April 30, 2005

...the darker us

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.
~Henry David Thoreau

A friend of mine is trying to get me to come to the dark side. Yes, it's true....a recruiter for the dark side of chocolate. I've been kind of intrigued by, yet noncommittal to actually buying any. I can’t imagine M&M’s with dark chocolate but I will eventually break down and buy some, because there is a buzz going ‘round about them and I am getting curiouser and curiouser.

The dark side of life is intriguing too, though not in a trivial way like m&m’s. We watch movies and television shows that showcase murder investigations, casual romantic relationships and handsome criminals who make us laugh. There is a whole television show that deals with sex crimes and the lawyers that defend the victims. What is this fascination, and why are we so drawn to the side of life that, alarmingly, does not make people cringe and look the other way but to gaze, stare and gawk? What is that? It’s disturbing and fascinating. twisted, scary, shocking….entertaining. I think that is why the Bible has so much instruction on thinking about the good….doing good….training ourselves in goodness. It’s not natural for us….we and our buddy, the sin nature. We have to struggle against it because we are drawn to it, fascinated by it and then realize we are enslaved and ruined by it.

I recently saw this happen to a close friend of ours. He was drawn in like a moth to a flame and was burned…his reputation, his future plans, as well as his own opinion of himself. It broke my heart to watch it. People warned him, wise people….his family, friends, co-workers and other men who have been in his shoes, yet he disregarded it all and threw himself to the flame. Now, less than a month later, he is suffering greatly from the havoc that one reckless choice has caused to not only himself but to his friends, family and to some young people who really looked up to him.

Oh how I wish we could just hide the darkness. I know we can’t hide it…..but in my human mind and as a mother, that is my first instinct. God doesn’t hide the darkness from us. The Bible is full of stories of imperfect people, people who made baaaaaaaaaaaaad choices…ever wonder why they are all in there? I always think, well if God can use those people, He can use me…change me, make me into what He really wants me to be…all is not lost…there’s hope. He turned around their mistakes and used their imperfection, bringing them closer to Him. He created us with free will and allows us to make mistakes… When we blow it, it makes it harder on us, as well as on those we love, but all is not lost…there is hope…and restoration. He can still use us….He still loves us.

We also have the ability to choose goodness. He freely gives wisdom to all who ask. Like a loving parent, He is encouraging us to do what is right, but is there to help us when we fall down and go boom.

Philippians 4:8-9
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

The dark side isn’t worth the longing looks we give it…the price is far too high. Please pray for my friend as he is reeling from his walk there….

April 25, 2005

Perfect refreshment

To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.
~Jane Austen~

Today, after a long day helping at school and plodding about after school, I took a half hour to sit on our lawn swing with our dog, Winnie and look upon verdure. The grass is green now, growing in tufts and all disheveled looking. Spring bulbs are out and lovely..tulips mostly....next will come hyacinths I think. This picture is from last Fall but it has the feeling that today brought. I love how a half hour in nature, in quiet, with a nice dog beside you does wonders for your weariness.

It really was refreshing....I recommend it!

Oh be careful...

Be careful where you are going, because you never know who is following you. =)

April 24, 2005

Hotel California Rwanda

Last week I was privileged to jaunt off to California for a week long conference on the Purpose Driven Church…..the offspring of the Purpose Driven Life book and philosophy. My two faithful readers may have noticed the lack of posts for the week. =) The conference was at Saddleback Church which is a huge, growing church in Lake Forest, California. Everything was inspiring and well done….I have never been to a more professional, well equipped conference. And I am not a conference person. It drives me crazy to sit and listen for hours on end, no matter what the topic or who the speaker is. In fact, after the first day of general conference time, I opted to sit on the patio area, listening to speakers on the glass wall of the church. (through which we could gaze upon all the little conferees who were sadly stuck in rows, wondering if they could scoot out to use the restroom without too much distraction) I could move when I wanted to, put my feet up and watch all the patio people while hearing the inspirational speakers and music.

One of my favorite things to do is people-watch. I like to watch people relate to each other, I like to watch what they do when they think no one is watching, when they are bored or distracted, when they are trying to attract or detract attention and (this week) when they are listening in a church (or conference) setting. I even read a blog that someone writes about the conversations he overhears in the various coffee shops or restaurants he goes to throughout the week….eavesdropping or creative curiosity??? I saw 3500 people from over 47 different countries and about every Christian denomination worshipping, listening, agreeing, wondering, meeting each other….trying to talk to each other. That was interesting, trying to talk with people from another language group and sharing the space around the lunch tables each day. People sat in all kinds of places to eat their lunch, which was a box lunch provided by the conference each day. They sat on the beautiful green grassy areas, on benches under trees, and on large round table under awnings. One day I ate lunch somewhere between Brasil and Rwanda! Our new Brasilian friends were a pastor’s family, husband, wife and adult son. (who translated for us) He talked about coming to America to start a Brasilian church in Florida. Can you imagine leaving the country you live in to minister to people in a totally new country who are from your original country? …..interesting….

Our new Rwandan friend made the biggest impression on me of the whole week. We introduced ourselves and it’s hard to chit chat with someone from Rwanda. I haven’t seen Hotel Rwanda, but I plan to when it is out on video. Knowing it is one of those emotionally devastating movies, I waited until I could watch it in the privacy of my own home, just in case heavy crying jags resulted in the viewing. But I have heard of the genocide, how the death total was near or possibly surpassed the Jewish holocaust in Germany. How can you chit chat with someone who has come through something like a holocaust? So I asked him how we could pray for his church, for people in that country. And he began telling me, very eloquently with his lovely accent about the needs. I was soon rustling through my purse to grab my notebook and write down what he was telling me. The main things were that there are a lot of pastors in his area who have not been trained in studying the Bible or in basic Bible teaching. They have a newly established seminary to train their indigenous pastors, but need scholarships, books and supplies to keep the school running. Also Rwanda is one of the African countries ravaged by HIV/AIDS. They need training in lifestyle and morality to avoid spreading the disease and also care for orphans left in the wake. HIV in Africa is most commonly spread because the men of the country are used to having mistresses. The third thing he wanted us to pray about is the hatred in his country….there is still a lot of hatred between races there, resulting in genocide and war. His country is full of strife, full of disease and ignorance about the disease, and it is full of people who want to be effective ministers, but need to be properly trained and prepared. During the general conference, Rick Warren was telling how the government of Rwanda voted to implement the Purpose Driven Life ideas into not only their churches but the government! They are becoming the first Purpose Driven country!! So Saddleback church brought a lot of the pastors from Rwanda to California for a week to learn more about the principles of PD Life.

Please, please pray for Rwanda and especially for these pastors who are serving their people and Christ there.

Something really hit me while I looked around and watched us all intermingle. These people from most other countries in the world are so humble, so grateful and so strong in their faith. The comparison would be the Americans I observed who love the Lord and want to serve Him, but we are so prideful, so demanding and need our constant entertainment to add to our faith. (myself included) I needed a reality check and I got it. We should be so grateful for our freedom, protection and opportunity to share our faith and spread God’s Word…..we have the resources to be so generous, yet we are so self-centered.

I have no excuse…I need to be more like Christ…what would He do if He came to live in America today….I wonder…

Bad timing

I skipped church this morning *bad pastor's wife!* and here I sit watching home design shows while our church honors my husband for 8 years of being their pastor. *I think I deserve a good pout* I was up til 3:30am with 2 barfing children, one of whom did not reach a proper recepticle in time! So at 2am I was cleaning a bedspread, a sleeping bag and my couch, while Bethany cleaned the wood floor. She was using BLEACH water on my new wood floor until I came out and saw it and was jumping up and down yelling "NOOOOOO!" The sleeping bag was out by the couch because Bethany was having a slumber party. *oiy* Pizza, ice cream, cookies, brownies, chips, soda, barf! This morning I have 2 daughters, each with old margarine tub buckets attached under their chins, sipping water, munching toast and watching Disney channel with doopy eyes. My head is pounding and dizzy, but hopefully it's just from the stress and lack of sleep and not from getting sick.....?

Tonight we have small group Bible study at our house. I am afraid to make the clam dip I have planned...wonder if the small group people would like chicken and stars with dry toast and gingerale? =)

April 15, 2005

Divine Humor

A friend of mine recently showed me an internet video clip. We were talking about that creepy Burger King commercial with the guy in a king mask who looks into someone’s window, just staring at him, then the man he’s staring at starts getting this goofy smile on his face….weird! So he said there was a commercial that was taken off the air in Germany because people complained that they saw ghosts in it and heard backward talking. He said to listen carefully to hear it and lean close to see what he couldn’t make out but might be the ‘ghosts’. (this should have been my first clue…lean close, turn up the sound) lol Here is the clip. Well not to spoil the surprise for you, but at the end of the car commercial, a goblin jumps in front of the screen and does this crazy, scary scream and scares the bajeebers out of you! So naturally, I played the trick on my kids. I told them the story and showed them the clip, telling them I thought the supposed ghosts were just sun rays or fog or something, but to look closely at the trees. Well, they about hit the roof, my daughter Emma actually screamed and jumped off the couch. Ha! Gotcha! This was a few days ago.

Last night I was loading the video clip just to bother Emma again, who was sitting beside me on the couch. It takes about 5-10 minutes to fully load and get ready to play on my computer, so I turned the laptop toward Emma and got up to go to my room…while I was in my room, my husband was talking to me about some things, then I went to the kitchen, then came back to sit on the couch. Do you think God has a sense of humor? I know He does. At the precise time that I was in mid-sit, that goblin jumped out and screamed. My head was at the same level as the speakers, I had totally forgotten that I had left it loading. I screamed and my feet slipped out from under me and I fell the rest of the way to the couch, half laughing, half choking on my Oreo, part peeing my pants! Then, after that lovely display, I couldn’t stop laughing and choking….the girls were laughing and telling me how it served me right. And I guess it did. I am a practical joker at heart, but I don’t like it when I am the subject of a joke. And how did that happen just perfectly unless God set it up? Hmmmmmm?

Other proofs of God’s sense of humor: giraffes, monkeys, weird bugs and fish, pictures composed of precisely set stars in the sky, sneezes, and west Texas. Besides, we are made in His image and even little toddlers have a sense of humor. Doesn’t it just make you smile to think of a baby laughing, of clouds in goofy shapes, of how dogs are so goofy and seem to understand you and communicate back with you? And what does smiling and laughter do for us? It lowers blood-pressure, relaxes us, puts us at ease with each other and makes the emotional and social ground level between people. It’s a good thing that God gave us humor….and I enjoy it to the fullest. I love to find it every day in the world or in other people, even when they don’t realize they are cracking me up! Human nature, mixing up words while talking, being a clutz, facial expressions….these can all be FUNNY. I love it….and I’m starting to appreciate the little practical joke played on me last night. That was a good one….heh heh heh. My only problem is this: When someone plays a trick on you, you want to get them back! That is not an option in this case. *Drat*

April 14, 2005

Reading into things

I really admire people who read…people who read whole books and know how to discuss great literary ideas and interpretations. Two of my daughters are like that. (they take after their dad) They love to read, they can remember details from what they’ve read and they can see the themes and interpretations of the book. I read a book (sometimes the whole thing) and think, “Ah, well that was a nice story.” I don’t have a clue…until someone brings out the interpretations for me. Then I think it’s wonderful and start to see all the nuances of it….but as far as being very intuitive…I’m not. I found this survey on books and by my answers you can tell how pragmatic and sensible I am…intuition and great thought I can only admire from a distance.

1. What book do you want to be? I imagine I would like to be an old favorite kind of book….the kind that is like a fond friendship, that you read often, quote from with bookish friends and read to escape from it all. This would have to be a Jane Austen book……intricate relationships and plot, witty sarcasm, and vivid written scope for the imagination.

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? I did….strangely, when I was in middle school I had a ‘crush’ on Oliver Twist and Huckleberry Finn….they were so pitiful and needed love. What this says about my personality and tendencies is a little too scary to think of…so I won’t. =)

3. The last book you bought is: I bought three old hardcover copies of Louisa May Alcott books…Little Men, Jo’s Boys and Eight Cousins…..from a used bookstore. They look really cool on my shelf. I also bought a bunch of classics for my oldest daughter for Christmas this past December. That’s what she wanted for Christmas…books. (makes me go hmmmm)

4. The last book you read is: I have read others since, but the last one I read and actually finished was the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We had just seen the first movie and I had to know how the story turned out, so I got the books and tore through them all in about 3 weeks. The weird and funny thing about this was that I had a major case of the flu at the time and a high fever…..so it made the story come alive in my brain like no other. It became a sort of out of body experience…..and was very emotional. The flu makes you hyper-emotional I have found. I laid on the couch during the day, wrapped like a cocoon in a blanket reading it…I stayed up late, way into the wee hours reading it until my eyes wouldn’t stay open…and I obsessed about the parts I couldn’t figure out until I found resolution.

5. What are you currently reading? The Giver. This is the book that my seventh grade daughter is reading for Language Arts and it sounded really interesting and disturbing, so I’m reading it. Again, makes me nervous to think about this for long.

6. Five books you would take to a deserted island:
(trying to imagine someone actually packing for a trip to a deserted island)

~The Bible –my favorite book, written by my favorite Author. (excitement, wisdom, direction and comfort….and a great, personal love story)

~Surviving Deserted Islands for Dummies (this is a joke…it’s pretty funny if you think about it)

~Sense and Sensibility --because sense is a rare thing on a deserted island…so I’ve heard….just look at Tom Hanks…started a relationship with a volley ball! If only he had remembered to pack his top 5 books! And besides, I’ll be feeling very sarcastic and in need of humor and biting wit if stranded for more than a day or so…..I wonder what the average stranding time is? It would also help me polish up on my British accents by reading aloud to the monkeys and tropical birds that would visit me regularly.

~Our family photo album --my family might think this is silly—to bring a blank photo album--since all our pictures are online or stuck in a basket on a shelf in the dining room….but I am imagining it all filled in…this is just a make believe quiz.

~Home Remedies for all Occasions --I am hoping it includes all kinds of poisonous insect bite remedies as well as some ideas for keeping up hygiene and skin-care-while-stranded-on-a-deserted-island-without-cosmetics section…and a section on what to do if you have a severe allergic reaction to coconuts or raw fish. *Thinking* I may have to throw in some monkey and tropical bird recipes.

What I’m really thinking as I make fun of this survey: Why do people ask these types of questions? How many people actually get stranded on deserted islands? I think it just causes undo stress and anxiety to make people think of such dreadful possibilities.

Please understand, I harbor no hard bitterness toward hardcore readers…..many of my close friends and family are readers. =) I just have issues with following through (finishing the dreadfully long ones) and understanding the unstated. In high school I knew where the Cliff Notes section was in several bookstores….in college I learned to skim. These days I usually stick to magazine and internet reports and articles. I love knowledge…it’s just the time and dreadful concentration it takes to find it. And I appreciate the quietness and commitment it takes to sit down just to read….I like the idea and find it compelling…..maybe I will have more time for that as my kids leave the nest, but for now I find my life is an endless string of multi-tasking. I will try to remember to answer these questions again in 10 years, when my last fledgling has been shoved out of the nest.

April 11, 2005

Ancient Words

"The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts." --John Jay, the man whom George Washington appointed as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Ancient Words

Holy words long preserved
for our walk in this world,
They resound with God's own heart
Oh, let the Ancient words impart.

Words of Life, words of Hope
Give us strength, help us cope
In this world, where e'er we roam
Ancient words will guide us Home.

Ancient words ever true
Changing me, and changing you.
We have come with open hearts
Oh let the ancient words impart.

Holy words of our Faith
Handed down to this age.
Came to us through sacrifice
Oh heed the faithful words of Christ.

Holy words long preserved
For our walk in this world.
They resound with God's own heart
Oh let the ancient words impart

--Michael W. Smith

April 10, 2005

Close encounters

This past weekend I found myself surrounded by over a thousand women…..singing, eating, laughing so hard we were crying and sitting for hours on end (literally…hours…on our rear ends). It was the Arizona state Christian women’s conference put on by our denomination. We had group sessions, sitting in a huge sanctuary, listening to one of the most hilarious speakers ever….Liz Curtis Higgs. Our cheeks were sore from laughing and wet from tears after every session! It was no use trying to keep makeup in check. We had break out sessions, ranging from decorating and hospitality ideas to sessions dealing with depression and pornography addiction. There were booths and displays to see, bookstores to peruse, old friends to catch up with, coffee to drink, meals to eat at nice restaurants and one midnight run to Walmart. Several of us were complaining of joint or muscle soreness, so we ran to Walmart to get some Thera-gesic cream. It’s just like Bengay, but supposedly much more sophisticated and effective…..just as smelly though, so we were quite distinctive at the conference and in restaurants…heh.

By the second day, I was so tired of sitting on stiff chairs, being talked at by lunch time, that I went with friends to skip a session, enjoy the beautiful weather and take a turn doing the talking for a while. The conference was in Phoenix, which is beautiful in the Spring, a perfect mix of warm sun, light breeze and fragrance of flowers in the air. We returned to northern Arizona with snow falling and a biting wind blowing. It is such a weird contrast, the differing climates at such a small distance. In only two hours, you can escape the heat of the desert into the cool, high elevation of Flagstaff in summer….or in winter, you can enjoy a break in the warmth of the desert while enduring a snowy winter in the mountains. So in winter, we have conferences in Phoenix and in summer, we have camps and retreats in the mountains. You gotta love that…

Our conference leader has written several books on Bad Girls of the Bible. She does extensive research on these Bible women, women ‘with a past’, and she writes about how God found them, just as they were, showed them His love and used them in amazing ways to bring about His plan and to restore them in the process…..and how their lives can teach us so much about ours. Her story is amazing and she is a HOOT! I was totally engaged mentally in the teaching times, which is a trick for a borderline A. D. D. woman. I rarely get through an entire sermon or study time without taking a trip far away in my mind….or several small journeys at least. ;)

One of these bad women she taught about was ‘the woman at the well’ who met Jesus one day, going about her daily routine, unaware that her life was about to be changed. Throughout the study, she led us through the encounter, showing by the small, seemingly insignificant details of the story how Jesus showed her such kindness, such understanding and such deep insight. They had such a personal, intimate encounter, just the two of them, discussing water, politics, religion, sin and freedom. It is one of the rare times that a one on one encounter between someone and Jesus is recorded. (in fact the only other one I can think of is when Nicodemus came to Him by night) It makes me wonder what kind of encounter I would have if I ran into the Lord during my normal, daily routine. But we do run into Him each day…in the small lessons He shows us through the world or relationships or through His Word. He’s got stuff to talk to us about each day….as trivial and temporary as politics and religion or as deep and eternal as sin and freedom. I know I need to go to the ‘well’ more regularly each day and have a one on one with Him….to hear what He’s waiting there to discuss with me and to see what it might set me free from……

April 4, 2005

Things I saw today....

Have you ever thought about all the sights our eyes take in every day? (And the fleeting thoughts that accompany them and are quickly dismissed.)

Things I saw today:

1. An orange house with black trim. These are our school colors here but I can’t imagine someone wanting to live in this hideous monstrosity.

2. My teary reflection over a bad whack job on my hair. (self-inflicted, it looks like a mushroom)

3. My co-workers husband come swiftly through the office wearing eye-shocking tie dye pants. No comment. *hi Katie*

4. My dog trying to look non-chalant because she had taken my warm place on the couch while I got up and she didn’t want to give it back. I think this is really funny…it’s totally obvious that she is glancing at me trying to see if I’ll move her or sit somewhere else. When I do move her, she sighs at me…ha!

5. My seven year old’s feverish little face and droopy eyes. She has since had her meds and fallen sound asleep in her bed. *tonsilitis*

6. A policeman watching me almostbutnotquitestop at a stop sign. Thankfully I don’t think he saw me until I was in full motion again…whew!

7. A grocery bag flying high in the air in the strong Spring wind. The wind is so bad today that there are weather advisories on the highway and every time I open the back door, it almost takes 2 people to close it again.

8. Dwindling after Easter candy sale display at the grocery store. I passed on by….

9. Children chasing each other during recess….not a care in the world.

10. My refrigerator full of leftovers. Remember that episode of the Cosby’s where they clean out the freezer and all eat up leftovers and old food as a meal? Guess what’s for dinner tonight?

11. A boy picking his nose in the window of a passing school bus. He totally thought no one was watching him…I wish there hadn’t been.

12. My husband laughing and watching Jimmy Neutron. Episode about Jimmy building a robo-mom while his mom’s on a spa vacation.

13. My 13 year old walking away from the kitchen table with the tablecloth tucked into her pants, spilling 2 glasses of water. I found this quite humorous.

14. A crackling fire going in the woodstove….it’s calling to me….

….have a good day.