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.