Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Magic

The girls woke up Christmas morn, happy for their presents but Grace exclaimed "Aww, I wish it snowed!"

Two hours later, it was snowing, the first snow of the year. It was beautiful, even though it didn't stick.

This is one of the best times of year for me, at least when it's time to visit family. One and a half years ago there were three of us who dreamed of this Christmas; Becky, my sister-in-law, Terri, Ben's cousin-in-law, and I. I do believe I wrote a blog about us last Christmas, hmm.... We were all pregnant together within two month's span.

On Christmas day two of these babies were united, and it was something else:



And tomorrow our joy will be complete watching little Noah play with Maddy and Lijah. All of them crawling, all of them chubby and adorable and exploring the world with no fear so long as mommies are within eyeshot.

I think I am going to be allowing Ben to have all the pictures now on his picasa link, since it is easier to load and he's already been "stealing" some of my most favorite ones I've taken over the months. Be checking soon, for there will be more with the whole bunch coming shortly!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Carry me

It's the middle of the day and the rain outside is just as busily streaming down as is my life. I'm standing in the kitchen and I'm hugging my eldest daughter Grace. She lingers for more hug, more smiles. And so do I. Until she was in my arms I was in such a hurry to get to work on the kitchen, which sorely needs a cleaning. I had been secretly hoping that any moment she would decide to join her little sister upstairs for a movie; with the baby in a nap I was going to get something done. But when she was there I thought of how heavy she is. She wants me to hold her like I do the other two. Love me, carry me like I'm little again, her heart communicates. She deserves it, she's only six. And it's only going to be more difficult the longer I wait. So I tried. It wasn't a pretty lift into my strength, but I held her for a few moments.

When I let her go, she smiles again, sings a song and skips away upstairs.

there is a part of me that's only visiting
torn from eternity, a stranger here
so when the last notes of my soul's summer symphony
goes stealing through this old world's cool garden gaze
I will hold no fear as you close my book of flowers
and the hands of heaven carry me, carry me home to stay
"The Last Notes" by Shaun Groves


Come back, Grace, come back and stay a little longer with me my baby.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Angry super-savings grocery shopper

Today I was out on the other side of town grocery shopping. It's always a half-day event! Especially now that Grace is on winter break. So, you know, I time the whole meal thing for all three but little Lijah can't go as long as my girls can till it's the next time to eat. I have a methodology for mood-preservation, meaning, I take the time to attend to him for several minutes trying to keep the other two from breaking through the groceries, sitting in the parking lot before I start up the motor and go home. That way the car is filled with pleasant noises.

Most of the time I keep an eye out the window to make sure no one can look in at me and my babe. This time though, right in front of me there was a big argument taking place. This white man was literally spitting-angry at two Latino men. They were just standing there with frowns on their faces, taking it. I didn't know what it was about, but I immediately got upset. He wasn't listening to them hardly at all, just pointing at this and pointing at that, trying to justify himself in some kind of way. So, I decided to watch a little longer, risking being rude, to try and figure out who was at fault.

It looked like they were just done exchanging insurance information. They kept pointing at the back-end of the Latino men's car. The white man at one point put his hand on the shopping basket while he was being belligerent. So, I figured; the white man accidently pushed a basket into the latino men's car and they persisted to get insurance for the damage. If the white man was at fault, why was he the one who was all upset?

I kept looking down at Lijah to see if he was done. I was thinking about getting out of the car to go over and just insert myself in the issue. I wanted to help give the white man a reply which would ease his frustration. The white man didn't drive a very nice car at all, and it looked like he was on edge because his mom was sitting in the passenger seat, and she was listening to all of the conversation. The latino men looked much more well off by their car and clothes, and, it looks like they hadn't done anything wrong. I kept watching their faces. When were they going to stand up for themselves? I was mentally cheering them on. But, they just stood there and patiently let him yell at them.

I know exactly what I would say. First, nothing, because both of them I am sure would recount their whole side of the story. Plus there's a good chance the Latino men couldn't speak English -- the source of problems in a lot of cases. Then if my suspicions were true I'd keep it simple. I'd say to the white man, "Are you the one who injured their car?" He'd answer. I'd say, "Well then you shouldn't be angry; they should. You should say you're sorry, though I know it was probably an accident."

Even if I didn't say anything correcting to the man, I at least could stand there and patiently and respectfully listen to the Latino men talk. And that is what I wanted to do most of all anyway.

I kept thinking that maybe I should get out, but then maybe I shouldn't. I was hoping that circumstances would guide my conscience. Lijah wasn't done, and I always think in the back of my mind, "What would Ben think?" Not sure he'd be pleased, I ended up sitting there till Lijah was all done. Just as he finished the Latino men had felt it was time to get into their car and get away from him, so since their windshield was right in front of mine (I sit higher so no worries) I waited to see if they'd look at me. I looked at them with compassion and one of them kind of rolled his eyes. I nodded my head a bit.

Then I waited a few moments, just watching some more. I kept directing my attention at the white man and his mom, after they left. I wanted to see how he would fare under the scrutiny of another white person. He gave contact but then turned to his mom, still looking for someone to make excuses at.

I feel like this was an issue of race -- certainly you don't see those roles reversed very often, where Latinos get belligerent with whites in broad daylight. But, maybe it wouldn't have been helpful for me to get involved. After all, I'm not sure if I pass in looks as a white person. But at least I look like an intelligent, rational and active mom (so maybe not lower-class?), which lends credibility I'd hope, to me treating those two like human beings.

Gosh, he was angry. What could have possibly happened that made him so very angry?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is this important?

I have been critical of the current methodology in proselytizing among those who are like me -- evangelicals. Is the criticism overdone? I don't know. I can admit that I have tended to label it as everyone's problem, but I am sure there are many who do it right. I myself am most known for doing it wrong. I've made a lot of mistakes. From those experiences, I want to do what I can to help those who are most like me in avoiding the same.

Let me ask you: how do you proselytize groups such as the LDS or Jehovah's Witnesses?

Is your answer "Oh; the LDS? Well, they have a unique set of difficulties and we really shouldn't get involved."

That's one answer I hear often. The other? To go and tell them what we know is the truth. A good description of the problems arising from usual methodologies can be found at Jeff Lindsay's blogsite in the post titled "How Can Anyone be so Stupid?", which was the recent topic of a thread at a LDS forum.

Feel free to read along if you're interested.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Like my "yestermorning"?

These days when life drifts for long enough, I can see that it causes me to become disoriented and confused.

"You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived." col 3:7

Yep.

"'Everything is permissible for me' -- but I will not be mastered by anything." 1 cor 6:12

Praise God that the conscience comes to my aid; this may sound odd but I feel comforted when it's bothered. It's like He's telling me that He hasn't left this transformation up to me alone, and I take faith.

"Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." james 1:23-24

Believing He knows and accepts that I'm just too confused, I've been praying since yestermorning, "LORD, order my thoughts." I love it! He's doing it. The drift is reversing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Swindoll's Sermon

I was listening to Chuck Swindoll's radio sermon last night. He was preaching part two in a series called Tough grace in difficult places. I just caught the end of it, but his message was to challenge us to be good neighbors. He said we ought to treat everyone the same regadless of religion, race, political party, income, etc. -- "can you do that?"

There was a young man he hadn't seen in some time who caught him up on his life. He had been living with a woman for a couple of years whom he had no intention to marry. Swindoll replied, "oh really?" That was the end of his reaction. They continued to have a good time the rest of their time together. Swindoll said "One day, that grace is going to pay off. And even if it doesn't, it always pays off. Is it any surprise that someone who doesn't know Christ is living against the standards of scripture? Who among us except Christians even have the power to live righteously, so, why are we surprised? Just think: When he confessed that to me I could have gasped indignation and said 'Don't you know what this book says?!?' But no one died and appointed me judge. He asked us not to judge others, and to let Him go about His work. That goes for people inside the church, and those who are in approach of it. Can we refrain from damaging the good name of Christ, and extend a little patience, a little mercy, to others who aren't living in the way we think they ought to, living in the way we would like them to?" [paraphrased]

Perfect. That's a really special message to come out of an evangelical mouth. This is the tightrope God is calling evangelicals to: not to cease preaching, teaching and rebuke, but, to balance it out and give it its place to work good when bound in the context of love. Love means peace: acceptance and being ultimately comfortable with the other person.

I can hear even in my own mind the scriptures, and they seem to be pleading for their moment to depart my lips. I'd rather let someone squirm with the Word of God alone in their own chamber than see myself their equal in Christ and have fellowship with them. Do you see how the Word is used as a mechanism to assess and drug ourselves righteous, and to make ourselves experts? The Word is often temptingly used as a wall to protect the supposed sanctity of our own lives.

What a lie this is, what an effort it is to try and overcome. I've been dealing with it in a real-life example for a few months, and, even though I preach this, it is so much easier said than done.

Monday, December 10, 2007

fundamentalist evangelical: some thoughts

In my mind I can hear the voice of the fundamentalist, making me feel guilty as I relate to the world in politics and in sharing my faith. The dialogue goes a little like this:

Fundy: "Don't you believe in preaching the gospel in season and out of season?"

Sanc: "Yes, the gospel shouldn't submit to the expectation of its audience. That doesn't mean that our voice should always dominate."

Fundy: "But Paul said, 'Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!' Isn't it our job to take the Word into every corner of the world so that they might accept the truth?"

Sanc: "Yes, but in the book of Acts we see how he was led along to places that were opened by God to the gospel, and away from those where it was not time to share. In the same way the sharing of the gospel can only be done Spiritually."

Fundy: "Well, don't you believe that when Jesus returns 'Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that He is LORD'? There is no more important message in the world than that to accept Christ."

Sanc: "Absolutely. Even at that time, not all will be believers. Though it is not his desire that any will reject the gospel, it is His plan. The book of Revelation tells us the ending, and we don't have to guess. God is going to glorify Himself in those who believe and in those who do not believe. We are heartbroken, but that is something God feels too."

I hear the voice of those who are oppressed by evangelical Christianity, who have heard its sermons given over and over to the point where they are no longer interested in listening. They have worn others down because they cannot accept their answer of "no thanks." They cry "You don't understand how great a gift you reject!" "I can't leave you alone till you at least see how wrong your beliefs are, and how you are a sinner before God."

This is not good news at all.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Announcement

At this moment I would like to invite readers to visit my new blog.

Reconstructing Jason Lee

It is just begun. But it is well on its way now. Would you like to take this journey of discovery with me?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"Rekindled Nightlies," by yours truly

But, soft-en the remote; It is my lord of polity, O, fairest of all reports: Lehrer, art thy melody moderniz'd and where fore is Sir McNeil? Did he die, and Jennings too -- winged messengers of heaven -- pray it rumor? Hark! What yonder news breaks: Condoleezza Rice. Oil prices. Benazir Bhutto. Mortgage rates. I wilt entreat my ears steady in mine awakened love til morrow's evening cast.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Same Old Debate: An Introduction

Is faith sufficient by itself or is obeying the law a necessary component?

Evangelicals make their doctrine of Christ distinct from all others by claiming that we are made righteous in His sight by faith that is alone, stipulating a faith that is the forerunner of good works, as in, faith is the kind which is a foundation for righteous deeds naturally coming about as byproduct.

The question I want to ask, though, is this: do evangelicals also believe that creating a life which reflects the righteousness Christ modeled (sanctification) is indeed created by faith + obedience, or is it too, created by faith alone; a faith that is apart from (or rather before) obedience?

Once again, the sanctifying faith we are talking of is the kind which ignites foundation for naturally obedient living as a byproduct.

Is the byproduct -- that obedience -- a necessary component to holiness?

We had to cut the discussion short last night, so it's still out what Ben means when he says, "Yes, faith and obedience are necessary for sanctification."

As for Jeff, this is what he said to me: "I'm a James chapter two kind of guy. I think we are fruit inspectors and it's fine if people say they have faith, but, when they do that, I want to see them back it up. Sanctification [pausing to think]... is faith and obedience."

It is my assertion that, as far as I understand it, the model of righteousness in salvation is identical to the model of righteousness in sanctification: we are told over and over again, hold to the teachings you have heard from the beginning. The message doesn't change once we get in the door. It was Christ by faith then, it still is and always will be, Christ by faith alone. Paul wasn't fighting the Judiazers moreso for salvation's model, it was equally insisting for the preservation of the model of sanctification. Jesus is the only way to the Father both as the door and as the path to walk in all the days of our life.

The answer is critically pragmatic; we warn incessantly about the false churches and their doctrines of faith in Jesus combined with some arrangement of law (deeds proving faith). Paul warned us about this teaching, calling it false. If this is the case, shouldn't we be ever so protective not to stray into suggestions of faith + obedience as requirement of growth in Christ?

Ramifications: if so many of us are naively, ignorantly falling into the same form of applied belief as everyone else is choosing by design, can we really be so confident about how our church has it all figured out?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Talks

I've been talking when not writing.

Ben and I had a discussion on Tuesday night, where he explained some of what Jeff may have meant when teaching last Sunday. I took those points with me and dropped in to see Pastor Jeff around lunchtime today. He and I talked for an hour and then later today Ben and I rehashed what Jeff and I talked about, for over an hour again tonight.

I learned from Ben that what points I am raising are correct, and they are good. However I'm probably expecting the doctrinal efficiency level of a seminary class when all it is is just sunday school -- a more casual, narrow focus.

I learned from Jeff that, in the context of the beatitudes of matt 5, there is an audience assumed, that audience being those who are believers and therefore those that understand how we are saved by faith and also how sanctification works. And what's more, the responses offered up in class probably don't need to be put into place with an acknowledgement of the doctrine of faith because, again, the audience of whom is receiving the teaching (an admonition to righteous living so that the testimony of Christ to the world by us is not blurred), is assumed to be Christian -- one who believes in the sufficiency or the supremacy of faith.

So, I've been put to rest and put into place. I know what's going on, and I can accept the tiny and fragile framework of sunday morning teachings. There's only one problem left. And that is, it sounds like both Jeff and Ben haven't decided in some or all applications that faith is enough to complete sanctification, meaning (present-tense) relational holiness, or being conformed into the image of Christ, or, simply explained as:

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship." Rom 12:1

This is old-school, orthodox, Christian teaching. But somehow, God allows it to be very challenging to hold tight to the simplicity of the gospel's model. It took me a couple of years, too, to wrap my mind around the application.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A little bolder

For a few years I've had trouble speaking up in sunday school. Most of it stems from a belief that women should be as silent as possible at church, what's more they should never teach or have authority over men. But I'm just about ready to give that up. It seems I'm fighting a cultural monster that can never be defeated. You're not going to see me subbing in for Pastor Jeff (though he offered it to me and a small group of others from our class a couple times) anytime soon. I think, that for now I will stick to only sharing my opinions during class.

I did that two times today! :)

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

We're working through the gospel of Matthew and landed on this principle out of chapter 5. Pastor Jeff asked the class "How do we preach letting our hearers stumble over the message, and not over us?" He answered a bit after some discussion and said, "Yeah, if we want people to believe that Jesus is real then we need to live lives that correspondingly act in line with the truth. And it is also important to make yourself an informed Christian; one that knows who Jesus is, instead of being out there spreading misinformation through lack of knowledge."

I raised my hand and said, "I agree that it is somewhat relevant to be a righeteous person in the way we live, and to have the right kind of Jesus that we teach or preach. But it is a lot more maybe about faith. It says that we are a fragrance, by the fact that we live in growing faith, to draw the ones who will believe. And our righteousness isn't our deeds anyway. It's faith that makes us righteous, it's faith that God is looking for. It's not so much that we are qualified by having a life that's squared away. It is more a faith by which we hope for righteousness even in the future tense, that makes us His children."

He just kind of said yeah. Hmm. I wonder if he really was listening? Doesn't he know his doctrine that we teach? It is faith which makes us righteous, even after salvation. It is faith which qualifies, it is faith which gives a clean conscience, it is faith which employs God's power. This is the evangelical hang-up I care most about exposing.

He later on asked, "How can we make the message palatable?" Within the ensuing discussion he said, "I've spoken with a number of cults and they quote this passage saying, 'Jesus foresaw that this would happen to me, that because you are telling me that I'm wrong, I am being persecuted for having the truth.' But I think they take this and misapply it. There's a difference between belittling someone and using scripture to point out Jesus or how they need to take their sin to the cross."

I raised my hand and said "You asked the question 'how can we make the message attractive,' and Paul said, 'to the Jews I became a Jew.' This may disagree somewhat with your point, but I am wondering if, for some of us, God is calling us not to preach the word but to let it go. Speaking for myself personally, I know that I love the scriptures more than I do getting along with others. But it shouldn't be that way. And when I surrender my right to preach or correct others, what is that really composed of? It looks irresponsible to some, but, really what I am doing is storing up all of the grace needed in their lives by faith in God, and I don't think that can go wrong. So, for the culture of our church, some of us may find it very helpful to lay these things down."

"Yes," Jeff said, "I don't think you're way off there, I think that the way we preach needs to be careful and thoughtful, and that's essentially what you said," he confirmed.

That went well. Now that my neo-evangelical mind has been fully screwed back into place, I'm able to share exactly what God has taught me these last few years. I've been writing about it so long, it just pours out of me second-nature. But to everyone else, I'm not sure how well it flies wih orthodox teaching or if there are some who have even heard it before.

There were a few heads that turned. I'm alright with that though.

Men

They make me nervous!

Until I can get to trusting one, I can't be okay in their presence. Today I was so ancy about it while at church that I was almost talking angry. I just wanted to get the heck out of there. I guess I do that a lot. You've heard of shivers; I'm getting them right now while I type this. I just can't stand the thought that they're looking at me while having a conversation.

I mean, I know I'm a human being, so that's probably what makes interaction with them perfectly normal. I just think that they're all bad, you know? Like, they might be perfectly harmless in what comes out of their mouth, but, underneath there's something which I'd be scared or disgusted by.

I have three brother-in-laws and two of them are Christian, so after all this time I am well adjusted to being somewhat near normal around them. The other non-Christian one I spend a lot more time around, and I happily report that it's been reduced to only the nervousness now.

Have you ever seen someone who talks loudly and adamantly and goes on and on and doesn't really seem to be listening? That's me, around the opposite gender. It's like a pain-soothing technique I utilize so that the conversation will end as quickly as possible. I consistently imagine myself breaking social etiquette and running away right in the middle of whatever I'm blabbing on and on about.

I'm weird.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A slice of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day was fun, but celebrating the holiday is not finished.

As usual my extended family was out of order for the holiday; my mom is an RN and has to recover from night shifts, and my sister and her husband have his side of the family to gather with. And unusually Ben's family was gone this time to California, with his brother too, to spend it at his sister's house. We will celebrate therefore with my side of the family tomorrow (Saturday).

I put the idea in Ben's mind earier in the week to open up our meal and home to another family who were as lonely as we are ;). Becky and her family moved here about a year ago from Idaho and they don't have any family in the area. We go to church together.

Here are some random shots. The ones with the baby and the game "Carcassone" were taken by me, the rest were taken with permission by my daughter Grace:








Okay, this is the only picture that needs a caption: Grace is trying to take a picture of the potatoes being peeled (she's that small to the world!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reason for Thanks

I prepped Grace for the last couple weeks, asking her "Grace, tell me again; why are you getting baptized?"

"Uh, I forgot," she stammers. Then I imagine Grace getting up there and being asked in front of the whole congregation some similar question and she botches it. Of course, everyone would understand and that'd ultimately be okay. But since she is young I have the desire to help her as much as possible to explore exactly why she is doing what she is doing.

Then we rehash: "Remember what we read together? The red words Jesus said to everyone were, after they believed 'go and make disciples and baptize them.' Those three things are what He taught us to do: believe, follow, and get baptized. You believe, right? And you follow Him. So all that's left is to be baptized."

As I write this, I'm asking her a final time to see if it's sunk in: "Grace, can you tell me what three things Jesus told us to do?"

Her eyebrow raises and she says confidently, "Get baptized, follow Him, and... believe in Him!"

She was ready. She was the fourth of five girls to get baptized, though all the others were near about ten years old. She did just fine. He said, "This little one is Grace, Grace Painter. That's a great name; Grace. Did you know it means God's most precious gift? You're here today because you put your faith in Jesus who is God's gift to us, isn't that right?"

She said yes, and he continued, "Well then my little sister, it is my privilege to baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." And then he dunked her backward and helped her back up and out. Grace rejoined us at our seats later on in the service and said, "I can't believe I was baptized! Except I got some water in my nose."

We were so proud of her. Ben and I told her in the car on the way there that we were so pleased with her that she was taking this step. That she didn't have to do it, because God loves her anyway because of the cross, but she is obeying Him and that is a wonderful thing.

The whole congregation celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday through combining our usual two services into just one. There was special music with a small orchestra and a full choir. Ben's mom and dad drove down very early in the morning which was such a neat gift to all of us to have them present. My dad, mom and sister also came, which was also neat because we have not been to church all at one time that I can recall. Monica had six assignments to work on and my mom was still recovering from a night shift but Ben's parents could join us for lunch at the Olive Garden. It was a slow and happy meal.

The day's events reminded me of the way I felt when I conceived and first got to know our firstborn. She had always been a gift to me from God that had proven His lovingkindness. I stand back, not claiming any credit, amazed.

His Grace is the occasion of our gratitude; with the family all gathered together right before the holiday, I couldn't have been more thankful.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Grace's Baptism

We're all pretty proud of her, though she doesn't really know or understand that.

This Sunday she will be baptized sometime during the special Thanksgiving service. A lot of family are coming to witness it. Ben's parents and brother, and my parents and sister and her family are all planning to be there.

We were watching some home movies this summer and in them was a clip of me getting baptized when Liz was just a newborn. Grace thought about it and asked, "Mom, when can I get baptized?"

Yes, she's six. It's kinda young. But we talked about it. What does she lack when we think about what it means to be a Christian? She desires to be with God, to not go to "the bad place," she confesses that God helps her to not sin so much, that she can feel God's love for her, and she has seen God answer her prayers over and over. She loves to pray and has no qualms doing so nor asking her cousins and friends to pray with her. She tells others at school and at play about Jesus all the time. She loves her bible.

Last night however she had a not-so-good moment. I had Colette, Emma, Liz, Grace and Elijah and we were eating dinner at church right before it was time for AWANA, and as we were herding through the life center on the way out Grace said, "Mom, I was wondering where you were," and then she belted out with all feeling, "What the hell?"

I stopped dead in my tracks and spun around. Everybody around us had stopped talking and they were all looking at me. Me, wearing a "Cubbies" leader club shirt no less. I told her that she couldn't say that word, that I know she probably hears it a lot on tv, but she'll just have to be careful not to say things in that way. My face was red with embarassment so I just left it at that, and she said she didn't realize, and we kept on walking. Then I couldn't help but just laugh. What a moment that was!

Even with this little episode of exploration, I think she's doing really well. I'm very pleased with her as she moves forward to do this.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Respect a baby

Is there anyone else you know who will gladly stretch their stomach full, with spoonful after spoonful of chilled, liquified garden carrots?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What 's worth staying awake for?

Everyone is quiet in bed and all is dark. One of many escapades answering the middle-of -the-night call of my son, I finally tuck a returned babe into his crib and then try and fall back asleep. But the wind is blowing outside, and the rain is falling on every surface. I love the sound. The swaying pattern of strong and tender music in taps and drips invigorates a sense of peace. There is a loud thud suddenly, and I realize that the garbage can has been knocked off the curb. "Dang, that's gonna be a mess," I carelessly lament, and roll on cue to get back to sleep.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

You are what you [read]

Lately it's become apparent to me that who I am is pretty well defined by what I most often read. And not just me, but everyone else seems to function this way. What is on the tongue, what is on the mind, what ideas are being used to frame the lens of life? This can be powerful, but also unfortuate because of omission....

I realize that if I want to understand... no; think, process, and feel, what someone else does, I ought more to read what they read and less of the same-old I prefer.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"'You can break your knees or you can bend them, but either way your're going down; amen?'--God"

--Unknown

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The spiritual formation of these two girls

Grace was around the age of four when I used the illustration of a T-chart, which took the good things and the bad things she has done and tallied them up. We tried to think of all the good things she does, and with each one I would make a mark under the "good" column. Then we made a tally of bad items. I asked, "How do you get rid of the bad ones?"

"Um, maybe if I put more good ones on the paper," she thought, and I said try again. She didn't know what to think. "God... is perfect; He only does the good things, never does any bad things, and one day we can be with Him again when we go to heaven but, none of us can go up there if we have bad things we've done. Because God is good and He cannot have bad parts with him in heaven."

She began to squirm, and asked if we could use the eraser on the pencil to take them off.

"Yeah, we use an eraser to take them off this list, but when God is writing these things down do you know how He takes the bad things away? He did make a way. It's Jesus. Because He died on the cross, he was punished for all your bad marks and mine too, so now... [erasing a couple to show] we can have them taken away and we'll be ready to meet God."

She breathed a sigh of relief and said that she was glad Jesus did that for us. Then she began to wander onto a new topic and I said, "Whoa, wait a minute! Before you go I just want to tell you that I don't take these things off; Jesus does, and if you want Jesus to make you clean then this is something you need to talk to God about."

"Okay," she said, and paused. "Uh, I don't know what to say."

"If you ask Him to come into your heart, He says He will wash away all your bad parts so that you're ready to be with Him forever. And, He also comes inside you to stay, so He can help you to stop doing so many bad things, and to let you feel His love. Do you want Him to come into your heart?" Yes, she replied, and then we prayed.

A month or so later, one time after we were through praying she exclaimed, "God is helping me to not do what's wrong!" Many months we spent praying together and then for many months after that, Ben prayed with both children. Whenever Grace prayed because she was sick or scared, God always seemed to answer her prayer, and we would talk about that.

With Elizabeth, in the last year or so when Grace and I would pray I would ask her if she wanted to pray too, and she would get a squirmed up face and decline. I let her choose to do that. Meanwhile Ben was leading her in "repeat after me" prayers at bedtime. On a couple of occasions Grace had discussed about Jesus coming into her heart and I asked Liz, "Liz, do you want to ask Jesus to come into your heart?" No, she had said.

A few days before her fourth birthday I pulled out a pencil and notepad and made a T-chart, because she had been asking me questions about God and who He is. Once again we tallied her good and bad deeds, and then I let her sit in a quandry over how to get rid of the bads. Then I told her about Jesus dying on the cross as "spankings," and asked her if she wanted Him to come in. She said yes, and we prayed. She was happy afterward, like a lot of people are after they make that decision.

So far, it hasn't really come up for her to testify herself that she knows Jesus is dwelling in her, and has forgiven her; in good time however we will find out how much she understands.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I am happy

Can you hear the song tuning in clear, and pick up the melody and sing along with all your heart? I can hear it now and I don't hold back.

So? Life has troubles, and now it's becoming obvious that they don't stop... therefore what needs to change is me. If I don't learn to live right now then I won't ever be able to sing along with the song that someone is playing for Him. Life's always been lived in moments, present-tense; but because of my immaturity all I was was tense in the present.

I have been aware that I need to let go for some time and I still am at a loss, several experiments later, as to how to do that--how to focus the soul's passions toward the exterior--but even that I'm not going to worry about.

I suppose it is natural to forget where you are with God. How cool it is to rediscover, as it comes spilling out of your mouth, your origin-stories of trust in Him as you happen onto it in conversation.

I remember how I used to be long ago. Do you? So frequently the right word at the right time for the right need, I felt like I had one ear in heaven, and my joy, in everything I did, was so full in the promises of God. How I miss that easy-access to learning at his feet; somehow I had that privilege before and I know it was wonderful. I am looking for my old-self, I wanna go back to the way it was, yeah. I've been waiting for some time but there is "no normal" -- God's voice keeps to a warp and a muffle before it trickles down from the sky -- yet, I am at peace finally. When all other lights go out, the past illuminates that the straight and narrow is, as ever was, before me.

There is abundant joy backing me up from the rear and mist and fog in arm's reach ahead. Somebody ought best to twist me around and have me start walking backward.

Faith is not easy to put into practice. But I like grace, which is the present-tense capture of its essence. I like how simple it is. It deals with the difficulties of the moment until the moment is gone. And then it sings a song that floats on the evening breeze.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Profile: ELIZABETH

(On the beach last September)

Nicknames: Lizzy-Mae, Little-Lizzy, Squishy
Age: 4, on Saturday
Stats: 30 lbs., 40 in. tall
Toys: pen & paper, dinosaurs, magic wand
Food: all that resembles her (long and pale); bananas, mozzarella sticks

("Put your clothes back on right now, Lizzy")

Sports: absolutely lives for soccer and ballet
Aspirations: to be an artist-abstracts and profiles; to play sports

(Lizzy-art, at three and a half)

Famous last words: "No way, dude; heh, I just called you dude" "Can I have a cheese stick" "Look at me!" "Nooo, I can't sleep in my bed it's too squeaky" "I caaaan't!" "I wanna wear a dress!" "Gracie goes to her class and I go to my class" "You can go to the bread store and buy donuts" "Let's go to mcdonalds, yeah!" "Can I have a banana?"

(What does she do when dresses are confiscated? Make her own)

Oddities: I can connect my thumbs with my index fingers to make a ring around her waist (it is that small), she weighs as much as the average 1-and-a-half year old, she eats about 8 cheese sticks a day and little else
TV show: Curious George, of course (a fellow esteemer of bananas, feats of flexibility, and cute naughtiness)

(Camping and playing on the playground last August)

Obsessions: to finally get to the age where she can enroll in classes and sports, & to spend all her days at Chuck E. Cheese's

Monday, October 22, 2007

Quick clip in time

Here's a short clip of a portion of our visit to the pumpkin patch two saturdays ago:



I cannot believe how much Elijah is growing up....

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A short collection of amazing scriptures

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 cor 4:10-12

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col 1:24,27

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself....
Phil 2:1-8

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave.... I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Cor 9:19, 23

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Rom 9:1-4

For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:27-30

Friday, October 19, 2007

Just Say No

"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?"
"The first," they answered.
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
matt 21:28-32

I have been meditating all week on this parable, trying to guess what lessons I should take from it.

The more I think about it the more amazing it is for me. I try and imagine people in church acting as if it were socially acceptable to say "no" to what they are being taught, and I just don't think it has happened but rarely....

How many months have I spent saying "yes" to God and then somehow not ending up doing it?

"Want" is a nice word

Since the end of September I've been in a bible study called "The Beloved Disciple: the life and ministry of John," by Beth Moore. It began on this passage:

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?"
They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"
"Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him.
John 1:35-39

One of many of the study questions in week one asked "Where do you see your life right now?" "In a routein and a rut... Living the great adventure (circle one)...." I thought about which one I'd circle. I even spent a lot of time in serious doubt that I would reach the other "option" ever again, even if I tried. I almost decided that I didn't belong. I'm not quite sure what got me to reconsider. Maybe it was the introductory premise:

"I love new beginnings, don't you? I am honored to embark on this new beginning with you. Let's count on God to take us places with Him we've never been and to accomplish a work we didn't know He could. As James and John cast nets on the sun-kissed waters of the Sea of Galilee, they had no idea that the Son of God was casting His net for them. Soon they would find themselves captured by his call and compelled by His love. Let's allow the same divine affection to catch us as we too are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

Allow me to give you the bottom line before we turn the first page in hopes that you might adopt John's attitude from the very beginning: John was free to love because he was so utterly convinced that he was loved. He called himself the beloved disciple. How differently would each follower live if we characterized ourselves above all else as the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ? This is the goal of our journey."

I thought, is there any hope for me? I wasn't sure if I should just skip the class altogether and do childcare instead of the study. Then I heard the lesson from Moore....

"Put your pens down!" she said (on video). In our notebooks there was a page full of empty blanks, but we weren't allowed to fill in the answers as we got them. Lest we fail to take to heart what the premise of the study should be....

"Let's sense Christ asking us the same question: '________, my child, what do you want?'"

Beth said that this is our assignment: go home and answer that question, or write God a letter if need be. I chuckled at the thought, then I sat silent for a bit. "[pause] I don't even need to say it. [pause] God, you know what I want." And then I realized that it might be an important point to communicate it anyway. So I did. And that was week one.

Week two we actually got into a multi-page bible study, the typical look up X-verse and answer the X-questions. Even though they were good questions, my heart has hovered ever at week one. Prayer requests at our table time came, and my request was "that the LORD would comfort me and encourage me in my circumstances."

Week three, again, the questions were just okay. That alluring premise of God caring for what I want formed the prayer request that I shared. I said I had praise, because God had used people in my life uncommonly to comfort and come alongside me in my circumstances, but that "I still would like the LORD Himself to comfort me, to reveal his heart and plans for me."

Week four, which brings us current: I asked for prayer saying "God showed me His plan for me, and I am very encouraged, I still would like prayer however that He would help me to understand His heart and that He does understand mine."

Did you ever feel like you were at a turning point? I have a feeling this study may be making all the difference.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Keizer Rapids Park

My single most favorite class in college was reconstructing historical landscapes. I had one project of my choosing that consumed 80% of my grade. I chose the length of Lancaster Drive in Salem, Oregon as the area which I would research.

I wrote ten pages and scanned in old aerial photographs through the entire twentieth century, researched Portland-area history of home architecture and applied that information to estimate the age of certain neighborhoods, even used the research done by professionals to give it a prehistoric and preColumbian background. What fun that was.

Ever since I cannot see my hometown in the same way. The time spent in subsequent investigation has been nonexistant since I got married and had children, so now the mysteries I see all around me have become permanent fixtures in my mind. Time to clear them out!

A couple years ago I had read that the City of Keizer was in planning stages to create its own waterfront park. I had never gone though I had occasionally tried to gain access. My husband went and investigated it out and as a surprise took me there for the first time last weekend. It was fantastic.


A whole field of river cobbles like these awaited me; it's a very large floodplain which is covered in water in the rainy months.


I know they are mostly plain basalts, but Ben was able to find something that I could tell was petrified wood. How fun.

There are much more beautiful spots than that:


This is a place I could spend a lot more time at given the chance....

Monday, October 15, 2007

"There Is a Reason"


There Is A Reason by Caedmon's Call

late at night I wonder why
sometimes I wonder why
sometimes I’m so tired
I don’t even try
seems everything around me fails
but I hold on to the promise
that there is a reason

late at night, the darkness makes it hard to see
the history of the saints who’ve gone in front of me
through famine, plague and disbelief
His hand was still upon them
cause there is a reason
there is a reason

He makes all things good
He makes all things good
there’s a time to live and a time to die
a time to wander and to wonder why
cause there is a reason
there is a reason

i believe in a God who sent His only son
to walk upon this world and give His life for us
with blood and tears on a long, dark night
we know that He believed
that there is a reason
there is a reason

for the lonely nights
and broken hearts
the widow's mite
in the rich man's hand
and the continent
whose blood becomes a traitor

for the child afraid to close their eyes
the prayers that seem unanswered
there is a reason
there is a reason

Friday, October 12, 2007

Reverberations

In my own estimates this is how Riverfest went....

The week before they came up about $50,000 short of their goal, and out of the 2,000 sought counselor volunteers they only had 1100. That would be the only bad news to report.

The music was great, of course. Jars of Clay looked like a bad dream from 1985, but they sounded great. Avalon was so wonderful! They played for about an hour but the time went by so fast I thought it had only been 15 minutes, no more. I remember their perfectly pitched voices reverberating off the buildings downtown, and I was ecstatic.

I signed up to counsel on three occasions, and two of them were for children. Both times I got to meet a little girl and her family, and we talked about Jesus and the Holy Spirit and going to church; they had already accepted Christ before that moment. During Reid Saunder's invitation there were way more "friends of the festival" (as we are called) than there were those making committments, and just as I neared a couple of women, some other "friend" cut me off wedging herself in front of me and began talking. (?) That's okay, I was just fine letting someone else take pleasure in sharing their blossoming faith.

Big Daddy Weave was really fun. They had amazing voices and at that time (earlier on in the day) Ben and the children were still with me, as well as my friend Becky and her family.

Saunders was passionate. His body language was animated, and I loved to listen to him. He said "Today is a special day for me, because my three year old daughter, Mylie, received Jesus Christ as her savior." I grinned. Just that previous Wednesday Mylie had recited her first Cubby-verse during table time, "God loved us and sent His Son." What an amazing time for me to be right where I was.

I finished a photo album of the festival devoid of my personal friends and family shots (which I will put up later in my other albums). You can view it now here:

Albums

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Battleship

I tried to teach my girls a favorite game, battleship, this summer.


This is how girls play the game:


Isn't it beautiful??

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Profile: ELIJAH


Nicknames: Mr. Slobbers, Mr. Boogers, The Littlest Man of All, 26 Inches of Goodness, Cutey-Boy
Age: 7 months (today)
Stats: 18 lbs., 26 in., brown hair, blue eyes
Toys: Paper, hair, spoons, keyboard, phone, food
Food: Fresh fruits and baby vegetables


Sports: Standing straight and slapping his chest, jumperoo with a wayward tongue, smacking anything
Aspirations: To have four limbs and a mouth in contact with mom at all times, and to learn to not be a scardy-cat with dad's rough-housing

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hungry

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."
He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
Matt 12:1-8

Briefly I mentioned this account in my introductory post, but it has long been a favorite passage of mine. I always thought of it as one that illuminates Jesus' authority over things like baptism in water and the law in general. Now I see it for much more. I see it for characteristics I'm hungry for; individual consideration and relativity of the rules. What is one supposed to do if they're doing everything they can and it's not enough to follow Jesus? Is it better to die or to live in such a spot?

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Rule Breakerz!

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession."
Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."
He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.
He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."
Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Matt 15:22-28

Just looking for justfication to go to God with intact rebellion; let's see, my search criteria were: Individuality, Relativity, & Evolution.

This one resonates pretty well.
"Freely you have received, freely give."
Matt 10:8

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What if...

...christianity is meant to include breaking rules?

As I listen to the radio sing yet another diddy sending home the message "You shall not share your glory with another" and "the point was not to make much of me but so we could make much of you for all eternity," I feel rebellion rising in my heart.

I remembered the one time I really poured out my heart to God and I told Him what I wanted which contradicted His Word. Both then and now I think about all the built-up pressure that was released in one split-second. Immediately I expect God to punish me for admitting what I want that's not good. But, for those several days after the outpour, I experienced the opposite. I decided God was really listening because my situation got a little better in my eyes.

Since then I've gone back to the same-old trying to reconcile to His desires for my life instead of mine. But all that has done is cause a lot of pressure, a lot of heart-hardening, and a lot of wearing thin.

I could do that again, another outpour. I wouldn't mind getting a little closer to my goal, if that's what He really wants to give me by whatever mysteriously odd chance. That's not too shabby.

It's not quite conditional surrender, but, certainly I can say that if He wants more of those kinds of moments, where everything is out in the open, He's going to have to take me as is, bumps and boils and all.

Can't Jesus just flabbergast me and deal with me on an individual basis? Sure the rules are God's and God does not change, but in some kind of way they have, on the exterior. Think about how Nicodemus must have been grossed out to be taught that there is a second birth, and how the pharisees were taught that David was breaking God's Old Testament rules but was righteous. Then there was the parable of the father with two sons being given a command, and one told him yes and didn't do it. The other son said "no" but later thought better and went and did it, and he is the good one. There seems to be some evolution, some relativity, here, in the teachings Jesus gives regarding how and when the rules are obeyed.

Even His glory He shares with us; today is for exchanges of disobedience and righteousness, so it's not like He hasn't committed to handling the matters of lesser beings.

Evolution? Relativity? Individuality? Do these characteristics apply to rule-abiding?

What does Jesus want to do for me?

Have I been reading my bible the wrong way? Has everyone else, too just been reading it for the written-in-stone, and not the relativities? Is that what Christianity has done? God is supposed to be about love, and grace and peace after all. Real peace? Am I living in real peace when I know that my desires don't matter in light of His?

Maybe it's not such a bad thing to be frank with God.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Feminist

Yes, I am one; though I am meaning neither the cultural norm or even a rejection in part or whole of it. I am talking about the focus for knowing and being that which is feminine. Of course every woman cares about being feminine in basic matters. But as for me, it is what I spend a lot of time honing toward perfection both ideally and practically.

Femininity drives nearly everything I do. Well, not nearly, Christianity both diverts and focuses my passion for feminism. Where Christianity becomes gender-irrelevant so I follow suit, but there is much to meditate upon in the scriptures so to enhance it.

I love every issue pertaining to femininity. Social graces, artistic expression, communication, relational nuance and avoidance, body language, dress, child raising, respecting my husband, cooking, cleaning, being learned, and more.

I have said before that I have loads of self-confidence. I know me, and I believe in me. I know exactly what I ought to be, as a woman, and yes there are weak-points, and I know what they are. I'm not trying to be the "perfect woman." That means, I don't hold all these categories with equal importance. For instance many times people come over to my house and... it's messy, and I regret it. I feel shame for the state it's in, but I'm not afraid of shame and I won't shame drive me. I let my natural positive passions drive me to be better.

Though I don't expect myself to be perfect, I admit I am a perfectionist. I can't let the drive go. Zeal for most things in life, is strong, and after being "a grown-up" woman now for about a decade, sometimes I am surprised to see all that I have dabbled in with mostly sucesses to show for it. I'm either lucky or else extremely conscious and devoted.

I have anticipated that as I grow older the way I magnify each of these realms of feminine expression should change to fit my season in life. Maybe I'll even see the need one day to not concern myself with the matters of being an excellent woman, who knows?

More and more persuing feminism is a solitary, unrecognized effort. The world seems to be changing, and it is becoming less aware of the natural reality or even the need to distinguish gender. While I find that sad, maybe a little upsetting even, my goal isn't swerved.

Results of Riverfest

This came via email on September 25th:

All for Jesus!

Two years of planning, praying, and working culminated this past Saturday
and Sunday at Salem RiverFest. Praise the Lord; this event surpassed
everyone’s expectations. Salem RiverFest was proclaimed by Mayor Janet
Taylor and the Parks Department as the largest event ever held at Salem’s
Riverfront Park.

The crowds have been estimated from 50,000 to 75,000 between both Saturday
and Sunday. Throughout all the Salem RiverFest events, over 1000 people
have made decisions for Jesus Christ! Praise God!!!

Please continue to pray for these new decision-makers to grow in their
faith and connect with a local church body. Thank you for your prayers
and support. Salem RiverFest would not have had such an amazing impact on
our community without YOU!

All for Jesus,
Reid Saunders

PS – Please save the date of October 18 and look at our website,
www.reidsaunders.org, to see a few photos of the festival. Please also
check www.salemriverfest.com later this week for more photos and stories.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Let all cry holy!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Festival Follies

Last Wednesday night it was the first night of AWANA for the school year, and this year I was excited to have both little Liz and Emma to come. Both were a delight.

All the kids were a delight. They went out to the playground for game time, and their personalities came out and shone, and we all had fun helping them on the monkey bars. One of the moms had stuck around and when she learned that I was her child's leader she told me about her special concerns for her child's speech ability which has been hampered. She watched her child play as I did, and I could tell she was really worried, and finally she told me everything that was on her mind. I empathized and said I would be extra careful to encourage her. I knew that it could have been Carmen Saunders that I was speaking with, but Carmen is a twin so I just didn't think much about it.

It came time for the parents to come pick up their kids. It was crazy like usual, the kids don't know the protocol and they're naughty and can't hear you because everyone is really loud. All of a sudden Reid Saunders appeared to pick up his child. A a hush fell amongst all the women Cubby leaders, and I tried to contain my inward laugh. I realized that he was here for one of the kids in my group! The women all turned and gave me a secret look of shock, and one leaned in and stammered, "I recognized the last name, but I didn't know that was her dad."

He was wearing a perfectly pressed shirt even though it was approaching 8:30 pm, and a two or three people in the hallway were holding fast his attention trying to talk to him about some detail of Riverfest. I immediately sensed the ego factor, and decided that I wanted nothing to do with it. I decided that all I needed to say to him was that his child did really well tonight. So I looked at him and raised my voice (okay, it's like super duper loud in that room) and said "Your daughter did really well" as she was exiting out the door. He didn't notice me at all. So I said it again. No effect. I then decided that he didn't even need to hear that either. So I got down on my knees and said to the little girl through the baby gate, "I'm glad you came tonight, I'll see you next Wednesday," and blew her a kiss, which made her smile. I think Reid might have noticed me talking to her, but I went on to talking to the other kids still waiting to go.

Of course, I think this is amazing. Okay, humility is taking a backseat! But, he doesn't even go to our church, why was he even there? How is it that I was chosen by grace to be the one who gets to shape the beliefs of the child dear to the man who will do the same for thousands?

Undeserving. I feel special.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"The Gospel"

These are the scriptures being used by counselors for Riverfest, beyond whatever ones the events will be sharing.

For the children's area they will be using The Wordless Book. This method has been long used by Child Evangelism Fellowship for their booth at the Oregon State Fair and for their backyard Good News Clubs.

For the "Gold Page," John 3:16a. For the "Dark Page," Romans 3:23. For the "Red Page," Hebrews 9:22 and 1 Cor 15:3,4 (which say that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, and, Jesus died and rose again). For the "Clean Page," John 1:12 and Heb 13:5b (assurance of salvation). And for the "Green Page," 1 John 1:9 (He is faithful to cleanse us).

For the adults, there are three prepared scenarios based on the individual's need. The first scenario is someone who receives Jesus as Savior for the first time, the second is restoration or rededication, and the third is those needing to ask more questions about the gospel--the unsure or confused.

For those receiving Jesus, the scriptures counselors will use are: Rev 3:20 (I stand at the door and knock), John 1:12-13 (He gave them right to be sons of God to everyone who believed), John 3:16, 2 Cor 5:17 (whoever believes is a new creation), and Gal 2:20 (I no longer live but Christ).

For those rededicating, the scriptures are: 1 John 1:9 (He is faithful to cleanse), Psalm 32:5 ("I made my sins known to you, and I did not cover up my guilt. I decided to confess them to you, O LORD. Then you forgave all my sins."), Prov 28:13, 1 John 2:1 (Yet if anyone does sin they have Jesus Christ), 1 Cor 10:13 (not tempted beyond your ability), and Rom 8:1 (whoever is in Christ is not condemned).

For those who need to understand more about the gospel, counselors will use most the scriptures as those for the children in the Wordless Book, except it adds John 14:6 (I am the way, the truth and the life). It also has a prayer sample for this group written like so: "God, I know I am a sinner. Right now I repent and turn from my sins. I believe Jesus Christ died for my sins, rose from the grave, and is alive forever. I open the door of my heart and life, receiving Jesus Christ as my Savior. I want to follow him as Lord of my life. Thank you for saving me. Amen."

These scriptures and prayer scripts have been used for decades by the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association, which began the festival model of "good news great music." The passages listed above are proven to cause people to believe in Jesus and become disciples. Counselors are free to share any other passages of scripture or even "wing it" with whatever they know of the bible and their own testimony if they forget these ones listed.

We were told during our training that It is so important not only to see salvation happen but also to get people plugged into a place where they will grow as believers. Because there is a variety of churches involved counselors have been told to write down what church someone might be comfortable attending or has previously attended. They will be sorted and followed up by that church. Also, counselors have been encouraged to exchange numbers with those they meet (as appropriate), and to call them later in the week to make sure it doesn't end up being a "date and dump" kind of experience.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Holy Community

For a long time in various different avenues I have noticed that when God needs to do a work in someone I know He also works in me simultaneously. That is why it is a beautiful thing to be within a community of other seekers of Jesus Christ.

When novel ideas are put into motion to bring a city to believe in Christ as in the case of Riverfest, there are many prayers that go up to bring it to a success. But God answers the prayers of the upright man in a powerful way, and a man would be upright if he is yielded to the Holy Spirit's will in all matters of life.

I drove around the city a lot today. I thought of me, when I was 12, 15, 17.... Many years where I thought that Christianity was some old-fashioned cultural leftover and nothing more. I had no clue. I wonder how it is that my heart was softened to accept the gospel when I heard it. How many unknown numbers of church-goers in this area are praying right now for that very thing for today's lost and backslidden. I can feel it. I can feel the prayers rising up everywhere and I can feel the people being readied to catch the pleasant aroma of Jesus.

I am a receiver myself of the work; that is how I can feel it in others.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sanc's "Riverfest" connections & preparations

Preparations: Last night (Thursday) was the counselor training session. Pastor Greg told us "If you're wanting to counsel to get a notch in your belt, don't do it. It's wrong! It's a sin!" No minced words, huh? He went on, "Catch that - it's not about us. It's about watching God as He is turning people from the power of Satan to the Lord Jesus Christ, by using the Word of God. We get to witness a brand new birth of a spiritual baby. You get to be there and hear the first sounds that come out of their mouth, just like witnessing a physical birth. You get to share their very first experience of new life."

Pastor Greg spent a couple moments discussing how God wants to use clean vessels and so right now we ought to take a couple minutes in prayer to confess our sins because He is faithful to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Well. My own personal walk with God has been a fluxuating mess of compromises, but, at that moment I considered the choice before me; more compromise which I am comfortable with, or, being ready for what God wants in two weeks. So I chose the latter and threw myself in. It dawned on me that no one is above being ministered to. I am sure Riverfest prayers are for the people who just stumble in and meet Christ at the festival. But those prayers are meant for anyone who needs them across the city. And I'm one of them.

Connections:I am so excited to be a part of something so powerful close to home. The park is about seven minutes from my house, and our church is only two blocks east! Last winter we had a ministry fair at our church and I helped Pastor Greg do an "outreach" table. He chose for the table: children's ministries, Birthright, and the homeless who live right in between our church and the park. We have the same ministries on the brain. I think about who will come, and those are it, the same whom I already am comfortable seeing when at Birthright.

I heard about Riverfest over a year ago and got excited for this mass evangelism/lifestyle evangelism effort. The thought of it for so long now, has been a huge source of joy in my life. Then Reid Saunders came and guest preached at our church a little while back. His ministry's theme? "It's all for Jesus!" He definitely is one of the "overanimated guys" you see sometimes in choirs, and he certainly has it going on everywhere with his gestures when speaking. But it makes people all the more curious to listen. He was saved when he was 17 (same age as me), he is now 33, and is married to Carmen, who I went to high school with. Carmen's brother's family goes to our church and is in our sunday school class.

A few weeks back I filled out a profile form to be a part and one of the questions was "explain your relationship with Jesus Christ." To that I answered in the lines provided "'Brothers, think of what you were when you were called!'" Guess what I heard last night Saunders is going to be preaching on? "The foolishness of the cross." Ha! That's my passage! Well, it's his too, oh, okay. (The two sentences are back to back in 1 Cor 1:25-26.)

Our church is deeply involved in organizing and supplying its volunteers. We are the church that is closest to the park and I will use it as a way-station for childcare and a parking spot! We're praying for 200 people from our church alone to step up as counselors to speak with those on the grounds who receive Christ during the eight invitations of the festival. Overall, 2,000 are hoped to come as counselors from the community of churches, and another 3-4,000 as general volunteers for everything from security to set-up and take down.

The most amazing thing about all of the events planned, of course, are the music artists: (sit yourself down) Avalon. Jars of Clay. Big Daddy Weave. Salvador. Free. Ooh. The thought came that I might just skip helping at all so that I can just soak in seeing the people I love in person. I remember at the Louis Palau festival in Portland's waterfront park, like seven years ago, I saw about a mile back from the stage, Steven Curtis Chapman play. That was cool. And I once saw Third Day and Michael W. Smith in the Rose Garden (I bought the tickets for Ben since he loves Third Day). But Avalon is my favorite Christian artist (the chipper Christian in me). Aww. I wanna crowd in and get all that loud, free meaning all just for me. This could be the best two days of my life. Who knows? I do know that if I didn't get to share in God's sanctifying work then the point of it all would be ultimately lost, for me. I love to talk to people about Jesus. I am glad I signed up as a counselor, and happy to think that God will use me as He pleases.

I am pretty pumped. Right now I'm listening to the opening tune which graces the click onto the Salem Riverfest website, "Dead Man" by Jars of Clay. My infant is a little curious watching his mom bounce out the suspension in her computer chair and dancing in the seat like a white man would. It's all in the fists, yo. Ooh! I invented a new move, the row boat. Can't you just feel the row-boat-move in the song?

Ha ha.

Salem Riverfest

Lately there's a low-down buzz all around town. It's all for Riverfest coming very soon... September 22-23th.

"Incredible" and "unprecedented" would be a couple of very well fitting words to describe what is about to take place.

Salem is the capitol of Oregon, and the oldest non-commercial settlement in the entire Pacific Northwest with a history beginning in 1837 when Jason Lee (a Methodist) arrived from Boston to evangelize the local Native American tribes living here. As a result of its age, Salem is home to four colleges and has an established variety of faiths. With a population of 160,000 people, it is the second-largest city in Oregon (after Portland, about 60 miles north).

In two weeks, tens of thousands or perhaps more will descend here from four neighboring states to participate in Salem Riverfest 2007 with Reid Saunders. The Willamette River courses alongside the downtown area, and in the Riverfront Park there will be a children's zone, extreme sports demonstrations, a sports area & food court, and most significantly, a main stage which will host nationally-known Christian musicians. All will be free of charge.

“This is unprecedented in the history of Salem, having over 100 churches coming together to reach the city for Christ. It’s phenomenal,” said Saunders. “Simply put, when all is said and done, we want everyone to know that RiverFest is all for Jesus.”

For more information:

Salem Riverfest

Christian News Northwest

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Just one more plate please

I had scheduled to watch three kids ages 11, 7, and 2 at about 12:00 so their mom could go get a perm today. At about ten o'clock the neighborhood kids began knocking at the door asking if they could play, so I couldn't seem to get the house moderately neat as I needed to. The mom called to chit chat and she said she was still planning on arriving at 12:00 but at 11:25 the doorbell rang again and I expected to have some minor controversy such as getting bikes across the street or someone falling down as usual, but instead I found myself stammering, "You're here early!"

As the mom and I visited for 45 minutes I continued to clean here and there. Then after she left I told the kids to get their swimsuits on. Sensing the inevitable attraction of children to noise and water I immediately went out in the front yard and yelled across the street to the others that they were invited to get wet too.

Besides my three kids and the visiting three kids, the usual crew was in full effect: Brooke, 10, Jillian, 10, Ana, 10, and David, 7.

I gathered them all over to me on the deck for a conference. After I made sure I had the eye contact of the occasionally naughty ones I said, "You are free to play as you like and choose whatever games you can think of as long as you follow my one rule. I only have one: You can't do anything that someone else doesn't like. If someone is not happy about how you are playing then you have to find something else to do." I made them repeat the rule back to me. Before they departed I took a sharpie and made a disposable cup for each child with their name on it. That excludes the youngest who can't read, for whom I drew pictures of their choice. A heart, a horse, a house, and a girl playing basketball, and then I took no more requests. Get your own water from the hose, I ordered.

Since I was in-mode of making lunch I knew that the others might also be hungry, and I ended up making a total of 7 turkey sandwiches, and an extra one for the two little girls who shared a whole because when they had gotten up from their little table out on the deck, Penny, our dog, moved in and confiscated them clean and clear for which she was loudly scolded by yours truly into her kennel for over an hour (efficiently making her regret it). I also made a couple sandwiches for myself about an hour later (because that's when I got around to it). That makes ten.

I then spent a half hour sitting on the deck mashing a banana and feeding it to Elijah while being watched by four of the older girls sitting in a row, who loved to talk about babies. They were so inspired that they decided to join forces to make themselves completely devoted to meeting every one of Elijah's needs. They took him all over the house, putting him in his car seat and swinging it back and forth (taking turns), then taking him outside and sitting with him and playing with him, showing him toys, all the while talking to me every minute about their ideas of how to take care of him. As a result, I nearly finished the regular house-cleaning tasks. It was beautiful.

I made four bowls of grapes which were wiped out in about ten minutes. Lijah was completely exhausted from the attention and when I took him upstairs for some mommy time he went right out. The visiting seven-year-old girl has decided that vegetables are not for her, so I pressed her through the day to choose one that she would eat. She chose corn. Dinner time approached and I raided the pantry but only came up with two cans. Tee hee. Pulled the green beans out for back-up ammo. Heated up some baby weiners and I think I made, no less than two loaves of buttered toast. That's because, about an hour before the mother returned three Spanish girls from down the street whom I dearly love, chose today to come over and play. I had been hoping for this and had waited all summer. They are Yesenia, who is 5, her older sister Maribel, who is probably 10 or 11, and her best friend also named Yesenia and is the same age. Little Yesenia is so adorable, I've known her since she was an infant. She speaks very poor English as does the older Yesenia. They know only some basic words, but the little one wants to know the name of everything. She takes me by the hand and insists that I come and answer her questions about whatever she sees. Her questions never cease and she is unfortuantely amazed at the toys and the things to do since she comes from a poor family.

For dinner I made... 12 plates of it for the children, and another for the mom since she hadn't eaten yet. But since it was just me doing it the pressure was on. The three visiting children needed to get back in their car and go home, so I had a priority to feed them first. Little Yesenia said she was hungry. I wanted to take care of those special girls and they were also important to feed first. But because Lijah had woken up and the toaster is slow I was trying with some difficulty to make everything as streamlined as possible. Eventually whatever anyone was lacking they were stuffed over with by toast. Toast is always awesome like that.

I cleaned up the mess I made and all the plates left out, fed Lijah remainder green beans and started real dinner for Ben and I on the grill, then visited some more with the children and, one by one, the kids dropped off, said goodbye and went home.

I realized, looking back, why it was that I am so exhausted. With that many kids my mind just goes into crisis mode. Once that happens I see everything like Schindler's List. Oh, I could have filled the remainder dishes in the washer. Oh, I could have wiped up the water tracks a little faster. Oh, if only I could have spent some more time sitting with the girls and letting them try and teach me Spanish. If only.

About an hour after "real" dinner was done, I laid back into the couch next to my husband, and laughed at the tv. It felt good to have met needs as best I could.

If only every day I would be so challenged by 13 kids, maybe the house would always be clean!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Comments on Community

Last Sunday was the second of four Sunday morning service sermons given by an interim pastor, Dr. Stratos. This is come about, you might find it big news to learn, because our pastor of seven years was called to shepherd another congregation in Phoenix, Arizona and left us mid-August.

Dr. Stratos made a comment on how the rise of fundamentalist Christianity, and its culture of pointing to the Word of God for conduct in life, while good, has unfortunately created arbitrary lines in the sand between us and everyone else who doesn't live like we do. It's a discomfort which he said needed to be abolished in our hearts before God could use us to love on others not only within our church but especially outside of it, and win people to Christ. And I firmly agree.

Bonhoeffer describes in the previous post's excerpts that Christian fellowship is fashioned by God and held together by the authority of the Word. But I also think there is equal value to apply his writings to community of any kind where we evangelicals are bound with those that (may or) may not be saved.

As I can hear at this moment in my mind Stratos reminding us in his sermon, were not the homeless and criminals and more, created in the image of God? Just like anyone, they are waiting for someone to come and be Jesus to them. To love on them, and show them Jesus, in us. That is how they will come to know and believe in Him.

Here is what Bonhoeffer said:

A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattererd, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

And the same is true for communities in the general manner. If we cannot bear the people who are markedly different than us, then how believable is it that Jesus does?

I've spent four and a half years being in community with a group of LDS people. Unfortunately, I have to report that when I began I was the kind of Christian who could not tolerate differences, as Bonhoeffer says I was one who brought "with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it." I had a specific way of reading and believing upon the scriptures and history which they would be best to adhere no matter how inconsequential the matter. I experienced great disillusionment as well, when despite all my careful efforts and explanations, no one ever chose to believe as I had taught was necessary. I was proud and one would think that I could not have made any friends.

But the exact opposite took place. They were patient, forgiving, caring, and always listening even if rarely budging. This really amazed me, and revolutionized my approach as I was convicted of how judgmental of them, of God, and therefore of myself I had been. I learned what community should be, what it is as God intended, what it is under grace, what it is as one of God's fellow children, from them. I experienced the very grace I preached, from those I imposed upon.

I do not know how it came that I was blessed to be caught up with them. I do know, though, that it is all to someone else's credit and not mine.

I am all the more strengthened in gladness of our gospel of grace. If they and I cannot bear the weaknesses in one another, how are we to believe that Jesus does??

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity."

Community

On Community with Christians
"
In Christian brotherhood everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning, first, that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality. Second, that Christian brotherhood is a spiritual and not a psychic reality.

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God's grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattererd, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. ... He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. ... So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. ... Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by the one Word and Deed which really binds us together -- the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.

...

The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door.

...

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity" -- this is the Scripture's praise of life together under the Word.
"

-- pp. 26-28, 38, 39

Friday, August 24, 2007

Critique of Human and Spiritual Love

In my opinion this book is very useful to understand how important purely Spiritual forces (as opposed to the desires of men) are the ones that make and keep fellowship within a congregation for its health. I do believe that there is a value and purpose for "human love" to operate within the church for the sake of its strength. Unfortunately I don't have a discourse to quote, just personal experience in order to back up my opinion....

--"The community of the Spirit is the fellowship of those who are called by Christ; human community of spirit is the fellowship of devout souls."
There was a good deal of wisdom in this concept, especially in light of the last blog entry I made on my personal preference to often be alone. Human community, in my case as in most any, is comprised of maximizing time around those whom one finds most approvable and ideal, and decreasing the opposite kind of company. But this is not how God wants us to live.

--"...in human community of spirit there grows the dark love of good and evil desire, eros."
It is important to pay attention that eros is composed of both bad and good desires.

--" In the former there is ordered, brotherly service, in the latter disordered desire for pleasure; in the former humble subjection to the brethren, in the latter humble yet haughty subjection of a brother to one's own desire. "
It could also be argued that there is a kind of eros, or desire, operating within the community of Spirit (agape), because as one believes and trusts in God's work in men, they become satisfied and comforted in those passions, confident they will be met by a God who is listening.

--"He has been overpowered, but not won over by the thing itself. Here is where the humanly converted person breaks down and thus makes it evident that his conversion was effected, not by the Holy Spirit, but by a man, and therefore has no stability."
This is a valuable insight for those times and persons who struggle to capture a real sense of identity and independence from values and regulations of peers.

--"...human love is by its very nature desire -- desire for human community. So long as it can satisfy this desire in some way, it will not give it up, even for the sake of truth, even for the sake of genuine love for others. But where it can no longer expect its desire to be fulfilled, there it stops short -- namely, in the face of an enemy. There it turns to hatred, contempt, and calumny."
This is not true if speaking of Christians, who know and are driven by both human motivations and Spiritual motivations. Human love and longing for "fusion" with another was part of God's design for us. God created man so to share His love with another. Jesus Christ, while a man, longed to be fulfilled with the closeness of those who loved him. "Father, why have you forsaken me?" "I have longed to share this passover with you." In these examples we see that Jesus did not pine just for fellowship from above but also from those on the earth. Therefore I would edit Bonhoeffer's statement to say: "human love is by its very nature desire -- desire for community (in general)." To think that it is ungodly, or unSpiritual, to find fulfillment in the face of another human being, is to deny the way that God made us, and the way that God has used the church to edify, uplift and satisfy the purpose for which we are created; in short, to live love.

--"Because Christ stands between me and others, I dare not desire direct fellowship with them. As only Christ can speak to me in such a way that I may be saved, so others, too, can be saved only by Christ himself. This means that I must release the other person from every attempt of mine to regulate, coerce, and dominate him with my love. The other person needs to retain his independence of me..."
I guess this perspective would find itself in many ways at odds with the concept of "lifestyle evangelism."

It is true to a point that, when we find fulfillment on earth with a kindred spirit and the experience of being close to such a person, the voice and presence and realness of God becomes lessened and less important to cultivate. So for those who are struggling with faith, perhaps this kind of earthly fulfillment is at odds with Spiritual growth.

However they are not always at odds. Can not an accountability partner also be admirable and desireable? I have a mentor who has been by my side for serveral years now, and while she attempts to regulate me when we are together she has not replaced or diminshed the realness of God but rather made my sensitivity to God's salvation stronger. Would not such a relationship be characterized roughly in the same way Bonhoeffer describes: "in the human community of spirit there rules, along with the Word, the man who is furnished with exceptional powers, experience, and magical, suggestive capacities"?

He is on target saying desire is what rules the human goal of community, and so what we seek and what we build can become sinful or imbalanced to deny the Spirit of God, to varying degrees. It is true that those whom I desire to be close to can become an end in itself. But as a Christian my testimony is this: the eros in me, the desires I have, do not always serve myself above others. I can say that where I admired someone I was also aware that true love called me, teaching me the corollary of God and His boundaries, which make the experience of loving a person more powerful and satisfying. Agape was born of eros. Yes, Christians are from time to time slow to obey God and, at times, make mistakes to desire human fellowship beyond what they ought. It is also true that we make the mistake of rejecting human fellowship more than we ought. But the point, as Julie and I have already discovered through an intense but brief discussion of the matter, is more importantly about learning to surrender. When we become aware that we have drifted too far off course of loving in Christ's way, a way that is letting the other person be free to believe God, we have a choice to keep on or to surrender and admit that it has turned off course. When we surrender we learn so many important things. We learn self-control from the LORD, we learn to hope the best in others, we learn more about God's grace. As Julie said, if it is all about surrender, then knowing and needing God's mercy every moment is the most pleasing way to live for God.

So, desires in themself are not bad. They are God-given that we might learn endurance through trials, to refine our faith, to transform us into His likeness.

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