How to Love One Another

Friday, September 25, 2009

I might start watching Xena, Warrior Princess.

Wacky, I know. But I was talking to Sean at work today. He's one of our really kind, good-hearted janitors. I was wearing my sparkly flip-flops when he came in the work room and he commented about how they looked like the shoes of a character from Xena. I giggled and commented that I'd never really watched the show (truly only once to sort of laugh at it), but that I was glad for it because it's so necessary to have a phrase like "Xena, Warrior Princess!" to exclaim on such occasions when you need to raise your fist and make a battle cry or something. He smiled at me and said sincerely, "you know, I like the show because to me the whole storyline is all about redemption." Sean doesn't really know that redemption is one of those buzz words for me that makes my ears tingle, but he did notice when I stopped what I was doing and turned to face him as he explained. When he finished, I must have looked intrigued enough that he made an offer. "Oooh...this would be hard for me," he said, "but I'll loan you the first season if you ever want to watch it."
"You actually own it?" I laughed.
"Oh yeah! Had to!" he smiled. I told him I might actually take him up on it. And I might, but not because I'm so much interested in Xena...more because the conversation made me really like Sean. I'm glad i work with him.

And it got me thinking. This is how we love people. It's not so hard to be interested in what other people are interested in. But I find it doesn't happen very often, not to me at least. Honestly, when was the last time you tried really hard to like something because another person you know liked it, and they were worth your effort? This is how I want to be loved, but I don't find very many people who try to like what I like just because I like it and they like me.

So I'm thinking I might start watching, and liking, Xena, Warrior Princess, because though his taste in TV series is not my taste (he's also a trekky), Sean seems a beautiful person, at least a person worth my effort (anyone's effort really)...and he said it's about

Aqua Blue Promises

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

*Note: This is actually an article I wrote years ago for a you'll see, Caleb was only about 4. But I thought of it the other day when I was having coffee with my Salsa sistas. When I re-read it, I got all emotional again, remembering my little guy's tears and thinking about the Aqua Blue promises too many of us forsake. Don't forsake your dream because you're afraid, friend. It's too pretty. Learn to float! I’ve been thinking lately about fear. I know, nice way to start an article. It was prompted by my taking Caleb to swim lessons. Where we live there is a canal that runs right in front of our house, a pond in the back yard, and no fence to speak of, so my boys are not exactly free to roam their property as little boys should be…at least not until they learn to swim. So this year I decided to sign Caleb up for lessons. He breezed through and passed the first class without ever batting an eye. The other moms kept asking me, “Why is he so motivated?” All I could tell them is, “it must be the big pool.” Every day he would ask me, “Mom, I get to go in the big pool next time?” And every day I would tell him, “not yet, but if you keep working hard and listen to your teacher you’ll get to really soon.” On the last day of class they pull out this little red slide and all the kids get to climb up and slide down into the “Big Pool” and the waiting arms of their instructor. Caleb was in his glory that day. And he was fearless. I promptly signed him up for the next class with promises of a special treat at the end once he had learned to float. Floating is a good skill, I think.
All was progressing fairly well, but I started to notice that Caleb wasn’t asking so much about the Big Pool anymore. I would see him look over his shoulder with something akin to longing on his face as we would leave, but he stopped asking about it. I started watching him closely in the water. That’s when I began to see the fear. I don’t know from whence it came, but suddenly there it was. His teacher would ask him to stretch his body out and kick as he was pulled through the water. Instead, Caleb would sort of ball up, muscles tense, and grab white knuckled for any part of the teacher’s body that was within reach. Caleb’s technique, far from being graceful or beautiful in the water, was ineffective, at best. We tried with all the words and coercion we could think of to convince him that his teacher would keep him safe, his teacher wouldn’t let him go, his teacher only wanted to prepare him for the Big Pool. “Trust your teacher and do what he says” I kept telling him, but to no avail.

On the last day, we arrived a few minutes late and Caleb’s class was already sitting on the edge of the Big Pool sporting the cutest little life jackets. Oh! I thought I wouldn’t be able to contain his excitement, but Caleb sort of drug his feet over to the spot and sat down. We helped him into the life jacket and he slid timidly into the pool with his teacher who promptly flipped him onto his back like a turtle in his shell. That’s when the tears came. Once safely on the pool’s edge, life jacket removed, I got down next to him and asked what was wrong. “I’m just a little scared, Mom.” A little later they got that wondrous red slide out and all the kids clamored to get in line. Caleb walked quietly over to the water’s edge and sat down to watch. My mommy heart wanted to flop down right there on the wet cement and cry. Cry for all the hopes and expectations, all the excitement and wonder of the Big Pool that had just melted away into sinking, immobilizing fears.

That’s why I’ve been thinking lately about fear. What I realized is that the driving motivator behind fear is a lack of trust. Caleb’s teacher stood right over him, coaxing, encouraging again and again, “I’ll be right here, I won’t let go of you.” But Caleb couldn’t seem to believe him, he couldn’t bring himself to trust. I remember telling one of the moms next to me, “I want him to learn to trust his teacher because I want him to learn that he can trust God. Isn’t it exactly what we do with God? All of the promises that he wrote down for us, “I will never leave you…”, “Delight yourself in the Lord…”and we can’t seem to bring ourselves to believe them enough to learn to float.

What is your fear? What holds you back from doing what God is asking of you today? It could be something very small. Maybe you don’t like to pray in groups or lift your hands in worship. Are you afraid that God won’t meet you in that place and you’ll be left looking stupid? Perhaps it’s something big, like your life. Maybe you’re afraid to let go of the plans and dreams for yourself that you have carried since your youth because, “what if God doesn’t have anything better and I’m left with nothing?” All the while He’s standing over you saying, “He who loses his life for me will surely find it”… “If you seek me you will find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Oh if only I could have convinced Caleb to do his teacher’s bidding and do it with ALL his heart. He’d be floating…no he’d be in the big pool by now.

Caleb’s little swimming fears look silly to a swimmer. A swimmer knows you have only to stretch out your legs and push your hands forward and the whole pool belongs to you. But they are real to him. There are unknowns for him. There are unknowns to you and I. But our instructor is a swimmer. He knows what we don’t, and if we will just take him at his word then we’ll be swimmers too. That’s what obedience is. It’s “You said it, I don’t get it, but I’m gonna do it anyway because I’ve seen you swim.” That’s what trust is.

Let me tell you something about the Big Pool. The Big Pool has two diving boards, one short and one reeaaaallly tall one. It has a rope swing and lots of kids with floaty toys and balls. It has lots of laughter in it. But there’s more. Just beyond the Big pool is a door that’s always open. If you step out that door you burst into glorious daylight. Sunlight scatters off the aqua blue water like a million tiny lightning bolts, and you have to squint your eyes to look directly at it. There’s another slide out there, a big one, more diving boards, more laughter, and the warmth of the sun on your dripping, golden skin. There are two really tall chairs where the guys with dark skin and red shorts sit holding their whistles. They're there just in case you forget that you know how to float. If the worst happens and your fears come true, they climb down and pull you out of the water. Ahhhh, now those old swimming fears do look silly, don't they?

Caleb is mesmerized by the sparkling Aqua Blue with the slide…as am I. It represents for me all the reasons to learn to float today, all the reasons to obey the instructor today. And so I encourage you. Take a good hard look at the thing you fear. Take a look at it and then fling it all out on Christ. Paul’s words have taken on a new meaning for me, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” Paul knew the enchanting promise of the Aqua Blue. As will you and I, and my sweet Caleb…someday.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” Phil 3:12-14 (emphasis mine).

Between the Hammer and the Anvil

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I don't own a sword.
I know, huh?
No, really. I don't even own a stylish yet fierce jewel encrusted dagger.
I got skipped over somehow when the elves were crafting and handing out their magical works of art.

I am a fan of swordcraft lore though, having been raised on Tolkein. I like the bit in that last Eragon book where he has to help the Elf master make his own sword and how they go out to that really old tree to ask permission for the metal buried in its roots, because that's really the only metal a Dragon Rider's sword can be made out of. I recently heard a pastor talk in his sermon about swordcraft. I guess it's an ancient Japanese art, and the way he described the craft, it sounded so much like the stories I've read that now I wonder if the Japanese are actually elves in disguise.

This has been on my mind lately, because I found myself saying to Steve the other night, "He's (God's) got me between his hammer and anvil, and I don't really have a choice about any of this, there's not a thing I can do now." So I did what any brave-hearted American girl would do. I cried. Don't judge me. :-) Frankly, it's sort of crummy to suddenly become aware that the hard thing underneath you is an anvil and that dark shadow looming above is a hammer. (And actually, crummy wasn't really the word I was feelin''s just the word I wrote). So there I was, realizing that no matter which direction I turned, I was going to run into...Hard. And that even if I didn't turn either direction, Hard was going to meet hard...with me in the middle.

That's when I started to feel grateful for all the silly fantasy stories I've read, and for elves...who make swords...and encrust them with jewels and engrave them with beautifully scripted runes that weave magical spells when they are read aloud. And they always give them beautiful, powerful names too... (Glamdring is the one that always comes to that Gandalf's sword?)

You see, swordcraft isn't just good fantasy. There was actually a time when people really needed real swords and apparently, this Japanese craft of making a real sword is just like you read in the stories. The metal has to be found to be just right or it can't be used. It gets heated and then cooled and hammered and then heated and then cooled and then hammered and this Japanese craftsman watches it and works it and molds it and sometimes he will get almost to the end and find that it's just no good...the metal isn't doing what it's supposed to do, isn't molding willingly to his intensely skilled handwork. And when that happens...he tosses it out and gets a new piece of metal and starts the process over.

So...then, I guess I'm thinking that if I'm the piece of metal that just got tossed on the scrap heap to be melted down and re-purified, I'm hating life even worse than if I'm the piece of sword between the hammer and the anvil. Thinking about that made me feel really glad to know that I was still between the hammer and the anvil, even though I know Hard is about to meet Hard. It made me more docile and humble. I suppose He could just be making me into a shovel...heehee. That's possible too, but what I really hope is that one day I'll be magical and jewel encrusted ...and maybe even get a really good name that makes people feel shiver when they hear it. Nice.

I know alot of us know what it feels like to be in the middle when Hard meets Hard, and I guess I just want to point out that ...I think it's ok. I don't think it's punishment or anything. Maybe it's swordcraft and we're about to be magical, right?

I'm just Sayin'

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Christ does not need to be defended. He's God.
But just for the record:

Jesus does not destroy relationships nor does he promote the destruction of them.
Christ promotes unity. He requires sacrificial love toward Himself and our neighbor (and gives a broad definition of neighbor to include even a sworn enemy). His character and grand work on this earth are redemptive and reconciliatory in nature, not destructive, and while a person may be able to pull out an individual scripture here or there to support a cutting off of relationship (the one about forsaking father and brother for Christ comes to mind), you cannot twist His character as demonstrated in the whole of scripture into something that would support and perpetuate any destruction of relationships for an individual's or group's personal safety or control. It's just not Him. Sorry. I know it's nice to create safety for ourselves, but He's not like that. And I bring this up simply because I'm tired of "Christian" assertions that He is. Blech!

Jesus does not promote the cutting off of communication as a healthy answer to relational problems.
This does not need to be said, and yet here I am pointing it out. No one promotes the cutting off of communication as a healthy solution to any problem. Furthermore, "waiting" is only a Godly attribute when we are "waiting on God", not when we are refusing to deal with problems we've created. Christ promotes humble repentance. He even says that if we come to Him to serve Him and remember that our brother has something against us, we're to leave and go take care of the brother before we serve Him, not wait until…when? later…? This is a central tennant of Christ's and the apostle's ministries as well as a glaring character trait of Christ's sacrificial love. It can't be avoided. Christ will, of course come and bind up the hearts that we have left to rot in relationships we've refused to attend to, but He is not pleased about it.

And when a heart that has been left to rot by someone acting less then Christ-like is bound up and healed by the Savior, you should expect that heart to protest loudly against false claims about it's Christ.

Be careful what you say "God told you" to do. If you say it and then do it, it better have an uncanny resemblance to the dangerous, generous, kind, selfless to the point of complete sacrifice, life that Christ lived, or you are a false witness. And false witnesses, according to scripture, don't have a bright future.

I'm just sayin'.

...Oh. But I do want to add:
Jesus does promote forgiveness to anyone who will ask
Unconditional, extravagent, irrational forgiveness.
I promote that too, actually.

On Friendships and Writing and Existence

Monday, August 10, 2009

There's this girl I know. She's a writer--a pretty good one. I think she'll be published someday and she thinks so too, but I'm a pretty crummy friend to her. I don't do much to encourage her. She doesn't spend as much time writing as I wish she would, because there is always something to do that seems more getting a real paying job. Or having coffee with that friend who really needs encouragement...or laundry, or dishes, or volunteering with non-profs, or taking children to the river, or cuddling with her husband. So while she's got all these things stirring inside of her that she wants to say, (and I think she could do a really good job of saying them) I, as her wise friend, discourage her from devoting her time to such. I tell her that the people are more important than her blog... (and yes...even the laundry and dishes aren't just chores, they really are acts of love and service to those little people). You agree don't you? The people are more important than the writing...right? I wish I had a good argument for her, because she seems sad and quiet to me lately. I know it's that she wants to write, has things she needs to say, and I'd sure like to hear them, but I'm a realist. If there's not time for it, there's just not time, right?

I visited a girlfriend in the valley this weekend. She told me that her mom has been diagnosed with a lung disease and given 3-5 years to live. I'm friends with her mom...and with her dad, and I don't know quite how to take the news. I haven't cried yet, but I might start now. Is that really how this thing goes? You grow up a pretty girl, fall in love with a funny and tender man, raise beautiful children, work at a little eyeglass shop until retirement and then one day your grown daughter is telling her friend that you only get 3-5 more years. And that family for whom you did all that laundry, took all those trips to the river, set aside all that writing time to cuddle with, will plan a funeral and cry some tears and then carry on without you. I can't quite grasp it. You know how they always say that on your death bed you won't be wishing you had spent more time in the office? Well, I'm sorta wondering this morning if that's wrong. What if I wish I had actually spent more time in the office, at the computer, taking the time to write some of these thoughts and ideas down? Because...that writer friend of mine who has all these things to say and no time to say them...she's me. (Of course you guessed that).

I was trying to put myself in Bonnie's place this morning and imagine what I would be doing and feeling about my remaining 3-5 years (years that will be riddled with coughing and oxygen deprivation). I would accept it for what it is, of course. My faith in the Almighty is not easily shaken, and I can feel a little of the inexpressible joy it would be to have a timeline, a sort of "date" very soon when I would get to see Him. So there's that. And I think it would be easy enough for me to settle into a joyful existence of being with friends and family, listening, loving, playing, immersing myself in just loving them, because I think that's sort of how I live my life already. But there's just this one thing...and it actually makes me sort of teary just thinking about it. I think I would feel a painful regret and sorrow over the things in my heart that I did not write down. What is that?

It's not that I think the things I have to say are so earth-shattering and profound. (That's actually the other part of the equation that keeps me from writing more--too many times I think I'm probably wrong, even if my argument is good). It's more that there is this girl in there...this "other" girl, and I don't honor her. I'm pretty crummy to her, but the truth is that she's better than me in most things (now I sound schizo). She's kinder, smarter, more loving and tender. She's much stronger and more opinionated and sassier and more humble than me too. There's this other girl that no one else knows (except for my dear husby...he likes her...), and while there are parts of me that will go on in my family and friends memories after my time is up, this girl will only ever exist or be remembered if she writes. She won't even exist until she writes. And if I were talking about anyone but myself, I'd give myself a shake and say, "stop being such a crummy friend to her. She deserves to be encouraged and honored and given time just like you'd do for anyone else in your life." But she's just me. And that makes it self-centered. And, like I said, this girl is SO much better than me...she's never self-centered.

Tell me dear reader. Who's right? The girl who knows that the people always come first or the one who thinks the writer should exist too?

Bo Knows

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bo posted this the other day, and while I could just post a link and reccomend you go read it, I love it so, so much, I decided to repost it. Oh it speaks my heart!

A Franciscan prayer:
May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our Savior,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.


A Powerful Beauty

Sunday, May 31, 2009

There are some wounds, some hurts whose only healing salve in all of creation is simple, unadulterated beauty. It's true. If you've ever had one of these wounds, you know what I'm talking about. We all know this on some level. Think about it. Why do we take flowers, of all things, to the grieving or the sick? "Hey, I heard you lost the dearest person in the whole world to you, here are some pansies." It should be ridiculous, but it's not, because there is something about that perfect representation of life and color and creative design that penetrates and soothes the burning places where nothing else can reach.

Kev's sermon this morning got me thinking about it. We're in the Psalms...a place my soul
rejoices to tarry anyway. I'm grateful for David's humanness. He expresses so many of my own pains and cries to God. I liked Kevin's point...that when God answers our human sorrows and cries, it is not usually with an explanation or a changing of our circumstances. More often, God answers us the way he answered David, with -- a mountain, a sunset, a rolling tide. In the huge broadness of those things, we find peace and rest for our souls. And that's His answer. I Am this God. Kevin compared it to the answers and comfort we offer to each other:
"Oh you're hurting?? Here's some Advil and orange juice and I'll sit with you and watch an episode of the Office." That made me often that has been Steve's exact remedy for my hurting heart. It's a good one for sure, coming from a human friend. But it really is funny in comparison to what God offers me from His hand:
"Oh you're hurting?? Here, I've made this mountain for you and Oh! this, I'll paint a sunset for you!" We had some discussion about it (the thing I really, really love about my church is that we get to talk too), and everyone agreed about the peace and comfort they have found by a river or mountain or ocean waves. Kev's point is well taken. God is hearing us, he is answering. We must understand that the mountain sunset is His answer. The sun sparkling off the rolling waves in a thousand little lightning bolts is His answer to our aching cries.

I didn't speak up this morning about the times when God has spoken to the needs of my soul. The mountains and oceans speak libraries to me like they do to everyone. But when I searched my memory for examples of Him answering me when I really needed to know He was there and that He cared, the ones that came to mind were much more personal than mountains or oceans...they were a little bit silly. There is one thing though, that all the examples have in common. They are all gifts of matchless beauty.

I remember when we first moved to our new house a few years ago. It was a painful time when I was unsure of everything, unsure if God even loved me. We'd left behind a lot of experiences both precious and incredibly painful. I didn't know if I'd done the right thing in moving away, if I was in the right place now or if I'd ever feel happy again. I loved my new house, but I didn't know how life here could ever compare to the precious things I'd had to leave behind. I cried a lot, but that first year they hadn't built the house behind us yet, and the sunrises from my new second story window were unreal. I knew God painted them just for me that year, because I'm pretty sure He knows I'm the only one in the neighborhood who insists on having her curtains wide open to the morning came from growing up in the country without curtains for most of my life. I need to sleep with the sky looking in. He sent constant gifts that year, knowing even better than I did how my heart wounds needed beauty. The first time it snowed I looked out that window at all the rooftops and felt like I was in London on a beautiful snowy evening. Then there were those huge icicles glowing in the orange of one of those sunrises.

I'll never forget the moment I realized all the gifts were from Him. The curtain was closed that spring morning (I live with a city boy who has a hard time leaving my curtains open :-) ). I was nudged awake by a strange puffing noise that would blow for a few seconds and then stop, start again for a few more seconds and stop. My heart leapt, because I'd heard that sound before... I jumped out of bed, yanked open that darn curtain and there they were. Balloons. Giant rainbows and strawberries and tapestries in every joyful color floating not off in the distance, but right by my bedroom window. Right by it!!! Close enough to greet the bright-eyed pilots and passengers with a cheerful call and maybe even a cup of coffee if I'd had a thermos to toss over! A glance to my right revealed 8, maybe 9 more balloons in various stages of inflation and launch. The Balloons over Bend had changed their take-off that year, moving to Jewell School at the end of my street in hopes of better wind conditions. Why this particular thing mattered to me was so intensely personal, no one but the Creator to whom I so regularly poured out my heart could possibly have known what that sound and those colors would mean to me that morning. Here's the really beautiful thing. The event wasn't actually supposed to happen until the following morning, but reports of bad weather had inspired the pilots to pull out the balloons a day early for a test run...just in case they didn't get to do the real one on Saturday. I heard later that they'd had to change their landing location that morning, because the wind was supposed to have been blowing the other then...that show was for me. No one but the pilots and crews knew they'd be there, so there were no crowds. The wind that could have been blowing them 359 other directions on the compass blew them right by my window. It was like getting a really expensive and exquisite bouquet of flowers, "just because I love you", Creator of the Universe style.

Then there was that one Christmas. I had lost my closest friend in the world (second only to my dear husby), and facing the fun and cheer of my Savior's Season without that friend was proving particularly hard that year. I couldn't seem to muster any joy or spirit for my kids or my good-hearted friends. The Christmas tree had been purchased instead of hunted, the gifts remained unwrapped, the cookies un-baked. Then one day driving home, this fiddle song came on the radio. Now again, my Jesus is really the only one who could possibly know how deeply the right violin music touches me, and this one crashed into my soul like morning sun into a dungeon. By the time it was over I was weeping and giggling and wiping tears and snot like an idiot. I rushed home to the phone and called the radio station. "WHAT were you just playing!!!?" The DJ told me it was a young man named David Klinkenberg and I promptly put the CD on my Christmas wish list. Then the really beautiful part... My mom called me one day about a week and a half later to tell me she had been looking at my Christmas list. "Hey, you know, this CD that you have on here? You know, he's gonna be playing at our church on Christmas Eve, right? You could just get the CD there." She had been so non-chalant about it, and I couldn't wrap my brain around the possibility of actually getting to hear that song played live. But I did. It turned out this guy's sister lives in Redmond and since he would be at her place for the holidays, he'd agreed to do a special concert at Westside. And I was there in the second row, weeping and laughing and thanking like I've rarely done. I knew unquestionably that it had been arranged "Owner of the Universe" style, just for me...again. God's very personal gift of beauty to my grieving heart that year was a song called "Jesu Joy". Jesus joy.

I could tell a dozen more stories of healing beauty that my Savior has sent me, but in every one I'd have to explain to you that only He could possibly have understood what that particular thing meant in that moment. A particular rose that was delivered by my husband, a persistent friend that kept leaving small gifts at my door, a rainstorm that wouldn't let up for days until I was finished crying, and a tree that refused to relinquish it's blaze of fall color until I was ready to face the next season. A little girl across the street named Gracy who dances and sings with barefeet in the wintertime, an unexpected book, a gratuitous photograph.

Beauty is what our Creator uses to draw us and woo us. And it is His answer to the cry, "Daddy, my heart hurts!" David knew that. God answered his cries with the springs of En Gedi...and I'm sure a hundred other small beauties that only David and God understood. I watch carefully now when I'm surprised by a particular beauty. Sometimes I know it's meant for me, but sometimes I know it's not, and then I wonder about the story and the heart that prompted my Jesus to do this thing. Who is hurting that they need this? Will they see it's meant just for their heart? Will they accept a soothing salve instead of an answer for now? Will their heart ever heal up for real? Will mine?
I don't really know. But I know I try harder now to give beauty and to be beautiful ,because I've seen how much my Father uses beautiful things...and I think maybe if I have it to offer, perhaps one day He can use me too.

Failing is part of the plan.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Had a small epiphany yesterday. I always have them when I drive over that beautiful Santiam pass...I should drive that more often!

It was just this. My American Christian upbringing taught me that God has a "perfect plan" for my life and my job is to find that. You know...all the stuff about "finding God's will for your life...God's good, pleasing and perfect will"; the stuff about not letting the "good" take the place of God's "best", all that. You know what I'm talking about?

I'm realizing more and more as I grow and learn about life, my Christian upbringing taught me some wrong ideas. It's true. Or at least I learned them wrong...that could certainly be the problem! :-) My epiphany yesterday was that God did not make one perfect course for my life and on any given day I'm either on it or I've gone off course. The truth is that what God has planned for each of us is a journey, an adventure. And here's the bigger truth. On that journey that God has planned are successes AND failures, and all these are meant to be seen as part of His Plan for us. It's hard for me to accept failure as "part of the plan". No one wants to fail, but what I'm realizing is that...sometimes God wants us to fail. And that's part of the plan. Who knew?

It gives me a sense of freedom. Fearing failure tends to freeze you up. In order to make sure you're not taking the wrong step, you don't take any, you know? I'm not so afraid to make the wrong step, the wrong choice today. I'm realizing that my God is big enough, and in fact, very happy to weave my wrong decisions into the beauty of our journey together. I think the only really wrong thing I can do at this point is decide not to do this journey together with Him. That's the only real mistake I could make, and after all we've been through together in the last few years, there's just no chance I'm making that decision...sooo...we're good.

It definitely makes me feel more alive...the fact that I can make choices and decisions not fearing failure. I think I'll even be less likely to actually fail if I stop fearing it. And when I do, I can laugh easier, because hey...that was part of the plan, silly girl. Not that failing will ever be easy. I think it's always gonna hurt. But getting muddy gives me an opportunity to learn the best ways to clean mud out of good clothes. Getting bumped and bruised gives me an opportunity to learn how best to clean and bandage wounds. Failing makes me good company for others who have failed. And that is my longing, after all. I want to be like Jesus, and He was such a good companion to the failing and hurting. I really like Him so much.

I live in a good world

Friday, April 03, 2009

You won't find me saying that very often.
More often than not you'll find me groaning at the decay of this wicked world and craning my neck to try and get a glimpse of heaven somewhere, anywhere. That's why I love getting a Starbucks gift card so much. There's a tiny bit of heaven in that cup of cinnamon dolce and somedays I need that for sure!

But today, on a sunny friday, as I'm strolling lazily around the blogosphere and seeing what my facebook friends are up to, I'm thinking I live in a good world. Chrissi had a link called Gifted for Leadership. I followed it and found a community of women in ministry doing their best to encourage and support one another in what I know to be a very misunderstood and maligned sphere of life...women in Christian leadership...that is. I don't think there are any other "leaders" in this 'ol world who take as many unfair, below-the-belt hits as women in Christian leadership do, and it was nice to see a place where they're building each other up, helping each other out. Really nice.

Then I strolled over to my new favorite blog by one of my favorite authors. Donald Miller. I think he's so funny and he has given me some much needed encouragement lately to keep believing that I can write something worthy along with some really cool practical tips. Todays post asks what we think of his new book cover. It's orange Donald, duh! What do you think I think? (I'm still in my orange phase :-) ) The subtitle of the book is "What I learned while editing my own life", and for some reason that made me smile. I bet you really would learn a lot if you were to take an editor's pen to your own life story. I think I might try that. I've got like 32 journals I could edit. Wow! what a thought.

There are just some good people out there, you know? People who are just really trying their best to be beautiful and Godly, and I'm thankful for them. I remember Kevin talked one Sunday...or maybe it was Rick (hmmm...sorry guys) about how Christ's followers really are lighting and preserving this world in ways that really couldn't be perceived unless we had a way to compare our world with us and without us all at once. There are pockets of Christian character in most every workplace, even some of the darker ones, and the world as a whole is better for the general influence of the collected whole of the Body of Christ. I don't think we think of it in that big picture way very often.

So I'm thinking about that today. I'm thankful for my family...the ones I don't know, like those women who are encouraging each other; and the ones who don't know me, like Donald. As well as the ones I do know, who wrote nice things about me on my Facebook status today. I live in a good, good world...even if it is decaying.

...on Hope

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hope has been a recurring theme for me for about 3 years now. I'm starting to wonder if it will always be. I have wooden letters in my front window spelling out the word, and while I think they would look really fabulous on my newly painted green dining room wall, I can't bring myself to move them, because in the front window they seem like a beacon, like a candle left lit, left waiting for the return of something, someone. You know? They seem more hopeful there.

I've learned a few things about Hope through these years. It didn't take very long to come to the understanding that hope just feels better than despair, so why not hope. When you are faced with the choice of despair or hope every morning; before your eyes even flutter open from the dreams you wish you wouldn't have had, you learn pretty quickly that you might as well choose the hope because it just feels better for now. And that gets you through bleakness one day at a time. A wise man taught me early on to paint a picture of what I really dreamed of, what I really hoped for, to write it down, and then remember it, cling to it on the blackest days no matter what anyone says. I'm so deeply grateful to my Jesus for sending him to teach me that at just the right moment. That's actually why my blog is named Zihuatenejo and Hope. It's from Shawshank Redemption. Zihuatenejo was the vision, that got Andy Dufresne through all those years of an unjust prison sentence, solitary confinement, unspeakable acts, and 200 yards of raw sewage. Andy clung to his dream of a future in a Mexican fishing village on the sea even when his best friends demanded that he let it go so they could all cope better with their reality of life in prison. But Andy would not let go of his picture. Their protests only made him more determined.

Times are tough and I think it's interesting how much all of a sudden we're hearing pastors give talks and sermon series' on hope. I listen carefully when they do, to see if they'll say the things I would say, but they usually don't. They usually say things like, "be careful what you hope in. Christ alone will satisfy," "God is our only hope", stuff like that. I sort of think those are really churchy replies to really gritty, earthy problems. It seems like a really disconnected approach to the topic. Might just be me.

Here's what I know about hope and what I wish the pastors would say to my hurting friends. Dear friends, hope is life giving--every time. I would not tell someone "be careful what you hope in". Hope is not something to be careful with. I would say hope, hope, hope and then when all hope is lost, hope somemore. Hope in the right things, hope in the wrong things, hope for goodness, hope for restoration, hope for redemption, hope for another chance, hope for forgiveness, hope for a fresh start. Hope in the dream that's so beautiful it still makes you cry to look at it. Yes, hope in that. And I would say this because what I know is that Hope, when practiced, brings life to withering hearts. It's one of God's universal principles. You know, like how the laws of physics govern our physical existence...God has spiritual "laws" that govern His spiritual creation as well, and Hope is one of them. The law of gravity says that when I drop an apple it falls down, and the law of hope says that when I hope, my heart grows stronger, healthier. Possibilities open up where there were no possibilities. Like a stream that allows a stand of poplars to grow in a desert, hope gives life--every time. And because it is one of His universal laws, something that governs all of his creation, it works this way whether my hope is founded in Him or not...just like gravity works even if I'm an atheist. This is what I've learned.

There's more that should be said though. Proverbs tells us that "Hope deferred makes the heart sick," and this is why pastors say things like, "be careful what you hope in". No one knows what to do with the heart sickness that comes from deferred hope, so they think it's better not to hope in anything that has the potential of being deferred or cancelled. Even Solomon didn't give us a remedy or cure for such disease, only mentioned that it is what happens when hope is put off. (I'm sighing here...oh the aching that comes from this sickness). For the longest time I haven't known what to do with my diseased heart. I didn't have a choice really. I was given my sorrow, I was sent a directive to hope against all hope and then day after day, year after year, those hopes have been deferred. I'm heartsick and in pain. I am. I wrestle, like the Psalmist of chapter 13...everyday. I've toyed with the other route, maybe despairing and walking away from the hopes would make me less sick. It doesn't. Hope still feels better, still gives life, even hope deferred. And so like the psalmist, my wrestling always ends with, "but I trust in your unfailing have been will be good to me."

You know how when a little kid comes up to you and shows you their loose tooth that just won't come out and you cringe because you can remember exactly how that hurts? That's how it is for me when I hear the voice of a friend who is living with deferred hope now. I cringe. "Oh how that hurts," I want to say. "Be strong, be brave. It's alright, I know it won't kill you, because I've lived with mine for 3 years now and it's actually making me stronger," I want to say. I don't say it, because they don't want to think they might have to live with it for 3 years, but I wish the pastor who's speaking on hope would say it. I wish he would say it's ok to be sick because lots of God's all-time favorite people were really sick or imprisoned or enslaved for a really long time before He proceeded to forever change the world with thier sacrificed lives.

There's a part in the first Narnia book where Aslan is speaking to Digory (he's the one with the sick mom right?) and Digory sees a big sorrowful tear on Aslan's cheek. He's very surprised that the lion would cry and Aslan says to him quietly, "yes, you and I are the only ones here who know of such sorrow. Let us be good to one another." I say this to my heartsick and discouraged friends. I'm keeping my little wooden letters up in the front window and earlier when I wrote about hoping in the dream so beautiful you cry...I cried over my dream...again. I still hope for beauty in the face of impossibility. (oh my, how I wish you could have seen the face of impossibility I had to look into today!) And I charge you to keep hoping too, because hope gives life and strength. And also, if we're the only ones who know this sorrow here, let's be good to one another.

I'm going to bed...

Monday, March 02, 2009

because I don't feel good. And I know that I'm long overdue for a blog update, but I can't say it any better than Bo said it today
Read This

25 Things: #11 I love deeply...maybe too deeply.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sometimes I compare myself to Crater lake. It's so blue and beautiful and there is plenty of life in it's waters, but there isn't a beach to play on. People who swim there have to want to swim the deep or stay floating in a boat on the surface. I'm kinda like that with my friendships. Floatys or scuba gear. There isn't very much room in me for splashing and sunbathing on the beach. I don't mean to be that way...just the way I was made. I have worked hard over the years trying to build beaches along my shores for surfacey relationships, and there is more places in me for that than there used to be, but I think those relationships are much more satisfying to my "kind-of" friends than they are to me. I always want to be allowed to really, really love someone, really commit and know that they'll commit back. I know that's rare, but I love the deep blue. I just do.

25 Things: #10 I have Spasmodic Dysphonia

It's a pretty rare vocal chord dysfunction. They don't know what causes it or how to cure it. It's basically a twitch in my vocal chords that makes me unable to produce consistent sound. I could get Botox injections and that would help for awhile, but it has to be done every 2-3 months and who wants to do that? I get by. I'm used to it. I actually don't even know I sound wierd anymore until someone asks if I'm sick. I used to think Jesus would heal me someday so that I could sing again, but I don't care very much about that anymore. I mostly miss singing lullabys to my boys and they're getting too old for that anyway. And every once in awhile I think I'd still like to be an American Idol (lol), but only like once a year or something! I miss singing with Sandy though.

25 Things: #9 I want to be an author someday

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

...only, apparently that makes me unoriginal. I can't believe how many people put that very thing on their 25 things list. I suppose that's why there are so many books on the shelves now. I've started the process, thanks to Tyler. He's almost finished with his first book, and I'm jealous. I realized I'll have the summer off work and I can the pool. Now you're jealous, right?
Actually, I'm gonna go work on my book right now instead of sitting here blogging. Yay!

25 Things: #8 I went to school to be a musician

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I sang, studied, recorded...even took a conducting class...yes, I know how to conduct.
I went to Greenville College where Jars of Clay met and got their start...they were a year younger than me. I was actually friends with Joe of the original drummers. He married my vocal coach, Miriam.
...and now I don't play or sing. I never know what albums to buy and I couldn't name any one of the top 10 songs on any chart, because I don't really follow that scene anymore. That's quite an unexpected twist in my life path. I would never have guessed that girl would become this girl. Hmm.

25 Things: #7 Cooking with my friends is one of my Favorite Things!

I LOVE having people in my kitchen...well, not as much my kitchen now, because it's sort of narrow, but I'm just as happy if they are sitting on the other side of the bar chatting with me while I cook for them. Cooking with/for people is something that makes me feel truly happy... It may even be a "friendship standard" for me. If we're close friends, you're most likely one of the people who likes cooking with me or loves to sit at my counter while I cook...hmm. And you probably know where the glasses are because I get so busy I always forget to offer you something to drink and you know that my ice machine doesn't work and that it's ok to just open up the freezer and stick your hand in! ...and you don't really mind that. :-)

25 Things: #6 I believe in dragons

I think that fire breathing dragons and sea monsters (especially sea monsters) were real once. I sort of think there may still be a giant sea monster or two in the ocean depths, but they are probably near extinction or something so they don't show themselves, of course. I think there had to be something to inspire all the tales and those pictures of the sea serpents that you always see on ancient maps, so I believe that there really was something huge and menacing, and monsterish out there once. Same with the dragons...there was once some scaly "dinosaur-like" creature that had an ability to do something that could be translated somehow as breathing fire... I'm quite sure of it.

25 Things: #5 I can sew anything.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I don't know many people who sew anymore. My grandma, my mom...but none of my friends. I've done a little of everything...clothes, curtains, huge roman shades, prom dresses, costumes, a custom slipcover for my hide-away sofa. Someday my tour de force will be an exquisite wedding dress. I don't know why, I've just always wanted to sew a wedding dress. I don't know who it will be for, and I will only agree to do it if it is out of the most sumptuously expensive fabric (I'm thinking Dupioni silk). The chosen pattern will have to be exquisitely difficult and perfectly designer fitted to my beautifully proportioned model. A perfectionist's dream, I suppose. Designer perfection in white...and to have my hands all over that fabric for days and nights on end. Delicious! Maybe someday.

25 Things: #4 I secretly dream of being a farmer

Friday, February 06, 2009

...sometimes. I know, how wierd is that?
I have a friend who owns an alfalfa ranch out in Christmas valley and I like to drill him on all the latest hi-tech farming techniques. I like to "buck hay". I've only truly done it once, but it was late at night with a tractor and a flashlight and my whole family and we had to hurry before the rain came and that made it feel like the REAL thing. So fun! I dream of having a hay loft of my very own...and my very own chickens and ducks and a big plot with rows and rows and rows of daffodils. I'd do tulips, but the deer will eat them, so it will have to be daffodils. And then daisies in the summer...for my love. They're his favorite. And I think we'll grow raspberries to sell at the local farmer's market and we'll definitely try our hand at some hearty variety of grapes, because who doesn't want a vineyard, right?
I ache just thinking about it.

25 Things: #3 I once watched my leg grow about an inch

Thursday, February 05, 2009

True story. I've always had one leg longer than the other. My mom used to have to hem my pants different on each leg. My right arm is longer too, but I suppose that's good for when I have to reach the children in the backseat...(you know what I'm talking about, moms). But years ago, when I started exercising diligently, my hip on the longer leg side began to really cause me pain.

Then one day there was this woman I knew who had come over to my house to go over a Women's Bible Study plan we were making. I jumped up to go get a book and my hip grabbed as it would often do. I turned and said to her, "I think I should have you pray for my hip", and I proceeded to explain the long leg thing to her. "Oh, I have the faith to pray for that!" she said...which I thought was a strange response. But she sat me down in a chair with my two legs stretched out on a chair in front of me so that the difference in length was apparent. Then she prayed and three of us (her 9 year old daughter was there) watched my other leg grow... literally, right before our eyes. We looked at each other one was sure what to say. Finally the woman said to me, with as much shock in her voice as I felt, "did you see that?" "Did you see that?" she said to her daughter. We all nodded. I remember what it felt like too...I think i would expect it to feel like stretching if your limb grew, but it actually felt like a sort of pushing or sliding...from the inside, along my femur. That was the part that had me dumbfounded even more than the watching...the feeling. So I stood up then, and as soon as I did I knew I was taller. I guess that makes sense, my leg grew, but that surprised me too. I felt taller.

I don't really tell that story to anyone, and I know that seems near heretical to folks who seek hard for healing miracles. I definitely have no doubt that it happened and that it was definitely outside of naturally occuring incidents, but here's the thing. My hip pain never got any is aching right now as I sit here typing. I live around it and often ask Jesus if he'll heal me so that maybe I'll be able to nail my pirouette on that side someday, but it still hurts everyday. Even after all these years (I think that was at least 6 years ago), I can't make sense out of a growing leg on one hand and chronic hip pain on the other and I don't really think of it as a "miracle". It's more of a dog and pony magic trick to me.

But it did happen. When Steve got home that night I made him measure me. I couldn't get over the "taller" feeling. I measure 5'8" now. My medical records and driver's license insist that I'm only 5'7", but I can show you otherwise.
I'm taller. I just don't know why.
How's that for strange and random?

25 Things: #2 I'm not getting a Tattoo

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Which is an interesting way to put it, because what I actually want to write is something like: "#9-I have a tattoo", and leave you all surprised and amazed. But I'd be lying. I don't have one and as much as I kinda want one, I'm not getting one, and here's why.

I hope to someday die a martyr.

(This is the part where you say, "...what in the world...that's a freaky thing to say")

But it's true. I have to die, at least that seems to be the general trend these days, so why not really die and have it maybe be meaningful? A martyrs death. The only trouble with this is...I don't really feel like being tortured. Firing squad would be ok, burned at the stake would be tougher--but still ok. But tortured for hours, days, years...I don't really want to do that, you know? Which brings me to the tattoo. If I got one, it would be a very small mark, just plain letters on my ankle and it would say Jesus' (note the apostrophe indicating posession). Not "Jesus" like the God person. Jesus', like the owner. But I think having that name singed into my ankle might be a really good excuse for some Muslim or Hindu radical to cut off the foot, torturishly. Someone once suggested I could put it on my neck instead because then if they went to cut it off, viola, Martyr's death, but I don't know. I think I'll stay unpainted and just know instead what I would have put there on my little ankle if I'd had the nerve to be tortured someday


So wierd, I know.

25 Things: #1 Classical and Shiny eyed

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I adore classical music. Mozart tops my list of all time best creative geniuses.
I actually kind of like opera too, and broadway show tunes and Jason Mraz and Coldplay's Viva la vida. But my iPod playlist is so random, I can't play it around other people because someone always rolls their eyes and laughs at me..."you like that song?" Yeah. I usually apologize. I probably shouldn't.

A couple of things made me think of this today. We were trying to plan a trip to see our sweet friends in Seattle over Valentines. Heather is the loveliest hostess and I aspire to be like her. When we go there we get to stay in our own little apartment out back while the kids sleep together in the main house. It's so amazingly lovely. But the best part is that she always has a little radio playing in the room, set to the classical station, 24-7. You walk in and instantly feel like you're someone else... somewhere...else. I play the classical station more now.

But the main reason is that I came across another really wonderful TED talk today. I love these things. I really want you to watch this one. I really want you to be moved by it too...especially the very end. I enjoyed it so much I took some time to write down a couple of quotes. Maybe they will inspire you like they did me.

"The conductor of an orchestra doesn't make a sound. He depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful. My job was to awaken possibility in other people."

Wow. I want that to be my job. Maybe I should have been a conductor.

Here is another:
"You notice that there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that this is going to work, if you look at my face. It's one of the characteristics of a leader that he not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he's leading to realize whatever he's dreaming. Imagine if Martin Luther King had said, "I have a dream…of course, I'm not sure they'll be up to it…"

Certainly that one has to be the topic of some bloggish exposition sometime doesn't it?

There is more amazing stuff. Go watch the talk. 20 minutes. It will change you...make you shiny eyed. And I'll bet you'll love classical music more. And then I won't be as much a freak from the very start of my 25 things. (grin)

Click Here:

The 25 Random Things Club

I think those 25 random things lists that are flooding Facebook right now are really great. I have loved learning all these really fantastic random facts about friends I haven't seen in years and even things about the friends I see all the time that I never knew. So fun. I decided that what makes them so enjoyable is realizing how much we can relate to other people's quirks...and sometimes, even if they aren't our quirks, we kinda wish they were.

I decided I'm not going to post 25 things on Facebook. For starters, the fad has sort of run it's course. I'm not sure mine would get read at this point anyway...and that's a lot of random things to come up with at once just to have them not read :-) Then there's the fact that a lot of the ones I'd like to write are just copies of someone else's and that would feel so unoriginal...even if they were true. But mostly, as I think through what original random things about me I might write on my 25 things...I realize that I'm a freak, and I'm not sure I want to publicize it to all 129 Facebook friends. Mine are wierd, some more so than others, and I think instead of making people go "awww...I do that too..." they will make people go, "...what in the world...?!"

But still...It's stuck in my head and everytime I have a random moment these days, I phrase and rephrase it in my mind for writing on that stupid list. lol. Then today, I was reminded how much I love classical music by a video I came across and decided...I'm going to do my 25 things a little different. I'm going to post them at a time. Just for fun. So here I go.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hey. I love this new gadget they added to google. Followers. hmmm. I discovered it on Jaime Speed's blog (of which I am now a happy follower!) and I think it's cool. So I added it to my blog and discovered that Selah Welah is already logged on as a follower of my silly blog. How fun is that? Hi We!!! I like it.

I fear that there's something vaguely conceted about having something called "followers" and suddenly deciding to display them proudly in my sidebar, but since I'm pretty sure I can count my "followers" on one hand, I'm not gonna worry about it going to my head. lol. But if you read my blog regularly (even though you rarely comment ;-) ), I'd love it if you put your cute little face over there. For fun.

And I am still working on part 2 of my treatise if you've been "following". It'll come still...I think.

Luckiest girl IN the World!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I do believe I have the most amazing family in the known universe. And they're SO handsome besides. Here are the family pics we took back in November that I never posted anywhere because they were Christmas presents. I'm kinda proud of them, because they are "self-portraits". A tri-pod and a remote control at the perfect hour of the day on a perfect river trail! So much fun. Don't you LOVE these guys.

This one is my favorite! It's actually photo-shopped...but you don't need to know that! :-)

There's my posers!

Something to be said for perfect light!

Here you go Dar...this is the pose from the header :-)

Jo & Bugsy.

...oh, and Dar...time for you to start blogging now so I can glimpse into your deeper, darker sides too! :-)

My Treatise - Volume One

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

It's time I think, to write my treatise on this whole church subject.

I don't think Christians should fight...not about doctrine, not about anything. I personally think that Jesus did a really good job of being God, of being "spot-on" doctrinally, and of telling the right people they were right and the wrong ones they were wrong at just the right times. I don't think I can be as good at everything as Jesus was, and I don't think I can come up with a perfectly relevant and accurate doctrine to fit any and all situations a good 2000 years after most of the Bible was written, so I try to stick with one overarching life commitment and work hard to do it well. While there are many doctrines and belief systems I could work to embrace and argue about, I stick pretty closely to "Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself" and also to the actual job description Jesus gave himself in Luke 4; the stuff about preaching good news to the poor and freeing the captives and stuff. That seems to keep me pretty busy, and so not only do I not agree with the fighting, I don't have the space for it in my life.

Thus it happens that when folks around us start their power struggles, infighting and these arguments that inevitably lead to factions, betrayals, slander and a whole host of other evils (and I must say, for their claims that they never intend divisions, they sure find a lot of creative ways to justify them), The Hoffs tend to just get quiet. We make great efforts not to take sides when lines are drawn except for how it eventually just happens that one group leaves and we're left with the other side. I'm sure that looks like we're taking sides. But what we actually do during that time is go to work trying to find and bind up the broken hearts. We listen and wipe tears. We nod our heads a lot and say that we felt that same thing and we cried last night too so we understand. We speak freedom and affection to people who must go and courage to those who must stay and always we tell them that our God is still good and that the Holy Spirit will lead them rightly so they should trust His leading still. And as for the ones who started the fight, we get pretty frustrated with both of them, but we try to speak freedom and love there too. We think that's what Jesus would be doing, and so we're happy to do that and stay generally quiet about the rest. For the most part.

There is one troublesome part to this approach, and that is that it can tend to makes us look blind, maybe unintelligent, definitely both sides. And even that would be fine with us except for the fact that we hope someday others (especially those in church leadership) will take a look at the life example we are trying to set and maybe start doing things differently themselves. Maybe love sacrificially a little more and struggle for control a little less. And if they think that we're blind, stupid simpletons, they won't ever consider our approach. So it was today that when another thinly veiled accusation of our "uninformedness" (I'm making up words now) came, and when I found my high school girls surprised tonight at my understanding and insight, I decided it is probably time to write a gentle but direct treatise.

We are not uninformed. We are not simpletons. We just happen to believe that there is a better way to do all these things than the way they have been done and (do I give away too much startegy here?) my husband and I consciously wage a tenacious and quiet war against the "principalities and powers of this world" by showing instead of telling.

One chilly Sunday morning in February of 2004 we, in a way that befits all good "God stories", found ourselves quite suddenly and joyfully amongst a small fellowship of beautiful like-hearted believers. We talked and prayed and sang and then ate soup together in a pretty house out in Eagle Crest. Most of us were near or perfect strangers that day. The next Sunday our numbers increased and it was officially decided. Surely we were more than the small bible study that had been intended for there were too many of us already and so many more earnestly looking for just such a home. Oasis Christian Fellowship was born. As I write this now, the pictures and faces and memories are so vivid that it's tempting to reminisce, but that would only serve me, not my treatise or anyone reading it, so I refrain. (They're really powerful, joyful, laughing, courageous pictures though).

The passing of 6 lightning fast months found our little church plant in one small pod in Lava Ridge School and then in short order, the gymnasium. It also found the Hoffs sitting on couches in a little cabin at Elk Lake dreaming and planning and gouging out the values, mission statements and practicalities of a growing, flourishing body with 4 other dearly loved and trusted couples.

(OK. The pics were just too irresistable!)

I came across the notes from that weekend full of meetings the other day, and that's why I start my discussion with this history. I was there when Oasis was shaped, and I know better than most what it was built upon. I still have the notes if you'd like to see them. (My history and knowledge actually goes back quite a bit further, but how much credibility does one girl need...geez.) I was there last week when Oasis was officially declared a defunct entity, and I've been there for every incredible twist and turn between. And in case you haven't heard, our family will be there next week when a tattered and torn remnant of what was once called Oasis (I actually think we're the only originals left now...wait, no. John and Sue were there) takes its courageous first steps into a revolutionary church paradigm called by the prosaic and unassuming moniker- "City Church". The courageous fellas who are behind this church plant don't really want to hear me calling their body "the tattered and torn remnants of Oasis", but guys, if we've learned anything, we've learned that it doesn't serve us well to deny or cover up what's true. And that's true no matter how many times we start and re-start. We have all been impacted by what was Oasis. We have all endured much. And I don't find it so awful to be that scroungey remnant, because after all, haven't we been "given this Treasure in jars of clay?" I digress.

The point I wish to make here is this. I was there then and I am here now and I will make the argument that the things that were foundational to that trusted group of Oasis planters are the exact same things that are foundational to these City Church planters. Now you're calling me a heretic, right? Nope. The loud and ringing gong that was played in our auspicious beginnings was this: "We want to do church differently. We don't want to base it on traditions, we want to base it on Christ alone. We don't want to do it the way it's always been done, and "if we can't do it different, we won't do it at all. We'd rather close the doors." That last bit is a direct quote that was repeated soooo many times. You remember that right? How about this one. "We are called to be a church on mission". Come on, you must remember that one? Remember how it took us in that very first year to Banda Aceh, a muslim stronghold in desperate need after the tsunami, then to Ottino Wah to help orphans in Uganda, on to Mexico, back to Aceh and around the corner to the PRC, Willing to Help and Sparrow? I have to ask how these are any different than our City Church's dreams and hopes and determinations. The original entity stated "we don't want to do it the way it's already being done", the new entity says "we don't want to be required to base our beliefs and values on traditions". The original said "we want to be 'on mission' ", the new one says, "we're a 'missional'" church. The original said, "we seek to "declare Jesus' fame and reveal His glory", the new one says, "we want to be known as "Christ followers". How are these different? And yet, isn't it fascinating, how nearly 1200 people have spent 2 years disagreeing, wounding, gossiping and slandering one another over it? Fascinating. Unbelievable, really.

My sincere apologies, dear readers. I must pause here... I have kindergarten and 5th grade classes I must get to. I have a bit more written already, but as I peruse it, I find that this is certainly a good place to have to stop and ponder. I don't think very many people are thinking very deeply these days about the things I just brought up. I'll post my next volume as I get it written. There is much more. How much shall I say, really? I haven't decided for sure yet.
Until then...

Thinking out loud

Monday, January 05, 2009

My poor blog. I'm realizing lately that my little blog is suffering the effects of Facebook! I'm finding that it's so much more fun to post my little happenings and photos there where they are actually seen and commented on that my blog doesn't get the attention it used to. And now I have to decide what purpose my blog should serve...shall I post pictures here? Shall I keep trying to write my thoughts out here or are the one line Facebook "status updates" enough to satisfy me and my 2 or 3 regulars who frequent this page?