Monday, December 6, 2010

All Saints Day

I have a stockpile of belated birthday cards that I routinely send out in lieu of actual birthday cards (for obvious reasons), so it should not be a surprise to me that I thought of this post October 31, and well, here we are, one month later.  (I actually wrote half of this post last week.  SIGH.  Now five weeks later...)

One month ago, it was All Saints Day.  As I child I never knew quite what to do with All Saints Day.  Was it the good version of Halloween?  Just for Catholics?  I was rather confused.  However it does coincide with my birthday, and I always thought that was pretty cool.

All Saints Day celebrates the lives of Christians, both past and present.  That day was also a Baptism Sunday.  During the baptism ceremony, the members of the church are asked to both prayer for and be involved in the upbringing of each child.  The loud chorus of "Yeses" struck me and I began to think about all the saints who have been pivotal in my life.

Some are people that I know well and some who know me well-- family members, youth group leaders, and Sunday school teachers.  The minister who baptized me as a baby also came to mind.  Dr. Long was the minister at our church from about the time I was born to early elementary school.  Though our families stayed in touch, I can only recall a couple of sermons he preached.  Even though he did not personally influence my faith, he did have tremendous impact on the people around me.  My parents came to a greater understanding of the Gospel and Scripture through an intensive Bible course Dr. Long taught.  His teaching was one way God allowed my parents to raise me in the church and teach me about the Lord from an early age.  He strongly impacted numerous teachers and leaders still present at that church today.

It started to make me think about my life and the impact I might have for Christ through others around me.  I'm not currently leading a girls' small group or mentoring any young people, but my life should nonetheless be focused outward.  What ways are you striving to grow a new generation?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Come People of the Risen King

This song has been stuck in my head all day. We sang it at church a couple of weeks ago, and then again today. Let me be the first to say we have one mad saxophonist in our congregation! Though a wee bit of me wishes it had been a melodica...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Money, moo-lah, dough, dinero, cash, greenbacks

I haven't written in a while, and now I have a bunch of things to post. So, one at a time! The following is a weekly letter from Rev. John Yates, pastor of my church (The Falls Church).

How can I learn to think like Jesus about my money?

I will see all I have and all I get as ultimately belonging to God. I see myself as responsible to use my money only as God would have me do. Before any purchase or expenditure I will ask, “Is this something that is pleasing to God?”

I will cultivate the habit of giving. I will organize my life and my finances so that I am giving to the church and to others in need, regularly and consistently and generously. I will aim to give away a tithe (10%) of all I get, and pray to give more.

I will think carefully and clearly about these things and make prayerful commitments that push me to give regularly, generously, proportionately, and sacrificially.

If my heart isn’t cheerful in this giving, if there is any begrudging in my spirit, I will ask God to show me the idolatry that is present in my life so that I can repent.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Wilderness Survival, Leather Working, or Coin Collecting?

My Sunday school class always makes me laugh. Favorite quote from this week? "Remember last week when you weren't here we talked about..." "Um no." However aside from being funny, it also never fails to challenge me.

We are currently plodding (this week we zoomed at warp speed through 3 verses) through James. In discussing faith vs. works, the passage compares faith with no works and faith only by works. Faith with no works and works alone are both lacking. They both have the same end result.

I generally put myself in the "faith with no works" category. I have PLENTY of head knowledge and can spew out more theology than many. However when confronted with works, I find myself not doing as much as I could. What I do do is not always driven by faith.

In the same way those actions and habits can make me feel good about myself. I start thinking about what I can do and how it makes me look rather than pointing to Christ. I start earning merit badges to become a legal scout.

James was written to Jews coming from a Pharisaical tradition. In an effort to separate themselves from their old life of checklists, they went to the other extreme and simply had faith alone.

Neither position is ideal, so where does the balance lie between the two?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I know I love words and grammar more than the average American. In fact, I wish I had thought to write this book, However, bestseller or not, I despise the presence of unwelcome typos in my own life.

In the last two weeks I have received THREE pieces of mail from my health insurance with the wrong house number. Each time my neighbor graciously circles the number and puts a big question mark next to it before shuffling it back through the mail.

Thus far I have tried to change the typo online. Twice. No go. So today I finally called HR. (I always think of these things at 11 at night when there are no humans to be found.) I explained the situation. Got transferred to another department. Sat on hold. Got transferred again. Finally, got a real person in the correct department. The lady on the other end is "new at this and I'm not really sure what to do" as the person she is filling in for is "fixin' to have a baby." Fixin'? Seriously? One can be fixing to do a lot of things, but a baby is not usually one of them. So she bummed around on the system for a while before declaring she didn't know how to fix it. Then she suggests I call the insurance people directly.

So I called United Healthcare. Sat on hold waiting for a real person. Gotta love that electronic voice system and 80's power ballads. Went through my ID number, full name, birthday, SSN, mother's maiden name, favorite ice cream, blood type, and color of my toenail polish. Explained the problem. "Oh. We can't edit your address. That has to come from your employer for security issues. [pause] [half-hearted] Sorry."

Cool. Neighbor at 4717, please don't hate me. I'm trying, really. I promise...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

There's something about the ocean

I love love love love LOOOOOVE the beach. A LOT. As if you couldn't tell. It is probably my favorite place on the planet. And I haven't even SEEN the whole planet. This summer I have the privilege of spending two glorious back-to-back weeks on the sand.

This week I'm hanging with my small group and a compilation of other random people (friends, friends of friends, relatives, etc) at a beach house in Duck, NC. This place seems to be so much on vacation it forgot that two decades have gone by. I am currently sitting in a expertly crafted wicker chair with a mallard duck throw pillow. There is wood paneling on every wall except the bath tub. There's also a lovely pair of glass blown mallards hanging from the candle holders (sans candles). And to top it off, a beautiful wreath covered in sea treasures. The decor gives the place character.

So far my days have been spent sleeping in, eating Berry Berry Kix (I'm on vacation from being a grownup too), reading books, completing numerous crosswords half-way, and then sprawling out on the sand from 12-5. Happy hour, followed by dinner at 9, and playing Mario Cart and Time's Up until wee hours of the morning. Life is rough. My only complaint is that the jellyfish also like the beach so I have been doing a happy little dance in the ocean just to get in swim time (and not get stung).

I can't believe there are only three more days of week one. Back to reading/relaxing/being a bum. No more computer. I can use that the other 5o weeks of the year. Oceans are in short supply in DC.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Perhaps this blog won't be entirely philosophical or theological.

I was just wondering, who thought jeggings would be a good idea. FOR ANYONE?!?!?!?

Monday, July 12, 2010

I didn't die...

Sorry for the silence! I spent the last week with Jon's youth group at Alpine Adventures, one of my favorite places in the world (even though it is in WV). Alpine is a place where thrills and fun intersect with God. I've never been to a place where God is so visible: in his creation, in the activities we do, in the relationships between students, and in the focused study time.

This was my fourth trip to Alpine and my second as a leader. While most everything stayed the same (stuffy mattresses, cafeteria food, AMAZING chocolate chip cookies), they had built a new high ropes course. The course offers two levels, one at a paltry 25 feet, and the other at 40 feet, directly above the first. You navigate the course with a partner, choosing the elements you wish to complete.

Now, I must say I don't consider myself to be afraid of heights (this is called acrophobia, for all your lexophiles out there). I like flying, I love mountain top views, and I don't mind driving across big bridges. However something in your brain kicks in when you are standing on a teeny platform atop a telephone pole. I kept trying to mentally win the battle, but I started to lose and become fearful!

Over the course of the day, we were reminded to have faith that the harness and tag lines would hold us. We had to trust them completely for our safety, just as how we must trust the Lord. I told myself that I wasn't afraid and that I trusted in my equipment, but I still had trouble beginning any element that wouldn't let me hold onto my tag lines for security.

The hardest element of the day for me was the monkey bars. Monkey bars? Didn't you do those a bajillion times as a kid? Why yes. Except I was a kid (I weigh slightly more now) AND I was never more than a couple feet from the ground. I don't even want to envision what I would have looked like simultaneously clinging to my tag lines and the monkey bars. So every time I reached for the first bars, a fear would grip my body. I was unable to force myself off the ledge and put my weight into my arms. I wasn't so afraid falling, but rather failing. I honestly didn't believe that I possessed the strength to make it all the way across.

My ropes partner and Jon spent a long while encouraging me. I began to jump and then chickened out. Over and over and over. Twelve years later (or perhaps a few minutes), Jon finally told me just to "GO!" I forced myself off the ledge and onto the bars.

It was tough. My muscles were very angry with me. (In fact, they only forgave me for the week's activities' just today.) But I am also stubborn. I was GOING to get across. And I did, without falling. After arriving, I hugged the telephone pole. VICTORY!!

It occurred to me that although I said I believed and trusted, I really had doubts. I doubted my abilities, alone or with God's help. I doubted the tag lines and the security wires. I questioned what idiot would hang out on a telephone pole 40 feet in the air.

I'm reminded of Peter walking on water in Matthew 14. He had faith to step out of the boat and begin walking. I too, was able to climb up into the trees without a problem. But then, we both began to doubt and thus sink. Only with total trust and focus could Peter walk to Jesus. The monkey bars were impossible to complete while clinging to my own security blanket. I couldn't afford to be both safe and successful. I wasn't really in danger, but I had to learn to trust my equipment and God to get me through. Thus this week I am learning to doubt less and trust more.

Am I ready for a repeat of the course? Well, not for a while. I can't say I enjoyed it per se, but I did appreciate the challenge and lessons that accompanied it. Not to mention the sense of accomplishment that followed! Hiiiiiii ya! I am alive, and Jon even took pictures for proof!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pray without ceasing? I can't do that!

During the sermon this morning, Rev. Bill Haley (yes that is his name, and no, he does not have any comets) presented prayer as an application to our passage in Hebrews. He encouraged us to pray without ceasing as Paul commands in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Pray without ceasing? I can't do that!

This is a tall order. I have a hard time praying for five minutes, let alone without ceasing. However Bill asked us another question. Can I worry without ceasing? Can I be anxious without ceasing? YES! (That was a resounding YES!) There are days when my worry consumes my thoughts and actions. At the moment I am spending a great deal of time worrying about jobs, job offers (or the lack thereof), and my future. Worry has slowly crept into more waking moments than I wish to admit. I am trying to transition that worry into prayer. It was well-timed that this week's Sunday school lesson was on asking God for wisdom. Worry and prayer are opposite reactions to the same circumstance.

So, I have the capacity to worry and be anxious all day. That means I also have the capacity to pray all day. I must learn how swap the two. I must learn how to be constantly aware of the presence of God. I'm not sure how that will play out, but I'm going to give it a go.