Monday, October 31, 2005

10 Reasons to Listen Before You Answer- (My thoughts to the article posted below!)

Please read the article titled, "10 Reasons to Listen Before You Answer" by Pastor John Piper that I copied below. It is an amazing article for 2 reasons:

1- I needed it at this point in my spiritual growth.
2- It reminds me how alive and sharp the Sword of God's Word can be to my soul.

One reason I like Pastor John Piper is this: you cannot read ANYTHING of his and walk away saying" Hum, that didn't really apply to me."

Guess what? God's Word does not work that way either.

Answering before listening starts in the mind. Even if I do not verbally interupt a person while they are speaking, where is my mind? Was I fully engaged and attentive? Or was I thinking about what is for dinner?

::Sigh:: so much to work on in this flesh of mine. I have a tendency to say these are "little" issues that I will work on "later". Maybe I do not actually SAY that, but my lack of sensitivity to the small things points toward avoidance than discipline.

It is the small pebble in my shoe that I think I can "live with" for a while. Yet it still leaves a blister when the shoe comes off. Furthermore, the sins that I view as "small" are usually the ones that affect other people the most.

Since I read this article I have seen habits I have of "answering before listening." Listening takes patience. Listening takes time. So, I have started two things...

1- Listen with all of my attention, body language, mind and heart.
2- Do not talk in paragraphs as to make it easier on others to listen to me!

Questions for myself:

1- Who becomes the target of my bad listening skills? My family.
2- Do I answer God before listening? Shamefully, yes.
3- What causes me to answer before listening? Impatience, arrogance, selfishness...
4- Do I want people to listen to me? Yes. (So do the same for them!)

10 Reasons to Listen Before You Answer

Meditation on Proverbs 18:13
October 25, 2005
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

1- It is arrogant to answer before you hear. Humility does not presume that it knows precisely what a person is asking until the questioner has finished asking the question. How many times have I jumped to a wrong conclusion by starting to formulate my answer before I heard the whole question! Often it is the last word in the question that turns the whole thing around and makes you realize that they are not asking what you thought they were.

2- It is rude to answer a half-asked question. “Rude” is a useful word for Christians. It means “ill-mannered, discourteous.” The New Testament word for it is aschÄ“monei. It is used in 1 Corinthians 13:5 where modern versions translate it, “Love is not rude,” but the old King James Version has “Love doth not behave itself unseemly.” This means that love not only follows absolute moral standards, but also takes cultural mores and habits and customs into account. What is polite? What is courteous? What are good manners? What is proper? What is good taste? What is suitable? Love is not indifferent to these. It uses them to express its humble desire for people’s good. One such politeness is listening well to a question before you answer.

3- Not answering a question before you hear it all honors and respects the person asking the question. It treats the person as though their words really matter. It is belittling to another to presume to be able to finish their question before they do.

4- Careful listening to a question often reveals that the question has several layers and is really more than one question. Several questions are all mixed into one. When you see this, you can break the question down into parts and answer them one at a time. You will not see such subtleties if you are hasty with your answer and not careful in your listening.

5- A question sometimes reveals assumptions that you do not share. If you try to answer the question on the basis of your assumptions without understanding the questioner’s assumptions, you will probably speak right past him. If you listen carefully and let the person finish, you may discern what he is assuming that you do not. Then you can probe these assumptions before you answer. Often, when dealing at this level,
the question answers itself. It was really about these deeper differences.

6- Questions usually have attitudes as well as content. The attitude sometimes tells you as much as the content about what is really being asked. In fact, the attitude may tell you that the words being used in this question are not all what the issue is. When that is discerned, we should not make light of the words, but seriously ask questions to see if the attitude and the words are really asking the same question. If not, which is the one the questioner really wants answered?

7- Questions have context that you need to know. So many thoughts and circumstances and feelings may be feeding into this question that we don’t know about or understand. Careful listening may help you pick up those things. It may be that there is just a small clue that some crucial circumstance is behind the question. If you catch the clue, because you are listening carefully, you may be able to draw that out and be able to answer the question so much more helpfully.

8- Questions are made up of words. Words have meanings that are formed by a person’s experience and education. These words may not carry the same meaning for both you and the questioner. If you want to answer what they are really asking, you must listen very carefully. When the possibility exists that their question is rooted in a different understanding of a word, we will be wise to talk about the meaning of our words before we talk about the answer to the question. I find that talking about the definitions of words in questions usually produces the answer to the questions.

9- Proverbs 8:13 says it is our “folly” to answer before we hear. That is, it will make us a fool. One reason for this is that almost all premature answers are based on thinking we know all we need to know. But that is “foolish.” Our attitude should be: What can I learn from this question? The fool thinks he knows all he needs to know.

10- And finally Proverbs 8:13 says that it is our “shame” to answer before we hear. What if you are asked publicly, “My wife and I have had serious problems and we were wondering . . .” and you cut the questioner off by giving your answer about the value of counseling and what counselors might be helpful. But then they say, “Well, actually, what I was going to say was, “My wife and I have had serious problems and we were wondering, now that our counseling is over and things are better than ever, how you would suggest that we celebrate?” Then you will be shamed for not listening.

Still learning to listen with you,
Pastor John

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Marriage 101: "Getting to Know Yourself"

I always find it interesting when I hear people say that “they learned a lot about themselves in the first year of marriage”. Everyone says it! I guess I am not nosey enough to ask what they mean. And since I am not married I have no idea from experience what they are talking about. What do people “learn” about themselves that they did not know already? What would I learn about me that I do not already know?

I can see learning so much more about your spouse in the first year of marriage. You see them eating, drinking, sleeping, lounging, hurt, angry, joyful… in many different settings than before marriage. This is who you have married and there are no secrets now.

So what is it??? What do people learn about themselves??? Would I learn that table manners matter to me? Nope, I already know that. Would I learn that I am frustrated when people talk over me? Nope, I already knew that. Would I learn that I get grumpy when I am tired, aggravated when I am rushed, impatient when I am not listened to? Would I learn that I like a clean kitchen, do not want shoes in the house, love to organize, need my time with God to stay sane, etc. Would I learn that I can be proud, happy, impatient, goofy, sad, glad, serious, sloppy, tired and hungry? I know all these things about myself already! I know where I excel. I know where I need to improve.

So, I have reached two conclusions. First, either I am so ignorant about marriage that I will be shocked with the reality of who I am or second, people do not take the energy BEFORE marriage to understand who they are. Wait… one more. And third, people do not take marriage serious enough to fully understand the person they are marrying. So, when the honeymoon is over everyone is panicked with what they have done. Therefore, they learn a lot about themselves and the changes they have to make to who they are to accommodate the other. What, he smacks his food when eating??? Ahhh! You mean she will watch a movie that I don’t think we should see??? Oh no!

And the arguments start. The questions arise. Birth control or not? Alcohol or not? Finances, movies, music, children, theology and the list will go on. What happens to all the fluffy romance that happened before marriage? What about the giggling girl and the strong man? Where are they after marriage? Well, one of the ways to avoid the shock is to have a different perspective before pursuing a romantic relationship. Marriage is sacred. Marriage is holy. Marriage is not a game.

Therefore, my responsibility in preparing for marriage is me and my own relationship with God, my parents, my siblings and my friends. How can I prevent the pain that comes with the “testing first year” of marriage? No doubt there are adjustments that are inevitable no matter how prepared one thinks they are. Yet, I think there are certain preparations that cause a smoother, more enjoyable journey of marriage. There are problems that can be avoided if worked on before one says, “I do.”

The past year my longings to be married have increased. In my relationship with God and at the admonishment of my Godly mother, I am on a quest to know myself completely. I have asked God to give me more sensitivity to my sins. I have asked God to teach me how to be an excellent wife and mother. I am seeking to make HIM the Prince and Lover of my soul. I want to know what causes me to cry, how I act when I am tired, what is important to me and what I expect from my husband. Then, I have begun working on improving my weak spots and purifying my life from sin.

I do not want to meet “the man of my dreams” and then look in the spiritual mirror with panic and scream, “I need to loose weight!” No, now is the time for loosing the “weight” of my bad habits, sins, pet-peeves, frustrations, etc. Now is the time to be “fit” in my disciplines, convictions, passions and pursuits. Now is the time to focus my heart, attention and love on the only One who will ever be able to satisfy my soul- God Himself.

Before you raise your eyebrows too far, let me assure you that I know marriage is hard work. I know there are adjustments. I know it is a huge change. Still, I get frustrated when I see couples who are careless in their relationships, spend so little time preparing and then end up disappointed or shocked when the honeymoon is over. I do not think this pattern is how God designed marriage.

Biblical, God-centered marriage is beautiful. It is pure- in all realms. It is holy. It is glorifying to God. It bears many children. It is sacrificial, loving, caring, devoted, committed, kind and any other God-like attribute you can imagine. A marriage like that needs God’s guidance. Both people must realize who they are, where they have been, who God wants them to be and what marriage is truly about.

So this is what I seek in my own life before marriage. Marriage itself is not the end goal of my life. I will not allow it to consume my thoughts. Yet, I will prepare for it. The end goal of my life is to know Christ, love Him and have faith that pleases Him. THAT will make me better prepared to be a Godly wife and mother. Not chasing the boys, not dating anyone that asks, not even dating “good Christian guys” or “getting to know what I want in marriage by having serious relationships.”

I know what I want in marriage without giving my heart away to those who will not guard it. I know what I want my earthly prince to want in his wife. I will not settle for less.

Call me old fashion. Call me sheltered. Call me ultra-conservative. When I stand pure, ready for marriage, set apart and beaming in front of a man who has done the same for me…

…it will be worth nothing money can buy or minds can fathom.

(I love you, Mom and Dad- the guarders and protectors of my heart, the ones who instilled such fiery conviction into my soul!)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Visit with Pastor Unity- Part 2

Ben and Pastor Unity at our church with the American and Tanzanian flags.

Saying our goodbyes to Pastor Unity- Ben, Samuel and I. My mom, Timothy and Victoria had a meeting to go to the day that we were able to spend several one-on-one hours with Pastor Unity. So, Samuel came along with Ben and I. He called Pastor Unity "Jambo". We think that he thought this was his name because when we introduced Samuel to Unity we said, "Say Jambo." Well, he took that as Unity's name being Jambo! And he loved "Jambo" very much.

I have a story to share from our time with Pastor Unity. When we were in Tanzania, our group was split over three churches the first Sunday we were there. Ben and I were taken to Pastor Unity's church. At the end of the service they have people come forward that need prayer. Pastor Unity asked us, as the guests, to come and lay hands on the people as he prayed for them. Now, I have laid hands on people during prayer as a communication of, "I am here with you." This was different. This was Africa. We were laying hands for healing, blessing... and casting out demons.

Now, I as I said in previous posts, I have been on a journey of believing God- TRULY believing God. This "laying on of hands" experience was a key to the door of belief that opened in my heart last year. I have not grown up in a charismatic home, church or culture. I believe in the power of prayer but have been in environments most of my life that have steered clear of "wild" things in a religious sense. Ha. God shook that foundation out from under me.

A young man had come up for prayer. As we laid hands on him and began praying, something started to happen. A low, deep growl started from somewhere. I opened my eyes and saw that the noise was coming from the young man. I looked at Ben. He was looking too. As we prayed the noise increased. It became more demonic in sound (that is all I can say for what we heard!). It began saying something (in Swahili or Demon- I don't know!). Pastor Unity began to pray (as he told us later) that the demons would be cast out in Jesus' name. I remember hearing him say a phrase over and over again... something that included "Yesu". As he prayed more forcefully, the boy began convulsing and foaming at the mouth. If Percy (a man from our team) and Pastor Unity had not been holding on to him I am sure he would have become violent. In a moment's time all was silent and the boy was limp. A screaming sound rushed through the building and was gone.

The only comment Pastor Unity made in that moment, by way of an explination to Percy, Ben and I was, "We see a lot of demons in this Muslim community. God keeps telling us to believe and cast them out. We see many people released from demons and given freedom."

My heart was heavy and my head was pounding. What had just happened? What had I just witnessed? A demon had been cast out. And I had been there. That prayer meeting was unlike anything I had ever seen in my baptist, calm "prayer meetings" where we pray for Aunt Hilda's toe and Mary Jane's hip.

God was saying to my soul, "Jaclyn, did you see that? That was my power."

"Yes, God, I saw. I SAW!"

"Now, child, what do you think of prayer? Are you going to keep praying as you always have? Are you going to keep believe the lie of the modern day church that prayer is a religious duty?"

"Oh, God, increase my faith!!!"

Now, while Pastor Unity was here he shared what God has been doing in this young man's life since that liberating day last January. He became a Christian and shared Jesus with his whole family. All are believers now. They are at church every time the doors are open. He said that this boy has become a foundation for the newly planted church.

I know what you may be thinking, "Ok, Jaclyn, that is great for this African church, but this is America. "

My response would be this, "We see little because we believe little and we believe little because we see little."

Another story is this...

A few days before we left Africa our team leader shared that we had about $1,000 left. We had over calculated and had money to spend or take home. We wanted to spend it! Our leader shared that Pastor Unity had mentioned to him that they needed a refrigerator. It would cost about $700. Our team was excited to give this blessing to the pastor that had been our guide, leader and encouragement. We left some money for his ministries but wanted to do something special for just him and his family.

So we got a card, all signed it and enclosed the money with specific instructions to buy a refrigerator. (We had to tell him what to do with it or he would have bought food for orphans because he is so generous!!!) We gave it to him at the airport when we left.

When he was with our team last week he shared the story of when he opened the card. He said that a couple months before our team had come to Tanzania that he, his wife and his three oldest children had made a list of prayer requests. He said that they keep the list in his Bible as their secret spot. He said that his children run every day to the list and see if anything has been answered. They had seen God answer every request one by one.

The last thing on their list was a refrigerator. He said that when they opened the card on the way home from the airport, read our note and shared it with his family... he started crying.

One of his children burst out, "Now we can mark it off our list!"

He said to us, "My children know how to call down heaven. And God hears."

Visit with Pastor Unity

A few weeks ago Pastor Unity came to the United States for a conference and to visit with our team that had worked with him in Tanzania. He is an amazing man, has a deep love for God and a heart for his people. He currently serves as a pastor in Moshi, Tanzania. He and his wife also run a village school that started this year. He travels 8-10 hours outside Moshi to deliver food to orphans and widows in the hills around Moshi. God has used Pastor Unity to change my perspective on faith and prayer. Please pray for Pastor Unity and his family as the serve God with all their hearts.
At the Lane's Home- My family with Pastor Unity (above):
Amy, Jaclyn, Victoria, Pastor Unity, Timothy, Tom, Samuel and Ben
Our dear friends- The Lane Family (above):
In Front: Mrs. Lane, William (hunter boy!) and Trevor
With Unity: Samuel, Unity and Sadie
Back: Breann, Shannon, Mr. Lane, Caleb and Chloe

The above picture (l-r Mr. Lane, Mr. Schlachter and Pastor Unity) is from the Global Connections annual fundraising dinner where Pastor Unity was given the opportunity to share what God is doing in Tanzania. Mr. Lane was also asked to give a testimony as a member of our team.

Shannon, Darrah and I at the Global dinner table. (The baby is Summit, Shannon's pastor's two week old baby- number 6!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

When Disaster Strikes

Earthquake. Hurricane. Mudslide. Tsunami. Tornado. Flood. Blizzard. Fire. Disease. Car Accident. Cancer. Murder. War. Stillborn. Death. Pain. Blood. Loss. Pain. Destruction. Devistation. Death. Pain. Blood. Loss. Devistation. Death.

What is happening in our world? What is God's purpose and plan in such disasters?

There is a problem with pain. The problem is always coupled with the question, "If God is a God of love why does He let bad things happen?" There are three options to believe when tragedy occurs:

1- God is not loving so He sends pain to either punish or torture us.
2- God is loving but not all-powerful so He cannot stop bad things from happening.
3- God is loving so He causes and uses bad things to make us more loveable.

Whenever you talk about God there must always be a remembrance of who He is. He is not like us. We cannot fully understand nor explain Him. Whatever we think of Him He is more. All definitions of God cannot help but minimize Him. It is part of His nature to be unexplainable.

As humans we want to explain everything. We want answers. We want to feel good, live comfortably, own nice things and never die. The reality is this: pain is everywhere. Pain is confusing. Humans raise their fits toward heaven and ask, "Why are You doing this to me?" People, who in one moment deny that God exists, will in the next moment after pain say, "God is not loving if He lets this happen." The answer to such criticism is not simple. It is not popular.

The popular answer is, "God is love. God did not cause the tragedy but He can use it for good."

There is a problem with that answer for a couple reasons. First, who then did cause the pain? Certainly not the human upon whom the pain was inflicted. They did not ask for it. They did not directly cause it. So, did Satan cause the pain? He could have, but not without God's permission. God is ultimate, not Satan. (see article 1 below) Could it be God? We are afraid to belive or ask, "Did God cause this pain?" We want to think that God could not cause the pain if He were truly loving.

Therefore, when people say that God is love they assume that love means not causing pain. Yet humans have an odd idea of love in the first place. We somehow picture love as fluffy, sappy, comfortable and self-centered. Truly, though, that mindset is quite unloving. Love is sacrifice, not self-seeking. Love is hard, not comfortable. Love is patient, not demanding. Love is mercy, not carefree. Love punishes. Love protects. Love inflicts pain to bring the better good.

For example: say a bear is near your child in a forest. You quietly warn him of the danger that is approaching. Your child sees the bear and does not obey your warning. Instead he begins to walk toward the danger. The bear starts to run toward your child. What LOVING parent would not throw the child to safety? Even if your child would be hurt by the throw, it would cause him less pain than if the bear attacked. The bear attacks you and your child is safe.

God is the same. He sees a danger in the way we are headed. Sin is chasing us. Sometimes we are chasing it. He must throw us for our own good. Even if we get hurt. Even if there is pain. Our choice to rebel against God (sin) seperated us from our perfect relationship with God. There is now a barrier. We are unlovable in our present state of sinfulness. We are imperfect! Imperfect people cannot love a perfect God in their imperfectness! God used and uses pain to make us more lovable. God uses pain to make us more like Himself. Still there was no pain great enough for humans to carry that would fix the gap in our relationship with God.

Therefore, to show the full extent of His love, God took the brunt of ultimate pain upon Himself in Jesus' death on the cross. John, a man that physically walked with Jesus, saw the miracles, spent time with the Son of God and was present when Jesus was executed explained it this way, "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:9-10) Love is not us loving God. Love is not even God loving us. Love is God sending His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

God is Love in the full measure of the word. He IS. He IS anything that is good. HE IS LOVE. God is not just "loving". GOD IS LOVE. None of us can claim to "be" anything in that sense. God IS love so His actions can be regarded as loving. His loving actions flow from the very Source of Love. Hince, it is impossible to BE love and not produce pain on those whom You love- in order to make them love You. No one can truly fathom that kind of Love.

Furthermore, God would be unloving if He did not first love Himself and second cause us to love Him. If God loved anything above Himself He would be guilty of idolatry and would no longer be God. If He loved us more than He loves Himself He would be human-centered and have no basis for telling us to be God-centered. God's greatest love and pleasure is Jesus (i.e. Himself) Jesus spoke of this often. In John 15 He said, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." It may seem strange to think that God loves Himself but it is also the greatest source of human comfort.

God's love for Himself is what allows us to believe in Him and go to heaven when we die. God is self-centered in this sense, for He desires that we love Him because He is worthy. And that is not wrong for God! God's greatest demonstration of love to us is His sacrifice that made it possible for us to love Him. If we belive in Him, Jesus' death for us and Jesus' resurrection from the dead we will be saved from hell. The pain experienced on earth cannot begin to compare to the eternal torment of being seperated from God forever. Those that reject God completely by stating "a loving God would not cause pain" will one day be subject to the wrath of God's judgement in hell for their disbelief of God's Son.

All pain is a flag that waves to us, "Believe in Me (God). I love you! Love Me." Pain draws us to His side for belief. He comforts, explains and reassures that the pain was not in vain. There is hope! There is a purpose! Still we groan, we wait, we long for the day when pain will be gone. Pain does not exist in the presence of God. All who believe in Jesus' death on the cross will one day be free from pain. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:4-5) Praise God!

" 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Romans 8:18-25

God causes pain in many forms to awaken our hearts to His reality. God causes pain to make us aware of our need for His comfort. God causes pain to keep us from the ultimate pain in hell. God causes pain. He can. He will. He does. He is God. Those who believe in the pain of Jesus on the cross can be freed from eternal pain. (John 3:16-21) Those who believe in Jesus see temporary pain on earth as apart of becoming more like Jesus. (Philippians 3) Although we groan, we wait patiently for the promise of heaven. (Romans 8)

Therefore, for a Christian, pain is not to be avoided. Pain is to be embraced. "But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Romans 8:17

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."
James 1:2-5

Do you see what James said? If you want wisdom you must have trials. Trials usually involve some sort of pain. Paul said that if we want to share in God's glory we must share in His suffering. Pain produces Christ-likeness. Not only does it make us more like Christ, it destoys the fear of pain and the ultimate pain- death.

"Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death- that is the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Hebrews 2:14-15

Pain goes hand in hand with death. BUT, Jesus' death freed those who believe from the slavery to fear of death (and pain!). We died in Christ, were raised in Christ and now live in Him. We are as good as dead to sin. We are alive in Christ! That means we will only go through the process of death to come out on the other side more alive than ever. Therefore, what is there to worry about a little pain? There is no fear of pain or death for the one who throws all his weight on the power of the cross. We are alive as alive can get!!!

Dealing with pain is not easy, even if you are a follower of Jesus. Yet, this is not an excuse to wallow in misery or self-pity when confronted with the problem of pain. Call to God. Cry out to Him. Throw your burdens at His feet. And leave them there. Learn from pain. Remember God's promises in each trial. Use each painful situation to produce strength for the next one. Do not forget to see God's hand and acknowledge His presence. Encourage and support others through their painful times. Bless. Comfort. Mourn. Rejoice!

Please read "The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis. For a taste, see the following quotes:

"His (God's) idea of goodness differs from ours; but you need have no fear that, as you approach it, you will be asked simply to reverse your moral standards. The Divine 'goodness' differs from ours, but it is not sheerly different: it differs from ours not as white or black but as a perfect circle from a child's first attempt to draw a wheel." Chapter 3, page 30

"By the goodness of God we mean nowdays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we man be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness- the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, "What does it matter so long as they are contented?" We want, in fact, not so much a Father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven- a senile benevolence who, as they say, 'liked to see young people enjoying themselves,' and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, 'a good time was had by all'. Not many people, I admit, would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don't, and since I have reason to belive, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.

There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when knidness (in the sense given above) is seperated from the other elementsof Love , it involves a certain fundemental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it. If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense." chapter 3, page 31- 33

"Love, in its own nature, demands the perfectiong of the beloved; that the mere 'kindness' which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love. Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost: but not because it is lost. Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal." Chapter 3, page 38-39

"The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word 'love', and look on things as if man were the centere of them. Man is not the centere. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. [...] To ask that God's love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labor to make us more lovable." Chapter 3, page 40-41

(Those are my favorites from Chapter 3!)

Please also read:
Hebrews 12
Romans 5
Psalm 103
Tsunami, Sovereignty and Mercy by John Piper
The Problem of Evil- Resources by Desiring God Ministries

Friday, October 14, 2005

Casual Weekend

I am looking foward to this weekend with absolute glee. Friday and Saturday seem laid out to be more relaxed than the past weekend. Only God knows, though!

Sunday, on the other hand, will be full. A wonderful kind of full! It will be even better if I can get to bed at about nine on Saturday night. I cannot handle four and a half hours of sleep every Saturday night. I do not care how young people say I am- I still need sleep to stay sane!!!

I am also going to take our digital camera with so that I have pictures to post of our new church. When I post the pictures I will also give more details of what we are doing!

With that said, have a glorious, God-centered, faith stretching weekend!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Wonderful Weekend

This weekend was a full one.

Saturday evening Ben and I went to the annual fundraising dinner for Global Connection International (GCI). (A friend of ours is on the board of directors for GCI. He is the regional director for GCI in Eastern Africa and the man who invited us to go to Tanzania last winter.)

The dinner was located in the Grand Ballroom at the Sheridan Hotel. It was gorgeous, fancy and crowded; there were over 500 people in attendance. The elaborate chandeliers twinkled from the towering ceiling. The guests bustled around the tables to sneak a peak at the centerpieces from around the world.

We arrived a few minutes early and located our table. At our places sat a plate with a huge wedge of lettuce on it. Ben, Shannon, Caleb, Darrah and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. "How are you supposed to eat this?" Ben whispered and we all laughed. It was a good thing we were in the far back corner. We can tend to be a little vivacious. Don't worry, we all minded our manners. But I can say with confidence that our table had the most fun!

The best part of the evening was the reunion of our Africa team with Tanzanian Pastor Unity Msami. Pastor Unity was our host while we were in his country. We spent hours and hours with him and his family. He came to the United States for the GCI pastor's conference. What a joy it was to see his face again!!! Needless to say, it was a late night...

And I had to be up at 5:30am Sunday morning. Ack. Ben and I must be leaving for church BY 7 o'clock. For those who do not know, my brother accepted a Lead Worshipper position (i.e. what some call "Music Pastor"... but does music need a pastor??? Ben likes to call himself the lead woshipper to lead others in worship) for a church plant. The church is located an hour and a half from our home. We join the fellowship for Bible Study, the main service and stay until 5 so Ben can meet with the other musicians. We arrive home around 7pm. Thus, it makes for a very long day.

This Sunday we went home, transfered to the mini van with the rest of the family and headed for Shannon's home- 45 minutes from ours. We had dinner with our Africa team members and Pastor Unity. Pastor Unity then shared with us what is happening in the places where we ministered in Tanzania. He relayed greetings from his precious family, the churches, widows and orphans. I will share the stories in another post.

While we were talking a light snow began to fall. It remained "light" for about 5 minutes. After 20 minutes we were into a full blown snow storm. Yet, we did not leave until about 11:30. It was blizzard conditions with limited sight and a van that was not warming up! Mom prayed for the heater to work, flipped the switch and it did! Praise God! We arrived home safely an hour and 15 minutes later.

We groggily headed inside and fell fast asleep. We awoke to 6 inches of snow! It snowed all day yesterday for a grand total (on the plains) of 8-10 inches. The high country received over 2 feet. Trees are down every where. Huge branches were laying in the road on my way to work. Many trees are split right in two. The snow is so heavy and wet for this time of year! The leaves are still on the trees so the weight of the snow was too much for the trees to handle.

We have lost about 10 big branches so far. You can hear them creaking as the wind blows. You wonder which one will snap next! We have not had any damage to our house, thank You, God. Many have had crushed cars, damaged roofs and broken windows. Ahhh, the joy of living in a snow state! And guess what? This was only the second time Pastor Unity had seen snow! (He was in Montana last week when it snowed there and it was the first time he had EVER seen snow!!!) I am so excited that it snowed while he was here!

And this Saturday... it is supposed to be 75 degrees. Ahhh, I love Colorado!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Friend 3- Unreachable but ever close

Name: Dawn Marie
Age: 23
Relationship: Companion

Never Face to Face
It may shock some of you to know that I have never met Dawn face to face. The way I talk about her most people would assume otherwise. As I type this is seems unbelievable to even me! So how did we meet? How did we become such great... no, amazing friends???

I met a young man named Matt (I'll save you the details of how I met him, Dawn knows!) in the spring of 1999. He lived in Indiana. I lived in Colorado. He and I kept in touch over the years. One day he said he would like me to get to know his new girlfriend, Dawn. I admired and repected Matt, so I was eager to get to know who had captured his heart. Dawn and I began corresponding through emails and instant messaging.

Slowly my communication with Matt became less and less. My transfer of affection quickly moved from Matt to Dawn! (Sorry, Matt ;-) I think I got a good deal out of it and I know you agree!) Matt and Dawn were married in 2004.

I have yet to meet Dawn in person. I cannot begin to count the number of hours we have spent chatting, writing emails, talking on the phone and sending goodies through the mail. I have shared my heart and soul with her, as she has with me. We have talked of silly things and dug to the depths of spirituality as well. She was my comfort and faithful friend through an incredibly painful time in my life. She has been a strength and joy in current trials. She laughs "with" me and cries "with" me. I pray I have been half the friend to her as she has been to me.

Someday, someday...even if it's in heaven.
A while ago Dawn wrote this to me about our meeting in person, "Someday, someday... even if it is in heaven." I would love to meet this precious friend in person. Yet, how awesome would it be to meet her for the first time when we know we have eternity to share together? Hopefully we can meet before then, but who knows when that will be?

Just yesterday Dawn said, "Our friendship is a picture of what our relationship with Christ should be like!!! Talking every day about life events and deep spiritual issues. Learning more about each other...and desiring to always know more. Believing in the other though we have never seen each other."

I cannot agree more!

All About Dawn
Birthday: January 19
Husband: Matt
Children: First baby due March 2006
Colors: She LOVES bright colors like tangerine and yellow. She calls it a "Moroccan Style" or "A Romantic Tropical"
Hobbies: Blogging, knitting, baking, quilting, cleaning, being with friends and chatting with me!
College: The Master's College, California
Degree: Home Economics

Current News
Besides being fairly newly-wed, Matt and Dawn are expecting Baby #1 on march 10, 2006. They also recently made a BIG move from Tennessee back to California. Matt has started training for a fantastic job! They are busy establishing a new home and settling into a fresh era of their lives. And to think that a mere 2 years ago they were not even engaged yet!

How can we have memories "together" you might ask? Well, we do! One of my fondest memories of Dawn is the day she was updating a website for the college she worked at. She had me look at it to see what I thought. She then proceeded to make a change on the website and asked me to go back and look. To my shock, at the very top of the page in BIG BOLD letters she had typed something like this, " JACLYN, WHITE FEMALE, LOOKING FOR A GODLY CHRISTIAN MAN TO MARRY." I thought it was funny... and then told her to take it off before someone saw it!!!

Then there is our sad candy story. We tried to send candy to eachother in the mail from work address to work address. We are convinced there is a candy thief in the post office. He is happy to eat our candy and then place the wrapper BACK in the envelope before sending the letters on their way. Umph.

The Years to Come...
The next few years are sure to hold many changes for Dawn. She will become a mommy. She will make another cross-country move. She will laugh. She will cry.

I am so thankful that through the times to come I know I will have her friendship. It comforts me to know that I have her as a friend. I know that no matter what happens she will be there. I praise God for her, for our unique friendship and for the blessing she has been to me.

I love you, Dawn!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Friend 2- My Adopted Sister

Name: Shannon Rachelle
Age: 18
Relationship: "Adopted Sister"

Hand in Hand
I officially adopted Shannon as my little sister. We decided this while walking down the lane from our safari hut to the dinner hut in the wild mountains of Africa. Shannon said she always wanted a big sister. I told her that when I watched her it was like looking at myself four years ago. Except... I pray that the hardships I have encountered in the last four years will help her avoid making the same mistakes.

All About Shannon
Siblings: 7; Caleb, Chloe, Breann, Samuel, Sadie, Trevor and William
Hobbies: Worship Dance, reading, being with her family, being with homeschooling friends, baking, Springerle molds, hide-and-go-seek in the dark, missions and more!
Movies: I am not sure what her favorite movie is, but I know she enjoys the following: Anne of Green Gables, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and any other good chick flick.
Dreams: Get married, have a dozen children, be a midwife missionary and go back to Africa.
Nickname: Shanny (I have heard her family call her something else but I cannot remember it!)

Cheyenne Frontier Days- meetings, practice, clowning, teaching Eric dance moves, video evangelism (Shannon is AWESOME!), rodeo and Grandma's house.

New Year's Eve- Food, worship, games, hide-and-go-seek in the dark, sparklers and families!

Africa- Too much to say here! Ummm... Orphanages, pastors, dancing, children, heat, food, bug bites, Swahili lessons, walk in Babati, Safari, scaring Stacey, Dutch Blitz in Holland, Amsterdam pancakes, home!!!

Practical Joke Participant
On the note of Africa... one of my funniest memories of Shannon happened while were scaring Stacey. This is definitely worthy of more details:

Meet five kind, loving, good, Christian homeschooling friends: Ben, Bethany, Darrah, Shannon and Jaclyn. They have just been through two exhausting weeks of ministry and missions. They are tired. They are hungry for familiar food. They are relaxing on an African safari. They are feeling mischievous.

Meet the unsuspecting victum: Stacey. She was a third-party participant on the mission trip. Most of the team met her at the airport when they left. She was fun-loving, outgoing, mid-twenties and had voiced fears of being on a safari. She was particularly afraid that lions would attack the tents at night.

During dinner, with Stacey sitting at one end of the table and the friends at the other, they devise a ruthless plan. (The debate continues as to who had the idea in the first place!) Darrah, who was sharing a tent with Stacey, voiced that she would act normal as they readied for bed. The signal for the others would be when their light went off. With most decisions finalized, they finished dinner quickly, rushing off to practice and perfect the scheme.

The safari tents were situated in such a way that it was perfectly possible to walk up without being heard. It was dark. It was late. It was quiet. The four friends gather at the walkway entrance to Darrah and Stacey's tent. They stand 15 yards away trying not to laugh. The light clicks off and the tent goes black. Ben holds a flashlight, to remain off unless absolutely needed. Jaclyn holds a blanket for strategic "rustling grass". Shannon hold a water bottle for "comedy effect". Ben and Bethany prepare their feet. They had practiced their stomp to be as loud and rythmic as possible.

They sneak around the side of the tent to where Stacey and Darrah's heads lie inside. The stomping becomes louder. Ben snorts and growls. Jaclyn swishes the coat in the brush. Ben reaches his long arm, as they all surpress laughter, towards the tent to the very place where Stacey's head should be. He begins a quiet scratching and progressively gets louder. Suddenly Ben stops and nods his head toward Shannon. Slowly Shannon pours the bottle of water out on the ground. When she is done Ben gives a satisfied snort. (Shannon was about ready to DIE of laughter!!!)

The friends hear a voice. The voice belongs to Stacey as she frantically yells for our team leader, "Dave!" Then all becomes quiet again. We begin our animal impersonation again and she cries, "DAVE! CAROL! (Pause) DAVE! CAROL!" At this point the group outside cannot contain their giggles. They move toward the door... and BURST into laughter!

The entrance to the tent is opened to reveal a truly scared Stacey and a laughing Darrah. Darrah had played along with Stacey's fright, even saying things like, "Do you hear that?" and "It sounds like it is right outside our tent." Stacey shares that the place where Ben was scratching was at the exact spot where she had placed her snacks. Duh, Ben knew that for he had been in her tent during the planning.

Stacey tells the friends," I never would have guessed that you five, Christian, nice, Godly... and especially HOMESCHOOLED friends were capable of pulling off such a grand plan."

We have it all on video too.

Mission Minded
Anyone who meets Shannon cannot help but learn one thing about her. After talking with her for five minutes it shines through. She is passionate about missions. Missions at home and missions abroad. She has a love for culture, people and spreading God's fame. I remember talking to Shannon while in Africa. On this particular day we had been served a half a dozen warm sodas. Some members on our team were beginning to openly complain. Not Shannon. Shannon drank every single one. She knew that the natives had provided us with a treat. A treat that probably cost them a great deal.

So there is my Shannon. A treasure. A beauty. A friend. There is so much more that I could say about her. I love you Shannon!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Trip to North Platte

My mom and Samuel at our picnic dinner stop to see Lake McConaughy before completing our journey to North Platte. Diaper Baby!!!Samuel's Discovery- He had a great time pushing the dead fish around with the stick.

Big sister and little brother- Samuel and I playing in the water and me holding him at our picnic. He is so precious. He has taught me so much about life, children, responsibility and maturity. Did you know that "maturity" can be crawling on the floor with a toddler?