Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A catfish in a goldfish bowl

I read a devotion by Ron Hutchcraft this evening that summed up my world perfectly. Because, today ... my world changed again.

He told the story of his daughter's fantail goldfish. The day came that the bowl was dirty and they needed to put the fish into a small bowl while they cleaned the fishbowl. The fish swam as if it were used to the larger bowl and continued to run into the sides. The poor thing had no idea that as it was dealing with the small space, something better was being prepared for it.

Ok ... you have that story - now, here's mine.

We discovered today that Max's job at CompUSA was ending in 60 days. They are closing the store. I fell apart, completely and absolutely when I discovered this information. Now, remember, that today Max is in the hospital recuperating from major ankle replacement surgery. A friend of ours called me at church to tell me that he had heard this and as I processed on the verisimilitude (look it up) of the information, I discovered that it was true. I called Max and in his drugged stupor, I made him call the store for more information. And I promptly fell apart. Dr. Delp (lead pastor) walked past my door within moments of the discovery and asked if I needed anything. I just said, 'yes' and started crying. Now, THIS is why I love working at the church. He walked in, put his hands on my shoulders and began praying for me. Where else could you have your boss do that for you?

I left work to come to the hospital - but, first to run home and deal with a puppy who was going to explode. As I was at home, Max called. Yes, the rumors were all true and he would be out of a job in 60 days.

Why was I panicking? Because he is to not put any weight on this ankle for 8 weeks! Ok, we can start looking for jobs - but, interviews are going to be tough using a walker and crutches. I was in full-blown meltdown. You see, I have been working for just one month. Insty-Prints closed last September and I had been out of work. I was just feeling good about the fact that we were finally going to see some light at the end of the financial tunnel. And now ... wham, we are being hit again.

The next thing that Max told me, though was that for every year he had worked for CompUSA, he received a week of severance pay. That's 8 weeks! Two more months! As soon as Max can be on his feet again walking, he'll be able to walk into a job interview.

Within an hour after Doug had prayed for me, God was already beginning to show me His incredible grace and mercy. And the other amazing thing is that Max is so drugged up that as his mind is accepting the reality of this, his heart isn't falling apart. He's being allowed to handle it quietly and with a bit of a padding around it. (That certainly explains why alcoholics and drug addicts like their addictions!) But, today - I'm thankful for the drugs that have modified Max's attitude about this today. He's dealt with a lot in the last couple of days (those are hideous and funny stories for another time) and he didn't need to have this one hitting him full on.

I know that God is good ... all the time. And the story from Ron Hutchcraft reminds me that God may be pulling us in and out of small bowls as He prepares the bigger ones for us. Where is He taking us in all of this? I have no idea ... and I'm a little scared. But, I do trust Him and I certainly covet your prayers.

Monday, February 26, 2007

4 am ... not for the light of heart

Oh my goodness ... it's 4:30 p.m. and I'm absolutely exhausted! But, it's been a good day. We got to the hospital in Council Bluffs about 4:45 this morning and got signed in for Max's ankle surgery. By 7:00 am, I was in the waiting room and poor Max was getting an epidural (which for information's sake, didn't work). After waiting 2 1/2 hours, I began to wonder how much longer things would take. Fortunately, the waiting room attendant stopped to talk with me. Max was doing fine, but things were taking much longer than they had planned. After another hour or so, they finally took me back to speak with the surgeon. He had worked on that ankle for over 3 hours - about twice as long as he usually does. Poor Max - his ankle was a complete mess. He had to do a bone graft and saw off quite a few bone spurs. But, it's done and Max will begin the road to recovery. Praise the Lord!

I'm not one to beg for sympathy, so know that isn't why I'm about to type this next part. I haven't been to this hospital in 20 years. 20 years ago in March, Mom came here to die. It became my second home for nearly 2 weeks. Those two weeks were some of the most profound that I've ever spent. I grew up a lot and I learned a lot from her about living and dying. It was an awesome time in my life, and a very difficult time. As we drove up to the hospital, memories came flooding back and I got a little bit weepy. Honestly, it could well have been the fact that I was operating on very little sleep, or the fact that I was a bit nervous for Max. But, at the same time, the memories were crowding past the moment to reinsert themselves into my heart.

20 years ago seems like such a long time, but sometimes it just feels like it's only been a couple of years since she has been gone. I certainly hope she's having as much fun as she was planning to have!

I must admit that I'm glad to be here with someone that is going to go home healthier than when he left. Oh, there's going to be an incredible amount of time that this thing has to heal. But, when it does, it's going to be wonderful!

Now, I'm going to lean back in the rocking chair and see if I can grab a few moments of sleep. Anything to make the yawning cease!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

God at the Diner

Today has been a wonderful day. The snow hanging on the trees is gorgeous, the roads aren't terrible. I got to church at 8:30 this morning, participated in both the 9:00 and a bit of the 10:30 service.

Then ... I saw God in a diner. There's a great little place that we only get to once in awhile. It doesn't look like much, in fact for years I didn't even realize that they were open for business. I finally discovered that the reason for that was they were never open past 1:00 p.m. If I get out of church early enough on a Sunday, I love to eat there, the food is fabulous!

This place is a total dive, you'd never find anything like it in West Omaha. This morning, there were so many people there that we had to park in back. One of the cooks saw us park, opened up the back door (to the kitchen) and invited us to walk through rather than walk around to the front door. Once you get inside, you can tell that everyone knows each other - they talk across tables and stop to greet each other on the way in or out. This is in the middle of Omaha! It feels like the local diners in small towns.

Max and I found a table, sat down and started chatting. It took a few extra minutes to get waited on, there is only one waitress and she's doing everything ... including cashier. But, it feels so great there, it's all good. I glanced at the table to my left. An older man and his wife, and their adult son. Behind them was another older couple with two tiny children. There were several families in booths around the room and in the other room, more families and people that were friends of the owners. There were people of mixed race in there, but it is pretty much a working class set of people that eat here. The food is hearty and the cost is quite reasonable.

Where was God? Oh my goodness, I nearly sobbed through breakfast - He was certainly touching my heart. The couple next to me was pretty quiet. The father and his son were having a good conversation and then I realized that there was something wrong with the wife. Her eyes were a bit vacant. She opened her mouth and out came a long tone. Over and over she did this. Her husband put his arms around her, sometimes his hands over her mouth to stop her and he loved her! He was a tough old guy, you could see he had worked hard all of his life. Something had happened to his wife, but he didn't care. He took her out to eat, he cared for her, he refused to be embarrassed by her, he just loved her.

Sometimes we Christians think we have a 'lock' on love. That only if you attend marriage seminars or go to small group every week, or 'work on your relationship' or go to church together or ... whatever it takes ... you can have a solid marriage. This family on a Sunday morning obviously didn't go to church - maybe they're Catholic and they went last night, but they don't carry a Bible around or wear crosses made of gold, they don't play Christian music or stop to pray and make a scene about being a Christian. The older couple was in their 70s and he LOVED her with everything that he has!

I didn't want to embarrass him and tell him how much I honored his commitment and love to a wife that was no longer able to return it. So, I quietly sat in my seat and cried. I was so thankful to see that kind of love from a tough old coot.

Behind them sat the older couple with little ones who were obviously their grandchildren. They weren't terribly rich, that was obvious. He was tattooed all up and down his arms and neck. The old military tattoos. She was tough, with stringy hair and shoddy clothes. All of a sudden she jumped up, grabbed her coat and purse. There was a MUCH older couple that had walked to the diner for breakfast and she wanted to be sure to give them a ride home. When she returned, her grandkids were leaping all over her and as she sat down, she scooped them up.

They sat there for awhile longer as the kids played. Then, she pulled out some picture / easy reading books. She was working with the children and then ... she was working with her husband. I suspect he'd had a stroke. She was re-teaching him how to say words. Simple things like 'owl'. She loved and honored him and by working with him as the little ones were learning, he could interact with his grandkids.

We work so hard at church to make things relevant for everyone. We build our programs and try to invite people to our big, beautiful buildings. We worry about perfection and not offending anyone.

But, I found God amidst the smell of grease and noise of children and people who just acted out their love in the only way that made sense. There was no perfection, there was no program, there was just love. And today ... that was better than any church service I could ever attend.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

It's Snowing

If you live in this area (Omaha, NE), then the title of this blog is an obvious statement. We've been waiting for the storm for several days and it has finally arrived. My sister, Carol tried to take our niece, Ari, back to her home in Firth, NE today and ended up spinning out on the interstate and stuck in a median (ditch). She was pretty shook up when I talked to her. She was thankful for a hole that she hit in the median. It slowed her down so that she didn't end up on the other side of the interstate in oncoming traffic. A state trooper stopped and gave them a ride to a convenient mart. She called my brother who came up through Lincoln to get them. At least that crisis was averted. Thank you, Lord!

I guess I'm at the point of hoping for a really large snow to hit so that I can have a good reason to sleep in tomorrow morning and skip church. (bad Diane)

Monday morning, Max and I head to Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs. We have to be there at 5 am so that he can be ready for his ankle replacement surgery at 7:30. I love my husband, but when I asked how long the surgery was going to take or how long they would keep him in the hospital, he had no answers. He didn't bother to ask. What a goofball. But, I guess if he doesn't worry about that information, I don't need to either. In the long run, it's not that important and I will discover that information when I need to know it.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I have no commitments after church and I hope to spend some time working towards the completion of the Revelation Study. I really only have 2 weeks left (10 lessons and 3 weekly talks). Once it is complete, I'm looking forward to starting something else. I love doing this stuff! I love the way that it takes me into the scriptures. I've learned some incredible truths these last 6 months.

I've been enjoying my study in the Psalms. I'm not moving very quickly, but it is quite joyous! The practice of Lectio Divina (Divine Reading) makes studying scripture quite powerful. Time spent in silence before God, reading a passage, hearing a specific word or phrase and responding to that word or phrase. Then, silence again - just resting in God.

Wednesday noon I was invited to a lunch where I could bond with several staff members and hear stories from Nicole's trip to Belize. I just couldn't face one more onslaught of information. I was also exhausted. I shut the door to my office and opened my Bible. For 35 minutes I was quiet. No noise, just me, the Bible (Psalm 5) and God. By the time I opened my door again, I felt rested. God knows my needs. He knows what I am facing in the busyness of my world. And God provides for me. It's so amazing for me to recognize His provisions in my life.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cleaning up the mess!

Oh my goodness, but my house is trashed! I've done a little work on it this morning and it needs much more! I suppose I have a good excuse, but wow! This place was out of control. Leaving the house before 8 am and getting home around 11 pm doesn't leave much time for cleaning. In a perfectly sterile environment, that kind of behavior would be fine, but I have a husband and three animals that participate in the destruction of the living space.

I got home last night after eating with some friends and crashed! I fed the animals and took care of all of their evening needs and tried desperately to wait up for Max to get home from work (after 10 pm), but I was drifting by 9:45, woke up enough to tell him I loved him and was asleep again. This working outside the home is wearing me out! Ok, to be honest, my life is way more than working 8 hour days. Those would be cake at this point. And I see it getting worse before it gets better. I'm awfully thankful for a God that sustains me.

I have a new copy of my birth certificate. Hah ... I haven't changed jobs for over 23 years and in that period of time new laws were put into place to deal with immigrants. The I-9 requires a driver's license and a social security card. I have the license, but have no idea where my SS card is. Ok, I'll simply get a new one. Well, you have to have a valid birth certificate to do that. Hmmm ... I'm betting that's in the same place (lost) as the SS card! I called the Iowa Department of Records and have the new birth certificate. I suppose it wouldn't be a terrible thing to use that to at least get a passport. I've never needed one in the past, but now that I'm employed by someone other than myself, wouldn't it be fabulous to take a vacation and use a passport? Wow! That would be new for me.

I was reading an article about
Benedict's 12-step guide to humility.

That's powerful! And something that very few of us ever take into account. I'm surprised at the intense arrogance we carry around with us as Christians. It's as if believe that we have a 'right' to be self-promoters, to insult each other and say terrible things about each other, our coworkers, our bosses, our leaders, etc.

In my study the last couple fo weeks, I have been processing on gossip. The devil > diabalos > Satan > slanderer. J. Vernon McGee says that gossip originates in the pit of hell. Goodness! That certainly makes me pause and consider the words that come out of my mouth. I don't believe that I want to portray myself as a tool of Satan, yet when I speak awful things, I am acting as his utensil on earth. I am dredging up the ugliness from the Abyss and spewing out of a mouth from which God wants to only hear praise and worship.

So ... humility. Read the article at
christianitytoday.com and if you'd like, come back and comment ... but, really, I just want you to read it!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

1 Week Into It

Psalm 3:5 "I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me."

God's pretty cool. After hitting the one week mark, I would have to say that there is only one problem with working at the church, and that's just waking up in the morning. Hmmm ... I take that back. I can certainly wake up in the morning, I just tend to do it at 5:00 when I don't need to be up until 7:00. It might help if I went to bed earlier than midnight, but I'm not there yet!

I'm definitely not getting enough sleep to be running the schedule that I have right now. However, yesterday, i told God that He was going to have to take care of me because He knew what was going on in my life and I needed to feel rested even though I wasn't sleeping well, yet.

I decided on Tuesday that I was going to add to my devotional life the book of Psalms. I generally have about 10-15 minutes of quiet time available to me when I get here. So, today I read Psalm 3 and there was that verse screaming out to me. God will sustain me. What a fabulous promise!

The last few days have been good ... I've been running a lot. I have so many rehearsals that happen for different things. Monday evening I teach the Revelation study, Tuesday evening I accompany "Canticum Novum" a community choral group directed by a friend of mine, Wednesday evening I work with Jen (the worship director here at FW) and two youth choirs, tonight I will be at our Praise Band rehearsal and then to Church Council meeting. I figure that by Friday night, I'll simply be sleeping!

Someone told me this morning that they were glad I was here. My reality? I am too! How often do you get to walk into a job where you know everyone and already have friends as coworkers? God is an amazing God and gives amazing gifts.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Day 3 ... A good day

“I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:16

I can't wait to go to work in the morning! Who'd've thought. But, I'm not sleeping at night because I'm thinking of fun things that need to happen and things that I want to do at work. This is awesome! My stress level rises up and down during the day, but it's all good! I enjoy it so much!

But ... mornings! What's that about? I spent 5 months staying up until 2-3 in the morning, waking up at 6 to let the animals out and feed them, and then sleeping until 10:00. It was amazing. I'm nocturnal! And now that I'm back to work, I have to get up early so that I can function during the hours that the rest of the world is awake! There's something so wrong with that for me!

All through the Psalms, I discover David praising God for meeting him in the morning. And just yesterday, I got a response from Back to the Bible to a survey I filled out. One of the things they discovered (from 14,000 respondents) was that "those that prefer to read the Bible in the morning are significantly more likely to read it five to seven times a week." Wow! That says something to me. I'm not sure exactly what, because I don't necessarily want to hear that I need to get up any earlier in the morning.

However, my joy in my new job, is that I can have my Bible open on my desk and read it at any point during the day. When I get to work in the morning, I don't have to feel guilty for taking 10-15 minutes to spend with God, reading His Word and praying. For me, there's nothing better than working in the ministry. I was fortunate to own my own business and have the flexibility of actually being a Christian in the workplace without fear of reprisals. But, working in a place where being a Christian is pretty much required? That makes me happy. God has been very good to me and I'm thankful to Him regularly.

This evening I taught Lesson 5 of the Revelation Study. It was all about sacrifice and worship. As I wrote the lesson, I was learning so much about the interaction of those two pieces. As I taught the lesson the first time, I heard what I was speaking and actually was learning again. Tonight, I was impacted all over again. That tells me that God had something to say to me, even though this is a lesson that I'm teaching!

Sacrifice and Worship were inextricably intertwined for the Israelites. To worship was to sacrifice. We've turned it into something hideous. Worship is no longer about sacrificing ourselves, but is all about what we can get when we go to church. However, in God's eyes, it continues to be about sacrifice. We get so wrapped up in our worlds, in our stuff, in our lives, that we avoid church for one reason or another. It becomes all about us. At what point do we sacrifice anything to enter into worship in the throne room. When do we acknowledge that our Creator is worthy of everything we have to offer. When do we recognize that we have nothing to offer to Him that He hasn't first given us, except for our worship. How can we deny him that?

So ... tomorrow morning, I'll get to work, open my Bible and read, pray and worship. And I'll be so glad that I have been given the gift of life so that I can worship God.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What is a Communications Director?

"The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

This is a new position that was created and I hope that I can fully flesh out the details of the job description. As I explore this job, I'll try to identify the good, the bad, and the ugly of defining a new job. Dr. Delp was able to put together a job description for me upon hiring, but I'm afraid we've only tapped a small portion of the potential of this job. I'm really looking forward to getting a little crazy with it all.

The best thing so far is working among friends. I'm pretty close to nearly every member of the church staff and it's comforting to see them in my workspace! The people that we work for - the congregation of this church - are also filled with many friends. I can not WAIT to begin interacting with more of them on a daily basis. You see, I have always loved the 'church'. The local church, the organized community of believers. This is how I grew up.

Dad is a retired United Methodist pastor. I grew up in the church. I grew up in church buildings across the state of Iowa. It was my playground when I was a child, it was my social outlet as a junior high / high schooler, it was my musical training ground as I grew up and it was the place where my heart learned how to worship God. The people in each of those small churches became a part of my extended family. I was friends with their kids, I took piano lessons from them, I spent time after school in their homes, I loved their food at potlucks and I would listen to their stories.

Eulalie Bryant in Morning Sun, Iowa was my first grade Sunday School teacher. We would sit on the floor around her while she told us the stories of the Bible. Those were some of my first memories. I remember singing before Sunday School, I remember singing in children's choirs and Chancel Choir, then leading those same choirs. I remember taking organ lessons because the organist in Sigourney couldn't imagine not having that as part of my musical background. The poor woman. I made her listen tome play "Nights in White Satin" on the organ, because I did not want to be in those lessons. I failed miserably at those lessons. And consequently, don't play the organ.

I love the church. I love everything about it. Even the conflicts and the stressors. These are the things that bring God's people into connection with Him. If we trust Him to guide us through it all. There's so much to be done before the Kingdom of God reigns on this earth and I'm ready to be a part of it all.

I was planning to leave my first church job in 1984 to return to college. I was heading for Asbury Seminary in Kentucky to continue my education in Christian Education and ministry. Mom, Dad, and God had other plans for me. And I helped mom run a business. I was always active in churches throughout these last 22 years, but never on a fulltime basis. It's as if I took a very long hiatus from my chosen field. But, I'm back and I look forward to viewing every day at work as the best day of my life!

The Lord has had to be close to me for the last 22 years as I have stressed over things I never imagined would be a part of my life. And now, as I am in a position where I am working closely with His flock, I pray that He remains that close to me and guides me so that I will not slip and I will not ever take what He has given me for granted.

Friday, February 02, 2007

First and Second Day - New Job!

Nehemiah 1:11: "'O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.' I was cupbearer to the king."

Yesterday was the first day of a brand new life! And what an interesting day it was! I began a new position yesterday as the Communications Director at Faith-Westwood United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska.

What does a first day look like? Well, I haven't had one of those in over 20 years, so it looks pretty wild and wooly! I was here early (7:30 early!) because my poor husband had to drop me off before being at his job by 8:00. Which was fine. I had a lot to deal with.

But, I moved in with confidence. The Nehemiah scripture passage had come into my email box and I felt God's peace as I prayed that prayer.

I met with Dr. Delp and began the discussions with him regarding his hopes for the first few weeks of my job. I got a list! And ... tried not to be overwhelmed.

A day of accomplishing small tasks. I hate to complain, but why can't the small things just be taken care of around here! I was checking on 3-4 year old cards that had been filled out and left in a pile. Well, YES they had been input into the system. Throw them away.

This will be one area that I will miss having my sister, Carol, around for. She is a purging queen! She can go through a room in a flash and have everything tossed out or sorted. but, it occurs to me that there might be worse packrats than myself on staff here, so it's going to be a bit of a task cleaning some of these things up.

Does anyone want to help me design some bulletin boards? Wow ... we are a great big church and there are empty bulletin boards in this place. I'm going to have to fix that. How about some old church directories, would you like one? We have a bunch!

Today is another day of eliminating small tasks so that I can get going on some of the bigger things. At the end of February we will be beginning a new sermon series / small group series "Momentum for Life". Michael Slaughter will help us learn about his five life practices: D-R-I-V-E: Devotion to God, Readiness for lifelong learning, Investing in key relationships, Visioning for the future, and Eating and Exercise for life. Hmmm ... this looks interesting!

The book says he has adapted these from the Psalms of Ascent. I do look forward to seeing how that happens.

So, for today! Consider again the words from Nehemiah, "O Lord be attentive to the prayer of this your servant."