Monday, December 22, 2008


It's Christmas: a time when even the godless celebrate the birth of Jesus the Messiah. As I listened to Amy Grant sing "Grown Up Christmas List" and thought of what would be on my list, several things came to mind. I'd ask for clean water for every person in the world, an end to the ignorance and fear that cause people to do horrible things to children, and hope for those who have none. But when I really thought about what I would want...that one thing that I most desire in the entire answer was much closer to home. If given the greatest desire of my heart, I would choose that my children all know and love Jesus. That they live lives that demonstrate not just a knowledge of, but intimate relationships with the Creator of the world. This is the deepest longing of my soul.

If I could have my way, everyone my children come into contact with would have such a relationship. What an amazing world we would live in if we could all just love as Christ loves.

Trying my best not to sound like a televangelist here, but if you don't have that relationship, but want one, Christmas is a great time to turn the Savior. You don't have to say all the right words or do all the right things. You simply need to confess that you have sinned, acknowledge that Jesus is the ONLY one that can make the payment for those sins, ask Him to forgive you. Then you tell Him that you want Him to be Lord in your life. You need to tell someone about your decision to live a new life. After that, you listen to the Holy Spirit as He directs you. A Bible would be helpful in providing guidance. A Christian friend can also help lead you along the path. If you need one of those, I am available!

Merry Christmas. May the joy, love and peace of the Messiah fill your hearts and homes.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

18 months old

Vance says I should call our youngest son by his given name, but Destructo just seems to be so much more appropriate these days! At 18 months, his favorite activities seem to be all kinds of things that take a lot of cleaning up after. Things like dumping a full bowl of lasagna on the carpet, taking every Kleenex out of every box and arranging them throughout the house, "sharing" his food with the dog, and of course, writing on things with Sharpies.

This week he's discovered the power of the step stool. He's found out that he can carry that little pink mermaid step around with him and suddenly he's grown 12 inches! That extra foot allows him not only to reach things on the counter, but also to climb up onto it. Thus, all kinds of things are that were previously out of reach are now in the path of the hurricane! When I got out of the shower the other day, he was at the kitchen sink going through the dirty dishes.

This month he's also learned the healing power of a kiss. He'll often reach up to lay a smooch on me when I've got a boo-boo. As I write this, the little guy is pushing a stroller through the living room, laughing whenever we make eye contact. He may have an uncanny ability for making messes just now, but that smile, that laugh, his kisses; those are things that build up, not tear down.

I guess Vance is right, I'll have to rethink my little guy's nickname. Maybe Destructo could morph into something less....destructive. :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

From a used-to-be-AG perspective

Growing up in a little Assemblies of God church I learned a lot about being a Christian and a lot about being Pentecostal. Somehow, though, those lines started to blend together to where it was almost impossible to be one (Saved) without being the other (a speaking-in-tongues, filled with the Holy Ghost and Fire saint). There came a point when I just didn't buy into that anymore. Anybody with a psych class under his belt could tell you it had something (okay, a really big something) to do with the fact that my home church went through a big, ugly split about the same time I quit drinking the Kool-Aid.

But even without the split, I was beginning to have my doubts. First there was the whole "Thursday-Night-is-Get-the-Holy-Spirit-Night-or-You're-Not-Really-a-Good-Enough-Christian" thing. Every summer I went to camp and was challenged to live a better life; to be closer to God than ever before. Then on Thursday, the last night, there was always this special emphasis on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This meant that you speak in tongues or you don't have it. I saw kids so hungry for God that they faked whatever they thought they needed to do just to feel accepted. I was always the last to leave the tabernacle; I didn't want to miss a single blessing.

After a few years of this, I realized that the gift of tongues wasn't what it was all about. Falling over; being "slain in the Spirit" wasn't it either. Really being filled with the Holy Ghost is about having him in your everyday life, your every thought, your very being. Tongues has nothing to do with this.

I now attend a Wesleyan Church. Although most people wouldn't be totally shocked if someone spoke in tongues during a service, I believe it would probably be out of order to use that gift there. We sing about five songs to open the service. They're somewhat contemporary and we even have drums, guitar, bass and keyboards at most services. The pastor often thanks us "for that good singing" before he begins the message.

The core people at my church truly love God. They love sinners as well as saints, too. In the seven or so years that I've attended, I've learned more about how to show God's love to others in practical ways than I did in my entire first 25 years of church. These people are so real and so forgiving and so caring and so welcoming that I sometimes even see that as a hindrance to things getting done the way I think they should. Through that, God is teaching me patience, humility and that my way isn't always His plan. I love my church.

Alas, there are things about the AG that I miss. Things I miss a lot. As an emotional being, I miss the adrenaline surge that I feel in a dynamic worship service. Growing up, we'd sing for hours; many of them spent dancing, kneeling, bowing before the Throne of God, weeping, or even laughing. Worship was something I did with my entire being. My voice was raised in prayer and song, my hands were lifted in praise, my entire body knelt before the Presence of the Lord. Although I'm not much of a dancer, there were times when I felt like I just needed to move my feet; my body just needed to be in motion because I couldn't contain the enthusiasm I had for my Savior.

Times of prayer were communal. There was never a time when we just listened to the pastor pray. We all were joined in prayer. We all prayed together, often aloud. Many times we would come together around a friend in need and lay hands on each other. The prayers weren't always answered in ways we asked, but we always knew that we weren't alone and that we had each other's backs.

There are many things I appreciate about being in a non-Pentecostal place. Knowing that I don't have to worry about Sister Smith breaking out into tongues or prophecy when I bring a first time guest is nice. Not having to climb over people "slain in the Spirit" and laying all over the front of the church, that's nice, too. The "weird" stuff is not what I miss.

But I miss being challenged. I miss the emotional aspect of worship. I miss the ability to worship with my entire being, not just my voice. I miss the sound of dozens of voices raised together in prayer.

Somewhere there has to be a balance. I don't know how to achieve it yet. Someday I will.

Monday, September 22, 2008

for my HS paper

Today I was asked to write an editorial for my high school paper's back to school edition. They're having alumni write some pieces and have a lot of space to fill, I guess! This is what I've come up with. I'd love your feedback before I send it off to be immortalized in Cat Tracks!

The other day one of my friends posted a bulletin on MySpace about high school. (Yep, I am over 30 and have a MySpace. I also have Facebook, but that's a column for another day!) You've probably seen it. It asks about people you dated, who you sat with at lunch, your favorite teachers, and what you'd do differently. You know the one. I've never filled it out on-line, but each time my friends post a bulletin or note, I go over my own answers in my head.
Who did I date? Mostly, I spent my time with an amazing guy from Yates Center that I met at church. Was I in love? You betcha. Andy and I met my freshman year and dated off and on into college. We went our separate ways about 10 years ago and I've only seen him once since then. He was the center of my high school world, but now my life centers around a completely different amazing man and three marvelous children God has blessed us with.
In high school my group of friends fell somewhere in the middle of the social spectrum. We weren't total outcasts and we weren't Homecoming Queens. Most of us played a sport or two, but not well enough to matter. We got decent grades and stayed out of trouble. Of the girls at my lunch table, I could probably tell you a little about the current lives of most of them, but not any real details. Now I only really know one of them. And truth be told, up until about three years ago, I hadn't talked to her since graduation. We've become friends now, not because we ate together in high school, but because lately our lives have taken parallel courses. Of the lunch table crowd, there are some that I thought would be real friends for life, but life is a lot longer than high school…by my second semester of college I really only kept in contact with one or two high school friends.
My favorite high school teachers had to be Mr. Kuhlmann and Mr. Loewen. I was lucky enough to have had Mr. Kuhlmann for both junior history and senior government. Two of my most vivid memories of BHS are of him. He literally ran into the wall then fell to the floor to demonstrate the futility of a battle. (I think it was between Russia and Germany during WWII, but it's been a long time ago and I'm not entirely sure!) On his classroom walls and floors he created maps of the places we were studying using masking tape. He would jump from country to country on the floor as he taught. Years later, when I had my own classroom, I used this for inspiration and taught the states of the southwest that way one year. Throughout my teaching career, I have often asked myself, "How would Bart Kuhlmann teach this?" when I wanted to be creative and really reach my students.
Mr. Loewen taught business and coached volleyball. In my typing class (yes, I'm old enough that I didn't get keyboarding, but typing—on a typewriter, even!) he told us we should start as few sentences with "I" as possible. He told us that we would appear less selfish and come across better if we varied our sentence beginnings and eliminated "I" at the starts. That's a skill I've used even in writing this today. Coach L always sat with us it the back of the bus and told the lamest jokes. I sure loved that guy. As fate would have it, a decade later, I ended up teaching one of his sons in fifth grade. (You never know how life's going to circle around on you!)
As for what I'd do differently…well, I think I'd have been less busy. If you ever check out a 94 yearbook, you can see that I did a little bit of everything in high school. My hand was in everything from sports to FHA to President of StuCo to yearbook to drama to editor of this paper and everything in-between. And sorry, Coach V, but I think I should have played basketball instead of managing the wrestling team. That would have kept me from flirting with all those boys and kept me in better shape!
I would also have tried harder to really love people, no matter who they were. When asked what a person must do to get into Heaven, Jesus gave this answer (and I'm totally paraphrasing here), "Love God with all your heart, soul and mind. And really, really love people." It's taken every bit of 32 years for me to begin to learn how to do this well and here I am, still learning. Had I been able to really, really love people the way Jesus does, maybe I could have made more of a positive impact on the world, or at least on the corner of it that is Burlington High.
The next time you run across one of those high school surveys on MySpace or Facebook, fill it out. Some 14 years later, pull it out and look at it again. You'll be surprised at how much your thinking has changed and how little or how much importance you gave things. For now, just work on these two things; love God and love people. You'll never have to regret that.