Monday, June 30, 2008

Found A New Photo Blog

I just stumbled on to a great photo blog,, with lots of wonderful photos of the twin cities and surrounding area. Check it out!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Stroll-June 29, 2008

These are the first of the old-fashioned tall yellow day lilies that I always think of as part of my Fourth of July garden. They will bloom for about four weeks. They are a real Godsend during July when everything else seems to get annihilated by Japanese beetles.

I also have more hollyhocks coming along in the "crazy" garden. The tall stuff behind them is goldenrod, which is just about to bloom, so I may be able to show you that combination next week.

I've also been trying to make sure I have all the components of a wildlife-friendly landscape. I added a new birdbath-the old one got broken- and made sure to add a few pebbles so that butterflies can easily use it.

I also bought a new bird feeder. It was a splurge, very expensive, and supposedly squirrel proof, which is necessary in my yard, which is apparently part of a squirrel highway. We put it by the window, not only for our own enjoyment, but to add a channel to Kitty TV. Our very ancient kitties need something to get their heart-rates up for a few moments a day! The birds seem to realize that they are in absolutely no danger from Cinnamon and Buddy.

Like Rose, I'm starting to have camera lust, and spend part of each Sunday scouring the sale flyers for something better than the little 5 mega pixel, no zoom camera I have. I'm trying to resist the urge, but I don't know how long I can hold out!
To see who else is strolling today, go to The Quiet Country House.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Whew! What A Year!

I just realized that today was the one-year anniversary of starting this blog! Thanks for the push, Pastor Randy!

Let's see, what have I learned in this past year?

1. How to use spell check-thanks, Matt!
2. How to open new tabs-thanks, Robin!
3. How to copy and paste-thanks, Matt!
4. How to hyperlink-thanks, Grant!
5. How to try re-booting before I call Dell tech support-thanks, Mike!

So, I guess I could now pass 6th grade computer class, if I needed to.

I've also learned that there is every kind of blog you could imagine out there in the blogoshpere, because there is every kind of person you could imagine out there. Mostly I have met wonderful people, and found we have a lot more in common than not. I've bumped into someone who lives only about 10 miles from me, and also exchanged comments with someone on the other side of the planet. I love the mishmash of garden bloggers, enviro-warriors, Christian homemakers, church pastors, just plain folks (like myself) that you can find out there writing away and sending their thoughts out to be found and commented on by whoever stumbles on them. Which is actually kind of brave of them, when you think of it.

Anyway, it's interesting, and fun, and very thought provoking. It's put a few new wrinkles in my brain, and that's always a good thing.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

From an article by Marcia Ford on the most recent Pew Survey:

"The Pew survey not only asks highly specific and carefully worded questions but also asks participants to provide detailed information about themselves. Demographic breakdowns go well beyond, say, the evangelical/mainline divide to subgroups such as Baptists in the evangelical tradition, the mainline tradition, or the historically black church traditions; mainline Christians who pray daily and regularly attend church services; and Catholics who consider religion to be very important in their lives."

*Seventy to 87 percent of all Christians expressed dissatisfaction with the political system and the direction the country is taking. Imagine what we could accomplish if we turned that level of dissatisfaction into action.

*Even though 48 percent of evangelicals prefer a smaller government that provides fewer services, 57 percent believe the government should do more to help the poor, even if it means going into debt. That may seem incongruous, but I don't think it is. To me, it indicates that evangelicals place a higher value on helping the poor than on some other governmental services.

*Fifty-four percent of evangelicals believe stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost. That's compared to 64 percent of mainline respondents, which dispels the long-held myth that mainliners and evangelicals are clearly divided on this issue.

*While only 48 percent of evangelicals favor diplomacy over military strength as a means of ensuring peace, I have to believe that's an improvement. (38 percent favor military might over diplomacy, with 16 percent responding "neither," "both," or "don't know.")

*The gap between evangelicals and mainline Christians is also much narrower than was once the case with regard to foreign affairs. Fifty-four percent of evangelicals and 52 percent of mainliners believe we should pay more attention to domestic problems than to international problems.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wearing My Christmas Colors

A few days ago, Melinda at Elements In Time asked readers to comment on what it was that made them become passionate about environmental issues. I responded, but I've continued to think about this since then. What made me, a conservative Midwesterner, raised in the red half of the Twin Cities, and a devout Baptist, also add into my identity the color green? How could I possibly integrate this element into the other elements and come up with an alloy that would hold together? I know this has been a mystery to some of my friends, and certainly to some of my blogging friends, and I'm sure there are people who are convinced I will eventually give up the green thing as some fad that has passed, and there are other people who secretly believe that I will turn from the dark side and renounce my moderately conservative evangelical world view as a relic of our Puritan past.

But that's not going to happen. It all works just fine for me. It's all been part of the real me since I was a child, really. I can care about sustainability without crossing the line into New Age Gaia worship; I can base my social conservatism on Biblical principles; I can evaluate economic systems based on what I think is most compassionate to the the poor and encouraging to the hard-working, and I can do that without hating people who disagree with me. Because, honestly, nobody walking this earth right now has it all figured out, and so we might as well keep talking respectfully with each other, and just enjoying each other as companions on the road of life.

I look back on a childhood spent, basically, outside. Okay, maybe I was a bit of a tom-boy, but really, children back then were pretty much expected to play outside. You came home from school, you changed out of your dress and school shoes into play clothes and you went outside. So did all the other kids in the neighborhood (and it was the baby boom so there were a lot of kids!), and you played. Or, if you wanted some alone time, you laid on the grass and looked at the clouds, or you sat in the crab apple tree and read a book. There were vacant lots, in which we dug holes. Why, I don't know, but we dug them. We girls played house in the weeds, and we made dinners of sour clover served on giant velvet-leaf platters. If it was cold we played in the snow. And there weren't any parents out there supervising, so stuff happened. I fell through the ice into a pond once. I fell out of trees a few times. I fell off a skateboard and broke my wrist. I ran a toboggan into a tree. I wasn't a clumsy child, I just wasn't safely sitting in front of a TV. None of us were. If there was blood, we went in a got a hug and a band-aide, and maybe a graham cracker, and then we went back outside. Our mothers did not bat an eye if we got filthy; they expected that. It meant we had played hard and had a good time. It meant that they could put us to bed at 8pm and know we'd be sound asleep in about two minutes.

So, I grew up loving the natural outside world, where you could watch a cercropia moth emerge from it's cocoon and stretch it's wings. Where you could pull foxtail stems to chew on. Where you could look up at the sky and think, "Looks like it's going to rain here in a minute. I'd better hurry home!" Where you could find baby bunnies in the weeds where their mothers had hidden them. Where you could find broken bird eggshells to add to your cigar-box full of special rocks and jay feathers, and honey-locust seed-pods. Kids don't get to do that so much anymore, and I think that's too bad. That's how I came to love the natural world and want to preserve it.

I watched and helped my grandparents garden on a pretty grand scale, both vegetables and flowers. I also watched my dad work hard on the city council to help site a new landfill when the old one got full, and become one of the earliest advocates of recycling. We were recycling at our house before anyone else I knew, because he thought it was imperative that we not use up our land fill options. I saw the beginnings of the environmental movement locally when some residents decided to prevent the damming of the Sangamon that would have flooded Allerton Park. I was in eighth grade when the first EarthDay was celebrated. I took a wonderful biology-for-non-majors sequence in college that turned me on to the amazing world around me even further. I camped and hiked, ran and biked.

I wanted my sky to stay blue, I wanted my favorite butterflies to visit my flowers every year. I wanted my children to have the same experiences that I had had, and was disappointed that they couldn't quite do that, because things had already changed too much. My husband and I always tried to instill that love of the outdoors in them through hiking and camping. We taught them to recycle, to think about how they transported themselves, to avoid wasting resources because they were valuable for all kinds of reasons, to be frugal so you could give to those less fortunate, to avoid ostentation because it was better to cultivate humility. It all went together.

I have believed for some time that we need to make some pretty significant lifestyle changes so we can keep from poisoning ourselves with our own waste. Then, a year or so ago one of my sons put me on to Colin Beavan's No Impact Man blog, and I was fascinated. I didn't agree with a lot of his politics, but that was okay; I admired his efforts to challenge all of us to evaluate the way we live.

I started to hear about Al Gore's movie. I was reluctant to see it, because, no offense to Mr. Gore, but he always seemed like kind of a dull speaker, and I couldn't imagine watching him for two hours. My husband was not at all interested in wasting movie rental money on a documentary of any kind, but especially this one. However, gradually we began to feel we should see it so we could discuss it intelligently with those who had watched it. I promised myself that I would try to keep an open mind. After seeing it, to my real surprise, I felt he made his case, and so did my husband. We decided to push ourselves further to practice a greener way of life.

The most daunting thing for us is all the political nonsense that everyone wants to add into the issue of climate change. But, whatever, my husband and I are going to live by our convictions on this issue just like we do on all the others. So, everyone, left and right, can think we're weirdos. Oh, well; that's nothing new.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Deep Church

American Baptists (I refer to the denomination, not the nationality) have a saying that "the Bible is our guide in faith and practice." I had intuited this when I first began attending our particular church, although it was perhaps several years before I heard this creed voiced. It was the reason I felt called to this congregation. Any church that recognizes the Bible for the correcting plumb line that it is cannot drift too far astray.

Reformation is an ongoing process. Despite that fact that there is a church era in the distant past that is labeled The Reformation, the congregation resting on the truth of the Bible is required by that truth to continually self-examine to determine if they are remaining faithful to those truths. As an individual congregant, I must do the same as regards my personal life. As some one who leads part of the worship ministry I must take as one of my professional tasks that same examination of the Biblical models of worship.

To do this I read the Bible (!). I also try to keep abreast of what people who are far more theologically educated and deeper thinking than I are writing about worship. I'm probably far behind the curve, but I try to remain aware that the curve is there!

Recently I've been reading some things coming out of the Deep Church movement. The phrase "deep church" was coined by C.S. Lewis in 1952. This group of contemporary theologians, which would include the late Dr. Robert Webber, write somewhat in response to a couple of reform movements that have occurred in the last 30-40 years, namely the seeker-sensitive movement, the emerging church movement, and the alternative church movement. Those three reform movements sought to shake the Church out of a perceived period of the doldrums, propel it forward with stylistically new forms of worship, and explore more effective ways of engaging non-believers, with some significant success. The Deep Church movement reacts to this somewhat by reminding the reformists that there is value to remaining anchored in essential theology; to remaining unified, not by style, but by substance. I was glad to read the voices from the Deep Church movement, because I had become concerned that style was overwhelming substance.

Here is a nice definition of this discussion:

" A deep church is one that has a deep theology, that is able to read scripture, pray and worship drinking from deep wells.

"The deep church conversation I think requires us to acknowledge that there is more than the evangelical story or the charismatic story or whatever tradition we swim in. The deep church conversations wants us to see there is a richer, deeper story of God, that if we begin to hear from can help train us and make us fit for living the Christian life.

"With those in the emerging church rightly encouraging us to ask what does it mean to be church and those in the alternative worship movement encouraging us to ask what does it mean to be worshipping communities, I believe it is good that those who have begun this conversation around deep church, are encouraging us to be rooted in the gospel and engage with the theological tradition of the church."

Andy Goodliff at Deepchurch

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Flood Relief

Please help with flood relief! The Salvation Army and the Red Cross are there in force, but stretched mighty thin. If you'd like to help, donate to them, or check out Network For Good. If you are American Baptist, give to One Great Hour of Sharing through the church. Those funds will be released at the request of churches affected by the flood.

Sunday Stroll-June 22, 2008

These are the first daylillies I have opening, shown against the Moonbeam coreopsis. They came from divisions of my brother-in-law's garden. In honor of his Dutch ancestry, he plants mostly bulb and corm plants.
The hollyhocks are working their way up the stalk. I have some white ones out today as well, but just couldn't get enough contrast in the photo to make them look good.

Bee-balm, with a self-sown hollyhock coming up in the middle of them. Well, I guess everything in this bed is self-sown; that's why my daughter calls it my "crazy" garden. But it's too much fun for me to want to tame it!
Serviceberries. Look quick, before the birds get them all!

Portrait of the Bride

"All those praying grandparents. All those students, whose worship we judge and whose faith we mistrust, but whose hearts really believe. All those people, working in the benevolence kitchen at church, planning the worship, leading Bible studies, taking care of the kids, struggling, learning, singing, questioning, yet all saved by Jesus. All those pastors, struggling each week to wake their congregations up. Members of reformed communities, reading Spurgeon. Charismatics, doing the Pew Olympics. The little church on the corner, which is a mess because members are fighting, and yet where this Sunday someone will get saved anyway. Jesus-believing EC types, lighting candles and chanting. People underground in China, running for their lives in Nigeria, hiding in Saudi Arabia. Christians everywhere, praying, singing, worshipping, serving, messing up, getting right, building the Kingdom. Even the church here in America, with all its problems.

The Bride is beautiful. At least I think so."*

"Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)"-Revelation 19:8

Thanks, once again, to Jared at The Thinklings

Who's Agenda?

"God has an agenda and it is not only not ours, it frequently and constantly interferes with and opposes ours. We are used to thinking in terms of God helping us in our life, that our life is "our story" and we invite God to participate in it, and that is so bass ackwards. It is God's story, God's world, God's life, and we get to participate in it. "

Jared at The Thinklings

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Can Money Buy Happiness?

When I was tagged by Abbie yesterday, I thought the hardest question was the one that asked what I would do if I had a billion dollars. I actually couldn't think about that amount of money; in fact, a million dollars is difficult for me to think about.

When I was talking about this with my husband and daughter, they were equally stumped. There were certain needs we saw within our family that were not huge, but could be relieved, and give some people peace of mind. We all agreed that we had been silently wishing we could solve those little material problems for people we loved. There was very little we could think of for ourselves. We came up with a few charities we would like to support. Then we ran out of gas. The number billion was too big.

My daughter asked if we would stay in our current house. Good question. It needs work. It's on a busy street. On the other hand, it's plenty big enough, in a safe neighborhood, and, well, it's home. There are a lot of memories here. Moving isn't the first thing that pops into my mind.

Interestingly, Arduous blogged on the subject of happiness today, and I'm sure she was working on that article long before I got tagged. Her question was why Americans are not quite as happy as people in some other nations that have somewhat less than we do materially. I won't summarize the whole thing and the great discussion that followed. One thing that came out, though, was that many commenters were willing to give up wealth for time with family, especially raising children. I found this discussion so heartening. There is a lot of real unselfish behavior out there. Along with the stories I was hearing today about people helping out in the flood zones, I basically felt very hopeful about the human race in general, and American society in particular.

Then I read this quote:

"It is sad to see that, in our highly competitive and greedy world, we have lost touch with the joy of giving. We often live as if our happiness depended on having. But I don't know anyone who is really happy because of what he or she has. True joy, happiness and inner peace come from the giving of ourselves to others. A happy life is a life for others."
- Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

I realized that giving was what we really wanted to be able to do. Others who were tagged for the game seemed to feel the same way. So what do you think? Are people generally greedy and selfish, or are they for the most part willing to step outside themselves, invest in relationships, and find joy in giving?

Hooray! It's Hollyhock Season!

Just to get things warmed up, here's the Moonbeam coreopsis.
Then there's the bee-balm, just blooming for the first time today.
But here's the real show. I just love hollyhocks!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Getting to Know You

I've been tagged by Abbie at Farmer's Daughter. Here are the five questions and my answers:

1.What were you doing ten years ago? Ugh! "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.." My husband and I were in the middle of raising our four children, who at the time were 19 (and living on campus), 17 (just finished junior year of high school), 15, and 12. The twelve year old, our only daughter was a breeze. Our 15 year old son, however, was very rebellious at that time and had gotten into some things that landed him in rehab. Very difficult for everybody, including him. The good news is he is now one of the finest people I know, with a wonderful wife and baby, and a very sincere faith in Christ. So, hard as is it is to look back on that time, there is some real joy in seeing the outcome.

2.What five things were on your to-do list today? Pull weeds. Rehearse Sunday's hymns with the organist and pianist. Call the plumber who was supposed to come yesterday and install a back-up sump-pump, but never showed. Contact several ladies who are going to sing in an ensemble, to get them organized to practice. Talk to Mike about weekend plans-are we going cannoeing, or are we going to Springfield to see the Lincoln museum? Call my sister.

3. Snacks you enjoy? Uh-oh, not too healthy here I'm afraid! I like popcorn, Moose Tracks ice cream, and Skittles. And I have the figure to prove it!

4. Places you've lived. Frances E Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, WY (when I was a baby); my parent's house in Champaign, IL; Delta Zeta Sorority in Urbana, IL; first apartment in Chicago Heights, IL (as a newly-wed); townhouse in Park Forest, IL; a couple of little rental places in Champaign; our first little house; and finally, for 24 years, this house in Champaign. I'm not as much of a rolling stone as this list makes me seem.

5. What five things would you do if you were a billionaire? Whew! That's a lot of money. I actually had to talk about this with Mike and Robin at supper, so it's kind of a joint list (but it would be Mike's money as well as mine, so that's okay). I would pay off our mortgage, and all the kid's college loans, make sure everyone in the family had a reliable car, and set up college funds for the grandchildren. Then I would help my oldest son's little church that he is pastoring get their building all energy efficient, so they wouldn't have such struggles paying their winter power bills. We would travel, because we haven't really been able to do that much. And I would give a lot of money to the children's home our church has in Honduras. And a lot of money to the University of Illinois School of Music. Beyond that, I don't know.....

6. People you want to know more about? I tag Eco-Burban-Mom, GreenBean, Arduous, CindyW, Donna, and Nan. You guys can answer here in a comment, or put something up on your own blog. Please play! It will be fun!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

100th Post

This is my 100th post, so I thought I would collect a list of the posts that I personally feel capture my purpose in blogging.

1. I totally fell into blogging by accident, so here's the story: "Why I Blog"
2. This one describes a little about who I am and why I think the way I think: "A Tale of Three Palm Sundays"
3. My take on materialism: "Is Your Lifestyle Informed By Your Faith?, "Decisions, Decisions", "What To Do With All That Money We're Saving",
4. Reflections on social issues: "Repenting", "A Civil Rant On Incivility", " "The Green Movement's New Twist On Church", "On Not Keeping Up With the Joneses"
5. One I like "just because"-"9-11"

Shakespeare I'm not, but I have enjoyed having a place to get some thoughts off my mind and on to paper (keyboard). I've also really enjoyed getting feedback from some truly wonderful people that I've never laid eyes on, but have come to think of as friends. Thanks, blog-friends!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday Meditations

I'm still thinking about our worship service yesterday. That's a good sign! Ideally, attending a church service should be uplifting, thought-provoking, strengthening, and life-changing. It shouldn't be possible to walk out the door and never think about it again. If I do, it may not be the fault of the church or the pastor, it might be my problem. We all need to come to worship with expectation that we will meet God there.

There were two things from yesterday that I am still thinking about today. The first is that we had an opportunity to hear from a younger dad in the congregation who is leaving with his wife and and four young children next weekend to spend most of the summer in Malawi. He is on staff with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and he is leading a team of college students who will go with him, as they all work to minister to AIDs patients, and do AIDs prevention education. One of the striking things he said was that as of yesterday, he had no idea where his family's housing was going to be. So, think about that: he's taking his wife, and children ages 4 through 11, to Malawi, the poorest country in Africa, and they don't know where they are staying when they get there. How would you feel about that?

It was also neat to think about the fact that as he was speaking, we also had a team of about a dozen people that had just landed in Honduras to work at the children's home we support there.
I love the way God is moving people to serve the poorest of the poor.

I am also still thinking about a men's ensemble I organized to sing in recognition of Father's Day. Not all of the 15 men that sang were fathers; however, that is not entirely the purpose of having them sing. When we do this each year, I choose a song that can be sung in unison and will appeal to men, and serve the purpose of a testimony and challenge to the congregation. This year I chose the wonderful Graham Kendrick song, "Knowing You, Jesus". They sang with gusto, and, as usual, I got all choked up as I directed them, because they ranged in age from 12 to 81 and included two groups that were three generations of two different families, as well having two races represented up there. I don't know why that gets to me, but it just does. I love the idea of Christian camaraderie, and I love the idea of older generations setting the example of Godly living down the line to younger generations.

Anyway, here are the words to "Knowing You" by Graham Kendrick:

verse 1
All I once held dear, built my life upon,
All this world reveres and wars to own;
All I once thought gain I have counted loss,
Spent and worthless now, compared to this:

Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you,
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best,
You're my joy, my righteousness,
And I love you, Lord.

verse 2
Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
To be found by You, and known as Yours.
To possess by faith what I could not earn,
All surpassing gift of righteousness.

verse 3
Oh, to know the power of Your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings.
To become like You in Your death, my Lord,
So with You to live and never die.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You,
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness,
And I love you, Lord,
Love you, Lord

That's powerful stuff, thought provoking stuff. Men who sing those words sincerely, those are the kind of men I want to know. Those are the kind of men who help me meet God when I come to worship.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday Stroll-June 15, Father's Day

My garden is sort of between blooms today, along with being a little wind-whipped. I opted to show you some things that are in a more sheltered area. The first is our oakleaf hydrangea, which was planted by my oldest son, Matt, when he was in about 5th grade as part of a requirement for Webelos. They've filled in nicely since then, and they smell so good when they bloom!

This is one of several geraniums I've managed to winter over in the house in the last few years. I've finally gotten that skill down, and it saves me a trip to the garden center each spring.
I hope you are having a great Father's Day! The kids grilled brats for their dad and we had lunch al fresco on the patio, followed by a cut-throat game of croquet, a family tradition. I felt bad that I didn't have any digital photos of Mike and the kids to use for this blog, since he is usually the photographer, and still likes to use his old 35mm. But if you go to Matt's blog, you can see what was posted to honor his dad last week on Mike's birthday, and see what a good dad Mike has always been.

Happy First Father's Day, Paul!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Book Review-Serve God, Save the Planet

As part of GreenBean's Bookworm Challenge I chose to read a couple of books this month.

First, I borrowed Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" from my daughter-in-law Traci. I can see why Traci liked this book. She's a dietitian, and a farm girl, so all the discussion of gardening, cooking, and nutrition was right up her alley. I liked the book mostly for Kingsolver's writing style. Having at one time had a very large vegetable garden of my own, it brought back memories of the hard work, seasonal business of putting up the produce, and some of the frustrations of that life. Actually, not enough of the frustrations, in my opinion. She doesn't seem to have had her green beans annihilated by bean-leaf beetles, or her zucchini plants killed by squash bugs, or her sweet corn raided by squirrels and raccoons. Maybe I'm just a pest-magnate, and maybe working with a bunch of small children underfoot was another distraction, but my experience was not as idyllic as hers seems to have been. I don't really do the vegetable garden thing any more.

I also felt the additional material inserted by her husband broke the flow of the narrative she was writing, and I wound up skipping those parts as I got further into the book. However, her visit to the Amish farm in Ohio was a lot of fun to read about. All in all, I found the book to be a pretty good read.

Next, I read "Serve God, Save the Planet" by Matthew Sleeth. This book was highly recommended to me by Donna. Sleeth is a physician who became alarmed at the increase in asthma cases he was seeing, as well as the uptick in cancer diagnoses. He could see their correlation to the increase in environmental pollution, and felt it was time to sound the alarm about what was happening to our health. He also comments on mental health issues that he attributes to lifestyle. He and his family chose to radically simplify their lives by reducing their material belongings, and , eventually, moving into a house that was comparable in size to the garage of their original house. He left the practice of medicine and began to speak at churches about the need for Christians, motivated by the command to "Love one another", to take seriously the care of God's Creation.

Sleeth's reasoned arguments, under girded with Scripture, as well as his appendixes that outline his methods of changing his lifestyle, outline for group study of the issues, and quotes from famous Christian thinkers about the subject of Creation Care, made this book valuable.

One of my favorite quotes from this book: "Love is not part of the rhetoric of global leaders, power brokers, or conglomerates. It does not make the evening news. It does not appear in medical journals". In contrast, he points out, "love one another" supersedes all of Christ's commandments except the command to love God. A Christian's motivation to live simply is to share wealth with those in need. The motivation to live an environmentally responsible lifestyle is to prevent harm to others and honor God's beautiful creation. I related to these motives far more easily than Kingsolver's. I recommend this book highly.

I appreciate the push from this challenge to read these books, which I might not have done otherwise. Thanks, GreenBean!!

Calvin on Creation Care

"Let him who posseses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by negligence; but let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he recieved it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits, that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits it to be marred or ruined by neglect...Let every one regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he posseses."

John Calvin

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Call To The Front Line

"Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical and totally focused on physical needs inside the church or on personal needs of the people present. But frontline prayer has three basic traits: a) a request for grace to confess sins and humble ourselves, b) a compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church, and c) a yearning to know God, to see his face, to see his glory."

Tim Keller, "Kingdom-centered Prayer," Redeemer Report, January 2006.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I promised another post, offering some common ground for the green community that Green Bean and Arduous would like to build, and I owe them that much, after side tracking the conversation yesterday. Here's what I'm thinking:

1.Let's all brainstorm a good name for this group. I actually like APLS (Affluent People Living Sustainably). I remember when that discussion started, there were some suggestions that were a little pretentious, and I was kind of cringing until Green Bean's husband thought of APLS. It didn't have any words in it that could be misconstrued as belittling others, and that's why I like it. We need a name something like APLS.

2.Better steer clear of "church". All Christians are taught that the church represents Christ's physical presence here on earth. It's going to be very tough to avoid offending a large segment of the the US population if you use the word church.

3.Let's also assume that there are good people in both political parties that care about the environment, even if they disagree on the war, abortion, gay marriage, or the graduated tax ( and about 500 other things). So let's make sure this remains focused and doesn't gather weird accretions that will cause people to run the other way. Red, blue, or purple, we all breathe the air, drink the water, try to find healthy food, and don't want our coastal cities to flood. Wouldn't it be refreshing to get past the political stuff and actually accomplish something!

So, comments and ideas are welcome here, or I'm sure at either of the other two blogs. You are a very creative bunch, so I'm sure we can come up with something terrific! And all you lurkers, too- I know you're out there, so de-lurk and help us. The more voices on this the better.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Green Movement's New Twist On Church

Two of my favorite bloggers (GreenBean and Arduous) have posted in the last day or two about comparisons between the evangelical community and the environmentalist community made in the book "Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility" by Ted Nordhausen and Michael Schellenberger. I haven't read the book yet, (I hope to soon) but it sounds like there is a significant paradigm shift in it's approach to the green movement. Environmentalist are being encouraged to adopt a church model, and help found a "Church of Climate Change" for the green movement.

As an evangelical, this naturally intrigues me. I find it sort of flattering that we are viewed as having some things that people are longing for: community, positive messages, a sense of peace and meaning, positive self-esteem, and even joy. And here I thought we were seen as a bunch of self-righteous kooks! It's refreshing to finally be viewed with a different lens.

Of course, it's also a little odd to think about a "church" that does everything that a church usually does, but without the God part. In fact, I honestly can't wrap my mind around that, no matter how hard I try. Christ is the center of the church. He's the reason it exists. When we go to church, He's all we talk about, all we sing about, the motivator for all our outward actions. In fact, He's the glue that holds us together, because, being human and all, we're too ornery to keep it all together on our own. No amount of trying to act nice would ever make our community possible. It's when people forget about Christ and start trying to make church happen on their own terms that it usually all falls apart.

A lot of perfectly nice people have wonderful social groups, whether it's a book club, a bowling league, the Farm Bureau, or the pals down at the Master Gardening office, and when someone gets sick or loses a family member or a job, the casseroles may come in, or the offers of baby-sitting, or the help cleaning up from the disaster. I've experienced that myself. I've also seen a few people who claimed church membership who could be pretty difficult to deal with. We are by no means a perfect bunch.

I have seen my green blogging friends wrestle with so many of the very same things we wrestle with at church: materialism and consumerism vs. asceticism; hopelessness vs. hopefulness; the value of individual action vs. corporate action; whether the political process has any value at all or should be abandoned; the difficulty of speaking truth to power; the necessity for, and fruitlessness of, self-discipline; long lists of "thou shalt nots" vs. freedom from guilt-inducing rules; fanaticism vs. moderation; feeling like the rest of the world views one as some kind of nut. I could go on and on about the similarities.

I have also observed green bloggers accept the fact that it may be necessary to live with alternative values in order find happiness and fulfillment, just as Christians have accepted the fact that we live in an inexplicable parallel universe with it's own alternate value system called the Kingdom of God. I have seen them search intensely for the truth that is hidden beneath the falsehoods of our culture. It's the thing I admire most about them- and I do admire them, prodigiously! Thank goodness for people who care about the truth!

I'm certainly not a better person than any of them, but I am part of the called-out-of-the-culture group called "the church of the Living God, who is the pillar and foundation of Truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). That's where I live each day, in that Kingdom. Anyone who is actively seeking the truth is my near and dear neighbor. Left to our own devices, humans aren't going to find that much sought-after truth. But that's not a hopeless situation. I don't mean to say that I, personally, always know, without equivocation, the truth in every situation, but I know Who does.

That's the difference between the The Church of Climate Change, and the Church of the Living God: Who, ultimately, holds the Truth.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Stroll-6-8-08

Some people think that the garden of a Master Gardener should always look something like this.
They would be wrong.
If the Master Gardener takes a five day vacation right at the peak of growing season, and then comes home to five straight days of rain, in which a total of ten inches falls, her garden most likely will look something like this:

Somewhere in there, there are some flowers, and my job for the week is to release them from their weedy prison. I will also be tying up my gorgeous, but rebellious, climbing rose:

The rest of the garden is a little waterlogged, but okay. I really have nothing to complain about compared to the farmers, who still don't have their beans planted, or have had all their corn washed out. It's a hot, sunny day today. We are all praying for a reprieve from rain for a week or so, to get that water on it's way down the rivers and all the basements dry.

Here, Let Me Just Sort This Out For You

What's On Your List?

In the course of our church's 144 year long existence, we have successfully navigated change and growth through the Great Depression, war, and significant cultural shifts. It has been part of our congregation's DNA to plan for the future, and maintain strong, multi generational ministry that is respectful of the past, but eagerly anticipating what God will do next.

Still, change can, undeniably, be hard. Even small changes (new hymnals, altered worship order, different people on the platform leading worship), can feel unsettling. Perhaps it depends on your personality, but you may sometimes be wondering if everything you know and are familiar with is going to go away, leaving you to feel like a stranger in the place you have long looked to as a refuge.

To give this some perspective, how much of what we do at church is just exactly like what you experienced as a child? Some things may be very much the same. Some things, like the use of technology, have changed dramatically, I'm sure.

For me personally, the things I wouldn't want see change are: solid Biblical preaching and teaching, being part of a congregation that sings enthusiastically, and deep friendships. Other things that I like very much could probably go away without traumatizing me, but these things I would miss terribly if I lost them.

You probably have your own list. I hope you will keep it short, though, because we really don't know what the Holy Spirit will want to do with our church as we move further into the millennium . We only know that it is not God's will that a church should die, or lose it's power to bear fruit. Thankfully, so far, He has kept us growing, singing, and learning for His glory.

"In any difficult issue Gil Rendle said, automatically about 20% of people in the organization are for doing things differently. About 20% will never be in favor of doing things differently. That leaves over half the people of the organization who stand a chance of changing their opinion on the matter. "A pastor can waste a huge amount of time waiting for, and trying to convince the 20% who will never change. Work on that 60%, and try to give them room to feel positively about the change at their own rate." These are some of the principles of non –synoptic leadership."

(Gil Rendle from the Alban Institute in Washington, as quoted by Will Willimon of A Peculiar Prophet)

Why not take a few minutes and ask yourself, "Which of these categories do I live in? Do I embrace change? Do I accept change? Do I dislike change?" How can you best be used by God to grow into his future?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

How Can An Older Congregation Live Into Christ's Future?

Seeing the Sanctuary Service flourish is a concern near and dear to my heart, and I personally believe that it can flourish, grow, and produce new Christians. Fruit-production requires fertile ground, healthy stock, and (ouch!) even pruning to occur. Although First Baptist itself is growing by leaps and bounds, and we have recently seen quite a few baptisms, that growth is mostly a function of the ministry to children and youth, and the addition of new worship services. I think the Sanctuary congregation faces some of the same hurdles that older stand-alone congregations face in remaining forward-leaning and future-focused. Many of the processes developed for church renewal are probably applicable on a small scale to that part of our church.

Here are some thoughts on church renewal from Bishop Will Willimon of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church:

"No existing, older churches can be revitalized without risk, commitment, and a determination to be faithful to the mission of Christ no matter what.
If your church is in decline and not growing, it is because your congregation has decided to die rather than to live (alas, there is no in between when it comes to churches). The majority of our churches are not growing, thus we have a huge challenge before us. Still, our major challenge is not to find good resources for helping a church grow and live into the future; our challenge is to have pastors and churches who want to do what is necessary to live into Christ's future."

Bishop Willimon is, of course, talking about renewal processes in the United Methodist denomination, but his thoughts, based on wide research, hold true for all denominations. A deeply felt and theologically sound spirituality, lived out in an outward focus, a welcoming and inviting atmosphere, flexibility, and willingness to embrace change for the purpose of reaching and assimilating newcomers, are all signs of an older congregation that has chosen to live, rather than choosing a slow decline and death.


In my humble opinion, we've had enough!

A Few New Places to Visit

This morning there are a couple of nice posts on other blogs I read that you might find interesting.

The first is on a garden blog I just found yesterday, written by someone in my area. She has posted some good photos of our local flooding, which I have yet to capture with my camera, and also gives some perspective on what farmers are dealing with here. Check them out at at Prairie Rose's Garden.

I also appreciated a nice post on Morning Ramble about the importance of speaking words of encouragement and praise to those we love. This blog is always breath of fresh air, and I appreciate her desire to invest in her family.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Is Jesus Here?

From Ray Ortlund:

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, . . . ." Revelation 3:20

The church at Laodicea had to be told that Jesus was no longer inside. By now he was outside, standing at their door, knocking, asking to be welcomed back in.

I wonder when he left them. I wonder why they didn't notice. I wonder how they responded when they heard this knock on their door. I hope they ran to the door and threw it wide open.

It would not be a waste of time for every church board -- elders, deacons, whatever -- to take one hour out of all the many hours they spend together and devote just one hour to these questions:

What are the unmistakable signs of Jesus' presence in a church, according to Scripture?

What evidences do we see here among us of his wonderful presence?

Is his presence as powerfully real now as it has been in the past?

If not, how quickly, how practically and how radically can we run to the door and open it up again?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Quit Now Challenge

Today I bought a retractable clothes line and my handy-dandy husband just attached it to the back of the house. So, tomorrow I'm back in business for hanging wash!! I've been wanting to do this since reading Green Bean's lyrical post on the joys of hanging her laundry out. Now, Chile's given me the kick in the pants I needed to get this done. Thanks, guys!

Now, we have had 6 inches of rain in the last five days, so that should tell you that it will take a fair amount of commitment to do this faithfully. The ground is still a little squishy out there, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for good weather tomorrow so I can get this show on the road.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Anyone who serves in ministry has probably experienced what I have experienced in the last few weeks. Despite the fact that things are going along pretty well, there are a couple of people who are displeased, and they are making their feelings known pretty vocally. It's like trying to do your work with a couple of yippy little dogs biting at your ankles- you can't concentrate on what's important until the dogs are finally put outside.

Discouragement builds. I begin to question why I am putting forth so much effort. It's not at all that I would want any special recognition; I just want to be allowed to do my work in peace.

This sort of feeling comes along cyclically, and I've learned that it is a good time to step back and try to hear God, to allow Him to lead me out of the thicket with His voice, to show me what my next move should be. As we left for Oklahoma last Thursday, I spent some time in the car praying and jotting down questions that I had for Him, so that I could look for the answers He would give me. Most of all, I was looking for encouragement, any encouragement on any subject, because it's easy to begin to doubt your self-worth when dealing with constant criticism.

Certainly, I did not hear all the answers to my questions yet, and that's okay. It's not for me to say how quickly God should speak. But I did receive encouragement, and a lifting of spirits, in two very tangible ways.

First, after a wonderful weekend of just playing with our grand-daughter and enjoying relaxed conversation with our son and daughter-in-law, they handed us an envelope as we left to go home. In it were two recent photos of the baby-very sweet. But even nicer was a note they had written to us. My daughter-in-law wrote, among a few other things: "Thank you for loving God and pouring yourselves into your children. I benefit daily from your investment in Paul....I enjoy being part of your family. Thank you for how you have made me feel welcome in your family."

Now, that would have been blessing enough. But there was also a note from Paul. He was our most challenging teenager. I won't go into details- it's his story to tell- but I'm glad he lived to be grown, because I wasn't sure that would happen there for a while. He wrote: "Thanks for all you've done for me and us over the years. I'm glad that it's important to you to stay in touch and visit. It means a lot to us and I can tell Malorie is loving it too. Looking forward to lots more visits..."

Parents are told to parent without any expectation of thanks, and that's what we did. But we got the thanks! I can't tell you how meaningful that is.

When we got home, I received another nice encouragement. Someone who has become a blog-friend chose to set a challenge for herself, based in part on some things she had read on my blog. Totally unexpected. I write kind of whatever comes to mind; who knew that would be an influence on anyone? So I felt blessed again.

I continue to wait and pray for guidance, but with David the Songwriter I say "Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped." (Psalm 28:6-7)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Aargh! Now I'm Behind

I left town for a few days (wonderful!) and now I feel like there are about ten posts I need to write to get caught up. As if someone was holding a gun to my head to do this.

Tonight, I'll just get a few things out of the way.

1. I keep getting wrapped up in these challenges! So, for Chile's, I'm giving up the dryer for the summer. I'll let you know how that goes. We get a fair amount of rain here. I did it years ago, with a bigger family in the house, but now that I actually have a dryer, I may be tempted to break down and use it.

2. For GreenBean's reading challenge, I still haven't finished the book I originally committed to, because I keep finding others that appeal to me more. But I just finished "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and am now reading "Serve God, Save he Planet", and I have this great idea for a compare and contrast review of those two books. Sometime this week.

3. Arduous has just started a really neat challenge to encourage people to be more generous. Pop over there and sign on for that one! I can't wait to see what happens when people open their eyes to the needs around them.

4. There was no Sunday Stroll this week, unless you count my little Malorie's high-speed crawling. It's just too cute when crawling baby girls have little ruffles on the seat of their pants! Oh, wait, I promised myself that I would not be a boring Nanna talking all about her adorable grandchild! But trust me, she IS adorable!

5. Lastly, I just want to say I don't understand why gas was $4.03 here and $3.69 in Claremore.
That seems like a big difference to me. Not sure I'll ever understand the economics of fuel prices.