Saturday, May 31, 2008


"Are you okay?"

The question was so immediate to my picking up the phone that it took me off guard. "Yeah. I just got home from work . . . ."

"I was worried . . . ."

I had talked to my friend, Jill, last night. Austin and Kolya had invited me to their band's first concert. (When Cypress Road takes off, I get to say that I knew them when . . . .) I had to work at the book store and Jill invited me to come for dinner right after and stay for their concert. But apparently all of my synapses weren't firing and both things slipped my mind.

We all have emotional traps we fall into. One of mine is that if I went MIA (missing in action) that it would take forever for people to notice. Aside from work, there is no one that I interact with on a daily basis. And then there are the weekends. If I'm not scheduled at the Barnes and Noble, then there in nowhere I have to be. While people might notice at church, it might take a few times of missing for there to be a response. There are a multitude of benign (vacation, out of town, etc) reasons for someone to miss.

I got off work at 6:00 and that would have put me at Jill's by 6:15 or so. Thanks to her call, I made it to the 7:30 premier. While I don't want to make a habit of missing things, her timely response and care touched me. I told her as I was leaving, "That blows my it-would-take-forever-for-someone-to-miss-me theory out of the water!" Perhaps it is silly, but it felt nice.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Heart's Posture, Belief, and Not Alone

I saw Narnia Chronicles -- Prince Caspian last weekend. I highly recommend it and I don't recommend movies that often! (See yesterday's blog for clips.) I want to share some about it without giving it all away.

So, without too much detail, here are some of my thoughts. Primarily, I think it is about the heart's posture. You get to see it from several different perspectives: Peter's decision to move without Aslan, Edmond's contrast to where he was in the The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, Susan's disenchantment as she realizes that the problem with Narnia is that they ever have to leave, Caspian's humility, and Lucy's unerring belief. They are woven together almost seamlessly.

I love the way it asks the question throughout, "Do you want to believe?" It seems that most of the characters (though not all) struggle with some aspect of belief. Do they believe each other? Do they remain true to what they know about Aslan? What is the role of wanting to believe in seeing?

It my mind the story of Jesus not being able to heal in Nazareth because of their unbelief rises up.

Throughout the movie, "Where is Aslan?" is asked. The Narnians struggle at first to even accept the Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy as the kings and queens of old. As one says, "Aslan disappeared the same time you lot did." Ouch! And from a Narnian perspective it must have felt like abandonment. And even the children must try to figure out where Aslan is . . . . In his abscence and under the tyranny of the neighboring realm, even the trees have gone deep within themselves and never dance.

I know there have been times in my life when I have felt abandoned even by God. I gave up on church for a time. I have, at times, retreated deep within myself. But God is always inviting us to dance.

At one point, Lucy, the youngest faces the invading army alone. She pulls out a small knife and stares unwaveringly at the approaching army. But she is anything but alone . . . . I shall not say more lest I give it away but think Red Sea . . . .

My one disappointment was that my favorite passage from the book (Yes, I've read them all) was slightly changed.

"Lucy, he said, "we must not lie here for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today."

"Yes, wasn't it a shame?" said Lucy. "I saw you all right. They wouldn't believe me. They're all so --"

From some where deep inside Aslan's body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.

"I'm sorry," said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. "I didn't mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn't my fault anyway, was it?"

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

"Oh, Aslan," said Lucy. "You don't mean it was? How could I -- I couldn't have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I?" Don't look at me like that . . . . oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn't have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?"

"You mean," said Lucy rather faintly, "that it would have turned out all right -- somehow? But how? Please Aslan! Am I not to know?"

"To know what would have happened child?" said Aslan. "No. Nobody is ever told that."C.S. Lewis

I love that passage. "To know what would have happened? No one is ever told that." And it speaks to following even when others you trust won't follow with you . . . .

If you've seen the movie, whose heart mirrors yours the most and why? Do you have a favorite clip/part? Post about it and leave a link with Mister Linky and we'll come read . . . .

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chronicles of Narnia - Prince Caspian - The Call

I got this off of YouTube from a link from Heather at I appreciate cevans4200 putting it together.

For now, I'm just posting the video. I'll add some thoughts tomorrow. Thanks, Heather, too for telling me how to do this! Bloggy friends are a wealth of info.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Obedient Heart -- Hope Chronlicles 47

I probably should have taken a before and after shot but then I might have been too embarrassed to post them. I did a major cleaning/organizing overhaul on my catch all room yesterday. It was a disaster, an embarrassment. While everything isn't sorted, a large portion 2/3 or so got toted off to the basement. You can actually walk through that room! This is a major accomplishment.

My basement is unfinished. There are lots of things to prowl around down there. After Katy got closed down there a couple of times without my thinking about it, I generally keep the cats up when I head there. But, I knew it would be a longer project, so I left the door open and decided to count heads when I was through.

Katy had been down there before and tired of it quickly. Mali was enthralled. On my last trip back up I realized she was way under the stairs playing happily. I didn't think I'd manage to snag her, but when I got to the kitchen I yelled in my most authoritative voice, "Mali! COME!" To my utter astonishment, my command took precedence over what she was so happily doing. She darted up those stairs and came to a halt right in front of me!

While we have worked on "come" for awhile, it has generally been distraction free and with me in sight. Just my body posture and position probably clue her in that treats are forthcoming. This, however, was by the sheer call.

Books will tell you that cats are not generally obedient. They need convincing that they want to do what you are asking. I think humans are like that too. At two, we start with "Why?" While some of that may be about rainbows, it can also be about going to bed.

Growing up I was very obedient. We did not question because we knew the consequences. Perhaps it wasn't about obedience as much as it was about fear. Even today, I am very law abiding and rule following. However, this belies a questioning heart. Whenever there is room (and sometimes when there is not), I've taken my freedom as an adult into an incessant questioning. I need to be convinced on many things.

But there are times when obedience is necessary without knowing the why of it. I think of a child careening through the yard after a ball that has rolled into the street, heedless of the oncoming car. When mom yells, "Suzie, STOP!!!" we hope in that instance Suzy will immediately heed the call.

That call is one of protection. It is also one of relationship. That child knows the mother's voice like the sheep know the shepherd's voice.

So, Mali's immediate obedience over something she was delighting in has caused me to pause. Do I respond so immediately to God's call? Understanding is a good thing, but sometimes it must be enough to know the ONE who calls and respond with immediate obedience.

It seems that there is hope in that because it reflects the depth of the relationship. Perhaps it is like the "folly" of asking God to teach patience, but I think I will ask anyway. I think it might be worth the risk.

God, teach me to have an obedient heart -- when there is time for questions but even more so when an instant response is necessary. Show me what it looks like to have that kind of relationship with you. Teach me to know that the only thing I must understand is your love and call on my life and that those are more than enough to answer any why.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sing Like No One's Listening -- Hope Chronicles 46

It's one of those sayings, several lines actually, that you find being emailed hither and yon and wondering where they came from. Some say it is from an Irish Proverb and others from a song by Paradise Awaits. Sing like no one's listening. Dance like no one is watching. So, I do not have the definitive on where the words came from, but I love the sentiment and lesson behind them.

Yet, I find them difficult sentiments to live by. I am by nature extremely self-conscious. I always wonder -- no worry -- what everyone is thinking.

I was always part of a pair growing up and the part of the pair that came up lacking. My twin was better at piano than I was. We both took violin. She was always a chair or so ahead of me. When we did the plays in junior high, she got the bigger parts. Our sophomore year we both ended up in the school choir. Music was required that year. Somehow, we ended up seated several seats apart. Though no one had ever encouraged me in singing, no one had ever said I was awful either. As that year wrapped up, I started to dream of trying out for the special junior-senior group. I forget the name but they sang and danced. Maybe my interest was spurred on by the fact that my sister had no interest at all in trying out.

I went to the preps and I actually managed the try outs. Janel was a junior but sat next to me in the main choir. She was in both choirs and heard me audition. As I was walking out, she said to me, "Why don't you ever sing that loud in choir?" Somehow, I had managed some volume during the audition.

I didn't make it. As I probably too often do, I assumed that meant my singing was awful. For the most part, I have probably continued on as I did during choir -- kept my singing under the radar so to speak.

Mercy Me has an older song out called If I Could Only Imagine. Like that saying, it captures part of me because it asks the question if he were face to face with Jesus, "Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?" Again, I cannot imagine being so in awe that I would let others see my awkward steps.

But then that is the point isn't it? What would it be like to be so moved by God's glory that we would worship uninhibited, that the awareness of everyone around us might fall away?

Today during church we sang All in All. It is an older song that I know from my InterVarsity days. When we sang in InterVarsity, we broke into men and women or split the room in half. After singing in it through altogether, one group would take part and the other the second part and sing it simultaneously. I loved the way the verses mixed.

But today we were just singing it together as one. After the first time through, I couldn't resist adding the opposite part. So, as everyone else sang the verse, I continued on with "Jesus, lamb of God, holy is your name...."

To my surprise I sang it loud enough that I could hear myself. I was one voice and I don't know that anyone else heard. Maybe they did. I was singing more loudly than usual. But for once, I didn't worry what others thought or if I was in tune. I simply lifted that up to Jesus.

Perhaps one day I'll dance as well . . . .

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Danger of Grasping -- Hope Chronicles 45

"I want . . . !" Go through any retail store and you will hear this cry from a toddler and subtler versions from older children and teens. If we are honest, we recognize the same cry in our heart. It can be about things. I want what so and so has -- house, husband, kids, car . . . . Maybe it is that I want to look like _________ (fill in the most beautiful person you know). Maybe it is the intangible things like respect and honor or position.

When we get down to it and are truly honest with ourselves, there thousands of "I want . . ." statements fueling our hearts and minds. Sometimes, those "I want" statements turn into "I deserve" statements. We are mortally offended that God or someone else hasn't provided what is so deserved.

I couldn't quite figure it out. But a couple I know at church has an unusual arrangement. They are very happily married but she kept her own name when they married. No, it's not even hyphenated. When both of their children were born, they took her name. Other things in their home are off from what one would typically anticipate. He does most of the cooking and grocery shopping. After knowing them for a few months I was really curious. I started asking questions.

The last is the easiest to explain. He enjoys cooking. His schedule also allows him to get home before she does.

Why didn't she take his last name? She is Latina. If she had taken his last name, her name would not have reflected that piece of her identity at all.

But what about the kids? My friend told me that it was his idea that the kids take her name. Most fathers would want their kids to have their last name. It's not that he didn't want that. However, he looked at the greater scheme. If the kids took his last name, they might be removed from a big piece of their cultural heritage on their mother's side. He opted out of any desire to have the kids have his name so that their last name could reflect their mother's Latina heritage. Given that both children are very blond, light eyed, and fair skinned, without knowing their name and their fluency in Spanish, one would never guess their heritage.

This couple amazes me.

As I've thought about it, I've been reminded of Jesus. In Isaiah 53:2-4 says:

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

I find that passage hard to wrap my Sunday school soaked picture soaked brain around. The pictures I always see portray an attractive man in his thirties with people thronging to him. He'll carry a lamb or have a smiling child balanced on a knee. But it says, "nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." We considered him stricken by God.

If I had my choice as God as what form in which to come, I think it would have been with beauty. Perhaps it is good that I'm not God. Even having that thought might mean that my reason for coming was bent toward worship at that moment rather than rescue of lost souls.

In those times even the death he died was considered cursed by God. Deuteronomy 21:23 says this: "you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse." I know the theology that Jesus had to suffer and die for our sins. But I am struck that the death he died was actually considered a cursed by God death.

Philippians 2 encourages us that our attitude should be the same of Jesus.

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Grasping. Children are always grasping and reaching for something. Part of it is about growing and learning. I know that. But when the other toddler has a toy you've been ignoring and you suddenly want it -- bang them on the head and take it! As we grow, we learn to temper or hide that, but I think that I often have a grasping heart. I'm always grasping for what I do not have. I want to be just like so and so and have what they have. Not so with Jesus. Even though he was rightfully and fully God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped . . . . Because He did not have a grasping heart, He looked to our interests and died on the cross.

What a blessed hope there is in a God who would make himself nothing to rescue the lost. I pray that I would understand what it means to have a humble, hopeful heart rather than a grasping one.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Notes to Myself

I've been in the midst of some conflict lately. As with most things, it seems like it comes in waves. Today, I am meeting with a friend to try and sort out the mess of the last couple of months.Sigh. I both want to meet, think we need to meet, and dread it. Part of the problem is that I think we both know how to push the other's buttons. So, I need to choose not to allow those buttons to get activated.

A little over a year ago, I was in a conflict with someone else. We met with a neutral third party to work it out. I wrote notes to myself on index cards. Some were just a sentence or two about an issue that needed to be addressed, a prompt for myself to keep me on track. I find that sometimes in conflict I can chase rabbit trails.

Every 2-3 cards I had something totally different written on a card. It had nothing to do with the conflict at hand. It had everything to do with me. Here is some of what I wrote:

  • Listen. Really listen.
  • You DO NOT have to be right.
  • Speak in love, not anger
  • Listen with your heart
I think the other person was a bit put off that I had come with a stack of note cards. I think they thought that all the cards were issues I had with them. No, they were reminders for myself.

I've made a few notes to myself again. Hopefully, when I feel myself getting pulled in, digging my heels in and wanting to win, I can glance at a note and be reminded of a better way to respond

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Knight's Heart -- Hope Chronicles 44

One of the gifts I've received over the last year is being in Deb and Joe's small group. I've learned quite a bit from interacting with them. Last night after a meeting, they invited me to go out to dinner with them. It is a Mexican place that I had only been to once but had enjoyed. As part of the kid's meal, their children (Raquel who is 5 and Lucas who is 3) received a tortilla wrapped up like a cone with ice cream in it. (I have no clue what the technical name for it is.)

As they were eating, Raquel's fell to the floor. Debbie told her it "stayed there." Raquel burst into huge sobs. Not wanting to see his sister so upset, Lucas dove under the table to grab the cone and present it to his sister. As Debbie said, "What are you going to do with such a kind response?" The only thing we decided was that Raquel would at least be building antibodies and the 10 second rule has to apply in restaurants as well, right?

Apparently this is characteristic of Lucas with his big sister. Deb said that if they are disciplining Raquel, even just speaking firmly, Lucas makes the demand for them to stop because they are upsetting her. At 3, Lucas has become a knight rushing to the rescue.

I love the responsiveness of his heart. I pray that he never loses that responsiveness because it is so like God's heart. When we cry out, God responds. Psalm 34:17-18 says

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

In Psalm 55:16-18 the psalmist writes:
But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me.

Both of these psalms point to the responsiveness of God to the plight of His people. Granted, we may not always get what we want the way we expect it. However, we can have hope because our knight, our heavenly Father, is always listening and always responding. He is ever present and ever attentive to His children.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Glimpse Into Life With Cats

Things at my house recently got moved around. I use to do everything on my laptop but my cats were jealous of the computer. With recent changes, I now have a desktop on a desk in one room and have been doing things there.

Mali and Katy remain my constant companions. As you can see, they are supervising my work. This picture was not posed! (I'm trying to get ready for She Speaks. I wish I was accomplishing more than I am.)

But they don't always stay up top and out of the way. Just like my lap, they are jealous of my hands. Obviously, my hands should be caressing them so they spread out on keyboard. Or there are other times, like little children, they play in the midst of things. I barely caught this picture of Mali taking a swipe and diving into a wrestle with Katy.

Now, how am I suppose to get prepared?

Don't believe it when someone says that cats are aloof and off to themselves!

Please pray for my She Speaks prep. I really have more to do than I would like to admit!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

The Best Is Yet To Be -- Hope Chronicles 43

Life is hard. People say things and I get hurt. There are unexpected expenses of which the almost $4.00 per gallon gas prices are the least of the worries. Friends move away. The depression worsens and I don't sleep for almost 8 weeks. (Happily, the sleep has been better the last two weeks.) There a bills to pay and things around the house that need doing and I don't have the time or energy. And there is the loneliness.

I picked up a book at B&N to check out. I grabbed the wrong one. I read parts of it and knew that while I definitely identified, I was probably identifying too much. It was best not to finish it, save it for another time. But I will share a piece from it. It is called Suddenly by Barbara Delinsky. One of the main characters commits suicide and leaves the town wondering why. Paige finds some unmailed letters and in them Mara writes eloquently about being outwardly successful but being so alone. She says something to the effect of, "What really matters is that in the middle of the night, when all the trappings are gone, I am alone." Yes, that feeling resonates with me.

I've found myself telling myself that if this could be this way or this could be that way then my life would be fine. At the core of those things is having enough money to take care of what needs to be taken care of. (I'm not having much financial peace at the moment in spite of taking that class.) But push past that anxiety and you will find a world of "what ifs?"

  • What if I had gone to a different college?
  • What if I had stayed on staff with InterVarsity?
  • What if I had dated in high school or college?
  • What if I had turned left instead of right and met the love of my life around the corner?
  • What if, what if, what if?

But they are questions that won't get answered and keep us looking in the wrong direction.

Prince Caspian comes out today in the theatres. I'm saving money and not going right now. I don't know if it is good or not, but I remember the book and this marvelous conversation Aslan has with Lucy. She has seen him up high all day and wanted to go up to him but no one would listen or follow. When she does go to him, he tells her that much time has been lost. She starts to blame the others and Aslan gives a low growl. Lucy says, "Well I couldn't have come up alone? I couldn't have, could I? Oh, Aslan, am I not to know!"

A wise Aslan says, "To know what may have happened? No, child, no one is ever told that."

I think it is a mercy that we aren't told. A mercy and a warning not to go down the "what if" trail second guessing.

Two things happen for me. I focus a lot on what has happened in the past. I was severely abused. I was emotionally tortured. I had a crummy childhood and it is easy to be angry about that. The anger is justified, but it doesn't do much good if it keeps me stuck in a loop of looking and being angry over and over again. So, I get stuck in the past.

And I get stuck in the present. I get driven down by the bills and gas prices. I feel lonely at night especially. Spend time thinking, if x +b happened, life would be perfect. I focus on all the things that are not meeting up to what I want (husband and kids at the top of the list).

But when I focus so intently on those things, I lose perspective and I lose hope. Yesterday is gone. Today is fleeting. And the best is yet to be.

The best is yet to be. Jesus is coming to get me. Knowing that should make everything else pale in comparison. Jesus is coming specifically for me. I want to always be ready, emotionally, spiritually ready for his call. And he will usher me in to heaven, the best that is yet to be. All of this down here is about getting ready to meet God face to face. So, I should not devalue any experience, any person, any interaction. All of them may be preparing me to meet God.

Yes, they don't quite look like I what I might want, wonder, beg for, but they are part of my preparation before I'm ready for heaven.

Heaven is fact. Think about that. No matter how bad today was (and it was dozy for me), the best is yet to be. It works if you had a great day too. You can look and be thankful and then stand in wonder, "The best is yet to be. This goodness will pale."

Hope is recognizing the murk and mud in our lives, acknowledging the past, plodding through the present, but fixing our eyes on what is yest to be. And it will be the 5 star galaxy kind of best.

Today, as I lapsed into my lament, I found myself thinking, I don't need a what. I need a who. Particularly I was thinking of a friend or a mate. But God gently reminded me, "You already have a who. You have me. Keep pressing on and let me worry about the rest."

I have hope because the best is yet to be and because he who is the absolute BEST is with me.

Tell me about an area you struggle to keep Jesus at the forefront of . . . .

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Two Little Girls Hundreds of Miles Away -- Compassion International

I want to tell you about 2 little girls. They live hundreds of miles from me and each other. Yet, at this point our lives are intertwined.

The first little girl is Delia. She is just shy of 11. Her birthday is June 1! Happy Birthday! She lives in Ecuador with her mother and father. She likes to sing, tells stories, and play with dolls. I like knowing that she speaks Spanish. That was my language of choice in high school and college. Not that I could converse in Spanish, I still like it that I know a few words of her language.

The second little girl is Kayirngwa. (If any of you can help me on how to pronounce that, let me know. I think of her as Kay.) She lives in Rwanda, a country in Africa. She likes jumping rope, running, and playing group games. Rwanda is an HIV/AIDS affected area.

As you probably guessed, I sponsor both of them through Compassion International. Sometimes it is really tight to try and send, but I know they are counting on the money I send.

How did I end up with two so different countries? Both times I heard a broadcast about Compassion. One specifically mentioned Delia by name. It was one of those heart tug things. With Kay, I heard about a plug for Compassion again. Something tugged on my heart again. This time I asked about Rwanda. It was through a local organization and the volunteer said, "Rah - what?" They weren't sure if they had Compassion there but they would check.

I read about Rwanda probably 15 years ago or so when I read an IVP book called, The Good News About Injustice. It deals with the attempted genocide in Rwanda. The Hutu and the Tutsi are actually very close genetically. I don't remember the exact percent of ethnic similarity but I believe it was less than 1% difference. But throughout the years there has been great acrimony between them -- enough to cause mass slaughter of men, women, and children. Something about that book nestled in my heart and God nudged it that day.

I try to write to them once a month. Sometimes I manage it, sometimes I don't. I know that children like to hear about other children, so they often get tales of my adventures with the kids I know here as well as pictures of my cats.

I love getting letters back from them. Both, at one time or another, have expressed some confusion that I live alone. They want to know where my family is. How do you explain singleness to a child? Or how do you explain that family doesn't live close as they do for them? At one point or another, they have given me their advice. Kay thinks I need to join the choir at church. Delia thinks I should play some games with people. Both are great suggestions, but my church doesn't have a choir and I'm not sure what games Delia thinks I should play. Perhaps, she is thinking of sports.

Along with pictures, I've sent along blank pieces of colored paper or stickers. I love giving stickers to the children an Barnes and Noble. They have stopped quite a few tears. I cannot imagine how children who are poverty stricken might enjoy those little things.

With my friend Jill having just been on a Compassion trip, they have been on my mind more. I wonder what it would be like to visit them. Though, after reading Jill's blog, I know I cannot imagine the poverty they must live in.

Even in their pictures, I am struck that neither one is smiling. I wish I had a snapshot of smiles. But, it is perhaps, a reflection of the harshness of life they live. That, and I'm sure cameras and pictures are a novelty and maybe meant a solemn occasion.

At any rate, I pray for them and each month manage to save up the money to send. More than anything, I pray that they know the living hope that is Jesus.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Operation Compassion

My friend Jill is in El Salvador with Compassion International for the week. It is heart wrenching to read about all that she is seeing. She has pictures up as well. Please visit her blog at to see the pictures and here what she is seeing. She wrote yesterday that she has never seen so much poverty and that it brought her to tears. That is a great picture of compassion.

Do you sponsor a child? If you do, please post about your child and leave a comment here and I will visit to read about your child. Later in the week, if people leave links to their sites, I'll post them in a list.

I sponsor two little girls -- one in Ecuador and one in Rwanda. I'll post a bit about them over the next couple of days.

Please consider reading what about Jill's time in El Salvador and pray about becoming a sponsor!


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

When God says, "No Take-Backs" -- Hope Chronicles 42

Sorry gals! I just realized after visiting Leila's site that I missed 8 and read 9. But I like this post anyway. I'll try to post on 8 soon!

Perhaps it is my imagination, but I think I hear God calling in delight, "No take backs!" The thought both makes me smile and tremble a bit. What is it that I am signing up for?

After a cold, wet, gray, dreary Sunday, the clear skies and warm weather were extremely welcome on Monday. For the past 6 months, I've only take a half hour lunch by choice. My schedule is shifting some and I'll now be taking a normal hour for lunch. Knowing I would have the whole hour, raised the question for me on Monday as to what to do with that time. I can easily eat in 15 minutes and have typically read during the other 15 minutes. Math has never been my strong suit but even I can figure that left 30 minutes.

I've lost 17lbs since the first of the year and plateaued there. With the turn in the weather, I decided that extra 30 minutes would be ideal for walking. So, I ate my sandwich and apple while I did 3 laps of an 8 block downtown perimeter in those 30 minutes. (How many city blocks in a mile?)

Since I had already eaten, I considered another lap but opted for a spot on a bench in sun instead. I needed to prepare for Yes to God Tuesdays at Lelia's. We are on the final chapter of Lysa's book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God.

It was a challenging chapter and a call to decision. I read it and closed the book and said, "Okay, God here we go. I don't know what will happen, but 'Yes.'"

Perhaps, God was afraid I would take it back but I am not at all use to immediate-response-answers to my prayers. I still had 15 minutes and I pulled out my phone to make a quick call., but before I could dial I heard "Do you have any change for a homeless vet?"

Generally, I do not respond well to these requests. Chalk it up to a number of years in social service and dealing with some who just don't seem to want to work. Oh, there were always a myriad of reasons but I often found gaps. They couldn't afford the bus token to get to parenting classes necessary for getting their kids back but I found myself behind them in line at the grocery store while they were buying a six pack. I don't want to be unfair. There are people who are just down on their luck. But after a bit, social service can make you tend towards cynicism.

Generally, my response is to avoid eye contact and hurry on. On Monday, both those rules got broken. I met his eyes immediately and he held my gaze. It was as if God changed the words "Do you have any change?" to "Are you serious about change?"

Surprisingly, I dug into my purse to find I had $8.00 with me. My gut reaction was to hand him $3.00 and keep the $5.00 bill. And God whispered, "Now, reverse the math." So my I-so-hate-being-conned-self handed him the five. It all took all of 60 seconds. He was rushing on, "I can show you ID so you know I'm a vet." I wanted to say, "Not necessary. Jesus gave the ID for you."

It would have been great if I had said that but I wasn't that bold. However, I did something else unprecedented for me in these situations. I gathered my coat and book in my lap and made room on the bench. "You can sit down if you would like."

For ten minutes, I lent him an ear. He told me that it's cold at night and it's horrible when it rains. He said that he hates asking for money and that he can't find a job. He said he gets lonely and there is no one to talk to. He read the title of the book, What Happens When Women Say Yes To God, and asked, "Do you believe that God stuff?"

My lunch was over, but I could say, "Yes, I really do."

Did I get conned? Perhaps. Maybe I'll never know for sure. But, it was worth $5.00 to hear God delightedly exclaiming, "No take-backs. I think we shall begin now." And so we begin the next leg of the journey with some change over lunch.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Compassion International

Want to know what goes on for Compassion International on a day to day basis? My friend Jill Savage is in El Salvador right now with CI. Please pray for her and Erica and Anne (her daughters) as they minster and learn. To learn more about it and hear first hand, click Jill's picture at right. I hope Jill doesn't mind me making a button out of her!

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pieces of My Heart

Sometimes God gives us people for just a time. And sometimes those people take bits of our hearts with us when they go. I have to believe that even though I will miss them and hate the having to say "Goodbye" that our meeting and doing parts of life together was for all of our good.

Today, I am saying "Goodbye" to Allison, Grace, and Elena. I met them through church in December 2006. We quickly became friends. Allison has graciously shared her girls with me. Yesterday, I spirited the girls off for a few hours of fun.

We went to Barnes and Noble and I let them each pick out something. Then we had lunch out and then went to the store so they could help me pick out flowers. I am not much on yard work, but last year a friend helped me plant some flowers in front. I liked having them, so we picked some out for the front and got two longer planters to set on the deck. (I hope I did it right and that they survive the planting!

This is Grace watering the flowers.

Here are Grace and Elena working in front of the the house. (Sorry, they got a little dirty, Allison! But they had fun.)

Elena and Grace with finished product out front. Last year they spilled over the pot. I hope they do this year as well.

We did white and orange daisies in the back. But I think the two prettiest flowers are the ones in pink! I love this picture of them.

And because it wouldn't be time at Amy's without popsicles and the park, we headed down to the neighborhood park. This is Grace on top of some of the equipment. I've loved listening to her pray over the last year and a half.

Here is Elena, digging her way to China. Actually, with her heart for God, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that she ends up as missionary somewhere . . . .

Though it hurts to say "Goodbye," I wouldn't have traded the bit of sunshine they've been in my life for anything.

And with believers, it never is totally a goodbye but more of a "See you later!"

Please pray for their new adventure -- wherever it leads.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Shaping -- Hope Chronicles 41

As you all probably know by now, I adore my talented cats. (For talent proof click here.) Teaching Mali (though today I did get Katy to do "UP" three times), has largely been tied to the idea of shaping and rewards or positive reinforcement.

Teaching Katy to beg for her treats was probably the most straight forward thing I've taught either one of them. I keep a can of hard treats on a shelf above the TV. I went and patted the door to get her attention. When she simply came over to where I was, I praised her and gave her a treat. But this wasn't the exact behavior I wanted. I wanted her to paw at the door and ultimately "meow" for her treat. I patted the door some more and she hopped on her hind legs to see what I was doing with my hand just out of reach. Treat.

We did this for several more days and she got the idea that if she pawed at the door, I would come over and give her a treat. (So maybe she ended up training me!) Finally, I decided to move onto the "meow." She did what I now considered her ask for a treat and I went to the TV but I didn't move to get the treats. She pawed some more. When no treat was forthcoming she let out a plaintive "meow." She got lots of praise and a couple treats!

It's called shaping because you start by rewarding an approximation of something. We do it with babies all the time. We want to see them crawl but we praise and encourage them if they make it on their knees or rock back and forth. We reward an approximation of something, the effort.

Honestly, I have been much more focused on training Mali than Katy. I taught Katy over a year ago to ask for a treat and then dropped the whole thing training aspect with anything else. Perhaps at that point it didn't dawn on me that I could train her to do other things. When I saw a book at the store and perused it, it mentioned starting when they are young. At 3 Katy is hardly old, but Mali is younger so I focused there.

I enjoy those little moments teaching Mali. Today, I thought, "Why not give Katy a chance?" It took a little coaxing and I had to use just the right food, but she got "up" for me.

So, how does this apply to hope and God? When I first taught either of them a trick, I had to be patient. I couldn't just say "ask" or "come" or "up" and have them know what I wanted. There was a learning process.

I'm fairly patient with them and children, but I lose patience so easily with myself. Why didn't I do it perfectly the first time? In my mind, an approximation of something doesn't count for me.

But when I really stop and think about it, all of life is an approximation. It is all learning. Carolyn Arends is my favorite Christian artist. She has a song called Getting Ready for Glory. It talks about how this life is all about getting ready for the next. It is, I believe, shaping and conforming us to Jesus likeness so that we are ready to meet God.

Here's a bit of the song:

She's had 80 some years,
Most of them good,
But she's not gonna be here much longer
Now the body gets weak
Like she knew it would
But the spirit just keeps getting stronger
She's got her Bible and hymn book beside her
She storing those songs and old stories up inside her

She's getting ready,
She's getting ready,
She's getting ready for glory.

She knows all of the verses
to How Great Thou Art
And her soul it doth magnify often
And she's gonna keep learning
the scriptures by heart
til the day she is laid in her coffin
She wants to be sure when the angels come take her
That's she's got some greetings for meeting her maker

There's more, but you get the idea. This life -- the joys and sorrows, the hardships and comforts, the triumphs and failures -- is all about shaping us and getting us ready for glory.

The idea of everything shaping me for God puts hope into every bit of what happens in my life.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Owen and Mzee

(Photo from Wikipedia)

Cute, capturing photo, huh? It's a great true story. I found two books about Owen and Mzee at the bookstore. Basically, baby hippo gets swept down stream and is rescued and taken to Haller Park in Kenya. He's put in the same habitat as Mzee the grumpy 130 year old tortoise. (At 130 he might have something to be grumpy about and then they toss a baby in with him!) Owen is just one or two and scared and lonely. He takes to following old Mzee around, hiding behind him when scared, and resting beside him when tired. They become an inseparable pair. (They have their own website)

I bought one of the books for a friend and her girls. A mutual friend called me December 2006. Allison and the girls had just moved to town that fall. My friend wanted to know if I would mind her giving Allison my name so she and her father could do a little Christmas shopping for the girls.

I went and spent the morning in the midst of high fashion, glitter glue, and sand art which is not for the feint of heart. Sunday morning when the girls saw me at church, they barreled into me. I loved getting such an enthusiastic greeting.

I spent a lot of time with Allison and the girls last spring and summer. Life has been topsy-turvsy for them since late last summer. Two weeks ago, I found out that they are moving some time in the next week.

I gave them a book as a reminder of my friendship and care for them. At the end of the book it remarks, that there will always be a friend around when you need one. All three have been good friends for me. I know God is preparing new friends for them now as they move on their way. But mostly, I know that God has them nestled in the palm of His hand.

I hate goodbyes, but I think I might get to spend some time with the girls on Saturday. I hope so. It would be good to have one last go around at the playground and some popsicles before they go.

God provides friends in all shapes and sizes. Just ask Owen and Mzee . . . .

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No Forfeit

I enjoy strategy games like Backgammon and Reversi. The goal is to out think your opponent. It's all a question of, "If I do this, then they will do?"

Does strategy work with faith? For the full post, check out my post at

More later . . . .

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Mundane Things

It's Yes to God day at Lelia's. Here are my thoughts on chapter 7, "Keeping Our Vision Clear."

I've been blessed with remarkably good vision. As soon as I write that, I'll probably start needing glasses! Aside from a slight astigmatism in 1 eye, I see fine. Honestly, at this point in my life, there is zero impact from it.

Though about 15 years ago was a different story. It was right after my mother had passed away and I was stressed. That spring the year and half of her illness and passing caught up with me. I had headaches and my vision blurred. It was just hard to focus.

I knew I had the astigmatism before but I had never needed any help. The doctor told me (at 23) that I wasn't as young as I use to be and that sometimes it made it harder for the eyes to adjust quickly enough, that my other eye was somehow through compensating. Happily, it eventually righted itself but I am waiting -- at 39 -- for the problems to come back with age!

While most people aren't as lucky as I was to have my vision "recorrect," I think there are times when we all have things get out of focus. And there are choices we can make to get back in focus. I love Lysa's perspective on the fact that while we are often nearsighted God's vision for us is always clear.

As I think about it, His vision of our past is perfect. His vision of our future is perfect. His vision of where we are at any given moment is also perfect. But sometimes -- often -- I argue with Him about all three. Why did this have to have happened growing up? Why couldn't I be like so and so who has had a friend since she was four? Why did you let me make that bad choice? How will things ever work out in the future? What is the future going to hold? It's paralyzing to think about. How will I manage today?

Lysa shares with us a story about some unexpected money they received and how she was set on new curtains. The short version is that it took God working on her heart to make her allow Art to make the decision not to get those curtains give the money away. Many years later, if things went the way they have, the curtains would have needed to be discarded.

God knew what Lysa wanted today wasn't what she would need for her tomorrow. The same is true for me. God knows what tomorrow brings and how to prepare me for it. The hard part is trusting Him with it all.

Lysa also points to the fact that God is busy in the everyday things of life. There really is no happenstance with God. I heard a quote once that said that "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." I use to like that quote, thought it was clever. Maybe, to a degree, it is. But it really is only coincidence to those who don't know God. Christians (though we may have to ask Him to show us) can see God's hand in all the things of life -- including the mundane. In fact, He is probably more likely to consistently meet us there than in those rare mountaintop experiences.

Lysa shares three things from the story of Jesus calling Peter:

  1. "Our call to obedience may challenge our pride." Peter was called to let down his net where he had already fished. He could have said, "I just spent the last 5 hours in that spot Jesus. No way. You are a carpenter. I am fisherman. There are no fish there." But God blessed him because he didn't take that route.
  2. "God uses our experiences to equip us for our calling." Here Lysa references Jesus calling Peter to be a "fisher of men." I thought of another as well. What about David fighting lions with his slingshot, protecting the sheep, well before he ever faced a giant? Our life experiences have a cumulative effect. Rarely is one event totally isolated from another. We just may not know yet how God will connect the dots.
  3. "Our obedience may inspire others to respond." Obedience. Ick. I hate being told what to do. But when we follow God's prompting -- sometimes through others -- others may see God in a new way. It's obedience in the small things that lead us to be obedient in the larger things. It reminded me of the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. He wanted to be healed but balked when he was told to dip himself in the Jordan 7 times. His Israelite servant girl challenged him, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!" He went and did it and was restored.

My conclusion, we all aspire to the great things, but more often God is calling us to obey and listen through the mundane things of life -- the lawn, the dishes, the groceries, the kind word, the helping hand, . . . . Since God is in the midst of them, maybe they aren't so mundane!

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