Monday, December 31, 2007

On parenting, pregnancy, and making kids a joy....

Today I read a blog written by one of my longtime friends who is trying to start a family with her husband. It reminded me of the importance of preparation. I decided to write (hopefully) a quick blog on books I've read about parenting that I believe are helpful and useful. Of course, many of them are Christian books because those are the books that line up with my goals, values with parenting. Also, a few helpful tips that others passed along to me while I was pregnant.

If you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant:

1. Prepare now. Make a list of things you will need for baby regardless of the gender like baby wash, baby shampoo, lotion, diaper ointment, etc. and add one to two items to each grocery list. By time baby comes - you'll have a great supply. Warning though - don't buy too many newborn diapers because you never know how quickly (or slowly in Anya's case who can still at the age of

2 1/2 fit into size 2 diapers) baby will grow. We did this and we were well prepared into Anya's birth even.2. Write out your goals and values as parents now.

3. Research. Others have been through this journey called parenting, now that you've created a list of values and morals and goals as parents, go and find others with simiular views and read their books.

4. Create a support group. This is so important. As new parents, it was so easy for Steve and I to become total recluses. It also became so easy to automatically switch into the AP (Attatched Parenting) mode which if you value your sanity, the sanity of your child, and later breaking the children of this horrible learned way of living - do NOT do it. Within a support group, you can setup a babysitting co-op, or just a group of friends who understand if you haven't showered in a few days, if you have spit up all over you, if you can't finish a sentence, etc.

5. Research the benefits available to you around your community and in your local hospitals. Steve and I got so lucky that we chose Summerlin Medical Center (hospital). They have lactation specialists that are always there, breast pumps there, and support groups for after you leave the hospital. I was able to go to a Nursing Support group and from that was able to nurse Anya close to a year whereas with Paul was only able to nurse for about two maybe three weeks due to thrush and my ignorance on how to get past it and continue nursing. I also found a wonderful toddlers support group that I loved.

6. Contact your insurance and know which hospitals it covers - then research each one, plan a visit through the maternity ward, and find out as much as you can about it. For us, SMC was great because the laboring rooms were huge and you were able to labor, deliver, and recover there for awhile before being moved into another area of the maternity ward. They also don't take babies away to a Nursery (unless they're sick). They have a dynamite NICU - experienced this one first hand - and a great staff (we had a few negative experiences, but can't let a few bad apples ruin the whole thing...). Know what to expect.

7. If you don't have a support group that can be there for you when you first come home - be proactive and be prepared. Babies are expensive, so eating out the first month you're home isn't the wisest idea. Instead, make sure you have some easy meals already prepared in the freezer so frazzled mom and tired daddy can simply preheat the oven, pop it in, and serve. And for those instances when you will have buckle and order in - make sure to have on hand plenty of menus. Even the best laid plans can be pushed aside so be prepared.

8. Take note of your everyday routines and plan out the best way to either accomplish them or keep them from building up over time during those first few weeks with baby.

Okay, that list turned out longer than I expected. I'm no expert - but these were pricless pearls of wisedom that I have either learned or been blessed with. Now books. Some of the books I like are very contraversial.

Everyone I know who has read this book says their baby is sleeping through the night as early as three weeks old (most say by 6 weeks though). Not a popular book since AP has taken parents by storm but a great one none the less.

Super Baby Food
This is one I own and to this day still love. The author teaches the parents how to create their own baby food, helps parents be on the look out for food allergies, and it's so healthy. I made 99% of Anya's food when she was a baby and added several of the items the author encouraged parents to add. Partly because Anya was in the NICU the first two weeks of her life, but also because I wanted her to be super healthy. The book includes home remedies, and recipes for both adults and toddlers - from how to make your own playdough, to your own fruit roll ups, to many other expensive yet convient foods/things that toddlers enjoy.
Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
These two books are not very well liked by many. If you look them up on Amazon they both have low stars, they are tagged under, "abuse, cruelty to children, torture". They are not generally accepted, even supposedly amongst "Christians". In September 2007 Haven Today interviewed Pastor Tripp - I'd link you except that they've been archieved and no longer work.
I personally listened to the interview and found it very helpful in understanding the book.TTUAC and Shepherding a Child's Heart are not easy reads. They require discpline on both the parents' part as well as the children. They are not popular because they do not only support but flatly state the spanking is the only (Biblical) way to discipline your children. Both address that discipline has acquired a negative idea behind it and redirect our thinking.
Punishment and discipline are not the same things. TTUAC does in fact compare training a child to training an animal - which many do find offensive. I have no problem with it because in no way is the author demeaning children, they are in no way instructing the parent to treat the child like an animal - but reminding them that as parents we do train our children. We can either train them behave poorly or we can train them to obediance. Obediance should be our number one goal - not to have a well trained animal, but to ensure the safety of our children.
Tedd Tripp shares how he asked many children what was worse - disobeying their parents or breaking a vase? Many stated the vase. When in reality the worse offense should be disobedance. If children are allowed to be disobediant they are a danger to themselves.
Now, I'll be the first one to say - I have disobediant children, I do not have well trained children. I battle with becoming easily frustrated after two days and then giving up and returning to comfortable AP style tatics. This defeats everything I'll have accomplished in this time. Add to it that my kids are now 2 and 3 and it makes the task that much more dificult. However, it is far better for me to get my children trained now than at 4 and 5, 5and 6, or so forth.
Tripp also brings us to the key - finding the heart of the matter. Which is awesome. It doesn't matter if we've trained the children well if their hearts are in constant rebellion. The example I always share with others (from his book) is this: two children are fighting over a toy, what do you do? The common reaction, he writes, is to ask, "Who had it first?". To then execute justice. I nodded while reading this and agreed. However, this is incorrect. We should be addressing heart issues here, not justice. The heart issue: one child is too selfish to share, one child is greedy and stole from the other. Both are at fault. Both should be punished. I was taken aback, but as I thought about it I realized how true it was.
Finally, communication is vitually important. If we as parents don't establish that now with our children, then it becomes harder and harder as they grow up. Tripp addresses this as well. For all the contraversy surrounding it, I love this book. I would gladly purchase this book as a shower gift for any expecting parent - Christian or not.
To me, these books above are invaluable resources. I've also been recommended the following books about being a wife and a SAHM (Stay at home Mom).
Created to be His Helpmeet (by Debbi Pearl) - it's a really hard read, especially for non-Christians and/or liberals (yes I'm still one). But the advice is sound.
The Excellent Wife (by Martha Peace) - read after Created to be His Helpmeet.
Passionate Housewives Desperate for God by Jennie Chancey - I haven't read this one yet but have it on my Amazon wishlist. I've heard nothing but amazing reviews about it.
And for anyone who like me, enjoys downloading podcasts or sermons to their iPod and going - then here are some great links about parenting.
The 10 Commandments to Child Rearing
Manna Church/ Pastor Michael Fletcher
The two part series below is really great in reminding me what my priorities should be as a parent.
PM me for more recommends. Or subsribe to podcasts like Haven Today, Focus on the Family, Family Life Today with Dennis Rainey, or Parenting with Dr. James Dobson. Again, I don't claim to be a perfect parent or have perfectly behaved children. I do believe this struggle is because of the lack of information or wrong information that I went off of for over 2 years. Make sure you know what you're plan is and then stick to it.
Proverbs 22:6Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Quick thoughts....

I have a "draft" that's about at least three pages long - I keep blogging as I go, don't know how to wrap up my thoughts, and save the ever lengthening blog . . . Eventually I will post it - this past week I've been discussing the Gospel with my family and it's all been really interesting. Can't wait to share. Please pray for them.

Tonight is Steve and my night off - we are so excited. The kids are at the grandparents in Pahrump. We went and saw "I am Legend" - we've heard some brutal reviews of it from people, so we were skeptical about seeing it. I'm not sure if the reviews we heard lowered our expectations or what - but we loved the movie. It was (for us anyways) consistent with the movie, and as real as you can get for a zombie movie. I would recommend it for anyone - just be prepared that it's not the usual Hollywood ending and I assume controversial.

Great great movie. However, do NOT watch, "Invisible" - I now have a movie to add to my, "utter waste of life and time watching" list. Thanks Steve - who inspired my mental list of such movies.

Well, back to my date night! Have a good weekend everyone.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sometimes we forget...

Tonight we dropped by my parents' house and church came up. Papau and I discussed church. It started by discussing the YMP - Steve and I believe NV should make money off the deal and put it back into the community, especially with the rising number of foreclosures.

Which lead into a discussion on the homeless. Remember, Papau has owned his store for going on 10 years now and has become very personal with the homeless around his store. Papau currently believes people choose to be homeless and prefer to remain homeless. With some of the men who live around the store, and the examples they've set - I understand why he feels this way. But in comes, Jesus. The one who says that, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

We were about to have our first serious, involved discussion about the gospel. He asked - what could anyone do for the homeless? I answered him - fill their physical needs and fill their spiritual needs. He sort of laughed, but I think he saw my serious face and kept himself from laughing harder. We discussed their need for Jesus, the discipleship program the City Mission runs out of TN, and what Jesus said above. It seemed, sadly, beyond him, that these people would change because of Jesus. What I've learned is that Jesus is concerned about the condition of our hearts, not the circumstances.

We went round and round for a little while - and I was floored by the total inability and unwillingness to believe that Jesus could or would transform someone's life.

The topic moved onto Christmas Eve plans and it came up that one of his employees might be coming to GP with me Monday night. He was shocked, then angry - then negative, "He won't come, he's just saying that to be nice to you..." He then told me he was trying to convert Eric to the LDS church - I wanted to speak my mind but held my tongue. I simply recommended if he really wanted to reach Eric with the Book of Mormon - to give him a copy of the The Book of Mormon (A Reader's Edition) since it has today's English used in the translation.

We then began a very hearted discussion about this particular book, whether or not it was approved of by the Prophet, and Bruce R. McConkie's, "Mormon Doctrine". Outside of the three additional cannons, probably one of the most apologetically defended books within the LDS community. It's controversial at best. I did my best to hold my tongue on this one since my Papau was saying he accepted this book as practically doctrine (regardless of the fact it's never been officially endorsed by the LDS church). He reminded me that this author had been the person who summarized and linked all the standard works. His work would forever be canonized in the quad, triples, and combination scriptures. I wanted to bring up the controversy within this book - but held my tongue. However, I did tell him the book was controversial and demeaning to others. It was like he heard me for one second and then purposly forgot what I said.

The whole conversation was so odd for me - I once agreed with them almost one hundred percent in our religious mindsets, however now I found myself feeling truly alienated from them. And while I maintained almost painful control over my tongue - especially in his offended reaction to a modern day translation of any scripture, I felt it was the first time I was that honest and even blunt with Papau. We went from never addressing the fact that Steve and I had left the LDS church to a very passionate discussion tonight.

It's late and we have a long day ahead of us - I'll blog more about this later.

Talking about God

Today we celebrated Christmas with Steve's parents and older brother, Rob. All three are atheists. It was a great day - I managed to pull off a Christmas mini-scale spread, maintain some order, and remain awake until 1:30 pm at which point I drifted off to sleep.

At some point in the day - which point I don't recall, I overheard a conversation between my three year old - Paul, and Steve's mom.

"Mommy and Daddy pray to God, grandma." He looked very serious while saying this to her.

Quietly, "Yes, they do pray to God,"

"They love God,"

"Yes honey, they love God."

Then the interaction moved back to the new toys and all the yummy goodies she had brought to our home.

But I was in awe - sure, my son didn't understand all the difficulties of speaking to Steve's mother about God - but here he was plunging right into it. It was so amazing to watch this little guy who loves his grandma so much, to just take a minute and talk to her about God.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Heart matters ...

I've been listening to "Antonym" - a series that our church did back in Feb. 2007 - before Steve and I were there. For me, I've been hearing a powerful message about legalism - although I do also believe others would hear a seperate message about some powerful issues within today's society and culture.

It's been very helpful to remind me of some issues I've felt very burdened with. My favorite line so far is to the effect that "outward adherence does not equal internal obediance" or something like that.

This morning, when the LDS mom I babysit for dropped off her son I felt very prompted
to ask how her husband - a convert coming up on his first baptism anniversary (this means temple recommend "should" be coming . . .) was doing with achieving his Melchizedek Priesthood so they could ultimately go to the temple. Apparently I hit on a topic that was waiting to spill over.

Greg doesn't seem interested in achieving this - he was dragged his feet about attending the "classes". Since Steve received his Melchizedek Priesthood back in 2005, he didn't have to attend any classes with a "supervisor" (what the heck - when did men receive supervisors in the church - for taking classes - outside of someone who oversaw their work in Home Teaching?). I tried to hide this surprise but she explained to me that the whole supervisor and class thing was relatively new - they brought it into effect when they also came out with the, "Preach my Gospel" - which was awhile ago. I don't know why I didn't know anything about these supervisors or classes.

I digress . . .

She began talking about how he would say that he wanted to progress, take his classes, and "become temple worthy" - I held my tongue. Now that I'm understanding (progressive tense here) what Jesus did for, my skin crawls at the term, "temple worthy" since it really shows no understanding of grace or the gospel. Yet, didn't do anything to become temple worthy. He had only attended two of his classes - that she scheduled for him and wasn't attending anymore. He hadn't stopped dipping (aka - chewing tobacco). He just didn't want to talk about it and when they did, it became a fight. Whoa - the Spirit had led me down a road I wasn't sure how to progress on. What was the best approach?

I thought about how I would have reacted while waiting for Steve to get his priesthood and went from there. Antonym suddenly came to mind. I explained the overall message of the series and timidly offered her the chance to borrow or have it. As I explained the series, legalism, and what it really was - a heart issue she become involved in the conversation. Nodding her head, sharing examples of what Greg was going through - what he'd say and what he'd mean - but as soon as I offered her the series, she shut me back down. Eh! Even if this series didn't open her eyes to the legalism in the LDS church, it would at least helped her and Greg understand to get their hearts in a relationship with Jesus - not try to use the adherence to actions as the "relationship".

Then I tried to advise her to revisit Jesus' suffering and investigate the early Latter Day Saints. I reminded her that Jesus was beyond human recognition when He carried His cross to Calvary. That giving up something like dip is minute in comparison and with the right heart focus on Jesus then it wouldn't be so hard to give up the dip - because the heart would be guiding the journey for the right reason. Of course, when I mentioned Jesus' cross - she flinched. I also want her to investigate the early Saints for two reasons - one, to help them understand their history better - that sacrifices were made by these early pioneers and probably not originally because of legalism. The second, perhaps they'll understand that there is a difference between the white washed history of that the church promotes and the real history they include on their own websites with a little digging (really, when was the last time you heard the LDS church promote Joseph's 24 wives - could have sworn there were 32 but this is all the lists . . .) However, speaking of - this year 2008, the RS/PH every 1st and 3rd Sunday will be learning from "Teachings of the Prophet . . . Joseph Smith" this year. Since they're only $2 at Deseret, I'll be picking up a copy. I'm very interested in what exactly will be taught. Who knows, maybe it'll open some doors to talk with Heather a little more.

Either way, this family continues to need prayer. I really hope that I can get them to listen to this series and really take to heart the message - the relationship with Christ isn't external, it's all internal. And point them, flinching and all, to the cross.

Disgusted with the cross...

When I first left the LDS church, I looked into a few ex-Mormon online discussion groups. I had heard that they were helpful, and while initially I think I was in shock that we were walking away, I thought it would be wise to find one then so if I needed support from others who had experienced the same thing (or were experiencing the same thing) I'd have somewhere to post.

I've looked into quite a few - from the RFM board (Recovery from Mormonism - it's sounds so dramatic), to a few MySpace ones, even a real support group here in Las Vegas where people actually meet - but none of them appealed to me. They all seemed so angry, they all seemed so ... ex-Mormonish. I know - I was an ex-Mormon and I didn't want to be in a group that was so obviously ex-Mormon .... The logic.

However, there is an ex-Mormon forum on the Concerned Christians board. I visited from time to time, but never felt the need to discuss things there often. However, through this board - I've began to see that I'm not unique in my feelings and such after leaving, and noticing things about myself that I've never admitted to before.

The most interesting conversation has been about our disgust with the cross, Christian music, and even the Christian Jesus. I always thought I was just extreme, or perhaps my parent's habits/thinking had rubbed off on me. Imagine my surprise when something I've been ashamed of is discussed right there on the one board I remain somewhat faithful to.

It's so strange - as a Mormon, I deeply loved Jesus - my Savior and Redeemer, and I wanted to surround myself with uplifting music and reminders about Him, yet I hated Christian music, the cross, and the Christian Jesus. I was recently asked - why I hated these items, especially if I considered myself a Christian. What I guess I have to admit is that I didn't consider myself a Christian. Christians were freaks, they were intolerant, bigots, mean, cruel - nothing like my Savior. When I'd see the cross, I'd see pure unashamed idol worship that turned logically thinking people, into hateful clones and zombies of their former self. It was disturbing. When I'd hear Christian music, I'd roll my eyes and change the channel. And when I heard them say, "Jesus" my stomach churned with disgust.

While I would debate and fight for the understanding that Mormons were Christians and they we worshiped the same Jesus, secretly - I didn't believe that. And I was totally okay with it - especially since I believed my Savior was the One and only and theirs was a false idol that wasn't really Jesus, but a wooden cross that they sold for money.

Yet, when I began listening to Christian music - I found I really loved it. One poster remarked that he thought it was music filled with false doctrine and frankly, blasphemy and even though he's been out of the church years - yet only recently within this Christmas season, has he softened and began listening to Christian music. It'll be interesting to hear his thoughts on how he views the cross now. And when my heart softened to the cross - I began wearing one (in secret). I've found it a beautiful reminder of what Jesus did for me. And if I had any doubts still that I was not alone in feeling this - while talking with the LDS mom I babysit for, when I mentioned the cross - she very visibly flinched. It caught me totally off guard. Guess I'm not as alone as I thought.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

About that...

- Only one more day of babysitting then 20 DAYS OFF! I could not be more thrilled. I will begin counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds very soon.

- Crunch time - the in-laws arrive at 9 am Saturday morning to celebrate Christmas. I bought three extra tall, "big boy" energy drinks and my coffee is filled.

- Steve will have about 13 days off in just one more day.

- I cannot wait for my first day to sleep in - after Christmas of course.

- God is so good.

- I cannot wait for this break to spend some one on one time with the kids, catch up on a mountain of reading I've been longing to do, and really spend some real alone, quality time with the Lord - minus the sound of fussing children, etc.

- This Christmas will be our first outside the LDS church, which is exciting but also makes me a bit nervous. It's so nice to have that tradition to fall back on - very comfortable. Excited to see what God does this year.

Now ... back to work ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Church or cult?


noun [C]
1 a system of religious beliefs and rituals
2. adherents of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices
3. an interest followed with exaggerated zeal
This begs the question - which one is the cultist?

Last night I had the most lively and blunt conversation with Ron than I believe we've ever had. Ron is from Cedar City, Utah (his driver's license does prove this fact) and was raised strict Baptist. He has a very limited viewpoint towards LDS (Latter Day Saints, Mormons). We've really only discussed the LDS church once that I can recall - and I plowed through it pretty quickly as I was pretty fresh out of the LDS church and the tiny conversation made me uneasy.

This was several months ago.

When I saw Ron last night, I asked about the phone call he had committed to make - to his sister to help him get home to Utah to be with his family. As I emptied the coffee containers and refilled them with fresh coffee - I lightly and absent mindely joked, "Hey when you get home, I bet you'll get all sorts of casseroles from all those nice LDS women up there," - to which his entire countenance fell and he become irritated, "Don't talk about those cultists..."

Before I continue - may I just suggest for anyone else who has problems controlling their tongue, perhaps listening to the 12/11 podcast from Focus on the Family? It's called, "Family Nights" and shares the story one family used to help their children control their tongues. If they spoke unkindly towards a sibling for example, they took a "time out" holding a 12" cow's tongue. Perhaps this year Santa will fill my stocking not with coal, but with a 12" cow's tongue - because I need one!

I didn't even have to think - old habits weren't dead, they had just taken a nap. "It's not a cult,"

Now this wouldn't be such an issue for me except that I do believe the culture and the body of the LDS church itself is a cult. Look at the culture, to the reactions, doctrine, authority, to even what is and is not allowed - ie Bible studies, associations with Christendom groups, to strict counsel to avoid "spiritual pornography" (this does not mean porn that most people talk about).

First, Ron tried to make his argument from the Bible. I carry a small one for my purse or bag that I carry with me and so my pride took over, "Really Ron? Can you tell me which verses say this?" First, he tried my (former) favorite argument - the Bible says there won't be anymore prophets, so a belief in a modern day prophet is heresy. Nailed that bad boy with Ephesians 4:11-13 and Hebrews 13:8. I then shared Galatians 1:8 with him, "
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" and other verses that spoke of false prophets, "The LDS church may be false, but it's not a cult. And if you were going to go with a false church, it'd be the best one to go with."

But he didn't want to give up - we continued on - looking to the Bible, the dictionary, then even culture. I did concede that Utah Mormons are different than the rest of LDS outside Utah, but it didn't make the LDS church a cult.

Neither of us backed down and it wasn't until I was getting ready for bed later, that I realized what I had done. I hadn't been defending the LDS church - that wasn't my goal anymore; I was defending my family. Every part of me can see that the culture and leadership has turned the body of the church into a cult - but to be fair, any religious person (yes, even the people with the relationships with Jesus ) can act and react in a "cultish manner" - but there's no way I will admit that my family, my parents are in a cult. I find the term offensive and horrible. It's cruel and overused.

Yet, at the end of the night as I rethink every part of the debate - I realized how wrong I was. I hate the term, I literally wince when it's used. But it's true. Is it a church? Yes, in every sense it's a church. Is it a community, a whole culture to itself? Absolutely. Even today, now almost eight months away from it all, I still find Mormon influence in our home, language, choices, etc. Is it a cult? Eh, I feel nauseous just writing it - but yes.

I'm Standing up on the INSIDE!

"Almost everything about Jesus in His day is the opposite of what everyone expected. It was the opposite of what the religious people of his day practiced and said and did. I think what Jesus had to say in that day is equally as controversial today as it was then. I think that a lot of the things Jesus had to say were the exact opposite of today, of our modern mindset and the way we have to think."
- Devin Hudson, opening in the series Antonym (part 2 - "Radical and Ruthless")

When I went looking for a picture to add to my blog, I read through the one that Devin had written on this particular series. He doesn't seem to mention the legalism that was addressed in "Heart Matters" (the first sermon in the series) - but I did like what he wrote here, "I think it is a misnomer to believe the truth must be softened in order to be received. At Grace Point, we deal with some tough subjects. We just deal with them in an authentic and loving way instead of a judgmental and mean-spirited manner. Being authentic and real means tackling the tough issues as well."

I began to think of this in light of the opening quote I listed above. What ideas have we, as a culture and society formed about who Jesus is?

You know me -- I love the visuals. ;)

As I read throughout Lee Strobel's new book, "The Case for the Real Jesus" - it became more clear that today's society is more confused than ever about who Jesus really is. Not just the claims that He made - but everything else about Him as well. Far from the old debate (which still carries on today) if He was "liar, lunatic, or Lord" - but now, was He tolerant? How tolerant was He? Was He firm? How firm was He? Where was the line? Was Jesus a hippie, peace loving prophet/God/man or was did He hate (insert here)? And so, in line with the opening of the second sermon with the quote from the blog - I began to think, how opposite is our society today from what Jesus really taught?

In the Heart Matters sermon, Devin mentioned that as a "professional Christian" he was a bit bothered and worried I believe, that if Jesus came and visited today - would the church be opposite of Him as it was the first time He visited? I used that line of thinking many times in defending the LDS faith, but now on the other side of the fence, it deeply impacts me. Are Christians today like the Pharisee or Sagistees of Jesus' day - total opposites to who Jesus is and what He is for?

Today's society itself, is completely opposite of everything Jesus taught - the first and most outstanding "virtue" is the "me" syndrome. It's all about me. When Jesus clearly taught that it's all about being a servant. That we are free to follow whatever seems right to us - when Jesus clearly taught that He was the only way, the only light, the only way to heaven. In today's society - Jesus can become whoever someone wishes Him to be - whether that means adding Him onto a necklace with the god, Om (which technically is just a symbol that is "This symbol (as seen in the image on the right) is a sacred syllable representing Brahman, the impersonal Absolute of Hinduism — omnipotent, omnipresent, and the source of all manifest existence. Brahman, in itself, is incomprehensible; so a symbol becomes mandatory to help us realize the Unknowable. Om, therefore, represents both the unmanifest (nirguna) and manifest (saguna) aspects of God. That is why it is called pranava, to mean that it pervades life and runs through our prana or breath." source) or making Him a tame kitten or finally acknowledging Him as the Lion of Judah - neither tame or domesticated. Whatever you want to believe about Him is fine - even though He was clear about His nature and that He could do nothing that the Father did not do - ie He could not go against His own nature.

While Jesus tried to get to the heart of the matter - relationship not rules, not legalism, not walls - the Pharisees blocked Him out, and as Christians today, we are still doing this.

"When Jesus came, relationship had been replaced by religion. Truth had been replaced by tradition. And the internal focus had been replaced by an external adherence to guidelines and rules and obediance to outward focused rules. I think that's our tendency even today, to replace the internal with the external. Because it's easier to judge, it's easier to live by, and it's easier to gage when I'm right, when I'm wrong, if I have some type of rules list, if I have some type of checklist, if I have some type of this is right and this is wrong list to go by. But what we discover is that Jesus takes us back to the heart of the matter. Instead of the external, Jesus focuses on matters of the heart, focuses on the internal. And He addresses heart matters because as we said last week, relationship is internal. Relationship is not mechanical."
- Radical and Ruthless -

Today, we are so focused on the outside to judge our "goodness" - from whether or not we see movies like Harry Potter or Golden Compass, to what language we use in conversations with other Christians or non-believers, to how clean our homes are, to how much we serve, how much we tithe, to how our children behave, and so on and so forth. I can recall having a recent conversation with a man who Sabrina (from the c-store) has called, "Preacher Man" who took the time to correct me in a few things I said. He wasn't concerned about the meaning I had behind these words, of the intent - but rather more concerned that I said them correctly (in his vision of course). We both were agreeing with one another - but I said it differently than he did, and instead of focusing on what we agreed upon, he wanted to make sure I didn't repeat what I said to anyone else because it was "heresy" - when in fact it was the same thing he was saying, just worded differently. Or however many people told me, "Don't see the Golden Compass!" - besides the fact it's just a movie - they made me want to see it even more. ;0)

So when I speak to men like Ron, who then tell me what God has to "accept" or else He can't be God or how they are going to heaven simply because they were "good enough" on their own without Jesus I want to bang my head against the proverbial brick wall! Of course, I seem to want to do that often - perhaps I have anger issues that should be lifted up to God? ;)

Why do people have these ideas in their head? That their own goodness is enough? That any real "God" must accept their life choices? Because society is telling them this. And if it's on Primetime it must be true. ::roll eyes:: But what are we doing as Christians? Are we shining a light in this pitch black world? Are we sharing the gospel and the essential need for a Savior? Or are we getting steadily more and more sucked into all of this?

It becomes more and more important to find a church that engages you, that brings you to knowledge of the gospel, and grounds you in the Word. When I first began attending Grace Point - I just didn't see that happening. Devin covered a few verses from the Bible and then went on the modern day application. Which I totally loved - and still do, but didn't see myself getting much out of. Around that time, I realized how deeply entrenched I was in legalism - I knew I was legalistic, some say it was the little red flag that caught my attention in the LDS church but I didn't quite understand all that that entailed.

Devin points out, "Its in the heart that relationship begins and is developed," - while Devin uses the big examples - murder, adultery, divorce, etc - he reminds us that Jesus brought it all back to the heart. Pushing aside all the "preferences" that we have as individuals in our worship or belief systems - what exactly is the heart behind it? When I sat there, engaged in the sermons and enjoying them, then wishing for something deeper - what was in my heart? Was I focused on the internal or the external? Did I want something deeper so I could hold my own in discussions or for application? If the relationship begins and is developed in the heart - how is it fostered? Through daily interaction. If I have a head full of knowledge (I don't), but not a softened heart and daily interaction with God, then how do I ever develop, mature, and deepen my relationship? I don't. I realized, I was being legalistic. I glean that deeper interaction through my deeper interaction with God. If I'm not applying the daily - then I'm going anywhere except the three foot baby pool.

While this series seems to be more pointed towards some issues (divorce, adultery, etc) - this is what I'm really taking from it - who Jesus is and it's importance of understanding this, and remaining focused on the relationship we have with Jesus - not the safety borders we put up.

Below are the links to each sermon in the series.

(1) Heart of the Matter
(2) Radical and Ruthless
(3) Irrational Living

Don't be sitting down on the outside and standing up on the inside.... allow your heart to change - not just your motions.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Half a hair cut later -- gotta love McGinley :)

Half a hair cut later (I'll blog about it later) I came home and Steve practically forced me to watch a scene from "Wild Hogs" (not my type of movie...). I'm a huge fan of John C. McGinley because of Scrubs so for me, the two scenes he is in is enough to make me want to watch the whole movie.... Enjoy!

Dr Cox....

Now the jealous motorcycle cop... ;)

an-to-nym: Relationship l Legalism

On Sunday I picked up a much earlier series (from Feb. 07) called, "Antonym". For some reason, I've been wanting to listen to it - but just haven't until last night. It's a three part series so I've only listened to one part of the three, however I think it's just what I've been looking for.

I write a lot about "legalism" - like the trinity it's not a word really found in the Bible (there's legalistic I believe, but I don't think legalism is ever really defined) and so as a former Mormon I have really struggled with this problem. I know and have identified legalism as bad and as a heart issue, but I haven't ever been able to really look into it from a Biblical perspective outside of a few pages Beth Moore wrote in one of her Bible studies.

So far, the word "legalism" hasn't been used in the series - but it's defined perfectly throughout the whole thing. If GP will allow me, I'll upload my copy to the internet and highly encourage all of you to take some time and listen to it. I'll blog more about the series as I listen to it more.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Weekend...

This weekend has got to be the busiest weekend I've had a in a long time ... of course next weekend will probably be just as busy or at least pretty close...

Those of you who have read my blogs for awhile now, know how God has taken me by surprise with a heart for the homeless. Not that I've never cared about them - they just haven't been on my "radar" so to speak. Thanks to the guys at work, my heart, mind, and vision have been completely turned around. Yet, while these guys have been the instruments God used to get my attention, in a way they didn't come close to preparing me for this weekend....

Friday night was Steve's company party. We had a very painful conversation with his one and only co-worker, sort of friend who is LDS when the news that we were ex-Mormons came up - thank you Mai Thai. Beyond embarrassing, painful, and one of those moments that legalism completely and entirely captured my heart once again. Eh - can't seem to get a handle on that bad boy. :P So, we headed out hours early and hit the theater - you can read my previous blog for my thoughts on The Golden Compass which we saw. Afterwards, we had two appointments between 10 pm - 12 am to pick up 28 dozen donuts for GP's event the following morning. I was totally pumped and couldn't wait to grab a chocolate covered creme filled donut just for me. Of course, after working three nights a week till midnight and babysitting five kids a day - this was not a very wise choice. Just as my body wanted to crash (as it usually does Friday nights by like 8 maybe 9 pm) I gave it a dose of pure Kripy Kreme deliciousness and had the worst sugar high ever. Complete with a migraine, swirly lights in my vision, and being lightheaded. Thankfully, by time I we finished up at our second location (which I got us lost looking for for half an hour...) I was back to normal. Lesson learned - no eating Krispy Kremes past like six pm for me anymore.

We got home, put the kids to bed, and finally crashed for the night at 1:30 am. Wouldn't be an issue since the next day was Saturday except that that Saturday I was volunteering with GP for an event with our local City Mission (this site is for Ohio - ours of course is the same except here in Vegas). I was meeting with 19 other Grace Point people at 6 am to go serve coffee and donuts and distribute flyers for that day's Christmas meal. And I was out of my favorite cherry flavored Amp drinks. I woke up at 5:15 am and laid in bed, freezing, thinking, "Just one more minute..." of course that's when my phone rang from the coordinator of the event and I realized I had to get out of bed so I could for once be prompt. I skipped my shower and pulled on the warmest clothes I had in layers, pulled a bandanna over my now muffled hair from the night before, and headed out. No time for energy drinks or hot coffee (yes LDS readers, I've begun to drink coffee - NO that's not why I left since for several several months I refused to drink coffee - I don't believe anyone leaves simply to drink coffee.... hmmm eternal salvation or coffee? No...) I had to scoot.

I arrived there promptly but wishing I had stopped at Starbucks or even a gas station for an energy drink. We all gathered around, joking and laughing. I heard a horrible review from Devin about "I am Legend" - of course I still want to go see it. YES I still want to go see it, I am sure I too will be yelling at the screen or whatever at the abrupt ending since I hate those kinds of endings - but I still want to go see it. Yes, anyone who knows me IRL is welcome to say, "I told you so..." after I've seen it and probably hated it. (That'll be next weekend for anyone who wants to join me in spite of Devin's review). We all piled into cars and headed to our final Krispy Kreme to pick up the last bit of donations. May I take a moment here and simply say, never ever leave 28 dozen KK donuts in your car overnight? Sure, I believe they tasted just fine - but who knows how long that overpowering sweet smell is going to linger? Since we stopped there, and with no Energy drinks in site - I buckled and bought a cup of coffee - I asked for as much sugar, cream, and pumps of Carmel and Raspberry as they were willing to give me. I HATE the taste of coffee. Grace Point is awesome for providing Starbucks coffee at their services - but man, I can never get enough creamer and sugar in there to make it not taste like coffee. Steve laughs at me each Sunday I buckle and get a cup and I make these "sour" faces. So, as we drove to Palm Mortuary the sour faces began.

Of course, I ended up in the car with all guys. However, I got to ask a few questions here and there that have been on my mind with the staff's recent trip to Utah for a funeral (LDS readers - we had another ex-Mormon who passed and her request was that our Pastor speak at the funeral and our worship band play, "Mighty to Save" as well - the staff did NOT go to protest anything or anything of the like...) and was curious of not only their impression of SLC but also how a predominately LDS community took to a Christian pastor in jeans and a t-shirt speaking at the funeral followed by a very loud band playing, "Mighty to Save". The loudest song I've ever heard inside any LDS service - regardless of service - was "I believe in Christ" during a General Conference.

However, I'm noticing more and more that while I used to be a bubbly, outgoing person - I'm becoming more and more shy and withdrawn. It's painful for me now to engage with people I'm not comfortable with. Which is surprising for me since I used to be able to ask some of these people tons of questions but engaging them in conversation just isn't something I like. I'm fine to go and talk to people I don't know, but not to people I sort of do know. Make sense?

After we scouted the area for the best place to setup and begin handing out donuts, coffee, and flyers I randomly paired up with a father (Kenny) and his two teenage daughters. Kenny was surprisingly easy to talk to, but soon I found myself wishing I could just go off on my own. I felt like I was holding anyone who walked with me, back because I was in no way prepared for what I encountered on the streets. With the guys back at work, I've slowly gotten to know them and spend personal one on one time with them. I know their names, stories, needs, etc. But these people - I knew nothing about. And there were far more than just 6-10 of them like at work. So, while I attempted to create a more personal feel to my interactions with them, I realized afterwards I was thinking in a limited manner. Trying to become personal is great, but not when the goal is to hand out 600 or more flyers and food. While others were handing out their flyers left and right, I stood with the same people for five or more minutes at a time. I tried to draw from everything I had read, learned, or done myself in the past. Even at one point suggesting prayer with one woman who was concerned about her cat. I recalled stories from a Christian convert who said that it was the willingness and example of Christians who prayed with her that truly helped change her heart. Recall I am terrified in praying in front of others, so I did however, slide this off on the coordinator and Admin Pastor, Derek. I mean, he is a pastor so prayer should be his specialty right? ;)

After a few hours of this and interesting conversations and my usual clumsy self falling down in the middle of a street - we packed back up and headed back. I was exhausted but had signed up for the whole day so as to really experience this on such a large scale and of course, serve those whom God had laid on my heart. Derek and I had some good conversation about witnessing and I found myself in agreement with everything he said - I am so blessed that God lead us to this church with such amazing and spirit filled leaders.

We arrived at the hall where the Christmas meal was taking place and I was just overwhelmed by the line that had already formed a good hour or two before the meal even took place. When we went inside, I was assigned a task and began to volunteer in the stockings line. As I filled each bright red stocking with five toys each, my heart broke inside me. These little girls were receiving pens and markers in plastic bags, pink water bottles, or older McDonald's toys. Some were lucky that they got Play-Dough, a purse, or something else. But these toys were very rare and so very few stockings I stuffed contained these items. When they asked if anyone wanted to go help create the Toy Store for Wednesday night I immediately jumped on board. I didn't know if I could stay and watch poverty torn children walk in here and eat. I already felt so broken at this moment. I had already seen two children on the streets earlier that morning and didn't want to see more. As I drove to the Mission to help create this Toy Store, I called Steve and just cried. I was so humbled by what I had seen, I was so broken over their lack of things and over the lack of what I deemed appropriate donations to these children, and I was so grateful for everything my husband, children, and I had.

When I arrived at the toy store, I was so uplifted and overwhelmed with God's love. There were 2 stores - one for small items, and another for larger ones. Then within these stores were divides for girls, boys, toddlers/babies, and unisex toys (like games or art boxes). As I looked around at the donations for toys, I felt the Lord really uplift my heart. Working amidst these teenagers, Grace Point volunteers, and mission staff - I felt so blessed. We were cheerful as we organized toys, decorated and duct taped Christmas trees, and tied ribbons and bows around the room. However, by 2 pm my exhaustion from the week and that day finally caught up with me, and I was told to go home. Later, I found out Derek (who had been up and going much much longer than me as he had to help prepare and the transport 600 cups worth of coffee...) stayed until past 5 pm. I think I'm going to need an IV on wheels and just alternate Red Bull and Amp for my veins in the future...

But the weekend still wasn't over. After I crashed without even eating the lunch I was starving for, I woke up and had to go grocery shopping with two toddlers... Fun. :0) Then, came back and finished a Christmas craft present - which I had to wrap. Anyone who knows me I despise wrapping because it always looks bad. This wrapping came out okay though. :)

Went to bed late again. Really, how do people do this on a regular basis?

Steve's on the Crew at GP - he sets up every other series with the rest of the "B" team. So he has to be at GP by 6 am those Sundays. Which of course, was this past Sunday. Normally, serving on the crew has been an inspiration and blessing for Steve. Combined with our already busy weekend, not so much... And we both now serve First Service in GP Kidz which we are excited about! So we both had to be at church by 8:30... which with just one car is a bit hard to do. We ended up about 10 minutes late (see we're never prompt....) but on the way there we had a breakthrough idea for games (what Steve leads) and how to make it a group game vs a two person game. I went to my Nursery assignment and then together we went to Second Service. Which was awesome! I picked up two series - Wrecked and Antomyn - which I'm excited to listen to and then we headed out.

Still not done.

The Vine was last night as well. Steve and I signed up to serve in the first hour so we had to get there at least half an hour early - remember we're not prompt. They should have told us an hour so we would arrive on time... but they didn't know... ;) When we came home that day, we ate lunch and then everyone took naps - except Paul. Who broke out of his room and colored on his face with a blue highlighter. Thank goodness he didn't take it to the walls like he did two weeks ago. We woke up - it was 4:17 pm, and we were supposed to be there at 4:30. No time for fixing hair, changing outfits, or reapplying makeup - it was go time.

I love GP so I hesitate to say anything that could be perceived as bad - so I'm going to tread lightly here. The sanctuary (aka the cafeteria) was beautiful, GP Kidz was - I hear - great, and the ideas for Nursery were good. However, the execution I don't think went as planned. From what I understand, Nursery was going to get volunteers outside GP so that those who attend GP could attend the Vine. However, last minute this didn't work out and a mass email was sent asking for volunteers for hour shifts in Nursery. Not nearly as many people as needed actually volunteered. I was in Nursery with the Babies (0-2 yrs) and with nine screaming children, I thought we were overwhelmed (initially there were just two of us). Then later, towards the end of the night when Steve poked his head into the Toddlers area - he said it was utter choas. From my understanding and perception, GP people always show up and volunteer and serve unmatched by almost every group and church I've ever seen or experienced. So this seemed to be the rare exception.

I felt horrible for the volunteers in the Toddler room, ashamed that I asked for more help in the baby room, and more ashamed that Steve and I didn't stay the entire time to help out but left after our "shift" was over. The people who sacrificed their whole Vine experience are true servants, amazing, and I'm so grateful for them.

I don't know if it was the long weekend, or that Paul burnt his hand during the party, or what - but by time Steve and I were ready to go, we were separated and snapping at one another. We realized that we were both wrong, and quickly apologized to one another, but also realized we could put off cleaning the house, picking up toys, or wrapping presents for a night. We put the kids to bed and snuggled together in the light of the Survivor finale.

And this is just the start of things. This week I still have to figure out my Christmas tree (which I assembled almost a week ago..), wrap all the presents, clean the house since the in-laws will be here bright and early Saturday morning, and prepare for this weekend - where GP will have four services total. I am incredibly excited that my friend Pamela has expressed an interest in coming to our Christmas services. Pamela and I used to be super close best friends, but as life went on, we drifted apart. I'd love for her to come and meet my friends at GP, and see this part of my life that she hasn't really seen yet. It's a chance to share life together and I'm so excited.

I'll also be stepping into my new role as a worship leader during the first service for GP Kidz. I do expect it will be awkward at first, but music is a passion of mine, so I know being it'll pass soon.

I've also contacted the City Mission and plan on working with them outside of the scope set (so far) by Grace Point. I hated feeling so broken on Saturday, but loved the way the Lord has used that and shaped it inside me. Jesus told us that how we serve the broken, the homeless, the least - is how we've served Him directly.

My plate seems overly full - yet even though I'm tired just looking ahead - I am so excited to be actively engaged in forwarding the kingdom, in serving those who need it, and in being involved at GP. It does take some juggling, but it's very rewarding. Even in the aftermath of a house neglected for a weekend - I would do it all over again and not change a thing. This weekend was awesome and I can't wait for all things ahead.

I watched the Golden Compass and DID NOT renounce Christ...

Friday night was Steve's company party - it was six to ten. Yet, after a half hour and some very painful conversation involving a Mai Thai, the one and only LDS in the whole company, and us - we decided to leave.

But we had almost three hours to kill so we drove down the street to the nearest movie theater to see, "I am Legend" - which wasn't playing for another hour, which would make us significantly late for the rest of the evening. Sidenote: regardless of the scathing review our pastor had of this movie (not for theological reasons or anything of the like - but rather than it just ended abruptly and he felt he wasted time - much like Steve and ANY of the Laura Croft Tomb Raider movies - or any movie that Angelina acts in...) I still want to see this. :P But, Golden Compass was playing.

I looked to Steve and we decided to go for it. We already knew about the theological undertones, we knew from reading Albert Mohler's article and listening to his podcast that it's a very well done movie, so I for one, was very interested to sit down and watch this movie. I only wish I had had a pencil and paper to make notes along the way.

Mohler's assessment that this is a very well done movie is spot on - it's a fantastic movie. We never noticed the time fly by and as the theater lights turned on, we were sitting there thinking, "We want more..." - so I have a feeling the second and third movies should be a shoe in to produce.

I will admit, that the first part of the movie, I sat there examining each part. Steve and I would whisper to one another, "Does the 'dust' represent sin?" or "Are the Gyptians representing Muslims?" and so on. But after awhile, we began to settle in our seats and get captured by the film.

Now, while the movie is very well done, the storyline very engaging - I still would not recommend this movie to children. This is NOT a child's movie. In one scene there are two polar bears fighting (see the picture above) and the fight scene is very graphic - ending with one bear slapping the other bear's bottom jaw off, then reaching into the gaping wound and tearing it open. Do not bring children to this movie. To me, this is no better than bringing them to Resident Evil: Extinction. This one may be passed off as a child's movie - but I don't know many children whose parents encourage or allow them to watch such graphic violence, even in just one or two scenes (as there are other graphically violent scenes - this is just by far the worst).

Theologically speaking - the anger and rage towards Christians is very apparent - especially in the beginning of the movie where the Magestrium have more scenes. Please let me note here - while the anger and rage is apparent I only see it as the fault of Christians he's interacted with, public groups like "God Hates" (<- not their website, I refuse to link to that, but wikki article about them) - I do not blame Pullman. Afterwards, Steve told me if he was still an atheist he would have eaten all that up, went and bought the books, and totally bought into the whole thing. As an atheist, I imagine it does appear that Christians have the sort of wide sweeping and abusive power that is portrayed in the movies. However, no church has had that sort of power since what, the fourteen maybe fifteen hundreds? And yet, we are still paying for those mistakes - another reason to be grateful for grace when it is so starkly contrasted to the long holding grudges of this world. While this world will not forget (nor should they in reality) the wrongdoings done in Christ's name - we know that God in His infinte and unimaginable love and forgiveness - "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

This is just a movie - it's not going to make people renounce Christ. If one understands even the basic, simple message of the gospel - they'll understand Christians in general. The only perfect one is Jesus - while we may be saved by His grace, we are not perfect - we are still sinners and we still submit to the flesh from time to time otherwise we wouldn't need Christ in the first place. Have Christian churches made mistakes in the past? Yes of course they have. Is this Jesus' fault? No. It's ours - we made those choices, regardless of how or why we like to justify it.

Do I have a problem with the Golden Compass, it's message, or it's author? Again, no. He's not a Christian - so he's not going to behave like one. It's just a movie - and unless you go in there knowing it's trying to undermine Christianity you're not going to clearly see it. Wait - let me correct this a little. Perhaps one who doesn't know about this (although I don't know they wouldn't since groups of Christians have made it their goal to sound the horn on this one) might go in there, observe the way some groups are personified and then think to themselves, "Ha! This is just like Peter Priesthood down the road..." (I only use that term because I can't think of a Christian one so hopefully you get the idea...) or "this is just like ABC Christian Church down the block... this is just how they act!" - in which case, that's not the author's fault or doing, rather our own and something we need to examine.

So, am I offended? No way. Would I watch it again? Better believe it's going on my Blockbuster que and I can't wait to see the second one. Would I engage someone about the movie? Yes. It was a well done movie, an engaging storyline, and with all the hype it's a great way to talk to people about Jesus, the gospel, Grace Point (since thank God we have been blessed with a church and pastor who have not freaked out over this movie! Yay!) and about whether or not it really is a children's movie... (no again).

If my brothers and sisters in Christ don't want to go see this for any reason - from not wanting people to make money from it, to theological issues, to graphic violence, etc - I understand and I don't fault anyone. I didn't see the Passion - almost a staple now a days to view in Christianity and even Mormonism. I just couldn't sit through more than two minutes - if that - of the movie. That's a whole other blog someday when I have more time on my hands... But to those Christians who are boycotting and making a huge hoopla and ruckus over this movie - I can't help but compare them to the characters of the Magisterium and see remarkable similarities. I believe, they are playing right into Pullman's hands and can only pray that non-believers look past them and still are able to hear the gospel.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

So Addicted...

Steve got me a new mp3 player for Christmas (since the other one is technically his and I have totally worn it out in the space of a year....) and since the "old" one finally broke down he let me open it up early. Ah! I am so addicted to music ... With my new player came a one month subscription to Rhapsody. I've heard about this program before but never paid it much mind - but now with my one month subscription I've already downloaded almost 20 hours of music!

I don't know when I'll get to listen to all this music - but I am loving it! I got to download some awesome Christmas albums - including Michael W. Smith's newest one, then for a more rock sounding Christmas album I downloaded Relient K. So awesome! Got some Daddy Big Weave and Lincoln Brewster - I am totally set for some cooler worship!

Some of my favorite Christmas songs are listed below - however, I am going nuts looking for that new version of "Joy to the World" - they played it during church today for the starting song and I am totally in love with it. If anyone knows the band, album, etc - please let me know. (Waits for Kelli's comments....)

Christmas Favorites

Thursday, December 13, 2007

We are the innkeepers

I've been really blessed the last few days - even while sleepwalking through the holiday season - with some amazing people who are really mentoring and really challenging me to grow this season.

During one of our last small group meetings of this past semester, a discussion arose in answer to a barely spoken prayer to God. After the meeting, I emailed one of the people there and since then have been really blessed by all the information he has passed along. Most recently, he has lent me his copy of, "Cries from the Cross". Since he has loaned me this book, I'm trying to put my other reading aside and spend time in this book so as to return it quickly. It's a great book that has really challenged me to carry my cross and most importantly understand the cross. There is a reason it is offensive to those who don't believe - from it's brutal death to the exclusion of those outside of Christ and everything in between. He reminds me that that part of my cross that I refuse to carry - is what makes me ineffective for the kingdom, that I - as a forgiven sinner - was there at the cross when He was crucified because if I wasn't, I wouldn't be able to enjoy the grace of God. While all these things have kept me chewing, wondering, pondering - what really has struck me is that the cross is not just a part of a message - it is the message. Why did Jesus have to die such a horrible death? Why was Jesus cutoff from fellowship with the Father? Because of our sin. The author reminds us that while wicked men killed Jesus, it was God who planned it. Of course, we also know the reason God put Him there was because of our sin. Our fallen nature. When we begin to really examine, ponder, chew on, and spend time with the cross - we realize that no sin is small or minute - because that same sin nailed my Savior to the cross. My sin made Him beyond human recognition. We cannot celebrate God's amazing love for us and yet not understand the magnitude of our sin and it's effects. Amazing. In today's modern culture - it's easy to shop a carte for your beliefs. "I'll take God's loving grace for sending Jesus, but I'm going to block out the horrible death He endured and why and what it all really means and entails."

Another close friend read to me from the book, "In Search of the Real Spirit of Christmas". In the passage she read, it explained a visit from one nation's queen - she brought over the top amounts of suitcases, staff, even I believe 40 pints of blood just in case she needed a blood transfusion. She came with pomp and indulgence and everyone knew that she was visiting this country. Yet, contrast this with how Jesus came to visit us. His entrance to reside with His creation for a time was not overwhelming - in fact, most missed it. In today's devotional, the author writes that there was "no room in the inn" for Jesus because no one knew Him they did not stop and make room for Him. Yet how much more does He rightly deserve when He came to visit than a queen or other leader? Yet how humble was His entrance? While I rush about making holiday plans, trying to fit everything into an already tight schedule - this reminds me that none of what I'm doing is the priority - but rather Christ. Who came humbly to a manager and rejected by His own people, died on a cross for the world because He loves us. Do I have room for Him? Elder Maxwell, of the twelve apostles of the LDS church once commented, "Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus!" (Settle this in your hearts, Ensign November 1992). This coming year, this coming season - will we choose to make room in our hearts, our lives, our daily walks for Jesus?

Finally, Grace Point has partnered with the City Mission of Las Vegas (a Christian ministry outreach) and this Saturday will be feeding the homeless. In this past year, God has surprised me by laying the homeless on my heart. Not saying I've never felt anything for them - but I've never had a desire to work with them. I volunteered to help out and was asked to go down to the City Mission and pick up some paperwork for our Saturday event. I was so broken by their humble surroundings - over my years of being in a church, I've taken for granted all the luxuries I've had. From taking for granted that our church had a building, to taking for granted that our church is taken care of, how nice it is, everything. But I was quickly reminded that not all ministries are as blessed as Grace Point is - or perhaps I'm still missing the point and I'm not seeing the blessings where they really are. The mission had a building, it had a pantry of food, it had a chapel for people to worship, read, study, or just quietly spend time with the Lord. It is still around. But what really blessed me was listening in on a Bible study while I waited. It was a phone study, so I only heard one end of the lesson. I was actually dissappointed when Linda (the contact I was to meet with) appeared and sent me back on my way.

What really touched me was a parable of Jesus' that I had never heard before. When I came home, I promptly looked up the passage.

"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved." (Matt 9:16-17)

She began talking about how many will say, "I'm a born again Christian, I'm a Baptist, I'm a Lutheran," etc and so on - but how they are merely pretending. That they haven't given the old man over to Jesus, they haven't had a new heart created in them - and after awhile the weight of what God wants for them and their lives will began to wear on them. These words really pentrated me and I wondered - to what point do all of us pretend? Even in a church where being real, faults and all is always encouraged - to what point do we still pretend? A couple I know recently went through quite the naked experience - and yet, I've never seen them happier, more joyful in their worship, and unshackled by the Lord. Because their pride and pretense was stripped away, they lost chains they didn't even know they were carrying. Are we all prepared to allow the Lord to strip us naked and walk before Him? Or in our pride, do we cling to bits of cloth here and there to keep up the pretense? How real are we with our church family, friends, related family, or even God? Do we lean upon ourselves or do we really lean upon the cross?

Sleepwalking through the season I've got plenty to think about, examine, challenge myself and remember in daily living. On one hand I may be ungrateful that I have this pre-lit six foot tree that I struggle to assemble, puff up, and decorate - but then the Lord reminds us of the simple message of the cross, it's daily impact in our lives, and how we like the wineskin - we have to stop pretending - even before Him - and come to our knees at His feet, examine the markings, and come to truly know Him.

Everyday I cause myself to be exhausted, stressed, frustrated, angry, and overwhelmed. Everday Jesus offers me His hands to hold, His arms to be embraced by, His feet for carrying me, and His grace to love me regardless of my continuing choices to sin. Everyday that I can remember and focus on that - all else falls away for amazement for my Savior and room in my inn of a heart for His love.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


A while ago (before Steve and I were at GP) they did a series called, Tattoo (click the link for a blog that Pastor Devin wrote and also to see more pictures since I copied this picture from his blog). The picture at left is a picture they took during the service - yes, a person was being tattooed during the service. The way I stumbled upon this series was in an email conversation about fruits of the Spirit. I was freshly out of the LDS church and just could not fully comprehend the differences in fruits of the spirit LDS style and Christian truth. So, Pastor Devin recommended that I pick up this series on cd. I did and imagine my freshly ex-LDS ears when I heard a tattoo artist buzzing around while I listened to the four cds.

I did love the series though and have returned to it often whenever I feel myself slipping into LDS thinking about fruits of the Spirit (I'll have to post the "list" of when you're in or out of the Spirit, etc.). As I've worked at my parents' store, I feel prompted to engage my co-workers in conversation, serve them, and try to invite them to church. Recently, while working with Justin, I mentioned that our worship leader (Wojo) had tattoos and that our Pastor had done a series called Tattoo. He seemed curious and asked more about it - by the end of the conversation he seemed very interested in listening to the series. So I brought my copy by last night to listen to and perhaps loan out to him if he came by. And of course, he was there helping out Rosa. I told him that I had brought the cds if he wanted to listen to them and he did. I can't wait to hear his feedback - especially since I invited his brother and him to Christmas weekend/Eve services. His parents are always telling him that if he doesn't attend church that he'll go to hell (not if he doesn't believe in Jesus - it's if he doesn't attend church) so I'm hopeful God will use these four great sermons to really engage Justin.

However, it's interesting - these cd's are like candy. As soon as another co-worker saw that I was lending out this series, she was there asking if she (Rosa) could borrow it too. Then later, when she was talking with Eric about it he wanted to hear it too. Wow!

I can't wait to see what God does at the store.

Target Practice

I've been beginning to wonder if I'm walking around with a target taped to me. In less than four days I've been in two almost serious collisions. The first one, Thursday night with a huge semi, I still don't know how it didn't hit me. I was driving to go pick up Steve and this semi-truck began inching over into my lane. I honked my horn and thought he saw me - but he must not have because right as I finally pulled ahead in my lane, he swerved entirely into my lane - as I watched in my review mirror and braced for the impact I could clearly see his headlights right on my tail. I think my heart stopped.

The second one, Sunday night, involved one of those HUGE pickup trucks (like a 350 or something). I was driving down Decatur and it had three lanes, I was in the far left lane and was the third car in my lane through the intersection. However, at the time I was in the intersection, I was the only car in the intersection. As I was almost through, I heard the squeal of brakes and began to look around for what sounded like an about to occur crash. As I looked to my right, there was this huge white truck barely stopped just inches from my passenger door. The cars in the other two lanes successfully stopped and no impact was made.

What I've gleaned from these heart stopping events is the following: God is sovereign. I can't explain why in less than four days I was almost totaled by two huge vehicles, nor can I explain why I wasn't totaled by these vehicles. But these events make very grateful for God. His hand of protection was so clear to me these two nights - especially Thursday since I had Paul and Anya in the car with me.

I am a bit sad that it takes two "extreme" events to remind me of God's sovereignty in my life, but am grateful that at least I was able to notice and acknowledge them. Make sure to take time to notice all the ways God is faithful in your life.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


I realized today that I was lagging in my blogging because it seemed all my thoughts are just crashing into each other. When this happens, it's time for an upload so as to free up some space in my head.

Thursday Steve was told that he was going to receive a holiday bonus check - we were totally pumped. It's his first ever bonus check. However, I still had this thought in my mind - that the reason we had the check was because something was going to happen. But I pushed it aside, simply praising God for the generous gift He had given us.

Friday night, we had made plans to attend the Live Nativity that one of the LDS stakes here in Vegas puts on. I made up a little invitation on Fireworks and sent it out to all my new GP friends. And I asked Papau to come with us - I figured the chances were in our favor since it was a LDS pageant. He declined to come because it was "too cold" (turned out to be the warmest pageant I've been to at 55 degrees!) but my TBM Aunt Connie and newly converted Aunt Grace came instead. The entire drive there, I kept thinking to myself, "Is she going to say anything about our recently revealed apostacy?" While my parents are faithful (hardcore in their own way) LDS - they greatly pale in comparison to my Aunt Connie (Mamau's baby sister). Her son, Jeremy just got back this past summer from his two year mission, Aunt Connie has been YW President for as long as I can remember. She has been my LDS role model for a long time - if I could be as hardcore as Aunt Connie, I would have been so very happy.

Yet, she surprised me. Indeed, my whole family has been surprising me. When I asked about Mamau's condition (recall she's on a -IMO- highly risky "experimental" treatment and so Connie is here to monitor her and help her out) she said, "If we all put our faith together and pray to Heavenly Father, I believe she'll be healed." My prayers matter? This may sound rude or negative to someone outside the LDS culture - maybe even to someone inside the LDS culture, but to a real hardcore TBM (True Blue Mormon) an apostate's prayers do NOT matter. The apostate has been taken over and is the servant of the devil and the Lord cannot honor that prayer unless it's to return to the LDS church of course. So, this was quite - in an odd way - the compliment.

Now, the pageant is a live one - meaning real horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, and some sort of chicken looking thing - so of course, it's outdoors. The very first time we attended - I planned ahead, bringing two quilts, bought Anya (who was barely 7 months at the time and tiny) this sack looking thing to keep her warm - covered her head, hands, toes, and everything in between - all you saw were these beautiful eyes, bundled everyone up and came on out. It was freezing and we didn't have near enough layers and blankets. So this year, I brought every blanket and quilt in the house, put at least three layers on the kids with a "super warm" jacket, and brought socks for their hands. Aunt Connie - from Idaho - laughed at me telling me I didn't remember what cold really is. Of course, she was bundled up in my blankets when we got there. As I was getting the blankets out of the back of the truck, the back fell off.

The back of our truck/suv is divided in two. You can "pop" the whole back, of just the upper half - the glass (say like for groceries or getting blankets out). Well, I popped the glass and when we tried to close it, the top right hand hinge popped right out. Remember how I said I was expecting something to happen? It happened. Currently, our truck has a "giant band-aid" and we rented a car because we're afraid that the back will pop off and shatter before Monday when we're taking it in. And since the insurance isn't covering this one...

However, we did have a great time at the Nativity. Both before and after it began, the kids could go up and pet the various animals, play with the dog, run around, etc.

Here are the kids before the Nativity - climbing on haystacks and having tons of fun.

When the shepherds came around, Anya and Paul just had to have their pictures taken with them.

My favorite part of the Nativity. When I was highschool at LVA, we performed Handel's Messiah every year. I have grown to LOVE this and miss it tons. They use various clips from the Mormon Tabernacle's recording of the Messiah. Oh so good.

Paul was "taking pictures" with my cell phone (along with another little boy who had his mommy's cell phone). They were having a great time.

Had to post this next one for Wayne Nesbitt. Here ya go.

The kids had a great time - at one point Anya ran out into the middle of the stage also in the middle of the recorded performance. I sat there frozen for a few seconds wondering what to do before I got up and raced out there behind her. Eh! I listened closer to the narrative - will have to record it next year - because it sounded just the slightest bit off. I feel just a little bad because one of the families I invited (the only one that I know that went) is a baby baby Christian and she stated that she learned so much from watching the Live Nativity. If there were any off parts, I'm hoping they don't affect her any.

We came home and watched "Rudolph" with the kids to help us wind down. Of course, that just gave Paul potentially messy ideas.

The door seemed fixed, until Saturday morning when we found that it was coming out again. So to the auto shop is goes and here's hoping that the quote they gave us over the phone is what it turns out to be.

Today I sat in on GP Kidz and had a blast. It grounded me in the simplicity of the gospel and yet, how children need to be constantly taught, reinforced, encouraged, and repeat in order to learn the gospel. When I sat down and began observing, I found myself easily participating without feeling weird or odd (like I do when I at times play with the kids or use my "reading voices") and I could really not only envision myself serving there but really throwing myself into it like I did when I was working outside the home. I'm totally excited.

However, when we watched the video for the sermon today - Steve and I were both a bit surprised. Perhaps a TBM reader (if I have any left at this point) will be able to answer this - but there were clips from the temple movie in the video.Shocked is perhaps a bit of an understatement. To be clear - not clips from inside the temple but rather, from the movie (the creation part specifically) that is played during the endowment ceremony. The music seemed to be the same as well. It was quite the "flashback" from our church seats in a school cafeteria back to the silent sensations of the temple. Since the LDS church created the endowment movie with their own actors and equipment - I assumed that the media used (clips from the movie, music) was hidden away due to it's "sacredness". Again, just to be clear for any LDS readers - the clips were not from inside the temple - it was very clear that it wasn't, but the clips of creation were the exact same ones used in the movie. It just puzzles me.

Pastor Devin announced today that Grace Point has surpassed the goal set of $25k for Vision 2008 - we're currently at $40k. I almost cried I was so excited.

I feel like I've been pretty faithless lately. I didn't fully believe that GP would raise $25k and when I told Steve this, he sat there shocked because he didn't believe that GP would raise less than $50k. Also, the homeless have been driven out from behind our store for quite some time (before Thanksgiving). Yet, I feel so pressed to be serving them. Where some of them are hiding out is very secluded and/or unfamiliar to me and so I don't feel safe going there. Yet, part of me wonders if I had more faith in God's sovereignty to protect me, if I would go anyways.

Finally, looking forward to this new week. So much is going on! Going to start Christmas crafts with the kids - like making our own special wrapping paper and picture frames, etc. One of our Hommel specialties is a family portrait. But the way we "present" it is very unique. I don't have any pictures of a frame that we made for our family, but this past January we made one for our best friends who moved to CA. (No copying if we have mutual friends to whom we give gifts to!)

So this week we're going to start tackling the various picture frames we want to make. We always have a blast creating them and imagining how happy they'll make the people who receive them. Makes me want to go get started right now!

At GP, we're also serving the homeless this weekend - totally excited about that and our vine is this coming weekend too, incredibly pumped about that. I want to fellowship more but seem to becoming more shy everyday (hard to believe eh?).

Almost forgot to mention this as well - guess what finally came in the mail? A letter from the First Presidency (of the LDS Church)... More later.

Anyways, whew! Upload I think is completed for now. Can't wait to start my Christmas projects!