Sunday, September 30, 2007

God Shows Up!

That title is theologically wrong, so please don't take that in a literal sense; I meant it in the figurative sense. I know that God is always here; it's just that some days it seems like He's shouting, and other days it can seem like He's silent. But today......He was not silent! I could hear Him in the enthusiastic worship of our church family, in the testimonies of the 30 people being baptized (yes, you read that right - 30!), in the cheers of all of us witnessing the baptisms, in the various conversations during our all-church outdoor BBQ, and in the remembrances of the Brazil Missions Team that met tonight to share a meal and to watch a DVD of their trip! Wow; what a day! I'm blown away by God's goodness and grace!

I must sincerely thank the huge group of servant-hearted people who showed up at 6:30 AM this morning to start cooking and setting up for our BBQs; they are just incredible! They had a full meal ready after both services, and it was so good: hamburgers, beans, chips, watermelon, and cantelope! So many people are willing to serve the Lord in large and small ways, and each one is vital to what God wants to do here.

Also, we had a small group connection time today with everyone encouraged to sign up to be a part of a small group. We have a lot of small groups that are just starting, so it's a great time to join a group that is just forming. Let me encourage you to take a risk and join a group; we will be going through a book that deeply affected Dave and me before we became pastors. In fact, when we read this book, we embraced it because we felt it put words to what our hearts had been dreaming the body of Christ could be. The book is called, "Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness," and there is a part of me that wishes I could be involved in each and every small group so that I could be a part of all of those discussions. I truly think God will light some fires through these small group discussion times.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My Fine Colleagues

Just thought you might enjoy seeing some of the fine men that I work with. Mr. Tim Tanis teaches Jr & Sr High Art, Design, and Photography. Mr. John Godfrey teaches Algebra I, Geometry, and Consumer Math. Mr. Fast teaches Advanced Algebra, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, and AP Statistics; he is also the Academic Dean. And finally, Mr. Billy Hawes taught English 9 and 11. I'm sure you'll appreciate their professional demeanor.

This took place during a talent show at the end of the school year, and no, that's not their natural hair! I wish I had the video of my daughter, Hannah, singing "Taylor, the Latte Boy," because she did a great job and won the $25.00 prize. Here's the song she sang, performed by the fabulous Kristin Chenoweth, if you are interested. Have Fun!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Today, my great husband turns 45 years old, and I'm sure he's happy that I'm blurting out his age all over the place! This morning, he told his running buddies that they needed to run 4.5 miles in honor of his 45th birthday, but they ended up running 4.7 miles, so he figures he's good for two years now! :-) Feel free to stop by his blog and wish him a happy birthday!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Out of Alignment

I had a bad day last Friday, and just couldn't post about it until today. A couple of you have been "blessed" enough to know of it, but a thought from that day is hanging on and won't let go. It's weird; I feel it inside and know that it is something I am to do something about.

I was so tired that I crashed late Friday afternoon. It had been a horrendously busy week, and it didn't help that I wasn't feeling well; it seems that my cough which started at the end of July with my sinus infection just won't go away, and I am still struggling with sinus/ear issues. I had been up late (way too late) every night last week; I had to be at work extra days; we had something every night; blah, blah, blah..... :-)

So, I came home from my school's Junior High Fall Fling on Friday afternoon and fell into bed. I just could not go anymore! Believe it or not, I was in bed for four hours, drifting in and out of a restless, dreamlike sleep state. It was during one of those half lucid moments (I think:-) that the thought penetrated straight through the haze: "I'm not living my life in alignment with my priorities." It was crystal clear in that instant, and I knew it was truth!

I think I've pushed away those thoughts for so long now because there are so many needs to meet that I simply don't know what else to say, "No," to. I've said, "No," to lots of things already; how do I possibly simplify even further? Some things in my life just ARE because I am blessed with a husband, four kids, a home, a ministry with Dave, a job ( which is also a ministry), and all of my relationships. I can't change any of that, and I don't want to, but I do need to find a way to live in greater balance. I am currently not exercising like I should be because I have meetings on almost every morning I am not at work, and my evenings are either busy outside my home, or busy with homework, cleaning, dinner, laundry, etc... I'm not meeting my family's needs as I'd like to; I don't have time for relationships, and the relationships I do make time for turn out to feel like "meetings," because they are scheduled into time slots. I often feel like it must seem as if we're stuck up or something when someone calls to get together and we have to look six to eight weeks down the road. Something is just wrong about that, and I don't want to live that way. I do know that being pastors gives us the blessing of lots of relationships, and I count it a privilege to know (well, at least be acquainted with) so many great people. However, there is no way we can get together one on one with everyone we would like to. I feel a constant regret over that, and I have to be careful that it doesn't spill over into condemnation for all that I cannot do. It's frustrating, to be honest.

Anyway, on Sunday, I was at lunch with a couple of friends to celebrate one of their birthdays. After sharing about my piercing thought (my life is not in alignment) and my other feelings about it and my life, one friend wisely said, "It sounds like there's an awful lot of indicators (about what you should do)." It stopped me short. She was right, and it has me thinking and praying.

I have some friends praying for clarity for me, and I will continue to pray that for myself. I know God will give me what I need to do what He has for me to do, but sometimes that purpose seems foggy. I keep putting one foot in front of another and praying that it is the "right" next step. I remember that saying, "Just do the next right thing." That's how I'm getting through my days, and I have to trust that the Lord will clearly reveal when I am to do something different. For now, I'm praying and waiting, and I'm longing to obey what He speaks through His Word, His people, and my circumstances.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Hiding Place

"You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word...Hold me up, and I will be safe..." Psalm 119:114,117

In my 8th grade English class, we are just finishing The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. This is a powerful book about one Christian family from Holland who dared to risk their lives to harbor Jews during the Nazi reign of terror that had invaded their country. If you have areas of your life where you are struggling with forgiveness or with being grateful, this book will speak to your heart. Each time I read through the book, I am struck again by the miraculous journey that Corrie takes from hatred to forgiveness. She endured and witnessed such horrendous things, and her natural responses mirrored what most of ours would be. However, she is contrasted throughout the book with her sister, Betsie, who is able to keep God's perspective through all of the betrayal, punishment, torture, disease, and deadly circumstances. Corrie lost both her father and her sister, Betsie, while they were in the concentration camps. Corrie is eventually released because a clerk mistakenly recorded her number, 66730, on a list of women to be freed, instead of on the list of women her age to be executed.

She went on to establish a home in a vast estate in Holland for people who had either been held in concentration camps or hidden in attics, farmhouses, crawl spaces or back closets for two, three, or even four years. The 56-room home and land was donated to Corrie's work by a woman whose five sons worked with the resistance. Corrie also turned her family's home in Haarlem into a healing place for the Dutch men who had signed on with the Nazi's and betrayed their own countrymen; she saw the anguish they suffered because of their participation in persecuting their own. Corrie then began traveling to speak to groups about the power of God to save and to help heal their raw and broken hearts, and she found the greatest need to be in Germany itself. She helped to turn a former concentration camp into a place of healing for people who had been part of the atrocities committed against humanity. Churches in Germany stepped up and began to minister to their fellow countrymen. Those in the church helped to take away rolls and rolls of barbed wire; they painted the pale gray block buildings the green of new life in spring. They placed window boxes with flowers along the fronts of the buildings. The place of death and torture was redeemed to be a place of hope and healing. The name of Jesus was lifted up as thousands turned to Him in need of forgiveness and healing. Others needed the power of God to be able to forgive and move on with their lives. Corrie was God's instrument of grace, and she lived out her remaining years (until she was 91) sharing God's love all over the globe.

I have a Modesto Bee newspaper article from 1974 which details Corrie's visit to Turlock. She spoke in churches and at the War Memorial building for youth groups in the area. My sister-in-law heard her speak and saved the article all these years. What a treasure to share with my students!

Corrie liked to use props when she spoke, and one of those was a piece of material she called the "crown." She would begin by holding up what appeared to be nothing more than rough blue cloth with tangled knots of gold thread hanging from it. She would then recite this poem by the American hymnist Grant Colfaz Tullar:

"My Life Is Like a Weaving

My life is like a weaving
between my God and me.
I do not choose the colors
He works so steadily.
Sometimes He weaves sorrow
and I in foolish pride
forget he sees the upper,
and I the underside.
Not till the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly
will God unroll the canvas
and explain the reason why
the dark threads are as needful
in the skillful weaver's hand
as the threads of gold and silver
in the pattern He has planned.

Corrie would then triumphantly flip the cloth over to show her audience what God sees: a golden crown on a field of blue! That is what the believer will eventually see of God's plan in heaven, Corrie insisted." (pages 239-240)

That reminds me of a line from an old Carol King song (yes, I know all her songs of old!) that says,
"My life has been a tapestry
Of rich and royal hue."

I'm sure we've heard the analogy before, but it is good to remember that in this life we see only the back side of the cloth. There are knots every where and colors that cross over one another in no particular order, but when we look at the other side, we see what all the mess makes possible - a beautiful tapestry, rich in color and texture. We must strive to remember that our earthly view is not God's eternal view.

There are dark threads in my life, and in the lives of every person I know, that I see no good reason for, but God sees the finished product. And you know what? It's beautiful! We must hold on and believe. We must ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain us. We must surrender to the working of that dark thread through our lives, often into the very core of our hearts, in order for the picture on the other side to be complete.

Anyway, I'm not always so serious in my posts, but my focus has been on this novel and what it is speaking to me personally. If you get a chance, read the book or get the movie. It will strengthen your faith and teach you that love triumphs over all.

I believe that God is calling me and our church to a greater love for Him, for each other, and for those yet to know Him. This book has further stirred that conviction in my heart. I am asking you to step out in faith to follow Him in that path. True love will cost us something, but the returns will be eternal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Chapel Update

Thanks to all of you who prayed for me this morning. It went better than I expected, even though I didn't follow my notes much. That's okay with me because I hate to feel tied to my notes; it just doesn't seem personal or natural enough for me.

I had shared a few things from my personal life that tied into the scriptures the Lord had given me to share. I had shared that my parents divorced when I was their age in junior high, and one student, a boy whose parents have just separated and filed for divorce, came up to me afterwards. He said with an understanding smile, "Now I know why you gave me extra time on that assignment, Mrs. Larson." He caught on to my compassion, so I think we're on the same page now. I told him he could talk to me anytime, and I pray there is good fruit from that connection.

Another student, a sweet, thoughtful kid who just lost his mom to cancer this summer, nodded ever so slightly at me with his knowing gaze when I was sharing that I didn't understand how God could have let my high school girlfriend die after going into a diabetic coma. She was the only one I knew who truly loved the Lord and lived for Him. She didn't give in to things the rest of us gave into, and she loved everyone, so I wondered, "What's up with that, God?" This student understands those feelings even better than I do. He's already written papers about his mom twice this month. Right now, the students are working on a personal narrative, and of course, he is writing about his mom's struggle with cancer and how it has affected him. Some of the precise details he shares are haunting. Oh, how I pray that through his writing for my class, he will begin to process what's going on inside of him. Please pray for him if you think of it.

I ended by handing out bookmarks (Hey, I'm an English teacher, remember?) with the scripture verses printed on them. Just to make it fun, I included a typo on them! :-) Actually, that's just what happens when you decide to make bookmarks at 11:00 PM the night before you need them! Anyway, I was amazed at how many didn't even notice; in fact, no one noticed before I told them! That says a lot about the editing skills I've tried to teach them, don't you think?

Thanks again for praying. I am now looking for someone to speak the next time chapel is assigned to me, so if your up for sharing with junior highers, let me know! :-)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Back To School Night

I just arrived home from Eric's Back to School Night at THS. We had quite the workout running hither and yon to find all of his classes, and I came home with a plethora of papers which I will file under "Eric's School." I don't know about your house, but I could seriously wallpaper my entire house with all of the paper from course outlines, expectations, school handbooks, and permission slips. So I'll keep all these papers in his folder all school year and then toss them in the blue recycling can come next June.

It was good to hear complementary comments about my son's conduct and participation. His cross country coach praised his recent"kick it in" mentality. We've noticed that ourselves, and I must say, I'm thankful for it! :-)

I am speaking in chapel at my school on Wednesday and find that I'm nervous about it. Mind you, I speak in front of these students in my class every day, and we have a great time together. However, put me in front of a formally arranged room filled with all of my students at one time, plus the administrators and other teachers, and I suddenly feel like I can't do it! I have prayed about what to share, and I feel that God wants me to share on how to develop a more Godly character. I will be sharing a verse that I ponder so often in my life; Luke 16:10 says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." I want the students to know that even as an adult, I still have to make choices to be faithful in the little things. The are opportunities every day for me to "fudge" on things, or get by without giving my all, or to simply not believe God's promises, but Godly character is displayed when we are faithful in even the littlest of things, most often in the things no one else will ever see. I pray that my students desire to be honest and faithful in what they consider the small things, because those small things are what character is built upon. These kids have been raised in a society that feeds them the lie that, "It won't matter," but some of their decisions and shortcuts are damaging their ability to be trusted with larger things, both in their physical lives and their spiritual lives. Their reputations, their future dreams, and their character are on the line, even as they make their decisions in junior high.

If you think of me, please pray that the Lord will give me His words to speak, and that the Holy Spirit would work in heart of each student in spite of me!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

At the Foot of the Cross-Tammy Trent

It's Video Sunday, and I thought I'd share this great song performed by Tammy Trent. :-)

At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me your love
Through the judgment you received
And you've won my heart
Yes you've won my heart
Now I can

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

At the foot of the cross
Where I am made complete
You have given me life
Through the death you bore for me
And you've won my heart
Yes you've won my heart
Now I can

Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

I'm including the lyrics, because perhaps the words of this song are ministering to you as they have ministered to me. Do you long to trade your ashes in for beauty? Have you held on to the lifeless, ugly ashes of past abuses, hurts, sins, or failures? I have lived much of my life unnecessarily carrying things that I was never created to carry; in other words, I carried the ashes of other people's actions against me and my own ashes of sin, regret, and shame, and you know what? Because Christ gave His very own life in payment for my sin, I can wear forgiveness like a crown! I don't know about you, but I love that imagery! I can come to the cross with my ashes; I can lay them down, and I can walk away with a crown of forgiveness. Tonight, I am in awe of that great gift.

But to be honest, I think there are a lot of Christians walking around figuratively wearing their ashes instead of their crowns. Think about it, when you see someone who lives in the grace of forgiveness (someone who has kissed the feet of mercy), you may not see a physical crown, but the reflections of light from that person's life are as real as the reflection of light bouncing off a golden crown. But the reverse is also true. When you see or interact with someone who has refused to lay down their ashes, you sense a lifeless religiosity, a deadened spirit, and a colorless existence. Oh my friend, God has so much more for you! I know because I was once that person. Why have you not made that trade yet?

For me, I held on to my ashes for a couple of reasons. First of all, although I was a Christ-follower, I hadn't even come to terms with some of the things done to me, so how could I lay them down if I wouldn't even recognize them? And then, the ashes I wore were what was familiar to me. I may not have liked them, but they fit like an old, broken in pair of jeans. And with some of my ashes I felt I had a "right" to hold onto them because if I gave them up, the person who caused them would be let off the hook. If they didn't see those ashes, they could just act like they never did those things and go on their merry way. Little did I realize that they weren't seeing the ashes I carried anyway, and I was the one paying the price.

I think of those reasons for holding on to those ashes now, and I realize how foolish they were. Had I seen those things as they truly were, I would have traded them much sooner because a crown of forgiveness was mine to wear when I laid those burdens down!

I don't know about you, but I want to continually lay every burden down at the foot of the cross. Although I am unable to fully comprehend the love that Jesus has for me, I want to live in the freedom of forgiveness and grace that He makes available for me.

If you find your are burdened by ashes, I plead with you to take them to the foot of the cross right now. Bow your heart before Him, and tell Him of those things, and confess them before Him. Dare to trust Him with your most hidden hurts; dare to hold nothing back.

And then.....kiss the feet of mercy; look up into the face of love as He places the crown of forgiveness on your head, and picks you up and places you on solid ground.

Friday, September 14, 2007

San Francisco and an Empty House

Today, I traveled to UCSF with my sister-in-law, Wendy, for her doctor’s appointment. In case you are unaware, she has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Her doctor is in San Francisco, so we travel there frequently for her appointments. Wendy is Dave’s older sister, and since she is single, I go to her doctor appointments with her. She has cancer in four different parts of her body, but to look at her, you’d never know. She looks wonderful, and I thank God that her cancers have stayed relatively small and are still responding to hormone therapy pretty well. Wendy is currently on three different medications for the different cancers. She is now on disability from her job as a junior high social studies teacher, but she is, thankfully, in good enough health to be able to do what she enjoys without problems.

Wendy was diagnosed with a second round of breast cancer three years ago, so we are thankful that the drugs are managing the cancers that she has for now. If you think of her, please remember her in prayers. I appreciate that so much!

I arrived home this evening to an empty house, since Dave and the kids are at a football game. Dave needed to work at the concession stands tonight, so all of the kids went with him to the game. I have LOVED being home alone for a couple of hours! I did a load of laundry, took a nice, long bath, and caught up on some emails. It’s very seldom that I am home alone, but I always value these few moments.

I am a person who needs alone time to re-focus and center myself, and I find it ironic that with my personality God allowed me to have four children and be married to a pastor! I do think God allows things in our lives in order that we will have to stretch, grow, and give up selfishness. Children are the best anti-dote to selfishness, don’t you think? I love my children, but they push me to a place that I would never get to if it weren’t for their presence in my life! I believe that if I hadn’t had children, I would have no idea of the extent of my selfishness! It truly takes the power of God in me to be able to meet their needs in a loving and gracious way. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I always respond in such loving/gracious ways. However, my kids are helping me to grow in the Lord, and for that I am grateful!

I have to believe that the Lord knew what He was doing when He placed me where He has me. There a plenty of times when I question that, but I do believe in His Word which tells me that His thoughts are not my thoughts, and His ways are not my ways. I am unable to express how thankful I am for that!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Just thought I'd share the news that Eric ran a personal best today at the cross country meet! He came in fourth overall and ran the two miles in 12:11! He's shaved more that 45 seconds off his time from last Wednesday.

The Turlock High CC Team has such great team spirit, and I am grateful that my son has been able to be part of that family. That's what they call themselves.....a family. They have pasta feeds the night before every meet; the pasta feeds are held at different team members homes, and every one contributes something (freshman-entree, sophomores-side dish, juniors-drinks, and seniors-utensils). The cross country team has team cheers and a boatload of team traditions. Each member has a buddy to watch out for, with older students teamed with the younger ones. At each meet, the buddies bring a gift for each other, tradition being to bring a Gatorade for after the meet. The team captains have a team cape and a blue and yellow wig that only they are allowed to wear. And a favorite team pastime is Ultimate Frisbee. Students lead prayer before each meet (How awesome is that?), and I have never seen a team that cheers each other on more than the Turlock High Cross Country team. I can't say enough good things about the coaches; they are simply fantastic! So I say, "Go Dogs Go!"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering 9/11/01

I'm sure we all remember that terrible morning when we woke up to what we were sure was a nightmare. I remember standing in my living room, unable to comprehend the pictures that I saw on the TV screen. There was simply no category in my brain with which to process what was unfolding in real time before me.

I remember wondering if I wanted to send my children to school that morning; there was a part of me that simply wanted to huddle them close and shut out the world. I did end up taking them to school because I thought it would be a refuge from what was being shown and played on every television and radio station. I wondered what would happen next. Would there be other attacks on our nation at other locations? Were there other attacks being planned, or carried out, while I sat in my living room? There was so much uncertainty and unbelief on that day.

Although I don't remember what particular scriptures I read that morning, I'm sure my heart was drawn to scriptures like these:

"My SOUL waits in silence for God only; from Him is my SALVATION. He ONLY is my ROCK and my SALVATION, my STRONGHOLD; I SHALL NOT BE GREATLY SHAKEN!" Ps. 62:1-2

Or the words of Jesus: "Peace I leave with you; MY PEACE I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do NOT let your heart be troubled and do NOT be afraid." John 14:27

God's word is that Rock that brings comfort, peace, and security in the midst of turbulent, violent, and uncertain times. I remember needing to look to the truth of God's word on that September morning in 2001, searching for those promises which I could grab hold of. Like most of you, I'm sure we all prayed and wondered that day, having to place our trust in the Lord over and over again as we tried to make sense of the insensible.

Today I prayed for those individuals who lost their lives and for their surviving families just as I prayed for them on 9/11/01. There are survivors with permanent scars or disabilities which live daily with the reality of the horror of that day. There are children who still cry over a mom or dad who isn't there for Christmas or birthdays, or even just Saturday breakfast. There are wives and husbands trying to survive as single parents, wanting to step into each day, but feeling trapped and defined by that moment in time. We owe it to them to not forget.

Please join me in honoring and praying for all of those affected by the 9/11 terrorists attacks. Thank you.

By the way, I caught just the last moments of the Oprah show, but it dealt with the children that lost parents in the 9/11 attacks. You can check it out HERE.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Beautiful Reflection

Today I spoiled myself with a visit to my friend, Kerry Strickland, at "A Beautiful Reflection." I experienced my first facial, and I must say, "I loved it!" I do believe that is a very nice way to start off the day, and my skin felt healthier all day long. If you are interested in facials, microdermabrasion, waxing, makeup, and skin care products, give her a call (656-0700). She is located in the downtown area (202 W. Main Street, #212 upstairs), and her treatment room is wonderfully peaceful. If you are interested in going, let me know because I have a coupon for 20% off your first visit (I only have 1, so first come, first served), and another few cards for $5.00 off your first visit). You'll love Kerry, as she makes you feel so comfortable, and for me that's a biggie. I am self-conscious about my skin, so I normally wouldn't want anyone to get that close! :-) Although I enjoyed my facial, I need to be equally focused on how I look on the inside, where it really matters.

I remembered a poem that the late Audrey Hepburn is said to have loved and kept with her. It was published in our women's newsletter a couple of year's ago, but it's worth repeating. I've copied the article/poem here:

Time Tested Beauty

Audrey Hepburn, the beautiful actress that starred in such movies as Roman Holiday and My Fair Lady, led a glamorous life. But did you know that she spent the last years of her life serving needy children in Africa and Latin America as a special ambassador to the United Nations Children’s Fund? This poem, written by Samuel Levenson, was a favorite of hers. I believe she was beautiful – inside!

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you’ll never walk alone.
The tender loving care of human beings will never become obsolete.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed and redeemed and redeemed.
Never throw out anybody.
And remember, if you ever need a helping hand,
You’ll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands;
One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

Your “good old days” are still ahead of you.
May you have many of them.

This reminds me of the scripture in I Peter 3:3-4 (NLT), that says, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” Instead of focusing on our outward beauty, we should be concerned about our hearts and what God sees there. As women of God, we need to be concerned with how we dress as Col. 3:12-14 tells us, “Since God chose you to be the holy people whom He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.”

Do people see your cloak of love? Do they see your tenderhearted mercy towards them and others? Do they see your gentleness? Have they experienced your patience and forgiveness? Women dressed in these garments are beautiful to God, and His standards of beauty are timeless.

Let’s continue to look to God’s standard of beauty and to encourage one another towards “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is SO precious to God.” Remember, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Pro. 31:30

A truly beautiful reflection is what comes back to us based upon the love, care, and grace we've projected to others. I need to be less concerned with the reflection in the mirror, and more concerned about fearing the Lord and living out His love for this world.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

It's pretty easy to see by the frequency of my postings lately that school is back in session, and I'm back in the classroom. Each day, I experience or think about things that I would like to share here, but there are very few free moments to sit down and compose my thoughts enough to write anything that would be of benefit to anyone, myself included. Life flies by at breakneck speed, sure enough!

Today, I traveled down to Madera Ranchos/Fresno to vist with an old friend from high school. Angela was a foreign exchange student during my senior year, and we made many (often crazy) memories together. She is from Australia, so I haven't seen her in years, but she happened to be here visiting her former host-family that now lives in the Madera Ranchos. We had a great time catching up over dinner at Chevy's and strolling the mall, but I really had to work hard to catch everything she was saying; her accent is strong enough that I sometimes had to ask her to repeat herself! Sorry Ang, you know it's true! :-) We were able to spend about five hours together, and we chatted the entire time. Amazingly enough, she has four children the ages of my four children, and we both have sons named Peter. When two moms each with four children get together, there is never a shortage of things to talk about! I found it interesting to hear what life is like for her in Australia, and the issues she and her children face compared to the issues I face with my children here in the States.

She remembered things I had long forgotten, and brought up names/situations that I'd tucked away in the far recesses of my mind. Some of the memories were great ones, and others were ones I was glad to have put aside. Her recollections reminded me that I am not the same person I was in high school, and that is only because of the healing and saving power of Jesus Christ in my life. I always tell people that it's a good thing Dave and I didn't meet in high school because he would have never dated me (and I probably wouldn't have dated him). Dave and I would have moved in completely different circles, and we wouldn't have crossed paths very often in a positive way.

Anyway, I noticed that Angela seemed uncomfortable around me at first, and I thought it was simply because we hadn't seen each other in such a long time, but then she said she didn't know what to talk to me about because she's never been friends with a minister or his wife. She asked about our church and our lives, and then she said, "I could never be perfect enough to be a minister's wife." I just had to laugh, and I told her to join the club because I'm not perfect enough either. And guess what? Neither my husband nor my children are perfect enough; we're all just one big perfectly imperfect mess! :-)

I think Angela's view of, and experience with, Christianity led her to believe that I would be judgmental or "Holier than Thou" and somehow "different." Well, I am different because I have met God and been freed from my sin and bondage, but the God I have met is a gracious God who respects, values, and LOVES people. I pray that I show those same qualities to those I am in relationship with, and I pray that Angela saw that in me tonight because that is the truth of how I feel about her.