Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Laurel Pregnancy Center: Race/Walk For Life!

On Saturday, April 24th, I'll be getting up earlier than normal.  Leaving the kids and their daddy in their beds, putting on some running shoes, and making a valiant attempt at running an entire 5k.  Theoretically, I'll be training for it too, but if it goes anything like last year, that won't actually happen.  But it's only 5k.  I can "run" most of that.  And walk the rest.

But it's all for a good cause.  This is one of the fundraisers for the Laurel Pregnancy Center, a crisis pregnancy center in my home town.  They offer lots of services, including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, parenting classes, post-abortion counseling, and pregnancy options counseling.  And it's all for free!  To anyone!

To help them out, you can sponsor me on my "run" by clicking here, then clicking on the "sponsor me" button on the right-hand side.  They can send you an invoice if you don't want to put your credit card info online.

I love the work that the LPC does - giving people choices, explaining what those choices actually mean to all parties involved, and loving them through whatever choice they make.  And while I've got 100 excuses as to why I can't actively participate right now in the actual work that they do, I can help them raise money to keep doing it.  So help a girl out!  Sponsor me!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Church "Friends"

Because of may factors all coming together recently, I've come to a realization: most "church friends" are really a lot more like co-workers than they actually are friends.

Now, before I get to far into this, I want whatever non-church-going friends I have (that actually read this) to understand that I'm not so much downing the church as I am just pointing out the nature of the beast (if you will). So don't add this as another "black mark" against the church, please! :) Instead see this as an introspective on how I, personally, need to be better. Yes, it applies to much of the universal church too, but mostly it applies to me.

But back to my point. See, you have no (or little) choice about who your co-workers are going to be. But whether or not you would have been BFFs in high school, you're still expected to act "professionally" around and to them. Yes, your co-workers can be a decision point for whether or not you'll take or stay in a certain job, but unless you're the one doing the hiring, you have little say in who else works there.

Similarly, you can pick a church with people in it that you get along with and enjoy (maybe they're all in a similar life stage as you), and you can choose to leave a church if you don't get along with the people there...but really, you have no say over who is admitted into the community of people who meet in your particular church building. It's not like it's acceptable for you to stand at the door of your Sunday School class and ask for the secret handshake, kicking out anyone who doesn't know it. In fact, not only do you not have any control over who comes, but you're also expected to "love" everyone who shows up.

So how does this work itself out in the day-to-day operations of a group of people attending the same church? Well, a group is thrown together for some purpose (let's call it a committee that is supposed to administer a certain ministry or activity within the church). Now, this group will have _something_ in common (other than just attending the same church), namely they all (theoretically) have some desire to see the ministry/activity succeed. Beyond that, however, they may have nothing at all in common, especially when talking about personalities. (Thinking back to the co-workers analogy, your project team all works at the same company on the same team, but that doesn't mean that your personalities are well suited for actual friendship.)

So even though your personalities may not go well together (or may even conflict greatly), you're expected to work together towards this purpose. So just like in your office you might put on a mask of "professionalism" prior to working with these other people, in church, you'd put on the mask of "love" for everyone. You put up with them at the meeting and say hello to them if they see you at the grocery store, and when you talk to them it's only about the "work" that you do together (relating to whatever ministries you're both a part of), but you don't know (or maybe even really care) what's going on with them beyond how they get their job done as it relates to you. Maybe you know the latest news in their life through Facebook or the grapevine, but you don't really know _them_.

Do we do this on purpose? I don't think we do. I think we're just too busy to take the time to get to know people in general, and have gotten into bad habits of assuming friendship where there really isn't any.

Maybe a more apt analogy is that a church is like a family (go figure). You have no choice over who comes into it, no ability to kick people out of it, and are expected to maintain a certain level of decorum around those with whom you interact. Some families are more "functional" than others.

So how do we (I) change this? I think it has a lot to do with the follow-up. In pretty much any ministry in a church, we take the time to share "prayer requests." One of the sweetest things anyone ever did for me was call me up after a doctor's appointment they knew I'd been worried about to see how things went and if there was any way they could help. That particular person, even though she had no ministerial reason to follow up with me on that thing is someone that I know actually cares about _me_ and isn't just putting up with me.

It think it also has to do with learning to be a better conversationalist. Instead of always resorting to the easy prey of common job functions, we (I) should have in our proverbial back pockets questions about something they mentioned the last time you saw them (maybe one of those prayer requests). I know that I, for one, am TERRIBLE with small talk. It terrifies me to the point that I'll just sit there and say nothing rather than try to think up something to say to someone. Apparently that's intimidating. But if someone can get me talking, it's hard to shut me up. Occasionally I might even be funny or insightful. I wonder if, in this age of Facebook, Twitter, and texting, we have lost the ability to have normal conversations? Or maybe it's just me sucking at it and assuming that everyone else does too. I don't know. Like I said, this is introspective.

I also think that we need to stop pretending like everyone is actually friends with everyone else. Co-workers with the same goal? Sure. Friends? No. We can be on the same committee and not go to each others' birthday parties without it being a big "thing." It's ok for people to have circles of friends that do not include me (or you). And I'm not forming a clique if I want to go camping with a group that's not all-inclusive of the whole church.

But having said that, it's also not ok to ONLY ever do stuff with that one group of people to the exclusion of all others. Sure, you might be closest with a small group of folks (that's natural), but you might be missing out on a lot of wisdom and fun by not ever talking to anyone else.

I think this works both ways though. There's a great movement within the church for "authenticity." Usually this involves admitting that you curse or drink or something. I think what this should really mean is that when someone asks you in the hallway how you are, you actually stop and give them an honest answer. I'll bet you money that the next time you ask that same person how they are, they'll be honest with you as well. I'm not talking about over-sharing ("well, little Timmy's got this boil on his hiney that we can't seem to get to go away..."), I'm talking about giving something more than just "fine how are you?" as you race past each other.

I'm also talking about actually paying attention when someone is speaking to you. I know I find my eyes wandering when speaking to folks. And usually when my eyes wander, my brain isn't too far behind. And if my mind's wandering when I'm talking to someone, then I have no idea what they're saying and have been far more rude than if I'd just walked on by without saying anything at all.

Anyway....this is long and rambly. Think about the people with whom you interact (especially in a "church" setting). Think about how you actually treat them. Then try to change so that you're actually friends instead of just co-workers. Or find something you can learn from them rather than just putting up with them like you do "crazy uncle Bob." If you feel so led, share about an experience (for good or bad) in the comments.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Winston Churchill (Christian Encounter Series) by John Perry

So recently I signed up with "BookSneeze" which is Thomas Nelson Publishers' way of using social media to get the word out about their new books. You get to pick a book, they send it to you (for free!), you read it, then you review it on your blog and on a consumer blog (like Amazon).

I just finished reading it, so here's my review of Winston Churchill: Christian Encounter Series by John Perry:

This is your basic biography of Winston Churchill. It covers his entire life, giving roughly equal treatment to every time period. The author tells about all of his various adventures, both good and bad, and throughout maintains a theme of Churchill's spirituality.

One reason that I selected this book was because the subject surprised me. With a series title like "Christian Encounters," one assumes that the subject in question is, in fact, a Christian. Since I'd not heard before that Churchill was a believer, this intrigued me. It was frustrating then to find that not only was Churchill not necessarily a Christian, but his beliefs basically didn't change throughout his life. He apparently saw religion only as a useful tool in giving people hope (i.e., "the opiate of the masses"). While he saw himself as being protected throughout his life by some force, he gave as much credit to destiny as he did God. If there had been some development in his spiritual beliefs (even if they never came to match my own), it would have at least been interesting, but there was no development. As biographies go, I suppose it was a fair one. It seemed odd to me that there was no more time given to WWII than there was his childhood, but otherwise it was informative. I think my biggest problem with it is including Sir Winston in a series entitled "Christian Encounters."

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Seeing the Miraculous

So today, our MOPS group packed our buckets. Each discussion group filled their own as I read aloud a prayer I'd written, calling out each food item as it was to be packed. In one of the sections of the prayer, I asked that the food in the buckets would be multiplied (thinking that, like the widow, it would last the Haitian family until they could provide for themselves).

I'd brought a fifth bucket with me. One that was only about half-filled that VNB's office had put together (they had completed one bucket, but hadn't quite made it with the second). I brought it (and the other "extra" stuff that we had) in order to fill in gaps where we could (worked well because one mom brought ziti instead of spaghetti) and just in case someone brought more than was needed for their bucket.

In a couple of cases, someone mentioned that they had brought something, so I directed them toward the table with extra stuff....but for the most part, every time I glanced over at the table, there was another of something. Usually it was the sugar. I'd lost track of one canister amidst our various buckets (family, small group, Sunday School class, MOPS, Ferguson, etc.) which magically re-appeared today. But as the morning progressed, there was another canister of sugar. I knew it wasn't one of mine because it was a different brand. Then, when time came to pack up, there wasn't just one of that brand, there were two!

And then when I'd collected everything and brought it out to the car, someone found more rice.

The food was literally multiplying.

I know I asked for that to happen...but wow...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Buckets of Hope

A few days ago, I mentioned that I'd been busy with something called "Buckets of Hope," but I've failed to mention what it is exactly and since time is quickly running out, I wanted to give you the scoop.

Basically, the "Buckets of Hope" campaign is a way for people to give food to Haitian families through the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board. They've got more info here, but basically, for about $30-35, you can feed a Haitian family for about a week.

What you do is you buy a white, 5-gal bucket with minimal branding on the outside. Then you buy:

  • Two 5-lb bags of long grain enriched rice
  • Two 2-lb bags of black (or red) beans (if you can't find 2-lb bags, you can get four 1-lb bags)
  • Two 1-lb boxes of spaghetti
  • One 5-lb sack of all-purpose (not self-rising) flour
  • One 48-oz plastic bottle of cooking oil (wrapped in a 2-gal ziplock bag)
  • One 40-oz plastic container of peanut butter
  • One 20-oz cylinder of sugar (like you'd use for coffee service at work)
  • $10 cash to help defray shipping costs
Once you've packed your bucket according to the directions found here, you bring it to your local participating Southern Baptist church (like mine) or your local Southern Baptist State Convention (like the BCM/D). The state convention will then ship the buckets they've collected to a warehouse in Florida, and from there, they'll all be shipped to Haiti for distribution there.

Local churches may have their own due dates for buckets, but they definitely _have_ to be at the state conventions by Monday, March 15th - that's THIS coming Monday. Sorry for the short notice.

The SBC did something similar with boxes of food that were sent to Iraq when I was there. Many thousands of Iraqis were helped by those boxes, and there were countless opportunities to share why we were feeding those in need. I don't think I can express how amazing an opportunity this is.

Could your $30 buy more food if it were sent to Haiti? Well, maybe, depending on scarcity. Would it be a LOT less work for you to just donate $30 to Compassion or World Vision or Samaritan's Purse or the Red Cross? Yes. But taking the time to fill a bucket with food that will be sent to a specific family that is in dire straits? It makes it personal and tangible for you.

Some people say that donation drives like this aren't as "effective" as monetary donations. And if you're merely looking at the stuff that can be purchased with the same amount of money locally (where the shipping costs are minimal and you're more likely to get something that the locals actually use), then they're right.

But this sort of thing isn't just about the people that are being helped. It's also about the people who are helping. Shaun Groves likes to say that Compassion not only releases children from poverty, but they also release Americans (and others) from their wealth.

By giving each of us a tangible way to help, it brings the tragedy closer to us. It's almost too easy to give money. It goes right from the bank to the organization or from the credit card to the organization. Sometimes you have to fiddle a little with your budget to make things work, but for the most part, you never even miss the money.

But _stuff_...._stuff_ is real. Stuff is tangible. Stuff awakens the imagination.

I pray that you will be released from a little of your wealth by filling at least one "Bucket of Hope" today!

Monday, March 08, 2010


Right now, several bloggers are in Kenya checking out Compassion, International's work there. I think I already posted about it. Yep. Hopefully you've been reading along on their posts.

If you haven't, here are two recent ones telling the story of meeting Eliud.

Brad Ruggles: A Father to the Fatherless
Shaun Groves: Sight for the Blind

Are you rich?

I know that I am.

Friday, March 05, 2010


(Hey Company Girls! Our virtual coffee time these last few weeks has been taken over by info about the Help Haiti Live concert. I hope that didn't offend you, but I couldn't think of a better way to get the info out to a lot of people than to bring you, my Company Girls along! Now that the concert's over, I'll remind you of the auctions that are still on-going here and mention the group of bloggers that are in Kenya with Compassion right now, but for the most part, we'll be getting back to our "regularly-scheduled programming" now.)

So, I wouldn't say necessarily that I've had a "homemaking epiphany" lately, because it's something I've heard from lots of sources for a long time now, but I guess I recently just started actually implementing it in my life. That non-epiphany is that I don't have to do everything absolutely to completion, nor do I have to do it perfectly. And it's been amazing how freeing that's been for me.

To implement this non-epiphany, each day, I make a list of things that need to be done. Some of them have to be done today (meals, any planned outings for the day, any errands that need to be run, daily cleaning regimens, etc.), some of them need to be done soon (laundry, tasks that have upcoming due dates, etc.), and some of them just need to be done sometime (deep cleaning something, getting something ready to be put away for a long time, etc.). By spelling out the necessaries like breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I get lots of things to cross off my list (and I also have a better understanding myself of what I actually do all day)! And by simply rejoicing that I got _some_ stuff crossed off the list each day (and not beating myself up because I didn't get _EVERYTHING_ crossed off), it ends up being simply a reminder of my successes rather than an onerous list of onerous tasks that have to get done.

Sometimes things get copied from yesterday's list to today's list for weeks. And that's ok. Eventually I get tired of rewriting them and actually _do_ them. Sometimes I break up a task into sub-tasks just so that I can cross more stuff off the list! (Sometimes I do it because _part_ of the job got done, but not ALL of it and I want to celebrate that too!) Frequently I add things to the list after-the-fact, just so I can cross them off (and celebrate at the end of the day how much I actually did)!

The most amazing thing I've seen happen through it is that the cleaning load has started to get easier each day. Since I write down each room in my (small) house each day and mostly manage to spend a few minutes in each (some would call this "minimum maintenance," but by writing down each room individually rather than grouping it all together, I can cross stuff off the list without feeling guilty that I didn't get to them all), it takes less and less each day to _keep_ them clean.

Now, I'm definitely _NOT_ a "schedule" person (i.e., laundry on Monday, scrub floors on Tuesday, etc.), and I definitely _AM_ someone who gets a great deal of joy from recognizing my accomplishments by marking them off a list, so this works great for me. Maybe you'll do better with something else. But this has worked so far for me in my current life stage. And it's been wildly freeing for me, not to mention good for our house. It's still not "magazine clean" or even "company clean" most of the time, but it's better (and certainly easier and quicker to get to "company clean"). And that makes me happy too.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Compassion Bloggers in Kenya

So Compassion, International has brought a group of bloggers over to Kenya for a few days to look into their work there. None of these are folks that I follow normally (except for Shaun Groves), but I am for the duration of the trip (as I have for past trips they've taken) because what they express is so raw and powerful. It keeps my attitude in check.

Anyway, they'll be over there until March 10th, and you can follow all of their blog posts here.

If you're a Twitter-er, you can also follow their Twitter feeds for other comments, links to their pictures, and links to their individual blog posts. Here they are, in no particular order (with links to their individual blogs):
@keelymarie - Keely Marie Scott Photography
@MckMama - MckMama
@CalaystLeader (@lvhanson) - Catalystspace
@bradruggles - Learning How To Live
@theshaungroves - Shaun Groves
@WeareTHATfamily - We are THAT family
@DetzelPretzel - This is Reverb
@kentshaffer - Church Relevance
@Jonesbones5 - Jonesbones5

They've just finished their first full day in the country, seeing the sights in and around one of Kenya's Child Survival Program centers. Check out their stories! It'll be time well spent, I promise!

Monday, March 01, 2010

What's in the Bible?

So really, this blog isn't going to stop talking about my kids and's just been crazy these past few weeks given the Haiti earthquake with stuff going on. The kids are good. Joanna's got 12 teeth (all 8 in the front and the first molars, skipping the canines). AJ's attempting to forgo his naps (his mama will not be foiled, however - there _WILL_ be quiet time, whether he sleeps or not!). Work is good. Life is good.

So instead of talking about that stuff in detail, I'm gonna tell you about a cool new offering from Phil Vischer, co-creater of VeggieTales and creator of JellyTelly - two of my favorite Biblically-based children's programing. It's called "What's in the Bible?" and features the characters and some of the content from JellyTelly.

Back in the day, Southern Baptists had several different "teaching" times, each focused on different things. Sunday School was focused on teaching the stories and facts of the Bible. GAs/RAs/Mission Friends/Brotherhood/WMU were focused on missions and missionaries. And "School of Disciples" or "Discipleship Training" was focused on how all the stories of the Bible fit together and other things like church history. Discipleship training as a class went the way of the dodo (at least in my church) when I was in late elementary school, so nowadays we have LOTS of folks who know some Bible stories, but have no idea how they all fit together and intertwine.

Well, if VeggieTales is like Sunday School, What's in the Bible is like Discipleship Training. And if the content is anywhere near as good as what's on JellyTelly, it's gonna be great!

In any case, the first two DVDs came out in stores today, so if you're related to me and/or my kids and just happen to want to pick one up (for them or yourself), I'd be all for it! ;p Even if you're _not_ related to my kids, you're still welcome to pick then up for yourself and maybe your kids too! Don't worry, it's not gonna make you crazy like Elmo does me.