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Archive for the ‘church’ Category

Didja see what I did there?

I was sitting here, this morning, checking things off of my to-do list and writing away like the studious little chickadee I am, and thought to myself “I should make this more fun with some pomp and circumstance and British accents”. So I turned on my teevee, and instead of the drooling press I was expecting, I was greeted with a very sweet, truthful and surprisingly faith-based ceremony.

I’ve been reading a few other bloggers who were bashing the wedding fever here in the States as pure flighty escapism, but I think it means something much deeper. Sure, Americans are goofy airheads when it comes to this stuff, and yes, we value royalty and celebrity in unhealthy ways. But I don’t really care about that, and I’m certainly not going to bash someone for wanting to watch a wedding (yay!) in Westminster Abbey (double yay!).

I think that we are watching this by the millions, because, as much as we want to relegate this spectacle to the crazies wearing giant British flags on their heads, this really does matter. There’s an old saying that goes, “babies are God’s way of saying the world must go on” and I think new marriages evoke the same feeling in us, even amongst the most cynical. Marriage is about believing the best in each other, about trusting in the good of a loving God and a loving spouse and about celebrating selflessness, a trait that is all too often mocked.

The Archbishop of Canterbury (who awesomely has his own website and made the amazing YouTube video, below) said that marriage is the best picture of God’s love for us – a statement which is humbling and overwhelming all at once.

So, as much as it would be easy to snark about our obsession with William and Kate, I’m resisting the temptation. Today I’m rejoicing that God’s love was on display, that so many are rejoicing the power of marriage and that love can actually overcome almost any prejudice.

God Bless, William and Kate!

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Adam and I started a young couples group at our church, and it’s been great.

I consider food (the love of, the cooking of) to be one of my spiritual gifts, and have been dubbed the “Team Mom” by several of our friends. We are the house where the boys drop in after some strenuous athletic activity to find a less-than-tidy living room but something scrumptious cooling on the table or a spontaneous invite to stay and eat a meal. I’m the one who packs lunches, makes snacks and sends my hubby to work with muffins. The short of it is that I love to share food, and often it’s the best and only way I know to show that I care.

One of the great by-products to this gift is that this works out really well for our love of people, because we can bribe them to hang out with us using promises of grilled salmon or Texas bar-be-que or maybe just a box of Cheez-its and a beer. Also, have you ever noticed how many people hang out in the kitchen at a party? Well I have, and it brings me great joy, natch.

Loving food and loving people got us going on the young couples group, which led us down the ever-slippery slope of planning events for said young couples group and introducing ourselves to people on the basis of stereotypes, which leads to awkward encounters, like this one.

Young Couple at table in church foyer. I walk up, awkwardly.

Guy: “Hi?”

Me: “Sorry to be awkward, but you guys look like a young couple, and we’d love to be friends!”

Honestly, that’s how it goes. It works surprisingly well. Only one out of about every 30 people avoids eye contact with me afterward, which is pretty good right? If it’s too awkward, I sic Adam on them, because he loves long pauses and staring people down. (JK. Kinda.)

Given my stellar track record at making friends with strangers my own age, Adam and I decided to try the “run up and blurt out your business” tactic on an older couple last week. Here’s how Adam told the story:

Also, FYI, some of you may have heard that Jerry and Nancy Briggs (our eldest couple) is not going to be able to be on the panel due to an unforseen circumstance. Bummer, I know.
BUT have no fear.  My wife has no shame so she and I chased down an elderly looking couple on their way to the parking garage at church.  We had seen them around serving at church and thought, maybe?  So after they got over their initial fear of being mugged they were totally open to being on the panel!  AND they will have been married 50 years this June.
Here’s the moral of this rambling post, dear ones. Embrace the awkward encounter. If that doesn’t work, just give people food.
The End.

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I’m jumping aboard Gitz’s wagon train (or was it train band? train wagon? Something about a band and a train and some oxen and 1848 and everybody’s doing it. Whatever, whether I get the saying right or not, it makes no sense) and blogging for five straight minutes about what makes me feel loved.

BONUS, this will also be a list post. Because you care an awful lot about me accomplishing my blogging goals, I know.

  • Hugs at church. It’s easy to walk into to church and blend in with everybody else who are trying to look like they’re comfortable and totally know people, just not right HERE, in this corner, I mean, nevermind, let’s just leave as soon as it’s over, this is weird. It’s harder to actually make friends and feel safe and honest and get hugs. I’m so glad that we have the latter.
  • Adam makes coffee for me in the morning, and I make him a lunch. The simplicity of this quiet routine is a picture of the love in our marriage. Serve and be served. Lead and submit. Give and take. (Oh, and he’s still a great kisser, beyond all that deep, meaningful stuff.)
  • “DaniLin”  – my roommates, Katie Leigh and my mother-in-law still call me DaniLin occasionally, and it makes me feel known and loved.
  • Cards, notes, Facebook posts, blog comments, tweets. I’m a communicator. Talking and writing is how I feel loved, and there is nothing more exciting for me than meaningful words.
  • Respect. I was told this week that I “came highly recommended”. My heart went pitter-patter.
  • Family. My family talks about politics and theology and Big World Things at regular intervals, with passion and much gesticulation. My brother references our childhood and makes me laugh. My mom cooks a lot. These things are all wonderful.
  • Good gifts. I am a rockin’ awesome gift giver. Sorry to brag, but it’s really true. I LOVE shopping, and I LOVE finding the perfect thing for people. (Hence the shopping posts and the way too much fun that I am having in that department.) I also like presents, especially ones that show the depth of someone’s knowledge and care for my tastes over their own. Gifts are such powerful messages – the “gift” love language seems shallow at first glance, but I think it’s really powerful.
  • Time. There is nothing more wonderful than casual, relaxed, unorganized time. I love long walks with a good girlfriend, an afternoon spent antiquing and talking about everything and nothing, quiet camaraderie at the end of a long day, holding hands while driving, long lunches and spilled souls, reality TV and good company, long nights around a campfire and the purity of shared experience, relished inside jokes, and deep conversations easily merged into easy laughter.

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CatWest

I’m at Catalyst West Coast today.

I expect my mind to be blown, and if you’re there, too, I expect you to come say hi. I will probably hug you ferociously. You’ve been warned.

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christian book reviewsI was drawn to this book because I’ve always been curious about monks and nuns and of course, the ancient ways that go hand-in-hand with such a life. As a child, my mom was taught by nuns in a Catholic school, most of whom she didn’t particularly like – yet when I read St. Francis or Brother Lawrence I’m astonished by the depth and richness of their faith.

How can we have gone so far that such practices are remembered for their austerity (as with the nuns in my mom’s experience) instead of the love of the Savior that they claim to promote? And, conversely, does our non-denominational easy-going Christianese-spouting faith need a commitment overhaul?

Brian McLaren doesn’t answer these questions. In fact, he does so little answering that occasionally I felt a little frustrated. But in the end I felt comforted, as though I’d just spent a few hours wrestling a very difficult question with a trusted mentor. I don’t agree with everything he asserts – he is determined to include the ancient practices of Muslims in with our own devotions, for instance – but he states his case in a way that brings light and clarity to an overly mystified subject.

He also treats every sect of Christianity with an even brush. While many current Christian writers slip into elevating young, social-activist, Relevant-reading hipster Christians above the staid, hymn-singing, self-controlled and self-reliant faith of their grandparents, McLaren gives every trend an equal chance, and reminds us that such waves of public opinion do not matter to God, do stop His love and should not keep us from following Him.

I also appreciate that McLaren writes about deeply spiritual things without ever lapsing into Christianese. This book is accessible to any seeker and gives credence and hope to those aching for more than a faith of trends and politics, but one that stretches back in time and serves a God who is bigger than any box we can possibly create for Him.

Towards the end of the book, after laying out some practices and ways to “find our way” McLaren writes this:

..I recall a Celtic prayer I once came across, a prayer to be used each morning as one stirs the embers in the hearth: ‘As I stir the embers of my daily fire, I ask you, living God, to stir the embers of my heart into a flame of love for You, for my family, for my neighbor, and for my enemy.’ And there was another old Celtic prayer – to be said as faithful Christians splashed cold water on their faces three times in a simple morning ritual: ‘Let me awaken to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’ My new considerations turn out, as they always do, to be a rediscovery of something very old and very precious.

The ancient way is about joining God in the spending of every day. When we spend our days this way, we truly save them.

Isn’t that it? I’m drawn to monks and nuns and tales of ancient ritual because I want to save my days, only to find that I need not cloister myself away or enter some mystical code. All I have to do is join God at the grocery store, in my work, at the gym, in conversations with friends. He’s already at work – I just have to practice the art of watching for His hand.

Buy this book here: Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices (Ancient Practices Series)

Book for review provided by BookSneeze.

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I haven’t written much about Christmas this year (unlike most years, when i inundate the Internet with sappy posts about love and snow) and until now, I didn’t really know why. I just haven’t felt like it, is the short answer, but the longer answer is that Christmas, for me, has become about a cult of feeling instead of an understanding of what it’s really about.

This realization came crashing down on me with clarity this morning, when the holiday weekend is over and Adam is back at work and I’m also back to work (1500 words due by this weekend, y’all. That actually have to sound intelligent , is the catch). I felt all normal and emotionally stable until I saw this picture of my tousle-headed brother and his little brother-in-law and promptly began to cry, surprising myself with my own emotion.

You can tell that the Big D and I are siblings because we have the same hair:

Please ignore the makey-outey-ness and focus on the hair.. that is the point I am attempting to make, and I need you to play along.

I left the wilds of Eastern Oregon almost ten years ago and haven’t lived there for any length of time since – but it’s still home. And this Christmas was the first year I’ve EVER not made it Home for Christmas. I’ve spent many a Thanksgiving with my adopted family, the Holmes in Coppell, Texas (oh and Easters and any other weekend I could make an excuse to go) and I’ve spent school years in Texas, summers in Central Oregon and since being married, Adam and I have spent several holidays with his awesome family  in California and Texas – but I’ve never not gone back to Ye Olde Homestead for Christmas.

So this year, we’ve known for months that we wouldn’t be able to go home. And I’ve taken it with characteristic strength and inner courage – one moment bemoaning my fate and the next attempting to cook my way out of homesickness – which we all know seldom works. Despite my “courage”, we had a lovely holiday – Adam and I helped with all three of our church’s Christmas Eve services, and we had a great Christmas morning, extravagantly buying each other backpacks and North Face jackets and John Wayne movies and politically-charged reading material, and finishing off the day with surf fishing and a lovely (though rather cold) walk on the beach. It was great and cheery and I felt so, so lucky to have my best friend/love of my life here to help me celebrate a non-Oregonian Christmas.

So, you say, “why the tears? why are you still pouting about this… you with your handsome husband and walk on the beach?”

The honest answer is that I’m still pouting because I’ve lost Christmas. Somewhere in the yearly tradition of snow and mountains and doggies and “momma cookin’ too much for supper” I’ve forgotten why Christmas matters in the first place. It doesn’t matter because families get together or because people are generous or because we drink hot cocoa and throw snowballs at each other every year. It matters because it urges us to do those things – not because they in themselves will save us, but because the message of Christmas is one that reorients us, that answers our questions and that makes it all worth it.

I’ve been thinking about it all wrong – that Christmas is diluted for me this year because I’m not comfortable with it and not feeling it, when in fact the opposite is true. Christmas is all the more powerful in the discomfort, in the realization that we are not “home”. Christmas isn’t about a sanitary story – a happy family and a giggling baby and a clean, comfortable world that just needed a few angels singing in the sky to make it all right.

Christmas is about bringing good into a world that desperately needs it and a God who sees us and reaches down to us whether we want Him or not. Christmas, in the end, is not even about feelings – it’s about clinging to “tidings of comfort and joy” even when those things seem about as far removed from reality for us as the angel Gabriel showing up in our bedroom. In the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” George Bailey isn’t singing Christmas carols because his problems are solved – he’s still trapped in his “crummy little office” in Bedford Falls, but he sings because there’s an eternal truth that carries him even though the silvery, shiny wrappings that we’re trained to expect at Christmas might never appear.

I’m so blessed. Blessed because even when Christmas is not all tinsel, when I surprise myself with my own disappointment or when my expectations get the best of me – Christmas still tells a story of redemption. It’s about a God who redeems even when I run away, of a Savior who was born into our mess, of a story that irrefutably hopeful and joyous despite less-than-ideal circumstances.

I don’t think I’ll ever feel “Home for Christmas” anywhere but the mountains of Oregon, but I’m OK with that. My longing for home only reminds me that the best is yet to come – and isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

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Prompt: Appreciate. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

This is a good one for me, because here’s the truth: I don’t appreciate anything nearly as much as I should. More often than not I become paralyzed in a lack of appreciation, a desperate wishing and striving for other things, more things, success, happiness, whatever I imagine is out of my reach. A certain amount of discontentment can be motivating and healthy, but it needs to be tempered with appreciation, gratitude and joy.

So, without further ado, I’m going to appreciate my own socks off with a list of things that I love and am thankful for, even though sometimes I forget to say so:

  • My hubby. Of course. He’s my hero, my love, my sensible strong man and my source of stabilizing wisdom. He’s kind, funny, a great leader, a hard worker, a dedicated servant, a follower of Jesus, a spoiler of me and a great friend. How did I ever get so lucky?
  • Our family. The cool thing about getting married is that you get double the love. (and presents! don’t forget presents!) We have incredible, welcoming, loving and fun family on both sides. (Fun is the key word there. I’m related to some very fun people.)
  • Our friends. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all of our friends. “I don’t have time to hang out with everybody!” I gripe. What a sour-puss I can be. We have so many friends that we get busy just seeing them all. Wowza! Can you believe it?! Again, how did we get so lucky? (Also, we have friends in various states as well. Never a lonely moment!)
  • Our church and faith. We floated for a while before finding our church, and we can’t believe the cool community we’ve discovered. I tend to get overwhelmed (shocker!) with the responsibility put on me by being in community and serving, but it is something to be grateful for and not something to shy away from. The last few months have been amazing, and the community at our church is high on my thankful list.
  • Our jobs. Adam and I both have jobs we love and an income we can afford to live on. Can I get a hallelujah?
  • The little things. Sprinkles in hot cocoa, nights at home with my honey, fuzzy socks, beautiful sunsets, early morning kayaking expeditions, smiles on little faces when they mount their horses, wildflowers in the spring, lazy afternoons on the beach, laughter with friends, long phone calls with family, Adam’s killer Whiskey sours just for me, samples at Costco, happy hour, the Sing-Off, long hikes and holding hands in the car.

What a life I have.

 

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