Friday, October 28, 2005

Why Blog? A Response of Sorts

My friend Nick has some great things to say in response to my post below, "Blogging About Blogging." He's very funny, and he also says some things that really resonate with me. Here's an excerpt:
Why am I blogging? ...I am looking for community. I am looking to share a part of myself and have [my friends scattered across the country] share a part of themselves with me. That is what friendship is, and that is what blogging has afforded me. Here, in one forum, I can share my thoughts, my heart, and (of course) the most mundane moments of my life. In those commonplace moments is where friendship lies: in hours spent on the couch, in silence, watching a bad 80’s movie on TBS, in the laughter shared on a trip to the grocery, and in the story they just told you about getting cut off in traffic. Somehow, when you add love to the mundane, it is not so mundane anymore. The dull becomes dynamic. Now, I do not delude myself into thinking that everyone who happens upon my site cares what I do or what I have to say, but I hope that my friends do. And just as they occasionally stop by to check in on me, I do the same for them, and I find myself devouring each and every thought, word, and syllable. In some small way I am able to share a few intimate moments with them and join them in community.

The emphasis is mine...that's a beautiful thought I want to chew on some more. Anyway, check out his full post here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Blogging About Blogging

A few days ago I was thinking about my friend Jeff, who in my small and behind-the-trends world was "the original blogger." I didn't even know there was a until I found Jeff's blog, and his was the first I became addicted to--as well as the one that initially inspired me to start my own, though I didn't actually write a second entry until nine months after that. (The first entry was terrible...and the second wasn't much better...I'd like to think I've improved since then...)

Anyway, Jeff has always sort of marched to the beat of his own drummer--I like that about him. But one thing that I find completely mystifying is his disabling of the comments option on his blog. Several times I've read a post of his and wanted to comment--to say that it was funny, or that I could relate, or to just send a little note to say hi. But no one can leave comments on Jeff's blog.

I started thinking about that in light of the fact that most bloggers I know (myself included) live for comments on our blogs. We like the affirmation that someone is out there reading. We like it when people connect with what we've said. So I'm intrigued by his anti-comment attitude, and it makes me wonder: What does this say about us? And what does it say about Jeff?

Then I started thinking about blogs again after receiving an email from my friend Sara. This particular friend of mine is hilarious; in fact, the stuff she wrote while we were in college used to make me laugh out loud. So when I heard from Sara yesterday for the first time in months, I told her she needed a blog--thinking she would be the perfect blogger sort who would write witty and interesting posts for me to read. Her response:

I think having a blog can often be pretentious. *oh my gosh, I think I just heard something in heavens explode.* ...Sometimes I read a person's blog and I just think, "wow, this person comes across as self-involved." I guess I just feel that some thoughts are meant to be kept, not shared. Especially in this age of information overload. And frankly, most people (and their thoughts) aren't as important as they tend to think they are :-)

Well hmm. She did say that she didn't include my blog, or the blogs of her other friends, in her classification of pretentious blogs (or at least that's what she told me to make me feel better :) But she got me thinking. So far I have nothing more profound than "hmm. interesting."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Unspeakable Comfort

“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies is—the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, onw who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.

"This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort…in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery can now disillusion Him about me, in the way that I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.

"There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and I am glad!) and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which in all conscience is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.”

--J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Friday, October 21, 2005

Lessons in Humility: Victory in God Alone

"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12)

I should have expected it.

Earlier this week, I shared with several dear friends (both on the phone and in emails) what God has been teaching me recently. My doing so was honestly not to boast, but truly in hopes of encouraging my friends as they saw God's grace at work in my life. I felt like I really had a good handle on the lessons of this season of life--I wasn't quite so foolish as to think I had them completely down, but I was foolish enough to think I understood what God was up to and that I was solidly in the path of obedience, understanding His ways.

Since hindsight is 20/20, I can see clearly now how that attitude, subtle as it might have been, was an open invitation for the discouragement and defeat I've felt for the past two days. May I never assume that I've got things all figured out and am solidly in the path of obedience, fully understanding God's ways--lest He deem it necessary to humble me, to remind me that I am most vulnerable when I think I'm standing firm, that He is too great for my finite mind to ever comprehend. All I can do is pray that He will continue to burn the pride out of me--and that He'll be patient with me through the process.

"We have heard with our ears, O God...what you days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations...and made our fathers flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them" (Psalm 44:1-3).

I have not only heard with my ears and read with my eyes, I have experienced in my own life the wonders God has done--both long ago and in the not-so-distant past. Let me never forget that any victory I have won has not been by my own hand--it has been by God's hand, His arm and the light of His face, because of His love for me.

"You are my King and my God,who decrees victories for Jacob. Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies; you put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever" (Psalm 44:4-8).

I don't trust my knowledge or reasoning or understanding; I don't trust my heart or my will. I have no confidence in the flesh, in my own ability to defeat the enemy of my soul. You alone give me the victory, Lord--it is by Your grace alone that my adversary is put to shame. By Your grace, teach me to boast in You alone and put your praises on my lips forever.

Adventures in Breadmaking

Ever since we ate at Panera Bread a few weeks ago, Steve has been on this breadmaking kick. He decided he wanted to make yummy sourdough bread at home, from scratch. So we did a little research online and discovered that it's a whole lot more complicated than you'd expect: you can't just immediately bake real sourdough the day you think of it. First you have to grow a starter, which involves mixing flour and water and letting it sit around until it is alive and starts growing. Yum.

Sourdough enthusiasts really speak a whole different language...we learned about "feeding our pet" (yes, the website where we got the information actually calls your starter your "pet"...kinda creepy, I know) and what to do about "hooch." (Feeding your pet involves giving it flour and water every least it's a cheap pet.) Anyway, after our little pet got all bubbly and smelly, Steve attempted the first loaf. (Doesn't that just make you want to run out and eat some sourdough bread?)

Well. Attempted is the operative word there. Steve's impatience in letting the dough rise probably didn't help, but the result was this lovely "loaf of bread":

The picture doesn't do it justice because you can't feel it. This thing weighed like three pounds. Suffice to say it was a little dense. He ate it anyway, out of sheer stubbornness I think. He said it was more efficient bread--you get "a slice in every bite." Right. Well, the second loaf turned out like this too. We concluded that somehow we had killed our pet. Sad, I know. (This evokes images in my mind of my old friend Brooke Burcham doing her imitation of Chris Farley in Tommy Boy, very loudly, in restaurants. Very funny.) Anyway, so Steve gave up and bought yeast. (Apparently the hard-core bread bakers frown on this because REAL sourdough bread is made with no commercial yeast--only the wild yeast that grows naturally as you feed your pet.)

Frowning or not, we've had much better results with the store-bought yeast. Steve made a loaf of bread last Saturday that actually rose and tasted like bread! Next he wanted to get experimental, so he made some apple cinnamon bread which may not have looked perfect but tasted YUMMY (in fact I am eating a piece right now):

Then last night we collaborated on some cheese herb bread. It tasted like what you would get in a fancy Italian restaurant...and combined with the dipping oil Steve made...mmm, it was so good.

I love bread, and I love having a husband who likes to cook!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Psalm 40: A Testimony of Goodness and Grace

I turned to Psalm 40 this morning and discovered a little note I'd written and forgotten about: "December 28, 2002 - an encouragement and a prayer." I had to stop and think about what was going on in my life three years ago this December. When I realized, and read the psalm, I was amazed as I saw and remembered God's faithfulness in my life.

In December 2002, I had just finished what was, in some ways, my most difficult semester of college--not just academically, but emotionally, physically, relationally, spiritually...I was struggling. Just a couple of weeks before, I had made the difficult decision to walk away from a potential relationship that had seemed, at first, to be God-ordained. I was hurting and confused, questioning my own judgment and wondering what God was up to in my life. I read these words, and they comforted me:

"I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand" (v. 1-2).

These words became my prayer:

"I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. ...Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs on my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me" (v. 8,11-13).

Four days after I scribbled that little note in my Bible, Steve called. He asked me to go for a drive and talk--and on that drive, he asked me about the possibility of pursuing something beyond the friendship we'd shared for several years. It was a conversation I'd dreamed of for at least two years, but hardly dared to hope would ever happen.

Today, I join the psalmist in proclaiming:

"Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare" (v. 4-5).

I had to take a moment to testify to His grace and goodness. He indeed "put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God." I pray that because of my testimony, "Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD" (v. 3).

"I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly. ...may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, 'The LORD be exalted!'" (v. 10, 16)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Christians and Halloween

I always went trick-or-treating as a kid, and never thought much of it. Once I won an award at a party for most original costume: I had tiny boxes of cereal with plastic knives stuck through them taped all over my body. (I was a "cereal killer"--get it?) But In many conservative Christian circles, Halloween participation of any sort is highly frowned upon. Now that I'm older I wasn't sure what to think about the whole issue--and I haven't really had to give it much serious thought. But this post presents a fascinating perspective I'm not sure I've heard before. I like it.

Save the Wheel

I'm slightly puzzled, but intrigued, by this. The offbeat site has my attention...I'll keep watching.

(HT: Carolyn McCulley)


Why in the world is this news?

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Visit from My Parents

Mom and Dad came down to visit Steve and me over the weekend. They weren't able to help us move, so this was their first time to see our new home. And they did their share of helping us move by bringing me a long list of things I'd left at their house :) It was a blessing to have them here and spend some time with them! On Friday we did a little sightseeing in downtown Nashville while Steve was at work (here they are in front of the Parthenon), and then Steve and I made yummy shish kebabs and we played cards (the men beat the ladies, but Mom and I redeemed ourselves on Saturday night!).

While we were at Centennial Park, we saw some people shooting a country music video! But it wasn't anyone famous--I think someone said her name was Brooke Wade. Anyone ever heard of her? I bet she probably felt kind of dumb as everyone kept walking by and asking the crew, "Who's that?" Here you can tell she's singing a country song: very sad face as she laments that they won't play her songs on the jukebox anymore, among other awful things. (Can you tell I'm not a country fan? :)

We also spent time at Bicentennial Mall, a state park in front of the capitol building. It happened to be Tennessee History Weekend, so besides the regular monuments and displays, we got to see Abe Lincoln and Andrew Jackson, and also see some other historical displays. After my experience as an abstinence educator, this war poster absolutely cracked me up--I had to take a picture :)

On Saturday we went to the Opryland Hotel, which we had been told was a Nashville Must-See. It was indeed spectacular, with incredible fountains and lush gardens and all kinds of opulence. I mean, you can cruise down a river on a boat through the inside of the hotel. No joke. Yet, as we walked through and saw the glory of human wealth and achievement, I wasn't sure what to think. As my mom noted, it's beautiful, and yet it seems obscene that people live like this in America, when so many other countries around the world live in poverty. That feeling was only exacerbated as we walked around Opry Mills, a huge upscale mall next to the hotel.

My parents treated us to dinner at the Aquarium Restaurant, where you can watch all kinds of sharks and fish and eels swimming in a 200,000-gallon tank while you eat (fish). That was fun--and there's no doubt God has a creative imagination when you see animals like the sawfish!

At any rate, now all of our anticipated visitors have come and gone, and life is settling back to normal for Steve and me.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Lessons from Obscurity and My Mentor

Last Wednesday, our mailbox held a fun blessing--the ministry newsletter of my mentor and her husband, who is on staff at Kingdom Building Ministries. It was full of pictures of their three beautiful children, which brought me many smiles. (XinXin, whom they adopted from China in April 2004, is pictured here last summer.) And then it contained a message from Diane about what she's been learning lately as she stays home and cares for the kids (their newest daughter came home from China with them in July).

God used Diane yet again to speak so clearly to my heart! She and I are in such very different places in life, yet we are struggling through and learning some of the same things. She is home with three kids...I am just home...but she gave me a valuable reminder that this time will not be wasted if I will be obedient and seek God wholeheartedly during it. She's been studying The Beloved Disciple by Beth Moore, and here's an excerpt of what she shared that ministered to me so much:
One of the biggest things that ministered to me was a series of lessons in Beloved Disciple that culminated in a session titled, "Lessons from Obscurity." In a nutshell, we hear of Peter and Paul's ministries all through Acts, but really nothing about John's. Beth Moore put it this way: "Peter's ministry was skyrocketing. John? Christ simply asked him to take care of His mother." ...Yet, the next lessons revealed that God was using John's time in obscurity to purify him, draw him into one of the deepest love relationships we see in all of Scripture, and prepare him to receive the greatest Revelation about heaven known to man. Obscurity was not wasted!! Oh, how I needed to hear that. I may not be "out front" right now. ...But somehow just knowing that God is desiring to accomplish much in me if I will cooperate makes me want to do just that. I needed to be reminded that my pursuit is not to be of some ministry or even to some "calling" but a pursuit of Someone.

Me, too. God used this to confirm and broaden my perspective of some things He's been teaching me lately about this quiet season at home--in obscurity.

As if that weren't enough, I actually got to talk to Diane on Wednesday night! We hadn't talked on the phone since before the wedding, so it was a huge blessing to catch up with her. And as we talked, God continued to graciously remind me of all the ways He's been faithful to me and all the ways I've been ungrateful and have taken His grace for granted.

Furthermore, I realized that here I am complaining about feeling lonely and wanting friends here in Tennessee...but the truth is, if God never gave me another deep friendship with a godly woman, or if He never gave me a new mentor, He would still be beyond faithful to me. The fact that I have been blessed with not one but two awesome mentors...the fact that if I needed to talk to someone or needed some prayer and a shoulder to lean on besides Steve's, I could come up with a long list of women to call in a second...not to mention the parents and in-laws who support dare I complain? How many people have these kinds of blessings? God has indeed been so good to me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Humility: True Greatness

A few weeks ago, I heard about an opportunity to receive and review an advance copy of C.J. Mahaney’s new book, Humility: True Greatness. Though I’ve never read any of Mahaney’s other books, I’m somewhat familiar with his church, the ministry organization he leads, and his family (his wife and adult daughters have a great blog)—and humility is a topic I always need instruction on. So I jumped at the chance. I’m glad I did! The following is my review of the book. I hope it will inspire you to pre-order it on or buy it as soon as it comes out at the end of the month! You can read a sample chapter for yourself here.

Though Humility: True Greatness, by C.J. Mahaney, is small, its depth and impact are big. It’s accessible but profound, rooted in Scripture yet intensely practical. And there isn’t a single one of us who couldn’t benefit from its message. As Mahaney points out:

“The sad fact is that none of us are immune from the logic-defying, blinding effects of pride. Though it shows up in different forms and to differing degrees, it infects us all. The real issue here is not if pride exists in your heart; it’s where pride exists and how pride is being expressed in your life. Scripture shows us that pride is strongly and dangerously rooted in all our lives, far more than most of us care to admit or even think about."

Mahaney begins by making the case for how crucial this topic really is. He then takes a unique angle that I really appreciated. I always thought pursuing humility was important simply because the opposite, pride, was so abominable. But although Mahaney doesn’t mince words about the seriousness of pride, he also turns attention to the positive: Humility is something to cultivate because of the promise it offers, not just because of the curse its alternative brings.

“[O]ur motivation for rooting out pride must go beyond a knowledge of its pitfalls and perils,” he says. “Our pursuit should be driven by the amazing promise that humility holds out to us: God gives grace to the humble!”

Mahaney’s self-deprecating humor and honesty about his own struggles with pride make him relatable and credible. He often anticipated my questions and objections with powerful illustrations of pride in his own life. And his disclaimers that he’s unqualified to write a book about humility, combined with his friends’ and family’s endorsements of his humble spirit, only add to his credibility.

More than once, he caught me with a direct hit—describing my prideful thoughts or heart attitudes with startling exactness. Yet Mahaney isn’t out to beat you down and discourage you. Part of the beauty of the book is the thread of the gospel woven throughout. Over and over, he brings you back to the grace and mercy of the cross.

That emphasis on grace was revolutionary for me. In Mark 10:45, Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’’ I thought that meant I just had to strive to imitate Him—in my pride (ironically enough) never realizing that I CAN’T imitate His example.

My eyes were opened in a new way as Mahaney argued that having a correct definition of “greatness” and a perfect example to follow (Jesus) is not enough for us to attain humility. As he examines this verse in its biblical and historical contexts, he points out that only Christ’s death—His sacrifice to ransom us from sin—will set us free from pride and enable us to be humble.

“So to hear the Savior speak the word ransom and understand it rightly is to be freshly reminded and affected by our own serious and sorry state, our miserable
lostness and wretched bondage to sin. We cannot free ourselves from pride and selfish ambition; a divine rescue is absolutely necessary.”

One of the most powerful things I learned from this book was that I can’t be great unless I imitate Christ…but I can’t imitate Christ unless He dies to set me free from my sin. Understanding that is the key to toppling pride. I cannot practice humble servanthood unless I truly realize that my ability to do so is only made possible through Christ’s death on the cross. I’m INCAPABLE apart from that. I can only imitate Him because His sacrifice bought me freedom from pride and selfish ambition. Again, it all comes back to the cross—the foundation of Mahaney’s life and ministry (I’m now very anxious to read an older book of his, The Cross Centered Life) and the core of this book.

Once he has laid the theological groundwork, Mahaney gets extremely practical. Pride must be actively fought; humility must be intentionally cultivated. This character development isn’t just going to happen as we read the book—it’s going to take work. So the second half of the book lays out specific steps to take—at the beginning and end of each day, throughout the day, and occasional practices. This section includes chapters on “Identifying Evidences of Grace,” “Encouraging Others,” “Inviting and Pursuing Correction,” and “Responding Humbly to Trials.” Each one challenged and inspired me.

This book was a crucial one for me—one I know I’ll need to read more than once. There are a lot of ways you could spend ten dollars, but I’m confident that spending it on this book will be a powerful way for you to invite God to shape you more into the image of His humble Son.

As Mahaney concludes:

“Ultimately, there can be no effective expansion of your life’s mission and ministry, no fulfillment of the specific purpose He’s called you to, apart from the cultivation of humility in your heart and the weakening of pride in your life. So ask for His protection, so that from this moment you’ll give more attention, not less, to the presence of pride and the promise of humility.”

Quotes used by permission of Multnomah Publishing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

There is no "meantime." There is only "now time."

I read this provocative statement on my friend Dottie's blog a few days ago. Still chewing on it:
"i'm learning to live in this moment now and not put all my plans in the future or hang onto the past. ...i don't want to develop a life that is centered on thinking of now as the "meantime." there is no "meantime." there is only "now time." that's what i'm chewing on right now. this phase in life is not an intermediate stage. it is not the intermission before the second act begins."

Nintendo A Cappella?

OK, maybe I just have a strange sense of humor...but having sung a cappella music for two straight years, and remembering old-school Nintendo (Mario Bros. and Tetris, to be specific), I can really appreciate this :)

Find Yourself Wasting Time Blogging?

It's past time for me to give a shout-out to an extremely helpful website. I can't count how many hours I've wasted clicking through every blog in my favorites folder (and there are a LOT), wondering if anyone has updated. Most of the time, people hadn't--I have several favorite blogs whose writers update once a week or less--but that didn't stop me from mindlessly clicking through all of them anyway. After all, I didn't want to miss anything!

Enter Bloglines. Once you set up a free account, you can "subscribe" to all the blogs you read--the ones you read daily, and the ones you enjoy that are updated infrequently at best. Bloglines then monitors FOR you--and you can visit ONE website to see which blogs have new entries and which don't. And it gives you direct links to each blog. Though it may take a bit of time to set up (especially if you have a long list of interesting blogs like I do), it's worth the time it saves in the long run.

Bloglines--it's a beautiful thing. Check it out. (And I don't even work for them!)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Peopled Out

After Saturday's disappointing potluck, Sunday was more promising. Steve and I had been invited to lunch at the home of the pastor of Calvary Bible Church, where we've been attending for the past month. (I need to blog about that soon; I can't believe I haven't yet.) Anyway, Pastor Dave had invited us and a few other couples (we had no idea who he was asking) for a time of fellowship and getting to know each other.

I was very much looking forward to this. But by the end of the day, Steve and I were both completely drained. We had missed our Sunday afternoon nap, so we were exhausted, and more than that, we were totally peopled-out.

Don't get me wrong; it was good to get out and interact with people, and spend some time with people from church. And I certainly don't want to sound ungrateful--it was such a nice gesture, and the people were very friendly! (Although Steve and I definitely felt like the oddballs as the only ones without kids--more on that when I blog about church.) We were joined by the pastor's son and his wife (who looks just like Nicole Hummel--I think of her every time I see Dana) and their two ADORABLE kids; a woman I met on Friday night scrapbooking, her husband and their two kids; and a couple we'd seen but never met and their three kids. We enjoyed lots of good food and sat around together all afternoon talking.

That said...I'm getting to that stage where I'm just tired of answering the same questions and nodding and smiling a lot. I long for people to go deep with. I realize that takes time, and I realize you have to get through the superficial stuff to get to that point. I guess I just forgot how much energy and patience it takes to build new relationships. And let's just say I've never been a very patient person :)

I don't know how to say it better than Steve's comment on Saturday night: "I don't want to meet more people. I want to know more people."

But...I am trusting the grace and faithfulness of God. I need only to look back on my freshman year of college, when I went through a miserable, lonely time of adjusting. I remember vividly how it felt to long for a hug (for most of the first semester, I didn't really know anyone well enough to hug them) or a real heart-to-heart, face-to-face chat with someone who knew and understood and loved me. So many times I cried out to God during that rough time, begging Him for just one friend.

In the end, He was more than faithful. As I look back, I shake my head in amazement at all the incredible people He placed in my life during those four years. It took some time, but I was blessed by friendships with so many beautiful, godly women (and men, too...and even a few professors)! All that to say, I know I can trust Him to provide. Not to mention the fact that this season of my life, although similar to that one in many ways, has a huge difference: Steve. While I wait for deeper friendships to develop, I've got the deepest relationship a person can have--someone to walk through the adjustment with, hand in hand. God has been so good to me.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

--Thomas O. Chisholm, (c) 1923 Hope Publishing Co.

Making Friends 101

Saturday afternoon found me in the kitchen, cooking up a storm (and making a mess). I was trying my mom's award-winning recipe for BBQ beans (she won first place several years ago in our hometown "Bean Days" contest--yes, my hometown has a summer festival called "Bean Days"; insert your favorite joke here) and testing a new recipe for pumpkin bars (yum). A couple in our apartment complex had sent out fliers about a month ago announcing a neighborhood potluck at the clubhouse. I was really excited for it, thinking it would be a great opportunity to get to know some of our neighbors.

Not so much. The 20-some people there included: the host couple and some of their family members who don't even live in the complex; the bachelor who lives across from us; several people age 50 and over; and Steve and me. So although we enjoyed some good food, the evening mostly consisted of stilted, forced conversation and awkward silences after you've covered the basic questions (where are you from? what brought you here? what do you do?). That and an older lady who, for some reason unbeknownst to us, felt the need to prattle on for several minutes about her collection of dishes that's worth thousands of dollars. O-kay.

So the potluck was kind of a bust. As Steve and I talked later, we expressed our disappointment and frustration with the process of building relationships here in Tennessee. I feel like I missed some sort of class while I was growing up, "Making Friends 101"--or something like that. Those of you who know me well know that I eventually become pretty outgoing and very talkative once I get to know people. (Some of you might even view that as an understatement!) But when I'm around strangers, the introvert in me pops up, and I find myself feeling awkward, self-conscious and unsure of how to make conversation. I want to be one of those people who makes others feel welcome and at ease, and can steer a conversation smoothly. I want to reach out to our neighbors, and build relationships with people here. But I feel like I don't really know how.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Faith Like a Child

Just ran across this a minute ago. Check it out when you've got some time to really reflect on simplicity and what it truly means to be disabled. Here's an excerpt:
I envy Kevin. My brother Kevin thinks God lives under his bed. ...He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. ...He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will.

...perhaps he is not the one with the handicap . . I am. ...Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn?
"What folly to fear to be too entirely God's! It is to fear to be too happy. It is to fear to love God's will in all things. It is to fear to have too much courage in the crosses which are inevitable, too much comfort in God's love, and too much detachment from the passions which make us miserable..."

--Francois Fenelon

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Life Abundant

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Galatians 1:3-5, emphasis mine).

This has been on my mind lately: salvation isn't just for the future. Being saved isn't about "fire insurance," isn't about a fearful decision to avoid eternal hell. Salvation is now...Christ came to rescue us now, to rescue us from ourselves and our sin, to reconcile us to Himself now, to set us free to know Him and live abundantly today and for eternity...

Did You come that we might just survive?
Did You come so we could just get by?
Did You walk among us
so we might merely limp along beside?
I was bound, I have been set free
But I have settled for apathy
Did You come to make me new
And know I'd crawl right back into the skin You found me in?
It's where I am, not where I've been

You make me want to live
You make me want to live
You came to shake us and to wake us up to something more
Than we'd always settled for
And You make me want to live

We've all been up on the mountaintop
A golden glow that's bound to soon wear off
And then it's back to the mundane
Telling tales of glory days when we were hopeful
That this change was here to stay

You make me want to live
You make me want to live
You came to shake us and to wake us up to something more
Than we'd always settled for
And you make me want to live

So why would a young man live in a wasteland
When the castle of his dreams is standing by?
And why would a princess put on an old dress
To dance with her beloved and the chance to catch His eye?

You make me want to live
You make me want to live
You came to shake us and to wake us up to something more
Than we'd ever felt before
Wake us up to something more
Than we'd always settled for
And You make me want to live
You make me want to live

--Nichole Nordeman, "Live"

"I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).
The ultimate abundance of eternal life is the pinnacle, but not the exclusive aim--He came that we might have life, that we might truly live today...

Monday, October 03, 2005

Our First Houseguests!

This weekend we had our very first overnight guests!! My best friend Julie and her husband, Mike, came down for a short vacation--two nights with us and a football game (Mike is a huge Titans fan), then to Gatlinburg to celebrate their two-year anniversary. It was so much fun to have them visit!

After they got here on Saturday, we introduced them to the yummy goodness of Qdoba (of course--can you tell we're addicted?)! (Julie has a great picture of their first Qdoba experience but for some reason I can't put it in this can see it here.) and then headed down Broadway. Let's just say that Broadway in Nashville is slightly different than Broadway in NYC :) My favorite quote of the night came as we walked down 2nd Avenue and were approached by a man selling flowers for a dollar. As we passed him, he said to Julie, "Fifty cents for you, cause you're cute." (Isn't she, though? :)

Anyway, we went to the Wildhorse Saloon for some good country fun. Mike and Jules are big country fans and had been here before. Steve and I are definitely NOT country fans and were really not sure what to expect. Unfortunately, I am a moron and totally forgot to bring my ID with me. Duh. What was I thinking?? They still let us in, but because I couldn't verify that I was over 21, I had to leave by 10:00. That wasn't a huge deal (it's past our bedtime anyway!), and I didn't mind not being able to drink because everything was ridiculously expensive anyway. The annoying part was the two giant black Xs that the girl at the door drew on the backs of my hands with a Sharpie marker. Nice. (P.S. the flower behind my ear is one of those mentioned above--another vendor gave Steve one for free to give to me :)

That said, we had such a blast! The live artist was definitely tolerable country music (in other words, it wasn't "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," "Redneck Woman," "HickTown," etc.) and the line dancing was great. Every couple of hours, they give a line-dancing lesson. Our boys were such good sports and we were able to drag them out on the dance floor! Good times were had by all.

On Sunday after they got back from the game (the Titans lost, sad day) we got to have a relaxed dinner together (still eating up those steaks from the 14-pounds-of-ribeye) and just chill at the apartment. And this morning, Mike slept in while Julie and I went out for breakfast and some girl time! Here we are in front of their housewarming gift to us: a ficus tree! Yay--a plant I can't kill! :)

It was so fun to have friends come to visit! What a blessing to spend time not only with Jules, but to get to know Mike better and hang out with them as a couple. Now Mike and I are just trying to convince Julie that they need to move to Tennessee!