31 August 2011

All is Well

Last weekend I had the extraordinary blessing of being back in Omaha. My primary purpose was to teach ESL training for the ministry at my home church, Harvest PCA. And that is such fun for me! But in addition, I had the quick opportunity to visit close friends. Truly, the weekend filled me up with the fellowship, comfort and joy found uniquely in the company of like-minded believers.

I think that a small part of me will always mourn leaving. The last few times it has been hard to leave the place, and especially the people, behind. But this time I realized that I was leaving refreshed and ready to press forward in this new place. And I am exceedingly thankful for that.

I heard a lot of stories over the weekend. I heard stories that bring me joy, and cause me to laugh out loud. I rejoice with those who rejoice. And I heard stories that remind me of the brokenness of this world, and cause me to turn my face to the Lord and fall right back to the truth of the Gospel and pray, because there is absolutely nothing else that I can do. In His time, He will make all things right, but meanwhile, I also mourn with those who mourn. And I am thankful for both experiences, the rejoicing and the mourning.

On Sunday morning, I was back in worship in that place that is so special to me, with the people I know so well. It was balm, to close my eyes and recognize individual voices. They sang a new-to-the-congregation and new-to-me hymn last Sunday, and the words, those eternal truths, soothe my soul as I move forward.

Indeed, all is well.

All is Well
written by Mary Bowly Peters (1813-1856)
modern arrangement by Trudy E. Poirier

Through the love of God our Savior, all will be well
Free and changeless is his favor, all, all is well.
Precious is the blood that healed us, perfect is the grace that sealed us, strong the hand stretched out to shield us,
O all must be well, all must be well.

Though we pass through tribulation, all will be well
Ours is such a great salvation, all, all is well.
Happy still in God confiding, fruitful if in Christ abiding, holy, through the Spirit’s guiding
O all must be well, all must be well.

In all things our God is working, all will be well;
For the good of those who love him, all, all is well.
Nothing here can separate us, from the love he freely gave us, for his purpose we are called
O all must be well, all must be well.

We expect a bright tomorrow, all will be well;
Faith can sing through days of sorrow, all, all is well.
On our Father’s love relying, Jesus every need supplying, or in living or in dying,
O all must be well, all must be well.

(All is Well, along with other hymns can be heard through the link below for Pear Tree Music)
(photo credit to me- nothing to do with the post except that it was taken in a dear friend's garden over in Iowa last Friday afternoon...)

days of summer- 72

Nothing like a belated birthday breakfast to start the day off well...

days of summer- 71

Oh Mint Milanos, how you mock me so, just waiting for us at the end of the Target check out aisle...

29 August 2011

days of summer- 70

What a wonderful weekend!
But even better, I am happy to be home.

days of summer- 69

It really was one of those days that couldn't be any better. And the entire time, I kept thinking,

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere...
Psalm 84:10

days of summer- 68

I'm really thankful that both days they waited to make an appearance until AFTER class was over!

days of summer- 67

"Do we have time to pray?" she asked.
"Do we have time NOT to pray?" I answered.

days of summer- 66

We were there three hours!
And because the conversation and laughs were so good, I barely remember eating.

25 August 2011

days of summer- 65

"Kenny doesn't like to have her picture taken too much. She doesn't like the 'lash."


days of summer- 64

Far and wide they'll come to a stop,
they'll stare in awe,
in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns calling,
"Come and worship."

Psalm 65:8 (The Message)

22 August 2011

days of summer- 63

It started off slow, but we got in a full school day, a movie, and soccer practice.

Go figure.

days of summer- 62

It was the best kind of Sunday-
back to church,
dinner with friends,
coffee and conversation on the couch.


20 August 2011

days of summer- 61

Saturday afternoon hammock time.

days of summer- 60

a box full of new books.


19 August 2011

days of summer- 59

as she made her presentation, I realized that I still experience a reoccurring nightmare about college and final exams.
you would think I'd be over that by now...

17 August 2011

days of summer- 58

Apparently home security measures now require retinal scanning. The imaginators around here are THAT high tech. :-)

But when I started thinking about it, it reminded me of some good advice:

Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
Watch the path of your feet
And all your ways will be established.
Proverbs 4:25-26

days of summer- 57

it felt really good to get up early, but in truth, I was ready for a nap at 8:30.
I resisted.

days of summer- 56

automatic dishwasher?
who needs it.

15 August 2011

days of summer- 55

the short surprise rain shower cooled things off and gave everyone, everything, a spring in their step, I think...

days of summer- 54

oatmeal chocolate chip-
we received the recipe one day and made them the next!

14 August 2011

perfect peace

The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace.
Isaiah 26:3

"Thou wilt keep him in peace;
in perfect peace,
inward peace,
outward peace,
peace with God,
peace of conscience,
peace at all times,
in all events.
Trust in the Lord for that peace,
that portion,
which will be for ever."
Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary on the Bible

(for a beautiful picture of perfect peace, go see this page on Flickr...)

13 August 2011

Surprised by Oxford

"The truth is in paradox, Miss Drake. Anything not done in submission to God, anything not done to the glory of God, is doomed to failure, frailty, and futility. This is the unholy trinity we humans fear most. And we should, for we entertain it all the time at the pain and expense of not knowing the real one."

Carolyn Drake did not know what to make of the statement made by her revered undergraduate professor. Drake was confident that she was her own master. She was headed to Oxford University on a full scholarship, ready to experience all the magic that 700 year old academic institution of England had to offer. And little did she imagine that she would be as much challenged by God and questions of Christian faith as she would be by her studies to obtain a masters of philosophy in Romantic literature.

It was romance that Carolyn found, but perhaps not that in the manner she had anticipated upon arriving at Oxford. In Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir, Carolyn Weber writes the story of that academic year at Oxford, and how a providential meeting to save money in overseas correspondence set her on a journey that would challenge and confront her beliefs and force her to choose an entirely new path.

I found Surprised by Oxford a compelling read, because so many of Weber's arguments in confronting and questioning what she believed on the path to Christian faith rang so similar to my own journey. “Repentance. Resurrection. Redemption. Grace? Such words meant nothing to me,” she writes. And yet, slowly over months of discussion and reading and evaluation and meditation and prayer, Weber finds the answers to those questions which have challenged her. Unexpectedly, with thoughtful intellect and reason, she finds that even a feminist academic from a broken family can find the joy and yes, grace, that only belief in Jesus, who is everything He says He is, offers.

As you might expect of a memoir written by a doctorate of philosophy, literary quotes and references fill Surprised by Oxford. Weber also takes care to paint a picture of the tradition and beauty of Oxford. At times, I did wish that the story would speed along a bit- I wanted a conclusion more quickly than her experience allowed. But overall, I would recommend this book to others, particularly to those who enjoy biographies and the questions of those who struggle with questions of faith.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Five Minute Friday- Beauty

tan dunes rolling across the horizon.
tall wispy grass leaning in the wind.
white capped waves.
the ever constant repetition of the tide rolling in, sliding out.
sand that changes color in front of your eyes.
broken shells and wave tossed rocks glittering wet in the sun.
brightly colored umbrellas and towels lining the shore.
fluorescent toys lay in wait.
water that fades ever darker into the sea.
white and hazy wisps of clouds over head.
long-legged long-beaked birds running on the sand.
unexpected skydivers polka-dotting the sky.
sandcastles growing free form.
plunging under the wave and into the water.
drying under the hot sun.
no where else to be and all there for today.
a day at the beach.


Remember the rules for 5 Minute Friday:

Want to take five minutes with me and share what you found? Want to just write without worrying if it’s just right or not. Here’s how we do it:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat with no editing, tweaking or self critiquing.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in {you can grab the button code in my right side bar}
3. Go and tell the person who linked up before you what their words meant to you. Every writer longs to feel heard.

days of summer- 53

a day at the beach was exactly what we needed.

11 August 2011

days of summer- 52

The temperature sign said 102.
The clock said Happy Hour.



Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse
Praise Him for His mighty deeds:
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Psalm 150:1-2

"Praise God with strong faith;
praise him with holy love and delight;
praise him with entire confidence in Christ;
praise him with believing triumph over the powers of darkness;
praise him by universal respect to all his commands;
praise him by cheerful submission to all his disposals;
praise him by rejoicing in his love, and comforting ourselves in his goodness;
praise him by promoting the interests of the kingdom of his grace;
praise him by lively hope and expectation of the kingdom of his glory."
Matthew Henry on Psalm 150, Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 150:6

09 August 2011

days of summer- 50

We don't exactly know where we'll end up, but we're thankful for the road that gets us there...

08 August 2011

days of summer- 49

the newest addition- Pedro

Amen Yes

"In the early days of learning language, daily adding new words to her vocabulary, Karen asked what Amen meant. I said that it was a word that meant Yes. When we say Amen, whether at the supper table or in church, we are affirming the prayer that another offered: "Yes, that's right. I'm in on this too."

She said, "So why don't we just say Yes?" I told her that she could if she wished. But the people who had started the Christian church in the first place said Amen because that was Yes in their language, and Christians have just kept doing it. And Jesus was very fond of the word and said it a lot.

From then on, sometimes she would say "Amen" and sometimes "Yes" and sometimes "Amen Yes."

I especially like Amen Yes. Every time she said it, I was reminded of Paul's words to the young first-generation church in Corinth: "Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God's Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident, God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us."

from The Pastor by Eugene Peterson

(art credit: SingYes Large Red Flower by rowenamurillo at etsy)

"... a long obedience in the same direction."

"Early on in my reading I came upon this sentence: "The essential thing 'in heaven and earth' is... that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something that has made life worth living." That struck me as a a text I could live with. I saw myself assigned to give witness to the sheer livability of the Christian life, that everything in scripture and Jesus was here to be lived. In the mess of work and sin, of families and neighborhoods, my task was to pray and give direction and encourage that lived quality of the gospel- patiently, locally, and personally. Patiently: I would stay with these people; there are no quick or easy ways to do this. Locally: I would embrace the conditions of this place- economics, weather, culture, schools, whatever- so that there would be nothing abstract or piously idealized about what I was doing. Personally: I would know them, know their names, know their homes, know their families, know their work- but I would not pry, I would not treat them as a cause or a project, I would treat them with dignity. Preaching, of course, is part of it, teaching is part of it, administering a congregation as a community of faith is part of it. But as the overall context of my particular assignment in the pastoral vocation, as much as I am able to do it, is to see to it that these men and women in my congregation become aware of the possibilities and the promise of living out in personal and local detail what is involved in following Jesus, and be a companion to them as we do it together."
from The Pastor by Eugene Peterson

Obviously, I'm not a pastor. But there is much in The Pastor, on language and stories and living life in community, that resonates with me. I borrowed my copy from the library, but I've dog-eared so many pages with passages to remember, I think that my own copy might be coming soon.
(thanks, Julie!)

(art credit: a long and winding road by swallowfield on Etsy)

days of summer- 48

Green chile cheeseburgers.
enough said.

06 August 2011

days of summer- 47

Don't knock the table!
Don't breathe hard!
And certainly, don't laugh!!

05 August 2011

days of summer- 46

I can't remember a garage workshop without those solid old wood vises. And I'm thankful that they are being in used in mine today.

days of summer- 45

Happy birthday Mom,
I decided to write you this song,
because you are the bomb,
and you are my favorite mom.
Happy birthday Mom.

I'll take it.

03 August 2011

days of summer- 44

My girls definitely know how to celebrate better than I do, and that makes everything more fun.

days of summer- 43

When we left the house, we didn't really know where we were going, or what we would find, or who we would meet. But we finished the evening encouraged, thinking, glad that we went, and excited to see what might happen next.

02 August 2011

Kingdom sowing

"And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God's word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest."
Luke 8:15 (New Living Translation)

For the last 13 years or so, my family has been on a journey, on a path not like any that those in my family had traveled before. Minus one year when we were out of the country, we have educated our children at home. At the end of this coming academic year, Lord willing, we'll send out our first graduate, and then four more over the next 6 years.

Over the last weekend, I had the blessing of attending the Texas Home School Coalition Southwest Convention and Family Conference. At this point in the passage, I don't really need to hear about curriculum choices or scheduling suggestions or teaching tips. No. At this point, all I really need to do is to remember why.

Why did we choose home schooling all those years ago, when our now high school senior was not even school-aged, when her younger sisters had not even been born, when we should have been thinking preschool and Mom's Day Out and Montessori methods?

And why do we choose home schooling today, when there are options in front of us, and when being responsible for the education of 5 curious and uniquely different youths seems impossibly overwhelming, and perhaps we should be thinking weighted GPA's and varsity athletics and show choir and marching band?

Back then and still now it was and is the wisdom and promise of  Deuteronomy 11:18-21 that impresses us:
You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth.

Because now, 2/3 of the way through this journey, we know all too well that time with these blessings is short. We know that there is no foolproof formula for success, and we know that we cannot of ourselves prevent rebellion or heartbreak. But we have 13 years now of walking along the way. We have had the joy of making memories. We've memorized poems and Scripture. We've built castles and cooked medieval feasts. We've displaced liquids and we've dissected frogs, squeamishly, down to the very last egg in that female's ovary. We've prayed for far-away people groups and we've read about far-away lands. We've served lunch to our home bound neighbors in sun and rain and snow. We've spelled list after list of words and transitioned from block print to cursive to keyboarding and declined Latin verbs and sang multiplication tables and deciphered the Periodic Table. We've shared sweet fellowship in music and athletics and co-ops. And we've done it all together, as a family.

Together as a family- which means that besides all that, we've worked through a boat-load of sin; which means that we are STILL, even today, learning what repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation and GRACE mean, in very practical, very real, ways. And in all those efforts, whether academic or spiritual, we have been planting seeds in soil long prepared. Now, as the fruit begins to ripen and the harvest we have prayed for is just a short time away, we still hear and study God's Word, and cling to it, and patiently wait.

I know that none of that makes much sense when looked at through the lens of traditional American education. Our route has been different than many would expect, different than my own experience. My students will never be on the honor roll. They won't have varsity letters on a jacket. They probably won't even go to a prom. Maybe by worldly standards they will have missed out.

I'm not worried. I am confident that God uses those whose hearts are fully His. As my kids have grown and matured, past the rough places of their hearts we see young people who are curious, who know how to work hard, who look to serve others, who seek after the Lord. And though I have regrets in parenting, having educated my kids at home is not yet one of them. By His grace, we'll continue to sow seeds for His Kingdom. And until He shows our family otherwise, we'll continue to do that while educating our kids primarily at home.

(photo: an olive tree near ripe, reminding me of Psalm 128)

01 August 2011

days of summer- 42

$5.25 for 7 people to see a movie.
And that made me smile even before the movie started.

days of summer- 41

driving along, I was thankful for the weekend,
for vision to look forward,
for my God who demands obedience, and honors faithfulness, and recognizes the big dreams of His people,
for friends that challenge and love well,
for family back safe in one place,
for laughter,
for call,
for place.

and I wondered, what does the machine that makes those bundles of cotton look like?

days of summer- 40

yes, I know, I know, thou shalt not covet.
And I am so thankful for where I am and what I have been given.
But oh, the temptations that are out there!

days of summer- 39

I picked up the camera to capture the moment and she raised her cup strategically and kept talking the entire time, and didn't miss even a syllable in the process.

I still got the picture.

days of summer- 38

sometimes it surprises me,
how I am drawn to worship,
how even a steeple peeking over the roofs of a town perks my ears,
and I can hear the voices in praise and see the light streaming in through the windows.

I wonder what the inside looks like.

days of summer- 37

man, is it hot under the July south Texas sun, even as afternoon turns to evening.
and it's not easy to blend in with girls that have known each other for a long while.
and learning a new position can be awfully frustrating.

I am proud of her.

"and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Romans 5:4-5 (ESV)