Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Good Read

I recently received Randy Alcorn's newest book "If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil." It's a pretty weighty book (500+ pages, small print) with a lot of theology. I'm not even remotely into the book, and my pencil is getting dull from all the passages I've underlined. Just some thoughts from the first chapter:

On America remaining distant from many world evils: The death toll inthe 1994 Rwandan genocide...amounted to more than two World Trade Center disasters every day for one hundred days straight. Americans discovered in one day what much of the world already knew -- violent death comes quickly, hits hard, andcan be unspeakably dreadful.

Believing God exists is not the same as trusting the God who exists.

Our failure to teach a biblical theology of suffering leaves Christians unprepared for harsh realities. It also leaves our children vulnerable to history, philosophy, and global studies classes that raise the problems of evil and suffering while denying the Christian worldview. Since the question will be raised, shouldn't Christian parents and churches raise it first and take people to Scripture to see what God says about it?

I can't wait to dig in to the rest of the book!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Opening Pandora's Box

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to offend any of my friends, but rather to share some of my personal convictions that surprise people around me. Please know that in no way do I judge people whose convictions differ than mine.

1. I don't think Republicans have all the answers (Democrats, either, for that matter...where are we putting our trust? In God or man?)

2. I occasionally enjoy the flavor of a fermented adult beverage. Always in my home, never in public.

3. I believe in the value of public education and the need for Christian families to shine a light. Therefore, I have every intention of sending my child(ren) to public school.

4. I don't forward emails that seem to get many conservative evangelicals in a tizzy (i.e. "stop using this quarter because they removed the words 'IN GOD WE TRUST'")

5. I absolutely believe in the sanctity of life, but I will not publicly protest abortion...I would rather reach out to the women in unimaginable circumstances and show them God's love. While the horrors of abortion are very real, I believe that Christians need to start loving the women involved, trusting God to take care of the children.

6. Likewise, I absolutely disagree with homosexuality. However, I refuse to turn my back on my friends because they choose this lifestyle. Rather, I choose again to show them God's love and value them as a people, praying for God to open the doors so I can share His love and truth with them. I choose to value them as God's creation, while disagreeing with the choices they make.

It's conservative friends sometimes see me as a flaming liberal, while my liberal friends think I'm way too conservative.

A dear, godly (liberal) friend told me this last night:

"Sometimes we think we are being persecuted for being fools for Christ, when we’re actually being persecuted for being fools."

I wonder sometimes if conservative evangelicals are being so outspoken, speaking the truth, that sometimes we forget to do it in love. At that point, I believe we just become fools, rather than being fools for Christ.

What Do You Worship?

I have to teach a song to my chorus this year called the "Rhythm of Life." It's from a Cy Coleman musical. The lyrics are somewhat tamed down for an elementary chorus, but there are still several things in it that trouble me. There are lines telling us to "spread the religion of the rhythm of life", "get a whole new congregation" and something about spreading the gospel of music. Because this song was chosen district-wide, and will be performed at a mass concert with many other schools, I'm obligated to teach it to my students.

In the music teaching world, a lot of music teachers have church jobs to supplement their income. I was talking to one of my friends in this position and sharing with her some of the parts of the song that were troubling me. Her response was that "religion, music and God all go together." (This is not the first music teacher who has equated music and God.) I responded out of my own troubled mind, "but how do you reconcile that with the first commandment, that we should have no other gods before God? To me, that becomes idolatry...worshiping the music rather than using music to worship the One who gave it to us."

My friend was somewhat speechless and quickly changed the subject. I guess it continually baffles me that people would choose a place of worship because of the quality of the music instead of the quality of the message. (Several music teacher friends can't believe I would attend a church with contemporary worship and *gasp* drums.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Being Humbled

It's so easy to look at children and judge their parents. I confess, I've done it for years as a teacher. My child will never be the one to throw a temper tantrum on an airplane. My child will always accept responsibility for her actions. My child will take verbal redirection the first time. My child is the one everyone wants to visit because she's so sweet and pleasant.

So, I'm the proud parent of a typical four-year-old. She throws temper tantrums, she blames others, and she refuses to listen when she's being redirected. She was so sweet and compliant for so long, and when one trick stopped working, the next one just plugged right in for a smooth transition. Anymore, consequences don't work; they only make the tantrums more explosive. Ignoring the fits doesn't work, either. We've waited her out hours at a time. I don't want to always offer rewards, as that seems like bribing her to do the right thing.

I guess all that's left (which is what I should have done in the first place) is to go to my knees and ask for wisdom.

Monday, October 26, 2009


The year is 1992. I go away to college, leaving the protection of my parents' home, ready to face the world. Think for myself. Make my mark.

Somehow I end up in an ultra-liberal activist dorm. It's my first Presidential election...a heated one between Bush Sr. and Clinton. Oregon is also in the middle of its first heated gay rights measure on the ballot. Did I mention I'm pro-life?

I'm one of two residents in this dorm who owns a Bible. This simple fact makes me a target. Girls of "alternative" lifestyles start to target me, harrassing me in the bathrooms and shower; truly nasty things are written about me on the walls of the bathrooms; things are thrown at my window and vague threats are made about me.

The residents of this hall decided to buck the traditional Greek system of fraternities and sororities. To make some sort of point (I'm still not clear what that point may be), they renamed our hall the Metanoia House. The residents told me that "metanoia" was Greek for change, and they were out to change the world.

To this day, the word "metanoia" sends the creepy crawlies up and down my spine remembering those hellacious 15 weeks of my life (I got a new dorm and roommate at Christmas.) That is, until I discovered what the word really means:

Main Entry: meta·noia
Pronunciation: \ˌme-tə-ˈnȯi-ə\
Function: noun
Etymology: Greek, from metanoiein to change one's mind, repent, from meta- + noein to think, from nous mind
Date: 1577
: a transformative change of heart; especially : a spiritual conversion

Really? Repentance? A transformative change of heart?

I truly pity those who have so far missed the mark, and in their eagerness to bring about change, missed the chance to change their hearts.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wedding Guests

I recently studied the story in John recounting Christ's first miracle. At a wedding in Cana, Jesus' mother asks him to do something about the awkward situation of running out of wine. Jesus commands the servants to fill 6 large jars to the top (150-180 gallons!) with water. Lo and behold! The water has become the finest wine!

Something notable about this story: Jesus was at this wedding because He was an invited guest. You see, Jesus only goes where He's invited. Wise is the couple who invites Him to their wedding. Better yet, their marriage.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reality Check

Things are humming's good, church is good, Bible Study it good, the family's good. Then it of those days (or in my case, weekends). My hormones are flying, as is my temper. I just want to be left alone...don't talk to me, don't look at me, and don't get in my personal space. Then I get a head cold...not the biggest deal in the world, but not good given the timing of my already precarious mood swings.

I guess I needed to be reminded that I can't do it all. In fact, I can't do any of it. And when I start depending on myself, that's when things fall apart.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Cor. 12:9

Monday, October 5, 2009

Love Without Boundaries

If you're not familiar with this great organization, I urge you to check them out. Love Without Boundaries helps Chinese orphans in tangible ways by providing medical care, formula, education, foster care, and countless other blessings. My own sweet daughter's orphanage has been blessed with gifts of formula when they were experiencing a shortage. Please take a moment to visit their website and see what you can do to help the "least of these."

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Matthew 25:31-40

Thanks for checking them out!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Being the Moon

I'm studying the book of John this year in my Bible Study, and this week we touched a little bit on John the Baptist (not the human author of the book.) This gave me food for thought a couple of years ago, but it's in the forefront of my mind again. In studying John the Baptist, I can't help but think of the people who have come in and out of my life to prepare me to meet the One who created me. But in the last two years, I've taken it a step further. I now ask myself whose life God has placed me in to prepare them to meet Jesus.

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. John 1:6-9
So, maybe you've heard this one before, but it was new to me. We, like John the Baptist, need to be the moon.
You see, the moon gives off no light of its own. Rather, the moon is a reflection of the sun.

Shouldn't I also be a reflection of the Son?

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Different Road

Twelve years ago, a wonderful thing happened. Ironically, it should have been devastating, but I felt an incredible sense of relief shortly after it happened. This is a part of my life that few people know, not that I'm hiding anything, it's just not something I talk about. Still...when an anniversary of an event happens, I can't help but reflect a little and thank God for letting it happen.

What's this big event? My fiance broke up with me. Initially, I was worried that I'd never find the right person, that I'd be single forever, that my life wouldn't turn out the way I pictured it. But I was never all that sad about this man leaving my life.

It's amazing the things I found out about him after we broke up...things he had skillfully hidden from me. I slowly realized that I had been manipulated, controlled, used, as well as abused mentally and emotionally.

As the initial shock wore off that day and the uncertainty about the future started to sink in, I called a friend for one of those heart-to-heart talks. I cried, I sighed in relief, I worried, and I asked my friend to pray. Knowing that sleep would probably not come to me that night, my friend opened the Bible and read these words to me over the phone:

Psalm 121
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
My friend gave me permission to sleep, knowing that God would keep the night watch for me.
You know, I ended up marrying my friend...