Sunday, December 28, 2008

Abide In Me

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Psalm 90:1
The place of our true belonging is not a place made by human hands. It is fashioned for us by God, who came to pitch his tent among us, invite us to his place, and prepare a room for us in his own house.

Words for "home" are often used in the Old and New Testaments. The Psalms are filled with yearning to dwell in the house of God ... It is highly significant that John describes Jesus as the Word of God living among us (John 1:14), and in his farewell address, Jesus reveals himself as the new home: "Abide in me as I abide in you" (John 15:4).

By making his home in us Jesus allows us to make our home in him. By entering into the intimacy of our innermost self he offers us the opportunity to enter into his own intimacy with God. By choosing us as his preferred dwelling place he invites us to choose him as our preferred dwelling place.This is the mystery of the Incarnation.

O God, as we celebrate your coming into the world to redeem us, may we never forget that you are our ultimate home.
LifeSigns
Henri J. M. Nouwen

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Peace on Earth...

Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.
Luke 2:14

Peace on earth seems to be an elusive thing. There are wars fought around the world. Terrorism. Conflict with our neighbors and co-workers. This world is a far cry from peace.

Yet at the birth of Christ, before he had done anything, God declared "Peace on earth." The entrance of the God-Man Jesus Christ into our sinful, war-ridden world altered our existence forever. Believe it or not, there is now peace on earth.

As with so many of God's statements, there is part of this that is for us here and now, and there is part of this that is yet to come. We will see a day when we will beat our "swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks," but that peace is somewhere in the future.

Today I am pondering the part of this "peace on earth" that we currently have. After the surprising entrance onto the scene of Immanuel, God with us, we now have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:1) God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. (2 Cor 5:19)

Where we were once enemies with God, separated from his grace and love, we are now brought back into relationship with him. And he has called us to declare a message of peace, of reconciliation -- with himself, with each other, with the whole of creation.

Although we may not see this happen in our lifetime, still we have this promise: "Peace on earth, good will to men."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Fullness of Time

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!
2 Corinthians 6:2
Jesus came in the fullness of time. He will come again in the fullness of time. Wherever Jesus Christ is, time is brought to its fullness.

We often experience our time as empty. We hope that tomorrow, next week, next month, next year real things will happen to us. But sometimes we experience the fullness of time ... when time stands still ... when past, present, and future become one ... when everything is present where we are ... when God, we, and all that is have come together in total unity. That is the experience of God's time. It is in the fullness of time that we meet God.

O God, we than you for the joy of Christmas celebrations, which spring from our celebration of Jesus born into our world to save it.
Bread for the Journey
Henri J. M. Nouwen

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nature's Air Freshener

As a continuation to my post on "Greener Cleaners", my first post is about the earth's natural air cleaner -- PLANTS!

In the 1960's, NASA started research into the environment's ability to clean itself. The research was inspired by the observation that some swamp plants were cleaning their environment of chemicals leaked into the waterway near a biological warfare testing facility.

In addition to cleaning these chemical spills, they were also working to provide engineers with the information to design a sustainable living environment for long-term habitation in space. Check out NASA's article Plants Clean Air and Water for Indoor Environments.

What does this mean for my family? When we return from our Christmas visit with family, we will be adding some plants to our home: a few spider plants and a few Pothos and possibly a Cast Iron plant. These plants are well know to be effective in cleaning toxins from the air. Too bad I can't take plants on the airplane -- my mom has both spider plants and Pothos to spare.

For a great list of other air-filtering plants, visit Wikipedia's entry on this topic.

The University of Connecticut's College of Agriculture has a great list of safe and poisonous house plants, for those of you with kids and pets.

Find some great plants you can add to your home to help clean your indoor environment this winter!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Empty Places

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.
Revelation 3:20
Is there space in our life where the Spirit of God has a chance to speak or act or show up? Being contemplative means peeling off the blindfolds that keep us from seeing his coming in us and around us and learning to listen in the spaces of quiet we leave for God.

I [Nouwen] once spent time walking in New York City. I noticed most places were filled up, with much crowded into every corner! We seem to have a fear of empty spaces. We want to fill up what is empty. Perhaps our fear is that an empty space means that something may happen to us that we cannot predict, that is new, that leads us to a place we might not want to go. I might not want to hear what God has to say.

O God, help us to nurture empty spaces in our lives so that we may be filled with your grace and peace.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Deodorizer and Cleaner

This is an additional post in my series on "Greener Cleaners".

I have been frustrated with my smelly diaper pail. I have tried all sorts of thing, but its in like the plastic has absorbed the smell over time. I use Lysol every time I change it, and that chemical smell hangs in the air for hours.

This week I tried something new that I read in this book, Clean House, Clean Planet.

Garbage-Can Deodorizer and Cleaner --
Ingredients
: Baking Soda and an essential oil

Mix baking soda with a few drops of an essential oil. I used orange because I already had some on hand, but the book recommends peppermint oil. After cleaning the garbage can, sprinkle on some scented baking soda.

I was amazed at how effective this was at killing the odor entirely. And there is a fresh orange scent every time I dispose of a dirty diaper.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

God chose powerlessness

Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.
Matthew 11:29
God chose powerlessness. God chose to enter into human history in complete weakness. That divine choice forms the center of the Christian faith. In Jesus of Nazareth, the powerless God appeared among us to unmask the illusion of power, to disarm the prince of darkness who rules the world, and to bring the divided human race to new unity.

Through total and unmitigated powerlessness, God shows us divine mercy. The radical, divine choice is the choice to reveal glory, beauty, truth, peace, joy, and most of all, love in and through the complete divestment of power. It is very hard -- if not impossible -- for us to grasp this divine mystery.

Jesus, in all we do and say this Advent, may we follow your example of gentleness and humility.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Three Years Old

Has it really been three years since my little boy was born?

Joshua Oliver Sumner
December 5, 2005
4 pounds 2 ounces - 17 inches long



December 5, 2008
27 pounds - 36 inches tall


We are so thankful for God's faithfulness and his gift of this sweet and silly little boy!
Now he is an energetic, little preschooler.

Happy Birthday, Joshua!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Greener Cleaners

As I have been re-baby-proofing this week, I have been thinking about my all the chemicals I use. Maybe I need to entirely reconsider what I allow in my home -- for the benefit of children, my family and my world. Our family is taking another important step toward being green.

First up, Air Fresheners.

I have been using Febreze air fresheners for years, especially since moving to this little apartment with two indoor cats and two kids in diapers. Here is their ingredients list:

"Odor eliminator, water, fragrance, non-flammable natural propellant, quality control ingredients. No CFC's and Contains NO Phosphates."

Well, at least they don't use CFC's (ozone-destroying) for propellant and it contains no phosphates, but do I really feel good about using something to freshen my air that has to include huge warnings about inhaling this product?

My research on commercial air fresheners turned up some interesting food for thought. Solid air fresheners contain extremely toxic chemicals like naphthalene, PDCBs and sodium bisulfate.

The sprays are normally an alcohol base with an assortment of chemicals and synthetic fragrances. They use propellants like butane and propane (although, Febreze states that their propellants are "non-flammable" and "natural"). In addition, aerosol cans are expensive to manufacture -- you pay big prices for a little bit of chemical dispensed in a cool way -- and environmentally inefficient -- a small amount of chemical for the size container that is disposed.

This has really opened my eyes to all the toxins and chemicals that my family is exposed to on a regular basis. Something needs to change...

Stay tuned to my next post. I'll be talking about the alternative air fresheners that our family is now using.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

World AIDS Day!

I know I'm a day late, but I wanted to acknowledge World AIDS day.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of World AIDS day. There have been huge advances in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the last two decades, but there is so much work to be done --
  • 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide
  • 2 million of those are innocent children
  • 1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV/AIDS
  • 11.6 million little children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS
  • 2.7 million people newly contracted this virus in 2007 alone.
This disease such strong stigmas and stereotypes connected with it. Many of these originate because of fear and ignorance. In my mind, this is akin to leprosy in Jesus' day. Here is a strong example of his response to this feared disease and those suffering with it.
While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." Luke 5:12-13 (italics added by me)
We should be responding to those with HIV/AIDS with the same kindness. Not that we can heal everyone who has this disease, but we are called to "touch" those around us in need, both figuratively and literally.

During college, I met a single mom with two small girls (ages one and three) who had recently learned that she had AIDS. In addition to this, she was heart-broken to learn that one of her girls also had HIV. The life expectancy of her daughter was only 18 years, if she was able to remain on the expensive treatments available in this country to slow the disease.

About once a month, a friend and I would go visit this woman and play with her girls. Mostly we went to give her a break from her mothering responsibilities, and to give the girls a change of pace. This went on for about two years.

I remember one person asking me whether I every touched this woman and her children. The question reflected his fear and lack of knowledge. I shared the story of the first time she hugged me. I was so moved that she would trust me with her children and care enough to open herself up to me in this way.

I have since lost touch with this friend, but her courage in the face of this situation changed my life. I am thankful for the chance to have known her. I am also thankful that in this country she was able to receive treatment and support that she and her young daughter could not have afforded on their own.

But in Sub-Sahara Africa, there are too many mothers and young children who do not get the treatment that could prolong their lives. And there are too many new cases of HIV/ AIDS every year that could have been prevented.

Please take a moment to learn more about HIV/AIDS.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

See It, Try It!

In her Exchange article "Seeing Children" Deb Curtis told this story...
"A few years ago when I was teaching preschool I discovered that I could learn to see the children’s perspectives in very powerful ways if I observed them closely and then tried out what they were doing. I had been frustrated with a group of boys who had taken to zooming the small cars off of block ramps that they built. They would fling the cars across the tilted ramps, watching them fly through the air, hitting the ceiling, the windows, and sometimes people. I spent a lot of time trying to stop their behavior, but to no avail.

"After the boys left one day, my co-teacher and I decided to try out the cars and ramps ourselves. Much to our surprise we had a blast! We experienced the excitement and challenge as we built the ramps and zoomed the cars. With this new perspective, we approached the children’s work in a very different way. We offered the boys challenges to build their ramps more carefully and control the speed more accurately. They took up our suggestions and the activity became a focused, complex learning experience for all. Since then, trying out what they are doing has become a regular practice for me to see children more clearly."

Friday, November 21, 2008

This Blessed Book!

"When you come to this Blessed Book, the great point is to come with a deep consciousness of your ignorance, seeking on your knees the help of God, that by his Spirit he may graciously instruct you.

If you do not understand some portions, do not be discouraged, but come again and again to God, and he will guide you little by little, and further instruct you in the knowledge of his will.

And with an increasing knowledge of God obtained in a prayerful, humble way, you will receive, not something that simply fills the head, but something that exercises the heart, and cheers and comforts and strengthens you inner man."
George Muller
1805 - 1898

George Muller was a 19th century evangelist and coordinator of orphanages in Bristol, England. He lived an incredible life of faith and ministry to the poor. If you are interested in learning more about him, I recommend his autobiography or, for an easier read, George Muller: Man of Faith and Miracles.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shoulders of Giants

This week, I am thankful for the great men and women who have lived before me, who have demonstrated amazing faith and wisdom, and have struggled through deep truths. I am who I am because I can stand on the shoulders of these giants.

As protestants we sometimes forget the very challenging work of the church fathers to "rightly handle the word of truth." Throughout our history as the body of Christ, there have been questions about who we are and who God revealed himself to be. These courageous men and women struggled through these questions and have established the truths of the Christian church.

As one example, imagine how very differently we would view ourselves if the gnostic beliefs had not been checked in the early church. We would believe that the physical world was evil and worthless, and only the spirit mattered. While we do hold to the importance of the new life we have in the spirit, we can also enjoy the beauty of the physical world -- the ocean, the sunset, the hugs of our children -- as part of God's good gifts to us.

So today I echo the statement of Sir Isaac Newton, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Join me in being thankful this week. Every Thursday you can enter your Living in Thanksgiving post at Blue Castle.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Exploring Shadows

The sun came out for a little while today, and Joshua's class got excited about the shadows they discovered during circle time. So, his teacher set up the overhead projector and they spent the morning exploring shadows.

The kids loved it! They explored colors and toy shapes; and some of the girls put their pony tails on the projectors.

Joshua enjoyed creating shadows with his hands and fingers. He came home for school telling me how much fun he had with Miss Bela and asked to go back for more.

Hope in God!

How, O Lord, can I have hope when this world is such an insecure place?
Natural calamities destroy.
Economic uncertainties abound.
Human beings kill

~ I AM the light of the world. ~

What, O God, is reliable? What is secure?
Not people.
Not institutions.
Not governments.

~ I AM the way, the truth, and the life. ~

I fear, Lord, that evil will win out in the end.
I worry that my efforts will be for nothing.
I feel overwhelmed by powers beyond my control.

~ I AM the resurrection and the life. ~

You alone, O Lord, are my hope. You alone are my safety. You alone are my strength. May I -- even with my fears and anxieties, my insecurities and uncertainties -- swing like a needle to the pole star of the Spirit.
Amen.
Richard J. Foster
Prayers from the Heart

Saturday, November 15, 2008

When Green isn't Black and White!

I have been thinking a lot about "going green" lately, and what small changes I can make in my family that will have less of a negative impact on the environment. However, I have found many times when green just isn't black and white.

Here are a two examples:

1. Energy vs. Disposal -- Styrofoam cups
Styrofoam is not recyclable (as far as I have found) so it has to be disposed of somewhere. On the other hand, plastic cups are most of the time recyclable, and paper cups are normally biodegradable; they are both much heavier than Styrofoam, however, and consume more gasoline to move them to their distribution center. So, if forced to choose, which one is really "greener"?

2. Water vs. Paper & Disposal -- cloth napkins
Paper napkins are disposable and biodegradable; they create waste, and they use our tree resources. Cloth Napkins, however, require regular washing, using valuable water, and creating waterborne waste. So which one is "greener"? What if you use paper napkins that are made from recycled paper?


I know these debates don't have black and white answers. Most of the time they answer is dependent on local conditions. In the U.S. we have great water treatment plants, and plenty of fresh water, so we don't tend to worry about using water. Either way, though, there is a negative impact on our environment.

What do you think? What are some areas where you have had to try to choose the "greener" of several options?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Driving Miss Abigail!

For his physical therapy session this week, Joshua got to drive Abigail around in the laundry basket to build strength in his abs and legs.

Everyone had great fun!

Thankful for Community!

A friend started a new Thursday theme on her blog - Living in Thanksgiving! Check it out at Blue Castle. You can also share what you are thankful for and add it to the blog roll.

I know I missed Thursday, but I decided that I really needed to be thankful today. This has been a long week. I have two sick kids, a sick hubby, and no time to acknowledge that I, too, feel sick. So, this is the perfect time to stop complaining and give thanks.

This week, I am thankful for the community I live in. We are all brought together by the calling of God to attend (or support a spouse attending) Princeton Theological Seminary. I have a group of friends here who support me, pray for me, listen to me, and love me, in spite of it all. At this crazy time in life, God has placed us right were we need to be!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

John 4 - Water, Worship and Harvest

"...whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14

In chapter four, John introduces the theme of living water. We see the symbolism of water in the miracle at the Cana wedding; and it is mentioned in passing in Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus. But here Jesus directly offers the living water. And in his profound conversation with the woman from Samaria, he declares himself to be the Messiah, I AM (v.26)

"...the hour is ... now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." John 4:23

What an incredible statement! Everything has changed! The time has now come when the only acceptable act of worship is total orientation of my life and action toward the Father.

And now we call God our Father, Abba Father. Although this concept was introduced in Isaiah (the Everlasting Father), it is not until Jesus comes into our world and shows us who God is do we have the right to become children of God.

"...lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest." John 4:35

Jesus is trying to explain the urgency of his task here on earth. His food, that on which he relies for sustenance, is to do God's will and accomplish his work (v. 34). He challenges his disciples (and us) to take that same view of our lives.

I can just picture Jesus sitting at the well trying to teach this lesson to his disciples. He looks in the distance toward the city and sees the group of people that the woman from the well has gathered. He motions for his disciples to turn and look at the crowd, and he tells them, "These are the fields, ready to be harvested ... I am now sending you to reap."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reborn and Unafraid!

Lord of the Flood, wash us with your Spirit that we may be your ark of life, your peace in the sea of violence.
Water is life; water cleans; water kills.
Frightened, we are tempted to make a permanent home on the ark.
But you force us to seek dry ground.
We can do so only because you have taught us to cling to our baptisms, where we are drowned and reborn by the water and fire of your Spirit.
So reborn, make us unafraid.
Amen.
Prayers Plainly Spoken
Stanley Hauerwas.

Shaky Egg

Abigail loves her shaky egg. Its just the right size to hold in her hand and when she excitedly shakes her arms, it makes a great sound.

Today, Abigail was sitting on the couch with me holding the shaky egg in one hand and a maraca in the other.

Joshua went and found the other egg and another maraca then asked for some music. We listened to "I Know a Chicken" by Laurie Berkner, and everyone got to shake their eggs.

Abigail watched Joshua so intently, holding her egg in her lap. When the chorus came on, Joshua would start shaking his egg. Then Abigail would laugh and shake both her arms as fast as she could.

It was so funny and so sweet! Abigail adores her big brother!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Standing?!?

Last week when I went to get Abigail up from her nap, she was cheerfully STANDING UP in her crib.

This was her first time pulling up to a stand on her own. She is now so excited and stands up every time she has the chance.

Joshua was a much more cautious baby and was less accident prone. Abigail just launches herself into everything she can, with no regard for her safety. She has had her share of bumps and bruises, but nothing serious.

Joshua has found this new phase very frustrating. He use to put all his toys on the table, so Abigail couldn't reach them. Now she can reach all the table tops.

Oh, the challenges of being a big brother!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Prayer and Hope

To pray means to open your hands before God. It means slowly relaxing the tension which squeezes your hands together and accepting your existence with an increasing readiness, not as a possession to defend, but as a gift to receive.

Above all, prayer is a way of life which allows you to find a stillness in the midst of the world where you open your hands to God's promises and find hope for yourself, your neighbor, and your world.

In prayer, you encounter God not only in the small voice and the soft breeze, but also in the midst of the turmoil of the world, in the distress and joy of your neighbor, and in the loneliness of your own heart.
The Only Necessary Thing
by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Neighborhood Party!

I was inspired this year to host a little party for a bunch of the neighborhood kids on Halloween. There was a great turn out and everyone had so much fun. There were treats, crafts, games, and prizes. And all the little kids were so cute in their costumes!

Joshua helped me fill some bottles with colorful water and soap suds for a game similar to bowling.

We filled our little water table with birdseed and buried little toy lizards and frogs. This was a big hit with the younger kids.

One of our friends brought a pinata for the kids to break open. Joshua didn't want to take a turn until he saw how much fun everyone else had swinging the broomstick.

Joshua got a little bottle of bubbles from the pinata after it was broken.
What a fun day!


John 3 - New Life

This is how God loved the world, he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16
John chapter three is an incredible introduction to the new life we have in Christ. This is a very familiar passage of scripture. I was challenged to read it with fresh eyes, without reading all my opinions into it.

We have become so use to the term "born again" and "be saved". They have become very strong, polarizing terms in our current culture. Take a step back and see what the text actually says; think about what this must have meant to the first century church.

Jesus is challenging the idea of the Kingdom of God being a physical realization for the Jews. Instead, you must be "born from above" to enter the kingdom; you must be born "of water and the Spirit".

In this chapter, we also begin to see the idea of God's mercy and love overcoming the condemnation and judgment sometimes associated with the holiness of God. John has yet to stress the forgiveness and restoration of the new life, but he makes it very clear that God's purpose is to save, not condemn.

This is the first time John describes the new life as being "saved". This is placed in the context of a story of salvation in the old testament - Numbers 21:4-9. The Israelites are dying from snake bites. God instructs Moses to place a golden snake on a high pole in the middle of camp. Everyone who looks at the gold snake will live. What a strong picture of salvation!

I enjoyed the challenge of rereading this chapter with a fresh perspective and considering how the ideas of birth and new life were understood by the original readers.

The Holiness of Everyday Tasks

If all of life is truly sacred, God, then help me see the holiness of the everyday tasks of my life:
cleaning house and
laughing with friends and
eating good food and
sleeping through the night.
Amen
--
Prayers from the Heart
Richard J. Foster

Lions and Zebras and Bears! Oh My!

We had a fun Halloween this year. Joshua is getting old enough to really enjoy dressing up.

Joshua was a zebra this year. He was so excited about his costume. He wanted to get dressed up long before the big day, and for several days after.

Abigail was Winnie the Pooh. She was so cute and sweet! Though she was more excited about the Cheerios, than anything else.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Reformation Day

On October 31, 1517, Luther posted his 95 thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, unknowingly sparking the Protestant Reformation.

His intent was to initiate a debate on the doctrine and practices of indulgences, but this event sparked a controversy that resulted in the excommunication of Luther and his followers in 1520 ... and the Lutheran tradition was born. This eased the later creation of the Reformed and Anabaptist traditions.

Check out the Internet Christian Library (iclnet.org) to read all of Luther's 95 Theses.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Ten Cannots

I read these on a friend's blog and thought they were worth repeating. It is an interesting perspective to consider, especially in light of the current politics.
  • You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
  • You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
  • You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
  • You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
  • You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
  • You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
  • You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
  • You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
  • You cannot build character and courage by destroying men's initiative and independence.
  • And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.
by Reverend William J. H. Boetcker
The Ten Cannots
1916

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Abigail at 10 months

Abigail had her nine-month doctor appointment today, although she is now almost ten months old.

So here are her stats from her doctor visit:
Weight: 17 pounds, 5 ounces -- 17th percentile
Height: 27.5 inches -- 31st percentile
Head Circumference: 17.5 inches -- 55th percentile

We were a little concerned about her weight because she has been self-weening over the last few months and wouldn't take a bottle. But she has really taken to solid foods. Her new favorite of the week is Cheerios!

She loves everything I give her. We had tried diced peaches, potatoes, pears, carrots, etc. But now that she is nine months old, she also gets to try yogurt, cheese and hard-boiled eggs.

Our little girl is growing up so fast...

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
Turn their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Amen

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Prayer in the desert

Prayer is a subject that has been on my mind lately. It is not an easy subject to wrestle with; nor is it easy to admit such a struggle.

Do you ever feel like you are in a desert and your prayers are getting lost in the wind? There have been times in my life when prayer is refreshing and exciting; and there have been times, like now, when prayer is so hard and dry.

In the midst of this dryness, God has been stirring me, moving me back to prayer. I am so thankful that he still calls, still draws, in spite of my neglect and unfaithfulness. But I feel so lost in knowing how to get back to the joy, that spring of life overflowing.

I have no answers today, but I know that where the Spirit draws, he will also teach. So, I am coming back to the position of humility, sitting eagerly at his feet.

First Snow of the Season

Today was forecaster to be very wet and rainy. However, I am looking out the window at big snow flakes falling on the already soaked ground. It is beautiful, but has no chance of sticking. By Friday the temperatures will be back into the 60's, with sunny skies.

Joshua was so funny this morning. He was looking out the window, waiting for me to finish changing Abigail. He was chattering away about the puddles and the rain that makes puddles. I heard something about rain boots and walking in the water. It was so cute! We may have to put on our rain clothes and march around this afternoon.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Make Us Like Him

I wanted to share this prayer that I have been pondering and praying during my study of John. It is from Prayers Plainly Spoken by Stanley Hauerwas. This was a book my husband gave to his father before he passed away a few years ago. It has some beautiful, thoughtful prayers.

Spirit of Truth, direct our attention to the life of Jesus so that we may see what you would have us be.

Make us, like him, teachers of your good law.
Make us, like him, performers of miraculous cures.
Make us, like him, proclaimers of your kingdom.
Make us, like him, loving of the poor, the outcast, children.
Make us, like him, silent when the world tempts us to respond in the world's terms.
Make us, like him, ready to suffer.

We know we cannot be like Jesus except as Jesus was unlike us, being your Son. Make us cherish that unlikeness, that we may grow into the likeness made possible by Jesus' resurrection. Amen.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Spider Web at School

Joshua built a spider web this week in his class at school.

The kids were the spiders, stringing their yarn all over the classroom. They even turned the class table upside down to create the perfect spot.





This was a perfect activity for Joshua. He was so excited that he told me all about it when he got home.






One of Joshua's favorite books right now is The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle. Its the story of a spider who is too busy to play with the farm animals ... "She was very busy spinning her web." In the end, she catches the pesky fly "... just like that."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Joshua's exercises...

Joshua has been receiving physical therapy for over a year now to address some of the delays he has experienced in both his gross and fine motor skills. His therapist is so creative at getting him to exercise his muscles.

Here is one of the her latest strategies. It is a set of six buckets tied to each other with short ropes; they are specifically designed for kids to step on them.

Joshua loves walking on these buckets.

The bucket steps require balance, strengthening his legs and core muscles.


As his confidence grows, we spread the buckets further apart.


We also turned the buckets upside down for a new twist on the exercises.


And Joshua just thinks he is playing with a fun new toy.

My mind is racing with all sorts of exciting ways we can use these buckets to help Joshua exercise his little muscles while having so much fun!

Clothing Exchange

My "problem area" for the week is all our clothing. It is time to pack up all the summer clothes and pull out the winter clothes. For the kids, this process includes pulling out everything that is too small and determining what we have (and need) for the coming season.

This comes just in time for our community's clothing exchange. Twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring, there is a big clothing exchange for everyone in the Seminary. People donate their wearable, used clothing and pick up 'new' clothes donated by others. I always find great children's clothes.

They start accepting donations today, so I will be spending this evening and tomorrow sorting, washing and clearing out clothes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Organizing for Toddlers

There are so many great things I want to do with my children, but we are held back by a lack of planning and organization. This is the next big area I am tackling in my journey toward living a prepared life.

I have recently discovered a series of books by Trish Kuffner that are full of creative activities for kids, using things I have around my home.

I LOVE these books. You really need to check them out.

The Toddler's Busy Book - This book has great ideas for activities to do with your one-and-a-half to three year old that stimulate creativity and learning, not to mention stave off boredom on long rainy days.

If you have older kids, she has also published The Preschooler's Busy Book geared toward three to six year olds.

Most of this book is still too advanced for my not-quite-three-year-old, but I enjoyed reading it for additional
inspiration and a picture of the soon-emerging skills to watch for in my children.

For children six to ten there is The Children's Busy Book. I haven't read this one at all.

Another great book is the The Wiggle & Giggle Busy Book.

I have only read a few sections in this book so far, but I am finding great games to play with my kids.

These ideas have really helped on rainy days, when we can't get outside to run around.

All of her books have large "Rainy Days" sections to help with those 'stir-crazy' days.

I have been so inspired by these books. There is a great section in the beginning of each book that lays out how to organize your home to meet your child's changing needs.

You will have to stay tuned to find out how well I am able to implement these great new ideas into my daily life.

Apple Orchard!

My Bible study group and our families went to the apple orchard this weekend. We had a great time, enjoying the fresh fall air.

Joshua was very excited about picking apples.


He even had his own bag for his apples.


It was nice to be out as a family.


The kids love to spend time with daddy!


Joshua could not resist sampling his pickings!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Crawling Skills!

Abigail is working on her crawling skills.

She loves to push up onto her knees, but our wood floors are too slippery to make much forward movement.

When we play outside in the grass, she practices moving with her tummy up off the ground. It is probably easier due to the friction -- her knees don't slide around like they do on the wood floors and her tummy creates too much drag to leave on the ground!

She has also almost mastered going from her tummy to a sitting position. I have found her completely sitting up in her crib a few times.

It won't be long before she is crawling everywhere and sitting whenever she wants!

Friday, October 17, 2008

John 2 - Wine & Whip

John 2 contains the story of Jesus attending the wedding in Cana and whipping the money changers in the temple. These stories show such a contrast in the attitude and demeanor of Jesus.

John 2:1-12 | As I read the water-into-wine story again, there was a nagging question in the back of my mind. Why was this story included in the book of John? He only recorded seven miracles in his entire book -- why was this one of them?

I don't have a firm, authoritative answer, but I enjoyed the discussion at Bible study. Here were some of the lessons we found in this story.
  • It shows the authority of Jesus as Lord over nature
  • It revealed the confidence of his mother
  • It demonstrated Jesus involvement and care in "earthly" things
  • It uses the strong symbolic elements of WATER (baptism , living water) and WINE (last supper, blood of Christ, wedding banquet)
  • It shows an abundance of wine, just as we have received an abundance of grace (John 1:16)
  • The miracle manifested the glory of Jesus, and his disciples believed in him.

John 2:13-25 | The second half of this chapter tells the story of Jesus cleaning out the temple. I have often puzzled over this story and how it relates to church-life today.

At first read, this story is about the zeal of Jesus and his authority. And about his disciples' future understanding of Jesus' words and Scripture. But does it also warn us about God's attitude to commercialism in his house?

The money-changers and sellers were providing a vital role for the worshipers who were arriving in Jerusalem. Many people had traveled quite far to worship at the temple for Passover. They needed to exchange their currency for the local currency. They also needed to purchase their sacrifices at the temple instead of having to carry them on their journey.

So, what was the source of Jesus' anger? Why did he take this action? Was it because they were doing this on the temple grounds, instead of outside somewhere? Was it because these money-changes and sellers were taking advantage of the people and charging exorbitant fees?

I often ponder these questions when I encounter a church with a bookstore on the premise. It is a good function of the church to provide its people with resources for discipleship and the Christian life, but ... ?

Or what about the church that holds a "garage" sale in their building to raise money for a mission trip? It provides the community with access to inexpensive goods and earns money for missions, but ... ?

What do you think? I have no real answer. But what I do know is that Jesus demonstrates the zeal God has for his house, his church. We are called to live with that same zeal -- not just for some building, but for his people, the church.
Check out the previous post in this series:
John 1 - The Word became Flesh

Playing in the Leaves!

The weather here has been beautiful -- sunny and in the 70's. We just had to go outside a play in the leaves yesterday.

Joshua loves to "crunch" the leaves, as he calls it; he goes marching or kicking through the leaf piles.

Abigail likes to push the leaves around with her hands. But mostly she likes to eat them!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Is my home prepared?

I have been pondering what it means for me to be prepared in my home. It mostly comes down to organization and discipline.

I use to be more organized, back when life was simpler, before kids. The last three years have been a slow surrender to the forces of entropy. Now I have to expend great amounts of energy to get back to where I was. But I must, for the sake of my family and myself.

So, my conviction to be more prepared, to be in a position to be used by God, begins with a few basic rules. (I'm almost too embarrassed to admit the level of chaos in which we now live, but confession is good for the soul, right?)

  1. No dirty dishes left on the counter or in the sink over night.
  2. The kitchen table, the bookshelves and the desk need to remain clear of clutter.
  3. I need to tackle at least one "problem area" each week -- "problem areas" include, but are definitely not limited to, all the closets, my bedroom, the play area, the piles of crafts and games.
I have no desire to be legalistic about this, and there are always exceptions, but these rules really are about finding freedom not bondage.

So far, this has been a good week. The rules have lowered my stress around dinner time (I don't have to do dishes before I have enough counter space to cook and I don't have to rush around clearing the table before we can eat). We have also had the opportunity to invite friends over, without needing three-days-warning to get the house picked up.

My problem area for the week was the hall / linen closet. It was a huge pile of stuff that we no longer used. I also found some toiletry items that I had bought and lost (toothpaste, shampoo, etc). It took several afternoons (with only about 15 minutes available each day) to get it done; it sure looks good!

Now I just have to apply some of the discipline I was talking about to keep it up!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Abigail is nine months old!

Can Abigail really be nine months old already? The time has passed so quickly. She turned nine months on October 5. We haven't been to the doctor yet so I don't have a current weight and height, but here is a picture of our little girl at nine months old.

Abigail just cut two more teeth today -- the next two on the bottom. Now she has four on top and four on the bottom.

We have been working on her sleep pattern and have finally established some great habits. She goes to bed at 7pm and sleeps until about 8am; once or twice a week she gets up once in the night to feed. She also takes two naps during the day, two hours each. She is such a good napper!

Abigail is still crawling military style, with her tummy on the ground, but in the last few days she has started to take several "steps'' up on her knees.

She has started babbling more, mostly with 'b' and 'm' -- ba-ba-ba and ma-ba-ma. It is so cute! She especially loves to hold conversations, where we babble back and forth to each other, taking turns.

Abigail is at such a fun stage! I am enjoying my time with her!

Cha-cha-cha!

When I picked up Joshua from school today, his teacher, Miss Bela told me he had a wonderful time dancing the cha-cha with her. I was surprised that he would participate, but very pleased that Bela can draw him out of his comfort zone so well.

Back at home, as we were finishing lunch, I asked Joshua what he wanted to do this afternoon. He quickly yelled out, "Cha-cha, more cha-cha." If Bela had not told me about his time at school, I would have spent the day trying to figure out what he was talking about.

Since Joshua had that much fun, I'm going to have to learn how Miss Bela does the cha-cha so we can dance at home!

John 1 - The Word became Flesh

John chapter one is a beautiful, incredible and very concise introduction to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Remember John's purpose for writing this book is that we may believe.
"... these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:31 (NIV)
With this in the front of our minds, we look at the first chapter of John. He starts by introducing Jesus, clearly telling us who he is -- God himself; then he provides the eye-witness testimony of John the baptist and the disciples to confirm this identity, so that we may believe and have life.

So, who does John say that Jesus is?
  • 1:1 - Word - the one through whom God has always expressed himself
  • 1:1 - God - in the beginning, with God, is God
  • 1:2 - Creator - all things were made through him
  • 1:4 - Life - revealed God in the unique gift of life that transformed a barren universe
  • 1:4 - Light - enlightens everyone
  • 1:14 - Flesh - human, God with us to redeem us
  • 1:29 - Lamb - the sacrifice that would take away the sins of the world
  • 1:41 - Messiah - the Christ, the one anointed by God
  • 1:12 - he gave the right and ability to become God's children
  • 1:14, 17 - he is full of grace and truth
  • 1:16 - we have received grace upon grace from his fullness
  • 1:18 - he has revealed God to us, made him known
These descriptions speak for themselves, and don't need me to expound. However, I do want to share a few points that struck me.

Word / Logos - This term was commonly used in Greek philosophy. In reference to Jesus, it is unique to John, used only in this gospel, in 1 John 1:1, 4 and in the book of Revelation 19:13 - his name is Word of God, (You can debate amongst yourselves whether Revelation was really written by John).

'Logos' means so much more than it that it does when translated 'word' in the English language. It contains the expression of a thought, not merely the name of an object. It embodies a concept or an idea. In the Old Testament, the Word of the Lord is the revealed will of God and the sum of God's utterances.

But John takes it a step further and tells us that Jesus himself is the Word, the will of God, the revelation of God, all that God has said and ever needs to say.

I am looking forward to the unfolding of this description of Jesus that John has given in chapter one. As we proceed through this book, we will see the continued revelation of who Jesus is and what his life (and death) means for us -- that we may believe and have life.

Check out the next post in this series: John 2 - Wine & Whip
Or the previous post : Introduction to John

Monday, October 13, 2008

How prepared are you?

I have recently been reminded (and convicted) about an aphorism used constantly by the head of the engineering department back in college -- "God uses prepared people!"

There have been so many opportunities that I have missed lately because of my lack of readiness; opportunities to reach out to others, to share, to encourage, to build relationships, to minister; opportunities for my children, for my husband, for my friends. God is challenging me to live a prepared life.

This is a huge task, and will probably be a continuing theme in my posts for a while. It includes so many areas of life: spiritually, physically, mentally, financially. The area weighing heaviest on my mind right now is preparation in my home (can anyone say "organization"?).

So, I am pondering this life goal and considering the baby steps I can take today, tomorrow, this week, to live in obedience, to be prepared.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Meal Plan?!?

So, I have been reading about meal plans lately. There are some enthusiastic bloggers who have had great success with this. Some people do a plan each week, some prefer a monthly plan. I have attempted meal plans in the past, and have not been very successful, but the it looks like it is time to try again -- to save money and especially to lower the stress around dinner time.

I am debating between a monthly or weekly plan. Should I just jump off the deep end and tackle the entire month at once? I am going to try one week at a time for a month. Does anyone have some tips for getting started? How do I avoid the pitfalls that have foiled my plans in the past?

Check back in a few weeks to see how it goes!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Book of John - Introduction

My ladies group is studying the gospel of John this year. This seemed like the perfect topic and opportunity to start my new blog.

We are using Kay Arthur's book, the The God Who Know You and Cares, an inductive study of the book of John (check out my last blog post for more about the inductive study style). So far, I have been disappointed with the book. It is not as thoughtful as some of them -- the questions and comments don't seem nearly as thought provoking. However, it does help provide structure to our study.

Here is the brief introduction to the book of John that I shared on our first night in this new study.

John explicitly states his purpose for writing this book in John 20:30-31. Knowing his reason for writing this book can help us understand this scripture better.
"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
John 20:30-31 (NIV)

We will see this theme repeated throughout the book of John: Jesus did this sign, and the disciples believed. John's entire book is focused around giving us the proof that we need to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

John is a deeply theological book, focusing on the diety of Christ and the meaning of faith in him. The early church was heavely dependent of this book for much of its theology. John is always careful to interpret what he is reporting with key theological terms.

He introduces key theological term -- know, world, Word, glory -- and uses them again and again. The biggest key word in John is belief / faith. He uses this term 98 times in his gospel. A careful study of these terms can give us a clear understanding of basic New Testament revelation.

John teaches his lessons primarily through contrast -- life & death, light & darkness, belief & unbelief, love & hate, etc. As we read through this book, we will see these contrasts and this teaching method used repeatedly.

John 1:1-5 reminds us of our primary focus as we study the life of Christ as recorded by John.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5 (ESV)
Jesus is the Word of God, God himself, the one through whom God has always chosen to express himself.

Check out the next post in this series: John 1

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Inductive Bible Study

A few years ago, a friend and I started a ladies group to study scripture together. We decided to spend our time doing an inductive style study of various books of the Bible.

I first encountered this type of Bible study in our church in Tennessee, Nashville First Church of the Nazarene. Our pastor taught a Wednesday night series on how to study you Bible. His approach was very much an inductive style of study.

So, what is the inductive style of study? Basically it is using the Bible itself as the primary source of information about the Bible. It is a disciplined way of slowing down and reading the text for what it actually says, not what we have heard in a sermon, or what we assume it says. It takes some serious practice in order to not read our own opinions and assumptions into scripture, especially if you are very familiar with a passage.

A great guide for this style is Kay Arthur's book, How to Study Your Bible. We have used several of her books in our study group, including 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2 and 3 John; Colossians and this year we are doing the gospel of John. This is not an endorsement of Kay Arthur -- sometimes I disagree with her conclusions and am not inspired by her questions -- but the books bring important structure to our group.

Here is the basic approach to my new style of Bible study:
  1. Read the text (an entire book or letter) in one sitting, normally in a translation I am not as familiar with, trying to read it through the eyes of the original recipients.
  2. Re-read the text, normally a smaller portion like a chapter, and make observations -- who, what, when, where and how -- writing down any unanswered questions or interesting points.
  3. Re-read the smaller portion of the text again, marking key words and main characters in the book, taking notes on what I learn from these observations.
  4. After this groundwork, I begin cross referencing other passages for answers to any remaining questions.
  5. Then I approach commentaries, or other sources of information to bring additional understanding.
  6. Of coarse, through all this, my prayer is to hear what God wants to speak into my life.
I have found it to be very refreshing to study through an entire book, and not study topically (not that this doesn't also have value). And it is a great way to become thoroughly familiar with scripture, so you can better see the big picture when you are studying a topic or person.

As I said, our group is studying the gospel of John this year. I will be doing a series of posts as we proceed through this book.

Have any of you tried an inductive study of Scripture? Or do you have a different style of study that you like? I'd love to hear from you.

My new blog

Check out my new blog: Contemplative Mom at contemplativemom.blogspot.com

The plan is to continue to post family news here at DarrenAndChristy.com, and to use my new blog to write about the random thoughts and experiences that make up my life.

My Big Boy!

Joshua seems to have grown up so much in the last few weeks. He has been doing and saying the silliest things lately, and I have no idea where he got them.

This picture is a great example. Any time you ask him to smile at the camera, he shrugs his shoulders and holds them up until you are done taking the picture. It is so funny!

He is also making the new facial expressions. Last week I reminded Joshua to sit down until he finished his food. He looked at me with the cutest, most pouty face I have ever seen. I laughed so hard! But he still had to finish his dinner.

The clearest sign that he is growing is found in his new, favorite phrase: "Joshua do himself!"

Sigh ... my little boy has grown into a big boy who no longer wants mommy's help!

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Day at the Farm!

Terhune Orchards has Fall Family Fun Festival Weekends through the end of October. So this weekend we headed to the farm to enjoy the festivities.

The horses are still his favorite attraction whenever we visit. For the festivals, they have several ponies available for rides in addition to their regular farm horse.

Too bad we didn't have time for a pony ride, though he probably would not have ridden willingly.

We also spent time at the pumpkin patch! Abigail and Joshua both had so much fun looking at all the pumpkins and picking the perfect ones to take home.

We left with two very nice, little pumpkins to decorate our home for fall. I think we will stick with markers and paint this year, instead of trying to safely carve them with an impatient 2 year old (whose new favorite phrase is "Joshua do himself").

The whole family got to enjoy the fresh apples we bought at the orchard when I made apple crisp for dessert tonight. Maybe next time we will try the "Pick Your Own" option for apples.

We had a wonderful day and the weather was perfect (sunny, in the high 60's)! I'm sure we will be back out there again before the weather changes.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bath time with Abigail

Darren took some really cute pictures of Abigail taking a bath!


Abigail has always been opposed to bath time. Sometimes she would cry the entire time ... until now!

She is finally sitting up well enough that she gets to sit upright in the bath, instead of laying down. This has transformed bath time.

Now she has so much fun playing with the little toys and splashing around in the water.

Check out her teethy grin ...
she is showing almost all of her six teeth!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Indoor basketball

Joshua is so excited about basketball.

He loves to watch the grown-ups playing on the court near our apartment. And he always wants to shoot hoops in the little kid's basket out at the playground.

What he really needed was a way to enjoy this game on rainy days without buying an indoor basketball hoop.

We gathered all the balls we have into a pile on the living room floor. Next we set a toy bin on one of Joshua's little chairs.

What follows is a flurry of fun!

Joshua loves to shoot all different sizes of balls into the toy bin. Sometimes he is laughing too hard to even aim.

So far, he only throws the balls at the basket... we may have a problem if he gets too excited and starts throwing them anytime at anything!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Swimming in the tub

Joshua has discovered that the bath tub has more than one function.

Just this week it seemed to dawn on him that he could lay on his tummy in the tub. Prior to this bath time was all about sitting.

Now he can kick his feet and paddle his arms, like he does in the big pool at swim lessons. He even put his face in the water to blow bubbles!

Too bad I didn't have the camera near by.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

First Day of School

Tuesday was Joshua's first day in his new class at school.

For the last few weeks, we have been trying to prepare him for the change to a new teacher and a new classroom.

He looked a little concerned when I took him to a different room that morning, but he seems to have warmed up to his new class.

Joshua's new teacher is Miss Bela. Every morning since that first day he has asked me if we are going to see Miss Bela. I think he must like her.

He also has several of the same friends in class with him, so that has helped with the transition.

Here are some pictures from his first day that Miss Bela emailed to me. Enjoy!

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