November 21, 2014

Chapter 10 Lines

***my note: I found this chapter challenging because my personal experience has been that the church at large - (not all - but many) - seem to be far from Jesus' heart of community and love in how they operate on a usual basis.  

Chapter 10: Breaking down barriers: Inclusion

p 186 There are few joys in life like being wanted, chosen, embraced.  There are few pains like being excluded, rejected, left out.  At the core of Christian community is the choice, in the words of Miroslav Volf's great book* on the subject, between exclusion and embrace.

p 195 Jesus is the greatest bridger the world has ever seen.  When the church understood his heart, it became a community like nothing else the world has ever seen.

p 201  ... ultimately, the choice everyone faces is the choice between hope and despair.  Jesus says, "Choose hope."

p 202-203  The most desirable society in the universe turns out also to be the humblest and the least exclusive.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are determined that the circle of love they share from all eternity should be ceaselessly, shamelessly inclusive.  It is not full yet.  They invite all who will to join them. No one is left out except those who refuse to enter.

*Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996

November 5, 2014

Reminders from Scripture

Downtown Temple, NH - photo credit: Steve Wolfe
While walking with my husband we were talking about the struggle we have had to discover the place God would have our family be to worship and become a part of the local body of Christ -namely a church home.  This has been ongoing for months now.  Steve described our disheartened state as 'being in a spiritual funk', which I (sadly) found pretty accurate.
We are slowly feeling the fog lift as God is showing us things and we are stepping seriously outside of our comfort zone in some areas to be obedient to what we believe God wants for us.  It is not easy, but nothing says that any of this life is supposed to be easy.  What we are promised is that God will be with us on the journey and give us all that is needed to take each step with Him as our guide.

I am blessed to have access to a marvelous software program for Bible study, devotional helps, etc. from, and have just completed a 5-day reading plan about spiritual growth that has been really good.  For the 4th day, I read three pieces of scripture that struck a deep chord because they give a picture of what God's heart is for His church.

Psalm 133:1-3

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!  It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes.  It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Acts 2:42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

John 13:35

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Blessings on the journey~

October 20, 2014

Chapter 9 Lines

Chapter 9  The Gift Nobody Wants: Confrontation

p 169 "Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin.  Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one's community back from the path of sin." ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

p 169  This is a foundational paradox about the porcupines in our world; we want to know the truth about ourselves, and we want very much NOT to know the truth about ourselves. We both seek and resist awareness about the reality of who we are.

p 171  We need Truth-Tellers because our capacity to live in denial is astounding.

p 171  Many of us have never invited someone else to be a Truth-Teller in our lives for the same reason we don't get on a scale: we are afraid of what we might find out.

p 172  "One who because of sensitivity and vanity rejects the serious words of another CHristian cannot speak the truth in humility to others. Such a person is afraid of being rejected and feeling hurt by another's words.  Sensitive, irritable people will always become flatterers, and very soon they will come to despise and slander other Christians in their community... When another Christian falls into obvious sin, an admonition is imperative, because God's Word demands it.  The practice of discipline in the community of faith begins with friends who are close to one another. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

p 173  We need others to help us live up to our best intentions and deepest values.

p 179  There is a very important theological distinction between being a prophet and being a jerk.  What burns deeply in the heart of a true prophet is not just anger but love.

p 179  Accountability is a tool and a gift we give to one another to try and realize the growth we could never know all by ourselves.

p 180  Let us consider the cost of truth-telling and why it happens so rarely in our world.  the answer, simply, is fear.  It takes enormous courage to be a Truth-Teller.  If we speak painful truth to someone, things get messy.

p 180  Scott Peck says that most of the time we live in what he calls 'pseudo-community'.  It's hallmark is the avoidance of conflict  Pseudo community is agreeable and polite and gentle and stagnant - and ultimately - fatal.

p 181  To go beyond pseudo-community, Peck says, we have to be will to enter into chaos.  Chaos happens when someone is willing to speak risky truth.  Chaos is always unpleasant.

p 181  People who love authentic community always prefer the pain of temporary chaos to the peace of permanent superficiality.

p 183  When we have nobody to answer to - no one holding us accountable for living up to the values we most deeply hold - we become very vulnerable.
   *vulnerable to sin and sliding away from God (my note)

October 16, 2014

New and Improved Sewing Room

It continues to be proven how very blessed I am as Steve's wife.  He designed and built a fabulous addition to my sewing space over the last few days.
It went from this:

To this:

Which then allowed me to make it like this:

Which means that what once looked like this:

Now looks like this:

Almost every bit of fabric I have is now organized on this massive shelf wall along with space underneath for notions (zippers, trims, etc), shelves for current projects in process, and even a floor cubby for one or more cats to nap in while they keep me company.  All the shelves are adjustable too! 

My husband loves me so!

October 14, 2014

Chapter 8 Lines

Chapter 8  Spiritual Surgery: Forgiveness

p 151  Community always involves a kind of promise, whether or not it ever gets stated out loud.  It is a promise of commitment and loyalty.  When that promise gets broken, so does someone's heart.

p 152  Forgiveness is the only force strong enough to heal relationships damaged by hatred and betrayal.

p 156   But forgiveness does not come cheap.

p 157   Some things forgiveness is NOT:
             1. Forgiving is not excusing - forgiving doesn't mean tolerating or pretending.  When an action is excusable - it doesn't require forgiveness.
             2. Forgiving is not forgetting - forgiving is what's required precisely when we can't forget.
             3. Forgiving is not the same thing as reconciling.

p 158   Forgiveness takes place in the heart of one human being. It can be granted even if the other person does not ask for it or deserve it.  Reconciliation requires the rebuilding of trust, and that means good faith on the part of both parties.

p 158   Forgiveness begins when we give up the quest to get even. This is difficult because getting even is the natural obsession of the wounded soul.

p 159  Of course, letting go of vengeance doesn't mean letting go of justice. Justice must still be honored.

p 159  The next stage of forgiveness involves a new way of seeing and feeling. When we forgive, we begin to see more clearly. We don't ignore the hurts, but we see beyond them. We rediscover the humanity of the one who hurt us.

p 160  The third stage of forgiving, the one that shows you have begun to make some real progress, is when you find yourself wishing the other person well. When you want good things for someone who hurt you badly, you can pretty much know that the Great Forgiver has been at work in your heart.

p 160  God commands us to forgive because it is the best way to live. God commands forgiving because to refuse to forgive means I allow the one who hurt me to keep me chained in a prison of bitterness and resentment.  No human beings are more miserable than the unforgiving.

p 164  If you don't forgive - if you let pride, resentment, stubbornness, and defensiveness stand in your way - you become a hard and bitter person.  You carry a burden that will crush the humanity out of your spirit.  You will grow a little colder every day.  You will die.

p 165  True forgiveness is never cheap.  Hurt is deep; hurt is unfair. ... only one thing costs more than forgiving someone - NOT forgiving them. Non-forgiveness costs your heart.

p 166  Don't forgive, and your anger will become your burden. Don't forgive, and bit by bit all the joy will be choked out of you. Don't forgive, and you will be unable to trust anybody, ever again. Don't forgive, and the bitterness will crowd the compassion out of your heart slowly, utterly, forever.

October 9, 2014

Chapter 7 Lines

Chapter 7  Community is worth fighting for: Conflict

"Communities need tensions if they are to grow and deepen. Tensions come from conflicts...  A tension or difficulty can signal the approach of a new grace of God. But it has to be looked at wisely and humanly. " ~Jean Vanier

p 127  There is no greater challenge in building community than to master the art of handling anger and conflict.  ..we must consider how important this topic is in God's eyes. It is both remarkable and appalling that by and large in churches today, we are not scandalized by broken relationships and chronic enmity between people.  We are not scandalized by lack of love.
But Jesus is.

p 128  We have been invited into the Fellowship of the Trinity. When we violate oneness, when we contribute to relational brokenness, it doesn't just affect us and the other person.  We are contributing to the destruction of that which is most prized by God and was purchased by him at greatest cost - the oneness of the Trinitarian community.

p 130  Matthew 18:15 may be the single most violated of all the instructions Jesus gave the human race.

p 131  To be alive means to be in conflict.  It's part of the dance of the porcupines. People may not be normal, but conflict surely is - at least in our world.

p 132  Interestingly, while Jesus tells his hearers they should take the responsibility to set things right if the other person has sinned, in another setting (Matt 5:23-24) he tells his hearers to take the first step if they are the ones in the wrong.  Jesus puts the burden on you in both cases.
Why?  Because people who value community are people who own responsibility to deal with relational breakdowns.

p 132  "Go" Jesus says. Take action. Don't let resentment fester.

p 133  Anger exists to tell you something is wrong and to move you to action.  Anger exists so you will be motivated to make it go away.  However, remember Proverbs 14:17 and Ephesians 4:26.

p 134-135 Causes of our anger? Fear? Frustration? Hurt? What outcome do we want? to win? to hurt someone?

p 136  Sometimes you should become angry. However even then you still must decide how to express your anger.

p 138 Conflict is inevitable. Resentment is optional.

p 139  The need for sensitivity is one of the most important - and often misunderstood - aspects of healthy anger management.

p 141 The simplest guideline is to approach the other people the way you would want to be approached in their place.

p 142  We must speak truth in love - clearly.

p 143  The goal in conflict resolution is not to win or score points - it's reconciliation.  Your aim should be to restore the relationship.  Reconciliation is rarely simple and almost never quick.

p 144  Direct confrontation doesn't always do good.  Sometimes it escalates the conflict. Sometimes it leads to violence. Confrontation can do tremendous damage. Then we need a miracle.  God created one.  It's called forgiveness - that's in the next chapter.

September 26, 2014

Adventures at Mom Camp

**Long and rambly**

Last weekend I did something totally outside my comfort zone and while it started off pretty rocky, it wound up being okay.
Backing up a bit... a few weeks ago I got a text from a friend (A) inviting me to join her and another friend (L) for a women's retreat weekend at Camp Berea up in Hebron, NH.  This seemed to be perhaps a providential invitation as I'd just recently mentioned to both Steve and L that I was feeling somewhat that I needed a 'camp' experience like the kids enjoyed over the summer to hear from Jesus more clearly.  Steve agreed that I should go, so I signed up and we waited.
The week prior I offered to drive for carpooling - mostly because I like to drive when I go places with other people (other than Steve).  It worked well for both friends because of various family car issues happening at both homes.  It would turn out that God would show how He had a hand in that little decision.
On the designated Friday, we loaded up the car - after Jess helped me get everything to fit in my bags and Ben carried all the luggage for me.   Then I set off to pick up L first before heading over to get A.  At L's we loaded her stuff into the car and after many tears from her youngest child, we set off for the 20 minute drive to A's house.  On the way we talked about how odd it felt to be leaving our families like this and that it somehow seemed 'wrong' to both of us.
At A's, she happily climbed into the backseat after her family helped load things up, and then we were off with a drive of 1.5 hours ahead of us.  We chatted as we drove with both L and I sharing with A our hesitancy about this weekend away and A sharing how she was really in need of this time away.
None of us had ever been to Berea for a women's retreat before this, though I did participate in a week of summer camp there when I was about 8-9 I think.  We arrived with many, many other women at the camp shortly before 5:30 and checked in, got our bags into our assigned cabin and made our way to the dining hall for dinner.
At this point I was already feeling pretty close to completely overwhelmed.  I'd never been to something like this before and had no idea what to expect or what would happen. There were well over 200 women there, we were sharing a double room space with 9 other ladies that we didn't know but who all knew one another.  Dinner was a buffet that was bountiful but by the time we got our food and found a place to sit most of it was cold and unappetizing.  There was a salad bar and chocolate cake - so not a total loss.

After dinner we were supposed to head up to the gym for our first session of the weekend.  On the way up I found a staff person and asked if he could please turn the heat on in our room as it was already really pretty cold and temperatures were supposed to be in the low 30's overnight.
The worship band was Alanna Story and they were very talented and I enjoyed them.  The main speaker for the weekend was Jodi Greenstreet of CrossTrainer's Ministry from Canada.  She was incredibly high energy and obviously very excited about the weekend.
Just before she began to speak, I was suddenly overwhelmed with anxiety and had to leave the gym.  I phoned Steve and paced outside the gym crying while talking with him that I wanted to come home, that this wasn't for me and he tried to talk me off the ledge and calm me down.  He reminded me that I wasn't alone, that L & A were there with me, that I hadn't given it a chance yet, that I'd be fine!  L came out at one point to check on me and grasped my arms whispering "You can't leave me here!"  After I'd calmed down and pulled myself together, I told Steve I'd give it a chance and that I really couldn't leave because I was the driver and I couldn't strand my friends.  There were some jokes made about how someone should have brought a bottle of wine.  After the session was over - and I'd had no more anxiety attacks - I called Steve and told him I'd survived and I'd talk to him tomorrow.  We went to the bookstore and bought travel mugs for coffee and then went and had a snack in the dining hall before bedtime.
I didn't sleep much, it was well after midnight before I was able to fall asleep at all and then I was up every hour checking the clock and praying that God would speed up time so I could go home.  This was definitely not fun and I was not hearing from God or enjoying myself at all.
In the morning one of the options was a guided prayer hike at 7am, we opted to grab coffee in our travel mugs and go get some exercise and spend some time with the Lord.  There was a woman who led the group - maybe 25 of us - up a short hill and along a short ridge line above the camp with several stops to focus on different aspects of prayer.  As I walked I wrestled with God in prayer.  I spent time confessing to God my bad attitude, that I didn't want to be there, then thanking Him for the beauty of the woods and the weather and all the blessings in my life, and confessing more about how disappointed and angry I've been feeling with our current church experience.  After our 45 minutes in the woods it was time to head to breakfast and then to our first session.  Fresh coffee helped to fend off another anxiety attack and I didn't bolt this time though I felt the bad attitude simmering just below the surface.

After our morning session the 3 of us went for a short walk for exercise then we all went to lunch and the afternoon stretched before us with options for seminars or nothingness as we chose.  For most of the afternoon we opted to just hang out in the room and do nothing much at all.  I had brought some hand sewing to work on, so we just sat and chatted and rested.  I had been texting with Jess and she was teasing me about wanting to come home.  Her sense of humor helps a lot in tense times for me.
Finally it was dinner time and it was a themed dinner with costumes, etc.  The 3 of us opted to not participate in the dress-up, but it was interesting to see how all-out some of the ladies had gone to be 'by the sea' for the evening.  Dinner was actually really good and we all enjoyed it, then there was a comedienne that provided entertainment before our evening session.  She was really funny and we laughed and laughed.
I talked to Jess briefly on the phone before the evening session and she encouraged me to "learn something about Jesus" with her usual dose of humor for her home-sick mama.  Then it was time for worship band to begin.  The music started and we all stood and sang a few songs and then they asked us to sit down.  One of the women began to speak - I'm not even sure all that she said only I could feel my heart beginning to crack.  Then they began to sing a song they'd written.

All around me women began to cry and A began to softly sob beside me.  I sat in my chair wrestling with my pride, fighting my heart.  At last I let go and fell to my knees in prayer and tears.  It was one of the few times in my life where I felt myself fall into God in all the raw emotion and need for His touch on my heart & soul.  The tears fell hot from my eyes as I sobbed and prayed.  At last I was able to quiet and sit back into my chair.  After a few more songs, Jodi came to speak and I heard the story of Peter & Jesus in a fresh way and found myself relaxing and relating as she taught about some of the ways Peter had failed and tried again, over and over.
After the session, A went straight to bed and L and I went for snack and then a walk around camp in the mild weather.  Again it was well after midnight before sleep would come, but at least this time I felt calmer and was able to snatch about 2 hours at a time between wakeful fits.  I was up early and we were packed and ready to go before breakfast.  The 3 of us grabbed coffee and sat by the water waiting for breakfast. We ate and then loaded all our things into the car before our final session.
The morning opened with communion and song.  It was beautiful and an awesome experience.  Probably one of the best times of communion I've enjoyed in many years.  I felt close to Jesus and open to hearing Him speak through scripture as Jodi shared her last message with us.  It wasn't earth shattering, I didn't hear voices from Heaven or anything.  Just honesty from the scripture about how we meet Jesus in our present moment, not counting on anything more than this moment and not holding or comparing to anything or anyone else from prior moments.  An excellent reminder and a push to engage in the present in new ways with fresh eyes and open hands.
As we drove home we shared and talked, laughed and cried a bit.  It was a good time of growing our friendship and I was able to honestly thank A for inviting me to go.
I had written Steve an email on Saturday telling him what I think sums up the experience. I'd wanted to come to a women's retreat because so many people I know have gone at different times and raved about the experience.  I felt that I needed to see for myself so I'd know if I was really missing some deep spiritual experience with Jesus that could only happen away from my family and my normal life.  Turns out that the answer to that is - for me - no.
I did encounter Jesus of course, but I encounter Jesus every day and even every moment if I'm paying attention enough.  The experience taught me that I really hate being away from my family.  I don't like crowds, I'm not comfortable with strangers and I really prefer to sleep in my own bed and eat what I choose.  Time with my friends is really wonderful and I hope we can find ways to get together more often at home.
In looking back at the weekend, I can mostly say that I'm glad I had the experience, but I won't do it again.  If I could have escaped on Friday night, I'd have done it in a blink and this is where it was proved that God uses things we don't expect.  I was trapped by my sense of responsibility to my friends because I drove and was forced to walk a weekend road I'd much rather not walk.  But God doesn't waste any experience in our lives and I suppose in hind-sight the time away brought me to my knees over some hurts and anger I've been holding onto and God was able to work those out of me.  For His forgiveness and grace I am always thankful.

Many thanks to A and L for their amazing patience and gracious kindness during my anxiety attacks and dramatic fits.

Blessings on the journey~