Sunday, December 09, 2007

The tortures of childhood

My niece, Korynn, just turned 2 years old. Too bad this is what she'll probably remember from that day :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving with the Jarvises

Ok, so my family is odd. They always have been and always will be - and I kind of like it that way. Here are some photos of me, Brandon (25), Ashton (19) and my parents.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Wilderness Adventure

Mike is indulging his wilderness man by taking me camping this weekend. We originally planned to rough it by sleeping in a tent we could carry on our backs, and hiking several trails with a full backpack. I believe he envisioned this as being our first training session for someday hiking the AT. Thankfully, sanity prevailed and instead we’ll be sleeping on an air mattress and hiking with a day pack.

Still though, I’ll be running if I hear any banjos.

PS - If Mike had his way, I think we'd look like this:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

For anyone who knows my boss

This announcement was on our company's frontpage website. We're getting quite a kick out of it!

Is Optimism Bad?

I’m reading a book called God on Mute, where the author talks about that frightening topic of why God sometimes appears to be mute. Silent. Distant. The author devotes a section of the book to explaining why God sometimes doesn’t answer our prayers.

The author offers several explanations for why prayers go unanswered, but one of his theories is that life is meant to be hard. He tells the story of a poor sap who encounters several crushing blows – his daughter is sick, he begins to develop a debilitating disease, he is in danger of losing his job, etc. The author asks the guy how he copes without losing faith in God, and the man says something like, “The moment I accepted that life isn’t easy or fair, and that it’s a tough struggle, then I didn’t experience disappointment when bad things happened.”

This is a difficult concept for me. I refer to myself as an eternal optimist, and some days my hope that things will get better is the only thing that sustains me. To give up on this hope and accept that things won’t get better, or that they may get better just before getting bad again, seems defeating, depressing and gloomy. Being an optimist isn’t easy. At least once a month, my expectations and hope endure a jarring shake. I then need a day to recover, rethink my expectations, and get back to the business of hoping for a better day tomorrow.

So, should we lower our expectations for this life and expect the worse? Should we be more surprised when good things happen rather than when bad happens?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Looking Past the Mirage

There's a scene in X-Men 2 when one mutant tries to convince another mutant he is seeing something that doesn't exist. The mirage is very believable - complete with the right atmosphere, characters, voices and script. The problem is, of course, is that it's fake.

Sometimes I think the enemy uses a similar tactic against followers of Jesus. He attempts to paint a picture of doom and gloom, and he uses real characters, situations or comments to create a false reality. Unfortunately, it's all too easy to fall for his version of life rather than to look to the One who gives true hope and life.

One Bible writer described faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." If I were to define faith I'd say it was "willfully refusing to look at the things and situations around us and opting to look at and trust God."

Or, as one band said, "when you don't understand, when you can't see His plan, when you can't trace His hand, trust His heart."

Broken Boxer


You know I have carefully crafted my castles and have defended them from attack. I guarded, protected, defended and flailed against all perceived enemies who sought to destroy my plans, dreams or expectations. Sadly, I even fought against you.

I said with my mouth, “Thy will be done,” yet I maintained a tight grip on my creation and destination. I intended to move ahead in the direction I decided, and was willing to push against any mountain that blocked my path.

And then I remembered. You said faith could move a mountain, not my strength. You said God guides our steps, not my determination. You have asked if I will trust you and I have responded with a half-hearted “I guess so.”

But I know I can’t bribe you into relenting, nor can I threaten you with silence or abandonment. I have to submit. I have to relent. I have to quit fighting and pushing against you.

God, help me to take off the gloves and to leave them on the table. Help me to mean it when I say, “I trust you and I’ll follow you no matter what.” Forgive me for yelling at you, cursing you and despising you just because you won’t do what I ask when I ask. My head tells me that your plan is better than mine – help my heart to believe this, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Saddness = Not Enough Coffee

I’m addicted to coffee. I’ve heard that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, and one lovely lady spent months lecturing me about the dangers of caffeine so I’m sure this will make her happy. She also swore that smoothies make for nice substitutions when the brain begins craving coffee, but that’s nonsense.

The thing is, though, if something as innocent and widely-available like coffee makes me feel good, tastes good and helps others (like coffee-bean growers), then how can it be so bad? And if the benefits outweigh the negative, then shouldn’t I just go with it and ignore the symptoms of an addition: cravings; headaches and irritability when detoxing; daydreams about lovely brown cups holding rich, aromatic liquid joy?

I’m afraid to analyze this question because I’m afraid it’ll lead to deeper introspection about other addictions in my life, like my addiction to speed and adrenaline (hurry, hurry, don’t slow down!); my need for me-time, at the expense of shutting out developing relationships; my craving to control situations around me and the terror I feel at letting go; and my flesh’s insistence that I think about me and my entitlements, plans and desires.

See, this is why I shouldn’t think about my dependence on coffee …

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Unknown purpose

Years ago, I went to India. I was following in my college friends' footsteps, all of whom raved about their time in Kota. So I went. And I hated.

Unbeknownst to me, the group I connected with was a singing group who spent the entire trip traveling around town giving impromptu concerts. I, along with a handful of others, were left to either stay at the orphanage or play the role of groupies. But even the orphanage was difficult to stomach. The children didn't appear to be living in conditions much better than the homeless children, and so many of the children told stories about sleeping with rats that I cringed whenever I visited them in their rooms.

The day after I returned from India I contracted a weird bug and lost my voice for a week. I remember thinging, "Why did I waste the time and money on such a miserable experience?" Ah, yes, fond memories.

But the strangest thing happened last week. I was talking with my Indian neighbors about an upcoming Indian festival, and I mentioned that I had visited Kota. The wife immediately opened up to me and began sharing stories about Indian culture, tips on Indian restaurants, and invitations to drop by for authentic curry. She also invited us to this weekend's festival and promised to introduce us to all her friends.

I've lived here for two years and had yet to have a meaningful conversation with this neighbor. I'd never have thought God would have used my college trip to Kota as a bridge to a (hopefully) fruitful friendship.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Conners

Back row: Chris, me, Mike, Bert and Kelly (holding Korynn)
Front row: Shannon (holding Jack), momma Bunny (holding Conner) and Tyler

Tyler holding Korynn
Conner holding Jack

Six-year newlyweds

Embracing the unknown

A month ago I attempted to be a good Christian girl and joined my church’s Evangelism Explosion class. Despite my initial rebellion against doing hours of homework and a scripted presentation, I decided to give it a shot.

Our first night out, we met a recent college grad who let us know she was a practicing Catholic. My team leader launched into his 30 minute presentation, and concluded with, “So would you like to trust Jesus?” The girl replied, “I already do – every day.” This threw my leader. He stepped back, massaged the bridge of his nose, inhaled loudly through his nostrils and responded, “Yes, but do you really want to trust Jesus.” At this point the girl kindly declined and went back inside her apartment.

My team leader concluded that Catholics are the hardest to witness to because they are so indoctrinated and closed to other beliefs. I responded that it could be she’s more postmod than Catholic given that she said she respects our path but wanted to remain on the path she was on. The TL took her ideas on pluralism to mean she was hopelessly lost, but I interpreted it to mean she was searching for truth and simply latched on to whatever path made the most sense to her.

I quit EE after that night. I couldn’t help but feel like we were targeting people for the purposes of upping our headcount rather than seeking to simply share God’s love with people. I wanted to return to the college girl’s apartment and apologize. I also wanted to ask her what she found attractive about the Catholic church because I really haven’t encountered a devout Catholic before. I wanted to know if she experienced a closeness with God or if she was more into following rules and rituals. Perhaps she still would have chosen to remain with her path but I would hope she wouldn’t have felt like a target.

So what is it about engaging lost people in conversations that terrifies most believers? Why was my team leader more focused on running through the script than actually asking questions about their background, beliefs, fears, needs, etc.? Is it possible to talk with someone who believes there are many paths to god without offending or condemning them, but also in a way that clearly states our beliefs? And why is it an us vs them thing anyway? As my jefe says, the Gospel is really about one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Being Good Enough

I know all the stuff about how we are saved by faith and not by works, and that God loves us how we are where we are no matter what. And I really thought I was secure enough in my relationship with God that I didn’t fear His rejection or disapproval.

But try as I may, there’s this ingrained theory within me that still says I have to be good enough to earn God’s love and approval. When I go 3 or 4 days without praying or spending time with my Father, my first feeling is guilt. I then feel like I have to come crawling back to God, roll over in submission and do some kind of penitence before He’ll hear my new prayers.

I also fear disappointing Him. Mike and I have been investigating various fertility treatments since it ain’t gonna happen the old fashion way. We have lots of options to choose from, but there’s this nagging fear that keeps prompting me with doubts. Should we pursue medical intervention or should we wait for God to perform a miracle? If we seek intervention is that the same as Abram and Sarai creating their own plans to have a baby (through a slave)? Are we circumventing God’s will and timing by pursuing other methods to have a baby? By turning to science and doctors, are we turning away from God and faith in His ability to make this happen? And, I think the biggest question, will God bless this or are we leaping off a cliff out of His will and away from His blessing?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Learning to trust

Then a revelation from the LORD came to (Elijah): “Leave here, turn eastward, and hide yourself at the Brook Cherith…”

Then the word of the LORD came to (Elijah): “Get up, go to Zarephath … and stay there.”

Have you ever had to rely on God for step-by-step instructions? The Bible says God’s word functions as a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path, but, frankly, I’d much rather have a spotlight.

If life is a journey, then I feel like the last year has been a crawl through darkened mazes with nothing but a lighter to guide my way. There are times I’m tempted to despair and quit moving. It’s not like I’m making any progress, anyway, and I’ve probably spent the last year walking in circles – much like the children of Israel during their 40-year desert vacation.

But today I heard someone share about Elijah’s life and how this revered prophet also experienced a time when God revealed just enough information to get Elijah to the next destination. There was no big picture revelation or hint at what was to come. Yet Elijah was faithful to follow God’s sparse directions each time God spoke. This all occurs in 1 Kings 17.

Just one chapter later, we read about Elijah’s public and humiliating defeat of the prophets of Baal. During the battle, Elijah announces that his God is the one true God, and he challenges 450 prophets to a contest. The prophets dance, sing and pray all day long in hopes of getting Baal to consume their offering with fire. Finally exhausted, they sit down and relinquish the stage to Elijah. Elijah pours water over his sacrifice and fills the trench around his alter with water. He makes one supplication of God, and bam! God sends a fire that consumes the offering, alter and water.

I’ve often wondered how Elijah had the faith and trust to publicly challenge the prophets to a showdown. Perhaps his ability to trust in God was established from his years of following God one step at a time and finding God faithful at each destination.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Interesting News

China Regulates Buddhist Reincarnation

In an effort to discredit the future Dalai Lama, the Chinese government has decided no one can reincarnate without government approval. This means when the current DL dies and supposedly reincarnates as another DL, the Chinese gov't can say, "Whoa, there fella. How do we know you're the new DL? Did you get approval to reincarnate?"

Then the Chinese gov't can discredit the newly reincarnated DL and instead appoint their own person to be the new DL. What will Buddhists do if 2 people claim to be the new DL? Guess it's a good thing I follow a God who was resurrected only once.

Moose are to blame for Global Warming

Scientists in Norway have discovered one moose can produce 2,100 kilos of methane each year, which is the equivalent of the CO2 output during a 8,077-mile roadtrip. So should we kill the moose to save the trees?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

We're All Christians

I love my job - not so much the tasks as much as the people. Where else can I get paid to pray, talk with people from around the world and receive on-the-job training in how to share my faith? I am privileged to have heard the heart stories of some incredible people and I thank them for sharing their journey with me.

And yet ...

I am discouraged to realize that despite my best efforts I spend most of my time with other believers. Monday through Friday I work with Christians; Tuesday night is evangelism training (cuz it looks good on this application thingy I'm working through); Friday or Saturday is game night with church friends; and Sunday is spent going to church or sleeping. I've been asked whether I want to join the church's softball team, but that would be 1 more night dedicated to hanging with believers.

Months ago I applied to volunteer at a local hospital but I haven't heard anything yet. I occasionally glance at the classifieds to see if there's anything in my field in a secular environment. I also am praying about how to build relationships and strengthen existing relationships through get togethers or block parties. But it's so daggum hard to be motivated after a full-day's work to call someone up or go visit someone. I'm probably the only person here who is craving for God to lead me out of the pastures into the world (hat tip to McManus).

Are there any peeps out there who have dealt with this same issue? If so, how do you pop the Christian bubble? Also, is it any easier when your full-time job is to build relationships, do evangelism, etc.?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

my new favorite comic

I love this comic because it conveys the language barrier we Christians face when we use phrases like, "Have you found Jesus?"

"Have you invited Jesus into your heart?"

"Have you made Jesus your personal Savior?"
A while back, my dad's church had a tug of war over a proposed redesign of the church's sign. The old sign pictured a lamb carrying a cross, and it read, "Follow the lamb to _____ church." My dad's point was that most unchurched folks have no idea what "follow the lamb means." Unfortunately, some in the church thought my dad was trying to take the lamb out of the church.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Taking a stand

Ok, here's a question: if you were invited to pray in a multi-religious event - perhaps even a government-sponsored event - and you were told you could not pray in Jesus' name, what would you do? The rationale behind the request is that the organizers do not want to risk offending any attenders or others who are participating.
One side might say the request is one more example of society catering to the preferences of every other religious or social group except for Christians. And to acquiesce would be an affront to God - it would be no different than a believer denying Christ in the face of persecution.
Another side might say the request is a minor issue and the pray-er should abide by the request if it allows him or her a platform for giving testimony to God. Who knows, maybe someone would hear the prayer and seek the pray-er out for more information about the God to whom the person prayed.
How do you balance between taking a stand for your faith and not offending those who hear?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I'm Blessed

My heart has really been drawn to the Psalms this past week. Each time I read David's laments, I'm amazed that he's able to conclude with statements like, "Yet will I praise Him." Seems that David's key to hoping beyond reason was in recounting God's faithfulness despite what he saw at the moment. So, in that vein, here's my list:
- I'm thankful for my wonderful husband who treats my mood swings with care and is an enabler to my caffeine addiction
- I'm thankful for the 8 months that God allowed me to love a child as my own
- I'm even thankful that after those 8 months God taught me, "It isn't about me," and helped me let go of that little boy
- I'm thankful that in my line of work I've met some of the most amazing, visionary, humble, godly people, and that they've been willing to share some of their musings with me
- I'm thankful for our new church which has brought us new friends and much-needed healing
- I'm thankful for the prayer room located on the first floor of our office space, and for the sanctuary it offers
- I'm thankful for every lesson God is teaching me, even the painful ones, because it truly shows He loves me too much to leave me in my fleshly condition
- I'm thankful that even though I decided to spray Round Up in our front yard in a vain attempt to kill weeds - not knowing it would kill everything else - my husband still finds a way to smile about

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Balancing Act

Last year I struggled to find middle ground between two extreme ideas: either faith relied solely on our ability to believe or it weighed exclusively on God's will to help. This week I've found another set of extremes between twixt there must be some balance. One camp says we're so special, just look at how much God loves us. Another camp says it's not about us, it's about Him. My dad first pointed me to these ideals in a book titled "Cat and Dog Theology."

Let's take the first camp and see where it leads. If God's love toward us is proof of our special status, then we can assume He would do anything we ask. There are several verses that support this theory. "Ask and it shall be given unto you." "All who ask receive." "our Father will give good gifts to His children." etc., etc., etc. So here's the conclusion: God loves us and wants nothing more than to bless us and to see us happy.

Ok, let's explore camp B. If it isn't about us, but God, then all of existence should be about seeing God glorified. This may require us to sacrifice our happiness, comfort and dreams if it'll bring Him glory. We should not complain about the tribulations we encounter because all things, whether good or bad, are part of the plan for God to be lifted high. Nor should we question His motives if all His promises seem to fail and we feel abandoned. So here's the conclusion: we're worthless, He is worthy, and we are blessed simply to be alive.

Seems as though there should be a way to believe God is all loving and merciful, but also to believe that life isn't about our happiness but about His glory. Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Rest in my love

Lullaby, hush sweet babe
Close your eyes and drift away
to golden fields and sunny days,
and rest in my love
Dainty curls upon blue sheets
Matchbox cars beneath boy feet
Ragged blankie near pink cheek
Babe, rest in my love
Peace be still, and feel my prayer
Surround him, Lord, and hold him near
Speak to him, a voice so clear
to rest in your love
Swiftly gone, hurried away
Fallow fields and rainy days
Silence screams and my heart breaks
Please remember my love

The Pastor's Business Card

A new pastor was visiting in the homes of his parishioners. At one house it seemed obvious that someone was at home, but no answer came to his repeated knocks at the door. Therefore, he took out a business card and wrote "Revelation 3:20" on the back of it and stuck it in the door.

When the offering was processed the following Sunday, he found that his card had been returned. Added to it was this cryptic message, "Genesis 3:10."

Reaching for his Bible to check out the citation, he broke up in gales of laughter. Revelation 3:20 begins "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Genesis 3:10 reads, "I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid for I was naked."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fighting the despair

It's been a while, so here's an update. We found out last month that social services had decided to remove Brandon from our home and place him with a family that could care for him and his 2 half-brothers. God, talk about feeling like your heart has been ripped out. Worse, we had no inkling this decision was even being considered. So we wept, we prayed, we even held a dedication ceremony for him with our family. And then Feb. 24 we handed him over to his new family.

I hear he's doing fine and is adjusting to his new daycare. I don't have the heart to ask if he's calling his new parents mamma and dadda yet.

There are days I feel schizophrenic. One moment I can see how this is a good move for Brandon, and that Mike and I will ultimately be ok, too. I also can dream about the future and where God may lead us. But the next moment I find myself heaving sobs and fighting a swelling anger at the injustice of it all. I hear this is called grief.

Today was a good day, and so was yesterday. Tomorrow holds mysteries yet unveiled. All I can offer is a commitment to do my best at focusing on God and forget all that surrounds me.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Dear Jesus

A wise man (who would laugh if he read this description of him) once said you can tell a lot about a person’s priorities by looking at their prayer requests. If a person is outward focused then most of their prayers and praises will center on the people around them. If a person is inward focused then most of their petitions will be for toothaches, exams, bills, or personal trials.

So what does it say for a church when most prayer requests are for the health of church members? And what does it say for a Christian when their main concern is getting a driver’s license, passing a test, finding a church or getting along with their spouse?

Are these requests wrong? No. But it does show where their focus lies.