Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In Other Words--Masquerade Ball or Wedding Feast?


I'll never forget the moment. I was at a Steve Camp concert. I was surrounded by loads of fellow believers. And I was having a terrible, no good, awful, very bad day. In fact, I had gone to the concert alone hoping to fade into the crowd and just experience a little of the body of Christ without anyone knowing me. But it wasn't working and I was sitting there in tears before the concert even started.

I looked up and wouldn't you know it, the person sitting in front of me was someone from my Christian Fellowship at University. I did not want to see anyone I knew--I was just too vulnerable on this particular night. But he is an extrovert and he was speaking to everyone around him and he turned around and noticed me. "Hey," he said, "how are you doing?" Huge goofy smile facing my tear streaked face. I did not have it in me to pretend. So I answered, "You really don't care." (yes, I know it was a snarky comment, but you had to know they guy). "Great!" he responded, "glad to hear it!" He turned to sit down. WHAT??!! I could have easily decided at that moment to never be vulnerable within the body of Christ again, to be certain that tears were never seen because words and actions were not even heard. Obviously, he really didn't care and whether I knew it or not, I needed him to care. As I sat there in rather stunned silence, an arm on a body I had never seen before in my life, and would never see again after that night, reached out and hugged me. No words, no platitudes, just a hug. It was a quiet affirmation that Someone cares.

It's been twenty years since that night. And I sit here writing this feeling the same forlornness that I felt that night and remembering the same lessons that I learned.
Vulnerable people take a risk when they show the depths of their heart. That should be held in honor. So when you ask someone heart questions be ready for the honest answer and hold it honor.

That night was the beginning of becoming aware of how many vulnerable people there are all around us. I began to learn, and continue to learn, that if you ask the quiet penetrating question and then waitfor the answer, people open up. I found that the more vulnerable I became the more "real" others became as well.

"So with a painted grin, I play the part again,
So everyone will see me the way that I see them...

Are we happy, plastic people
Under shiny, plastic steeples,
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain,
But if the invitations open,
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain,
On our stained glass masquerade..."

~Casting Crowns~
from the song Stained Glass Masquerade

It's not always possible to live lives totally open. Sometimes those masquerades that we create are for protection of others as much as protection for ourselves. But a masquerade should always be temporary, not permanent. The purpose of the mask should be fleeting. The problem is that so many of us in the church have gotten comfortable with our masks and (worse) with the masks others wear. Masks are less complicated. Openness and vulnerability are messy. God seeks to meet us in the messiness.

Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew's house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?"

Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."
~Matthew 9:11-13 (The Message)~

Jesus has made a way for all of us vulnerable and broken people to come to the throne of grace. He has shattered our need to dance the masquerade. He did not invite us to a masquerade ball but to a wedding feast. He's even provided the attire we need to wear!(Isaiah 61:10, Matthew 22:1-13) So, why do so many of us get up on any given day to go to a corporate worship time and before we leave the house put on our mask that says "I'm well, nothing wrong with me." If that is true, then we don't need a Saviour and there is no reason to go to church. We all need a Saviour. We are all unhealthy and broken. We all need healing.

One of the roles of the church is to be the avenue of healing. We are to pick up our fallen brothers and sisters.
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
~Ecclesiastes 4:10~
But how can our brothers and sisters pick us up if we are propped up with masks pretending that we have not fallen? How can we assist them if they look to be standing? In order for us to properly be the church as God has established us, we need to show our needs and we must notice the needs of others. Until then, we will be attending a masquerade ball and not a wedding feast.

Father God, help me to watch with eyes that are blessed by you for those who are hurting around me.  Help me to ask the questions that allow someone to share their vulnerability.  Help me take the time to be present and to listen to their answers--not just their words but their demeanor.  Give me the courage to live a life vulnerable, to allow others to see that I am a broken vessel put back together miraculously through the blood of Jesus.  I want to let go of the mask.  I don't want to be stuck in a masquerade ball trying to determine what is real and what is false.  I want to come to the wedding table and be clothed in robes of righteousness.  Help me to live a life that reflects you for your glory alone.  Amen.

Loni is hosting In Other Words this week.  Come and see what others are writing about the Casting Crown lyrics.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stitchin' Post February 13, 2010


Not much to show for my efforts this week. Here is the start of a Quaker Heart that will be part of one of the set of Bride's Tree ornaments I am making this year.

Bride SAL

What are you stitching this week? I hope to finish this whilst watching the Olympics in the coming week. Hope you have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

In Other Words--Noun or Adjective


We were watching an episode of a British car show on television recently. The presenter has a disdain for all things "American." He will tell you that Americans (the people/the noun) are "loud," "brash," "overindulged," and "fat". I try not to be offended, but I often can be. He is harsh when he describes the people of America (and by that he clearly means the U.S. because the rest of the Americas do not register), but when he describes an American (the adjective) car, all bets are off. American as an adjective to describe a product to him automatically means "rubbish." He uses the two words interchangeably.

It makes me wonder about our use of words. Are we adequately able to encompass the meaning of a word when used both as a noun and an adjective? Sometimes, perhaps. But not always.

“Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective.”

Rob Bell

"Christian" as a noun should mean a follower of Christ. It should be attributed to someone who has made a deliberate decision to align their allegiance with Christ and follow in his footsteps. The names is an identity moniker.

That seems to work well. Just as I am an American because I was born in the U.S.A. and my national allegiance is to that country, I am a Christian because I was born again into the family of God and place my allegiance with Christ.

The problem comes when when use "Christian" as an adjective to describe everything from books and music to t-shirts and tattoos (go ahead and google it). What does it mean for a product to be Christian? Does the product itself serve allegiance to Christ? Of course not. The use of the word as an adjective is usually as a marketing tool. Christians (the noun) are the target market for the product so the product gets labeled as Christian. The problem is, describing some product as Christian tells us nothing about the product. And we end up with no real comprehension of what the descriptor means.

It can actually become a detriment, both to the product and to the target market. The presenter in my opening scene has a bad experience with an American car, so in his mind all American cars are rubbish. Someone has a bad experience with a Christian book so all Christian books can be seen as not-worth-reading. That would be a shame. There are, truly, a lot of books out there marketed as Christian that are shallow, or worse untrue to the Scripture. I have read some. I'm sure you have too. If I thought that was the standard for "Christian" I would want nothing to do with it. And I would end up missing blessings in so many other books. This scenario is sad, but the next scenario is more telling. I do not know which came first his caricaturisation of Americans or his disdain for products from America. But they feed one another. A bad impression by a "Christian" product can offput someone from wanting to be around Christians. Likewise, we as Christians can create such a reputation that someone would not want to utilize products that are deemed Christian.

Ironically, the author of today's quote is a perfect example of this. His books and videos are marketed in "Christian" book stores. But even among Christians the verdict is divided. Some say that he gives Christians a bad name because he is not direct enough in his presentation of the gospel. Others say that he is a breath of fresh air because he speaks to people in a way to catch their attention and intrigue their interest in things of Scripture and church. Some say "that's not my brand of Christian" whilst others praise "I'd be interested in that kind of Christian." I personally look at his work and his public ministry and I see a someone living out their understanding of their call and Scripture. I do not agree with everything he writes, but I do find that he makes me think and evaluate what I believe. I know that not everyone agrees with me. On this blog, I do my best to live out in words what I see as my calling to follow Christ. For some of you that works. Others, may think that my flavor of Christianity is too serious. Still others may question why I have things like my stitching on their when this is a "Christian" blog. Every blog writer knows that she/he will never please everyone in their audience. For my experience, and for what I see Rob Bell saying, we can take the moniker Christian as our identity and become the noun. But when we try to apply it as an adjective we start a slippery slope of "by who's definition" and will rarely find a consensus.
“Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective.”

My dear sister in Christ and blogging, Tami, is our hostess today. Please visit. Have a blessed day!

Monday, February 08, 2010

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes--a review

Check out my book!

I don't do many book reviews on this blog.  But this just isn't any book.  This is a book I've anticipated the release and I could not wait to get my hands on it.  And it did not disappoint. 

I first *met* Lisa McKay  when Iris pointed her readers to an online Bible Study that was starting called "I Am."  I was pouring a lot of me into teaching other people and not enough allowing myself to be refilled.  This study was the refresher I needed.  I found Lisa to be deep, funny, penetrating, accessible and an amazing communicator.  So, I started following her blog.  Her blog is also funny, challenging, and accessible!  When she announced that she was writing this book I was excited for her and committed to pray for her.  Sometimes I succeeded, other times I dropped that prayer ball totally.  I eagerly watched as she wrote the book, sent it off for editing and finally had a print release date.  I can tell you that the end result of this book was worth the wait.

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes is a handbook for pastors' wives everywhere.  You are probably shaking your head in wonderment because you all know that I am not a pastor's wife.  But I know a lot of pastor's wives and Lisa also speaks to the layperson about what it looks like behind the door of the parsonage.  This book will touch you and will make you laugh, but it will ultimately make you think about how you impact your pastor's family with your words and actions (or silence and inaction).  Whilst giving guidance on how to maintain your own person and ministry alongside being one's husband's greatest supporter, she is reminding the layperson to extend grace to the pastor's wife and allow her to use her own gifts.  The discussions about pastor's children remind us to allow their kids to grow up without too much pressure to be something they are not.   Her advice about moving and preparing children for the move, or more specifically praying for God to draw the child's heart as he is drawing your heart to the next place, was timely advice for me to heed!

One thing that amazed me as I read this book is seeing all of my past and current pastor's wives somewhere in the pages.  I've had pastor's wives who were extroverts and others who were introverts, some who were involved in everything and other's selective in their ministry contribution, some with young children at home and others who were empty-nesters.  In the pages of this book I saw things that *I*  had held against some of them or that I know others held against them.  I found myself thinking "that makes so much sense" or "I wish I had known/considered that."  I know that this book will lead me to be more understanding of the needs of the pastor and his family (I know it could be 'and her family', but not really in my denominational tradition). 

Lisa is open in her writing.  The reader gets a good look at her life as a pastor's wife, including the struggles and the mistakes.  I appreciate that realness.  She uses humour well to make her points.  But do not get the impression that this book is fluffy stories of her life with some advice attached.  It is not.  It is Biblically grounded, with solid reflection on the Scripture and plenty of going back to the original Greek language to keep this word-geek intrigued.  This is not fluff.  It is amazing teaching around the subject of supporting one's spouse in his calling from God. 

Read this book if you are a pastor or minister's wife.  I am sure you will be blessed to see that your life is very much like those who share your path of life.  Read this book if you are friends with a pastor's wife.  It will help you see ways to encourage and support your friend.  Read this book if you are just someone in the pew who knows the pastor's wife but is not close to her.  It may help you find a ministry of support, of prayer or just of understanding.  In case you have got the message, read the book.  It is a blessing.

For the record, no one asked me to comment on the book and I purchased it myself.  I just found after my marathon-I-can't-put-it-down reading that I wanted to point my readers to a blessing.  Let me know if you do read it and what stands out to you!

Oh, and Lisa if you are reading...I have always been convinced that if we had met when I was still in Alabama we would be fast friends.  After reading the opening of chapter five I know if for sure.  Who wouldn't become fast friends with someone who understands "please don't breathe in my face"! LOL!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Stitchin' Post for February 6, 2010


I finally finished the border for my Neighbourhood Round Robin as well as my Texas square.  The pictures are not great, but they do give a sense of what it looks like.  I cannot get a good shot of the whole thing--our weather is too dreary.  First sunny day I'll take better pictures.



Thanks for looking!  What are you stitching or crafting this week?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

February Goal Post

January Goals revisited:

1. Finish border of NRR--5 hoursabout 30% complete, this is taken much longer than I anticipated since I estimated and I've already logged more than 10 on it!
2. Piece and quilt mystery quilt for a friend--pieced, not quilted
3. Finish Washington and add charms to Alabama, Texas and Missouri--nope
4. Move 2009 files out of filing cabinet and set up 2010 files.--YES!
5. Shred any paperwork that does not need to be kept.--YES!
6. Blog at least bi-weekly on my homeschool blog--oops, wrote the first post forgot to post it until yesterday (yes I know it is February), maybe next month

February Goals (look unsurprisingly like January goals):

1. Finish border of NRR
2. Quilt mystery quilt for a friend
3. Finish Washington and add charms to Alabama, Texas and Missouri
4. Finish cleaning out office
5. Assist girls in organizing toy room
6. Blog at least bi-weekly on my homeschool blog
7. Begin a 365 project and update 101 list

In Other Words--The Heart of a Child


"He who can reach a child’s heart can reach the world’s heart."
~Rudyard Kipling~

If anyone knew how to capture the imagination of a child, it was Rudyard Kipling. Generations of children have been enthralled with his The Jungle Book or the Just So stories. I was one of those children. My grown up mind tends to over analyze his works, but as a child I was thrilled as I imagined how the animals got their stripes, spots, trunks and humps. Pure joy in reading.

Capturing the imagination of a child is one thing; capturing the heart is quite another. Yet it is the heart of a child that will largely motivate how he or she sees the world as they grow into adults.

The majority of what I believe about people, about how to live my life and about God was developed in my early years. True, it has been nuanced and deepened as I've grown older but the foundations were laid early. Even last week, as I conversed with someone about Scriptures the ones that came to mind that I could quote were the ones I learned as a child. The injustices that I noticed as a child, or saw my parents notice as a child, are the ones that I feel the deepest need to address. My adamant belief that tithing is not optional comes from watching/hearing my parents discuss tithing on the way to church. The fact that I believe that we have an obligation to vote comes from going to the polling place with my parents and grandparents. Even my love of math and reading were developed in my childhood. The foundations that my parents, grandparents, teachers and neighbours laid in my childhood have a huge impact on how I interact as a world citizen today.

Jesus understood the importance of children.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Matthew 19:14

He knew that the time to capture a heart for the kingdom was when it was young. What he was saying was nothing new. From the days of the children of Israel going into the land of Canaan they had been admonished to use the early days of a life to lay the foundations.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,
~Deuteronomy 11:18-20~

As a homeschooling mom this is one of those things that brings me incredible joy and strikes me with utter fear. Joy that I am building the very foundations that will impact their world in the future. Fear that I am building the very foundations that will impact their world in the future. It is not a task I take lightly. I want to lead them to capture a vision of how God sees the world. I want them to develop His heart. It is the desire of this mama's heart that they will develop into young women who want to seek their Saviour with all of their hearts and actions. That is a daunting task. Thankfully, He is the one who will draw their hearts to His own. He is the one that will kindle their desires. It is only up to me to provide a learning space for that to happen, as much as I am able to faithfully model seeking Him, to pray and to trust the results to Him. Easier said than done, but I'm working on it.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
~Jeremiah 29:13~

Who captured your childhood heart? How does that impact how you interact with your world? Trust the Saviour of our pasts to use them to lead the children in our lives.

Nina at Mama's Little Treasures is our lovely hostess today. Please visit. Be blessed!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Marriage Monday--Valentines all Year, Just Speak My Language

1st Monday Every Month at Chrysalis

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Welcome to another Marriage Monday! This month we have been asked to talk about how to celebrate Valentine's Day throughout the year. In other words, what are the things that we see as important in our marriage to keep romance all year and not just on one day.

There are so many ways that we live out our love in our everyday lives. It often changes daily based on the needs of the day. There does seem to be a common thread through the ways that love is celebrated in our marriage--it is in attempting to speak a language that the other hears as love. As I've said before, German and I are literal opposites in so many ways. Our love languages (see Gary Chapman's book of the same name for more insight) are a clear demonstration of this. His love languages are acts of service and physical touch; mine are words of affirmation and quality time. It would be so easy for us to go days upon end and not feel the love or romance of the other if we were not cognizant of how love is being spoken. I have to "hear" him when he is speaking his natural language as well as try to speak his natural language. He needs to hear me in my native language in addition to trying to speak my language. The days we are aware of how the other needs to hear love are definitely the days that we speak romance in our home the best.

And we need to plan for that. A funny example was seen just this weekend. Every week German asks me to put together a list of what needs to be done on the weekend. He needs to speak "service" and he wants those acts of service to actually bless me rather than just take "time" away from me. Honestly, I never ask for more than one thing to be accomplished because I want to just "be" with him in the time we have. But this weekend I had informed him that he could speak his native language and help me clean up the wreck of an office. We awoke Saturday morning and he said "what am I doing today?" and I reminded him and he said "but we haven't gone for a drive lately." I quickly said okay and we set off---to go to Edinburgh, three hours away. We had a delightful day. And I felt better Sunday than I have in ages because I had received his love in my language---time. He had sensed that I was needing to hear love in my own way more than he needed to speak it in his way. The result was a perfect day. (And if I'm industrious this week I'll get the office cleaned up myself in an act of service for him--speaking his language.)

So, in our house, recognizing what love language needs to be spoken/heard and following through with actions that speak love is how we keep Valentine's throughout the year.

Do you know your love language? Do you know your spouse's love language? Feeling like you don't connect the way you want or that you are not loved the way you want to be? Maybe it is time for some foreign language lessons. I highly recommend Chapman's book to help you speak and receive love in the language needed.

Please visit the Marriage Monday writers at Chrysalis. You will certainly find things to bless you and challenge you.