Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Least of These

        Saturday found me once again sitting on a concrete bench under the bridge downtown. Pretend for a moment that you're sitting there with me....
         I'm glad at least to be in a dry place as the grey skies drizzle and the air is cold. I know in a while I'll go home to the warmth and comfort of my home, but for many others gathered there, the only home they have is the shelter of a bridge, the back of their car, or a weather beaten tent. There's a lot going on as loud music plays, smoke billows from barb-b-ques as those serving there work to keep up with the demand for hamburgers, a long line of people wait to receive a plate of food, some rummage through clothing in hopes of finding something for them or their children, others wait to have their hair cut, and children get their faces painted and make little crafts. As we look out over this scene you wonder if anything is really accomplished on these days. Zoom in, if you will, to where two women are standing cutting hair. Clarence, who received a hair cut last summer, is back. He remembers Michele, who cut his hair, and is greeted warmly with a hug. He looks at her and says "I will never forget Jesus." She proceeds to cut his hair and converse with him, love him and pray over him.
        Over there is a man named Dean. He's been on the streets for a long time and has battled substance abuse and addiction. He's a regular at these outreaches, and over time David has developed a relationship with him. One day he washed dishes all day long. When he was thanked at the end of the day his reply was "No, Thank you! This gave me a reason to stay sober today." Some time later was Dean sitting alone at a bus stop, plagued by thoughts of hopelessness and despair. He planned to end his life. As he looked up he saw David's truck driving by he remembered the things he's heard about Jesus. He began walking, not knowing where David lived. I believe he was led by God, because he came to a house and recognized David's truck out front. They proceeded to sit on the tailgate for the next few hours, talking and praying together. Dean dropped out of the picture one day, and David feared the worst- that yet another of his friends had died of a drug overdose or something along those lines. Months went by, and then an email came from Dean. He was in a town south of here, living with a pastor, and had been sober for 50 days! Today Dean and his pastor made the drive over the mountains, along with 250 hamburgers, to come and serve alongside David and the others who labor together for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
        There are others I could point to- Curt, over there, is flipping burgers. After his release from prison he's staying clean, walking with the Lord, and ministering to others. One person presses two dollar bills into David's hand, a contribution. It reminds me of the widow's mite- what is two dollars to most of us? But to many of these people it's all they have. There are a few that come to Christ, but there are many who never do. We do this, though, in obedience to our Lord's command to care for the poor. Over and over, throughout the Scripture, we see God's heart, and his desire for His people to care for the poor and needy. Our job is not to judge their situation or how they got there, but to share the love of Christ with them and to share in God's heart for these people. We remember His words in the great and terrible story of the sheep and the goats. In our country, these people are "the least of these." They are smelly and dirty; let us love them. They are hungry and thirsty and cold; let us feed and clothe them. Many of them are sick and in prison; let us care for them, visit them, pray for them. And let us introduce them to the Great Physician, the healer of bodies and souls.
        Let us be found worthy on that day, to hear the words "What you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Thoughts on Relevance

        I've been thinking a lot about relevance, and to what lengths the church should or shouldn't go to be relevant to the world. It seems that much of the church in America is trying hard to be cool and fun and attractive, but is it watering down the Gospel? What are people being attracted to? If they want good music and entertainment, there's plenty of that elsewhere. Inspiration, self-help, humor, support groups, and good coffee can be found many places. And while there's nothing wrong with these things, there's nothing uniquely Christian about them either. Any business, club, religious group, etc. could, and does, do them to attract customers, adherents, or members. What people need is Jesus and the hope, healing, and salvation that He alone can give. There are lots of country clubs, but there is only one God who died to save us, who calls us to repentance, who freely gives forgiveness and bestows eternal life.
        I want to make it clear here that I'm making a distinction between corporate worship, which I believe is what's supposed to happen when we meet together as a body, and evangelism, which should be happening in our relationships with unbelievers. When we go out into the world, I do think we should be relevant, meet them where they are. Paul said he became all things to all men that some may be saved, but that was a starting place: he also determined to know nothing among them but Christ and Him crucified. Maybe the problem at the heart of this is that we've lost a sense of mission. We expect the lost to come find us, join us on a Sunday morning, and be comfortable "checking us out". But aren't we supposed to go out into the world, find them, love them, give them a glimpse of Jesus, and hope and pray that the Father will draw them? Maybe if we stopped thinking about evangelism in terms of a program or event and started thinking about it in terms of relationships with the people we cross paths with things would be different. If our corporate experience of worship is truly one that is focused on God Almighty, and not on our needs, then we should be strengthened, our spirits nourished, and equipped then to go out and live as those who bear the light of Christ to a dark world. If our lives are characterized by joy and love and peace- the fruit of the Holy Spirit of God in us- won't that be attractive to the world?
Here are what a few others have to say on the matter:

        Eugene Petersen "When you start tailoring the gospel to the culture, whether it's a youth culture, a generation culture or any other kind of culture, you have taken the guts out of the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not the kingdom of this world. It's a different kingdom."
        "I think relevance is a crock. I don't think people care a whole lot about what kind of music you have or how you shape the service. They want a place where God is taken seriously, where they're taken seriously, where there is no manipulation of their emotions or their consumer needs."

        Os Guiness "Worship is for the Lord and his people. It isn't primarily for seekers, although we suddenly take them into account."
        "I love C.S. Lewis's idea of resistance thinking. He said if you only adapt the gospel to what fits your times, you'll have a comfortable, convenient gospel. But it'll only be half the gospel. And it'll be irrelevant to the next generation. Whereas, if you follow resistance thinking—or looking into the gospel for things that are difficult, obscure, or even repulsive as he says—then you're true to the whole gospel. And secondly, you're relevant to any generation."

        Marva Dawn "Nowhere in the Bible does it say, "Worship the Lord to attract the unbeliever." Nowhere! We worship the Lord because God is worthy of our praise. Instead, the Scriptures frequently tell us that we are witnesses. Evangelism happens in our daily lives, our regular encounters, our simple conversations and carings (or at evangelistic events which have a focus different from that of worship)--in order that we can bring others with us to worship God.....Worship is the language of adoration addressed to God and the language of God's instruction to equip us for life and witness. Good worship will be evangelistic, but that is not its purpose, for worship is directed to God as its subject and object. Good worship will both nurture the character of believers and the community and also form us to be the kind of people who will reach out evangelistically and in service to the world around us."

        Ryan Bolger "The worship service is no longer an evangelistic service for outsiders but a space to practice heaven for a period of time, facilitating the offering of the community life to God in worship. If a guest of the community finds God in the service, all the better, but this is not the focus. Mission happens in the 'world' in the world formerly known as secular, on their 'turf' -- not ours. As servants, the Christian connects with the seeker through service in their world."

        Frederica Mathewes-Green "The well-intentioned idea of presenting the appealing, useful side of faith fails, I think, because it doesn’t question deeply enough the basic consumer ethos. The transaction that takes place between a shopper-seeker and the goods acquired (groceries, furniture, the key to the meaning of life) is one that leaves the seeker in control, in a position of judging, evaluating, and rejecting the parts he doesn’t like. But entering faith is more like making a promise or beginning a marriage. It involves being grafted into a community, and requires a willingness to grow and change. If it didn’t, if it merely confirmed us in our comfortable places, how could it free us to be more than we are?" (From At the Corner of East and Now)
        Brian Kay "...the Church will be most provocative and alluring when it is being itself, being who God has constituted it to be, that is, being a mini-society that proclaims the Person and work of Christ, and imitates his sacrificial service. The Church will be least relevant when it is caught in the act of reinventing itself to gain more friends. I remember as a teenager that the surest way to get me to avoid a Christian event was to show me a flier promising "cool music and awesome teaching." That meant that for sure the music wouldn't be cool, and the speaker would be more aware of himself, or me, than of God."

        I have a lot of thoughts about this, and a lot of questions. How much should the church change with the culture? To what extent should we try to be seeker-friendlly? It seems that too often God is presented as a commodity to be bought and sold, someone who can meet needs better than any other. But isn't the basic human need salvation from sin and restoration of fellowship with God? Isn't that the one thing that we can offer that no one else can? God is Truth, and He is to be worshipped as such. I know there many facets to this issue, and I certainly haven't touched on them all. Have we, as Eugene Petersen said "taken the guts out of the gospel"? Am I wrong in making a distinction between what happens on a Sunday morning (or whenever the believers gather) and what should be taking place in our lives in the world? What is the place for "culture" in the church?
        I'd really like to hear what other people think on this issue because it's a huge thing facing the church today. My hope is that this will generate some discussion. So please leave a comment whether you agree, disagree, or just want to throw your opinions into the mix!

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Someone asked about the homeless ministry we're involved in, so I thought I'd post something I wrote last summer after an outreach. These events are put on by people from over a dozen different churches, and are usually held several times a year. They are a starting point for building relationships with members of the poor and homeless community. There is also a weekly gathering where those who are seeking to follow Jesus can share their struggles and be encouraged through Scripture and fellowship. On a less visible, but even more relational level, my parents spend much of their time "on the street" loving, talking, praying, and discipling these people.

Everyone has a story to tell. Sometimes I tell bits of my story and there are colorful characters whose paths have crossed my own. They have become part of my story, and there are many whose names I don't even know. Occasionally I wonder whose stories I'm in, and what they remember about me.
Today as I sat beneath the bridge I watched a few moments of people's lives; I watched as their stories unfolded a little more. You may have seen Clarence, or C.W. as his buddies call him. He looks like your typical homeless guy- long unkempt grey hair and a shaggy beard, his hands cracked and imbedded with dirt, deep lines in his face that speak of his years of wandering on this earth. Clarence, like so many others, was under the bridge today to enjoy a free meal. Along with burgers and hot dogs, there were ice cream cones piled high, free clothing, live music, hair cuts, and people around whose stories have been changed by meeting Jesus Christ. Today Clarence, for the first time in ten years, had a hair cut. The change was something to behold as Michele gently trimmed his long hair and beard. He looked like a different person. Something as simple as a haircut was a mile marker in Clarence's story. I wonder though, what was going on inside of him today- how many years has it been since someone has loved Clarence, since anyone has shown him real affection? What events in his life have shaped his view of Jesus?
Transformation is what Jesus does. I love that verse that says He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is writing our stories each day and He asks us to tell what He has done and what He is doing. So that's why today if you happened to be under the bridge you would have seen lives being changed. Because the story isn't finished yet. Sure, people ate a good meal, received clothing, and some even got their hair cut, but the real changes are the unseen ones. One man stood up on the stage and shared a bit of his story. He ended by saying "God is my Father. He is my teacher; I am His student...... I profess my belief". Then there was Curt. Jesus stepped into his story a few years ago and Curt has just been released from prison. Today I watched as he stood over a huge pot of boiling water and cooked corn. I watched as his face expressed joy instead of sorrow, hope rather than despair, and as he shared that with others by serving them. I watched Richard and Nicki, the couple who gave their lives to Jesus and got married at an outreach last fall. Today they were here serving food and doing activities with the kids, sharing what Jesus has given them.
When we allow Jesus to write our story, He changes us. As we love "the least of these" He changes us. As they receive His love, He changes them. I love to see the homeless men and women help with serving, picking up trash, washing dishes. I smiled at the end of the day after Gloria had painted many little faces. One little girl sat down, picked up a brush, and began to paint Gloria's face. This girl had been loved and she loved in return. Together we all are being changed. As we serve and love these they become part of our story, and they become part of ours. My hope is that my story is so full of Jesus that when people remember me they can't help but to think of Him.
There is another outreach this coming Saturday. Please pray!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

H is for Helpful

        Hooray for H! Here are some of the things we've done or will do this week:

* Be Helpful
* Talk about our Heart, and Happiness
* Hammer something!
* Learn about Hermit Crabs- a good starting point is Eric Carle's A House for Hermit Crab
* Some other books we're reading are Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins, One Horse Waiting for Me by Patricia Mullins, and The honeybee and the Robber, another good one from Eric Carle
* Eat Halibut for dinner
* Read about where Honey comes from, and eat some of course
* Listen to music composed by Hayden
* Do Handprints on paper

Monday, May 22, 2006

Something's Getting Through

        Sometimes I wonder what really gets through to Peregrine. Tonight he was playing that he was a barysaurus whose parents had been shot and we were a pterodactyl family who were adopting him. I was asking him about all the things he liked and what he liked to do and one of his answers was "And I give things to boys who are poor, like toys and things." I was kind of surprised to hear that; right in there with playing games and reading books was caring for the poor! I asked if he would like to pick out a book or toy to give away at an upcoming outreach to the poor and homeless and he walked over and picked out a book! I told him how kind that was, and that some kids' families don't have very much money to buy things like that for them. We've talked often about how some people don't even have a house to live in and tonight when I said some families live in their car he looked very serious and said "Maybe I can give them my tent."
        It nearly brought tears to my eyes, to see God giving him compassion at such a young age. I hope that we will encourage this and give him opportunities to share what we've been given with others.

Pictures are from an outreach we were involved in last summer.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

G is for Goslings


Big G, Little g, What begins with G?

Here we Go:

* Walk down to the pond and see the Geese with their Goslings (who are Growing fast!)
* Put together and fly the balsa wood Gliders that Grandpa Bill sent. Thanks Grandpa Bill!
* Read a favorite board book "Goodnight Gorilla"
* Look at the Globe and point out countries that start with G: Greece, Guatemala, Ghana, Germany, etc.
* Read our children's Geography book
* Read Mr. Gumpy's Outing, another Peregrine favorite
* Sing God is so Good and talk about His Greatness
* Work in our Garden
* Talk about Giving, and think of something we could Give to another
* Practice "Good Morning" by Muriel Sipe:

One day I saw a downy duck,
With feathers on his back;
I said, “Good morning, downy duck,”
And he said, “Quack, quack, quack.”
One day I saw a timid mouse,
He was so shy and meek;
I said, “Good morning, timid mouse,”
And he said, “Squeak, squeak, squeak.”
One day I saw a curly dog,
I met him with a bow;
I said, “Good morning, curly dog,”
And he said, “Bow-wow-wow.”
One day I saw a scarlet bird,
He woke me from my sleep;
I said, “Good morning, scarlet bird,”
And he said, “Cheep, cheep, cheep.”

Have a Great week!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Great Expectations

        I'm realizing that most of my frustration and disappointment in life comes from my own expectations not being met. Most of these expectations are things that I project onto my husband and children and others around me. Then, when they fail to meet my often unexpressed expectations I get annoyed and frustrated with them. Or I expect things to be easy, and they're hard, or to stay clean and they get messy. But the problem really lies with me.
Last summer we went to the beach with my two best friends. Both of them got down on the sand and played with the kids and got all messy and had a great time. I stood there watching, not wanting to get dirty. It showed me something about myself that I needed to change, and it had to do with my expectations again. If I'd have expected to go and get messy and had counted on some extra clean-up time and dry clothes to change into I'd have had a lot more fun that day. After all, you can't keep the kids out of the sand, so why not get down and have fun and make sand pits and castles and memories together?
How often I've been disappointed in my husband because he hasn't done or said quite the thing I secretly hoped he would do. Certain days, like birthdays, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, have often come and gone and left me feeling empty at the end. Not because my husband ever forgets or fails to to do something for me, but because I had built it up in mind that it would be a certain way, and then it wasn't. My unrealistic expectations weren't met, and I went to bed feeling just a bit slighted. What a rotten, bratty, ungrateful attitude! My husband is sweet to me and lavishes praise on me every day of the year, and yet I've let these silly days leave me pouting inside.
God has been dealing with me about this and as Mother's Day approached this year I resolved to expect nothing from my husband, or my kids as they're too young to even know what day it is. No dropping hints ahead of time, no setting myself up for disappointment. And you know what? It was the best Mother's Day ever. Because my attitude had changed I was able to truly appreciate the simple things Erik did for me and the joy of just being with my kids throughout the day. Erik got up with the kids and let me sleep in (which he always does on the weekends.) The day before I'd commented on the beautiful poppies in the yard and he picked some and put them in a vase for me. It was sitting, along with a square of chocolate, on a piece of graph paper on which he had written a heartfelt note to me. And then he made me scrambled eggs and even did (most of) the dishes.
I was able to appreciate my husband for who he was and how the things he did reflected him. My graph paper note means more to me than some pretty card that cost $4.59 at Wal-Mart. The things he wrote were from his heart, not the pen of a card-sentiment writer. I will fold it up and tuck it away and read it over and over. My little vase of poppies brings me joy even as I watch the petals drop one by one. I will remember my little boy greeting me with "Happy Mother's Day" when I finally got up in the morning, then sitting out on the deck with him and finishing "Farmer Boy" together. And my sweet baby girl who lights up when I walk into the room.
So, little by little, I'm trying to get rid of my great expectations, or at least bring them down to the realm of reality. Instead, I will enjoy the moments I'm given with the people I love and appreciate them for who they are. I will take off my socks and shoes and get down and dig in the sand and run in the waves with my kids. I'll try to think more about how I can bless my family then how they can bless me. And I think we'll all be a lot happier for it!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

F is for Family

We ended our E week with an unplanned trip to the zoo and got to see the Elephants, which is always a treat. And this is the perfect week for the letter F, as Erik's sister and her Family are here visiting from Canada. So.....

* We plan to have lots of Fun with lots of Family
* Learn about Frogs and watch our tadpoes grow
* Read Francis books, Frog and Toad stories, and the Foot Book by Dr. Suess
* Play Follow-the-Leader and Frisbee
* Learn about Flamingos
* Talk about what it means to be a true Friend and learn Proverbs 17:17 "A friend loves at all times." Read about David and Jonathan from the Bible.
* Read about Firefighters and Firetrucks and talk about Fire Safety. Maybe we can stop by the Fire Station!
* Sing this song to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot:"
I'm a little firefighter on the go.
Here is my helmet
Here is my hose.
When I see a fire,
Hear me shout:
"Turn on the water
and put the fire out!"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Thoughts from the Garden

        From the moment I found out I was pregnant with our first, Erik and I have prayed for wisdom to raise our children, and that they would grow up to love and fear the Lord God. We've read many books claiming that "this is the way" to raise your children. They all seem to promise the same result while offering the reader wildly different "methods" for obtaining it. Wouldn't it be nice to have some formula that would guarantee that if we do this, this, and this, our children will turn out like that? My Dad likes to point out out that Proverbs 22:6 says "Train up a child in the way he should go..." not in the way his sister or brother or another child should go. I've been mulling this over for a while, but this weekend, while working in the garden, I felt like it was clarified to me in a new way.
        I'm a fairly novice gardener; I like to dig around in the dirt and plant things and water them and watch them grow. This is our first Spring in a new home, so we're starting from scratch, digging and building beds and planting. We did a soil test and are amending the soil based on the needs of the individual plants. We've been watching the shadows to discern wether a particular spot qualifies as sunny, partially sunny, shady, etc. As I studied my seed packets the other day, trying to decide where and when to plant each them, it occurred to me that just as each plant thrives in different conditions so each child needs to be raised uniquely. Some plants can be sown directly into the soil; others need to be started indoors and carefully transplanted. One loves sunshine and another will whither and die in the heat. Some can tolerate drought and others need lots of water and mulching to keep the roots moist. In the same way, each child will thrive in a particular environment.
        As I considered where to grow each plant, I realized Erik and I need to carefully consider each of our children's unique characteristics as well. There is no "one size fits all" formula for raising kids. We need the Holy Spirit's guidance with each child, in each situation. I don't know how many times I've heard someone say, when speaking of a wayward child in an otherwise godly family "But they were all raised the same way; I don't know what happened." I do not want to pass judgement on anyone, on their apparent successes or failures, but maybe children shouldn't all be raised the same way. Our own children are young and we're just starting this journey and want to learn from others. I'm realizing each precious child is a unique little plant and we need to look to the Lord for "growing instructions". They need many of the same things, sunshine and water and good dirt, but one may need more of one thing and less of another.
        And of course we need to remember there are weeds and pests that threaten to harm our tender little shoots as they grow. This paragraph from Farmer Boy struck me as I read it to Peregrine: "There was no time to lose, no time to waste in rest or play. The life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime. All the wild seeds of weed and thistle, the sprouts of vine and bush and tree, are trying to take the fields. Farmers must fight them with harrow and plow and hoe; they must plant the good seeds quickly." (Laura Ingalls Wilder) We, as parents, are like those farmers; we must fight the weeds and thistles that come up in our own hearts first, and then in and around our dear little children. Galations 6:9 says "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up".
        Lord, give us wisdom to know our own hearts and then the hearts of our children. Teach us to raise each one in the way he should go and to learn from you just what he needs moment by moment and day by day. We look to You for wisdom and trust You for a harvest of righteousness.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Peregrine was three-and-a-half on Monday. When I was a girl I remember my Mom doing something to celebrate our half-birthdays and I always thought it was special. I didn't say anything to Peregrine about it all day, and then after Alethea had gone to bed I surprised him with cupcakes and Erik gave him a flashlight. It was so fun to watch the wonder in his face, and the pure delight and surprise when I walked into the room with his treat. I think part of what made it so fun was that it was totally unexpected, and it was a simple way of showing him how special he is to us. He exclaimed "I didn't know it was going to be a party!"
Here are some of the things I love about my boy:

* He is full of energy and curiosity about life
* He makes me laugh with the things he says and does
* He brings me flowers from the yard, and knows I will love them
* He loves to help me in the kitchen and the garden
* He loves his Daddy and equates growing up with "when he's a Daddy"
* He has a great imagination- yesterday we were, at various times, a family of coyotes, elephants named Chai and Bamboo and Hansa, a family of penguins, and when working in the garden we were Almanzo and Alice and Eliza Jane.
* He loves books and being read to
* He's a great story-teller
* He is cuddly for about three minutes in the morning. (I'd be happy with more, but I'll take what I can get!)
* When he wakes up in the night, he comes in and says in the sweetest voice "Im comin' in to cuddle with ya'" as if I'd been lying awake waiting for him!
* He loves his sister

Yep, I love that boy. I thank the Lord for three-and-a-half years and look forward to every day we are blessed with him.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

E is for Elephants

And here we Embark on a most Excellent Exploration of Every Element of the Elegant letter E.

* Learn more about Elephants, Peregrine's favorite animal
* Make Egg Salad sandwiches
* Practice 1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Encourage one another and build each other up." Find ways to be an Encouragement to others.
* Read The Little Engine that Could and talk about Endurance
* Learn about Emporer Penguins (maybe watch March of the Penguins)
* Read the Story of Echo the Bat
* Learn about Electricity
* Talk about the Excellence of our Lord and King!
* Read this poem that I loved as a girl:


Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant -
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone -
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)

Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee -
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

-- Laura E. Richards (1850-1943)

And we would welcome any more ideas too!