Friday, October 31, 2008

Bloggity Fun

I am new to the bloggerific world of bloggerdom. As you may notice, I have one of the canned layouts and no pictures, not even of myself. I am one part technically challenged and one part technically resistant. I will finally get the gumption to learn all the advanced ways to trick out my blog in about 2 years. That will be exactly 2 days before some new awesome system of electric journaling becomes all the rage, leaving me antiquated once again. But that's just me. If you start talking about podcasts and texting, chances are I'll nod and smile and lead you to believe that I know about these things. In reality, my brain has gone into "log cabin" mode where I pretend I'm a pioneer visiting the future. So where are the flying cars? I know they promised flying cars...

So the other day I was goofing off online instead of doing something productive and I noticed that when you click on the interests in your profile on here, it will list all the other people who have listed that same interest. Neat! Like an instant community of people who just "get" you. Maybe. So click, click, click I did, and I found out:

1. 5,200 people are interested in my husband. I had no idea he was that popular.

2. Exactly 3,000 people are interested in social justice. So why don't things seem to be changing?

3. 342 people are interested in pancakes.

4. 189 people are interested in alpacas.

5. 21 people are interested in bocci ball.

6. 5 people are interested in " no particular order." What are the odds of that??

7. No one except myself is interested in how to get small children to nap. That disappoints me greatly.

Play the Interest Game with me! How many people share your passions? 350 of us are interested in church planting, so you know I'll be making some friends there. Have fun, kids! I wonder how many people listed flying cars as an interest...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Deep Thoughts By Annabelle

The other day we were in the van going to church. I was trying to help Annabelle learn her memory verse that she has been assigned to recite for the kid's Christmas program. I John 4:21. "And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." See? I already have it memorized. I think they do that to parents on purpose.

Anyway, Annabelle was still struggling. I could tell she had no idea what it meant, so I was trying to explain it to her in 4 year old terms. Try explaining that "his brother" means that we're supposed to love everyone around us....

"You mean God has a brother?"

"No, brother means all the people we see around us. If we love God, we need to love everyone, too. God made everyone."

"So we need to love everyone." (Doesn't sound convinced.)


Silence. I could almost hear the wheels turning her head.

"Jesus is God's son, right Mommy?"


"So, why didn't God have a daughter?"

Wow. I have never even THOUGHT to ask that question.

"Ummm....I don't know. But God knows. Why don't you ask him. You want to listen to Veggie Tales?"


So there you have it. Stumped once again by a 4 year old.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Speak

I'm on my soapbox. Here. Online. In the real situation I didn't say a thing. I probably should have. I still might.

Once a week I teach Spanish to 3-5 year old munchkins at a local preschool. It's pretty goofy fun, even though it's a challenge to get up early and get everyone ready to go by 8 am. My usual preschool day is Wednesday. Another gal teaches the other classes on Thursdays. For some reason she couldn't make it today and I subbed for her.

In one pre-K class there is a boy. When I got to his class today, the teacher warned me of his ADHD and that he'd already had a melt-down that morning. I smiled and assured her I could handle it. Inside I thought that it was a little wierd that she would do that in front of the kids, though. It's not like she said it loudly and asked them to listen up, but pick up on that stuff. I also thought that after working with the preschool a little at the youth center(where I used to work full time), there was no way possible one ADHD 5 year old could get to me. At the youth center preschool, every kid had a meltdown every day, but that's what happens when you're a small child and homeless and have no stability in life. Man, do I miss those kids!

ANYWAY, we had fun Spanish times with this class. Was the little boy a saint? No, he chose not to participate in most of what I was doing and he got a little aggressive with the kid next to him once. But he didn't really disrupt anything and even volunteered to be first to answer one of my questions. Pretty normal behavior for that age, really. What amazed me was the comment made by the kid next to him. "He has problems." He repeated it at least 2 more times. Preschoolers do that when you don't respond immediately to what they say. I finally said, "No, he does not have problems. He is just choosing not to do what we're doing right now. I'm the teacher and that's ok with me." mind raced while I read to the class about tortillas. So this little boy at 4 or 5 has already been labeled as the "bad kid" or the "problem kid" and his classmates know it. Granted, I don't know the whole situation. Maybe this boy has created some huge inconveniences for his teacher and the whole class doesn't get to learn all of the things they could because of it. That is a difficult situation. I won't lie. Sometimes a particular child has caused in me some pretty huge internal AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! reactions. Sometimes the gut reaction is to employ physical discipline with gusto, but as a teacher you don't do that. Same thing with harsh words, whether they are screamed, scornfully whispered, or even implied. You don't do that. I met so many older children at the youth center who had been labeled as problems. Everyone got tired of them and gave up on them and the school they were at definitely didn't have the staff to give them the help they needed. Maybe no one walked up to them and said, "Hey, you're a problem and a failure and it would be much nicer around here without you," but certainly no one encouraged them to think otherwise.

I'm not trying to point fingers. If anything, the finger points straight at MY words, MY thoughts, and MY heart. I am not perfect at teaching or parenting. If I got unlimited do-overs in this area, I would pretty much use them all. I yell at my own kids when I get frustrated....especially when I see faults in them that are so very like my own. Even though I don't agree with what the teacher said today, I do empathize with her for constantly being in a situation that is not easy to solve.

And I'm not proposing a cure all solution for the kids that are so very "left behind" either. It's a complex problem that keeps looming larger as more and more children have behavior issues and disabilities and diseases that come from a society filled with families who don't know the first thing about God or how to follow his principles. And then we seemed mystified that our man-made solutions don't seem to fix the many broken things in the education system.

So where do we start? "We" being Christians who care about kids, I suppose. I know a lot of Christians who care deeply for children, but do not have any real grasp about how many children are in crisis in their own towns and cities. For example, in Terre Haute, Indiana, there are many schools with 80-90 percent of children receiving free or reduced rate lunches. One principal I talked to about tracking the number of homeless students in their school said that it would be almost impossible. "I have a whole school full of them." These are kids who have lived without running water or heat in their homes at some point. These are kids who move from house to house or hotel to apartment every few weeks. So many of these kids are exposed to violence, substance abuse and worse. And they are surprisingly normal and beautiful and resilient and have fantastic potential...but they have been labeled as the "bad" kids. They are the "problem" kids. And if they make it to a church program, I still see them being labeled this way, whether they come from poverty or wealth.

So I guess if I have any observations, advice, etc. after working with "at risk" kids at the youth center, it would be this:
1. Know that the kids that are hardest to deal with often face problems at home that would terrify most adults. Remembering that gives me a ton more patience with them.
2. Have you ever felt left out, hurt, or alone? This kid probably feels this way ALL of the time. And he or she is just a little kid. Be the adult that seeks ways to encourage a child through kind words and compliments. They get criticized too much already.
3. Churches, schools, and kid helping organizations are starved for help. You may not think you are good at working with kids. I certainly didn't think that was my strength and I still don't most days. But just spending time with a child and listening to what's important in their world is huge. Spending time is the way you show you care versus just saying you care. Donating money or things does help others out and gives you a good feeling. Don't stop doing that. But getting to know kids personally and being their champion is life changing for them and for you.
4. Pray for wisdom and for a heart that sees kids like Jesus sees them. can't go wrong there.

Ok, if you're still reading this, I didn't mean for this to be Beth's Manifesto on Kids, Society and Social Change for Christians. And I didn't think one little instance at preschool would cause me to devote a good chunk of two days writing this...but it is quite satisfying to see it put into words because I think on this a lot. Mostly because I used to be clueless and pretty judgemental about "those" kids with "those" parents. I came from an awesome family and thrived in the public school system. Working at the youth center opened some pretty blind eyes and I think a lot of people are still walking around blind. So if I have a chance to open some eyes, I try my best.

And in case you're wondering, when I said good bye to that preschool class, I specifically looked that little boy in they eyes and told him how happy I was to meet him. I got a big smile. I was very happy to meet him.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Happy Two Years to HealingPointe!

On Saturday, our church celebrated two years of existence. With all the recent bumps along the church plant road, it seemed rather inappropriate to have a big "bash." So we had some really good worship and Eric talked for a bit and then he turned it over to us to share if we wanted to about what we have learned and how we have changed in the last year. And of course I did, because I always like the chance to blab in front of others. Maybe I shouldn't say it like that. I'm trying to get a little more guidance from God on when I should speak and when I should just be quiet. Many times I think I speak in front of people because I want them to recognize how smart I am and I like to look like I have it all together. Lately it's been more about being real and honest in front of people. That's a whole lot harder.

But I had to answer the question. How have I NOT changed and what HAVEN'T I learned in the past year? It was almost too big to fit in a couple minutes. We moved back to Sullivan, pregnancy and sickness and work, work, work, I had a baby, I quit my job...and instead of God dragging me through it all like He usually does, I proactively ran towards finding His will and His strength in all of these situations. Most of the time. There were still a few dark days, but they were far fewer and far less dark than before. Why? I guess mostly because I have made a commitment to choose to put God first every day and obey Him. Simple stuff like choosing to pick up my Bible almost every day, consciously choosing to spend time in prayer, trusting that God cares about what I care about and will take care of it so I don't have to freak out. You'd think being a Christian practically my entire life, I would have learned these things, but it seems these are the things that you keep learning and relearning on deeper and deeper levels. And isn't it funny, the more you get to know God and yourself, the more you realize how truly far away you are from Him? So there's these new things that have popped up, too, that I'm trying to work on. Things like being honest when I mess up and asking people for forgiveness. Things like obeying the Holy Spirit and putting words to my faith out loud when I get the opportunity. Can you tell I'm a little bit of a people pleaser? OK, maybe a lot of one. And if you look at history, being bold for Jesus hasn't exactly led to winning popularity contests.

So anyway, I didn't say all of this at church on Saturday. I managed to choke out something generic like "I am dealing with hard circumstances better...blah,blah...listening to Holy Spirit more...reading Bible more...duhhhh." But I think everybody understood because most of them had similar experiences this year.

It was super special to me that my husband spoke up, too. He started towards his Master's in Church Planting this fall. He had looked at all sorts of programs...computers and technology and media...all things he's really good at. But when it came down to it, he decided that a more "God Stuff" degree is the way he wanted to go. All the reading and assignments are NOT easy for a man with a full time job and a young family, but he has already learned so much. So he shared about how he has been speaking up about his faith as a result of his personal evangelism class. He intentionally shared with a co-worker and a friend of his. He just did it- like that! Using the Bible and everything! That stuff freaks me out beyond measure even though we're commanded by Jesus to do it. I usually have some excuse that I'll just not know what to say or I will be too confrontational and drive them further away from God or they will reject what I say and somehow reject me as well, so I just say nothing or hint at things or ask them to come to church. So I'm proud of him. And in true Frank fashion, after explaining all of the deep stuff he said, "Oh yeah. I cuss less, too." That's my Baby, folks!

So all in all, it was a good service. And we ended it with food! Lots of it! You can't go wrong with a potluck dinner. Good people, good food, and a good God. Despite many ups and downs, it has been a very good two years.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

I love the blog Stuff Christians Like. Jon Acuff has given tangible substance to the things many Christians have been laughing about for years in their own heads. I think many of us have been a little afraid to directly poke fun at the church for fear that we suddenly will be zapped by God. We have this ridiculous idea that God hates laughter and it's hard to admit that the churches we've created are far from perfect. But I don't think the zappings will commence any time soon. In fact, being a little silly and honest about the goofy and many times non-biblical things Christians do has opened up a much deeper conversation among the people following the blog.

Anyway, I've wandered from where I wanted to go with this post. Jon included a very awesome reference to Saved By the Bell yesterday. It seems that Christians really dig Saved By the Bell by the number of comments that mentioned it. Maybe because it was a "clean" show that was way more innocent than a lot of teen dramas. Maybe because you couldn't escape the continual syndication every time you turned on the TV. Maybe because it was so incredibly cheesy, us sarcasm lovers got to have a half hour sarcasm festival each time we watched. Maybe because Zack and A.C. were so dreamy. So with that, SBTB lovers, I dedicate this story for you.

I had been working for the local Girl Scout council for a few months when my supervisor came to me in 2002. "Beth, we had someone cancel on the trip to the national convention in Long Beach. Would you like to take their spot?"
A free trip to Long Beach?? Not doing actual work for a week??
"If you need me, I think I could fit it in," I replied.
So I got to experience the wonders of southern California and the wonders of people who lived and breathed Girl Scouts. Both were equally fascinating and frightening. The convention had, of course, a huge expo center with booths on everything from cookies to sailing to women's barbershop quartets. While I wandered the corridors of endless booths, trying not to be tempted by the free giveaway sign ups that would fill my life with junk mail, I saw IT. IT was a small booth promoting a video chess program for kids, hosted by Dustin Diamond. That wasn't so exciting. But the sign on the booth. I couldn't believe my eyes. Dustin Diamond was making a personal appearance the next day!

I had spent countless hours after school and Saturdays watching Saved By the Bell. We didn't have cable. After that it became a legend in my high school honors classes. What do smart kids do when they're not challenged enough in school and the teacher leaves for a few minutes? Why re-enact scenes from Saved By the Bell, of course! In college, many a procrastinating morning was spent with my roommate guessed it!

So to see that THE Dustin Diamond would be live and in person almost caused me to hyperventilate. I had one burning question that needed to be answered. It had been simmering in the recesses of my mind for almost a decade. This was my one chance.

The next day I convinced my 30-ish co-worker to come with me to meet THE Dustin Diamond. She was at least mildly interested to meet a celebrity of SBTB caliber. It was better than my 50-ish co-workers who responded with, "Who is Screech Powers?" I was expecting a bit of a mob, so we came a few minutes early. The gymnast Dominique Dawes was there the day before and she was swamped! Surely the crowds of Dustin Diamond awe would be greater. But when we got to the booth, no crowd and no Dustin Diamond. We hovered for a few minutes, circling the booth like Screech Vultures. Then suddenly and really without any notice, Dustin walked up and sat down at the booth. My co-worker and I spent roughly two minutes convincing ourselves to talk to Dustin, who was sitting all alone, looking bored. I spoke first. Awkward greeting, looks like a neat chess program, blah blah. I really don't remember exactly what I said, but I kept thinking, "Wow, it's just like talking to a regular person. He's just like any guy. Why am I the only person who cares about THE Dustin Diamond? Should I ask the question? Should I? Why not? Go for it!"
So in the middle of a pretty boring conversation, I said, " I always wondered why the early episodes of Saved By the Bell in junior high were set in Indiana and then when you went to high school, some of the same kids AND the principal were suddenly in California?"
Dustin replied, "I don't know. I guess the writers just thought the plots in California would be more interesting."
I was a little let down. For some reason I was expecting a funny and fitting explanation about how the moving company accidentally moved four families instead of one complete with a Screech "ZOINKS!" I guess Indiana is exciting enough for Miss Bliss, but not exciting enough for the likes of A.C. Slater and Kelly Kapowski. Sigh. This Indiana Girl was a little put off. But I did ask to take a picture with him and he very nicely complied.

So the ironic thing about this post is that Jon's SCL post about Empty Room Lessons ending with a Saved By the Bell reference prompted me to write about a Saved By the Bell actor who had his own empty room experience...or empty booth experience as the case may be. It makes me wonder if Dustin Diamond learned any lessons that day. Odd. But not as odd as the "Slater Pants" phenomena. We'll talk more about that next time.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Love Letter

Dear Ceiling Fan,

You are four dark arms against a white ceiling.  Whoa!  Contrast!  Sometimes you are still.  That's ok.  Sometimes I get to watch you go round and round.  That' s more fun!  Sometimes there are shiny lights on in the middle.  Oooo....neat-o.  That's my favorite.  

You look so neat;  I want to get to you.  Now!!  I try to reach out and grab you, but you are too far away.  My arms are too short.  I think licking you would be fun, too.  What does a fan taste like?  I stick out my tongue, but nothing happens.  I laugh and I talk to you and you keep going round and round just to make me happy.   

You are all the things a best friend should be.  You are always there.  You always listen.  You make me laugh.  Sometimes you make me frustrated and I cry, but then I laugh again so it's ok. I love you, fan.  Let's be best friends forever.

Baby Jay


Friday, October 3, 2008

Healer of the Hurt

Planting a new church is not easy.  When Frank and I decided to jump into the vision of HealingPointe Community Church, we knew that it would take some sacrifice and some work and that it seemed to be an opportunity that God was leading us to.  Right before starting the church, my former pastor's wife, who planted a church 10 years ago, gave me this advice.  "It will be the hardest thing you do, but it will be the best."  Her words have echoed in my mind many times since then because they have proven to be so true.  This week they have been echoing once again.

One of the inevitable questions that come up when talking to people, especially Christians, about the church is, "How many people do you have now?"  I suppose the number of people a church has is in many ways a strong indicator of how healthy or successful a church is.  Good things multiply, right?  Look at the early church in Acts and how it exploded with growth despite the persecution against it!  For HealingPointe, though, this hasn't been the case lately.  We have been in a season of huge personal spiritual growth for a lot of us, myself and Frank included.  We had our first baptism service last month and there are people at our church that have had their lived completely transformed!  As Frank put it, "God is obviously in our church."  But our actual numbers have shrunk.  Some of this has just been people entering a new time in life.  They graduated or got a new job and had to move somewhere else.  I miss those people, but I'm excited about what God has for them in their new place.  But in the past few weeks and months, key people in our church have left for other reasons- they don't agree with our pastor or where we're going as a church.  This boggles my mind sometimes because our pastor goes at things directly from the Bible.  I think he considers and prays over his actions more than any other pastor I've met.  So in my mind, disagreeing with him on the big stuff is pretty much disagreeing with the Bible. (Of course, he's not perfect and we all disagree sometimes on the small stuff...)  And if I've learned anything in the past two years, it's how to cling to the stories and promises and messages in my Bible and how listening to the Holy Spirit is easier the more time I spend in the Bible.  It is THE vital way to know how I should conduct my everyday life.  If I don't dig into it daily, I just kind of guess at what I'm supposed to be deciding and pretend I know what God's next step for me is.  The guessing and pretending is a bad place to be, and I am so much happier doing it God's way.

So I guess the "honeymoon" of the church is over.  We seemed to do so much learning and building and serving in our first two years;  It was hard sometimes, but I always felt like we were a great team of people.  Now it seems we have to start all over, or even start a few steps behind the starting line.  And I will be honest.  People leaving HURTS.  It makes me angry and want to do stupid petty things that definitely aren't of God.  And it's doubly hard because circumstances are such that we will still have contact with some of the people who left, even if they aren't in the church.  That's just awkward and weird and I never know what to say when I'm with them.  I want to be everyone's friend still.  I love them!  Sometimes I want to beg them to come back.  But if they still disagree?  Well, coming back and having people constantly disagreeing with their pastor will just tear the church apart.  I remember my parents being in similar situations when I was a child and there are few people in church that haven't been hurt by this kind of thing.  Many people leave churches and never come back and they leave God in the process.  But I've come to a point where I know being seeped in bitterness and self-pity and blaming God for "taking away my friends" will just result in deeper hurt and a stunted ministry.  Keeping close to God and continuing to put Him first is the way to heal.  When we depend on people to meet all of our needs, they will always let us down.  Always.  Even my husband who I love more every day lets me down sometimes.  I'm sure I'm the let down for many as well....  

So I pray that God will take away my gut reactions to fight Him and sulk and do all the wrong things.  I pray that we get past this thing quickly and the people in our church unify to do great things for Him.  I pray that we are humble enough to give God total credit for every good thing that comes out of our church and that when we look back we see the divine and just hand of God working in our church and in our city.  It certainly is a city that is in desperate need of the Healer of the Hurt.