Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sacred Perspective


When you stop to think about it; there are things in life that just need a sacred perspective to change our interpretation of the day.
The Mr. and I have almost doubled our income in the last few years. Yet I often look around and think, “where’s the money going?” It doesn’t feel like we’re living twice as easily. This is the flesh perspective. It’s the nature of man interpreting life.
We’ve been gonna-get-a-new-stove for a few months now. It seems that just when we have about enough money put back something happens and there goes the stove. Drains in the basement backed up; $$. Senior pictures; $$. Winter retreat ski trip for Mac; $$. Mac's ongoing health issues;$$. The Mr. has creeping crud and goes to the docotr; $$. Jay's food for his Celiac diet; $$. Some lotsa $$ and some just a little more than budgeted $$ but it feels like our bank account is hemorrhaging.
Friday afternoon as I’m leaving work Mac calls my cell phone to tell me his steering wheel is “locked.” So the Mr. and I each head toward the school to figure out what’s up. Ends up with a tow bill and a repair bill in the hundreds.
Another week without the new stove.
It’s frustrating, I’ll be honest. I feel like we should be past this approach to finances. Makes me feel aggravated and wondering where the money is going.
Then I stopped to think about it.
Mac’s truck needs repair for one major reason. Mac has a truck.
A few weeks back Jay’s car needed repair for the same reason; he has a car.
And the Mr. has a new Focus and in a few months I’m turning in my Expedition for a new vehicle.
We have four cars.
That is the sacred perspective. We have four cars. We have so much. That’s where the money is; into those four cars and ski trips and college educations and senior pictures and, and, and...
Some of the money is wasted and some invested wisely.
The point is; we have car repair bills because we have four cars.
My flesh says I am burdened. The sacred perspective says that I am blessed.
When the drains in the basement back up it’s because I have a home.
When my son needs a blank check for books it’s because he’s going to the University of Michigan.
When my alarm clocks rings at 4:30 it’s because I have a job.
When my son needs money for the ski trip it’s because he’s healthy and strong and whole and he can ski.
Jay's food, Mac's doctor's visits, Dean's creeping crud because I have a husband and two sons and an intact family.
And when Mac’s truck needs to be towed it’s because he has a truck.
And when I learn to thank God that he has a truck to be repaired and I have the money to do it; I’ll be a little closer to a sacred perspective.

Psalm 84:2-4
My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home ,and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house ;they are ever praising you. Selah

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Worship


My Lord and my God; I exalt you. My words fail as my heart reaches out for you. I don’t understand why you bother to listen to my voice. I am broken and poor. I stand before you knowing I must disappoint you. I have wasted opportunities and spent too many days in unholy places. But I know you love me, even though I don’t know why.
I have nothing to bring to you but worship. I have lifted my hands to you for my entire life and only now have I realized the significance of this act. I am lifting empty hands to you. I am giving you my hands; if you would choose to use them.
There is so much more to you than I know. I think there is more to me than I realize. There are hidden parts of me that I don’t even understand that I hide from you. But you see it all God. And you accept my worship.
I love you. I am so sorry that I fail you. I used to try to be perfect thinking that was how I would get to heaven. I don’t think I can be perfect so God I will be the only thing I can be; surrendered.
I adore you. I worship you. You are my life. Anything good in me is from You.
I don’t want to ask for anything, I just want to tell you that I give you my heart today.
I love you, my God, my Strong Tower, My Deliverer. My King.

Psalm 29:2
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

Monday, January 29, 2007

To Whom It May Concern


Dear People Who Live In My House,

You know I love, dare I say, adore all of you.
You are the lights of my life and the funk in my funky cold medina.
Unfortunately, I feel an overwhelming desire to suffocate each of you while you sleep.
I do not ask for much. I do not require flowers, cards, nor candy. I myself have eschewed Mother’s Day and all its pretense and try every year to ignore my own birthday.
I have never forced anyone to watch a chick flick or to drink soy milk. I am not weepy when I have PMS. I put the toilet seat down and never speak a word about it. I have walked through so many fart clouds I barely notice much less complain about it.
But, my friends; my beloved men...I fear I am near my breaking point.
How, when I have straightened the house, loaded the dishwasher and put away all the junk you insist on piling around the house; do you manage to completely destroy the joint before I wake up in the morning?
Must you really toss the throw pillow on to the floor? Is there no other choice but to make a pile of sweat socks in the living room as though preparing a sacrifice to the stink gods? When exactly did you conduct the poll that initiated the decision to leave Gatorade bottles crammed between the sofa cushions?
And how do you manage all of the above and more in the mere nine hours a night that I am upstairs in bed? Do you never sleep?
And so, it’s been a nice run. But now you’re going to have to go meet Jesus. Let’s see how He likes waking up to find his television reset for video games and is unable to undo it so he can watch Fox 2 News with Alan Lee.

Sincerely,
Me

Isaiah 1:16
Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Lazy


I think Christians are lazy.
Obviously this isn’t meant to refer to all Christians but for sure, some are lazy.
I think some of the laziest Christians are the ones who have been Christians for the longest time.
They are so used to being surrounded by church and God and teaching and preaching and singing that they don’t take responsibility for their own knowledge of Christ and what their own salvation not only means but requires.
There is a culture of Christianity. This isn’t altogether wrong. In fact, it’s very right. Cultures arise wherever you find groups of people working toward a common goal. There’s a workplace culture, a social culture, a family culture, and ethnic culture. It’s normal and healthy.
The problem in Christian culture is that after a while we start forgetting why we made the decisions that define us and it can become, like any culture, exclusive or even archaic.
Those who hold tight to the practices of yesteryear tend to do so citing that the world has changed and they are taking a stand for holiness based on the holiness of the generations prior. This is true and not true at the same time. If it were 100% truth that the farther back you go, the higher the standards were based on cultural standards, there’s no one since the 1800s who has even come close.
Read the Bible, yes the New Testament, you know...the grace part. You’ll find lots of references to cultural customs that we don’t honor today. Even those old-time Believers aren’t doing things the first century way. Women are teaching, that includes this one. Anybody walking around with their head uncovered? On and on cultural references are laced through the epistles.
I was raised in an Assembly of God church. Pentecostal, rapture-watching, tongue-speaking. Our pastor’s wife never wore slacks. We girls were required to wear skirts to all church events. No theatres. No amusement parks. No school dances. No secular music. NO NO NO!
Were they wrong? No. So they were right! No.
It was cultural. It was the expression of those people in that time trying with sincere hearts to stand for God in a way that honored him.
But it wasn’t Biblical. And it wasn’t forever.
I know Christians today who can’t seem to deal with a faith that looks different than what their particular expression of religion looks like. They make it way harder than it is.
Because it ain’t that hard.
That’s where the lazy thing comes in. And where the Christian culture goes sour. Sometimes, sometimes we embrace the culture without the heart. Or we mistake the culture as the heart. Culture is expression. It’s values, beliefs, principles and personalities wrapped around time and location. And some of it needs to be let go of or at least re-examined.
Let me tell you a little story. My grandmother is Hungarian, 100%. She has raised us with many wonderful aspects of her heritage and we embrace it. One of those aspects is Hungarian food and specifically stuffed cabbage. We love stuffed cabbage. My Aunt Sue, early in her marriage to my uncle, wanted to embrace his heritage by making stuffed cabbage. My grandma taught her the fine art of mixing the meat and rice, rolling the cabbage and putting it into a roaster to bake. She placed an inverted plate on top of the cabbage rolls and into the oven it went.
My Aunt Sue made stuffed cabbage this way for years. One day someone asked her why she put a plate on top of the rolls. Her answer? “I don’t know, that’s how I was taught!”
Christianity, for some of us, happens the same way. We live our lives in a certain manner but when we’re challenged we respond, “I don’t know, that’s how I was taught!”
In stuffed cabbage that’s a good enough answer. In life, it is not.
Even worse is when we try to call our culturalisms holiness.
You see, you can’t be holy based on not listening to rock and roll. You aren’t holy if you’ve never had a drink of alcohol or if you’re a virgin.
Not going to the movies, not swearing and refusing to dance at weddings doesn’t make you holy either.
Holiness is a state of heart. A holy heart reads the Word and wants to understand it. A holy heart is broken when people hurt. A holy heart longs to worship and lives to serve. A heart that is holy has no room for grudges or spite or anger.
A heart that is holy shouts “Hallelujah!” when a gay person or an ex-convict or a drug addict or schizophrenic sits down next to them in church.
A holy heart can travel around in a tattooed, pierced, tattered and broken body.
I don’t care how you meld Christianity and culture. Three piece suit or biker’s colors. Call me sister or call me dude.
Just don’t be one of those lazy Christians who thinks the package reflects the Savior.
It’s the heart that does the reflecting.
How’s your heart?

1 Corinthians 6:12
"Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything.


January 28, 2007


Psalm 25:9
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It's Only Right To...


1. Iron your work clothes a week ahead of time.
2. Get your coffee pot ready the night before.
3. Coordinate your lipstick to your outfit.
4. Fold all your towels in the same direction.
5. Turn on your electric blanket a half hour before bed.
6. Read in bed at night for half an hour at least.
7. Remove your make up in the evening.
8. Have multiple pairs of shoes.
9. Run your car long enough to melt the ice & snow instead of scraping it.
10.Remove your bra as soon as possible.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Mike


In our lifegroup is this guy, Mike. Mike is a little scary-looking. He could totally kick your butt. He is big and tough.
Mike started our lifegroup a few months back. He's a relative of our hosts Tonya and Jimmy. He didn't say much that first night. He sat at the kitchen table while I talked with his arms crossed and I don't recall much direct eye contact. Not knowing him or his history I, as usual, stuck my foot in my mouth a few times. Actually had I known his history I would've pretty much said the same stuff anyway.
When I'm teaching it's always encouraging to see nodding heads or smiling faces. Mike looked somewhere over my right shoulder, kind of cocked his head and didn't nod encouragingly.
And I like him immediately.
That was a few months back.
Since then I don't think he's missed a single group. Since then he's been one of the major forces in getting our new church built and ready. And you oughta hear him talk about it. Passion. A servant of the Most High. He blows me away. He makes dry-walling into worship.
We had lifegroup Wednesday night and when we got there, there was Mike. Ready to tell us about what needed to be done, hoping to finish up so we could move in.
After group we got in the car and the Mr. turned to me and said, "Man, Mike is amazing; isn't he?"
He is indeed. He not only knew the scripture we were reading, he knew it backwards and forwards. And what came before. And what comes after. And what it means.
Mike hasn't had a life lived in perfect places. He's made mistakes and he doesn't mind owning up to them. He doesn't say it's all lollipops and pony rides now.
But man, does this guy shine Jesus. It's on his face and in his posture. It's in his words. As he was talking last night, it hit me; this is a gifted man. It's no wonder satan went after him with barrels blazing. He understands grace and God and the Word on a supernatural level. He's a miracle.
Tonya and Jimmy have a picture that Mike drew of a lighthouse. That picture says it all. This lost ship wasn't going to survive too many more storms when it turned toward the lighthouse and salvation.
We talked about David in lifegroup. Mike reminds me of a modern-day David. Mistake-making and God-seeking all in one man. Humbled by mercy and honored to serve. Stronger and wiser than he knows.
I see why hell tried to kill him.
I can't wait to see what he does to satan.

1 Samuel 13:14
...the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Truth


To your right you'll see a link to my mom's blog where she recently wrote about lying. She even included a little impromptu poll for those willing to voice their position about lying.
This got me thinking about how much being lied to bothers me. Plus I have superpowers that allow me to immediately know when I'm being lied to. It's true. I include under the heading of lying, manipulation, omission, exaggeration or double-talk ("not that I'm aware of"; "I don't recall.."; "I didn't know...")
The truth about me is that I'd rather be told you don't like me than lied to. I'm also quicker to forgive mistakes than to forgive lying about mistakes. I'm not sure that's altogether scriptural but if not; it should be.
I try really hard to be a person who doesn't make others feel that it's easier to lie to me that to be honest. Have you ever thought about what makes us lie?
Fear. If I'm fast to forgive, show mercy, extend grace and love; there's no reason to fear telling me the truth. If I'm judgemental, condemning or smug when someone reveals something ugly to me it's tempting to lie to avoid the unpleasantness.
Pride. If I am willing to share my own down-falls, sins, weaknesses and blatant stupidity it's more likely that the other guy will feel able to share too. No need to hide our propensity for foolishness if the other person admits their own.
Trust. Can I be trusted with your secrets? I think so. I hope so. I know so. You don't have to be concerned if you tell me about the skeletons in your closet that I'll post it on here. You don't have to lie about your past because you think I might repeat your confidences.
Respect. Do you feel some things just aren't my business? I'm ok with that. As a matter of fact, I agree with you. Don't lie about the personal stuff, just be honest and tell me you don't want to talk about it. I respect your right to share everything including your de-braing habits like I do. I also respect your right to privacy.
I hate being lied to. I hate communication minus sincerity. I hate false-fronts and playing stupid and omitting details. I think liars are cowards. I say this because when I lie I feel like a coward.
I don't like myself when I lie. And I can't be close to someone else who isn't truthful. I can like you, but we won't be best friends as long as there is a wall between us built on lies. In the business we call that projection, when I see aspects of myself that I dislike in you, I project my intolerance on to you. It will get in between us, lying will.
Do I ever lie? Yup. Hate it. Try not to.
And I hate being lied to.
Jesus creates a place between us where it's safe for me to be honest with him. He takes in the good and the bad and covers it all with love.
I want to be someone who it's safe to be honest with.

Psalm 51:6
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts ; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Fight


I don’t know what it is with me. I don’t really consider myself a fighter and yet, I suspect I am. I don’t back down easily. I don’t take confrontation quietly. If I feel I’m being unjustly criticized, I want to discuss the matter and not just take the opinion of the criticizer as the final word.
So maybe I am a fighter.
This works for me in lots of ways. In my job I can’t be a panty-waste or I’d be dead meat by now. I deal with some tough hombres. Drug addicts, criminals, police holds and those so psychotic they’re dangerous. And they have an uncanny ability to pick out the weakest in the pack. I try to make sure that person is not me.
I’m also called to be a teacher in the church and you can’t do that if you are constantly knocked down by disagreement or challenge. I have to know what I believe and be ready to stand behind my words. I have to be convinced of the faith I preach or I’m not worth the hot air I’m expelling.
I’m a mom raising two teenagers in 2007. Need I say more?
I’m a Christian in a secular world. I’m a woman in a position of authority.
The fights are there for the asking.
Yeah, I’m a fighter.
The trouble is balancing the fight in me that God uses and the fight in me that’s all me.
I was criticized the other day and I didn’t like it. It was a little complicated because the person’s facts were correct but I seriously disagreed with their interpretation of the facts. Furthermore, as I tried to speak for myself in the discussion it was clear that my words were falling on deaf ears. This really made me want to fight.
Oh, and did I mention that the constructive criticism I was receiving was based on a third party’s report? Oh yeah.
I didn’t launch a loud rebuttal. I nodded my head and quietly reiterated my defense and then I ended the conversation. I was mad but not wanting to engage in a battle.
I did my share of venting afterward. I have a Mr. and a few close friends who I can trust with my wounded pride and offended heart.
Then today I got an e mail that inadvertently revealed who the original criticizer was. And it gave me some ammunition to use against them. Beautiful. Grin. I was ready to lay that person flat with a few taps of my keyboard.
Take that!
But no. Remember that issue about the fight in me that God uses? This wasn’t one of them. This was a complicated matter. The real deal is this; the third party went behind my back and criticized me. The second party brought the criticism to me in an honest way but not in the way that I felt honored my position. And that leaves me as the party of the first part, right? Wrong.
If I’m to push toward the higher calling I claim to want, I have to be the party of no part. My fights are only kingdom fights, not battles of will or ego.
The aggravating truth of it is that the criticism and the method were bad. I was offended. The people involved didn’t handle it right. But the matter at hand, while not so exaggerated as presented, was a matter that I should look at seriously.
I might even surmise that God sent me a message via imperfect messengers.
I could have jumped into the battle. And the fight would’ve distracted me from a worthwhile message.
So I huffed and I puffed and I licked my wounds. But I didn’t fight even when I got the perfect opportunity to do a little reconnaissance.
Maybe this soldier is finally learning to grow up and get usable in battle.
And by the way, perfect messages delivered by imperfect messengers? That’s pretty much my whole ministry.
Sometimes I just need a reminder that in the getting of grace is the requirement to give it too.
2 Peter 3:18
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Church


Our church, Metrosouth (www.metrosouthchurch.com) was founded not that many years ago when our pastor decided to take the youth group he led in his basement and start a ministry for teens, families, and anybody who shared his vision. They started (before our time) in a “beer hall” and graduated to renting the local high school auditorium which is where we joined them in 2003.
Having been in church my entire life, I’ve learned a few things. One is that there is no one way to do church. Another is that much of the stuff we call Christianity is culture-driven and not Word-driven.
I’ve become convinced that too many of the religious have gained freedom in Christ only to enslave themselves to man-made rules that nobody can remember making.
These being my thoughts, Metro was a good fit for me. To give you a little hint about what it’s all about, it’s locally known as the “rock and roll church.” The fact that many local pastors have taken a stand against Metro was enough to convince me that it’s the place for me. You see, sometimes good-meaning people look at us with our jeans and loud music and can’t seem to see Jesus in there anywhere. Then when the seats start filling and tattooed arms are raised to worship, some folks are downright positive that God wouldn’t receive praise from pierced lips.
In a few weeks Metro will be moving into its first home. We’re renting out an old grocery store and we’ve renovated it into a temple. You can be sure that there will be pics posted when we make the move. I feel kind of like Israel must have felt when they dedicated the temple. Excited isn’t the word, awed is more accurate. Honored that God would use us. Not because we are pierced and tattooed and denim-clad but that he would use any of us. That the God of Abraham would honor us with his presence in any building astounds me, much less right here in this dark heart of mine.
It renews in me the need to send a message to you. Find a church. Find one with stained glass and pews or punk kids and booming bass or something in between. Don’t look for a perfect church because when you show up, it won’t be perfect any more.
If you have a hard time finding a church, let me give you a little advice. Lots of stuff isn’t your business. If you don’t like the way the nursery is run but you don’t want to work there; it’s none of your business. If you don’t think they should pay a youth pastor but God hasn’t put you in a position of financial leadership, it’s none of your business. If you think the place isn’t clean enough but you don’t volunteer to help, it’s none of your business.
You see the pattern? It’s not that I’m trying to criticize. It’s just that all these years in church have taught me that I have specific gifts to bring to the body and those areas are my business. The other stuff that catches the attention of my critical spirit is a distraction from true worship and work for the kingdom.
Do you trust the pastor? Then let him be the pastor. Do you want to worship? Then lift your hands and stop trying to shove song lists into the worship leader’s hands. If you love babies, rock them. If you love children, teach them. If you need hymns, go to a church that sings them.
In a few weeks our rock and roll church will move into our brick-walled auditorium. We’ll anxiously await the cafĂ© to open up so we can hang out for a cup of java. We’ll admire the funky painted walls. We’ll jump to the bass drum and shout to the Lord with a voice of triumph.
If it isn’t what you’re looking for, we’re ok with that.
But if you don’t have a church, stop cheating yourself out of the kingdom and the kingdom out of you.
Find a place and invest your life.
And if we don’t see you on Sunday, as the old song goes, I’ll meet you in the rapture some sweet day.

Acts 20:28
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Posse


Ecclesiastes 4:10-12
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up !Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.


I’m not built for friendship.
I am a terrible friend.
And yet I have wonderful friends, a specific group of which I consider my posse. Yup, I got me a bonafide posse.
I have family and folks I work with who are fantastic and stand by me. I have old friends I know would be there if I called. I have a fine Mr. and daboyz.
And I have a posse. This posse is a group of women who go to my church. I met all but one in just the last few years and I wonder what I ever did without them.
They are Tina, Tonya, Margie and Becky. And if you try to hurt me or even make me sad, they will kick your butt.
These broads (for they are certainly not ladies) actually love me despite my anti-social, snarky, cranky, intolerant and moody disposition. They understand that I am all of the aforementioned and in addition I hate phones so they only call me in extreme circumstances, say for instance, to tell me they love me or to arrange a cookie drop-off or meatball pick-up. They text me if contact is essential.
If I get in an argument with the Mr., they immediately agree with me that he is a terrible brute until I forgive him at which time they agree he’s the best guy ever.
They love my kids and pray for them and agree that they are wonderful and perfect and also pigs in need of a good beating.
They tell me when my hair is long that I look fantastic with long hair and when I whack it all off they tell me how gorgeous I am with short hair and when it’s in between because I don’t know what the heck I want they tell me I’m beautiful regardless of hair length.
Every time I teach they tell me it changed their lives. That or they tell me I was boring and unprepared and I need to get it together. Then they hug me and kiss me on the cheek and I try to be mad but I’m not.
Not too long ago, one of them offered to wear a wire on my behalf (thanks T~); the specific circumstances necessitating this are not important. It’s just nice to know it’s an option if a person is in need of a mole.
Like I said, I’m a terrible friend. I’m a loner who never gets lonely. I want to send birthday cards but rarely remember to. I don’t like company. I don’t want to have a girls night out or spend an evening painting each other’s toe nails (gross!). Women’s retreats give me the trots. I hate shopping with people. Neediness makes me want to poke people in the eye. I love deep but usually from a distance. I didn’t say it made sense, but there it is. Most people who get to know me as well as my posse knows me would realize I’m not an altogether nice person.
I love my posse. My posse loves me.
It’s nice to know there is a group of women willing to get into a brawl on your behalf, and certainly I’d throw a punch for any one of them. In fact, Tonya’s husband Jimmy is in my posse too. He’s kind of like the posse bouncer, he stands at the periphery but is ready to throw down if I need him.
It’s not spiritual or Christ-like but if I hate somebody, so do they. Not that I hate anybody, but if I did; they would. I’m sure of it.
Oh, don’t think these four women have me up on some pedestal. No, they tell me when I’m wrong, selfish, lazy or even if I’ve made a fashion error. True friends know you need the truth, and they want you to hear it from someone who loves you. I know people who have never told me anything but pretty stories and compliments. They are nice, but not posse material.
At the same time, these four share the parts of themselves that aren’t perfect as well. They are willing to do the ugly cry in front of me; to admit they fight with their kids or hate their butts or just feel too depressed to get out of bed. They honor me with their truth and make me brave enough to share my own.
This posse of mine is one of those beautiful groups of people who would gather around and carry me through life if I was too wounded or sick or worn out to carry myself. These women would clean my house, buy my groceries and spoon feed me if I needed them to.
For someone who’s not good at making friends, and doesn’t even realize she wants them, I’ve been given a beautiful gift.
My posse has made sure in a million ways on a thousand days that I know they love me. So I guess this is my attempt to make sure they know that I feel it; and I love them too.
Tina, Tonya, Margie & Becky...
My posse.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Quiet



As I write this it is 7:50 on Sunday morning, January 21. The Mr. has just left for church, he goes early to set up and band practice before worship. I’ve had some buttery toast and I’m on my second cup of coffee. As I look out my front window it’s a little snowy and gray. No movement to be seen on my street, most folks are probably sleeping in or hunkered down in their warm houses on this 24 degree morning.
I walk through my house and peek in at daboyz still sleeping soundly. I’ll get ready for church in little bit and then wake them up to do the same. For now, it’s a quiet and still refuge that belongs to our dog, Jazz and me.
I don’t know if you have a certain time of the day or the week that lacks glamour and busyness but for all of my life that time has been Sunday mornings. I was once the sleeping child who awakened to the smell of my dad’s cologne as he got dressed up for church. I was the teenager awakened by my mom, allowed to sleep in while she did her hair and make-up on Sunday mornings. My mom always got completely ready but remained in her housecoat, putting on her dress last of all to stay pressed and pretty for church.
Now I’m the one awake early and watching the sun touch the rooftops as I sip coffee in the quiet. There’s nothing special about these early Sabbath mornings. That’s what is so special. It’s a holy quiet of the world and of my home and heart. I wonder about it because it was there in my house all those years ago too. Does this holy quiet come to your house too?
In a few minutes I’ll put on my jeans, my cream colored turtle neck and my beige sweater. Certainly different than my mom’s high heels and dressy suits. The Mr. is in jeans and daboyz will stretch the same stretches of their toddler years and yawning they’ll get in the shower. In hoodies with long messy hair they’ll head to the car for church.
We are a different family then mine was. My dad wore suits and ties and taught Sunday School. My husband wears Skechers and plays bass.
My sister and I slept on rollers and had dress coats for Sundays only. Daboyz wear the same clothes they might on any other day.
And we are the same family. There was no struggle to convince Amy and me to get ready for church. We waited all week to go. My boys have never argued about church either. My dad led worship too, but he led his family from the pew instead of the congregation from the stage.
The day will unfold completely different on the surface but unchanged just the same. We are generationally blessed.
But right now, as I write this, it is 8:00 on Sunday morning, January 21. Daboyz are still asleep and I am headed for the shower. And it is quiet.
The quiet was made for me.
And as sure as I have always loved church I love this time too. In this holy quiet I am still that child who sings with assurance, Jesus love me; this I know.

Zephaniah 3:17
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

January 21, 2007


2 Peter 3:13
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

This Weekend


1. Make some meatballs.
2. Run errands.
3. Grocery shop.
4. Family dinner.
5. Laundry.
6. Church.
7. Study.
8. Organize.
9. Housework.
10.Relax. Ha!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Musings


Blogger was moving slow this morning so I gave up. Below are some thoughts to close out the week.
One of my co-workers has talked to me about my lack of professionalism on the floor. As she was talking I made my sister a pair of slippers out of two Kotex (she works on another floor) and sent them through the pneumatic tube system to her. I fear there are more conversations to come.
Yesterday my hair was fabulously full and glorious. Overnight it grew just enough to be heavy and flat and I look like Betty White.
For females only: when you get home in the evening, how long do you wait to take off your bra? p.s. this is a question I posed to aforementioned co-worker last week. She declined to answer.
Most of my eyelashes have spontaneously fallen out.
If you are waiting for the elevator and the doors open but the light indicates the car is going in the wrong direction; do you get on and ride along or wait for a car going in the right direction?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Will Follow


Matthew 4:18-20 (New International Version)
The Calling of the First Disciples
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him.

Years ago. Many years ago I was put in charge of Christian Education at our former church, what you might think of as a Sunday School Superintendent. It wasn’t that I was some phenom of Sunday Schoolality so much so as the former guy kind of up and runnoft and they needed somebody but quick. I was a worker, organizer, great his girl Friday to the former guy. So it was left to me to do the job. This was my first experience with official church public speaking because I had to conduct the annual Sunday School promotions during the Sunday morning service.
Man, I was a wreck. My voice was shaky, my knees were knocking and I have no idea what I said. Happily all the little ones were successfully promoted and got their commerative pencil without injury. And I got the mother of all tension headaches and an extreme failure of anti-perspirant.
And spent a year dreading the next round of promotions.
In the meantime the youth leader also runnoft. Being that I had done such a bang-up job in handing out those pencils what had the Jesus fishes on ‘em, I became the youth leader too. Now my knees could knock, my pits could sweat and I could get the mother of all tension headaches every week.
Years passed and the promotions got easier, I even threw a little schtick in to make it more interesting. I only amused myself but it was good times nonetheless.
Then one Wednesday night our pastor got ill and being the youth leader I was called upon to simply teach the youth lesson from the pulpit. More sweat, more headache. More schtik.
Eventually I taught the women’s adult class for a summer when we studied Stormie Omartians’ The Power of a Praying Wife. Decent reviews on that run.
Then a few Sunday nights here and there I was asked to teach if there was no one else lacking a uterus and able to string three words together available.
And I started to like it. A teacher is born.
I got comfortable in my skin. Got confidant in my abilities. I was honest and blunt. Some people found it endearing, some people went to Home Depot and walked around when they found out I was teaching instead of coming to church.
And I started to love it.
Fast forward to our current church, Metrosouth (www.metrosouthchurch.com). I had no desire to teach being burned out and worn out and in nursing school. The pastor asked about my background in ministry and I told him. Also told him I was burned out and worn out and in nursing school and not interested in the business of teaching. So he asked me to do focal point here and there. Just get up in front of the church and do the announcements, welcome the people. Easy, no preparation.
And I started to miss it. I liked being back up there talking, laughing, doing a little schtick.
So I started to teach a ladies group called Problems & Promises.
Then I started to teach a life group called Live With Dean & Sara.
And all the while I’ve dreamed about the day I’d do more and more teaching until it was my full-time job. And all the while I’ve waited for Joyce Meyer to call and ask me to take over her ministry.
And this year, just this last week it occurs to me. It hasn’t happened yet. Because?
Because it won’t just happen. I’ll work for it or my life will march on status quo.
And within just a few days of this realization I’ve been slammed from all sides. Challenged by my pastor and called on some things I need to fix about my approach to ministry. Criticized by some people I don’t necessarily think have the right to criticize me. E mails, one on ones, phone calls.
All these things making me want to back away back into my shell. Away from teaching and speaking. Another year of wondering when was about to be born.
But no. It’s this year. I am building a ministry. I will teach despite the criticism. I will do the stuff I don’t want to do so I can accomplish the work I want to accomplish.
I’ve had enough of sitting in a chair aching to be the one with the microphone. I’ve had it with daydreams of doing something great for God while I hide inside of four walls.
It’s time to lay down the excuses and pick up the pace.
Buckle up satan. Here I come.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Shiloh


People have asked me, even debated with me, about the significance of the Old Testament. I’ve also been challenged about my love for the ancient Hebrew texts, my references to Judaism within in the construct of Christianity and the fact that I have in my reference library a copy of the Tanach.
There seems to be a feeling amongst some of us that Christianity and Judaism are opposing forces in the religious world. Polar opposites. Never the twain shall meet.
These thoughts came to a head several years ago in our former church. I was talking to a dear friend who was filling in for the adult Sunday School teacher one week. In preparing for his lesson, the teacher’s manual advised a consideration of the “impact of Shiloh.” The man came to me to ask if I understood the question and ultimately, what was Shiloh?
Well, I didn’t know. I looked in my handy dandy concordance and couldn’t find the word. I asked a few people and they were stumped as well. I went to my ultimate Old Testament source, my Gramma and Grampa Gerhardstein.
Gramma and Grampa were not just Bible-readers but students of the Word. They didn’t read a daily devotional for the sake of it but read to understand. They studied, discussed and prayed about the sacred text.
So I headed to Gramma and Grampa’s house and asked them, “What is Shiloh?”
Immediately my Gramma answered, it was where Eli the high priest learned the Arc of the Covenant had been lost. We turned to the reference, Gramma, Grampa and myself.
We read together, heads bent over our individual Bibles. In 1 Samuel we found the record of Eli sitting on a stool and being told the horrible report, the Arc was gone.
Then we talked about why this mattered? What was the significance? We followed the thread of the Arc of the Covenant representing the glory and the presence of God with Israel. We realized that the loss of the Arc meant that the Glory of God was gone from Israel. We knew the utter devastation this meant and it shook us to think about it. My Gramma wept as she considered the moment. My Grampa talked in a low and reverent voice about how far we are today, from mourning the Glory of God. How easily we live without it, not appreciating our own state of devastation.
I was excited at what I’d learned that day. I went home and called my friend to tell him what the reference to Shiloh represented. His turn to teach was still a few days away and he’d be able to share such a sacred truth with his students. His response?
“I’m not gonna worry about that. I’m a New Testament Christian. I’m under grace!”
Did he teach his students about Shiloh and the Glory of God that Sunday? No.
But we are not New Testament Christians. At least I’m not.
The writers who penned the Bible did not divide it into chapter, verse and testament. This is a modern organization of the history of God. Taken properly, it is not the before and after but the continuum of the Glory of God us-ward.
Even as we claim the salvation of Grace through Christ, we must embrace the mercy of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was this mercy that ordained the cross by which we are saved.
Don’t run away from the Old Testament text. Don’t consider it just the history of Israel or the record of the law.
In the ancient books of the Hebrews you will find the Glory of God, revealed and lost. You will find the heart of man, broken and restored.
You will learn about the God of Creation and his utter refusal to let go of a rebellious nation.
Only then can you understand the miracle of grace.
And the lesson of Shiloh.
1 Samuel 3:21
And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Part Two of a Fascinating Tale

I started putzing around straightening the house. I loaded the dishwasher and turned it on. Felt a little better. I threw away the approximately 2,000 pieces of junk mail on the kitchen table. Went nuts and cleaned the kitchen and dining room including sweeping. Well! That’s much nicer.
Hair standing on end, in my pajamas but feeling just a little less disgusting and disgusted. Nose still running, throat still hurting, muscles still aching.
I wandered down into the stinky God-forsaken basement that is clearly a portal to hell via the ever-backing up floor drains. Threw in a load of laundry. Somehow the sound of the washer running was soothing in the quiet house.
Back up to the living room, I turned on the new boom box I got the Mr. for Christmas that has been sitting on the coffee table ever since. Flipped to the local Christian station. Hmm. Nice. Despite my standing-up hair, sore throat and aching muscles my heart leapt into worship mode. And instantly I felt a little better. I decided, I’m going to life group tonight, doggone it. I hope they don’t mind standing-up hair because I’m clearly too sick to groom.
With worship on the air and hair stretching toward heaven I started to clean up the usual piles of refuse that lay around my living room. Shocking, I know. Once the trash was gone I decided that the secondary mess of “stuff that doesn’t belong in the living room” (pronounced shrilly ‘STUFF THAT DOESN’T BELONG IN THE LIVING ROOM YOU GUYS!!!’) had to be dealt with. You see, generally I leave the “stuff that doesn’t belong in the living room” in the living room because its’ not my stuff. Somebody needs to get the stuff outta here. But not me because it’s not my stuff.
Once trash and stuff was dealt with there was another issue. Dust. The trash and stuff had been hiding dust. When did this place get so dusty? Probably sometime during the last month, when I haven’t dusted. That’s my guess. So I dusted.
Then I had a brainstorm. Inspired! I’ll rearrange the living room! It won’t take but a minute or two and it’ll be a nice change of pace! A real pick-me-up.
Hair standing on end, throat hurting, muscles aching, worship worshiping I started shoving furniture this way and that way. More trash and stuff revealed behind every piece of furniture. Forty five minutes later I’m standing in the middle of a nightmare. I realize that there is no other reasonable arrangement for this furniture. This furniture in fact, does not even really fit in this room. Oh well, I’m in it now. Let’s get wacky.
So wacky I got. I put the too-big couch kitty corner which basically resulted in approximately ten square feet of unusable floor now behind the thing making the tiny living room tinier still. I put a table behind it with a lamp on it. Now it looks well-lit and crazy.
I put the two chairs against another wall and crammed the coffee table between them because there is no longer enough floor space for it to be in the customary coffee table position.
I can’t move the entertainment center because it is five tons of particle board engineering genius that will remain in place after Armageddon as the only evidence of the previous society before the New Jerusalem. Either that or someday my grandchildren will climb inside and disappear to another land where they will become the sons and daughters of Adam. (Note to self, write a series of books about that and become famous and beloved.)
I flipped the cushions, vacuumed, dusted and fell exhausted on to my kitty corner couch. It’s about two hours later now and the morning music has turned over to teaching on the radio. A few more loads of laundry are done and I’ve unloaded the clean dishes from the dishwasher. I light a few candles in the kitchen and living room.
My hair is still standing on end, my throat hurts and my muscles ache. No change there. But my house is in order (kind of) and my heart is full. At the end of the equation, I consider myself ahead of where I started.
I showered, studied, studied some more. Relaxed. Admitted that the new living room arrangement is a travesty but we’re going to have to live with it for now. Besides, it’s kind of growing on me.
I made a pot of chilli for dinner.
Daboyz came home and looked at the living room with an expression of concern.
The Mr. came home and said, “What the heck?”
He sat down in his chair and leaned way forward cocking his head hard to the right. That’s the only way he can see the television in this new arrangement.
We went to life group and as usual, were blessed to have the time with our friends to talk about God, life and to laugh at each other.
And I remained sick and called off on Thursday and Friday as well.
It has me wondering though, how much of my time is swallowed up in emptiness? Like King Solomon wrote, nothing is gained by all the labor we put ourselves to.
I know, I was working around the house and I seem to be the poster child for nothing gained for my labor. But I’m not thinking about the living room arrangement, or the caught-up laundry or the swept kitchen floor.
The day turned when the television went off and the worship came on. It’s a simple lesson, recognize the empty and fill it up. Channel surfing=empty time. Worship music=full.
Laying in bed reading magazines=empty. Studying 1 Samuel=full.
Staying home with sticking up hair on the couch=empty.
Going to life group=full.
I’ll have my hours yet to come of channel surfing, wasted time and laziness. But I’d like to remember the lesson of just trying to avoid the empty times a little more. It’s not a formula for Godliness so much as just a better way to spend the day when you pause and decide what to do with the moment instead of riding it like a wave over which you’ve no control.
I suspect when I’ve filled my life with the finer things of God I’ll be more satisfied with the quiet times of sticking up hair and laying on a cock-eyed couch.
Lord, let me never lay down at night with a fist full of empty day.
Psalm 118:24
This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Part One of a Fascinating Tale


Ecclesiastes 1:1-3
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:
"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."
What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?

These are the thoughts of King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived and the son of King David of Israel. “All meaningless.” Sounds like the words of a man deep in despair, doesn’t it? It’s true, Solomon did reach the end of his life disappointed with his own use of the days appointed him.
It’s a fine trick to use our days wisely. I was off for a few days last week sick. That’s always a contradictory experience for me. I hate calling off work and always do so with great guilt and angst. During my time at home when I should be working I’m always second-guessing myself, maybe I should’ve tried. I don’t feel that bad after all.
On the other hand, I love being at home. I’ve never fully stepped into the role of career woman. I do it for the money. I’m blessed to work in a job I love and get a feeling of fulfillment from; but I could walk away tomorrow and never look back. If I didn’t need the money.
So three days off in a row butting up against a weekend meant five days away from work and stuck in my little house. Day number one was Wednesday.
This particular Wednesday was also life group Wednesday which means I am supposed to teach a Bible study at a friends’ home. We do this the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. I had just been “talked to” on the Sunday prior that the only criticism against my ministry is that I’m inconsistent, ie I call off group too often. I walked away from that conversation determined to take the criticism as constructive and to be better with this ministry from here on.
Naturally I started feeling punky on Monday and downright bad by Tuesday evening at which point I called off for Wednesday. But I had to get to life group on Wednesday. I was determined that if I had to drag an IV pole behind me, I was going to life group. Wednesday morning I awakened feeling as bad as I had predicted I would but determined to use the day to really prepare a wonderful lesson for the evening. I would be thoroughly studied, prayed and ready. I didn’t give myself the option of cancellation. My promise to God to do better and my own pride were both on the line.
I sat in my living room for a few hours Wednesday morning channel surfing. Started on the local news and flipped when the stories started repeating. Checked out the classic movie channels. Nothing. Clicked through all 100+ channels, nothing. Sigh.
So I did something outlandish. Something one never does on a sick day. I turned off the television at 8:00 in the morning. Wow, that silence is really loud. I was pretty sure I could hear the blood pumping through my arteries in the stillness. Hmmm. Looked around the place. Wow. This house is really messy. Peeked into the (just flooded and drained again basement). Wow. There’s a lot of stinky wet laundry down there.
Paused to assess my own status. Wow. I feel like crap.
Probably should just climb into bed and spend the day reading and napping. I’ll see what’s on the classic movie station later on. Let’s face it, I’m way to sick to go to life group.
No! I have to go to life group!
But you’re sick and the house is messy and clearly, it’s all too much. Let’s watch your Green Acres collection on DVD.
No! I HAVE to go to life group! I have to. I have to, right?

To be continued...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Yes I Am Intense


Genesis 18:9
"Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him. "There, in the tent", he said.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Essential Sara


1. Usually pajamas.
2. No make up.
3. Book worm.
4. Terrible eye-sight.
5. Anti-social.
6. Hate the phone.
7. Socially inept.
8. Blogs.
9. Chronic Insomnia.
10.Home-body.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Doubt


John 20:24-29
24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it. 26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Sometimes I doubt.
How this can be I don’t understand. How I can feel so entirely certain and then plunge into this darkness is a mystery. And yet, sometimes I doubt.
It most often comes at night when the house is quiet and still and I’m wrestling with my usual insomnia. Around 2:00 a.m. it strikes. I wake up, fully and completely awake. I toss and turn and flip my pillow. I squirm and stretch a few times. I take note of how loud the Mr. is exhaling and I make a list of things to be done tomorrow. I count the hours left if I fall asleep right NOW.
Then comes the thought, maybe it’s not real. Maybe God isn’t real. Maybe I’m a fool. Maybe I’ve dedicated my life and my philosophy to something like a fairytale.
Oh, it gets uglier. I start to think of eternity. It seems entirely too long to endure. No rest. Never done. It’s never just over. No way out.
And how dare I have had children? What was I thinking to have brought yet more human beings into this existence that I myself cannot comprehend? I think I should tell them, tell my boys, don’t do it! It’s too cruel! Don’t have children who will have to walk through an unkind world and then exist forever in an unknown future!
Existential angst to be sure.
Yes, sometimes I doubt.
Sometimes I am so sure I am surprised not to open my eyes to see Jesus sitting next to me. Sometimes I can feel him, I can feel him right here. He has mass and volume and places a gentle hand on mine. I am so sure that I ache to be gone, yes to be dead. Dead to this life and so very ready for the next! Sometimes I feel entirely untethered to this place by anything but gravity. A true stranger in a strange land. I think about how I might die and if it were “premature” how that would be so wonderful! I think that this world has nothing, nothing, nothing to offer me. I don’t care about a bigger house or mounting bills or a stressful job because it’s all so temporary.
The believing me thinks the doubter will never return. The doubter is ashamed and afraid.
Both the believer and the doubter are grateful that God can handle us.
When Thomas was overwhelmed with despair and doubt, Jesus didn’t turn away in disgust. He stretched out that hand that was pierced for all of us doubters and let Thomas find his way back to a place of faith in whatever way he needed. He let Thomas touch the holes.
Even though he had to see to believe, Thomas was allowed to say, “My Lord and my God!”
So I will toss and turn through the night wrestling against my doubts. With every morning there has been a nail-pierced hand stretched out for my examination.
And back into those hands, I place this doubter’s life.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

God & Joe


I think God considers coffee holy.
It can be simple or elegant.
Plain black or cappucino.
Decaf or espresso.
It is the best smell in the world. It is delicious hot or cold.
Coffee looks prettiest in a clear coffee cup.
Coffee is attached to my youngest memories because I come from a coffee-driven family long before the generation of coffee-achievers. It is the mellow scent of my grandparents house, of the firehouses my dad worked at, Dunkin' Donuts runs up the street for special treats and every morning as it wafted through my own home as a child.
We all know the coffee specifics of one another in our family and immediately "put on a fresh pot" when arriving at one anothers homes. My dad and myself, black. My mom, creamora & sweetener. Kathy, cream & sugar. Grandma, sweetener and maybe a little cream but usually not. My sister, the Mr. & Daboyz (the lesser of of the coffee-drinkers) only drink it in specialty form or very sweet and creamy and not on a daily basis. We love them anyway but with an air of suspicion.
My dad, my bro-in-law and myself like it way dark. My mom sputters and adds more cream when we make it.
I let Daboyz drink coffee after me from the time they were able to handle a cup. Mac loved it then so I have hope he'll return to his roots. Jay likes Starbucks best and shows great promise for following in the family coffee-drinking tradition.
Although they make coffee at work every morning, I bring my own in a travel mug because I like my brew stronger than they make it. There is one person I work with, Brian, who understands the magic of coffee-making. When he's there, I drink with him. Coffee I mean.
I do not like coffee from paper or styrofoam cups. I have several mugs that hold about 14-16 oz. each at home and that is what I generally use. I don't like plastic mugs either. If I bring home coffee from Starbucks or Tim Horton's, I pour it into a real cup.
If you're not a coffee-drinker, you've probably clicked away already. If you are, you think this post is sacred and await the discovery of the Apostle Paul's writings on coffee drinking in pursuit of a higher calling.
Me, I love coffee.
It's more than just a wake-me-up (although why wake up without it?)It's memories of waking up to familiar sounds and scents. It's a simple and perfect offering to guests. It's the knowing of each other in the basic ways, like how we take our coffee. It is a harkening to gestures of love without great effort or expense; how about a cup of coffee?
It is a simple God-thing to me. Coffee? Yeah. God is in small and simple pleasure. He doesn't move only in thunder bolts and hurricanes and miraculous healings on death beds. He loves in rain on roof-tops and soup on stove-tops and the way the tops of babies' heads smell.
He loves in a million little gestures that will sneak past us if we aren't paying attention.
This I know for certain, God loves a good cup of strong black coffee.
How is God loving you today?
Proverbs 7:18
Come, let's drink deep of love till morning; let's enjoy ourselves with love!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Adonai


Adonai-Jehovah -- The Lord our Sovereign
El-Elyon -- The Lord Most High
El-Olam -- The Everlasting God
El-Shaddai -- The God Who is Sufficient for the Needs of His People
Jehovah-Elohim -- The Eternal Creator
Jehovah-Jireh -- The Lord our Provider
Jehovah-Nissi -- The Lord our Banner
Jehovah-Ropheka -- The Lord our Healer
Jehovah-Shalom -- The Lord our Peace
Jehovah-Tsidkenu -- The Lord our Righteousness
Jehovah-Mekaddishkem -- The Lord our Sanctifier
Jehovah-Sabaoth -- The Lord of Hosts
Jehovah-Shammah -- The Lord is Present
Jehovah-Rohi -- The Lord our Shepherd
Jehovah-Hoseenu -- The Lord our Maker
Jehovah-Eloheenu -- The Lord our God

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Who Is He?


Exodus 3:14
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM...


How well do you know God?
I mean, do you really know him?
Think about the people you are close to, your loved ones. Maybe it’s romantic love, maternal/paternal, familial, friendship, whatever. People you love. Now describe them. What do they like, dislike? What is their history? Their dreams? Can you describe their character?
It’s hard to have a relationship with someone if you don’t really get inside their heads and learn what makes them tick. We all have that concentric circle of relationships, those we are intimately connect to, the ones we trust and love, the ones we enjoy being around, the acquaintances.
Would you say you have an intimate relationship with God? Are you personally close and familiar with God?
To bring it down to a place to which I can relate, I think about my relationship with the Mr. I am closer to him than anyone on the planet. Truth is, I sometimes feel closer to him than to God; but that’s a thought for a different time.
I know this guy. I know his strengths and his weaknesses. I know how to please him and how to hurt him. I know what food he hates and loves. I understand the nuances of the tone of his voice, the look in his eye and how to translate the truth behind the smile. I am fascinated by Dean. I am thrilled to find a gift for him that he loves. I grin when I see other people talking to him about things thinking they know him and he’s just being polite in response. I crack up when someone gives me advice on our relationship.
I’ve driven around with him as he has shown me the houses he grew up in, the schools he attended and the restaurants his mom and dad frequented. I know his stories of childhood pranks and who his friends were and how he spent his summers. I’ve paid close attention and taken notice of the changes the years have brought to this man I love. I see the gray hair and the laugh lines and that he is a little more tired at the end of the day.
I am in love and I know this one who has my heart.
But how well do I know God? Have I studied him the way I have studied Dean? Without knowing the character of God, there can be no relationship.
When I know him, I will trust him. I will please him and live the life intended for me. There’s more to knowing God than believing in Jesus. Surprised? A little offended?
The Christian who accepts the salvation of the cross and stops there will be one, albeit saved from damnation, who lives in a state of subtle frustration. It’s a hard relationship to maintain that will not be fully revealed until Heaven. It feels a bit like a long-distance love affair.
There is a way to know God. There is a record of his likes and dislikes. It is within our grasp to please or hurt him.
If you find yourself at odd times feeling that you’ve made a pact with someone you don’t know; you’re not alone. Maybe it’s time to get to know God...intimately.

Monday, January 08, 2007

What's In A Name?


My name is Sara.
Sara Margaret Trent Smith.
There, now you can find me and stalk me. Enjoy.
Meanwhile, most people spell it wrong anyway by adding the superfluous "h" on the end.
My name is of Hebrew origin/female/means "princess" or "God's princess".
My name finds its roots in the wife of Abraham who gave birth to Isaac in her 90s.
I'll let that Sara keep that particular accomplishment as her own, thank you very much. I have no particular desire to give birth to a nation. If you're unsure of the history there, Abraham and Sara gave birth to Isaac, Isaac was the father of Jacob and Jacob's name was changed by God to Israel from whom the 12 sons became the 12 tribes and the modern nation of Israel. But I digress.
My name is Sara.
When I was a kid, there was not another Sara to be seen on the entire face of the planet Earth. I never went to school with another Sara. In the 1970s when personalized products starting showing up in the stores, it was a miracle to find anything with my name engraved on it. And then again, always with the superfluous "h" on the end.
My middle name is in honor of both my maternal and paternal grandmothers whose middle names are also Margaret. Convenient, no?
My maiden name, Trent, I dropped upon marriage to the Mr. for the ubiquitous Smith. I did not hyphenate because I'm a traditionalist and believe not in maintaining one's former identity but building a new identity as a family. In our case, one family under Smith...
But don't kid yourself, the Trent doesn't just skulk quietly into the night. It goes underground and reveals itself in jaw-lines and attitudes.
I didn't like my name as a kid. Too unusual. What kid wants to lug around a one-of-a-kind moniker? It means weird amongst the elementary school set.
Although we always refer to the Hebrew origins of my name, the secret truth is that there was a model in the 1960s named Sara Thom that my mom was inspired by. There, now you know.
Today I like my name. There are a lot of Sara/Sarahs running around on the planet Earth now, but none pushing 40. Now it's not weird, it's a lovely old-fashioned name. Victorian, they say.
Now Sara is strong, individual, confident and capable. Both in name and in deed. My name feels dignified to me, even if my behavior doesn't always live up to the challenge.
I like names. I love the practice of passing names from generation to generation. I love being "The Smith Family." Those Smiths, The Smiths...one word to bring all four of us to mind. Smith means Dean, Sara, Jay & Mac. It means music and teaching and laughing and loving and teasing and trusting and a million other things.
I like the larger "Trents" too. Liked it so much my older son's middle name is Trent being that there were no Trent boys to carry on the name. Trent means family and tradition and dependable and honest and trust-worthy and love.
Sara Margaret Trent Smith.
I wonder what it will mean when my life is over?
Proverbs 22:1
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

January 7, 2007


Proverbs 3:3-4
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Nicknames


1. Sarey
2. Sarey-eye
3. Beara/Sara Bear/Sara Beara
4. Dippity (as in Serendipity...)
5. Sare
6. Schadi (sp?)ala Hungarian translation
7. Keechi Schadi (sp?) ala Hungarian Little Sara
8. *%#$@ Nurse!
9. Honey/Baby/Babe per Mr.
10.Amy

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Bonnie Complex


A few years back we attended a different church and with us attended another family with kids roughly the same age as daboyz. Only they had girlz, which they would never, ever call dagirlz.
That’s because that mom and dad were much different than the Mr. and myself.
The mom’s name was Bonnie and she is the kind of woman I think I should be. I always feel loud and unspiritual in Bonnie’s presence. She does nothing to make me feel this way; it’s just the light her presence casts on me.
Bonnie has the sweetest face. Calm and serene at all times. Wears no make up and probably cuts her own natural brown hair. She smiles a gentle small smile and if she laughs; it’s a gentle small laugh. Her clothes are outdated and I don’t recall her wearing jewelry besides her wedding ring and maybe small earrings. Bonnie doesn’t spend money on herself; she has higher financial priorities than I do.
She and her husband had three children biologically and then went on to adopt three more through the foster care system. They are obviously gifted stewards because she has never worked outside their home and yet they have built a large house on some acreage out in the country where Bonnie home schools their children.
I look at Bonnie and wonder just how far off the mark I am from what I could have or should have been. I’m certainly more vain than she by miles.
I keep an every-six-week schedule for hair coloring and cuts and good heavens; I actually posted a blog about how I should cut my hair! I order my mascara from Mary Kay and probably pay roughly twice what drug store mascara costs because I like it best. I wear extended wear lip gloss so it won’t fade away and buy my facial soap from a department store, moisturizer again from Mary Kay. I pluck and then pencil in my eye brows into a superior arch. I indulge myself in new clothes for no good reason whatsoever on a regular basis. I have tennis shoes to match my scrubs and when they get grungy they become bum-around shoes and I buy new ones for work. I have jewelry, albeit costume, to match most of my outfits. I still check the jewelry aisles to see if there’s more out there I want. I have even purchased a necklace and then gone hunting for a sweater to go with.
There’s more to it than just my attention to my appearance, which by the way still doesn’t measure up to Bonnie’s natural beauty. There’s my personality as well. If only Mary Kay could fix that.
I laugh way too loud and usually at something entirely inappropriate. Was recently spotted wearing wax lips at the nurse’s station. I am sarcastic and silly and often stupid. Bonnie would never stoop to my low-brow humor.
I lose my temper and snap at people. I use my gift of communication to cut people down if I get ticked off enough. I roll my eyes. I called my husband “Captain Crack Head” this morning.
I don’t want to give up my multiple luxuries to adopt foster care kids and build them a country home. I don’t want to home school anybody, I wanted my kids to go to school and leave me in peace for a few hours.
The thing is, I want to want to be better. But I’m so far away from it, from being like Bonnie.
Bonnie who stands on tiptoe to whisper in her husband’s ear when it’s time to go. Not Sara who yells across the room, “Hey! I’m outta here!”
I don’t think I’ll ever be a Bonnie. For that matter, I’m quite sure I couldn’t if I tried and doubt seriously I was meant to be.
I do, however, think there is more of Sara to lay on an altar. Maybe God doesn’t want me to spend so much money and attention on my hair. Maybe he doesn’t care. My problem is I don’t ask permission if I don’t want to be told “no.” My suspicion is that God would pull me somewhere to the middle ground of Bonnie vs. Sara if I’d bend myself toward him a little more.
It’s not about Bonnie. It’s not about me. It’s about Christ, him crucified and risen and my submission to him.
So yes, I can learn a lot from Bonnie. I can learn to think twice and discipline myself. I can learn to curb my tongue and soften my rough edges. Most of all I need to learn to check with God that I’m what he wants me to be. And to be that with all my heart, a heart that is completely his.
And a fabulous pair of new shoes in which to walk it out.

Romans 14:12
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mrs. Smith


1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

I’m winding down my last four months of my thirties, headed for 40 on April 25 of this year. I’m receiving a good deal of teasing about this milestone. Happily, I can say I’m ready. Of course, until April 24 who knows for sure how this is really going to affect me? But for now, I’m ready.
What is most interesting to me is that I can safely assume my life is at the half-way mark give or take. Of course, I could get an extra ten years for good behavior (not very likely) or lose some year to unforseen circumstances. The truth of it all is that there isn’t “all the time in the world” left to make of myself what I would like to make. And the real truth of it is, there never was.
When I was a kid I always, ALWAYS wanted to be a school teacher. My first true memory of this was in the second grade when I was called to the chalk board to write something, I’ve no memory what. But it struck me that I like standing there, in front of the class. I loved the idea of the well-dressed pretty teacher leading, inspiring. And writing on the chalk board any time I wanted to!
I took careful note of the things that my teachers did right for my future classrooms and the things they did wrong so I didn’t repeat their mistakes. I can remember every classroom I sat in through elementary school because elementary school was where I saw my future. The giant wooden climbers in Mrs. Steen’s kindergarten (safe? No, but good times nonetheless). Mrs. Kinneanan had a boring room and I now consider her to have been an overwhelmed first year teacher. Mrs. Rogel had a cool room that was the former kindergarten room when the school was first built so we had our own bathroom which we shared with the room next door and her desk sat in a bay windowed alcove overlooking the playground. This was the future classroom I envisioned for myself. There was a coat closet along the entire length of one wall and when Mrs. Rogel opened the first door, they all swung wide on a common hinge. Fantastic.
Mrs. Banes was utterly beautiful and it was upon her fashion sense I based my future teaching wardrobe including a brown page boy hair cut, royal blue sweater dress and red ankle strap sandals with red toe nails. She had the student’s desks arranged facing the windows with her desk facing us, so you’d turn to the right to see the chalk board. She also hung our papers and artwork on the bulletins boards updated weekly. Very inspiring that.
Mrs. Weinlander was the most inspirational of all my teachers. She was very old, perhaps as old as 40 at the time. She read us the Little House series that year. True love. She told us to wash our hands and our arms instead of walking around with white hands (there were no other color hands in my elementary school if you get my drift) and dirty wrists. She said, “Sacramento California and all points west of the Mississippi!” when she was frustrated or surprised or if she spotted you with dirty wrists. She did not decorate her classroom, she decorated our minds instead. I saw her a few years ago and she hugged me hard and talked about how smart I was and how pretty and shy and how proud she was of me. She loved me.
Ms. Page was a feminist first and a teacher second, or third. She made us read out loud and replace all the male pronouns with either female or non-gender specific such as they, them, etc. She actually taught fourth grade that year but there were five fifth graders chosen to make up a special split class and we were considered those able to self-motivate as sort of an experiment. I’m not sure the experiment worked but I rather enjoyed myself that year. She also taught us to balance checkbooks by handing out real check books to us and running a store from behind her desk. Another grand idea I meant to use myself.
Sixth grade was Mrs.Kendall who dressed like Maude and wore almost white frosted lip stick. She was very tall and imposing and utterly fantastically creative. Our classroom was so miraculously transformed at Easter that the local paper came to take a picture of it. She had hat making contests and basket making contests and art contests. She had a dead tree mounted in a cement filled bucket and we made various art projects to hang from the tree representing the theme of the moment. She let me draw in the margins of my papers calling it creativity. She also told my parents I was lazy and not working up to my ability. I hated/loved her for that. She took me to my first Detroit Tiger baseball game in the spring for being a good student despite working below my ability. She had a rug and bean bags in the front of the classroom where you could lay around and read as soon as your work was done. Every classroom needs a rug and bean bags, I’m convinced.
And so I decided to become a teacher.
And I never did.
Frankly when I went back to school a few years ago I chose nursing rather than education for two reasons. The schooling was shorter and teachers just aren’t getting jobs.
Oh, and I did feel God telling me to. That’s a hard one to ignore.
Today I don’t really want to teach elementary school. I don’t think I’d do justice to those inspirational women who decorated their classrooms and challenged us with hat-making contests and stood all day long in red ankle strap high heels.
Today I do have fantasies of teaching high school English that I push to the back of my mind so I don’t get frustrated with my current career.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job.
But those childhood dreams still hover just in the distance making me wonder...
What if?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!


Although it happens between seasons, the new year seems to be a time that draws us toward the feeling of beginnings and endings. Past and present, epilogue and prologue. The collision of hope and disappointment captured in the tick of the second hand of a clock.
For me, the finest intentions bubble to the surface in the new year. I feel focused and ready. The perfect opportunity stands before me to do the things that need doing and to stop the things that need stopping. But then those seasons roll on by, with life distracting me day by day and another New Year’s Eve stands ready to accuse me of another 365 wasted days to mock my fine intentions of a year ago.
I’ve made my list of resolutions for as long as I can remember only abandoning the practice a few years ago, right around the time I started finding the me in God to replace the me of my own design. This God- inspired person didn’t accomplish all the things on all those lists but rather handed the pencil to a better author. There were hopes and plans I had to let Him erase from my ledger. More than once I’ve written them back in only to bow my head and lay down my pencil. Again.
Then there were expectations and opportunities that He added to my life that I would’ve preferred to erase. Things that scared me, challenged me and changed me.
I’ve learned that my lists are written in pencil and His seem to be in Sharpie. Mine fade and are easily erased. Not so His.
This year has found me again with a smeared game plan clutched in my hands. I didn’t do these, I kept on doing that, I tried to run away from this. And again I hand my crumpled ideas to God and He hands me back the scroll upon which my life is written.
Only now I let myself hear the resolution of my Savior.
It’s a single word.
Grace.
One word to cover the mistakes and the blunders and the wishes that never came true. Of the thousands of words I’ve hurled against myself and all the promises I’ve made to heaven about fresh starts this one word remains.
For my past and my future. For your history and your eternity.
For every season of celebration and grief there is a word written that defines a sacred purpose.
We are not made of disappointment or wishes but of mercy and promises.
May the midnight hour strike as 2007 finds you made new in grace.

Revelation 21:5
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.