Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Out with the old; in with the new.

Monday, December 29, 2008

DECEMBER 08: e.postcard update

As always with these postcard images, click on it and it will open in your browser window at full size and you should be able to read it then. Well, at least if the issue is the size of the font. 

Too much time on my hands...

In the past year I have experienced "too busy" for a season here and there. When there is an end in sight, I don't mind it.

I  have also experienced "not busy enough" from time to time -- though this is more of a rarity. This past week I was there and, as counterintuitive as it may seem, when I am not busy enough, I don't take time to blog. 

Not that any of you have complained. 

All of this may change today. We'll see.

Friday, December 26, 2008

He Qi: Flight into Egypt

I've been reminded of a number of things about Jesus' early years lately (a natural thing this time of year, I suppose).

His mother was not yet married when He was born -- and while we know about the Holy Spirit and God's plan, the overwhelming majority of people in Mary's community (and family?) would have assumed the more obvious: Joseph or "some other man."

Jesus was born when Mary and Joseph were away from home -- in a borrowed space where the best option for a cradle was a manger. 

Before he was very old at all, Jesus traveled even farther away from home into Egypt -- a fugitive -- and lived there with his earthly family as refugees for a season.

We know that Joseph was still with the family when Jesus was 12 because we read about that incident at the temple, but there is no mention of him when Jesus is 30ish. We can assume that Jesus knew the sorrow of death in a very personal way.

While we don't know much about his childhood, we know enough to know that life was not easy for this boy growing up in Bethlehem-Egypt-Nazareth, a Jew in a land occupied by the Romans. And, unlike the rest of us who can blurt out "I didn't choose to be born into this family" or "I didn't choose to be born a citizen of this country" or "I didn't ask to be tall/short/smart/athletic/artistic/_______ or whatever else thing we are finding momentarily oppressive or restrictive or embarrassing -- Jesus did choose. 

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.  (Philippians 2:5-8 The Message)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Nativty #17: A Painting from PNG

The Gospel of John proclaims that the Word (which was with God in the beginning and which in fact is God) became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. Two thousand years ago (give or take), Jesus took on the flesh of a Jewish boy and moved into a neighborhood in Nazareth.

After Jesus death and resurrection -- when he ascended into heaven -- he promised His followers that He would send the Holy Spirit to live IN them (and not just WITH them). That event initially happened at Pentecost. Today, the very Spirit of God lives within all those who have turned to God for salvation through Christ's work on the cross.  That means that God is still moving into neighborhoods all over this world.

In my neighborhood, He drives a Jeep and wears flip-flops and grills burgers on the patio. I talked to my friends (Mark and Charlene) this morning, and in their new neighborhood, He celebrates his birthday on January 7 instead of December 25 -- and He wears a lot more layers than in my neighborhood because it is cold there. 

There is a neighborhood in Papua New Guinea where Jesus eats yams and grubs. An artist in that community painted this nativity. While you and I know (and the artist may also know) that  a literal translation of the Nativity in art would surround the Baby with Jewish parents and sheep and goats and maybe a cow -- a more true translation has God moving into the culture of the artist. And yes, the Baby is surrounded by pigs and a rat and a cockatoo.

Today, I celebrate the One who moves into neighborhoods -- full of grace and truth -- and who invites us all to come Home with Him to the place He has prepared for us to be together.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

from a guy named Joe on flickr

May Newsletter
Originally uploaded by Joe Bollinger
I was doing some research for a project I'm working on and ran across a photographer named Joe Bolinger who has some great images posted. I found the photo he used in this newsletter and loved it...then found this and knew I wanted to share it. Be encouraged my friends. IMMANUEL is still arriving, in the flesh, in the midst of the common, the wicked, the sick and needy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nativity #16: Made in Peru

If we could see all of the lines that have been drawn between people, this globe would look like a ball of yarn. I'm usually hesitant to say that "all" people know something or have done something -- but I'm pretty sure that everyone has experiences this separation. For those of us who have landed on the powerful or privileged side of the line more often than not, we may not be as aware of the impact those lines, however. 

When we talk about languages, there is often a distinction drawn between "minority languages" and "languages of wider communication."  As an English speaker, I was born into a community that speaks not only the language of wider communication within my own country, but also one of the languages of wider communication in a global marketplace. 

Millions of people are born into communities where the language spoken in the home is not used in the world outside their small community. If they have access to education at all, it is most often in a language of wider communication -- English, Spanish, French, Farsi, Tagalog, Swahili, etc.

In Peru -- where this nativity was made -- the language of wider communication is Spanish. Historically, a person who does not speak Spanish is very limited in his ability to advance through systems of education since teachers require students to use that common language in the classroom. 

Language development programs which are necessary in order for Bible translation to be done almost always elevates the value of a "minority language" in the eyes of not only the speakers of that language, but also the governments of the nations in which that language is spoken. Somehow, when  a language is written, things begin to change. 

Wycliffe personnel have worked in Peru for over 40 years -- long enough to see the transformation that comes to people (individuals and communities) when they have God's Word available in their heart language and long enough to see the transformation that comes when their heart language is finally seen as an asset rather than a liability. 

Pali is a woman whose life has been transformed by God through the translation of His Word and the development of her language. Her story is found on Wycliffe's website.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nativity #15: Simplicity

The person who made this nativity (which stands about 3" tall and is molded out of clay and then painted) has an artist's eye that allowed her to suggest greater things with some pretty simple shapes. I like that.

Often God uses really simple things in my life to suggest greater things -- deep things about Himself, for example.

Eight years ago on the second Sunday in December I wandered into the 1st and 2nd grade Sunday School class at Faith Church in Indy -- they were meeting in the middle classroom above the offices as they had been for years. It was a time when the kids were gathering and doing table activities before the lesson began.

I sat down on a small chair at the table closest to the door. We were drawing nativity scenes. The smell of the Crayola crayons and the repetition of coloring felt good in the middle of the Advent season. As you might imagine, these were pretty simple drawings. Along with those simple drawings were some pretty simple conversations. Delightful ones, but appropriately simple. 

As we colored and chatted, Ali Martin reached over and patted my knee gently and said, "Miss Ruth, I'm sorry about your mom." She meant it. 

Nine days earlier, we had buried my mom in a small cemetery in rural Zionsville. Such a simple conversation about some very deep things. I thanked her and then, as we continued coloring, I asked, "Ali. Do you know where my mom is right now?"

Her response was instant. This is something that did not take much thought for her -- it was either close enough to the surface that it came quickly or it so permeated her mind that it was easy. With great enthusiasm she replied, "She'd dancing in heaven with Jesus." 

In that moment we had the whole story. Immanuel: God with us. And, because of Him, we have the hope of an eternity with God. And not just any eternity -- one filled with dancing! 

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nativity #14: Can you say "Hobby Lobby"?

I love the way this nativity reflects light. It is probably  made of wood (best guess) and then covered over with some sort of metallic surface (silver-colored) and finally stained lightly.  You may be able to tell that the pieces are "flat" -- the base on each is about 1 inch by 2.5 inches.

While some of my nativity sets came to me from my Mom and others were purchased on some cool trip to a destination requiring a Passport and others were gifts, this nativity was a Hobby Lobby find when Dad and I were in Omaha, Nebraska for Thanksgiving a few years ago. 

Hobby Lobby is one of those stores that I'm not allowed to go into unless I have a clear plan that includes a budget -- they sell too many things that I impulse purchase too easily. Art and craft supplies. Cool stuff (like this nativity) to put on shelves and walls. Because there aren't any Hobby Lobby stores in Orlando, I also have to consider how much space I have in my suitcase, a restriction that often saves me from myself. 

Hobby Lobby. If you know about this store, you likely have an opinion about it. If you have one where you live and have never shopped there, you may still be aware of their holiday ads/messages. Beginning Easter Sunday, 1997, Hobby Lobby placed a full page message ad in all of the newspapers in which they advertise. The impact and relevancy of these messages is ongoing, and so they continue to make them available online in PDF format as well as links to the ministry Need Him and other helpful information. 

Though I've never met David Green, the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, I have met Mart, his son, who founded Mardel Christian supply stores and Ethnographic Media and Every Tribe Entertainment. I tell you that not to impress you (I know better) but to say that, from what I know, these messages at Christmas and Easter are not a sales gimmick. The Green family are literally "evangelicals" in that they choose to be ones who share Good News.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nativity # 13: Stained Glass and Fresh Flowers

This stained glass nativity does not usually sit outside, but I didn't like the light in the house when I wanted to take the photo and it was perfect outside so I carried it out to the patio. 

Yes, I have flowers blooming (on my patio and in the garden) in December. The pink petunias and white pansies are lovely, as ever -- and the blue/purple smaller pansies are spectacular, aren't they? Wow. cotta pots.

This set was a gift a number of years ago, though I've lost track when, exactly. 

I love stained glass, though I've never owned much of it personally. 

Glass...light...stained glass art. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nativity #12: Dansk Crystal

I'm not sure when my love for "glass" started, but by the time I traveled to Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway and Denmark) with Bethel's Women's Choir (under the direction of Mary Fall) in June of 1983 I was well beyond interested. 

It was then that I became more interested in specific glass makers like Kosta Boda (Sweden). One of my favorite things from that glass maker (in the affordable category) are the snowball votive holders. But, I digress. 

This particular nativity set was made and sold by Dansk. You can tell, if you pay attention to such things, that I looked for a display location in the house where light was one of the main contributers. Most of the sets look best with light shining ON them -- this one needs light shining THROUGH it.

I want to be more like this set -- letting the Light shine through me instead of always wanting the light to shine on me. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Greetings sent... the staff of Wycliffe USA from the Executive Team.
Something in me wants to explain this, but I really don't think I need to do that. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know enough about me to not be surprised that I thought this was a fun idea. If you are surprised that Bob, Russ and Chuck agreed to it with no hesitation at all -- then you don't know them as well as I do.

Nativity #11: With Poinsettias from Costa Rica

This small nativity conveniently folds flat. I have a Noah's Ark and a Last Supper scene also in this style/ medium. In my office I have the word WYCLIFFE in wooden letters with this colorful work on it too. I like that the adornment on the side walls are poinsettias.

Poinsettias are associated with Christmas in the States. I don't know if they are a Christmas flower in other parts of the world or not and I didn't Google that this morning. 

The first time I traveled to Costa Rica (my first time anywhere in Central America for that matter) I encountered the biggest poinsettias I'd ever seen They were trees and they were beautiful. But they messed with my head a little because those plants are generally only experienced where I'd lived my whole life in pots at Christmas. My grandma used to be able to keep any plant alive far longer than normal human beings and she's still have them around at Easter -- but most people quit watering them a few weeks after the tree comes down and they eventually end up in landfills.

I can tell you that living in Florida has changed that -- I take my Christmas poinsettias and repot them onto the patio for the winter to spring and , once they outgrow those pots, they go into the ground. I have a few of them in my garden. I even have a very small poinsettia tree in my garden that is deciding whether or not it wants to stay. I got it on deep clearance at Target last year. 

So, the poinsettias on this nativity may be there as Christmas adornment, but the also make sense in a place where those flowers grow and bloom with great enthusiasm. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nativity #9 & #10: Out of Africa

I purchased these two nativity sets in Nairobi, Kenya at a Masi market on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Heather and I had been to church with Dr. Chet and Dolores Wood at Nairobi Chapel and then out to lunch at one of their favorite Chinese establishments. Good memories, those.

When I purchase sets as I travel (as I am known to do on occasion), I like them to be made from materials that are commonly available and typically used in that place. I also like the physical features to reflect the culture and ethnicity of the place. Jesus came--the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. As one of us. 

While technically I believe that Jesus was, as Scripture clearly indicates, a Jewish boy from Nazareth, I also believe that it is true to see Jesus as "one of us."  I'm not offended by blond-haired, blue eyed baby Jesus images within a blond-haired, blue eyed culture. However, I am offended (and embarrassed) when the blond-haired, blue eyed culture imposed that image on others as if it is the "right" one. 

The nativity below is made from barks and husks. I love the variety of textures and colors in it. Mary and the baby are depicted in a rather traditional way--her kneeling beside him in a manger. But the group of worshippers surrounding them is what makes this one another favorite. They are bringing their best. Shepherds bring livestock--the Masi know about livestock with their lovely herds of cattle and goats. Those who grow produce bring baskets of grain or vegetables. The fisherman brings some of the day's catch. And then there are the artists--the musicians play their music as a fitting expression of worship. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Psalm 139: PART TWO

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

I remember being a little more than freaked out when I'd hear teachers going on and on about how God can see me all the time. He sees me when I'm sleeping, he knows when I'm awake. He knows if I've been bad or goo... wait, that's Santa.  

Anyhow, the concept of God's omnipresence is mostly abstract and a good bit invasive and feels almost stalker like when your concept of God is very incomplete. Going through a stage thinking that people are looking over my shoulder to criticize and catch me messing up, it was easy to project that on God. He is, after all, perfect.  Going through a stage of awkward self-loathing, it was easy to assume God's disappointment, if not repulsion, at what he sees.  Feeling unworthy and incapable, God's constant presence can be more of a reminder of what I lack rather than any sort of an encouragement.

As I grow in my understanding of God -- who he is and what he has done, what he says and how he works -- my response to his everywhere-ness has grown as well.

I love that when I'm on the top of the world and everything is working according to plan, God is in the midst of that. 

I love that when I'm sinking down into uncertain places either outwardly or inwardly, God is there. Billy Crockett has a song -- blues style -- that reminds me that when I find myself down in the mire and muck at the very bottom of life, Jesus is deeper still. 

I love that no matter how far ahead of myself or the day I try to get -- no matter if I rise with the sun or circle the globe in either direction -- no matter how far my influence stretches or how deep my impact digs, God is there. Further. Before. Wider and deeper. Always. 

I love that God not only meets me in the darkest places, he brings light to me there and shines that light until I can see it. Until I can see him. And, seeing him, I begin to understand that I am fully known by him. Amazing, that seeing me in his light -- fully exposed -- he does not turn away. He does not abandon me. 

God's promises to us (recorded in his Word) have great value. One of the ones that I love most is his promise to be with us -- always and forever. 

Psalm 139 (PART ONE)

LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

In a recent conversation with a friend about "imposter's syndrome" I was reminded that most of us experience this fear of being identified as NOT what everyone has assumed us to be. "What if they find out that I'm not really as smart as they think I am?" or "What if they find out that I'm not really capable of doing this job that is far to important to leave in the hands of someone who is so incapable?" It goes something like that.

I have experienced this every time I've taken a new role. Sometimes the emotions that go with it are stronger than others and sometimes the voices take longer to silence (or at least back off to a manageable mummer in the background). Once you've experienced this often enough and had the conversations with others to know it's not uncommon, it is not so surprising when it comes with a new title or new portfolio or new assignment.

For me, it is less manageable when it swoops from behind a corner in the middle of a thing, unannounced and unpredictable.

The point of all this is not cathartic blog-therapy or a cry for affirmation because I'm in a funk (though I might not have seen this without having been metaphorically cut off in traffic by this shadowy uncertainty in recent days).

God knows me fully -- will never be surprised when the truth comes out about my opportunities for growth (weaknesses) or my unwise choices (sin). He knows what I do (and don't do) as well as what I think. All of the time.

Whether I intentionally run from him or am swept away by a strong current of self-doubt or popular opinion, He is there. He comes along for the ride, has my back, and--wherever I land--greets me upon arrival.

He knows that I'm going to say before I do. He knows when I'm going to let him speak truth and light through me and He knows when I'm going to verbally step in it and track it all over the carpet before realizing that I am the one who smells funny.

None of my best or worst (words, actions, attitudes, ideas) surprises him. He is not taken off guard. Not shocked. Oh, he is sometimes (often?) offended or hurt -- and the fact that my attitudes and words and thought can actually impact the God of the Universe who is Almighty and Holy is absolutely beyond my comprehension. And, truly amazing, nothing I do or say or think is beyond his redemption.

This really is too much.

When my feet are covered with dirt and dung, Jesus does not go running from the room until I can get things cleaned up and put in order and smelling fresh. He gets up from the table, puts a towel over his arm, takes a bucket of water and washes my feet. Then he sits back down at the table and offers me another slice of bread, another glass of wine - his eyes sparkling with joy and delight and unquenchable love.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Nativity #8: Palm Trees

This nativity was a gift from a friend - Christmas 2003. During the years Aileen lived in Orlando, she often joined me for part of the decorating ritual -- hanging ornaments on the tree and rummaging through boxes of this and that. I love that I not only have some sweet memories of Christmas seasons with her, but I have this nativity from her to spark that memory now that she has moved. 

I wish my point-and-shoot had the capacity to photograph this in it's preferred light -- with the two candles lit behind. The stark light of the flash does not do it justice. 

One of the things that will catch my attention with a nativity is when it's not the same as the hundreds you've seen before. (You know...a set of figurines where Jesus is in a manger, Joseph looks concerned, Mary looks mushy, two or three shepherds are scruffy - one kneels and one carries a sheep, three wise men look strangely like they planned their outfits and one of them also kneels; a cow, a camel, a sheep, a donkey. Each is a separate figure and they stand in a certain order all looking adoringly at Jesus.)

This one is made out of flat metal, cut and molded and shaped and then painted. Except for the faces/hands and Jesus. I'm glad there are palm trees in this one, too. It looks more like it belongs in Florida (a strange place to Christmas for one, like me, who lived for decades it the north where snow is a staple)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Nativity#7: Can you tell?

This soft-sculpture was made in Thailand. It includes Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus in a manger and a Shepherd. It also includes a sheep/goat that resembles a dog and a camel. Or maybe the one I think looks like s shepherd is Joseph and the guy in green is a Wiseman from the east -- and the camel is his. Not sure. Can you tell?

Maybe one of you who lives or has lived in Thailand has insight into this "set" which seems atypical as a set. 

Friday, December 05, 2008

Nativity #6: Tom Clark

This set was given to me over the course of a couple-three years by various members of my family. I started with the Mary & Jesus figure and the Joseph figure and built from there. The next iteration of Mary and Joseph were quite different, and put Jesus in the manger as a separate piece. Very traditional, I suppose. I'm sure it's lovely (I've only seen photos). 

For me, it is Mary and Jesus that make this set really special. I think you'll agree.

Tom Clark is the artist. The originals are made from clay and then molds are cast. The material used to make these figures is a resin medium. The figures are painted and stained by hand (by a team of artists). The end result is one that gives the look of clay. 

As in most nativity sets that include the wise men (or kings), this set has three. Funny how we have decided that there must have been three of them because there are three gifts listed. Anyhow, I'm glad that in this set they exhibit at least a bit of ethnic difference.  

I suppose it is our tendency to make all the characters in the set to look "like us" that has made these characters often look so like the people they came to visit from afar. (And this is as good a time as any to note that I'm fully aware that these visitors likely came much later in chronology rather than on the night of Jesus' birth. Our pageants and nativity sets have taken a good bit of poetic license. Let's just own that and not worry about it too much. Can't we all just get along?!)

One of the characters in this set that makes me smile each year when I bring it out is the Inn Keeper -- really a fictional character based on assumption and tradition. We love to imagine this person with various personality quirks and attitude issues, from a cranky, overworked guy in a frenzy to a mild-mannered dote. I like that this man looks kind. Maybe he doesn't know that Jesus is Messiah, but he at least seems to appreciate the wonder of this new life and the love of this "newlywed" couple.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Nativity #5: "Ding Dong" Avon Calling

Some of you will recognize this as the nativity set that Avon sold a couple of decades ago. If you want one of these, I see that all of these pieces are available on ebay. Just a thought.

The one piece missing from this photo is the angel that is supposed to sit on the roof of the stable. I had it. May still have it somewhere waiting to be repaired. Hmmmm. Might have to look for that.

My mom used to purchase Avon with some regularity. When the Avon lady would come to the house, I always wanted to be in the room. I loved the idea of the Avon lady. In fact, I used to play Avon lady -- Mom would be the mom/customer and I would fill her train case with Avon from her dresser and the bathroom cupboard and would come to the door to sell it to her. One Avon lady we had gave me an order book with the carbon paper in it so I could be more official.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Simple Math

Starting a Bible translation program every 3 weeks meant that it would be 2150 or beyond before the last language communities were hearing the first portions of God's Word in a language they can understand well. At the turn of the 21st Century, at a time when many people were worrying about Y2K, leaders in the Bible translation movements were asking themselves some simple questions.

"Is this good enough?"

"Are we okay with this pace, knowing that it means a few more generations of people from thousands of language communities will enter eternity having never heard God speak (except, in some cases, as a foreigner)?"

"If we are not okay with this pace, can we do anything about it? Should we do anything about it?"

Simple math (the kind I can wrap my head around) shows that we'll need to start a translation program every 3 days in order to be entering the last languages in this generation -- by the year 2025.

In a few months we will be able to say that Vision 2025 (a vision to see Bible translation in progress in every language community needing one by the year 2025) is 10 years old. In that decade we have experienced the greatest acceleration of the pace of Bible translation that the Church has ever known, cutting off more than 100 years from the projected date for entering the last languages. New translation programs are starting at a pace of more than one per week.

While that is fantastic -- while we are celebrating all that God has accomplished in us, through us, and in spite of us -- Wycliffe is committed to ongoing acceleration. We continue to have a holy discontent and until God puts out that fire within us, we will keep doing what we know to do.

Pray continuously.

Love justice and mercy.

Walk in humble obedience to God and His Word.

Work hard - always giving credit to God for all He does.

Invite everyone to participate.

Get out of God's way.

HEBREWS 12: 1-3 (NLT)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

The image above is of a painting by Hyatt Moore -- one of 18 that surrounded us through the Last Languages Celebration on November 22. It is titled Bangladesh Beauty. To see more of Hyatt's wonderful art, visit his website.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Nativity #4: Precious Moments and other "chains"

I do have a few sets that fit into the category that I'll call "chain" figurines. That is, they are the nativity figures from a long line of figurines. 

(Hopping onto a small soapbox.) 

These "collectables" are primarily marketed to a culture that generally has too much stuff.  Please don't think that I have any desire to cast judgement on anyone in particular - that would be so inappropriate considering the log in my own eye (ref. to Jesus as recorded in Matthew's Gospel). I just think that these kinds of things have become an easy option around gift-giving time.  Let's just own the fact that we have everything we need and - yes, even in a time of economic challenge - we can purchase many of the things we want. If you have "everything you need" and I want or feel obligated to give you a gift of some sort, I may be relieved to know that you collect something. I have been on both the giving and receiving end of these gifts. Lately, though, I've leaned away from such things. That does not mean that I purged my house of all collectables, as you are seeing with these photos. Neither does it mean that I think a person is inferior if they have a collection or two. I'm not sure what I mean entirely. 

(Hopping down from the soapbox.)

The first of these is my Precious Moments nativity. It is very small -- made of pewter and then painted. These figures are each about 1.5 inches tall. 

This second one is made by Hummel. My mom collected Hummels when I was young. I'm not sure  how much she liked them and how much she grew to like them because it was a thing that two of my dad's sisters collected (sort of). I now have a box of Hummels that I'd like to liquidate, but this is not an economy for selling figurines. My fondness for these is mostly generated by the way that they remind me of my Mom. When I was learning to help around the house by dusting, she taught how to treat these with appropriate care. I love that she didn't forbid me from touching these items but rather taught me how to be gentle.  This nativity by Hummel does not look much at all like the Hummel figurines, so that always confused me. 

The third is by Nao. He was the brother of Lladro who makes the more intricate, more expensive figurines by his name. Mom had a few of the Lladro -- but not the nativity set. It was outrageously expensive (and lovely).   

These are all sets that I have grown to like, primarily for nostalgic reasons I think. Christmas is a time for a bit of that, don't you think? 

Monday, December 01, 2008

Nativity #3: "...three things I love about this one."

1. Mary is holding baby Jesus. We've taken the statement that "Mary placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn" and added all sorts of conjecture onto it. I'm sure she did, as it is recorded, place him in a manger to sleep -- but I'm also sure that she held him. A lot.

2. The cow. Actually, I like the cow and the goat and the two sheep. They look friendly. They don't look like they know this is their Creator who has just been born so much as they look like healthy, domesticated animals. 

3. Simplicity. I know that it has a folk-art feel to it and that's more the influence on the clothing, but I do like that even the angel is in patched and simple clothing. Jesus was born into a honorable family, but not a wealthy one from all we know. Joseph was a carpenter -- I suspect he worked hard, dealt fairly with people and was well suited to care for his family. I also suspect that they lived very simply. This set reminds me of that. 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nativity #2: Happy 40th Birthday

A few weeks before my 40th birthday (my first birthday after Mom's passing and my last birthday before moving to Florida with Wycliffe), I was headed over to Mark & Charlene's house on River Heights Drive for a home meeting with potential ministry partners. I'd been recently appointed to serve with Wycliffe as a designer and was building a team of people who were called to be a part of my team (praying, sharing resources, encouraging, etc.) as we serve the Bibleless people of the world through Wycliffe USA.  It was Missions Conference time at Faith Church and I was not at all suspicious that things might not be what they appeared.

I soon found out that I'd been tricked. (And honestly, I can't believe I had NO idea...I usually do somehow get wind of things. My Meyers-Briggs high "I" rarely misses these kinds of things.) I was going out to dinner at the Palomino downtown Indy with Charlene (who just moved to Kiev, Ukraine), Terri (who has since moved to Lexington, MA) and Suzie (who drove from Iowa City, IA where she lived at the time, but who now lives back in Indianapolis) to celebrate my birthday. 

As if that wasn't gift enough, they gave me this nativity. 

Most of my nativity sets move from place to place each year. This one has a "permanent" home on my bedroom dresser. I see it every day. The light from the window hits it perfectly by day and the lighting in the room is perfect at night. 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nativity #1 - from Peru

This hand painted ceramic nativity was made in Peru. It sits in front of the window in my bedroom -- one of two nativity sets in this space. (I will show you the other one in a future blog.)

My bedroom and home office is decorated in a style that combines modern lines and smooth finishes with my favorite elements (stone, glass, wood) and plants. Add to that a "collection" of stuff with a story, and you have an idea of the room. It may not be an accurate idea, however, unless you've seen it.

I purchased this set from a a self-help craft store in Indianapolis run by the Mennonite church. That was one of my favorite places to shop for myself and for gifts for many years. 

Oh, and the Bible on the table is the NLT "illustrated" by Timothy Bott's calligraphy.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Decorating for Christmas

I grew up in a house where decorating for Christmas was a big deal. 

When I went to college, I decorated my dorm rooms/apartments with great enthusiasm -- bringing a bit of home to my home away from home. 

My sophomore year, Mom sent Snoopy's Santa suit via UPS and included 24 small gifts in his sack as an advent calendar of sorts. One day I'd get a pack of gum; another day I'd find a new gum eraser.  We did advent calendars my whole life, so this seemed rather normal to me. My roommates thought it was extravagant. 

My senior year, my roommates and I built a fireplace out of cereal boxes and hung athletic socks (yes, white ones with brightly colored stripes around the calves) from the "mantle."

Later, when I moved into my own home in the hood, I continued the tradition, and began to develop more of my own flair. 

The week after my mom died (11/29/2000), Charlene came over and spent a good part of the day  helping me decorate my house for Christmas -- tree and all. Dragging out the boxes and putting things in place -- and telling the stories that went with various ones (you KNOW there were stories) was therapeutic in all sorts of ways.

Since moving to Florida, I've experienced some new twists to decorating -- when I've decorated. Tonight I hung lights in the bushes out front. I was going to do it barefooted -- but then remembered that I was going to be tromping around a bit in the mulch and that's not terribly comfortable, so I put on flip-flops. THAT is Florida Christmas decorating.

By far my favorite and the most often repeated decoration in the house is the "nativity." Maybe tomorrow (once I get the greenery up and out) I'll take some photos share them. To say that I collect nativity sets would be true -- but I will quickly qualify that with the disclaimer that I don't collect "every set I see" by any means. I'm rather picky.  I wait until I find ones that strike me particularly or that display the artistic expressions of one culture or another. I have a few that are nostalgic more than anything else. Yes, I'll have to show you some of my favorites.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Day for Giving Thanks

If I have 1,000 things for which I am thankful, am I necessarily fuller of thanks than if I have 50 things for which I'm thankful?  I I think that my thankful-fullness is measured by something that is not directly linked to the external things that we connect that gratitude to when we try to define why we are thankful.  

If I've lost you, go have another turkey sandwich and take a nap. Really. It won't hurt my feelings.

I guess what I'm thinking about is that the circumstances for which we often say we are thankful may be WHAT we are thankful for, but they are not WHY we are thankful. 

Of course,  now my mind wanders to Madame Blueberry (one of the Veggie Tales) and Stuff Mart. Considering that I spent a bit of  my day combing newspaper ads, looking f0r great deals on stuff I don't need and didn't even want until I was looking at said ads, this is a rather interesting rabbit trail. In it, Madame Blueberry who has all the stuff she can get her hands on and who loves to shop for more stuff encounters a family that is rather "poor" in a traditional sense of measurement, but extremely rich in reality. 

Annie the Green Onion teaches her (through a song -- these are musical cartoons, after all) that a thankful heart is a happy heart. This young vegetable seems to understand that thankfulness is grounded in a contentment that comes from understanding what is and what is not important. 

I'm trying to pay more attention to that these days. I'm trying to listen more to what God says about me and life and stuff and less attention to what everyone else says. As I do that, my sense of thankfulness and contentment grows. 

And, Black Friday -- if it serves you well and if you enjoy it, then by all means set your alarms and have at it. Me, I'll be nestled all snug in my bed at least until the sun is up.  


I thank God for this day,
For the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad,
For my piece of apple pie!

For our home on the ground,
For His love that's all around,
That's why I say thanks every day!

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
I'm glad for what I have,
Thats an easy way to start!

For the love that He shares,
'Cause He listens to my prayers,
That's why I say thanks every day!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

iTunes: Recommendations?

In celebration of a recent milestone event in my life which I blogged about incessantly (Look at my self control to not say THE NUMBER here and to not link you back to half a dozen blogs from September, October and November!), I received some iTunes credit. 

I have some music (and a couple iPhone apps) in  mind, but know that I've been rather out of the loop musically and am wondering if anyone would recommend anything. 

Share ONE SONG with me that you've loved in the past year. Please. (Thank you.)  

I'm going to make a PLAYLIST based on recommendations from this blog. (Could be a short list.)   I may already own some of the tunes you recommend and will purchase others. 

I'm listening....(or I will be, soon).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thinking about what motivates

I hear that a child does not have access to clean water, nutritious food, and a basic education. 

I have resources (hands & feet to serve, a relationship with the God of the Universe who can do anything and who has invited me to ASK him on behalf of others for his blessing and care, cash and a knowledge of reliable, well-run organizations who know how to provide those things) that could meet those needs.

Do I act or not? And why?

I hear that 1/3 of the language communities on earth do not have a single verse of the very Word of God in the language they understand.

I have resources (see above) that could meet those needs.

Do I act or not? 

I hear that thousands of women and children are bought and sold into the sex slave business each year.

I have resources. What do I do? Or not do?

I'm not feeling guilty this morning as I write this and don't intend to may you feel guilty as you read it. (What God intends for you is His work.) I am investing myself and my resources. I have made justice for the oppressed, freedom for the enslaved, and inclusion for the marginalized a priority. 

What I'm thinking about this morning is how different people I know who are investing themselves and their resources in Kindgom building, lifve-saving work around the world -- people who would also say that they have made these things (justice, freedom, inclusion) a priority in their own lives -- are doing so in such different ways. 

No individual can do it all. No individual is expected to do it all. That is, in fact, totally contrary to how God designed things. 

Together, however, the Church has the resources to do this work. As the body of Christ we are surely called to the mission of Christ, empowered by the Spirit of Christ and taught by the Word of Christ. Not individually, but as a whole, we march into hell and set the captives free. 

So I rejoice that, for example, in Uganda or India you can see expressions of the Church in local churches as well as through the work of of World Vision and Wycliffe and International Justice Mission. Whether the partnerships are focused or not, there is ONE God who binds us together in perfect unity in Christ. It really is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thinking about prayer on Wycliffe's annual DAY OF PRAYER

Most of the following text is from Wycliffe USA's website. Today is the Wycliffe World-Wide Day of Prayer and I've been thinking about why we pray...why I pray. Folded into the text from the web are some of my own observations... ideas... wonderings... questions.

God has called us into a relationship with Himself. Relationships require communication. Prayer is communication between a holy God and a beloved you and me. Throughout God's Word we're taught the significance and role of prayer.

In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me in earnest, you will find Me when you seek Me” (Jeremiah 29:12,13, NLT).

God wants to be in relationship with us. And He knows we need what He can give. Through prayer, we experience life-transforming, life-renewing intimacy with the Creator of the universe.

Life-renewing. I need that today. I could stop right there and have more than enough reason to be praying. As much as I will tell you (and I won't be making it up when I do) that I'm loving the work/ministry I've been called to for this season of my life, it wears me out. And it isn't the kind of weariness that is renewed by sleeping in on a Saturday morning. It requires a renewal that is deeper and that comes from a supernatural source. I am so desperately in need of God. My "independent, American, self-sufficient" self fights against that neediness sometimes -- but I'm growing in my willingness to submit myself to God's way. That means relying on HIM for everything.

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. May Your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing” (Psalm 143:10, NLT).

We learn more and more about His character and how His perfect will is working itself out in our own life. Deepening our understanding of God also deepens our faith and desire to worship.

I love the way that spending time with God does not lessen my desire to spend time with Him.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT).

We have a Heavenly Father who is more than able to bring victory to any challenge we face. God is a spiritual and physical healer. Like any healthy relationship, we must keep a line of communication open.

It amazes me that the God of the Universe -- the Creator and Sustainer of life -- the Holy One who is King and Priest and Prophet -- the Perfect and Beautiful Sovereign of all invites me to bring all of myself and all of my need directly to Him. He provides the mediator in Himself -- through Jesus and the Holy Spirit who lives in me. Only God would even think of such a way.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results” (James 5:16b, NLT).

It is through prayer, that His work is accomplished on earth. The apostle Paul continually asked for prayer in his missionary endeavors and saw prayer as vital to his success.

I have been catching myself saying things that many of us say about prayer. "All I can do is pray" we say -- almost apologetic that we can't do more. "Well, let's just...ask God," as if this is not enough, but it's all we can muster up the strength to do. Are you kidding me? I'm trying to let God change my thinking about prayer -- to alter my own sense of it's priority and place in living. I want it to be the FIRST thing I do, the MOST I can offer in support of others -- not as some religious excuse to not get involved, to not roll up my sleeves and sweat a bit when there is work to be done.

“If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask Him, and He will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking” (James 1:5, NLT).

As we become increasingly aware of our limitations, we can rest in the knowledge that our God is omniscient. Availing ourselves of God’s counsel is a blessing of prayer.

Ask Him. I need to do more of that. I don't want to get into a habit of charging on ahead of God as if I somehow intrinsically know what He wants me to do all the time. Then again, I don't want to sit around sipping prayer-tea in a closet where I am safe and warm if there is work to be done with the praying -- that is, if God's intention is to use me to accomplish what He wants to accomplish. This, for me, is what makes it so important that I am in constant communication with God. I need to be listening all the time to what He says.

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22, NLT).

Our hearts pound with great confidence as we take mighty tasks to our exceedingly mighty Lord.

Recently I have experienced this great confidence as we are taking steps of bold obedience as an organization in launching the Last Languages Campaign. I must confess that I have also experienced a host of emotions that fight against this confidence -- fear, loneliness, anger, self-righteous frustration, and on it goes. I am so aware of my own weakness, my own tendency to take credit for things that God has done through me, my own leanings toward loving comfort and ease, my own sin-nature and too often I forget that it is CHRIST IN ME that is the source of hope. Not ME.

Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:41, NLT)

With prayer, you always have a proven shield of protection available. Just say the word.

...and yet, how often do I delay saying the world because I like sin. Momentarily. I like to grumble when others are not cooperative or when circumstances challenge my plans. Grumbling feels good. I like to turn to food (especially certain foods) when I am needing comfort. It is easier to tarnish someone else's reputation and take the spotlight off my own issues through a well-turned but cutting remark than it is to own my shortcomings and build others up. But in the end, destruction. We don't have to live that way. God promised.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Last Languages Celebration: INVITATION

As Wycliffe prepares to launch the Last Langauges Campaign -- our response to Vision 2025 (a vision to see Bible translaiton programs started in every language where it it is needed by the year 2025) -- I've been focused on planning the "launch" party.
The party is known as the Last Languages Celebration. I would love to see you here if you are in the area.

Friday, November 07, 2008

47th Birthday Cupcake Extravaganza

I'll write about the cupcake fun later, but for now I wanted to post a link (click on the blog title above) to all my non-Facebook-addicted friends so you can see the photos from today. I think that you can see these images even if you do not have a Facebook profile. That is what I was led to believe. Hmmm. Can anyone confirm that?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

47 Treats and a VERY DISCIPLINED Cootie!!

Deb arranged 47 dog bones into this lovely 47...and kept Cootie from eating any of them. Do you see why I think Cootie is the coolest canine in the world?!!  (Yeah, she had the hat on with the balloon on top, but I think she decided it didn't go with her outfit.)

XL7, FOUR eXampLe

Almost 47 days ago, I invited people to join me on a journey. That journey is about to end. Tomorrow I will be happily handing out 47 cupcakes that I will have baked and decorated myself. I will be turning 47 years old (same age as our president elect).

If I were giving out fabulous prizes for "47" images, I might have categories like "Most Inspirational 47" and "Most Contrived 47" and "47 Which Traveled the Greatest Distance to Be Here" and others. There would be winners in every category.

Lisa found some interesting and quirky 47's including this image of Globular Cluster 47 Tucanae -- a bunch of stars known to some affectionately as 47 Tuc.

I already posted the two-image set that Kristy sent that I'm calling "Flaming 47 - Before" and "Flaming 47 - Burning."

Sandy sent a set of images she collected in Thailand and I posted some of those previously. I'll repeat one of those because it is one of my favorites (not that I don't love all 47's). Really, I just like tuk tuks and have made
interesting connections with them this year, including one we found (well, a tricycle, actually -- they are called different things and have variations in different countries) on Palawan.

My friend Nadine CLARK made me a birthday card I like a lot -- for more than one reason. (And this, of course, got to me thinking about the business of greeting cards and how we don't make cards as much as we used to. Then I thought about all the people I know who actually DO make things like greeting cards. But, I digress.)

This last image is one of the ones that Charlene sent - giving credit for spotting this one to Mark. If you were not introduced to Roman numerals at some point in your education, this one will elude you. That may be why I like it so much - it is the dryness of the humor, perhaps. When they had time to go looking for 47's in the midst of their last weeks before moving to Ukraine is beyond me and just like them.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

NOVEMBER 08: Last Languages e.postcard invitation

If you are a U.S. citizen who is 18+, I have one thing to say to you:

Exercise this right. 

Take seriously this responsibility.

And then (lest you forget) remember something terribly important: GOD IS GOD. 

He will neither be surprised or frustrated or relieved about the outcome of this (or ANY) election. 

He is sovereign. 

He has a plan.

I've said it before, but I'll risk redundancy: It is good for us to ask questions and debate issues and support candidates with our vote -- and then it is good for us to simply relax. 

Trust God. 

"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."  

My hope is not built on Washington or Wall Street; not on the House or Senate or the Supreme Court or the West Wing. Leaders (good and bad and everything in between) come and go. 

Jesus said, "I am with you -- always -- even to the end of time." 


After you vote, maybe you want to reward yourself with a free donut from Krispy Kreme or free ice cream from Ben & Jerry's or free coffee from Starbuck's. This is, after all, the land of the FREE. 

Monday, November 03, 2008


At the end of Exodus 17, we read of the battle that Joshua lead against the Amalekites -- the one where Moses stood on a hillside and watched and as long as he held the staff above his head, Joshua had the advantage. 

I've always liked this image of Moses demonstrating Israel's total reliance on God in this kind of symbolic prayer with Joshua demonstrating their total reliance on God by actually going out there and fighting. Both men were being obedient. Beyond that, I really love the reminder that even the greatest leaders need others to hold their arms up -- Aaron and Hur were with him and saw his need and joined him in the work.

This morning I was looking again (as I was finishing up the last couple of questions for BSF so I would be ready for small group tonight) at the last verses where Moses sets up a memorial of this event and names it "The Lord is My Banner."  (I had to look in the KJV to find "Jehovahnissi" and then NLT to find "Yahweh-nissi." Bible Gateway sure makes this kind of thing easier.)

The thing is, I don't readily know that that means. I don't have a banner in my day to day life, so I had to think about it. Now, what I'm about to say will totally offend someone and I assure you that is not my intent. 

As I considered what this means for me -- what application I can draw from this image of God as my Banner -- I was suddenly thankful for the Harry Potter books which are set in a boarding school that is divided into four houses and each house stands under a banner. That banner is more than a flag or a shield or a crest -- it is a long-established reputation and identity, a sign of belonging and a means of definition, a point of unity and a declaration of intent. 

So, if God is my Banner, that means I am not only defined by Him, I am protected by Him. I wear His colors. I submit myself -- my individual desires and comfort -- to His mission. 

In that context, the rather silly song we used to sing at camp has a little more something to it-- "Jesus is the Rock of my salvation. His banner over me is love."

Saturday, November 01, 2008

NOVEMBER 08: e.postcard update

As always, you can click on this image and it will open full-size in the browser window.


Uh huh. It is officially November.

Big month in my world.

I know, you're thinking that this is just one more self-promoting blog about my 47th birthday on November 7 and the post where I was kind of hoping 47 different people would add a comment. Well, that is not the point of this posting, but since you brought it up... there is still time.

Two things are scheduled to occur this month that will significantly impact my life for a long while. Deep breath.

Mark and Charlene Canada are moving to Ukraine where they will live and serve with SEND Int'l -- they leave on November 6.

I am 110% supportive of this next step of obedience for them and I am thrilled to see how God has orchestrated so many details and provided perfectly so far and fully anticipate He will continue to do so in the future. I can't wait to see the ways that God uses them in His work of redemption and restoration in the lives of they will serve.

But none of that changes that fact that these dear friends who have opened their lives and home to me over the past decade are not going to be where I can get to them very easily -- at least not in the ways I have before. Yes, I am thankful for the technology that will make this all so much easier. Skype. Email. Facebook. All good. But it's not like being able to hop on a plane and be with them in just a couple hours once or twice a year. I'm feeling very much like I felt when I joined Wycliffe and drove to Florida to live -- filled with expectation and excitement and peace and also filled with an aching sadness that just is.

The other thing is the November 22 Last Languages Celebration that will mark the launch of the Last Languages Campaign for Wycliffe. Both the event (which I've had the privilege to coordinate) and the campaign (which I'm fully committed to in every way) are stretching my horizons and growing my faith.

When I see the ways that God is orchestrating things so that He will be glorified in ways that are beyond our imagining, it takes my breath away. I truly believe that this leg of the journey for me will include things that will set my grew-up-baptist feet to dancing!! I also believe that I will face bigger tests and greater challenges than I've known before.

Today, at the beginning of November, I feel like I've finally made it to the font of the long, long line that twisted through the amusement park and have just buckled myself into my seat of the tallest, fastest, longest, craziest coaster of my lifetime.

My heart is pounding.

I may puke.

The very real smile on my face isn't hiding the also very real tears in my eyes. And truly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, October 31, 2008

trio:: glass, stone, coin


I'm not a big fan of this holiday -- certainly not a fan of the way it has become second only to Christmas in consumer spending! That is ridiculous. And while I could get into a discussion of the reasons that followers of Christ should not celebrate this day v. why it is okay to let your kids go out and get free candy, that's not my intent.  

Here is what I think about when halloween comes around -- when I was a kid, I loved this holiday. It was not about the candy (though I did like that part) or the parties so much as the COSTUMES!!

I love costumes. I don't remember ever purchasing a costume (pieces, such as wigs and hats, yes) -- mom either made them or we created them from things we had in the house already.

Ahhhhh....the good old days. :)

And for those who don't know -- I still love costumes. Here is one I created a few years ago for a party (New Years Eve, actually) and then used again for a halloween gathering a couple years later. It was a lot of fun to make. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Global _________ Crisis

While in Asia this past Spring I was reminded the view of the world from the U.S. is very different than the view of the world from about anywhere else in the world. Now, I'm not a news junkie, so the fact that I miss some current events is not totally uncommon -- but I generally am aware of the big stuff (measured in breadth of impact or duration). 

So, watching the news (BBC World mostly) from one hotel television or another in the Philippines, I was introduced to the Global Food Crisis.  Did you know that there is a Global Food Crisis?

I am very aware of the Global Financial Crisis -- knew about it almost before it was yet declared a crisis. 

A blogger (known to me as "R") whose writing I enjoy commented on this very thing recently. She referenced an editorial cartoon that I've seen pop up in a few blogs this past week -- one that is poking a bit of fun at the ignorance of the wealthy.  (This cartoon appeared in The Daily Nation -- a Kenyan news outlet.)

This is just one more reminder that my perspective is so very limited. I must remember that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Made in Africa

While this video is about innovation and technology and Kenya, it also speaks beyond those parameters. If you like IDEAS or are motivated by CREATIVITY or if you love KENYA, you'll want to watch this.

The subject is interesting, but it is not important that you either understand the complexities of the technology or even see the importance of leveraging social media for the greater good.

What is important is how this will likely push you to take Africa out of the box you'd put it into. That alone is worth the 4:14 it will take to watch it.


Russ Hersman (friend and colleague whose office is next door to mine) sent me a link to this video in an email. He is the appropriately proud father of the speaker/storyteller in the video.

Edde Arthur (friend and colleague who is the Director of Wycliffe UK)
blogged about it. And now I'm blogging about it too.