Thursday, August 31, 2006

HOW PEOPLE the title of a book I have almost completed. It has been extremely helpful to review the material that I "learned" at a seminar last March (I think). To me, it is a helpful overview of what the christian life is: a lifestyle of faith and repentance as God works to finish the work He has started in us. Our Redeemer has rescued us from our sins, given us His Spirit, made us His bride, and placed us in community with one another. Community is not the icing on the cake, it is the cake! Of course, the book carefully gives the Biblical framework for all this and more as well as a helpful diagram to visualize how God uses heat (any circumstance--good or bad--that comes into our life) to show the true fruit in our heart--either thorns or luscious fruit. The basis for any good fruit is the cross--the work that our Redeemer did to save us--past, present and future.

I realize as I try to summarize this, that it probably makes it sound more confusing. Summaries were never my forte:( The book is full of scripture (all written out so you don't miss it) and many concrete illustrations of what they are talking about. The authors are Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp. Although this is the more recent of the two books, it is the prequel to Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands--People in Need of Change helping People in Need of Change by Paul Tripp. That book goes into more detail re the how's of bringing about change in others/in community. This book is definitely the prequel in the sense that until we understand what really happened with our salvation and the direness of our situation before salvation, we won't appreciate the work of our Redeemer. I love the subtitle of the second book because it communicates why we can't help others change when we are overcome with our own self-righteousness. (a particular struggle of mine.) People have to understand that we know that we are just as in need of change as they are...maybe different areas, but just as in need of change.

The major point that hit me between the eyes in both books has been the fact of my functional idolatry (putting something before God in my life) as being basic to most of the other sins. ex. desire for peace/comfort at end of tiring day becomes an idol when i put it ahead of gloifying God at the expense of serving my husband when I know he needs it, because I want to meet my needs instead of his. There are myriad other illustrations, but hopefully you get the point. When I got that concept...and it didn't come has been revolutionary. It has opened my eyes to incredible selfishness and sin that I had no awareness of before. Yes, it can be very depressing...except for the fact that I have a Redeemer who took care of all that garbage on the cross. I need to appropriate it regularly. I don't do it as regularly as I need to, but it has been helpful. At times when I get inappropriately angry over something, I can take a look at what my functional idol is at the time. It is quite an eye-opener! I came from a community that was learning this at the same time and we were keeping one another on our toes. That is not the case here. It has been harder to do alone. I'm a "community" person, not a "lone ranger". I'm slowly developiing a small community here, but it has been very slow! I'd better stop now. The sun is up and I must go exercise!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

THIS CATCH-UP MONTH IS FLYING...and there still seems to be so much more left to do! It seems I keep working on this Women's Ministry Development and nothing much shows for all that I am doing. I am asking 10 women to be on the Leadership Team because I don't really think all ten will say, "Yes". I have gotten five yeses. I have actually had numerouse conversations with them over the past year. I have five more almost cold contacts to make. Many are interested in seeing a Women's Ministry developed but I'm sure each has something different in mind. We will need to do some reading to get on the same page in terms of overall Biblical foundation for what needs to be done, then we can develop a plan for our women specifically.
In the meantime, we will start a Bible study (for everyone) which will give us an opportunity to meet together over the Word. Hopefully that group will be large enough that we will be able to get a pulse on what some of the need is. When we meet in that context, it tends to be less self-centered and more focused on what God wants. It also helps us focus (in prayer) more on the needs of others rather than on our own personal needs. When we can study God's Word in the context of community, it will become the much more living and breathing Book that it is supposed to be.
I have been preparing the Bible study and have most of the lessons done. I am changing how it will start by adding an exercise the week before they get their books. I had wanted to have the Leadership Team chosen and meeting long before now, but there have been multiple interruptions including my schedule. Now, it looks like there may be one more interruption. My Seattle daughter has asked for help flying back to Seattle from Nashville. I'd like to help, but that was about the time I was planning to do the final work of getting things up and going for the Bible study. Overall it will mean probably a one week delay in starting, but it knocks out a chunck of time that I had planned to finish up working on all kinds of things! I was revved to come back from our family get-together in September and get all the copying done for the Bible study as well as lining up all the final details. That was also going to include meeting with the Leadership Team. Now the meetings are going to have to be rushed before my trip and I'll have less time after I come back to "get my head together". I'm trying on the decision to go to Seattle (her husband leaves on a business trip to Australia the day before she returns home from her trip). As I try it on, it seems that many of the problems I had with it are not insurmountable, they will just complicate the planning beforehand. That especially relates to medications and clothing!! Why does life continue to keep getting MORE complicated?? This morning I got myself organized with my calendar so I am ready to line up the people I need to meet with.
As I update this blog, it is a few days later. The team is still not together. Final answers are not given and I haven't even been able to contact everyone. I've had one group meeting that was quite difficult (not the team) that I am still getting over and digesting. (Trying to keep what was profitable and get rid of what was unprofitable.) I know there is a reason for the slowness that all this is taking...and in the long run, it will be benficial. I just wish I could figure out why. I guess I'll know a year from now. Ultimately, it is all in God's hands and for His glory. I hate that everytime I get involved in a process like this, it causes misunderstanding and conflict. If I didn't work so hard ahead of time to prevent the very conflict that erupts, it wouldn't be nearly so frustrating. I think often it does bring to light some areas that are very hidden and dark and sinful in the way the church has been malfunctioning for a long time. (This goes for any church I have participated in this.) When obvious change is on the horizon, people in charge of these areas are threatened. I don't mean that they don't love the Lord, but they have become focused on the wrong things to the detriment of the overall church health. I can't really speak to the specific issues because I am not in a position of spiritual authority over them. Unfortunately, they think they have the authority to tell me what to do and that is a false premise. It has worked in the past because people were afraid to cross this particular group, but as far as I am concerned, the stakes are too high to allow them to continue to think that they can control what is done in some of the areas they think they should be able to. This is beyond my level. It will be dealt with by others higher than I. Meanwhile, I'll continue to pray. I'm not totally sure what to ask for apart from God to be glorified and His kingdom to be advanced.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I'VE FINISHED THE LAST OF THE SISTER/BROTHER of late last night and now I must get reading. I'm preparing to lead a Bible study on Colossians in October and have a lot of prep work for that as well as infrastucture work for a women's ministry in our church to prepare for. I need to read a LOT to get ready for all the above. Today I read two more chapters in a book I have been working on titled How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp. I went to a seminar they led a few months ago on the topic (great content!) and wanted the review. It will be a great enhancement to the Colossians study because they quoted heavily from Colossians. It is enough to make a person get excited about the practical outworking of our theological beliefs that are outlined in that book. Who is Jesus? How does being a christian affect my everyday ability to function in a fallen world? How do I deal with other christians? Some of them are hard to get along with.
Because these men are not "just" pastors, but counselors as well, they have had to deal with the nitty gritty of the answers to these and other questions. I find the book to be readable with some really helpful illustrations that I can hang my hat on. So far, I've just read the Biblical/theological foundations for the book including my relationship with Christ and what that consists of and why I need community/the church...and why they need me. This is not meant to be a thorough review of the book. If you have read it, you know it isn't. I'm trying not to give the good illustrations away because they flesh them out better than I could in a short review.
Having lived in a small community (for about three years) that is committed to NOT changing as well as a church that is also struggling in the same area, I think of myself as someone who wants to change. Of course, I have been forced into it more often than I can say. Looking back, I have found that change usually has resulted in my good in some way. The events that lead to it were not always pleasant ones, but depending on my attitude, it had a positive effect on me in new areas of my life. A premise of this book is that while we christians are here on earth, our lives are not meant to be happy or fun, necessarily. We may even lead lives that are quite difficult at times but God uses all the things He brings into our lives to change us to be more like Him. Our time on earth is the time for change...the kind of change God wants to make in our lives. It is rarely the kind of change we want at any given time because His perspective is on a much grander scale than ours is. When we get to heaven, change will not be necessary. It is so easy to confuse the time frame and get those time frames reversed. These two men give us a great reminder from scripture that the time for change is now and it will continue to be until Christ returns or we go to be with Him.
The great things about studying Colossians (that keep popping up in this book as well) are the many reminders of who Jesus Christ really was/is, what our resources for living a life "worthy of the Lord..."are, including the wealth and treasures of the gospel that has been given us, the fullness of Christ and the great grace He has shown us. As I write about this, I realize what a poor job I am doing of making this concrete and what a great job they did! I'd better stop writing so you will be thirsty for the book and not bored by my description of it.
As I close, I will tell you that as I read the book, I realized how self-righteous I have been since being here. I felt that if I could make a huge change (that has felt like an earthquake in my entire life!) by coming here, people here, whose lives aren't so altered could make a few changes. Of course, it doesn't work that way! Just as God is using these huge changes in my life to point out areas where I was trusting myself and not Him or loving things other than Him, He will have to use the things He brings into the lives of individuals here to change their attitudes. That usually happens one person at a time in response to prayer. It can't be rushed. I wish it could. Then I could move on down my to-do list to something else and I wouldn't have really changed a bit. I'm so glad that God is in charge and not me. He is so much wiser than I. he really doesn't care about most of the changes that other people see. What He cares about are the changes that most people don't see--my attitudes, my desires, my heart. What is happening there? That is where He wants to change me to most! That's usually where I am least interested in having Him work. How much I need His redeeming grace!

Friday, August 11, 2006

ONE DAY AFTER LUNCHEON...Yesterday, I hosted a luncheon for the Little Peoria Garden Club...of which I am a member. The operative word is "little". This group has been meeting for many, many years, but it is a very small group made up mostly of one family now because the older ladies are diminishing. (We lost another one last month within a day after our last meeting.) There were nine of us yesterday which is almost as many as I can manage without major moving of furniture. I'm not really one for fancy meals/luncheons because I agonize over so many of the details. What to eat? How much will be enough? Is it colorful enough? (I especially think of this with a ladies' luncheon.) And the list goes on. Yesterday however, things went really well. a friend came by ahead of time to help me set up. I served the plates from the kitchen (something I rarely do) and it worked REALLY well. I gave less choices than I often do (based on some questioning of others more familiar with the group's tastes) and that simplifies drinks (water or raspberry iced tea?), serving dishes and utensils and gives way more space on the table. It makes for a lot less confusion overall. It was great. I offered seconds which no one took. Additional rolls, butter, lemon slices, salt and pepper were all on the table. Making the time to plan ahead really helps a lot and simplifies serving the meal and being able to enjoy it with the guests.
This group often has namecards, so even tho' it sounds formal, it isn't really that fancy...or time consuming. In this day and age, with all the scrapbooking material/cool rubberstamps available, namecards take a very short time to make, add a nice look to the table and take away one more bit of confusion before the meal of who is to sit where. In this case, we had roses rubberstamped on lime cardstock. This way, everyone knew where they were to sit.
All in all, it was a fun meal. we all enjoyed the visit, I made foods that were able to be done ahead of time, a friend helped me serve the plates and we even added an avocado garnish:) My friend said, "This looks like a $9.95 salad plate at a nice restaurant." (In some cities, pricing would be much higher.) Sounds good to me. The company was great as well. We learned a lot about geraniums and how to grow (and winter them) in this part of the country.