Saturday, January 31, 2009

january's to do list

my dear nephew: "Aunt Julie, I already have my Christmas list!"
me: "Oh, yeah?"
my dear nephew: "I'm going to send it to Santa now so that I can beat the rush!"

Friday, January 30, 2009

the hand of God

what i once saw as inactivity, i now see as tremendous grace.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

favorite thing number sixteen

when my nephews first see me, scream my name and run to tackle me in a bear hug

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

counting men

Last night as I unpacked the final boxes of books and placed them in the few spaces left on my shelves, I began to wonder if one could have too many books. In my recent quest for simplicity, I have rid my home of many of my belongings. But, as I looked at the books, I realized there weren't really any that I wanted to get rid of.

As I stood there, I thought about a friend of mine who had counted his books and was nearing one thousand. I have never counted my books, and it occurred to me that I could. But, just as quickly as the thought crossed my mind, the story found in I Chronicles 21 also came to mind. It's here that we find King David wanting to count his warriors. And, he gives the order to number all of the fighting men. This command disgusts Joab though he does follow the orders of his king. We also read in this text that David's desire to count his men was not from God. So, the act of the numbering was detestable to the Lord as well. Because of David's disobedience, a plague falls upon the people who were under the care of King David.

This is sobering. Because of the disobedience of the leader, God curses the people.

We also read in the story that David repents and asks that the punishment fall on David and his household. And, God "relents" before destroying Jerusalem. Without getting into the theology of God relenting or King David's influence on God's decision, in some form the message is the same: a leader has great responsibility and great influence.

To be honest, I'm not too concerned about my leadership over the books in my Kingdom (though I don't think I will count them today). My concern instead is for my personal obedience and my leadership in the church. Moments like these, I am relieved that I am not called to the office of senior pastor (we'll skip my theology on this point as well...), but I also shudder as I consider the responsibility I find in guiding the people and direction of the worship ministry which is under my care. And, again I fall on my knees and utter:

Kýrie, eléison;
Christé, eléison;
Kýrie, eléison. Amen.

Monday, January 26, 2009

cleaning out

seriously, what does one do with all the music that was once cutting edge and now is kind of dull? i realize this opens a whole host of questions as to what makes music "good," but more on that later. right now i have to figure out what to do with these boxes of spiral bound praise and worship music books complete with flute, oboe, guitar, keyboard and synth parts.

and then...

it was normal

favorite thing number fifteen

Chocolate Turtle Cake from Cafe Latte

Sunday, January 25, 2009

three little words

It was a cool morning. There was dew on the grass, and I could hear the ponies braying in the pasture. My pink shorts and new Colorado t-shirt weren't enough to keep me warm, so little goose bumps dotted my skin. My Uncle Fred and Aunt Nancy were giving us a round of hugs, and then my sister pulled out her camera and asked if we could take a few pictures. We huddled up with Tiffy their dog and took pictures with the mountains in the background. Then we climbed into the already full red Granada and put our seat belts on. I called front, so I was squished between my parents in the middle of the front seat. My sister and brother were snuggled in the back with three pillows, blankets, backpacks and a cooler. As we pulled away, I looked up and saw tears in my mother's eyes. "Why are you crying, Mom?" I asked. "We're saying goodbye," she answered.

It was a hot August afternoon. There were boxes in the living room filled with everything my sister was taking with her. Dad pulled the pickup up to the house so it was easy to load. In the hot sun, we carried pieces of my sister's life. Once the pickup was well loaded we worked on my sister's little gray car. My mother and sister left. A little while later, my father, brother and I left. We arrived at my sister's dorm room to find her quite settled. Her side of the room was the right side when you were standing at the door. She had a desk, a bed, and a closet all in a row. After we unloaded the pickup, we stood for a moment as we all hugged my big sister. Anguish was heavy on my heart, and I thought, "we're saying goodbye."

It was a cold rainy November day. My mother called me at college to let me know that my grandmother wasn't doing well. I hurried to the nursing home that I was so familiar with. I climbed the yellow stairs and the smell of clean floors and a sort of mothball scent seeped into my nose. I turned left at the top of the stairs and then left around the corner. I walked into the first room on the left where my grandmother was resting. It was dark. Her breathing was nearly as heavy as the weight on my heart. I walked to her bed and took her cold and wrinkled hand. Tears streaked my face as I whispered, "We're saying goodbye."

It was a sunny summer day. The one-way street held the van that was loaded with Nathan and Brianna's belongings. Children were running in the street and several relatives watched us from across the road. The back of the van sank down low to the ground, and we talked about the long ride it would be from Massachusetts to Iowa. After looking at each other for a while awkwardly trying to think of something to say, we prayed. Nathan and Brianna and their families headed toward their cars. And, we hugged the kind of hug that you don't easily forget. She promised to call along the journey, and I promised to visit. They drove away. I climbed in my car and those words rang in my head, "We're saying goodbye."

It was frigid in my little apartment. I hung up the phone and glanced over my shoulder as if something would be there to commemorate the past year. The blank wall stared at me. The memories of friends made and meals shared, music created and lessons learned, meetings held and tears shed flashed through my head. In my mind I knew that what once was, was no longer. And into my mind came those three little words, "We're saying goodbye."

And, we did.

the box

It was nearing zero degrees. My hands ached as the cold seemed to move through them as water moves through a paper towel. I gripped the handles with intensity this afternoon as I carried the box of books to my new home. This box had been with me for a while. It was a box that had been rescued from the dumpster by my dear friends Nathan and Brianna as they were packing their life into a truck in Iowa anticipating the life they would live in Massachusetts. I'm not sure at what point the box came into my ownership, but I believe it has been with me for at least seven moves. At one time the cardboard was home to six, gallon, milk containers, but now it carried a handful of my favorite books, some magazines, a couple keepsakes for my desk and a few other sundry items. As I neared the place on the sidewalk that collected the drips from the roof, the right handle of the box ripped apart leaving the contents of my box strewn about on the sidewalk. For a second I looked at the variety of things that lay on the ground before setting the box down and leaning over to collect my belongings.

Sometimes I feel like that box. Just plain tired of moving.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

not sure what this means either

pleasant feeling

feels like home to me...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

emphatically said

"Are you coming to see me or what!?!?" - Brianna

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

huh...what's a slow church?

and they were playing jazz

Have you seen the new commercial for McDonalds coffee? The two women are elated because they can now have coffee, and they don't even have to listen to jazz. As we sat there drinking our bottom-of-the-pot, bitter coffee (which was in a cup that said it was 'freshly brewed' not 'freshly burned'), jazz music fell upon our ears. It all seemed a little ironic.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

wisdom from walking

"Grace is a positive thing."  - Andrea Turpin our profound academic

Saturday, January 17, 2009


it's so good to be home...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

out of my comfort zone

It was a very large, light-colored building with three big numbers in the window - 735. Sure enough, that was the address I was looking for. My hand was wrapped around my little, red cell phone as I spoke with a dear friend who encouraged me to go in. The temperature with windchill was about -30 degrees, and I didn't really want to get out of the car for several reasons. So, I sat in my warm, little Honda for a few more minutes working up the courage to go in. As I opened the door the temperature bit my skin like a child who is just learning to use their new teeth. My black coat and fuzzy black and brown scarf were not enough to protect my skin. In my black pinstripe pants and cute red sweater, I approached the door. There were a few men loitering in the hall, and I wondered if this was really the place. "Work Force Center" was written in large, bold letters to the right of the door. I gingerly entered into the room and looked around. I confess, I was completely out of my comfort zone. As I started to approach the counter, a woman loudly said, "If you are here for the 2010 Census testing, go through the double doors, down the hall, and to the right." Still feeling quite out of a place, I moved in that direction. The man in front of me opened the door for me, and as I passed by the pungent smell of alcohol seeped into my nose.

I found the room and read the directions on the board. The woman behind me was obviously upset about the wait. "What am I doing here?" kept going through my head. "No, stay," said a little voice. So, I began to take in the scene. I felt very out of place in my professional looking outfit. And, the people in the room didn't seem to have the same set of manners that I was taught. As the test proctor began speaking, a sense of comfort came to me. "You're fine," echoed in my mind. As I moved forward in line, I reached the map where I was to identify my geocode. The anxiety rippled through my body as I stared at a map of my city. Having just moved here, I am just beginning to figure out my own neighborhood, but to look at the whole city and figure out the location of my little home was quite a task - especially with a line of disgruntled people behind me. I found it, signed in, and took my seat.

A kind woman sat next to me, and we began talking. It was one of those moments that you know had been divinely established. She had been an art professor, and we had a great conversation about art in the church, our lives, and why we found ourselves in this room of people. The next woman down began talking to us. As she shared her story of employment, my heart became heavy. Here I sat in a room of people who really needed jobs to make ends meet. For a moment, I considered getting up and leaving because I didn't need the job as much as they did. But, I had gotten this far, and honestly, was intrigued with the kind of work that I might have the opportunity to do. Plus, it would get me out of my safe little home, and safe little church, and safe little life to interact with real people. People who aren't so safe.

So, I stayed. I took the exam. I did well. I had another divinely appointed meeting. And, I left seeing God in a place that I wouldn't normally choose to enter.

And, now, as I recall the events of that morning, I am struck by a couple of things. One, how this economic crisis has effected thousands of people. Good, ordinary, stable people. It's had an impact on me, too, but I have everything I need. Actually, I have a good bit more than everything I need, so this brush with reality stirs in my heart as I consider the blessings in my life. Two, how secluded I am from "real life." I am convicted that these places are the places where my Lord would dwell. If that is so, shouldn't I be dwelling there - in some form - like He would? And, three, God is often found where I least expect Him to be. In a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. In the smile of an elderly man. In the recognition of a brother in Christ.

Oh, Lord, may I not miss these moments. Open my eyes to see you in the day-to-day, ordinary things of life. In Jesus' name, Amen.


More test results. More thankfulness.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

a little ironic

The New York Times says conservatives think Mark Driscoll is “the cussing pastor.” I'm curious if that provoked his blog entry today. Maybe not. Either way, it's a good word from this cutting edge pastor.

one in a million...or a hundred

I've been reading about Myers Briggs personalities again. And, I've been reminded that my personality type is the least common of them all with only 1% of the population sharing the INFJ type. What I find a little strange is that of the four gals that I am closest to, three of them are INFJs. Weird.

Monday, January 12, 2009

amateur actors

"Oh, brother or sister, God calls us to worship, but in many instances we are in entertainment, just running a poor second to the theaters. That is where we are, even in the evangelical churches, and I don't mind telling you that most of the people we say we are trying to reach will never come to a church to see a lot of amateur actors putting on a home-talent show."
- A.W. Tozer, Whatever Happen to Worship

I have been thinking a lot about evangelism, and it's place in worship. I don't have any answers, but more and more I think our corporate worship services aren't the place to begin the task. But, instead, we need to be going out to those who need to be introduced to the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. So, I guess I am jumping on the missional bandwagon. Any thoughts you have about the marriage of worship and evangelism are most welcome here....

My prayer tonight: Father, may it never be that we are more interested in bringing people to see the show than we are interested in humbly bowing before you. Lord, convict us when we are merely amateur actors putting on a home-talent show. Give us wisdom to know how to unite evangelism and worship in ways that bring you glory, share your love, and proclaim your truth. In all of our creativity and brainstorming, may we never lose sight of our purpose as leaders in the Church. May our lives be such that people are drawn to you and drawn to worship you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

boring stuff from the worship director

I tend to be drawn to songs with "Hallelujah" in them.* So, yesterday morning as I was getting ready for the day, a praise song was bouncing around in my head. I was singing the Hallelujah part, and then I came to the end of the song. And, as I was singing it I realized that I didn't at all agree with the theology. It was a little disconcerting to me that I had never realized this before. And, I was convicted. As the director of worship and music in my little church, I really need to be aware of the theology we are promoting in our corporate worship services.

Perhaps I have written before about my belief that today much of our theology comes from our music. The words we sing impact the way we think. So, as I am singing the lyrics in my day-to-day life, the theology becomes a part of me. I wonder if this is more of a new phenomenon. Now that we have access to music in the car, and in our homes, and on our mp3 players, lyrics follow us everywhere we go.

Not so long ago, the family I lived with sang a little song to me, and in a strange way I think it applies here.

"Be careful little ears what you hear,
Be careful little ears what you hear...."

*for an explanation on why, go to "a not-so-little dance of joy" from last spring.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

what i know is coming

The clouds hovered in the sky. The road was wet with melting snow. The heater in my little Honda kept me warm on this cold January day in Minnesota. And, as I curved to the right where one large interstate split off of another, a thought flickered in my mind. I suddenly got giddy as I realized that spring would indeed come. There are several things about this that are odd. One, there was nothing pointing toward spring at that moment except perhaps my brain wondering-off and brainstorming ideas for Lent on my drive home. And two, the thought of spring literally brought about a physical response of elation. I was honestly a little startled by my unexpected emotions. So, as I neared my exit I began thinking about the joy I find in the promise of spring. As I pulled into my neighborhood, I was struck by the excitement I felt about the impending season of spring, and its relationship to the excitement we should feel as Christ's return is imminent.

During 8th grade in the middle of winter a teacher of mine decided she had had enough of the cold Iowa winter. So, she brought in a wading pool, a bunch of water toys, and a few other warmer-weather props. Our activities that week were designed to celebrate what we knew was coming but wasn't there yet. And, in some strange way, it gave us a sense of hope that the cold dreary days of winter wouldn't last forever.

So, this week, I'm going to celebrate spring. I'm hoping for a few more butterflies, even if they do only exist in my stomach. And, I'm looking forward to celebrating that which I know is approaching, even though it isn't here yet.

Don't tell my mom, but I might even not wear my coat. :)

just so you know....
You are invited to share your thoughts, ideas,
prayers, etc. on the comment card posts...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

a message for you

"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves." - The Message

Friday, January 9, 2009


"If we presume that life owes us the best--and nothing but the best--then reality rarely lives up to our expectations." - Brennan, The Wisdom of Tenderness

all that we have

"The rich in spirit devote considerable time to thinking about what they don't have; the poor in spirit get right down to enjoying and celebrating what they do have."

- Brennan, The Wisdom of Tenderness

utterly and inexcusably biblically illiterate

"Today, Friday, January 9, 2009 —a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America has officially become utterly and inexcusably biblically illiterate. Let me explain." - Brian Lowery

welcome here

"And you are so welcome here, if you're ever in New Mexico" - Mitch McVicker

Thursday, January 8, 2009

in favor of life

"We're not in favor of life simply because we're warding off death. We're for life because we are for Abba, the essence of all life. And we mature in the wisdom of accepted tenderness to the extent that we stand up for the less fortunate; to the extent that no human flesh is a stranger to us; to the extent that we can touch the hand of another in love; to the extent that for us there truly are no 'others.'" - Brennan Manning

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

oh, it's back!

I unpacked my favorite green cup! And, it still holds coffee very well :)

thunder in the desert!

"Change your life. God's kingdom is here." - JohnB (from the Message)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

if lost, look up

"sometimes the only way that helps me with times like that is to find something bigger to swallow up what feels like a vast distance on all sides away from all we want to be close" - Mike

Monday, January 5, 2009

last year's language

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning. ~T.S. Eliot

i am moved

This morning I am struck by the first years of Jesus' life. Not so long ago I was having a conversation with a friend about the patterns of the stars during Mary's pregnancy and into the first years of Christ's life. My friend was telling me all about the constellations and how they have simulated with computer programs the actual sky that the so called "Kings" would have been studying as they were waiting and watching for the miraculous coming of the Messiah. The crazy thing (or not so crazy, really) is that the patterns found in the skies so many years ago actually line up with the account found in the pages of Scripture. I am not an astrologist, but it fits in with my experience with Scripture.

So, I've been reflecting on this all of Advent and now during Christmastide. And, as I opened my Bible this morning to read Matthew's account of Jesus' birth, several things moved me to worship.

First, the account of the Magi now makes more sense. It doesn't seem to be one star that they followed, but several constellations that announced such spectacular things with an amazing amount of accuracy. Our God is a god who rules all of the universe.

Second, so much prophecy. So much fulfillment. Our God is a god who rules all of the timing of all of the days.

Third, Joseph was a critical piece of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The account reveals to us Joseph's constant attention to direction from the Lord. It was no small thing for him to take Mary to be his wife and receive Jesus into his lineage. It was no small thing for him to pack up and go to Bethlehem with a very pregnant wife. It was no small thing for him to consistently hear and obey the voice of the Lord as our God instructed Joseph to move his family from place to place. And, I imagine it was no small thing for him to move them again and again as the Lord commanded it step-by-step. Maybe it's because I'm on my tenth address in three years, and I don't really understand the purpose of the constant transition, but looking at the story of our Lord shows me that with each move there was purpose, and with each move it may or may not have been clear to Joseph just why the Lord was moving him and his family as He was. Our God is a god who rules the universe, it's timing, and our timing within that timing.

And, I am moved.

just so you know....
You are invited to share your thoughts, ideas,
prayers, etc. on the comment card posts...

i always end up with these modular homes

Houses that don't have a good and strong foundation don't last as long and aren't nearly as stable. So, I guess it's worth the wait (and the expense) to begin by building a really solid structure.

just wondering...

Was Jesus the spittin' image of Mary?
How tall was Jesus?

Sunday, January 4, 2009


so unbelievably blessed.

baby, it's cold outside

two shirts, a fleece, a scarf, jeans, thick socks, slippers and one of my fuzzy blankets.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

when tears meet laughter

It's always weird to laugh when you are crying.

Friday, January 2, 2009


sometimes i feel like i am just trying on shoes...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

more words

"Like mankind itself, words are fallen vessels: capable of enormous good but incapable of perfection without the intervention of a savior," says Laura.

As I was proofreading a paper about St. Augustine's view of words for Laura, a dear friend of mine, I was fascinated with the rhetoric in the paper as well as in Augustine's Confessions. They relate to last Sunday's post "sunday symposium: guarding the meaning" quite well. Laura stated:

"...the indispensable nature of speech in conveying knowledge endows the spoken and written word with incredible power which can be used both positively and negatively."

She also quoted Roger Lundin, The Culture of Interpretation: Christian Faith in the Postmodern World, who writes, "Most contemporary schools of theory acknowledge the power of the past to shape language and the self. It has become a truism of contemporary thinking that we always speak as selves dramatically circumscribed by the meanings of the words we employ, and not as totally free selves choosing words and meanings at will. Every word we use carries a history of associations and usages within it. When we appropriate language for our own use, we inherit the moral history of the words we employ, even if we are attempting to do nothing more than use those words to get what we want. Words do not simply influence our thinking; they undergird it, they shape it, and they direct it", I'm back on my soapbox. The words we use to describe our worship of the Holy and Triune God tell us something. Let's make sure it is a theologically correct something.