Prayer request

My husband leaves for Sudan tomorrow for a couple weeks. If you think of him during your day, we'd appreciate your prayers!



I’ve been pondering the concept of community lately, and I’ve come up with this hypothesis. I’m sure I’m not the first person to think about this, and I’m working on the research to back it up. But for now, here are my raw thoughts.

1. God created us with a desire to live in community. He made us in His image. And as He is in community with the Trinity, we desire to be in community.

2. Our social structure used to be more community-focused. Work was shared, you knew your neighbors, people watched out for each other.

3. Industrialization hit, cities grew and the concept of the “American dream” was born. People began to “look out for number one” and individualism began to replace the concept of community. Technological advances like cars, automated garage doors, television, cell phones, etc began to interrupt community living and further allow people to live in isolation.

4. People still craved community, so when the internet took the world by storm online communities, chatting, internet dating, etc grew rapidly.

Personally, I have friends via my blog whom I might never have met in "real" life. I feel connected to them, am challenged and encouraged by them and have a sense of community. But I wonder if virtual community has its limitations, and although fulfills the idea of community to an extent, can never really replace community found in face to face relationship. Being a part of a virtual community gives me control over how much I want to participate in the community, how much I want to reveal of myself while a physical community does not.

So my question to you is this: how do you define community and is the concept of virtual community only a facade of “real” community?

Related Link: Special Effect - LL Barkat


Galatians: Week 8

Galatians 3:1-6
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit by observing the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing - if it really was for nothing? Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law or because you believe what you heard? Consider Abraham: He believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness.

What stood out to me this week was the verse: After beginning with the Spirit are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Oh, I fall into this trap all the time! I believe that it is by God’s grace that I receive salvation. I began with the Spirit. And yet, in my day to day walk, I try to attain my goals by human effort. When I say “my” goals, I’m not solely referring to things I want to achieve in life. I’m also including the goals I believe God gave me, so having misdirected or selfish goals isn’t even my point here. Even the things I’m “supposed” to do, I try to do through my own effort. I started out on this journey recognizing I couldn’t do it on my own, but after the Spirit got me through the hard part (ie making me righteous in His sight) somehow I turn back to Him and say, “Thanks. I’ll take it from here.”

Daily I battle my desire for independence and control. Daily I have to turn my life back over to God. But as Paul notes, to begin with the Spirit and then try to attain my goal by human effort is foolish. It’s as if someone cast a spell on me, clouding my vision and making me forget what God has done. In some ways, the Christian life should be so easy. God wants to work in our lives. He wants to give us wisdom and direction. He already granted to us everything we need for life and godliness. Yet, we let our selfishness and independence get in the way and make it difficult. Oh, that I would step aside and allow Him to work.

Lord, help me to allow you to truly be Lord in my life. Remind me of my beginnings with your Spirit. I don’t want to be foolish. All of my efforts are in vain if I don’t have you at the center. Help me to not attempt to attain my goal through human effort. I am not justified by observing the law but by faith in you. I need your grace daily. Thank you for your Spirit. I just want to please you. I love you.


Oh, BOY!

Friends, I think I’m in trouble.

Signs you may be in for a wild ride
1) Even during birth, your daughter wants to assert her independence and her opinion. (example: Every time the doctor tried to turn me to help labor progress, my daughter’s heart rate dropped and I had to go on oxygen.)

2) As soon as your daughter can stand, every time she holds onto a pole for support...she dances.

3) Your daughter likes to climb onto tables...and, you guessed it, dance. Or just jump up and down.

4) Your daughter seems to have no fear. (example: that little video in my previous post cuts off because as soon as she reaches the top, she jumps...sometimes toward you...sometimes not)

5) Your daughter becomes fixated on a cute, older (by five years!) boy (whom she called “Boy” all evening) and ended up doing this:

So, I ask you; how do you think she’s going to turn out?

Photo: M and "Boy" (2007)


Galatians: Weeks 6 and 7 (well, and 5 too)

Galatians 2:11-21
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face for he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law, no one will be justified. If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not. If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live for Christ. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

Okay, so I skipped posting last week because I was catching up on my memorization. And I intended to write this post on Friday, and then I blinked...and here we are on Monday. But here we go!

What has struck me about this entire passage and the one before is this: it was Christians causing division in the church. In Week 5’s verses, Paul refers to some “false brothers.” I did some research to find out more about these false brothers, but really didn’t come up with much. But here’s what I surmise...they were Christians. They might have been confused, deluded, or divisive, but I imagine they had good intentions (kind of like those Pharisees). Most likely they were not pagan worshippers who were dressing up like Christians, sneaking into the church and trying to convert people back to the pagan religions. I imagine they were Jewish Christians who were having trouble letting go of their rich history and traditions. I mean, Jewish law governed ALL of life. The “truth of the Gospel” that Paul was preaching rocked their entire system of existing. Paul goes on in this passage to describe what happened with even Peter. Peter, a pillar in the church, also fell prey to the hypocrisy plaguing the early church.

So what I take away are these two main points:
1) Test everything against the truth of the Gospel. Obviously that includes what you’re reading, what you’re seeing on television and what you’re hearing on the radio. But it also includes what your parents say, what your pastor says, what your friends tell you and even what famous, well-respected Christians are saying (and publishing). While they may be well intentioned, they may possibly be wrong. I’m not saying you can’t trust anyone; I am saying to be discerning.

2) Be careful when you begin speaking with authority. I’m definitely guilty of this. We sometimes are quick to share “what the Bible says” when we really don’t know where it says it. Or we quote things we have heard or read, and relay it as if it is truth - only because we assume the person we heard it from must be correct. I don’t want to become a “false brother” who is inadvertently trying to enslave people.

Obviously I could comment on much more from these passages, but this is what I’ve been pondering the past couple weeks. As usual, would love to hear your thoughts.


Dandy-Lines *updated with video*

Well, it seems that dandelions have not only launched an assault on my yard, but they are pervasive in the blog-o-sphere right now: Craver’s busy trying to annihilate them, Charity’s reflecting on them and LL is eating them. As I stare out at the new crop peeping up out of the grass in my neighbor’s lawn (the other neighbor recently sent her son over to mow their lawn because it looked so bad, and they’re trying to sell their house), I thought I would join in the ode to dandelions with my own posting.

Over the last couple weeks in our house, here have been a few of my favorite lines - they’re real dandys…

Take Jesus out of your mouth right now.
We don’t eat flamingoes in our house.
Markers are for coloring, not for eating.
Don’t put your face in that puddle! Yucky!
Honey, why are you lying face down in the sand?
You have to say, “Catch, mama” before you jump, not afterwards.
Did she just climb out the back window and on top of her car by herself?

note: for some reason the video hangs up at 4 seconds. so as soon the video starts, advance that little slider below the movie to 5 seconds and you're good.

Any good ones to add?

Book Review - Wishing on Dandelions

And while we're still on the topic of dandelions...here's a book review that I've been meaning to post, and now find it quite appropriate to do so.

If you are looking for a book that stirs your emotions and keeps you up until the wee hours of the morning, then I highly recommend Wishing on Dandelions by Mary DeMuth. WOD is the sequel to DeMuth’s debut novel, Watching the Tree Limbs. Although it took me a little longer to be drawn into this second book, it surpasses the first. WTTL focuses on redemption, and as a natural progression, WOD focuses on learning how to accept God’s love and growing deeper in understanding our redemption.

I found this story heavier that the first book, despite the fact that the main traumatic events occur to Maranatha in WTTL. For me, I identified on a deeper level with the struggle to fully grasp and accept that God loves me despite all my faults. While I enjoyed the first book, I connected more with the second. I appreciated the new characters Mary introduced as well. Some of them I liked immediately, and only wished to know them more. Some of them had to grow on me, but the more glimpses I got into their hearts, the more I wanted to know about their back stories. Still others I appreciated for the reality of their humanity. One character in particular I really thought was going to have a change of heart after he heard Maranatha’s story, but he didn’t. In fact, the depth of the judgment in his soul only became more evident. At first I was appalled, but then quickly realized that people like that do exist and therefore have an appropriate - even necessary - place in a novel like this.

One of the many things I enjoy about Mary’s writing is that while she is a Christian author who discusses Christian values and issues, her books do not feel “Christian.” Do you follow me here? Writing a great story is what comes first for Mary, not writing a Christian story that she hopes is great. Of course, Jesus pours out onto her page, but that’s because He’s so pervasive in her life, not because she has an agenda to write about Him. I applaud her for writing reality, writing authentically and writing with excellence. It’s no wonder she’s nominated for a Christy Award.


Book Review - The Culturally Savvy Christian

*Updated* So really, you don't have to read the book first to comment...if you have any thoughts or reactions based upon what I shared with you about the book or from the quotes, I'd love to hear them!

When was the last time you read a book where you felt like you underlined most of it? For me, it was Dick Staub’s latest book, The Culturally Savvy Christian. I enjoyed Staub’s passionate appeal to Christians to be deep in their faith and relevant to society, both. He leaves no room for it to be an either or decision; it is both.

The underlying premise of the book is encapsulated in this quote:

We live in a superficial popular culture, soulless, spiritually delusional, and driven by celebrity. Today’s Christianity has taken on those same qualities. Because we are created in God’s image, with spiritual, intellectual, creative, moral, and relational capacities, we will never be satisfied with a superficial, mindless culture or religion; the result is that religious and irreligious people alike are experiencing deep spiritual hunger.

Staub then goes on to lay out his response to the question, how then do we change?

1. We must be deep Christians, drinking deeply from the living water, making God the central importance in our lives and the cross the center of our personal story.
2. We must become fully human, which to Staub means allowing God to restore us to His original intent - not salvation or the evangelism of others, but to glorify Him through reflecting His image. This requires that we present our bodies as living sacrifices to Him, stop conforming to the world and renew our minds. Staub also points out that “our call to become fully human is a direction, not a promise of perfection.” We are not done with our changes until we reach heaven.
3. We must love others with an unconditional, transforming love. That love should be embodied in our actions, ideas, beliefs, our public and our private lives.
4. We must be discerning about culture, “discovering points of disagreement between our faith and culture by listening to both, then choosing a path that pleases God.” We must practice “selective acculturation, allowing ourselves to experience resonance with art that connects us with the joy pain and realities of our fellow humans, while also identifying and guarding against dissonant values, ideas, belief and behavior.”
5. We must build community with other believers, because we are all aliens in this world. We long for a place to be encouraged, to fellowship and to belong.
6. We must observe the culture we live in (almost like anthropologists) so that we can find the most effective entry point for each person or group and communicate using an appropriate language and illustrations. We must also care deeply about people. We bridge cultural knowledge to our Christian experience and understanding.

Staub ends with a chapter to artists and creatives, saying they will lead us into the “cultural renaissance” we’ve been waiting for. He offers some good insights and advice to artists (used broadly), particularly around being authentic and striving for excellence, not just trying to be “Christian.” He offers a quote from CS Lewis saying “we don’t need Christian writers, we need great writers who are Christian.”

If I had to cite anything negative about the book, it would be that Staub uses an overwhelming number of quotes (albeit some great quotes), and sometimes references the same quote multiple times. During the first section of the book, he comes off as a little preachy, but I chalk that up to his passion for the topic.

I was pleased that he offered solutions, not just complaints about society and Christianity. I also appreciated his unwavering support of being strong in your faith, and at the same time understanding the culture.

I highly encourage you to pick up this book and read it. When you do, come back and tell me what you think. Personally, I’m excited and energized about being a “culturally savvy Christian.”

A few more quotes (among many, many) I appreciated:
“People who believe they know the truth need to realize that cultural influence requires more than knowing the story; it requires telling it thoughtfully and artistically. Never has there been a greater need for wise, gifted storytellers who understand the story we are in and can communicate a better way gracefully and truthfully.”

“Today, the toughest test we can apply is to ask whether the media items we consume represent the highest and best spiritually, intellectually and aesthetically.”

“Culturally savvy artists do not expect their work to be accepted because they are Christian, but because their art is good.”


A pivotal weekend (and a blog posting preview)

Okay, this weekend I think was a pretty pivotal weekend for me.

I finished Dick Staub's book The Culturally Savvy Christian and I'm renewed and energized about what it means to be a Christian in our culture. More about this later.

I read a book review on Trish Berg's website about a book called Organizing for Life by Sandra Felton. I followed a link to her website and among other good things, I found this rule:

Change habits one at a time. Let’s start with The 30-Second Rule. “If it takes thirty seconds or less to do a job, do it immediately.” This applies to putting up packages when you come in, putting the scissors (or whatever) back where you got them, hanging up the clothes you take off and other things like that.

I loved it and implemented it immediately. It's amazing the number of little things that get completed, quickly, and don't end up piling up (usually somewhere in my house!).

Lastly, I'm reading a book called Created to be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl. Now to be honest, I have a love hate relationship with this book. Sometimes the cheesy formatting of the book drives me crazy, sometimes I'm not exactly sure I agree with her approach, and then she offers me some amazing nugget and I keep reading (that and it's for my book club, so I have to finish). This weekend I read her description about the three kinds of men in the world, and what she wrote described my husband to a tee. It also helped me understand why I get so frustrated with him sometime. I'm going to share more about it in a separate post, but I'm way excited to try to change my approach and my thinking about my marriage and my husband! (Not that anything was abnormally bad, but definitely there's always room for improvement)

Anyway, be checking back this week. I've got lots of thoughts going on in my head and I'm determined to get them down.



The past couple weeks I’ve really struggled with a case of supermomitis. You know what I mean, right? The feeling like I have to be an amazing mom who does arts and crafts with my daughter, doesn’t let her watch too much tv, teaches her the alphabet and her numbers, cooks all our meals, does laundry, doesn’t leave clean laundry on the couch for more than a day waiting to be folded, ensures everything in the house is in its rightful place, ensures everything in the house even has a rightful place, does the dishes, plays with the dog, arranges play dates, keeps up with the grocery shopping, takes a shower, spends quality time with her husband, gets birthday cards and mother’s day cards in the mail on time, speaks to her friends and maybe, just maybe has a spare minute or two to read a book or write a blog. And I just can’t do it all. If I stay on top of keeping up with the house, then I do that at the expense of my daughter (either giving her my undivided attention or letting her watch TV). The advice or comments I have recently received have come from people who do not have kids or do not have toddlers. I mean, really, when their kids were little could they keep an immaculate house?

The truth is, I want my house to be a little more orderly. I’m already on a rampage to clean stuff out (whenever I can find some spare time…) and make better use of our space. But I’m trying to figure out how much of my stress is due to this mythological supermom and how much of it I can actually do something about.

So I’m looking for comments here. What are your thoughts or advice? How do you maintain an orderly house? How do you combat the idea of the supermom (or do you even ever struggle with it?)?


Okay, so I've been tagged by both One More Writer and Craver so I guess I will play the 8 Random Facts Game too. Who makes these games up, anyway? And, even though I was technically tagged twice, I'm just going to put up 8 facts...you don't really want to read 16 facts about me anyway!

Here are the rules (per Rule #1):
1. Post the rules of the game. (Check)
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

My 8 Random facts:
1) I was born in Honolulu. You'd be surprised to know how many people respond to that statement with, "Oh, so how long have you lived in the United States?" I mean, come on. Hawaii joined the Union back in 1959. No wonder TV shows like "Are you smarter than a 5th grader" have a contestant base.

2) I spent my junior year of college in Madrid, Spain. I think that experience is what instilled in me a love for other cultures and places. Since then, I have been to seventeen countries on four continents.

3) I once found a body on the side of the road. A friend and I were driving home from a neighboring city, and we saw a body lying on the side of a side road, just off the freeway we had exited. We called 911 to report it and waited for help to arrive. No other cars were in sight and the stretch of road we were on was slightly dark. Gangs in the area had been known to act hurt on the side of the road and then jump unsuspecting people who stopped to help, so we didn't get out of the car. Turns out, it was a diabetic woman who had gone into insulin shock. Fortunately, the next car who stopped was an RN and some additional people helped as well.

4) I'm a list maker. I've been known to write on my list "Find other list"

5) I'm an only child. That explains a lot, huh?

6) I majored in Economics and Spanish in undergrad, and went to work to do something completely different. At least my Master's is compatible with my previous occupation - but that may be because the company paid for it...

7) I love salty things. I salt pizza, pickles and salsa (but not watermelon!).

8) I've never broken a limb.

Okay, that's #2 and #3 - check

#4 - 8 people to tag...well, how about Gusenga, Trent, and Steph so that maybe they'll actually go update their blogs. Let's see, 5 left...(Craver, you had to be such an overachiever and name more than 8 people!) BJ, Madison, Katie, Sarah and Jeanne

#5 - Okay, off to leave comments and then turn in.


The Puke-Mobile

I've had to deal with people throwing up three times today.

1) My husband started feeling nauseated on the way to work (I dropped him off today because his car was being fixed). Literally, about a mile away, he asked me to pull over. He puked his guts out on the side of the road, and then fortunately felt much better. We now think it was due to taking some medicine on an empty stomach.

2) On the way home from the grocery store, my daughter gagged on a piece of cheese. Up came breakfast, a glass of milk, and, of course, the cheese. I had to pull over (again!), clean it up as best I could, make it home and then remove the carseat cover and straps to wash them. Oh, so pleasant.

3) Just after we walked in the door from spending the evening at my in-laws' home, my daughter threw up again all over my husband. I now suspect the cheese incident this morning might not have just been gagging. Yippee.

Is my car just a nausea-mobile today or what? Fortunately, I haven't gotten sick....yet. Maybe I'll turn in early.


Things Spoken

Here are a few things that my daughter is saying right now that I just love:

+Gotch - of course, I wrote a whole blog about that
+Sure - pronounced, shooo-or. M, do you want some milk? Shoooo-or. M, did you have a good time? Shooo-or. M, do you want a spanking? Shoooo-or.
+Sducks - meaning, stuck. Or better yet, I'm stuck, mom, would you quit laughing and get over here to help me?
+Daddy's purse - *points to mom's purse* Mama's purse... *points to dad's messenger bag* Deedee's purse
+ooooh, nooooo! - she says it about many things, but in this cute little high pitched voice, drawing out the oooo's for dramatic effect
+roh-roh, rosie - usually accompanied by taking my hand and telling me to...
+gup - meaning, get up, mom, and play ring around the rosey with me

Good times.

Photo: Yea, stinkin' cute (2007)


Galatians: Week 5

Galatians 2:3-10
Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. As for those who seemed to be important - whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance - those men added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Well, the sad fact is that I didn’t even memorize one verse from this week. I did catch up on the previous week and practiced saying everything I knew (Galatians 1:1 - 2:2), but I missed week five. The message today at church encouraged me, though. Although the pastor spoke in a slightly different context, he said that living out the Christian life is hard. We can have the knowledge of what we’re supposed to do in our heads and yet fail to do it - and still be Christians. I know I should memorize Scripture. I know I should be going deeper in God’s Word and with Him. But sometimes I still don’t do it - even though I desire to do so. I am easily distracted. And I’m selfish and lazy. While all of these things are not acceptable excuses, I also can’t deceive myself and others into thinking I’m a perfect Christian. (I know, you’re shocked!) I struggle with making God a priority in my life and many times I struggle with not making it seem like to others that He is. I don’t have it all together, I can’t be a “good” Christian. I guess that’s yet another reason why I need Jesus. I pray this week will be better, that I will set my mind on things above and my heart on my Savior. I hope you’re able to do the same.



Recently, my daughter has really begun repeating words that I say, even after the first time hearing them. To my disappointment, though, she has yet to say “I love you” back to me. But I have become very fond of a little ritual we have, and I recently realized it was her way of saying she loves me.

One day a thunderstorm blew through, and in the midst of the flashes of light and loud rumbling, my daughter sought shelter in my arms. As I held her tightly, I reassured her with the phrase, “I got you.” She whispered back, “Gotch” and gave me a squeeze. Now, when she feels scared or when she’s being particularly sweet and cuddly, I often hug her tightly and say “Gotcha” - to which she always responds with a little squeeze and “Gotch.” It melts my heart every time.

When I am afraid - of the future, of the unknown, of how we’re going to live on our budget, of...of...of - I now think about that mental image and picture God holding me in His arms, whispering, “Gotch. You don’t have to be afraid. I am with you, even to the end of the age.”

When I’m discouraged - about life, about relationships, about my ability to be a good wife and mother - I hear God saying, “Gotch. I’ve got a plan for you. I have abundant life for you. I’ve equipped you with everything you need.”

When I’m weary and need a reassurance of His love, He’s there in my ear, “Gotch. Come to me and I will give you rest. Sit with me. Drink deeply. I love you.”

Do you hear Him saying it to you?



Thinking it over...

I've got my next Africa "Grass Hut Reflection" blog brewing, but it's not quite ready yet. I'll try to get it up tomorrow. Sorry for the delay...if anyone is even awaiting it.

Also, I've been thinking about the concept of salvation a lot, and I'm about ready to put up a post about that too. I'm really going to want your comments and suggestions on it though, so be on the lookout!

I'll leave you this quote from today's Streams in the Desert:

"...it (faith) is recognizing God's promise as an actual fact, believing it is true, rejoicing in the knowledge of that truth and then simply resting because God said it."