Sunday, March 28, 2010

trust in the awkward stage

Knowledge With a Bite V, by Nicora Gangi

Life is a little strange right now, with a lot of things growing and brewing but still more or less in an awkward stage of not happening yet. (I know that didn't make sense. Reading this might help a little, but for the most part you'll just have to take my word for it.) Bottom line: conditions are just right for doubt, fear, and mistrust to slither in and whisper, "Did God really say...?"

How will I answer? Like Eve, I will usually forget exactly what God really said and spout off my own interpretation of his words, which rings hollow in my own ears and fails to satisfy the question at hand. Desperation and fear produce a perceived need for control: I grab the apple and take a big, juicy bite.

Where did the trouble start? It started when I confused God's words with my own interpretation of them. It is idolatry, but a particularly slippery kind, because it looks so much like trust. It is trusting my understanding of God more than I trust God himself, the relational God, the One who walks in the cool of the evening with his beloved. I took an idea about God, or a word from God - something small enough for me to get my head around - and I built an altar to worship that. Not the beautiful, unpredictable, mysterious person of God, but the small, tame, digestible idea I have of him.

This is not good. Let me throw it away. Let me consider it rubbish, that I may gain - not an idea, but a Person. Let me resolve to know nothing, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Let me trust.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

things i am loving today

The new sport we invented this morning: Snuggle-Wrestling.

Perfect white blossoms on the prune tree.

Jolly Rancher Smoothie-Flavored jelly beans.

Blue sky.

It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright, the latest album from mewithoutyou.

Thumbprint flowers.

Tamara's Mix Tape Mondays (which I read a day late).

Mama Monk's Thankful Tuesdays.

Tickle fights.

Updates from Joy in Ethiopia.

Tiny lettuce seedlings that survived last week's frost.

Dinner's done (thanks Charu).

Driving the viaduct on a sunny afternoon.

It's LOST night!

Cheap babysitting in the afternoon.

Free babysitting in the evening (again...thanks Charu).

Nate trying to get Dexter to jump off the couch: "It's SAFE, Dexter! Really!"

Blowing bubbles.

Clean sheets.

Psalm 135.

My baby's crazy vampire fangs.

Friday, March 19, 2010

way better than green beer

March 17, 2010 was a big day for me, but it had nothing to do with St. Patrick.

12:00 pm grab a stand-by seat on flight to LAX.
2:30 pm land at LAX.
3:30 pm walk the strand at manhattan with tiffany.

5:30 pm brave LA traffic with emily: 20 miles in 95 minutes.
7:05 pm arrive at the viper room.
7:15 pm rock out to derek webb singing stockholm syndrome.

8:30 pm double-double animal style & fries with emily.
10:00 pm laugh, argue, reminisce, and watch mindless TV with matt, tiffany, kevin, colleen, rachel, and bryan.
2:00 am sleep.
4:45 am leave for airport.
6:00 am board plane, hope to sleep.
6:30 am accidentally have a two hour conversation about the prosperity gospel with seatmate.
9:00 am back home to my boys in seattle.

Thanks Mom, Chase, Jon, Emily, Tiffany, & Matt!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

happy hour

I learned something from a friend a few months ago that I have been wanting to share. She called it 'happy hour', and it has been hugely beneficial to us in our marriage and our overall family life. Happy Hour is basically a weekly meeting with your spouse. I know that probably sounds boring or unnecessary, but it has become something we both look forward to every week. We have an agenda, which is similar to the one my friend and her husband use but slightly modified to fit us specifically, and we take turns each week leading the meeting (the leader is also in charge of drinks and/or snacks). Here is the basic agenda we use:

1. Schedule Updates [upcoming week's calendar, date nights, babysitting needs, weekend plans, time for each of us to relax or do something fun by ourselves]

2. Spiritual Direction [a time for each of us to share how God is working in our lives]

(The next three categories are only discussed once a month)

3. Short & Long Term Goals [first week of the month]

4. Financial Update [second week of the month]

5. Intimacy & Quality Time [third week of the month]

6. Mate Assessment [this is a time to give each other feedback on one another, both praise and constructive criticism]

7. Parenting [discipline issues, goals for the kids, fun stories to share]

8. Whatever's on your mind

9. Stuff to discuss next week

Maybe you've read through this whole thing and you're thinking "Well, we already talk about all those things throughout the week at some point, so we don't need to have a 'meeting' about them." I probably would have said that too, but the great thing about setting aside specific time once a week is that it frees up the rest of the week for conversations you may never have had before. When we start out the week by connecting with each other on all these levels, it changes the way we are able to interact with each other throughout the rest of the week. Instead of talking "business" all the time (schedules, responsibilities, issues with the kids, etc), we find ourselves just talking... the kind of talks couples have when their dating, but rarely have time for after marriage and kids.

No matter how much a husband and wife love each other, the external responsibilities and pressures of daily life -- work, children, church, activities, friends -- can make it difficult to maintain the friendship that is vital to a healthy marriage. For us, Happy Hour has been a way to keep our friendship strong, to maintain the close connection with each other, to know each other in order to be able to love each other well.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

the road of life

I know I just used this image on the blog a few weeks ago. I'm reposting today because the image will be on our church's worship folder this week, along with a short statement I wrote about it (below). The sermon this week is focused on 1 Corinthians 1:27 - "For God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."

[By the way, the original work is part of the CROSS/PURPOSE art exhibit currently displayed at John Knox Presbyterian Church. This piece is, indeed, a big old rusty road sign... if you live nearby, go look for it near the entrance to the sanctuary in the hallway to the right.]

Art in Worship

In his striking piece, The Road of Life, Theodore Prescott uses a battered, rusting road sign to make a poignant statement about the cross. The symbol of sacrificial love and everlasting life is imposed upon a piece of metal that seems more likely to be found in a trash heap than an art gallery. In juxtaposing these things, Prescott creates an almost shocking picture of the gospel. For God chose the rubbish of the world - the useless, the abandoned, the battered and rusting – to shame the wise, the beautiful, the put-together. Our broken lives, redeemed by Christ, become living markers pointing toward the cross on the road of life.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

boys and their toys

I have made a modest effort to keep "war" toys out of our house... but who needs a toy gun when you have a train track bridge and an empty paper towel roll?

"Look Mommy," he says, "I made a gun!" I gotta at least give him credit for the creativity.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

just barely not the truth

I am a person who has a lot of fights with herself. (Some people call it "crazy" -- I prefer the term "over-analytical.") One of the regular arguments that breaks out between my multiple personalities is centered around whether the personal struggles I face are, in fact, personal struggles, or whether they are just something I've invented because I don't have any real problems.

Some people in the world worry about providing food and water for their families, or protecting their children from slave labor and prostitution, or simply surviving in places ravaged by violent wars. And here I am, drinking my Starbucks and stressing out about whether the comment I made at Bible study this morning came across as condescending.

Seeing the massive struggles of millions across the globe can help us gain perspective on our own blessings, but sometimes for me it works in reverse. The easiest lies for Satan to tell, the ones that are most believable, are the ones that are just ever-so-slight variations on the truth. I know the last 2 sentences don't seem to go together, but let me try to tie them in with an example. The Truth: I am blessed to have clean water, good food, warm shelter, a loving family, and a safe community. God asks me to be faithful to Him with what I have been given. Just Barely Not The Truth: I am blessed to have clean water, good food, warm shelter, a loving family, and a safe community. God has given me so much - I should shut up and stop bothering him with my insignificant problems.

If there is anything that we can see when we read God's Word it is his deep concern for the seemingly insignificant. When I think about the types of struggles I have, the things that Satan calls insignificant and unworthy of bothering about, I see that, in fact, they carry great significance in the kingdom of God. Loving my husband and children well. Being a good friend. Putting others before myself. Listening. Being sure of God's calling on my life. Placing obedience above man's approval. Knowing my Savior's abiding love. If Satan can get me to ignore these things and toss them aside as trifling and unworthy of attention, he has won a mighty battle indeed.

God asks me to be faithful -- faithful with the blessings he has given me, and faithful in the struggles I face. It is not for me to say that my struggles are less important than someone else's. Instead I am invited to cast all my cares upon him -- my cares, whatever they may be -- because he cares for me.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

they said it

Lately the big topic of conversation between the boys has been God. These cute little heretics like to throw out the word "God" whenever it works to their advantage. Usually this involves disputes over toys:

Boy: Can I have that?
Other boy: No, it's mine.
Boy: Well, all the world is God's.

But it's not always for personal gain - sometimes they're just sharing their thoughts, as in this conversation overheard at the breakfast table yesterday.

Nate: God is the boss.
Dexter: No, God is the man who takes care of the people that are sick.
Nate: (not disagreeing, just adding an idea) God does not do anything that is not OK to do.
Me: (trying to spur on more conversation because hey - this would be good for the blog!) What else do you guys want to tell me about God?
Dexter: Dinosaurs.
Nate: Dinosaurs are really big.