Thursday, April 10, 2008

United we Stand

Here I've just copied and pasted my devotions from this morning... they seemed like something I'd write on here anyway - just thought this passage was especially timely. Also, The verses are just my paraphrasing of the actual scripture (in case someone wanted to call me on that...)

Hebrews 12 : 1-17

1-3) Now, as we stand back and see the many who have gone before us – they cheer and encourage us on. We've got to move forward – leaving the "stuff" behind. Don't just walk, gain speed and don't give up! Rid yourself of the garbage you've been carrying. Focus your eyes on Jesus, He's the one who blazed this trail and has arrived at His destination. Look at the way He moved and the way He's moving. Knowing the beauty and reward of your goal, eternity with your Father, don't you see that it is worth whatever you endure here on earth? Now, Christ sits at the right hand of God, and offers you that same glory. When you lose heart, return again to the basics... the message... the gospel – and you can't help but regain momentum, energy and strength!

4-11) We are in a violent war with sin. There are others who have suffered far worse than you, think of the punishment that Jesus endured – the blood shed, the torture... and PLEASE put your "trials" in perspective! Have you forgotten how good parents love and discipline their children? - or that God is YOUR FATHER?

Do not avoid the discipline of Father God, but do not let it destroy you either.
The children He loves, he disciplines – the one He hugs, He also makes right.

God disciplines you; which is why we must not abandon the way. He's teaching us how He wants us to be. It's the natural way of a family, so stop fighting it! You know there are parents who don't understand that discipline is love – and that is irresponsible. You wouldn't wish that YOUR Heavenly Father was irresponsible, would you? Don't get me wrong, discipline is NOT easy, fun, or even easily understood – it feels unnatural, but in the end, you will be rewarded for your conforming to His way. Those who learn the lessons, find themselves in maturity with Christ.

12-13) Stop sitting around, twiddling your thumbs. Stop trying to make it your own way. Move the obstacles out of the way, look out for things that could trip others up. Look out for each other – be helpful. And ready, set.. GO! RUN!!

14-17) Work hard at making peace with each other and with God. Without it, you will not get a peek at God. Ensure that everyone receives the free blessings of God. Tune your vision to see the goat-heads of bitterness. You know how those weeds take over the yard in no time... deflating tires, ruining shoes, causing bloody injury. Be alert for those who follow in the steps of Esau – those who are willing to give up eternity for a moment of satisfaction. You remember that Esau was later sorry for his decision, but by then it was too late. (no matter how "sorry" he was).

I think this passage is very relevant to the climate we've been in recently. The BS of church-family-life, has GOT to get back on track. And I don't believe that the answer is digging through the junk... who hurt who... what hurt what... why we think we're right or why we think others are wrong... that's not the point at ALL. The point is making peace. Moving forward, running the race. We need to love each other in a way that disregards the stuff. I don't think for a moment that there haven't been real trials... I do think we've responded incorrectly. We're laying on the floor kicking and screaming... while God in his patience and wisdom stands by ... "are you done?". I am done. I am ready to move forward. I am ready to leave all of that stuff behind – the "right to be right", the thinking it's ok to "treat others like I have been treated"... or the inability to have compassion for things I don't understand. It's not about any of that. It's about Christ – our eternal life, only available through him... the punishment he took on, that I more than deserve myself. The miracle of my salvation, and the life I am entitled to through Christ alone. So, I choose life – and I choose to move forward. Not even a word about all the stuff... just moving forward. No analyzing, no digging it up, no "i need to say this one more thing..." nothing.
Who's with me??

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How do you celebrate?!

About a month ago we were praying for our friends' neighborhood - and found ourselves discussing what we could do to bless them for Easter. The whole process and action made me rethink (again), what it means to be LIVING here on Earth, with an unearthly mission. If we are seeing the world through perspectives which have originated in Christ - it seems to me that it's not too difficult to "think outside the box". I mean, who better to show us the way of "outside" thinking, than the one who came to Earth to blow the religious minded know-it-alls out of the water? So, I guess it shouldn't surprise me, but it did - that something as simple as serving breakfast, and hiding eggs, would show Christ's love in such a big way.

We knew we wanted to do 3 things - love people, feed people and give kids some big fun! And we accomplished those 3 things - and more importantly, I believe that God totally went before us and when people arrived - they were eager to make relationships with us, and hungry for a different level of community. It was really cool.

About 2 weeks before Easter, we were ironing out some details, but weren't sure how many people to plan for. We prayed for a number - Aaron heard "19" and Tommy heard "20" - And we think there were 40 (so yeah, God is even that faithful, to let us know how to plan!!). We planned for 60 because there were about 20 of us in our group... yes, seriously!

We all gave what we could give physically- time, money, stuff out of our own cupboards, anything. We passed out flyers about a week in advance - inviting people to an Easter Party, with free breakfast and an egg hunt - and people came! They even came early... it was so great. We were making sausage and pancakes as fast as we could - and the people were coming! The kids in our group, hid about 500 eggs in an empty lot ... and the kids came to find them! It was really great! I don't think there were any of us that didn't make a real connection with someone there that morning - either because we have kids the same age, or just took the time to sit and talk to them... or whatever it was (Jesus). We talked about community, and loving each other, and family ... not your everyday conversations with "strangers". So, just like I said, obviously God had gone before us to soften hearts and make these conversations so easy. Which is the part we couldn't have done - we prayed that we would bless people, and I believe we did that.

So, what part of this was "outside" the box? Mostly, I think seeing a need and seeing an opportunity to bless others as a priority in place of all the other "things" we usually do on Easter, which are pretty self-serving, traditional, and at times the truth of the day seems to get lost in the shuffle. Instead - we took this opportunity to celebrate that Jesus is alive - by BEING alive! - By showing others that there's hope. By our kids getting a sweet opportunity to "share Jesus' love" (a direct quote from a 4 year old in our life group).

When thinking about this opportunity today - I began to sing a VERY old song, I grew up singing in church (and I can hear my Great-Grandmother's alto voice in my head when I sang it today)...
In blessing, we are blessed
In loving, we are loved
In giving we receive
Everything from God above

It's the doing of the word
Not just the hearing of it
That makes it a reality

That's what living in the Kingdom
Is all about
For people like you and me...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Justice - you've been served!

Among the millions of other things we have going on right now, I was summoned to jury duty a couple weeks ago. I could write an entire entry on why the jury selection process is weird and inconvenient, but that's really not the point I'd like to make.

I had forgotten to call earlier in the evening, and by the time I remembered it was 11pm - I didn't think I would be called in, but indeed, I was. So, I rose, bright and early and drove with all the morning commuters to our county courthouse. We were assembled in a room which reminded me instantly of one of my many high school classrooms at Meridian High - a window or two, strange dark brick walls - fluorescent lighting - hideous carpet - you get the picture. I think there were about 45 of us in the room, "breakfast" was served and we watched a rather humorous video about how important this civic right is and why it's important that we participate, and what is going to happen for the next hour or so.

At this point, we were told that there would be a jury trial soon, and were escorted into the courtroom. We filed in - and awaiting direction from the judge regarding the nature of this case and how they were going to select a jury. He stated the case and who was involved, and the charges and they started calling numbers of jurors for "selection". I think they narrowed it down to about 25 (which included me), and then down to 13 (which also included me).

At this point, I was like "huh?! I have 3 kids at home, with a husband who's supposed to be sleeping right now... I don't have time for this!!!" - but there's really nothing to be done. We were escorted to the jury deliberation room, and told to relax for a while - they would call us back to the courtroom when the trial was about to start.

We filed back into the courtroom, and were told a lot more details of the charges against this defendant. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. And honestly, I was like,"oh, this is gonna be a cinch!. The whole time I kept thinking... just listen before you make up your mind... just listen...

The prosecution laid out their case - and it seemed pretty cut and dry. The guy was pulled over on unrelated charges, and when searching his vehicle, they found a small bag with residue of a controlled substance (meth) and a digital scale in the glove compartment (which they instantly assumed was for weighing drugs).

After hearing the prosecution's case, we took a lunch break - I sorted out the childcare situation, and headed back to court.

The defense argued that the defendant had no idea that baggie was in the car, or what it had contained - and that he used the digital scale for another purpose entirely. His story was that he had gone fishing the day before, and had taken 3 "friends" with him - and when the cop asked him what the baggie was he thought it was a fishing lure bag. He had a very convincing story about what he uses the digital scale for - including a mathematical equation he uses for weighing, and then using water displacement, and determining what type of rocks he finds in the desert.

Now, we know that his story had holes, and that he could have been in possession of the meth, and been using the scales for weighing drugs... we know that. BUT there was reasonable doubt... the prosecution failed to prove that he knew what was in the bag, or that he had intent to use it... or had used it ... or that he had actually used the scales for an illegal purpose.

So, in the end, when we went back to the jury deliberation room, we went around the table and every single juror voted not guilty on both counts. Yes, we discussed the holes in the prosecution and the defense, but in the end, we had to come back with a not guilty verdict.

It was really interesting being a part of the judicial process - and it gave me new trust in the system. I absolutely believe that justice was served in this case. Was the defendant a drug user? - yes, they had even found marijuana in his car!! - But he admitted to the possession of that. Was the defendant being pulled over on an arrest warrant? yes - totally unrelated to this issue. Was the defendant lucky that the detectives failed to test his scale for drug residue? - yes. Do I think the defendant knew what was in the bag? I really don't know, and it really doesn't matter.

In the end, there simply wasn't enough evidence, and we can all sleep easily knowing that he's not in jail on possession charges of someone else's drugs.

I was really struck with how much grace there is in the justice we served in that court. And I am hoping that I live that way outside the court. That I know all the facts before making my verdict. That I may "think" I know it all, but that's just NOT good enough. I have to know beyond a reasonable doubt before making my verdict. And you know what? I think the majority of the time, we don't have that - and we're going to have to overflow with grace, and not pass our judgement on others. It's really God's business anyway - not ours. We can rest easy in that! Knowing that He DOES know all the facts beyond any reasonable doubt, and he is able to judge with perfection.

It's also so encouraging to know that OUR defense is Jesus ... and you know he's not one of those "weasel-y defense attorneys" - he was willing to take on our punishment, so that we wouldn't have to - and willing to plead our case with God ... even when we're the ones that look awfully guilty. The charges against us are full of holes, we're not bound to them. When God comes back with his verdict of "not guilty", we are able to walk out of the courtroom with our head held high, because the charges are not only dropped... they're erased! So, instead of being introduced as "suspected unrighteous" - we're introduced as "Child of God!". Pretty cool huh?!

I sincerely hope that the defendant walked out of court with his head held high. And if they were his drugs and he was weighing drugs on that scale - then, I hope that he takes this as a second chance. And if they weren't his, and he wasn't weighing drugs - then "phew!" what a relief!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Let's Get Together... yeah yeah yeah...

I've been thinking a lot about community lately. As we were getting ready for cell group the other night, the word just kept running through my mind. And I was sort of like "yeah, duh.... this is why we do cell group"... but I think it's bigger than that.

This morning this song has been going through my head - and no, I'm not crazy... I just happened to watch the original Disney Classic... Parent Trap ... like a million times when I was growing up. There's a part toward the end where the twins sing this song:
Let's get together... yeah yeah yeah
Think of all that we could share
Let's get together, everyday
Everyway and everywhere
And though we haven't got a lot
We could be sharing all we've got

So, here it is: Some of my friends and I have been reading New Testament letters from Paul to various churches, and one of his overriding themes is getting along with other believers, and being united in purpose.
A lot of times, we find our own agenda - become obsessed with some other pursuit and step on, over and around all other family members who find themselves in our way. Unfortunately, that's not the way we're supposed to move forward. We need each other. We need the gifts our other family members have, and we need more than one perspective on things. We need the love and support that comes from living in community with others.

You may be called to feed the poor, or seek out the lost, pour yourself out for the "least of these" - all are completely true (we're all called to these pursuits) - but in seeking those opportunities, or finding them all around you - you cannot separate from the body.

Supporting each other in love and prayer is part of being a part of the family - and allowing people in on your visions, ministry opportunities and goals is also part of being a family. One with out the other is lopsided, and unhealthy.

Obviously, this isn't and hasn't been an easy thing for centuries, the way Paul talks to those New Testament churches, you'd think they really struggled with just "getting along"... and I think that's not really that far off from where we are.

Community is the relational, physical way we can participate in this sometimes complex concept of "the body of Christ". We cannot stand alone - we were never called to. We're attached to each other, so we might as well join forces and actually move toward the same goal. If one eye is looking east and the other west... how does the knee know where to go?

So, here's to community! Gather your family close to you - unite in purpose. Without a united front, we are weak and open for attack.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Old Faithfulness

I've really been lazy about blogging lately, partly because I have 3 kids running around, and partly because my wrist has been sore. As I type that I realize that I have really left this blog untouched since November or so? So, here's some quick catching up, so we can get on to big things!
The first week of December I participated in a holiday market at Flying M Coffeegarage, and had a great time, made some friends and came home with some extra cash.
Week 2 in December, I had a minor "growth" removed from my forearm, and walked out of the office with 3 stitches and a bandage.
Week 3 - loads of Christmas shopping and a Christmas tree!!
Week 4 - Peter's 2nd birthday! Hooray!! so much fun, especially when your kids are old enough to REALLY enjoy it.
Peter got an array of dinosaurs, trucks and snakes, so he was ecstatic! We ate blue frosted sugar cookie stars and had a blast!

At the end of that week, I got a call from my dermatologist asking me to come in to discuss my pathology results from the biopsy they had taken from my arm. Right away, my stomach sank - they'd never asked me to come in to discuss that sort of thing before - so why now? I asked if it could wait until after Christmas - and they said "no"... they wanted to talk to me within the hour. So, I packed up the kids and Dave left work and met me there. We all sat in this little exam room, wondering what the heck the Dr. needed to talk to me about so urgently.
He apologized profusely about having to talk to us, and for talking to us before Christmas, but felt like we should know what was going on.... *hearts beating....*
He said that he had sent my pathology out for it's third opinion, because the first two pathologists had disagreed rather strongly about the results. The first pathologist was certain the biopsy was malignant melanoma... and rather deep, which is super dangerous (apparently). He said with this type of melanoma, and how deep it is, we would need to operate soon, and take a large amount of flesh and probably result in a skin graft. After which, we would start searching the rest of my body for signs that it had spread, starting with my lymph nodes etc. He said the second pathologist was certain that it was not melanoma, but a lesion called spitz nevus (a completely benign lesion, that looks like melanoma). He apologized for giving us this news and kept saying things like "you're so young...." and "I'm so sorry to give you this news". Needless to say, we left his office in a daze. What is going on? This is serious?! And he said we wouldn't hear back on the third pathologist until after Christmas, so we're thinking, "this should be an interesting holiday, with that hanging in the back of our minds".
At the same time, Dave had a conversation with a boss at work, and had been asked if he was interested in a 1st shift position (Mon-Fri 8-5). Of course, he said "yes"... we've been praying about that for years.
That night, our pastor and elders came to our home, anointed me with oil, and we prayed for healing, and peace. When someone gives you news like that it's nearly impossible to not think about what could happen... and the fear associated with all that was overwhelming.
We continued on our routine the next day, trying to not think about what was going on... and staying busy enough to just ignore it. We got a call that evening that the third pathologist concluded that it was NOT melanoma, but the second diagnosis, "spitz nevus". Phew. what a relief. The weird part was that we were still in a daze. We had been hit with some really serious stuff, and it had completely rearranged our life, and what was and wasn't important, in 24 hours... really great. God is so good.

The next week was Christmas, and it was SO much fun. My parents and my brother and sister-in-law and their baby joined us for all the festivities, and it was really great. Great food, fun, and the kids had SO much fun with all the stuff. It was great seeing them enjoying all the fun.

New Year's came bringing David's parents to town for a quick visit. We didn't really "ring in the new year", but it was fun - nonetheless.

On January 9th Dave went back on night shift... the beginning of a four month rotation. He got up for work that day and we decided to go for a drive, so he would wake up, we were on our way to a store so we could walk around, and we put the girls in the car. We came back in to get Peter , and when Dave went back out - Gracie was sitting in the car, covered with blood... huh?! Yeah, apparently there is some very sharp hardware underneath the middle seats, and she managed to smack her forehead on that. She got four stitches, and was quite the trooper.

Dave interviewed for the 1st shift position the next week, and said it was the most relaxed he's ever been in an interview, and most he's ever "sold himself"... he said he talked a LOT in the interview (which is good). It was a panel interview with 4 potential bosses, and had the potential of being nerve-wracking.

In the end, he was the only one who even interviewed for this position, and was offered the job last week (he obviously accepted).

Feb 6 I had follow-up surgery on my arm. As the lesion ended up being benign and called "spitz nevus", the standard procedure is to excise the area around the original lesion - no skin graft was needed, but they did give me a gnarly looking wound, and 24 stitches!

The day David found out he got the job, his Mercedes decided to quit working... an obvious distraction... ended up sort of forcing us to shop around for another vehicle. I was very specific with how much I wanted to pay for one.. so we were looking at a load of used cars. Then we ended up at Bronco Motors (who we've bought our last 2 cars through), and they had a sweet deal on a brand new last year's model Hyundai Accent for 8k... so you can't beat a price like that, on a new car. 35MPG and takes regular unleaded (unlike the Mercedes). So, now Dave has a reliable car to drive to work and back, which is much more efficient, and that's great since he'll be driving out there 5 days a week now.

I got my stitches out yesterday, and all looks good. No more stitches - which makes it so much more bearable. Now, I'm just doing some stretching and keeping my wrist moving, as it became quite stiff and tight, with such a tight wound.

God is good. Life is good. We are good. Dave's job, which we've been praying about for YEARS, is finally coming to the end of him working shifts. He ends up with a promotion and a day job. I don't have cancer!!

Through all those night shifts, and day shifts, and run around at his job, he's finally got the position he really wants, and will be great at. Day shift will be SO great for our family. We keep laughing about how odd it will be for him to be home so early, and how rested he'll be. Dave has been faithful to this job, mostly because he had no choice... he persevered because we had no other options, and now? Yeah, god really blessed us with this perfect job. He has always been really faithful to us. It would have been so easy to let the night shift come between us or mess with our family dynamic... instead - I think, wow, God... you did the impossible!!

More to come... Ella and Gracie have birthdays coming up soon!