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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!