Monday, November 29, 2010

Jesus my Savior

I was reading My Utmost for His Highest this morning (side note: I always want to say “upmost.” Doesn’t that make more sense? Who uses the word utmost anyways.) Well, Oswald said that one problem we have today is celebrating the person of Jesus and trying to imitate him as a kind and worthy person to imitate, but removing the focus away from his saving grace and how we desperately need his salvation. He is first our Saviour and second our Pattern for who we should be in the world.

This was particularly striking to me because my deepest prayer for the past six years has been “Lord, please make me more into the image of Christ.” I realized as I was reading MUfHH this morning that I have been very focused on becoming more Christ-like, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But I am no longer focusing on the fact that I have a deep need for a savior. We all do. This also ties in with Brian’s story and his message he gave last week at HC. It’s hard to need Christ when we don’t really need him. We think we’re fine on our own. However we all know that we cannot earn our own salvation. I know that Christ has paid the way for me. But sometimes I forget about that. I stop being thankful for that. And instead I focus on how I can get on with my spiritual maturation. This year, during Advent and Christmas, I hope I am able to grasp and remember deep down how truly blessed I am to have not only a Pattern, but also a Savior. Maybe this will become my new prayer.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wondering if we give thanks the right way

Peruse the internet for even seven seconds today and you'll see list upon list of things people are thankful for. I think you're likely aware of this.

What strikes me with these lists (and in my own) is how thankfulness tends to be expressed as a dichotomy (big word) towards another fate.

You're thankful for family because not everyone has one
You're thankful for food because not everyone can eat today
You're thankful for warm clothing because there are people freezing outside

And so on.

What strikes me is in all these scenarios, we're not truly thankful until that thing is taken away from us. I mean, we can go through the motions of being thankful. It usually feels to me like 10% truth and 90% lip service. I find this problematic.

Let's extend this problem a little further:
Do we do the same thing with receiving God's grace? Where we only truly feel it when we've screwed something up?

I'm guessing the answer is 'yes' for most people. That seems messed up. God's grace is not reserved for people with extreme testimonies. As someone whose testimony tends toward the extreme side, I wish I'd been walking on the path since day one.

There's got to be a more accurate way of feeling thankful. There's got to be a better way of feeling God's grace.

My guess is we'd rather worship extreme situations and function in opposition to them. It's a much better story that way, right?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Introverts in church

This short article posits that many Protestant churches have conflated spirituality with sociability, mistakenly making a situation where extraversion is good and introversion is bad. If the author is correct, then it might also have something to do with the lack of men in the church. Anyway, I'd be interested to hear what others think about the article.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A few bits of church history

I heard an old college professor, Jerry Sittser, give some talks about church history this past weekend. Even though it happened in Vancouver, Washington (really, things happen there?), hearing Jerry lecture is usually a good idea, and it was a very worthwhile event. He talked about things from the first to the eighteenth century; here are a few things that stuck out to me:

-The early church catechumenate. Way back in the day, when the church was relatively just getting started, people didn't just start attending services. There was a long, involved training process for newbies where they were taught and discipled, tested for genuineness and eventually baptized and given the Eucharist. The whole thing sounds rather foreign--I mean, who gets "trained" when they become a Christian these days? But, really, we could do a better job in giving direction to new believers, and even not-so-new but immature ones.

-The church in the Middle Ages. Medieval Europe was basically a mess, literacy was low, and Bibles were scarce. This led to three things (yes, only three (just kidding)).

*First, the church developed a number of material, especially visual, aspects to faith. Go look up Gothic cathedral architecture sometime; the shape of the buildings, high ceilings, gargoyles, window placements, stained-glass salvation stories, it all had meaning and was meant to benefit the believer. And that's to say nothing of the images, songs, and other non-written features that the church employed. With the appreciation for (obsession with) various media (say, the internet) that our society has, sometimes I wonder if the church is really botching something important here. Obviously things have changed since Medieval times, and there is just a lot more media out there in general, and I'm not saying that we should move away from literacy, but it is an interesting topic to think about.

*Because of the illiteracy, etc., laypeople depended heavily on the monks and clergy, who prayed for them, sang for them, basically did everything for them. Granted, that probably wasn't an ideal situation, but what caught my attention was Jerry's empathy for those people. Jerry once dealt with the sudden deaths of his mother, wife, and daughter in a single car accident, an experience that was of course highly traumatic. In the aftermath, he says, he felt unable to pray or sing or do anything faith-related other than take communion. It's not that he stopped believing; he was just too tired, so he suspended belief, and the church carried him along, temporarily singing, praying, and believing for him. "And that," he says, "is when I understood the Medieval church for the first time." I don't know how that all works out theologically, but I think Jerry is on to something, and it's a good thought for those who might tend to expect too much from themselves.

*The vanguard of Medieval Christendom was the monastery. There are lots of things to say about the monks, but what caught my attention recently is that they 1) scheduled regular prayer into their days, and 2) did regular things in the context of their faith. I could be wrong, but it seems like a lot of people try to do more Christian things, when what they really need is to do things more Christianly. I was reminded of Brother Lawrence, a monk who talked about doing things like washing dishes as acts of worship. You don't have to be a monk to do that.

-In the revival that John and Charles Wesley were involved in, they had small groups. They were called "holy clubs." Just thought I would mention that.

-Also, I heard that Luther's Large Catechism is good reading. I haven't read it yet, but it might be worth checking out.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Self-awareness, Christ-awareness

I was reading some thoughts from Oswald Chambers the other day that are actually related to my last post. He's being a little disjointed and mystical, but I like some of his ideas about how we view things. (Read the full texts here and here) He says:

Never allow anything that divides or destroys the oneness of your life with Christ to remain in your life without facing it. Beware of allowing the influence of your friends or your circumstances to divide your life. This only serves to sap your strength and slow your spiritual growth. Beware of anything that can split your oneness with Him, causing you to see yourself as separate from Him. Nothing is as important as staying right spiritually. And the only solution is a very simple one— “Come to Me . . . .” The intellectual, moral, and spiritual depth of our reality as a person is tested and measured by these words.

And again:

Whenever anything begins to disintegrate your life with Jesus Christ, turn to Him at once, asking Him to re-establish your rest. Never allow anything to remain in your life that is causing the unrest. Think of every detail of your life that is causing the disintegration as something to fight against, not as something you should allow to remain. Ask the Lord to put awareness of Himself in you, and your self-awareness will disappear. Then He will be your all in all. Beware of allowing your self-awareness to continue, because slowly but surely it will awaken self-pity, and self-pity is satanic. Don’t allow yourself to say, “Well, they have just misunderstood me, and this is something over which they should be apologizing to me; I’m sure I must have this cleared up with them already.” Learn to leave others alone regarding this. Simply ask the Lord to give you Christ-awareness, and He will steady you until your completeness in Him is absolute.

I appreciate Chambers' directness, and I like the way he characterizes closeness to Christ as "rest." I'm still chewing on the Christ-awareness-replacing-self-awareness part, but it seems to speak to the subject of self-definition that I raised in the previous post. If any of you have thoughts on this, I would love to hear them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

How do you define yourself?

I heard a sermon a few weeks ago in which the pastor said that we shouldn't define ourselves by our failures. We have to let them go, he said. Discussing it afterward, a friend asked me if I think I do define myself that way or not. I don't really think I do, and I said so, but for some reason the topic still made me a little unsettled.

Well, I was thinking about it again the other day. I agree that we shouldn't define ourselves by our failures, and I still don't think I am in a habit of doing that, but I think I do define myself by my successes. And, looking around, it seems that we're taught to do that on a social level, and more or less innately want to on an individual level (I'm not going to try to prove that it's innate right now, but it makes sense, right?).

There are two problems here.

First, if you define yourself by successes and not failures, then your philosophy of self is incoherent. It can be both or neither, but picking one and leaving the other is invalid.

Second, and at least equally important, is that we, as Christians, are not supposed to define ourselves by our achievements. I know the Bible talks about crowns and whatnot in heaven, but success does not define us as much as we would like it to. This is difficult to come to terms with, at least for me, because even within the church, success correlates with rewards and praise, good things. And I want those good things to be mine. If the success is mine, then the rewards are mine as well, and suddenly I am defining myself by successes.

Obviously the answer is not to fail at everything, but to have a new perspective. And that is the hard part...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Proverbs by NWHC Members

Here are some of the funny and life applicable proverbs we wrote last week.

Never wear pleated pants regardless of current fashion trends. You ill look back at pictures and regret that decision.

If you're one of those people that jogs in place at stop lights, knock it off, you're killin' the vibe.

Never underestimate the power for rich, chocolate Ovaltine.

If you need gas, get some before you run out.

A tear in your clothing never improves on its own. Attend to it immediately.

Try to find the positive in every situation.

When someone knocks on the bathroom door and you're in the tub, don't say "Come in."

An epic road trip reveals your true nature and who your real friends are.

Always leave your keys in the same place.

If you want long nails, you must stop biting them.

Double check the license plate before hot wiring your car.

If you fall in a well, don't' worry. Somebody is probably going to find you.

When someone is speeding and cuts you off they're probably on their way to the hospital to have a baby.

Soup is good food.

Do things quickly and walk away.

Do thinks quickly, without thinking and you will not be slowed down by doubt and worry.

Make a habit out of exaggerating your stories to the benefit of the main character.

Don't worry about what others may think... dance when you get the chance!

If you are physically sick about a decision/action you are about to take and your family and friends think it is a bad idea, don't do it!

When going downhill on a bike, you lose your brakes, try for the land speed record.

Sometimes "good enough" is just that, enough.

Don't start a fire in an occupied chimney.

Make peace with the songs that are in your head.

Squirrels who do not remember where they buried the acorns go hungry.

Remember the road you've come down so you can drive it in reverse.

In most cases plugging appliances in helps the process.

Peeling paint is like peeling skin after a sunburn. Once yous tart, it never stops.

Keep a running lawn mower only on grass to ensure only the lawn gets cut.

A well written pros and cons list is like a well balanced scale discerning the heart and desire.

If you want clean pants, don't feed a naked baby on your lap.

A bumper sticker has yet to change someones opinion.

Listen to people when they're talking to you.

Don't try to meet everyone expectations or you will find yourself wondering what yours are.

Thread your golden thread as you walk into the labyrinth and you will escape the mini fawn.

Your foot and a hammer do not have the same effect on a nail.

So remember your own history and you will not be lost when the path seems the same as before.

It is impossible to alert other cars your around when both your blinkers and horn are broken.

Learn to knock on the walls (or ceiling/floors) if your neighbors are being loud.

Food will not solve your problems or create happiness, but cheese comes awful close.

Stress and worry lead to gray hairs and wrinkles. Avoid both and it will be like finding the fountain of youth.

Pretend the driver who cut you off is blind and deaf.

Buying jeans a size too small as motivation is a bad idea. They never fit.

The terrible thing about patience is waiting.

Never name the animals in a town with no market.

Those who wear blue tooth while not on the phone are like finding the milk jug empty. They have the appearance of content but are only stale air.

Anything outrageous/dangerous that you are bribed to do for under $5 is not worth it.

It doesn't matter how simple a project seems on a house. It will always get more complicated.

Jaws is probably not waiting for you at the deep end of the pool.

Eat ice cream daily. It makes you happy.

Can't decide? Order the sampler.

Money always comes and goes. But hard work will bring it back again.

Don't wear socks in the kitchen if you don't like wet feet.

Like a man who stubbornly rocks a mullet, there comes a point where it is time to move on and embrace change.

Once the soles of your shoes have worn through it is necessary to use duct tape at least every three days. Otherwise - not water proof.

When being chased, run faster than the person chasing you. If this is not possible, hope you are dreaming.

Smile with your eyes...eventually something will happen.

Falling in love is harder than it looks. Remember to wear a helmet!

These are fun, funny, smart and all around wonderful! Great job everyone!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

the Rosses


Mike and Jeannie Ross.
Posted by Picasa

Making Waves

I saw the waves this weekend. I went to the ocean. It was amazing and awe inspiring. The sound was loud. I've lived by the ocean my whole life. I've seen the ocean in so many parts of the world. But this weekend I saw the ocean. I mean the waves were so powerful. I looked at them crashing against the shore and thought that if I ever was caught in them, I could easily be killed. Those waves could end me.

But God is more powerful than those waves. He commands the ocean. So God can do miraculous things. God can heal the sick and cure the sadness and pacify the frustration.

Read this passage below from Jeremiah. God LOVES us. He loves me and he loves you. He chose you and has called you beloved. You are forgiven and He cannot see your sins. The Lord Almighty is his name.

How cool is that?

Jeremiah 31:33-35 (New International Version)

33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time," declares the LORD.
"I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.

34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,"
declares the LORD.
"For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."

35 This is what the LORD says,
he who appoints the sun
to shine by day,
who decrees the moon and stars
to shine by night,
who stirs up the sea
so that its waves roar—
the LORD Almighty is his name:

Friday, June 18, 2010

In times of distress

Not too long after Kevin and I moved to Savannah, I experienced a time of extreme loneliness. Kevin was at school and studying all the time and I hadn't made good friends yet. I had just started a new job, not making enough money to pay bills and had months before been in El Salvador, then WA, then GA. I felt alone. Loneliness is how the devil gets to me. He tells me lies and I struggle, reminding myself that I shouldn't believe them.

During that time I began a Beth Moore study and she mentioned Psalm 20 and that it was perfect for times of distress. So I wrote it up on the wall and stuck it on the inside door of my closet. Often I would cry and I would go into the closet and shut the door and read this psalm. I would read it often and I would recite it aloud until I began to believe it.

God's word is powerful. It has transformed my life on many occasions. This is one time I needed His word and clung to it tightly. I was alone and felt desperate, but God was always there and clinging closely to me.

I hope this may help you in times of distress.


Psalm 20

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.

3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.

4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.

5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.

6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

9 O LORD, save the king!
Answer us when we call!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Recently I saw a rather interesting and thought-provoking Washington Post article. I'll summarize, since it's a bit long.

Some Post journalists asked a famous virtuoso violinist to play in a D.C. Metro station, posing as a street musician for 45 minutes, just to see what would happen. So, he did, and since he's one of the world's best violin players, he selected some exceedingly complicated classical pieces to perform.

Almost no one paid him any attention. Nearly eleven hundred people walked by, and most didn't even look. Of course, he was at a commuter station on a weekday morning, so everyone had places to go and things to do, but that's kind of the point.

Would you have noticed?

Friday, April 9, 2010


I was in the women's restroom and this older lady said that my sweater was super cute. This older lady was wearing a primary colored plaid, polyester button up shirt with red pants, had lots of grey hair and huge glasses. So, my question is - shold I take her comment as a compliment?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hi Friends

We've started a new blog project, and you'll find it at We're using a new prompt from the book The Pocket Muse every two weeks as inspiration for creative writing. We post anonymously - no one knows who wrote which piece. We'll write stories, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, lists, or whatever else we feel inspired to write, all based on the same prompt. If you'd like more information on joining the project, see me. Or just sign up to follow and read along.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Waiting for the MAX, a parable.

This blog is brought to you by Karyn, Shannon, Annie, letter T, and the number 7.

Public transportation is hard.

You have to do a lot of things right. You have to get up on time. You have to manage to leave your house in one piece with everything you need, including your wallet. You have to arrive at the station with enough time to buy a ticket. You have know which direction you want to go and which train will take you there.

But even doing all these things doesn't guarantee you success, a lot of things can go wrong.

Sometimes, you wait and wait and wait and the MAX just doesn't show up. There's no announcement, no explanation, just that's it. The clock on the screen keeps changing and no train is in sight. This annoys you because you believed that if you did your part, showed up on time with ticket in hand the promised MAX would be there. The MAX is full of lies. You feel slighted and cheated and a little bit silly. You wonder if everyone else that is waiting knows something that you don't. You watch other people return to their cars or decide to walk and wonder if you should bail, too. But still you wait, confident that if you should leave, the MAX will arrive at the very moment you're too far away to run back to it.

Sometimes, the MAX shows up right on time. You, satisfied you, you board happily. You score a great seat. You pulled out the book you remembered to bring and you prepare yourself for the journey. Then, nothing happens. You're on the MAX but the MAX ain't movin' and you wait.

Sometimes, the MAX shows up earlier than you thought. You are not ready. The ticket machine won't print and you watch the train take off without you, maybe you wave.

Sometimes, you're halfway through your MAX trip and you realize it's not making the same stops it usually does. Something is terribly wrong. You blink twice and suddenly you're in Gresham, "what? how the heck did we get here?". Now you have to get off the MAX, turn around and start the whole process over in the other direction.

But sometimes, only sometimes, your train pulls in just when you're ready for it. You get a seat all to yourself. You don't even bother to open your book because you've hit the bridge just as the sun is coming up. Sometimes public transportation is reliable and easy and trustworthy and good.

So....which MAX are you on?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Computers are stupid

So I was getting on the internet sometime around the beginning of the month, you know, checking the eeemail or whatever, and I noticed something strange: I was completely disconnected. (This is strange because my computer is set to automatically connect to the network when I'm at home.) When I tried to manually connect, it told me that the security key was wrong, or that the encryption type was wrong, or that the signal strength was low. I think the signal strength message was just to mock me, and altering the other two things manually made no difference. I input the correct information, and got the same messages. So now my computer was lying to me openly. What the fizz.

Turns out that when Mr. PC wanted me to check the security key, I was supposed to move to a different tab and check a box to "enable Atheros settings," a command I neither understand nor have ever un-checked in the first place. That, plus disabling then enabling my wireless device (again), resetting the router (again), and re-typing the security key for about the fifteenth time, finally "resolved" the "problem." Obviously.

In the meantime, I've been listening a lot lately to a guy named Shane Claiborne. He has worked for Mother Teresa and Willow Creek, helped found an urban Christian community in Philadelphia, and written a number of books, among other things. It's easy to see that he's different (when he spoke at church I kept staring at his homemade pants, which look very much like regular pants, only backwards), but one of the things that most impressed me about him was his willingness to move past cynicism.

Cynycism and I go way back. Runs in the family, I guess. It seems pretty popular in Portland, too. Claiborne says that cynicism doesn't take a lot of energy, and I agree at least that it can be easy to default to once you get in the habit.

The thing is, you will never run out of things to be negative and annoyed about, if you are in the business of being negative and annoyed. Life is full of potential aggravations. Like computers. But your angry response is not predetermined; like it says in that one TV show, you always have a choice. Choose life.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Last day on earth

I was driving to work a few weeks ago, listening to the radio and one of the Christian stations posed the hypothetical question, "What would you do if today was your last day on earth?" Now I've heard this question before. Haven't we all? But when I heard it the other day, I really thought about it. I've been thinking about it for weeks. The first thought I had was that I definitely would not be going to work on my last day alive. I would spend it with Kevin. He is my favorite person in the world and I would want to be with him.

A week or so later I heard another thing on the radio talking about Jesus coming back to earth. Then yesterday, in light of the recent severe earthquakes, Kevin in I were discussing if this could be the end times. I hear pastors preach often, that Jesus is coming back. That the time is near and we should be ready. I usually think that I'll reach my 70's, living a long life, until I see grandchildren and the iPod become lame and ancient. Then Jesus will come back. Or maybe he'll come after I'm long gone.

Yesterday I thought, "What if today was my last day on earth, because tomorrow Jesus comes back?"

I suddenly had deep compassion for everyone in my family who doesn't have a relationship with Jesus. I imagined myself in Heaven, asking Jesus where my father was and wondering if my brother was there. What if I got there and the people I love the most weren't there? Suddenly, I wanted to drive to WA right away and scream at them and tell them, that Jesus is the way, that he loves them and that they need him. Of course, if I ran up there and started screaming at them that they need Jesus, they'd probably all think I was nuts, judgemental and just plain mental. But at least I wouldn't die and be in heaven wondering where my family was.

I guess in the end I realized that I'm not praying with conviction or telling people about God's amazing grace as much as I want to. I need to change my attitude.

The reality is that Jesus will be coming back. And one day, it will be my last day on earth.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
--Joshua 1:9

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I know posts are supposed to be "reflective"

...and that reflective is often code for "criticizing myself"
...and I know that it's fun to analyze motives and rationale and what the text is "really saying"
...and wonder what God's will for you is
...but it's also kinda cool to look outside at rain (or whatever) and realize how lucky you are to have accepted Christ

No further analysis necessary

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Who is God, who is man, and what can be done about it?

The title above was more or less our topic last night at home community. We read through some scripture and comments asserting that 1) God is perfect and holy, 2) humans are inherently flawed and unable to meet God's standards, and 3) God's grace is necessary to save us, through Christ.

Now, some thoughts per the challenge of my mouseketeer friend.

-The packet we read through reminded me of a five-step tract on steroids, though, the intent was to help us stay grounded in scripture rather than to be for direct evangelism. Forgive me if I'm projecting my own shortcomings here, but I was just thinking the other day that the American church on the whole does a poor job of staying close to God. What I mean is that we are taught, first of all, to separate our spiritual lives from the "secular" parts of life, but then we live in such luxury that these "secular" things surround us and demand all of our attention.

However, if we root ourselves in the Word (and the Spirit, thank you Jodi), then we can walk with God and tackle all of these things just the same. So I appreciate efforts (such as the one tonight) to seek a foundation of scripture.

-At one point the question was posed, essentially, "who are we to tell others that their religious beliefs are wrong?" I've heard this question a lot, and I don't like it. I'm not sure I would call it false humility, but it is something like that, and it misses the point.

We as Christians are remiss to give the gospel such low regard; instead of worrying about the nonbeliever's assumed rights and our own so-called judgmentalism, we should be asking, "who are we to hide the light that God has graciously given us?"

If we assume that hearing the gospel is a negative thing, if it's not actually good news, then of course we should be reluctant to tell other people that it is true. But scripture says that "the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."

This, of course, is not telling us that we should hoard the gospel for ourselves, but pointing out that it is worth giving away your life for, and that we should be ecstatic to have it. So if we as Christians take the gospel for what it's really worth, we can't really question the validity of sharing it with others.

Where I tend to struggle on this point, and I think I see it in others, is that I've been camping out in that field with the treasure for awhile now, and sometimes the novelty wears off; and the gospel isn't quite so effective when you take it for granted.

-What is the role of the law for us as Christians? As Paul notes, it can lead us toward faith in Christ, but it does not necessarily lead us to faith, nor is it necessary for faith. "Now that the time
for faith is here," Paul concludes, "the Law is no longer in charge of us." Christ didn't come "to keep the law and teach us to do the same," he came to fulfil the law as the messiah and redeem us "from the curse that the law brings."

-Lastly, does God expect us to be perfectly holy and untainted by sin? Heck yes he does. Fortunately, Jesus took care of that for us. And that is good news.