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.