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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I lied

Yeah, I lied. Last night I said I was finished with the Crazy Love book, but this morning I woke up still meditating on some of the stuff in the last chapter that I decided to share. These are a few of my favorite quotes with a wee bit of commentary from me. Then I really am done with this book. First person to ask gets to borrow it :)

"We often have "aha!" moments but don't act; in fact, we're famous for it in the church." I laughed out loud at this one. He so nailed me with this. I have tons of great intentions but somehow not so much follow through. It's not "getting it" until you are doing it!!!!

"Is this the most loving way to do life? Am I loving my neighbor and my God by living where I live, by driving what I drive, by talking how I talk? I urge you to consider and actually live as though each person you come into contact with is Christ." UMMM....ooops......I don't really see the people I come into contact with in this way. Even though scripture clearly teaches the principle that whatever we do for those in need we do for Christ.

"We say things like, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Then we live and plan like we don't believe God even exists. We try to set our lives up so everything will be fine even if God doesn't come through." I'm growing in this area....but I do still tend to want to have a plan B just in case God doesn't show up.

"Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better, but keep them in on big pile and they stink horribly." OHHHH! HAAAAA! Do any names come to your mind??????? Are you growing stuff or stinking horribly? I didn't really like that thought!

"Most of us use, "I'm waiting for God to reveal His calling on my life" as a means of avoiding action. Did you hear God calling you to sit in front of the television yesterday? Or exercise this morning? We are quick to rationalize our entertainment and priorities yet are slow to commit to serving God." I'd never really thought about it this way before. I always thought waiting on God was - well- godly. But I could definitely be putting into more practice some of the explicit ministry commands in scripture. Such as loving my neighbor, caring for the poor, ministering to those in need, etc.

"Our view of the Holy Spirit is too small. The Holy Spirit is the one who changes the church, but we have to remember that the Holy Spirit lives in us. It is individual people living Spirit-filled lives that will change the church." We often pray for God to change churches. But the Holy Spirit lives in people. You and Me. We are the ones who have to be changed before the church will change. One believer at a time.

"The world needs Christians who won't tolerate the complacency of their own lives." Yeah...and it needs to begin with me.

I am excited about the changes ahead for the church. I am reading lots of authors who are advocating living scripture. Literally. These men are leading believers to practice genuine faith. I can't wait to see what God is going to do as we begin to seek Him in this way. When pew sitting is no longer enough for any of us. When we become hungry to change the world. When we are desperate for intimacy with Christ. When we love like Jesus commanded us to love. Hopefully the world will never be the same again. Praying that I will begin listening, obeying, and living Christ. Today.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Crazy Love, the end

I know some of you were wondering if I would ever finish this book, Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I had great intentions of reading a couple of chapters a week and reviewing them in some sort of organized manner. But then life got really busy, and I didn't. This blog is long and rambles some, but hang in there. I'll close with my favorite quote from the book. Remember that yesterday I warned you that this was an uncomfortable chapter.

Until recently I thought I had a pretty decent grasp on what a Christian looks like, talks like, acts like, smells like....after all, I've been in church since 9 months before I was born. I've even been in the ministry my entire life. But gradually over the last five years as I read the Bible all the way through for the first time (yes, I'm slow...leave me alone), I began to see so many new things about following Christ. And then in the last year or so, God has just taken everything that I thought I knew, tossed it out, and pretty much started over again.

Crazy Love is one of the books that I've read this year that really challenged me about the reality of my faith. Is my faith something I proclaim or is it something that I live? Do I read the Bible for knowledge or do I read the Bible as an instruction manual? Do I really take God seriously when He gives instructions for life or do I think that some verses just don't really apply to me - especially living here in America? Are there verses that I've skimmed without even attempting to apply?

Chapter 8 - "profile of the obsessed" is the chapter that even if you do not plan to purchase the book, you should run by Lifeway, grab a copy and speed read this chapter and evaluate yourself. I was really uncomfortable with all this stuff. And prior to the read, I would've said that I was obsessed with God.

I was especially challenged about money and the poor. Jesus talked a whole lot about the poor and taking care of the poor and oppressed. He talked a whole lot about financial responsibility and good stewardship. Now, before I prayed this through, I thought I was in pretty good shape here. I tithe regularly - which money goes to the church - which in turn is funneled into appropriate people-helping channels. I even occasionally - a least a couple of times a year - do some special missions projects to help the poor. I gave up my dream home and downsized to an older home for financial reasons. I drive reasonable vehicles, and most of the time spend within my means. But then I prayed and kind of wish that I hadn't. I feel really convicted about how much of my budget I spend on me and how little I spend on others. I began to feel pretty convicted about how much stuff I own, and how much time it takes me to manage it all - time that could be better spent in ministry maybe? I feel pretty convicted about how often I swipe my credit card to buy things that I want but can't really afford. Then, I felt even more convicted about not having relationships with any genuinely poor people. NONE!!!!!

Luke 14:12-14, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers, or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." BOOM!!!! talk about conviction - IT HAS NEVER - EVER OCCURRED TO ME TO TAKE THIS VERSE LITERALLY!!!! So I began to contemplate who I could invite to such a dinner party and realized NOBODY - I Don't know anybody who really fits into this verse.

Like most Americans, I surround myself with people of comfortable means. People with good health. People who return favors and who love me in return. Good people. Nice people. And not that I should not spend time with any of these people - but something is wrong that I do not have any way of literally living out Jesus' commands about caring for the poor.

There was so much more in this chapter - stuff about service with a good attitude, humility in the face of various forms of pride, being consumed with safety at the expense of being used by God, and developing an intimate walk with Christ. Definitely worth taking 30 minutes and reading. Or just read the big print about characteristics of an obsessed person (10 minutes)!

Chapter 9 is a series of case studies about people who lived lives characterized by their Crazy Love for God. And the final chapter is simply a wrap-up of the entire book.

This book was not what I expected at all. I expected a warm fuzzy book about loving God and learning how to worship Him. Instead I feel like I just got the band-aid ripped off a large oozing wound. This was a painful read for me as I entered into it open and willing for God to change me. I feel a little overwhelmed by how far I have left to go and stunned by how far off the mark my Christian walk was for so very long. It's like getting lost in the woods at sundown and trying to find your way back to the highway.

Now, don't misunderstand me here. This was also one of the best books I've read in a very long time. I am excited about the journey that Crazy Love has inspired in my heart. A journey to find the Christianity that Jesus invented instead of the Christianity that I learned in the American Church. To sort through all the stuff that I "know" to see what is real and what needs to be left behind.

Here's a quote from chapter 8 that just absolutely sums this all up for me. Especially in light of heading out on a mission trip on Wednesday. "Jesus is asking you to love as you would want to be loved if it were your child who was blind from drinking contaminated water; to love the way you would want to be loved if you were the homeless woman sitting outside the cafe; to love as though it were your family living in the shack slapped together from cardboard and scrap metal."

Picturing that? Your child in desperate need? And how would you want somebody to love them. Praying for us all to learn to love like Jesus.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Monday Morning Update

Is it Monday again already? Christmas has come and gone. One week of Christmas break is already over and I haven't done any of the projects that I had intended to take care of over the break.

So for what has become the traditional Monday Morning Update - I really am excited to begin seeing several families start to grow some roots with the Crossroads. It's neat to see people catching the vision and wanting to be a part of the family. In my limited wisdom, I wish that we were growing a little faster. But in God's infinite wisdom we seem to be growing deeper. Of course 3 baptisms, a few more professions of faith, one guy licensed to the ministry, and several families starting to get plugged in are not exactly poor results for a church that is not quite yet 6 months old.

Speaking of licensing to the ministry. I was really sad to say goodbye to my good friend and church planting intern, Brad, today. He was such a strong reminder of God's timely provision for our church. However, it is awesome to see people pursuing God with all that they are and chasing after their dreams. Even when their dreams take them on a new journey. Brad will be attending seminary in Waco and preparing for a lead role in ministry.

Shawn's sermon series about the real Jesus has been so incredible. It is amazing as his wife to see God take him and use him to speak such truth. He has always been a gifted speaker, but it seems that maybe now God is going even beyond Shawn's own ability to discern truth and to communicate it effectively. God seems to be doing some supernatural stuff in my husband's life. I am excited to see him being surrendered to God and to see just how God is using him.

Loved the worship set this week. (do I sound like a broken record?) Seems like I always say that. I did, however, really miss two of our guitar guys this week who were unavailable to play with us. We are praying for some more musicians so that we can cover for each other when we have to be out. Yet, God's spirit is not bound up in how many guitar players we have or whether the keyboard player is hitting all the right notes to be able to move in a service. God moves among people who are hungry for his presence and so we are very blessed every week to experience amazing worship.

This afternoon we loaded 638 blankets and tons of stuffed animals to prepare for The Crossroad's first mission trip to Mexico. We will be leaving Wednesday. We will be going door to door handing out blankets and gospels of John as we lay groundwork for a church plant that is being started. How incredible is it that a baby church is already going to help out another church!

Today I was eating buttermilk pie and visiting with a family that's been with us since the very beginning. We were talking about how exciting it is to be in church planting. Very low pressure, but very focused energy on making our lives count. I just don't think I could ever go back to just sitting in a pew ever again. I love the active, passionate, hands on, hard work of planting. I was made for this mission.

Just a confession: Way back in the day when we were doing 40 days of purpose at Hagerman, God began to speak to me about getting ready physically for a mission that he had in store for me. I giggled and dismissed Him. (Always a bad idea, by the way) Today I remembered what He said as I was helping to move the countless heavy boxes of blankets. It may be time to schedule some workouts into my busy schedule.

Warning - I have just about finished Crazy Love by Francis Chan. This last bit of the book really nailed me hard and challenged me about my ideas of Christianity. Tomorrow I'm planning to share that - so if you don't like the heavy, convicting blogs you have been warned.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Another Rainy Day

If you're tired of hearing me rattle on about the rain, then feel free to skip this blog. For the rest of it is.

Today I sat in Memaw's living room and watched a big storm roll in. There's something unique about the sound of the wind whipping through the tall pine trees. The sky darkened and the rain pounded the ground outside the open windows. I love the smell of rain just as it begins to fall and especially love the smell of wet pine trees.

As I sat and watched the storm, I began to think of how often I have used rain as an analogy for God's presence this year. Then I thought about how varied rain is. There's drizzly rain that mostly just gives you frizzy hair. There's the slow, steady rain that nourishes the grass and really replenishes the moisture. There's the cold, hard, driving rain that drives you indoors to seek a warm fire. There's the quick summer storms that invoke a touch of fear and a lot of awe with their lightening shows.

The longer I thought about all the different types of rain, the more I was amazed at our Creator. He just never does things exactly the same way twice in nature. It made me wonder a little bit about how He moves among His people. It seems that there is a lot of variety there as well. I have certain expectations about how God is going to move in Anna. Maybe instead I should just hang out and see what God can do and marvel at all the different ways that He rains out His presence on His people.

Looking forward to a superb day at The Crossroads tomorrow. Can't wait to get caught up with everybody and to finalize mission trip plans. It's cool to be really excited to come back home after Christmas and to be filled with anticipation about what God's got in store for the new year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I think I'm scared of all the wrong things

The other night I had the strangest dreams about natural disasters. They were that crystal clear kind where you wake up, and it takes you a minute to realize that the dreams were not real. In a nutshell - in one dream I was driving down the highway in a severe storm that suddenly formed several funnel clouds. I evacuated the car with Grace and Abby and took off running across a field, trying to reach a ditch that might offer some protection. In my dream, my heart was racing, the adrenaline was pumping, and the fear was overwhelming. The scene of the dream suddenly changed, and I was in my classroom and could see a huge grassfire blazing across the field coming toward the school and could not find a way to evacuate all of my students. Again...horrible fear consumed me.

After I woke up, my heart was still beating hard, and I began to think through my scary list. Tornadoes, fire, spiders, snakes, really tight spaces, getting my face wet.....The list became rather long. As the list grew, I began to pray against the fear and seemed to hear God saying that I am afraid of all the wrong stuff. Huh? Sometimes God is really confusing.

But here's the most cases, the stuff that I'm afraid of isn't even deadly. Then I realized that in my long list of scary stuff, it never even occurred to me to list Satan. I began to wonder why it is that I am more afraid of spiders than Satan. God seemed to be showing me that I might need to pay less attention to my scary list and more attention to the reality of spiritual warfare. I think I should worry less about getting my face wet in the shower and more about making sure I am well equipped and very prepared to meet the enemy.

Strange how God can use the weirdest stuff...

So tonight's the last blog for awhile. I expect to be without internet until I get back home next Saturday. I hope you all have a merry Christmas. Filled with rest, relaxation, good food, family, and friends. Safe travels to you all. Be thinking about your New Year's resolutions. I have some ready. We'll see how they compare.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Monday Morning Update

What a day at The Crossroads! It was 19 degrees when we climbed into the suburban this morning. I was pleasantly surprised by how well we were able to heat the cheer gym. It was cool, but not miserably so except while we had the doors open unloading and loading stuff off the truck.

I was so stoked to have our bass player in town for Christmas break. I miss having a bass, but more than that, I've missed my friend. We felt complete today as a band. The worship set was pretty awesome. No big surprise there....I've come to expect excellence.

Shawn's sermon was incredible. He managed to bring out some new stuff about the Christmas story that I had never seen before. I'm pretty sure he will be posting his sermon on so you can check it out for yourself. He will get to preach one more time before his enforced silence for three weeks due to the cyst on his vocal chords.

This afternoon we had "White Christmas" at the park in Anna. We brought in 330 bags of "snow" - snow cone ice, really. Each bag weighed 35 pounds. Do the math - we moved over 11,000 pounds of ice! We served hot cocoa and cookies, gave away an mp3 player, and the band played. It was awesome. We had over 80 people show up - in spite of the miserably cold conditions. My fingers hurt so bad trying to play keys in the cold. However, I was wearing gloves that I had cut the fingertips out of. The guitar guys were in serious pain because they couldn't wear gloves and play. But even with bitterly cold conditions.....I can't think of any other way I'd rather spend my day than getting to play music with an awesome band. Love hanging out with them!

After we cleaned up and packed up, we went to IHOP for supper with some of the launch team. As we were leaving Shawn said, "We are so very lucky to have such amazing friends." I just couldn't agree more. Several of my friends from Anna stopped by today to hang out at the Christmas thing, and then all the people from church and from the launch team.....days are just better when you get to share them with friends!

We are excited about going to Mexico next week for a mission trip. Please pray for our safe passage back and forth across the border and that God would begin to prepare hearts to meet Him. How cool - The Crossroads' first mission trip!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

An Awesome Day

What an awesome day! It started with my amazing husband cooking cinnamon toast- french toast. Yum! Then we did tons of laundry in the newly repaired dryer. Yeah! Have to say that watching him fix the dryer was a real turn-on.

Next was band practice. Always the highlight in my week. Love hanging out with the band and playing music. It's just incredible every week. I wonder how long it will take me to stop being awed by the talent God has placed at the Crossroads. Whether it's amazement at the musician Jake has become as an adult (we've been playing together since he was a young teen) or the incredibly gifted worship dude who's definitely the best vocalist and most talented musician I've ever had the opportunity to work with....I always leave practice just a little bit overwhelmed by what a big God I serve.

Then I was pleasantly surprised by visitors this afternoon. I love when friends just drop by. It's so awesome to not have time to stress about cleaning or anything ahead of time....just free to enjoy the friends. Our church planting intern came by and then Grrr stopped by on his way home from basic training. Loved hearing his stories and catching up with him.

I am so blessed with good relationships. How beautiful is God that he has designed so many unique friendships between very different people!

Tomorrow's a big day at The Crossroads. We have snow coming in at the park. The band is going to play. I'm already nervous. But I am also stinkin' excited about the day. I think we will meet tons of new people and hopefully see some more growth as a result.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Holiday Spirit

I was out late this evening doing a bit of Christmas shopping. It is interesting to see the other shoppers wandering the aisles. I spent a long time at Wal-mart tonight. And these are my observations.

There are lots of confused and bewildered men. They wander aimlessly up and down the aisles at a total loss as to what to buy their special someone. If they are in the lingerie department, they carefully avoid eye contact with the women around them - it seems a bit awkward to ask a stranger for her opinion on the black or the red item. When shopping for chick flicks, they do extensive opinion polls - asking the other women on the aisle, "Have you seen this one?" Or in jewelry - asking the sales clerk, "What do you think my wife would like?" (Cause the clerk knows your wife so well.) Then there are the desperate and determined men. You can hear the tension in their voice. They are going to buy something worthwhile and wonderful, no matter what, darn it. (edited for you, honey!) And it's going to be the first girly item they see - then they are running for the door.

Grandmothers. God just did something unique when he created them. In the toy aisles, the grandmothers are slowing browsing. They discuss amongst themselves what their grandchildren want for Christmas and swap recomendations. They are excited about their families coming home and are trying to make the holiday perfect. Grandfathers. Most of them tonight were leaning against the buggies with vacant expressions while the grandmothers chatted.

Moms. We are - on the whole - frazzled. There were moms with lists. Lists of special ingredients to prepare special foods for the holidays. Lists of who wants what toys. There were moms yelling at spouses or children as they shopped. There were lots of moms like me wandering the aisles and randomly chunking stuff in the basket figuring somebody would like it.

Young couples. They were holding hands and going ga ga over buying their first decorations and shopping together for Christmas presents for the first time. Lots of hand holding and giggling. Rather cute.... I suppose.

So there's Wal-mart. Quite the interesting study in human behavior.

*By the way - want to know how to totally stress out a church planter? Let him realize the night before a mailer goes out that it is not printed with date, time, or contact information. We printed and stuck labels on cards forever!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow Day

I remember snow days when I was a kid. Waking up and feeling the chill in the air in my bedroom. Maybe a bit of frost on the windows. (Since we did not have central heat) I would run to the front door and look out to see snow blanketing the ground. It was such an exciting event.

Dressing took on new speeds. I could throw on layers faster than anything. I remember well my two brothers and all the neighborhood boys pouring into the yard and choosing up teams for snowball fights. We would slip under the fence and sled down the big hill next door. I remember the freedom and exultation that I felt throwing my body onto the sled and zipping down the hill and across the frozen creek. It was cold. And fun. And wonderful.

One of the best snows I remember was when I was 17. I had gone to stay with my brother Jon and his wife Lori over spring break and got snowed in. Jon and I had so much fun throwing snowballs, making snowmen, and teaching his little girl how to make snow angels. For a few days, we were just kids again with no worries. Just carefree. It's one of my best last memories with Jon.

Somehow, I've never lost all that excitement. So today when school was called off, I felt that familiar tingle of excitement. is just not as awesome as snow, but I still loved the day off. Things have changed. Now it is my children bundling up and running out in the yard to play while I stay warm by the fire. It was great to just relax, regroup, and get ready to face tomorrow.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Morning updates - on Tuesday

Yes, I'm a day late with the Monday Morning Update blog. Don't panic, I'm just a wee bit busy here with the holidays. I've not given up blogging.

We had a super day at The Crossroads. Love being a part of a church plant. Is it hard work? Absolutely! Is it exhausting? You bet! Is it worth it? Every second! It is way cool to continue seeing returning faces, and new ones as well.

Shawn survived preaching, but is pretty hoarse and raspy. He gets to preach one or two more times before his enforced silence goes into effect. We'll see how that goes. It should be interesting since he does most of the talking around our house.

Enjoyed the worship set. After the tough practice, the set did come off really well. Very impressed.

I will confess that this was a week that emotionally, I felt a bit overwhelmed. It seems like God has called us into such a huge task, and I feel pretty inadequate. I am expecting big things from God, but it is really hard for me to be patient and wait for them.

Oh...we also went to a community-wide praise service Sunday Night. It was neat to go in and recognize people from the community and to realize that just a few months ago, I knew no one. As I listened to the wide variety of music from the different churches, God spoke and reminded me that He inhabits the praises of his people. I began thinking about that. How God loves hymns, choruses, choirs, bands, young people, old people, all ethnicities, all languages........And more than that.......somehow, when we praise God through song we are able to enter into his very presence. I was reminded that music does not have to be my style, my preference, or even in my language for it to be beautiful before God. I am so thankful that I serve a God like that.

*Just a note - will you pray for me this week....tough week at school....I need a lot of wisdom.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

hot cocoa and Jesus

Today our family handed out hot chocolate at Anna's Christmas parade. We had lots of neat interactions with people. Several great conversations. There were many encounters today with people that we've met before. It is interesting to me how God continually crosses our paths with other particular individuals. And gradually strangers become friends.

Tonight I was getting ready to go to a Christmas program, and thinking back on the day. I suddenly realized just how awesome God was today. We had precisely enough hot chocolate for every person who came through the line. With none left over. We had no clue how many people to expect, but apparently God had it all planned out ahead of time.

I don't know why that surprises me. He does that kind of thing all the time on mission trips. Like last winter in Juarez when I was in charge of handing out miscellaneous items from a huge box to children who came by. As I reached in, I invariably pulled out the exact right item. A sweater, coat, hat, mittens....all in the appropriate sizes for whoever was standing in front of me. It just surprises me to see it in church planting. Don't know why.

Can't wait to see what God does tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

gift giving lessons from Abby

My two year old has been at it again. Showing me God's heart through her tiny life.

We celebrated my birthday a few days early with some friends on Tuesday night. Shawn made my favorite cake and a couple of friends brought gifts. Well, Abby saw my excitement about opening presents. (Yes, I'm really still just a kid about birthdays even though I try really hard to be cool and nonchalant about the whole thing) This afternoon she located a crumpled up piece of pink tissue and took off on a gift-giving spree.

First she wrapped up my favorite earrings and brought them to me. Jumping up and down with excitement and yelling, "Happy birthday." Then she brought me the nativity set, then a porcelain Santa, and the list goes on. With each delivery, she became more animated and more excited about me opening the gift. It was a fun game. She enjoyed giving, and I knew I would love what was in the package because it was already mine.

Then I started thinking about her little game and realized that maybe it had some God applications. You see, everything that I bring to God already belongs to him anyway. I am not bringing God anything new, or different that He has already received throughout the ages past. And yet, I'm pretty sure that when I am excited about sharing with God and bringing Him offerings that He enjoys it even more than I enjoyed the gift game with Abby.

The delight in Abby's game came from how much I love her and the beauty of seeing her learning how to love me. I think that's the delight that God feels as He loves us and watches us learning how to love Him.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Monday Morning Updates

Another awesome day at The Crossroads. I am loving the people that we are meeting. It is so cool to watch them begin to really plug in and begin to actively participate. I was in children's this week, so I don't have any first hand comments to make about the services.

I heard a lot of positive stuff about the sermon and the music. I heard that Shawn made everybody laugh with his reference to "Taladega Nights", and that the worship set flowed really well. Pray for Shawn. His voice is still really hoarse, and he is finally caving and going to the doctor.

We have lots of events coming up soon. I am excited to see how God is going to move in Anna. I just can't hardly wait!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Gold stars vs. gray dots

This week at school I had to teach a character education lesson about positive vs. negative words. I used a Max Lucado book for children, "You Are Special." In this book the people run around giving each other gold stars (good) or gray dots (bad). To condense a long story....Punchinello, the main character, is covered in gray dots and his maker, Eli, helps him discover how to find his worth in his maker instead of other people. When he no longer cares what other people say, the gray dots all fall off.

The kids and I talked about positive words (gold stars) took them a really long time to create a list of positive words. Then we created the list of negative words (gray dots). I have bright children this year with very extensive vocabularies so I had to do a lot of censoring. I have been baffled by their expertise and familiarity with insults. Typically 6 year olds are decently limited with their insulting ability...."I don't want to play with you" and "You're not my friend" are the two most common. However, this year I have learned a few new phrases and have seen and heard some pretty bad stuff coming out of my babies' mouths. Examples, "You are a big fat b......" and "I f.....g hate you" Very unusual for this age group to fluently use profanity.

As we talked today, they made me cry. I held it in until they left for recess. You see, we discussed not using "gray dots" in our classroom any more this year. Most of them agreed, but then said, "Mrs. Kemp, but it's okay to use 'gray dots' when you're a grown-up." I told them that it's not okay, but no one is perfect and even Mrs. Kemp sometimes slips up and says things that I later regret. That's when they began telling the horrible stories that made me cry as they looked up at me with their tiny hearts breaking.

"Mrs. Kemp, my daddy says those gray dot words to my mommy all the time. That's why she can't stop crying."

"Mrs. Kemp, my daddy says those gray dot words too, and my mommy says we are going to move out."

"Mrs. Kemp, my brother says those gray dot words to me, and I don't think he loves me."

"Mrs. Kemp, my mommy says those gray dot words to me, and she is mad at me all the time. I can't ever make her be happy."

The stories went on and on while I just sat - stunned - trying not to cry in front of my children. Most of my students live in good homes, but it was unreal how much they have noticed about the way their parents treat each other. I certainly better understood why I am having to work so hard to create an atmosphere of respect. I was heartbroken by how many children question the security of their environment.

Pray for me to have great wisdom this year. I have an unmeasurable amount of influence on these small children. Pray that I will use it well and wisely.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Do you know where you were 12 years ago?

Do you know where you were 12 years ago? I was 21, in a hospital, in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, giving birth to my first child, James. James was the first of four beautiful, incredible miracle children that God blessed me with.

You see, Shawn and I had visited a fertility specialist for a couple of years with no success. In fact we had begun looking into adoption and more intensive fertility treatments when our youth group that we pastored asked if they could pray for us. They prayed over me, and as near as we can figure it, I became pregnant that weekend. It was a great pregnancy. At first I was student teaching and puking all the time. And emotional ---- wow----- was I ever the crazy witch! But then things evened out after the first trimester into an easy pregnancy.

12 years ago, on a Wednesday morning, I woke up with some lower back pain. I did not realize that I was in labor until it was critically important that I be at the hospital. One of my friends came over and literally shoved me and Shawn out the door. It was a 45 minute drive to the hospital, through the mountains. Shawn flew around curves, screeching up in front of the hospital just about an hour or so before James was born. By the time we checked in and got up to the room, it was just about time to push. I did my whole Lamaze stuff....picturing a restful, peaceful place ...huffing and puffing.....James arrived quickly and safely. 9 pounds, 5 ounces.

No one had ever told me about the moment when you see your child for the first time. Holding him, we wept. It seemed impossible that God had done the miraculous and granted us a child that our doctor said we would never have. The love that I felt for my son was so much larger than I ever imagined. As I held him, I could not believe that God would ever have let His Son come to earth and take my place and die for me. I would not have given up my son. I also learned a little bit about how much God must love me...if He loves me more than I love my!

Tonight we celebrated James's 12th birthday at Johnny Carino's. His choice because he loves their oil and garlic for the bread. As I sat at the table in the quiet restaurant and watched my children laughing, I was overwhelmed by just how blessed I am. You know those moments that you would like to freeze so that you can always remember them? This was one of those nights. Abby was dancing to the jazz music playing in the background. Katie was slurping her spaghetti noodles through her gap between her front teeth. Grace, James, and Shawn were discussing multiplying decimals. Everybody was talking at the same time. It was chaotic, and beautiful.

Happy birthday James!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Entertainment - enriching, or overtaking?

I recently read an editorial in Paste that struck a chord with me. The editor said that the purpose of his magazine was to review a variety of entertainment and media so that life could be enriched not replaced.

I was thinking about that comment tonight while I was perusing row after row of video games, trying to select the perfect birthday gift for my son. It is a challenging balance to use media wisely. It is so easy to use it to escape life..... watching a movie, playing a video game, or blogging on the internet (ouch). It becomes easy to substitute watching life for living life. On the other hand, to be relevant to today's culture, it is important to stay up on current trends and be technologically savvy.

So the battle wages much time is too much time on the internet, or in front of the T.V., or even reading a book? Does it count if it's related to ministry and God? Just pondering.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Crazy Love, chapter 7

Thought I'd forgotten my book study? Just temporarily sidetracked by life. Chapter 7, "Your best life...later", reminded me a lot of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. In this chapter of Crazy Love, Chan reminds us to not be owned by fear, but to pursue God with abandon.

He makes the challenge to take scripture literally about caring for the poor and needy. Who do you know that takes Luke 12:33 literally? "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." Instead we continually seek more stuff. Including me. As far as Americans go, I am not such a stuff chaser. But when you compare me on a global scale, I am pretty sure that someday when I stand before Christ, He will have some suggestions about how I could have better used my material resources for kingdom purposes. Honestly, I rarely consider other options for how to use my resources. I just try to stay ahead of the bills.

Chan made an interesting point on p.120. What if that fateful day when Jesus sent the disciples hunting food for the crowd they had kept the loaves and fish for themselves. You probably could have fed 12 guys with that food. They could have split the loaves up and each had a few bites of fish. They would have been decently satisfied till they got home. But they never would have seen God's famous miracle and fed thousands of people. What if that is me? What if I perceive my resources as just enough for me and my family, but God wants to use them to do some pretty amazing stuff?

Scripture talks a lot about caring for the I so cynical that I have stopped trying? How can I be more obedient with my stuff?

Just some thoughts that I'm chasing around in my head.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Twilight Saga

For many months I've heard the women in my life raving about the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. They are facebooking about them, discussing them in the hall at school, and counting down the days until the movie was released. I have largely ignored all of this because I have learned the hard way that where women are concerned, I share very little movie and book interests with most of them. Any time romance is involved.

Not that I'm a romance grinch. You see, I have the privilege to be blessed with better than happily ever after. In all the romance novels and movies the heroine rides off into the sunset and lives happily ever after. It has not been easy, but Shawn and I have reached a very deep level of love and commitment that I have yet to see reflected by any romance novel or movie. Therefore, instead of being awed by the romance genre, I laugh hysterically at the lameness of it all.

Sorry, I got sidetracked. Shawn was desperate for something to read while deer hunting last week and picked up Twilight. He said it was pretty good, if you could get past the romance stuff. So over Thanksgiving while I was exiled from my internet connection I read Twilight. And New Moon. And started Eclipse. And saw the movie. So here are my thoughts.

I truly enjoyed the books. I was intrigued by the vampire/werewolf/human interactions. I thought Meyers did a good job developing her plot and her characters. She was engaging and I had a hard time putting the books down. In fact, I didn't put down New Moon at all, but read it from start to finish in one sitting. I enjoyed reading about the struggles of Bella, the heroine, in discovering herself and balancing her love for her parents against her desire to be with her vampire boyfriend. I thought the meadow scene in Twilight was one of the sexiest romance scenes I've ever read. Meyer did a really great job capturing the heat of the "first touch". That moment when someone that you're attracted to touches you in a romantic way.

Now for the critique. A couple of times in the books, I did laugh hysterically at the romance stuff. (other than that, I thought they were excellent)
1. Edward and Bella cannot have's complicated....he's a vampire and is afraid that he will lose control in the heat of passion and accidentally eat her for a instead he sneaks in her window at night and simply holds her in his arms while she's sleeping. They also have lots of long talks in the evenings as he explores her mind and gets to know her. He wants to know every single detail there is to know about her. Here's my problem.....What 17 year old male (or any breathing male who's straight) do you know that could lay down beside his smokin' hot girlfriend in her bed every night and only want to kiss a bit --- and talk? About her --- always? Seriously? In fact....I think I would go totally insane from the never ending foreplay. I laughed till I cried when he probed her with insignificant questions for 3 days. Men don't even know themselves that well, much less want to know their girlfriends that well.
2. Edward is very protective. There are good reasons for this, but to me Bella seems a bit owned. I don't like relationships where the woman is owned. It is hard for me to believe that the dude could be an ass, and she still just adores him with absolute love and sincerity and forgiveness. They can't even make up properly!

So my only complaints about the book are about the romance not bad. Now for the movie. I thought it was completely lame. I don't do chick flicks....because I tend to think Hollywood's portrayal of romance is shallow. So you can take this critique with a grain of salt. If you love chick flicks, you would probably love this movie. But here's my critique of the movie:
1. Insignificant details were changed for no apparent cabinets should have been yellow not blue. Bella needed to wear a sleeveless white eyelet shirt in the first scene. The vampire's house is large and white, not modern and brown. She wore a high-heel shoe to the prom. She was bitten on the hand, not the wrist. I am annoyed when screen writers change details from the book that are not important to moving the story along. I understand the need to alter some events so that the story can take place in a shorter time frame, but to be untrue to the book when you could have been true is just irritating to me.
2. I didn't buy the relationship. There wasn't enough development about how Bella and Edward moved from hatred, to friendship, to love. I know some of it was time constraints, but I just wasn't sold on it. I didn't feel the heat between the two of them.
3. I thought the vampires were portrayed as preps instead of dangerous, beautiful people. It seemed to me like maybe we were trying to recreate High School Musical with vampires.
4. The meadow scene was a disaster. Definitely not one of the top sexiest scenes ever in a movie. In fact, not even very memorable. (And I was really looking forward to it.)

Now to be fair....I am rarely pleased with movies if I've read the book first. There are honestly only two exceptions....Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Noting Twilight's success in the theaters, it seems obvious that most people don't agree with me at all. Which leads me to the last part of my blog.

The audience for these books and the movie really intrigued me.
1. Teenage girls and young single women. This is pretty obvious. Intriguing romance.....danger.....being loved by a god-like male who thinks you are fabulous when you are really ordinary......and they are truly very well-written books. Definitely understand this audience. As a younger woman, I probably would have bought the movie and watched it repeatedly with my girlfriends while we oohed and aahed. So this audience is totally cool with me.
2. Middle-aged women. This audience really confuses me. Why are they so ga-ga over a teenage romance? The discussions I'm hearing are not following the plot line and the vampire saga, but the romance. I'm pretty much coming up empty on this one. Is it that these women feel insecure and like the idea of a male who would pursue them passionately for all of eternity? Or do they like the idea of immortality? Or do they like that there is no sex, just romance? I don't know. Yet again, I am demonstrating my lack of ability to fully understand the female mind. Somewhere I missed out on some female genes, I guess.

So that's my opinion. Take it for what it's worth. Enjoy the books....wait and rent the movie.

Monday Morning Update

Excellent services at The Crossroads today. Attendance was lower than last week, in part due to holiday travel. Meeting in a portable location means that church is never dull. Today the wind was really strong, and it would seem that the awnings over the doors are not securely screwed in. Therefore, when the wind blew, it sounded like a helicopter was landing on the roof! Ha!

Shawn preached right through it all, and I don't think anyone really minded the excess noise. He has started a Christmas series that should be interesting. Like it ever isn't! I am so accustomed to excellence from him that I often forget to give him enough positive feedback. So here it is, "You rock babe!" I am awed by his giftedness in speaking God's Word in a way that is understandable and applicable.

The worship set was good. We had some band members out, but I thought things still went well and the congregation seemed moved. Every week I am stunned by the level of excellence from the worship dude and the band. God seems to continually be making quantum leaps with the musicians at The Crossroads. They are improving at incredible speeds. I feel a little left out. I've gained a few new skills, but not at the rate some of the others are experiencing. Don't misread this. This is not jealousy...just awe at what God's doing. I'm okay that God is working slower with me.

I still feel that strong sense of urgency that we are standing on the edge of something really big. I just can't wait to see what God's got in store for The Crossroads. I am excited about who will be involved and where it's all headed!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

All I want for Christmas

Last blog tonight...I promise! I'll save the rest for later. This is a list of the hottest new Christmas gifts as seen in the Sky Mall catalog my brother-in-law brought me from off the plane. Thought it might make good blog material. Seems that he is a faithful reader as well.

My top ten favorites.

1. For the sexy woman in your life (me)
Wonder woman metal wristbands - just like the real ones! 'Cause those are awesome fashion accessories. Comes with invisible jet! (Get it ....the jet's would you know if you had one or not)

2. For the red-blooded males in your life (all of them)
Remember the leg lamp on Christmas Story? It would seem that you can now order it in full size. Or just for about Christmas lights with tiny leg lamps instead of bulbs. Because wives would let their husbands hang those on the tree?

3. For the middle-aged women in your life (moms)
Full sized, life-like head and shoulder sculpture of Elvis that sits on your desktop and sings and moves. The fantasies live on. Creepy. And nobody really cared about how his head moved anyway....

4. For the hunter in your life
Antlers that attach to each side window of the vehicle. Because we are trying to fool the deer into thinking your vehicle is another deer? Or so that you can honestly say, "I brought home a big one"?

5. Also For the hunter in your life
Moving deer trailer hitch cover. It lights up and dances randomly while you are driving in traffic. Really? Can you say REDNECK?

6. For the serious tailgater
double hammock style chairs that attach to your tailgate so that you and a buddy can party in style. My question - do you really want to spend hours attaching these huge incredibly complicated things to your truck when you could throw open your lawn chairs in seconds and be ready to party?

7. For the napper
An adult size blankie. I'm serious. Here's the description. "The moment your skin touches our exclusive Napsoft material, you'll feel your whole body begin to relax. It's the perfect size for napping, snuggling or cuddling." Oh I had a good time making fun of this one. Imagine your napper friend dragging their adult-sized blankie everywhere they go.

8. For the spa goer
3 piece lavender aromatherapy kit. "Get your zen on." What does that even mean? for 100 bucks I could go to a real spa!

9. For the edge piece only brownie eater (my husband)
An m-shaped pan. Now every piece is an edge piece. This one was actually one of those "why didn't I think of that" things.

10. For the gamer
Your own personal "claw" machine. You know the one...You put in a dollar and maneuver the claw over the stuffed animal you want to pick up. But for your own home? Why? Because that's a great place to store all your child's stuffed animals?

I'm only sorry that I can't import pictures. This may have been one of those you had to be there kind of blogs. My brother-in-law and I laughed pretty hard about the cheesy, yet extraordinarily expensive gifts. Hope you do too.

Thanksgiving blurbs

It's been a week since I had internet service and blogged, so did you miss me? That's the burning egocentric question in my head :)

So while I was missing in action here's what happened.

*Monday and Tuesday - Finished up the last couple of days at school. The Thanksgiving program was precious. My kids did an awesome job! I was very proud of them. Just as a side note - I suck as a single parent. I was very stressed and overwhelmed and emotionally unstable as I tried to clean the house to show, pack, and deal with sick kids. We survived, but the kids were really glad to get out of town.

*Wednesday - Picked up my 15 year old nephew in Greenville and delivered him to deer camp in Arkansas. I had such an awesome time traveling with him. It's been many years since I have had the opportunity to spend any time with my nephews and niece. He's one cool kid and I'm proud to be his aunt.

*Wednesday - Deer camp - picked up the mighty hunters - Shawn and James both got deer :) The other guys were not so lucky, but seemed to have survived hanging out with my family in the backwoods of Arkansas. While I was there, I had a few hours to kill so I took Katie and Abby and went walking. We went down to the old pond where I used to help Pops feed the fish. I looked for the old dock a long time. The beach had changed so much and was covered with lots of small trees that did not used to be there. When I finally found it, I saw that the dock had all but fallen into the pond....definitely not safe enough for me to wander out onto it with my babies. We also checked out the old well, the path to the gate, the deer stand I fell out of when I went hunting with Jon when I was about 3, the old outhouse, and the barns. Dad outed me on my favorite childhood song....It was an awesome moment .....One that I am certainly not confessing online!

*Thursday - Thanksgiving Day - We were at Shawn' s parents. My mother-in-law needed the car moved and suggested that James do it. He's 11. What the heck? So my father-in-law bravely crawled into the passenger seat. James slid the car into gear, slipped his foot off the brake, and crashed into the flowerpot in front of him. He was in drive instead of reverse. He did manage to stop the car before he totally crashed into the house. He backed up, then practiced driving across the yard. My brother-in-law and I sat on the couch laughing at his braking attempts. He would drive. Stop suddenly. Drive. Stop suddenly. Drive. Stop suddenly. Finally he parked and got out. I have officially survived my son's first driving attempt. We had a great time with the extended family. Ate tons of great food. Slept lots. Read "Twilight" and "New Moon". I'll review them in a future blog.

*Friday - Got up at 4 to go to Wal-mart. Desperately wanted the Barbie car on sale. I didn't realize that since Wal-mart was open all night that if I wanted the Barbie car, I needed to be there at three. I was checking out the $2 movies when I felt a shopping cart connect firmly with my butt. I glanced behind me to see what the problem was. A little old lady apparently wanted my spot by the DVDs and was willing to ram me with her cart to get it. As I looked at her, she pulled her cart back, and rammed by butt harder the second time. Really! To buy cheap movies! I moved rather than get into a fight with an old woman.....In case you wondered, I am still sore! I have never had a basket-patterned bruise before. I also went with Shawn to see the movie, "Twilight". I'll review it when I do the books. The date time was nice.

*Saturday - Packed up and headed to Texarkana. Ate lunch with Daddy and Lynelle. Picked up my nephew and returned him to Greenville to meet his dad. Got home. Unpacked. Began reading "Eclipse." Blogging. You are now caught up with my life.

I have tons of new material. I'll try to restrain myself and not do it all at once.

Monday Morning Updates - a little late

Last Sunday marked an incredible milestone in the history of The Crossroads Community Church. We baptized our first three people. It was beautiful. In the beginning, when we talked about planting a new church, I tried to imagine the first baptisms and really couldn't picture it very well. After all, how do you baptize anyone in a cheer gym?

But the reality was incredible. We rolled in a portable baptistery (think big bathtub on wheels)... Filled it with water... and baptized three new believers. The emotions that raced through me at that moment defy description. I have at many times along the journey lost my focus of why we are doing what we are doing. I have at many times confused my desires with God's will. I have at many times been more concerned about details and stuff and the show than the purpose and the mission. Wrapping my arms around those dripping women as they came out of the water reminded me of what we are doing and why. We are seeking to reach and then disciple as many people as we possibly can for as long as we have breath in our bodies.

As I reflected on the amazement and the beauty of watching these women make a public commitment to follow Christ, I heard that little voice in my head say, "You ain't seen nothing yet." So I am giving praise for the lives that are already changed, but I am also looking forward to the lives that are going to be changed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Deer Fever

The weather is cooling off. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. And deer fever is running rampant at our house. Shawn is gearing up for his yearly trip out to the deer camp in Arkansas. This is a highlight of his year. He gets to hang out with men, spend many hours alone in the woods with God, and totally leave responsibility, worry, and stress behind. And shoot guns. A dream vacation for a male.

I desperately miss him while he is gone. I have been married all of my adult life and am not used to being alone and get really lonely. And...running the household alone is not one of my great gifts. However, I am glad that he is able to recharge and refocus. This year he will be traveling with worship dude and drummer boy and our son to the camp. It is a little weird for me that these guys all go hang out with my extended family while I am still in Texas working.

All this to say.....I will be taking a forced vacation from blogging. Shawn is taking the computer with him and thus my Internet connection will be severed. I will "see" you all again late next week when I hook back up with Shawn in Arkansas for Thanksgiving. I hope you are blessed with plenty of food, friends, and family this Thanksgiving.

Much love,

The Big Road Trip

The day dawned cool and crisp. I had to put in a few hours at school before I could hit the road. There were a few catastrophes to set right. One student's dog had died and several students were afraid about riding the bus because of a bus wreck the night before. So I spent the morning reassuring them all that life would be okay.

Finally noon arrived. Time to head to Houston for the Tenth Avenue North concert. Just a girl trip. Me, my buddy Rachel, and my daughter Grace. We struck out on the big adventure. It was an adventure because I was in charge of the trip. And...I am a wee bit directionally challenged. Many of my friend joked that I would know I had made a wrong turn if I saw a sign that said, "Welcome to Canada."

On the way down, we chatted and listened to the cranked up music. It was a good trip. I only got lost twice and both of those were not exactly my fault. The first time the directions were a bit unclear, and we figured it out quickly and turned around. The second time I was on the phone and not paying attention for my turn.

The concert was awesome. Tenth Avenue North is a very musically talented band. They opened with a new song, titled, "Dirty." I thought it was a risky move to begin a concert with a new song....typically you try out your new material after the crowd is already hooked. However, it seemed to work out okay. The lead singer had a lot of great insight and wisdom that he shared throughout the night as leads into their songs. I did think that the band showed some inexperience in their stagecraft. At times they moved from worshipping to rocking very abruptly. Their transitions were still a bit awkward. However, for a young, new band....I was very impressed! I think that these guys are going to be big news in another year or so! Loved hearing them live.

One of the stories that the lead singer told as he went into "Beloved" really caught my attention. He said that when Jesus told the disciples to drink of his covenant that he was proposing marriage. He said that a young Hebrew male would propose to his bride by drinking from a cup and then passing it to the girl for her to drink as well. Then the groom would return to his hometown to prepare her a home before they were married. So in Jesus sharing the cup with his disciples, he was showing his commitment to his followers and at the same time letting them know that a separation was coming.

After the concert, we had dessert and coffee, and headed to bed. The trip back was uneventful. We listened to some music and just hung out. My friend Rachel wanted to listen to a country song that she knew. I endured it...but reluctantly. Then as I was flipping channels, I found a station of the great country legends. It reminded me of being a little girl, listening to my mom's eight tracks in the kitchen. To repay Rachel for the country song earlier, I tortured her with my Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton sing-alongs. It was really, really funny. But I think you probably had to be there.

We bumped into old friends in Corsicana at lunch. It was cool to get to see them. We spent way too much money at a teacher store in Dallas, then we headed home.

A great trip. It was awesome to watch Grace transitioning into a worshipper. It was fun to hang out with Rachel. Life is busy, and it is hard to find the time to hang out with friends as often as we should.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Everyone deserves a night off

Reasons I should take a night off from blogging

*long day
*sniffles and sore throat
*need to pack for trip to Houston
*taking cold medicine - about to fall asleep while typing
*have nothing to say
*can't formulate sentences to converse with my family, much less coordinate my thoughts for a good blog!

Have a great week - since I will be out of town, don't expect anything until the weekend. Love you all!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

a good day

Even though I don't want to still be teaching in 30 years, I love to see God at work every year in my classroom. He does such incredible things that are so much bigger and better than anything that I could ever do. Today I saw a student begin reading, that has a learning problem so severe that we doubted he would ever read - much less start reading before Christmas. I was so excited. I screamed, I danced, I high-fived. It was awesome. It is so cool to look at my students and know that for whatever reason, they were each hand-picked by God to be in my classroom for 177 days this year. That I have the privilege and great responsibility to love them in a way that many of them have never before experienced as I love them with Christ's love. It is incredible and so humbling to walk among them, praying for them, and then to see God begin to do amazing things for them.

I am preparing to chase a new dream, and I don't know where that road will end up. But for today, I want to try a little harder to see God where I am, and be thankful that he is present in my present. I don't have to wait on my future to experience Him. I want to work a little harder at loving where I am, while at the same time seeking where He wants me to go.

Monday, November 17, 2008

my leftover thoughts

This one will be short. I just hate to contaminate my Crazy Love blogs with other stuff.

*Saw outfit from Target on a teacher today (see "I'm jumping off the fashion train"). Tried not to laugh. Ducked into the restroom instead.

*I cooked supper. The smoke alarm only went off once and nothing burned. I will be really glad when Shawn is feeling better.

*I ate sopapilla cheesecake at school today. yum....yum....made meetings bearable.

*About two hours ago I walked by the piano, and I somehow found myself sitting down instead of headed back to the bedroom to do schoolwork. I started with just playing while I was praying, and then I got to thinking about the little country churches where I started out playing. Traditional doesn't seem to correctly describe them. Music was always upbeat and fun. There were no robes on the choir and the preacher would holler out into the congregation, "Hey, brother Bill, why don't you lead us in some music today." Bill or Tom or Joe Bob or whoever got lucky that day would look in the hymnal, pick a song on the spot, and I knew what we were doing when he called it out to the congregation. Then my fingers had to fly. I don't think we did anything slow, and they had to bounce because boring was unacceptable. And the notes on the page had very little to do with what the guy might sing. So while I was reminiscing, I dug around in the piano bench and found my well-worn hymnal and looked up some of the old songs. I just wanted to see if my fingers could still fly after years and years of playing traditional, classical, and now contemporary, and alternative styles of music. I was having a lot of fun, believing Shawn to be asleep back in the bedroom when he entered the living room. He had his phone in hand, calling worship dude to out me. Just for the record....I do not want us to do any of that stuff at the Crossroads.....I just wanted to see how fast I could still play. Now my wrists and fingers are sore and my cuticles bloody from running the keys. But I have to say.....I've still got it.....more or less.

Crazy Love, chapter 6

This chapter hurt a little less than the two previous chapters. This one was titled, "When you're in love." Chan discussed being desperately in love with God, and what that looks like.

Ps. 63:1-5, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you."

I loved this verse. It was such a perfect description of what love looks like. The answer to an intimate relationship with Christ is not trying harder to do more, but in being absolutely surrendered to a Holy God. Sometimes I think that all the stuff we try to do just gets in the way of an intimate walk with Christ. Kind of like laundry and cleaning house tend to diminish the romance in a marriage. These are things that are necessary and good, they just need to be given the right level of importance.

I had an aha moment on page 104. Chan says, "In the same way, you have to stop loving and pursuing Christ in order to sin. When you are pursuing love, running toward Christ, you do not have opportunity to wonder, 'Am I doing this right? or Did I serve enough this week?' When you are running toward Christ, you are freed up to serve, love, and give thanks without guilt, worry, or fear."

Here's my deep thought of the day. As Christians I think a lot of us have the running idea down. But the problem is that many of us are like the girl in the horror movie running away from the monster. We are running from our past sins, mistakes, and burdens. We are consumed with doubt and fear and when we turn around to check on the monster, we fall flat down - back into the sin that so easily entangles us. Instead, I think we should be running like long lost lovers who spot their lover from afar and run desperately to enjoy an embrace in his arms. One type of running is burdensome and exhausting, one is freeing and exciting. How are you running?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dinner with a gorgeous woman

After a long afternoon at church, I was slammed with school work tonight. I had stacks of papers to grade, and tons of materials to prepare. Supper was the last thing on my mind, and my husband was too sick to worry about it either. Definitely a cereal night!

Then I heard little footsteps coming down the hall, and my gorgeous 8-year old, Katie came into the bedroom. She wanted to know if she could cook supper for me out of her kid cookbook. She was making stuffed baked potatoes. I said sure, not really even listening, because I was so busy.

After awhile, she came to retrieve me for dinner. When I walked into the kitchen, I realized how hard she had worked to create a special meal. She had a reserved sign on the table for the table and place cards for the two of us. She had poured my diet coke into the "special glass" - a glass originally designed for an ice cream sundae. Missing key ingredients, she created her own special sauce for the potatoes with sour cream and ketchup. (the sauce was pretty good, the potatoes had been microwaved until they were too dried out to eat - think hard as rocks - swallowed two entire potatoes out of love.)

We had dinner together, alone, and I realized that she is quickly turning into a gorgeous woman. Inside and out. She loves to contemplate ways to be kind to others and delights in discovering imaginative and creative ways to make other people happy. It was a beautiful meal that I will remember for the rest of my life.

I am so overwhelmed by the richness of my life with my children, especially when I think back to the visits with the fertility specialists and the realization and acceptance that I would never have a child. Then God gave me four - incredible, amazing children.

Monday Morning Updates

Services at the Crossroads seemed to go well. I missed "big church" by being in children's this week. However, that was pretty fun. I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of my new students from school. That was an awesome opportunity to bond with him without the constraints of school and 20 other children. I think it was also beneficial for me to see the children's curriculum and experience the time needed for preparation. And, it was probably pretty good for my ego to learn that the band can do just fine without me.

It was interesting that this week while I was out of worship, God finally made it crystal clear to me my calling and what lion he wants me to chase. Then gave me the urging to share it with two different people who said, "Yeah, I can see that." It's like obedience led to clarity. Pretty cool, huh!

Today we had our first new members' class. As we sat there eating lunch and hanging out, I looked around the room and realized that all of these awesome people were not a part of my life a year ago. Then I began praying for all the new friends that God is going to bring into my life this next year. I have been so blessed this year with the ability to make new friends, to move beyond my discomfort with strangers to connect quickly. God is good, all the time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Scattered Friday Night Thoughts

This one may be a bit long. There's lots of stuff running round and round in my head. The secret of my blogging, you know, is to empty my head so that I can relax. This emptying may take longer than you care to read.

Friday nights are the hardest, I think. After a long week at school, I push really hard on Friday to finish up my units that I'm teaching, and give tests to hyper children. Then after school, I have to push even harder to try to prep for the next week. After the long week, I find it very hard to have anything at all left to be a good parent. That's why I am thankful for movies! Love piling the kids in my bed, watching a movie, and munching popcorn. It requires no human interaction from me, and makes them feel special and loved because I'm hanging out with them. Currently watching Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Tonight I did have a really cool moment. James's report card came in the mail. It was not exactly what we expected. Shawn coached me through not flying off the handle, and I handled the issue with grace and mercy. James sat through supper, hunched over his cereal, and not speaking. When we were doing dishes after supper, I told him that I had seen his report card. When there was no screaming, he totally relaxed and explained some of the problems he's been having, and we were able to work out some solutions. So then later we took the time to hang out together on the piano bench and played our first piano/sax duet. Pretty cool. I think music may run in his blood, too.

One last thought....this one is definitely pretty random. I had exactly 9 minutes today for lunch. (This is not important to the story, I just thought you might want to know) One of the team's daughters was eating with us today, and I was totally jealous of her ice cream sandwich. I love ice cream sandwiches and never get around to buying any. Primarily because I will eat the whole entire box. Oh...I'm wandering again. Here's where I was going with this.

Lately God has been reminding me of good memories from my childhood. Seeing the ice cream sandwich brought back an awesome memory. When I was a little girl, maybe 6 or so, my older brothers mowed yards and cemeteries on Saturdays for spending money. Jon and Jeff would've been teenagers. Many Saturdays they had to take me with them. Lots of times one or both parents were with us, but the day I'm thinking of, I'm pretty sure we were alone. I'm not sure why....where were my parents exactly? Anyway, I was cheap labor. I picked up the sticks and rocks that they couldn't mow over, and then they paid me by buying me ice cream when we were done.

We would go to Mr. Warpole's little store up on the hill, and I would walk up and down all four aisles staring at the incredible array of treats. I always ended up at the big cooler filled with ice cream. I would climb up, balance on my belly, and reach deep into the cold, icy, cooler to grab my ice cream sandwich. If it was a really special day, the boys would buy me a glass bottled coke to go with it. We would sit outside on the sidewalk and eat our treats. I thought life couldn't get any better.

Don't know why I felt the urge to share that. Strange really. It doesn't connect to anything else or have a point. Random, huh? Oh, yeah...that's the name of the blog.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


It's that time of year again. Where I am teaching first graders silly songs about turkeys, helping them memorize the ABC's of thanksgiving poetry, and designing and decorating costumes for the thanksgiving play. (Just an aside for those of you who enjoy laughing at/with me- today I was practicing one of the songs and became so off key that I gave up entirely and moved on to another activity.) As we learn about the Pilgrims and Native Americans and the first Thanksgiving, I am always amazed to see how God provided. I remember the first year that I was reading to the kids and discussing the events of 1620, and it all connected with me about just how precisely God took care of those early settlers.

If you have never played connect the dots here it is for you. The best I remember it without my books handy to double check my facts.

Pilgrims: seeking religious freedom, leave England, sailing for America. Storm at sea blows them off course and they land WAY north of their intended destination - at some place called Plymouth. They meet a Native, who happens to speak English and teaches them the necessary survival skills for living in their environment so that they do not all perish in their new land. Remember that this is the part of the country that years later argued for our freedom of religion in the bill of rights.

Squanto: many years earlier is captured and taken into slavery, during which he learns English. Years later when he is freed and returns to his former home, his entire village has been destroyed. He hooks up with some locals and lives happily until one day when a ship lands on his beach. Then he finds it in the goodness of his heart to assist these poor white men learn survival skills. God's getting ready to use his painful past to change the world.

So - here's what had to happen - Native sold into slavery, learns English. Ship blown way off course to ensure that Pilgrims land in a place where there is assistance - from someone who speaks their language. What are the chances of making a wrong turn and ending up exactly where you need to be?

I was thinking today about this. Many years ago, I'm pretty sure that I made a wrong turn. However, it seems to have landed me exactly where I need to be at this particular moment in my life. So even though I am fairly uncertain about where my future lies, I am glad to know that I serve a God who has the ability to unite one of the only English speaking Natives in an untamed land with a group of people blown miles off course so that his purposes would be fulfilled. I am excited that my future is being held in such capable hands.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Writer's Block

Writer's block is an interesting ailment. It does not occur often for me, but tonight I seem to have a pretty severe case. I can't come up with anything serious and spiritual tonight, and I have nothing really new and funny to say either. This week's just been a bit lame as far as blogs go, don't you think?

I wonder what causes writer's block? Could it be sheer exhaustion - which I could testify to tonight? Or maybe sometimes our brains just love to play tricks on us. Or maybe God says, you think you're good at this. Don't get too arrogant.

The only cure that I have ever discovered for writer's block is to just force myself to write anyway. Whatever lame thoughts happen to come to mind. Now there's a blog title - "my lame thoughts" If this block lasts much longer, I may seriously have to consider a rename for the blog.

I can, however, highly recommend that you read tenth avenue north's (my new favorite band) blog on myspace. They are blogging about the stories behind each of their songs on their new CD. Way cool to hear the stories to go with their awesome music.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just kidding about being too tired to blog

Tonight we had an awesome night at Bible Study. I was thrilled that the kids' soccer practice was rained out so that I got to attend to whole thing. I love hanging out with my Crossroads friends. I don't know that I've ever been around so many unique, but absolutely awesome people at any other time in my life. I am looking forward to what God has in store for us in the upcoming months. Thanks guys for coming along on the ride.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Crazy Love, chapter 5

This chapter was just not nice. God was all in my business. I've had a pretty rough day anyway and then for God to be all convicting and stuff just wasn't very nice. Tonight I would have liked to have heard, "good're awesome...." But no.....The chapter is titled, "Serving leftovers to a Holy God." I'm not even sure where to begin. I'll just type out the entire chapter and let you evaluate your life for yourself. Just kidding, but it might be faster and less painful than outing my own self.

Here's just a little bit of the stuff in this chapter that made me say, "ouch!"

*is my concern more about going to heaven than loving the king?

*I felt no shame with my offerings to God because I took my eyes off scripture and compared myself to others around me.

*Am I giving God a bone with a few scraps? Fetch, God!

*no worship is better than apathetic worship. Malachi 1

*Sacrificing "something" instead of "everything" is evil. Malachi 1

*It's not what you advertise that counts, it's what you really are.

*God measures our lives by how we love.

*pursuing Christ means swimming upstream. If you are not swimming, you are floating downstream. Or use the analogy of going up the downward escalator. Run fast!!!! If not, then you are going down.

*Are you really willing to leave it all behind when Jesus says "Follow me," with no explanations attached?

*God is not someone who can be tacked onto our lives.

*Don't assume you are good soil. Really examine your heart.

Here's my life evaluation....just right out here in the open for all of you to see.... as honest as I can be without more intimate personal details than you care to know. I have certainly made great strides in my faith since accepting Christ about 15 years ago. However, I have a really long way left to go. I confess with great shame that I am really struggling with wanting some good explanations about what God has planned for my future. I know that there's a big course change ahead for me, but I'm pretty clueless about what that is and what I need to do next to make it happen. And feeling pretty dang (edited for you, honey) angry about God's silence and lack of detailed explanations - just about me. He has plenty to say about other people. get the idea. That's also probably more than you wanted to know about me.

I'm also having a hard time with wanting what I want and wanting to have God, too. It doesn't even take a close examination of my heart to know that my wants are not yet closely aligned with God's wants. Trust me when I say that I cannot have both. Sin and God do not go together. This is me not giving you details.

Yes, I evaluate my Christian walk against the people around me more than I lay it up against scripture. I am totally guilty of sacrificing some things to God while not giving him everything. Right now, I'm having a really hard time laying down my whole life and trusting God to do the right thing with it.

Don't misunderstand me here. I know that perfection is not attainable on Earth. I know that God just asks me to continue moving forward. I seriously believe that most days I make an attempt in a Godward direction. I am not one of those people who thinks that they are worthless worms in Christ. I know that I am His beautiful masterpiece. However, I am saying that this chapter absolutely knocked any arrogance out of me when I honestly looked at myself long and hard. I know that seeing where I am struggling is a huge part of the battle towards becoming who God has designed me to be. I'm just saying as honestly as I can that I'm struggling. Today more than most. Don't believe the facade that I have it all figured out or even have a good idea about what I'm doing. Mostly right now, I'm just confused. And for me, confused equals frustrated.

Oh - and pray for my gradebook to turn up. It has disappeared and I have to turn in grades on Friday. This is a critical emergency. I don't think I can accurately falsify enough grades if I don't find it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Monday Morning Updates

It is so cool to see families start to get plugged in at the Crossroads. I realized tonight that I spent a large part of my morning visiting with people I did not know six months ago. That's pretty awesome! Services went well today. I can't wait for our first baptisms coming up soon. I also have the distinct impression that God is getting ready to do something huge. I am anxious to see what it is!

Although our services were great, my primary worship experiences today did not occur at The Crossroads. Not to say that I didn't experience God or meet with him there also, but that was not the big wow moment today. This morning God woke me up early with a very distinct childhood memory that I want to share with you tonight. When I was a little girl, I used to love to go down to the deer camp with my dad and brothers. (This is the whole I wasn't born very girly thing) While they were out hunting, I usually hung out at the cabin - reading, writing, or visiting with my Pops (dad's dad).

One day as thunder was rumbling in the distance, Pops drove up in his old pick-up. "Hey, Reese, let's go feed those fish before the storm rolls in." I tingled with excitement, because feeding the fish with Pops was always a huge adventure.

So I jumped in his pick-up and we took off down to the pond. Now my relationship with Pops was interesting. He was nearly deaf, and was pretty crippled up. So conversation were pretty one-sided, and he moved kind-of slow. We got down to the pond, and he slowly, painfully climbed out of the truck. I remember the dark clouds rolling in and the heavy, damp smell of rain in the distance.

We walked out onto the old dock, Pops tapping the dock in a particular rhythm with his old cane. As soon as he began tapping the dock, the fish began to swarm. The water frothed with the movements of the fish. Then he began calling the fish with this peculiar deep, guttural sound. The water was churning with the movements of hundreds of fish as I cast out the fish food (old dog food) into the water. I was amazed by this experience, and the rain splattering on my face just added to the intrigue. Standing in the rain, feeding the excited fish with Pops was a beautiful moment.

So here's the God-point. The fish knew Pop's presence. They were eager and ready and waiting to be fed. By the time he was calling to them, they were already there, ready and waiting. If they had stayed on the bottom of the pond where they were comfortable they would have only gotten the leftover soggy food that fell to the bottom. I want to be that eager for God...that when he gets around to calling me I am already in place, ready, and waiting, and hungry to do what he wants me to do.

So I sat down at the piano this morning before church and was just absolutely overwhelmed by the gut instinct that God is getting ready to do some big things. I'm pretty sure I heard thunder rumbling in the distance. I'm going to head for the dock and wait for him to call me.

The other big worship experience today was just as unexpected. I was performing my "first lady" duties and attending a nighttime worship service at a sponsor church. The crowd was slim, the music primarily hymns, and God spoke loud and clear. He gave me some pretty specific reprimands about losing my focus in the busyness of my life and some other assorted sins. (there's always plenty for him to choose from) Then he began to talk about trusting him in the next phase of my life and ministry. I'm not sure exactly what he has planned, but I'm just telling you that I am so excited I can hardly stand myself. The sense of his presence was so incredible today. I was privileged to spend a beautiful day with my king.

Happy Monday! Only 7 days till the next weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Happy Friday

Am I glad that it is Friday at long last! Or at least it will be by the time you all read this. It has been a long, hard week in first grade. I love having weekends off. It's awesome!

Here's my spiritual thought for the day. Matthew 28: 16-17, "Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for a mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally." Has anything changed? It is still our tendency, even mine as much as I love worship, to hold back and not risk myself openly before other people. Wonder why that is? Is it because of the personal nature of worship, or the fear of ...well I'm not sure exactly what?

So God is saying interesting stuff to me right now. Pray hard for me to hear him clearly and to understand what on earth he's talking about. I'm mostly just confused!! He talks to me clearly about other people - sometimes even their deep secrets and difficult struggles. I guess I just need to find whoever he's talking to about me so I can figure all this stuff out.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Joseph is my favorite

Yeah, so I know that I'm weird, just roll with it. One of my all time favorite Bible characters is Joseph of Arimathea. Love this guy. Here's the set-up (at least in my head. Serious Bible scholars can correct me if I'm wrong.)

Matthew 27 - Jesus is dead. His body is hanging on a cross. All of his buddies have gone into hiding....duh....they might be next. It is a horrible disgrace for a Jew's dead body to be left overnight on a cross. Then there's the whole it was fixing to be the Sabbath thing going on as well. So who's going to ask for Jesus's body? They might decide to kill you, too. If you are really interested in this guy, check out Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19.

Joseph is a member of the Jewish High Council, but secretly a follower of Christ. He has endured the questioning, torture, and crucifixion of Christ. I am curious about how much or how little he spoke out during the trial. Did he yell out with a voice of reason that day, or was he silent with fear? In Luke, it says that he did not go along with the plans of the council, but so much of his story is a mystery that I do not know what he did that day. But what he saw and heard pushed him out of hiding, and he found the courage to be bold in his faith.

Here's this guy who is a secret follower of Jesus. He is the only person with enough courage that night to ask Pilate for Jesus's body. Everybody else had gone into hiding. But not Joseph. He boldly goes before Pilate, and is granted his request for Jesus's body. What was it like to stand before Pilate and ask for the body of a man who was crucified as a traitor? He takes the body, holds it, washes it, wraps it, and buries it. A man who was afraid for others to know he believes, certainly announces himself with a bang!

What was it like to be the one to hold the dead body of God? To gently pluck out the crown of thorns? To carefully cover his nakedness with burial clothes? To wash away the sweat and the dirt and the blood and the spit that defiled the body of our God? Joseph did a woman's job or maybe even a servant's job that night as he washed and wrapped the body of Jesus. Then he carried Jesus, like a son, to his own tomb and buried him. And don't forget that this all made Joseph unclean. During a holy time of the year.

Wondering how one man carried the body alone? Oh, wait, he wasn't alone. He was joined by Nicodemus. (John 19) Nicodemus had first encountered Christ back in John chapter 3, late at night, so that he would not be discovered, because he was also a leader among the Pharisees. (Jesus was talking to him when he said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not die, but have eternal life") So Nicodemus comes out as a follower as well at this critical moment in history. He arrives at the cross carrying about 75 pounds of burying spices. A fortune. Spent to bury his God that he had not had the courage to follow openly.

So my mind pursues this story often. Both of these men step out openly with their faith at a moment when others had abandoned all hope and had turned away or had gone into hiding. They come to the cross prepared to take care of the body of the Messiah. He was dead. Why reveal themselves now?

Did they vomit as they pulled out the thorns? Did they weep as they washed his back? Did they discuss their regrets? Did they wonder if only they had spoken out earlier, maybe this madness could have been stopped? Did they have hard feelings about being the only ones there? Where were his friends? Did they know that Jesus would be raised, or did they think it was all over?

Lots of details are missing from this story. I am very intrigued by these two men. Many times I have tried to fill in the gaps with my imagination. I can only imagine the depths of the emotions of this moment in history. How must God have felt as he watched these two adopted sons minister to his only Son? It must have been a proud moment as He watched them come out of the shadows with their faith to do the thing that everyone else was afraid to do.

Application - what does God want from us that we are too afraid to do?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Jesus's last few days

I am almost finished with Matthew. The last few days, I've been reading about the final days and hours leading up to the crucifixion. I've read this countless times before, but this time, I really tried to focus in on the roller coaster of emotions that Jesus must have felt. In other words...explore the human side of the God of the Universe.

I may totally off on some of this, but here are my thoughts anyway for whatever they're worth. So way back in chapter 21, Jesus is headed to Jerusalem for the last time. It never occurred to me to look at these events in light of Jesus was facing certain betrayal and death. In other words....Had a bad day...... First he is escorted into the city with a royal procession. Must have been bitter sweet, knowing that those very people would be killing him soon. On his way into Jerusalem, Jesus fried the fig tree, turned over the tables in the temple, and blasted the Pharisees. Seems like he might be experiencing some frustration over the hard hearts of humans. Not that he sinned in any of these instances....just wondering about his emotions as all this was going on. Frustration? Anger? Why couldn't Eve have just said no?

Then he spent time teaching his friends. These last few stories must have been pretty important. After all, when you know you are dying, you try hard to make every moment count. I wondered a little in chapter 26 where the woman anointed him with perfume. I wondered how awkward it was to be in the room at that moment. I wondered how the tension crackled in the air as the men watched for Jesus's reaction to the suggestive gesture. I wondered if Judas justified his actions of betrayal...."what kind of Messiah would allow a woman to do that?"

The last meal...then off to pray while his three favorites waited with him. In the hour of all eternity when he needed, wanted companionship, humans let him down again. What Jesus faced, he faced alone. God of the Universe...lonely. That's hard to comprehend.

What must it have been like as creator, to stand before your creation and be mocked and misjudged and ridiculed and beaten and killed. To endure it so that you could redeem your creation. So that they could have eternity with you. Why not just blast us all and start over? Why be willing to endure the cross for me? Why would an awesome, powerful, mighty God stand before men and allow himself to be treated as common, as trash, as unworthy? And how could we not see who he really was?

Some heavy thoughts there.....Just trying to contemplate God in all his holiness and all his humanness all at the same time is mind boggling to me. All I know is that I am forever thankful that God was willing to do what it took to redeem me. I am not worthy. But I am redeemed.