Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I believe


In the spirit of the impending end to 2006 and the birth of a new year, I believe I’ll begin a new page in the tomb of “My Faith.” I stated in an earlier post that so many Christians spend more time talking about what they are against rather than what they are. Because of this, we’ve neglected to show the true essence of our faith and the character of Him in whom we believe. Therefore, with this post, I shall try to clarify what I believe and why:

- I believe God is complex and cannot be summarized in a paragraph or a book. He can’t be explained, predicted or manipulated. To do so is foolishness.
- But even in the mystery of God, there are certain facts to which we can cling: God is love, He is good, He is faithful, He is compassionate, He is merciful, He is able, and He is powerful.
- I believe God would rather us spend time ministering to the poor than debating the pros or cons of homosexual marriage. I believe He’s more concerned with our spiritual state than with what sins we’ve committed. Jesus’ time on earth wasn’t spent condemning the wealthy of their penchant for sex slaves, nor did He argue for religious freedom in politics or schools. Jesus cared for the people and did all He could to remove whatever barriers separated man from God.
- I know God desires for us to talk with Him on a regular basis, and He isn’t keeping track of the times we forget to do so.
- I believe Jesus entrusted to us the responsibility to represent Him and His love on earth. His anointing wasn’t given to us to hog the glory, money, or health but to spread the love.
- Along those lines, though, I believe God doesn’t want us to assume all power and ability belongs to us. We still need Him and should never think we have it all figured out and can do anything on our own.
- I’m all for saving the planet (because it’s God’s creation), separation of church and state (because I’ve seen what happens when the church tries to rule a country), caring for the poor (because we’re commanded to do so) and for fewer laws that interfere with individuals’ rights to choose personal matters. This doesn’t mean I support those personal choices, but I don’t see how me telling someone else they can’t do something is going to bring them any closer to seeing God’s love through me.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Love Goes



A colleague once said his motto is, "Love goes." He explained some Christians operate by the philosophy that "truth goes" - meaning they believe the most important thing is to speak truth whether it brings injury or healing. An example of this would be a person who feels justified in criticizing someone's attire because it's their responsibility to truthfully describe the outfit.

Recently, Mike purchased a book written by a non-Christian who spent years interviewing fundamentalist Christians, Muslims and Jews. Her conclusion was that a Christian who believes they are justified in waging holy war against the heathen is no different than the Muslim who straps a bomb to his body to punish the infidels. She found that too many religious ideologists were so focused on propagating their religion that they resorted to any methods to prove their religion was right and everyone else was wrong.

Also, while visiting Harvard, I saw a new book called "God Delusion" in which the author attempts to succinctly eliminate any notion of God. One of his chapters focused on the idea that religion has fueled more wars than any other philosophy or cause.

So what does this all mean? Seems many wars are waged in the name of Christianity because we're more concerned about truth going rather than love. In the name of truth, a Christian stands across from an abortion clinic and yells at the women who enter. For truth's sake we initiate arguments with Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and Muslims to argue our points. Because of truth we draw battle lines between fellow Christians based on worship styles, theologies or Bible translations.

I wonder what would happen if we were more concerned about love going rather than truth?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Labels


A friend called the other day and asked if I still hate my church. This was a heavy question, especially since the friend who was asking was a member of the same church. Do I hate it? No. But I do find myself at odds with many of the teachings, primarily the emphasis on how to be blessed and how to have faith for healing, success, prosperity or (fill in the blank). It’s not that these things are wrong but they just aren’t priorities for me. My friend then asked the natural question: So what are you?

Hmm … good question. On some days I’d say I’m a 4-point Calvinist – simply because that sounds refined. I can recite 3 of the points and I know I disagree with one of those. But I do like the emphasis on total depravity. Seems like many churches have become so chummy with God that they’ve forgotten who He is. I’ve visited churches that were so relaxed folks noisily crumpled their muffins’ Saran Wrap as they attempted to devour breakfast during the church’s worship time. I’ve also been in churches that teach God has placed all authority on us so that it’s up to us and our faith to cause things to happen. I guess I’m just trying to find a balance between the authority of the believer and the authority of God – but I haven’t located middle ground yet.

I’d also say I’m a Baptist, mainly because I like their evangelistic emphasis. I have a missional heart and have felt a call to missions since I was a teenager. I think sharing our faith through relationships is one of our greatest responsibilities as believers – and one of the most neglected.

Perhaps I’m also a wee bit non-denominational in that I don’t feel an allegiance to one group of people. Call me a rebel, a lone ranger or perhaps a mutt. I am not awed by leaders, particularly religious ones, and I rarely follow the party line.

Not sure if that answered her question or if there is a way to describe me. I think this is why I hate labels – they never seem to stick.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Given that I’m a horrible updater, thought I’d simply give you bullet points of what’s taken place the last few months:


- we joined my family for a week-long vacation in Pensacola this past October. This was their first time to meet Brandon, and instantly they fell in love with each other. Brandon also braved the clear gulf water and became quite the beach bum






- Brandon took a trip to the pumpkin patch and thought he’d gone to Soccer Heaven. He seemed to think each of the large orange balls was meant for kicking.






- We had a great Thanksgiving with Mike’s family. In one year we’ve gone from 2 grandchildren to 3 with another due any week now. My other sister-in-law is pregnant and is due next summer. Lots of changes to the Conner family!




- Finally, an update on Brandon’s status … we talked with our social worker last week and she indicated that they are moving ahead with placing Brandon’s brothers in an adoptive home and leaving Brandon with us. YAY!!! She said she was part of a meeting last week in which everyone agreed Brandon would be better off staying put, and that even if they wanted to keep all 3 brothers together they would have a difficult time finding a family for them.





Mike and I are doing great, too! He Monday left for a 2-week training trip in Boston, but I’ll be flying up to meet with him to celebrate our 5-year anniversary. In some ways I can’t believe 5 years already have come and gone, but in other ways it seems like we’ve known each other forever. I can’t fathom what it’s like to be married 50 years.

Have a great holiday, and please be patient with me – I’ll try to be more diligent in offering updates!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Heart break





Have you ever experienced emotional turmoil so bitter that it felt as though your heart was ripped from your chest leaving a sucking chest wound? And, to add insult to injury, your heart was then trampled, trashed and bruised while you helplessly watched the destruction.

I remember the first time I felt such angst was when my college roommate of 3 years left our dorm room for the final time. I was graduating the following day and knew that her departure was the beginning of the end. As her car pulled away, loaded with pillows and clothes, I grieved the loss of her friendship and the end of a sweet time in my life. I remember calling my mom and sobbing about how my chest hurt so much at the thought of saying bye to so many people and experiences, and that I didn't think I could make it.

Today, I experienced the same feelings of anguish and despair so bitterly that I again wondered whether I would make it. Brandon visited with his birth mother today for the second time, and each time he meets with her I wonder whether he'll return the same little boy that left my arms. Mike is angry and frustrated with the situation, and I'm trying to be sympathetic, strong and understanding for him. On top of this, I'm not sleeping well and my grandmother tried to commit suicide yesterday.

I try to cheer myself by reminding myself that there are people in the world who have it much worse than myself, and that this to shall pass. But there are times when the weight is so heavy and the burden so distressing that I do wonder when will it pass and when will the storm end.

Not to lament too much, I want to end with lyrics to a song that have been comforting me today. I can't remember the singer's name, but I remember his words of solace:

"Sometimes He calms the storm with a whispered 'Peace be still'
He can settle any sea, but it doesn't mean that He will.
Sometimes He holds us close while the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Identifying with Lieutenant Dan



One of my favorite movie scenes is in Forrest Gump when Lieutenant Dan latches on to a ship's mast and curses God during a hurricane. You can hear years of pent up anger and disappointment spew from the lieutenant's heart as he screams, rants, challenges and defies God. It's understandable given the rotten hand life has dealt him: crippled, alone, jobless, hopeless and abandoned.

My favorite thing about this scene, though, is what doesn't happen. God doesn't strike Dan with a lightening bolt, nor does He shove Dan off the mast with a gust of wind. He doesn't respond with anger, impatience, fury or power. He simply waits and listens for Dan to finish, and then He brings calm to the storm.

I feel like I've been going through my own Lieutenant Dan battle: screaming at God, pushing Him away, questioning His character/words, crying with fury laced tears at His injustice and impotence. Secretly I think I expected Him finally to snap and push me away, too. But He didn't. I'm beginning to understand that His grace and mercy sometimes are greatest when He allows my storm to rage to a point of exhaustion before He brings His calm.

It's in that place of battle-weary surrender that I finally hear Him whisper to my soul: Even in this, will you trust me?

But my God says I’m right …

I just love it when Christians use the Bible as a weapon to divide and conquer rather than an instrument for healing and uniting. This story come courtesy of abcnews.com:

Mary Lambert, 81, has been a member of the First Baptist Church in Watertown, N.Y., for 60 years. She had her wedding on the premises, raised her kids in its halls and taught Sunday school at First Baptist for more than five decades.

But she recently received a letter from the church board notifying her that the board had voted unanimously to dismiss her from her post.

The letter referred to her sex as one of the reasons for her dismissal, quoting the Bible's First Epistle to Timothy, which states: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent."

The church's pastor stands by his decision.

"I believe that God has a very special role for men and women within the church setting and many people look at it as exclusionary, but I don't view at it that way," Tim LaBouf, First Baptist's pastor, said.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Who is God and what is faith?

For months I’ve been kicking around the thoughts regarding God and faith and what it all means. I’ve been a member of a Faith church for 5 years now and I’ve come to accept what they preach as the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Things like, “God always heals if you just have the faith” and “God always provides for your needs” and “the promises of God are yes and amen.” The flipside to this belief is the thinking that if things don’t go according to plan then obviously it’s the fault of the believer. Maybe they didn’t have true faith or maybe there’s some hidden sin that prevented God’s promises from coming forth. When my father-in-law died 2 years ago I was told it was because he had lived an unhealthy life full of mayonnaise and cigarettes, so no amount of prayers could have saved him.

A few weeks ago a 5-month-old little girl died despite the prayers of 200 Faith believers. I would have thought that out of 200 or so people at least one of them would have had the right faith. And the baby was too young to have committed any hidden sins. So why wasn’t she healed? I was told that now is not the time to ask why but to pray for those who are grieving.

But here’s my dilemma: why pray if we’re not sure God will answer? If God arbitrarily decides who He’ll hear and bless then how can I have faith I’ll be the one He hears? And if I don’t have faith then what’s the point of voicing my petitions to begin with?

I know God is compassionate and I know He has helped me in the past. But I know of times when He hasn’t helped, too, and I’m having difficulty trusting any of His promises when it seems He has failed to abide by one.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Crazy with love

Thank you for praying for yesterday’s meeting. Everything went well and Mike and I both just sat amazed as we listened to the mother tell about what Brandon and his brothers have experienced in their short little lives. The boys are so sweet, affectionate and loving that no one would guess at the abuse and neglect they’ve suffered. I pray God will show us how to help the boys heal emotionally and how to show them His love for them.

We pick up Brandon’s brothers today for a weekend of fun, fun, fun! It’s also the “test” weekend to see if we can manage 3 boys at once. We’re praying about taking in Brandon’s brothers permanently – which the other foster family and our social worker are all in favor of. So this weekend will give us a small taste of what it’s like to go from a family of 2 to a family of 5. Are we crazy?!?

I have a big prayer request for some friends of ours in Maryland. Brian and Christina have a 4 month old daughter who died yesterday after a long battle with pneumonia. So please pray for Brian and Christina, their 2-year-old son Kyle, and all their family and friends. This is a tragic, tragic death and I know they desperately need your prayers right now.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Praise and prayer

These past 5 weeks have brought more joys and challenges than I could ever have thought possible! But even through the 2 a.m. crying sessions I'm thanking God for this blessing and opportunity - regardless of what the future holds. Below are some praise and prayer requests for those who have been following the saga. And if anyone has recommendations about how to get a toddler to eat food at dinner rather than throw it on the floor, I'm open to suggestions!!

Praises:

Brandon’s brothers are staying with us this weekend. This is both a praise and a prayer request. We are very glad that they’ll get to spend a few days together, but we’ve never cared for 3 boys at once. I’ll let you know next week if we survive the weekend :)

We were in need of a dresser for the boys’ room, and just now a good friend in the furniture business called to say he had a dresser and nightstands for free. Praise God! We hadn’t even told anyone of our need.

Brandon continues to sleep fairly well – this is the greatest praise of all!

Prayer:

We have our first meeting with the Social Worker, CASA worker and birth mother tomorrow morning to hammer out details regarding visitations and any questions we have. Pray for God’s peace to be evident in the room, and for us to have wisdom in what we say. I’ve talked to the birth mother by phone but this will be our first face-to-face visit.

Brandon loves daycare, but he seems to become fussy and clingy the moment we get him home. I’ve been told this is separation anxiety, but all I know is we miss the smiley little boy who loves to play with bubbles! Pray that Brandon continues to adjust to our home and daycare, and that as he adjusts he grows more secure and confident.

Monday, July 17, 2006

New portraits of Brandon

Silly boy


Brandon being coy

The cutie pie himself



Surfs up!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

New Addition


Ok, so the roller coaster of life threw us another loop a few weeks ago. Shortly after I posted about the chance for us to adopt the baby in Nebraska (a still undecided matter), we received a phone call from our county Social Services department: would we take in a 17-month-old boy? We had 10 minutes to decide - and our lives have not been the same since! Brandon is so precious and wonderful and full of laughter. He has transitioned into our home surprisingly well, although we still battle the occasional sleepless nights. We've figured out, though, that he sleeps fairly well as long as we keep him on a consistent schedule. See, I'm starting to sound like a parent already!

What else we have learned:
1. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches need much less pb and j when being fed to a toddler
2. one word grunts may very well be words spoken through untrained lips
3. exhaustion, fatigue and frustration pale in comparison to hugs and kisses and belly laughs

We can't give much information about his family, but we will say Brandon has 2 other brothers (a 4 and 5 year old) and we will most likely have him in our family for quite a while.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Joys and Pains

As you may know from previous posts, Mike and I have decided to pursue adoption and/or foster care given our battle with infertility. And please don't take our decision as a surrender of our dream to one day have our own children naturally - it's just we want a family and we're ready to pursue different paths to reach that destination.

We completed the county's foster care training about a month ago and fully expected to get a placement phone call the next day. When that didn't happen, I expected the call within a week. Yet week merged into week and we never received a call. I contacted our social worker who assured us that she hadn't forgotten us, but that the number of children coming into the system had slowed down so it might be awhile before we get a placement call.

This was a blow to us since we had heard so much about the need for foster parents leading up to our training that we never thought there would be a waiting period. I even told Mike, "I wonder if God has a plan bigger than what we see, and maybe there's a reason we've not gotten a call yet."

Not even 2 days after our conversation, I received word from one of our new international workers that her sister was 4 months pregnant with a boy and she was looking for an adoptive family. Actually, the sister wanted our worker and her family to take the baby - but extenuating circumstances may make that difficult. The worker told my boss to pass a message to me that if I were interested in at least contacting her sister to ask about adoption that I should send her an email - which I did that night. She then passed along my message to her sister. And now we wait. I know there are a thousand things that could cause this opportunity to slip away, and I must learn to be patient and trust God. But I can't help but dream of boy names, picture a nursery, or imagine life as a mom. It's been nearly a week since the mother received my email, so I'm hoping that at least by the end of the week I'll know whether she's even interested.

Two things make this situation cool:
1. I have been praying about whether to move to another job for months now. BUT if God had listened to me then I never would have made this connection.
2. Mike and I already are certified for adoption (because of our foster care classes) so if the mom decides to choose us, we already are 5 steps ahead of the game.
3. my mom works in a law firm, so she has easy access to adoption laws in each state. AND one of her lawyers is from the home state of the mother, so the lawyer could maybe recommend someone to help us.

But, before I get ahead of myself, let me close by saying that our earnest prayer is for God's will to be done, and for this child to find the best, most loving family for him - even if it isn't us.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Gone forever and a day

I just realized it's been almost 2 months since I've posted - not that there's been much to share. Mike and I completed our foster care training, so now we just wait for the phone to ring. The disturbing train of thought, though, is that in essence we're hoping for some child to be abused or neglected so that we get to be a family to him or her (even if just temporarily). Eerie.

We also made a journey to Pensacola where my youngest brother, Ashton, graduated from high school. While there, my mom made a tentative job offer for a start up company my parents are beginning with another couple. They are looking for a manager of their soon-to-be data storage facility and my mom asked Mike to consider the job. It'll be at least 6 months before anything develops on this front, but it's something to consider.

I got busted at work over a trivial joke, but it's one more black mark on my record. Thankfully the situation was quickly diffused, but I think it served to further solidify my conviction that firstly, I'm not made for cubicle life, and secondly, I don't quite fit in at work. For now, though, all I can do is pray and wait for God to say when, where, how and what.

In more exciting developments, I'm beginning to grasp this concept of living a life of ministry without title, position, strategy or schedule. It happens when I least expect it: at Goodwill with the cashier, at Don Jose with our favorite waiters Marvin and Alberto, and at the pool with random soccer fans (GO USA!). Everywhere we go we encounter people who hunger for acceptance, significance and relationships. Offering these things is much easier than I expected, and more natural than viewing people as targets or, worse yet, enemies to be converted. This is all new to me, but we'll see what develops!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

10 Steps to Seeing Miracles


I have to admit, I normally pass over any type of book that guarantees to fix my problems in 10 easy steps or by using a formula that has worked for countless others. Perhaps it's because of my firm belief that God created each of us differently so what worked for Susie won't necessarily work for me.

Many teachers out there have put forth lessons that teach what steps we need to take if we want to see miracles occur. Oftentimes they list the following:
  • faithfully tithe
  • read the Bible everyday
  • pray at least 3 times a day (over meals), and any other time you feel like it
  • make friends only with Christians who can encourage you and stay away from people who could cause you to "stumble"

The problem is that Jesus never talked about a works based gospel. His message of salvation almost always was about a free gift offered by a loving Father to His searching children. This is true of eternal salvation, but I believe it applies to even situations of daily salvation from illness, danger, poverty and depression.

Galations 3:5 says, "Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it be the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"

Seems to me Paul clearly is stating that miracles come about by us (children) speaking words of faith to our Father, and our Father answering. No checklist to make sure we've taken our daily dose of Scripture or balance book to ensure our good deeds outweight our bad. All it takes for God to intercede is us opening our mouths and saying in confidence, "Even in this I trust you. For you are the Healer, Forgiver, Deliverer, Provider, Comforter and Wisdom that I need."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Friendly faces

Jamey on keyboard during an impromptu praise session. This was before
he busted out with "Desperado" and Garth Brook hits :)

Marian and Stephanie showing me the city of Hamburg


Heather and me at the conference. She was an
awesome host! me and Marian atop her 22nd-story apartment balcony in Berlin


me, Stephanie and Marian in Hamburg


the gang: Steph, Janine, Sherry, me and Marian at the conference

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Brief Checkin

I have some really great photos from the conference and my time in Hamburg, but I've now left the hotel and can't plug my computer into any internet cable to be able to upload the photos. Lo siento! Oh well, at least I can tell you about my adventures the past few days.

Tuesday, we left the conference center and drove to Hamburg with 2 friends who are serving in Germany. We toured the city on Wednesday and had tea with a family from Afghanistan. I was amazed to hear their story of how they were on vacation in Russia when war broke out in their home country. Relatives told them not to return, so they ended up in Germany where some other relatives had already moved. The wife used to be a successful dentist, but now she's simply a dentist's assistant. The husband used to be a journalist, but now he's unemployed. They were so incredibly hospitable and kind, and I'm thankful that they shared with me their story.

We then left Hamburg yesterday and drove to Berlin. I had dinner with some friends at a Turkish restaurant before we took a brief tour of the city. We walked to Checkpoint Charlie and through the immigrant section of city, but since it was nearly midnight we decided to save the rest of the tour for today.

Only 2 more days before I head back to the US. This is a bittersweet revelation: I'm anxious to return to my husband, but these past 2 weeks have been like a mountain-top experience of sitting at the Master's feet and of fellowshipping with some amazing people. I stand in awe of God's great creativity each time I hear someone's life journey and see how God crafted each character and plot with the swiftest pen and deepest mystery.

Monday, April 17, 2006

the Journey

The thought hit me at lunch today: in most likelyhood I will never see the majority of these people again. I've enjoyed getting to meet our workers this week, but already I'm feeling the sadness and bitterness of our impending departure from this haven back to the real world. The next meeting isn't scheduled for another 3 years and I'm hoping by then that God will have moved me onto another phase of my journey.

We had some excellent sessions today, and I want to share just a few insights I gleaned:

* Be contagious in your life no matter where you are. It’s more important to pass along a passion rather than a lesson.
* if a church or church member is dead or diseased, cut it off
* Healing doesn’t come without movement. Churches that continually focus on healing the congregation will never be healed without moving toward a goal/vision

I'm still struggling with the concept of being content on the journey even if you don't where the path leads. Perhaps I wouldn't feel so useless, purposeless, etc., if I actually was doing something of value where I am. It's like I keep looking to the horizon and thinking, "When I reach that point in my life, I'll be able to finally help someone." Or I think, "When I fulfill my dream of being an overseas missionary, then I can say I've finally arrived."

Truth is, though, the path never stops moving -- even after it delivers us to our 'dream destination.' And perhaps God is wanting me to use my current situation/location as a training ground for ministry where I am rather than waiting for what I'd consider an ideal situation. But knowing the solution to my discontent and actually walking in it are 2 different things.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Life of Ambiguity

Talking with a worker who regularly invites volunteer teams to his city, I asked, “What do you have the volunteers do?”

“I don’t have them do anything,” he replied. “And I don’t call them volunteers because they are just as called as we are. They are missionaries just like us, and I invite them over to walk alongside us for a week. It’s not about what they do but it’s about who they are.”

This seems to be the theme for the week: missions, actually all of Christianity, isn’t about what we do but about who we are. I struggle with this idea because since I was 13 years old I knew that I was called to serve overseas as a missionary, and I often experience frustration when I think about how far I am from that vision. Worse, I don’t even know how to “do missions” where I currently live. I’ve been observing and learning from a particular worker who is trying to teach me what missions is really about. A few weeks ago I asked him, “How do you intentionally be a missionary when you’re living in the US in a culture that stays busy?” His response: “You do it as you go.”

So, perhaps more than anything else this week, I am learning that missions isn’t something you do only when you carry the title “missionary” or when you’re paid to be a full-time missionary. Missions is a heart attitude that seeks to be Jesus among whoever I am around -- whether I am in the gas station or a restaurant, at work or at church.

The second lesson I’ve learned this week is that just because it doesn’t appear like I’m on the path toward my goal to serve overseas doesn’t mean I’m wasting time. And no matter what hurdles appear to be blocking my path, God is able to do all things to fulfill His plan for my life.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Random stuff

* I asked a worker among post-moderns, "What would a post-modern church look like?"

He replied, "Take away all the BS and denominationalism from your typical American church and what are you left with? Worship, prayer, fellowship and God. That is what all churches should look like."

* 99.5 percent of people in the UK have never heard the gospel in a manner that makes sense to them.

* In June, millions of viewers will rearrange their schedules to fit the football schedule of the World Cup. What would happen if Christians were just as willing to rearrange their schedules in order to interact with and reach the lost in their world?

* Contrary to popular belief, Brittany can play games involving strategy. She may not be able to play checkers or chess, but last night she proved she can play a German game that, like Monopoly and Risk, requires players to strategize and manipulate.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Church and Post-Modernism

Lessons from our Post-Modern seminar ...

Most modern churches use a “drag-in” mode of evangelism rather than an “outreach” mode. Their main goal is to go into a community and attract unbelievers into the safe confines of the church building. They believe, knowingly or not, that God can be involved only in church sanctioned activities such as worship, Bible studies, women’s fellowship groups, etc.

The gospel teaches, however, a more incarnational method of evangelism. Rather than bringing people into the church so that they can experience God, we are to go into the world to live God before them.

Unfortunately, believers who acknowledge the need for incarnational evangelism rather than attractional evangelism still default to the attractional methods.

Church among one group of post-moderns may look more like a discussion group in a cafe. For another group, it may be a home-based Bible study. Another group of post-moderns may never step foot inside the confines of a traditional church building but they will gladly discuss spiritual matters inside the familiar setting of a bar, cafe or home. We are not called to bring them to church or to create church - we are called to be the church.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Amazing Stories



This was taken yesterday morning (Wednesday). Look at the snow!!

Today (Thursday) was busy, busy, busy. I finally got a hold of someone back in Richmond who could reset my password to my work email account, so I was able to check email and work in the database (nothing like traveling half-way around the world only to do office work!) The best part, though, was getting to sit and listen to workers from around the world share stories about what God was doing. Today we heard from folks in Malta and Germany - pretty amazing stuff. I also have been able to meet folks serving in Switzerland, France, Austria, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain - just about every country in Western Europe. It's times like today that I remember why I'm here doing what I'm doing.

Thanks for praying for me - I feel 100 percent better today. I'm also nearly over jet lag and feel more like my crazy self :)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

This morning we awoke to a beautiful snow shower that left a dusting of powder on the hilly countryside. It was a gorgeous beginning to a busy day! I spent much of the morning exploring the mammoth hotel before the personnel arrived en masse. From 2 pm - 6 pm we helped process all the folks checking into the hotel . This included collecting bio information on them, including finger prints. It was a great day all in all - and I have great photos that I'd post if the computer would let me :(

Unfortunately, I am having serious computer problems and can't even log into my normal work email account. Ahh!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Touchdown in the Land of Lederhosen


After 9 hours on planes and 3 hours on a bus, we finally arrived at our hotel in Germany. Actually, the hotel is more like a mansion! It has 500 + rooms, a bowling alley, skating rink and indoor water park. I've already gotten lost once, but that's not a real shocker.

I've only been in Germany a day, but my initial impressions is that it's much like America. They drive on the same side of the street as we do in the US, and many of the cars look like they'd fit right in on Route 66. Most signs are in English and German, and my first meal in country came from none other than McDonalds. I'm sure the changes will become more evident as the days go by.

I'll be sure to post more details and photos in the coming days! Pray for me - my glands are starting to swell and I'm dragging. It's nothing a good dose of sleep and prayer can't fix :)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Day Before


Things never go according to plan, and Sunday was no exception. I had planned to use the day to finish packing for my Germany trip and to fuel up on "Mike time" since we'll be apart for the next 2 weeks. Instead, we spent the morning in the emergency room for Mike's right eye. It had become swollen, red and extremely sensitive the night before. One doctor told us it was conjunctivitis (note: Patient First is nearly always wrong!) The ER doctor did some tests and correctly diagnosed Mike as having a scratch on the top of his eye. A few prescriptions and an hour later we were released to relax the rest of the day. Mike says his oozing eye should qualify him to play the part of Paul in our church's next play :)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Time flies ...

Tomorrow night is our final class for foster care. I'm amazed at how quickly - and how slowly - 9 weeks have passed by. There were times Mike and I thought the 3 hour session would never end. And yet, here we are nearly at the end, and part of me still feels unprepared. I suppose even birth parents experience the same emotions: excitement, fear, anxiety, wonder, and eagerness. If it weren't for our schedules we'd probably take a child within a week. However, we've requested to be placed on hold until at least May. Ahhh! So little time, so much to do :)

In other news, Mike just celebrated his 35th birthday this past week and we spent a few days on a secluded farm with just us, some cows and a one-eyed cat! It was great - just the solitude and peace made the trip well worth it. I highly recommend Fairhill Farms to anyone seeking a retreat near Richmond. While we were away, we spent the time discussing our dreams, plans and frustrations. I can't reveal much at the moment, but suffice it to say big changes may be a-comin'!

Mike and me



This is my husband, Mike, and me when we spent Christmas in TN with my family. We don't look so bad for having hiked up a mountain :)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Roller coaster of childcare

We are nearly halfway through our training to be foster parents and the one thing I keep thinking is: dag, there are so many ways to screw up a kid. It's not that we're bad people who would do bad things. But I wonder if we'd be the kind of parents I've always wanted to be.

There are times I feel so inadequate to help a child who has been abused, neglected, defeated and wounded. There are some wounds that no amount of hugging, laughing or comforting can soothe. I've never experienced the depth of pain that many of these children have, and I wonder how can I help them navigate through their grief when I have no idea what they are thinking or feeling.

But even as the classes open my eyes to the needs of the children, I also feel my heart being softened and stretched. Where I once found only selfishness and impatience I now discover a depth of love and compassion that had not been there before. I may feel inadequate to the task, but more than ever I have the passion to overcome the challenge and help these children discover a love and pride they have yet to know.

Monday, January 23, 2006

From my head to my heart

There's a popular song that says, "The longest distance I've ever known is from my head to my heart." Although the singers are referring to their lack of love for a woman they know they should love, I see how this lyric applies even to average situations. For me, there are so many things I know to be right and true - in my head. But in practice, in my heart, I have a hard time implementing those changes. For instance, I know that I shouldn't judge or gossip; yet I catch myself time and again casting haughty looks of harsh condemnation. I also know that I should work out and eat better; yet those brownies are SO tempting!

I also know that God is more than just a name or a character in a book. I know that Jesus is more than a man who lived and died more than 2,000 years ago. I know that the Bible is true and that my life should be based on those truths. Yet, how do I get those facts that I know to be true to be more than just head knowledge? If I truly believed God was active today, wouldn't I be more bold in believing for healing and other miracles? If I knew that I knew that Jesus can change lives, wouldn't I tell His story without hesitation? And if I knew that God's central truth was about love and not judgement, wouldn't I be more quick to comfort, love and encourage rather than condemn, judge and reject?

So how do I truly implement and exhibit God's character and love without hypocrisy and without wavering? How do I get my love for Him from my head into my heart, my hands and my feet?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Foster care journey

Mike and I have decided to pursue foster care and eventually adoption. We had our first meeting last night with Tracy, who helps coordinate foster families for our county. She said they have a great need for families like ours and that approximately half of the foster children become eligible for adoption. Right now we are open to taking a girl or boy, ages 0 - 8 years. The ideal situation would be to get an infant or toddler, but we mainly want to have a child that we can love and nurture - even if the child is reunited with his or her parents. Tracy said birth parents have about 4 months to get their act together once a baby is removed from their home before the state pursues a Termination of Parental Rights. This is good for us because I'd hate to grow attached to a child for 8 months or a year only to have him or her taken back to his or her birth parents.

Thankfully both sets of families are supportive of our decision. Classes begin Feb. 6 and by early April we'd be licensed to start caring for children. I'll keep you posted!!

Mountain climber

Someone once said that we can either circle the mountain indefinitely, or we can find a way to climb the mountain and move on. That's not unlike Clayton King, my college pastor's, favorite saying: build a bridge and get over it.

My college roommate joked that I was the perfect person to consult during mopey days because I would show little patience for pity parties. I'm working on gaining more compassion, though! And I believe the first step to accepting other peoples' weaknesses is to admit that I'm not all that strong myself. I rely on coffee each morning in order to rise and shine. I rely on my husband, Mike, for security and assurance. I rely on my mom and dad to encourage me and simply say, "It'll all work out." Mostly, though, I rely on God to change me, to burn away the parts I hate and to create in me the person I desire to be.

So, I can either accept the challenges of change and climb the mountain; or, I can settle into self-loathing and contempt. I'd rather be a mountain climber.