Friday, July 29, 2011

A Lifetime of Work for an Eternal Impact

By Ben and Leah

Hello!  This is Ben Wacek and Leah Wacek, and as a brother/sister tag team, we would like to share with you the experience that we were blessed to have at a Bible dedication in Indonesia earlier this summer.  We hope you enjoy it!

Roma 10:15b – “Kove ngkov irate vatano ude wo Ayao Kovo Amisye raugave mansai!”
Romans 10:15b - "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
In the early 1940’s, Dutch missionaries introduced Jesus and Christianity to the people on a small island in West Paupua (then Irayan Jaya) for the very first time.  From this time forward, the lives of the individuals in this group were changed as they turned from their animistic worship to the worship of Jesus.  In one village on the island the people were so excited about this knowledge of life after death that one by one they carried 80 pound concrete blocks about 20 miles through the mountains in order to build a church. 
Although the news of salvation was better than any other news the people on this island could have received, there were still a few problems.  One of these problems was that the only Bible that they had was written in Bahasa Indonesia – the country’s national language.  Unfortunately, very few of the people spoke Bahasa which meant that almost everything they knew about Christ and the Bible was explained to them by the few who knew the national language.  As a result, for many of them, their faith was not based on the Bible and their focus was on living according to a set of rules.

Matius 28:19 – Maisyare omai ti, Syo wasatutir wata no rui rui vayave indamu wapo vatane kotaro ntuna no mine so rai mansanyao tenambe indamue utavondijo Rinai.  Muno wapo maugasyo kuvuni mana raijo Injayo Amisye apa tame rai muno Apa Kavo tame rai muno Anawayo Vambunine ama tame rai.
Matthew 28:19 - Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Larry and Linda with the island's lead translator.
Fast forwarding to 1983, Larry and Linda Jones moved to this island in West Papua to fill in some of these holes.  Their first step was to learn the native language by living with and conversing regularly with the people.  After learning the language, Larry and Linda created a written language since one did not exist!  Finally they were able to teach the written language to the people and begin translating the Bible into the new written language. 
The translation of the Bible into this new language was an incredible process. It was a joint effort of both the native people and the Jones family. Each verse needed to translated one by one and then checked by a separate party. Early on in the process a young native man was chosen to be a key person in the project. He moved to Jakarta, which is on the other side of Indonesia, to work with the Linda and Larry. When in Jakarta, this native man became homesick and longed for his relationships back on the island. After much internal struggle, he decided that he needed to go home, leaving the translation work behind. This deeply saddened the man; and in many ways he felt as if he had failed.  The translation continued, but many years later it became apparent to the Jones that a key native person was needed in order to complete the translation.
Larry went to the village to talk with the people, raising his concerns. The islanders all agreed that the original man involved needed to help complete the translation. At this time the native man had a dream that he was carrying a bag of gold up the mountain to his people in the village. During the long, difficult hike the bag of gold was lost and he wasn’t able to deliver it to his people. After waking up that morning, the man went to the garden to think about this dream he had. While he was still in the garden, Larry approached him and asked him to rejoin the translation team even though they hadn’t seen each other in years. At this instant, it was clear to this man that God wanted to continue to use him to bring the Word of God to his people, and from this point forward he became the main laborer in the translation process.
Finally, on June 30th, the New Testament was done and ready to be presented to this tribe.  The two of us were humbled to have the opportunity to travel to this remote village to be a part of this historical day. Just to give you an idea of the remoteness, even after 24 hours of travel to get to Indonesia, we still had four additional flights, two open-back truck rides, and a hike through the mountains in order to arrive at our final destination.  Although this village had no running water, no electricity, and no beds or mattresses, they were receiving the New Testament in their native language – and that was plenty of reason to celebrate!

Acts 2:11b –  …amisye pi bambunin, Apa ana daveye ngko dave!”
Acts 2:11b - …we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
The island's church.
The Bible dedication itself was crowded, difficult to understand, and long, which is why I think it was so special.  First of all, everyone wanted to be part of this monumental event.  The church mentioned above was packed with about 300 people and those who weren’t able to fit inside crowded around the doors and windows just to get a glimpse of what was going on inside.  Secondly, the service was almost entirely in the native language of which we understood none.  Actually, our experience was probably very similar to you trying to read and understand each of italicized Bible verses which are in the island’s  native language – it just isn’t possible.  This was a bit frustrating until we realized that this is exactly how most of the people on the island felt every time scripture had ever been read to them, until this day.  
On this day, the Bible was transformed from an overwhelming and difficult to understand book into a masterpiece in their native tongue!  Thirdly, the ceremony was long not only because all of the speaking but also because of the long handshakes.  In this culture, the longer a handshake between two people, the closer the relationship.  We timed the longest handshake between Larry and Linda and one of the people at more than two minutes.  It was so neat to be able to see the lasting impact Larry and Linda had on these people’s lives!
The party did not stop after the dedication ceremony was complete. After the service, the people had the opportunity to buy a Bible in their mother tongue. It was amazing to see these people receive this book and page through with an eagerness that’s indescribable. We had the privilege of joining in on cultural singing and dancing that lasted long into the night. God’s glory was on display. We were celebrating the fact that a people group now has the Word of God in their own language. This was something to celebrate!

2 Timotius 3:16 – Ana ratoe no Ayao Amisye mamo Amisye pi po raugaje tenambe.  Muno Ayao Amisye ngkov irate wansai weye mo wansanyao irate ayao tugae rai, mo wama ayao kakaije raroron kakavimbe wansai, mo wansanyao indamu wansakinavo wama ayao kakaije rai, muno mo wansanyao indamu wama ana wandave mamai no Amisye amune rai.
2 Timothy 3:16 - All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
Father and son reading together.
Reflecting back on this experience, it is one that we are incredibly thankful to have had because it is unlike anything that either of us has ever experienced before and because the unity in the love of Christ was so evident in our time there.  As we think about what God taught us through this adventure, two main questions/challenges come to mind:

1.     Do we treasure the Word of God as much as these people did?  On this trip, we were reminded that the Bible is not just a self-help book or a bunch of interesting stories, but that it is literally the words of God.  When seeing the Bible though this lens it has intensified our desire to read it, study it, memorize, and meditate on it.

2.     Will the way that we’re spending our lives have an eternal impact for God’s Kingdom?  This challenge was brought to mind because the way that Larry and Linda are spending their lives will have an eternal impact in a very tangible way.  If the Jones’ had not been willing to make the sacrifices required to do this work, then it’s very possible it could have been a long time before this people group received the Word of God in their native language.  But because they were willing to devote a lifetime to this work, a remote village has the truth of God available to them which will be passed on from generation to generation until the return of Christ.  Larry and Linda are without a doubt making an eternal impact for God’s Kingdom.

Thank you so much for reading about our trip. We hope that our experiences are an encouragement to you and they challenge you to ask the above questions of yourself.  If you have any interest in learning more about this trip, please feel free to ask.  There is so much more that we weren’t able to include.

Being welcomed into the village as they sang their favorite song. Some of the lyrics are, "God's word, this good word, is with us in this world."
Celebrating receiving God's word with flutes.

Note: The specific name of the island, people group, lead native translator, and language were intentionally left out of this piece for the safety of the people.

Monday, July 25, 2011

There's no killing sin with God in a box: UPDATE

Kari's First post here (There's no killing sin with God in a box)

Blog Writer Follow-Up Questionnaire

Q: If you could add on to your story (in the blog post), what would you write?

A: I think I would add that while I struggle with these sins in my life, the Lord still loves me just the same. There is nothing that I can do or say that will make God love me more or love me less. It’s a really astonishing thing because God is the only one who will ever do that for us, which is why we need to be solid in Christ as our foundation.

Q: What do you think would be valuable for the readers to hear about your story since your blog post appeared?

A: My struggles didn’t just magically end as soon as I shared my story with other women. Every single day, I continue to fight the good fight and work to keep the Lord as my foundation. And there are times when I fail miserably, but God loves me deeply and continues to call me back to Him. He continues to demolish any small view of Him that I might have, and he shows Himself off in bigger ways than are imaginable. God continues to crush any enclosed space I try to place Him in and tells me that He is too great for that.

Q: How has posting this blog benefited (or not benefited) you?

A: I tried everything to keep my story silent in order for my heart to be protected. Before I shared my story with the women of Hope, I tried to hold a mask of perfection in front of me. I obviously failed every time. I know that vulnerability is key to developing any relationship and found this was a roadblock in my life. But after sharing my struggles and how the Lord is calling me to raise the bar, God has showed me that I am not alone in this. On the contrary, there are women who have either fought through similar sin, or who are willing to come along side me and help me fight. This blog has been a blessing and, while I’m still not good at “being vulnerable,” the Lord is showing me that He can protect my heart. I just have to trust that He can.

Q: What steps have you taken in the process of raising the bar?

A: I’m still trying to get into the habit of reading scripture every day and trying to recall those verses to mind as I am at work, interacting with people, at small group, etc. Mostly though, I am continually reminded through scripture as to how BIG God is (and I know my view isn’t even big enough). He is faithful and He is sovereign over my life. I am also working on being more open in relationships, knowing that the Lord will protect me, and my heart.

Q: What challenges have arisen? What joys have arisen?

A: Like I said before, the Lord is sovereign, and I am starting to realize that as much as I want to put my past behind me, there is a reason that it is continually called to mind. My past is what pushed me toward the Lord and the Lord has continually deemed it worthy to be shared. This leads me to both a joy and a challenge that has come up recently. The Lord is calling me to do LDI (the Leadership Development Institute) next year.

This is a joy because I cannot wait to continue to fall more in love with the Word, build relationships, and take a year to serve the Him and see the mighty, mighty work He is doing in the lives of people at Hope and in the Twin Cities. A challenge because I still don’t understand how me, a sinner in this broken world, can be called to serve such an Awesome God. This is my chance to understand what ‘Give it to God’ means, putting my hope in the fact that He provides in the ways He sees fit, and walk alongside others in their struggles, just as other people have blessed me with.

Q: What’s next?

A: Raising support, LDI, and lots of cupcake baking.

Check Out Our New Pages

If you have you been wondering about 2011-2012 events...wait no longer!  Check out the new pages on

The Upcoming Events page lists all the Women at Hope events for the 2011-2012 year.  Get out you calendar and save the dates for these events.  More details will be added as events approach.

The 2011 Slumber Party page has also been added.  Check out the first details for the 2011 Slumber Party.  This is an event you don't want to miss.  Save the date for this event for sure.  Also view photos from the 2010 Slumber Party.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Footloose and Fancy Free: Tales of a teacher on summer vacation, Vol. 2

By Laura K.

What’s a girl to do when she has two months off work and an awesome sister with a lot of frequent flyer miles?  Oh, probably go off on a European vacation.  My sister and I just returned from spending twelve whirlwind days traveling, seeing, experiencing, photographing, and enjoying four European cities in three countries.  I’ve been trying to think of how I can summarize our trip into a neat little package for you.  I’ve had no brilliant ideas.  So instead I have decided to hand out some awards to the aspects of our travels that stand out to me.  So, without further ado, I bring to you: The Best of Europa.
The award goes to…
Best Lodging: Leopoldskrohn in Salzburg, Austria
I mean, you can’t beat staying in a castle with beautiful halls for dining, an incredible old library in which I could be content to just sit, surrounded by old musty books for hours on end, and a view that includes delightfully landscaped gardens, a lake, and mountains rising in the distance.  Did I mention that this was used as the set for the Von Trapp home in the Sound of Music?  I felt like I was living in a fairy tale.

Biggest Disappointment: No swans in Hallstatt
This tiny little town up in the lake district in Austria had enough charm that it was still quaint and endearing to walk through, but I must admit, I was really looking forward to the swans Rick Steves promised me in his guidebook. 

Best View During a Meal: A restaurant balcony overlooking the Ludwigsee on the way to Hallstatt
After some initial lost in translation moments, we eventually ordered some fish for lunch and some homemade apple struedel for dessert.  It was delicious, but let’s be honest for a moment – everything tastes better when you are overlooking mountain lakes and little villages.

Most Hospitable: Our hotel in Old Town Prague
Before we even finished checking in, the hotel manager came over to introduce herself and shake my sister Rachel’s hand.  Then we had complimentary room service arrive at our door before it had even closed.  This was followed immediately by a phone call checking to make sure our room was satisfactory.  Welcome to Prague.
Craziest Streets: Prague
The streets were tiny, twisting, narrow, cobblestone corridors that I loved walking down, but proved impossible to navigate.

Most Blessed By: The kindness of strangers
We had several moments in our trip when things could have lapsed into small disasters, were it not for the kindness of strangers.  There are several people who brought us places out of their way, gave us tips on beautiful places to visit, and helped us navigate when we were lost.  Without them, I’m fairly certain Rachel and I would still be wandering the countryside of the Czech Republic.  
Favorite Cultural Experience: How do I decide?
It is definitely a toss-up between the marionette theater in Salzburg and the ballet in Prague.  As you can imagine, the marionette theater’s rendition of The Sound of Music was delightful in the most ridiculous and enchanting sort of way, and the ballet was just beautifully breathtaking to watch.  
Best People Watching: Pigeon Boy
While eating gelato in front of the Astronomical Clock in Prague, we were mesmerized by this little bitty boy who was not big enough to have pedals on his tiny bike.  He focused in on a single pigeon in the square and chased it down with impressive speed and agility for someone so tiny.  He reminded me a bit of my friend Rachel who enjoys chasing birds at the beach.  

Best Weather: Our last day in Prague
This trip was a good reminder that God controls the weather, not  We were less than thrilled that rain was in the forecast for over half our trip.  Every day we dutifully packed our umbrellas, and nearly every day God blessed us with sunny blue skies.  The last day in Prague though was our favorite weather day.  It wasn’t too hot (like the day we thought it would be a good idea to bike along the Danube), or so windy that we found it impossible to see through our tangled locks of hair (like the day we toured a palace in Vienna).  Here is a pic of our “calm” hair on the windy day.

Favorite Sound of Music Moment: Too many to count
This category has to be included because Salzburg is where the movie was filmed.  We were able to tour many of the sites of the movie.  I loved Mirabell Gardens, which is where much of the Do-Re-Me song takes place.  I also must admit that the gazebo where Rolf and Liesl danced was more lovely and whimsical than I anticipated.  Fun fact: the gazebo is locked to tourists because once upon a time, a woman tried to leap from bench to bench, just as in the movie, but she fell and broke her hip.

Best Slide: The second slide in the salt mine
We toured a salt mine outside of Salzburg, and learned a lot about salt and European history through our trek deep into the mountain.  The highly dramatized educational films we watched along the way definitely added to the experience.  There are two wooden slides that you take down deeper into the mine, just as the miners do.  We liked the second slide better because A) it was longer and thus more fun and B) let’s just say it took us a while to get the hang of mine sliding…
Best Wildlife Viewing: A man taking a pony for a walk in the English Garden
I know I was jet-lagged at the time, but I also have witnesses to back me up.  I really did see a man walking his pony through the garden, like one might walk a puppy.  I was almost equally delighted by the little toddler who followed his puppy’s example, and approached us on all fours sniffing the air and barked at us. 
Favorite Church: St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna
St. Stephen’s is an imposing gothic cathedral.  It is incredible to look up at from the street and also gorgeous on the inside.  We saw a lot of fancy churches, so St. Stephen’s should be excited to win the title of favorite.  

Favorite person we would like to take home with us (or at least out for Viennese Coffee and Cake): Our tour guide at the State Opera House
This guide is among the most graceful and charming people I have ever met.  She was so effortlessly elegant and delightful.  We really wanted to put her in our pocket and take her with us, but we didn’t think that someone so elegant would want to try to fit in a pocket, so we went on our own to experience Sacher Torte at the fancy hotel across the way.
Best Meal: Wienerschnitzel under a Ferris wheel
Do you watch “The Amazing Race?”  Since my return, I have been informed that the show one-upped my favorite meal, by having contestants eat wienerschnitzel while ON the Ferris wheel.  We were not quite as cool as that, but I still loved the experience.  
Best Train Advice: Hope for the best!
It was often tricky to tell if it truly was your train that was at the platform, so eventually we used the “hop on and hope for the best” game plan.  I’d say we had a 95% success rate.  
Favorite Games: “Play at your own risk” in the labyrinth 
Hedge mazes are fun in and of themselves, but we were quite amused that in two of the labyrinths at Schoenbrunn Palace there were signs warning you to use the games at your own risk.  Upon further investigation (trying the “games” out) I think you’d have to try really hard for these harmless interactive stations to be risky.  

Best Train and Metro Navigator: Rachel
Best Street Navigator: No one. 
Most Difficult Task: Finding our new hotel.  Every time.  
Most Stressful Tour: Trick Fountains at Hellbrunn Palace
We lived on edge during the whole tour because water could shoot out at you from the most unexpected places, at the most unexpected times.  
Most reminded me of Hope CC: Crows in Munich’s English Garden

Sights I could not get enough of: Europe
If I have to choose more specifically than that, I will say that I loved the cobblestone streets lined with old, dignified buildings.  I loved the Alps.  I loved the bicycles, window boxes, and old fashioned doors.  I took too many pictures of all of these things. 

I loved our trip, and I love that I can take advantage of the season of life I am in to do fun and amazing things.  Wherever you are at in life, I encourage you to take full advantage of the experiences before you.  Live the life God has given you to the fullest.  Traveling is one of my favorite things because I can’t get enough of learning about other cultures, seeing how other people do life, and taking in the amazing beauty that God has created all around the world. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Women at Hope: Women’s & Men’s Softball Update Week 8

At long last we have some photos of the Hope Women's team!

Here’s what happened in softball for the Hope teams last week.

Hope Women

There were many highlights from Monday’s game including Amy F’s great short stop playing and Kiersten pitching another great game! Sadly most games end up having some sort of injuries… this week no exception. Jennifer got hit in the head with a softball. It bounced off the bat as she swung and she suffered a headache and small cut on her right eyebrow. It seems that bringing a first aid kit to the rest of the games may be beneficial! In the end the ladies lost 9-1.

Hope I (Men)

Hope I struggled last week racking up two more losses- here’s the whole breakdown from the team manager:

Game 1: Lost 15-14

Summary: In an eerily similar mirror of last's weeks game one, we lost our first game to Substance Church this week in a last inning heart-breaker. This week we were trailing going into the last inning. Down by 5 runs in the bottom of the 7th we put together a rally that caused Substance to sweat even more than they already were due to the humidity, but the rally came up, once again, one run short; in fact, it came up one inch short. With the game tying and winning runs on base, one of our guys shot what could have been the game winning hit to center field, but a spectacular dive (which replays might have shown bounced just in front of the center fielders glove) was ruled caught and the game over :( Heart-breaker. But we played hard against the #1 team in our division, so I am proud of our guys, and now we know we can play with the best of them. We just need some balls to bounce our way!

Game 2: Lost 4-10

Summary: Again, in an uncanny repetition of last weeks games, this week's game two found our bats lifeless after a gut-wrenching game one loss. Managing only 4 runs, and bounding into a season-high 2 double plays, we could not keep up with Substance's 10 runs. Nevertheless, we had fun, will soak up our 4th of July weekend off, and be back and ready to play hard in two weeks!

Hope II (Men)

Not many details here… but after Hope IV lost their first two games to North Heights Elements, Hope II lost to them twice as well! The final scores were 14-2 and 5-9.

Hope III (Men)

Hope III had another close back and forth game but ended up winning! To celebrate Rob hosted the team to home brew and s’mores. It seems like the team might be there more for the party’s afterward than for the games.

Hope IV (Men)

Hope IV struggled in the beginning of the night losing their third game in a row by one point. There were a lot of pop ups that contributed to outs and made it hard to score. In the second game the bats came alive and the team won 19-17. Chris P. had several great diving outfield catches, James crushed an opposite field homer, and Todd did his usual “Oh my…” as he hit another home run.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

If love was like 500, the spirit would be trump.

Actual 500 trophy.

This message is being forwarded to you by Naty and The Men of Hope: 

"We are the Men of Hope, and we approve this message.

It's interesting that in the Bible physical appearance is never mentioned as the most attractive thing about a woman.

Over and over the women who are praised are praised for their character, their servant hearts, and their faithfulness to God. Sure, we as guys are visually-oriented, so physical beauty is "eye-catching" for us. But for men who are looking for a wife, a friend, or a sister in Christ, the things that are truly attractive are predominantly non-physical. 

Ask any married guy at Hope what is most attractive to him about his wife, and I would bet money that physical beauty is way down on the list. Spiritual attraction trumps (and even creates) physical attraction. I am head-over-heels for my wife, Jeanie, and I am very physically attracted to her, but this all comes from my spiritual, emotional connection with her, and her amazing beauty as a loving, serving, kind follower of Jesus.

So as the women of Hope, you have a tremendous opportunity to bless us as guys as you heed Rachel's challenge to you from earlier this summer. We don't want you to be unattractive. We want you to be as attractive as you can be by adorning yourself with true beauty. Any guy who pursues you merely for your physical beauty is not worth your time. And ultimately, showing off your physical beauty is merely distracting; showing off your spiritual beauty is life-giving for all.

On behalf of all the guys at Hope, thank you for pursuing Jesus above all else, and thank you for being sisters who care about us.

-Seth Prince

Friday, July 15, 2011

Labors of Love: Discipling Children

By Kaelin

Teaching a Lifestyle

A little disclaimer, the title of this post would have you believe I know everything there is to know about discipling children.  Not even close!  If you talk to me on any average day you will find a very content and joyful Mama, but also a Mama with fears, questions, anxieties, and prayer requests!  Nonetheless,  as a teenager calls herself a driver--or even better, as the 8 year old Josiah found himself to be King (2 Kings 22:1)--so have I the God-given role of discipling children! Just a newbie over here.  Lord help me! 

When I was thinking about a title for this series that would make a cohesive story about my summer, I kept thinking about the term “Labor of Love”.  So, I looked it up!  Here is the first definition I found: productive work performed voluntarily without material reward or compensation.  And I thought, yep, that’s me!  Doing very, very productive work without a chance of the world rewarding me with any sort of compensation!!  Of course, it is the Lord who provides for me, so in reality I am “paid” by Him!  Still,  I do continue to do this work “voluntarily” regardless of the material sacrifices we have to make. Still, the more and more I’m finding, it’s my most favorite job I’ve ever had.

So, what in the world is “disciple-making”?!  I certainly do not know the complete answer, but one thing I do know is that a Disciple is in charge of showing the Disciple's a way of life.  And I think I can do this by showing my children who I am, and who we are as Christ followers.

So I guess that’s what I’m hoping for.  I’m hoping that, in me, my children find a life and a faith worth imitating. One thing I am privileged to have is a lot of time with them.  

Today I sat on our front porch with Luke, playing guitars made of rocks. As I looked up at the brilliant blue sky poking through our luscious tree, the most stunning thought occurred to me.  So I shared it with my son, “Luke, you know we are going to see our God face to face one day? Can you even imagine that?!” His eyes lit up and he squealed, “Yessss!” with all he could muster. I wouldn’t have missed that moment for anything in the world!  

The Joy of Childhood

I have to borrow Meg Hintz’s phrase and say that we are thoroughly enjoying the joy of childhood with our little guys... and their little friends!  These days are so precious. So, so precious!!  And fleeting, too.  A retired man who saw me with my kids at Costco told me, “these are the good ole days!” I totally agree, I think.  He was referring to the time when my kids are little.  He told me he missed his kids.  I appreciated his wisdom!  I read a quote from Dorothy Evslin the other day that got me all choked up: 

“It will be gone before you know it.  The fingerprints on the wall appear higher and higher.  
Then suddenly, they disappear.”      

I know I am not supposed to dwell on what will happen in the future, and I know there will be blessings in being a mother when my children are grown up, too, but it really makes me appreciate each day to know that they have only been entrusted to me at this age for such a short and impressionable time.                                     

Praise the Lord!  When is the last time you saw an adult this excited to lift their hands in praise?  Inspiring, huh?  Sometimes I think these guys are doing a little bit of discipling me!

Partners in Ministry

Thankfully, in all this, I have some wonderful partners in ministry!  The beautiful Mamas at Hope have really kept me sane sometimes. Their fellowship has definitely lightened my spiritual load in the task of making people from scratch!  There is lots to do with these guys.  We are rarely bored!

At the beach.

In addition to moms, I am continuously blessed by anyone at Hope who has taken the time to get into Luke’s world, who have treated him like a little person and made him feel a part of the body at Hope.  Luke LOVES going to Hope.  He looks forward to it with great gusto.  I’m so thankful that he feels he is a part of the church body, feels comfortable to raise his hands in worship, and thinks Jesus is really great.  Thank you, thank you my sweet church.

Learning how to be friends.

“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

Soccer and God's Timing

By Naty

Do we have any soccer fans out there?  I am a sports fan in general, so as you can imagine, it has not been hard for me to find joy in watching World Cup Soccer.  I was first hooked, like most Americans my age, when the US Women’s Team won the World Cup championship game in 1999.  I left a wedding reception I was at to stroll over to a local bar for an hour or so just to catch the last half of the game.  Some of you are ready to reach through your computer screen and slap me in the head right now for leaving a wedding reception just to watch soccer, but I would like to defend myself before you pass absolute judgment:
  1. 1. Soccer (or football) is the world’s favorite sport! It is the most popular sport on the planet.  Aren’t I being a socially responsible citizen of the world by faithfully watching?
  2. 2. The World Cup only happens once every 4 years…4 years is a long time to wait.
  3. 3. I was one of approximately 10 people who had the same idea, and I was not the only woman who left.  I have always appreciated the “I wasn’t the only one doing this” defense.
  4. 4. My husband knew the groom far better than I knew the bride.  Ironically, I know her now and she is pretty cool…but then, I really didn’t know her so what was I really missing?
Alright, you get the idea. So yes, I had a ton of good reasons to pick soccer over the wedding reception.  The 1999 American win over China in a scoreless game goes down as one of the most exciting finishes in sports.  You have probably seen footage of Brandi Chastain scoring the winning goal (whether you realize what you are watching or not).  You can watch it here.
But the game I watched on Sunday afternoon eclipsed the excitement of the 1999 win. You should take a few minutes to watch this video if you we are one of the rare Americans who hasn’t be alerted to how this all went down via TV, Facebook or Twitter.  Here is what one AP reporter had to say about the game:
“Running low on hope and almost out of time, the Americans were surely beat, about to make their earliest exit from the Women's World Cup.
“And then, with one of the most thrilling goals in U.S. history, they weren't.
“Showing a dramatic burst sure to captivate the folks back home, the Americans packed an entire World Cup's worth of theatrics into a 15-minute span by beating Brazil 5-3 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie Sunday night.
“Abby Wambach tied it with a magnificent, leaping header in the 122nd minute, and Hope Solo (US goalie) denied the Brazilians -- again -- in one of the most riveting games in the history of the World Cup, men's or women's.”
The best part of this game was that the US team was behind (1-2) after 122 minutes of what would turn out to be a 123 minute soccer game.  I was watching the game getting ready to go back to work and I had all but given up on the team.  I even decided to start packing up my computer bag so I could go… and then lightning struck!  At the 122 minute mark the US tied the game with a goal off of a header.  I was so excited that I ran around my basement with my nine-year-old son like a crazy person.  I yelled so loud I lost my voice (I am struggling to talk even as I type this). I wasn’t yelling because I am some sort of massive soccer fan or because I had realized the high level of skill it took to make that shot or even because the US had won (the goal only tied the game). I was excited and cheering because it was so dramatic. The US team was totally painted into the corner. It was lights out for them.  Then came the miracle shot to save the team from elimination. It was what the team needed to get to a shootout and even have a chance to win the game.  And, as you read above, the US ended up winning in a shootout (which in my opinion is the best part of watching soccer).  
As I was reflecting on my huge, and slightly embarrassing, basement freak out that stole away my voice for Sunday evening and all of today, I made a pretty cool connection between the excitement of this soccer game and the way God works. Specifically, my view of God’s timing. 
I am often unsatisfied with God’s timing. God, why don’t you work faster? God, why do you leave so much to question for so long? God, why don’t you just swoop in and save me from all this pain and heartbreak? Then It occurred to me that I will never forget this soccer game or they joy of celebrating that goal with my son…and it dawned on me that God can teach me about himself and life via a little drama and incredible timing. I am not saying God is some sort of cosmic sicko who gets a kick out my pain so that he can have a thrill. I am saying the God of the universe is incapable of being late, but very capable of coming up with the game saving goal, at just the right moment for us to remember it forever and give him all the glory. 
   Actually, this inspires me to take a close look at all my blessing (family, friends, job, health) and be thankful right now, when things don’t look dire. But it also gives me perspective for the times when God chooses to wait a little, or a lot, longer than I wanted to score the game tying goal.  It reminds me to celebrate in the same way that I celebrated in my basement.  I have never lost my voice from celebrating God’s work, but maybe I should next time.  
Some of you might be reading this saying, “I am 7 goals behind and the clock is running out. So what about me?” I would say to all of you,” I know exactly how that feels, but just remember the game isn’t over yet…don’t pack that computer bag quite yet. We serve an amazing God.”
PS. If you want to catch the US team playing their next game in the World Cup, tune into your local sports station on Wednesday, July 13 when they play France in the semifinal at 10am CST.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

truth For That Moment

By Sara M.

Artists' Statement: 
When attempting to articulate a complex visual thought or emotion, I have found it is easiest for me to start by alternating between journaling and doodling. The following is a series of quick sketches and thoughts that have been paired together. Being that both the text and the images stem from emotions and not reason, they are meant to be taken simply as they are. As such, I have titled this work "truth For That Moment," referring to a trueness that I feel in emotions one moment, but then not another.

"Today I had to remind myself that I am not defined by my shortcomings. A man called in at work; overall, he was just a grumpy old man. He hit a nerve for me, unknowingly crushing my spirit in a matter of seconds. When he hung up on me, I got up, went into the bathroom and just started crying. I hate that a few words from a stranger can affect me like that."
"I'm not actually a good artist. I just iterate a lot. This is not an insecure statement nor is it false modesty. I know that I have many kind friends who would say differently. I merely mean it as self-aware. My sketchbook is a prime example of this, mostly lacking in quality and unique thinking. Some days I feel discouraged by this. In classes I often find it frustrating how much longer it takes me to finish a drawing or draft an idea. I'm much better at critical, creative thinking than pure drawing. I'm learning an expression of it, of ideas." 
"I don't understand how people make happy art. Like they reach deep inside themselves and pull up flowers. And maybe my art isn't that sad either. But my heart is so heavy as I pull up anything worth saying. There is no single emotion that comes up with that. What happiness is there clings to its own complications; loss, longing. And maybe that's not always true, but I still feel dissatisfied with happy art."

"I was drawing on Saturday and just completely put out because of my lack of ability to quickly communicate ideas visually. Then today I just thought, well so what. That will come in time and until then I will capitalize on extreme quantity of iterations. And for this moment, I can let it go."

"I feel immobiled, if that's a word. An involuntary place of being immobile. Immobilized. And everyone keeps saying that it's a part of God's plan, that He is working for good. He is. But I struggle to remain here, with dreams that are closed, put in a new context, or changed. Somehow my hopes for my own life have taken precedent over God's plan. It would just be a lot easier if we could have a weekly conference where he fills me in with what His vision is."
"I feel oddly changed by that loss."
"This summer I'm bitter because I feel worthless and uninteresting. I count on academia to feed my ideas and problems. And now I just feel these doors shut and I'm just here. Every time I hear someone describe their travel or big research plans for the summer, I just feel this bitter resentment. Why would God close these doors? But it's never about the why. He is God. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. may the name of the Lord be praised."
"I need to learn to learn to celebrate what I miss instead of mourning its loss. It was wonderful. The Lord gave that to me. I will remember that."