Friday, September 16, 2011

Sadness and Hope

Tonight I have been thinking of my brother Dan and of my cousin Brian, both family members who died unexpectedly at a young age. My sister wrote about it in her blog, and posted a photo of the two of them. I look at them, sitting there at a family picnic, living, breathing, talking. Who would ever think that a few short years later they'd both be gone? Our friends are staying with us while they care for their 26 year old daughter who is dying of cancer. We never know what is coming in life.

I have a Dutch tile in my kitchen with a sentence that translates to, "In the concert of life, no one has a program." Isn't that the truth? Except God.

In a 9-11 sermon (starting at 46:57) that our pastor gave he talked about the hope we have in Christ, even when faced with the horror of that terrorist attack. We don't understand why these terrible things happen but we know it can't be because God doesn't love us (from The Reason for God by Tim Keller). I can't imagine how people can live without faith. Knowing that God is here, walking beside me, holding my hand -- I am so grateful.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Where our tastes differ

Once in a while I get a chance to hear "This American Life" on the radio while driving, but usually I end up only hearing part. Today my husband and I were on a longer ride and when "This American Life" came on, this conversation ensued:
Me: Yeah, we can listen to "This American Life."
The show starts.
Hubsand: What is this about?
Me: Break-ups.
Hubsand makes a face.
Me: Could you not hate it? I'm happy I get to hear it. Isn't that a good thing?
Hubsand (in his best Eeyore voice): It's what I live for.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How can stories change the world?

I like this quote from Alice LaPlante, an author, answering the question: How can stories change the world?
...I think the most important thing that stories can do for us is give us experiences we otherwise wouldn't have. By "experiences" I mean everything from events, to thoughts, to emotions, that are outside our normal frame of reference. Experience can lead to understanding, which can lead to compassion for our fellow human beings. Not always, but often enough. And in difficult times, compassion is essential for helping as many people as possible survive until things get better all around. Not to sound too smarmy. But if people had more insight into their neighbors' hearts and minds, we could possible alleviate much unnecessary suffering. Stories have the power to do that.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

All the vain things that charm me most

Today at church we sang "O the Wonderful Cross" but our worship leader sang more of the verses from the old hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," which is interspersed between the choruses in the Chris Tomlin version. I've included the verses we sang below.

A phrase in the third verse really struck me, "all the vain things that charm me most." I love the old fashioned words, full of meaning. There are so many vain things, things that will mean very little to me when my life is over, that do charm me, that feel so very important, and that I strive to reach.

It's good to remember what really matters in life.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

That's nice

Today at church we had a guest minister who is going to start a campus ministry at UC Berkeley. He preached on the story in Acts 5 where the apostles are put in jail, then an angel gets them out and they start preaching again. They are taken again and flogged but then released. The minister talked about being bold, and led by the Holy Spirit, to talk to others about Jesus.

I have been able now, for quite a few years, to talk pretty freely about the fact that I believe and that my faith motivates what I do. Even at work I think most people know that about me. I don't experience persecution. No one even mocks me or says anything disparaging about my faith. If it comes up, people tell me they like or admire that about me. Kind of like they're saying, "That's nice," and then they go on their merry way and I go on mine.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

10 reasons for faith

On Easter my church's pastor, Brad Smith, preached a sermon that included 10 of his personal reasons for faith. You can hear his sermon, with these reasons at the end, here (the last one in the list), or search for San Jose Christian Reformed Church in iTunes and find the sermon of April 24, 2011. Below is Brad's list. Many of his reasons resonate with me.

Brad Smith - Why I Believe - 10 Reasons

  1. Brick walls - I try to live life by my own terms, and then I run into brick walls. Each time, I finally realize I need to listen and follow what God says he wants me to do.
  2. People I admire, who believe - People of faith who have formed me by their life, character and teachings. Friends, teachers, C.S. Lewis, our church family.
  3. Apologetics - “A defense.” C.S. Lewis’ argument for reality: Imagine I see someone trapped in a life-risking situation. I hear two voices arguing, (1) that I should help that person, and (2) why it does not make sense to risk my life for someone I don’t know. And somehow it is wired within us that we know we should risk our lives for others.
  4. A life that I want - I read the Bible and see those with faith and I want the life of faith.
  5. The Sierras and babies - Incredible nature, glory of creation, not just the mystery of it, but because it is so good and beautiful. Even when we see things go wrong, we know it’s wrong because the Bible says God made it good.
  6. Times I’ve gotten a glimpse of God’s reality and presence - I go back to those moments when I’m not feeling close, or I’m in doubt, and remember those glimpses, those times I knew.
  7. Hymns that make me cry - Corrie ten Boom, who went through Nazi Germany, talks about her brother’s ordination as the most joyous occasion that an unemotional people can have. I come from an unemotional culture (Dutch) and once in a while, the power of a hymn breaks forth and makes me know.
  8. Because Jesus believes - There’s no one more kind, generous, loving, gracious and true. If he believes, I can.
  9. Because without faith the problem of evil is even a bigger problem than with it - Many people struggle with why bad things happen, especially to good people. It’s a valid question, but it’s an even bigger problem for doubting than to have faith. When we lose someone it rips us apart and we feel it is not right, not the way it should be. It’s not that there’s this cycle of birth, life, death and then we go back to the ground and the cycle starts again. Without faith all the suffering and pain and death is not wrong, it’s just part of the cycle. But with faith we can say we don’t know why but we know why not. We know it can’t be because God doesn’t love us because he himself came into this mess and lived and died for us. He’s proven he loves us.
  10. The resurrection - Thomas the apostle moves from doubt and when he sees the resurrected Christ, he says the most profound sentence, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas is the first one to recognize not that Jesus was just Lord, but that he is God. Not just seeing is believing, “Oh, now I see he is alive from the dead,” but he said, “My Lord and my God.” If the resurrection is true, then all the Bible says about life is true. N.T. Wright says “life after life after death,” when all creation is renewed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Part of the beauty of me is that I'm very rich -- Donald Trump

Oh, really, Donald? And what else makes up the whole of the beauty of you? Your comb-over?

He's a weirdo, but what a great quote. It cracked me up.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Learn the language

I heard a speaker today (Len Sweets) talking about speaking in story and metaphor, and speaking the language of the 22nd century kids we're working with now. What does that look like, I wonder?

He was a good speaker. The word "story" is a popular one, not just in church things but in business, too. I suppose it'll get over-used, maybe it already is. But I like it. I've said for a long time that I like books for the story. I like story.

Our worship leader, Alex, is leading a class on writing our own stories, part of our "year of the story" at church. Alex made a good booklet for us to use for the project. He's a good guy. Really deep in the scriptures. Also funny.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stressing out a tiny bit

So, I'm stressing out a bit. More than tiny. I've noticed how quickly I feel stress in my body these days. I feel my stomach tighten up and I hold my breath and my body gets sort of stiff. Sometimes I'll have that reaction for something that really does not deserve it, and then I sometimes have a hard time getting myself to relax. Is this yet another thing that happens as you get older? Sheesh.

Anyway, I'm stressing because I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. At work it's gotten really busy, more than it already was, which was actually more than enough. I'm working on a new project to potentially get us on a new program that I think will be great. So I'm enjoying the work and excited about what it could lead to. But it is a big thing and a lot to try to accomplish.

I've got lots of projects at work that have to do with Lotus Notes and I'm trying to get us out of Notes so I try not to spend too much time and effort in it. Yet people need what they're asking for. So there's that.

And I'm behind in some stuff at church, too, in particular the photo directory. Last week when I tried to work on it the computer was having problems (actually it turned out to be a power issue). This week after finishing the bulletin I thought I'd work on it but I was literally dozing off at the keyboard so I gave it up.

Plus I took on a new responsibility. The CRC Network asked me to be the "guide" for their Church & Web network. It's an honor and I'm truly looking forward to it. And it's adding to my stress level.

But, okay, enough. The thing is I like all the stuff that's causing my stress. So I need to get my thoughts straightened out in my head and figure out how to stop my body from doing what it's doing. And my brain, too, from going around in circles. I'll get there. I'll breathe. I'll read.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Be Courageous and Strong

That was the name of Brad's sermon a couple weeks ago and I thought it was very timely for me because I was going to participate in a "360" meeting with several co-workers. It was a new process we were trying as part of our performance reviews. In the past we'd been asked to fill in a form asking "What would you like your co-worker to start doing? stop doing? keep doing?" Managers would ask their employees to answer that about themselves as managers and they would gather answers from their employees' peers.

Our company has teams composed of salespeople and those who support them. A couple managers started having the teams meet to talk about these things face-to-face rather than write them and have them told to them by their managers. The ones who talked face-to-face all said that it was much better, and helped to foster the ability to talk more easily together all the time. The management team decided we should practice what we preach and we formed groups to do it with each other.

The Sunday of this sermon was the day before I was due to meet with my group and I was nervous about it. I think sometimes I come off as pretty self-confident but inside I can be a mess. (This reminds me of my mom saying that my dad's family acts as if they're so "easy" but really they're a mess inside.) Anyway, the sermon helped me remember that God was with me and I had his strength to lean on.

How'd it turn out? Absolutely fine. The things people said to me were mostly very positive and just a few little comments about some things to consider. I actually came away feeling great. It was a confidence-booster in the end, not the buster I was afraid of. Praise God.