Friday, September 21, 2007

Baby-Holding Crazies Club - It's REAL!

(WARNING: You will enjoy this blog more if you've previously read the entry titled "Babies" posted on September 17, 2007)
I love my brother! There are a lot of reasons why he's awesome, but ONE of those reasons is that he's utterly hilarious. Let me show you one of the ways his humor enriched my life recently.

So yesterday I worked 12.5 hours and then went to the grocery store to buy some food for dinner. On arriving home, I dropped by my mailbox and pulled out the two things inside. One was a junk mailing, the other looked like this (well except the addresses weren't blurred out):

My first thought was, "No way! I can't believe this!" Then I flipped the card over and saw the back.

Now I was standing alone in the dark outside my apartment's mailboxes just after 10 PM and I was cracking up laughing. "What in the world?! Who would take the time and energy to pull such an elaborate prank?!" I went inside my apartment and put my groceries away before I took the time to sit down and read it. Once I looked at it again, I noticed three things:

(1) Whoever it was from knew my middle name (but that's no secret).

(2) Whoever it was from knew one of my childhood friends, because the return address was her old house. (I changed the addresses, but wanted you to see the card in all its unblurred glory!)

(3) Whoever it was from was pretty good at whipping up a logo and had some desktop publishing experience.

Then I flipped it over and read the back in detail, which gave me a couple more clues.

What are the clues from the text of the card?

(1) The BHCC was founded by "your mom." (My favorite jokes to tell when I'm tired.)

(2) The testimonial quote is none other than Nancy Hicks Gribble (a character on King of the Hill which Eric and I used to watch when we lived together.)

All of this evidence led me to believe that my brother, who has computer and design experience, who grew up friends with the younger brother of my childhood friend, who listens constantly to my "your mom" jokes and who freakishly quotes King of the Hill, loves me enough to dedicate 4 or 5 hours of his time to create a card to make me laugh! Isn't he great? :-)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Laugh With Me

All right, so with the recent state of affairs this blog has seemed semi-melancholy. Not today. Today was very joyful and encouraging as we had our first small groups of the year with the 6th-8th graders. To get to know one another we shared our "faith stories" and three of the girls shared that they had not known Jesus until this past year when they started attending our youth program. What an affirmation of God using the humble attempts of a struggling group of believers to reach out and communicate his truth and love to lost and hurting kids!

Then one girl told me a story that I had to laugh at, and I thought I would share it with you. This is how she told it to me....

"Kristi, you remember that time you were talking at youth group about prayer and you said 'Wouldn't it be cool if we had a 1-800 number to talk to God?'" [I don't remember, but it sounds like something I would say.] "And then you told us that we didn't even need to pick up a phone, but we could just talk to God anytime and he would be listening. Well, a few days ago I was thinking about that and I really wanted to talk to God, and then I started thinking, 'What if I really could call God and talk to him. So I picked up the phone and dialed 1-800-TALK2GOD..."

[At this I pointed out to her that there were 8 digits in that number and she said, "Well, it rang!" leading me to assume that the first 7 digits were actually dialed and the last one was just a superfluous number pressed right before the ring.]

"Anyway, the phone rang and it didn't even go to an answering machine or anything. Just this lady answered the phone and said 'Something-something-something-something Law Offices,' or something like that. And I was kind of confused and I said 'Jeesuus?' and she was quiet for a second and then she said, 'Ummm...I'm sorry, Josephine doesn't work here anymore.' So then I felt dumb and I was really embarrased so I just said, 'Okay, thank you,' and hung up really quick."

By now the other girls and I were cracking up and I said to her, "You missed the whole point of what I was saying. I was saying that we don't need a phone to talk to God--we can talk to him whenever and wherever!"

"I know," she admitted, "but for some reason when I was thinking about it I just got all excited and then I really, really felt in my heart that it was going to work."

The moral of the story? Just because it feels like it should work doesn't mean it will, whatever your "it" may be, I'd recommend making sure "it" is grounded in truth. :-)

Monday, September 17, 2007


I like babies.

I didn't use to be a baby-lover. I mean, I loved babies that I was attached too and the other ones were fun to look at and everthing, but I wasn't a member of the Baby-Holding Crazies Club whose members walk around begging to hold the babies. But suddenly I find that holding a baby clears my mind and cheers me up--it even makes me feel more hopeful about the future.

Today I was having a difficult conversation with someone and I could feel my temperature and heartrate rising. I was starting to get that sense of doom that's been a frequent visitor to the pit of my stomach recently. A little way into the conversation, I asked if I could hold my friend's baby (who had been in his carrier) and was told, "Sure!" As soon as I cuddled that little guy to my chest I felt more relaxed. I talked to him and tickled his chin and this adorable grin erupted onto his face, sending a thrill of joy into my heart.

I guess I can expect that membership card in the mail any day now. :-)

So what changed? I'm not entirely sure, but here's my best guess. Adult life is sticky and messy and challenging and frustrating and confusing and painful. Childhood can be that way too, because you're at the mercy of the adults in your life. Even though I'm an adult, I still often feel at the mercies of other adults. Plus I have to admit that I do a pretty good job of screwing things up myself. So I may be hurt by my own bad choices or by those of people around me, but I am not injured by babies.

Oh sure, babies may cry or even leak through their diapers onto my lap but there is no malice in their hearts. I don't have to try to figure out a baby's agenda or read past the lines to determine its hidden motives. Now I might not always understand what is motivating a baby's cry, but that's my fault; it certainly isn't because the infant is being deceptive or playing games with my heart or my mind. Babies are simple and as straight-forward as they can be without the ability to speak. They enjoy the simple things of life: listening to the voice of someone they love, having their hunger and thirst satisfied, being warm and comfortable, getting lots of rest and being held. It's very refreshing, really.

So, I think that is why my heart and mind experience rest in the presence of a baby. I'd write a little bit more about how God calls us to "become like little children," but I think instead I will go eat some dinner, spend time with some people I love and maybe, just maybe...take a nap.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Church

So, for those of you who are unaware, there is a lot of uncertainty right now surrounding my church (which currently doubles as my employer, making things stickier).

Basically, for the past couple years the adult population in our church has been in decline. This summer there were several hard blows as people very involved in ministry at our church announced that they would be leaving. Discouragement infiltrated the ranks and we began to hear murmurs of "maybe the elders should just admit it's over and close the doors." Tom (one of the two elders), organized several meetings with various groups of people in the church to see if the congregation had the heart to work at turning things around. Although I was terrified that people were going to want to give up (an idea that I think is incredibly sad--not to mention unbiblical), they actually rose to the occasion. The general consensus was that we wanted to do what we could with what we had left to honor God and minister to people. We realized that things would have to change as our church family has changed so much in the past years, but we were full of ideas and, I though, an eagerness to see how God would use us for his glory.

Several weeks ago, a group of people who had left another local church expressed interest in joining forces with us. They told our leaders that their group (about the same size as our group) was meeting weekly to remember Jesus, worship the Lord and to study a book to try to determine how God wants the church to look. What has happened is that our two congregations are now reading and discussing this book together and praying about whether or not God would have the two join together.

Many people feel that this other group is God's answer to prayer: they would fill our pews, double our Sunday school class attendance, and enhance our worship services and increase our church income. More importantly, their group has people who are gifted in areas that our church seems to lack: visionaries, preachers, and musicians.

Unfortunately, others of us (myself included) are very concerned about this potential merger. I have read parts of the book they are studying and I take issue not only with the author's handling of Scripture but also with some of his doctrinal positions--especially concerning the involvement of women in the church and the interaction of believers with non-believers (both of which he minimizes). There are also some other issues that worry me based on second-hand information I have received about statements made by members of this new group, but I won't detail those here.

I feel that right now everything is on hold while we wait to see what happens next. If we choose not to merge there will be a significant number of people (whom I love deeply) who will be very disappointed and will feel that the elders missed out on the God-sent answer to our prayers for guidance for our congregation. On the other hand, if we choose to merge there will be a shift in the leadership of our church and I'm guessing that the new elder board will not be favorable toward a female youth director.

I love my church. Many of them rocked me in the nursery, taught me Bible lessons, and endured my misbehavior in Jr. High. They have encouraged me and supported me and discipled me and loved me and provided for my needs. They are my family, and to part with them would break my heart. I doubt that I will ever on this earth be blessed with such a tightly-knit community of support. But I fear that my time there may be drawing to an end.

Please pray for us: pray that our leaders and the leaders of this other group would both be sensitive to the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pray that God would give our leaders the strength to follow his will despite resistance. Pray that God would give me peace about the uncertainties of my life right now and that if it is time for a change he would show me what he has in store for me next. Please also pray for the precious kids that he has entrusted to my care over the past three years. Pray that the time that I have left with them, whether long or short, would be memorable and life-changing. Pray that they would encounter Jesus and that he would revolutionize their hearts and their lives and grow them into the men and women that he has created them to be. Pray that he would use them and me and each of us who have received forgiveness through Jesus to share the hope of life in relationship with God to the lost and hurting world around us.

To God be the all things...forever...Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Waiting for Spring

It begins subtly.
So subtly that I almost don't notice.
After all, it is warm
not cold.
And they are green
not brown.
But that doesn't change the fact that they are on the ground,
leaving a vacancy on the branches they once called home.
The summer sun has sapped the branch of strength
and it can no longer keep its hold.
Autumn comes with its irresistible wind and rain,
and I can do nothing to stop it
as it tears the leaves away one by one...until that final release.
Then it will be winter.
And it will be cold
And the branches will be empty.
And there will be no leaves to give me shelter.

But I have hope
that spring will come.
New life will grow and provide me shelter.
A resting place.
Until Autumn.

It began subtly.
So subtly that at first I didn't notice.
After all, it was one
not all.
And they were "led"
not fleeing.
But that didn't change the fact that they were gone,
leaving a vacancy in the branches they once called family.
The summer sun had sapped the branch of strength
and it could no longer keep its hold.
This season of change comes with its irresistible wind and rain,
and I can do nothing to stop it
as it tears these dear ones away one by one...
until that final abandonment.
Then our community will be dead.
And it will be lonely.
And my heart will feel empty.
And there will be no one left to fellowship with me.

But I have hope
that spring will come.
New relationships will grow
and I will again join my heart with others.
A resting place.
Until we too, are parted.

It will begin subtly.
So subtly that it has probably already begun without my notice.
After all, it's my knee
not my vision.
And I feel strong
not weak.
But that doesn't change the fact that my strength will keep waning,
leaving a vacancy on the branches I once called "my body."
The summer sun will sap this branch of its strength
until it can no longer keep its hold.
Death will come midst irresistible wind and rain,
and no one can do anything to stop it
as it tears my breaths away one by one...until that final exhale.
Then…I will be free!
And I will see Him.
And the thirst of my heart will be quenched.
And light will drench the
once-dark corners of my soul.

This is my Hope.
Spring will come.
New Life will begin and I will be complete
in the presence of the One for whom I've longed.
A joyful place.
And I will never feel the sting of Autumn again.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Happy Crashiversary to Us!

The Wreckage:

September 4, 2003. It was a Thursday night and my brother Eric and I were on our way home from church. He had his learner's permit so I tossed him the keys after carefully loading my guitar into the hatchback next to some class notes from the courses I'd begun one week earlier. 10 minutes later, I was crawling over my shattered guitar to exit the wreckage through the rear hatch. I remember that my coursework was scattered all across the road and I felt like it was imperative that I pick it all up before it blew away. There was a crowd of people--I'm still not sure where they all came from. Some of them tried to convince me to sit down and I think I shouted at them, "I know you think I'm crazy...but I'm a poor college student and I need to get my homework!" Poor bystanders. Turns out I was a little bit crazy…and I later obtained the gpa to prove it and the prescription to treat it.

It's funny how our minds remember things. I remember things so vividly from that night—even some things that I believed to be true, but later learned were not actually as I remember. I see the accident in flashes of memories. But it's not just the accident. I see the time after it in flashes of memories, too. But what is so aggravating is that I don't think I see anyone else—I mean really see anyone else—in those flashes for at least six months. It was all about me: my fear, my pain, my injustice, my academic and emotional struggles.

The Survivors:
There's something about hardships that give us tunnel vision. When we are hurting our pain consumes our sensations and emotions so that all we can feel and see is ourselves and our own experiences. We forget that there's a whole world existing outside of ourselves and that this world is made up of individuals who live their own story and swim through their own puddles of tears. I lived as if I was the center of the world for over six months. I'm afraid that some people live like it their entire lives, so consumed by their pain that they are unable to connect deeply with anyone else. This only enhances their isolation and increases their pain.

It's not like it has to be a big, dramatic pain either. Recently when I received news of disconcerting possibilities at my church I immediately began to throw myself a pity party. It took me a couple days to begin to wonder what these possibilities could mean for other people in our church family. I'd like to change that. I want to have a heart that sees beyond my fears and pain to the needs of people around me. But how do I do that? How do I go about changing my heart?

I think the only answer is to keep my eyes on Jesus. Which really makes sense. "Set your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of your faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…" He looked beyond the pain and the shame of the cross to see our need to be in a right relationship with God. Because of him, we not only receive hope of future joy and rest, but we are also challenged to imitate his humility and selflessness.

Lord, thank you for seeing beyond your pain to the neediness of the world separated from you by their sin. Transform my heart to be more like yours. Please help me to not get trapped in the tunnel vision of hardships. Help me to accept these hardships as opportunities to experience you in new ways and help me to see others the way you see them so that I can serve and encourage them to seek you in their times of hurting.
Years later--NOW I can see how God was working what seemed bad for good in my life.