Thursday, September 30

The Sun is Shining..

...and I'd love to have a picnic in the park.

...and it's the perfect temperature for a casual bike ride.

...and the farmers markets beckon.

...and a BBQ sounds lovely.

...and it should be captured on camera.

...and it makes me smile.

...and a dock with cool water sounds inviting.

...and I'm likely to break out in song.

...and I find myself eager for fall but clinging to summer.

Wednesday, September 29

Are we having fun yet???

In an attempt to add exercise into my regular weekly routine, I signed up for a "complimentary 7 day pass" at the local 24 Hour Fitness last Friday. While I can walk on a treadmill just fine, I want to find an activity that I enjoy, which will help me want to keep going. With this in mind, I have tried out two of their classes and I'm considering a third.

Friday night, I attempted a Zumba class for the first time. I must say that I laughed my way through it. Zumba involves a lot of hip and butt motions which I am not good at (and may possibly never be...) but I had fun and kept moving and walked away stinking like a horse. A overall success in my books.

Last night, I attended a "Shift and Lift" class. This is a cycling/spinning class interspersed with weights and exercises. The only time I laughed was about halfway through when I had to use my hands to fling my leg to the left to once more get off the bike. The rest of the time was filled with "what am I doing here? I think I'm dying! I'm going to go see Jesus tonight! Someone put a blanket next to the bike so I can fall off and curl up, I think I'm going to throw up..." The class started at 6:30 and by 6:50, I was already wondering how I'd make it to the end. From 6:50 to 7:15, my mantra was "just keep going, just keep moving." At when the clock said 7:15pm, I nearly shouted "Hallelujah, it's almost over!!" At 7:30, I was rejoicingly done. I was almost out of the building when I realized I forgot my purse in the class. So I had to walk all the way back to the room and then back out the front. The whole time, with every step my knees kept snapping into place, which made me walk funny and today, I could really use a donut to sit on as I'm pretty sure any bones in my butt are now bruised. However, despite all that, I would consider trying it again sometime in the future when I'm a bit stronger/healthier.

Tomorrow, I'm mulling over whether or not to take a Step aerobic class. I'm sure it will be amusing if I do especially as any arm and leg coordination is going to be awkward.

Anyhow, I'm not sure if I'm going to join 24 Hour Fitness or not. Part of me thinks that I'll go faithfully for about a month or two and then fizzle out and part of me said not to let that thought dictate my future and my need for regular exercise. So we'll see...

Tuesday, September 28

Thesis Paper Update...two interviews

As part of my research, I am interviewing certain missionaries and (international) national Christians about their experience with suffering.

On Sept 18th, I interview an Ethiopian Christian who is now living in West Virginia. Ethiopia is considered a hostile nation and Christians are severely persecuted there. This man's story was heartbreaking and shocking but all along he gave glory to God. Would you like to hear a snippet of his story?
  • During one time of not being in jail, this brother was baptizing some new believers that he had just led to the Lord when some Muslim rebels surrounded them having been led there by a deacon in this brother's church. When refusing to denounce Christ, some of the new believers were gunned down immediately. However the Muslims took this brother to a jail and proceeded to torture them. They tied him upside down and began to pour hot oil over him and slash him, all the while demanding that he too denounce Christ as Lord and Savior. At one point, this brother cried out to God asking for death but God assured him that He has a plan for him. So he then asked for God to fill him with love for his captors. The love that immediately entered him so filled him with joy that he started laughing. At this point, his captors thought he was crazy...that he had lost it. So they let him down and asked him why he won't deny Christ. So this brother told them the Gospel and in the process, saw them come to know and believe in the Lord. Isn't that amazing???
Yesterday, I interviewed a friend who was in my youth group. She and her family are missionaries with Wycliffe in Tanzania although they are presently in Colorado. They spent their last term, 3 years, in language study and in seminary in Kenya. Every time I hear her story, it takes my breath away...but they too give constant glory to God, even in spite of what they experienced. Would you like to hear a snippet of their story?
  • Jamie and Jeremy moved to Kenya in 2006, when their then youngest, Annabelle was only 15 months old.  Shortly after arriving, Annabelle starting having allergic reactions to everything. There were sores all over her body, raging fevers, constant crying and pain. For several months, they visited numerous doctors, trying antibiotics, medicines, diets, etc only to find that she is severely allergic to chemicals. This enabled them to help Annabelle, who is now doing just fine! From there, Jeremy started seminary and other experiences followed. In 2007, the Kenyan elections happened which provoked mobs and killings between two tribes. The seminary went into lock down but all around the school lives were being taken, affecting their friends. During this time, Jamie became pregnant. She's one of those ladies whose body struggles with pregnancies. This pregnancy was filled with gestational diabetes, low blood pressure, an intestinal parasite, a broken foot, severe weight loss, and hemorrhagic shock upon thing after another. Needless to say, this was not what Jamie's picture of what it means to serve the Lord. But through this, she learned of God's presence and love. Jeremy, who kept up his studies in the midst of taking care of his wife and kiddos, spoke to me of God's faithfulness and how real that became to him, during this time. Despite this and more, they are anxious to go back and continue to serve God. They know that suffering will continue to accompany them but they also know God is in control of it all.
These interviews, along with the other research, are convicting me, challenging me, encouraging me, enriching me, and changing me. To God be the glory!

Sunday, September 26

Men's Ministries

Is it okay to admit that I am envious of the men's ministries at my church?

During the last school year, they studied Galatians and Ephesians during one of the services. I wanted to go but alas I am not a man.

This year, they are doing a study on prayer with half of the time intended for actual praying...imagine that! Anyhow, I want to go but alas I am not a man.

Plus this summer they read Brennan Manning's The Importance of Being Foolish. I wanted to join know! I know I can read this book on my own and I probably will one day. It's just the thought that people are studying these topics/books in my church and I can't join.

This is why I need a husband! So that he can participate and later on discuss with me what was learned. It would be like attending by proxy! Wouldn't that be nice!

Friday, September 24

Thesis Paper update

I administered a online survey for my thesis paper, through my facebook contacts. I know by doing so I'm excluding a number of non-facebook people but I figured that's okay.

I've been going through the results over the last couple days. I sent it out to about 140 people and I received 74 responses, which is about what I was hoping for.

I asked questions like:
  • Should Christians expect to suffer because of being a Christian?
  • Why do you think God allows suffering?
  • What has helped or not helped during times of suffering?
  • What kinds of suffering have you experienced?
Needless to say, it's been very interesting reading the responses. As I've mentioned before, in doing the research for this paper, I feel that my view of suffering has changed or developed in the process. Reading the answers, I see a lot of my former thinking and understand where they are coming from. What I think will be difficult is in how I choose to interpret the answers. I do think that some of the people have an incomplete view of suffering but just because I am studying this topic makes my view no more complete than they. Because the answers are all from people I know and love, I want to treat the results with care and respect.

Wisdom, wisdom, wisdom...boy, do I need it.

I'm sure I'll elaborate on this a bit more later one but I do find it amusing that about 8 of people included the statement that "God does not give us more than we can bear." This statement isn't Biblical and why wouldn't God give us more than we can is in those moments we will turn to Him and rely on Him for help. It is in those moments where His strength works through our weaknesses and ALL glory goes to Him. (I feel a soapbox coming on so I'll I said, I'll probably tackle this thought later on.)

At times throughout my research, I have felt that this topic is too big and too great for me. How does one study, understand, and present suffering? How can I endure story after story of unimaginable pain and persecution and who am I to be witness to their testimonies? But trod on I must, not just because the paper is required but because I want to know, I want to hear, and I want to understand.

Tuesday, September 21

Loving Enemies

I find that the older I get, there are more people I have a hard time getting along with. Is anyone with me on this or am I alone?

When I was younger, I was more passive and more of a people pleaser. My role as a middle child was to keep the peace. And so I did...with everyone...and I think it's safe to say that I was generally well-liked. I naively thought that I would never be someone who would have to "love your enemies," unless you were talking about Hitler or Saddam Hussein or any other really evil person, because I did not have enemies. I was more of a "love your neighbor" type of person.

I remember the first time I realized that I really REALLY disliked someone...I was so angry at this person that it surprised me and scared me. I was 21.

But now, in the short 10 years since then, I find myself butting heads with more and more people. Feelings of frustration, anger or resentment have become more common. "Love your neighbor" now frequently is more of a conditional your neighbor if they treat me with your neighbor as long as they don't act like they control your neighbor as long as they listen to me. And now, the command to "love your enemies" actually means something closer than international terrorists. I can conjure faces and conversations and actions of people who have hurt me and whom I've probably hurt or inwardly growled at.

Please don't think I'm bragging of my shortcomings. That is not my intention.

I've wondered from time to time why I find myself increasingly butting heads with others. Is it because I'm becoming more self-oriented and less servant-hearted? I think that's a part of it. How easy is it to listen to the voice saying "you deserve better!" That line of thinking can trip me up before I even realize what's hit me.

But then, today I reflected on the fact that if I had never experienced relational conflict or pain, I would never understand the joy of relational restoration. Also I would never fully understand the Lord's relationship with Satan...while God can have nothing to do with Satan's darkness, His good and love in significantly and abundantly stronger than Satan's evil. His goodness is triumphant! My own relationship and restoration with God is a perfect example of that!

"Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life" (Psalm 23:6). Because of that assurance, I know that IF I try to love my enemy or even someone I just regularly butt heads with, with the help of God I truly can change my enemies into my neighbors once more. And that is what I want.

Monday, September 20

Friends in town

I had a friend and her sister (now also a friend) in town this past weekend. (My friend and I had worked together in Germany. And even though we now live about 4 hours apart, it has been 2 years since I've seen her.)
It was lovely.

We talked, we laughed, we listened and share with one another.
We giggled, we tromped around Seattle, we watched a movie.
We ate Thai goodness, saw a troll, meandered around a farmers/flea market.
We made plans to see each other again.
Sooner than before.

Connecting with friends is valuable. It's a pause to my busy, crazy, and sometime boring and mundane life. It's a balm to my soul. I feel content and even re-energized.

Now I just need to wait until my friend from Holland comes to visit in October! Can't wait!

Thursday, September 16

If you're like me...

If you're like me, you get antsy when life hands you the same things, day after day. You long for a little change, a trip somewhere fun, a little bit of adventure, a new place or experience. You want to step away from the mold of the daily grind, even if just for a day, to be and do something different.

If you're like me, once this feeling comes, it seems to get more intense until either you have booked or planned a trip or have surrendered your desires, knowing that God has you where He wants you and that is okay. For now.

If you're like me, every once in a while, it just feels like you don't connect with enough people. Like really connect...deep meaningful conversation, abundant laughter, non-sensical stories that means something to you and the other person or group of people. You realise that everyone is busy with their day-to-day lives, just like you, and somehow a little too much time has passed since a last good connection.

If you're like me, once this feeling comes, it becomes important, necessary, and even vital for the well being of your health and mind, to intentionally make time for people. That is when I invite people over or out for coffee. I've been known to do a brunch or two. This is also when I wonder if I have enough friends. So many of my closest friends live out of state or out of country. But that's a thought for another day...

If you're like me, after having a couple of unproductive days, you simply feel the desire for productivity. To be useful, creative, purposeful. To use the energy that is inside you to accomplish much more than normal. To fall into bed exhausted from a very busy day but one in where so much was accomplished and taken care of.

If you're like me, once this feeling comes, you'll make a list of things to do, set your mind to accomplish it and get to work. Where applicable, music is turned on to keep you energized. You'll also seek to involve your creative side, whether that's cooking in my case, painting, restoring, scrapbooking, rearranging furniture, or a multitude of other things.

If you're like me, which you're probably not in most cases (and that's okay!), then you have times where you struggle with your purpose in life, struggle with where God has you, struggle with the things that you can't see or understand. And when this feeling comes, I need to lean on God. I need to trust that His plan, His will, and His way is sufficient and good and more than enough for me. In this, I hope you are truly like me (or if not, then one day will be!)

Wednesday, September 15

Friends of mine...well, kind of...

When it comes to checking out new blogs, my main criteria is whether or not I connect with the writer's voice. Do I hear their heart? Is there feeling, energy, wisdom, or amusement that oozes from their posts? If I can't hear their heart, then I tend to move on to the next blog. And where there's a connection, I tag them so that I can return day after day.

As I was perusing my list of favorites this morning, it struck me as funny that I feel a love or appreciation or kinship for these individuals. The more I read, the more I gain a window into their life and I feel that connection grow stronger. I laugh at the funny things they experience or say and feel sad when they are hurting...I am happy to walk the journey with them. And then there are some posts where I am left wanting more...I want to meet them for coffee and talk about what they wrote. The fact that none of my favorites are from people located in WA quickly derails that sentiment but you get the point.

I realise that this is all very one-sided here. But I can't help but feel, or trust, that if I ever had a chance to meet any of these individuals, we'd be friends (after all we've they've shared)! And that makes me smile.

Tuesday, September 14

choosing to be thankful

good night sleep
starbucks and my NF Vanilla Latte
a paying job
people who make me laugh
having a good book to read
having more books on the way
pfefferminz Ritter Sport
anticipation of seeing friends
trying out a new recipe: Chicken Stroganoff
Monk episodes
music by Sara Groves, that points me to Jesus
my cute pink shoes
warm cup of coffee
being encouraged or entertained by others' blogs
that I can be connected to others through prayer
the comfy fallish morning
the anticipation of afternoon sun and warmth
opportunities to serve in ministries
knowing that God sees where I'm going, even if I don't

Friday, September 10

A visit from elders

I was sitting on my couch, downloading important music onto my ipod. Thesis paper? What thesis paper?When all of a sudden there was a light knock at the door. When I opened the door, who was standing there but two Mormon guys: Elder Hansen and Elder Andrews.

Side note: I'm a listener. Whenever salespeople call or people come to the door, I listen. I feel way to guilty to hang up. For the salespeople, it's their job and how awful must it be to have person after person hang up on I listen.

So I listened to their little blurb...let them know that I am a Christian, when they asked, but then later told them I wouldn't be joining their church because of doctrinal differences/disagreements. They wanted to know more. Would I be interested in hearing what they believe, when I have would only take 15-20 minutes? Hmmm...I figured this could be interesting so I agreed and invited them in right then. Thankfully my place was mostly clean!

Back and forth, we discussed/debated/disagreed on various aspects of prophesy, baptism and the priesthood of the church. One thing I thought was funny was that twice they referred to the book of Amos. Amos!?! It's been a while since I've studied Amos and it struck me funny because it seemed so random...of all the books, people and verses in the Bible, they call on Amos! I guess I need to study up on that book.

An hour later, they called it quits. Not because I converted them or even frustrated them (I don't think) but because the hour was late and they needed to go. They offered to come back again which I told them they could do, if they wanted.

They left me a little booklet with the Latter Day Saints doctrine. I've read through it, underline things that contradict the Bible and found Scripture to support my understanding. Plus, back in my dad's college days, he typed up a paper of all the errors found in the Book of Mormon, based on the book Kingdom of the Cults. I printed that paper up and will look it over. So if they happen to visit again, I'll be ready...that is, once I've re-read Amos.

Wednesday, September 8

A poem to start the day

I woke early one morning
the earth lay cool and still
when suddenly a tiny bird
perched on my window sill

He sang a song so lovely
so carefree and so gay
that slowly all my troubles
began to slip away

He sang of far off places
of laughter and of fun
it seemed his very trilling
brought up the morning sun

I stirred beneath the covers
crept slowly out of bed
then gently shut the window...

...and crushed his little head
I'm not a morning person, how about you?

author unknown

**I found this poem way back when and it made me laugh. I don't mind mornings so much and am in no way advocating animal cruelty, just in case that is a worry. I just enjoy laughing and hope this brought a little laughter your way!

Tuesday, September 7

Week one without a pastor...

We had a guest pastor this past Sunday.
He spoke on waiting. Patiently and expectantly waiting on the Lord.

Psalm 25:1-6
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God.

Do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.

No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame
who are treacherous without excuse.

Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;

guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

Applicable? Oh yeah!
A much needed reminder? You bet!

I was feeling a bit distracted at church and kept forcing myself to focus because I needed to hear (and take to heart) what was being said. Good thing my church copies the sermons onto CDs...I plan to pick one up and re-listen to it.

Sunday, September 5

A communion service not easily forgotten...

Today we celebrated communion at my church. I tell you this because whenever I now partake in communion, I find that I regularly recall a particular communion experience that I had approximately 12 years ago.

Early 1998, I was attending Capernwray Harbour Bible Centre, off of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. It was a one year Bible Study type of program, without grades, tests, or credits. It was an enriching experience at that stage of my life.

One Sunday, a couple of my roommates and myself trekked off to a church that I hadn't visited before. It happened to be a Communion Sunday week, which didn't phase me at all. The only thing that causes hesitancy is in figuring out how each church handles communion and what my role as the partaker includes. Usually, from what I've seen, the leader will guide the members through the process, making it easy for anyone who is new to join in. However, this was not the case at this church.

The bread was disbursed to the congregation and because little direction was given, I treated the moment as if in my home church...I held onto the bread until everyone had received the bread, so that we could partake together. I remember a bit of silence, which was used for praying and reflection when all of a sudden, the servers start handing out the juice. Quickly surmising that I was supposed to partake on my own and was now behind schedule, I immediately popped the bread into my mouth and locked eyes with a roommate who was likewise surprised and also scarfing down her bit of bread. We smiled at each other in embarrassment but live and learn, right? Wrong!

So the grape juice comes down the row and we all pick up a little cup and pass the tray along. Within seconds, having learned above to partake when ready, my roommate and I drank our juice only to be appalled when the pastor, moments later, asked the congregation to partake together.

At that moment, my roommate and I almost lost it. Laughter started bubbling up in both of us...we were trying so hard to hold it in because, after all, we were in church celebrating a very serious act of remembrance. The mood was definitely somber and reflective and we were dying...we couldn't look at each other and were trying so hard to distract ourselves. Needless to say, we had a good laugh after we left church that day.

Wednesday, September 1

A little bit Dancing Queen, a little bit Dixie Chicks

Ever wonder if your ancestors choices could be the very destiny for your future? I've pondered this numerous times over the years.

My dad's great aunt was a wonderful dancer...she apparently did some movies and lived in Hollywood, which is kind of cool (except that she apparently wasn't the best role model). Anyhow, I love to dance...mind you, it's only when nobody is watching. But I've always thought I must have dancing blood in me. Who knows!?! I have yet to take lessons and give dancing a try (publicly, that is).

And then on my mother's side of the family, are farmers. There's always been something inviting to me about living on a farm. I keep telling myself that it is hard work and a hard life, especially if you start with nothing. But how satisfying it must be to grow your own watch the grain turn from green sprouts to golden eat directly from a garden, your hen house, and cattle (not that I'd be eager to do any killing...somehow that would have to magically take care of itself) have wide open spaces all around you and dark night skies! I know it's a lot of work and I'd probably want to whimp out about a million times. But I'm sitting here eating a peach recalling the story of how my grandma's family used to yell "peaches....peaches....get your freestone peaches" every summer and that kind of life sound good to me!