Thursday, December 23, 2010

The First Christmas Wasn't Very Nice

Not gonna lie, this Christmas season has been a whirlwind.  Life has been crazy busy since Thanksgiving, full of gift wrapping and Christmas baking and computer buying (mine crashed) and trip planning...  Oh, and working.  Still doing that.  

Now here it is, the eve of Christmas Eve, and I've finally slowed down.  Just a little.  I'm nestled away in the heart of Kansas and my sweats, and as always it feels good to escape my daily grind and relax for a while.  I'm still frantically trying to work out music for the Christmas Eve service at church and nail down a schedule to see friends on Sunday...but at least I'm breathing again.

Despite the continual external and noisy distractions, a few ponderances have managed to drift through my imagination now and again.  I listened to a preacher tell the Christmas story from Joseph's point of view, and this preacher's observations brought the whole scene down to earth just a little more.

It's easy to be numbed to the images of baby Jesus and the shepherds and the manger and the star, to smile and nod as the story is gently told every year by a gaggle of dressed-up children at the front of the sanctuary.  It's easy to be distanced from the realities of Bethlehem all those years ago.

Realities of the implications of young teenager-Mary's sudden pregnancy.  Here is a girl, probably not even finished growing, who chooses to accept the angel's word that she is going to have a baby.  "Aw," we think, "how nice."

Nice?  Really?

Nice that she now has to answer to her family and fiance and try to explain to them that she's pregnant but hasn't cheated?  That she's still a virgin?  Nice that she has to plead for her life because her family and fiance now have the legal right to stone her to death?

Ever notice that there's no mention in the Bible of Mary's parents?  Is this because they cast her out of their family for being pregnant and not married?

And what of Joseph?  The woman he loved broke his heart. She's carrying someone else's baby, but insists that it was the Holy Spirit Who impregnated her.  Is she lying to cover her tracks?  Who did she sleep with?  His best bud?  Or maybe she's just crazy...  Either way, there's disgrace on her, her family, and him.

Yet he keeps her.  Surely he has full knowledge that his family is feeling quite disgusted with him for staying with the girl who may very well have socially ruined him.  What in the world was he thinking?

And then the two of them journey off to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born.  A lowly stable, a messy birth just like all the others, the pain of contractions, and finally...a baby.  The Savior.  Did that moment feel holy?  Did the young couple sense heaven's presence as Mary lay drenched in sweat and blood, as Joseph held in his arms a baby he did not conceive?  Did they know how significant this moment was as they sat surrounded by animals, smelling dusty straw and stinky manure?

Did they have any family left to call their own?  Did they visit their parents to show them their new grandson, or did their families even speak to them anymore?  Where should they settle down to call home if there was no place that welcomed this disgraced couple?

What faith that must have required from each of them, going into this whole ordeal knowing that they faced utter ruin.  Yet they were obedient.  In the midst of their messy and lonely lives, they chose to believe their ordinary and undesirable circumstances were creating a story greater than they could even know.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Year Changes A Lot

Today is Thanksgiving.  And while I'm thankful for many things, right now I'm mostly just relieved to have a day off.

I do my best thinking in the shower, and this morning my mind wandered through the events of the past 365 days.  I realized this is a bit of a milestone day for me.

One year and about three weeks ago, my dad was diagnosed with cancer.  Again.  I was able to make it home for Thanksgiving with my family, but was worried about going.  Dad had undergone his first round of chemo, and I was nervous to be home in case he was really sick from it.  Sick and I don't do well together.

We celebrated Christmas at Thanksgiving, because I was on call for the Christmas holiday and couldn't get away from work to come home.  As my parents, brother and new sister-in-law, and myself passed gifts, I wondered to myself if this would be our last Christmas with dad here.  I wondered if I would regret missing Christmas day with my family if it was the last one he would be at.  But that Thanksgiving/Christmas was a good one all around.

Four months later, dad went to be with Jesus.

Two months after that, my grandma (my mom's mom and my last living grandparent) joined my dad at Jesus' side.

Now it's my family's first major holiday since all that happened.  I'm over 500 miles away from them, but they're able to be together and I have people here to hang with.  And we have Skype.

So many other things have happened during this past year.  I started having Bible study with another gal from church, and we've built a cool friendship together.  Her family has taken me under their wing (whether they realize it or not)...and continued to stuff me full of food.

I stopped leading Tuesday night worship at church.  It got to be too much and pretty much fizzled out of existence.

On the flip side, our worship team has grown in huge ways, and it's been a privilege to have been a part of that growth.

I trained for and ran a half-marathon, my second.  I did something I swore I'd never do - got up before work each morning to exercise and train.

The house I'm renting went up for sale.  Occasional lookers come by to see it, but no offers yet.  I can't help but wonder if it's worth putting up my Christmas decorations this year in case I have to take them all right down again and move out.

I traded in my Buick for a CR-V.

I shot my first deer - a little eight-point buck.

I remember that a year ago, all I wanted for Christmas was supplies so I could make blankets to give away to people who need them.  I wanted nothing more than to give as much as myself and my resources away.  Today...I wonder what happened to that spark and drive, and when all this selfishness and self-pity crept in.

I have been stretched and challenged in a lot of ways, and I have to admit that most of the time I didn't handle those challenges very gracefully.  In fact, I spent most of them kicking and screaming.  But I am thankful for a loving God Who has unlimited patience with me, Who lets me kick and scream until I wear myself out.  Then, when I decide I'm done, He picks me up and leads me in a better way.  His way.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The things I want right now cannot coexist. To follow one desire means putting to death another. I can't bear to let go of any of them. Maybe I fear that if I let go of these dreams (if I can go so far as to call them that), then I lose everything tangible and meaningful. 

To sacrifice my desires without having another vision to replace them is emotional and mental death. It feels as though I would be confined to an existence of colorless and monotonous gray. 


Even if I never get to live out my dreams, at least holding onto them offers a tiny glimmer of color on the horizon. I may never reach that glimmer, but it represents and provides the tiniest sliver of hope, and that is what keeps pushing me forward in a grayscale existence. 

. . . 

We look at life and its unfairness. We hear how Jesus is acquainted with our pain and sufferings. After all, He suffered the greatest unfairness of all. But I am quick to think "that's how it was supposed to be, that was the plan from the beginning, and it benefited many" and so detach the reality and humanness of Jesus in those events. 

While I am by no means God, don't the trials and sacrifices of my little life carry similar implications? The course and purpose of my life was mapped out from the beginning of time, with a definite beginning and purposeful destination. The trials and joys along the way will benefit many, and more importantly, glorify God. 

The difference is that as I go about this journey, I can't see the end result. I don't know ahead of time how this fits into God's grand scheme of things. But knowing these truths...does that knowledge make my life and situations feel more ok? 

I think so. Maybe not always. But for now, it is enough. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I like to think that I'm going to do something big with my life. Huge actually, with far-reaching and life-changing impacts. But I get so caught up in the grander, overall picture that I forget to live in the present. I'm trying so hard to see where the ripples of my life-not-yet-lived are going to reach that I can't see what's around me right now. I forget that those big, wide ripples start small.

There's a desire in me to do something meaningful, something important,to make a difference. I want my time here to matter, for God to be impressed with what I did for Him. And pleased. I want Him to be pleased. 
I like to think that I could easily tackle that "big" calling, the one where He asks me to live out my days in a 3rd world country or on a hospital bed stricken with illness. But the truth is I can't even handle my day to day life. I continually fail to be joyful and willing to carry out the mundane tasks, despite being given a fresh start each day. I live for me, I seek my own comfort. I can't handle the little; what makes me think He will entrust me with the big?
What if God isn't calling me to do something big and impressive for Him?  What if He's asking me to let go of these elusive glimmers of hope and plunge face-first into what my finite eyes process only as monochromatic?  I know in my head that true discipleship and reckless abandon produce a full and vibrant life byond what I can imagine.  But I also know that the fullest lives demand the most brutal sacrifices.  I fear the pain of giving up these things, things that I cannot keep anyway.
I fear these things, despite knowing that this life only brushes the surface of my existence, that these brief years I spend here are less than a blink in the eyes of eternity.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Words of a Child

This was an awkward (though very endearing) conversation I had with a 2 1/2 year old a few days ago:

him:  "Where's your dad live?"

me:  "He used to live in Kansas."

him:  "Where's he now?"

me:  "He's with Jesus."

him:  "Where's Jesus?"

me:  "Jesus is in heaven."

him:  "We like Jesus?"

me, his grandma and mom:  "Yes, we like Jesus."

Such a sweet little boy.
Photo by sweet little boy's mama.  She does amazing work.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Guatemala Update #3

Last day here.  I´m feeling rather neutral about the whole thing.  There are several things I´m looking forward to, first of which is sleeping in a non-mold-infested bedroom.  Last night I even slept with sleeves and wrapped my pillow in the Delta blanket I got from the trip down here...and woke up with the worst rash yet.  So precationary measures get me nowhere.

I´ve enjoyed my time here, and the culture is starting to grow on me.  The kiddos here are so beautiful and incredibly curious about us gringos.  The less shy ones point and holler "gringo!"  Great amusement all around.  Today I had a group of kids standing around me to listen to me dictate some notes.  While I was dictating, one girl touched my arm a few times, just to feel white skin I think.

One thing that is kind of nagging at the back of my mind is the question of what sort of impact my presence has made.  In an earlier post, I was questioning the motives and reasoning behind some of these volunteers coming down here when they don´t have sharing Jesus to guide them.  But reflecting on the week, I wonder about the same thing.  Granted, my primary motive was to provide services to people who needed therapy, and that´s for sure a very good thing.  But still, I go back to the bottom line, which is Jesus.  Did these people see Jesus in us?  Because I had no conversations about my faith and didn´t share the gospel with anyone.  For all they saw, I´m just a nice white gringo who may or may not have physically helped a few children.  That doesn´t sit too well with me.  But I still have some more processing to do on that one.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guatemala Update #2

Just finished the second day of seeing patients.  Yesterday was a full day; saw a total of thirteen patients, only two of whom were adults.  Today we saw something like six or seven.  Not as full...but took us just as long because our driver disappeared on us and we had to wait for over an hour for him to show up again.  I´m hoping to get through the market yet today and try to finish up some shopping before they all shut down for the day.  Only one more chance to get it done after today since market days happen only three times a week.

The pace here is amazing.  I feel like a completely different person here compared to back home.  People here don´t keep strict schedules like we do, and therefore neither do we, which frees everyone up to kinda do whatever whenever.  We get our work done, then have lots of time to kick back and roam around or just hang out on the roof.  It gets dark here crazy early...probably by 5:30.  But then it´s already getting light by 5:00 am.  I´ve been going to bed anywhere from 7:30 to 9:00 and waking up before my alarm every morning (if you can believe that).  Been getting lots of sleep, but I don´t feel like I´m missing anything by it.  Feels good to be able to live and not just function.

We´ve seen all kinds of diagnoses these past couple of days.  We do what we can and suggest things for the parents to work on until the next group comes in six months.  But some things we can only barely help, if at all.  Saw a 10 month old yesterday who had a huge head for her age because she had lots of fluid built up around her brain.  In the States, she would probably have a shunt put in to drain the fluid and receive all kinds of continuous medical care.  Here...we taught the mom to lay her on her stomach and sit her up more often (because right now she just lays on her back all day) to increase trunk control...and hope for the best.  Honestly, I don´t think that little girl has a great prognosis.  But that´s the best we could do.

Have another full day ahead of us tomorrow.  It´s hard work in a lot of ways...but I think we hardly notice that because we´re so busy taking in this different way of life, modifying things the best we can, and enjoying some God´s most amazing scenery from the back of a pickup truck flying down the roads.

Oh, P.S.  Thanks for all the prayers for my breathing.  I never had another problem after that first night!  Yay God!  I was told this rash should go away after I get home, so I´m not too worried about it at this point, though it is kind of a pain to know that I still have three more nights in my mold-infested room.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Guatemala Update #1

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and my teammates while we´re traveling.  I truly appreciate this and am humbled to know how much support we have.  Muchas gracias. :)

So much has happened since we left Minneapolis that I´m afraid I can´t even begin to share it all...not to mention I am now the last one still on a computer, which means I should wrap up soon.

One thing that has struck me the most since being here actually relates back to other workers here at the Mission.  There are many 20-somethings who come here to work for the Mission for several months at a time.  Maybe this is just my own biased way of thinking, but when someone is doing volunteer-type work in a 3rd-world country, my first inclination is to assume they are here to ultimately share the Gospel.  But talking to several of these people, that´s not the case at all.

Some aren´t really sure why they´re here, other than for the experience.  I heard a couple people comment today how they´re not religious at all, and another gal at another time said, "She loves those like God loves the world.  Well, actually God hates the world."  I didn´t even know where to go with that one, so I just looked at her.

We keep hearing how important our presence is here and not so much the work we do.  But I wonder how even our presence matters when Jesus has very little to do with it.  The mission field also includes the people who come to do the "mission" work.

I´ll post more later when I have more time.  In the meantime, I am soliciting prayers for my respiratory system.  I have a feeling I´m pretty well doused in mold in my little hotel room, and I think that´s leading to the mild difficulty I had breathing last night and this morning.  I´ve been fine all day today, but we´ll see how tonight goes.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Tonight...tonight feels perfect.

This is the first time in four days I've had time to sit.  To just sit and breathe and do nothing.  Boy does it feel nice.

I went for a walk, down to one of the local gas stations to grab a fountain drink.  The sun was on its way toward the horizon, casting a beautiful yellow hue onto the remaining yellow and red leaves still on the trees.  The other leaves crunched happily under my sneakers, and there was not a breeze to be found.


I briefly thought about this trip for which I'm leaving tomorrow.  Briefly...because that's all the longer I can retain much of anything in my feeble brain these days.  Constant overstimulation and thought processing at work has taken its toll.

I thought of how, in forty-eight hours, I'll be walking on Guatemalan soil.  I imagined the beautiful scenery all around me...views of lakes and volcanoes and winding dirt roads.  I pictured the little feet, twisted and contracted, that we'll touch and stretch and cast and maybe even teach to walk.  I saw faces of mothers, aged beyond their years, curious but shy of these three white-skinned strangers.


I can't wait.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Time for Change

As they often do (regardless of where I am), my thoughts strayed during the sermon this morning.  This particular trail may or may not have been sparked by the pastor's comment of Nehemiah's four-month preparation of prayer; I can't really remember for sure.

I began pondering the changes in my heart over the past couple of years.  There was a time when I could barely drag myself out of bed on time to play along on my guitar with the Sunday morning songs; now, I've been dubbed "worship leader" and am "leading" a full team of musicians and singers.  There was a time when I couldn't wait for church to end so I could slip out and go home before anyone noticed me; now I gladly hang around and talk to my fellow brothers and sisters until we relocate to some restaurant and reconvene there.

I thought of all the people who prayed for me during those days - faithful and dear friends who prayed for God to change my heart, and others who challenged me one Sunday at a time to intentionally speak to a single person before fleeing.  Bit by bit, over the course of many months, God did His work and changed me.

I then thought of other friends for whom I've prayed.  They have struggles, doubts, fears, sins...and I pray for them to overcome, to be changed, to heal.  I want these prayers to be answered overnight, and I look for quick results.

But this morning, maybe tucked between the lines of Nehemia - or maybe not - I saw how God does not usually change a person in an instant.  He is capable, and He answers many other prayers in such ways.  But when it comes to the heart, He takes His time.  Change will come, but with time, through the patient molding, forming, chastening, and loving hands of the Father.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Next Journey

I can't keep up anymore.  No matter how sincere my intentions, I just can't get much done these days.  Blogging falls into that category.  So I decided that, while I'm sitting on my living room floor surrounded by folded clothes and medications and travel documents, I'd better get this post written before my trip is completely over.

One week from today I will have landed on Guatemalan soil.  I'm going there on a company-sponsored trip with two other therapists.  We'll spend a week there, four days of which we will travel to local villages to offer our services to anyone who needs them.

We've been preparing the best we can - phone-in meetings, prayer, checklists, expediting passports, reviewing profiles of past patients.  And I think we'll be as prepared as possible.

But I wonder if we will ever be fully prepared to submerge ourselves in an unfamiliar culture and language, to avoid drinking water and eat different food, to evaluate and interact with broken children who live in muddy cardboard huts.

I'm looking forward to this trip.  I'm excited to return to the Hispanic culture again, even if just for a few days.  I'm also excited, ashamed though I am to admit it, to break free of this daily grind that has just about ground me to bits.

We will be able to visit internet cafes on occasion, so my intention is to post an update or two as the week progresses.  If you happen to think of us, please pray for good team dynamics, wisdom and ability to treat all kinds of diagnoses, hearts to be changed, and God to work.  This is not specifically a "missions trip," but I love Jesus and there are people in Guatemala who don't.  Pray especially for people to come to know Him and for God to be glorified through us.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010


More and more lately I've become increasingly aware of how negative I tend to be.  Constantly, it seems.

Whine whine whine.

Complain just as much.

Sometimes people tell me I'm too hard on myself.  Maybe that's true.

But I complain so loudly in my head that I can't always distinguish between what I've thought and things I've actually said.  So maybe said people don't know what a downer I am.

I caught myself doing it again the other night.  Not directly complaining, but negative comments that pointed to what I really meant.

I've even been accused of complaining when I was actually just telling a story.  Ouch.

Kinda feels like negativity oozes out of me.

I'm trying to work on it, trying to be more aware of how my words are presented and of my attitude behind them.  It's hard work.  I'd so much rather complain.  It's easier and more fun than holding my tongue.

Philippians 2:14 cuts hard:  "Do everything without complaining or arguing."

I do it a lot anyway.  But I'm working on it.  For those of you around me all the time...I promise I'm trying.

Friday, September 17, 2010

His Comfort

Sorrow abounds all around.

I think of a young mother who lost her baby, a young wife who lost her husband, a young woman who lost her father.

I think of them.  And I pray for them.

I ask God to comfort them.  In my disconnected sympathy, I equate comfort with "no more sorrow."  No more pain.  All calm and serene.

I want it to work that way.  I want God's comfort to mean all the bad things are gone.

But it doesn't.

One is still without a child, one without a husband, one without a father.

No amount of comfort will bring the lost ones back.  I don't know how that can ever feel ok.

I stlil pray for comfort.  But what I need to know is that comfort does not mean absence of sorrow.

It still means pain, but with peace.  Grief, but without despair.  Deep, bleeding wounds, but with hope.

It means He holds them while they hurt.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Running the Race, Keeping the Faith

I'm a loner in life.  I like to do things by myself, for the most part.  Don't get me wrong - I like to have friends and time to hang out and relax.  But when it comes to accomplishing something...I prefer to do it without help.

Maybe that's the control freak in me coming out.  Letting someone else help me might mean the job isn't going to get done quite right.

Or maybe sometimes I'm too afraid and proud to ask for help.  Don't want to appear weak and incompetent.

I've been training for a half-marathon, now a mere five days away (yikes!).  And I've been training by myself.  The main reason for doing this feat alone isn't so much the "control freak" part as it is the "freak" part.  Just about everyone I know around here would rather jump into a frozen lake in February than run thirteen miles.

So for the past twelve or so weeks, I've been training on my own.  Up before the sun, even on Saturdays, trying to get this non-runner body in enough shape to endure a final two-plus hours of pavement pounding.

But this weekend, I stepped outside my bubble and ran alongside a friend in a 10k road race as we each flung one foot in front of the other on our path to next weekend's finish line.

Jennifer has also been training for this half-marathon, and she was gracious enough to let me run with her Saturday morning. 

She wasn't gracious enough to slow her pace to make it easier for me to keep up.

And I wasn't about to admit that I wanted her to slow down.

So, for six-plus miles (that felt much more like twelve), I pushed myself to keep pace.  Around mile four, as I was panting and sweating all over the place, I thought how the journey of a Jesus-follower was much the same as what I was experiencing.

It's much easier for me to run my life-race in my own way, at my own pace.  But it is so very necessary for me to come alongside other Christians - younger ones to spur onward and encourage, and more mature ones to seek guidance and encouragement for myself.  I prefer to be comfortable, but it's more important for me to be pushed.

And so I continued to pant and sweat, trying to give this race my all (because isn't the purpose of a race to run in such a way to get the prize?).  Then I finally heard Jennifer say the sweetest possible words:  "Let's finish this together."

She continued to spur me on, even as we rounded the last bend, silently encouraging me to pump my now-numbing legs even harder for a solid finish.  How glad I am that I didn't decide to give up and let her run ahead of me while I settled for my own comfortable pace.

We each finished with the exact same time, with a pace that surprised the wet socks off both our feet.  We finished with a deeper sense of camaraderie, and satisfaction of a job well done.

And I finished with a new awareness of the need to push myself to keep step with those in faith who are stronger than me.  Because when I finish I want to hear the words, "Well done."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Therapists Make Good Plant Killers

After being away from the world of blog for so long now, I would expect this post to have all kinds of deep and heartfelt thoughts oozing all over the page.

I would be wrong.

But in the midst of an incredibly busy week at work, accompanied by many hours of overtime, there was a moment of funny that had me giggling pretty good.

Last fall, someone dropped off a cute but scraggly-looking plant at our office.  It was housed in a cheap pink plastic thing with a capacity for only a handful of dirt.  The plant was of the viney nature.  We sat it by a window and cared for it all winter.  Every few days, when the leaves would start to turn yellow and fall off, we'd notice it was getting a little thirsty.  So we'd splash it under the sink and watch it perk up again for a few more hours.

This little plant had gusto.  It would grow leaves and by now would probably look like a full, long, leafy viney thing if we'd have watered it often enough to keep the leaves from falling off.  Instead, it always had about five or six inches of vine, and two or three leaves at the end of each vine.  Sad, but cute.

One unfortunate day a few weeks ago, I saw this little plant resting in one of the trash cans.  I made no small noise about the atrocity of this discovery.

"Who threw our plant away???"

One of the gals 'fessed up.  "I did.  Just look at it.  It looks awful and it's half-dead and should've been thrown out a long time ago."

Well...true...but still.  It wasn't completely dead.  Yet.

I didn't want to take it home, but knew it's fate was sealed if it stayed in therapy any longer.  So I walked it across the hall to home health and asked if they wanted a plant.

Turns out they're the ones who gave it to us in the first place.

So I took it to the cafeteria to join the forest of huge exotic overgrown plants that sit around the room.  I figured the little guy could at least make some friends and be watered on a regular basis.  I sat him next to two other extra large potted specimens.  Together, the three looked kinda like two elephants and a mouse.

I forgot about the plant until earlier this week, when I was eating lunch and happened to glance at the floor by the window where he was sitting.

Apparently, everyone else agreed with my co-workers that the plant was not worth saving.  I was the only one who cared.  This is what I saw:

Poor little guy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

When Stillness is the Answer

I spent the better part of this weekend at a resort on one of the many Minnesota lakes, thanks to the generosity of my bosses and the company's celebration of 20 years of existance.

More than anything, I looked forward to having a personal retreat with God so I could hash some things out with Him.  My times with Him as of late have been suffering for various reasons, and it's felt impossible to have any form of quality prayer.  Plus, I've had questions; He has answers.

I found my spot along the lake's shore, seated on a plastic lounge chair and tucked safely away behind trees and bushes.  Rain was threatening to break loose at any moment, teasing with a steady sprinkle, but I didn't mind so much.

I settled in on the cold and wet plastic chair.  And sat.

And sat.

And sat.

I waited for words to come, for questions to come pouring out of my mind and for lively conversation to spring forth.  I came expecting answers.

But all I did was sit.  My mind was blank, simply existing in the midst of God's rainy creation.

And I was ok with that.  Because sometimes He says, "Be still, and know that I am God."

Then the weekend was over and it was time to go home, and I had no more answers than when I arrived.  This bothered me.  You see, right now I want so badly to receive a strong word from Him, to have my own burning bush that speaks to me and tells me things are going to be different.

But now my questions are these:  What if things won't change?  What if this is how my life is going to look for a while yet?  Can I be ok with that?

I've even dared to ask myself if the reason I don't like where I'm at is because I refuse to allow myself to like it.

I'm afraid of settling.  There are things I have tried to avoid at all cost, yet those are the things I have now.  Is it possible that maybe I could actually enjoy them?  I'm afraid to go there, because in my mind, to embrace that is to settle, is to let go of what I think I want instead.  In my mind, it's giving up more for less.

But in the grand scheme of things, that doesn't matter.  What matters is that I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  To do that means to relinquish all control of my life and seek Him constantly. 

I want to trust Him like that.  I want to let go of these things that weigh me down.  Because He knows what's better.

But I don't trust Him to give me what's better.  I'm afraid He's going to take away my hopes and leave me in this place I don't want to be.

He's not cruel like that, but He will leave me in this place for as long as I need until I finally get it.  And I don't seem to get it very well.

Can I get past my wants and desires enough to let Him do His work in me right here?  Can I trust Him to take care of me?  I know what the answers are supposed to be.  I can only hope and pray that He will give me the strength to make them my own.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Where I Am, He Meets Me

And yet...

Maybe my problem isn't with too many things going on.  Maybe it's not enough God.

Maybe I spend so much time trying to cram everything in...and then trying to recouperate...that I push God to the side with intentions of finding Him later.  When I'm ready.  When I can fit Him in.

I went to my worship night tonight.  I had nothing prepared.  That's really not all that unusual these days...but tonight I had a lack of enthusiasm and direction to accompany my nothing.  Thankfully, no one else showed up.  Just me and Him.

I really needed that tonight.  Prayed for it even.  It was pretty pathetic, all three songs I picked out on the spot.  But He is faithful, and drew me into prayer, where He met me.  "This poor man called, and the LORD heard him... (Ps 34:6)."  He heard my cries, and He came.  He gave me rest for my soul.

I'm still tired.  Weary.  I still can't say I love my job or have more energy to face tomorrow.

But deep inside, way down where only He can reach, He gave me rest.

And for now, that is enough.

Where I Am Is Not Where I Want To Be

I had my second annual review this morning at work.  It went well.

This tells me at least a couple of things:
1.  I have officially survived two years of this job.
2.  I am competent enough to not get fired.

So now what?

I don't know.  I feel stuck.  And I don't have the energy to fight it anymore.

I need to be ironing right now so I have clothes to wear to work tomorrow.  Because in twenty minutes I need to head to church to lead worship, for which I have absolutely nothing planned, after which I will promptly come home and go to bed.

I'm so tired right now.  I know I'm complaining to a world where everyone has it rougher than me, where I'm not grateful enough for what I have, where I feel guilty for wasting people's time by whining about things that should be "easy."  I don't feel justified in verbalizing these thoughts.  But I do so because this is what's there right now.  And maybe, just maybe, someone else out there knows these things like I do.

I've tried so hard to keep my eyes on Him, to focus on working for Him and remaining content.  But somehow, ever so gradually, I've strayed.  And here I am, yet again, wishing for something better, something easier and more pleasant.

I have so many things I want to be doing.  Good things.  Worthwhile things.  So many projects I want to start and be a part of, and relationships I want to build for the Kingdom.  I have hobbies I'd like to spend even a few minutes doing.  I want to cook real meals for myself again instead of eating Doritos for supper.  I want to have time to spend on my commitments, like tonight's worship, so that I can be prepared to enter the presence of God, to lead His people before His throne.  I want to do these jobs well.

But all I do is just enough to survive.

Because somehow, doing even that little bit has become too much for me.

There's supposed to be rest in Him.  I'm supposed to work with all my heart to serve Him in all I do.  I'm supposed to find joy in these things.  I'm supposed to be a light to the world and everyone around me.  I'm supposed to take what He's entrusted me with and use it for Him, for His glory.  These are the right answers.  These are what I know are supposed to be true.  Somewhere in these crazy days of mine is supposed to be a freedom.

But I can't find it.  And I feel stuck.  I can't move forward until He beckons me.  And believe me, I am waiting for that.  But why should He give me something more when I won't use what He's given me now?

There are too many unknowns and not enough progress for my feeble mind.  Home buyers are starting to view my house again; soon I may need to move out.  I sense change coming from Him, but I see no signs of it.  My days remain the same long hours of filling out paperwork and cleaning poop and dealing with painstaking busywork.

I want something more...something less.  I want to be fulfilled, excited, joyful.  And I expect to find those things somewhere else, somewhere other than where I am.  But truthfully, I need to learn to find them here, right where God has placed me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

To Love Like Jesus Loves

Please excuse my Sabbatical from blog world as of late.  It just kinda happened, and I don't know when it'll be over, so in the meantime, here is a link to a story that got me absolutely fired up (in a good way).  I would love to go do something like this.

As mentioned in the story, there was an interview between Tristan and Nathan, which you can read here if you haven't done so already.  I love what Tristan said to Christians:
If I could say anything to the Christian community, I would say 75% need to heed their own warnings and advice. Please learn to love as much as you have been taught to love.
Chew on that a while.  We Christians speak of love...but is the world hearing love when we speak?  Is the world seeing love in our actions?  According to Tristan, who is a part of this world we are to love...


Most of us do not love.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Don't Forget the Prayer Wall!

Just a reminder about the Prayer Wall.  A while back I committed to praying on a weekly basis for any requests left on the prayer page.  I am still praying weekly for those who listed needs and requests, so please drop by at any time if you have something you'd like to have prayer for.  Or drop by to lift up in prayer those needs posted by others.  There are further instructions on the page itself, which you can get to by clicking here or by going to the Prayer Wall tab under the picture at the top of this page.  If you don't want your name known, you may post anonymously.  If you don't want your request made public, make a note of that when you leave your comment and I will make sure it doesn't get published.  I will still pray regardless of whether or not your request is posted.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Here I Am - Right Now

Lately I've found myself tripping over the unknown, invisible cracks on the sidewalk I can't see as I walk along life's path with my eyes to the ground, lost in thought about things of the future.

Didn't I just walk this same path only a few months ago?

Yet here I am again, needing that same gentle reminder He already gave me once.  At least once.

I dream big.  I don't always know the details of what happens in my dreams, but deep down is a desire to do something worthwhile, something important and eternity-changing.  And so I think that when the time comes, I will step up and make a splash.  When He calls me to the bigger task, I will not fail.  When the purpose for which I was created finally arrives, I will embrace the job and leave an impact that points straight to Christ.

If...  When...  Then...

But instead of walking along this path called life with my head down, lost in my own dream world and watching my feet step one in front of the other, He tells me to look up.  I travel as though I am looking for a destination, a reason for the journey.

Really, though, I travel to a single Destination.  And that is the reason for my journey.

He tells me to look up, to notice the journey I'm on, to see where this present curve in the road has led me.  All around me is a world, a job, a purpose.  Right now, I am not ten miles down the road where my mind likes to wander.

Right now, I am here.  In the present.  Where my feet are.

And where my feet are right now doesn't appeal to me a great deal.  But it's where the path is, and it is where He has led me.  There is purpose for each step.  Each tiny, mundane, insignificant step.  He hasn't called me to be somewhere greater.  He has called me to be in the present, loving Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Serving Him in all things, whether others notice or not.

Change is coming.  Change always comes.  This time I think sooner than later.  And this proves to be a distraction for me lately.  But God has already laid the path through that part of my journey.  I need not fret over it, or try to peer ahead to see what's coming.  Because I don't know.  There's a mountain I have to go around first before I can see where I'm going.  He will show me when we get there.

For now, He has called me.  He has called me to be present today, in this moment, in the mundane, in the everyday.  It doesn't matter if I like it or not.  Because it's not about what I like or want.  It's about what He wants.  So now I try to look up and see where He has placed me.

Besides, when I look down for too long, I trip over my own feet.  And right now the ground is a little muddy.  I don't want to fall into that.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

English & Spelling 101

There's a certain pet peeve of mine that keeps poking me in the eye on a fairly regular basis these days.  It shows up frequently on facebook, in text messages, and in papers written by fourth graders.

It's called misused words and poor spelling.

For example, uses of words that sound the same and are spelled differently can trip us up.  I'm guilty of this myself at times when I'm not paying attention.  One such set of words:  there, their, and they're.

There is a location.  Their refers to people.  They're is the combination of "they" and "are." 
Bad example:  There going to take they're stuff over their. 
Correct example:  They're going to take their stuff over there.

Another set of troublesome words:  your and you're.  Again, your refers to people.  You're is the combination of "you" and "are."
Bad example:  Stop your at 1/2 price fireworks!
Correct example:  Stop!  You're at 1/2 price fireworks!

One thing teachers encouraged us to do as we first learned to string letters together into words was to "sound it out."  For the most part, this is a very useful tool when trying to spell a tricky word.  Kids (and adults) still do this, and that's a very good thing.  The downfall here isn't in our lack of ability to spell as it is in our lack of ability to speak properly.  As these younger generations become more and more adept at communicating via text and facebook and twitter, they use their elementary skills of sounding out our lazily-spoken words.  Then we end up with slang words that aren't even in the dictionary, and for whatever reason, this really gets under my skin.

The culprit I see over and over again:  probably.

Honestly, we talk so fast that it's a chore to pronounce the entire word.  (There are a few other words I know that I get lazy with, just as a disclaimer to hopefully sound slightly less incriminating.)  But with our lazy enunciations comes lazy spellings, and then we end up with the following digression of the word:


That last one is my favorite.  A fair attempt at sounding it out without removing syllables...done by an adult.

One final new favorite:  brother.  A common term of endearment used between men and boys, it also has quite the evolutionary process.  See below.


But one young man recently took this to a new level.  A written conversation with his buddy went as follows (see if you can find the newest evolutionary species):

Boy 1:  what a star
Boy 2:  I know right?
Boy 1:  yeah bra you are

Not a great title for a 13 year-old boy...but for some odd reason no one seemed to even notice this nickname-turned-noun.

So there's my English lesson for today.  I realize nothing is going to change just because I poked fun.  But I feel a little better after letting off some pent-up steam.  Why there was steam pent-up over the issue in the first place...
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By the way, as a friend of mine was proof-reading this post for me, she so very kindly pointed out a rather comprehensive list of words that I apparently misspell on a regular basis (including but not limited to:  alter, desparate, and one other word she can't remember but will leave in the comments below as soon as thinks of it).

Saturday, July 3, 2010

When Belief Becomes Faith

Faith is more than thoughts and convictions.  It goes beyond mere belief.

I believe many things.  I believe God is the great Creator of heaven and earth.  I believe Jesus is both God and man, and that He bore my sins on the cross, died, and rose again to reconcile me to Himself.  I believe God knows me intimately and has a master plan for my life, that He is working right now, in the present, in and through me to bring glory to His Name.

But if someone was to observe my "faith," are those the same conclusions they would come to?

Faith is a verb.  I'm beginning to think it's not as much something we have as it is something we do.

I believe there is one God.  Well, says James, the demons also believe there is one God.  What's going to set me apart from them?  James continues by talking about faith and actions working hand-in-hand.

I believe God has brought me to where I am now for a reason, and that my joy is found in Him.  But is that what my life reflects?  Faith would face each day willingly, staying alert for opportunities to love and serve.

I believe prayer is the most powerful tool a Christian possesses, and that it changes lives and draws me into the presence of God.  Faith actually spends time praying - earnestly, eagerly, and frequently.

I believe all people are created by God and loved by Him, and that He calls me to meet their needs and make disciples of them.  Faith pushes aside end-of-the-day fatigue and walks next door to hang out with neighbor who doesn't know Christ.

What I believe doesn't matter if I don't have the action to back it up.  Who cares if I believe all those things if all I do with my life is merely survive and spend my days resting comfortably on my sofa?

Belief by itself doesn't go beyond head knowledge.  Faith begins with belief, but it doesn't end there. 

Faith flows out through the hands and feet.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Visible Faith

My faith and emotions collided yesterday.

Lately, I feel these things:  lonely, unhappy, discontent, empty, indifferent, unwanted.  I simply exist, one day at a time, hoping only to make it to the weekend to have a break from five days of doing things I don't enjoy.

My faith says this:  God is in control.  He has a purpose, a plan, and not to harm me.  He has a hope and a future for me, and He has a reason for bringing me to this place.  There is meaning to what I do each day, even the mundane and disgusting chores no one else notices, because these things - when performed with a heart of service - bring Him pleasure.  He will never leave me nor forsake me, and the things He is doing in my life are painting a picture more grand than I can fathom.

As these two collided head-on, I realized I own the title of  "hypocrite".

If that is my faith...why don't I live like it?

They still battle it out, these emotions and this faith.  But for the moment, I think my faith is winning.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


It's been a few weeks since I've posted, the longest I've gone without writing since this blog was conceived a year ago.  I've wanted to write, but like everything else lately, it just hasn't been there.

I'd like to come back with a post full of life and energy, of quality thoughts and wisdom.  But instead, I come feeling only a little lost, and with a weariness that runs bone-deep.

Life is a marathon race these days, and if I don't keep up I'm going to get trampled.  I desire time to rest, time to kick back and relax, to take in and enjoy these long summer days that stay lit late into the night.  But I've barely recognized it's summer.  I certainly didn't notice when springtime came and went.  My mind is months behind the calendar, but time waits for no one.  And now the days are getting shorter, and I fear I will miss summer altogther.

Gone are the days of sleeping in, of sitting in the hot summer sun, of lazing around and playing outside until the fireflies light up the dark.  That season is past, one I don't think I will ever be able to recapture.

These are days of rising before the sun, running hard all day long, and collapsing in bed before the neighborhood children are even called inside for the night, before the sun has slipped past the horizon.

I had a Mission once.  Not that long ago.  It's still there, somewhere.  But these days I can't see it, can't remember what it looks or feels like.  The fire that once moved me now seems like nothing more than burnt coals, cool and gray and ashy.

I want more time to slow down and enjoy.  I want to give less time to work and driving.  I don't like things right now, but I have no dreams or vision for something better.  Right now, I simply exist.

I think I asked for this.  Times were bad, and then times were good, and that's when I forgot to depend on Him for my strength.  I liked the good, but I missed my fellowship with Him.  And I told Him that.  I said I'd rather have Him than good times without.

And here I am.  Prayer answered?  I think probably.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Love146: Tread on Trafficking

This is a repost from a few weeks ago.  Tread on Trafficking is still going strong through the end of this month, and I am still logging my miles!  Please consider making a donation to this cause.  There is a link to the Love146 website and my personal page toward the end of this post.
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This is a battle that is bigger than I am.

In fact, it's a battle so large that I can't see how it will ever be won.

But, as Jennifer likes to say, things happen like this:  one + one + one + one.  And while this is a battle that may never be won in this lifetime, I believe from my toes that to rescue even one life will impact all of eternity.

Last month I wrote about RestoreNYC, an organization in New York City who is working hard to rescue and restore women caught in the grip of human trafficking and sexual expoitation.  (To read more about them and some facts about human trafficking, click here.)

This weekend, I stumbled across Jenni's efforts to fight human trafficking, and I have decided to join her.  Love146 is another organization that is working tirelessly to rescue children from modern-day slavery. 

They are currently hosting Tread on Trafficking through the months of May and June to help raise support for their efforts.  As a participant, I will be keeping track of all the miles I run and walk while raising money and awareness to help Love146 fight to free children from human trafficking.  If you'd like to donate, visit my site.  Or, if you'd also like to participate, you can register here.

I've added a mile tracker to the sidebar of my blog page so you can see the miles I log over the next several weeks.

One + one + one + one...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Babies In My Backyard

I've decided baby birds grow faster than anything else on the planet.  (Except for weeds.  And my lawn.  And my piles of clutter.)

I was out in my back yard last weekend and heard what sounded like a dog chewing on a squeaky toy.  After some investigation, I found these (please excuse the poor photo quality):

Four ugly baby birds

Four baby bird throats, hoping for some recycled worms from mommy

Two days later, I took these pictures:

Still asking for food, but looking (slightly) less alien

Almost cute

Two more days later, I videoed them while they tried to outstretch each other in their quest for food:

Now, exactly one week later, they can finally see who's making the noises around their nest and won't squawk and stretch for me anymore.  They also won't pose for the camera.  I can see two beaks and an eyeball in the middle of a feather pile:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What? You Mean It's Not About Me?

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.  -Isaiah 43:25
I love this verse.  It jumped out at me the other day when I was working my way through Isaiah.  I love it because it completely ruins my usual way of thinking.

I tend to believe that any blessing God gives me is for me, because He likes me and wants to do something nice for me.

I also tend to believe that any trial or challenge He sends my way is for me, to strengthen me and help me grow in my faith.

And I tend to believe that Jesus died on the cross for me, to make me clean and get me into heaven.

But actually...God does all these things for Himself.

Not for me.

Yes, He has forgiven my sins.  But He didn't do it for me or because of me.

He did it for Him.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Let Him Who is Without Sin Cast the First Stone"

You know, sometimes I can't help but agree with the secular world.

(Have your feathers ready?  Because I'm probably going to ruffle them.)

I recently saw the following facebook status:
So let me get this straight - Larry King is getting his 8th Divorce, Elizabeth Taylor is possibly getting Married for a 9th time, Jesse James and Tiger Woods are screwing EVERYTHING, yet the idea of same Sex Marriage is what is going to destroy the institution of Marriage??? REALLY???
Now, I don't support same-gender marriage.  But really...what is there to say in response to that?

I can't disagree.  Marriages are falling apart all over the place, inside the Church as much as outside.  Half of all marriages end in divorce.  Half of all Christian marriages.  That means half of all people who stand at the alter and make a vow to each other, before God, and before their family and friends won't make good on their promise.

Young and old couples alike are shacking up together with no marital commitment to each other.  Single moms are common because pre-marital relationships are the norm.  Husbands and wives cheat on each other all over the place and take no responsibility for their actions.

Yet the Church tends to perseverate over same-gender relationships, and certainly not without throwing in a good measure of condemnation and disgust.

Again (I know I'm walking a fine line here), I'm not saying these things aren't wrong.  I believe strongly that God did not intend marriage to be anything other than between one man and one woman.  I believe that same-gender relationships disgust Him.

But that's not all I believe.

God hates divorce.  It disgusts Him.

Sleeping around disgusts Him.

Adultery disgusts Him.

Lust disgusts Him.

Pornography disgusts Him.

Rape disgusts Him.

Those of us who claim to follow Christ need to get off our high horse and down on our knees.  When people are making comments like the one above, then we as a Church need to take a step back and see where we're coming up short.  Because guess what.

Jesus hung out with sinners.

This is the part of Him that a lot of people don't like.  He talked to the ones that a lot of "Christians" won't even look at.

He stood up for the woman caught in adultery.  He reached out to the woman known as the town slut.  He forgave the people who spent their time at brothels and whorehouses.

He loved them.

He didn't condemn them.  Their sin already did that.

You know who He condemned?

The Pharisees.  The "Christians" of the day.  The ones who went to church and studied Scripture and never uttered a dirty word and who did all the right things.  The ones who claimed to bear His Name...but who really bore their own names.

I know several people who are in same-gender relationships.  And I have seen some of them struggle with real-life pain deeper than I have ever known.  They don't know it, but when I see their pain I hurt along with them.

Not because they have sin in their lives.

But because they hurt.

To these friends of mine, and to others caught in the same struggles, I apologize on behalf of the Church for our arrogance and failure to show grace to you like Jesus showed grace to us.  We are dirty, rotton sinners and have no right to distinguish between the sins of our fellow man when our own lives are so messed up.  I hope you are able to see past us when we get in the way of Grace and are able to see Jesus for all He is and longs to give you.

To my fellow Christ-followers, let's not forget the cost of Jesus' blood.  We are nothing without Him.  He doesn't ask us to condemn others, for then we become like Pharisees.  He asks us to love.  Love as He loves.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Legacy Left

More and more these past weeks I have grown to deeply appreciate the strong Christian heritage I grew up with.  I look around at the world...even my own community...and I see how empty and devoid of Truth people are.

What blessings God has given me.

My memories growing up are full of times spent with our extended family, usually at grandma and grandpa's house.  Family ties run deep in the Janssen blood.

Today our family gathered together one more time under a bright sky and unrelenting Kansas winds as we laid grandma to rest.

I remember many things about my grandma.  Things like the smell of her house, which I don't think I can ever describe but will never forget.

Things like the cookie jar that was always stocked with homemade chocolate chip cookies.  And the way she called them "chip chocolate" cookies.

And the cans of Dr. Pepper that were always in the fridge.  (I am convinced this is why Dr. Pepper is the drink of choice amongst our family members.)

And the way she always scolded and nagged at me to get my stringy hair out of my eyes because it drove her crazy.

And her love for sewing and embroidering.  She took each grand daughter shopping at her sixth birthday to pick out a sewing basket and supplies, and she taught each of us to sew.  (I'm sure I was a bit of a disappointment in this area as needlework never really caught on for me.)

And the dozens of quilts she stitched by hand, not to mention the even more dozens of pillowcases we were always receiving.

My fondest memories come from days long ago when our families would all gather at her house for Christmas.  Four children and their spouses, and ten grandchildren running wild in the basement, racing tricycles and playing "hide the thimble."

Grandma & grandpa, holding hands and surrounded by grandkids, Christmas 1997ish

I spent many summer days with grandma during wheat harvest, since my allergies kept me from breathing in my own house.  I slept in the blue room, and as I lay in bed under blue-painted walls and a blue floral blanket, I would hear grandma and grandpa across the hall talking to each other in the dark as they drifted off to sleep.

My grandparents were never overly vocal about their faith, but they daily lived out small ways that reflected the love of Jesus.  Old age didn't lessen their love for each other.  Often they would watch church services on television, and grandma would walk into the living room and sit right on grandpa's lap in the big rocking chair while the preacher's face filled the screen.  I have a framed 3"x5" picture on my wall of the two of them kissing on their front porch.

I never saw her do it, but my mom told me once that grandma would kneel beside her bed daily to pray.  I remember being impressed that an old person could do such a thing and still get off the floor.

My grandma was a strong force in our family.  In a way, she and grandpa were the glue that held us all together.  They were the center, both as a location and as a uniting force.  Thanks to them, we carry on a bond that will always exist, regardless of the challenges that may threaten us.

May I leave a legacy that runs as deep.
Lois Lavern Kimple Janssen 
May 23, 1915-May 4, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Old Friend?

Friends come and go in life.  When they go, sometimes it's a mutual and quiet parting.  Other times things end with a bang and a bad taste.

Every once in a while, after the dust settles, we run into these friends again.  When this happens, wounds may run so deep that it's hard to even look at the other person.  Or each one may be able to act politely toward the other, yet the whole time feeling the pain of something lost and irreconcilable.

Lately, I wonder how the tension felt between Jesus and Satan as they hung out in the desert together.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him...  (Matthew 4:1-3)
Aside from being hungry, hot, hungry, tired, and hungry...what went through Jesus' mind?

What went through Satan's mind?

Because centuries earlier - or maybe only moments, for eternal beings are not confined to time - Satan (then Lucifer) and Jesus shared the same stomping grounds.

Scripture indicates that Lucifer was a very important angel, high up in rank.  I can only imagine that he and Jesus (who is also God, creator of Lucifer) had some form of relationship; whether they were BFFs or had more of a commander-soldier status I don't know.

What I do know is they used to share heaven together.  And then Lucifer messed up and got himself kicked out.

Now here in the desert staggers Jesus - God Himself - humbled to human likeness in a land much less than heaven.  Beside Him is Satan, also from heaven but no longer belonging there, kicked out by the very one who straggles and stumbles in the earthly desert sand.

Did either one of them find this meeting to be awkward?  Did Jesus look into the eyes of His tempter and remember times past when the two of them laughed and joked together?  Did He not only experience and fight temptation that day, but also feel an ache in His heart of a dear friend now gone forever?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reminder: Worst Blanket Ever Up For Auction!

Don't forget about my worst-blanket-ever auction!  There have been a few bids already, so don't miss your chance to be the proud new owner of the worst blanket ever!  (Remember, there's a twist - I do NOT receive the proceeds!)

Bidding is open until midnight on Friday, April 23rd.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Prayer: Then and Now

I mentioned in my previous post how Acts 6 kinda stopped me in my tracks the other day.  My last post was only half the reason for my stoppage.  This post is the second half.

Jesus had just died, risen, and ascended to heaven.  His Church was now taking root and disciples were springing up like dandelions in my yard.  But a minor problem was brought to attention by the Greek Jews:  their widows weren't receiving any food and the Hebrew Jews were.  So the Twelve disciples gathered the other disciples together and said,
"Choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will turn this responsibility over to them... (v 3)"
And so the matter was settled.  The issue was small enough that the disciples felt it wasn't worth the energy of having everyone try to resolve it because there were bigger responsibilities at hand (see verse 2).

Here comes the part that snagged me.

What exactly did these disciples feel was so important and deserved their utmost attention?

"[We] will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word (v 4)."

Two areas that demanded their full focus, that determined how they spent their days, that drove their Mission.  One of them:


They gave their attention to prayer.

And I can't help but wonder what the Church would look like today if we gave our attention to prayer.

If even just the leaders of our Churches gave their attention to prayer.

Not just praying for thirty seconds before meetings, for five minutes during Sunday service, for ten seconds before lunch.  Not just "God-bless-this-time-and-heal-the-sick-amen."

Devoting our attention to prayer.

Did you know the disciples - 120 of them - spent probably ten days praying and waiting to receive the Holy Spirit?

Ten days!
"They all joined together constantly in prayer (1:14)."
How many of us pray even ten minutes for a single thing?  How vastly different would our lives look if we truly devoted ourselves constantly to prayer?  If, instead of praying for thirty seconds before a meeting for guidance to make decisions...what if we spent the meeting praying until God provided an answer?

What if, instead of praying a single prayer for healing or blessing or the Spirit's power...what if we got on our knees and prayed until God answered?

Can you imagine the power He would display through our lives?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

They Had a Mission

My reading in Acts this morning kinda knocked me off balance.

In general, as I read about the early Church and its believers, I can't help but notice a joy and enthusiasm for sharing the Gospel that feels quite lacking in my life.  I'm loving reading about these first followers of The Way and how nothing could stop them.

Today I started in Acts 6 and made it all the way through verse two before I had to stop for a moment.
In those days...the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables."
A complaint had risen amongst the believers.  Greek widows weren't getting fed, but the Hebrew widows were.  The disicples go on to work out a plan to take care of this need, but what gets me is the initial response.

"We have a task at hand, and we can't be hindered by the details.  A few of you will stay here and work out the conflict, but the rest of us need to keep moving forward with the Mission."

I'm so convinced we do things backwards.

Make sure the music has enough hymns.  Do fun things to keep the youth coming back.  Keep doing all our regular programming, because that's the way it's always been.  This person did this.  That person said that.  On and on we go, trying to take care of all the details every time a person raises a fuss.  We have to keep everyone happy, because we want everyone to have a positive church experience.  (Am I stepping on any toes yet?)

I like to make sure I pray for the right amount of time, read the right amount of Scripture, and worship the right amount of worship.  I stress out when things don't "feel" smooth or good, when I can't focus to pray or read, when I oversleep and miss my time with Him. 

And in the midst of all our chaotic circles we run around ourselves, we totally lose sight of the Mission.

The one thing that used to take priority over every other detail.

That's not to say that the things I listed above aren't important, nor are they ineffective at helping to complete the Mission.  I'm also not pointing fingers at any specific congregation.  I'm simply putting into words what I've observed my whole life, both in the Church and my personal journey.

Jesus didn't become sin and die on the cross so we would have more numbers in our pews, so we would run Sunday morning service to keep everyone happy, so that all the details could take precedence.

No, He did all that so every man, woman, and child might have the opportunity to know Him and be saved.  He saved us so that we might share that salvation with others, whatever the cost.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Worst Blanket I've Ever Crocheted Up for Auction

This is the worst blanket I've ever crocheted:

Actually, it's only the second blanket I've ever crocheted.

But it's still the worst.  As you can see, it took me until the last ten or fifteen rows before I finally figured out what I was doing.  Up to that point, I couldn't count well enough to keep the same number of stitches in each row.

I started this little guy with the intent of giving it away to someone in need of a blanket, to meet both a physical and spiritual need.  And it's not that someone couldn't still benefit from it...but I think there's also something to be said for sharing quality items.  Honestly, if I were to hand this blanket to someone in need, I would feel ashamed, and I would be afraid of sending the message that they weren't important enough to receive a quality piece of work.

Not to say there wasn't a lot of time and effort put into this blanket, because there sure was.  I started the thing back in October, and I spent many hours crocheting on it while I weekly interceded for others in prayer.

But all is not lost.  I have a Plan B that I just created, which is as follows:

Poor little blanket is now up for auction among my blog readers.  This is how it's going to work...
  • Place your bid in the comment box.  Bidding will remain open for two weeks and close at midnight on April 23rd.  Highest bidder wins.
  • Winner will NOT send me any money!  Instead, winner will commit to using that money in ONE of the following ways:
  • Winner and I will communicate via email so I can arrange to ship poor little blanket to him/her (I will pay for shipping)
  • Blanket is then property of winner to do with as he/she pleases
 Here is a close-up of the blanket so you can see the details a little better.

Dimensions:  62" long x 36"-46" wide (depending which end is measured)

Happy bidding!

(P.S.  When I was praying and crocheting, I also prayed for the recipient of the blanket, that God would prepare their hearts to know Him more and that they would grow in Him.  Also that He would meet their needs and make Himself known in their life.)

(P.P.S.  Blanket is gently used by Gracie and may arrive with some cat hairs attached, but I will do my best to lint-roll them out.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Beep - Beep - Beep

I've been convinced for years that I have some sort of undiagnosed disorder.  I've suffered from symptoms for probably twenty years, and nearly every day I have to accommodate and adapt.

Since it's undiagnosed, I can't tell you what it's called.  But I can tell you my symptoms:

I can't wake up long enough to get out of bed in the mornings.

In high school, my dad would drag me out of bed by my ankles, to which I responded by curling up on the floor to resume my sleep there.

I awoke my first morning at college to my roommate throwing a stuffed animal at me because my alarm was going off...and off...and off...

Last week, after finally reaching an all-time personal record of hitting snooze for an hour and a half and not remembering most of it, I decided it was time to do something about my problem.  (I was only ten minutes late to work, because I schedule time for hitting snooze into my morning routine.)

Sunday night I set my alarm for half an hour later than usual and set it on the floor across the room as far as the cord would reach.  This (in theory) would force me to actually get out of bed to turn off the alarm; therefore, no pre-allotted snooze time needed.

This has worked fairly well so far, but each morning I tolerate listening to that horribly irritating beeping for a few more minutes.  Today it was eight minutes of beeping before I got up to turn it off.

The hardest part of this new routine comes the night before.  It absolutely goes against every fiber in my body to turn out the light and go to sleep with my snooze button sitting beyond arm's reach.  I cannot graciously handle the lack of control over when my alarm is going to go off.

Which is funny, because it would still go off at the same time regardless of where I put it.  But I can no longer control what I do about it.

And you know, I'm sure there is some profound spiritual application to this story, such as letting God have control over circumstances...but at the moment I'm a little tired and can't quite come up with a smooth or coherent lesson.  So I'm going to let you enjoy the story and draw your own conclusions and applications.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lenten Review

I gave up facebook for Lent.

I've never participated in Lent before.  I grew up eating fish sticks every Friday for school lunch because my Catholic classmates couldn't eat meat on that one day of the week.  In high school, I listened to friends talk about giving up pop or candy or other things for this mysterious religious practice, but I never knew much about it myself.  My Baptist heritage didn't teach me much about it.

This year I decided to partake.  Life is so hurried, and months come and go before I'm even aware of them.  Easter is my absolute favorite holiday, and I didn't want it to suddenly come and go without being ready for it.

So I decided to give up facebook, as it was probably the largest time-sucker of my day (minus my job).  I was quite successful and have not logged on once in the past forty days.  (After my dad died, my brother would read what friends had posted on my page, so in that sense I may have cheated a bit.)

But the main question is this:  Was my participation in Lent successful in drawing me closer to Jesus?

I have to admit, I'm not sure I can say that it did.  Each time I consciously avoided logging onto facebook, I was reminded that Easter was fast approaching.  So it did help prevent me from being swept away in the hustle and bustle of daily life, and I was much more aware of my favorite holiday.

But I did not substitute my time online for time with God.  I found other things to do, and I realized how much time I waste online.  But I can't say I deliberately spent that extra time in prayer, meditation, Scripture, or anything else holy.

Is this something I would do again?  Probably.  Is it something I will do as a spiritual discipline rather than a religious activity?  I sure hope so.


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