Friday, January 31, 2014

Pray, and be prepared for the unexpected. "Hello, Lewis!"

Hello, Lewis!
You know how people glibly say, "God is all you need"? Well, sometimes we also need a warm body nearby. This time, I'm not just talking about the fine fellow who shares the house with me. Ever prayed and sought God's wisdom to find what's missing (or what to drop)? I did, a few weeks ago. Was I ever surprised by the answer to a dilemma I was facing.

Turns out there are a few things you should wait to do if you say yes to God's call to missions. My advice? Don't part with animals you love - until you have to. In prep for teaching this summer overseas, we left our dogs with a young family. By the time we got back from all the travels and moved into our new space, they were bonded.

Waiting for a walk
Our dogs got me up each morning and out the door, even during the cold and wet days of Seattle. I may not be very self-disciplined but I am a good pet owner: do they need to walk? Then we walk. With the doggies gone, I quit walking. Groan. Of course, I gained 10 lbs. this fall and winter. My appetite increased proportionately - what's that about?

I prayed. "Dear God, what on earth am I supposed to do?" (Walk, of course! But I couldn't get myself out the door.) "How can I get moving again?" And the answer seemed clear, though startling at this point of our transition.

We found Lewis last week, the perfect 8 year old poodle, same age as ours were. He's curled up beside me as I write. His family must have been fabulous: he's house-trained, doesn't mark, likes people and other dogs, and sleeps quietly in his kennel each night. He's not a fussy eater and is undemanding. He doesn't shed or dig holes or shred paper. He doesn't lick (= vital for taking him along; Muslims consider themselves unclean if licked by a dog.) He's delighted by our schedule: 2 walks a day ... AND he adores us, on top of everything.

What's not to like?

I am grateful for his doggie company and God's provision. It's totally unexpected: I didn't think I needed or wanted a dog in this transition time - but God knew exactly who should come into the household.

My energy level is rising, I've shed a few pounds, and my appetite is stabilizing. Plus Lewis has a good home. It works, all around.

How has God surprised you? Got a story to share?

Read more:
*For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all
who call upon you. Psalm 86:5 ESV

*I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word. Psalm 119:14-16 NLT

*The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. Psalm 145:9 ESV

*Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Matthew 6:26 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Through the cycles of our lives, you have blessed us with sunshine, clouds, snow, wind, rain, warmth, and cold. For the beauties of the earth that are gifts from you, we thank you. Help us to be good stewards of your gifts. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Celebrating and sorrowing: goodbye to Diane

This weekend we'll celebrate the life of Diane, a dear friend as well as a respected colleague. She fell in a hiking accident last Saturday and walked through the eternal doorway into the presence of Jesus.

We've been sharing sorrow and sympathy, grief-stricken words exchanged among her friends. How she will be missed! We won't see her here again - but the hope of eternal life with our Lord comforts us. We'll meet in heaven when our own days are through.

The way we think about milestones like death reveals much about our life with Jesus. Here's what Diane taught me:
  1. Christ is worthy of our adoration. Diane, four other women, and I had committed to a year-long journey of spiritual disciplines. Each week we'd read, think, and pray together to focus our attention on God's ways. Diane's responses demonstrated her life of worship and her longing to love God more.
  2. Christ is worthy of our attention. Diane took time to write about her disciplines of faith. Some weeks I was convicted by the depth of her devotion; she understood that God demanded all of her attention and efforts.
  3. We work while we can. Diane was a hard worker who was the liaison for people, relationships, and information. When her work was done - though she didn't know the end was near - God called her home.
  4. Everything secret becomes known. One of Diane's friends had to go through her apartment. She found Diane's Bible open on her desk. What would someone find on mine? On yours?
  5. Not one day can be shortened or added to what God gives us. Comments about Diane's death range from "tragic" to "cut short" to "awful." These describe only our side of the story. Diane lived her life to the full. She accomplished what she was born to do. She was a gift to us for a certain number of days. When those days had passed, she went Home to her reward.
  6. Great joy awaits those who live for Jesus. Since attending my first memorial service, I've had the same initial response at hearing of the death of a Christian. Envy. A holy jealousy takes my breath away. To think that someone who has believed in Jesus now gets to be near Him! What joy. What bliss. What a future!

    I was probably five years old, at the first funeral I can remember. Grandma stood, heaving with great sobs beside me.

    "Why are you crying, Grandma?" I asked her, looking up through childhood tears.

    "Oh child! Think of Mrs. S, gone to be with our Savior. How sad we are, because we still must wait to see the glory she is experiencing!" Grandma described perfectly what I was feeling. We longed to be in heaven with Jesus. Those emotions continue to be my first response to the death of a Christian. Longing. Rejoicing. Awe.

    Think of it! This is what Diane knows: the Presence. The Friendship. The Power of the cross. God's enveloping Love. Blessed freedom to be completely whole and content, encompassed by God's perfection. Wow! Doesn't that take your breath away in anticipation, too?
"Redeemed how I love to proclaim it,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
Redeemed by his infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am..."

The old hymn reminds us that death is a doorway into a glorious future. We live each day here to the full so that we have no regrets when we see our Lord. We strain forward in anticipation to the day when life here ends and eternal life begins.

Diane's end was sudden, unexpected, and quick. Many of us will suffer illness and lingering goodbyes before we see what she is seeing. Before we know what she knows.

Being human means we are born and we die. Mixed with my feeling of missing this dear one, with feelings of sadness that she and I may never visit and chat here in person, I feel wonder and excitement for her ... and for all of us who believe. Some day this is our privilege and destiny, too. "How marvelous! How wonderful! And our song shall ever be, how marvelous, how wonderful is the Savior's love for me."

THIS living in the Presence is her reward. Surely not one of us would call her back from the beauty, peace, and love that surround her forever more.

How do you feel about death and dying? Have you fixed your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith?

Read more:
*Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5 NIV

*Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV

*But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrata, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2 ESV

*When Jesus was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed." Luke 7:6-7 ESV

*To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! Revelation 2:8-9 (NIV)

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly Comforter, plant in our hearts the willingness to care for your children as you are continually caring for us. As we navigate the difficult times of our lives, give us strength to show your love always.

As we count our blessings, let us remember that there are many among your children who have yet to realize that you walk with all of us and carry us in your arms when we can no longer carry ourselves. Help us to show the light of your promise and support today. In the name of Jesus we ask. Amen.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Abundant life through hospitality

We've had a few busy weeks. W's teaching full time in his last classroom semester at NU. We travel and preach on weekends, which we love.

But one of our most important commitments is this: we want to practice hospitality until we leave in June. We want to finish this season without regrets so we don't have to say, "Oh, I wish we'd had you over," or "We never did find time together."

Thus, twice a week, I set the table, W's sweeps the white floor, and we open the door to friends, old and new. My mother, from whom I learned to keep an open home, taught that there's a flow to having guests in. When you do it often, the rhythm of preparing food and clearing the space comes naturally. (Conversely, when you take a long break, it's harder to have people over.)

Here's what hospitality is teaching us:

  1. Everyone invests their life in things that matter to them. People matter to us, so we need to invest in our relationships.
  2. Every investment costs something. For us, the time, energy and food are overwhelmingly worth the memories!
  3. You receive more than you give. Conversation and prayers around the table refresh us beyond expectation.
  4. Hospitality is God's gift. How grateful we become when God's people share how good He is to each of us!
When's the last time you had people over? 

Are you missing the blessings of hospitality? You'll need these basics:

  • Think. Why are you meeting? Jesus showed up at weddings and parties and people loved having him there! Pray over the gathering before and after. And watch God show up with loving presence and fun. 
  • People. Who would you like to know better? or who needs to hang out with you? Start small if that feels easier.
  • Space. Whether it's an extra chair or a monstrous sofa, sit down for a while - or host a standup get-together. OR find a favorite coffee shop with comfy seating.
  • Time. Schedule a meeting time and confirm who's coming. 
  • Food and drink. Community is nourished around food. Purchased cookies or glorious home-baked torte. Crackers and cheese or a sit-down meal? Choose your own style.
January is cleaning month, we traditionally try to reduce clutter in life and spaces. "Company" may be the best reason to open up heart and home in this New Year.

Read more:
*It has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. 1 Samuel12:22

*Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation." With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 

In that day you will say: "Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you." Isaiah 12:2-6 NIV

*Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 ESV

*Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly Sustainer, we give thanks for our families and friends, our church and our jobs, our trials and adversities, and our triumphs and accomplishments. You supply all our needs even before we may ask in prayer. Thank you, Lord, for your kind and generous spirit. Amen.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A nice walk with beautiful views

W and I walked around Lake Union today. It was a nice stroll, with lots of pauses... and it went on and on.

View out our window, leaving the boat: 3:20 pm
Wooden Boat center near the MOHAI

Water water everywhere

The strangest house with the I5 bridge behind it
Walking under the I5 bridge

Water currents

Looking across Lk Union to the Space Needle
Vines taking Gasworks Park hostage
Pretty as the sun goes down
We made it back to the boat at 5:50 pm. Our hearts are full. Our feet hurt. Not sure we'd do that every day, but it was a nice walk - about 6.5 miles.

How grateful we are for health! We haven't walked any distance since summer, but other than each having the start of a blister on our right footpads, we're fine. Relaxing. Happy to have another nice Seattle memory before we leave.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The kaleidoscope of creativity

"Give a mouse a highchair..."
"Look, Oma," she says, handing the mouse a piece of popcorn. Her IKEA mice and goats hang from my drawer pulls. Kinsey nibbles on popped kernels between feeding her dolls.

Our granddaughter's play reminds me of how free-flowing the days were when our kids were little.

No wonder our children think outside the box. We rarely watched TV: we galloped through the neighborhood pizza store or fire station on our field trips, glided past possibilities in our boatload of imagination. We padded through the world, flipping through pages of library books and we stalked adventures as if on cat paws.

Everything in sight was fair game. An item did not just "do" its original function. Anything could serve whatever purpose we dreamed up in the moment. When we put it away, we left its ideas behind and started our next adventure. It wasn't quite Pippi Longstocking, but some days probably came close to her nutty household.

#3 grade pine soffit boards
This year, whether clearing our space or opening the doors of imagination with K, I'm catching glimpses of past creativity.

  • Jars of kitchen spices, sniffed, to determine a menu = letting our noses decide how supper should taste.
  • Screw-in hooks and metal drywalling corners from the hardware store that made affordable curtain rods (that lace valence stretched across 2 rooms). 
  • Stale rice dumped into a huge Tupperware, set in the middle of a blue tarp = an indoor sandbox for rainy Seattle days. 
  • Baking science and math curriculum = the kitchen chemistry lab of measuring cups,  the amalgamation of ingredients, oven light on to observe fusion as cookies melted and rose ...) 
  • #3 grade pine soffit as 8" floorboards = 20 years of decor satisfaction, even if my dad mentioned that "Grandpa wouldn't use this in a barn" while we were nailing it down.
  • Hiring the Paris diplomat's daughter as babysitter ("Please speak only French to the children," when they hadn't heard a word of French before.) Spanish Muzzy - the kids remember how to count three apricots in Spanish to this day.
  • Children's magazines as core curriculum: Zoobooks for geography, botany, and zoology curriculum. Ladybug and Cricket magazines as literature. National Geographic Kids as social studies, geography, art, and photography.
  • Year-end educational testing to see how our homeschoolers measured up to state standards = play dates with a bit of paperwork between. (Yeah, our kids were pretty relaxed during tests.)
  • Funeral wreaths tossed into a pile by cemetery maintenance workers, stripped and reused for pinecone wreaths at Christmas. Pinecones also gathered on our walks through the cemetery. (Okay, so my m-i-l thought that was a slightly gruesome robbery. Love you MomK - and weren't the wreaths pretty?)
What's in your hands today? How can you look at resources differently? 

Oh - this just popped into my head because my coaching session today helped me rethink a few of my own assumptions. My mind is churning and sorting. 

I'm a coach as well as being coached. Contact me if you could use a free hour of coaching to talk through a stalemate or look at things a new way. I need a few more clients for the next certification level. Thanks!

Read more:
*My heart exults in the Lord. 1 Samuel 2:1 NEV

*I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them. Ezekiel 20:12

*Jesus said, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10 ESV

*Abide in my love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. John 15:9,11 ESV

Moravian Prayer: As we awaken to a new year, let our first thought be a song of praise to our Father in heaven. For your gift of life, we thank you from the depths of our hearts and we boldly call upon you, Lord, to lead us safely through our time on earth. In Jesus' name we pray. 

Praise God, praise God, praise God. We love you, we honor you, we sing to you praises of joy. Praise God, praise God, praise God. Your mercy, compassion, and grace are our strength and anchor. Hear our songs, O Lord. Amen.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Got connections?

One of the most startling things about life is its connections. Nothing takes God by surprise and he delights to show his children that he is in control of his world.

In what ways can you look back to see how God orchestrated meetings with people or connected resources for his purposes and your benefit?

Here are a few our stranger "coincidences" of the past decade:

  • I was praying for a friend who was moving into an isolated house. "Get her a dog," God whispered. "What?!" I found the perfect adult dog that had been abandoned at a breeder's. I chickened out of surprising my friend and told her. She was thrilled and that Saturday we scooped up Beau, her fabulous companion of the next 7 years.
  • Reading my guest books from years gone by, I'm amazed at how many people we don't know. Women came for monthly teas - from the doctor's office, grocery checkout lines, church, and other chance meetings. I saw many of them twice: the first time to invite them and the second time at the tea table.
  • One Wednesday, W read a comparison of two car models. That weekend, a friend deciding on which car to buy asked him if he knew anything about those exact cars. W passed on the information.
  • "Who 'just happens to have' office dividers the right color and size in their garage?" asked a friend. Well, apparently we did. We'd picked some up 2 years before, the perfect backdrop for the university's art shows.
  • In a Seattle shop, I found a Bösendorfer grand piano for a friend's weekend house. When the house sold, the piano lived with us and got a few years of technical upscaling by Steve Brady, our extraordinary piano technician. My brother was looking for "the perfect piano" around the time we were downsizing. It moved to his house in Edmonton in December.
  • One of my academic mentors had most of the supplemental research material I needed, neatly stowed in file cabinets in her garage. She also attended language school in Bandung (like we're planning) and was assigned as the designated missionary with our organization; her husband was listed as "the spouse" (like us.) Her trailblazing model of mission calling and work reassures me.
  • It took 5 years to complete my PhD in Intercultural Studies. I didn't know why I was in the program, except I was sure God had sent it my way. A year after graduation when we were called to missions, two of my classmates were our overseers. Three of the four missionaries we'll work with are alumni, whom I met through my job as NU Alumni Director.
  • I talked to my friends about downsizing and moving into the basement last fall, when it was still heaped with storage. They talked me out of it ... but God moved us down a year later. I gave away something every day in January last year, great preparation for moving into our smaller space. In October last year, I felt I should get certified in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) last fall as well: I resisted. No more classes for me! But I succumbed in February and signed up for summer school - just before our call to missions in March.
    None of these impulses were premeditated. They were God's provision for our future, giving us the will and the means to do his good pleasure.
  • Nearly everything in our basement suite is repurposed. Our bathroom vanity, complete with sink and faucet, was torn out of a home being remodeled = the week before we started to build. Our dining "buffet" was assembled from cabinet "leftovers" of the same house. We purchased our kitchen cabinets from a missions writer and practitioner who encouraged us in our calling. One extra cabinet was perfect for our laundry room.
  • Earlier this week, two teachers and two entrepreneurs visited us at our place. Listening to God provide interchangeable resources for each of them was great fun.
Sometimes being is enough. Then doing emerges naturally - or supernaturally - as a matter of course. The road of obedience seems paved with a thousand blind "yes"es.

Read more:
The Lord said to Abram, "I will bless you and you will be a blessing." Genesis 12:2 NIV

*Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant. Psalm 86:16 ESV

*The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" Luke 17:5 ESV

*Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Romans 12:14 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Gracious God, you have blessed us in many things. We are grateful, but often we forget that the blessings we receive are not fulfilled in purpose unless they become blessings to others. Give us the devotion to live a life of blessing. 

We pray for the poor, the homeless, those who have had their faith shaken, and those who are afraid and without hope. Cover us all, O Lord, that we may be strengthened. Increase our faith! Amen.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A fresh look

A little humor goes a long way!
from Wall Vinyl
Around this time of year, winter doldrums seem to be closing in. How can we take a fresh look at our surroundings to renew ourselves? Here are a few ideas:
  1. Let's be grateful for what we have. Aren't you glad to be you when you read the news, turn on the TV, or hear about hardships others go through? Me too! Let's focus on what's GOOD rather than our challenges when we can.
  2. Add color and spice. Whether it's to our food, our living room, or our life, incorporating bright tastes and hues cheers us and perks us up.
  3. Change things around. Is what we're doing not working for us? What small changes would provide a boost, right now?

    Here's an example: I hate (yes, hate, not merely dislike) walking up our driveway and street to where my walk levels out. The steep hill daunts me and I'm resistant to the effort, even though it's not physically difficult. Something about that slope repels me, especially in winter.

    I've begun driving to the top of the hill, parking the car, and walking for 2-3 mostly level miles before running errands. Sure, driving is ecologically unfriendly. It would be healthier to walk out my door, tromp to the top, and cruise the flats before descending to my doorway. But I've talked myself out of walking for 4 months.

    It's definitely time to shake things up a little. Though skipping the steep hike is not the best possible plan, avoiding the hill is working for me! Which routines could use tweaking for your maximum benefit?

    Imagine living in this calm, clutter-free space,
    from Apartment Therapy
  4. Find one word to motivate and focus your attention. Some of us chose one word as an anti-New Year's resolution. (If you don't have one, what concept resonates with your spiritual life, mental health, and physical well-being? Condense it to one word.) Let's align our activities with that so we don't waste our time and energy to reap regrets ... or nothing at all.

    My word's gratitude, releasing the past to embrace the present and future with a thankful heart. What's yours?
  5. Live one day at a time. Life may feel overwhelming or grey. Usually we can take one step after another, even when the pace is slow or halting. Put one foot in front ... again and again to see where the path takes us.

    If the way is cluttered, simplify your expectations and your surroundings.
  6. Look ahead in anticipation. "I'm an optimist," said a key donor who who helped raise a pledge for $330 million within a month. His goal was to save artwork in the Detroit Institute of Art from the auction block.

    "Did you think you would be this wildly successful?" asked the NPR interviewer this morning.

    "Well yes. Remember, I'm optimistic and always hope for the best."

    What a great attitude. When things look darkest, a rainbow or a ray of sunshine my begin to emerge. Let's not miss it!
  7. Finally, share your life and resources with others. Focus outwardly to be happier! Volunteer. Give. Spend yourself on behalf of other people. What you gives comes back to you - even if it's just a realization that God is good and we have a lot to share.
Read more:
*Praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. Psalm 148:13 ESV

*Surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. Psalm 54:4 ESV

*The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV

*Moravian Prayer: Almighty God, we praise your name. Lord, we worship and adore you, for you are our strength and our shield against the evils that we encounter daily. You are always faithful and never fail your obedient children. As you direct us, we trust in your divine wisdom. Amen.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cultural headstands

This always makes me laugh
Driving across the rainy, gusty mountain pass yesterday, one startling line in an NPR interview caught my ears: "A third of Americans still believe evolution is untrue." (Sorry, I couldn't find the direct quote this morning.)

My mind began churning with surprise. I've often thought about the implications of building our lives on the theory that the universe came together by chance (without a supreme Moral Being to guide its beginnings and its progress).

The relatively recent adoption by the masses of evolutionary theory gives me pause because:
  1. This theory barely existed before Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, a mere 155 years ago. Before then, general society marginalized adherents of non-creationism as kooks.

    Darwin theorized a common origin for species. I have no trouble with the idea of a common origin for things on earth, actually. (Genesis proclaims that God originated everything and is the common source.) We need only look around us. All Beethoven's compositions sound like Beethoven. Everything Picasso painted or drew looks like Picasso. Whatever Julia Child cooked tasted like her cooking. Why wouldn't everything God created have common elements and DNA? Why wouldn't creation behave in systematic ways that can be studied? Wouldn't science be a nonsensical pursuit without laws of nature that reflect orderly design rather than multiple, ongoing random happenings?

    I part company with speculators of origins who prefer lucky happenstance above deliberate design. For instance, I don't have enough faith to believe that the now-extinct dodo bird could have hatched just when the Calvaria major tree sprouted: the tree depended on the Dodo's digestion to reproduce. How could it be planted without the bird, or the bird eat its fruit before it existed? (Tara Ghandi's book on Bird and Plant Regeneration is a fascinating study of nature's interdependence.)

    Another example: fruit-eating birds have no teeth so their digestion passes seeds through unharmed. Did the planting cycle happen randomly or was it by design?

    I haven't seen increasing order and synergy emerging by chance or natural selection over decades. How would more time make extraordinary specialization more likely? After all, scientists insist that the universe is running down into entropy or disorder (the second law of thermodynamics, taught in every high school science program).
  2. Chucking the assumptions of scripture - that God made everything and lovingly watches over his creation - devalues our biblical responsibilities to love of God and neighbor, which means looking out for the welfare of others.

    Hmm, where does a societal "evolution" of amoralism and separation from God's authority lead? Are we becoming more caring? More giving? Safer? Healthier? Happier? More free to be and do good? (What is good without a moral compass, anyway?)
  3. New Zealand bellbird feeding on fuscia tree
      50 years ago, we would have been astonished
      to hear that 2/3 of the population claimed this theory as fact. Is there more evidence today, which can only be interpreted to support secular evolution theories?
    1. The bias of NPR's reporting implies the hold-outs will come to their senses and acknowledge the theory of evolution as fact.

      The assumption of the host and guest was that "smart people know" the evidence could only point one way - to evolution of course. Only dummies or religious nuts still believe otherwise.
    2. Teaching from any bias influences thinking. Obviously, the speakers on NPR assumed that what they were taught is true. Evolution has moved from speculation and possibility to solid fact in their minds. Paul notes that worship of created things rather than the Creator leads to warped thinking and doing. (Romans 1:20-25)
    3. In the end, our life-philosophies decide which is more logical, a Designer or a million lucky chances. The issue is not whether we are smart or stupid, but which foundation our hopes, dreams, and learning is based upon.

    The many happy chances theorized by evolutionists
    Here's what one smart man observed:
    "One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it 
    gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences. When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. 

    "If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children. The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. 

    All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?" 
    C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

    Read more:
    "I will not hide my face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out my Spirit on the house of Israel," says the Lord God. Ezekiel 39:29 NKJV

    *In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 ESV

    Moravian Prayer: Ever-present Savior, you are the mirror in which we see our own reflections. Thank you for the opportunity to see your goodness in all of earth's people. Let our faces reflect the kindness and mercy that you bestow upon us daily. We pray that all may see your image within us. Amen.

    Saturday, January 11, 2014

    Do the work at hand

    In 5 months, we hope to be zipping our suitcases for a long trip across the Pacific. Before we go, there's work to be done.

    The meeting before the meeting: friends visiting
    and catching up on Christmas events
    W's begun his final semester at the university, so this was a busy week of preparation. The class syllabi and websites are done; he's ready to teach on Monday morning. Meanwhile we're hosting guests twice a week and itinerating on the weekends.

    Today we're spoke at a seniors lunch before heading across Snoqualmie Pass. The torrential rain and occasional snow were foul but the roads were only slushy for a few miles. God answered Jean's petition for safe travels, gripping my hands in prayer before we left Creekside Church.

    Tomorrow we preach together in the Sunday morning adult class and service in Kennewick. W and I have notes on many scripture passages. Integrating what we have and what we're learning together is a lively process. Back and forth. Writing notes, deleting extra material, talking it through. What a privilege to do God's work together.

    What is the work God is calling you to do? 

    Seniors with a great sense of humor and pragmatic thinking:
    why exhaust friends before Christmas when
    you can keep celebrating into the New Year?
    Here are a few questions that help me evaluate work, confirming that we're not filling time with things that don't matter:

    • Do we sense God's approval on this opportunity? "Would Jesus be comfortable doing this?"
    • Does this work need doing? Sometimes we're assigned things that are diversions or someone's hobby horse. Sometimes we're the only ones within hand's reach of an onerous task that is important but not desirable. "Just do it!"
    • If it needs doing, are we the best person to do it? Is there someone else who would learn from/ enjoy/ thrive on doing this? However, we can't just shove a chore to someone else because it's menial or "beneath us." After all, Jesus served in low and high tasks.
    • How can we best serve God and others in completing this? What spiritual gifts (serving, helping, teaching, etc.) could help us do a good job?

      The outcome might include benefits to us: developing spiritual discipline, good character, or skills. Maybe we need God's grace to do something with a good attitude or light heart. Some things may be easy, while others may take great effort. "Whatever you do, do it with all your might as serving the Lord."

    The next time you are handed an opportunity or are asked to undertake something, pause to think about the wonder of God at work in the world - through you and me.

    Read more:
    *As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. Psalm 103:13 NEV

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." Romans 1:16-17 NKJV

    *In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10 ESV

    Moravian Prayer: What a wonderful and awesome God we serve! You sacrificed your pure and sinless son for the sake of the world. We cannot thank you enough. Accept our praise, love, devotion, and worship for we can never, ever repay this debt. Glory and honor to you, Lord. Amen.

    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

    The power of a simple idea

    Through a screen ... darkly
    My coach Angela and I had only 20 minutes in our group-mentor meeting. The worst of it? My head was spinning and I didn't have a clear idea on what I wanted to be coached. What a morning!

    But we launched in. Got focus. Before long, I had a solution for my inner head-cloud and the procrastination that's dogged me since pre-Thanksgiving travels.

    By now, you know I'm visual. When spaces around me get messy, my thoughts go fuzzy and disarranged. W's shifting his office from upstairs to the basement. In the process, my almost-done office and the rest of the flat are heaped with boxes, books, gear, and garbage. There's no way to get around that: the moving process is chaotic. And my headroom was utterly clogged.

    "Why don't you get out of the house while I work on this tomorrow?" W suggested, noting my paralysis on the sofa yesterday.

    So this morning I went to "the Boat," our friends' refuge, floating on Lake Union. 
    the panoramic view of my perch...

    I plugged in their hotspot and called into the coach meeting. The fantastic thing about coaching is that the issues discussed and the solutions are relevant to the client BECAUSE they come up with those ideas. Ideally, the coach asks questions but the client is in control of the conversation. Angela, a trusted friend, helped me find a workable solution to the clutter in my head and the resulting procrastination. 

    Our high-tech solution? Paper. Well, pen and paper.

    The question she asked? "What has worked for you in the past, to help you get things done on time?"

    Into my memory popped the 3"X3" calendar I carried each college semester. I'd note assignments and deadlines in the minute squares as soon as faculty handed out their syllabi. The pages ordered my days, weeks, and months. I saw at a glance what was expected.

    Grid dot notebook
    I don't know why computer calendars don't do the same thing for me. Even when I'm logged in, I forget to check them. When they don't sync, I'm lost. On the other hand, the info on that little calendar was available in a blink of an eye. Everywhere I went. Without plugging in. I just pulled it out of my pocket.

    My solution for managing our transition through June is equally simple. In the the grid-dot notebook a friend gave me this Christmas, I'm going to draw a monthly calendar-at-a-glance. I'll use the subsequent pages to sketch ideas and write to-dos.

    During our closing minute, Angela asked, "Can you summarize what you're planning to do?" and I added a missing piece: I'm going to write down where task-related things are stored - online links, physical spaces, who has info, etc.

    The weight that dropped off my brain was staggering. The load lifted. I have clear direction that will WORK for me and my style of categorization. 

    Stumped? Stymied? How about checking in with a coach - for one session or more? Usually sessions are an hour; you can accomplish a LOT in that time. Clients often find a simple idea - something they already know - that helps them out of gridlock and into the next phase of life and work. I highly recommend it, especially after finding my "simple aha!" this morning.

    Yeah, I'm a coach, and my clients say I'm a good one. But I'd gladly refer you if you'd rather talk to someone else. Contact me at rosemee at hot mail dot com for more info. 

    Blessings - and hopes for positive forward movement in becoming the best person you can be - and reaching your goals in this New Year.

    Saturday, January 4, 2014

    A New Year and new expectations

    Indonesian moth: ah, the adventures ahead!
    How do you approach each new year? Some possibilities:

    • Ignore it. "It's an artificial marker, created by other people."
    • Celebrate it. "It's a new beginning. I'm glad I get another year."
    • Reflect on it. "What was good last year? What could be improved in the new year?"
    • Resent it. "Nothing has changed. I don't like where I am and what I do."
    • Resolve for it. "This year will be different! I want to accomplish my goals."
    However you approach the coming year, I hope you're hopeful, filled to the brim with God's joy and lovingkindness. Here are some ideas to help us make the most of it:
    The past and the future: granddaughter
    K plays with my childhood "Johnny-doll"
    1. Have realistic expectations. If we didn't live a perfect year last time around, we probably will have some challenges this year, too. Life happens. Good and bad. Interesting and boring. Full of highs and lows. Thrilling and depressing.
          I'm glad nothing takes God by surprise, even when we feel blind-sided.
    2. Focus on important things. Let's align our dreams with lasting values. Relationships with God and others - expressed in time, energy, work, and play - will shape everything else.
          A great tip is to choose a word that expresses the focus of the coming year. Mine is "gratitude," as we set the past aside for new adventures ahead. What's yours?
    3. Set achievable goals. It's great to aim high, but we're living within our personalities, relationships, and environments. How can we become more fully human, the best person we can be where we are (or where we should be)?
    4. Be willing to work steadily, in small increments. Very few things get done in one-time big wins. What can we do today, tomorrow, this week, or this month?
    5. Invest ourselves. Let's use our talents, skills, and resources for things that matter. Remember that income is an exchange for life-hours at work. Let's spend our money (i.e. our life) deliberately, not carelessly this year.
    6. Evaluate our progress. Let's set aside regular quiet times to ask, "Are we becoming more loving? More friendly? More giving? More reliable?"
          Goals should be measurable: how will we know that we are moving in the right direction? That we have reached our target?
    7. Expect the unexpected. Let's rely on God for daily routines as well as un/pleasant surprises. Who knows what is coming our way?
          Leaning on the God-of-the-impossible, we we will have everything we need to do what He's set out for us in the coming year.
    8. Be happy. Let's remember to be grateful for blessings. When challenges come, let's thank God for good years and great experiences of the past. Things could be worse. There's always something to be thankful for - let's find those and focus on those this year!
    HAPPY NEW YEAR. Blessings and peace to you from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Read more:
    *As one from whom others hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him of no account. Isaiah 53:3 ESV

    *He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 NEV

    *For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 NASB

    Moravian Prayer: Father God, your light is brighter than the sun. It is so powerful that wherever we are, our path is lit and our fear of the dark is no more. Continue to light our way throughout our lives. Glory be to you. Amen.