Sunday, March 27, 2011

sick on Sunday

I missed church today.  My whole family did, in fact, because we were actually already at church when I got sick and had to leave before the service started.  So bummed.  Liana was especially sad because she LOVES Sunday school and looks forward to it all week.  But anyway...seeing just a few statuses (stati??) and twitters with quotes from the morning makes me think I missed a really good sermon, one that seems to go right along with what I wrote in my last blog.  (If you haven't read it yet, please do.  it's kinda long, though, just to warn you.)  So I can't wait to listen to the podcast later this week.
Ok.  Now on to what I really want to discuss today.  I've been reading this novel called Babylon Rising, written by one of the same authors that wrote the Left Behind series.  It's a little too complicated to explain it, but it has to do with Biblical prophecy, specifically from the book of Daniel.  So I decided to start reading the book of Daniel.  Daniel is not a book I have much knowledge about, except for the well-known stories of Daniel and the lions' den and Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego and the fiery furnace.  And those are the two stories I read this afternoon, since they come right at the beginning of the book. 
A little background, in case you are unfamiliar: Daniel and his 3 friends were taken captive from Judah to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar overthrew Jerusalem in 586 BC.  God blessed them and they found favor with King N.  He made Daniel ruler over all of Babylon, and made S, M, and A administrators under Daniel.  Here's where the fiery furnace comes in.  King N made this giant gold statue, presumably of himself, and ordered that all people bow down and worship this statue when they heard music play.  This presents a problem for S, M, and A because they serve God, who commands that we worship no other god or idol.  Thus, they refused to bow and worship the statue. N is outraged and orders them brought before him, where he gives them one last change to bow; to conform to the world, as it were.  Listen to their reply: "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the fiery furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."  Of course, you probably know the rest of the story.  The irate king orders the furnace to be made seven times hotter, killing even the guards who threw them into the fire.  But God did indeed rescue S, M, and A, without so much as the smell of smoke being on their clothes.  When they are brought out of the furnace, the king says, "Praise be to the God of S, M, and A, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants!  They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God...."
Wow.  I told you, the Bible is full of some crazy stuff!!  But seriously, some things are pretty clear to me about these men.  First, knowing that God can, is different from knowing that God will.  They knew God could save them.  How did they know?  Israel's history is full of God's mighty hand working on behalf of his people.  They knew God could simply because he had in the past.  However, they did not know for sure whether God would or not.  "But even if he does not..."  What a powerful statement!  We like to say things like, "God, if you will just do this for me, I'll serve you," or, "God, if you give me a sign, I'll believe/obey."  What God does determines what we do, how we respond to him.  But Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego had already decided that they would obey the Lord regardless of how he chose to act in that moment.  That's incredible.  And it's not something that they just decided at that moment.  Clearly they had made the choice to honor God no matter the cost, well before this moment.
I know I'm kinda weird in this way, but I often imagine terrible things happening to me, or to my family.  In my mind I play out exactly what I would say or do, or feel.  I even think about how I would respond to God in that imaginary situation.  I've been through some pretty difficult things in my life, and I've responded both by choosing to continue trusting and serving God, and, I'm ashamed to admit, by blaming him and deciding not to trust him.  I don't think I need to tell you which choice I would make again.  But the point is, we have to decide to trust God no matter what the circumstances in our lives.  It's not always easy.  In fact, it may seem impossible at times; but it's always worth it in the end.
I know this is really long, but bear with me a little while longer while we talk about the king's response.  He told everyone that S, M, A "were willing to give up their own lives rather than worship or serve any god except their own God."  What are we willing to give up?  Here in America we aren't yet required to make the choice between our very lives and obedience to God.  But we do have to choose; perhaps between God and our reputation, our popularity, our money, our comfort, etc.  Are we really willing to serve and worship only God, no matter the cost to us??  I like to say yes, because it's the answer I should give.  But does my life reflect that willingness in my everyday choices?  Let's just say that I will be much more mindful of this from now on, and I hope you will be too.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


When I first heard this song a few weeks ago on K-Love, I thought it was nice but I didn't really pay attention to the words.  When I heard it a second time, I made sure to actually listen.  And I knew I wanted to write about it.  But I put it off, as I tend to do.  Until today.  In my Bible reading over the last few days I have been reading the beginning of Exodus and the Israelites escape from Egypt and all the wonders the Lord did.  (I could write another whole blog about the first 12 chapters; I just might, too.)  You know what's so cool about the Bible? (side note here!) You can read the same story or passage a hundred times, but on the hundred-and-first time, something jumps out at you, and you know God is saying something.  Today was one of those times.

Exodus 13:17-8  "When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that way was shorter.  For God said, 'If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.'  So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea...."

I am terrible at directions and distances.  Jason will always ask me which way I think it faster, and my way ends up being the longer way.  I don't know why he keeps asking my opinion!  Even when I'm driving by myself and I have to decide which way is best, I either second guess myself or realize in a few short minutes that I chose the scenic route.  And that bugs me.  I think that if the Israelites knew their geography, it probably bugged them too.  After all, wouldn't you want to get as far away from Pharaoh, as fast as possible??  But God knew what awaited them in Philistine country, and he knew it wasn't pleasant.  So instead he led them on the desert road.  If you've ever been to the desert, you're probably imagining sand, sun, and dehydration.  Walking through the desert is not pleasant.  Thankfully for the Israelites, though, God knew the alternative.  And he knew which was the best route. 
Whether we believe it or not, God alone knows the best route for our lives too.  What can seem like the long, more difficult way around is actually God's protection over his beloved - you.  Me.  But we often choose not to see it that way.  We look at the situations and circumstances around us and we question; we blame; we complain; we accuse the Maker of the universe of being clueless, or worse, cruel.  Of course, he is neither of those things.  But he does have a plan.  We get upset when that plan is not our plan, or when that plan brings us pain. 
If you continue reading into chapter 14, you'll see the Lord giving more instructions to Moses, telling him what's about to happen: "Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth... Pharaoh will think, 'The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.'  And I will harder Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them.  But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD."
We are so like the Israelites sometimes.  Instead of trusting the Lord, who had already done such miraculous signs in Egypt, they were terrified and suddenly decided that their life of slavery in Egypt was preferable to their present situation.  They questioned Moses, asking why he had done such a thing to them.  We say the same thing to God, don't we?  "Why are you doing this to me?"  But God wasn't doing anything to his people; he was doing something for them.  He was rescuing them.  But more than that, he was bringing glory to himself, and revealing himself to a nation that desperately needed a living God. 
Sometimes our situation feels overwhelming, or like a punishment.  And we have to audacity to question, blame, complain, or accuse.  But most, if not all of the time, our situation is not about us.  It's about bringing glory to the One True God, and revealing him to a desperate world.  (And if our situation is about us, it's about bringing us closer to the One True God, and about transforming us into his likeness.  And it's about bringing God glory!) 
Somewhere along the way, we've gotten the notion that our lives should be easy, free from trouble or suffering, and that only things that make us happy are things God wants for us.  How sadly mistaken we are!  We somehow believe we are entitled to only good, pleasant things, and that God must be mean, cruel, or nonexistent when life brings us pain, suffering, and hardship.  But we forget that most of the world lives in a constant state of pain, hunger, disease, and struggle.  Yet if you ever have the privilege of meeting a brother or sister in Christ from a country other than America, you will see in them fullness of joy, complete trust, and a distinct lack of the self-pity that often characterizes our attitudes when things go wrong.  When you always have nothing, you understand clearly that God is always everything.  And that "his ways are higher than our ways."  And that "he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us, will graciously give us all things."  Christ himself suffered the ultimate suffering, made the ultimate sacrifice.  Who are we to think that we are exempt from suffering??  No, but "in all things, God works for the good of those who love him."  And that working is based on knowledge of things we cannot see, on the ultimate goal of bringing glory to the Lord and revealing Jesus Christ to the world.
The next time you're tempted to complain about your life, remember the Israelites.  Remember Jesus.  And remember that God's ultimate goal for your life is not happiness.  Rather, it is for him to be glorified and for you to become more like him.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

$3.59 a gallon

We drive a LOT.  Therefore, we buy a LOT of gas.  And unfortunately that also means we spend a LOT of money on gas.  Probably more than we spend on groceries.  It's really sad that it costs more to transport our family than it does to feed our family. does not seem like there is any relief from these prices to come in the near future, which has me thinking about how we're going to afford to continue traveling to work, school, and church.  Jason and I have a had a few (albeit very brief) conversations about what we could cut from our budget to make room for inflated gas prices.  Very few things in our budget are non-essential items that must be paid; they include TV, internet, and cell phones.  And our Y membership.  And frankly, that would probably be the first to go.  However, we spend a LOT more on TV and internet than we do on the Y.  So I've been thinking, which would I prefer to do without?  TV would be the logical choice, because we can watch some of our shows online.  Not all of them, mind you, and not Sports Center.  Not that I care one lick about that, but Jason does.  So then, would we give up the internet?  That would mean no email, no blog, no Words with Friends, and *gasp* no more facebook.  Whatever would we (I) do??!!!! 
I was talking this over with a good friend yesterday, and she pointed out how much we are (willingly) trapped by the things of this world.  And suddenly I felt like I should give these things up simply because they do consume so much of my time.  Time that I could/should spend in God's Word and in God's presence.  Time that I could spend playing with my children or talking with my husband, instead of us parking ourselves in front of one or more screens for the evening.  After all, I grew up (as did anyone over the age of 25) without high speed (or any) internet access, cable/satellite/fios TV, and certainly I survived many years without a cell phone.  So should the need arise, I could and would willingly do it again.  But instead of seeing it as such a dreadful hardship, I might actually welcome the release from those things I consider so important, yet in the grand scheme of things actually count for nothing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

And you thought your family was messed up!

Read the Old Testament for about 3 and a half seconds and you'll find some pretty messed up family stuff.  Besides the fact that is was perfectly acceptable to marry your half-sister or your cousin, families were plagued with the same things we are today: lies, favoritism, poor parenting, bigt time sibling rivalry, etc.  But it's the story of Judah and Tamar that I found most outrageous today.
Just prior to this story, found in Genesis 38, we see the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers.  Originally the plan was to kill him, but big brother Reuben steps in and says, "Let's just throw him in this empty cistern instead."  Reuben planned to rescue him later when the other brothers weren't looking.  Only, when Reuben took a potty break (pure speculation of his whereabouts!) Judah steps in and convinces them to sell Joseph as a slave to a passing caravan.  He was, after all, their own brother, their flesh and blood.  So we get a glimpse into Judah's character. 
Fast forward many years; Judah has separated from his brothers and builds his own family.  His Canaanite wife (big NO-NO!) gives birth to three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah.  Don't you just love Bible names??  Anyway, when Er comes of age Judah gets him a wife named Tamar.  There's just one slight problem..."Er was wicked in the Lord's sight and the Lord put him to death."  So Tamar is now a childless widow, so Judah tells son number two to do his brotherly duty and produce sons for his deceased brother.  Another slight problem: Onan was wicked too, and the Lord put him to death as well.  Here's Tamar, still childless and widowed.  Son number three is not yet of age for marriage, so Judah tells Tamar to wait for him to grow up a bit.  Third slight problem: Judah has no intention of actually having Shelah marry Tamar.  Why, you may ask?  Because he worried that Shelah would die as well.  (Side note here: either Judah knew that Shelah was wicked like their brothers, or he had no idea why his older sons died in the first place.  Either way, it doesn't look very good on Judah.) 
Fast forward a few years.  Shelah is of age, and Judah's wife dies.  Here's where it gets really crazy.  After his mourning time was over Judah went to check on his sheep.  On the way he meets who he thinks is a prostitute.  He offers her a young goat as payment for her services, and she accepts on the condition that he leave something as a guarantee of payment.  Which he willingly does.  And now Judah has another slightly larger problem.  When he sends the goat (notice that he sent it; he doesn't take it himself) the messenger can't find the prostitute.  Go figure.  Fast forward 3 months.  Judah gets the news that Tamar is guilty of prostitution and is pregnant.  Dense Judah does not make the connection, but orders that Tamar be brought out and "burned to death!"  Kind of hypocritical, isn't it?  It was ok for him to use a prostitute, but not ok for her to be one.  Of course, he then finds out that he is the father just as guilty as her, and does "not sleep with her again."
Ok, seriously?  Talk about your made-for-TV-movie!!  So I have to ask myself, "WHY is this kind of stuff in the Bible?????????"  If it was a movie, I probably wouldn't watch it, it's so full of junk and ridiculousness.  But I'm reading it in God's holy word.  And if you're looking for a resolution, there isn't one.  Tamar gives birth to twins and that's the end of the chapter.  The next time we see Judah, he is personally guaranteeing the safety of youngest brother (and other father favorite) Benjamin on their journey back to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph.  Perhaps he has learned his lesson and changed his ways, but we can only hope, since the Bible doesn't say for sure. 
So back to the question, why does God include this for us to read?  What's the lesson?  When I figure it out, I'll let you know!! 

to be continued....

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Lately we've been having trouble with our toilet backing up, but it's been Jason or I in the bathroom and we both know to quickly shut off the water.  Today, Aedan, who never flushes ever, actually decided to flush and the toilet overflowed.  It wasn't terrible, but the whole idea of it is just gross.  I had to mop the floor and wash the throw rug, but it could've been a lot worse.  And it got me thinking about Jesus' words, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken."
I always tell my kids, "What is inside of you will eventually come out."  Meaning, what is inside of you will eventually come out!  If you store anger and bitterness in your heart, it will be evident in your words.  If you house pride and judgment, your words will be full of pride and judgment.  But on the other hand, if you have a joyful and content heart, your words will be full of hope and encouragement. 
This is an area that I am regularly having to check myself in and repent of the junk stored in my heart.  Because it always comes out, and when it does, it's not pretty.  Not to my own ears, nor to God's  Even if I never verbalize the words, I know those thoughts are rumbling around and it's just a matter of time.  More than that, God hears even our thoughts, so nothing is hidden from Him.

"Let my words and my thoughts be pleasing to you Lord, because you are my Mighty Rock and my Protector." Psalm 19:14.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Daddy's Little Girl

Yep.  That's me.  Isn't that a lovely pair of overalls?  I particularly love that my bangs take up half of my head.  But that was certainly not the worst hairstyle I've had over the years!  I've spared myself some embarassment by only choosing pictures from my younger years.  But this blog is not about me.  It's about my dad, and mostly I'm including these pictures because he took them.  When I was little he was always taking pictures of us and developing them himself.  He converted a small corner of the basement into a darkroom and I loved the times that I could sit on the stool and watch him make pictures magically appear in basin of liquid.  I still remember the smell of the chemicals, the way he had all the different bottles lined up on the shelf, and the glow of the red light that would not ruin the exposures.
I remember him and my brother standing in the backyard during thunderstorms taking pictures of lighting.  I cried hysterically, thinking they would most definitely be killed.  They weren't.
When we were little, my dad worked a lot.  He was a mechanic and he worked long hours in Oakland, then  in Verona; first for someone, and then eventually opening his own garage.
I remember sitting with him in his recliner and watching TV.  When I got too big to smoosh in the chair with him, I would sit on the arm of the chair beside him.  In the winter he would always build a fire in the fireplace and I would sit in front of it after my bath while my hair dried.  It took forever. 
I remember playing games as a family.  We played various card games; UNO was one of my favorites.  But
even though I was little, no one took it easy on me, and I would often have to build myself a wall out of pillows so I could lay my cards on the floor when I had too many to hold.  When I got older we also played Scrabble.  I was so excited the first time I won!  It's no wonder I love spelling so much.
In the summer we would often go to Willow's and play mini-golf and get ice cream.  We also went to "Soft Charlie's" for ice cream, and at either place my dad's order was the same: medium hot fudge sundae with extra hot fudge."  He was not one for variety.  We ate at Eat-N-Park every Friday and his order was the same there too: salad bar and two Superburgers with no lettuce and extra sauce.  Of course, I always had the same thing too: chicken fingers.
My dad loved baseball and I remember listening to the Pirate games on the radio; either on his big stereo at home or in his rumbling black truck.  I never wore a seat belt in the truck.  In fact, because I was so small, he would fold down the center console and let me sit on top of it so I could see out the windshield.  He always listened to 70's rock and would sing along.  Loudly.  Sometimes I'm tempted to turn on WDVE in my car just to hear those songs and him singing them in my head.

These are my great grandparents: Grandpap Pete and Grandma Toots.  And my face is totally Liana.

I learned to cook from my dad.  Every Sunday we had family breakfast at my great grandparens' house.  Grandma Toots (pronounced like tootsie roll.) made meatballs and homemade bread.  My dad was the official cooker of the meatballs.  Every time I make meatballs for my family I remember him standing at her ancient stove in his typical sweatpants.  And no matter how hard I try, I cannot duplicate those meatballs.  Not quite.  But my dad could do more than just fry meatballs.  I get my culinary sense of adventure from him.  He was always trying something new in the kitchen.  If he thought it sounded good in his mind, he made it.  I cook like that often.  And he was a super messy cook!  But I enjoyed almost everything he made.  Except ox tails.  Those were gross.
My dad also taught me to think critically about things.  He always asked questions to make me think and understand what and why I believed.  He wanted me to be a lawyer so he argued with me and made me defend my position, even at a young age.  He taught me to stick to my guns and not back down.  He didn't share my faith in Jesus and he had little tolerance for church.  He often gave me a hard time about my faith and when I was older he would try and get me to swear or drink, just to see if I would.  Those experiences of rejection and ridicule from someone so close to me made it easier to bear from people on the outside.  And if I could say no to my own dad, I could certainly so no to my peers.  Of course, I would have given anything for him to have accepted Christ, but even so I am thankful for what it built in me.  And although he never told me personally, he told my mom that he was glad I spent so much time at church because he didn't have to worry about me like he did my brother, and that he really respected me for not compromising.

It's been 8 years to the day.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about my dad, and miss him.   I know he would be proud of me, of my family.  I wonder what kind of pappy he would have been.  My dad was not much for physical or verbal affection, but I think when it came to his grandchildren, he would've been a great big softy.  I often think about how things might be different if he were here today.  Would I have made all the same choices I've made since then?  Would I have my two beautiful children?  Probably not.  But I am blessed, content, and thankful for my life as it is today.  And I am reminded that "in ALL THINGS, God works for the good of those who love him."

One of the few pictures of us together.  He was always the one behind the camera!