Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Baby Story: Jennifer

For those who find these things too girly and not doctrinal enough, you'll want to go ahead and skip on by. Frankly, I find that each of my children are a monumental blessing from God (even in all their "phases" that are difficult for both them, and me), and so I very much enjoy writing about them.

My second oldest daughter turns 22 today, and her story is quite likely the most dramatic of all my children.

Just 21 myself, a young wife with a 3 year old at home, Jennifer came much sooner than she was supposed to. What I didn't know until I was about 6 months along, was that I had what they called placenta previa ( had never heard of it, prior to that day). A routine ultrasound spotted it, and the doctor was optimistic of the possibility of it correcting itself before the due date. I was due on Mother's Day that year, and couldn't think of a better day in the whole year, to have a baby.

Not long after the ultrasound detected the problem, the real problems began. Twice I suffered massive bleeding and early labor, and twice admitted to the hospital and put on medications to stop labor. It was too early for her to arrive. After I was released from the hospital the second time, I was put on strict bed-rest for 10 days. Have you ever tried to stay in bed when you have a 3 year old in the house? Especially a 3 year old who was described by my then father in law as a "child with a very scientific mind". That was his way of admitting that she loved to get into things, take them apart and see how they worked, and ask more questions than most adults ever consider asking. My oldest daughter, as a toddler, was like living with a panel of inquisitors that never rested. She was a joy and a delight and she also made me think, A LOT. (She still does).

My sister-in-law, who was only 14 years old (but homeschooled, so she had the freedom to do this) came and stayed with me during the day and helped out considerably. My bed was in the living room and she would make meals for all of us, and do the daily household chores. I taught her how to make nachos, and she really liked that.

After that second episode things went well almost until the due date. On April 29th I read in the local paper that my best friend had her baby the day before! I couldn't believe I was reading it in the paper and she didn't call me, so I called her at the hospital. There was no time for her to have called, and she was understandably quite groggy herself. During that telephone conversation, I went into labor myself. I knew it was labor, but for a few minutes I tried to convince myself it wasn't - not yet - I still had 2 more weeks to go. I told her I thought I was in labor, and she first called me a copycat, then we were both thrilled that our babies would be born just days apart. Sadly, we bothed moved away as they grew up, and they didn't grow up knowing each other, as we'd hoped.

Within the next few hours I was in a hospital bed, hooked up to every machine they have, and after having another ultrasound, received the horrifying news that the placenta previa was still an issue and I would have to have a c-section. I dreaded that more than anything I'd ever dreaded in my life. The doctor had me on medication overnight to slow my labor, and scheduled an emergency c-section for the morning. At the time, it was the most bittersweet night of my life. I knew I was about to meet my new little girl, but I was so afraid of the c-section I was going to have to go through, to get there.

The next day came and the surgery was done, and there she was! She was so tiny, and so perfect. I was heavily sedated and to this day I regret that I cannot remember much of the next 3 days. The pain of the surgery was so intense I had to be put on a morphine drip, and that wiped out all lucid thought I would have normally had. There was some confusion between her dad, myself and the nurses, and when the time came to write her name on the birth certificate form, I mistakenly wrote Jennifer, instead of Jessica, which we'd already decided on. None of us realized it until the form was already sent off to the state registry. So, instead of a Jessica (which would come 4 years later) we got a Jennifer first!

Me then, and Jennifer now, at the same ageI still can't believe it's been 22 years since that day. "Enjoy your children when they're little, because they grow up SO fast" echoes in my ears whenever I think about the fact that my second oldest girl is an adult now - with a child of her own.

(Please excuse the Eddie Van Halen Hair, it was the 80's... you know how those things go.)

Happy Birthday Jennifer!

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Stopping and Thinking Biblically

I honestly had no idea that this would come up again, but it has, both online and offline. What I refer to is the "Just Stop and Think" video by Francis Chan.

This might seem like ancient history's news in blog-time, but there are folks out there that are just now hearing about it, and asking questions, and/or promoting it. For that reason, I'm going to offer some resources from folks that did not and do not promote it, and give solid, Biblical reasons why. We as Christians have to be a lot more discerning and a lot more accurate when it comes to the gospel message. It's a message that matters, and the way it's presented matters a great deal.

Here are some thoughts, from myself and two others that show why there are serious doctrinal problems with this production:

My own post, from January 2007
• James White: part one, part two, and his webcast (this is addressed in the second half of the hour).
• Steve Camp: part one, and part two

I'm well aware that there are a lot of folks out there that really liked this video and thought it was a good production. All I can say to that, is that I respectfully but quite strongly disagree. I know there were many others (at the time) that also came out against this video for the exact same reasons I mention in my own post, James writes and addresses in his posts & webcast, and Steve wrote about in his posts.

I do want to make it clear that by posting this I'm not attempting to re-ignite any fires, or focus on the disagreements - but to focus on the why, of the disagreements. As I said, I believe the way the gospel message itself is presented matters a great deal. By that message you'll either come to a right and Biblical understanding of your own sin nature and the character of God, or you'll be misinformed and mislead on one or both counts. Charles Spurgeon once said

"It is a great thing to begin the Christian life by believing good solid doctrine. Some people have received twenty different "gospels" in as many years; how many more they will accept before they get to their journey's end, it would be difficult to predict. I thank God that He early taught me the gospel, and I have been so perfectly satisfied with it, that I do not want to know any other. Constant change of creed is sure loss." (source)

I couldn't agree more with that statement, and it's for that cause I post these resources today.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Postal Goodies

Look what came in the mail today!

A Tale of Two Sons

I guess if you're going to have your reading schedule interrupted, this is a great way to do it.


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Store Stuff: FREE shipping

Free Shipping for Mother's Day

*Free Economy or Standard shipping for purchases of $60 or more, excluding shipping charges and applicable sales tax. Delivery address must be within the United States. All orders will be Economy shipping unless the order is not eligible for Economy shipping (e.g., order exceeds Economy weight restrictions). Coupon code must be entered at check out. Promotion starts on April 29, at 12:00 a.m. (PST) and ends on May 1, 2008 at 11:59 p.m. (PST). Cannot be combined with any other offers, discounts or coupons and this offer may change, be modified or cancelled at anytime without notice.

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Christian Shoes?

Like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I have a spam folder for filtering the junk from the good stuff. Sometimes though, good stuff is mistakenly auto-filed into the spam folder so from time to time I open it and do a quick scan to see if something found it's way in there by accident. I did that today and one of the subject lines caught my attention:
"Carla, re: Christian shoes!"
We'll get to the shoes in a minute, but I wanted to point something about about "re". Normally, if there is a "re" in the subject line of an email, it dupes your brain into thinking along the lines of "oh, this must be something I've responded to before" and then compels you to open it. Spammers may be annoying, but they're definitely not stupid - they know what will get most people to open their junk. Pfft on junk. (And for the record, no I have never corresponded with anyone about Christian shoes, not that it really matters if I had.)

Now, about those shoes...

The subject line caught my eye but not enough to open the mail. Instead I decided to google "christian shoes". Sure enough, there are retailers out there who are selling Christian shoes. There's this one, which features a storefront ad with nice looking young people in Christian shoes (I'll confess right here, I actually like the pink ones - and I don't care who knows it). Then there's this one, with a more urban-street-punk sorta style to it - along with those really hideous trendy ballet/princess flat, thingies. Definitely not me, but I'm sure they sell well to someone. That last one also has Cobian sandals. I'm not exactly sure what makes them "Christian shoes" since they look exactly like the flip flops/thongs you can get at any WalMart/Target store, but there they are, all the same.

Christian shoes?I'll confess that at first I thought "oh come ON!" and dismissed the idea as just another scheme to profit from Christianity. But, I have to be fair and gracious and remind myself that hey, I design Christian t-shirts, mugs, wall art, and all kinds of other things, so where do I get off judging someone for designing or selling Christian shoes? Especially pink, converse-style Christian shoes, that I would actually wear (but definitely not for $50.00 bucks. I know many people easily pay that, but a $50.00 shoe is certainly not on the budget of this stay at home mom with 900 kids). At first, the idea seemed desperately tacky, but the more thought I gave it the more I wondered if I hadn't jumped the gun.
Sure, there is TONS of merchandise out there that quickly and easily falls into the "Jesus-Junk" category, but I'm not so sure shoes fit into that category. I mean... we all wear them anyway (they're practical, not frivilous dust-collectors), and we have no issue with wearing shoes with the high-end brand name prominently displayed on them - so why not wear cool shoes with a Christian logo or Bible verse or reference on them?

So, I wonder what you think. Would you buy them? Would you wear them? Are they in fact as tacky as I first thought? Just out of curiosity, what name or logo can folks see on your current pair of tennis shoes - and if you could spend the same amount of money on a shoe that had a Bible verse in place of that logo, which pair of shoes would you get?

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Book Review: Rainbow's End

I think I was about 11 years old when I really fell in love with reading. Prior to that, I loved to scour encyclopedias on rainy days, just because they were fascinatingly full of so much information (and pictures!). I had a school library card and loved library day, and checked out all sorts of books from non-fiction history to do-it-yourself type books that teach you how to draw, to joke books, and of course suspense fiction - geared to my age group (Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon rocked!) I even joined the school sponsored Dynamite Book Club and was so excited every time the book orders came in. I can't even remember all the books I bought that way, but for some reason the one that stands out to me was the 101 Pickle Jokes book. I loved that book and memorized all the best jokes, at the time.

It was 1974.
I was a kid.
They were funny!

Of all the genre of books I've ever read, the one genre that I have never touched, never had any interest in, and never had any plans to read, was romance fiction. It just held no interest for me, whatsoever. In fact, I've often heard horrible stories of marriages being damaged by the unrealistic ideas this genre of writing plants into the minds of impressionable wives. That alone was enough to keep me away from romance novels, even if I didn't find it interesting to begin with.

Rainbow's End by Irene Hannon And then, someone sent me a book and said "you should read this, it's very good". You guessed it, it was a romance fiction... but with a twist. The main characters in the story of Rainbow's End by Irene Hannon, are both Christians (although based on the way it's written, I'm not sure what sort of Christian "tradition" they're supposed to be from), both struggling through very realistic, and very traumatic life events. I'm pretty sure there are lots of us that would read the descriptions of the struggles these characters deal with and just nod our heads in affirmation - because we've been there, felt that, thought that, and know it well - even if our own personal circumstances were or are different from those in the story.

Being brand new to this genre, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I admit that I picked up the book with a lot of skepticism, and trying hard not to be judgemental about it before I ever read it. Much to my pleasant surprise, once I picked it up, it was very hard to put down. I started reading it last night and finished it this evening. At 240 pages, that was one of the easiest things I've ever read, and one of the most enjoyable fiction stories as well.

Aside from the encouraging story, one of the really surprising things I found at the end of the story, were 5 discussion questions that compelled the reader to think about or discuss. Each question was framed in a Christian worldview context, and that was quite nice to see. The questions will make the reader consider forgiveness, anger, bitterness, trust, how we deal with trauma, and a strong moral family or friendship support system.

It's funny, but if someone were to ask me a week ago what I thought of "Christian romance novels" I would have given them "the look" that basically says, 'you did not just ask me that'. I'm really glad I read this book though.

Thanks Mom, I did enjoy it very much. :-)

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Who Am I?

?Since the last one was so much fun, I figured it was time for a new one. I'll reveal the correct answer at the end of the day:

• Most men are not afraid of me, and many welcome me.
• Most women are horrified of me, and call me enemy.
• I almost never travel alone, contrary to how it may appear.
• Its my very nature to draw attention to myself.
• I meet a lot of people, but some will live their entire lives, and never know me.
• You can run from me in various ways, but I will still find you.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Various & Sundry Stuff

(the following blog post is somewhat of a partial-snark-dump, just fyi - no offense intended toward anyone who is particularly snark-sensitive)

On my desktop I have a notepad file that says "blog draft". This is where all my thoughts go in first-rough format, to save for later when I can work them out in full. Right now I have (apart from this one, which is being live-composed in this file) a couple of other posts only partially done, and several various & sundry post-ettes. Lately, there are some things going on in CarlaWorld that have left me somewhat distracted/scatterbrained/unable to focus on too much at once - so I have numerous things in mind that really don't warrant a full post of their own. So I'll let you in on some blog drafts that are pretty short. Maybe once I get rid of these I can make room for something more substantial.

Its Only Words

I saw an ad today online that just got all over my last nerve. The ad wanted you to click it to enter for a chance to "hang" with a pop tart celeb. w00t, hanging with pop tarts.

Now, lest I come across as a slang-snob, which of course I am not, I want to just say that some slang strikes me as so stupid, it's astounding that people who use it are not arrested. Back in the day (someone's day, I'm sure) the Bee Gees (whom I loved, along with John Denver, James Taylor, Chicago and Fleetwood Mac and make no apologies for it) had a song with a lyric that said "it's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away". Well, words are are all we have to really drive a point home in this world of electronic communication. But... some of the words we use are so... um... DUMB, that it's just embarassing, what we've done to the English language. Hang, for example. Short for "hang out with", meaning spend time with visiting. Apparently saying "spend time with, visiting" is far too complicated and/or uncool, so it turned into "hang out with" then degenerated into "hang". I can't begin to imagine just how dumb our slang will be 20 years from now. And for the record, I'm not immune to any of this, I use slang too and often catch myself and think "wow, I sound like a moron". Pfft & gack. See?

Now Tell Me Who Are YOU

If you write a book, are you a writer?
If you bake a cake, are you a baker?
If you race a car, are you a race car driver?
If you take photographs, are you a photographer?
If you lie, are you a liar?

Trick questions? You be the judge.

At the Time

Last week I was watching a rented dvd and saw a preview for a sequel to The Lost Boys. Yes, I liked the movie for several reasons. 1.) Kiefer (oh please, like EVERYONE didn't have a crush on him?? [except for Kim who can't stand him]) 2. The name of the city they lived in: Santa Carla and 3.) Kiefer. I could have done without "the two Coreys" but hey, it was 1987 and the 80's came standard with the two Coreys. Now since we've already backed this truck up here... this movie came out in the hey day of mullets, jheri curls & parachute pants, and everyone had them - from little kids to old men. Creepy? Sure, but so was Footloose with Kevin Bacon - but not at the time. While the 80s were a serious BAD TRIP even for those completely drug free, there were things going on at the time that a lot of us liked then, that we wouldn't support or endorse now.

From time to time I'll remember a movie I liked back then, or a song and I'm always tempted to say 'I loved that movie!" or whatever it was. Then I have to catch myself and say "at the time". I realize that if I were to watch the Lost Boys now, I'd probably have to turn it off - for various reasons, including poor Kiefer's mullet. Chalk this up to lessons in learning how to catch myself before I just endorse something from "at the time" that I might not exactly endorse now.

Subjective Snarkasm

Over at Frank's blog, he said this: "You can turn the snark setting down maybe one notch if you aren't a genius with the snark". He was referring to how to be a better blogger. Well, I know exactly what he meant by that, because I know folks that are just so good at snark that you hear them and think "hey, I wish I had thought of that" (then you make a t-shirt out of it) - and then at the same time - I know people who stink at snark, and you really wish they'd stop trying so hard. Here's the thing though: one man's snark is another man's "you're SO mean!" is another man's "grow up you juvenile deliquent". It's all so completely subjective, isn't it?

One person might get it and laugh, another person SO doesn't get it and gets paranoid you're talking about them (and makes a big deal of it, insisting on it, and laying on some kind of wacky guilt trip that even you begin to believe), and still another person looks down his or her indignant, superior nose at you as if you've just walked into the room with TP stuck on your shoe (and I didn't mean TeamPyro). So... what do you do?

Simple, you be yourself. Blog the way you blog, and don't worry too much about it. If you love the Lord, and you're a Christian who happens to blog, your readers will know it. The paranoid & indignant will eventually get tired of you and go away. It all works out pretty well, sooner or later.

Christian Bloggers - The Sequel

Over at the Band of Bloggers site, Timmy Brister says he wants to create a Christian blogger directory - to encourage accountability and exhort fellow Christian bloggers. Now, it's entirely possible I'm just slow, or have a lack of vision, or something, but I really don't get it. It seems to me like it's a reinvention of the wheel, since virtually every Christian blogger already does this. Reinventions are not always bad, so maybe there's some good in this afterall. Or maybe... not? Who knows, you can go read it for yourself.

It doesn't escape me that I wrote a book called Guarding the Trust, and Timmy's vision is "This gospel trust is something that should be cared for on the horizontal plane through reciprocating and responsible relationships as well". I don't disagree with him at all on this point, I just question the wisdom of having a "directory" where some are listed, and some are not. I see potential issues of "status" and "non-status" that don't currently exist the way we each have our own accountability measures in place (spouses, pastors, close friends, etc.) on our own blogs. In other words, if Joe Blogger is listed in this Gospel Trust directory and Bob Blogger isn't, because he doesn't see a need for it on the larger scale, will Bob be seen as a less than dedicated Christian blogger, for it? The answer is: YES, he will, and we all know it. It's just the way people think, whether good or bad. Joe Blogger will have a perceived "you're in" stamp of approval that someone else not listed, will not have. That issue does not currently exist the way individual blogs are set up, and this is a very good thing, because honestly, I think we're too divided as it is. (If anyone starts singing Kumbaya or requests a group hug, I'll have to ban you forever).

I am prepared to admit I could be completely wrong about this and that I'm willing to be corrected. In fact, I hope I am wrong, it would be better.

Well, that's about it for my half-baked thoughts. I do have a new "Who Am I?" riddle ready for Monday morning, so put on your thinking caps and get ready for that. It'll be fun, and you get to use your sanctified imagination.

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Forward Funnies

This came in an email last night. I had to re-word a little, but it's still pretty good. Most bloggers can relate, even those who deny it.


Last night, my friend and I were sitting in the living room and I said to her, 'I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from an outside source. If that ever happens, just pull the plug.'

She got up, unplugged the computer, and threw out my coffee.

Ah... friends.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chainlink Speedwobble Oblivion

I was 8 years old and my best friend Terry was 9. We had this thing we did with her bike, called "I pedal/You Steer". A rather complicated procedure facilitated only by the fact that a.) her bike had a cool banana seat and mine didn't and b.) we were rather inventive. I'd sit on the back of the banana seat and pedal, and she'd sit on the front of the seat and... you guessed it, steer. I really don't know what made this more fun than just riding our own bikes independantly, but we enjoyed it quite a bit.

One day we decided to do this on the hilly sidewalk next to the grade school we went to, just a few blocks from our houses. We launched from the top of the hill and about halfway down the block, things started to get a little... wonky. As we picked up speed, Terry began to lose control of the handlebars. Being behind her on the seat, I didn't realize it (and didn't put the pedal brakes on) until it was too late. The combination of the influence of speed, gravity, balance and a little panic for good measure, sent Terry and I straight into a chain link fence. We hit the fence so hard it sort of scraped us both off the bike and left us on the ground with some pretty painful injuries. I still have a scar to this day, from that day Terry and I wiped out into Chainlink Speedwobble Oblivion. That day pretty much marked the end of our "I pedal/You Steer" careers.

I thought about this childhood memory just recently when it occured to me just how fast, and how easy it is to sustain spiritual speedwobble - and how it happens when the same kinds of dynamics are in place.

Even though Terry and I were pretty good at this little trick we did, there were influences at play that we couldn't handle (and didn't see coming, or didn't take into account), and we suffered as a result. Spiritual speedwobble really isn't any different, even for the mature believer.

We all know we live in a sin-satuarated world. It's so prevelant it's even in our own homes, via the tv, dvds, cds, radio, internet, and even the very attitudes we wake up with or come home with, every day. The more people you have in your home, the more conduits sin has, to be at work in your house. Right now, there are 8 people (plus 4 dogs - 2 sane and 2 nowhere near sane) living in my house. Some are believers, some are not, some I just honestly don't know yet. When you add personality, maturity, spiritual condition, attitudes, and issues of authority to the mix, there are just lots and lots of opportunities for sinful reactions and attitudes to be rather influential in my own house, if we don't head them off at the pass, nip them in the bud, and be on the lookout for them before they ever take root. It's a full time job, no question about it.

In our house, most people who know us would say that it feels hectic here all the time. I suppose that's a normal impression for those that are not accustomed to being around lots of people all day, every day. For us, hectic is actually normal. (As normal as it is to hear someone in our house say "for meeeeeeeeee" the way Gollum said it in LOTR, or to hear any of the kids speak with a British accent and recite lines from the scene when Lucy first met the fawn, in Narnia). If everyone were quiet we'd be worried something was wrong. Personally, I'd love it if everyone were more quiet, but even then I'd still worry something was wrong. While it's not truly hectic - to the point of lack of peace - on a regular basis in my home, just like any other family, we have those times too. I find one of the fastest ways in our house to sustain a spiritual derailing, is during those times of personality conflict or attitude issues. I see it in the kids (small scale) all the time when one wants something the other one has. Or one of them said something unkind, or one of them took something that belonged to the other one. All it really takes to get the derailing started, is one person saying or doing something that offended or insulted the other one, and rather react with grace, they react with anger/pride/offense/jealousy, and off they go straight into the proverbial chainlink fence. While it's far more common among children and teenagers (and teenagers are a completely different category anyway) it's certainly something that as an adult, I still find happening to me at times.

Sometimes, I just don't see the handlebars shaking, and I don't notice (in time) that I've left the pavement and I'm headed into the fence. Sometimes, I don't even realize it until a split second before I hit the fence myself, and by then of course it's too late. A flared temper, a word spoken without grace, or maybe just a flash of attitude that wasn't accompanied by any words at all. I really hate it that this happens. I really hate it that I know what the influences are, that I'm constantly on guard against them, and they still find a way in. Thankfully, these speedwobbles don't leave me bloddy and bruised like the one when I was 8 years old, and thankfully they happen with much less frequency the older I get, but they sure do still happen from time to time, even when I thought my eyes were wide open.

One of the most interesting things about this for me, is that the conviction of the Holy Spirit in times like this, feels in some ways, like that Bactine spray mom used to use on me, to clean up the wound and prevent it from getting worse. Man o MAN that stuff hurt almost as bad as the wound itself, but it was a different hurt, and a needed one, to aid in healing and recovery. I hope it's not seen as irreverant to parallel the work of the Holy Spirit with the sting of Bactine spray, but I'm sure glad that He does the work He does, even when it stings.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

123 Days

In the spring of 1995 I was given 123 days to begin to learn something very important. I didn't know it would be 123 days at the time, but thats what it ended up being.

Extremely short background: I was married to my highschool sweetheart, on Valentine's Day, when I was 20. On our fifth anniversary he was diagnosed with terminal cancer (malignant melanoma) and given 8 weeks to live. Through a series of clinical trials, surgeries, chemo, radiation, remission, re-occurance, etc., that 8 weeks turned into almost five years before he passed from this life to the next. I was 30, he was 32 and we had three little girls when it finally happened. The Lord's timetable for his passing was nearly five long years of intense suffering for all of us, but also intense joy when we were both converted to Christ a year before he passed away. I learned a lot in that time, but what was coming the final chapter of this event, was far more critical than anything before it.

In the spring of 1995, on April 14th to be exact, he had a regular weekly exam after chemo. In a nutshell, his oncologist told him that the chemo was no longer working. The tumors he had were growing instead of shrinking (which included a brain tumor that was causing changes in him both mental and physical), and all the chemo (and related medications) was doing was making him miserable, not helping in any way. Faced with the decision to either continue chemo that wasn't working, or go on a pain control routine only and wait for the inevitable, he chose the pain control route. We all knew it would eventually come to this, and April 14th was that day. His doctor told him on that day, that he likely had 4-6 months left, at best. The doctor later translated that prognosis for me and explained that the 4 months was the most realistic time frame, and the 6 months was the most optimistic. I remember thinking that I had at best, only 4 months to not only say goodbye to him, but say it right, be strong for the girls, be a good example, and handle it all with grace. I did not have any kind of realistic idea, of what was coming next. I couldn't have, as I had no first-hand experience with anything so monumentally traumatic.

On April 14, 1995, the 123 days of learning began.

I began to learn just how finite and delicate, human beings really are. We all know this, but when the end of a life is staring you straight in the eye, you begin to know it in a brand new way. Especially when that life is one that you are connected to so deeply that the idea of losing them, means losing a part of yourself too. When the finality of all of this hits you, it opens your eyes in a way that might surprise you.

I began to learn that while God can, that doesn't always mean that God will. During that time I had a lot of well-meaning people say a lot of well-meaning things, that really didn't help, but only confused me. Folks wanted me to be hopeful and be encouraged, and in doing that they wanted me to focus solely on God's grace. For stronger Christians that might be possible I thought, but for me it wasn't possible for longer than moments at a time. More than anything it left me confused and doubting my own faith. There is an emotional pain that people can feel so deep down, that infiltrates through our entire being and even blinking or breathing can become almost too much. (This might sound very melodramatic, but I assure you, those who have experienced this kind of pain know exactly what I refer to. It's very real and it's very much out of your control). While God is certainly able to bring you through that, it doesn't always mean that He's going to spare you from feeling that kind of pain, as He brings you through it.

I began to learn what it means to let go of things you cannot control. This is one of the hardest things of all. A person could easily drive themselves nutty by asking rhetorical questions that there are no available answers to. Life events that are desperately difficult don't come with an answer sheet to help you understand them. Sometimes you just have to let the hardest questions go unanswered and find your comfort in the fact that God knows exactly what you're going through and according to Scripture will not give you more than you can bear. (1Cor.10:13)

I began to learn that real Christians can have their faith shaken to the core. Prior to this time in my life I believed (and I'm honestly not sure why) that Christians just sail through life with this sort of attitude that nothing really matters because of the incredible life to come. I began to learn in those 123 days that nothing could be further from the truth. Even when we're dealing with circumstances of life that we want to run as far away from as we can, those circumstances can be so painful that we might privately wonder if the Lord has forgotten us, if we're really His at all, or why it all feels like it's going to suck the life right out of us.

I began to learn what I'm really made of. While there were definitely some days that I walked by faith and not by sight, there were also days that I was so broken I couldn't even walk at all. Scripture says that in our weakness His strength is made perfect. I never understood that until I was so weak I couldn't even do simple things like brushing my teeth or making dinner, without breaking down and crying so hard that I would begin to feel faint.

I began to learn that it's not only okay to break down sometimes, but it's needed. Being super-parent that has it all together may play well in the movies, but in real life it's a sham. Quite unintentionally one day when I left the grocery store and headed home, I took the long way. I stopped at the park I grew up playing in, because for me that park represented days of joy and days of innocence. I parked the van at the water and watched the boats sail through the narrows, and the seagulls on the beach. The contrast of my childhood at that park and the current events of my life was so overwhelming I just began to cry in a way I could never do at home (and upset the kids). That spot in that parking lot became my crying place. I'd often stop there, usually for just a few minutes and collect my thoughts, or cry, or pray, before going home. It was the only place I could go and let things out like that, and I needed it.

I began to learn just how resilient people really are. Maybe it's a built in default button God built into His people, I really don't know for sure. I recall many times being in the very middle of the worst kind of pain, and hearing myself laugh at something funny, or smile at something lovely. Where did that come from? I was never sure, but always thankful for a moment of joy.

I began to learn to try and see God's orchestration in life's events. Someone much smarter than me suggested I try this, and try to focus on the ways in which it was obvious God had orchestrated events in my life that taught me something valuable. It was suggested that I try and look for those important lessons in and during the trials, instead of waiting to look back at them. It was one of the smartest pieces of advice I have ever been given, and during that time, helped in incredible ways. I still do this today, and I'm much quicker to assess the situation and apply this, than I've ever been before.

• I began to understand what "God is sovereign" really means.
• I began to understand really awful things happen to folks because we live in a world filled with sin. It would affect us even if we lived alone on a desserted island - because it's in us as much as it is around us.
• I began to learn how to explain important things to kids, that I never wanted to explain to anyone.

I say that the 123 days of learning began, because they didn't stop after 123 days. That was the time frame I had to have a crash course in these things before the doctor's prognosis was fulfilled, but the hardest lessons I ever began to understand in life, came in those 123 days. (I'm sure there were more things I began to learn, but those were the ones that still come to mind.) Four months and one day later, the prognosis came to pass and Ben quietly slipped from this life into eternity with our Lord. Four months and two days after that prognosis was given, life continued on for me and I knew that regardless of what just transpired, I still had living to do, somehow.

All this came to mind recently after a series of events in my own life and in the lives of others I care about. It's also spring, and this was the time of year that these hard life lessons came about for me, and it's usually hard to shake remembering that time.

A lot of living has been done since those days, and sometimes it's hard to believe it's been 13 years ago already. Part of the reason it often feels hard to believe is because of how much I still need to really understand those things I only began to learn, back then. Again and again the Lord has seen fit to bring about situations that cause me to "default" back to one or more of those lessons, and again and again it's a great big hit-or-miss with me.

I have so far to go, and I'm just so thankful that He is so faithful to see that I get there. Even when it hurts.

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Don't Waste Your Mid-Life Crisis

I think I'm having a midlife crisis. Well, maybe 'crisis' isn't the best word for it. Maybe midlife conundrum would be a better word? I'll go with conundrum, it's a fun word to use any way.

Over the last few months (and this may simply be attributed to cabin fever and wandering from room to room like a caged animal waiting for spring to arrive) I've read some things, heard some things, and thought about some things that have left me in a sort of quandry. At 43 I qualify for being in "mid-life", assuming I'll make it to the "life expectancy" age of over 80, for north American women. Then again, if I get hit by a bus tomorrow (not a lot of those coming down our country roads, but it could happen) or contract ebola next year, my mid-life was 20 years ago and I'm in a conundrum for nothing. I certainly don't want to waste a good conundrum, so I'll explain. Maybe you'll recognize some of these symptoms too?

• In sorting through my clothes to put away heavy winter sweaters, I noticed I have more t-shirts than I have any business owning. I didn't count them, but if I had to guess at the number I kept and the number I put in the Goodwill bag to drop off this week, I'd guess it was roughly 15 in the keep pile, and 20-25 in the Goodwill bag. I love t-shirts, and I suppose I'll always own them, but it occured to me that in general t-shirts are what young people wear and I'm not a young people. It certainly doesn't escape me that HELLO I'm in the business of t-shirt design, but more and more I notice that women my age just don't go around 7 days a week wearing t-shirts.

• I've noticed that in dealing with one on one relationships I'm a lot more honest about my limitations and expectations than I used to be - but I still have a hard time putting into practice some of those things I know to be beneficial. For example (any men readers will find this too girly so you can skip this example if you like), I know at 43 that at certain times of the month I'm going to be far more emotional and reactionary to things, than at other times of the month. I know this, and understand it, but at the same time often have a rough time keeping all that in check. I wouldn't even have admitted this at 20.

• While my brain wants to play baseball & badminton, go swimming and bike riding, my body keeps shouting at me "sit down fatty, those days are over". At 43, my body isn't supposed to be ordering me around like that, or having hip pains, or backaches or stuff that I thought I was going to be able to avoid until 60. I think I just assumed 60 was the magical age where it all falls apart and you start wearing more polyester and support hose. I'm not sure what I thought really, but I keep finding myself flustered that at 43, I'm beginning to understand what falling apart feels like. I'm fairly convinced I dislike it, a lot.

• On a far more serious note, I find myself truly desiring to be the older woman in Titus 2:3. I don't want to struggle through the things younger women struggle through. I want those things to be settled and desire the wisdom and sharp discernment that older women have. I want to not only be able to give sound advice to younger women, but I want to be available to do that, and to be used in that way. At 43, I've been a mom for 25 years and I feel like I should have a lot more wisdom than I do. Too often I feel like I'm still struggling through the same things younger moms struggle through, and then at other times I know I handle things in a much different way than I did 20 years ago. I'm not quite "there" yet on the older woman/Titus 2 scale, but I definitely want to be.

Truth be told, I have no idea how long I'll live, but my own mortality has been something that has given me pause for thought quite a bit in the last few months. James tells us that our lives here are but a vapor (James 4:14), and the older we all get I think the more we understand that. Its what we do with this life that matters, and the older we get I think we understand that a little better too. In talking with a friend recently the idea that everyone desires 15 minutes of fame was mentioned. I'll take 15 10 5 minutes of worthwhile, life-changing contributions made, over 15 minutes of fame, any day. I would much rather leave this planet some day knowing that what I did while here made a good and lasting difference in the lives of the people closest to me.

So, there's my mid-life conundrum. I'm not going to go out and buy a convertible or get an eye lift, or do any of those extreme things that trick you into thinking you're young again. I have however, determined to begin to spend much more time being physically active and mentally invested in the relationships that matter most to me. Not that I've neglected those relationships, but there's always more to invest, and ways to improve on such things.

It's not really so bad at all to have a mid-life crisis/conundrum/quandry, if you use it for good!

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Movie Review: August Rush

Last night we had our bi-monthly movie/pizza night, and one of the movies we rented was August Rush. This is not your typical movie, and I'm sort of split on the content, for various reasons - but the story touched me in a way no movie ever has before. This is not your typical movie review, but I'm going to review it anyway - so if you haven't yet seen it, I hope this doesn't spoil it for you.

August RushThe plot of the movie is your basic "child in a an orphanage who believes his parents will someday come for him". Not an unheard of theme for a motion picture, but there's a bit of a twist to this one. He is the child of two talented musicians and the boy himself has an unnatural ability to hear music in everything around him. Windchimes, car engines, the wind blowing through trees, etc.

Early in the movie we discover that the child was conceived as a result of a basic one night stand, then his parents were seperated (not by their choice). That was the part that bugged me, but that's because I'm a Christian and glossing over things like, as if they're normal and acceptable - well that bothers me.

Anyway - mom is a Juliard trained cellist while dad is a talented guitarist/singer in your basic "really good" garage band that just hasn't been discovered yet. The boy is born, placed in the orphanage and 11 years later feels its time to set out to find his parents, and has some NYC adventures on the way. Monumentally tame adventures compared to what would really happen to a kid alone in NYC, but that's okay. I'll leave it there and let you watch it yourself (if you haven't already) to see how it all works out.

The way this movie was written, it was as if someone with amazing recall tapped into the memory of childhood. Not just any childhood either, but the childhood of those kids who really can hear music in everyday things (yes, we do exist). We were the kids who hummed along with the vaccuum cleaner, or hummed into a table fan, to try and match pitch and notes. We were the kids who heard a train and immediately copied the beat of the metal on metal sounds the train wheels made going down the tracks. We were the kids who made up songs on the spot, and tried to learn various different musical instruments. We were the weird kids that can still remember hearing the sound of our own heartbeat and finding it soothing, somehow. Some kids (very few, actually) like this are naturally gifted by God to be able to duplicate and create music as well, where others (like me) can't actually play anything but still hear the music. As adults, we hear certain notes in particular songs that reach so deep down it's almost disturbing, and we hear certain instruments (for me it's the acoustic guitar) that somehow connect on a level unexplainable by simple words.

Without question, there is something just incredibly powerful about music that touches certain people in a deeper way than it touches other people. When God was not central in my life. music was. Radio on first thing in the morning, while making breakfast, and it sung me to sleep at night. It was common to find me on the floor with headphones on, listening to one of my albums for hours, over and over as a teenager. I knew every word, every beat, every high note and low note, to every song on every album I owned. To this day, when a song comes on the radio from that era, I am instantly transported back to those days of (relative) innocence, and even if it's been 20 years since I've heard the song, it's as if I sung along with it just yesterday.

Okay enough about my musical memory lane. Somewhow, the character of the boy in this movie was written in a way that tapped on my shoulder and said "do you remember this?" I loved it. Not only did I relate to the little boy, I somewhat related to the dad's garage band days, since for a time that was a part of my life too (although I must confess, that part did make me a tad but uncomfortable since that was a part of my unsaved life - so I'm glad they didn't really dwell on that aspect too much). Overall, it was written in a somewhat fairytale way - in that the whole thing was just too good to be true, but that's allright. Sometimes you need a movie like that for no other reason than to smile at the end, and be really glad you rented it.

I did, and I was. I'm going to recommend it for fellow-"I hear music"-adults, who also remember what that feels like (or maybe have forgotten...)

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You've Got a Friend

Once upon a time I used a voice/text chat program for several years. As with any online type of community, you meet up with folks you have plenty common with, folks you get along with well, just as you'll meet folks you don't get on with so well. This online chat community was no different, and there were some folks there that I didn't get on with so well. Most of the time they stayed out of my room and I stayed out of theirs, but we did run into each other at times.

One day, while I had my headset & mic on, one of the kids was fussing at one of the other kids and said "shut up". Without turning my mic off I turned around in my chair and said "shut up... what kind of way is that to talk to someone??" Well, the folks in the chat room only heard me, they didn't hear the first part of that conversation and it sounded like what I was doing was telling one of my kids to shut up, with an angry tone. Of course I was embarassed when I realized what that sounded like, but the folks that "knew" me understood completely when I explained it. One person there wasn't interested in hearing the full story and made it her business to go around telling folks she heard me yell at my kids and tell them to shut up so that I could chat (nice lady, that one). That made things a little tense on the voice chat program, and was eventually one of the reasons I finally left there. It was that sort of catty, gossippy, backbiting thing that I just got tired of, and decided to remove it from my life. I don't even watch daytime tv, I certainly don't need that sort of petty drama in my life to worry about.

The reason I share that story, is because of something I read at *blue's blog the other day. He was responding to something Abraham Piper wrote not too long ago, encouraging pastors to blog so that their congregations can get to "know" them better. He thought that came across as somewhat odd, and wondered if anyone else did too.

Having been part of the internet community for 14 years now, I agree completely that such an idea is in fact not only odd, but seriously misleading. I really liked what he said in response to my comment, because it's really the way it is:

"From the Internet, how many people know of my struggles with being a good father and a loving husband? Only those with whom I have decided to share it. But when you visit me, and one of my kids comes up and interrupts me when I’m talking to you, and I respond with a growl… I can’t edit that out."

Now I'm going to be really transparent here. There have been times that I actually have said "shut up" to my kids. I'm not proud of it, but it's one of those things that did fly out of my mouth in a moment of absolute exasperration. I didn't do it that day the folks in chat heard me (I was just repeating what one of the kids had just said), but it has happened. As a blogger though, you would never know that about me unless I allowed you to know it. As a blogger, you only know as much about me as I let you know, by what I chose to put up here.

online realityLike I said in my response to blue at his blog, to really know a person you need to be able to be around them on a regular basis. This is not to say that you can't get to know someone online, because we've all likely formed some pretty terrific friendships with folks online - but it is to say that you don't really know them the way you would, if you were physically around them on a regular basis. You never see how they react or respond when they get mad, or when they're sick, or when they've been offended. You're not there when they cry, or to see them laugh, to hold their hand when they're just received devastating news, or hug them when something fantastic just happened. While you can form long-distance friendships and have some wonderful fellowship with folks online, there is a limit to that relationship and part of the limit is just how much they let you in - or how much you let them in. The other part of that limit is the fact that we're all hundreds or thousands of miles apart and are not a present part of each other's every day lives.

Somehow, this has apparently gone right over the heads of so many online users who honestly believe their 1,493 "friends" on social networking sites are people they "know". "Oh, yeah I know him, his name is saucerhead, his blog is about chicken bone jewelry, great guy!" Um.. okay. This is not knowing someone, this is not a friend who sticks closer than a brother, this is knowing surface information about someone. Truth be told, you could walk right past this person in a crowd and you'd never know them at all.

The part of this that bothers me personally, is that "friend" is (or already has been?) redefined to simply mean some stranger that has a familiar screen name. I'd even go so far as to say that "friendship" means nothing more (for many people) than having a boatload of email addresses they can send things to. This bothers me as a mom because my kids are growing up in this electronic culture and I want to be sure they know what the difference is between a real friend, and someone they met online. I want them to understand the important value of genuine friendship, and how to to nurture those relationships - rather than just collect names and profiles and assume everyone they "know" is a friend.

I have a couple of real-life friends (isn't that funny that we have to clarify this way?) that I first met online. I've known them for several years and we've spent oodles of time genuinely getting to know each other (and each other's families) either over the phone, instant messaging over morning coffee, or in person. We've seen each other laugh, we've heard each other cry, we've been able to give hugs when needed, and we've eaten each others baked goodies. I've seen their expressions when their kids tick them off, and they've seen mine. They know things about me that I'd never write on this blog, and I know the same kinds of things about them, that the "public" would never know. The thing is, we know the person behind the blog or email address, not just the blogger, chatter or "internet friend". There's a vital difference there, that I think we too easily overlook, in favor of just calling everyone "friend".

The funny thing is, this all came to mind when Abraham Piper suggested that pastors should blog so that their congregations can get to know them better. For me, the question that comes to mind is what ever happened to old fashioned conversations, face to face? No one can convinclingly tell me that we are all SO busy that we don't have time to sit & chat for 30 minutes, over a cup of coffee. In the blogging community we can't always do that since most of us don't live close enough to one another, but we sure do live close enough to our pastors. I've had lunch with my pastor, he's been in my home, and we've had some great talks at church and over the phone too. I don't need him to blog, I can (and have) get to know him in person, because we're in the same church! I know there are folks that will argue the impossibility of such a thing for busy pastors of monumentally large churches. To that I can only suggest that if a pastor is so swamped that he cannot take the time to get to know his own congregation, and let them get to know him, then something is really out of place there.

Maybe it's just me, but sometimes it feels like electronic communication is replacing face to face fellowship, friendships, and relationships. There is something so very wrong with this, and I only hope we all keep it "in check" so that we don't isolate ourselves and forget how to foster one on one relationships with folks. Or worse, never learn how to do it in the first place.

*Yes, I do know blue's real name, - and Mrs. blue too, for that matter, but blue is what he goes by online, so blue it is. :-)

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday BlogFodder: April 18, 2008

It's been a while since I've done a Friday BlogFodder, so I figured it was a good time for that. So here we go...

Eddie in a cool shirt My friend, Pastor Eddie Exposito (who doubles as a male model for Reflections Apparel and Giftware, when he's not ministering the gospel, homeschooling with his dear wife Michelle, and/or eatin' gator stew in the swamp) has a great post this week on how we can effectively use music appreciation as a teaching tool.

You really oughta read this one, I think a lot of us older Christians will be able to identify with Eddie on this.

fortified will 12 essential vitamins and minerals, for a healthy coat Fellow #prosapologian channel rat bluewoad linked me here this week, to this fun geography games site.

Like any responsible net user, I immediately became hooked, registered and have made numerous attempt to beat my best score. For the record, I'm good, but I'm slow - so don't expect to see my name in the high scores any time soon.

Another friend, James posted something that you might actually not want to read, but should anyway. Sometimes it's just so much easier to ignore this wickedness in the world we live in - but ignorance doesn't get you very far. I've also received some email on this one as well - maybe you have too?

jellybean fun You like jellybeans? Me too, and you can see mine at youtube, if you were so inclined.

Really, with a face like that, and those shoes... what's NOT to love??

If you haven't downloaded them and begun listening yet, you should. I'm referring to the audio files from the Together for the Gospel conference.

You will be blessed as you listen to these brothers minister the word. Steve has a good post on this, complete with brief intros on each session. You can go there and grab them all.

Pulpit Magazine has some really good posts for parents this week that you just don't want to miss. Ways Parents Provoke, Proverbs and Parenting, Evangelizing Your Children (Part 1), Evangelizing Your Children (Part 2) just to get you started. I might add, Proverbs and Parenting is a great little list that will benefit parents as well as children.

I know there were some other things I wanted to add on this list, but I can't recall what they were just now. This should keep you busy though :-)

As for me, I'm tickled pink to see a forecast of 75 & sunny today, then 75 and sunny tomorrow. YES, I will be out there enjoying this new season.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Just for flakes :-)

I found something kinda cool this week. It's called pageflakes, and you can create your page pretty much however you like, with all kinds of widgets - and NO need for html coding knowledge, at all. I made one here to showcase Mother's Day goodies at my store. I suppose you can use them for all sorts of things, but the coolest thing is, it took seconds to build that, instead of hours of meticulous coding. I really like that.

The widgets they have are useful things like weather, news, sports, etc., plus you can list your blog rss feeds, bookmarks and more. I haven't fully explored it yet, but was fun playing around with it so far.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Leadership Network - you be the judge

A friend asked me last night what I knew about Leadership Network, and if they were good or bad. I knew the name sounded familiar, but to be honest, there are so many networks, organizations, movements, denominations and associations, that it's just not possible for me to keep track of them all - nor do I have any desire to keep track of most of them. Obviously though, I knew more about LN than I even remembered knowing, and it all sort of came bubbling back to the surface of my memory banks, the more I looked into LN's resources at their site.

The reason I knew about them, was because of their launching what became known as the Emerging church Movement, or ECM. In 2004/05 when I did most of my research in all this, that was made clear from the beginning. Directly from Emergent Village:
"Emergent Village began as a group of friends who gathered under the auspices and generosity of Leadership Network in the late 1990s. We began meeting because many of us were disillusioned and disenfranchised by the conventional ecclesial institutions of the late 20th century. The more we met, the more we discovered that we held many of the same dreams for our lives, and for how our lives intersected with our growing understandings of the Kingdom of God." - source
Dan Kimball goes into a bit more detail on how LN was pivotal in the beginning of the ECM:

"For the term "emergent" as we use it today about church was first used formally on June 21, 2001 when Tony Jones, Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt met and had a conference call with some others to come up with a name for a new network they were starting. The reason they were starting "Emergent" was because Leadership Network had orginally formed a theological working group as part of their Young Leaders Network. In this original group with Leadership Network, some key people were Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Chris Seay, Mark Driscoll and Doug Pagitt (and several others). I wasn't in this group, but I was involved in some of the practitioner events and ministry focused events with the Young Leaders Network." - source
In my brief refresher course last night on LN, one of the links that caught my eye was the "New Church Conference". Their speaker line up for this year, here is one that I would strongly encourage you to note, and to read the bios of each of these speakers, in case you're not familiar with them. Some names I'm sure you'll recognize right away (such as Tim Keller, Darrin Patrick, Sally Morgenthaler, Andy Stanley and Rick Warren), where others may be unfamiliar to you, so please do read their bios - what their visions are, what they specialize in, and what their goals are. It will be enlightening, to say the least. Most of these names are familiar to me, only because of the prior research I've done on the ECM.

I have said many times and I believe it bears repeating, that you'll get a much better overview of a person's or an organization's position by reading who they're affiliated with, than whatever it is they say about themselves. Anyone can put up a nicely packaged statement of faith or mission statement to make them sound reasonable and orthodox - but it's who folks affiliate with, associate with, promote and endorse, that really speaks for where they are, and where they're going.

To get an even better idea of what Leadership Network is promoting, take a look here, at the books they're promoting and want you to buy. Along with Brian McLaren, they're promoting many of the same authors that will come up anytime you'd do any amount of research into the who's who of the emerging/missional/transformational/incarnational/culturally relevant church movement. They may not use the word "emerging" as much these days as they did a few years ago, but the agenda has not changed with LN.

I debated with myself a bit on whether to include this, but the fact of the matter is, there is another aspect of LN than you wont be able to avoid if you do any amount of research - and I've already mentioned his name above, in the quote from Dan Kimball.

Mark Driscoll's name is mentioned in Kimball's 2006 post that details a bit of the history of the ECM and it's connection to LN. I already knew this, it's actually old news to me and probably old news to many others as well that know of his connections in the early days of the ECM. What I do find interesting however, is the fact that Driscoll has tried to position himself as "distanced" himself from the more "liberal" theological positions held among many in the ECM. He had this to say in 2007:
"I became a part of a speaking team that included some men I continue to love like Chris Seay, Doug Paggitt, Tony Jones and Brian McLaren. This movement grew even though we were diverse theologically. I bailed out when they started the Emergent Village because I didn't want to be a fly in their ointment due to our strong theological disagreements. I still have a foot in that world because I started in the early stream." source

Again and again folks will come to the defense of Mark Driscoll by saying "but he's distanced himself from the ECM and all that liberal, wacked out theology!" (or words to that affect). Well, here's where it might get a little interesting. The above quote from Driscoll was from an interview he did with Ed Stetzer, for a pre-conference podcast of the "National New Church" (the same New Church Conference I mentioned above) conference, last year. You can access that audio interview here.

What I find interesting, is that LN (the same organization that launched the ECM, and is still promoting McLaren and his ilk, via their books and conferences) is also behind the one Mars Hill Church (pastored by Mark Driscoll) just hosted for 2 days. LN is also pleased to feature Mars Hill Church in Seattle as one of their "success stories" noted here.

Curious then, is how many people will jump to Driscoll's defense and claim he's distanced himself from the more "emerging", liberal theology with this trend in evangelicalism, and yet the connections to LN are right there in black and white, as current as yesterday's conference. If you've listened to the podcast noted above, you'll know that Driscoll admits that he's still very good friends with the Leadership Network folks. How that's being distanced from this, is a major disconnect for me. I don't want to use the guilt by association application here, this simply is what it is.

So then, back to the question my friend asked me about Leadership Network - are they good, or bad? You be the judge on that one as it pertains to you, but I will unapologetically say I would certainly never recommend them, for any reason other than to find out who at least one of the organizations is that is so radically and actively still promoting the emerging/missional/contemplative/transformational/incarnational/relational/culturally relevant brand of mega-church growth/planting movement, just as they were in the earlier days of the ECM. The labels seem to shift around from here to there, but the agenda clearly has not changed one bit, and oddly enough, many of the same names connected to all this are still there as well.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Who Am I?

Feel free to tell me who I am...

• I am found almost all over the earth.
• I come in several different colors, textures and sizes.
• Only the most talented can use me for a musical instrument, or apparel.
• Some people love me and dote over me.
• Other people hate me and try to kill me.
• Accessories to help care for me can cost thousands of dollars.
• I've survived since creation without those accessories.
• I was environmentally friendly before it was politically trendy to be so.

Go ahead and make your guess. Assuming no one guesses correctly, I'll reveal the answer at the end of the day. :-)

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Normal Teenage Behavior?

According to one news article, teenagers trading nude pictures and videos of themselves over their cell phones, is now a normal part of teen dating.

From the article I read last night:

"I've seen everything from your basic striptease to sexual acts being performed, You name it, they will do it at their home under this perceived anonymity." - Detective Brian Marvin, a member of the FBI Cyber Crime Task Force of Central Ohio.
Okay. As a Christian, a mom, a wife and a former teenager, everything about this is revolting to me, and yet nothing about it surprises me. This is a generation of young people that has had so many taboos removed from their culture and way of life, that this seems rather tame, actually. Is it wrong? Of course it's wrong - but so is abortion on demand, the age of sexual consent at 14, homosexual lifestyles, same sex-marraige and all the other morally bankrupt choices available and/or being pushed on our kids from the time they enter pre-school. This liberal, "anything goes" attitude about their own privacy and purity is the result of having these social "norms" shoved down their throats through the culture and public schools, from the time they were practically babies.

Another quote from the article:
"This happens a lot," said Kelsey, author of Generation MySpace: Helping Your Teen Survive Online Adolescence. "It crosses every racial socio-economic group. Christian kids are doing it. Jewish kids are doing it."

How do you answer such a charge? Do real Christian kids do things like this? I think it might be just a little too easy to say "no way, real Christians wouldn't do something like that". Well, I know real Christians sin, no question about that. I know a teenage girl who is being raised by Christian parents, is an active and very involved member of her local church, and has at least on one occasion found herself caught up in the whole "but this is the privacy of my own webcam, no one's going to know" mindset. The anonymity idea is truly delusional, since we all know there is no such thing as anonymity with God.

In the scenario above, some legit questions no doubt come up. The parents are Christians but does that mean the teenage daughter is? If she is, what does this say about how she views herself? What does it say about she understands the sovereignty and the holiness of the God she serves? Yes it would be very easy to deny such a charge and say that real Christian teenagers don't do things like this, but I think that would be even more delusional than their idea that no one (except the intended party) will see the pics/videos they send. I'd say it would be more realistic to understand that real Christian kids live in a culture and society that is unlike anything their parents dealt with, and the avenues for sin are just a lot more invasive.

I don't have any new and innovative answers for such a tragic situation. All of my answers are old (timeless, actually) and come straight from the Bible. I confess, I'm completely out of touch with modern culture and the psychobabbly solutions to sin. A young woman's body should be kept to herself, and saved for her husband. End of story. She's not a product on a shelf with a sign that says "try before you buy" and if she is, it will be to her deep sorrow and regret (and her future husband's) later in life. Sadly however, that isn't the message that young women in our culture are hearing. They might hear it in church (I sure hope so) but they hear the louder message of culture that says "do whatever you want". And they do, because it's what everyone else is doing too.

With the advances in technology coming up with newer and faster communication devices all the time, I'm actually rather relieved that we're not in a situation to take advantage of that just now. Its hard enough to raise kids in a godly way in a God hating, immodest, arrogant, flamboyant, in your face culture, without having technology invade and entice them into these things. We have plenty of other things to deal with, and maybe one day we'll have to deal with this too. I sincerely hope not, but if so our answers then will be the same old answers godly parents have been telling their children all along.

And now... Spring!

I think I'm better. I don't feel nearly as yucky and exhausted as I did over the weekend so I'm pretty sure the worst of whatever I had, is behind me. Big thanks for those who prayed, I do appreciate it. Recovering couldn't have come at a better time, either.

I checked my weekly forecast this morning and couldn't have been more impressed.

Look at all those beautiful shiney suns. :-) Oh I have so much to do outside!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blogging Prayer: On being a vessel of grace

Rebecca's blog theme for the month of April is Petitionary Prayer. In keeping with that theme I wanted to share some things that have happened over the past week, and how it falls right in line with one of the things I consistantly pray about, for myself.

Every spring when the snow melts, and every fall when the heavy rains start, our basement floods. I suppose it's been this way for many years (maybe always, for all I know), since the previous owner elevated the basement floor in some places to be just high enough to stay dry. In the areas it's not elevated the water level is usually about 3-6 inches deep, and stays this way for a day or two, before it drains into the ground under the house. It's just one of those things we've come to live with, living in this old farmhouse.

The part of the floor that isn't elevated is the area just at the bottom of the stairs, right over to the door of the wood burning furnace. So, when it floods there are two options. 1. Avoid going down and wading through the water to build a fire and heat the house, or 2. Go wade through the water to build a fire and get your boots soaked all the way through. (I know, we really ought to invest in a couple of pairs of rubber boots, and that would eliminate the inconvenience of option #2).

Due to the fact that it hasn't really been too cold over the last week, we've opted to go with option #1, and not have a fire fire for a few days (off and on). The house was cool, but not so cold we couldn't stand it, and the water finally went down late last Wednesday afternoon. Before the water receded however, another issue came up that forced me down to the basement anyway, and that was the hot water heater no longer working. So there we were, no heat in the main house and no hot water for dishes, showers or laundry. Hoping against hope I went down with the goal of finding a magic reset button or something, but my hopes were dashed when I realized there was no such button. Slogging through the water I came back upstairs without building a fire.

Add into this, the fact that for the umpteenth time we've had plans to visit with the Shays and something has happened to cause us to postpone (usually someone getting sick, this time it was me) the visit. It happens so much, that I've actually come to expect something to happen to cause the plans to go south.

Coming along for the ride on this exciting week, has been my internet connection - or more accurately, my internet NOT connection. For whatever reason, when it rains a lot we get days on end of being either unable to connect (and get every error message you can think of) off and on all day, or once we do get connected, we get dropped after 30 seconds, or 5 minutes, or maybe even get to be online for a whole hour. The last three days I've been more disconnected than anything else. Most of the time that's fine, unless I'm trying to work on something at the store, then it's just a real pain in the neck.

In years past, these things would truly be enough for me to really lose my temper. All are a genuine inconvenience, and with each of them someone (usually a kid) is bound to complain to me about them - as if I'm supposed to be able to wave my magic wand and fix these things - and at times that makes it even more tempting to lose my temper. It's hard enough to respond to inconveniences all by yourself, but when you add to the mix having to listen to others grumbling about things, it makes it all the more difficult to keep your cool.

How this falls into Rebecca's theme this month, is that being salt and light to my own kids, is one of the things I pray about each and every day. My kids are my mission field, and being the kind of example to them, that I want them to be (that Scripture calls all believers to be) is one of my top priorities. Some days it's pretty easy, and I'm monumentally thankful for that. Other days it's not so easy and I fail miserably all day long, it seems. Those are the days I feel like a complete failure as a parent and throw myself a little mental pity party. They never last long, because no one ever comes, and no one likes being the only one at a party. Pfft.

Someone once said that how you act when no one's looking, is a good gauge of your Christianity. I believe that's true - since most of us are generally on our very best behavior when we're in front of other people. It's when you go home and the dog ate your best jeans (yes, it happened), the cat pooped on the unfolded laundry sitting on the couch, then sprayed your other coat that was slung over the kitchen chair (that happened too), you get the phone bill that was 100 bucks more than you expected, and due NOW, someone drops your last glass tumbler and breaks it, then denies it and blames someone else, you're out of bread - again (and no one ate it, because you asked and the answer you got from everyone was "it wasn't me"), the freezer is leaking water into the fridge, the baby is crying, the teenager is moping, and someone needs to build a fire and you don't hear anyone volunteering... well, that's when the rubber really hits the road. Life is just overflowing with circumstances like this all the time, presenting ample opportunity to either respond with grace, or blow your stack and send everyone to their rooms and make popcorn for dinner. Assuming no one ate the last bag of it, that is.

Losing it is the easy way. Maintaining your composure, your temper, and responding with calm and with assurance that yes indeed, God is most definitely in control of all these circumstances too - well, that takes work. It takes deliberate work, and intentional application of what you know to be true. It doesn't happen over night, and it certainly doesn't happen without a lot of failure, but it's the goal that I aim for because I know it's the right way.

At school this week, we had a unit review in Bible, and one of the questions was "what does it mean for Christians to be salt and light?" We had a good discussion about it, and all the kids got the correct answer. I was glad they did, because in a small way they're actually helping to keep me accountable on those days when popcorn for dinner sounds like a really good idea.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Yeah, we made it through the winter without any major illnesses, and then we ended the winter with monumental sickness for us all. Kev got hit with round two, Ruth got hit with round two, and last night I felt round two coming on for me. It's definitely here (the four hour nap today was a good sign) and I feel nothing short of absolutely horrible, so I'll be down for the count until further notice.

I have my book, my orange juice, and my thick comfy blankey to keep me occupied. We missed out on our Friday night fellowship tonight (huge sad face) and our lunch with the Shays tomorrow (huge sad face again).

Prayer would sure be appreciated, I don't want to miss church on Sunday, or see anyone else get sick.


Many years ago, there was a television program on called The Hudson Brothers Show. Some of you may remember it. Well, our family watched it, and loved it. There was a line from one of the segments they had on that show that became a common saying in our house: "Ho hum, another BORING day on the island of Pigi Pigi".

The whole premise was that it was the world's smallest island in the middle of the world's largest ocean. I have no idea why it was funny, but that line became classic in our family. I think it was the way it was said, that made it funny. In any event...

On another segment of the show, the HB taught countless numbers of kids how to create a SockyBoomer Socker Bopper (corrected by my mom, who knows stuff!), for hours of cheap entertainment. It was very simple really, and one of those things that virtually any kid could make from materials on hand. You just go to your sock drawer, and take out the longest sock you own. Then, you take out all the other socks in the drawer and one at a time, you wad them up and stick them down inside the long sock. You keep doing this until the sock is full - but not too full because you want to be able to tie a knot in the end to function as a handle. Once your Socker Bopper is complete, you can then use it to bonk people with. My brother and sister (I think mom made one too, but I can't be sure) and myself all had a Socker Bopper, and if memory serves the only rule was that we couldn't bonk anyone in the face with it. Otherwise, all bets were off. You certainly can't "hit" your brother, but if you have a Socker Bopper, you can bonk him and you're still within house rules. :-)

I know it sounds silly, but the funny thing is that big name toy companies have come out over the years with all kinds of soft, non-injurious weaponry just like this. I recall one year seeing an ad for these toys that looked like oversized baseball bats but made with some kind of soft foam material. The purpose of the toys was exactly the same as the Socker Bopper - you bonk people with them! Nerf (the world's leading brand of soft, for fun weaponry) has a fantastic line of guns now, that shoot (the range & speed is nothing short of incredible, and the sound they make is priceless "thWOck") foam darts with suction cups on them. It's more humiliating than anything else, to be pegged in the forehead with a nerf dart. Everyone needs a nerf gun, and every household should have at least two or more. We're getting Samuel this one for his birthday in September - with an extra supply of ammo (maybe even the glow in the dark darts!) They're just a blast.

You're probably wondering why in the world I took the time to explain all that. Well, for no other reason really, than it was a good old fashioned (read: free) way to have fun as a kid, and bonk those who needed a good bonking. Nerf still believes in bonking, they just offer if from a foam dart perspective. It's also a timeless recipe for homemade fun. I mean, you could stand up right now, walk to your sock drawer and make a Socker Bopper, for free. Why would I do that? you ask? Well, because they're fun and surely there's someone in your house that needs a good bonking. No other reason needed.

(Just to be clear - there is a vulgar, and a non-vulgar definition for bonking. Obviously the way I am using the word is in the non-vulgar way which means: "to hit, strike, collide, etc.: to get bonked on the head; cars bonking into each other." You can figure the vulgar definition on your own. Quite frankly, I didn't know until TODAY [when I looked it up at] that there IS a vulgar definition for this word, and that ticks me off. I refuse to give in and stop using this word in the context I'm using it because it's ALWAYS meant to clobber someone on the noggin, so there. Harumph. What I thought was funny though, is that a synonym for bonk, is sock. Yeah, I'm easily entertained.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008



So, I've been listening to the webcast/radio debate on the topic of Calvinism - or the doctrines of grace, with Dr. James White and Steve Gregg, over the last four days (day one, two, three, four). Today is the final installment of the debate, and you can listen live by clicking this link at 5pm eastern time.

James has posted a few thoughts of his own on how things have progressed so far - over at his blog. And now, few short thoughts of my own on this debate, up till now.

1. Its been very difficult to follow the logic/reasoning of Steve Gregg. He's incredibly inconsistant and clearly doesn't know how to properly exegete a text. I'm no exegetical expert, but I know good exegesis when I hear it, and so far I have not heard it at all from Steve Gregg. This actually inspired me to create a new t-shirt, while I was listening last night.

2. Philosophical thought appears to trump the text, with Gregg. "In my opinion" or "my understanding is" appears to be the order of the day. I can understand why he says this so much since he himself admits he's not educated in the original Greek language and yes kids, that DOES matter. While you do not need to understand the Greek language to understand the NT, you certainly cannot approach the text with your own traditions and then insist that it says this or that - if or when the Greek language will prove you incorrect. This is why it's good and helpful TO know the Greek language, or at the very least be willing to concede to someone who DOES know it.

That would be like two people having a conversation about parking cars in garages, as opposed to parking cars in driveways or on the street. One is fluent in English and French and the other is fluent in French only, but with a very limited understanding of English. The one speaking in English says "I parked my car in the garage" and the guy speaking French is obnoxiously adamant that the English speaking guy just said "I eat creamed houseflies on my toasted bagel every Wednesday at 4". He insists that this is what the English speaking man said, because in French, some of those words can be translated in a broader way and can mean that (if isolated and taken completely out of context) - or - he's just always been told that this is what these words mean. The man fluent in both English and French says "no, this is not what was said, this is what I just said" and tells him again that he parks his car in the garage and explains why it cannot be translated the way the French guy thinks it can. You can believe the creamed housefly interpretation all you like, but if you took the time to examine the statement in it's original language, and in the fuller context of the conversation (the English speaking man is pointing to his car, in the garage, and you've just been talking about cars, and whether you park in the garage or the driveway), AND the language expert just corrected you... you'd know you were wrong. For the French speaking man to take that statement out of context this way, simply makes no sense. Why would the English speaking man suddenly, out of nowhere, make such a ridiculous statement that had nothing to do with the context of the conversation? The very same application works in Scripture. You just cannot take a verse or a part of a verse and insist it means something that is completely contrary to the context surrounding it, or the fuller context of Scripture - especially if you're ignorant of the Greek language and grammar. (As with all analogies this housefly/bagel one likely falls real short, but I'm sure you get the point).

3. Folks that cannot be humble, gracious and considerate, should never agree to debates. I could never do it, I know that I'm too easily sidetracked and long winded on topics I am deeply passionate about, and far too prone to trying to get the last word in. I don't go out of my way to be rude or condescending, but I suppose that could happen given the right scenario. What I noticed Gregg do yesterday in part four, was after he was backed into a corner to prove his position from the Scripture (and couldn't) he struck with words. Insulting words, at that. This is what people do when they can't stay on topic, or can't prove what they're saying - they take it personal and make a personal character jab against their opponent (which is exactly what Gregg did - more than once). Very bad form in debate, and in a Christian discussion in general.

4. Steve Gregg actually seems like a fairly nice guy, except when forced to defend his faith from the Scripture, and not from his own traditions. ALWAYS a huge mistake. We are to approach Scripture prepared to have every tradition (even the ones we don't know we have) stripped completely - and then have our views completely reformed according to the written word of God. If we refuse to do that, we've got issues. Big ones.

Today is the final installment in this debate, and I'm very much looking forward to it. Listening to James White give an answer for the hope that lies within him, is a blessing to me personally and it encourages me to do the same. If you'd like to have your apologetic skills sharpened, you'd do well to listen to these debates as well.


Part five of the radio debate is now available here, if you haven't already heard it.

Concluding thoughts:

I listened to this yesterday and have to say that the way they changed the format for the final installment went a LONG way toward making part five much much better than part four. Amazing how such a small change made such a big difference.

As for content:

James White consistantly goes out of his way to literally deconstruct a text of Scripture to analyze the Greek grammatical structure, for a deeper understanding of what's being said. While I am not a grammar or Greek expert, it's incredible to me that he can do this - and line the whole thing out in a way that even someone like me (untrained, and someone who really doesn't like grammar at all) can not only understand what he's saying, but see it myself in the Scriptures he's analyzing.

On the other hand, Steve Gregg (at least in this series of debates, I've never heard him before this series) goes out of his way to eisegete the text - to read into what the text is saying and consistantly use phrases like "in my understanding", "in my mind" and "I believe this is what it says". Over and over again Gregg approaches the Scripture with what he wants it to say, and then finds sections that he believes supports that position. He simply does not allow the text to say what it actually says.

The bottom line here for me is the truth about what the Bible actually says - not what we want it to say based on what we already think we know. Steve Gregg's disdain for reformed theology/Calvinism is so clear, that he continuously makes condescending little remarks in response to James' answers to questions, and explaination of the text. I found that rather annoying, but the more I listened to Gregg throughout this debate the more he struck me as a lot less "orthodox" than I originally assumed. In a very brief chat with a friend on this last night she said he came across to her as part open theist, part mystic and part philosopher. I think that summed it up pretty well.

My hat is off to James for sticking to the text, not once lowering himself to any kind of condescending remarks but exalting God's majesty and sovereignty in salvation, and explaining how and why the Scriptures teach this.