Monday, November 24, 2008

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Held a praying mantis
9. Climbed a mountain
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone's life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

So... I don't know where that leaves me for the rest of my life, but I've done over half of the things on the list. Interesting.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Waiting for His return....

I read Luke 12:35-40 this morning while I was doing a Beth Moore study on Jesus. The passage is about waiting for the Master to return, and being watchful while we wait. In each study she asks a couple questions to get us thinking, and these particular questions made me think today:

1. What keeps you most distracted from awaiting Christ's return?

2. What are some very practical things you could be doing to constantly remind yourself to be scanning the skies, looking forward to His appearing?

I don't generally think about Christ's return on a daily basis. I am usually thinking about all the other things in my day. You know, the immediate things. I'm not sure that I'm living a watchful life, waiting for Christ's immanent return, in constant preparation for His coming. If my mother is coming to visit, though, I spend a great deal of time thinking about what I need to do to prepare for her coming. I need to make the guest bed, clean the guest bathroom, make sure the guest towels are clean, clear out my schedule so that I have lots of time to spend with her... It is at the forefront of my mind for a few weeks before she arrives because I am preparing for her arrival. How, then, ought I be preparing for Christ's arrival? What ought I be keeping at the forefront of my mind to work on so that it is done when His flight comes in? And how do I keep His impending return fresh in my mind so that it is not clouded out by all the other things I have to do on a day to day basis?

There are a couple practical things that I came up with that would help me keep my mind focused on Him and His return. Both are scriptural, and both, I believe, were commanded to the Isrealites before Christ walked the earth. So while they are not specific commands related to the coming of our Lord, they are good for daily reminders so I do not forget and so that I keep vigilant in my preparation for His return.

1. Scripture memory... When you have a storehouse of scripture in your mind, it is easier to meditate on it and the Lord can more readily bring it to your attention when you need to be focused on Him. There are verses about His return and His reign and what we ought to be doing to serve Him that will help us prepare for His coming.

2. Talk about it when we sit and when we rise... I have a 2 year old, and I can be talking about Jesus and His return with her. We can focus on His kingdom and what it looks like to serve Him. If His return is something I make a point to talk about and think about, I will be more likely to do it often and to prepare myself for His return so that I am ready when He arrives.

I want to be actively awaiting His return, and not found sleeping with my lamp out when He arrives.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Random Latin phrases one might find helpful...

Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Te audire no possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.
I can't hear you. I have a banana in my ear.

(This one is not dissimilar to my favorite German phrase... "Darf ich ein Schlaefchen in deiner Nase haben?" or... "May I take a nap in your nose?")

Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head.

Braccae illae virides cum subucula rosea et tunica Caledonia-quam elenganter concinnatur!
Those green pants go so well with that pink shirt and the plaid jacket!

Si hoc signum legere potes, operis boni in rebus Latinus alacribus et fructuosis potiri potes!
If you can read this sign, you can get a good job in the fast-paced, high-paying world of Latin!

And that is your highly intellectual Latin lesson for the day, boys and girls. Alas, it seems I am out of practice in the highly intellectual realm. My apologies.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bible Study Starts Today...

... but I'm not going this week. Robert is in town, so I'm forgoing all of the "regular" activities I could get out of in order to spend the most time with him. But I'm looking forward to the start of Bible study again. I've missed it over the summer and I can't wait to get back into regular fellowship with the women from church!

This term we'll be doing a Beth Moore study on Jesus, which I'm looking forward to. We studied David last term and I enjoyed it, so I'm anticipating enjoying this one, too! If nothing else, I will enjoy having a regular routine again, as I struggle with consistency when left to my own devices.

So I'm thinking of all you women who are attending the study today! I hope to see some of the women I got to know last term and see some new faces join, too! Last I heard we had a fairly small group, so maybe a few more have signed up by now. That would be nice.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Psalm 58

David is harsh on the wicked, seeking vengeance on them. He pleads with Go to destroy them, and pleads destruction with poetry.

What I find interesting is that never once did David plead for God to change their hearts, for Him to call them to Himself and change their ways. Perhaps it is the "tolerant" society of our day, but I sort of grew up thinking that "pray for your enemies" meant to pray with compassion, that God would change them, bring them to Himself, and use them for His glory. I thought that we were supposed to love those we hate, and pray for their salvation, that the mercy of God could extend to them, too.

But David doesn't. He says that these men have been wicked from birth, as though there is no chance for their reformation, that they are wicked through and through with no hope for good. And so I wonder... is this a character flaw in David, that he is so caught up in the wicked these men are doing (ruling and judging unfairly) that he simply has no mercy for them, or is it a flaw in me, that I have fallen into a thinking shaped by society, and not by scripture, that everyone can be reformed, that everyone deserves a second chance, and that wickedness should be repaid by love, not justice. Do I need to rethink my understanding of the balance between God's justice and mercy? Do I need a new perspective?

The wicked in this passage are devising injustice and meting out violence on the earth. It doesn't sound all that different from some of the leaders in our government. I haven't been praying for God to destroy them, and I don't know that I would call them "wicked". Should I?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Psalm 57

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise.

I find it interesting that my praise comes in the form of song. So, apparently, did David's. There are other forms of praise, I am sure, but for me it is song. I think of the things God has done and I am inclined to sing them. I praise Him in the midst of sorrow and I find myself singing hymns and choruses that speak of His greatness, His faithfulness, His... Him.

I do not know why I am so inclined to commune with Him in music. I don't know why music has such an effect on me, why it touches me the way it does, even without words. But I know that when my thoughts turn to God, what He has done, and who He is, I break out in song, either inside or out.

And I think back to the hymns I learned growing up. And then to the worship songs I learned in college. There are plenty of emotional fluff "Christian" praise songs out there. I'm not thinking of those. I'm talking about the songs that are God-focused, theologically sound, beautiful songs of worship and praise. Many of these are based in scripture, and include direct quotes (and sometimes references) of scripture, too. I have struggled with staying in constant meditation on scripture, but am learning that these songs that run through my head, fill my heart, and keep my mind focused on Him help. I still don't know why I think in song so often, but I don't have to know why. Instead I will just thank God for creating me to praise Him and keep reading the word, meditating on Him, and praising Him as I go through my day.

As David says, I will sing and give praise. Today, right now, but also as a way of life. I will sing what is good and true and right, and teach my daughter to love Him, to think on Him, and to praise Him with every fiber of her being. For that is what we were created to do... love Him, serve Him, praise Him, and glorify Him forever. Amen.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Psalm 56

In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

This phrase is used twice in this short passage. Once in verse 4, and once in verses 10-11. David is being pursued and attacked, and the study help in my Bible says that he had been seized by the Philistines when he wrote this.

The way I see it, there are 3 main things to note about this little phrase. First, David begins with remembering who God is. "In God, whose word I praise," This is the God whose very words, thoughts, and plans are worthy of praise. By His word the world came into being. The Lord, whose word is so powerful, deserves praise.

Then David moves from praising God's word to trusting in Him. If God is so mighty, so powerful, that He needs but speak and the world comes into existence, then He is surely powerful enough to handle the situation that we find ourselves in. If we start with praise for who God is, remembering what He has done, that perspective will lead us to trust in Him. And if we trust in Him, we need not be afraid, for our trust is no longer in ourselves, but in Him.

And once you trust in the Lord, as David has done in this passage, why should you fear? "What can mortal man do to me?" Our hope in the Lord is eternal, and we know that His plan is eternal. Men can only take from us what is here on this earth, but that is not where our treasure is stored. They cannot take the Lord from us, nor our eternal security. If we die here on earth we go to be with the Lord, so really, what can man do to us? Nothing. Not if our hope is in the Lord.

Monday, August 04, 2008

How many have YOU read?

The story is that apparently the National Endowment for the Arts estimates that the average adult has only read six of these books. Here are the markup guidelines:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Mark in red the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your blog

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. The Complete Works of Shakespeare (I've read a LOT, but not all!)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens (reading this right now...)
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I hated this book.)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert -
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie -
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Well.... I could have done worse. Still, I have a few of these books on my shelf and I've never read them. I think that's sad. I also think this list is flawed. There are a couple books I feel are duplicated (Complete Shakespeare + Hamlet; Chronicles of Narnia + Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe) and there are an awful lot by Jane Austen (whom I don't particularly like to read) and non by other authors, like Ayn Rand. They're missing some of the classics, too. Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Metamorphoses... anyone? Seems broken. Still, I've read 24 of the ones above. At least that's over the average.

Psalm 55

But as for me, I trust in you.

These are the last words of the Psalm, and words I have found myself saying time and time again as things come up in my life. I have found myself at the crossroads of belief saying, "Either I trust Him, or I don't." And the truth is that I do. I may not understand Him and His ways, but I trust Him.

I am again at those crossroads, and just yesterday I reminded myself that I trust in Him. He knows where I am and He is still leading me. When I become uncertain I think back and remember that it was He who led me here. And I trust Him. So even though I do not like this place, I will serve Him where I am and trust Him to work His will for His glory.

There are lots of other things that struck me in this Psalm, but this is the one that hit home. And so, to quote verse 22, I will...
Cast [my] cares on the Lord and He will sustain [me].

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Psalm 54

A short Psalm, only 7 verses. But in those 7 verses you see change in David's attitude as he prays. He begins with a plea for the Lord to save him.
Save me, O God, by your name;

By verse 4 he has begun to have a little more confidence as he realizes it is the Lord who sustains him.
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

And by the end of the Psalm he speaks in all confidence as he says he will praise the Lord's name.
For He has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.

Here David did not succumb to his emotions and fear, though he certainly starts out in them. But he was reminded of who God is and what He has done and he responds with praise and reverence for the name of the Lord and confidence in His plan.

Oh, that I may remember who God is and respond in the same way when I am fearful of those around me who would do me harm. For God is not ignorant of circumstances, nor is He incapable of handling my problems. I will put my trust in Him.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Psalm 53

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."

That's how this Psalm begins. 5 verses later it ends with these words...
Oh, that the salvation for Isreal would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Isreal be glad!

I love that this Psalm ends on a note of restoration. When I started reading I began to think of all the people I know who don't believe that there is a God. It saddens me that there are those who should know better and have turned their backs on Him, to the point of doubting His existence. Scripture makes clear the consequence for unbelief and rebellion from God. But the end of this Psalm reminds me not to give up hope, not to stop praying for their salvation and restoration. I praise God for His work in their lives and I ask Him to pursue them more fervently and to give them hearts receptive to His advances. And when He does restore them to fellowship with Him, we will rejoice and be glad! Praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy! His love endures forever!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Psalm 52

This Psalm has a completely different tone than the last one, and one verse in particular stands out to me:
"Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!"

These are the words of verse 7, and the previous 6 verses speak of how the man boasts of evil, who speaks falsehood rather than truth, and how the Lord will bring him to ruin.

What the righteous say of him is not that he was a terrible sinner, nor that he was a liar, though he was. His great fault is that he trusted in his own wealth, his own works, himself, rather than trusting in God. The righteous know that they, too, are liars and sinners, and that it is only by the grace of God that they are saved. Because they know this and understand it, they do not trust in themselves, but in the God's unfailing love and His name.

Do I trust in myself and my own wealth (though not necessarily monetary wealth) or do I make God my stronghold?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Psalm 51

When David messed up, he messed up big time. He didn't do anything halfway. His adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah marked a very dark time in his life, where he was, no doubt, out of fellowship with God. It wasn't just a few weeks where he was out of step with God, either. He did not repent of his sins until Nathan came to him after Bathsheba gave birth to their son. But when Nathan confronted him with his sin, after David had spent months living in it, David's response was repentance. Not a reluctant admission that what he had done might have been wrong and a statement that he was sorry if he'd hurt anyone. No, David repented like he sinned - wholeheartedly. Psalm 51 reveals David's heart as he comes before the Lord after months of absence. He lays himself bare before the Lord. And even after absence and sin and rebellion, when he returns to the Lord he has not forgotten WHO GOD IS. He KNOWS the Lord - His justice, His mercy. He says in verse 17 "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart." and that is what he brought before the Lord.

It has been a long time since I have been truly broken hearted for my sin. I would do well to learn from David's example of repentance and fall before my Lord in humility. But how can I expect to be sensitive to my sin if I am not constantly in the presence of the One who is without sin? Reading scripture, meditating on the Word, and being in constant communion and prayer is the only way to make my sin evident, all of my sin, the sins of my heart. Because what I desire is a heart that follows Him and does not go its own way.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (Ps 51:1-2)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

If I could go back to elementary school....

I'd choose to play the cello instead of the flute. I love the cello. It is so rich, so deeply purple, so beautiful. I would love to know how to play one.

I'm pretty sure it started with the piano/cello duet I played with David Hastie in high school. Arioso is beautiful as a piano/cello duet and it was probably my favorite piece to perform.

Currently I love the theme song to Angel. Soulful is about the only word I can think of to describe it. It's beautiful. I think it's the cello.

My favorite album at the moment is Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet. Amazing. Complex. And... yes, a bit of cello. Click the link to hear some of the album. It's a little bluegrass, a little oriental, and a lot of funky beautiful. She yodels in her own style, sings in Mandarin, plays banjo and shares the stage with another banjo, fiddle, and cello. Makes for a unique sound I've never heard anywhere else and I love it. I think it's the cello.

And so, if I could do it all over again, I'd skip the flute. I'd choose the cello. And I'd play the most beautiful music I've ever dreamed up.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tyranny of the Urgent

Lately I have been overrun by the tyranny of the urgent. All those things that seem to need to get done right now. I have to do laundry because we have no more clean underwear. I have to kit for a class because it's tomorrow. I have to make dinner because it's already 6:00 and Leif will be home any minute. I have to do dishes because Ellie doesn't have any clean sippy cups. And the list goes on. There are so many things that demand my immediate attention. I feel like I am perpetually behind and I can't get caught up.

The worst part about the tyranny of the urgent is that I am so busy doing the mundane tasks that cry to be done RIGHT NOW that I end up ignoring those things that really do matter. I spend an afternoon trying to put away laundry because it *needs* to be done. And while I'm doing that, I've got Eliana watching a show so I can get work done and Leif comes home to a messy house (because I didn't get the kitchen cleaned up after lunch) and no dinner. Now, a clean house is not the most important thing, but it is one of the tangible ways I can tell my husband I love him. A clean house speaks more than a thousand words could to let him know how much he means to me. And a messy house stresses him out. So I got the laundry done, but I missed an opportunity to tell my husband that he is important to me, and I missed the chance to play with my daughter because I was too busy putting away the socks and underwear.

I'm not saying that the clothes shouldn't be put away. I'm just saying that there are things that are more important than laundry.

Take tonight, for example. I was putting away laundry (because I actually DID ignore the pile of laundry so I could play with my daughter this afternoon) while Leif put Ellie to bed when I got a message from a friend asking me to pray for her. Now, I had been praying for her all week. But I had neglected to take the time to tell her that I was praying for her, so she felt alone and uncared for. And why hadn't I taken the time to let her know I cared and was praying? Because I was too busy doing the "urgent" things. I feel horrible that I left a friend feeling unaccompanied on a journey I promised to walk with her! It was certainly not my aim to leave her feeling so deserted. But I did not make it my aim to make a point of letting her know I was praying for her and so I let her down. And what do I have to show for it? Laundry in the closet instead of in the basket by the bed. Big deal! I can tell you which will have the greater impact, and it's not the one I spent the time on.

I have been succumbing to the tyranny of the urgent lately and I hate it. I hate how out of control everything feels when I am rushing from task to task because they demand attention NOW. I hate that my priorities get sidetracked and I let mundane things take their place. Tonight I scrubbed the shower and the toilet. Why? Because that's what I do when I am stressed. I am stressed because I have lost my balance. I swing like a 5 foot brunette pendulum between slob and perfectionist, letting go of my routines and then clinging so tightly my knuckles are white. I feel like hyperventilating because the clothes in my closet are not organized by sleeve length and color. I feel sick because I did not mop the kitchen today, again. These are the tell-tale signs that my life is out of focus. First because I feel the need for control and order, and second because I feel physically ill that things are not the way I think they ought to be.

And so it is time for a refocus. It's not about me. It's not about my laundry. It's not about my closet. It's not about how shiny the bathtub fixtures are, or how my clothes are folded and organized. It's about HIM. God. Creator of the world and the one who has the plan. The laundry need to be done, but it should be done for His glory, done so that we are able to get up and dressed and ready to serve Him. My house should be clean, not for clean sake, but to speak love to my family and so that our house is ready to be used by God at a moment's notice. He is a God of order and my home and life should reflect that, but serve Him, not the order itself.

Urgent things must be done tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. And I will do them. But that which is urgent should never supersede that which is important. Loving and training my daughter is important. Loving and helping my husband is important. If I can do those things while folding laundry, then Hallelujah! If not, we can go another day with the laundry in the basket. It will be okay.

Saw Barack Obama last night.

Yep, Mr. presidential hopeful Barack Obama was here in li'l ol' Bozeman last night. It was one of the smaller rallies, I'm guessing, with 7,000 in attendance. Tickets were free, and thats what Leif wanted for his birthday. So we went.

I'm not going to vote for Barack Obama. Not in the primary, not for president. But who am I to pass up the opportunity to see him for free? When else will there be a presidential candidate in Bozeman? It was a little sliver of history and I got to be part of it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Here's the sad thing...

I just took this geography quiz. I got a 6 out of 8 after my husband got an 8 out of 8. Now, I'm not too concerned with the result. I know I'm not terribly good at geography. And I didn't learn anything new about myself by learning that I could identify where Iran is and not Afghanistan. I've never been good with the 'stans.

What concerns me is that I took another quiz immediately after, just out of curiosity. It was on scenes from horror films. I make a practice of NOT watching horror films, due to my overactive imagination. I just don't feed the beast and we all seem happier that way. But I took this quiz, which gave murder scenes and 3 movies to choose from. I had to decide which movie the scene was taken from. I had not seen a single one of the films. Not one. My score on that? 10 out of 10.

That's right. I am better at the trivia from horror films I've never seen (and many I'd never even heard of) than I am geography. That's just sad.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Loving Well

This weekend was our Ladies' retreat at New Hope. I decided that going to the retreat would be the best way to get to know the other women in the church, so I signed up. I did get to know the women, and I had a great weekend, but I also heard a message that I think I really needed to hear. The topic was loving well and the study was by Beth Moore, who was our speaker via DVD.

Along with the lessons for the weekend, we were given a 4 week follow up booklet. It is sort of a devotional guide, but I think the questions are good ones to think about, so I'll do a little thinking...

1:1 (Week 1 Day 1)

Do I love others better than I did 5 years ago?

Five years ago we had just moved to Montana. I don't know if I love better now than I did 5 years ago, but I definitely love better now than I did 2 years ago. I think. I have a pretty hard time gaging how well I love. I know I make more of a concerted effort to love now than I did then, but maybe that's because I don't love as well now and it's harder. So I guess I don't know the answer to this question. But I do know that I am working on becoming a more loving person, and that in 5 years I certainly hope I will be more loving than I am today.

Am I growing in my ability to love others more openly, with more vulnerability?

Yes. I am in a Bible study with some wonderfully supportive women and I am working on being more open and vulnerable with them. Seeing how the body of Christ is supposed to support and love, without judgment, while holding each other accountable is a beautiful thing.

What marked change or transformation has come about in the way I love?

Hmm... I try harder. I make an effort to love when I don't want to. I am quickER to love and slowER to anger. I certainly have areas I need to work on, but I am getting better.

I John 4:7-8 "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bleak House: Chapter 7

I find Charles Dickens extremely verbose. Soooo many words... so little plot movement. I couldn't even read the last paragraph of the chapter because I couldn't keep my eyes open. It will be a sheer act of will if I ever finish this book. 100 pages in, 717 to go...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Prayer for Jennifer Vidmar

I have mentioned Jennifer Vidmar before. She was in our Bible study earlier this year and is one of the women in our church. She is also a Petra parent. We've known the Vidmars since my first year at Petra, and we were in a Sunday school class with them at E-Free. We don't know them as closely as I'd like, but over the years we have witnessed the Lord's work in their lives through good times and bad. Jennifer is one of the strongest women of faith that I know, and her response to the struggles she has faced has always been a response of praise and glory to God.

This week we found out that Jennifer has Leukemia, and it appears to be fairly advanced. Please hold her up in prayer as she undergoes chemotherapy in Seattle, and hold her family up as they support her and go through this with her. Once again her response is one of glory to God, and we know that He is using her for His glory once again, but it is still hard to see her and her family suffering as she goes through this. Please pray specifically for her nine year old daughter Jessica. Jennifer almost died about 4 years ago in a completely unrelated health crisis. Jessica is old enough to remember that and is currently staying with family here in the area while her parents are in Seattle for Jennifer's treatments. The separation is hard on both Jessica and Jennifer during this time, so please pray for strength for both of them while they are apart. Jennifer and Bruce also have another daughter Rebecca, who is a year old. She is staying with family, too, and is too young to know what is going on, but she notices her mother's absence and is having a hard time dealing with it.

We know that Jennifer's desire is to be used for God's glory, whether through her life or death. She is ready for whatever He has in store for her. We know that God can heal her if that is His plan, but we also know that His ways are not our ways and He may have another plan for her. So we pray for her healing, but place her in His hands and trust in His sovereignty.

Please, when the Lord brings them to mind, pray for them too.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bleak House: Chapter 4

I don't ever want to be like Mrs. Jellyby. For all the good she did for others, and all the time she invested, she alienated her own husband and children, those whom she should have been taking the best care of as a wife and mother. But her reactions to Peepy were horrible. And her poor husband was estranged from her, though living in the same house. All of her housekeeping had gone to pot. Her house was a mess and her children were filthy. Her only concern was for the Africans, and I can't see how her neglect for the family God gave her was glorifying to Him.

I don't ever want to be like Mrs. Jellyby.

I don't ever want to be so busy with church commitments that I can't spend time with my husband and make him feel loved. I don't ever want to be so caught up in my own hobbies that I don't spend time playing with my daughter. I want them to know that they are important to me, and if I place them behind other things, no matter how good those things may be, they will not feel important. They will not feel loved. They will feel second rate. And I never want them to feel that way. Leif is second in my life, behind God, but not behind the church. Ellie is behind Leif, but again, she comes before church, and she comes before scrapbooking. I find in scripture where I am commanded to love the Lord with all my heart, submit to my husband, and train my child, but nowhere do I see that I need to overcommit myself to the local church and so push away the ones God has given me.

No, I don't ever want to be like Mrs. Jellyby.

Church today

Last week it was announced that we would have a guest speaker in church today and, I admit, I wasn't looking forward to it. I don't know why, but I like the regularity of a single pastor preaching every week. But I knew I would be there this morning because I am participating in a skit for the Women's Retreat in a couple weeks and we were meeting before church to rehearse.

Some days it just seems like God reaches down and places things along the path, just for you. Just so you can see his hand as you walk along a road whose destination you are uncertain of. Today was one of those days.

We met early to rehearse our skit, and then two of the members had to leave to get ready for their Sunday school commitments. That left me and Shannon talking for a while, something we don't normally get the opportunity to do without the interruption of kids or other people. As the conversation progressed, I shared with her a burden I have been carrying in my heart for months. It just came out in the conversation and we had a good talk. And she prayed with me. And I realized that this was fellowship. This is what had been lacking in my life the last couple years. God's love shared through the lives and words of other believers. There was no condemnation, no disappointment, only genuine concern, love, and prayer. And so I entered the worship service with a portion of the burden lifted.

I opened the bulletin and right there was a prayer focus for the beginning of the service and this week. It was Isaiah 49:13

"The Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones."

It was as though that verse was there for me. I took comfort in its words as we began to sing. I don't remember the name of the song, but one of the worship songs today spoke of the name of the Lord being a tower of refuge. It is His name that has the power to save. And again I was thankful. Thankful that He has saved me, and thankful that He is my refuge and my strength.

The sermon today was about being God's chosen people, from 1 Peter. The last point was that being chosen should change how we live. And though I've read this verse before, it stood out today and I saw two things I don't know that I've seen before. The passage was from 1 Peter 2, verses 11 and 12

"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Life such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."

That verse hit home. I am called to live my life in such a way that others, especially those closest to me, who are with me day in and day out, see Christ in all I do. Forming close relationships with those around me is good, but not if I get sloppy and begin living like they do. I am called to be set apart so that others may see God. I am not called to be 97% like them and 3% different. My life should be distinctly different, and that is sometimes a hard way to live. I want to let my guard down around the ones I am close to, but in doing so I am tempted to fall into their patterns and their attitudes, which are not to be my own. And so I remember that HE is my refuge when I am weary, not other people. And HE is my strength when I am weak and don't think I can live to the standard He has put before me. I am to be an example to the non-Christians He has brought into my life, not the other way around. I am to be love to those who cannot yet see where it comes from. I am to be a light to those who are in darkness.

The two things from the passage in 1 Peter that I don't remember noticing before are in verse 12. The first is that little clause that says, "though they accuse you of doing wrong," . It doesn't say IF they accuse you, it says though. We will be accused of things. We will probably be falsely accused. But our duty is to please the Lord, not men. We are to remain faithful to Him, not swayed by the opinions of man. And that is much easier said than done. But our reward is in heaven, not here on Earth, and we do well to remember that. This Earth is a battleground, and we are at war. Our victory is certain, but we do not claim the prize until the race is won.

The second clause that caught my attention is at the very end of verse 12. We are supposed to live righteous lives so that those who don't believe "may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." The impact our actions have is long lasting. We can do what is right over and over and over and never see any result. But those deeds testify God's righteousness to the end and He may use them to draw others to Himself years later. It is not our job to save people. It is our job to remain faithful and obedient to Him so that His work may be carried out through us.

And, with my burden still on my heart, I suddenly find myself singing a song that has long been a favorite of mine. Once again, I can't help but feel as though God reached down and put this song in my heart today as a reminder that He is still God, He is still sovereign, and He is still in control.
Trust and obey,
for there's no other way
to be happy in Jesus,
but to trust and obey.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bleak House: Chapter 3

Ah.... NOW we're starting to get somewhere. The plot begins.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I read the rest of Epic by John Eldridge today. I started reading it at Barnes and Noble last weekend when Leif and I were out on our date. (sidenote: I can't believe we're going to get dates THREE weekends in a row! That's amazing!) I picked it up on a whim, adding it to a pile of scrapbooking magazines I'd planned on leafing through. I read the first chapter and put it on my "to read" list. Then Cheryl saw it on the list and offered to let me borrow her copy! It's a short book, just 104 pages, but is well written and easy to read. Eldridge does a good job of making profound truths and ideas clear and accessible without getting too deep into the theological intricacies. I really enjoyed it.

Epic sets out to explain why stories (including plays, movies, books, etc.) strike such a resonant chord with us as humans. What is it about stories, with their villains and heroes, conflict and resolution, that draw us in? What is it that makes us see ourselves in the story and experience the emotions of the characters? And Eldridge's answer isn't anything new to me. It's something I've known for a long time, and began to understand better during my time teaching at Petra. But there was one thing in the book that I hadn't really thought about before, though I've been contemplating the subject for a while: Fellowship.

When we were thinking about switching churches, one of the main reasons for doing so was fellowship. I longed to build relationships with the other believers in the church, something that I didn't seem able to do at E-Free. And so I chose fellowship over verse-by-verse teaching when we moved to New Hope. I've never really considered the origin of fellowship. I mean, I know that God created Adam and Eve. This is what I have always considered the beginning of fellowship. But it's not. Fellowship predates mankind. Fellowship predates time. Because fellowship is something that God has in the Trinity. And I'd never really thought about that before reading Epic. The reason we, all of us, crave interaction with one another is because we are created in the image of God. He has fellowship with the other members of the Trinity and desires fellowship with us. And so we desire fellowship with one another, and with Him.

It's a good book. It gave me some food for thought. And it's a good follow up to It's Not About Me by Max Lucado, if you've ever read that. That's another short, but profound, book with the potential to change your life and the way you think about it. But Epic? Epic is a good book. After reading the first chapter I gave it 5 stars (out of 5) on Goodreads. Now, having finished the book, I still give it 5 stars. It's worth reading.


Yes, I am twitterpated. Follow me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bleak House: Chapter 2 (On Fashion)

Once again, there was one paragraph that really stood out to me in this chapter. It is the second paragraph of the second chapter, and it reads like this:

[The world of fashion] is not a large world... There is much good in it; there are many good and true people in it; it has its appointed place. But the evil of it is, that it is a world wrapped up too much in jeweller's cotton and fine wool, and cannot hear the rushing of the larger worlds, and cannot see them as they circle around the sun. It is a deadened world, and its growth is sometimes unhealthy for want of air.

Initially this struck me as I am considering what material I want to cover for Protocol this year. There is a place for fashion. We ought to take care in how we present ourselves, as God's creations. But if we get caught up in it, we reveal not the Life that is within us, but the death we are allowing to foster by our misplaced focus.

What Dickens wrote about fashion in the 1800s is true about fashion today. That is not because the fashion itself has remained the same, but because humanity has. And his truth about fashion can apply to any area of life if we allow it. In any God-given field, there is much good. There are people who hold to that which is good and true about it. But there are those, too, who are so wrapped up in this tiny little world that they do not see the other worlds God has created around them, nor the God who created them. And so the challenge is to see the world as God sees it, within the context of Himself and all that He has created, and to take what is good, and true, and right from it and discard what Satan has distorted to blind us.

Using Dickens' example of fashion, we must ask ourselves, "What is good, and true, and right about fashion?" Is there anything good about it? Or is it wholly and completely shallow and base? What are the origins of fashion?

And so we go back to the beginning. Genesis 3 gives us the first account of clothing. When Adam and Eve sinned, they realized they were naked and sewed fig leaf coverings for themselves. After the curse, God made garments of skin from a sacrificial animal. The purpose of clothing is to cover our nakedness. It is a symbolic of the sacrifice Christ would make in order to cover our sins. So when we consider fashion, we ought to remember first and foremost modesty. Is the purpose to cover or reveal? The boundaries of modesty are dictated by culture. In the Victorian era, it was considered immodest for a woman to show her ankles. Not so today. In Irian Jaya, it is considered immodest if a man is seen without his gourd, despite the fact that the gourd really doesn't cover anything by our standards. In the same vein, if an American man tried to walk down the street wearing only a gourd, which would be completely modest by Irian Jayan standards, he would most certainly be arrested in a heartbeat for indecent exposure here. Modesty is dictated by culture, and we would do well to make sure we know what our clothes are saying about us before we wear them.

Once modesty has been made the priority, we ought to choose clothing that is appropriate for the event or task at hand, and finally something that is pleasant and flattering to look at. After all, we are representatives of God, and as His creations we ought to reflect the goodness and beauty that He possesses. But if we focus our attention on the form first, we will almost certainly lose sight of the Creator and His purpose. And then we reflect not Him with our dress, but our own sinful desires. And that is not fashionable at all.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bleak House: Chapter 1

I started reading Bleak House last night. I only read the first chapter, but it was a good start. The first chapter is all about Jarndyce and Jarndyce, a case which has been dragging on forever and ever. Just as the High Court of Chancery is at the very heart of the fog in the city, so this case leaves all who are affiliated with it in the fog of its complication and despair.

This paragraph in particular caught my attention:
Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; there are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane; but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless.

I have no idea where Dickens is going with the Jarndyce and Jarndyce suit, but I can tell you where my mind goes with it. Sin. It reminds me of sin. It is twisted and complicated, just like sin. The longer it goes on, the more it consumes. People fall into it, often without knowing why or how. Entire generations are born into it and die out of it, their whole lives defined and tormented by it. Sin is an ugly thing.

Like I said, I have no idea where Dickens is going with this suit. But I'm guessing that, like God did with sin, Dickens is going to provide resolution to the suit. He's going to provide redemption for those who are caught up in it. Now I just have to read on to see how.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Holiness, not happiness

So the other day in Bible Study Jennifer Vidmar made a comment about the way most people view God vs. the way He really is. We were talking about how lots of people think that a "good" God wouldn't let bad things happen to people. And Jennifer said...

"God doesn't care about our happiness, He cares about our holiness."

There are things that God allows us to endure because they will shape us into men and women who look more like Him. We probably won't enjoy the process, but it is the end result that He sees.

Tonight I heard a quote on TV that struck me in contrast to this. A father commented that, "As long as my kids are happy, I am happy." I've heard other parents voice similar desires. But there are some problems with this thinking...

For one, it puts your own happiness in someone else's control. Happiness, contentedness, is a choice we all have and should exercise no matter the circumstances. You shouldn't hinge your joy on anyone other than God.

This thinking also leads your children to believe that their happiness is the most important thing in the world. It teaches them to be self centered and concerned primarily with what makes them happy instead of what is good, right, and true. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn't make us feel happy.

This idea also fails to teach kids what to do when things don't go according to their plan. If their happiness is all that matters, then what are they to do when life brings them unhappiness?

I hope, as I raise our daughter, that I remember that it is not her happiness that matters, but her holiness. I hope she learns from me that trials are given and allowed for the sanctification process and that contentment is a choice in every situation. I hope she grows to find her joy in the Lord and not in what the world has to offer.

For it is not her happiness that He seeks, but her holiness.

Monday, January 14, 2008


What Elizabeth Means

You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.
You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.
At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.

You are relaxed, chill, and very likely to go with the flow.
You are light hearted and accepting. You don't get worked up easily.
Well adjusted and incredibly happy, many people wonder what your secret to life is.

You tend to be pretty tightly wound. It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing.
You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. You don't stick with any one thing for very long.
You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start.

You are incredibly wise and perceptive. You have a lot of life experience.
You are a natural peacemaker, and you are especially good at helping others get along.
But keeping the peace in your own life is not easy. You see things very differently, and it's hard to get you to budge.

You are usually the best at everything ... you strive for perfection.
You are confident, authoritative, and aggressive.
You have the classic "Type A" personality.

You are full of energy. You are spirited and boisterous.
You are bold and daring. You are willing to do some pretty outrageous things.
Your high energy sometimes gets you in trouble. You can have a pretty bad temper at times.

You are a seeker. You often find yourself restless - and you have a lot of questions about life.
You tend to travel often, to fairly random locations. You're most comfortable when you're far away from home.
You are quite passionate and easily tempted. Your impulses sometimes get you into trouble.

You are truly an original person. You have amazing ideas, and the power to carry them out.
Success comes rather easily for you... especially in business and academia.
Some people find you to be selfish and a bit overbearing. You're a strong person.

And here I thought Elizabeth meant "Consecrated to God"... I have to say, though, except for the fact that I don't think I'm an overbearing Type A personality, this has me pegged pretty well.

Monday, January 07, 2008

What's in a Church?

For the last four and a half years, we've been attending the E-Free Church of Bozeman. When we moved here we shopped around some before we finally settled on E-Free. We started with the First Baptist Church where a friend of ours worked. Given the Baptist reputation (at least everyplace I've lived) I assumed it would be a conservative, safe place to start our search. We were sort of startled to find that a) they had a woman pastor, and b) the service was basically empty for the first part because the congregation doesn't like to sing and showed up after that part of the service was over. So, um... no. Then we visited a church that was WAAAAY out in the boonies and, while it was fine, it took forever to get there on long windy roads, so we didn't see that as a pleasant winter option. We tried the church that was within walking distance of our house, too. We liked it. The people were very friendly and they were a fairly young congregation. Lots of young couples. Just like us. Unfortunately, the pastor was about our age, too, and had never been to seminary. Call me old fashioned, but that wasn't something we were particularly comfortable with. We knew someone who attended E-Free, so we visited there and decided to give it a try.

Now, both Leif and I have always attended small churches. Congregations around 150-200 people. You know everyone and there is a familial aspect to it. KBC was like that, and so was BRBC. E-Free has hundreds of members. They have multiple Sunday morning services just to accommodate the number of attendees. But we decided to give it a try.

We tried for a couple months. After two months I started to freak out a little. We still didn't know anyone. It was like we were all alone in a room full of people. One thing we did like, though, was the preaching. Pastor Chris took a verse-by-verse exegetical approach to the scriptures and we both appreciate that. But after two months of great preaching and no fellowship, I felt like I needed more. So we kept looking.

We tried the Baptist church in Belgrade. I don't remember exactly what it was that we didn't like about it. It might have been the preaching, or it might have been that there weren't any young couples there. I don't remember. But I do remember that we decided to go back to E-Free and try to get connected somehow. The preaching was good; it was the fellowship that was lacking.

So we went back to E-Free and got plugged into a young married couples group. We met once a week and were led by an older couple with many years of marriage and life experience behind them. Glenn and Lyla were like surrogate parents to our group. It was in that group that we first met Todd and Andrea, Jose and Shannon, and Daniel and Eva. These are the people that we have remained friends with. We met as a group for about 2 years. Then Glenn and Lyla took up another ministry in the church and our little group stopped meeting.

It was around that time, though, that E-Free started having a Saturday night service. It was a much smaller service than the Sunday morning ones, and it was followed by a fellowship dinner each week. We got the benefit of Chris' teaching combined with the smaller congregation and opportunity to meet and talk with people over dinner each week. It was great. And it lasted until this summer. Then the Saturday night services stopped.

One of the reasons we liked the Saturday services, too, was that they fit very nicely with Ellie's schedule. Our options for a Sunday morning service were 8:30 or 11:00. 8:30 was still pretty early for Ellie to be up and ready (since until recently she liked to sleep in until about then) and the 11:00 service was always so packed full that it was almost impossible to find a parking space or chair. Added to that was the fact that the church got unbearably hot for Leif in the summer with the packed 11:00 service. But, most Sundays we were able to get ourselves up and going in time for the 8:30 service, even if we got there late. After a while, though, it became a little more hit-and-miss, and by the holidays it took concerted effort to make it to church each week.

You see, we'd lost our fellowship again. We were no longer meeting with our small group, and we were no longer fellowshipping with people over dinner each week. We still appreciated Pastor Chris' sound teaching, but this fall he announced his upcoming retirement.

A couple years ago, shortly after we started attending the Saturday service, E-Free did a church plant in Belgrade. I remember several families leaving to attend that church, including our friends Jose and Shannon. The church seemed to grow steadily, and two years later they have rented out the third floor of a building in our subdivision. It has been converted into a sanctuary and classrooms and they have about 150 people who meet there each week. We decided that we would give it a try after the holidays.

That brings us to last Sunday. We visited New Hope Bible Church and found it full of families with young children. We saw the Morales and the Vidmars there, and lots of people introduced themselves to us. In fact, I think more people talked to us there last Sunday than talk to us on any given Sunday at the church we have been attending for the last four years. Ellie stayed with us through the first part of the service (and danced along with the music) and then went to the nursery. It was the first place I've visited that I felt I could be a part of in a long time.

The downside is that the pastor there is no Chris Blackmore. I remember not being terribly impressed with him when he first arrived and preached at E-Free one Sunday. His sermons are more topical in nature and they don't have the structure behind them that I appreciate. They weren't heretical, or even fluffy-fluffy, but they were a little more emotional than I care for. I prefer sermons that speak of the God I know and love and less about me and what I may or may not be going through right now.

And that is what brings me to this question: What's in a church, anyway? Is it a place of teaching, or is it a body of believers? Obviously, both aspects should be present. But which do I consider more important? Which to I base my decision on? I need both solid teaching and good fellowship. But right now I feel that I need the fellowship more than the deep sermon. After all, if all I needed was an exegetical walk through the scriptures, I wouldn't be searching outside of E-Free. But without the fellowship I feel no connection. I feel no family there. The friends we've made at E-Free we will keep. Our get-togethers are no longer church related anyway. And though a good teacher is to be desired, his teaching does no good if I don't even make it to the service to hear it.

I have not completely made up my mind on whether to return to E-Free or continue to attend New Hope. But I am leaning toward New Hope. I have already signed up for a women's Bible study this quarter. I did that through Shannon before we even visited the church. I realized this summer that I need Christian women to fellowship with. I tried a study through E-Free this fall, but it felt forced. And after the 10 weeks were over, I didn't know anyone any better than I did when I started. In fact, I missed the last 3 weeks an no one even noticed. Or if they did, they didn't comment. So I'm going to try this group. I know God intends for His people to fellowship together. And I know that He will provide all I need. I know that He is faithful, but am I? Therein lies my struggle, I think.