Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving.

I'm not one of those who thinks of all the things I am grateful for on Thanksgiving Day.
I am trying to be thankful each and every day.
Ann Voskamp's book, " One Thousand Gifts", has inspired me to be thankful and grateful each and everyday.

Why do we make one day each year, a day to give thanks?
Are we not able to express gratitude on a daily basis?
Do we need someone or some holiday to tell us to count the blessings we have been given?

Don't get me wrong. I love Thanksgiving.
I love that it brings families together (well most of the time).
I love that it causes us to give thanks.
But I wish we were thankful everyday. 
For the things that have caused us joy, but also for the things that might have blind-sided us.

This year, I have been thankful for having been diagnosed with a rare form of thryoid cancer.
Thankful for cancer you ask? 
YES, most definitely.
I am thankful that I was reminded vividly of the gift of life.
I know I take life for granted. I'm sure some of you do too.
What was a supposed to be an exam to see where my weird blood disorder was heading, turned out to be a life changing event, when a large nodule was seen on my thyroid.
For me, it was a gift from God. A blessing that this nodule showed up on a CT scan, and that eventually would prove to be a cancer that would require two surgeries within six  days.

So yes, I am thankful for cancer. I know how precious life is.
I am also thankful for the hard times my kids have gone thru (and are still going thru). Whether they grow closer to God and cling to Him is their choice, but for me, it accelerates my need to run to my Father for comfort, for help and for hope.

This thanksgiving is the first one in 36 years that we will not be with any of our kids. This makes me a little sad, well maybe more than a  little. But Scud and I realize that this is the new stage of our life. There is the high probability that this will occur more in the years to come. When your children grow up and get married and either you move away or they do, it isn't guaranteed that you will spend holidays together.

We have our annual Thanksgiving tradition and I suppose there are many families who do this same thing: where you go around the table and say what you are grateful for in the past year. It wasn't always our kids favorite activity but I think they might appreciate it as they have gotten older.
So today when it was just me and the hubs, I had the idea of giving thanks for each year we had the kids with us. I'm almost certain that when my offspring hear about this, they will be ecstatic they were not here. 
It was actually an incredible gift to see how blessed we have been over the years. Scud and I each thought of 36 things we were so grateful for in our lives together. From our own individual relationships with the LORD, to our children and their spouses, and the intended spouses, to our careers, our health, our dear friends who have loved and supported us tremendously, to the ministry of Young Life that has impacted us and our family, to our spiritual mentors and many others, we are indeed blessed beyond measure.

So although it wasn't the Thanksgiving that I would have wanted, it was exactly the Thanksgiving I needed. A day to remember once again to count all the gifts that God has given me.
Now, I just have to keep up this practice of being grateful each and everyday.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I wish right now that I could tell you about my failing miserably at having a vegetable garden this past summer. For some reason, whether it be the cold spell we had in June for a few days, or the not so hot summer we encountered, my first real attempt at growing my own vegetables while living in the mountains was pretty much a colossal failure. Sure, I harvested  a few tomatoes and I actually got about 4 little zucchini's, but other than that: ZILCH. This has never happened to me before. My corn grew with husks about thigh high and then just quit. The green beans were probably all eaten by Riley, my hungry Black Lab. The cantelope, well, it just never appeared, although there were lots of leaves spreading everywhere. I will do my research for next year to see if I can do this.

I wish my failure had to do with my cooking fiasco's. Because I certainly have had plenty of them. My most memorable was a tuna casserole the first year we were married. Oh my, it was BAD. I mean really BAD. We still laugh about it whenever it is brought up again.

No my failure this time was brought to my attention this afternoon as I was reading the New Testament book of 2 John. Man, its a really short book and yet it pointed out a HUGE failure of mine. And not just mine, alot of failure in the American Church. One short sentence and I was stopped in my tracks. It is found in the second part of verse five.
                   "I ask that we love one another."

That sounds easy enough, right?
Oh, but boy have I failed and probably you too have missed the mark here as well.

I certainly don't do that when I complain about Mark Driscoll and his view of woman in leadership. I don't know this man and yet I admit I have maligned him plenty.

I don't love one another when I gossip about someone.
I don't love one another when I judge others who are different than me; who hold different views than me.
I don't love one another when I am jealous that you have more than me.
I don't love one another when I criticize the church. And the people or leaders involved.

I remember the chorus of a praise song from years back that said: "they will know we are Christians by our love".
Yikes, I don't think that holds true very much.
What about the churches that condemn homosexuality? That repeatedly call gay people sinners and make them feel most unwelcome. Are we loving them by our words and actions? I don't think so. Many of the gay population wouldn't ever opt to enter the doors of any church because of what we have done to them. Made them feel like second class citizens because we don't condone their particular sin. And yet I am welcome at church because I am a white woman. But I often have terrible thoughts. I often judge others. I can be materialistic at times when I often want "stuff" that I really don't need.
I guess I believe that homosexuals are experiencing what the Black population has long experienced in America. And this breaks my heart in ways I can't even describe.

I recently finished a book by Nadia Bolz Weber called "Pastrix".
I recommend this book heartily. But I am somewhat afraid to because she swears alot in the book. She drops the F bomb frequently. I was never offended by her words because she was very very real. And Honest. And vulnerable. But my friends might be offended because of her language. 
No one would be offended by her heart. She is a Lutheran pastor in Denver who welcomes homosexuals, drug addicts, homeless people, and yet would welcome me and you. I would have a major dilemna if I lived in Denver. I would want to attend her church. I would also love to attend Kathy Escobar's church called "the Refuge", a church home where anyone feels welcome. Both of these churches are loving people exactly for who they are, and where they are at this stage in their lives
They are loving people the way Jesus would love them. Accepting them, encouraging them, offering help as they can, and all the while pointing them to the Savior of their lives. THE ONE who can transform brokenness into wholeness, He who turns ashes into beauty.

It really has me thinking. 
I am accepted in most any church because of what I look like.
But if people knew the "real" me, would they just as easily welcome me? Would they want me to be a part of their church if they knew the brokenness I carried, the sins I have committed, the thoughts that I think. My "true self" is often hidden. People can't see my sins all the time and yet I can promise you, they are there.

The gays, the homeless, the drug addicts, the pimps, the schemers, the people who seek to fraud us, the down and outers-their so called sins sometimes are so visible to us and most of the time, we tend to shy away from them. Or even flee from them like they are the plague. 

I ask that we love one another.

Something that often seems like an impossibility, is possible when we look to the ONE who has loved us with complete abandon. The ONE who loves us and really knows the true us and yet accepts us just as we are.

Oh LORD, forgive me for failing to love as you have asked.
I too, am a sinner. 
One who has experienced your unending grace and unconditional love. And your forgivenes.
I am grateful that you keep showing me how I need to change. And that you love me just where I am.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

42 and Fllippancy?

Yesterday as I wrote the date November 19 in my journal, my mind stopped immediately. 
You see November19, 1971 is the day, that while I was driving home for a long Thanksgiving break from Tacoma to Palo Alto, that I asked Jesus to come into my life and take control. I remember it vividly. I was in my 1970 VW bug (still one of my 2 favorite cars ever) and somewhere in the Siskiyou Mountains in Oregon as I contemplated my long talk the night before with my friends Bill and Dave, that it all made sense. That Jesus wanted to have an everyday relationship with me.
It was an easy decision.
Probably because I had been raised a Catholic and had always believed in God and that Jesus was His Son, who came to earth to die for my sins. I just wasn't aware of His desire to be involved in my whole life and that's where it all finally made sense.
I wanted that relationship too. The way God desired it.

Little did I know then, how much that would change my life through the years.
I was so used to being "in control" of my life. I didn't understand what it all meant at the time. I don't think any of us do. Bit by bit, piece by piece, area by area, God taps us on the shoulder. or bangs our head so it seems on a wall and shows us a part of our lives that we still want to hang on to; the part that we don't want to give to Him, that part that we want to have control of.
We can resist all we want. But He will keep pursuing. Eventually, we cave; we learn -all too often through rough times, that He really is the better ONE to be in control.

Here's part of what I wrote yesterday in my journal:
42 years ago today, I asked YOU to come and take charge of my life. BEST decision I ever could have made. I can't imagine my life apart from YOU. Thank you Father for drawing me to You....I know i've often been flakey. I've sinned way too much. Have been defiant and disobedient. I've wanted to hang on to control of my life and YOU often have had to pray away the tight grip I held...I have been faithless more times that I even want to count. And YET, YOU still love me. You extend your amazing GRACE to me every single day. You forgive my sins. You are patient with me. And at the same time, You will discipline me. You keep pursuing me, keep drawing me back to YOU.
You keep reminding me that YOU are GOD. That I am not. 
You are in control.
You are not surprised or fazed by what happens in my life or catches me completely off guard.
YOU are always present with me, whether I "feel" it or not.
I am so so grateful LORD GOD. I can't even find the words to express this.
But today LORD, my heart is bursting with my love for YOU, with my gratitude for Your Love, Mercy, Grace and Forgiveness...

I am completely blown away how Our God keeps pursuing us. How the Creator and Sustainer of our lives loves us. Loves us unconditionally; all the time, whether we are good or not.

So having a day where I really chose to reflect on what it means for me to follow Christ, for how He has pursues me (and you), and how He has forgiven me time and time again, for being ever so grateful for His constant Presence in my life, I was caught off balance by something I read in the Bible.
I am currently reading the Book of Acts. This is the story of the early Church of Jesus. How God caused it, despite huge disturbances from the Jews, to grow exponentially. In the 19th chapter of Acts, Paul the Apostle, is in Ephesus and the church is growing. Paul has cast out demons from people. Some Jews went around trying to cast out demons by saying " In the name of Jesus who Paul preaches, I command you to come out."
I presume from the account of this story that one evil spirit, did not like this at all and thru the man he inhabited, gave a beating to those who tried this practice. It says that when this became known, people were seized with fear "and the Name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor".

The Name of the LORD JESUS held in high honor.
Do we do that today? 
Sometimes yes, and other times I shudder how little we hold His Name in high honor. I want to ALWAYS hold the Name of Jesus in high honor; to give Him the Honor HE alone deserves.
But often I feel like we can be too flippant. 

I am not casting stones. I just want us to give THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE the reverence He rightly is entitled to.
In working with younger folks, I often hear them pray: "heh God".
Heh, like He is their friend.
And He is.
In Young Life we constantly tell kids to talk to God like He is their friend. Because He is the best friend they will ever have.
But I seriously believe that when we meet God face to face, we aren't going to say "Heh God", I think we will fall down on our knees in awe and adoration. Or we will be speechless.
I want all of us to talk to God the easiest way possible for each of us. 
I just want us to remember WHO HE REALLY IS. 
HE IS GOD,  the Creator, Giver and Sustainer of life.
We need to give Him the respect He deserves, and requires.
We need to acknowledge His Supremacy.
We need to be humble before Him.

I don't believe any of us will be flippant in how we will respond to seeing Him face to face when our time on earth is over.
So why don't we start now?
Holding the Name of the LORD in high honor.

42 years ago. Still by far  THE BEST decision I ever made.
I am eternally grateful LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.

Monday, November 18, 2013

An INCREDIBLE week......of joy, laughter and blessings.

An epic week.
Its hard to even comprehend how blessed I feel.

A week ago Friday, I flew to Texas to meet Scud in Houston. We drove to Bryan-College Station to visit with some of his college buddies. It was wonderful to re-connect with some of his friends, and meet some new ones. These guys were in a bible study all four years at Texas A&M. And I get to be friends with their wives! 
On Saturday, we went to the AGGIES football game where we got to watch Johnny Manziel play most likely his last college game at Kyle Field. That kid has an incredible arm and he knows the game. (Now if he could just grow up!!). 

It was an amazing visit, and a bit too short.
We left Sunday around noon and after a short hour drive, we met up with Harry and Audrey Slye. Harry was Scud's YL campaigner leader and had more of an influence on my sweet husband than probably any other person has or ever will. What an incredible blessing we have had knowing and being loved by this godly couple.
From there we spent the night and had a quick but great visit with Scud's sister and her family in the Woodlands.
Monday morning Scud dropped me off at the airport and he headed to Tyler to visit his sweet mom for a couple of days.
I landed in New Orleans and quickly met my new friend Barb, arriving from Berlin, Germany to attend the Young Life College Summit. Due to travel times and when the conference was to start, we both had to arrive a day early-which turned out to be the most wonderful opportunity to discover the French Quarter in this city.
The jammed packed summit was indeed what every Young Life College staff person needed: some great input of ideas, inspiring teaching and a phenomenal story by a gracious woman who was the victim of rape and has used it for good. Not to mention the incredible fun that we had. Our first full summit evening, we had dinner and then were led on a "Second Line Parade".
Second Line Parades are a common occurance in NOLA, but not many of us had ever heard of one. Initially they were parades that led a funeral procession through the streets with a brass band leading the parade. Eventually, these parades became common scenes at weddings.
Well, imagine 200 YL College staff folk, running after the brass band that led us, singing and hollering all for JESUS, through Bourbon Street-perhaps one of the darkest streets in our country. Usually people surround this street to drink way too much, to indulge in things they never would have anywhere else, and here we were having the time of our lives running through the neighborhoods celebrating Jesus. People lined the streets to look at us. I wish I had a picture to show you, but I was too too busy having fun to stop for a picture. I'm not sure I will ever have that experience again, but it was something I will never forget.
I got the full dining experience in New Orleans: from amazing Cafe Au Lait and beignets at the famous Cafe du Monde, to tasty shrimp Po boy sandwich, to seafood gumbo and jumbalaya, and even a Hurricane at Pat O'Brian's.
And one of the highlights of NOLA was a visit with my niece and nephew, who are in their second year of pediatric residency, and second year of med school at Tulane. It had been way too long since I last saw Gabriella or Miles.

I returned home late Thursday night and Friday began a full day and a half preparations to stage a surprise (to just her) engagement party to our son Todd, and his new fiancee, Katy!!!
Todd knew EXACTLY how he wanted this day to go and planned many details. He flew Katie and Nate down from Seattle and his two college roomies and best friends, Dave and Macha drove from LA with their families to join the celebration.
Katy's family lives just an hour and a half from Woodleaf in the Sacramento area and drove up for a memorable day celebrating their sweet daughter and our son.
Todd proposed at the LOOKOUT TOWER by Woodleaf. If you've been an intern, or on summer staff or work crew, you know the beauty of this spot. Dave and Macha hid and captured everything on camera!!
Then they drove to our house and we surprised them with a party.
And then I captured this picture of our children and for the girls, their spouses, the new fiancee and hopefully the almost fiancee.

The past nine days I've been in three states, hardly slept much, and am exhausted now, BUT I have been blessed beyond belief. My joy is overflowing. Blessings upon blessings. I am indeed grateful.