Friday, June 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nancy!!

Today is Nancy's birthday. 

I started to blog about it this morning and then realized that the photos I wanted to use were on my laptop at the office -- so I stopped (after typing the title) and planned to upload the pics and write this at lunch time. Yeah, not a very effective plan for this day.

This may sound strange to you, but one of my favorite things about Nancy is that she asks for my help. It wasn't long after we'd met that she started paying attending and asking questions and figuring out what I like to do and am pretty good at doing. Then...when she needed help with something that I do well or really enjoy, she'd ask. I love that. Love it both for getting to do stuff I like to do and for getting to be a real help to her. 

Nancy thinks deep thoughts and finds ways to talk about them -- and helps other to think those deep thoughts with her. She takes what she reads and hears from others and mulls it around and shares it generously. 

She also prays bold prayers. Prayers that reflect the wonder and strength of our God. 

Being friends with Nancy means I laugh more, think more, pray more. 

It also means that I'm more likely to keep plodding forward when things get hard -- moved ahead by her cheering. Her encouragement isn't hollow and therefore I can find real courage from her words.

Happy Birthday, my friend!  Thank you for shining your light! 

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Catch! (1952)

This photo was taken on a Friday night June 1952 at my parent's wedding. Yep, that's them at the top of the stairs -- my mom is flinging her flowers at her friends.

I've alwasy liked this photo.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

SWF-46 seeking...


(I know, that is the quintessential "Sunday School" answer. Forgive me for saying something that can sound so trite. Also, let me assure you that this is not a blog about how if and when single women find their contentment in God alone, then He will bring Mr. Right along. I know some women whose life experience fits this pattern -- but I know a whole lot more whose life does not. At all. But...I digress.)

This morning I've been thinking about what it means to seek hard after God?  

I know that it involves studying His Word, but I don't think it means 24/7 Kum By Yah  (if you want to watch a video of a Kum By Yah tuba solo, follow that link to YouTube -- it is just what I said,  nothing fancy). 

I know it also involves our relationships with other humans -- and all of us in various stages of seeking after and hiding from God and each other. 

No ending to this thinking today...just thinking.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Knott's Berry Farm

I recently shared this story with a friend -- it is a story I've often told about myself.

When I was 8, my family (Mom, Dad and I) went to Knott's Berry Farm in California. Sometime in the afternoon my parents announced that we were going to eat at the real restaurant there -- where they served their "famous" fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits with Knott's Berry jams and jellies (you get the picture) and I told them I wasn't much interested. In fact, I was just plain cranky about the whole thing.

I don't remember much of the next hours which did include standing in line to eat in this place I really didn't even want to eat in -- but I do remember my mom telling me that I was just hungry and hot and tired and once I had some food in my stomach, it would all look better.

I doubted it.

In fact, I was certain that she was totally wrong.

My parents ordered for me from the menu because I would not make a choice (which was especially funny since there wasn't much choice to make). I didn't want any of it. The food came rather quickly and I was told I was required to at least try everything.

It was the most delicious meal I'd ever eaten. The sun came out from behind the dark clouds, the birds began to sing again, life was good and I loved everyone.

That day became a defining moment for me. As I continued to grow into adolescence and into adulthood, when I had lost perspective in one way or another, my mom would ask me whether or not I though this might be a Knott's Berry Farm kind of thing. When it was, just realizing that often enough gave me the strength to "keep standing in line and to take that first bite."

These days, my Knott's Berry Farm experiences usually relate to meals that are figurative rather than literal. Sometimes they come when I am too busy to be consistently and deeply connecting with God through his Word.

They also come when I let various things get in the way of connecting consistently and deeply with friends. I've been watching myself long enough to know that sometimes when I'm most in need of the support of friends, I isolate myself from them. Why? I don't want to humble myself and reveal my own brokenness. I don't want to burden people with my baggage. I don't want to "need" anyone too much. There are all sorts of reasons I do this. You can add to this list because some of you do it too.

Here is the thing that is absolutely amazing to me: when I am in a Knott's Berry Farm season in my life, God, in his great and gracious mercy does not leave me standing alone out in the heat and in my own misery. Not for long, anyhow. He moves me along and places an order and provides a table and some AC -- and he usually does it through people. He humbles me so I will let him lift me up. I love that about him.

While some people seem to think that when we are good, God pours out his blessing, I've found that God pours out his blessing NOT AT ALL based on my goodness or badness, but according to his character. It is not about me at all -- though it is an invitation for me to join him in the pouring, to be a vessel or channel of himself in the lives of others.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Different Kind of Java Jive

I think one of the reasons that this statement spoke to me is that I have found coffe everywhere I've ever traveled (a limited list, mind you -- certanily not making any blanket "everywhere" statements myself) -- and I've found that it is commonly available. That is, regular people in the course of their lives consume coffee. While a Mocha Frap at Starbucks can be out of reach financially to the average person in the places where it is sold, a regular cup of joe is fairly accessible.

Just got me thinking. When I think, I often doodle (either on paper with a pen or on a computer screen using PhotoShop).

Giving credit:

I found the image of the coffee cup on a website (using Google Image Search) for Fair Trade Norfolk. It was on their DOWNLOAD page with this information:

Coffee with a conscience - linking producers and consumers the world over.
Dimensions (in pixels): 2007 x 1772
Size: 487 KB
Copyright: Co-operative College

I found the statement on a colleagues's blog and really liked it. I do not know if it was original with them or if they heard it somewhere else. If I find out, I'll let you all know. I like to give credit for things when I am able to do so and dont' want to take credit for things that aren't mine.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Really, how many pictures of meetings....

...can I post on my blog before you all revolt?

I've been engaged in a thing with Wycliffe for the past few months called the "Member Support Initiative."  (Hey, when it is an internal deal, we don't try so hard to name things in ways that people not involved with the will understand. Sorry.)  Essentially it is an initiative with the goal of making Wycliffe's supported staff (of which there are thousands working world-wide) more effective and more efficient in the part of their ministry that is "deputized fundraising." 

I started to try to explain what all we are doing and realized that the details are not that interesting unless you are inside the process or deeply impacted by it. (Aren't we all grateful for the DELETE key?)

Yesterday we heard reports from the teams that make up the two working groups and I was greatly encouraged by the careful, creative and courageous thinking, exploration and planning that is going into this. It is fun to watch. 

Monday, June 16, 2008

Trash Days

Occasionally I ride my bike around the neighborhood early in the morning. I did that today, in fact. When I do this on Mondays and Thursdays, I learn a lot about some of my neighbors. You see, those are trash pick-up days and I'd estimate that 25% or so of my neighbors put their trash out the night before.  

You can learn who got new stuff and who did a home-improvement project and who did major yard upkeep.  There aren't as many large items out on Monday, since Thursday is officially the day for that -- but I did see a free-standing porch swing on the curb. It was in horrid condition, so no temptation there.

I grew up (age 9-14) in a south suburb of Chicago where trash picking was not only allowed, it was expected. In fact, if you were going to toss something out that someone else could use, it was almost rude if you did not put it out early AND outside of any sort of container. Once trash picking is in your blood, it's hard to look at a pile of discarded stuff on the curb the same way as you did when it was just trash.

A few years ago I was with my friend Charlene and we'd been talking about a decorating project that she and another friend were working on together. I suggested that it would be great if we could just find a pair of wooden shutters in someone's trash (they were on a tight budget) and just then we passed a house that had put some shutters at the curb. We pulled over quickly and helped ourselves. If I dig around I might be able to find a photo of those things cleaned up and painted and hung on the wall. 

I didn't see anything I wanted or needed on the curb today, but I looked. You just never know...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"spit and slide under"

I would like to be in Indianapolis today where, in a few hours, there will be a celebration of the life and ministry of JoAnne Fields. I grew up knowing her as Jo. She and my mom (and the other two women - Lois and Lois - in the photo taken in 1971 in Indianapolis) were college friends at Bethel in Minnesota. In fact, these three women were in my parent's wedding in 1952.

As I kid, I met Jo (and her husband, Don and their two daughters -- who were "way" younger that I) a number of times. I felt like I knew them (especially Jo) more than I did because of Mom's stories.

Then, when we moved to Indianapolis in 1976 (as I entered high school) we connected again. Fields lived in that city. Jo and the girls (Becky and Debi) took Mom and I to the important places in Indy that first year we were there -- the Tea Room at Lazarus downtown, the shoe store (what was the name of that place?) where the shoes flew in wire baskets up to the second level -- places like that. Maybe even the Art Museum.

Eventually (1991-ish) I ended up at Faith Church where Fields had been going "forever." There I grew to appreciate Jo's keen intellect and wit, her warm and unpretentious hospitality, and her deep love for God and his Word.

I remember going over to their house one Sunday for dinner. I was accustomed to people feeling the need to impress one another -- even if they didn't admit it out loud -- by serving fancy recipes on the best dishes in their clean-for-company house. Jo was running around the house barefoot, there was a little dust on the piano, and we ate regular food at a regular table.

And it was WONDERFUL.

She engaged help in the kitchen -- put people to work -- and made sure that everyone was included in conversation. I'm not sure I'd ever met anyone who was less impressed with title, rank, age or social standing or more engaged with people as valuable, beloved image-bearers.

I eventually learned to call her JoAnne (like everyone else at the church) without hesitation. Somehow, though, when I received the email from Debi saying that she died midday on Wednesday of this week, my heart and mind returned to Jo.

Jo taught me how to do inductive Bible study. I imagine that the group gathering at Faith Church this morning will include dozens upon dozens of people who can say the same thing. Jo love the Word and taught others to love it as well - and to love the One whose Word it is. She also taught (and wrote) on Personhood which impacted me personally and which I've often used in training I present for others.

Jo was one of the people who, when she came to visit at the hospital just after mom's stroke, Mom received with joy. Jo would come to the doorway and knock and identify herself. Mom would respond, "spit and slide under." And they would laugh and the stories would start.

This "spit and slide under" thing started back when they were at Bethel.

So, when Debi sent me this color photo (taken in 1991 when they all gathered in Indy for Debi's wedding) on Wednesday afternoon, she share a thought that I'd already had.

It was a mental picture of my mom meeting hers at the "gates" and the two of them going through this ritual.

Knock, knock. "It's Jo Fields."

"Spit and slide under..."

Laughter. Laughter without any more of the pain or uncertainty. And I don't think it has stopped yet.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chicago Dog

My friend Sandy went to Chicago for meetings this week and I asked her (via FaceBook, of course) if she'd get me a Chicago Dog and ship it to me. This is what she sent me instead.

It arrived just minutes ago. I watched it on one monitor while Skype-ing with her (now home in Dallas) on the other monitor from my office in Orlando. I laughed out loud. More than once.

I really do hate being separated from friends and family -- time and space can be rather annoying limitations on our human lives -- but technology is making it more possible to connect. Love that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nard Pugyao

Nard told his story -- a story of a gracious and powerful God who is on mission -- in our weekly gather at the Wycliffe office in Orlando this morning. I won't try to re-tell his story since you can read it for yourself online if you are interested.

Here is my take-away, the thing that God impressed on my heart and mind as I listened to this story: GOD IS ON MISSION. He is not surprised by the events that knock us off our feet.


Nard -- a young man from a headhunting , isolated language community -- called to be a missionary pilot for a season and now serving as "Strategic Partnership Faciliator" for Wycliffe International for the Asia-Pacific area.

Me -- a woman if very northern European decent who grew up in communities where the klan was active -- serving with Wycliffe in a leadership role that includes responsibility for strategies that move us toward "building a multi-ethnic workforce and becoming a biblically inclusive community. "

What about you? What molds has he broken in your calling? What expectations did he explode to get you into your current place of service?

Stuck in my Head?

I wish I could say (honestly) that I wake up every morning with a song in my heart (or even my mind), but I don't. Morning is not my specialty. I have to get up earlier than some people who are better at morning because it takes me so long to ramp up for the day. Those of you who see me before 9 AM with any regularity may find it hard to believe that I've already been working at being awake and conversant by then.

Anyhow, that wasn't really the point.

Today I woke up with a song stuck in my head. I know it's not the song playing on the radio when my alarm went off because I woke up and got up before the alarm today. And yes, we did sing this song at Northland on Sunday -- but it was one of many songs. 

"Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord...we will wait upon the Lord." 

I am certainly aware that we are in a unique position of waiting on God right now. As one ministry supporter who is in her own personal season of waiting on the Lord told me recently, "there aren't magazines in this waiting room." 

"Our God, You reign forever -- Our hope, our strong deliverer..."

Yes, we do need to constantly remember that God is not impacted by all the things that make some things seem more or less difficult, complicated, challenging, or amazing. Eternal. Omnipotent. Sovereign. Our God is all of these and more. We...I need to remember every day that God is God.

"You are the everlasting God...You do not faint, You won't grow weary."

This is especially powerful when I am often weary and do grow faint. My passion, my focus, my determination, my commitment all fade at times. If I rely on my own endruability (I made that up...but it's my blog, so that's okay), I will fail with great consistency.  

"You're the defender of the weak -- You comfort those in need -- You lift us up on wings like eagles..."

I think sometimes when I sing this song I picture the "weak" as a "them" who are outside of my circle of friends and colleagues. Poor people. The marginalized. The widows and orphans. That is so messed up. I am weak. WE are the weak. WE are the ones, all of us, in need. 

I'm praying that this is not just a matter of having a powerfully written song stuck in my brain, but an anthem that will help me keep my perspective in balance today. 

"Strength will rise as I wait upon the Lord. I WILL WAIT UPON THE LORD."

Nathan Turner is the artist who drew the image I used on this post. You should be able to visit his website by clicking on his name (showing as a link) in this "caption." 

I love his work!  A few years ago while I was preparing some media illustrations for teaching would deliver at a women's retreat, I ran across his work. I knew I wanted to share it and incorporate it into the presentation I was preparing, so I wrote and asked permission to do so. He graciously gave me permission. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Other than time for lunch yesterday and a break right now of about 30 minutes, I have essentially been in meetings since Monday morning at 8:30. I'm not complaining, just stating a fact. I can only complain at my own choice to drink Diet Coke rather than water 5 out of 7 times I went for a beverage...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Patio

A few times each year, either my dad or I get motivated to CLEAN our patio. Yesterday, when dad announced that he thought he'd do some cleaning out there it seemed like a good idea to join him. That means, of course, that the project escalated into one that involved removing almost everything on the patio - hauling furniture out to the yard and hauling plants and other "stuff" in to the kitchen. It also means that we got out the pressure washer. 

And, as if often true, this motivated me to put a few new plants into pots as well as to try a new arrangement for the furniture. 

So, that's part of what got accomplished at my house on Saturday. Something I'm enjoying today.

The patio is one of the places where I can relax. 

It is also a favorite place to think. 

And catch up with friends. I often go out there when I'm chatting on the phone. Those of you who have heard the wind chimes in the background know it's true. 

Some people think it's odd that I have Christmas lights on my patio. I just tell them that they are not Christmas lights, they are PATIO lights. Those things weathered all three hurricanes in 2004. I only had to replace a few bulbs. 

Earlier that summer -- it was one of the years when the Communications department had a boat load of interns around -- a bunch of people were sticking their heads into a huge bucket of ice water on my patio. That was interesting.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The View from the Top

Bob Creson (noted in a recent post as the President of Wycliffe USA) sometimes suggests that the air can get rather thin all the way up in the Offices of the President where we work. 

I suppose it's easy to think that leaders, in general, get caught up in being visionary and forget about the "real world." And I admit that there is a danger of that. One of the things I am learning from my colleagues is the importance of both having a lofty vision and of keeping myself grounded in reality. 

This afternoon the budget committee met to set the 2009 budget guidelines and to make decisions about new initiatives. It is exhausting, in some ways, to simultaneously consider the organization as a whole -- present and future -- while sorting specifics. Balancing questions of impact and risk, priority and purpose. 

The best ways I know of to maintain all of this balance is to hold tightly to the reality that God is God and we are very much NOT -- while also knowing that He chooses to reveal His mind and heart to us through is Word & His Spirit who lives in us. 

After that, it's very helpful to have people in our lives who not only help us to remember that first thing I mentioned (about who is God and who is not) because they know it themselves -- but also people who keep us honest in the little stuff. 

How does that work in my life? 
Straight talk, sometimes. 
Gracious talk at other times. 

And laughter. 

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I think it is a sign...

If you've had the small, individually wrapped Dove chocolates any time recently, you're likely familiar with the fact that messages are written on the inside of the wrappers. I've had a few different messages in my life that I found noteworthy. Most of them are relatively lame.

Today, as our afternoon session was beginning, Russ wandered over to my table and tossed this wrapper my way. It didn't really hold any meaning for him, but he has read enough of my blog to know that I thought the 150 bhat/hour foot massage was one of the best bonus features of our meetings in Thailand. 

Sandy...Maralee...Pam...anyone me at the Pink Shirts in 30 minutes and bring your bhat!

CBN Interview

Bob Creson, Wycliffe USA President (and my boss), interviewed for the show Christian World News produced by CBN (the Christian Broadcasting Network of 700 Club fame) this morning. CBN distributes this show through a variety of outlets across the States and around the world, including TBN where it will air on Saturday (06-07) at 4:30 pm Eastern time. We also understand that the show will be posted on the CBN website on Friday afternoon where it will remain for the week. 

I received the request for this interview on Tuesday just before 5 pm. Thanks to a team effort and a window of opportunity, as well as recently upgraded technology on our media team, we were able to pull things together and get this done. Around 15 people from five organizations living in at least three time zones contributed on our side of the equation. 

We Need Each Other

"The Moru, for instance, have been Christians for a century, yet Mama Ludia (photo), a diminutive priest with wrinkled face and sparkling eyes, could speak at length about the sacrificial practices of her ancestors. This, I realized, is the power of the oral tradition in a culture that has treasured it over centuries, maybe millennia."

In an article on the Duke Divinity School's website, Ellen F. Davis, Professor of Bible and Practical Theology recounts her experiences teaching Leviticus in Sudan. The story is rich with insights and easily read -- don't be intimidated by the words "Divinity School" or "Professor."

One of the things I saw in it is an understanding of the value of the oral tradition. It is too easy for our modern western selves to link "oral" with "illiterate" instead of "non-literate" and make judgments about intelligence or work ethic. Despite all of our political correctness and sensitivity training, we are still often driven to conclusions by our own ignorance and prejudice. 

Another thing I saw is the enormous value to the Church for people from all nations, tribes and tongue to be included. Every people brings unique reflections of the image of God created in them to the whole and every people brings unique understandings of the character of God and the interpretation of His Word to the whole as well. 

In our own arrogance we may think that including people who are "less fortunate" or "less educated" or "less developed culturally" (whatever that is supposed to mean) is rather commendable. Who are we kidding? We need each other. 

I have a very limited capacity to comprehend God. When I am privileged to see God through your eyes because you and I are in a relationship that opens that window for me, my capacity is expanded. I think this is one of the reasons those of us from the States have become almost addicted to short term missions -- we've tasted and seen the goodness of God through the eyes of our brothers and sisters who see Him in ways we don't and found Him to be very good. 

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Wycliffe Leadership Community

Together, thinking and planning. How do we plan well without leaning inappropriately on our smarts, our guts, and our experiences?

How do we keep God's mission and God's heart more than central?

Nouwen on Relationship

When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. -Henri Nouwen

I find that the list from the first category -- those who have provided guidance and assistance and direction -- is long in my life. Long and often very valuable.  

That second list is significantly shorter. And more valuable. 

I am overwhelmed, actually, by how long that shorter list is. I'm not sure where we get (or I get) the idea that significance is measured primarily by longevity, but I am beginning to rethink that premise in my own life. That is not to say that endurance and perseverance are without value -- not at all. But they are not the singular or primary requisite for relational value. 

As I grow to know and love Jesus, different aspects of his character speak to me with varying impacts. One of the characteristics of Christ's love that overwhelms me in all the best ways is that he knows me in my suffering. He walks through the dark places and the high waters with me. 

It is the same with friends. Those who have weathered my storms or who have given me the privilege of being with them through theirs -- not only to weep together, but also to eventually hope together -- these friends are on the short list. 

I need to learn from this myself -- that to be a friend is not always to offer solutions as much as it is to offer myself. Oh to be more like Christ!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Suffering and God's Glory

Ajith Fernando suggests that "Christianity is like sandalwood that imparts its sweet fragrance to the ax that cuts it without doing it any harm in return."

For three days (while I was in Thailand) Fernando took us to Colossians 1:24 and helped us consider a topic that is generally unfamiliar and certainly unpopular among US Christians: SUFFERING. Oh, we may talk about suffering and, when we do, we often connect our suffering to our faith inappropriately -- but mostly we don't understand suffering. My opinion.

The statement I shared above came on the third day when he was relating ways that suffering helps demonstrate the Gospel. How can we understand the glory of Jesus without seeing it through his death? The holy love of God was most completely expressed in suffering -- his, his Son's and ours.

If, as Christians, we only encounter (confront) people at the place where their beliefs clash with ours, we will spend our time condemning "them" for wrong behavior, wrong thinking, and wrong worship. When we are in this place of judgement, the world sees us as arrogant. And our argument is simply that we are right. But is that enough?

Fenando suggests that as we join people in their suffering we demonstrate Christ to them in a way that they can understand. That only in this posture will we overcome the view of the world that we are arrogant.

This was but one point on one day... I am still considering what his teaching means for me. I'm coming back to it now that I've been home for a while because I know I did not get all of the soul-nutrition out of it the first time. Yes, like a cow chewing its cud. I find myself asking the question I often ask, "So what?" If this is true, what does that mean for how I think and how I live?