Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'M NOW ON THE LAST LEG OF A THREE LEGGED has been a lot of fun, but I get weary after a week or ten days away from home. I left home September 14 and have had a lot of fun--both at the PCA Women's International Conference that was held in Atlanta, GA for that long weekend, and for the week+ afterward in Franklin, TN with all our grandchildren (3) and children (3). It was an unexpected pleasure getting to be together and so much fun to see the grandchildren all together. Quinn and Walker (a month apart in age) are so cute together. they both smile a lot and seemed to enjoy each other. Quinn Abigail (5 months old) can turn completely over. Walker (4 months old) is working on it and can go one way. They are both at such a cute age. Caroline (age 3) kept everything quite lively as a different and often unpredictable, way.
As of yesterday, Christy and her two girls and I are in Seattle. Ron is to arrive this evening. Her husband arrives home from a business trip in Australia on Friday. The big occasion of the week is Quinn Abigail's baptism. That is why we made the trip now. Her grandpa will be able to have some involvement in it since we are in the same denomination as the church they attend. That is always a joy for my husband.
It is now October 4 and we are home. Everything went according to our plans as outlined above, for which we are grateful. Today is my day to "get it together". I'm sure it will take more than one day for me to do that. Along with catching up, I am working on a reading project for a mini-course I will be taking at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, MO October 13-14. The topic is Women's Ministry and will be taught by Tasha Chapman and Judy Dabler. I've enjoyed the reading so far. The only problem is that it is so good, I keep rethinking my earlier plans for a group that will be doing some planning for a women's ministry at our church. I guess I had better take one step at a time and get the full picture before making any major changes. If we decide to add to our reading, we can down the line. I'm so glad I have someone else to go with me to the seminar. Pam is great both administratively and instructionally--huge weak areas for me. Hopefully, between the two of us, we will be able to communicate to others in the group what will be helpful for our church. She has been here working in the trenches for years. I am very much the newcomer.
I'd better bring this ramble to a close for now and get on with my day. hopefully, in a day or two, I will be making way more sense in fewer words.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

ONCE AGAIN I'M PACKING...This time I will have three trips rolled into one! Thursday evening three of us will be flying to Atlanta, GA and the PCA Women's International Conference. One lady is from our church and one is from our presbytery--a new pastor's wife (second career). She and her husband are planting a church in the Champaign/Urbana area near University of IL. Since my daughter is coming to this conference from Ukraine, we will be having a family reunion in TN after the conference. This is a very special treat for us. When we were all able to be together last Christmas, we thought that would be our last time together as a family for two years.

This coming weekend, our daughter from Seattle will be coming to TN with her two little ones. Her husband's impending business trip to Australia precludes his being able to come. On Sunday, after morning church, Ron will drive to the Nashville area (about an eight hr. trip) so by that evening, we should all be there. Dawn will be there until Thursday morning (our anniversary) when she will return to Ukraine. Ron will return to IL on Saturday most likely. Christy will also be meeting some college friends, so she will be in Franklin until Tuesday when she, I and her two children will fly to Seattle. Ron will join us on Wednesday and we will be there for about a week to help out until her husband gets back home. Our last Sunday there will be Quinn's baptism. We are looking forward to that. Time has flown since she arrived and it is something that we needed to get done. By the time we get home, it will be October! I know I'll have a lot to do to catch up by then. I'm just hoping I'll be able to remember what happened during the conference:)

I don't take all these flights for granted. I don't discuss the niggling fears in the back of my head. I find it best not to entertain them. They often lead to more fear. It seems that the last few years, we have often had to travel near anniversaries of 9/11 or near times when there have been major scares of one sort or other. All we can do is once again trust God and know that His will is good and perfect. It is not always easy. If something horrible does happen to one of our loved ones, we know that God will give us the grace we need when we need it...not before. So far, His will has been to allow us to arrive safely at the planned destinations. I pray that will happen this time too.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11...WAS IT ONLY FIVE YEARS AGO?...It seems like it was much longer ago than that! That was the day that I learned new lessons about God protecting my children...and which ones needed protection!
At the time, one of our daughters lived in Ukraine (she still does). My prayers often included prayer for her protection, among other things. I didn't find myself nearly as preoccupied with that for my daughters who lived in the U.S. Our only married daughter at that time lived in New York City and was in her final year of her Ph.D program at Columbia University. Her husband worked about six blocks from the World Trade Center on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs. That morning he was in a conference room that looked out toward the towers, making some phone calls, when the first plane hit. He hung up the phone, called his parents in WA state and our daughter in Manhattan to tell them what had happened and to tell them that he was okay. Then he went out into the large office nearby to tell others what he had seen. They didn't believe him but about that time, the TV's in the office that were set on CNN showed the second plane hitting the towers. At that point, they headed for the exits because they figured their building would be next!
Fortunately, I did not watch the news that morning like I often did because I would have never been able to get through to Christy on the phone. She called me a short time later to let me know what happened so we could be praying for Bryan specifically and for their protection. We knew about when he started walking the nearly 10 mile walk home. When we heard that the whole building had collapsed, we were concerned again re how he was and where he was. It took a few hours before we were able to hear that he had arrived home safely through all that dust.
Another concern that morning, as details unfolded, was for my brother. He is an American airlines captain who lives in Harrisburg, PA (not far from where the last plane crashed into the ground) and flies out of Kennedy in New York City (where at least two of the flights originated). I got on the phone to try to call him and amazingly, he answered the phone. That never happens! It was his day off that day and he was home. It was such a relief to hear his voice.
Since that day five years ago, our daughter and her husband have had two little girls and moved to Seattle, WA (his hometown) to be near family. We no longer live in TX, but in IL. Our youngest daughter is now married and no longer lives in TX, but in TN where they moved when her baby boy was two weeks old. This time, it was not God's will for our family members to be directly affected in the tragedy. Another time, we may be. Only God knows. I'm glad I don't. I think that part of what it means to walk by faith is to be able to trust God with each things He brings into my life as it comes. I don't have to anticipate with dread all the horrible possibilities (which would be very easy to do). I must walk by faith, trusting that He will not allow anything into my life that He won't give me strength to bear. (I Cor. 10:13) I also know that all that He brings into my life will work for good. (Rom. 8:28)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

BALANCE...DOES IT EVER COME?...This morning I was taking some time to read some blogs and came across some new ones that I enjoyed. One theme that I often wrestle with as I read many of them, which came through clearly in one (that I don't want to reference because I don't want to pick on the person) is a "me and mine" thinking that seems to permeate many of the blogs I read. Let me explain. For some reason, many blogs that are written by people who have something to say, are often written by homeschooling mothers...of every stripe you can imagine. Many of very solid, Biblical people who desire to grow in their faith and obey Christ in their lifestyle no matter what it demands of them. I very much admire many for what they do because if involves a lot of sacrifice on their part. Some are into the self-sufficient grow your own food/ get land for you and your children/have as many children as you can school of thought which I think is fine as an option but not as a requirement for all christians. Of course, they range all the way to people living in cities with middle class jobs and lifestyles making the homeschooling decision one year at a time (and everything in between.)

Without going into the variety of schools of thought among the varying bloggers...and there are many, one thing seems to come out that concerns me. There seems to be a lack of least in the comments that get made...about those who are different, to those who are unlike themselves, to those who are less fortunate in some way. One blog I read today was a comment re a boy in the neighborhood from a family with a lot of problems, who likes to come over to play with the son of the family. The mother feels that it is ok to let him play with the son as long as she is able to be aware of all that is going on. The problem came when he asked to go to the bathroom in the house. Evidently, a younger sister's babyseat was on the toilet and he wasn't able to figure out how to remove it in time to avoid having an accident. His accident resulted in a puddle on the floor of the bathroom and in other parts of the bathroom. Of course, this caused quite a bit of cleanup for the mother. The story was humorous...with an edge.

All the comments to the blog were at best sympathetic to the mother of the family (as I would be) and many said things like...I have a family like that in my neightborhood and won't let my children play with them at all... I find these attitudes to be very sad. What did Jesus mean when He said, "When you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me?" For those of you who know me, you know that I was unable to not send a comment to that blog. I tried to be tactful and kind, because this mother was wise in what she did (to supervise the situation) but the attitudes after that were echoed by so many are not those we are to have toward those God places in our sphere of influence. The people God places in our lives that need ministry are never convenient or neat. But what is our priority--a clean, neat house/life (something i've always wanted, but never been able to accomplish) or do we have an eternal view toward our friendships and interactions with others including those in our neighborhood?

I confess, for the sake of honesty, that I have failed more often than succeeded in this area in my life in terms of having people in to the house for hospitality, but there have been times when I have had to make decisions re children that were difficult to have over because of the mess they caused, when I knew that ultimately the kingdom was more important than how much I had to clean up after them. I wish I had had more kids in more often when my kids were older, but that is another story for another blog. More and more today, a healthy christian family is a rarety. Children and teens are attracted to it and want to be a part of it. Are we going to be short-sighted and push them away because all we can be consumed with is our neat house or a tidy life? May God grant us grace to know how to be obedient to Him as we minister to the people around us who need His life-changing grace in their lives.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

UNTANGLING THE no easy task. When you try to discover the tangled past of a church, it is even more complex because each individual views it through different eyes. We have been here nearly three years now. Before we came, an outside team had come to review the church and assess whether they had a future or not. They felt they did with many qualifications and a lot of work ahead. We were asked to come for a year to help untangle things, but felt that partly because of the culture here, nothing would be done in one year so decided to stay when asked. People here do not easily share themselves with outsiders. This year we are just beginning to get beneath the surface of a few peoples' lives. In some cases, we hear glowing reports of how wonderful the past was. If we hadn't heard the versions of that same past from grown children of the very people who thought it was so great, it would be tempting to believe the happy reports. When reports are extremely different, we figure the truth is somewhere in between the two. However, there are some objective reports that indicate that there have been many difficult years best.
Now that I am starting to work to develop a women's very early stages...I am finding some pockets of resistance--especially from the "rosy past" people. (This has not come as a shock by the way. It is borne out by past experience!) My theory is that the women are the often the heart of the church and once you start changing what is being done with them, you are disrupting a balance that has been developed. If your church is "dysfunctional"/unbiblical in the way it is operating presently, it will respond/react that way. Of course, the whole church rarely responds to things, it is groups within the church that we call "the church". Rarely, an individual's response is not seen as a church's response. So, since our leadership team is not yet up and running, the one to attack last week was me. Oh joy, oh bliss!
A few months ago, Ron and I had an interaction with a family unit and I told him I thought the honeymoon was over and the gloves are coming off. The good thing about it is that now we are finally finding out what is actually going on in some of the peoples' heads. The bad thing is that they are often the ones who parrot back the most information and are obviously NOT internalizing any of it. (Again, no surprise.) For any people in leadership including pastors, remember this: do not believe the praise that is heaped on you when people are first getting to know you and like your teaching. Those will often be the very people who will turn on you when you make a decision they don't like. You still must love them and reach out to them, just beware and NEVER believe peoples' praise. Do whatever you do as an act of worship to God with no expectation of notice or reward here on earth. I think it is in Mt. 25 where Jesus talks about the pharisees who have their reward now when they are praised by people. What you want is to be paised by your heavenly Father. It is His praise that is most important! To the degree that we can live that way, we can be at peace with God and the people we are serving. When we look at the beginning of Phil. 2, we see Christ's that is impossible to follow without the enablement of the Holy Spirit living in and through us. On my own, I can't live like this:

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Whenever this comes to mind, it puts things in perspective for me. Look what Jesus was entitled to...and what He was willing to give up for my salvation. This is not so that I can feel guilty and grovel, but so that I can appreciate and enjoy the gift I have and through the power of the Holy Spirit, live out this kind of lifestyle to those God places in my way.
I'm coming to believe that we'll never untangle all the messes of the past here...and it may not be necessary. We do need to be connected intimately with the great untangler of messes both in churches and in individuals so that He can work the changes that need to be made in us through those events...such as learning to forgive others for the pain and hurt they caused me or my loved one. Only God can work forgiveness in our hearts and it is needed for our personal freedom. Holding grudges hurts us, not the other person.
Grace and peace for this new day.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

LABOR DAY WITH A LARGE EXTENDED FAMILY...that's how we spent our Labor Day afternoon yesterday. We had an indoor picnic with a large family (originally seven children) who now have five living. One attendee was the daughter of their daughter who died at age 26 of colon cancer. This child (who was two at the time) is now grown and married and preparing to leave for West Africa to be a missionary. One of the things that were done was to look at photos from her aunt, of this girl's mother all through her growing up years until the newspaper obituary. After discussing various details/stories about the pictures, they put all the photos in a big envelope and gave them to the young woman to put with her valuables that will be left here in the US while she goes overseas.
The aunt who passed on the pictures knows a lot about being on that side of the good-byes. She and her husband spent many years in Colombia, South America as missionaries with Wycliffe. Even though they can't live there anymore, they still work on the translation projects for their people. About a year or two ago, the New Testament translation they had spent their lifetime working on, was completed. Yes, they live in IL now, but they still work with the Wayu people when they can...and have a son working with street children in one of the major cities in Colombia.
I am always challenged as I visit this family, to see the godly fruit that these parents' lives and examples have borne with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. To God be the glory!