Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Unplugging

I just finished reading my blog post from January 1st of this year where I listed my resolutions for 2009.

Looking back I'm struck by how much things have changed, and by how much they have not.

I put up a goal to lose 80 lbs, I lost more than 30. Can't help but think that maybe if I had actually started dieting before September, maybe I would have come close to my original goal.

My goal for better finances didn't even fare as well as the diet goal. Of course, I never got around to making the "cut backs" in that department the way I did in my eating. And let's face it, the price of things have just gone up. I know we're not doing any better, but I'm not sure if we're any worse.

My third resolution was about my devotional time, and it is absolutely not what I would like it to be. There was no lack in "cutting back" in that area, and although my physical body is a little less heavy (can't call it thin yet) and our finances remain mere, it is my spirit that feels very emaciated as this year comes to a close.

It makes me sad. Having this blog and the ability to look back to where I was a year ago is both a blessing and a curse. But I refuse to become disheartened.

The year has brought good, new friends and loved ones, new ministry, even renewed dreams. And as I look back on the year, it makes me realize, that in 2010, I do not want to wait until September to start moving towards my goals.

We did get through 2009 without any hospital visits, or serious medical issues, that is a definite blessing. Family that was completely broken a year ago is at least in some relationships a little better as this year comes to a close.

I'm not declaring any resolutions for this year, not tonight anyway. I have decided I need to spend the last few hours of 2009 and the first couple days of 2010 getting my mind refocused on what really matters, or should I say, Who really matters.

At midnight tonight I am shutting off my computer access for three days. From midnight tonight through January 2nd I am unplugging. I realize I spend too much time plugged in to the computer, email, Facebook, minesweeper, even blogging, and I am neglecting things and people who better deserve my attention. With the new phones we got this year, I am never more than seconds away from access to these addictions, and I am a little ashamed to admit how often I am only half listening, participating, engaging in life around me because I am distracted by my laptop or my phone. So I am turning off the computer, and refusing to use my phone as any more than a phone for these three days. I have become what I myself have in the past preached against, and I know I am suffering the consequences of it, and I fear I am not alone. So the computer is going off, and the phone is just going to be a phone. If you anyone needs me, I won't be found on the usual stomping grounds, Facebook will not be the fastest way to find me.

I don't know what I hope for the next 3 days. I actually am purposely not going to put any plan or expectation on it, other than to clear a little of the static out of my mind. It isn't going to be easy, especially every time my phone pops up that notification that another email has come through. But there is a desperation inside me that tells me, I have to do this.

I want to focus my mind on the Lord, and let nothing distract me from hearing His voice. I want to enter 2010 gripping tightly to my Father's hand. When I look ahead, there is a lot of anxiety and unrest about what the future holds. I don't know what will happen, with our finances, our jobs, the kids schooling. There are so many worries waiting in the future. I don't know what the future holds, but I do know Who hold the future. That is the only thing I am sure of, and so I desperately need to have my focus there.

I do hope good will come from these three unplugged days, I hope for wisdom, I hope for a promise to hold to, but I lay all my hopes aside for Him, and whatever He wants of these three days, that is my greatest hope of all.

I wish you all a happy new year, and pray, in whatever way you choose, you also renew your focus on the Lord and resolve to grip more tightly to Him also as we enter in to 2010. Whatever we find waiting for us there, we can at least be sure, He holds it, and us, in His very capable hands.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Keep Seeking

The Nativity scene, once a commonly displayed decoration today it seems relegated to primarily to churches and "religious" homes. Sunday morning at church during worship I found myself thinking about the Nativity scene.



We have several that didn't get unpacked with the holiday decorations this year, but I also have three that are snow globes that remain up all year long, including the one pictured above. When the kids were little we even had a Fisher Price Nativity scene that we let them play with. I remember the awkward feeling of having to tell Victoria to get Baby Jesus out of her mouth, but it was nice to have a Nativity scene that they could touch and handle, to draw them away the ones that were breakable. But that's not what I was thinking about Sunday morning.

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matthew 2:7-12

This is the passage of scripture that came to my mind. Do you see what I underlined? "On coming to the house..." I was thinking about the misconception that is so common in all those beautiful Nativity scenes. The wise men never made it to the manger. They weren't there that night with shepherds, they didn't show up until sometime later. I've heard it said that many believe it wasn't until Jesus was about two-years old or so when the magi actually arrived, and for the record, the assumption that there were three is based on the three gifts, there was likely even more, but that's a rabbit trail I don't plan on traveling down today. As for the two years, it comes from this verse further down in the chapter, "When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi." (verse 16) So I share that to clarify, but still not the point.

The point was what the Lord spoke to my heart. The wise men, missed that night that has been sung about in so many CHRISTmas carols like Silent Night, O' Holy Night, and even The Little Drummer Boy. They weren't there. I wondered if somehow they had known what they had missed, if they would have kept on their journey, or if they would have turned back.

I mean if you think about it, at least from the perspective we have now, that night was the night to be there. Angels came and proclaimed His birth, the miracle happened that night. I close my eyes and I can try to imagine how amazing it must have been. I mean I think even to the nights my children were born, it was miraculous, but this was the night that the Messiah had come. I think if I had known I had somehow been late to that momentous an event, I would have given up. But the wise men didn't, they just kept seeking. They kept following the star.

I guess I was imposing my own attitudes and experiences on the wise men as I thought about them "missing the big event." A thousand times I've felt that way, and at least 999 I think I've given up. I think of all the women's retreats and church services I have been to watching other people "arrive on time" for the miraculous event, and I have felt like I'm behind, and have somehow missed God's big move. I think of all the times it's left me feeling discouraged, even despondent.

I still feel a lot like I'm about two years behind most days. I often feel like I'm not doing what I should be, experiencing the "abundant life" God promises me. God has placed dreams and desires in my heart, but I don't see them happening, I don't even see a clear pathway to them, so a lot of days, I struggle. I am ever aware of my failures, and struggles, the "baggage" I carry on my journey, but all too often I let it distract me from the mission I'm on.

But in all honesty, I wasn't feeling that way on Sunday morning, so it surprised me a little that at the moment would choose to address it, but isn't that just like God, to address things on His time and not mine. So He reminded me of the Nativity scene and the passage of scripture from Matthew 2, and then I heard Him say,"keep seeking."

Keep seeking.

Can I just tell you what a blessing that exhortation was? It brought Matthew 7:7 to mind. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Moreover it made me think of the Amplified translation which says it this way, "Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you."

Despite how pretty it looks to have the wise men bowing at the manger in my snow globe and other Nativity scenes (even Fisher Price), I don't think they were ever really supposed to be there, I don't think it was ever God's plan. Despite appearances that the "Holy Night" was the main event, it really wasn't for those who weren't there. That was the night for the shepherds perhaps, but the wise men were called to something different, a different time, a different place.

The light of the star kept shining for them to follow, long after the manger was empty. I wonder if it shone in the day too, or if it was only in the darkest hours that they were able to follow it. I honestly don't know for sure, but I can only imagine, the darker it got, the clearer the star was to see.

We're in dark times. As I look ahead, my inclination is to suspect that they may even get darker. I almost let fear enter in, but then I think of what I heard the Lord say, "Keep seeking." I know this, like the wise men, if I follow the Light, salvation will be found, but it's not about what I will get when I get there, but rather what I have to give. What will my offering of worship be?

Every New Year's Eve scripture promises are handed out at church services. To be honest, most years I have felt like I was behind, and once again missing the big event, but this year, I feel like perhaps the Lord has already given me my word for the days that lie ahead, whether it be for 2010 for for the next decade, I know I need to look to the Light and "Keep seeking... Keep knocking... Keep asking...

I want to encourage you, I don't think this word is just for me. I don't think I'm the only one who's feeling like maybe there's more. Don't give up. Look up, see the Light and follow it... never stop pursuing it. It's worth it. And bring all you have to offer. At the appointed time, the appointed place that He has determined, we will arrive.

Keep seeking... May 2010 be a year of relentless pursuit for us all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Decorated for CHRISTmas

I can't believe Christmas is only 8 days away. What's really amazing to me is how not stressed I am by the fact that we have almost nothing done in preparation for the holiday. We haven't gotten our tree yet, there are no decorations on display in our home. I haven't bought a single gift for any of my children, or my husband, or really anyone for that matter. Technically Santa has done a small amount of shopping, but it's very small. Whereas this time last year the office downstairs was full of organized Amazon.com boxes and lists made to make sure everyone's bounty was equal and fair, this year I don't even have a plan to speak of, other than knowing what I'll be picking up for my oldest. And yet, I don't really feel even an ounce of stress.

We are going out looking for a tree tomorrow night, because although I could willingly go without, it means a lot to my husband and kids, so tomorrow we'll all hop in Neal's truck and set out in hopes of finding a decent tree, no taller than 7 feet, or 8 at the most. I will stay up till all hours tomorrow night to put the lights on, and then I will sit down alone in the late hours of the dark night to reflect on my work, because once the lights are on, I pass on the responsibility of decorating to my husband and kids. When I was little my mother's tree was a work of art. This year she won't have a tree because she's down with a bad knee, but every other year I remember it being a display of beauty for all to see. But when I think back to my childhod I mostly remember it as forbidden. My kids have had their hands on my tree since they were able to stand. My mother made beautiful art, I hope I have made memories.

I remember when the kids were littler and all the decorations would thickly at the bottom and middle where on the assorted areas of "reach" for my kids. My husband never saw any sense in decorating the side of the tree that faced a corner, so they would decorate the side you could see and nothing more. I have over the years worried about it's ability to stand heavy sided, but we haven't lost a tree yet. Sometime this weekend the tradition will continue. I hope my oldest will still make it a priority to participate over his social life, he's a teenager now and so some of those hard choices have come into play.

Tonight the younger kids have their school program. Last year when I found out about it, I wasn't at all excited. I hadn't been to a school program in a lot of years because Jake's schools hadn't really had them to speak of. But last year's event was such a blessing, so totally Christ-centered, and a wonderful CHRISTmas celebration that even though I have a mile long list of things I should do or need to do, I can't think of any other place I'd rather be that at their school tonight.

My December plans for studying through a month of Christmas carols has not panned out the way I would have liked it to, but the two times we did stop and were able to do it have rooted deeply in my spirit. "Let every heart prepare Him room," was the sentiment Joy to the World spoke to me. And I think this panic free peace this holiday season comes from the fact that this year, for me at least, Jesus really has been the whole "reason for the season." As I listen to Christmas carols each day at work, I just keep reflecting with amazement on the mystery that is Christmas. Jesus came here to dwell among us. The truth I grasped from O Holy Night rings richly in my heart... my "soul feels its worth" to my God who loves me, who loved me enough to come.

There was a song performed at church a couple of weeks ago(that I will share below) that keeps resounding in my heart. I am amazed at the CHRISTmas story, all the glory of God being wrapped into a tiny simple package. It's somewhat of a contradiction to the way we celebrate Christmas today. I think of the beautiful fancy packages I used to find under my mother or my grandmother's tree. Perfect bows, shining paper, even the packages themselves were part of the Christmas decor. You never knew what you might find inside, it could be as simple as a pair of socks, or as extravagant as a new electronic gadget, but whatever it was, it was temporary, prone to wearing out or breaking down. It didn't make the gift any less valuable or less enjoyable to me, especially as a kid, but as I look at it now, the irony isn't lost on me. God took the simplest of packaging, seemingly common even one might say, to give the most amazing gift that would not only last a lifetime, but for all eternity. On that beautiful holy night, God came down from heaven. Emmanuel, God with us.

My house isn't decorated yet this holiday season, but my heart truly is. My soul, having truly felt its worth has prepared a place for Him. There may have been no place for Him in the inn, and everywhere you turn as people shift to "holiday celebrations" and "seasons greetings" for winter solstice, my heart has prepared Him room, and I pray I will continue to make that place of priority for Him this CHRISTmas season, as the day draws closer, and the "to do" list continues to loom, I pray I can struggle through the crowds with words of praise on my lips and joy in my heart. When there are packages to be wrapped late into the night I pray my heart will be thankful for the people I am wrapping them for. And when I am decorating the CHRISTmas tree with lights and that strand on the tree burns out, I pray my mind will remain focused on the Light of the World.

Money is tight this year, the economy is bad, business is pretty far off of where we'd like it to be, and yet as I sit here and reflect, I know I am a blessed woman. Whatever may or may not be underneath a Christmas tree for me this year, I know I have been given a priceless gift that will never lose it's value and can never be taken away. I hope this same truth resounds in your home and your hearts this holiday season.

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled
which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child,
and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”
which is translated, “God with us.”

Matthew 1:22-23



God bless us one and all.

Merry CHRISTmas.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

O Holy Night

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!


So we continued our family devotional time again tonight. We were six again with my honorary son present again and after an evening full of playful craziness among us we settled down after dinner and homework were done while chocolate cookies baked in the oven. We sat at the table together and prayed and then each of us spent time in the word. Neal and Jake were the only ones to wander away from the table for that. I think both of them continued in Job and Isaiah respectively. Trevor (HS) read several chapters in Proverbs and in the New Testament. My young ones worked from their devotional books again and I started my word study looking up verses on joy.

At lunchtime today I asked Neal what CHRISTmas carol he thought we should go over tonight. He actually threw me when he said "O Holy Night." It's not a song that I really know well, so possibly in arrogance, I guess I didn't expect it to be on the top of his list either. I guess I would have been less surprised if he'd said something like "Little Drummer Boy," since he's a drummer, but he said O Holy Night, so I pulled up the lyrics and went looking for a version of the song to play for the kids tonight.

When I have sung this song before it's been with a lot of "lala la's" You know what I mean, right? "O Holy Night, the stars I brightly shining, it is the night of the dear Savior's birth... la la la la la... Fall on your knees, o hear the angels voices..."

So I found a wonderful version of the song today at work by Chris Tomlin, but when we were home with the kids I couldn't find it on Napster. We had to settle for Martina McBride, and although her voice is awesome, she only repeats the 1st verse twice, she doesn't sing any other verse of the song. So I ended up singing the 2nd verse to the kids myself. It wasn't nearly as pleasant to the ears, but the words were just as beautiful.

As I read the lyrics today, where normally I would be singing my "lala la's" I was so moved by the words. Long lay the world in sin and error pining. Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. These words really touched my heart, thinking about the longing the world had for its Savior. All those years since the fall of man, the world waited to be redeemed. Man, not even knowing, was pining away for the love of God. It was not until that moment, when Christ finally came that the soul, the soul of all mankind realized it's worth, it's preciousness to the Father. It takes me back to the days before my own salvation when I did not know the true love of the Father, so many people still, not knowing of God's love for them, and it makes my heart ache.

To explain the next line to the kids, A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. I talked about the feeling of being lost in the dark. I asked my children to imagine how they would feel if they were lost in a completely dark maze and could not find the door to exit. My wonderful daughter assured me she would be brave knowing God was with her, but I asked her to think about how she would feel practically. Ethan had all the right words, scared, worried, lonely and lost. Tired too, I imagine, wandering in the dark not knowing where to find their freedom. Then I asked them, if suddenly someone flipped on a flashlight, then what? We talked about how if they would just go to the source of that light, then it would lead them to the freedom they were looking for. If only we will draw to the Light, then we can find freedom, direction and hope.

That's what it was like, I am sure for the people of God. They knew the scriptures, had heard the promises and were waiting for the Messiah to come. Pining away. Those shepherds that night on the hill, I'm sure their eyes were drawn to star in the sky, perhaps even in wonder, but what must their reaction have been when suddenly the angel appeared.

I asked Victoria to recite her line that she has in tomorrow's CHRISTmas musical at church, "That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were afraid." (Luke 2:8-9)

Common, hardworking men, doing their jobs, tending their responsibilities and suddenly, the message came, their salvation was at hand. What an amazing moment that must have been. How amazing that they are the ones the Father first declared the Son's coming to. Surely their souls felt their worth. The Messiah had come for them.

Oh how that message needs to be shared today. The Messiah has come, for so many who are just working hard, tending their responsibilities. I so desperately want my children to grasp this understanding. I so want them to look beyond the presents and the tree, past Santa and the crazy push of materialism everywhere we look. The message of CHRISTmas, the true message is a humble truth of God's love for us, and His deep desire that we know Him, know His love, and the sacrifice He was willing to make in sending His Son so we could come to know Him.

The second verse of the song is the truth of CHRISTmas.

Truly He taught us To love one another;
His law is love And His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break For the slave is our brother;
And in His name All oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy In grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us Praise His holy name.


The kids and I talked about the truths here too... His law is love... Every day people question God's love, they talk about war and sickness and then point fingers and blame God, but the truth is, God's heart aches at these things, and aches for those who suffer through them without knowing His love for them. We talked about the "Greatest Commandment"

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Matthew 22:37-39. All the other do's and don'ts that so many people define the bible and religion by are all wrapped up and accomplished in loving God and loving one another.

And His gospel is peace. We talked about how peace is found in the gospel, the good news, the words of truth the angels proclaimed that night, the Messiah came because "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Jesus came at the Father's bidding to give us eternal life. And that in this "good news" peace is also made between us and the Father.

I am so glad that Neal chose this song this morning, I think it continues to decorate our heart beautifully for the CHRISTmas season, because although no angels may come to proclaim this great tiding in these dark days, each of us who knows Him and loves Him can. We have the power and opportunity to speak the words of truth so that the souls around us might "feel their worth." And when they have, may they fall on their knees in worship for the one who loves them beyond their comprehension.

The good news of the gospel is the greatest gift I hope to give to all who might listen this CHRISTmas season, not only in words, but in love.

Joy to the World

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.



CHRISTmas time is here. Tuesday was the first of the month, and we did follow through with my plan to focus on the reason for the season. It was severely challenged and almost fell through, but in the end we pulled it off and it was worth it. We had company for dinner in my honorary son (sort of company, because he really is part of our family now) and afterwards everyone wandered off for 20 minutes or so to read the Word. It was a challenge for everyone in that I didn't really give them any direction, there was no assigned devotion to do, just spend time in the word.

My younger two both had devotional books, they read scripture that correlated with their devotions from those books. Ethan had a calendar oriented one, so he just went straight for the date. I helped Victoria pick a page from hers and they went off on their own to proceed. They both needed a little help, but that's part of the idea behind this whole process, to teach them about having their own devotional times. The older boys went two different directions, one digging into the gospels (off his iPod, ain't modern technology grand?) and the other heading into the Old Testament and the book of Isaiah. Neal continued to read what he's been reading in his daily time of work from the book of Job. Not very Chistmas-y but it's where he's been reading.

As for me, I read a little from each of the chapters I knew the younger two were looking into and I also read the Psalm that was connected to the Christmas carol I knew we'd be talking about when we gathered back together. It led me off onto a short word study on the word "joy." It's where I think I'd like to spend my devotional times for the month of December.

I was actually really pleased by the kids' responses, even Neal was on board. When they came back up to the table they each wanted to share about what they had read. It was almost hard to get the conversation going about the CHRISTmas carol I had chosen for the day.

Eventually I did. I played a pretty "rockin'" version of Joy to the World by Casting Crowns. I had been meditating on the words of the song most of the day, and the phrase that had been running through my mind over and over again was "let every heart prepare Him room..." That was the desire I had to impart to my kids, that I wanted us to make room for Jesus in this holiday season.

It was a hearty discussion, my younger two competing to answer my questions (we're going to have to work on that) the older boys having input and excitement too. I loved having us all sit there together sharing about the Lord. It made me feel like I was doing God's will.

I learned a few interesting things that day as I looked into the carol, for example I found a "lost" verse that I've never heard sung before. It's the 3rd of 4 verses in the song and it says:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.


As a family we talked about the curse of our sin nature, and how the Lord came in part to break that. We talked about the "making room" and how when baby Jesus was born there was "no room" at the inn, and how in the world today, it seems more and more, that there is "no room" for Christ in CHRISTmas. I really wanted to impart to my kids the importance of remembering what the holiday is really all about. For our first day I have to say, I think it was pretty successful.

Yesterday we were not able to continue in the plan. It made me a little sad to drop the ball already on the 2nd day of the month, but it is why I said I wasn't going to be legalistic about it. Last night was Victoria's dress rehearsal for the CHRISTmas musical at the church, my honorary son was around but he had to be at church by 5 for worship practice, Neal got off late and got stuck in traffic so he wasn't home till after 5, and had to be to church by 6 for his worship practice. It just didn't come together, and yet truly, it was because most of the family was centering about the things of God, so it's certainly not the end of the world, or the end of the "Joy to the World."

We did decide at the table that for His birthday we're going to try to give Jesus a whole month of the Philippians 2:14 challenge. We're going through a rough phase of sibling rivalry with my younger two, and some tattle-taling and whining tightly intertwined, so having the ability to remind my kids of the gift we're giving Jesus is a good thing.

I really want to dig deeper in to the Word about joy, because to be honest, I have been struggling with it since yesterday. As determined as I was Monday to focus on it and choose to be joyful, yesterday the resolve felt sapped out of me. But I am trying to "prepare Him room in my heart because He is so very worthy. And I know that the word says, in His presence is fullness of joy.

I have not really prepared for the holidays, I have officially bought three small gifts and that's it. The outside of our home is decorated but nary a decoration is displayed inside. I guess my focus is to first decorate my heart, and the hearts of my family with the true holiday spirit, the spirit of CHRISTmas, focusing on the many gifts we've already been given but perhaps have neglected recently to enjoy.

Joy to the World
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the Earth! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.


Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 98


... let every heart prepare Him room...

Monday, November 30, 2009

'Tis the Season...

...for Christmas themed blogging. Last year it was the 25 days of CHRISTmas, with the goal of establishing CHRIST firmly in the DePriest Christmas holiday. The goal for 2009 of course remains the same, I want to make sure the "reason for the season" is clear here in our home, but the plan for the process this year that's on my heart is different.

I have to be honest, I haven't been very excited about the holidays. Money is tight and as most people are, we are struggling and juggling. My husband and son thought they had busted me on a false "bah-humbug" attitude yesterday because they hear me singing "Jingle Bells" in the shower, but honestly I think I picked it up somewhere like a virus. It was not an overflow of Christmas cheer.

Then I headed off to church yesterday. As I was driving down the street alone I was rooting around behind myself trying to find my bible and keep my eye on the road at the same time. As I grabbed hold of it and plopped it into the front seat, I noticed my relatively new bible is starting to show signs of wear. Immediately I realized the wear is truthfully from lack of use and too much time sliding around in the back of my van. It's a stark contrast to another bible I own, that is severely tattered and worn. The big difference is that its battle scars came from use, extreme use. It literally is coming right out of it's binding. As I the thought came to me, I knew it was the Holy Spirit pricking my heart.

It was also a preparing of my heart for the message I was to hear at church yesterday morning. My pastor was exhorting us to be in the word. It was actually a great sermon that both challenged and encouraged me, but it's not the point behind this post, so if you want to hear it for yourself, just click here and listen for yourself to the 11/30 message called True Revival. Go, have a listen, I'm sure you will be blessed.

Bottom line for this blog's purpose though, was I walked away inspired, not only to be better about getting in the word, but also about getting my kids deeper into the word too.

So, tomorrow we will have daily devotional times. Different than before, we used to all sit together and read out of a family devotional and pray together. But all my kids are readers now, and so what's going to happen is every day for 30 minutes, all the TVs and computers and iPods, etc., will be shutting down, and we'll divide and each have our own personal devotional time. Then we will gather back together for a Christmas themed family devotional.

As I was driving to work this morning I got an inspiration. I'm not really sure how it's going to all come together, and it may even turn out to be a bigger bite than I can chew, but I'm going to give it a shot.

So here's my goal: every day I want to pick a different Christ-centered Christmas carol (seems like that should be redundant, but it isn't) and explore the deeper meaning, talk about the Truth that lines up with it. And if time and inspiration permit, I think also I will post here about it too. I'm not making the same "25 days" commitment I made last year, because let's face it, it could be a big bomb, but if I hit something insightful or a tad bit inspirational, I will be sure to blog about it here. I hope there are 25 carols worth digging into.

Tomorrow I'm kicking it off with one of my faves, Joy to the World, come by and check to see if it makes the blog!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Cost of Fellowship

A dear woman, who I admire greatly, has often been heard to make the statement, "sometimes people break your china." What she was referring to (in my understanding) is that sometimes, when you are in relationship with people, they're going to hurt or offend you. It's a fact of life.

It's similar to my thought process on interpreting Proverbs 14:4 which says, "Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox." I always thought that was a beautiful way to describe church. Church would be a perfect place if there were no people in it, but if there were no people in it, nothing would be accomplished for the kingdom of God.

I guess what I'm saying is, relationships are messy. People offend you, or rub you the wrong way. They can hurt you, unintentionally, or even with purpose. Being in relationship with people gives them power in your life, makes you vulnerable and can be extremely challenging at times. And yet, God has indeed called us to be relational, intimately so.

Being in relationship is work, it's not easy or natural, it takes effort. I don't think that is better exemplified anymore clearly than in marriage. Now as wives go, I don't know there could be any more crazy about her husband than I am. I love that man beyond words, but I can honestly say one of the happiest days for me in our marriage was when we sat counseling a struggling couple and I heard him say the words, "marriage is hard." You see for a long time... a long, long time, my husband held the same misconception that so many others I know do. He thought marriage should be easy, simple, natural even. I'm not sure why he thought that but he did. So I was hard pressed not to stand up and do a happy dance that day, some eighteen years into our marriage, when he finally confessed the challenges.

Although it is well illustrated in marriage, I think the reasoning of the complications of relationship are the same in other relationships too, like family, friendship, authority - all a challenge.

I'll grant you that some friendships are easy, fun, and with few or no complications, but I would challenge you to examine the depth of them. When they are that simple, it is in my opinion because of one of two reasons. Either, it's not all that deep, it's very surface, built on a common interest, like say a golf buddy, or because the relationship has gone deep enough, and had enough effort put into it that it's got a really strong foundation and is built with clear guidelines.

Guidelines? Yes, that's what I said. I have a few friendships in my life built in this manner, but I have one in particular that is really well structured. My friend and I even call the guidelines our "rules." Both of us being women, she being very open emotionally and me being one who over thinks everything we decided that if anything even ever seemed off between us, we had to check it out. We had to be open and ask one another and clear the air as soon as either of us felt things were off. She's been my friend for over 10 years, and although we have had bumps in the road, I can honestly say it is one of the strongest relationships in my life.

Has she ever broken my china? Probably. Have I ever broken hers? Undoubtedly, and yet our friendship remains. But through the years, and through the process we've managed to build something to last, and something that I believe benefits us both. When I'm out of line, no one calls me on the carpet faster than my friend. Not because she has some power in our relationship to harm me, but because she loves me, she cares about me, and she sincerely wants what's best for me. She doesn't let me wander off God's path for me without throwing a rope to pull me back.

I think God's heart is for His body to be filled with relationships like that one. People who are willing to be real and transparent with one another, intimate. People who are just as willing to share their struggles as their victories and just as open to accept criticism as accolades. It isn't easy, even for me and my friend, but the benefits are worth it, most of all the fellowship that comes from walking arm and arm, looking out for one another and encouraging each other along the way.

There are many costs to fellowship like this one though. You have to be willing to forgive, to overlook offenses, when they "break your china" whether it's a chip, or it's been completely smashed - because both will happen, probably more than once. My son and his friend have this running joke. One will slap the other, and in response he will "turn the other cheek," bringing along with it a vengeful hand that slaps back bigger and harder than the friend who slapped first. In teenage high jinks it's all fun and laughter, but underneath it lies an attitude in life, in "the world" that to many hold truth, and it destroys relationships in the process.

Another cost to fellowship is accountability. It's tough to be accountable. It gives permission to those around you to do that "calling on the carpet" I was talking about. It means not letting your friend off the hook when they should have been holding to a higher standard. It's often when accountability pops into the picture that I see people run from relationships. I know I have experienced that myself. I have seen people around me who have appreciated hearing truth until they are questioned about why they aren't living truth. Funny thing is, being accountable probably births as much benefit in spiritual growth as anything. Teachable people are growing people. Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. Proverbs 12:1 - Ouch! Did God just call someone stupid? He did, strong words... I guess we should take in that point. So many people run from accountability and I think when they do they set up a huge stumbling block in their own path towards spiritual maturity.

The benefit of the doubt, there's another challenge to fellowship. We have to choose to assume the best about one another. If someone does, in fact, "chip your china" you have to choose to assume they didn't mean to. For some people that's in their nature, for me others that's not totally the case.

Actually, I know I'm not the only one who struggles with that. Have you ever accidentally cut someone off on the freeway? I did yesterday and it was followed by an emphatic and heartfelt series of single finger salutes in my rear view mirror. I felt bad, but wasn't too much worse for the wear, but it's a different story when you're in relationship with a person. Neal and I often drive home from church in caravan when we've had to start our day at different times. If I accidentally cut him off to find him making the same gestures in my rear view mirror I would be wounded that he would think I had cut him off intentionally. But if I did cut him off, he would have to give up his "right" to display his displeasure for the sake of assuming I meant him no ill will. It's part of being in relationship.

Messy, a hassle, an inconvenience, sometimes even wounds, some earned, some undeserved, but wounds just the same. All are costs to fellowship.

But God has indeed called His children into fellowship. And truth be told, the benefits far outweigh the challenges and inconveniences. True fellowship, with one another and in the body as a whole, brings light, and life and hope. Having people in your life who truly know you and accept you, despite your "china breaking" ways brings strength, it causes there to be a security that knowing even when you fail, you have people in your life who will still love you and stand with you. Accountability isn't fun, but brings forth the truth of "iron sharpening iron." Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other. (NCV) There is growth and strength in relationships like that.

Being someone who gives the benefit of the doubt makes us a people of grace. It makes us clearer reflectors of God's goodness, and being on the receiving end of the benefit of the doubt gives us hope, and courage to press on and step through doors that might otherwise intimidate us, doors that lead to true and intimate friendships, where people can be counted on, and where we ourselves long to become better friends, better spouses, better parents, better Christians.

God meant for us to be in relationship, close and committed to one another. The old charcoal analogy speaks well, a single briquette alone can neither burn well or even keep warm for long, but when many are brought together the power of the flame and the evidence of the heat are strong and effective. Likewise fellowship not only benefits the individual but the body of Christ as a whole, whether observed in the church or the kingdom, the benefits of fellowship are vast.

So what holds you back? Do you prefer to be a golf buddy to a true friend? Even a "church buddy" alone lacks the benefit if you aren't willing to make a deeper investment. But if we each take that step of faith from independence to interdependence, we might just find the body to be effective within the kingdom and toward the world in a greater way. So, let's be real, be available, be open, the inconvenience could pay off for a lifetime.

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it;
if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27 (NIV)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Direct

If I had to describe myself in ten words or less, it would surely make the list. In reality, it would probably even land in the top three. It might even be number one. It's who I am, I am extremely straight forward and will almost always tell you not only what I think, but also why I think it. Sometimes I do it, even when I'd rather not, it's just how I'm geared up.

I can say the Lord has done a lot to help me work on my delivery but the sentiment behind it has remained somewhat unchanged. It's sort of like mixing a little sugar in the elixir, it doesn't really make it taste any better, but it makes it a little easier to swallow.

I don't mean to be harsh, but sometimes I am. The different responses I get from people for being so direct are often fascinating. As one might imagine, it sends a lot of people running. What interests me is the people who almost seem to crave it. They're drawn to it. Maybe because there don't seem to be a lot of "straight shooters" in these days of political correctness and the "all about me" driven generation. I'm always fascinated by the people who express admiration for my directness until it's turned towards them in a way they don't want to hear. It makes me wonder why they thought I wouldn't shoot straight towards them too.

One thing for certain, people know where I stand, and if they're willing to come close enough, they know where we stand with each other. I don't do it in an unloving way, necessarily, I just don't have the time or energy to play games. If there is something between us, let's talk about it, let's hash it out. Let's figure it out so we can either get through it or get past it, even if we have to agree to disagree.

Although it has at times gotten me into some uncomfortable situations, I would rather be this way than not. I would rather not be one of those people who is unwilling to own their words. I don't want to be someone who would say something behind your back that I would never say to your face. It's not fair to you, and it's not the person I want to be.

Maybe it's why I am really struggling with recent revelation about someone I know who has been badmouthing me and my family for 20 years, and never once has had the nerve to say it to my face. I think the thing that really ticks me off is that I knew what was thought and what was being said. It might have been even worse than what I thought, but it wasn't surprising, but having the confirmation has really made me angry. Angry, and battling against being true to my very direct self, for the sake of someone else... an innocent of sorts, maybe even a couple of unrelated bystanders, but it is a challenge.

I have a bird's eye view of a few other situations around me where directness is lacking. Someone shared with me about one situation and how they had advised a friend to just avoid the conflict and the person related. My thought was, how do you know the truth if you don't address the situation? How do you know there isn't misinformation or a misunderstanding if you don't address the situation head on. She told me she thought that was a more "mature" approach. I don't know if that's necessarily true, but I do know, I can't stand to be left wallowing in wonder and assumptions.

I guess this is just really a venting/ rambling post. I don't have some great insight or biblical principal that I am trying to apply here, though when I think of Jesus in the temple flipping tables - He was pretty direct. And when He sat with the woman at the well, He didn't avoid the issue at hand so as not to hurt her feelings, He spoke honestly to her about the sin in her life. So I guess I could make the argument that Jesus would be pro-directness. He certainly valued truth. I probably could use a lot of work towards His delivery, and surely the sincerity of His heart behind it, but the clarity behind it remains.

I know in all likelihood when this person and I cross paths the truth will come out, and I will directly confront the things that have been said, but for the sake of others I won't seek the opportunity out. It's difficult, but I won't.

Can I just say, in all honesty, that I would prefer more people be direct. I would rather know what you're thinking, and where we stand with one another than tried to read signs or go on intuition, although my intuition often proves to be good, as clearly reflected by the situation I currently face.

Funny, I am usually so transparent here (I know, almost to a fault) and now I find myself being vague as I talk about being direct, but let me assure you it is for the purpose of keeping someone else safe, not me. I would rather be rejected for who I am than be admired for who I'm not.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Anxiety

Today I have been overwhelmed with emotion, I don't care for the feeling. I woke up first thing this morning and before I was even fully aware of my surroundings, I was all too aware of the urgent sense of fear that was gripping my heart. It was an anxiety attack, or panic attack, whichever phrase you prefer. I have battled them for about five years.

In 2004 after we finally finalized Ethan's adoption after over 3 years of an emotional roller coaster, things had finally settled down in our lives and suddenly I started having these horrible bouts of anxiety and fear. I remember one day in particular that I was at our women's Bible study and I was sitting in a corner at a table and it felt like everything I could do not to crawl right out of my skin. I felt so completely cornered and vulnerable. I could barely breathe, and I was battling to keep the expression of my overwhelming emotions inside, because I was also embarrassed. I have always had this odd quirk about having to sit where I could see more of the room than not, or have the exit in clear view (random view into my faulted psyche) but this was different, all my rules were being followed, and yet I thought I was going to lose it right there in the middle, or rather corner, of our church cafe.


I did a lot of research and found out that panic attacks can be common after prolonged periods of stress. Ethan's 3 year adoption certainly qualified as such. Apparently what happens is when you live on a heightened sense of adrenaline for a long period, your adrenal gland will afterwards just misfire. You'll be sitting quietly and all of a sudden the trigger is pulled and you are overwhelmed with the "fight or flight" response. The problem back then was I just didn't know what it was, so first came the anxiety attack and then came the actual anxiety. It's highly stressful.

So here we are five year later, and my nemesis still raises his ugly head from time to time. It's sort of a relief when there is an actual stress going on so you know what the trigger is. A few months back when we were trying to refinance I was anxious about the money we paid in hope of of qualifying. I was having a lot of attacks those days, but today, I honestly can't put my finger on a trigger, but it doesn't matter, because someone else shot off the gun.

I don't know why they seem to come in the morning. It's very strange to wake up in your own bed from a good night's sleep and to suddenly feel what seems like a stranglehold on your heart. Like waves on the shore, it ebbed and flowed in and out throughout the day. At times I felt like the waves were beating me down, my heart in my throat feeling the fear but not knowing its source.

Unfortunately, no matter how well I may describe the feelings to you, if you have never experienced a panic attack, you cannot fully comprehend what I am describing. People who don't know treat you like you are weak, or there is something wrong with you. The "suck it up" attitude just doesn't work here. I know, I've tried. It's not fully emotional, and it's not the emotions alone that plague you. It's the physiological response that stands like the dragon needing to be slain.

Anxiety. I know the Bible says "be anxious for nothing," and when I know what my worries are, I do my best to give them to the Lord, but when it has no source, the battle against them is more difficult. Today I turned up the worship in my office, trying to fill my mind with truth. I tried to focus. The Bible says, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You." So I do my best to stay my focus. When I am unsure, God is sure. When I am overwhelmed, God remains in control. When I am lost, God stands.

Jesus is the one thing... the one need, the one constant, the one hope, the one truth, the one life... He is the answer to the anxiety... And I pray I see the fullness of it soon, in Jesus' name.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The I-Heart Vision

I saw the most incredible movie last night. The name of the movie was "We're All in This Together." I've also heard it called the Hillsong movie, or the i-Heart movie because it was by the Hillsong United worship band and i-Heart is the title of the mission behind the movie.

Good news, bad news. The good news is that it was quite possibly the most amazing documentary I've ever seen in my life; bad news is to my understanding the single showing last night was the single showing of it... period. I'm hoping that won't remain to be the case, because I know I wasn't the only person powerfully affected by the film, so hopefully it will be back to be seen again. If you hear about it playing anywhere, my advice is "go see it!"

Truthfully I am struggling for the words to express the movie and how it made me feel. I think a lot of people went thinking it would be a concert movie, and although they did have an intro time where they shared some terrific new worship songs, that's SO not what the movie was about.

What the movie was about was touching the world for Christ, it was about meeting needs, reaching out, LOVING people. It showed a lot of the need, from across your street, across town to across the world. Everywhere we go there are hurting people in need. It talked about how we are not perfect people, but we as Christians are people with hope, and we have the means to make a difference.

There were a ton of terrific quotes shared throughout the movie, really thought provoking truths. My favorite one of the night (paraphrased) was "We have one life to spend, it should be spent on something that will outlast it." The movie was filled with thought provoking concepts like that one.

It was also filled with stories about people who saw needs, and stepped out and made a difference - like slavery being abolished in England because of the life efforts of one man, and the Salvation Army being started by one woman, people who refused to ignore the needs they saw, and the world becoming a different place because of it.

I'm doing a lousy job here expressing what I saw, and what I experienced, words are falling short. But if you'd like to know more about the I-Heart movement behind the movie, you can click here to go to the website.

I also walked away with a mix of emotions, envy and pride. Envy for the young people serving Christ who have all their life defining decisions still ahead of them. Am I saying I cannot have an impact on the world? Of course not, but neither do I have the freedom to serve and do to the capacity that they do, life has its obligations. The pride came in watching the responses of some of the Envision boys who were there too. Say what you will about the generation of today's youth, the young people I know are incredible, outwardly focused, servant-hearted, followers of Christ. I'm honored to know and have a bird's eye view into the lives of my son and his friends. I look at them and I see world changers, and I look forward to watching the impact they're going to have on the world around them. They will make an impact for Christ and make the world a better place. Maybe, hopefully, part of my investment in something that will outlast my life, is encouraging them to do all they can for the Lord. I believe in them, I hope they know that. I look forward to watching the impact they're going to have on the world around them.

Like I said, the whole experience has left me at a loss for words to describe the fullness of the impact I felt, but I know I walked away wanting to love more, wanting to touch the hurting world around me in a deeper way. It made me walk away wanting to live the gospel. Like Saint Francis of Assisi exhorted, "“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Yeah, that's what I'd like my life to be about. If you hear about this moving being out and available for viewing again, go see it. But even if you can't see the movie, I hope you'll live its vision.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
1 John 3:16

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Times Goes By

I'm actually a little ashamed to admit it took a few days to realize the one year anniversary of my beloved grandfather's passing was Monday. I could claim flu fog still dissipating, but the truth is it seems hard to believe a year has passed... and of course in other ways... If you lost someone, I know you understand.

So anyway, I'm thinking about Pop today. I thought I would share the memorial video I made in his honor last year.



Hug your loved ones today, tomorrows are never guaranteed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Circling the Desert

Blogging has been a challenge lately, there's just been a lot going on, and even though it hasn't felt like I've gotten much of anything accomplished, it doesn't change the fact that it's been kind of busy around here. To top that off, I haven't felt all that inspired or even all that spiritual amidst the wealth of activity and preoccupation.

Currently I'm getting over the flu and tending to my younger two children, one who's a day ahead of me on said flu, and the other who is three days behind. I'm praying my oldest and my hubby somehow avoid the whole event. But as I was laying in bed this morning waiting for them to wake up and wondering why my oldest didn't make his daily call/text to let me know he made it to school safely, my somewhat distracted mind wandered to this blog, with a little guilt and a little regret over the way it's been neglected lately.

Short on inspiration for spiritual encouragement I was wondering what I should write about. I like this to be a place to lift and encourage hearts in Christ, and so that's always my hope, for a "good word." But I feel like I've kind of been circling a desert lately in the spiritual sense. I don't feel like I'm actually IN the desert, but I am definitely close enough to feel affected by the dry climate and the heat. It's hard because as I wander near it, I remember what it was like to actually be IN the desert. My journey there before wasn't self-inflicted. It was a long and difficult time as I wandered there. I remember one of my dearest friends kept looking at me in desperation. She could see I was struggling, wandering, and she wanted so much to help. She shared scripture after scripture, she prayed, tried to encourage, but sometimes the desert just remains. She found that our for herself later. Sometimes... the desert just remains.

The dry air and heat that are spiritually kissing at my heels these days isn't a desert I've been carried to this time. This time I think my wandering has been self-inflicted. Not completely self-inflicted, but there is definitely enough personal responsibility to give it serious consideration. It's not as though I have fallen into some deep sin, at least not in the classic sense, but I've just let life get a little askew. As I type this though, a scripture comes to mind.

My child, pay attention to my words;
listen closely to what I say.
Don't ever forget my words;
keep them always in mind.
They are the key to life for those who find them;
they bring health to the whole body.
Be careful what you think,
because your thoughts run your life.
Don't use your mouth to tell lies;
don't ever say things that are not true.
Keep your eyes focused on what is right,
and look straight ahead to what is good.
Be careful what you do,
and always do what is right.
Don't turn off the road of goodness;
keep away from evil paths.

Proverbs 4: 20-27


Sigh, do the same words that stand out to me, stand out to you? Let me list them as they come... pay, listen... don't... keep, be, look.... each one is a word of (gulp) personal responsibility. They directives, things I ought to be doing, because (the scripture says) they are the key to life. Ok, specifically that reference is to the Word, but I'm not going to try to bargain my way out of this one, clearly they are all tightly wound and intertwined, important enough that the Lord has given this directive, and something I'm pretty sure I haven't given the attention and effort it's due.

Bottom line, my priorities have gotten off. I haven't let "first things" be first. I was talking with a precious loved one earlier and she was talking about this great new venture the Lord seems to be blessing, and she's a little concerned about being overwhelmed by it. I told her it's "all about prioritizing." With confidence I assured her, it's clear. God first, then family (which breaks down into hubby, then kids, then loved ones then self) then home, then everything else (like her venture) and God will work it out if it's meant to be. She was a little surprised by my family break down, for a moment, she said "Not kids before hubby?" and let me take an short rabbit trail here by sharing with you my emphatic "NO!" Hubby has to come first, your marriage is the core of your family, and I think most women miss that, tending to their kids over their marriage. Someday your kids will be grown and gone, but you made a vow to God and your husband to love, honor and cherish him for the rest of your life. So yeah, don't be one of those couples who after 20-some years of marriage get a divorce when all the kids leave because somewhere along the line you lost sight of the covenant you made. (End rabbit trail.) I have also elaborated here, from what I said to her, to add "loved ones" to the family mix. People God places in our lives, and people ALWAYS come before the "stuff of our lives. People are what really matter. It may mean laying aside a to do list because a person in need crosses your path and you have to put aside your agenda to minister to their hurt or need, you have to be able to go "with the flow."

Gosh, don't I sound like I really have a handle on this? And the sad thing is, I totally "get it," but getting it and doing it are two entirely different things. I KNOW what my priorities should be, but in practicalities, it's not what they clearly are.

So I know I've been a little vague to exactly where things have gone askew, where the neglect is actually occurring, that's because I don't want to tell you.... Kidding! Does that sound like me at all?

It's my First Love that I have neglected. What a scary place that is to be. It brings to my mind Revelation 2:4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Now by no means have I left my First Love... but neglecting it certainly seems like a step toward that.

I have not been in the Word, my personal worship is non-existent and my prayer life is nearly so. I quite simply just haven't taken the time. The other things, on the surface, don't seem so askew, but if the foundation (the top priority) is off, then everything is off. I may be doing my best in the other areas, but I am not doing the best because what I am doing I'm doing in my own (depleted) power and strength. I'm setting myself up to actually get sucked in to the center of the desert I'm circling.

Thankfully after the warning in Revelation 2:4 comes the answer to the problem in verse 5. It says, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works..." Now I'm no bible scholar, and I may be completely missing the deeper meaning to this passage, but what it speaks to me is about getting back to caring for my relationship with my First Love. I need to put Him back in His place, in the center, and on the throne of my life.

I think of the early days of my walk with Him and the way I would consume the Word (the area I think is most desperately dry) and through the seasons of growth and depth, being in the Word was constant. Truly that is a catalyst for change in my personal worship and prayer life as well.

This post has gone off in a completely different direction from where my mind was when I started. That usually means the Lord is in the mix. I hope somehow this has encouraged someone, marveling at the fact that even when I am "off" the Lord can still use me. It humbles me, and it makes me hungry, for the Bread of Life.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Support Ethan - Living Out Loud

La la la live out loud... .have you ever heard the Steven Curtis Chapman song? It's about putting words of faith into action, and it's a school project for my 3rd grader Ethan. The assignment is pretty wide open, spend the month of October working and sacrificing to serve others.

Ethan's project? He has decided to raise money to sponsor a child in the Angel Tree ministry at our church. The Angel Tree Ministry is a ministry to support the children of single moms at Christmas time. Kids names are put on on Angel ornaments and put on a tree, taken off to be sponsired to help make their Christmas a little brighter.



E's planning on a bake sale, a lemonade stand and serving at our single mom's auto day. He's also designing some handmade holiday cards for Christmas and Thanksgiving. He's going to draw the pictures and we will print them onto cards to be purchased with all the proceeds going toward the Angel Tree gifts. We hope you'll help but purchasing the cards, I will display them here and you can place your order with us. It's donation based, but we'll ask for a $2 minimum donation, but it's for a good cause so if you're inclined to bid more, you know it will be worth it.

Be watching, E's working on his designs already, I'll be posting them here. And if you see him selling lemonade or brownies, be sure to make a purchase! And please... PASS IT ON!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just One More

Although it isn't actually reflected on the blog at all, I got a decent response and positive feedback on my Facebook page with curiosity about continuing the story. I actually need to go back and read all eight chapters that I've written to stir the creative juices, I'm just not there yet. On the other hand a friend of mine sent me a link today about a writing challenge for the month of November. You write a novel in the month of November, from the 1st to 30th at midnight. But it has to be a whole new project. The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. Not sure if I'm up for the challenge, but the concept is intriguing.

But I digress, for now I am offering one more chapter of the "Story in Progress," as it's already been written. This chapter introduces more of the main characters, the "other side of the story," if you will. I'm still interested in feedback, be specific if you're so inclined. Tell me what you like, tell me what you don't like, but again be gentle, it's still my baby.


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Chapter 2

“Mama…” Chelsea was vaguely aware of Joshua’s little hand was reaching up and tapping her back. “Mama, breffast peeze.”

Groggily, Chelsea rolled over to greet her son. “Good morning doodle bug.”

She looked up that clock, it said 6:14. She reached down and pulling him up into bed, said, “You’re up early,” she said, pulling him under the covers. “The sun’s not even awake yet, buddy.”

“I hungry mama,” he said wiggling out from underneath the blankets. Clearly, he wasn’t going to be put off.

“Don’t you want to cuddle with Mommy?” she said hoping to entice him into a few more moments of rest before having to face the day. Joshua hopped back off the bed and ran out the bedroom door. Chelsea just laid there a little longer. The laundry basket was still on Jared’s side of the bed. It’s bad enough he’s hardly here and now he isn’t even coming to bed at night.

“Come on Mama! Breffast!” Joshua announced as his head suddenly popped back through the doorway.

Chelsea stood up and grabbed her robe. “OK buddy, come on, let’s get breakfast.”

As she walked down the hallway she noticed the blanket bunched up on the couch. Obviously Jared had woken up at some point during the night. He didn’t even try to come to bed. The least he could have done was fold the blanket back up. He’s so inconsiderate.

Making her way into the kitchen she reached for a box of dry cereal and a bowl. “Pancakes, Mama!” Joshua said.

“Pancakes? Aww, not this morning buddy. How about some Cheerios?”

“No, pancakes! Peeeze.” Joshua begged.

“Did I hear somebody say pancakes?” Erica said as she came into the room. “Yum!”

Chelsea shook her head, “No, nobody said anything about pancakes. Cheerios are on the menu for this morning. What are you doing up so early? It’s only 6:30, you don’t have to be up for school for another half hour.”

“Joshua came in and woke me up. He said ‘Mama pancakes and breffast,” she said imitating her little brothers toddler drawl. “Pancakes sounded better than sleeping in.”

“Well, I’m sorry he misled you. It’s Cheerios, I can add a banana if you’d like, but that’s about as fancy as it’s going to get today.”

“Aww Mom,” Erica whined, “you never make us pancakes anymore.”

“Honey, you know it’s a school day, pancakes are too complicated on a school day. Those are for Saturdays or Sundays before church for a big family breakfast, they’re a treat.”

Erica could tell there wasn’t any point in arguing about it. “OK, I’ll take the banana on my Cheerios, but Mom it’s been like a bazillion years since we had a family breakfast. You don’t even get up on Sundays and go to church with us anymore.”

Chelsea turned and picked Joshua up and put him in his high chair. “Mommy’s tired on Sunday mornings honey, it’s my only day to sleep in.” She set bowls down in front of each of the kids, poured the cereal and started slicing up a banana.

“We never do anything together as a family any more Mom,” Erica said as Chelsea dropped the banana slices in her cereal and poured the milk on top of it. “I wish you would go to church with us, my teacher has been asking where you’ve been.”

Chelsea thought it about it. It had been about six weeks since she had been to church. She had picked up a part time job working at Dillie’s, a local coffee shop, a few shifts a week and usually worked Saturday evenings. After the her shifts she usually found herself hanging out and socializing till late night hours in the Promenade. Nothing worth rushing home for anyway. She decided to make Sunday mornings her time for herself. Let Jared deal with the hassles of getting everyone up, dressed, fed and out the door. She’d stay in bed till she heard them leave and then get up and enjoy her coffee and a little time on the computer chatting or catching up on email. There’s nothing wrong with taking a little time for myself she thought.

“Will you come Mama?” she heard Erica ask taking Chelsea back out of her own thoughts.

“What honey?”

“I said my Sunday School class is going to sing in big church next Sunday, will you come?”

“Sure honey, I’ll come,” Chelsea smiled, though in her heart she was disappointed she’d have to give up her time.

Chelsea walked down the hall and knocked on Angie’s door, opening it slowly. “It’s almost 7 Ang, time to get up for school.”

Angie didn’t stir, Chelsea walked into her room. She saw a note on Angie’s desk. It read, “Marriage is unreasonable. 1. Old-fashioned 2. Stifling 3. Unfulfilling.” Hmmm, it’s like she’s reading my mind.

She sat on the edge of Angie’s bed. “Wake up sleepy head.” Angie shifted a little. “Come on girl, you’ve got school,” Chelsea said, tapping her backside.

Angie rolled over to face her mom. Peeking through one sleepily opened eye she asked, “What time is it?”

“Five after seven honey, come on.”

“Mom,” Angie groaned rolling back over, “I told you I have late start today, I don’t have to be at school till 10:30. I was up really late working on my speech project, didn’t Dad tell you?”

“I haven’t seen Dad honey, how would he know you were up late? He was crashed on the couch before ten o’clock last night.” He didn‘t even make it all the way through his football game.

“He came in and checked on me at like 1 something… Mom, please can I just get a little more sleep?” Angie pulled a pillow over her head.

Chelsea pulled the door shut and headed back out into the kitchen. That’s when she noticed she’d left her cell phone out on the coffee table the night before.

She picked it up and saw across the front screen that it said “Six text messages.” She flipped open the phone.

The most recent message was from Jared, she’d just missed it. It read, “Working late this afternoon, don’t hold dinner.” Sigh. It’s not even 8 am and already he’s making excuses about why he can’t be here for dinner. Figures.

The message before that was from Karen, her girlfriend. It said, “Hoping to get a little exercise, let me know if you want to meet me at the park to walk.” She laughed to herself, that Karen, she always has a plan, always on the go. It might be fun to get out of the house with Josh. The sun was up and you could already see it was going to be a nice day. Maybe she’d be willing to walk at the Promenade instead. She texted her back quickly, “I’ll call you after I get Erica off to kindergarten.

The other four messages didn’t have a name, just a number, but she recognized it instantly. The first one was time stamped at 12:45, it read “Hello.” The second four minutes later just said, “You there?” Stamped twenty minutes later the third just said, “Why aren’t you there?” And the fourth said it came through at 1:36, it read simply, “Missing you.”

A wave of guilt wafted over Chelsea. Had Jared seen this? I can’t believe I left my phone out here! She panicked for just a moment, then realized if Jared had read the messages it wouldn’t have still listed them as unread. Phew. The panic subsided a little and she just dismissed the tinge of guilt that remained.

Walking into the kitchen she told Erica, “Hurry up honey, you’ve got to get ready for school.” She grabbed Josh, who now had banana all over his face and in his little blonde tufts of hair; she lifted him up out of his high chair and headed into get him changed and dressed. Exasperated she thought, another day in Mommy world.

By Diana DePriest © 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feedback Please - Be Gentle


Years ago I started writing a story. I wrote four chapters and then life got busy. I let a friend read it and she was unhappy with me at the time, so she kind of annihilated me with criticism. It was unfortunate, because if you're a writer, you know sharing your work is like putting your baby on display. It's hard to take criticism, and if it's given harshly, it can be down right painful. The book got put aside never to be picked up again.

Becoming a published writer would be a fulfillment of a dream for me. I really love to write and feel it's actually a gift from the Lord more than a talent. Back in April I felt inspired to start a new story. I'll be honest, it's been since August since I've done more than look at it, but I did get 8 chapters written this time, albeit short ones. I don't know, how do you write a book?

Anyway, I've been contemplating getting back to the task and have had mostly positive feedback from the few friends I have had read it, but for some reason today I am feeling really bold and ready to throw it out there for a larger consumption, but I'd like to actually hear back your thoughts. So, check it out, read chapter 1 and let me know what you think. But be gentle... it's my baby and all.


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Chapter 1

Jared was in a deep sleep on the couch as he heard the vibration on the coffee table. Rubbing his eyes he reached across and tried to make out the caller I.D. on Chelsea’s cell phone. Who in the world could be calling at this hour?

He flipped open the cell phone, “Hello?” He could hear noises in the background but no one answered. “Hello?” he said again the phone went dead on the other end.

He set the phone back down on the coffee table and uprighted himself on the couch. The clock on the VCR said 12:38. He’d dozed off a couple hours before while watching TV. Now the lights and TV were off. Chelsea must have headed to bed, he thought. Why does she just leave me out here?

He wandered into the kitchen for a glass of water. Who in the world could be calling her phone at this hour? he wondered. Maybe it was just a wrong number. Although he hoped it was the case, something in his gut told him it wasn’t.

Chelsea had seemed more and more distant lately. He knew she was probably angry with him for falling asleep on the couch in front of the
TV again. He was just so exhausted. The new project at work was requiring so many late hours. It wasn’t just physically exhausting, his brain was tired. He actually hadn’t been sleeping very well at night. When he tried to go to bed his mind would just start reeling. The thoughts would keep him up till all hours of the night, falling asleep in front of the TV seemed to be his only reprieve from the constant battle with insomnia.

Now the brief benefit of the nap was spoiled by the sudden late night disruption. Now he was wide awake and it was a good five hours before he should be up to start his day.

Sigh.

He walked quietly down the hall and looked into the bedroom where Chelsea was sleeping. She had left the basket of clean, folded laundry just sitting on his side of the bed. He wondered if there wasn’t a message she was trying to send that even if he did manage to find his way back to their bed, maybe he wasn’t really wanted there anyway.

No sense in getting into bed, he’d probably just toss and turn, then neither of them would get any sleep. He pulled the door quietly shut behind him as he headed back into the hall.

He decided to peek in on the kids. First he looked into Erica’s room. His 5-year-old was sprawled out, all her covers kicked down into a pile at the foot of the bed. She looked pretty adorable. He pulled her blankets back up over her and quietly moved into Joshua’s room.

Josh was two and a half. He’d just moved into his “big boy bed” a couple weeks before. Unlike his big sister he was curled up tight into a ball with his blankets pulled all the way up under his chin. He thought to himself how much their sleeping positions mirrored their personalities. Erica was open and outgoing, free and relaxed, Josh was shy and quiet, often keeping to himself. Funny how you could see it even when they were sound asleep.

Jared continued down the hall when he noticed the light shining out from underneath Angie’s door. Quietly he tapped on the door, not sure if she was awake or had fallen asleep doing her homework.

“Yeah?” her voice whispered out, sounding a little surprised by the disruption.

As he opened the door he could see her sitting at her desk, working at the computer. “It’s really late kiddo, don’t you think you ought to get to bed?”

“I know Dad, I’m just finishing up with this assignment. Then I’ll get to bed.’

Angie, such a bright young girl, Jared couldn’t believe she was almost 17. She wasn’t his daughter biologically, she was Chelsea’s daughter from a relationship before they met. It didn’t matter though, he loved her as much as he did the two children he and Chelsea had together. Really, Jared was the only father Angie had ever known. In the 14 years Chelsea and Jared had been together Angie’s dad had breezed through their lives maybe six or seven times. Jared couldn’t understand how any father could be so casual in his relationship with his child. Actually, casual was too generous a word, irresponsible was more accurate. It was Tom’s loss though, Jared was honored to fill the void he left, and that’s why when he and Chelsea got married ten years ago, he made the promise to love and care for both his wife and her daughter, their daughter now.

“Whatcha workin’ on?” Jared asked, peeking over her shoulder at the computer screen.

Angie turned her chair toward him with a smile, “It’s a presentation for my speech class. We’re doing a series of debates in class on different topics in the news.”

“And your topic…?”

“I’m debating marriage.”

Jared chuckled, “Really? I didn’t even know there was any special guy in your life.”

“Oh Dad!” Angie laughed, “I’m not debating the prospect personally! I’m debating the ‘logic’ of marriage. A lot of people consider it to be an antiquated concept. A lot of people don’t consider it to be feasible these days. They say it’s too much to ask of a person to make a lifetime commitment to just one person. So one of us is debating against the institution of marriage and the other one of us is debating that marriage does still work and is still important.”

“Sounds interesting, and which opinion do you find yourself holding?”

Angie smiled, “Well actually the assignment requires us to both prepare for both sides of the debate. We have to be prepared to persuade either viewpoint, you know, all in the name of having an open mind. I won’t know which side I have to argue until moments before the actual debate, which isn’t until the end of the semester. It’s going to count as 40% of our final grade.”

“Really? I’m fascinated. So is everyone preparing for this same debate?”

“No, there are 26 of us in the class and there are four different topics. There’s my topic, a debate on keeping abortion ‘safe and legal’; a debate on euthanasia and the fourth topic is prayer in schools.”

“Wow, those are some pretty heavy subjects. Did you get to choose or were you assigned the topics?” Jared asked.

“No, it was all by drawing, we actually pulled our topics out of a coffee can. There are six of us for each topic, except euthanasia, there are eight people on that topic. We don’t even know who we’ll be debating yet, we may not even know until the actual day of the debate in like late May or June.”

Jared stood up, “Well honey, it’s only January and the semester has just started, your debate is a long way off, I think you can afford to put the topic aside for the night and get a good night’s rest.” He leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “You need to get to bed.”

“OK Daddy, five more minutes, I promise. Tomorrow is ‘late start’ because the teachers have a meeting, so I’ll be OK.” She turned back towards her computer monitor as Jared slipped out of the room.

As he came back into the living room Jared saw Chelsea’s phone face light up in the dimly lit room. He picked it up and saw it said “Four text messages.” He looked over at the clock that now read 1:36. What in the world? He resisted temptation to read the messages and set the phone back down. Finally feeling tired enough to doze back off he grabbed a blanket out of the cupboard and made himself comfortable back on the couch. He grabbed his own cell phone setting its alarm clock for 5:30am. He laid back trying hard to dismiss the uneasy feeling he felt beginning deep down inside himelf. A few minutes later he was back to sleep.

By Diana DePriest © 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Disengaged - Redux

I've been pondering this post a lot lately, remembering back to when I wrote it. I am actually a little concerned I have become guilty of it myself... a little too much Facebook, a new phone that enables me to log on and check out anywhere I go. I need to chew on it, perhaps reevaluate my priorities. Maybe I'm not the only one, so here's a little food for thought. Originally posted October 1st of last year. For your consideration...
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Disengaged...

It means "released or detached: WITHDRAWN"

You've heard the saying "a picture is worth a 1,000 words"? Have you had the experience where you have observed something in your daily life that spoke such volumes, you wish you had a camera to snap a picture to share? Well, I had that experience yesterday.

Tuesdays are my late morning to come into work, so it was probably about 11:30 and I was driving down the main street behind my house. As I was stopped at the stoplight a family of four was entering the crosswalk to cross the street in front of my car. It was a mom and a dad and two little girls I would guess were probably about 4 and 2 years old. It had the potential to be a precious picture, this little family out on a walk, but instead what I saw hurt my heart.

The youngest girl was in a stroller, one of those umbrella styles with a little canopy over the top to guard her from the son. The older girl was walking holding her daddy's hand, he had her sort of back and slightly behind him. Mom, pushing the stroller was on her cell phone, in fact she was pushing with one hand and using the elbow on the side that held the phone to guide her off the sidewalk. Dad had earplugs in his ears I assume attached to an iPod or MP3 player piping music into his ears. The littlest girl was trying to lean forward to peak up and around to see her parents and the older girl seemed just to be trying to keep up, looking at Daddy who other than his hand holding hers seemed oblivious to her presence.

It speaks volumes about the state of our society today. 10 years ago when my husband and I were youth workers, teenagers were a challenge, but the key was being able to touch their hearts. If you could reach them, reveal to them your sincere interest and care, you laid a stone to build the foundation of a relationship. We used to have dozens of kids come over and just hang out. We'd play games, barbecue carne asada, have sleepovers, parties. We'd connect. 10 years later, these young people are getting married, having babies, starting careers, and Neal and I are blessed to still have connections with these kids. IT varies in degree, some remain very close, others more casually, some we don't see except at weddings and baby showers, but when we do, there is a connection, one that was built a decade ago, but was built to last.

This past June my teenage son Jacob had a party for his junior high friends at the end of the school year. We brought them over to my parents big wonderful "party house" and we barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs and we had games, all the same tools. But touching their hearts, making a "connection" was harder than it used to be. The teens themselves seem harder to reach, distant, more jaded. Now granted in the course of the last ten years I may have lost a few cool points because instead of helping the youth escape from their own parents, I am now the parent myself, but I think there is more to consider.

At that party as we were playing games and hanging out, those cell phones and MP3 players were present. You could be in the midst of a conversation with a young person and they would be half listening to you and busy sending text messages to someone else at the same time. Another young person would sit off in a corner listening to their music and never entering in to the group or activity, or quitting if it becomes any kind of challenge and just retreat back into solitude. I've seen it with my own children, we'll all be together as a family, headed out to lunch or to church and Jake would be test messaging a friend, Ethan is playing his gameboy, Victoria has her CD player playing in her ear. We're all together, it's family time, and yet each of my children has disengaged from each other and from me and Neal.

Cell phones have gone from the status of luxury to necessity. Everyone has one. I've stood in grocery lines where the customer doesn't even interact with the teller beyond handing them cash because they are in the midst of a telephone conversation. Have you ever been walking through a store or such and thought someone said something to you only to realize they have a bluetooth in their ear? Suddenly you're embarrassed and uncomfortable because you've interrupted them? Where has common courtesy and the art of niceties and polite conversation gone? No wonder more and more stores seem to be moving towards self-checkout lines. We complain customer service has gone by the wayside, but what about the courtesy of the customer?

Don't get me wrong, I see the value of something like a cell phone. We gave Jake one the Christmas he was in 7th grade. At an age where he is growing in freedoms in a world that simply is not as safe as it used to be (especially in Southern California), there is benefit to being able to reach him. He walks a couple miles home from school each day, I want to know he's on his way and made it safe. It has it's purpose. But my daughter told me the other day about her classmate who has a cell phone - she's in the first grade! What purpose could that have?

I think back to that family on the street. They were completely together in the physical sense, and completely separated in every way that mattered. How can we touch hearts and impact lives if face to face communication is completely hindered by modern technology. How can we capture the hearts of our young people if we can't even fully capture their attention? I think whenever Jake has another party, I'll collect cell phones at the door the way they used to collect keys at parties where alcohol was served.

I think first and foremost we have to set an example ourselves. I challenge you, next time your cell phone rings while you're in line at the store or while you're talking to one of your children, push the "ignore" button, complete your conversation or transaction, and thereby relaying to that person, they matter, they are valuable to you. Next time you're chatting with a girlfriend and that text message tone comes along, let it sit, wait for a moment and don't immediately disengage from the conversation to respond. Show people they matter.

I'm guilty too, but I saw what I saw and it made me stop and think. Let's put down the cell phones, turn them off at home, leave them in the car at the store. Let's have our kids put them away for the night when they get home. Isn't that the beauty of voice mail? And not just the cell phones, but the iPods and the gameboys, instead of disengaging, let's unplug! Stop and think next time, am I invested, in the people and situation around me? If I'm not, what message am I sending? And I don't mean a text.

Can you hear me now?