Thursday, July 31, 2008

Little Girl Lost

Today, I received a very sad email. Compassion International wrote to tell me that my sponsored child in Ecuador is no longer in the program. They were able to tell me that she is healthy and had completed the fifth grade. For some unknown reason, her parents decided not to send her anymore.

I ran into Karrie the other day. She is the friend I made at She Speaks that was traveling to Ecuador earlier this month. She carried a gift laden backpack for me and handed it off to the Compassion worker. I don't know that I anticipated Delia having received it yet. It would have had to make its way to the student center that she went to.

I called Compassion when I got off work to see if I could glean anymore info. The representative I spoke to said that there really wasn't much more. The parents don't have to give a reason. It could be that she was needed at home or it could be pressure from the community. Compassion is an evangelical organization. In a very Catholic country, they can be looked on askew. So, there was no more information to be had.

I did ask about the backpack. There's no way to know where it is at this moment. He said that the staff would likely still try to get it to her. I hope that they do. The things I picked out were with her in mind.

But, if not, they will use the things for other children at the center. As I thought about that today, I realized that while I had Delia in mind, God may have had several others in mind. The pack had a t-shirt, three stuffed animals, a book, a couple bracelets, binoculars, hair things, a scarf, . . . . The items could bless a number of children.

Though, there is one item in particular that I hope makes it to Delia. There was a locket with my picture pasted inside. I wanted her to wear it as a tangible reminder of my love and prayers for her.

Either way, I know that God will use those gifts. But, I am highly relational. So, I am sad tonight for this one little girl who is lost to me. But I can still pray for her and her grim, determined pose that God would hold her close and one day introduce her to me in heaven -- lost to me for a time but hopefully, prayerfully found in Him.


It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

My warm, sun loving body is cringing at this moment. A coworker announced yesterday that Hobby Lobby has their Christmas stuff out. Another confirmed that JCPenny is putting out their fall stuff -- cold weather stuff.

Please, it is only July 31st. Can't we put off the thoughts of cold weather a bit longer? I know I live in central Illinois and it will come sooner rather than later, but it's July.

I remember when the Christmas season didn't come until the day after Thanksgiving. I'm not ready for cold weather. I'm not ready for the hustle and bustle of the season. I'm not ready for the flowers to go away or the snow to come. (Though, if you want to know, I think a snow blower would be at the top of my Christmas wish list. But, I haven't made that. Yet, I think it would be up there.) I'm just not ready for it all.

But it did remind me of a church musical I was in while in sixth grade. It was called, Christmas in July. The point was that Jesus needs to be celebrated all year round.

So, I may not be ready for all the trimmings, but it raises a good question. Am I ready for Jesus on a daily basis? His message, His presence, His power should not be constrained to December 25th. I should stand in awe that He would chose to come at all to this earth every day of the year -- including July 31st!


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Breaking the Surface

I remember laughing as I went down the slide. It emptied into a shallow pool half way down and then you got on another slide and went the rest of the way. At the first pool, I let myself go totally under. And then it happened. I somehow got disoriented and could not find my way up. I remember running my hand over the blue bottom. Or maybe it was the blue wall. Whatever it was, it did not help. My heart pounded and I had the fleeting thought that I was going to drown in that shallow pool because I could not get my feet under me. I could not break the water's surface.

I don't remember how I managed to find my way up. But I came up coughing and sputtering. The guard asked me if I was okay and told me that he was starting to worry.

I feel a bit like that emotionally. It has been a hard month as a result of a medication change and some family conflict. (My doctor warned me that tapering off the med might be like major PMS. And it has taken over a month!) Largely it has manifested itself in forgetfulness and difficulty processing with some tears thrown in.

I feel like I've been riding down that slide all month. Last Thursday night I hit that shallow pool and I've struggled to break the surface of all the emotions. Friday I was weepy but I pulled it together. The emotions pulled at me on Saturday. Sunday I burst into tears after a meeting before service and fled because I just needed to be home. Add to all that emotion a series of headaches and a off-and-on scratchy throat. Doesn't that all sound like fun?

I've struggled enough that I haven't even updated here like I usually do. So, I'm asking that you pray that I break the surface of that emotional pool soon. Meanwhile, I need to rest in the fact that THE LIFE GUARD is looking out for me and will help me find my bearings.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Following Up And Is She Runs on the Horizon?

So, this is my official follow-up to my post about my interaction with my ex-roommate last Friday. If you don't have the foggiest what I am talking about, just click here. I just called her at work because that's the only way I knew for sure she would answer. I asked her if she could have dinner tonight. (I know last minute.) She said she couldn't but next week would work. We settled on Wed. but need to firm up the plans later.

So, will all of you pray? Seriously, I felt incredibly awkward just in asking. And now I feel tearful. I know it is because it ended so poorly. Yes, it is a slow obedience on my part. I probably should have listened to God last week, but I didn't. All the nerves might be over with if I had! If you will pray, please leave your name. It would be a great encouragement to me. I'd love to have 10 people praying for whatever God might do?

PS. As Joy noted on my last post, I went from cookies to pie. I looked back and it was worse. I went from pie to cookies to pie in 3 consecutive posts. Can you tell what is on my mind while people like Lysa, Renee, Melissa, and Holly are all exercising? Heaven help me, they are bold enough to post exercise pictures and commit to things like half marathons. Oh, my, you don't suppose they'll add a track to She Speaks and call it She Runs? But I suppose after worship Sat. night Lysa could lead everyone in aerobics . . . .

I suppose the only "good" part is that I only had pie on the first occasion (note that I ordered a half slice). When I made Mark's pie last night, I only ate the 5 sugar, cinnamon coated slices that I just couldn't make fit in the pie crust. Really. I dropped the pie off this afternoon without cutting a slice out to test it. (Oh, dear. I do hope it is edible! Wink.)


Apple Pie Time

I don't particularly like going to the grocery store. Okay, I hate it. But a friend is having a birthday tomorrow, so I wanted to make a pie. His favorite just happens to be my favorite -- apple. While I don't make the crusts, I do use real apples for the filling. Hmm.

I ran to the store and then puttered around the house a bit. Then I got into my comfy clothes and set to peeling those apples. I was dismayed to find the the first one quite brown in the middle. Yuck. I tried a second. It was equally disturbing. Well, since I wasn't going to make my friend a pie with bad apples, I got dressed and went back to the store.

They were fine with giving me my money back, but they didn't seem overly concerned. My thought was that if there were two like that there might be more.

So, I hopped to another store and found the apples and hightailed it home. Now the filling has been made, the crust is browning, and I get to smell that yummy cinnamon and apple smell.

I mentioned to someone today that I was making this pie. She said something about me liking to bake. I don't mind baking, but it really isn't one of my favorite activities. It is the giving of the things I bake that I get pleasure from.

I guess I get it from my mother. She was always baking and we were always taking the teachers treats. I take treats to work on occasion. I've taken them to my doctor's office out of appreciation. My counselor's office really rates as they sometimes get to pick the time before what they want me to bring.

To me, it is a sign of caring that I take the time to bake for these folks. That probably comes into play because I think it is one of the ways I felt cared for by my mom. The brownie fairy would just happen to come while we were playing in the basement. My mom would make elaborate birthday cakes when we were younger. She had a book that told how to cut them to make different shapes. One year I chose the log cabin. It stood up and everything. And as we got older she made us each our own pie (not that they weren't to share) but the holes in the crust were made into our initials.

Do, I like baking? It's okay. What I like is doing something for someone that says, "I did this just for you, I value you."

So, Happy Birthday Mark. (You can leave him a message on his blog if you want.) Thanks for daring to start Crosswinds. I am thankful for you as a pastor but even more so as a friend.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When You Give Someone a Cookie

The other night I was reading Lisa Whittle's post. She always makes me think. It was about how one of her dear friends didn't like her initially. Ouch. But this woman decided to pray for her. Now, she is one of those friends that Lisa can call any time.

I had taped a show Friday night called Flashpoint. It's a new cop type show. Given that everything else is reruns, I decided to tape it. I finally got around to watching it. Here's the storyline. A man gets the page letting him know that he should rush his daughter to the hospital for a heart transplant. They get there and settled in only to find out that there was a mix up and the heart is going to someone else. The dad has been up for three days straight in a vigil over his dying daughter. The stress breaks him. He grabs a security guy's gun and takes hostages.

Of course, that is when they call in the team. I haven't watched it enough to know the names of everyone yet. But "Head Guy" goes in to negotiate with him. Others are watching him on the monitor. The dad wants the TV turned back on for his daughter. Rule #1, never give a hostage taker anything without getting something in return. So, Head Guy asks dad to ask each person if they are okay. He does this but skips the man on gurney who is slated to get the heart. Head Guy says, "What about him? Is he okay?" He encourages dad to ask him.

The rest of the team who are watching debrief this for us. It turns out that one of the tactics is to make the hostage into a person. By having dad ask the hostage if he is okay, the hostage begins to become a person rather than a means to an end.

Lisa's post fit right in with this. It made me think of work. One woman works in another office. One day when I was still very new, she came in the back door, walked to my desk, and demanded that I look something up for her. I was in the process of leaving and I was use to people going to the counter. I got really flustered and was offended by her tone. I managed to find what she needed but decided that I didn't like her at all. After she left, they explained who she was and all, but it didn't help me liking her.

A couple months ago I made my famous chocolate chip cookies. (I'm probably overly proud of them.) I took some to the office. As I was taking a short break, God prompted me to put three on a little plate and take them down to this woman. From that time forward, every time I walk by she waves. If she comes into the office, she stops to talk to me. When you give someone a cookie or a prayer or a smile, sometimes you forge a connection because you have made them human.

I've probably used this C.S. Lewis quote before, but I think it sums things up so nicely that I'll use it again.

It is a serious thing to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship or else a horror and a corruption such as you meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long, we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of those overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealing with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people.

When we remember another's humanness, we treat them with more humanity. When we remember that they may have things going on in their lives that we know nothing about, we can respond with mercy and kindness. When we treat them with respect even when we might not feel respected, we give them dignity. When we offer kindness, we never know what doors God will open up.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Trading Shakespeare for Pie

Last Thursday my friend Jill called and asked what I was doing: watering the flowers. She said she had just won tickets to the Shakespeare Festival in town. She wanted to know if I wanted to go with her. Sure! The tickets are usually $40 a piece and I was just going to watch summer reruns.

They run three shows at a mansion in town. Each night is a different show. The night we went they were running Titus Andronicus. Neither of us knew a thing about it. We probably should have googled it. While I don't like horror films, I do enjoy some of the more intense shows like CSI or Criminal Minds. But neither of us were prepared for the intensity of this show. I just looked it up on Wikepidia. It said that it was, by far, Shakespeare's bloodiest work and probably lost favor in the Victorian era because of it's gore. If you haven't seen it, it is largely about revenge.

Intermission rolls around and we chatted about how "new" we think all the problems are but this is evidence that some of the same problems we face today were faced in the 1500's and probably before. I wasn't having trouble following it, but I was surprised by how much all the violence was impacting me. Sensing Jill was feeling a bit of the same, I said, "So do you want to leave?"

We abandoned $40 a piece free seats and went for pie instead. It was much less intense and we had a good time catching up.

It may be Shakespeare and the acting may be outstanding, but it doesn't mean it's all good. Even the classics may need to be screened!

The up part was that we got together. Normally, we both would have stayed home and tended to things around the house. The lure of those tickets got us together. Intermission gave us a way out. Pie gave us some fellowship.

Yes, William, you wrote some masterpieces. I'm not sure what it says about our level of culture, but I think I'll take pie with a friend any day.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Hop On Over

It's hot. Everyone is hungry, but you don't know what to cook? My friend Jill is having a summer recipe swap and contest. If you want some ideas on summer treats and a chance to win a prize, hop on over. (Click the button.)


A Different Boy -- Hope Chronicles 58

Forgiveness has been very much on my mind lately. About this time last year, it became clear I needed to ask forgiveness from several people for something fairly major that involved a good deal of trust. I do feel as if I have been forgiven by some. They have let me move on from it, chosen to trust me in spite of all that had transpired. But there are others who say they have forgiven me but always pull up short of placing their trust back in me.

But I need to confess that last week I flubbed up the forgiveness thing as well. I had a roommate for awhile. We lived together about 18 months. Very suddenly, she decided to move out. I was hurt in the way it all happened. She told me that we would still be friends because, "You (meaning me) are good with keeping up with people." I had to express my doubt because I knew from watching her with others that she rarely returned phone calls and emailed even less. It's hard to keep up a relationship from one side. Knowing this pattern, I didn't even try.

I was so hurt that I didn't think I could stand to be here during the actual moving out process. I asked her to put Katy (I didn't have Mali yet) in my room and shut the door. Katy is a relatively shy cat. While I doubted she would come out with all the noise and new people around, I did not want to risk her darting out the door.

I retreated to a friend's house for the evening. When I came home, they were still moving things out. I had thought that if they were still in the process, I might offer to help with the last of it. I went up to my room first. To my horror, my door was still open and Katy was nowhere to be found. My hurt turned to fury. I searched for Katy for 20 minutes before finding her way back behind a dresser. All the time, my anger built. I knew if I said anything to my roommate, I would say all the wrong things. So, I didn't even go down to the basement to wish her well or say, "Goodbye." I just went to bed.

No, that was not very good of me. The scare over Katy just really pushed me over the edge. My friend stopped coming to church all together. There have been no phone calls, no stopping by.

Recently, I found a Fed Ex package on my deck addressed to her. Sigh. Knowing I would more likely get a response by calling her at work, I dialed. It took a minute for it to sink in as to who I was. She thought I was asking to speak to her office mate named Amy. I explained and told her that a package was on the deck if she wanted to come get it.

God: "Why don't you ask her to have dinner?"

Ignoring that, I did manage to say, "So, how have you been?"

My ex roommate: "Not really so great. My aunt died and things aren't going well."

God: "Ask her for dinner."

Me to God: "Why?"

Me to my ex roommate: "I'm sorry to hear that. I hope everything else is going well."

Ex roommate: "Not really."

God: "Because I forgave you."

Me to my ex roommate: "Sorry to hear that. Anyway, the package will be on the deck."

Anyway, the package will be on the deck? No, I did not score high in the compassion part at that moment. Not even, "Maybe we could talk a bit when you come to get it."

Clearly, there is some forgiveness on my part that needs to happen. I have not let her move on from all of that.

It has all gotten me thinking about change.

The mark of a good book is that you cannot wait to see how things end up but become sad when you find yourself nearing the end! Perhaps it is even more true when there is a good series. As you may know, I've been reading the Chronicles of Narnia from beginning to end. There are seven. I felt my heart sink a bit to find that I am ready to begin the last book -- The Last Battle.

This means that I have recently finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair. We are introduced to Eustace in the Dawn Treader. He is a cousin of the children. When Edmund and Lucy get pulled back into Narnia, Eustace gets pulled in as well. You quickly discover that he is an absolutely beastly boy -- mean, arrogant, selfish. At one point, an enchantment turns him into a dragon.

To become "disenchanted" Aslan tells him to go into a pond. But before he can go in, Aslan tells him that he must undress. Eustace correctly determines that he must shed his skin. He does this, but as soon as he does, another dragon skin appears. Aslan says that he, Aslan, must help him. Though it is very painful Eustace lets Alsan sink his claws in and peel off every inch of the dragon skin.

At the end of the chapter, Lewis writes the following:

It would be nice and fairly true, to say that "from that time forth Eustace was a different boy." To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.

These great words can apply to our lives as Christians. We are beginning to be different as God strips us clean. But like Eustace, we may have relapses and days when we are tiresome. But God knows that is not that end of the story. Hopefully those around us "shall not notice," because they know the cure has begun and we are in the process of becoming.

Having experienced a lack of forgiveness as well as forgiveness, you might have expected me to act with more forgiveness rather than less. Sadly, I didn't. But the hope is in the fact that I recognize it. I plan to call her this week and see if we might have dinner sometime as God suggested to me. Hopefully, God can even use a slow obedience.

Just as Eustace was becoming a different boy. I am becoming a different woman.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

She Speaks Widget

I haven't figured out if I can go again or not to She Speaks, but I am thinking positively. So, I now have a countdown widget to the 2009 conference. You can click "Get Widget" under the widget or click here to go to where you get it. Now I just need to estimate the cost based on this last year, divide, and SAVE.

You can also make your own widget there and upload a picture and such. I'm just not that creative so I used the sticky note option Spring Widgets provided.

LeAnn might not want it. I think having it count down on her site might stress her out. But I do appreciate all the hard work all the gals at She Speaks 2008 put in!

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Celebration -- Hope Chronicles 57

A few weeks ago, I was at the pool with my friend Jill and her two boys. The boys were off at the slides and Jill and I were sitting in the very shallow (can just walk in and get your feet wet if you want) end of the pool. Jill had been working on her latest book and had just recently got it sent off to the publisher. (It's due out next spring and sounds very cool. It parallels the similarities between Jesus and motherhood -- like the crowds following him everywhere.)

My question was, "So, what did you do to celebrate getting it turned in?"

She looked a bit startled and said something to the effect of, "Life gets so busy I just move on to the next thing."

On the flip side, one of her boys thought we needed ice cream to celebrate his going down the big slides for the first time.

I don't know how good I am at celebrating things. However, that conversation has stuck with me. I wondered how many things I skip celebrating in my life because I get busy. I think I more easily see the things in life that others could celebrate.

Celebration usually denotes the bigger things like birthdays, Christmas, Easter, the job promotion. It's setting aside a special day or time in recognition of the event. And one of the things that usually comes along with celebrations is the making of memories and remembering the past.

In the old hymn "Come Thou Fount of Blessings" it says, "Here I raise my Ebenezer. Hither by thy help come." Rather than being a reference to Charles Dickens's Ebenezer Scrooge, it's a reference to 1 Samuel 7:12. The Israelites had been fighting with the Philistines. At one point, the Philistine's are subdued. Verse 12 says, "Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far has the Lord helped us.'"

On second thought, maybe that verse is also what Dickens had in mind with Ebenezer Scrooge -- the man who couldn't imagine letting his employee off for Christmas. Ebenezer Scrooge learns the importance of celebration in that story.

Remembering. That, I think, is the heart of celebration. Celebration is the language of hope. It does three key things:

  1. It marks the event as special and worthy of noting.
  2. It gives time to pause and thank God for his part in it.
  3. In remembering God's provision or blessing, it prepares our hearts for tomorrow. In recognizing God's provision it helps us trust Him with the future.
Does everything call for cake and ice cream? Maybe not. Does everything call for recognition by loads people? Maybe not. But, more things than not probably call for "little celebrations" of thanksgiving. Maybe it is setting aside an hour to read and pray or get a massage. Maybe it is the phone call to those couple of special friends to say, "Guess what God did . . . " so they can rejoice with us. But more than anything, it is setting that metaphorical or physical "stone" in place to remind us that God is with us. That is always cause for celebration and hope.

What is one thing that you can celebrate today?

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Regular Programing Interrupted

If I could list the top things people across the board would say about me, they would be reliable, responsible, dependable. A bit of theme, huh? Viewers in the area have recently seen this message flash across the screen of my life: Regular programing interrupted due to major and recurrent power outages. Please check back later.

Sunday I turned my phone off for church. Monday night I realized I hadn't flipped it back on. So, I check my messages. There were three messages from Barnes & Noble. They went like this:

  1. Amy, this is Ryan. We had you scheduled for tonight. Just checking to see if you were on your way in.
  2. Amy, this is Ryan. We haven't heard from you. You were suppose to work tonight. Wondering if you are okay.
  3. Amy, this is Todd. We had you scheduled to work yesterday and it's not like you to miss. Please give us a call to let us know you are okay.

Work. What? Utter panic and shame.

So, yes, I was suppose to work Sunday night. Apparently, I skipped that when I wrote down my schedule. I typically work one evening during the week and Saturday night. That is not an excuse. I messed up.

Unfortunately, my brain seems to be having major and recurrent power outages. I recently had to see my doctor about something. I had seen her a week or so before and this was a follow up. I was convinced that she had given me a prescription. I had jotted myself notes but I couldn't find a prescription where I usually stow those things and it wasn't in the notes I had jotted. But I was embarrassed to think I had lost it, so I didn't call the office. I hunted and waited and hunted and waited.

At my last visit, I had to fess up as I was sure she would ask me about it. I had it wrong. All that hunting was for naught. We had discussed the possibility of a prescription depending on how things had gone. Uggh.

And then there was that time a few weeks ago. My friend Jill's two sons were putting on a concert. I got invited and Jill said, "Why don't you just come for dinner right before too." I should have been there just after 6:00. At 7:15 Jill calls wondering where I'm at. It took a few moments for it all to register and come back. But I made it to the concert and ate S'mores afterwards with them. Chocolate is good for those kinds of things.

Last night, I had to go back into B&N for the first time since missing. I REALLY dreaded it. We are talking major anxiety. So, I had returned Todd's call on Monday night and apologized, but I was still nervous.

When I make a mistake -- and even when I don't make a mistake -- I tend to over apologize. I prayed about it and decided the best thing was to face it head on but determined to not go on and on about it in my usual style. The first person I saw was Ryan. "Ryan, I am so sorry. I totally missed it on the schedule. I had my phone turned off. I'm really sorry. I know there isn't a lot of padding in the scheduling." He was very kind and reiterated that they were concerned because I was so responsible.

The next person I saw was Mary, our general manager. Again, I apologized twice and totally owned it. She said that it happens to everyone once or twice, not to make a habit of it, and that they were concerned.

My brain just seems to be all over the place the last few weeks. Please pray for a return to the normal programming. I much prefer it. In lieu of that, I'm writing everything down and triple checking it.

PS. Taking a break from the blog the last day or so was not part of the power outage. It was more of a conviction of how much time I let blog hopping and blogging consume. I love the relationships, the information, and the encouragement. But it was a reality check of sorts for me. It was good to spend a little extra time with God and a few other things. I think I have a bit more perspective on it. But, I am dying to hop all over and say, "Hi' and see what you are up to. So, hopefully, I will be visiting you soon!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sign Post #4 and a Day of Rest

For some reason, I started calculating all the time I've spent posting and reading and commenting the last few days. Today, I will check email and such, but I am going to try to resist posting and blog hopping.

Blog hopping is more worthwhile than many might think. But, I think a day of refraining and doing something else is what God is calling me to on this Tuesday. Not every Tuesday, but this Tuesday.

But I will point you to a good post by my friend, Lisa. Click here to go over and check it out and be moved.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Hope Hears the Music -- Hope Chronicles 56

I don't like to clean, but I've found that when I sort through old things, I often find unexpected treasures. As I was searching for things to send to Delia in Ecuador, I came across a CD. Honestly, since I typically listen to music in my car, I had wondered where it had gotten to.

The CD is "Old Quarry Road" by Marty Feldhake. Marty is a great guy. I know him from my tenure on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. At that time, he and his family lived at Cedar Campus. Whenever I was at camp, I routinely invaded their table. On the CD is a song called "Hope Hears the Music." It has been so good to hear the wisdom of those words again. The chorus says:

Hope hears the music of the future before it's played

Faith is the courage to dance to it today

To go to Marty's site and listen to the song, click here.

I love the insight there. Hope is believing in the not-yet and acting on it today. It's straining toward the goal, and putting all your efforts into getting there. It is hearing the music of future of God's fulfilled promises. These are promises not about getting rich or having kids or anything like. They are promises about God coming back for us and who He is making each one of us to be. When we look at God's faithfulness over time -- in our lives, in the lives of people we know, or in the lives of those who come before us -- it give us the faith, the courage, to dance to music of the future.

One story I thought of in terms of God's faithfulness was when I was a student and then on staff with InterVarsity. As a senior, I had helped lead a Bible study and often met with a freshman woman named Karyn. She wasn't a believer, but she came faithfully to the study and I loved meeting with her. But, I was so sad to leave knowing she hadn't given her life to Jesus.

Three years later, she ended up at Cedar Campus in the track I was leading. That week she gave her life to God. I had hoped and prayed and I couldn't see the end, but God was gracious and allowed me to glimpse what I had hoped and danced for.

But that was many years ago. Surely, God has been faithful since then. And He has. Though not as concrete as an example, I spent much of my life watching the ease with which some people interacted. I always thought that I could never talk that easily. Still, I have tried to keep putting myself out there bit by bit. Honestly, I didn't think I was getting very far. I somewhat thought that I just be resigned to being that girl holding up the wall. And then I went to She Speaks, and all of you blessed my socks off. I wasn't the girl by the wall. I was in the midst of it all and even noticing others and being able to approach them rather than wait for them to talk to me. Perhaps, that was the shift -- concentrating on someone else.

I'm not sure how to explain it. But, even these hope blogs have been about hearing the not yet, the music in the future, and being willing to dance (sometimes tentatively) to them today.

Do you have a story of God's faithfulness? I would love to hear it. If you would like, you can blog about it and then come back hear and use Mr. Linky. Or you can just leave a comment and we'll hear about it that way.

(And thanks Nicki for your post today. It nudged me to write this one.)

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A Child in Rwanda -- Compassion International

Heads up. This is not my typical post. It tells about my other Compassion child in Rwanda, but also deals a bit with the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. I hope you'll still read, but it is just very different from my other posts.

As I write, the things I sent for Delia and her family are in Ecuador. My friend left yesterday on her trip. I'm praying that everything went well.

But I wanted to introduce you to the other little girl I sponsor. I recently received an updated photo. I think she looks taller in this picture than the last.

Kayirangwa is 9 and she lives in Rwanda. Rwanda is a small country in Africa. How, you might ask, did I get from sponsoring a child in Ecuador to sponsoring one in Rwanda?

Several years ago, I read a book called The Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World by Gary A. Haugen. Gary is the president of International Justice Mission. It is an organization that works with victims of slavery, exploitation, and violent oppression. No, this is not light reading. But it is important reading!

I think I was gripped with the opening paragraph. He talks about making his typical commute one morning in 1994 and having the thought of saying to his fellow travelers, "Excuse me, friends, but did you know that less than forty-eight hours ago I was standing in the middle of several thousand corpses in a muddy mass grave in a tiny African country called Rwanda?"

What? 1994? I remember thinking that those things just didn't happen any more. I had consigned them to the Holocaust and World War II.

But they do happen, like most things of that nature, for little or no reason (or rather exaggerated reason). The Rwandan genocide was between the Tutsi and Hutu people of Rwanda. The Hutu militia and every day civilians killed their neighbors -- anyone of Tutsi descent or anyone perceived as sympathetic to the Tutsi. Most estimates of the death toll are 800,000 to the 1,000,000 mark. Supposedly, it was fueled by the belief that the Tutsi and Hutu are very different and with one being superior. Sigh. In reality, there is very little genetic difference. All of that death took place in 100 days.

Perhaps one of the saddest aspects is that the world looked on and did very little to stop the escalating violence. President Clinton apologized during his term. But it makes me wonder if it wasn't a bit like World War II. There were rumors of concentration camps but we didn't step in until attacked.

I was surprised by the book and my own ignorance of the situation. I do well to keep up on local news. Global news is hard to grasp. Still, I think I should do better.

Delia caught my heart because of language (I cannot speak it but I took Spanish in high school and college) and the relative closeness of Ecuador. Kayirnagwa caught my heart because of reading that book and that sadness that anything like that could happen so recently. It was only 14 years ago. At 9 she wouldn't have been born yet, but I am sure her parents were. What an awful thing to have lived through. What a difficult thing to heal from -- whatever side you were on.

I came across a 2007 newsletter from Compassion about Rwanda. It shares the story of Emmanuel. His mother had survived the devastation but had hardened her heart. How could God care if all of those things had happened? But Emmanuel was enrolled in Compassion and became a Christian. Each morning he knelt to pray. Still, his mother wasn't interested.

In 2006 there was a drought. His mother wanted to flee the country in search of relief. Emmanuel told her not to, that his Compassion center was providing rations to families affected by the famine. At first she didn't believe him, but he convinced her to go and see. The workers loaded her with rice and water. As a result of Emmanuel's witness and Compassion's practical intervention, his mother became a Christian.

That is how I got from the United States and Ecuador to Rwanda. I know that Kayirangwa likes to jump rope and play games and that she has chores. I do not know how she or her family might have been impacted by what happened. But still, I hope, that in some small way my giving to her gives her hope and healing for her family and the tiniest bit of healing for her country. I am thankful that I know a God who can multiply what I give and what Emmanuel's sponsor gave a million times over.

Now, if any of you know of anyone going to Rwanda, I'd love to be able to send Kayirangwa something like I did for Delia!

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Not Really Alone

Thanks for all the thoughts on today's earlier post. I really appreciate it. If you haven't chimed in, please feel free too.

I've thought about it a lot today. I'm not sure what the answer is. But please pray with me about this whole issue of alone. It is very real. But I wonder if my fear of it should be allowed to over ride my decision making. I have been doing ppt as an act of service. Should the alone factor weigh so heavily that I don't do it.

I believe in KidStuf and want to help. So, the other question is if there is a better fit for me, something I can get passionate about? I don't know that answer off the top of my head. But I did email a friend and asked to get together to talk about it.

And if I am suppose to keep doing it, I pray God will make that clear and ease that fear.

I'm drawn back to Prince Caspian. Aslan tells Lucy that much time has been wasted. Lucy says something to the effect of, "I couldn't have left the others and come up to alone, how could I? . . . . I suppose I could. Yes, and I wouldn't have been alone, I know, not if I was with you."

So, there is that reality. I would not really be alone. And I would not just have God but the rest of people working on KidStuf going in the same direction even if I was in a loft in the corner with God doing my bit.

As soon as I'm done reading all the Narnia books, I promise to let up on the Narnia quotes!

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Coming Back Around

My church has just purchased a new facility (new to us that is). Actually, we've purchased more than that. We've purchased a piece of history. Parts of the building are 97 years old. A church has been meeting there all of those years. Those are prayer soaked, worship filled walls.

Today, we had a first/last service with the members of the congregation we are purchasing it from. They called it a "baton" handing service. It was a bit of an emotional service as they said goodbye to a place filled with memories, hopes, and dreams and we said hello to a new area of ministry. They prayed many years ago for the parking lot to overflow. Today it did. We were forewarned that we would be parking on the street and walking. (It was a lovely day for a short walk.) I know that it looked differently than they anticipated, so that makes it bittersweet.

It will be different for us -- going from a mutlipurpose warehouse with 2 bathrooms (yes, lots of standing in line) to a bigger building with 27 bathrooms, a balcony, lots of beautiful old wood, a wing of classrooms for the kids, . . . The biggest change will probably be being in a neighborhood instead of off the highway going out of town. There are lots of ministry opportunities there.

It was a bit of coming around for me. My parents were not overly religious but we belonged to a United Methodist Church. I was baptized as an infant. While I don't know that my parents were faithful to the promises made that day, I do know that God was. We went on Christmas and Easter and a few other times. The Sunday they were giving third graders Bibles, we "happened" to go. I remember it distinctly as it was the first time I had held a Bible. And since I loved reading, it seemed like a challenge -- a book that had to be read.

Several years later, we were told we needed to go to confirmation class. My parents took my twin and I and dropped us off. Over a couple of weeks, we found we enjoyed the nursery and soon we were going to youth group as well. One night after a Sunday school lesson earlier that day had talked about giving your life to Christ, I prayed and did just that.

While I've gong to various denominations since, I guess my roots are United Methodist. While we are not a United Methodist congregation, it is interesting to find myself back in a building with those roots as well.

We officially have the keys, but won't have a grand reopening until September. There is lots of work to be done until then.

I'm thankful for all the faithful people who have been in that building before us. As that old Steve Green song says, "May all who come behind us find us faithful."

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Question on Gifts, Abilities, and Service

A couple years ago, my church was short on people to run Power Point (ppt) for the main service. I saw the announcement and thought, "I can do that." And I did. In my mind it was an act of service. It wasn't necessarily a gift. Simply, it was something that I knew how to do and that needed being done.

While I was more than able to put together and run the show, I found I didn't enjoy it all that much. The big piece was that I found it to be very lonely. Thursday night practice consisted of me in the loft upstairs watching the musicians chat and have a grand time while I waited for them to run through a song. (I couldn't join in the chatting without yelling.) More chatting. Run through another song.

Sunday morning, I watched everyone chat and worship. It was just me and the sound guy. Occasionally, they would have a prayer time. Sometimes I wanted to go down for prayer but I couldn't leave my post. Someone told me once to just ask the sound guy. The problem with running ppt though is that if I stopped and did that the slides would stop appearing.

Lonely. That is what I found ppt to be.

And, it was fraught with conflict. To be fair, I won't air all of that here. So, I decided to leave the ppt team.

So, when I quit, someone from our KidStuf worship asked me to run ppt for them. I was hesitant. There was definitely a lot less conflict but I still feared the lonely part.

She was very complimentary on how I run things. I have good timing and all. She called it a gift. Maybe. I wonder if it is just an ability -- something many people can learn.

We met this week to talk about next year. I found myself agreeing to help out, but now I am having second thoughts. We are moving to a different building. As we talked it came out that ppt might be in one place and sound in another. Thus, I would really be even more alone doing ppt.

I believe in KidStuf, but I'm not sure that I'm passionate about ppt.

And I definitely don't want to be alone. As a single who lives alone, I get up alone, I eat most meals alone (everyone at work takes different lunch breaks since it is a small office), I spend most evenings alone, I go to bed alone. (Unless you count the cats!) That is a lot of alone.

I think I feel the alone piece even more in social type situations where I, for whatever reason, have to be off by myself.

So, ppt has been an act of service on my part-- maybe more than others realize.

My question for you is what is the difference between gifts and abilities? Where do my feelings of not wanting to be alone on a regular basis come into play? Do I need to do it just as an act of service or should I find something different after a few years of doing it? Would it be selfish to say, "I don't want to do it if I have to sit by myself." (I do realize that might sound childish, but it is a real question.)

Your thoughts as I sift through this are welcome.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Finding a Bigger God

I've been reading the Chronicles of Narnia for fun. I read them along time ago, but I've found there are so many things I didn't remember. It has also been interesting to read them in order. Though I found The Magician's Nephew a bit slow at first, it picked up and was fun to understand some of the history of Narnia. For example, I know know why there is a lamp post in Narnia and how all the trouble with the White Witch began.

I'm now in the midst of Prince Caspian. (Yes, the movie makers took some liberties.) However, I was delighted to come across this passage:

The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent toward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all around her. She gazed up into the large wise face.

"Welcome, child," he said."

"Aslan," said Lucy, "you're bigger."

"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.

"Not because you are?"

"I am not. but every year you grow, you will find me bigger."

I don't remember it being in the movie, but it caught my attention in the book because it felt so true of God. It seems that the older I get the more I should understand about God. Perhaps, I do understand more than when I became a Christian at thirteen. But, the more I know about God, the more I am struck by how much more there is to know about God. In that sense, as I grow I find God bigger and bigger.

Hopefully, the bigness of God will always make me stand in awe.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Parable of the Sturdy Pillar

Once there was a big beautiful palace. In the center of that palace was an ornate room of the kind you only find in fairy tales. In the middle of that room was a large and very sturdy pillar. It was beautiful pillar, but it it was just a pillar. And as with some stable things in our lives, it was sometimes taken for granted.

One day, the king looked at the pillar and called for the carpenter. "Here now, I think I need a bit more room in here. Be a good chap and shave a bit off the right side of that pillar." So, that is what the carpenter did. He painted it all up and no one ever knew the difference. They barely noticed the slight wobble in the floor above.

Many years later, the queen was planning a ball. She wanted plenty of room for dancing. She called for the carpenter. "I need more room. Please take a bit off the left side of that pillar."So that is what the carpenter did. He painted it all up and no one ever knew the difference.

Several years later, the prince was having a fencing tournament. He thought he needed more room. So, he gave a royal command to the carpenter to take just a bit more off that pillar. So, that is what the carpenter did. He painted it all up and no one ever knew the difference. Though, when the wind blew off the ocean in just the right way and one was on the floor above, some thought they could feel the floor shake just a bit. But everyone knew this was nonsense because it was a well built palace and had a nice sturdy pillar in the middle of the room below.

As you might have guessed, there was also a princess. She was getting married. So, of course, she wanted her wedding in that very special room with that pillar. But there were so many guests that there wasn't quite enough room for all the chairs. She looked at that pillar and called for the carpenter. "The wedding is only a few days away. Quick now, I need more room. Take some off the pillar." So, though he thought better of it, that is what the carpenter did. But he was beginning to wonder how much more he could take off that pillar and still call it a pillar.

The night of the wedding all the quests were assembled. The bride and groom exchanged vows. So that everyone in the kingdom would know the wedding had taken place, the king commanded that 100 drums and 100 trumpets ring out. So, at just the right moment just before the kiss, the king gave the signal and the drums and trumpets rang out. They were so loud the whole room, the whole palace reverberated.

With a sudden crash, the ceiling gave way. The guests below just barely escaped. And the king called for his carpenter in a fury. He asked, "How could you let this happen? I thought this was a solidly built palace and with a sturdy pillar at the center!"

The carpenter stood tall. "I only obeyed royal orders, sire. But it seems that every few years someone commands that I take just a bit more off that pillar. But no one ever stopped and asked or gave a thought as to what that pillar might be holding up!"

The moral of the story: Before you move a pillar or shave anything off, be sure you know why it was put there and what it might be holding up. If you are careless and whittle a pillar away, you may find yourself scrambling when the ceiling gives way.

There are, of course, many pillars in our lives: diet, exercise, learning, and such. But more importantly, are the spiritual pillars like time with God, prayer, and meeting with other believers. But just like the royal family, we whittle away our pillars. We get up too late for a quiet time. When a friend asks for a prayer, we promise to do it later but other things crowd it out of our mind. Sometimes we think, "Sunday is a day of rest, so I'll just stay here a bit longer. God wake me up if you want me to go to church." Or we may think that listening to Christian music is enough to turn our minds to God and things above.

But God is our pillar. When we let things whittle away the spiritual pillars of our lives, we shave away important pieces of our life with Him.

Be careful not to move a pillar without finding out exactly what it is holding up or you know exactly what you are giving up! Thus ends the parable of the sturdy pillar.

Disclaimer: Can't say that I've ever tried to write a parable before, but the thought stuck with me and I thought I would try it out on all of you!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Measure of Self-Control -- Hope Chronicles 55

Okay, I know I probably shouldn't use "self-control" in the title because it will scare some of you off. But if you can get past the word, please read on!

Mali is one of my cats. I got her as a six month old kitten. She had been a stray before turning up at the local Humane Society. We have routinely gone round and round in food battles. (Click here for more info on those.) She has been incorrigible and bold enough to try and steal from my plate. (No she is not allowed on the table, but if it involves food she will try anything.) If I do happen to give the cats a morsel of people food, Katy will sniff it trying to decide if it is edible. Before you know it, Mali has snagged it.

Katy does like cat treats though. So, I give them to both Katy and Mali and physically keep Mali from snagging all of the treats. Both cats scamper to me when they hear the lid to the cat treats come off.

I'm daring to hope that Mali has gained some measure of self-control, that it has sunk into her heart that she will always get fed. The other night, I opened the treat jar. Katy came right away. Mali lounged on the back of the couch. I rattled the jar. She still wasn't interested.

Last night I dared to brown some taco meat and eat without putting Mali in the other room. She wound around my legs and I admit to keeping a watchful eye. Amazingly, she didn't pop onto the counter or the table! I think my little monster has learned a measure of self-control. (For those of you for whom this raises concern, her other behaviors has been normal and she has eaten normal amounts last night and today.)

Needless to say, this has gotten me thinking about self-control in my own life. Can someone look and see or hear the difference in my life.

I think our thoughts have a good deal to do with self-control in any area. For example, two areas I need self-control over are eating and exercise. I find that I do well for awhile and then I fall into the trap of "I've done so well for this amount of time, indulging now won't hurt." That must be twisted thinking to reward yourself in the behavior that you have been working on.

I used my concordance to look up self-control in the Bible. I was particularly challenged by these verses in 1 Peter 1:13-15:

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

Too often I think of self-control just as a refraining from something -- like the M&Ms in the snack machine. Really, it is much more proactive than that: prepare your minds, be self-controlled, set your hope. Planning what I am going to have instead of the M&Ms or more than one meal in advance or when I will exercise is really the heart of self-control. If I just refrain, I'll feel deprived. If I fix my eyes on something more -- on Jesus -- even when it comes to exercise and eating and harsh words, I will have filled that "hole" with something far more fulfilling.

What do you do to enact a measure of self-control in your life?

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Compassion International and Gifts

Hi all.
I am excited to hear about those of you sponsoring children through Compassion and World Vision. That is very cool.
I did want to clarify something. I am only able to send gifts because I know someone who is going to Ecuador and can hand them off to Compassion there.
Typically, you can only send things that are flat and do not change the shape of the envelope.
This is what I usually send:
  • pictures
  • a postcard
  • stickers
  • a piece or two of bright colored paper
  • a small bookmark
Anything that changes the shape of the envelope too much may get confiscated -- hence the rule.
If you do send anything, remember that everything must be labeled with your child's name and ID and your name and sponsor number.
It is a real treat for me to be able to send these things. Pray that you will meet someone traveling to your child's country that can carry things for you. Or join me in praying and saving for a Compassion sponsored trip to my child's country to meet them in person.
Oh, and don't forget that you can designate extra funds as a birthday, Christmas, or family gift.
Pray and write. Those are great things!

From America With Love -- Compassion International

Think it might feel like Christmas by the time this all makes it to my sponsored child, Delia, in Ecuador. With money a bit tight, I spent several hours going through my house looking for good gifts. Most of the things I found were in great shape and very use able. I found a pocket size photo album and a couple bracelets and a silk scarf (things for her mother and sister.) I got a few household things at the Dollar Store. One of the gifts I am most excited about is a locket I found from when I was a child. It has Washington DC on it. It is a nice size and I was able to glue my picture in there. I hope Delia will wear it and that it will remind her that I love and care for her.

I also found Prince Caspian in Spanish and picked up a tiny stuffed lion to go with the book. Then there are binoculars for her father and an t-shirt for her brother. There's also an assortment of candy and gum for her friends.

It all went into this backpack that I had used many years ago. It is in great condition. That in itself probably works as a gift.
But honestly, the best gift is the letter that is going along with it.
Do you have a Compassion Child? Do you write regularly?

A friend recently went on a Compassion trip. She said that the graduates told how much the letters meant to them. She was sad to learn that 30% of sponsors don't write.

That made me sad. To think of a child watching other children get letter after letter and never getting one.

Letters don't have to be big deals. You can do them on line even. They are life lines to hungry souls because they say, "I believe in you. I am rooting for you!" I try to write every couple of weeks even though I know that I will probably only get a letter back every quarter. Still, it seems the right thing to do.

Yes, all the things I'm sending are great. I love the opportunity because it makes her seem real in a new way. But, the best gift in the bag is the letter that tells her I love her and pray for her.

So, if you have a child -- write. Write about what you do in simple terms. Write about your church. Write about shoveling snow. Write about your pets. Write about how you came to know Jesus. Remember you are building a chain of hope in those letters.

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Sunday, July 6, 2008

He Knows My Name

Can you imagine going into labor almost 6 weeks early and then when you finally fully come around, you have not one baby but two? That's what happened to my mother. We were born at a time with twins were a rarity. Until we were in the fifth grade, we were the only twins in our elementary school. If I remember correctly, we were only one of three sets of twins in my high school.

I'm posting over at Internet Cafe today. Please click the button to finish reading this post!

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