Friday, April 29, 2005

An Opportunity To Do Good

In our reading of The Purpose Driven Life last night, something stuck out to me.

"Temptation is an opportunity to do good."

I never looked at it that way. I always see temptation as a trap, something that satan tantalizes me with, which it is, but now I can look at it a bit differently. God is growing me. He'll grow me right through the temptation. If I choose to sin in the temptation, I'll grow when I repent, and I will learn and experience God's character of mercy, grace and forgiveness in a new way. If I choose to run from temptation, therefore running from sin, I grow closer to Him through obedience.

Temptation is an opportunity to do good, and it is also an opportunity to grow even closer to Him.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Ponder Points

I asked this of Katie yesterday when we were imagining heaven...

Are there mirrors in heaven?

and something else I've been wondering, especially with all this "pope talk" lately...

What does it mean to "bless" someone? Can people "bless" other people? What exactly happens when someone "blesses" me?

* * UPDATE * *

Phisch poses another ponderable in the comments:

Are there shadows in heaven?

There is some great discussion going on in the comments so join in the fun!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Stupid Question of the Day

Yet another stupid question of the day! (Someday I will have to search my blog for all past "stupid question of the day" posts and make a list!)

Customer: "I don't know the name of the song or who sings it, but it starts with a C"

Me: "The title of the song starts with a 'C'?"

Customer: "Yes"

Me: (not really believing that this person is standing there waiting for me to magically announce I know exactly what song they are looking for) "I think I need a little more to go on."

Customer: "Will your computer search for songs starting with the letter 'C'?"

Me: (still not really believing that this person is really going to search for all songs that begin with the letter "C") "Yes it will and it will pull up at least a million songs that begin with the letter 'C'".

The customer proceeds to begin his search for the song on the computer. He started with C.

I just don't understand how people like this manage to exist successfully in society.

**UPDATE** The rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrest of the story.....

After the man searched on the computer for about twenty minutes, I went over to "check" on him. He said "I REMEMBERED THE SONG" and it is something like "Can't Get Enough of Your Love". I said "Oh, that's Barry White. I found a Barry White CD with that song on it, played it for him on the listening point and he verified "that's it!"

Hmpf! I really thought it was going to be THIS!

Yay. Happy Ending.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Purpose Driven Framily

Our framily is made up of Katie and her two kids, a boy 15 and girl 12, and me, a friend. Friend + family = FRAMILY. The ideal way to raise children would be with mother and father in a loving home, but circumstances do not allow for all of that at this time for Katie's kids. They have their mom and they have me, the "not-the-mom"! We are making the best of it and I'm doing my best to love this framily with all the love God can fill me with!

For now, God has these four people sharing a living space and growing in Him, while learning to live together and love one another. It is not always easy to do. Notice the ages of Katie's kids...teens! AAAAUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH! Teenagers make life interesting. Please note the euphemism!

We are not trying to live as a normal family, we are trying to live as a Godly framily, and we do not always succeed. I do however, think God is really working in our individual lives and in the life of this framily. He is using Purpose Driven Life to do so too.

Currently our church is engaged in the PDL study. I had studied it before with my SaLT group about a year ago, but the whole church is now reading through it together and discussing in in our SaLT groups.

The framily had become somewhat disjointed and we are all going our own ways. It hasn't been the epitome of healthy relationships around here, and Katie and I have been brainstorming trying to figure out how to deal with some of the negativity that has crept in and virtually taken over in this household. Critical attitudes and selfishness have really been prevailing around here and leaves us all feeling upset a lot of the time.

Duh. After one week of all four of us reading PDL on our own, I said "DUH! Why don't we all read together as a framily!?!" So tonight, we just finished chapter fourteen, our first week of reading together as a framily each night. We read aloud to each other and discuss points that stand out as we go. I'm not sure how much the twelve year old is getting out of the study, but I can say this, she is enjoying the time together as a framily and actually initiates our gathering in the living room each night to read. She rounds us all up and shares a lot of the reading responsibility.

Since we started reading together as a framily, it has been a lot more harmonious around here. Tempers aren't flaring as much. We seem to be doing a lot more laughing and are just plain getting along! It's so much fun! We've gone to seem Team Impact two nights in a row and enjoyed that time together as well. We went to DQ after Team Impact tonight and had some ice-cream and enjoyed each other's company. The other night we spent a good hours worth of time just hanging out together taking pictures of each other doing nutty things! We laughed and laughed and it felt so good!

I love this framily! I've really enjoyed the past week reading a Purpose Driven Life together and watching God work in our lives. God is soooooooooo good! ALL the time!!!!!!!!

Here are some pics we took, enjoy!

Justin's audition for Team Impact:

Katie being silly hanging upside down:

Ewwwww...Justin! *gag, sputter, cough*

Fun with hair:

Katie and her kids...can anyone say Adam's family?

Tif being silly:

Hey! Why wasn't I in any of these pictures????

Team Impact II

The framily went to Team Impact again this evening. Another great night of watching these Godly men perform feats of strength that were very impressive. I am, however, most impressed by the testimony that was shared.

Some points that were shared I had to write down and I will share here:

Berry Handley shared a wonderful testimony about his life in Christ and his dad who came to know the Lord at age 57. The thing he said tonight that really impacted me was "When you give your life to God, He causes your ways to succeed." I just loved that!

Guy Earle while calling people forward noted that children have no problem going to the alter, however, with adults, pride often keeps them in their seat. After sharing a powerful and emotionally charged gospel message that explored the crucifixion in vivid detail, Earle called people to accept Christ and to come forward. He said "If you can't take thirty steps to the front of a church where people are going to clap for you the biggest applause yet tonight, how will you last thirty seconds in a world that rejects Him?"

Interesting points to ponder.

Team Impact

The framily went to see Team Impact last night. They are in Jackson for a few days at Englewood Baptist Church, and spent some of the week days visiting area schools. Team Impact is an evangelistic ministry that really appeals to kids, and men...oh heck...just about anyone, because of thier "show" and feats of strength. I'm still marveling that one dude folded up a frying pan like a burrito! I saw it with my own eyes! Amazing!

All the glory is God's! The men of Team Impact put on a daring show with spectacular feats of strength and shared testimonies of God's work in their lives. Their stories really grab one's heart.

One of the men shared about a lady he met at a church in Texas. This was during a Team Impact energy filled evening at the lady's church. At the end of the evening there is an invitation for those making decisions for Christ to come forward. He shared that this one woman took about 10 minutes to come down the balcony steps and come to the altar. He told us that it took her so long because she was 86 years old! He also told us that he met her about halfway down the aisle and picked her up and carried her to the front!

What was amazing about this story is that on the way out of the church that night when the event was over, the woman was heard saying "I ..... am......ready!" The pastor then shared that the really amazing thing was that the woman had been a member of that church for 57 years!

She was 86 years old and a member of the church for 57 years and had never heard the gospel! (This doesn't necessarily mean that the gospel wasn't taught, but that she never "heard" it before.) People IN the church NEED to hear the gospel taught! TEACH IT BROTHERS AND SISTERS! TEACH IT!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Dove Awards 2005

It's a miracle! I actually quite please with the list of recipients this year. In most categories I agree! Yay!

Congratulations to hometown Day of Fire on their Rock Album of the Year Award! Woohooo!

Here's a list of winners in categories I care about. My choice or alternate choices are indicated whereas the winner is in bold

Doves go to:

Song of the Year

"Dare You to Move"; Jonathan Foreman; Sugar Pete Songs, Meadowgreen Music (ASCAP)

"Glory Defined"; Jim Cooper, Kenny Lamb, Jason Roy; Dayspring Music (BMI), WB Music (ASCAP), I Give Music (ASCAP)

"Meant to Live"; Jonathan Foreman; Sugar Pete Songs, Meadowgreen Music (ASCAP)

"Who Am I"; Mark Hall; Club Zoo Music (BMI), SWECS Music (BMI)

I would have been happy with almost any song nominated in this category except for "Healing Rain". I don't know why, but I just don't like Michael W. Smith...his voice is too "whiny" for me and oh my goodness, have you heard him singing "Bridge Over Troubled Waters"? Sometimes the classics just need to be left alone!

Male Vocalist of the Year

Jeremy Camp - Yay! Good choice here!

Female Vocalist of the Year

Nicole C. Mullen - Wow! I really didn't expect a win for her, but this is good!

Group of the Year

Casting Crowns - I can live with this because I do think their CD is one of the best worship CDs out there.

Switchfoot - my choice hands down. I think Switchfoot's CD is destined to become a classic in CCM and even in mainstream. I call it one of the best albums of 2004.

Artist of the Year


New Artist of the Year

Building 429 - great choice!

Day of Fire - was pulling for the hometown favorite!

Rap/Hip Hop Recorded Song of the Year

"Hittin' Curves"; Dichotomy A; Grits

Modern Rock Recorded Song of the Year

"Control"; Reset EP; MuteMath

Rock Recorded Song of the Year

"Come on Back to Me"; Wire; Third Day

"Cornerstone"; Day of Fire; Day of Fire - drat! missed it by that much!

"Stay"; Stay; Jeremy Camp; Jeremy Camp - good tune!

Rock/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year

"Dare You to Move"; The Beautiful Letdown; Switchfoot

"Glory Defined"; Space In Between Us; Building 429

Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year

"Who Am I"; Casting Crowns; Casting Crowns

Urban Recorded Song of the Year

"You Don't Know"; I Owe You; Kierra Kiki Sheard

Rap/Hip Hop Album of the Year

Dichotomy A; Grits

HD Higher Definition; The Cross Movement

Welcome to Diverse City; tobyMac - GREAT ALBUM!

Modern Rock Album of the Year

Collide; Skillet - I saw this as Skillet's best effort yet!

Fight the Tide; Sanctus Real

Rock Album of the Year


Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year

Space In Between Us; Building 429 - this would have been a great choice!

Wire; Third Day;

Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year

Bethany Dillon; Bethany Dillon - she'll have her day no doubt!

Undone; MercyMe - I'm just getting tired of Mercy Me

Urban Album of the Year

Everyday People; Nicole C. Mullen

Praise & Worship Album of the Year

Arriving; Chris Tomlin - One of the best p&w leaders ever!

Worship Song of the Year

"Blessed Be Your Name"; Matt Redman - eh, I thought the nominees in this category were rather weak, but I'd agree that this was the strongest of the tunes.

This year no one really ran away with all the awards and I liked that. Just about everone was recognized for their accomplishments and I was very pleased with the award winner list this year. It's the fairest I've seen in awhile. Congrats to all the Dove Award Winners!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Amazing Love

 Author:  Katie

I have been really down this week and far from God in my spirit. I was longing for the worship experience I had in Iowa last week. I was listening to the enemy's condemning words and feeling like my life was meaningless and I was going nowhere...a failure in every aspect. I wanted to bring back the innoculation that I received through the FBC women. I wanted to spread it when I returned home. I even prayed before I left that I would do just that. Instead, I felt a longing to go back to where I got my boost. I knew this wasn't what God wanted. And through studying this weeks assignments God has shown me what He wants. He wants me to focus on His purpose for me instead of everything else. He wants me to glorify Him. He created me for HIS pleasure not mine! As the worship team took us through the musical part of our worship yesterday, I found myself lost in despair. I LOVE WORSHIPPING HIM THROUGH MUSIC! That is the biggest way I connect with God and I couldn't! It just wasn't there. Then, I looked to my left and saw a visitor standing beside our pastor's wife....WORSHIPPING! She reminded me of ME when I abandon myself to Him! She was lost in that place where it's just you and God. I know that place. I go there when I worship with total abandonment. I go there when I'm not caring what everybody else is doing or what they think. I go there when I humble myself and remember MY PURPOSE!!!! Oh praise be to the God who created me for His be HIS GLORY! May I be a vessel broken and spilled out before Him every day like I was on Sunday morning as I fell to my knees amongst the congregation standing around me. The tears flowed like a river and I felt His presence overwhelm me.

I got up and went over to the vistor and hugged her while we were still singing. We had never met before. I thanked her for leading in worship from her seat. You don't have to be on stage to lead in worship. I noticed that she started out worshiping freely. Then, one other person opened up a little more. Then somebody on the other side of her began lifting her hands in praise...that's when I fell to my knees because I knew that humility before my God was in order. I worshipped him first on my knees in tears...not singing, not lifting my hands. Then, it was HIS loving hand that lifted me and I stood, and lifted my hands to Him!!!!! THAT IS PURPOSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today for the first time, I awakened anticipating the day and looking forward to going to work.

I am unworthy but in His love and mercy, He sent a Savior who has made me worthy!!!!!!!!! He is Love in it's most perfect form! I find it hard to believe that I was created by HIM for HIS pleasure!!!! HE created me to be HIS glory! It's hard to fathom. Words just don't do it.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

"But, Mooooooooooooooooom..."

A new girl moved into the neighborhood and this is VERY good for Katie's 12 year old girl. Tif even knows this girl from school, so that was neat that someone she already knew moved in.

Tif has really had no one in the neighborhood to play with because there are only boys. Her brother and the boys usually hang out and she tries to fit in with them, but they don't really want her around and everything usually ends up in one big blowout eventually. We are elated that she now has a girl in the neighborhood to buddy with! This is such a good thing.

Katie asked Tif if the girl's family were Christians. Tif said "well, they go to church" and then Katie said "no, are they Christians, are they like us?" and Tif replied in a somewhat whiny tone "Mooooooooom, nobody is like us!"


Iowa V - Church

Yes! The day finally arrived. The day! THE day I had been waiting for since I was first invited to Tina's wedding! NO, NOT the wedding day...CHURCH DAY! The first time I would return to FBC since my last Sunday there which was January 2, 2000. It's been over five years and I was so looking forward to seeing Pastor Sipe again and a few of the women I had grown close to in the little time I had there years ago.

Katie and I planned to go at 8:30am (which was VERY early considering the clocks "sprung ahead" and we "lost" an hour) to sit in and visit Connie's study which was to be day one of Beth Moore's "Believing God". That was just another thing that affirmed that Katie and I should seriously consider doing that study because it keeps showing up time and again. We were excited to be able to be around for the introduction to the study and just be in with all the women.

I was so excited to be visiting FBC. When Katie and I left and were driving to church, I was so a good way. I was very excited and I think my knee bouncing tripled in intensity as I was driving. We made our way from the pig farm, to Marshalltown and then I turned onto Olive Street where the church is. Then, I panicked! I became confused and disoriented! I was lost! I forgot how to get to church! I didn't remember it being down the road as far as it was, and when I didn't see it right away, I started to really think I was losing it! I said to Katie "I don't remember how to get there!". (It is amazing how much I did forget about how to get around Marshalltown after five years. It is not like riding a bike at all!)

Well, I kept going then breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the FBC sign. Whew. I pulled in and was smiling ear to ear just to be "home" and back where my walk with Christ all began! We parked and made our way to the doors and walked in. The first thing I noticed was the lobby area and how different it was. Tables and chairs all set up like a cafe with people enjoying morning coffee, doughnuts and conversation while the early service was already underway. We were welcomed by some friendly faces and then Katie and I, running a little behind schedule, turned left to go down the hall to the room where Connie and "the girls" would be meeting. Well, there was no one in the rooms we found! LOL We backtracked to the lobby again and found a helpful FBC member at the information desk and then inquired where to find Connie. We were pointed toward a door just off the lobby. Again, it had been five years and I had even forgotten how to get around in the church building!

Katie and I entered the room and tried to walk in quietly and unassuming, however, Connie announced "there they are!" and invited us to sit in the chairs she had ready for us next to her. So much for joining class unnoticed!

Connie had already told the women there we were coming and as soon as we got there, the introductions began. One of the women remembered me from five years ago, and I vaguely remembered her. I did remember one woman fairly well, (because she for some reason always reminded me of my mom), but she didn't have a clue who I was. Weird how we can remember some people who don't remember us, and visa versa.

One woman asked Katie and I to share a bit about our church so we obliged. I was really blessed that simply by sharing some of the core values of Northbrook Church that one woman, Little Drum, deduced that we are an Acts based church! AND WE ARE! I guess, when you are "doing church" right, it will be noticed! It really was encouraging to know that when we shared about Northbrook's committment to deep community, building relationships, dynamic teaching, and our strong belief in relational evangelism and excellent worship, that someone could see how closely we try to follow the plans of the original church founders, that we are all part of the Body of Christ! Woohooo!

So after Katie and I shared about our church, we started going around the circle and allowing everyone to share about what God is doing in our lives. This was a time of getting to know each other and for worshipping God who was working in each of our lives molding us all into his likeness. Katie will probably delve deeper into the more spiritual aspects of these experiences so I won't go into great detail here, but just know that it was a time of great, emotionally charged worship and Spirit-led prayer. It was rather intense at times and during these times, people somehow become spiritually "bonded" to their sisters (and/or brothers) in Christ. We took so much time in prayer when it was needed for a couple of sisters, that we only made it halfway around the room before it was time to go to the 9:30 service. I was bummed that we didn't get to hear from the others, but then Connie announced that we should "continue" this tonight at her place! I was elated!

Class was dismissed and already I was remembering why I was so in love with FBC and the people there! It was now time for church and time to start hunting down the people I had been impatiently waiting to see!

Katie flourishes in these environments; new faces everywhere, energy level that is rising, when worship about to start, and she is in "extreme-extrovert mode"! I wasn't worried about her, so I went about my thing...finding all those women I wanted to see again. When we walked out of class back into the lobby, I saw Deleana almost first off. She was standing with Irma and had been looking for us. We went over to her and Irma and said hello. Almost immediately "Scripture Brain" came over and gave me a HUGE hug! "Scripture Brain" is a nickname I gave to a woman in my Experiencing God class. We carpooled some and talked during those times to and from class those years ago. I was such a new Christian then and so amazed by Carol's knowledge of Scripture, that I nicknamed her "Scripture Brain" and vowed to become "Scripture Brain Jr." (I still have a loooooooooong way to go to catch up to Carol! As a matter of fact, during the message on this Sunday, pastor asked the question "Who here knows 1000 verses of scripture by memory?" and most people said "Carol does!" and pastor acknowledged that this was probably true!) What is interesting about Carol is that this woman is very mentally ill, a diagnosed schizophrenic. She is very eccentric and one of those people that could be so easily "cast aside" by the world, but FBC recognizes Carol's uniqueness and usefullness in God's Kingdom. It is a testimony to me of God's greatness that He can take this severly, mentally ill person and use her for His Glory. It blows my mind that while her brain is seriously malfunctioning, it is a warehouse that stores up much of God's Word. She is one of those people who can quote scriptures off the top of her head and know exactly where to find them. She is an amazing person and she has been a treasure in my life. I'm glad we have kept in touch over the years through letters, although I must admit I have been bad about that lately. I should do better.

Then Deleana grabbed pastor and brought him over. He remembered me! I wasn't sure if he would, but he did and gave me a huge bear hug! I was ecstatic just to see him again because he had such a profound impact on me at the very beginning. His influence was great in my life, and he will probably never really understand that. He also remembered some emails I sent to him, so he probably does have at least a hint of the impact he had on my life. I enjoy pastor Sipe so much because he is so passionate about Jesus Christ. He wants everyone to have a relationship with the Lord and all of his messages point people to that end. Pastor Sipe is a wonderful communicator and God uses him in mighty ways. His messages are from the heart of a man in love with his Savior and he can present things in such creative, humorous and tender ways. I just love listening to the messages Pastor gives because of the passion within him. I'm so thankful that FBC makes his messages available as Mp3 downloads! I've listened to quite a few over the years!

After saying hello to some other people I remembered from the past, Deleana, Katie and I made our way into the sanctuary. We sat near where I used to, near the front, but on the right, rather than left side. The music started and worship began. Katie will most likely share about her experience with standing next to Deleana during worship, so I won't do so here. I can tell you that I was grinning ear to ear because I was back! Woohooo! When it was "greet" time, I went over and said hello to Jan, pastor's wife, and gave her a hug. She was another one that had an impact in my early walk because we shared so much during the Bible study at her home. I'm really missing those special people. I guess there will always be a little hole in my heart for the people I've met in life who are no longer in it.

Pastor then gave a message about living life in abundance as God intended and how we are often times reaching for the "prize", or the blessings that we see on top shelf, when in fact, God is saying "stoop down, down to the bottom shelf. I have some wonderful things awaiting you there." He shared that in the world's eyes, if it doesn't "know you" or recognize you, that you haven't "made it" to the bigtime, but we ARE God's "bigtime". (My paraphrase of his message) It was a powerful message and something I really needed to hear.

After the message the praise team came back up and there was some time for prayer and an invitation. During the invitation I was rather choked up, as I was throughout most of the service because the presence of God was so overwhelming and I felt so undeserving of the blessings He was showering on me that day. A few people responded to pray for whatever reasons they had on their heart and minds. One woman was particularly broken and remained on the alter for an extended period of time. The praise team improvised some additional invitation music because it was obvious that the Spirit was at work and that no one was going to stifle Him. I was thinking to myself that in some ways I miss having the invitation time.

At my church we don't have an invitation as routine. I understand the reason for this, and that is because we don't want to ever leave church beleiving that it was a "failure" because of how many did or didn't respond to the invitation. People are always invited to come talk to one of the pastors or other members of the church, but as a rule, there is no "formal" invitation.

As Pastor was making the invitation at FBC, he explained that one reason "we do this because when someone responds, it is an act of humility. It creates a situation where someone does have to humble themselves and put themselves 'out there' and submit to the authority of another, the authority of God." Katie says that it also allows us to strip away our pride as humble ourselves enough to say we need help and prayer, so that our brothers and sisters in Christ can help carry our burdens.

The woman who was at the altar stood and walked to Pastor. They had a quick communication and then he handed her the microphone and explained that she had something she wished to tell us. I was curious to hear because she was obviously very distraught and broken about something. She took the microphone and through a voice that kept cracking and sorrowful tears, she said "My aunt died last week." She continued, trying to maintain composure, "Because she didn't know Jesus and accept Him, and she had ample opportunity to do so, today... she... is in Hell."

After this, Pastor again invited people to come to the front if they are seeking prayer, direction or with any need that they might have. It was a very solemn moment and yet joyous at the same time. What an awesome experience that day.

We shared communion together after that and it was special, as it always is to me. Reflective. "Do this in remembrance of me". Always against the backdrop of the cross.

Then, church let out and we scattered. I still tried to catch some people I hadn't yet seen and did manage to say hello to one or two. It was so fun to be back and God blessed me with such an awesome experience through the presence of His Holy Spirit. I enjoyed the service so much and it was like a spiritual revival! I don't think I will wait another five years to return!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Iowa IV - Meeting New Friends

Deleana and Connie

Meeting Deleana was a real treat. I knew right away we'd be good friends. She reminds me so much of me when I was married. Her humility and love are beyond words. Her kids are well mannered, smart and funny. Her faith is so strong. I remember when mine was like that. (I realized during my visit that something was missing in my life, a fire has dwindled down to a very small flame. My faith is so much smaller than it used to be and I want it to burn brightly again. I have lost my childlike faith.)

On Sunday we met somebody special. Deleana told Sue that Connie was dying to meet me. I have no clue why, but she has been praying for us for a long time. We met at a coffee shop called Holy Grounds....isn't that funny? What a great name for a Christian coffee shop. Connie and I hit it off as if we were old friends and when she hugged me, I knew our appointment was Divine.

So, there we sat, the four of us. We began sharing our visions and hopes for the future. We dreamed up this Christian mall where hurting people could come to hear the word of God while having coffee, getting a hair cut, buying wholesome movies and music for their families...and so forth. We also discussed a common vision of having a mini conference like the Women of Faith in our own areas. In the process, we began to choose which of us is most like one of those ladies. It turned out to be quite funny. In fact, our whole visit was hysterical. We laughed so loud, so hard, and so long that we were beginning to think that other shoppers would think we were at a bar instead of a coffee shop!!!!!

I mentioned to Connie that I had just begun working in women's ministry and she confirmed that this had been a Divine apointment. She just retired from 30 years in women's ministry. We made a date for Saturday night to get together for tea. (We both love tea and she lives in a tea home! Tea stuff everywhere! I loved it!) Oh, speaking of tea...I have to go get mine.

So, while Sue was at Tina's wedding, I was getting blessed at Connie's. We went out for tacos then shopping for the dinner she was having for the 4 of us girls, her husband, and son on Sunday evening. When we returned to her tea house, we went downstairs to watch a Beth Moore video and to discuss women's ministry stuff. That was the greatest part of all!

The video was awesome. We were both shouting out loud as Beth gave the most powerful message I have ever heard her give. It was video number 9 of the new Believing God series. Perhaps I'll share more about that in another blog.

Connie and I discussed the video while eating tea and fresh baked chocolate chip and caramel pecan cookies! The cookies were the only presence of sin in the room during this time LOL. We made a heart connection through her ministry to me as she encouraged me in ministry to others. She is so full of the Spirit and blessed me to the bottom of my toes! When the evening came to a close, she once again told me that our time together was a Divine appointment. I believe she was right.

The best was yet to come, however. Church was the next morning and then a special meeting after dinner that evening. I think Sue wants to share about church so I'll stop here. But, I will continue with the Iowa series after Sue's next episode!

Take it away Sue!!!!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Nothing to Do With Iowa

While reading the book, "Big Girls Don't Whine" by Jan Silvious, I felt a confirmation on something I had been pondering for a while. I often wonder why God puts people on this earth who are considered unattractive and some actually may be considered physically detestable by others. I have been thinking a lot about how I criticize my imperfections and how I have my own perception of who is attractive to me and who isn't...and why. Like most people, I desire to be considered attractive by others and a compliment always helps give me a boost of self-esteem. There are things about me that I really want to change. Doesn't everyone have those things? For instance, I don't like my nose. I won't say why because I feel like it's obvious but, maybe others don't see it like I do. However, why should it matter how others see it? God made it the way it is.

In Psalm 139, the psalmist writes, "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous and how well I know it."

Do I?

Do I know how marvelous His workmanship is?

My creator has created countless human beings on this planet throughout history and no two are alike! He has created each of us just the way he wants us to be. His thoughts are not like mine or any other man's. (See Isaiah 55:8) Just think about it! He is making each of us unique, different from anybody else. When He created my nose he may have thought, "This nose will be perfect for her, my daughter whom I love! What a marvelous piece of work!" But instead, I go through life wondering if I'll ever get an opportunity to be on Extreme Makeover to have my body made to my liking...or the liking of others.

I have scars on my body from surgeries...surgeries that helped me to feel better. I should look at those scars as the miracle God has given me through modern medicine. Then there's damage done to my abdomen and other scars that I have from bringing life into the world. God breathed life into my womb and all I do is find fault and worry about what the world's view is of me because of the scars it left on my body! Give me a break..even better, Give God a break!

I think the most amazing part of it all is that He doesn't even look at the physical...he made all the delicate "inward" parts and the inner being is what God is most concerned with...who we are, not what we look like. That is also the part that we should be more concerned about. There are many people who are very beautiful but we miss out on that beauty because of what we see with our eyes.

The other day I was putting make up on Sue and telling her that God made a beautiful face for her and now I'm going to cover it up. I said it tongue in cheek but with a slight twinge of conviction. And I still put on my make-up every morning because I feel insecure without it. I don't believe it's a crime or a sin to wear make up. I think it's fun to do make-overs. The point I'm trying to make is...why is it that we let the world tell us what is beautiful? Who started the "perfect body" mentality and who has ever had one? In God's eyes our bodies are perfect when He creates them. We just mess them up and always want what somebody else has. We want what somebody else has determined is beautiful instead of being content with what God has determined that we need. I am as guilty of this as the next person.

Sue made an interesting observation when she mentioned Adam and Eve in the garden. They celebrated the beauty of God's creation until that dreadful moment that their eyes were open to the knowledge of good and evil. It was sin that allowed them to see the physical man and they were ashamed. Prior to their destructive little "snack" they saw with God's love instead of their own eyes. Would anything ever be "ugly" if mankind had no knowledge of sin?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Iowa III - The Wedding

The reason for my trip to IA was to see my friend Tina be married. She was married at First Friends Church in Marshalltown by a Pastor Thomas Vos. I think the pastor is from another church, but I was very impressed with his leadership over the ceremony.

I was very nervous about attending this wedding. Tina and I were once the closest of friends, and actually I spent most of my adult life sharing a home with her. We met in college and lived on the same floor of the dorm at the University of Akron. We eventually shared an apartment off campus and once we both graduated, we upgraded to a nice apartment in another city while we both started our careers. We both got tired of renting and decided to go in on a house together and so we bought one in Rittman, OH in 1991. We shared that house a few years, until her job moved her to Traverse City, MI. I followed her there when I was laid off from my teaching position. We lived there a year, and then moved to Marshalltown, IA in 1996. So Tina and I shared a home from 1986 to the very end of 1999. That's a long time! Anyway, we got along well, but at the end there were some tensions as we both started going different directions in life. These "tensions" were not ill feelings, or anger, or anything like that at was more of an awkwardness than anything. I had started living for the Lord and she, well, was not. It is that simple, but it made for a difficult situation and that is when I followed the Lord's leading to move from Marshalltown, IA to Tennessee.

When I left IA, T and I had become "distant". I still consider us friends, but it's so different now and hard to explain. I was really nervous about the wedding, because while I was wanting to be there, I was uncomfortable not knowing anything about her anymore. I didn't know the man she was marrying, and really haven't kept in touch much but for an email every six months or so. I left Marshalltown five years ago and we had become "distant" then, I didn't know what to expect now.

I was really anxious throughout the day Saturday and Katie and Deleana kept trying to help me relax. They couldn't understand what on earth had me so nervous, and really I couldn't explain it. I was not sure what to expect when I saw T again, let alone all of her family and friends that I once knew. At the same time I was excited to see everyone again, just not sure what to expect.

I arrived at the wedding about a half hour prior to the start of the ceremony. I immediately started recognizing faces, but couldn't always place names! LOL A woman came right up to me and gave me a big hug and said "it's so good to see you!" and I remembered Shari Grace immediately! She and I went to a lot of movies together, made DQ runs and each fall/spring I'd clean out her gutters for her. It was so good to see her. This welcome made me relax a bit, and then I saw Charlene Martin, one of the women in T's wedding party. I asked if I could see T and Charlene said teasingly "no! Hold on, let me check" and then she invited me into the room where T was dressed and having her picture taken in her beautiful wedding gown, hat and all. I gave T a hug and told her how beautiful she was. T hugged me back, but it was rather stiff I think because she was trying to remain "perfect" for her wedding. She didn't want to get a hair out of place. Anyway, she gave me some instructions that I needed as "gift attendant" and asked me to also head to the house to feed the cats and let the dog out. That was the extent of our "conversation" and I was disappointed seeing as though she and I had once been close friends, sharing intimate details of our lives, and now I'm at her wedding getting instructions on letting the dog out. The "awkwardness" was obvious, but this was her big day and I was just going to stay out of the way.

I saw her mom in there and gave her mom and big hug and said hello to a few other people in there that I haven't seen in five years. I was starting to relax a bit, but was most excited to see Irma. I left that room and headed back out to the lobby area where guests were lined up waiting to sign the guestbook as they arrived for the ceremony.

I then saw Irma! I headed right on over to give Irma a huge hug and it was so good to see her again. Irma is very important in my life because she is one of the women God used to draw me to Himself. She was a big part of my early Christian life.

Irma and I decided to sit together, but I wasn't sure what to do because I was supposed to be the "gift attendant" and receive the gifts as people brought them in. Luckily I had a partner helping, so Theresa told me to go on in and she would deal. I was excited to have a chance to sit and chat with Irma before the wedding. She and I went in and sat down close to the front on the left side, Tina's side, and talked.

I was amazed looking around at all the faces and especially how much Tina's nieces and nephews had grown! Oh my! I saw a familiar face at the end of the same pew I was in and wondered a minute who that woman was. The face was so familiar and then I connected her as the woman who was the funeral director for all of the dearly departed in T's family. I wasn't totally sure, so I asked Big, Tina's brother-in-law, who that woman was. He confirmed, it was Mary Ann Bauer, the "funeral lady". I had sat with T and her Grandmother and this woman while making arrangements to bury her uncle, and she was there for the death of T's other uncle and most recently her Grandmother a year ago. I caught up with Mary Ann at the reception and told her that it was good to see her at something a bit more celebratory! LOL

The wedding was beautiful, as I expected anything T would plan would be, and the pastor who led the ceremony shared a wonderful Christian message about God's intention for marriage. He also shared the gospel! It was unlike any wedding message I have ever heard! He literally laid out the plan of salvation! I was so elated! I really hope Tina was paying attention! I'd like to post some pictures of the wedding, but I'm new at using my digital and only managed to get some pictures of the floor and the back of Irma's legs, which I'm sure she wouldn't want me to post! It's that stupid delay! I press the button and expect a picture, instead the the thing flashes twice and then snaps! I can't get used to that!

After the ceremony I walked out with Irma to attend to the gifts. THEY WERE GONE! I said to Irma, "see, I failed at my job as a gift attendant! They've all been stolen!" Actually, my partner Theresa, had already packed them all up to move them to the country club where the reception was.

I followed Irma to the country club and joined my gift attendant partner, Theresa, at the gift table. I decided that we needed a more specialized name because we were entrusted with a very important job. We were sure to secure the cards and envelopes with the corresponding gifts so Tina and Jim would know who the heck the gift was from. (Note to self: *place card inside of wedding gift packages) We were armed with rolls of scotch tape and made sure nothing would be lost in transport. We were security detail!

Irma went into the hall and found a place for us to sit, but I needed to remain outside the hall, in the lobby, to receive the gifts as they poured in. I occasionally joined Irma in the hall because I got bored waiting for the wedding party who did not arrive until ONE AND A HALF HOURS LATER! Irma was astonished at how nervous I was. I was just nervous to be seeing Tina again and feeling really weird about not even knowing her anymore.

When Tina finally arrived, she asked "did you let the dog out?" I said "I thought I was to do that when I took the gifts to the house after the reception." T then slowly, with emphasis, said "ON THE WAY to the reception". Now that hurt my feelings. I didn't let it show and said "I'll go now". She asked "are you sure it's okay?" and I said yes and left immediately.

In all the directions that T was barking at me when I arrived as the gift attendant, she had asked me to feed the cats and let the dog out as well. Not a problem, but I missed the part about needing to go before the reception.

While Tina was giving the DJ instructions to announce the arrival of the bride and groom, I was getting in my jeep and heading to the house to take care of the animals. I couldn't help but feel slighted and dumped on. This person who was once my closest friend, is sending me off on a job during her reception! I was hurt.

It was weird going into the house I once lived in. Somebody else's stuff was in there! LOL But, it was fun to see Ashes and Oreo again too! (The cats)

I returned to the reception and enjoyed my time conversing with Tina's family whom I hadn't seen in almost ten years. We didn't have long to chat, but it was still good seeing everyone. All and all, my nervousness and worry was a waste of energy, but what I thought might happen, did happen. T and I picked up right where we left off...distant.

It is so sad for me to remember the close friendship we once shared, and now I feel virtually nothing. T is a stranger to me now. It is so weird. Time keeps marching forward, and things will never be as they once were. My heart hurts a little when I think about that.

The wedding is over and I pray that Tina and her new husband, Jim, will find the happiness in life and love that they have searched for. Most of all, I pray that they both will discover a Love so deep, so far, so wide that they won't even be able to fathom it! God is pursuing them and I pray one day they will acknowledge Him!

Iowa II - The Quest for Fruit

More on the Iowa trip...

I have to say that driving long distances is bad for healthy eating. I must do better to prepare next time. It seems that most convenient stores, if not all of them, do not carry fresh fruit. So, on the way to IA, after I ran out of bananas, when we stopped I bought a chocolate bar to snack on along with some bottled water. It was good to eat chocolate. However, soon I started craving something salty to offset the sweet of the candy. So, we stopped again and I got myself a can of Pringles, the lowfat kind, now made with olean...which I do NOT like! So, after eating some of those chips and the chocolate bar, I started really not feeling well. It wasn't as though I was nauseated or anything, I just was feeling "ick".

I started desiring to eat something "hearty" and got my mind set on eating at Rube's Steakhouse, where the steaks are fresh. Cut off the cow, put in the fridge, there for me to put on the grill to cook myself, and then eat! YUM! Tennessee needs some steak places like that! So, when Katie and I arrived and said hello to Deleana, we quickly decided to head to Rube's. Friday night would really be my only chance because they aren't open on Sunday, Saturday was the wedding, and who knows what might come up and I didn't want to miss the chance to eat there. It was delicious! At least I thought so, Katie wasn't impressed with the steaks, but they are the best I've ever had. I guess we all have different tastes. She did enjoy the grill your own steak idea though! If you ever get out that way in IA, you really should check out Rube's!

So, all weekend we ate fairly decent meals, then on the way home, when we stopped overnight in Warrenton, MO, I had a bag of M&Ms and some Cheeze-Its. Ugh. I couldn't even finish the Cheeze-Its. My body really has adjusted to eating much healthier food, so they next day when I awakened, I was craving fresh fruits and vegetables! I have NEVER worried about what I put into my body, until this year, 2005, when I committed to eating healthier. I really have started feeling better and a bit more energetic since eating all the fruits and vegetables that I want. So, when we went to Denny's for breakfast, I actually ordered grapes in a fruit cup! My mom is probably very impressed! I ordered some toast and a couple of eggs, but thoroughly enjoyed my grapes! They were delicious!

Katie and I then hit the road and passed through St. Louis. We stopped about an hour or so into our drive to fill the gas tank and tried to find some fresh fruit to eat. Again, gas stations are not known for their aisles and aisles of fresh produce, so after filling up we opted to continue on down the interstate looking for a place we could buy fruit. We drove quite awhile on past St. Louis and finally found Exit that place is happening! Walmart! Supercenter! Food Center! YES! So we went in a raided the apples, carrots and fresh fruit bowls. It was a fruit frenzy! Oh, it was sooooooooooooo refreshing! We ate apples, grapes, pineapple, orange, and Katie especially enjoyed some melon. We bought enough to get us the entire five hours to home, and all I have left is one apple and a bit of the fruit frenzy bowl.

After I dropped the kids off at school this morning, I hit up Kroger and bought more! God really has done a miracle here! I'm addicted to fresh fruit! Matter of fact I just finished my pineapple cup!

The secret to my healthy eating is this, I always remember the words Katie spoke to me "you can eat all the fruits and vegetables you want." I never go hungry, and in fact, I feel full most of the time. I like eating healthy! My mom is going to flip out!

So, the lesson learned here is to pack more fruits and vegetables for the road when traveling.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A Quickie!

Sue has stepped away and now I have time for a quickie blog! I just want to say that I have never been so blessed from fellowshipping with a bunch of sisters in Christ as I was with this group from Marshalltown Iowa. I look forward to talking about the times we shared as soon as possible. We laughed so hard, prayed so deep and fellowship was so sweet. God really blessed my time and I made some new friends/family this past weekend. I sure do miss Connie and Deleana. I'm so thankful that God brought us together. I really am excited to share about our time at Holy Grounds (a christian cafe) and the time spent with Connie and her tea house and the pajama parties and, and, and, oh just wait!!!!!! God is sooooooooo good!!!!! Glory to the One who gave everything He had so that I could know His love!!!!! Wooohoooooo!!!!!


Brad, a former manager of mine, was diagnosed with cancer about 2 years ago. It was caught in late stages and his prognosis was never very promising. Despite that, his wife married him and chose to be with him through his pain and suffering.

I last talked to Brad about 2 months ago and at the time he said he was feeling ok despite the circumstances, but had decided to give up on the chemotherapy because it was making him too ill. I told him I was coming to visit in April and that I'd like to come see him if he was up to it. At the time he said he planned on being around because he had tickets to see Elton John in Minneapolis. (He's a HUGE Elton fan.) One Christmas Brad gave to me the Yellow Brick Road CD and wrote on it that if I work for him, I must have that CD in my collection. It is one of my most treasured gifts.

Not long ago I got an email from a mutual friend telling me that if I ever wanted to talk with Brad again, that I should contact him soon because he was "fading fast". I called and emailed, but for about a week, I never received a reply. I took that as a sign that things were not good.

In IA, I did get another email from Jared, that mutual friend, who basically passed along information on Friday that Brad had just hours left, according to the hospice nurse. At that point my suspicions were confirmed and I knew that there would be no opportunity for me to see Brad. It was time now for only his closest family and friends to be with him. I then finally got a reply from Tracy, Brad's wife, basically telling me that the end was near and I wouldn't be able to see Brad. She was responding to a ten day old email I sent. I emailed her back and she told me that I could send an email to Brad and she would read it to him, because they believed he could still hear. Reality kicked in for me. Brad was really dying. Forty-three years young and he lay dying in a hospital bed set up in his living room. Wasting away to nothing. I hate cancer!

I emailed her some remembrances I had of Brad and also some scripture hoping to comfort and soothe fearful and aching hearts. Nothing can do that better than the power of God's Word, so that was what I sent to her. She emailed me back and told me that what I sent was "beautiful and comforting." I've never met Brad's wife, but I know that she must be one heck of a woman to first of all marry someone knowing that within a few short years she would be a widow, two, that she involved me, a total stranger to herself, in Brad's dying process via email, and three, the kind words she sent to be after his death at 5:25 on Monday, April 4, their second wedding anniversary. Amazing, on Friday he had just hours, yet held out for his anniversary on Monday.

Brad, I miss you! I will never hear an Elton John song without thinking of you!

Brad's obituary


Oh, our trip to Iowa was absolutely amazing! There are many aspects of the trip I'd like to post about, but it would take forever to get through it, so I'm going to be breaking it into pieces parts. I'll post somewhat of an overview, the wedding experience, church and the women we spent so much time with, and I will be sure to post something about Brad.

The weather was grand the entire trip. Nice driving weather, which is good when you are driving 12 hours! We broke the trip up a bit and stayed in Warrenton, outside of St. Louis, overnight on our way to and from IA. It was a good "halfway" point.

Most of the way we listened either to talk radio or Christian music, and a lot of the psalms from my Bible on CD. Katie I chatted and laughed a lot as we usually do when we are together for any period of time. It was good to spend uninterrupted time with my best friend.

We arrived at about 4:30pm at our destination, my friend Deleana's. She lives on a pig farm. I'm not talking 4 or 5 hogs, I'm talking hundreds! Oh boy! As soon as Katie and I opened the door, the odor of pig manure about blew us over! Just our luck it was stall cleaning day! UGH! LOL Here are some pics of the farm where we stayed. This is the farmhouse, and you can see Jeepers parked there next to Deleana's silver van. Staying in the farmhouse reminded me of the days I stayed on the farm with my friend Tina, whose wedding I attended this past weekend. It was the main purpose for my trip.

The next picture is of some of the farm buildings. The pigs are in the pen which is in between the silos and that building with the old truck parked in front of it. I was awakened one morning by this horrendous squealing sound. I asked Deleana, "what on earth is that?" and she laughed and said it was the hogs being fed. It's a real highlight of the morning when the hogs get their chow! They get very happy and let everyone know it! Deleana made us laugh when she went on to explain what it sounds like when a pig "couple" decides to mate! LOL So between the noise and the smell, I'm not sure why anyone would choose to raise hogs! Luckily, the following day, the wind changed direction and the odor of the pig manure was not as prominent. We could actually breathe on Saturday! LOL

Deleana was so happy to have us stay at her home and really made us feel welcome. Katie was all excited to stay in the "Christmas Room". It is a room that is decorated for Christmas all year round and is simply jolly. It was really neat the way she had it all done up and like a dork, I didn't take any pics of that! grrrrrrrr! I stayed in a small room downstairs, which was good because it was closest to the computer! LOL

We so enjoyed our stay on the pig farm. It was quite an experience and the best part of the stay there was each night when the three of us, Katie, Deleana and I had our pajama parties. It was like we were all young kids again, sharing stories, laughing and just getting to know one another better. Oh, I will cherish these memories for a lifetime!