something we demur, saying I can't. I am not able. I am not a good speaker like_________ or I'm not creative at all like_____ Or, maybe I could do it if I was more like___________. Hmmm, somehow I don't think that's what God had in mind when he made me. He made me, well, me. Unique. With my own strengths and weaknesses. My own abilities, or lack of them. He gave me the exact characteristics he wanted me to have. The right shape and size and color to fit an exact hole in the big picture. Wow! That's pretty cool, and conversely, pretty scary. I need to quit saying I can't and start saying I can. I need to quit whining about what I am not, and figure out who I am and how God wants to use me in his plan. I gotta quit looking at things with myopia and start seeing the big picture. I'm sure it's astonishingly beautiful. Wilder than I ever could imagine it to be. And to be complete, this picture needs me to be there. To show up. To be willing to be molded into that shape God needs to fit the spot he has decided I will fill. I'm sure it's not gonna be comfortable to be pounded into shape by God, but it will probably be more comfortable than if I force my self into a spot intended for another. Realizing that God truly has a place for me, and is molding me to fit it helps alleviate a bit of the fear. If he intends me to do a specific thing he will enable me to do it! Like he did with Moses - who by the way thought he was totally incapable of doing what God asked him to do. I wonder how frustrated God gets with us when we question what he wants us to do, as well as our ability to do it? When Moses got with the plan it worked beautifully. And Aaron, who Moses thought was better qualified to carry out the plan ended up missing the point entirely and built a golden calf to satisfy the peoples perception of what they needed. He let them force him into a shape he was not called to fill. Which just proves the point that we can't let others dictate to us who we should be, and how we should be living our lives. There's a lot of wrong thinking out there. Everywhere out there. Including in our churches. So what I need to do is to be still. And listen. I need to hear and do. My job. Not yours, or what you perceive mine might be. I need to seek out God's will, his big picture and let him use me to fit the spot I was meant to fill. Yeah, I'm sure he can finish the puzzle with out me - it just won't be the perfect picture he envisioned.
On a more practical level, how does this get played out right now, today? I've been trying to come up with a concrete example. Possibly this:(and the implications are scary)the fact that I need to be brave, and vulnerable, and just ME. No matter what the consequences. God has been specifically working on me regarding empathy, compassion and love. No matter what. Being a peace maker, seeing the good in people and situations even if it is not the popular opinion. And to speak up in love and in defense of those being spoken badly of. To let my compassion show no matter how angry others get with me. Because that is honest. You don't need me to be you - just being a rubber stamp friend, to be liked or accepted or approved of. To agree with you so you'll be my friend. I need to stand for what I see as right and compassionate. That is one example. I can not make myself be what others want me to be, or see me as being. I need to be authentic as much as I know how even if it makes me painfully vulnerable and alone. I don't want you to like me for who you think I am, I want to be liked and accepted for just being me. And this is so hard for me, who all my life has been a great chameleon! You don't need a clone of you, you need a unique me to be a friend, have an opinion, give honest thoughts and impressions. That's the best I can do.....
And I'm terrified of speaking up in a group. Especially if it goes against the popular opinion. I'm learning to be brave here also. To test my wings. If God wants me to speak, who am I to question Him? It is hard, very hard. If you knew me you would so get that. But no matter what the challenge that God has in mind for me, I need to remember if he asks, he will enable. Wow! How cool is that?

One is the loneliest number....

So, yeah, life has been a struggle lately. In lots of ways. Somedays I really feel discouraged and not sure how to keep going. A few weeks ago I was reading Rob Bell's book, Velvet Elvis. Today as I was sitting here contemplating my situation - and yeah, feeling a little sorry for myself - as I was asking "why me?", and "why can't it be easier?" I remembered a section from the book. It was talking about a time when Bell was starting his church, and the way he knew it was the right time. His insights gave me a real application to my life that I can hold on to - a way to look at this struggle and come through it. Probably slowly, cuz it's been really discouraging and difficult. Bell said he knew it was time to start a church when he no longer cared if it was successful. And he said, and this is what really impacted me... "When I realized that if thirteen people joined up with us, and that was all it ever was, that would be ok.” What I’ve been realizing is – I have to follow Jesus. Period. Live a kingdom life. Period. Live within a new belief construct. Period. Even if NO ONE ever gets it, or my decision, and even if no one ever joins me, I have to do it. Now. No excuses. No matter what other people think. And no matter what anyone else does or doesn’t do, sees or doesn’t see, believes, or doesn’t believe – I still have to follow that path, possibly alone, or at the very least in a minority. I may not find a perfect community either – but that’s ok. I have to do it regardless. Be true to the call. This section gave me perspective and was immensely helpful as I struggle with “am I right?’ or ”why am I doing this?”
And beyond this, I should change what I say from “I have to”, to “I get to.” I get to follow Jesus. I get to find my place in God’s story. I get to learn and grow. I get to experience God in a whole new and wonderfully fulfilling way. I get to celebrate. I desire, I thirst, I am excited….And moving into this way of thinking changes a struggle to anticipation of a wonderful, but controversial journey. A journey of limitless blessing where I can look to others and say join me.
It's still a struggle. It's still not easy. I still lose sight of where I'm going some days. I lose my perspective. Especially when things become overwhelming. But I need to remember God will see me through the storm, and He alone is all I really need.
I know I've posted a lot of lyrics lately, but really, these two songs have been playing in my head this morning. The words are how I feel - and what I need to remember. So I thought I'd share them. The first is a section from Jeremy Camp's I Still Believe and if you know his story at all you can see why these words are incredible.

"The only place I can go is into your arms
Where I throw to you my feeble prayers in brokeness
I can see that this is your will for me
Help me to know you are near
Even when I don't see I still believe. I still believe."

And this one is from Mark Schultz, and is one I pull out on my bad days. It makes me feel better... just the reminder that no matter what, no matter how alone or misunderstood I feel, He is always there.

I call, You hear me
I've lost it all
And it's more than I can bear
I feel so empty

You're strong, I'm weary
I'm holding on
But I feel like giving in
But still You're with me

I know I'm broken
But You alone
Can mend this heart of mine
You're always with me

And even though I feel so lonely
Like I have never been before
You never said it would be easy
But You said You'd see me through the storm

And even though I'm walking
Through the valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him
Whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone
And I've been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will ever need
He will carry me

BTW - if this post shows up weird, apparantly my blog has a mind of it's own today. Sorry - hopefully all will be back to normal tomorrow! :)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Keeping perspective....

Today a couple of songs have been running through my mind - over and over
and over. So I thought I'd share them with you, since I haven't really felt
like blogging. The first is
I Left Everything to Follow You by Michael Card. It is
from his 2003 album entitled
A Fragile Stone. The whole album is excellent,
with songs like
I'm not supposed to be here, Mourning the Death of a Dream,
Not that Kind of King. The album explores the character of the apostle
Simon Peter, his faith and failings.

I Left Everything to Follow You

Though sometimes I grow weary when the road's getting long
At each point of my weakness You make me strong
And when doubt takes over I remember it's true
I left everything to follow you
To stay safe or to follow you.. ask me to choose
But how could I fail when I've got nothing left to lose?
Without your call I couldn't make it
It'd be impossible to do
To leave everything and follow you.

But what is my petty offering
to Your sacrifice?
I gave up my home
But you gave up Paradise
What You called me to offer
Has really set me free
Cause you left everything to be with me
So with joy I embrace a faith that calls me from home
And I will cling to Your Promise that I am never alone
And with each passing moment I'll keep hoping it's true
I left everything to follow you.

The second is a song by Brother's Keeper. The chorus kept drumming in
my head today. I needed it to.

Rain on

Saw an old man with a cane, his hair was silver-grey
Used to have good friends, now he misses them
Winter comes to every life, ‘cause springtimes have to fade
Seasons have to change, it is nature’s way
No one promises us a lifetime without pain
Heard the old man say, "It’s just a rainy day"
He knows this too will pass and joy will come again
Let the whole world know, let the cold wind blow

Rain on, I will not drown
I’m standing firm on higher ground
Rain on, I will not drown
I’m standing firm on higher ground

Saw a man with a dream of wealth and everything it brings
He heard the Shepherd call, so he left it all
Sometimes a careless work can leave a hollow ring
But he follows on, soon the doubt is gone


No one has promised a lifetime without pain
Heard the old man say, "It’s just a rainy day"
He knows this too will pass and joy will come again
Let the whole world know, let the cold wind blow


Friday, November 04, 2005

postcards from God....

I took Cairo for a walk this morning. The beauty was almost more than I could bear. Trees dressed in vermilion, crimson and goldenrod stretched towards the brilliant blue sky. No clouds in sight. A gentle breeze ruffled the leaves, spinning them toward the gravel path I was walking on. Birds skittered and sang, squirrels hopped, yellow jackets buzzed and the dog tripped lazily along beside me. No signs of frost anywhere – it’s too warm. What a perfect fall day! Truly a gift from God to encourage a hurting heart. A brilliant, breath-taking string-around-the-finger prompt that he made the world and everything in it. A reminder that he is here now, surrounding me with his love, inviting me to share in his goodness. That he gives and takes as he sees fit, and the taking is not done to hurt me, but to drawn me closer. That he is in control of everything. Everything. I just need to trust. And listen for his voice calling out to me as I become still before him. And wait. I have not been doing so well at waiting, and listening. Today’s gift of beauty is my postcard from God inviting me back into his presence to rest and commune with him.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I prefer the word eccentric!

Actually, I think I'd be more disappointed if I weren't sorta weird. Status quo makes me nervous. I like being a bit off the is much more interesting that way! Whadda ya think?
You Are 40% Weird

Normal enough to know that you're weird...
But too damn weird to do anything about it!

Um, Mom.....about the car.....

Well, apparently my 19 year old decided we needed a new car yesterday. What other reason could she have had for turning in front of a speeding Honda Civic? He hit her so hard she spun off the road and into the ditch... Neither she, nor the other driver were hurt seriously - thank God!
She was however very (understandably) upset. A very kind man called me and stayed with her until he knew I was on my way. He told me she was ok - just couldn't stop crying. The driver of the other car was very kind too - gave her his sweatshirt to sit on to keep her off the wet ground. She is very bruised, and very sore. The airbag did a number on her chin. I'm sure that was better than the alternative.... I took my friend Dana with me to get her, cuz she (Kelsey) was a half hour away and I was shaking. Her calmness kept me focused as I drove to Downers Grove. Her eyes found the accident before I saw it. Dana's a perfect friend to take to the scene of an accident - she used to be an EMT. So even tho no one on the scene called an ambulance Kelsey got a pretty good going over by Dana. So, looks like this weekend we need to find a replacement car for Kim (it was his car) - not that I'm looking forward to two car payments, but such is life. Cars are things and can be replaced, unlike lives. I am so thankful God was watching out for Kelsey!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


So, I have been going through something incredibly difficult (at least for me) right now. It’s stressful, and emotional and conflicting. Some of you know we have had one of Christopher’s friends living with us. Originally he just appeared having no place to stay, and I figured sure, I’m happy to help him out. I would hope someone would do the same for my son if he was in that position. Well, K was in the Marines, and I assumed he was home before being shipped out. I was wrong. About 4 weeks into this I found out he had been less than honorably discharged and was no longer a Marine. Still, his family had kicked him out, he had no money and no job, and just needed a break to get back on his feet. So he stayed. I knew he had some issues, but they never surfaced in my house. Well it is now apparent that not only does he not have a job, he won’t go look for one and doesn’t want one. He goes to the pool hall all the time. We have found out that he has a gambling problem. So much so that he steals to get money to support the addiction. One item has gone missing from our house, but I have no proof he had anything to do with it, so I keep letting him stay. He needs love and acceptance and a chance to live with a family for awhile. He needs to feel that someone believes in him and is willing to give him another chance. Finally though, last week, after seven weeks, even my son (not exactly the paragon of responsibility) has had it. His comment was, if he had wanted a child he would have had his own….
Anyway. K being here is starting to affect my family adversely. And I am sad. I am also worried, and scared. Knowing more of the things that I now know I am also angry with myself that I have let someone stay here who has emotional problems (and won’t take meds cuz he’s sure he’s not sick, or seek help) and is a possible danger to my kids, especially my girls. But I still can’t put him out. I just can’t. I am not sleeping at night because I worry about keeping my kids safe. I’m sick because I am stressed and overwhelmed. But I just keep thinking about what Jesus would have done. This undoes me every time. I guess it is also a boundary issue – my ability to make wise choices, and say yes and no, but where is that fine line between boundaries and compassion? I just feel so bad for him, so afraid. I can’t bear to put him on the street. It is breaking my heart.
My friend tells me I have the gift of mercy. The gift of Mercy: This gift enables certain Christians to feel exceptional empathy and compassion for those who are suffering so that they devote large amounts of time and energy to alleviate that suffering.
I never realized there was a gift of mercy, or even thought that I might have it if there was. So I decided, because I had no books on the subject to see if there were any quizzes on line on Spiritual Gifts. And I found several, and not believing the results of one (because I really don’t trust these quizzes) took three different ones. Two were from Christian Websites where they try to help you ascertain what gifts you may have. I was very careful and thoughtful as I answered the questions (anywhere from 60 to 100 of them...) On all three the top result was mercy. Wow. I’m not gonna tell you the rest – I feel funny doing that, and it is not really relevant to this post. (But they surprised me too, and were pretty consistent from one quiz to another. If you want to know – e-mail me.)
What I’m saying is that sometimes we don’t even realize the gifts we have - that God has intentionally given us. And apparently we use them anyway. Huh. We just need to follow his lead, and let him work through us showing Christ to others. Will it make any difference that I know I probably have this gift? I don’t know. I will have to think on that a while. Perhaps it was better when I didn’t know so there was nothing to feel prideful about, or have an inflated sense of spirituality. But now that I know I have it, I have to live with it, and work with it, and use it for God’s glory, and to be a blessing and help heal others I come in contact with as I strive to live in the way of the kingdom.
I still don’t know what to do about K. I think I do, but I’m trusting God to show us the way.

Everybody needs to read this book!

Velvet Elvis. I don't even know quite what to say. So why am I blogging about it? Cuz it's one of the best books I have ever read. Very simple yet deceptively so! It's one of those books you read, and it moves fast. But then it rolls around in your brain, and you start thinking about it and its implications and applications and it knocks your socks off! I have learned to take it a little slower, digesting as I go - really digging for deeper understanding of what the author is saying. I have learned so much from Rob Bell in this little book. I can't stop telling people about it - I wish I had a handful just to give away. So if you get a chance, please read it. My hubby and kids are fighting over who gets it next, which is interesting cuz my hubby is a pretty conservative thinker, steeped in evangelical tradition. But he has heard Bell's sermons and really appreciates them, so when he heard the book was by Bell he asked to read it. Since my girls are also wanting to read it (even my 15 year old, who thanks to NOOMA videos thinks Bell is awesome) I just ordered the book on CD for my hubby so he can listed to it as he goes to work. I will be interested to hear his thoughts and reactions. As well as thoughts from any of you as you read it. Cuz you WILL read it.....

Here's an example "If the Rabbi calls you to be his disciple, then he believes you can actually be like him..... A rabbi would only pick a disciple who he thought could actually do what he was doing. Notice how many places in the accounts of Jesus' life he gets frustrated with his disciples. Because they are incapable? No, because of how capable they are. He sees what they could be and could do, and when they fall short, it provokes him to no end. It isn't their failure that's the problem; it's their greatness. They don't realize what they are capable of!" Now think about the application in our life, as we are called to follow Jesus! WOW!

or this: "Somewhere in you is the you whom you were made to be. We need you to be you. We don't need a second anybody. We need the first you."

OK - just go get the book. Those are just a taste of the good stuff you will find in it!

Monday, October 24, 2005


The following song is a pretty accurate description of where I am right now in my life. Where I've been and where I'm going. I'm learning..... slowly, and the hard way of course, but still - I'm learning!

Nichole Nordeman

The gate is wide
The road is paved in moderation
The crowd is kind and quick to pull you in
Welcome to the middle ground
You're safe and sound and
Until now it's where I've been

'Cause it's been fear that ties me down to everything
But it's been love, Your love, that cuts the strings

So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave
Brave, brave

I am small
And I speak when I'm spoken to
But I am willing to risk it all
I say Your name
Just Your name and I'm ready to jump
Even ready to fall...

Why did I take this vow of compromise?
Why did I try to keep it all inside?

So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave
Brave, brave

I've never known a fire that didn't begin with a flame
Every storm will start with just a drop of rain
But if you believe in me
That changes everything
So long, I'm gone

So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
I wanna be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave
Brave, brave

Saturday, October 22, 2005

OK Christine.....

First of all - my favorite room.
Not too difficult. Let's see if I can describe it. Rough planks for a floor, painted a light sage greenish color. Slightly warped and cracked with age. A glass topped table surrounded by four comfy cushioned chairs. In the corner a fountain bubbles and splashes, soothing, relaxing sounds on a stressful day. Three large terra cotta pots filled with vibrant snapdragons inhabit a corner of this room. In a riot of colors. Hanging plants frame the sliding glass door along the wall. The ceiling is the bluest blue on some days, and the puffiest white on others. The light is also dependent on the day - brightest bright - golden and heat producing today. Tomorrow soft and hazy, or backlit and gentle. Some days the room is warm and still. Some days gentle breezes caress the soul. Surrounding the wooden floor is a carpet of the greenest, softest green. Cool and inviting. Two of the walls are brown topped with green reaching for the heavens. Birds chatter, insects hum, squirrels scamper and butterflies flit. It's a room for reflection, for reading, for just sitting and doing nothing. It's a room for intimate conversation, yet a room to play catch with the puppy. It's a cozy room, yet wide open with expectation and promise. It's a God room, a contemplative room, and a be still room. It's private, yet it knows no bounds. It's welcoming and inspiring. It's a place to dance and enjoy life. My favorite room is my deck/backyard.

Now, as for my comment on your post from your blog that you said I should put on my blog - OK. I will. But I'm too lazy to rewrite it, so it's just gonna be a cut and paste...

Chrissy - I think you missed what I said... "Christian" for 40 years, but just recently getting serious about what it means to walk with Christ. To live the kingdom life, with all that that entails. Yeah. It took me many years to even begin to start being where I shoulda been many years ago. I do remember once about 15 years ago being a sponsor at a high school retreat in Colorado, and as the speaker was challenging the kids I realized how pathetic I was. He gave them a paper with a tree on it, with lots of branches. And in the tree in various stages of climbing, sitting, sleeping, being on the ground, were children. And his challenge was to pick a child that represented where you were in your walk with God. I remember being really convicted, that I was the kid that had started the climb, but stopped and was sitting on the bottom-most branch swinging my leg and letting the world go by. This memory just came to me today. I can't believe I have let this much more time go by just sitting on that damn branch! It occurs to me that I even wrote a poem about it back then, but I couldn't tell you what I did with it. I'll have to try to find it to see what I was truly thinking that day. Anyway. All that to say that yes, I have been a believer for over 40 years. But it's not the quantity my friend, it's what I did with it, and in that respect I have failed miserably. My wake up call this year was painful, but necessary. Hopefully I won't just be sleeping on a higher branch next time I have to evaluate....
and your response: (I hope you don't mind....)

I did indeed see your full sentence-
at the time I read it ....... and recalled my own lack of achievement in my spiritual Walk for so many years, I made the instantaneous deduction (perhaps wrong) that most of us do dawdle along the Way to His feet; we don't seem to make the progress or put in the effort we feel we shoulda!

But I feel strongly that it's better to be sitting on any branch in God's tree than be wandering around, avoiding the tree altogether.

Tis better, in my opinion, to be an earnest but flailing Christian, flapping around or taking naps, than to not be a Follower of Christ at all.

So, I felt it deserved some respect, that you had been a Christian for so long- even if you felt you sat it out, too much of that time.

and my further response to this:
"But I feel strongly that it's better to be sitting on any branch in God's tree than be wandering around, avoiding the tree altogether."
Yes, I do agree. But for too long I used it as an excuse. I was "saved" what more did I need to do? I wandered aimlessly about, doing what I wanted, not thinking about what I should be doing, who I should be loving, helping, befriending, feeding. Not thinking about anybody else but me and my life. Not asking how I fit in the story God is telling. I was more concerned with how God fit into the story I was telling. So yeah, while I agree with you that at least being in the tree is a good thing it can also be a phariseeical (sorry I just made up a word....)type end at best...unless we get off our butts and begin to climb....

There ya go. It's now on my blog. Probably I could have reworked it and made it more "post" worthy, but I'm way too lazy today. Especially after being sick. I have to conserve whatever brain cells are firing through all the cotton in my head in order to survive this day. Anyway, thanks for all your encouragement Christine!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Christine tagged me again.....

OK , Christine asked me to list 20 random things about myself. It's hard to find anything remotely interesting..... but here it is anyway.

1. I played flute in the high school band.
2. I never had a computer class in my life, but I am the level one tech person in my elementary school, run the computer lab, and I use computers all the time.
3. I've never been in Vermont
4. I am 5'10" well I was, but I'm shrinking a bit as each year passes :)
5. Age is not a issue for me when I choose my friends. Wait, I don't choose them, it just kinda happens. God given, just right. I have good friends 20 years younger and 10 years older. Way cool!
6. I'd rather be the passenger, not the driver.
7. I have my best conversations with God in the bathtub!
8. I have trouble setting boundaries with friends and co-workers i.e saying NO.
9. I am a sun person. It has a healing effect on me. It makes me cheerful.
10. I have trouble finding even 10 things about me you might find interesting..much less 20!
11. I hate a dirty house, but I hate cleaning the house.
12. I have been a questioner all my life. Pat answers don't cut it.
13. I almost died when my first child was born. I still had two more kids.
14. I'm still struggling to find out who I really am, and what God wants me to be.
15. I am a control freak. I can't bear to ever be out of control of my life.
16. Because of that I do not drink.
17. Because of that I struggle to let God lead.
18. I'm a bit rebellious.
19. I hate shoes and socks
20. I would do anything for a friend...

Anne, Tammy - how about you? Mike? (if you're not too busy...)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Grace defined?

This weekend I was at a women's retreat with my church. I really was not looking forward to going at all. Sometimes those events can be pretty much a "let's get with it cheerleading session" for God. I'll admit - I didn't have a real good attitude going in. We had a speaker/singer from Atlanta, Dr. Kezia McNeal. I must say, she ended up getting through my cynicism to my soul in a lot of what she said. I found myself wanting to be a cheerleader for her - she was so dead on in what she spoke about. The topic was grace, and how to "DO" grace and how to "BE" grace. Wonderful, thought provoking sessions. At our one small group break out session I was fortunate to be assigned to the same group she was. After the session she and I spent about a half hour talking about what it means to be a Christ follower. How we so often miss the real purpose. We talked about love, grace, authenticity, getting beyond rules and legalism to principles and why we believe what we believe, and how in our spiritual life we have to be allowed to think, and ask the hard questions without being judged. We talked about music and how it works in and through us. It was just a much needed time of meaningful conversation with someone who was excited about the kingdom life. That conversation made the price of the retreat worth it - big time. I felt like I came away with another wonderful friend.
In the last full group session our assignment was to write down what grace was. That's a hard assignment. Grace is so many things. I began letting it roll around in my mind. It was still elusive. But I had to give it my best shot. So this is what I came up with:
Grace is God taking joy in us. It is his unconditional acceptance of us where we are. Grace flows and fills the cracks of the wounded soul. It is constant in that God gives it, and the end result is the same, yet it approaches us all and fills us in its own unique way - meeting individual needs. Grace is daddy - picking up the baby who falls as he is learning to walk and in pride and love with gentleness encourages him to try yet again. Grace is safety that embraces our insecurities. Grace is quite simply God.

So, that was the best I could do, what would you come up with?

Friday, October 14, 2005

embracing doubt...

Skepticism is good. Take Thomas for example - usually called doubting Thomas although he should probably be more accurately called Thomas the skeptic. I find what Mark Buchanan says about Thomas very helpful:

"He doubted not to excuse his unbelief, but to establish robust belief. He doubted so that his belief might be based on something more than rumor and wishful thinking...he doubted order to find a firm path out and into the holy wild...the holy wild is where we have driving and haunting doubts, God hungry doubts that pull us to our knees, force us to the Word, make us wrestle all night and not let go until He blesses us.

The point is, doubt is not a bad thing. We all need healthy doses of it to get us where we need to be. Doubt causes us to dig, to examine our faith, to ask hard questions and accept hard answers. I find that faith cycles for me - believing and doubting, taking hold of things and letting them go. It's a constant struggle. But each bout brings deeper understanding. I need to embrace those wrestling moments, the tugging, pushing, stretching, and pulling. I need to try to maneuver myself into new ways of thinking and doing things. I want to push the limits and know I'm safe in my questioning - that God will win, but he'll let me try to figure it out. I want to experience those driving, haunting, God hungry doubts - painful as they may be. I want my faith to grow and be real. That God cares enough about me to bring me to my knees and then allow me to wrestle within his safe embrace is an awesome thing.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cairos' New Game

If you click on these pictures you can see them slightly larger. This is our crazy Cairo - doing what he does best - annoying us. With love of course. He has learned to go over to the TV cabinet, get our attention, and then throw the ball under it. At which time he tries furiously to retrieve it, knowing full well he can't. Then the whining commences, and the sad puppy eyes - until of course, silly humans that we are, we feel sorry for him and go rescue the ball. After about the fourth time we caught on - he really knows what he is doing, and this is all a game to get us to respond to him. What a creative manipulator. Reminds me of a baby who throws things off the high chair tray over and over again to see if we respond. And we usually do. It's bad enough that I'm gullible enough to fall prey to a humans manipulation - but a dog's? I really need to develop some boundaries.........

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What does Ellis Island have to do with it?

I was helping my daughter do research for a school project. We had out all of our family records and genealogies. Her project was for history, and their teacher was trying to prove a point that the majority of people's ancestors came through Ellis Island. No way. Not this family. Never mind the fact that she has to have a family tree done by Friday, she was determined to prove her lineage predated Ellis Island. And she knew in at least two lines it did. As we worked on it, we discovered that without exception, every branch of my mother's family - the Varners, Keiths, Simmons, Wilfongs, Robinsons, Marshalls, Stumps, Stouts, Hughes, Piatts, McVaneys and Sniders were all US citizens prior to the Revolutionary War. In fact George Washington camped on Michael Stump's land and recorded that fact in his diary. And the coolest ancestor on this side of the family, to my kids, is Chief Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas. So she would be our however many great aunt. Yeah, I'd say the roots run deep on my maternal side. And to our surprise we also found a huge Pennsylvania Dutch clan on this side too. Hmmmm. German, Scottish and English.
So then we tried my paternal side. Well, the kids have always known we go back to Stephen Hopkins who came to America on the Mayflower. I grew up knowing that - and we always had documentation. It was a fun fact to share with people. So yeah good ole Steve came on the Mayflower and lo and behold my other side of the family ancestors were native American and already here....
I digress.
In all the research we can only find one - one lone soul that we believe may have gone through Ellis Island. She arrived on the Brighton at the Port of NY in 1821. We'll have to check that out. As for the rest of this side of the family, we learned that they were mostly Mennonite or Pennsylvania Dutch, a lot of them residing in Lancaster County Pa. (How much more Amish could my maiden name - "Lapp" be? ) And we found one immigrant from England who was Mormon. And at least one branch of the family was Quaker. English and German this side of the family.
So, yeah. My family has been here forever. Pretty cool to think that we have been here since before we were officially a country. Probably of no real import to me today, but fun to think about none-the-less.
And my husband's family - all German. All Amish/Mennonite. Most settled in Holmes County Ohio - which is the second largest Amish settlement in the US. Didn't come through Ellis Island either. Odd to think we could maybe have the same branch of a family tree somewhere.
Interesting to realize that our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage runs so deep and encompasses so much of both sides of our family. My kids have an awesome lineage.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Subconscious wanderings.....

It's 1:00 a.m. Kim is wandering the house.
Cody is wandering the house.
My mind is apparently wandering too - only it isn't staying in the house...
tomorrow (today?) is weighing in, beckoning me to play, refusing to be ignored.
Hamster, get off the wheel - let the light in my mind go off, the analyzing grind to a halt. I'm tired.
Though apparently not sleepy.
Flip, flop, tick, tock, back, forth, up, down, toss, turn, right left.

Tent in the road - yet amazingly I thought to secure the tent door against intruders.
House walls cracking, rent from top to bottom in quarter inch cracks.
Windows with Plexiglas panes, holes pecked in them by an unseen persistence.
Computers with security issues, can't disconnect from cyberspace.
Lights that go on in empty rooms, man in a bathroom in fatigues with a shotgun. Shock, fear...
Mr. Sauter saying it'll be ok,
a manipulator from my past appearing in my present, introductions all around...
hot, cold, toss, turn, tick, tock
My old house falling to pieces, (how can I rid myself of it now, have I waited too long?)
My new house empty and lonely,
fear, shame, back, forth, 1:30, 1:45, 2:00, tick, tock, anger ,fear, toss , turn, open, shut, pray, write
tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock........

Thursday, October 06, 2005

It's about the journey....

So, last weekend my friend and I jumped in the car and took off on a road trip.
Life just got to be too much, and we just pulled up and left on Saturday morning. Drove three hours just to spend a few hours at a scarecrow festival, antique shop, eat - you know what I mean. But the destination wasn't the reason we went. It was the going. The drive. The journey. We spent 6 hours on the road - yep, 6, talking about life. Hers, mine, questions, concerns, messiness, struggles, the past, the present and how overwhelming life can be. It was a very intimate conversation, and I will cherish it always. We laughed, we cried. We were vulnerable with each other, and we are now pretty intertwined in each others hearts. It's a God thing. It's a good thing. We came back home, not having solved any problems, but having someone to enter into them with us. How cool is that? The point? I don't know. I guess we all need someone. Someone who is safe - no matter what we say. We all need to get away and rest. And it's not about the destination - it's about the journey; what we do now on this earth as we travel, how we live, what our passions and responsibilities are now, not what the ultimate reward is. It's about the joy in the journey. We all need to wander with a friend who listens even if they have no answers. We all need someone to believe in us when we aren't able to believe in ourselves. I still feel overwhelmed. I still feel beat down, tired, frustrated; but it's different now. Someone is walking beside me as I precious is that?

Monday, October 03, 2005

5 idiosyncrasies

So Christine tagged me and now I guess I have to come clean. Hmmmm

1. I hate shoes and socks. This from a girl that lives in Northern Illinois. Winters can be quite troublesome to say the least!
2. I am the bath queen. Give me a tub of hot water and bubblebath, maybe some candles, and I am in heaven.....or maybe I just feel that way because it has become such a God time to me. Time alone to reflect and pray, maybe argue - but just be still with Him.
3. I love music, I need music, I am music. It's all about being the music. It brings joy from sadness, it brings perspective, it grabs my soul and doesn't let go. When music is taken away I feel like I can't breathe.
4. I have a mind stuffed with trivia. Seriously. I don't even know where all those tidbits of knowledge come from. I surprise even myself with the unique things I know. If only I wasn't so terrified and worried about impressions I'd probably do pretty well on a game show!
5. I am an e-mail junkie. For those of you who have seen Donnie Darko, I am the high tech version of the old lady crossing the dangerous highway to check her mail every 5 minutes even though she knows good and well there is nothing there. There's always hope - or the front end of a truck... :)

I tag Tammy and Anne

Unconditional support of a recommendation by your pastor or deacon board.

While I see some validity to this, I think this is what is getting a lot of churches in so much trouble. The danger is after while pastors and deacons start to think they are God, and the rest of us begin to believe we are bad Christians for bucking the system. We don't have faith. We don't trust the leaders God has given us. I am so trying to break this cycle, at least in my life. In love, with respect, but with intelligence and reasoning. I don't like being perceived as a trouble maker, or not being on board, or not trusting our leadership. I don't want to always be swimming upstream. But I have finally found my voice, and I need to use it. It's hard, and scary. Just being brave enough to say something that I know is going to get me in trouble, or at the very least is going to make people wonder about me is a whole new thing for me. Suddenly in the eyes of my pastor and church members I'm not playing like a good Christian.... I obviously don't understand how it's done. The thing is, I think I am a pretty fair person. Pretty rational. Pretty willing to listen and consider all the opinions. To hear others out, and see where they are coming from. I'm usually pretty agreeable. I think I'm usually pretty objective. So when I disagree, and get labeled as not being a team player, or get labeled as the one who disagrees, the negative one, the one who is hard to get along with, the critical one, it hurts. And my confidence takes a huge hit. Just another facet of the new me that I am uncomfortable with, but I'm finding I can't be silent. Even when I don't want to speak, I find my hand in the air with an opinion. Is there anything about this new way of thinking/living, this new person I am now, that I will ever find easy or comfortable, or at the very least get used to?

Friday, September 30, 2005

Woo Hoo!

Carissa got a part in the fall play. Not that I doubted her ability, but it is a small cast - only seven people, and only two girls. So though I tried to encourage her, I was really afraid she wouldn't make it. When she got a call back and got to a 25 percent chance of getting the part I was even more nervous - I was sure she was getting her hopes up only to be dissappointed. Yesterday the cast list was posted. I told her to call me. I was sure she'd call if she got the part. No call. All day. She didn't come home after school - but that is not unusual for her - she is always busy. Then I had to go out for awhile. When I got home, she had been home, and was gone again. She hadn't said anything to anyone about if she got the part. I figured that was a bad sign. Bummer.
Finally I couldn't stand it any more. I confess I was a bad, bad mom. I snooped in her backpack (and before you yell at me I 'fessed up later...) and there among the books and papers was a script with her name on it! Woo Hoo! She did it! When she came home we did the victory dance.

November 17th - 19th @ 7:30 P.M. Anybody wanna go?
Full Length

Cast: 5 men, 2 women: 7 total

One of the funniest plays ever written, this extraordinarily inventive, side-splitting comedy was first presented by the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, then produced in Great Britain, then went on to Broadway. The action centers on the hilarious dilemma of a young architect who is visited by a man he's never met but who saved his life in Vietnam—the visitor turning out to be an incredibly inept, hopelessly stupid "nerd" who outstays his welcome with a vengeance. "Shue delivers a neatly crafted package that uses some classic comic forms to bring the audience to its knees, laughing." —Milwaukee Journal. "…the audience almost never stops laughing—handkerchiefs wiping away tears of merriment…" —Variety. "…a spring tonic of side-bruising laughter…" —Milwaukee Tribune.

THE STORY: Now an aspiring young architect in Terre Haute, Indiana, Willum Cubbert has often told his friends about the debt he owes to Rick Steadman, a fellow ex-GI whom he has never met but who saved has life after he was seriously wounded in Vietnam. He has written to Rick to say that, as long as he is alive, "you will have somebody on Earth who will do anything for you"—so Willum is delighted when Rick shows up unexpectedly at his apartment on the night of his thirty-fourth birthday party. But his delight soon fades as it becomes apparent that Rick is a hopeless "nerd"—a bumbling oaf with no social sense, little intelligence and less tact. And Rick stays on and on, his continued presence among Willum and his friends leading to one uproarious incident after another, until the normally placid Willum finds himself contemplating violence—a dire development which, happily, is staved off by the surprising "twist" ending of the play.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Siren song

Lately I have just had the strangest desire to take a road trip. To get outta here, and on the road - I don't even care where. No agenda, no deadlines, no responsibility, no destination. Anywhere where I can feel free. Where I can find space and time to just be. Where I know no one, and no one knows me. Water would be good - lake, river, ocean... but it doesn't really matter. Just to take a road to see where it goes. To go north, or south, or east or west, or right or left, just because I feel like it, and not because I am directed to do so. To feel the breeze, see the sun, even soak in the rain. To travel late at night when everyone is asleep. Empty roads, peaceful, soothing darkness, room to think. I know it's not the norm, but it's calling me quite insistently. I need a road trip. Anyone wanna join me?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Grand Canyon Risks

Yesterday at breakfast with my pastor's wife we were discussing their recent trip to the Grand Canyon. She told me she would really like to go down into the canyon sometime, but on their last trip they had only hiked down about a mile or so. As they walked they observed the mules and their passengers. The mules walked on the very edge of the path, right along the sheer drop off to the canyon. If you examined the mule's footprints they were on the very, very edge of the precipice. That to her was so very frightening that she will never ride the mules, but would rather hike the steep, rocky, trail because she has more faith in her ability to stay on her own feet than that the mules won't fall over the edge. Ok, so being me I immediately saw an application. Funny how my mind works these days... So often we want to go far in our spiritual walk. We want to accomplish something for God. We have a goal, and a desire, but we want to do it our own way. Sometimes God's way means walking on the edge - so close to the edge in fact that we might be hanging out over the abyss. Not safe, or comfortable. So we choose to walk our way instead of trusting the means God has provided to best accomplish His plan. In all probability we'll never get to the end, or if we do it will be so late that the opportunity has passed. By our need to cling to a perceived safeness we limit God. We need to be willing to live life on the edge!
Anyway, I said to my pastor's wife, "There's a great lesson in that story." When she looked a little puzzled I rephrased what I said, further clarifying. She looked at me like I was crazy........

Just what the doctor ordered......

Last night we went over to Wheaton College to hear Caedmon's Call. We had a great time. Fourth row. :) They did a lot of songs from their Share the Well album which I own and listen to quite often. Great music, great message. I really appreciate the heart they have for India and other desperately poor and needy people/countries. It was a great way to end a week that was very difficult for me. I'm really glad I went.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sacred vs Secular?

I'm still reading Your God is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan. (It really has too much to say to read fast, though I desparately want to...) One of the last chapters I read really resonated with me - it had to do with invoking God's presence, the sacred vs the secular. Here are a few of the thoughts that really reaffirm how I feel:

"...Theology was once queen of the sciences. It ruled over and gathered into it all disciplines...But we live in the ruins of such a world. A wedge has been driven between the things of God and the things of man, between the sacred and the secular, church and society, faith and physics, the invisible and the visible....Nietzsche was wrong, we haven't killed God; we've just domesticated Him....Our day-to-day life is over here, and God is over there.

...When we remove the false distinction between sacred and secular, see all things existing by Him, for Him, and through Him, we are then free to redeem many so-called secular activities for the kingdom of God.

...Why shouldn't Shakespeare's plays and courses in philosophy and long midnight chats enrich rather than diminish our life before God? God owns these things, too, and can bend them to His purpose. His light shines on them too.

...Why can't we gather our whole lives into the divine embrace?

...If Sunday for one hour is the only time we worship, no wonder we do it sloppily, haltingly, hastily, and leave as hungry as we came. If we only ate one day a week, and on that day only one meal, we would die soon enough.

....rarely if ever do we ask the Spirit to reveal to us more of God when we study a leaf, rock, bird, child, painting, carving, or poem.

..."Our life," the duke says in Shakespeare's As You Like It, "finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything." This in not animism, not pantheism. This, rather, is the recognition, a biblically shaped and grounded recognition, that God's ways of speaking, His methods of disclosure, are wide and varied. As such, we need to walk open eyed and with ears pricked.

Expectancy is the belief that God will do something. Expectation insists He do it in just this way. Sometimes expectation blinds us more to the God who is here right now than outright disbelief does. The Pharisees couldn't see Jesus for looking...but imagine a life buoyed by expectancy, by the conviction that the Lord will show Himself. How, where, when - we don't know that. We don't dictate the terms.

"Earth is crammed with heaven
and every common bush afire with God;
but only he who sees takes off his shoes.
The rest sit around it and
pluck blackberries."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

We are talking here about a tectonic shift in the way we see the world."