Thursday, December 30, 2010

Old and new leaves, transitioning 2010 into 2011

We're "turning over a new leaf" in 2011, brushing aside the old foliage of the past year. Many of us make resolutions at this time of year. Some make elaborate plans to improve themselves. Others have simpler goals: 
  • "Be happier." 
  • "Lose the fat." 
  • "Exercise faithfully." 
  • "Read through the Bible." 
  • "Find a spouse."
  • "Attend church regularly." 
  • "Teach my children manners."
  • "Make friends at the office."
  • "Volunteer more."
  • Etc. We're shooting for big, general - and random - goals without planning details to reach them. Our resolutions are more sighs and wishes than strategic focus.
I usually land somewhere between well-articulated goals and sloppy evaluations. I take out my journal the last week of the year to reflect on what went right and what went askew. Then I think about what might be important in the new year.

Once again, I accomplished a few things I am happy about, but did a few things wrong. Being honest about what we did well is harder for some people than self-critique. Others only want to look back positively, reluctant to be honest enough to admit, "I was a flop at..." or, "I should have done better at..."

This year, I intend to compare journals of the past ten years, asking questions to expose three patterns:
  1. Are there successes and giftings that could be developed further in 2011?
  2. What do I resolve year after year that NEEDS a change in attitude or behavior? Can such a transformation be activated by spiritual growth or does it depend on other disciplines?
  3. What dreams are unrealized or unfulfilled? Am I hanging on to worthless ideals when God has changed my life's direction? Or are those dreams still worth pursuing? If so, how can I move step-by-step toward them?
I don't know how honest we can be with ourselves. We see through a glass dimly, not only when looking at God and others, but also when examining ourselves. Some day, scripture promises we will know as we are known. On that day, we will be stunned by our blindness, surprised by God's grace, and terrified by the extent of His mercy. 
In the meantime, I'm planning a few hours of solitude to meditation on scripture and reflect on my own journey. I want to move toward God's desires and opportunities in the coming days and months.

How will you bring 2010 to a close and walk into 2011?

Read more:
*Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

*We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. 1 John 2:3-6 NIV

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

"Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ..."

I woke up this Christmas morning thinking about the splendor of the world he made. The wet deck outside our bedroom attested to nighttime rain. The wind whipped through the 20' fir boughs beyond. I could hear the clanging of my new wind chimes (hear them at audio via the link), hanging by the enclosed atrium W built this fall.

It's a quiet Christmas, begun by a long walk with the dogs. In the kitchen to complete clean-up of Christmas Eve celebrations, I was overcome with God's provisions. We often thank God for Jesus Christ our Lord, born as a baby, dying for our sins on the cross. 

This morning I thought about the years between Jesus' birth and death. Mary cooking breakfast and Joseph headed to his work, Jesus at his heels. The years of routines, like annual temple visits, synagogue lessons, and scripture memorization. Sitting around the table with relatives. Doing chores so the family could eat. 

How blessed we are to have traditions and wealth - food, clothing, shelter in abundance - from God's hands. Our living room is still upside down while we wait for our daughter to wake. The built-in vacuum howls under the guest room: better let her sleep in after the excitement of 25 guests. Our family came for lunch and an adoption celebration (for a nephew, photo above). W's family joined us for turkey dinner. 

A few months ago, I met a lovely Swiss couple walking in the neighborhood. We were tickled to have them, 2-yr-old Maurin, and baby Giana-Maria at our tables. Maurin pounded the piano's bass notes as we sang carols (boom boom, our own little drummer boy!) Dominic and Regina played a few carols on their trombones, to the delight of all. We made it all the way through the first verse of Stille Nacht and got lost in the words on the second verse.

The grandmas had brought their offerings of cake and cookies, while our dear daughters-in-love brought home-baked fudge and pumpkin cheesecake. I'd prepped most of the food the day before, and the tables were in place from Monday's NU faculty event. The day ran smoothly.

Sure, our sofas are still in the atrium, the last load of dishes in in the dishwasher, pots and turkey roaster are drying in the oven. I'm not quite through the post-celebration reordering, though W already put away two extra tables and the stacking chairs. 

We have no plans but "rest" and "gratefulness" today. I'm staggered by the things our culture takes for granted. We have more than enough... of everything. 

To know that we have salvation, grace, and peace from God as well? I am simply overwhelmed with thanksgiving to our Savior on this Christmas morning.

Read more:
*Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:4-7 NKJV

*For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

There'll be no Christmas...

Just saw on the news that Iraqi believers are canceling Christmas celebrations. (Security forces patrol churches in Iraq, photo left.) The "peaceful" religion of Islam is once again systematically targeting Christians for annihilation. Horrible attacks on Iraqi churches and Christ-followers are propelling believers out of the country or into keeping a low profile. I am smokin' mad.

I think people should choose how to worship, though I am a devout Christian who believes in Jesus as only Savior. God lets us choose our life journey though not every path leads to him. When we offer his Good News to others, we must let them decide whether to accept or reject it.

The USA and Canada were unashamedly and openly Christian in the past. Christmas and Easter were national celebrations. Today, Christians have to fight the courts to hold Christian events in civic places, ostensibly because such might offend someone from another religion or an atheist with a clever lawyer.

Though the US Constitution was not signed only by devout Christians, it created room for the peaceful coexistence of personal faith, institutional practice, and government. Separation of Church and State meant government was forbidden to obstruct the practice of Christianity, as well as other faiths. That forbidding of Government interference in the religiosity of its citizens has been eroded as legislators impose laws barricading public and private faith from civic life.

What sheer stupidity to be so "politically correct" that we allow the open practice of faith to be eaten away, one law at a time, a little here and there, by those who take offence to Christianity. Let those bothered by Judeo-Christian morality who want Islamic rules go live under a Muslim government. Let those who want no Christian celebrations move to an atheistic country and enjoy anarchy or communist-style controls. Want amoral government? Go to a place where every favor is dependent on a bribe, every political position determined by nepotism and corruption. But please don't impose such trials on North America in the name of civil liberties!

Care for the poor and needy, opportunities for holistic creativity and enterprise, and communities that watch out for their neighbors are biblical plumb-lines that created our national conscience and social standards for centuries. Sadly, we Christians haven't lived up to our core values.

Yet how has anyone benefited by rejecting Christian morality and the Ten Commandments as societal foundations? In real life, are our bosses more dedicated to the well-being of their employees? Are our neighbors and their children more trustworthy? Are our coworkers more honest and hard-working? Would we leave our kids alone with adult acquaintances? If not, what has eroded our feelings of peace and safety more than our undermining of biblical morality?

Within a generation, we may have an entire rewriting of what it means to worship. In places like Iraq, Muslims are killing, maiming, and impoverishing my Christian brothers and sisters. And Iraq may be the signpost of the future if the so-called "religion of peace" takes over in the West. Growing anti-Christian sentiments in my home country deeply offend me as a one-sided attack against the benefits of truly Christian holiness, goodness, and righteousness.

Where Islam dominates, there is a sharp difference between Muslim and non-Muslim, male and female, servant and employer. What a direct contrast to Christian egalitarianism. The biblical statement of "there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free," carries beyond the Church's walls into a healthy society.

No evidence suggests today's Islam comes to the West to coexist peacefully with us. Robert E. Webber sounds his warning in his book, "Who Gets to Narrate the World?" Muslims intend to take over, and admit it in their own propaganda and literature. They hope to do so within a generation. How?
  • Muslims encourage big families. Many children mean more votes in Western-style democracies. Within a generation, Muslims may simply outvote Christians in North America and Europe to bring in their own laws and cultures.
  • Muslim solidarity against outsiders (infidels) means many Islamists will vote for radical Muslim agendas if the other choice is a Christian's or other religion's proposal... even if it means losing privileges and freedoms.
  • Muslims entice spiritual seekers with promises of peace and surrender to God. But Islam demands only conformity to a culture and rituals. Unlike Christianity, it does not require transformation of the heart. 
  • Islam attracts people with its simple legalism (5 Pillars of duty) and an equally simple entry formula. Conversion requires no spiritual rebirth, only a simple statement that Allah is the only God and Mohammed is his prophet.
  • American prisoners, the disenfranchised, and immigrants are targeted for conversion to Islam, especially among African Americans and Latinos with backgrounds in Catholicism or other formal traditions.
  • Muslim militants recruit dissatisfied and rebellious youngsters in the West to destroy their own culture in the name of religion. Many acts of terror are now perpetrated by silly young men and women, caught in the webs of extremest lies and loyalties.
  • Worldwide, Muslims are ruthlessly and systematically wiping out Christians and other religious adherents in their own nations. (Try to name one Muslim country that is truly welcoming and peaceful toward Christianity or other faiths.)
  • I have lovely Muslim friends who decry violence, but they are quiet voices in a religion that is increasingly militant because of Islam's core values. "Kill the infidel" is climbing on Islam's to-do list. Radical imams preach from their holy book to encourage their followers to earn spiritual capital by killing anyone outside their particular brand of Islam.
  • The Islamic religion continually and loudly demands freedom to worship in North American neighborhoods. However, one of Islam's core beliefs is that if a mosque is erected, that ground belongs to Muslims forever. There's no converting a mosque into a modern funky dwelling like is done with abandoned churches. A mosque proclaims itself as holy ground from its consecration day onward... and they're not giving it back, ever. EVER.
  • Muslims use Christianity's respect for others, including freedom of speech, to promote their own agendas. They do not offer similar concessions to other faiths in Muslim-controlled countries. For example, Saudi Arabia funds development in poorer countries, they specify that Muslims get the best jobs, have educational privileges, etc.
  • Muslims do not feel obligated to offer the religious respect, accommodation, or political correctness toward Christianity that they expect for themselves in the USA. Threaten to burn a Koran? Worldwide protests from Muslims, so the American government bends over backwards to prevent it. Shred hundreds of Bibles in Saudi Arabia? Burn Bibles on American military bases in Afghanistan? Fine, let the pieces fall, the smoke rise, and ignore any objections from Christians.
Perhaps, just maybe, if we Christians lived up to the claims of Christ, foreign gods would lose their appeal and gain no foothold on our soil.

Read more:
*O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:9-11 KJV

*Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  “ Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:8-14 NKJV

Friday, December 17, 2010

Stepping into the light

I'm tired of Christians skulking around as though they had something to be ashamed of.

No one acts embarrassed when they place a metal or wood statue prominently in their house or office, hoping it provides tranquility. Nobody gets too excited when an acquaintance mentions their trip to a Zen spa or Buddhist retreat, either. Suddenly, it's popular to talk about the "the god within," or "Myself as god." Knowing myself and others as I do, that seems like scary storytelling... and truly creative fiction.

I've been reading historical documents - including politics and culture - from the turn of the C20 century to about 1920. Without apology, politicians, teachers, and community leaders referred to their faith in Jesus Christ as an anchor, their source of wisdom and knowledge, and the basis for justice and a healthy society. The American Presidents extolled Christianity. They prayed for the nation out loud, front and center, without generating scorn and suspicion from the news media, coworkers, or onlookers.

But tell someone today that you're singing in a Christmas production or volunteering at church? It's like you fell off the turnip truck and contracted a red-neck contagion that could wipe out civilization and drive us backward into the Dark Ages.

Silly us. We're hoarding precious treasure that provides meaning and safety, peace and forgiveness, renewal and joy. In other words, we have access to everything people say they're looking for. God's promise to us and for our children is that our Heavenly Father will take care of his own. He sent his only Son to make peace between Creator and creations. He came in power, helplessness, supernaturally and mysteriously became "God with us."

If anyone's asking, my hand's up with an answer to his generous offer: "Pick me! Pick me! I accept! A relationship with you is what I want this season. Thank you for all you've done, God."

Let's proclaim the Good News, stepping into the light and bringing others with us this Christmas.

Read more:
*The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. Isaiah 9:2-3 NIV

*Arise, shine; for your light has come! and the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. 

The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side.

Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you. Isaiah 60:1-5 NKJV

*Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 

On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 NIV

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas 2010, from the Kowalskis:

We are thankful for Jesus Christ and our hope in Him this season. Our family is sharing Christmas Eve, while the kids head out to enjoy Christmas Day with in-laws. We are thrilled to have everyone around – Kirsten came back from North Carolina for the month, too.

Waldemar and Rosemarie traveled a lot this year. In summer, we spent four weeks in SE Asia to teach and a week in China to enjoy a new view. Between, there were trips to Springfield, Missouri, and Minneapolis (work and study); Las Vegas (computers, W); Montana (W – working on the cabin), etc. W still loves teaching and presented a few papers at conferences. R quit her job in February to focus on studies. SO good to be home and unleash my creativity as my own boss again!

We continue to write and study. We added two small rescue dogs, Spike and Bella, to the household. They keep Rosemarie company and out walking a few miles a day. W’s enclosing the back deck as a sunroom after figuring out it would cost about the same to put in non-rotting deck boards. Go figure! Yes, it continues to pour and be damp and cold in the Northwest. It’s no place to spend the winter.

The kids are busy for the most part and happy. Jeremy and Rebekah live and work nearby in Renton. Kirsten is currently on disability from work, trying to recover her health during an arthritis flare. Prayers always appreciated. Timothy’s in real estate, and he and Melissa are moving to a new apartment just before Christmas. Jonathan’s a senior at university and working part time.

God is good – and we are grateful for dear family and friends. God bless you in 2011.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Educational deceit

"Ignorance is the cause of inequality and bad behavior," my eighth grade teacher told her class. "If everyone in the world would have access to education, people's lives would be transformed. We'd know how to deal with poverty, sickness, injustice...."

So, now many of us know "how." But has that made life better for everyone? 

Have despots and dictators learned kindness along with reading and math? Do the greedy share food and shelter with the needy? Are the financially inept better at managing their money? Have well-educated religious and political leaders of the world relinquished their stranglehold on power to allow equal access to medicine and resources?

Not according to daily headlines. We know more, but knowledge by itself is not transformational.

Apparently 100+ years of education haven't helped us to be moral and good citizens. Another study confirms what most of us know: the human heart needs a revolution more than it needs information.

Jesus the Revolutionary offers the heart rebirth, though such a life is full of risk, mystery, and adventure. Though God's wisdom and transformation is freely accessible, it is not without cost. Gaining abundant life requires absolute surrender of our education and ways of self-knowing. It means relinquishing our worldview and putting our lives under someone else's control. 

That's the rub, isn't it? What are we willing to give up to be utterly renewed and reborn? 

Read more:
*O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 NIV

*Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Proverbs 12:1 NLT 
*Jesus:"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32 NLT

Friday, December 3, 2010

Church-going liars

 A recent study on church attendance says we're big liars. We say we are in church, but really, we're staying home. Canadians (my tribe) are second only to Americans in "inflating" their attendance.

The study also found that half of Canadian teens "never" go to church, while 25% of adults admit the same. And though many of us claim to be "churched," we avoid going to services. Why?

Here are some contributing factors I hear about or experience: (I'll put these in the first person, though not all are my experiences.)
  1. What about the Bible? We haven't heard more than a few verses over the past few months. Nothing they talk about afterwards has anything to do with those verses. Mostly, our pastor posts the references on the screens and hopes we read it ourselves. 
  2. Church people assume we know what they're talking about. They use words they've never explained to us. Their ideas of "holiness" and "partaking" and "fellowship" seem weird since we don't know what they mean. Why can't they talk like normal people?
  3. We make the effort to get to church on a Sunday when our neighbors are sleeping in. We expect to make friends with other attendees. But we don't know anyone personally, even after months of attending. No one seems to notice or care if we're there or not. Sure, the greeters shake our hands and smile as we come into the foyer, but my family and I sit with people we don't know. They barely acknowledge our existence. Everyone lets us walk out the door without another personal interaction. (Oh, maybe the greeters wave at us as we leave.)
  4. We're not used to karaoke, but we hum along with the band on the stage. It's a bit uncomfortable, but not a big deal - no one else is singing. Most of us are staring at words on a screen while we enjoy the music and watch the performers. The singers are in their own world, lifting their hands, swaying, talking at us from a distance. What's the point for us?
  5. We've come because of a Christian holiday we remember from another tradition (maybe when we were kids), like Ash Wednesday, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Advent, or Christmas. We remember these times as sacred highlights for Christians, but our church acts as though it's just another Sunday. (Easter and Christmas may be the exception, though some Christmas performances are more like a Broadway musical than religious ceremonies.) 
  6. Where's the mystery? The grace? The supernatural? We're disappointed when God and Jesus are passing ideas in the weekly lecture and musical show. Why bother showing up? The plays, bands, and lecturers are better in theaters and concert venues.
  7. We really want religious instruction. We thought maybe Jesus would inform our journey, messed up as we are.  We were hoping the Bible would get us back on track or at least bring peace. But the speaker reads a few verses or a paragraph from the Bible. Then he or she gives suggestions for family life from pop-psychology or offers ideas for financial success and happiness from self-help books. (We can read that kind of advice anywhere. And let's face it, Oprah has way better self-help guests and gurus on her show than our local church does.) We're starving for biblical content. We wish a thoughtful, life-long student of scripture would show up week after week. Maybe he or she could help us understand what the Bible says about God and Jesus so we could apply his wisdom to our lives.
  8. Our pastor rides a hobby horse. He seems interested in a few of Christ's teachings, but doesn't talk much about the rest of what Jesus said and did. Besides, the people we know from church don't live out what they hear in real life. I know some who lie, steal, cheat... but smile and shake hands with everyone at church as though they're perfect. They disappoint us and we don't want to hang out with them.
  9. We let someone know when we were ill/ having a baby/ having a family crisis/ lost our jobs. No one called or came to visit.
  10. What difference does it make if we show up or stay home? It's easier to sleep in or skip. No one will know the difference. 
A dozen more excuses come to mind.

But let's be honest. In a healthy family, everyone participates rather than acting like spectators. We show up for meals because we're part of the family. The food's not always great (especially if it's our turn to cook). Not everyone is happy or cheery all the time. Along the way, we learn to do chores and lend a hand rather than expecting everyone to focus just on us.

If we go to church, let's participate in a community of faith. Nourish and care for others as well as enjoy the benefits. Ask good questions and find answers in Scripture. Support the community financially, spiritually, and socially as the friendly, generous, and welcoming person who invites strangers into the Family.

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Take a hike

"Take a hike!"

That's not what the professors actually said to me Monday, but that's what I heard. What I had written was not clear or complete enough for their consideration.

"All this work, months and months of writing and reading... and there's no proposal! How can that be?" My thoughts were in chaos when I went to bed that night. "Do I have to start over? I can't go back to the beginning. I can't!" The proposal I've been working on since March had been shredded to bits. I felt trampled by the criticism of seven professors. 

"I cannot write another proposal," I told them. "Four proposals are enough." (The other three had been discarded as the issues were resolved or became irrelevant to me over the past two years.

I'm in the first cohort of a new PhD program, so the kinks aren't quite ironed out, nor are the procedures nailed down. Between flurries of emails from professors, students hear nothing for weeks. It's to be expected: the program is a great fit for our skills and interests, but wading through the emerging rules as the first cohort is both frustrating ("We don't know the answer to that yet,") and rewarding (the first cohort slips past some restrictions laid down for later cohorts). If we were quitters, we'd have already quit. 

"Oh, don't give up. All of us had to go through this, and worse," say Dr. and Dr. L, my hosts. "It's important to understand that in the game of academia hoop-jumping is almost as important as the end product."

This week started slowly. I was discouraged. But the pace has picked up! What fun - my tutorial advisers have lined up, waiting for approval. My research is coming into focus due to excellent interactions with faculty. 

"By the end of next week, we'll have something to hand in," assures my primary adviser. Optimist.

"Take a hike" apparently actually means, "Let's keep climbing, cutting out and redefining until we have it right. The process is steep and arduous, but keep going. We'll get there eventually!" 

I sleep very well at night. Head hits the pillow, lights go out... then, "Is it morning already?!" I guess hiking can wear you out! 

Read more:
*Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:5-8 NIV

*"I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race... The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow... Ecclesiastes 1:13, 18 NLT

*Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us--eternal life. 1 John 2:24-25 NLT

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Putting in the effort

"I can't do it!" Our son stomped off to the side of the gym, face red with anger and shoulders slumping.

"Come back." The coach's voice was stern. "Come back this minute and let's try it again. We never say that in this class. We only say, 'I can't do it yet!'"

The firm voice that called our son not to quit, to try again with his best effort, has stuck with me for twenty years. It has nurtured a stubbornness to do better, to try more than once or twice, and to persevere to accomplish things I believe in.

One of my work supervisors did not always agree that my ideas were worthwhile. "What's the point?" she'd say. "I'm not convinced." Or more bluntly, "You're wasting your time."

"Let me go back and rethink this," I would say. "Obviously my argument wasn't good enough." 

If the supervisor's reason seemed sound, I happily abandoned the action. I also backed off if she marked it as someone else's turf or pulled rank on me.

However, I rarely tossed an idea just because she didn't like it. She had hired me to complement her skills, after all. I also had a lot of experience with our clients and their interests. Part of my job was to act on their behalf within the company. When I got back to my office, I would pull out my to-do list and write, "Review Idea X." 

"You can be really irritating," said my supervisor. "Dogged and determined. You don't quit if I say I don't like something."

If the proposal was core to my service goals, I reworked it and returned for another try. Often I passed the idea to a colleague, who would present it in a way the manager liked. I got a lot done by not giving up.

Our faith requires perseverance as well. Whether our church, our family, or our employer supports us or not, we are called to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Being a Christian requires a close walk with God, intimacy with scripture, and faithfulness in morality and good deeds. Not everyone will like the emergence of godly character as we are molded into the image of the Son. We fail often on the way to success, and our flaws and weaknesses make the journey a messy process. But putting in the effort brings God pleasure.

I remember the smile on the coach's face as our son put his head down, gritted his teeth, and charged. "Well done, son!" as the coach patted the thin shoulders of our little boy, who proved that he could do it.

I'm hoping to hear those words, "Well done!" from my Coach some day, too. 

Read more:
*The prudent understand where they are going, but fools deceive themselves. Proverbs 14:8 NLT
*With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone. Proverbs 25:15 NEV

*For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-11 NIV

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snow, snow, and more snow

Snow is still coming down outside my window. Snow, snow, and more snow. Every time I get the forecast for snow, I hope the weather forecasters are wrong. I hate snow. 

I think snow might have been a fun thing when I was a little girl in Winnipeg. I remember bundling up to make snow forts in the backyard with my brother. Our elementary teachers had great patience, wrapping us in long scarves (over the forehead, then around the back, doubled over the face, and tie in the back.) We learned to pull on hats, parkas, snow pants, and mittens connected with a string through winter coat sleeves. We dressed and undressed for 20 minute recess morning and afternoon, and walked home for lunch on our 1 1/2 hour noon hour. The only kids who got to stay at school had working mothers. The teachers let them stay in to eat for a half hour before chasing them outdoors. Severe blizzards were the only exceptions for the go-home rule.

Besides good memories, I remember shivering, eyeballs cold, eyelashes sticking together, and icicles hanging off my scarf where breath met frigid air. Once, I fell through the ice of a drainage ditch into the freezing runoff below, clambering out in shock, upending my boots to pour out the water, and clomping the few blocks home with the fleece liners of my boots full of ice. My feet still hurt when I think about it.

I am grateful that my dad moved us from Winnipeg to the West Coast when I was 11. God must have known that I'd grow up loathing the cold. This morning I looked outside, bundled up in bed, and skipped my 6am fitness class. The road was too slick for safety on our hill.

When I took the dogs for a walk at 7.30, the slippery slope lay under a thick white blanket. Few cars or people were in sight. The dogs bounced and trotted, loving the ground cover. Good thing they were leashed; without tether, they were so frisky they would have bolted all the way to Montana. I fell (no harm done) coming down the street home, confirming the risk. When we came indoors, I treated myself by bathing the dogs in warm water, the bathroom heater on full blast. They smell better, their hair is puffy and soft, and we're all thawed out.

The gray skies overhead, branches drooping with heavy wet clumps, the tracks of people and cars etched through the snow... I wouldn't mind never seeing another snowfall in my life. But it's just November, a long way until May's pleasant weather.

What a pleasure to stay inside a warm house. I am SO thankful today for a home and a husband whose hard work provides this luxurious, safe space. The warmth and shelter is what I'm going to focus on this Monday of Thanksgiving Week as the Christmas lights twinkle on the tree in the living room. (Yes, my son Jonathan and Amanda Fox, put it up yesterday.)

What are you grateful for today? 

Read more:
*Have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.  Psalm 86:3-10 NIV

*For He (Christ) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Colossians 1:13-18 NIV

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Take the leap

"Jump for it!" I held my breath, flung myself into space, and plummeted toward the water.

Harrison Lake is deep and frigid, nestled in the Lillooet Ranges that feed the lake with their glaciers. Our group of friends often hung out on its rocky shores in summer, tanning, swimming, and playing games. 

At the back of the lake, an island peak jutts up about 50 feet from shore, an easy 200 yard swim from the beach. Occasionally, we'd clamber up its sides to the top tip, marveling at the spectacular beauty of nature. Most of our group could barely stay afloat, so a few of the guys and I explored together. 

One day, summer sun warming us and breezes drying our bathing suits after our swim over to the island, we decided that since there were perfectly good ledges above a sheer drop-off on one face, it might be fun to jump off.

The first ledge was not too high: 15 feet? We splashed in one after another, the icy water surprising the skin. Down, down, and then bubbles racing us to the surface, up and up to explode into the warm air. Gasping, shivering, smiling.

"How about we jump from the top? I see another lip we could try," one of the guys said. "C'mon, Rosemee, let's all dive off from up there."

We hadn't climbed down that side from the peak before: it was a treacherous cliff-hugging walk to the little outcropping. The little jumping ledge leaned over the water with only a small bump sticking out below. We could easily jump over that going down, but the trail itself hung over sharp rocks. But sure, we were young ("and stupid," says my 50-something brain), and down we slid, grabbing branches for balance. One at a time.

As I hugged the bones of the hill, the panorama of stunning mountains, sky, and endless lake spread out all around. Certain coldness lay below. The drafts of sunshine playing off cool waves and hot granite tickled up past me.

"Take the leap," I said to myself. "One. Two. Three." But I wasn't ready. My back remained firmly glued to the boulders.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. 

Once more. "One." "Two." "Three." Then, "GO!!!" and I hurled myself forward. Out and out to clear the hump of rock below.

I fell and fell and fell. I remember screaming with pleasure, watching the colors stream by my eyes, the adrenaline rush of plunging through air, and the shock of water. I let myself go far far down, slowing, then beginning to rise with sure lightness. My arms pulled upward, slashed the water, eyes open to see the green clearness above, lungs bursting. Up and up.

The guys cheered when I hit the surface. "Good one!" "Way to go!" But that was a bonus for what had just happened inside. I had pushed so far beyond my own comfort that the jump became a life marker.

An Olympic high-diver would poo-poo our little adventure. So would professional cliff-divers. But for amateurs like we were, it was enough. I never did it again. I never wanted to.

When God puts a challenge in my way that seems too hard, too far beyond my ability or experience, he brings to mind that leap at Harrison. It could have killed me if there had been rocks below. But there were no rocks, and the jump didn't end my life. It started a new chapter, making me stronger and confident in what can be done.

Bravery is not being fearless or reckless, but overcoming fear, considering risks, and doing what must be done. 

Where is God calling us to courage and brave service today? 

Read more:
*They did not conquer the land with their swords; it was not their own strong arm that gave them victory. It was your right hand and strong arm and the blinding light from your face that helped them, for you loved them. 

You are my King and my God. You command victories for Israel. Only by your power can we push back our enemies: only in your name can we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us. 

O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name. Psalm 44:3–8 NLT

*Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing ithe will be blessed in what he does. James 1:23-25 NIV

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hand to the drowning

Sometimes the floodwaters have passed us by, but we see them sweeping over someone else. The rivers are sucking under a friend who is almost drowning. The flames lick a coworker and she is deathly afraid of being burned.

It's difficult to see someone else's pain and not be able to fix the situation. Sometimes God's provision is a shoulder to cry on, quiet empathy at the other end of a desperate phone call, and a prayer on behalf of another. Let's extend God's love and grace today around us.

God, we each know people who are suffering pain, financial reversal, family breakup, or other circumstances that threaten them with annihilation. We pray on their behalf. Because you can, please heal the hurting, give a willing spirit along with financial respite, and forgiveness where relationships are broken.

Whom do we have in heaven but you? And on earth, there is nothing we desire beside you. Our heart and flesh may fail, but we will trust in the living God. May you be praised and glorified as you extend your strong hand to save those who are drowning. Amen 

Read more:
*But now, this is what the Lord says--He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will sweep over you, when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3a NIV

*"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11-12 NEV

*Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 NIV

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hinds feet on steep slopes

When I see the video, my heart races and my breathing becomes shallow.

What makes these deer think they can walk across an almost sheer surface? Experience? Need? Hunger? Seeing others succeed? Just because the slope is there?

Sometimes falling means a slight bump and getting up again. However, sometime a fall ends a life, a career, or a ministry. The greater the challenge and exposure, the greater the need to tread carefully and cautiously. On high alert, with great skill and wisdom.

I'm staggered when leaders think that leadership means exclusion from morality and special permission to transgress. "Let me tell others what to do, but it doesn't apply to me." Sex, food, drink, money... what could make us think that more privilege and greater heights mean less accountability and less transparency? Isn't the danger greater the higher we go? Let's pray for ourselves as member of the Church, and for those who serve us in leadership.

"Today, O God, we pray for those in exposed places of leadership and ministry. Once again, please turn our own hearts toward you. Let us accept the responsibility as well as the privilege of the gifts you give. Open our hearts to serve you with more fervency and more care, set apart in holiness because of what you entrust to us. Help us to follow Christ more closely because of the opportunities you give and because those who follow us depend on our undivided hearts.

"Let the secret things of our hearts be pleasing to you, O God our Rock and our Redeemer, so that when they become known they will bless rather than cause others to stumble. Accept our humble thanksgiving and the recognition that all good things--including the freedom that results from living in spiritual integrity--come from your hand. Amen."

Read more:
*He maketh my feet like hinds feet: And setteth me upon my high places. Psalm 18:33 KJV

*Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 NEV

*For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2 NEV

*For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. James 3:7-9 NEV

Monday, November 15, 2010


I follow Chris Guillebeau's blog "The Art of Non-Conformity Dispatch," Sometimes his blog makes me smile, sometimes it makes me feel at home, sometimes it just makes me shake my head. What do you think my reaction was to this one? (see below.) Highlighting and font are his:
November 15, 2010

Who You Are and What They Say

If you are confident, they will say you are arrogant.

If you are deliberate, they will say you are too sure of yourself.

If you have a sense of purpose, they will say you are self-absorbed.

If you know who you are, they will ask, "Who are you, anyway?"

If you believe in kindness and compassion, they will say you are naïve.

If you are a dreamer, they will say "join the real world."

If you are a rebel, they will try to shut you down.

The instructions include:
rein it in
slow it down
wait it out

pull it back
take your time
play it safe
But you will know:

They are envious because they want what you have.

They are afraid of change even as they crave it.

They are projecting their own regret into resentment of you.

It's not all bad news: some of them will sort themselves out and end up joining you. Because you are a good person and have had plenty of false starts of your own, you'll understand and welcome them warmly. We've missed you! you'll say. It's about time you made it.

As for the others, well, you will remember what Gandhi said:

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
 ********end of Chris' blog*****************

For those who know me well, you know my reaction was, "Been there, seen that." Chris nailed it for those who have trouble conforming to boxes.
Blessings on you. My advice? Keep your head low if necessary, but keep your heart and soul on God's course for YOU. He made us with personality and abilities. It's our responsibility to develop those as we grow in character, no matter how anyone tries to conform us to their will.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Patient One

The more theology I read, the more patient God seems to me. Fewer women than men have entered the speculative ring of writing about knowing God. Women tend toward the mystical and experiential when they write, while historically men go on and on about dry points of potential and random possibilities.

Deuteronomy 29:29 is one of my favorite verses: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever that we may follow all the words of this law." After Moses has reviewed the Hebrew journey through the desert, he tells them there are things they can't and won't figure out. They are to faithfully DO what they KNOW, not what someone may guess at in the future.

My husband reads that verse to introduce Christian Thought, a basic college course in Christian dogma and doctrine. "We are responsible to obey what we know, not to run rings around the mysteries of the faith."

I'm using the verse as I have so many times before--to ground and center me, especially as I read the facts and fictions of what people wrote about God in the early twentieth century. My oh my, there are some weird and wacky ideas out there, deeply valued and closely held as the basis for salvation and right living.

Scripture says it is good to explore the hidden things, but we don't base our life and salvation on them. Through the centuries, God patiently lets us work our way toward him, turning the Church again and again toward himself with revivals, renewals, and right thinking. The family of God has a family tree that includes the strangest, most diverse groups of believers one can imagine. And each one thinks, "I'm right. This is how God wants to be known, followed, and served."

We can only imagine our shock and surprise when we meet the Patient One face to face, when we know as we are known. 

Read more: 
*For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Colossians 1:13-18 NIV

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Laugh and carry on

"To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!" ~ Charlie Chaplin

Today was a day when I could have laughed for 12 hours straight. W wakes at 3am and sets off downstairs not to disturb my sleep. I am still awake when he comes back at 4, showers, and leaves for the airport. I fall asleep just before my alarm goes off at 5.30.

"Off switch! Quick" Swipe across the IPhone. Sweet silence. "No way am I going to exercise class. I'll walk the dogs later."

I fall asleep for a half hour just before 7, when our son Jono takes a shower in the bathroom next door. "Might as well get up!" Let the dogs out, except...

"What's the matter with your eye, pup?" Spike's eye is swollen shut, light sensitive, and leaking puss. He sticks right by my side as we walk to the office. He lies down and doesn't move when I leave the room. I call my husband, who okays a vet visit. Our vet can't take us until 4.30pm, and the eye is scabbing over. I call the vet at the bottom of the hill. She can see us at 10.30. Withe 3/4 hour to go, I quickly trace and sew two little dog fleece coats, patterned on one that's a good fit. It's 33oF here this morning.

Time to strap them into the car. My keys are gone. I call W, who tells me where the spare key is, but it takes 10 minutes to find it. We're a minute late to the vet. Spike's scratched his cornea. While we're there, they vaccinate Bella for rabies, distemper, and kennel cough. I haul out the checkbook. Ouch.

We do a couple of walking loops around a nearby park. A nice 88-year-old woman is taking her pug for a walk, so we stop and chat. "Honey, I'm trying to stay on my feet. That's why I am out here." Good for her!

When we get back to the car, I check email. A Craigslist post-er has gotten back to me: she has the dryer model (with enough poodle power!) that I sold last week. Hers is $20 less than I sold it. Since my "human" blow-dryer overheated and shut down several times while drying Bella last night, I might as well drive 20 miles to Marysville to get it. At the counter, ready to pay, it's apparent that I have used my last check at the vet's. 

"The bank is just down the street, love," says the German lady who runs the pet recycle store. Off we go, then it's back to the store with cash.

It's a 25-minute drive home, by which time the dogs and I are ready for a 2pm breakfast. I put them in their crates with food. I heat the 16-bean soup left from yesterday's supper for myself and head upstairs with a big pot of tea.

All we can do is laugh, shrug, and carry on during wacky days like this one. It's time to crawl under a warm blanket to read another theology book. (So much for my plans of studying the whole day.)

"Days like this happen because you're getting older," says my wise friend. 

"Thanks for that :-)," I think. "Maybe."

Read more: 
*I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; before the "gods" I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted. Psalm 138:1-3 NIV

*Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. Ecclesiastes 1:8 NEV

*Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Saved and sinning less

"You can be completely, totally sin-free! Accept God's second act of grace. You'll lose your sin nature and have all sins forgiven! You'll never want to sin again." 

Wow, if that were only true. Reading historical theology, I've run across holiness movements that believed in a post-conversion second act of grace or "sanctification." Many preachers of the day promised God would free the believer from wanting to sin, restore their unfallen (Adamic) nature, and make him or her completely holy. For the long term. For good. For the rest of life on earth.

Wow! Sadly, I can't say I've experienced that sanctification. My desire to do wrong is mostly tempered by experiencing God's love and marveling at Christ's death on my behalf. I don't want to hurt others because I remember how good God is to me. But I sin and am tempted, though I've been a Christ-follower since I was a child.

One of my friends indignantly turned to me one day after I'd made a rude remark. "You're not perfect, you know!" he exclaimed. 

It's true. "Not a surprise to me or you," I affirmed. "Of course I'm not perfect. Why would I need a Savior if I were perfect?" He's not a Christian, and once in a while he brings up how awful or difficult I can be. Yeah, I know. I'm being transformed into Christ's likeness, but whew - what a long way I have to go! Scripture says we're liars if we say we never sin, but warns against a habitual life of sinning, when we should be a work in progress under the tender hand of God.

One mystery of the Christian faith is that God wipes the slate clean when we confess our sins. Knowing that we'll fall down in the future, he completely forgives and sets us on the right path again and again. We, uniquely among all religions, never have to carry the burden of past failures and excesses. What a generous God!

Today, I'm going to try to be good. Not because I think I'll be completely successful, but because I want to please the One who is SOOO kind and loving to those he has made.

Read more:
*Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:12 NLT

*He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. Happy is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity. Proverbs 28:13-14 NKJV

*Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:3 NLT

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Just the right time

"Don't leave things until the last minute." I know, I know. But I'm pretty happy about mailing off a grant proposal with 10 minutes to spare on the dated postal stamp. I've been waiting for one official, sealed transcript from a college, and it hadn't come. 

I called Mom and asked her to pray. She did. Right then and there. I printed an excuse note for not having the transcript and slipped an unofficial copy into the envelope. I didn't seal it. God's done miracles before, I figured.

I called the post office to make sure they could put the date stamp on the envelope. "Sorry, ma'am. We've just sent the 2 o'clock mail out, and though we're open until 3, the rest of the day will be stamped "Monday." Great. I tried to call another post office, but their phone was constantly busy. I got through to a fax machine and checked the time. Oh oh. No minutes left. Take my chances.

I wasn't tense or upset by the time I got in the car. Whatever will be, will be... I had tried my best. 

As I backed out of the driveway, I looked over my shoulder to see if the UPS delivery had left it on the back porch. There was "a white envelope! I wonder..." I exclaimed, jumping out of the car. Sure enough. They had left it in the wet at a door no one uses ($32 overnight delivery last week) but at least it had arrived.

I got into a long line at the post office, but they gave me a confirmation slip that it went out the correct day. I made it home about the time they were closing. Whew. Life can be funny but things often work out in the nick of time.

Read more:
*Have you given the horse its strength or clothed its neck with a flowing mane? Did you give it the ability to leap like a locust? Its majestic snorting is terrifying! It paws the earth and rejoices in its strength when it charges out to battle. It laughs at fear and is unafraid. It does not run from the sword. The arrows rattle against it, and the spear and javelin flash. It paws the ground fiercely and rushes forward into battle when the ram's horn blows. It snorts at the sound of the horn. It senses the battle in the distance. It quivers at the captain's commands and the noise of battle. Job 39:19–25 NLT

*For God says, "At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you." Indeed, the "right time" is now. Today is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT