Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cause You Came Near

We sang this song For All You've Done at Shoreline East on Saturday. While we were singing it, I realized that although it may sound like a song for the Easter season "you rose again on high" it's actually a great Christmas song :)

With these two lines in particular:
Cause You came near, from the everlasting
To the world we live, the Father's only Son

Jesus came NEAR. He left behind his deity, his everlasting, and came near. He became one of us and came to the world we live in. God with us. Emmanuel. No other god has done that.

We've been thinking a lot about all that Jesus gave when he came as a baby to the earth. Advent Conspiracy is changing how we view this holiday season. Thinking of the way that Jesus gave and wondering how we can follow his example in our giving. Jesus gave himself. He gave relationally. So, how can I give relationally? How can I give a gift that says...I know you? We share a connection. We share a passion for justice, making things right in this world. Or what can I give that will last more than just one season? What can I create with my own hands? I'm not sure how I'll do this year. But I hope that as time goes by I'll get better at this kind of giving. On Saturday I'll be hosting a relational giving idea fair at my local church. We are hoping to spark creativity and provide hands-on demonstrations for gifts that connect people. Maybe I'll learn something :)

Worship fully, Spend less, Give more and Love all.

Hide and Seek

We like to play hide and seek at our house. One of my boys is so filled with the anticipation of being found that he giggles a little too much. It’s pretty easy, but still great fun finding him because it usually involves lots of snuggling! My other child is scary. He finds a hiding place, doesn’t make a move, utters not a sound…I’m not sure he even breathes. It’s nuts. We’ve lived in the same house for 9 years now and really there are only so many available hiding places. But I have searched for this child until I get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach thinking…Oh my goodness...surely he did not go outside. At that point the gig is up! “Honey you are such a good hider, but mommy can’t find you, I give up”.…silence….”I’m sorry but the game is over please come out right now”….more silence. “If you don’t come out this instant you are going to have discipline!” UGH!

In our house the advantage goes to the kids – they can squeeze into places I wouldn’t even consider, but I think that truthfully, we grown ups are pretty good at hiding. Really, we come from a long line of hiders. Look back in Genesis. Adam and Eve said “we saw our nakedness and we hid ourselves”. There you go, it all started way back in the garden. We feel exposed, we see our vulnerability, we fear consequences, we think “I’ve never felt like this before” and so we hide. I have to tell you, I am quite an expert at this. When it comes to conflict – my preferred response is stuff and hide. So with that whole fight or flight mechanism…uh…I’m gonna go with FLIGHT.

We all choose to hide at times, is it really that bad? If I am really honest with myself then what kind of shelter, refuge, strong tower, am I? If I must hide then I need a better hiding place. I love Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” In that verse I see not only the shelter I need, but I also find hope in those songs of deliverance. I don’t think God intends for us to live our lives in hiding and ultimately there is freedom. I think that's found in verse 10, in trusting. God is trustworthy. He has proven this in His extravagant love! I know it sounds simple – Just trust God, Baby. Yeah right. Believe me, its hard work. Prov 3 says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart." Notice the author does not appeal to our logical rational choice – no, he appeals to the heart. It is only with our heart that we are able to trust. Our brains just don’t go there! We have a battle on our hands.

So now I’m wondering if maybe this flight mechanism is really OK, if instead of running away from whatever I fear - I run toward my God. No longer hiding from....but hiding in! In that hiding place we know God’s protection , and his great love for us. It’s there we find the faith to trust him AND the courage to venture out.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Reflections

For the past several years I've handed out a small slip of paper to each member of our Thanksgiving gathering and asked them to write a brief note of what they are thankful for. A few years ago I put all the pages together. I love this album. I thought I'd go back and reflect today on my thoughts over the years:

1999 I'm thankful to have a house-full of family and I'm so grateful to be expecting a new member of ours. (We revealed to our family at Thanksgiving that we were pregnant again)

2000 I'm thankful for my precious boys and that they are strong and healthy. I'm thankful for the nights that they allow me to sleep! I'm so thankful for my husband and that he loves his job AND that he is so crazy about me.

2001 I'm thankful for my precious family - we are so blesssed. I'm thankful for President Bush and for freedom and for this awesome country. I'm thankful for good friends, for Shoreline and for being able to sing again! (Patriotism was a theme for many of this year on the heels of 9-11)

2002 I am thankful for my precious family we are so blessed, I am overwhelmed. I am thankful to be a part of Shoreline praise and worship it gives life to me to lead people into Jesus' presence.

2003 I am so thankful for my cool hip husband and for my amazing boys who keep life exciting! I am thankful for creativity and my fun hobbies! I am also blessed to have the opportunity to sing and lead worship at Shoreline.

2004 I'm thankful for angels - Whew! for Baby Kashmark for just the right job with great people! For God's love, for my amazing helpful husband and for two boys who sing along! (This year the boys knocked down the living room ceiling fan with a football...there was glass EVERYWHERE but neither of them had even the tiniest scratch..I know there was divine intervention involved! My sister had just found out that she was pregnant, sadly Baby Aidan was stillborn several months later, it was a tremendous loss.)

2005 I'm thankful for new friends Rick and Leslie. For life, breath and new dreams. For my precious family and that we all love to worship. I'm thankful for the Lord's tenderness and comfort. (This was a hard year, but God brought some incredible people into our lives to help us on the journey)

2006 I'm thankful for music - for the way a song can lift my spirits or carry me through a tough day! I'm thankful for my marriage, for our great conversations , for my two awesome boys who bring so much joy to my life. I'm thankful for Kaitlyn and the joy she brings. (Of course, I am thankful for all my neices and nephews...but just a few days before Thanksgiving, God blessed my sister and her husband with this bundle of out of the ashes of loss.)

2007 I am thankful for the Shine conference and how God has used it in my life. Having the opportunity to share this year felt like coming full circle. I am in awe of the moon - the earth needs it - tides and all - but we didn't need it to be so beautiful. I'm so blessed by my 3 great guys!

2008 I am thankful for the love and grace of God, for the completed work of the Cross. I treasure all the wonderful memories I have of little boys growing up in this house. I'm so glad they still want us to snuggle every night! I'm grateful for a husband who never stops learning, for the books and podcasts he brings into our home. I'm learning to appreciate his love for change. I'm thankful to have passion for a cause, and that this holiday season we will Worship fully, Spend less, Give more, and Love all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What About the Homeless?

I just finished reading "Same Kind of Different as Me" by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. It is the beautiful story of two men, a modern-day slave and an international art dealer and how their world's collided. My dear Aunt Maria sent it to me because she knows we serve at a homeless outreach. Thanks Aunt Maria - I love any book that makes me cry! The wonderful thing is how the book has helped me be honest about my own journey.

We have the opportunity to interact with folks that find themselves on the streets several times a year at Shoreline East. I have to admit, to my own shame that the very first time I went, I was a mess. I wore a baseball cap and tied up all my hair so I wouldn't get head lice. I made everyone in the family shower immediately after getting home. But, I am slowly changing. The more I hear their stories and the more I reach out to touch them the less I judge and the more I love.

I would have never rolled down my window to give something to a guy on the street corner holding a sign. I was cynical and thought they just want money to buy alcohol. Maybe they do. But, then, I started to wonder, what if they recognize me from Shoreline East....the same girl who sang with them and prayed for them on Saturday can just turn her head and pretend she doesn't see them on Wednesday? What kind of God was she singing about anyway? Jesus help me! Now it's gradually getting harder to drive by without giving, I try to keep the van stocked with water bottles or granola bars.

My boys are in on this too - they keep their eyes out for folks to give to. They remember the granola bars when I don't. My husband blogged about this recently. They really are amazing. I still hover and watch them with my Momma eyes. I still don't feel safe. I have to watch the youngest most of all. He'll talk to anyone! One day he was off around the side of the building cracking jokes with a group of guys. As I stood there keeping watch, I had to wonder when was the last time they laughed with a child? I know he ministers to them more than I do.

I really don't want to be a person that can just turn away and walk right past a need. I want to be moved. I want to extend a hand and show a little kindness. Jesus said "This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice." The giving is not just about meeting the need. It's about me, about the softness of my heart. About being Christ-like, because Jesus extended his hands for me.

We go again November 29th and I'm so looking forward to it. I'm starting to see familiar faces. I hope they found a place to sleep tonight...its cold out. That makes me so sad. I think maybe we'll pick up a few blankets on our way downtown.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Be All Boy - A poem I wrote for my little risk-taker

My wish for you is a life of adventure
Passionate longing
Great achievement
So how can I keep holding on?
In my arms you are safe but today I’m letting go

Live, breathe deeply
Love, enjoy
Jump, climb, swing
Do what you do so well, be all boy!

I see a young man standing tall above the crowd
Wise with knowledge and experience
And yes, bearing a few scars
I might have saved you but I let you fly

Live breathe deeply
Love, learn
Jump, climb, swing
I give you wings

There is pain in letting go
But joy in knowing you’ll grow
To be the man God calls you to be
And one day, perhaps you’ll fly back to me and say

Live, breathe deeply
Love, soar
Thank you mom for these
I love my wings

Thursday, November 20, 2008

So Great

Just wanted to share a song that is stirring my heart:
So Great by Michael W Smith

Wow...does he have some longevity, or what? He looks younger now than he did back in the 80's!

I love the invitation in that first verse: "....everyone come and rest, you are safe in the arms of Jesus" beautiful. Jesus has a really big welcome mat!

I also love "rugged cross, sovereign grace, oh the blood of Jesus" I am thankful now more than ever before in my life for the completed work of the cross...for "It is finished."

And then the anthem of all ages: "You are good, you are faithful and your love endures forever"
That's our God!

I would have despaired, unless I believed to see his goodness in my life (Ps 27:13)
I can rest in his faithfulness
I am so humbled by his enduring love. I hope it washes over you as you listen.