Sunday, August 31, 2008

Move That Church

Today was a very moving Sunday at church. Our church bought a 97 year old building in July. The summer has involved lots of sweat equity through food, hammering, cleaning, clearing, etc. It culminated today in the actual move!

The leadership decided that we would move everything in one trip. With God's grace and lots of amazing planning, that is what we did. We started with a brief worship time and then some words of encouragement and instructions. With everything labeled and a detailed plan of which of the 5 doors each item was to go out and which truck or vehicle each thing was to go in, it only took us about an hour to load! That is amazing!

Then we all went to unload. That was a bit trickier but still went very smooth. By 1:40 we were eating hot dogs and hamburgers.

I happened to bring my camera and between carrying things took 138 pictures. If you want to take a look, they are at A few other people will be uploading to the site as well. Who knows how many pics there will be!

Take a look at the excitement! The move was done in typical Crosswinds fashion with everyone pitching in.

And of course people were a bit tired after. Tomorrow is cleaning the old building and somehow unpacking boxes! I wonder how long we will say,

"Where did we put that?"

"In the youth storage room."

"Oh. And where is that exactly?"

How different to go to from a warehouse to a building with multiple levels and more rooms than we probably know what to do with!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

God's Glory in Sunflowers

My words still feel cumbersome, but even in the midst of that I thought I'd share with you a couple pictures as evidence of God's continued glory. I took these today after work.

I do know these aren't lilies but I was reminded of Luke 12:22-30:

Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What Do You Think?

Below is my last letter to Delia. It was hard to write. It's one thing to write about everyday kind of things. It's quite another to write to say "Goodbye." What do you think? Is it too much? Too little?

My dearest Delia,

I received your letter from July 16th today. I am glad to know that you and your family are well. I love knowing that you love flowers. Your name sounds like a lovely flower to me. I do not think there is a “Delia” flower, but if I could imagine one it would be a beautiful as you! My favorite color is purple. I think a Delia flower would be purple and gold and bright and beautiful.

At the end of July I learned that you are no longer going to be a part of the Compassion program. I am so very sorry to hear that. It makes my heart very sad to know that I will not be able to write to you any more. I did contact Compassion. They said they would gladly get one last letter to you. I did want to write one last time to let you know that you are very special to me and even more special to God.

I wish that I could sit down and have a long talk with you. If I could this is what I would tell you:

· I have loved being your sponsor. I have loved getting your letters and hearing about your life in Ecuador.

· I believe that God brings people together sometimes for a short time and sometimes for a long time. I do not know why He gave us such a short time to get to know each other. But I do know that He allowed us to be friends to bless us. And I do feel blessed to have known you. Whenever I look at your picture it makes me smile. And I have the picture you drew for me hanging in my home.

· Study hard. I know that studying and concentrating takes lots of work but studying will be important for your future.

· I think that you are already a kind girl, but since this is my last letter to you, I want to encourage you to be kind to others. Say nice things. Share. Help. Encourage. If you do these things, you will find that others are nice to you as well and that you are doing what Jesus would want. Be the first to do these things and you will find that kindness follows you where ever you go.

· These are all things that give hope to people. As you know I think hope is a huge thing. Here is my word picture of hope. When I was a child I was disappointed to discover that the moon is really a big rock in the sky. It does not have any light of its own. Instead it reflects the sun’s light. Did you know that? I think that God gave us the moon to reflect the sun’s light so that even in the darkest night we would be reminded that the sun is still shining. So, when you go out at night and see the moon think of hope and hold onto hope.

· This is God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11

o “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

o I know that God has his hand on you and your future. You have every reason to hope.

I do not know that we will meet while we are on earth unless God decides to surprise us! But I will pray that we will meet in heaven and that Jesus would be the one to introduce us.

I will continue to pray for you and your family. I will remember you because you will forever be in my heart.

Many blessings. I love you and so do Katy and Mali!


Monday, August 25, 2008

One Last Letter to a Child

I know I have been strangely absent here. It would take a bit to explain. This blog has been such a place of health for me that even the doctor I see for depression asks if I've been blogging as a measure of how well or not well I'm doing. She called it "the canary in the coal mine" test. It comes from an old mining custom of trying to see if the mines were safe. Given that my mother's father was a coal miner, it seems somehow appropriate. Anyway, gases were invisible and often deadly. To safe guard the miners, they would lower a canary or other small bird down into the mine first and then pull it back up. If it survived it was safe to go down into the mines.

Blogging today is my effort to make that canary sing in the depths of the mine. But over the last week, I've felt as if my words have left me.

I don't really want to dwell on the specifics of everything. But I did want to ask you a totally unrelated question. I've been sponsoring Delia through Compassion. The end of July I got the sad news that Delia had left the program.(Click here for a specific post about that.) But since that day, I've gotten two more letters from her. One was dated the end of April. The one I got today was dated July 16th.

I called Compassion today and asked if I might send her one last letter.

I am pleased to be able to do this, but unsure of what to say and where to begin. So, if you were a child of 11 and were to receive one last letter from your sponsor, what would be most helpful to hear? Putting it another way, what would your heart cry out to share with a child if you had one more chance to share your heart with without overwhelming her?


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Prayer Request

Thanks for praying for Nicki's Hope. They were hoping to bring her home today but couldn't. Please pray for her healing and that she would get to come home tomorrow. Nicki did post today. To hop over and read and comment, click HERE.

-- updated on Wed at 6:00.

I didn't ask Nicki (3girlygirls) and I hope she doesn't mind, but I thought I would put an update here on her daughter's surgery. She sent out a bulk email, but I don't think she has had time to do the blog thing.

There are two emails. The first is from yesterday and the second is from today. Please be praying for Hope!

August 18:

The surgery went well! God is so good! We have felt His presence here today. Hope is very tired and has been in a lot of pain but has done extremely well for this situation! She is resting at the moment with some good meds. =) The doctor told us that the reflux should be completely corrected now and now our focus is on the healing of that left kidney. It will be a long process over the next year of testing and ultrasounds to keep a close eye on it. But we know that our God is an amazing God and we know that He is the great physician and He can heal our little girl completely! The hospital staff has been wonderful and I even know Hope's nurse today, she is from our church, total God-thing! I won't have access to e-mail after I send this one out, but I just wanted to let all of you know how much we appreciate the prayers and support for her! It's going to be a long recovery we will be here until Wed or Thursday and then it will still be a slow healing process. This is going to be tough for my go-go-go girly. Thank you all again! We love each of you and thank you all for everything your doing to help with our girls, cook meals and just love us!! It means everything right now!!

Much love,

August 19:

Hope's day has not gone so well. It started off great and she quickly turned down a rough road. It's 3:15 as I'm sending this out and they will be evalutating her again at 4:00 and I'm not sure I will have a chance to update, the computer here is only allowed out for a few minutes at a time. Her bladder isn't being able to hold anything right now, which isn't good. She is having frequent spasms and they have tried every type of medicine there is to help her with this. She is in very poor spirits right now. She has wonderful nurses who are trying everything her doctor is telling them to do. Right now it's just a mystery as to why she isn't being able to hold any fluids in her bladder for longer than 10 or 15 mintues. They are not sure if there is another cause to this problem, or if it's from the surgery. So please pray. Please pray and please pray. Visits and phone calls are a little hard right now, but I thank all of you for the response to our e-mail, I was overwhelmed as I looked at my in box, I haven't had a chance to read all the responses but thank you. We love you and thank you for praying for our little Hope.



Monday, August 18, 2008

Worth of a Soul -- Hope Chronicles 63

You never know what you will stumble upon on the Internet. Recently I came across an article that dealt with euthanasia for those who are dieing. But the article took it a step further. It proposed that the right to die be given to the elderly and then anyone who was infirm. Lastly, he added those with emotional difficulties. He said that that the deaths of those suffering with depression and attempted suicides and succeeded cost 25 million dollars a year on hospital bills, medication, autopsy, funeral expenses, . . . . Then the article goes on that these cost are counterbalanced by the economic gain of these deaths: no paying out of pensions, no continuing drain on the system, no more health care needed for these people.

It was a sobering thought because in the end, it was the worth of the person (defined by what they could give back to society) that determined their right to live. And in this case it was economics. What about what the person gives to her neighbor or the stray cat she took in?

I found this a few days ago. As I've thought about it, it has made me think of an old song by Wayne Watson called Touch of the Master's Hand. I'm not sure what brought it to mind.

It was battered and scarred
And the auctioneer thought it was hardly worth his time
To waste much time on the old violin
But he held it up with a smile
"Well, it sure ain't much, but it's all we got left
I guess we aught to sell it too
Oh, now who'll start the bid on this old violin
Just one more and we'll be through"
And then he cried, "One give me one dollar
Who'll make it two, only two dollars, who'll make it three?
Three dollar twice, now that's a good price
Now, whose gonna bid for me?
Raise up your hand now, don't wait any longer
The auction's about to end.
Whose got four, just one dollar more
To bid on this old violin."

The air was hot and the people stood around
The sun was setting low
From the back of the crowd
A gray haired man came forward
And picked up the bow
He wiped the dust from the old violin
And he tightened up the strings
Then he played out a melody pure and sweet
Sweeter than the angels sing
Then the music stopped
And the auctioneer in a voice that was quiet and low
He said "Now what am I bid on this old violin?"
Then he held it up with a bow
Then he cried out, "One give me one thousand
Who'll make it two?
Two only two thousand, who'll make it three?
Three thousand twice now that's a good price
Come on whose gonna bid for me?"
And the people cried out, "What made the change?
We don't understand."
The auctioneer said with a smile,
"It was the touch of the master's hand."

There's many a man
With his life out of tune, battered and scarred with sin
And he's auction cheap
To a thankless world, much like that old violin
The master comes
That old foolish crowd never understands
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By one touch of the master's hand

I see myself as that old violin. I've been battered and I'm scarred. Some people who might look at my life and the amount to resources spent on me to help me deal with depression as a waste. But God says differently. There is no waste when God is present. God makes the battered and scarred things of this life beautiful.

Jesus would have died just for me. There is hope in that. Hopefully it makes me look at the battered person on the bus more kindly or the woman on welfare differently. I do not know their circumstances, but God does. I do not know the music of their lives, but God wants to make music in every one's life.


Friday, August 15, 2008

I've Got Issues -- Hope Chronicles 62

I was told today that I have issues. Me? Issues? Never.

One of my jobs is working for the county doing data entry. I've been plagued by computer problems since starting. Seriously. Various things have been tried. Molly and I recently switched desks. This was completely unrelated to the computer issues.

I've been at my new desk for a couple of weeks. Guess what? The problems have followed me to my new desk and the new computer. Molly, sitting in my old spot, has none of the issues that I have. Actually, no one in the office has the same issues I do.

As the issues have mounted, I've been in fairly regular contact with the local IT department and the company that makes the software we are specifically using. So, today one of the IT guys told me, "I've got a special folder on my computer labeled Amy's Issues."

In an attempt to fix them, they wiped me out of the software today and re-initiated my log in and password and identity. From lunch until about fifteen minutes before I went home, things went fine. Then a coworker asked me to do a simple task for her that resulted in error messages all over the place. I sent IT a few more screen shots!

So, I've got issues folks!

All kidding aside, I do have issues. We all do. They range from trust to anger to compulsions to issues with opposite gender to things from our families that have us in therapy for years. Some things are little and some things are big. But we all have them.

How do you know if you have issues and what they are? Most people aren't likely to point them out to us. Reflect over your life. Is there a recurring theme or pattern that follows you to different situations or relationships like my crazy computer problems? That, my friend, is an issue.

For me a couple issues are trust and insecurity. Even if I have a good history with someone and know that they only have my best interests at heart, I still struggle with trust. My insecurity pops up with "What are they thinking or saying about me?" I have to choose to trust what I know about each person and not be ruled by fear.

All analogies break down at some point. While the wiping out of my identity on that software didn't work, I do know that God is all about giving me a new identity. It's an identity as His dearly loved child. Ezekiel 36:26-28 (NIV) puts it this way:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

God is giving me a new heart. Do I still struggle to trust? Am I still insecure? Yes, but I am so different from who I once was. I cannot imagine who God is making me to be.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

One Foot In Front of the Other

They came around like clockwork every year right before Christmas -- TV specials like Rudolph and Frosty. Every year we looked forward to them. For some reason, even though I hate thinking about Christmas mid August, the show Santa Clause Is Coming To Town came to mind today.

It's the mythical story of a baby (Kris Kringle) adopted by elves who then sets off to take toys to a nearby town. Only toys are banned by the evil leader of the town. In the process of bringing toys to the children, there is also an encounter with a giant snow monster, Mother Nature, and her town sons -- Mr. Heat Miser and Mr. Deep Freeze. (I'm not sure on their names but they are something along those lines.) Of course since they are polar opposites, there is some animosity between them that I've somehow forgotten ties into the story line.

But I do remember a bit of the song this pair sings on the other side of that animosity: Put one foot in front of the other and soon you'll be walking out the door. I always liked that song for some reason and that one time a year was the only time I ever heard it.

I feel like I've need that advice today. One foot in front of the other.

I generally do fairly well at the bookstore even though it is often a late night capping off an early morning for me. I may grumble a bit depending on which section I'm assigned or how many of us there are to close. (I think you need 3-4 to do a good close. When there are 2 of us on the floor, I feel it.) But I don't really even grumble that much about it.

It was a generally difficult day. I went in feeling emotionally spent. So, perhaps that is why I kept remembering that silly song. One foot in front of the other. Some days that is what it takes.

I'm glad to know tomorrow is a new day. With any luck, it will be a "soar on wings like eagles" day instead of Mr. Heat Miser and Mr. Deep Freeze!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Danger of You People

Last Saturday at the bookstore, a customer came in looking for a series of books. We only had it in the board book format. I looked on line and found that while some were only available in that format, I could order a couple in the regular hard cover picture book format. She wanted it for some children in a reading recovery program who would pick up a normal looking book but not something that looked to babyish. Though I offered to order it and explained it would likely arrive in 3-4 business days, she stated, "I'll buy it when you people get some sense and have it on hand!"

You people? Conversations never go well when those kind of statements are made. It's a lumping together of all the wrongs that you perceive a "group" has done and aiming the rocks at the person closest. In this case, I had no power over the way the publisher chose to market the books. Not one drop. I was more than willing to order it, but I think I simply became a representative of some larger issue that was out of my control.

The "you people" phenomenon happens on a daily basis. In some ways, it is a way that our brain tries to makes sense out of more complex things -- breaking them into larger chunks. But when we let ourselves do that, we lose sight of the individuals.

I was at my internship when 9/11 happened and didn't have access to a television. I had class that night and didn't get home until 9:30ish. That was the first time I saw the pictures of the planes and the flames and the people running. As disturbing as all of that was, the thing that disturbed me most were the pictures and sounds of civilians cheering in several countries that the mighty United States had been dealt such a blow. The hatred was evident and for some reason on that day felt intensely personal. But they wouldn't have cheered if it was their country, their friends, their family.

It doesn't have to be something as large as that. We slip into you people mode all the time. How many times have you heard statements about women drivers, different ethnic groups, different political parties, different denominations, different cultures, rival schools, rival sports teams, the poor, the uneducated, etc?

Here's another bookstore story. Several months ago, I received a call from a Christian bookstore in town and I was asked if we had a certain type of Bible. It was difficult to pull up exactly what they were targeting, so I said I would go and look in the section. We didn't have quite what they were looking for and it took me a few minutes to look. The response was, "One of these days I'm going to come in and talk to your managers about how you people organize your Bibles." I got a list of things that he thought I apparently did not know about Bibles.

Yes, I work in a secular store, but he made the faulty assumption that I didn't know one version from another, that I wasn't a Christian. As a Christian, I was put off. If he had spoken to a non christian colleague how well would that have gone over?

Jesus told the story about the good Samaritan. Even though the injured man was presumably Jewish, the priest and the Levite passed by. My guess is that they failed to see the man as a human being, an individual. If you stop for a moment look someone in the eyes, they become real in a more meaningful way. That's what the Samaritan did. He paused long enough to see a man -- not a Jew or an enemy.

I'm not immune. While I many not say, "you people" or "those people" I think that sometimes I let my thoughts slip that way. Every time I do, I dehumanize someone. So, here is to pausing and rethinking and looking in someone's eyes before deciding I can't help or that I know how they think or feel. I suspect it will make all the difference in the world.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Set of the Sails -- Hope Chronicles 61

It was the summer of 1990. I had just finished my junior year in college and had spent much of the year saving for InterVarsity's School of Leadership Training. It was a four week leadership camp situated at Cedar Campus right on Michigan's Lake Huron.

The schedule was full from getting up at 7:15 for an 8:00 breakfast to lights out at 11:00. We had daily topics on things like evangelism, exposition training, conflict, studying scripture, and analyzing the culture we lived in so we could be more effective leaders. In the afternoon, we had an hours worth of work entitled camp stewardship where we washed windows, hauled wood, swept, cleaned, painted, and whatever else needed doing.

And then we had free time which was taken up by rounds and rounds of volley ball and instructions on sailing. This is a much younger me with another gal, Beth, in my family group.

We had endured the frigid water for the swim test and were determined to learn to sail the little two person Sunfish. Though we understood the importance of wind on an intellectual basis, we discovered that once we had rigged the boat and gotten to the middle of Prentiss Bay, we often prayed for the wind to cease. There was something frightening about the way the boat tilted when it got to moving fast.

But still we learned the basics. We learned how right a tipped boat and again learned the bone chilling temperature of the water. We learned to tack back and forth to catch the wind when trying to go against the wind. We learned to loosen the sail to slow the pace and what it meant to be in "irons." We learned to take in the sail to pick up the pace and that sometimes a little wind is just enough to get you where you want to go.

I was reminded of all of this upon coming across this poem Ella Wheeler Cox on the Internet:

One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
Tis the set of the sails
and not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

I am still a novice in sailing and after so many years I would be hard pressed to rig the sails, but I think this is so true. One boat would be caught in irons, unable to catch the wind. Another boat would zip about because of the set of the sails.

We all have struggles in life. Sometimes things are easier than others. But it isn't the storm or the sun that makes or breaks us. Yes, the storms can wear at our resolve, but it is where our mind and heart is set that makes the difference. Is my mind set on my circumstances or is my mind set on the hope I have in Jesus? Yes, I may struggle, but if my heart and hope are in my savior, no matter the waves around me I will be safe in God's arms.

Isaiah 43:2 puts it this way:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

There is no promise for a life without struggle. But there is hope in knowing that God has promised his presence.

Will you set your sails on the hope we have in Jesus today?


Saturday, August 9, 2008

What Does My Life Reflect?

A few weeks ago I wrote an email to International Justice Mission -- IJM. The point was to let the founder & CEO know that many years ago I had read his book The Good News About Injustice and that it had stayed with me in a huge way. It was born out of Gary Haugen's time as the director of the United Nations genocide investigation in Rwanda in 1994. (Click here for info about the struggle in Rwanda.) It stuck with me. As a result, when I started sponsoring one of two Compassion International children, I asked that one be from Rwanda.

I heard back from a couple staff at IJM. They thanked me for the email and told me that Gary had another book out in July that I might be interested in. It is called Just Courage. I ordered and picked it up the other night.

It is an unassuming little book. But when I started it last night, I realized that it will likely be all meat. And the meat begins the first page. He writes about reading John Stuart Mill's essay on "On Liberty" as a freshman in college. Here is a bit of what he said:

Writing in 1859, Mill was trying to explain the process by which words lose their meaning, and he casually offered that the best example of this phenomenon was Christians. Christians, he observed, seem to have the amazing ability to say the most wonderful things without actually believing them.

What became more disturbing was his list of things that Christians, like me, actually say -- like, blessed are the poor and humble; it's better to give than receive; judge not, lest you be judged; love your neighbor as yourself, etc. -- and examining one by one, how differently I would live my life if I actually believed such things. As Mill concluded, "The sayings of Christ co-exist passively in their minds, producing hardly any effect beyond what is caused by mere listening to words so amiable and bland."

And that is the jumping off point of the book. Do we live a life that reflects that we believe what Jesus said to be true? If we say that we believe, do our lives reflect it? The challenge is that we often stop short in truly following. We go as far as we feel safe or in control or to where the risks seem manageable.

God calls us to go farther -- to live a life totally dependent on Him. Yes, we are to go to our limits but then we give up and let God take us the rest of the way.

Does my life reflect that I truly believe and will act on what Jesus has called me to. Honestly, there are a couple of times that I can think of that might have that sense of utter dependence on God. But was it? I think of volunteering a number of years ago as a CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocate. I was trained to advocate for a child (or in my case, children) in the child welfare system. It was totally volunteer. We got exactly 40 hours of training on the system, the court process, child development, etc. Then we met with the child, the foster parents, the biological parents, the case worker, the therapist, etc. And we wrote court reports and testified in court.

Yes, this was a good thing to have done. But then I think about what Gary is saying. I look back and think of volunteering 40 hours a month of stress and strain over three years. But, I don't know that at any point it took me to that point beyond myself in total reliance on God. Yes, it was a good thing and reflected God's care for the helpless, but was their more to give? I was a natural observer. At that time I had studied Interpersonal Communication in undergrad. I communicated, perhaps at my best, in written form. But I had also trained with InterVarsity to do dialog teaching -- to think on my feet in the midst of a presentation. So, I kept my head when asked questions by both sides in the courtroom. When did I move beyond my own abilities? Did I?

But Gary is careful to make us realize that it is not just about the big things (or what the world tells us are big things) we attempt for God. It can be in other choices -- caring for aging parents, making ethical choices in a work place, giving when it doesn't feel like we can.

I think of people I've met here in blogland that I think are relying on God in those big ways. There's Lelia raising her granddaughter and trying to plumb the depths of a rebellious teen's heart. There's Nicki facing a young daughter's surgery. There's Renee planning and working toward the adoption of children from Ethiopia. There's Michelle facing the loss of a job. There's Beth who recently went on her first missions trip.

So, the question I am pondering and invite you to ponder is, "What does my life reflect? Does it reflect a sold out belief in my savior or that I find the words on the page of my Bible to be pleasing but not worth losing sleep over?" I hope that my life reflects a sold out belief in Jesus. But sometimes I suspect I live comfortably within my abilities rather than utter dependence. So, with some hesitation because it is likely one of those prayers that will cause an up turn in my life like praying for God to teach patience, I think I will cautiously pray that God show me what it means to live out a sold out belief in Jesus.


Friday, August 8, 2008

A Child Buys A Hen

Yesterday I got a letter from Kayirangwa -- my Compassion International child in Rwanda. She nine years old. Several months ago, I sent some extra money for a birthday gift. She told me that it was equal to 5404 francs and in her mind it was quite a lot of money for me to send. She thanked me and told me that with the money she was able to buy a hen to have at home so her family can have eggs.

Most of the children I know, when given money, would buy a toy or something electronic. It's part of our culture. I doubt any child I know would buy a hen to provide eggs for their family. It's not that they don't care. It's just that we live in an affluent society even if we may feel like we struggle to make ends meet. I had no clue that I had sent enough to buy a hen that could lay eggs for her family. Knowing that the little I sent could have that impact makes me want to send more.

My friend Melissa encouraged us to go and look at Tracie's blog. Yesterday, Tracie shared about her trip to Ecuador and that a gift of $400 from a sponsor built one family a home when their home literally caved in on them. It is a great post about the work that Compassion International does. Click here to go and take a peek at it.

Sometimes what little we think we are giving is more than we can imagine. That is humbling. It makes me realize how much I really do have and how I have been blessed.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

When We Shy Away

Katy has routinely greeted me for a couple of years now by doing the cat stretch and flopping on her back to have belly rubbed as soon as I come in the door. Occasionally, it is just a scratch of the ears and a few meows to let me know that it really is dinner time and I do not need to set anything down before feeding her. Most of the time, it is the belly rub.

Last night she surprised me by simply going to her bowl. I filled both bowls but she watched me warily and backed up when I tried to pet her. She actually walked away from the food until I walked away. She was fine the rest of the night -- purring on my lap and snuggling under the blankets. But I was initially alarmed.

But I didn't press the issue. I figured she would simply retreat under the dresser if I did.

I have no way of knowing was was going on in her mind. Did she have an ear ache? Did she just feel out of sorts? Was she simply tired and hungry?

It made me think about the times I shy away from people. I did that last week with someone I know well. I was suppose to see her on Tuesday, but I called and canceled on Monday. I never cancel. I deeply look forward to my time with Julie. But I felt an anxiety about it and backed away quickly. Yes, it was confusing to her.

From what I can gather, Julie was good about not taking it personally. Confusing, yes. But not personally.

I, however, tend to take all things personally -- no matter how hard I try to remind myself not to. And even the cat backing up seemed personal. While relatively mild, it stung. And I may have been overly solicitous in the treats later.

Today, I've thought about all the times I've backed up from God. Yes, He is all knowing. He knows the deep secrets and reasons in my heart. But, I still imagine it grieves Him when He reaches out to touch us and we pull away or back up. I've backed up in numerous ways: failing to have a quiet time, failing to heed a word or directive, making other things more important, and even for awhile dropping out of going to church.

Katy backing up, shying away, is infinitesimal in comparison. Really, there is no comparison. But it did get me thinking about how tender God's heart is to me and how much He longs to be in continual relationship.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

6:00 -- Hope Chornicles 60

Several months ago I was talking to a woman at my church who was doing Weight Watchers. She talked about keeping tack of points in her journal and how that helped keep her on track with her goal. But then she shared that there are days when she just plain blows it and is quite dismayed to add up her points. When this happens, she has two choices. One is to wallow in it and put herself down and totally give up for the day and eat whatever her heart desires.

The second choice is to mark a bold line in her journal and write "6:00." Six o'clock is usually when she starts her day. In writing those three numbers, she is choosing to start over, to begin her day again. No, it doesn't undue her food choices from earlier in the day. And writing 6:00 every day would really not be working the plan. But writing 6:00 periodically allows her the grace to start again.

The idea of 6:00 seems to me to be one of forgiveness. First, it is forgiveness of the self. More than simply forgiveness of the self, it is a chance to let ourselves begin again. When kids are playing or competing or whatever, you will sometimes here them say, "I get a 'do over'". Wouldn't it be nice if we had do over buttons for all the times we are mean or petty or generally mess up? 6:00, if implemented correctly, seems to me to be a means of do over. It is cleaning up the mess and beginning again.

And even our friends and family probably need to be treated with a 6:00 mindset. Again, I think it is a mindset of forgiveness.

Too often, we get through half our day in shambles and our mindset becomes, "If I can just make it through this day and start over tomorrow." But 6:00 invites us too begin again at any moment of the day: in midst of an awkward conversation, after making a poor choice, after doing something we know we shouldn't have.

God, I think, approves of 6:00. Yes, there is often fallout from poor decisions, but He gives us grace to handle them. He gives us grace -- period. While recognizing the pain our choices have caused, He takes our hand and helps us up and invites us to "begin again" if we will humble ourselves and give it all to Him.

We have hope because God never leaves us sitting in the muck of our choices. He always invites us to try again. If we are sitting in the muck, it is not God's doing but that we have decided to plant ourselves there in misery. How much better to look to God and say, "I'm ready to begin again. Can it be 6:00?" He will always say, "Yes."


Tuesday, August 5, 2008


In high school and college, I discovered the trick for learning lists of things was using a mnemonic device. Basically, you line up the beginning of letters of each word to form a word or, failing the ability to do that, making up a silly sentence in the same way. One that we probably all learned in elementary school is for the names of the Great Lakes, HOMES: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. It associates hard to remember items with easy to remember ones, creating a series of links.

Over the summer I've been rereading C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. In the Silver Chair, Eustace and Jill are called into Narnia by Aslan. Eustace has been before, but the two get separated. So, Jill meets Aslan on her own. He gives her a task: to find a lost prince and bring him home or die trying or have been called back to her own world.

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


Monday, August 4, 2008

Sign Post #5

Periodically, I read something someone else has written and I just cannot imagine all of you missing it. Some of you may already read Lelia's blog Write From My Heart. If you do, you may have already seen her post from today on being lost and found. If not, click here. It will be worth the read.


Calling -- Hope Chronicles 59

I have made much about my little cat Mali coming when she is called. And she does. But typically, it is with the idea of a food reward at the end. And when I call, it is with a commanding voice. Still, she does come. I'm told that is unusual for a cat.

I am home most evenings. In June I was gone several days to She Speaks. I'm not totally sure when the last time I had been away from home for a night had been. I know it hadn't been since I had Mali, and I adopted her the end of November. That would have made it 7 months. Since getting back from She Speaks, I've noticed a little more independence on both their parts. My cats use to be in the same room I was about 95% of the time. Now, it has dropped to about 80% of the time. Still, I am told, that is really quite a lot for cats.

It use to be that as soon as I turned the lights off downstairs and headed up to bed, both of them would follow. Katy, however, has begun lingering downstairs. Though it probably sounds a bit silly, it made me a little anxious at first. I liked to snuggle with her at night. Still, she did usually find way up by the time I finished reading.

The last few days, I've realized that if I am done reading and she hasn't come up, I start calling out to her in a gentle voice, "Katy. Katy love! Katy. Katy love!" Since she now wears a bell, I can hear her coming from downstairs. She hops onto the bed to be snuggled and petted. Her reward (and probably mine) is totally relational.

While God could command our attention and we could come solely out of the idea of a reward, I think that God calls us more out of a desire for relationship. He calls like I call Katy -- "Amy. Amy love!" While He deserves to be worshiped for His majesty, I believe His heart is about the relationship. Why else would He call us His People, His sons and daughters? There is hope in knowing that God calls out of deep desire for relationship.

Do you have the hope that comes from responding to His call?


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Figuring Out Friendship

It was over a year ago now, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a long time. When we first became friends, we saw each other quite frequently and would go walking on the Constitution Trail. In the winter we would walk around the mall. But she got serious with someone and they eventually got married. She was also trying to pay off some bills, so they both started working at night cleaning offices. When the bills were paid off, they decided they liked the income, so they kept working and then on the weekends jaunted off on trips.

Over the course of paying off bills and such, I called less and less because it seemed harder and harder to maneuver a way to get together. It just kind of happened over time that we didn't see each other. When I ran into her over a year ago, she said flatly, "My mother died and you didn't call."

I tried to apologize and explained that I didn't get the paper, that I hadn't known. Her face was stern. The question on my mind later was, "If you wanted to talk, why didn't you call me?"

I understand that she was hurt, but I wasn't sure how I was to know unless she or husband or someone called. I don't get the paper. I probably wouldn't look at the obituaries if I did. I definitely don't go online to look them up. I hadn't meant to be neglectful just as I'm sure she hadn't meant to neglect all the goings on in my life. But the blame was there.

Yesterday I got an email that set my teeth on edge. Again it was a blame kind of thing. I met a woman early this year from church. I had called and we had done something a handful of times. She quit coming to church but I still called a few times. The last time we were set to get together, I had called at the last minute. She didn't have anything going on. I hadn't had a very good day. I went to the restaurant and was waiting for her when she called to cancel. It seemed she had gotten a better offer.

I was hurt but it was nothing that couldn't be mended. But, I figured that since she had canceled I would wait and let her call to reschedule. It was a relatively new friendship and I didn't want to fall into the routine of being the only one to initiate. That was probably the end of April and I never heard from her until yesterday. And then I got the "You must be really angry since you haven't called." But she hadn't called either. Maybe I shouldn't have, but I emailed her back and pointed this out. I don't know where it leaves us.

In most relationships, there seems to be a person who is asked and a person who does the asking. I think it is rarely 50-50. But it does get tiresome to always be the asker.

The question I am pondering is "How do we take friendhsips as they are?" Some people are the initiators. But I don't know that the people on the other side of the friendship value it any less. Still, that is the trap I can fall into.

So, here are some questions for you that might shed some light on things for me:

  • Are you an initiator? If so, do you get your feelings hurt when others don't initiate with you?
  • If you aren't an initiator, how do you feel like you communicate value in a friendship?
  • What is one rule of thumb you have in making and keeping friends?
Sometimes I wish that we could go back to being children. I'm fascinated by how easily children can pick up friends. The girl they met in the McDonald's play space is quickly included in the list of friends. If you are not watching closely, they are making plans to meet again at the same time next week (even if they can't drive and don't have money) because they have formed a best friend club. And then there are boys with their pickup basketball games. To children it seems that all the world is a friend.

Maybe because we don't play on jungle gyms anymore, it is harder for adults to form those relationships. Yes, I know these aren't life long relationships, but still it seems an easier way to begin and has many more chances than our grownup renditions.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Game of Tag

I've been tagged. Wasn't I tagged awhile back? Okay, maybe it was early this spring. It has been awhile. I'll try again. I just never have much luck with the people I tag playing along....

Here are the rules:

  1. Link to the person who tagged you --- LeAnn from P31
  2. Post the rules on your blog (check - you're looking at them)
  3. Write 6 random things about yourself (see below)
  4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them (see below)
  5. Let each person know they have been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
  6. Let the tagger know your entry is up.
Now for my bit of randomness:
  1. I am a word person. I love words. I like trying new words. I recently signed up to get a new word a day at I know some of you are cringing. I've recently learned egress and panoply. Melissa can attest to my word addiction. She mentioned in a post that she had a friend teach her a new word but she couldn't remember it and with the barest of info I emailed her and asked if she meant cathartic? She did. So, yes, you want me on your team when playing games like Taboo. Please don't egress before reading the rest -- especially if I tagged you or you tagged me. And always stop and smell a panoply of flowers. (Or in plain English substitute in exit and array.) I also know that a lot of penguins is a peck, a bunch of baby kittens is not a litter but a kindle, a lot of geese is a gaggle, . . . . Those I learned in studying for the GRE.
  2. I love to write. I know, who would have guessed? My sister and I wrote epic novels in high school that were tragically destroyed when a sewer backed up in my basement. Yuck. But they were single space items each numbering about 300 pages. They were based off a TV show we liked with new characters added. We tried sending them to NBC only to have them returned with the note that they appreciated our enthusiasm but did not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Still, I think it was a bold thing to do for two teenage girls.
  3. I believe in big plastic bins. I love the pool but water in the house and I do not get along well. Yes, one year I had the sewer back up. The landlord told us that if we cleaned it up we wouldn't have to pay rent that month. No, I don't think so. We would rather pay the rent. Two years later, some catastrophe happened in the apartment above me. Water and the ceiling came down all over my desk. Again, if I wanted a break in the rent, I could clean it up myself. Again, I declined. One year later, the sump pump came undone due to the amount of rain. All of my things were in the basement. We had to rescue the computers and such. Oh, such a mess. Lots of lost books. They vacuumed up 70 gallons of water! So, now if it is important, it goes into plastic!
  4. My favorite thing to do is to make a child smile.
  5. The thing I am most proud of having done is volunteering with one child for 5 years once a week for 2-3 hours. He lived in a residential treatment center in town and had lots of behavioral problems. But he did well for me. It was suppose to be a year commitment . . . . It only ended because he moved to a different facility in a different town that wasn't so keen on having me keep in touch with him. Sigh. But we worked a lot on self control and manners and how to do things like make cookies from scratch. And we laughed a lot and ate way too many Hot Fudge Brownie Alamodes at Steak and Shake. We sat at the counter and I got him to practice talking to the employees and the managers. One day he told a manager we needed a deal because we bought so many Hot Fudge Brownie Alamodes. The manager agreed and after 5 the next one was free! He was as good for me as I was for him.
  6. My dream vacation would be horseback riding inn to inn in Ireland or swimming with dolphins.
Now, who shall I tag?
  • Melissa because I suspect that she'll do it and it will be fun to hear. If she doesn't like it she works with LeAnn and can torture her.
  • Joy because she is a new bloggy friend.
  • Lelia because she is just plain funny. I love the way she writes.
  • Nicky because she always makes me smile with the stories of her girls -- especially Kennedy. I love kids and know they have personality but Kennedy has an big personality for such a little girl.
  • Elaine because I want to know more about her after praying for her through something Renee did on her site.
  • Rebecca because she is a fun, sweet gal who makes me smile. And she likes daisies!
That's all folks. Hope you have fun playing and reading and all.