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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Monday Morning Update - a little early

It is not like me to try to predict the future. However, I am leaving town tomorrow with some girlfriends to attend a teacher conference in Austin. Should be a pretty decent conference. Definitely stoked about the roadtrip, and the girls have mapped out a couple of places they want to take me to in the evenings to listen to music while we are there.

So, knowing that many of our sponsors check this post on Monday Mornings for the latest updates, I'll do my best. I will not be back online until Wednesday, and many of you will whine if I don't blog about Sunday before then.

I'm predicting that the sermon will be amazing and fabulous. Shawn tends to deliver excellence every time. I am also predicting that the worship set will be incredible. It generally is. At least once I would like to say that we crashed and burned. Just so my readers would believe me that it really was incredible.

On a very personal note, having just returned from band practice, I am pretty sure that this is by far the most touching and meaningful worship set I have ever done. It will be challenging just to get through it to the end. At the risk of entirely baring my soul to you all, here's the scoop. For those of you that it makes uncomfortable to know all my crap, just log off and go away. I'm going to tell you this in the order of my story, not the order of the worship set.

Shout to the Lord July 4 weekend, 2003. My marriage was over. There was no hope for my future. I just needed to plan where to live. Some friends walked with me through this time and encouraged me to consider other options such as a short separation, or even staying. All summer, Shout to the Lord played on the radio and at church camp. But it was in the Appalachian mountains, pulled over on the side of the road that it changed my life. I can still see and smell the mist rolling in over the mountains that morning. A light drizzle dampened my hair as the words played on the radio. "Mountains bow down...." Then God said, "I will make the mountain in your life bow down. Stay married." And I did. And God made good on His promise. And I have never regretted my choice. And every time I sing it I know that I serve a big and mighty God who still moves mountains.

Blessed Be Your Name That trip to the Appalachian Mountains was fruitful in more than one way. Traveling, I was careless with my birth control and ended up pregnant. I was cautiously optimistic about this baby, seeing it as God's promise that my marriage would stand the test of time and that Shawn and I were being given a second chance at a people who were learning how to love each other and our children. The ultrasound was beautiful. Ten fingers, ten toes, a great heartbeat. Then at 12 weeks, in October of 2003, I began spotting at school and lost the baby. It was a slow miscarriage, meaning that my body disintegrated the baby, and I endured an entire weekend of painfully losing the baby a piece at a time and finally ended up in surgery. I was so angry at God. How could He mislead me like this? Was there really no hope for my marriage? And all I could hear Him say was, "I am good all the time, and all the time I am good." My first Sunday back at church a visiting band was playing, and I heard "Blessed Be Your Name." For the first time. "You give and take away, blessed be your name." And my anger was gone. And I grieved, (loudly) and my church family held me close and prayed over me. And I learned that God's goodness is not captive and bound up in whether I like or understand the events that occur in my life.

We Are Hungry This one is new to me. I had never heard it before. However, when God first began calling me into church planting, I wrote a similar song about being hungry and thirsty for God's presence. It's pretty hokey, but it was a good fit for the audience at the time. But it was my personal declaration that I would only seek God and his presence. That I would believe in Him even though he was calling me off into something that seemed pretty weird and strange at the time. Then this summer God began showing me His presence as rain. So here's some snippets from the song, "Holy Spirit, rain down on me....." "We are hungry for more of you....We are thirsty for more of You....."

By Your Side Recently I purchased the Tenth Avenue North CD. This CD quickly earned a permanent presence in my CD player - until I gave it away. This year God has asked me to move so far out of my comfort zone that I don't even remember having one! As I have struggled greatly with surrender and obedience to all the new things God has asked me to do and to be, He has held me tightly in his arms. Even when I have lost sight of the goal and tried to take care of business on my own. When I heard this song, I was reminded of holding my toddler who is struggling for independence. She often fights my arms that are holding her and keeping her safe, even when I know what's best. God used this song to remind me that it is only in surrender that I am complete and that as I surrender to God, He's got it all under control and will hold me tight.

So there you go, without intending to, Robby is chronicling my life story this weekend. He reminded me of just how blessed I am, and just how faithful God has been. And maybe the rest of you will understand why I am so moved by the worship set.

Okay, enough LaRissa's heartfelt junk for one blog...moving on....feeling awkward?....just pretend like you never read this.....I'll never know!

We will also be hosting our second new members' class. I am excited about several new families who will be attending and joining the Crossroads family. Also excited about Joel's pot of beans. He makes the best beans ever (sorry Shawn.) Been daydreaming about buttermilk pie. Don't know about that one.

We are looking forward to a busy spring with several events in the planning process. Continue to pray for the Crossroads daily. God is on the move and doing great and mighty things. Love that I get to be a part of it all.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Best of 2008

True Confession. The other day I was trapped in line at Wal-mart for all of eternity. Bored, I scanned the magazines. Now while I secretly wanted to read Cosmo, you never know when you will bump into somebody you know. Nothing more embarrassing than being caught in the line at Wal-mart reading "20 new ways....." So instead I snagged a copy of People - the 2008 Yearbook. Became deeply enough engrossed in it that I purchased it. I told you I was there a long time. (like 13 bucks! Seriously!)

Life has been moving along in fast forward and so it has laid under my nightstand forever waiting to be read. Finally today I had some extra time and read it. Very intriguing. It seems that I slept through most of 2008. Half the people I had never heard of, and some of the huge events were totally new to me (example - Pres. Bush's daughter got married? How did I miss that? Robin Williams and his wife divorced?) Many of the things I had forgotten such as the blue guy who applied his vitamin to his skin, the raiding of the Mormon compound, etc.

I read all the articles. Even the ones that I was not interested in, because I was pretty bored. Some were inspiring, others weird, some disturbing, and some depressing. However, when I finished reading about all the famous people and their triumphs and failures, I was pretty relieved to just be me. Reading about all the break-ups, DUIs, drug overdoses, and even the good stuff that is micro analyzed by the media and fans makes me remember how blessed I am to enjoy privacy. There is no one outside my home waiting to ambush me and my family with cameras. There is no one waiting anxiously to catch me in an awkward moment so they can embarrass me publicly. There is no one who even cares what I wear to big events and whether I should go on the best or worst list. (Trust one even noticed me at the last big event) And I am SO THANKFUL.

Most of the people that I read about are still desperately searching for meaning and happiness in life. They've tried sex, drugs, partying, fame, marriage, divorce, same-sex partners, having children, and still are searching. There are certainly exceptions to this. I saw some people with "happy eyes" who truly seem to be enjoying their life. But most seemed to still want more. Seeing this made me realize that I am thankful tonight for my comfortable home, my cheap car, my extraordinary family, and my beautiful friends. I am thankful that I am able to live life freely with great joy. And am praying for the "pretty people" to find the Author of my life and embrace Him to find the meaning in theirs.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

What a momentous event! Today as a first grade teacher, I made history with my students. We sat together on the floor and watched our first African American President be sworn into office. Today, for the first time ever in my teaching career, my students truly believed that someday they could become president. That it was not just a career for old white men. Remember they were not born yet when President Bush took office the first time.

I was most moved when the spectators at the Inauguration were asked to rise as Obama was sworn in. Every one of my first graders rose to their feet with their hands over their hearts as they watched. Whether you like Obama or not, whether you agree with his policies or not, or whatever you believe about him, today was a beautiful day in the history of our nation.

My students, many of whom are bi-racial, were also excited to see pictures of his extended family and realize that he is bi-racial as well. I can foresee a day when the checkboxes on applications will have to add an additional choice: all of the above, or better yet, when the box is no longer there because it no longer matters.

On the way home from school, James and Grace point by point rehashed and dissected Obama's speech. They talked about what they liked and what they didn't like. I realized that even for them, for some reason this election has taken on personal meaning. For two children who've never cared about politics to suddenly be very interested in a Presidential speech is huge. I also appreciated the way they were carefully digesting it and discussing it together and with me.

I don't know what our future holds, but I was excited about many of the things that occurred today. I liked seeing my students believing in themselves and in their country. I liked seeing my children interested in our nation and willing to discuss and debate their views with me.

*Just a note - Shawn is headed to his mom's again to lay floor and will take my computer, so no more blogs until the weekend since the blogspot is blocked at school.*

Monday, January 19, 2009

Location, location, location

It's the most famous saying in real estate, "Location, location, location." Today I got up early and headed in to work so that I could get some time in my classroom before inservice started. While I was in my classroom, I was pretty much totally zoned in to what I needed to do to get ready for tomorrow. What I needed to do to prepare my learning centers and my lesson plans. Totally focused on the task at hand.

However, when I'm at home, it is really hard for me to think through and remember what I need to do for school unless I have created a very detailed list. When I'm at home, I am focused on cleaning and laundry and the kids and all the stuff that needs to be done at home.

So I was thinking about the importance of location in creating focus in life. I was wondering what the spiritual applications are of this. I do know that Shawn and I had a quiet time for years on our couch in front of the fireplace while we drank our coffee. That location took on special meaning as I learned to listen to God's voice and to grow spiritually with my husband.

Biblically, Jesus often left his disciples and went into the wilderness to spend time in prayer. I think that there is something to the whole location idea. Sometimes it is very challenging for me to hear God because my location does not leave any room or space for his voice to get any attention.

I was just thinking today that maybe I should start paying attention to where I am when I find it easiest to meet with God. And spend a little more time there.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Monday Morning Update

From the very first moment that I knew we were going to be church planters there were some events that I really looked forward to and tried to picture. One of those events was our first baptisms. Of course the reality with the portable baptistery was very different from anything that I had ever pictured, and it was much more amazing and awesome than I ever dreamed to see people deciding to follow Christ.

The other event that I was really looking forward to was our first communion together as a church. Technically, the first communion took place in my living room with the launch team this summer. That was absolutely incredible to share the Lord's supper with people who shared our vision and our lives. At the end of that beautiful, emotional evening, I leaned over to a friend and said, "You know that the next time we do this it will be with the friends in Anna that we haven't made yet."

So this morning we did. We shared the cup and the bread with our new Anna friends. As Shawn prayed over us right before we took the communion, I just totally lost it and bawled like a baby. Prideful to the very end, I leaned on my knees and let my hair fall forward to hide the tears as they poured down my cheeks and dripped onto the floor. I was overwhelmed that God is allowing us to walk this road with him. He is using us, even though I fall a far ways away from perfect or holy or righteous.

It was great for Shawn to be speaking again. He is such a gifted speaker. I enjoyed the sermon, even though I was almost certain it was a rerun. Course, I'm not sure that enjoyed was the right word as Shawn described the crucifixion and explained how Jesus took my place of punishment so that I could have his place as the beloved. God convicted me pretty hard during the sermon. I treat Jesus' sacrifice as cheap, take it for granted. Then on the other hand, I ignore lots of sin as "lightweight" instead of confessing and repenting.

Out of the worship set, my favorite was Paul Baloche's, "Your Name." I loved the line about the nations singing. I was reminded again about the urgency to reach the nations so that all people groups can be represented in worship in God's throne room. Honestly, I did not expect to be blown away by this song. I had heard Phillip, Craig, and Dean's's alright, but a bit dated. Then as I listened to Paul Baloche's version I kind of thought the same thing. However, as time passes, I'm starting to trust the worship dude more and more about songs, and so I put in the practice time last night to get it right. And with our band, and his vocals, and the beautiful background babe, and the congregation joining was stunning.

A good day at The Crossroads. I am still pretty emotional, extremely exhausted, and dreading working on school stuff this afternoon. But the hardest thing of all is waiting a whole week for it to be Sunday again.

*For those of you interested, I did update the worship blog. You can link there through my profile. Be patient with me on this one. I have not yet decided exactly where I'm headed with it. Or how I want to structure it. Some of the posts I am not satisfied with. I have been debating for several weeks about just deleting it, but instead decided to simply use it to ramble about worship until I discover God's plan. It did take me all afternoon to get it published because of technology problems, which is usually a good sign for me that I'm on the right track. So hang in there, eventually some order will emerge from the chaos.