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The Teddy Bear

Yesterday was a fantastic day! We held services in our back yard for the second week in a row. It was a beautiful, breezy day, and aside from the occasional airlplane flying by and my dog Buddy attempting to engage in a bark-off with the neighbor’s dog, everything was great.

Jeff started a new series about who Convergence Christian Church (C3) will be as a church. He reintroduced us all to “Zeke” (that cute little stick guy you see in the sidebar of this blog). I’ll tell you more about him another time. I’m so very excited about what he represents and some of the ways he we help spread the word. (Mare, you’ll be getting a little “Zeke” in your package.) I want to tell you all about him, but for purposes of journalistic integrity, I need to talk to Jeff and make sure I get things straight.

After a late lunch yesterday, I met my dad in LaGrange, TX to pick up my son. He played in a golf tournament near Austin. He got third place, BTW. Driving by myself gave me time to think. I have a gazillion ideas I want to write about (well, okay — 5, 6 tops, but you know what I mean.) All these ideas are in their infant stages, so for now I want to share an excerpt from one of my favorite books. May it bless you as it has blessed me.

Excerpt from: I became a Christian and all I got was this lousy t-shirt: Replacing Souvenir Religion with Authentic Spritial Passion, by Vince Antonucci

Even though I had become a Christian, even though I was preaching sermon after sermon on the topic, still I couldn’t feel like I was the one Jesus loves, and it held me back from living a life with him.

I continued to wrestle with the question: how could Jesus love me when I knew I wasn’t worth loving?

Finally, the answer came out. Actually, the answer came down, again, from my mom’s attic.

We were visiting my mother, who would soon be moving from our old house into a condo. She informed us that we’d be leaving with with a bunch of stuff she had been saving for me. Soon it all came down — Legos, matchbox cars, books and…a teddy bear. It was my teddy bear, from when I was little. It was a mess. Years earlier, my mother had sewn an ear back on. She had done reconstructive surgery on its neck and back. It was missing fur around its eyes, on both feet, and on his back by the little music handle. It had a big scar across its head. The cutest thing was the four little pieces of fur missing from where my four fingers used to hold it constantly. My finger marks had become permantly embedded in my bear.

When I was little, I loved this bear. I carried it everywhere. My mother would turn the music handle and it would make music, bad music, but I would move in tight and that music would comfort me and lull me to sleep.

I loved this bear, but there was nothing lovable, nothing valuable about the bear itself. Even when it was new it was obviously not an expensive stuffed animal. It probably cost a few dollars at the time. If you tried to sell it at a garage sale today you might ask for a quarter. It’s just not valuable, except that it is to me, and especially back when I was a kid.

I loved this bear. But I didn’t love it because it was valuable. I loved it because…I loved it. I loved it because it was my bear. My love was not based on its value, rather my love made this bear valuable. My love gave this bear significance. When I was a kid, you could have offered me a vacation to Disney World and I wouldn’t have traded my bear for it. If my parents had held a yard sale back then and asked me how much we should sell my bear for, I would have said a million dollars…and that wouldn’t have been enough. They would have said, “Well, silly, it only cost us a couple of dollars, and it’s gotten really beat up since then.” I would have said, “I don’t care. I won’t sell it. It’s my bear and I love him.”

And finally I understood how Jesus could love me when I wasn’t worth loving.

I realized that the love I had for my bear is essentially the same kind of love God has for me. It’s not a love that loves because the object of the love is valuable; it’s a love that gives value.

God knew me. He knew what I was worth in the beginning, he knew the damage that had been done to me over the years, he knew my current condition. But the most significant thing God knew about me was that I was his. I may have been beat up, pulled out of shape, ripped, and left with the stuffing hanging out, but I was his. I may not have looked like much to anyone else, but I was his. And so he loved me. And his love gave me value, significance and importance.

Now, I have to admit, I still struggle with this sometimes. Because it’s not just realizing that I’m loved. It’s living it. It’s abiding in Jesus, in his love, moment by moment. And I have good days and bad when it comes to living in his love. It’s like I constantly need reminders….

Well, other people may have told you that you’re not worth much, but the truth is that God wouldn’t trade you for anything. In fact, when he set the price tag on you, it was his Son.

And you may be torn and broken. You may still bear the marks of deep wounds. But God is a master at reconstructive surgery.

And perhaps, because of all of this, you have difficulty connecting with God. You feel like your prayers bounce back at you off the ceiling. At church others sing out worship songs, but you struggle to, not necessarily because you have a bad voice, but because the words come from a bad heart. And so you’re sure that to God, it’s bad music. But no, when God hears you, he moves in tight.

You know why? Because you are his. Because since the beginning of your life, you have belonged to him. He shaped you in your mother’s womb and his finger marks are permanently embedded in you.

You are the one Jesus loves.

Quote the Vote

(God said…) “He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain.” (2 Sam 23.3b-4)

Select capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain–and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. (Exod 18.21, NIV)

Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. (Ps 2.10-11)

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. – George Jean Nathan

What luck for the rulers that men do not think. – Adolf Hitler

Quotes taken from

No matter whether your candidate wins or loses today, God is in control, which is a great comfort!

Addendum to "Yet Another Top Ten List (kinda)"

I forgot an entry on my “I’ll never…” Top Ten List:

I’ll never own one of those yappy little ankle biting dogs.” Meet Buddy, my daughter’s early birthday present; a 4 month old miniature dauschund.

By Request: The poll results and real answer is…

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!” is from my all-time favorite episode of WKRP in Cinncinatti. Arthur Carlson (the dim witted station owner), decided it would be a great idea if the station did a Thanksgiving promotion at a local mall where they dropped live turkeys out of a helicopter and broadcast the entire event. Intrepid report Les Nessman gave a live account of the turkeys plummeting to their deaths. I believe one of Lessman’s quotes was “Oh, the humanity, the humanity!”

Mr. Carlson said this famous line upon returning to the station after witnessing the mass turkey slaughter.

They just don’t make television like that anymore!

Pay it forward (or is it, pay it backwards?)

For me, there has been a significant mind/heart shift since I’ve been writing this blog and commenting on other blogs. I find myself constantly re-evaluating how I act and react in day to day situations. It’s as if once I’ve typed something and sent it hurtling into cyberspace, it’s there for eternity to remind me when I fail to live up to the views I’ve expounded upon. I may not be able to remember where they all are, but they are no doubt out there somewhere. Such is the case with a comment I made on JML’s blog, Very Much Later. JML (Jake) writes a blog that I’m happy to say, I stumbled upon shortly after I started blogging myself. I love the honesty in his writing. He doesn’t sugar coat his perspective on being a Christian, and he’s able write about his personal walk without talking in “Christianese”. Also, he’s got some pretty amusing vomit stories.

This particular post was about witnessing to people. Specifically, what I refer to as the “cold call” witness. My comment pertained to how I’ve never actually been comfortable approaching total strangers and witnessing to them. Instead, I prefer to get to know a person and let them get to know me. If they seem drawn to this intangible thing that’s different about me, that’s when I’ll share my story with them. This is just what feels right to me — I’m not judging how others share the gospel of Christ. There is one way I’m comfortable witnessing to strangers. I try to find opportunities to practice random acts of kindness. (It’s an old bumper sticker, but I still like it.)

A couple of mornings ago, I had a piece of mail that I wanted mailed that day. Since our mail person doesn’t typically come until late afternoon, I dropped it in a public mailbox at the nearest shopping center. My son wanted to come with me and get some breakfast at Jack in the Box. As I was waiting in the drive-thru line, I thought, “I should pay for the person behind me.” This was appealing to me on many levels: 1) I would be practicing a random act of kindness, 2) I would be teaching my son a valuable lesson about our motives to do good, and 3) it was a fairly easy way to accomplish 1 and 2.

Except that is wasn’t easy. My first clue should have been the fact that I had to repeat my order 3 times. The cashier’s English was not great. When I pulled up to the window, she gave me my total. I said, “Okay. But I also want to pay for the person behind me.” She smiled and said, “Yes, yes okay.” Then proceeded to read my order back to me. At this point, there are several cars behind me, and the intended recipient of my random act of kindness was looking impatient. He also looked like he could be a body double for Paul Sr. on “American Chopper”. After two attempts to communicate what I was trying to do, she finally got her manager. I still had to repeat it twice. Not because her English was bad, but because apparently, paying for a total stranger’s meal is not a common occurrence at this particular eating establishment.

I was finally able to accomplish my original goal. But within that time span of approximately 3 or 4 minutes, several times I wanted to just blow it off and try again another time. But Jesus never said that following Him would be easy. And if everything was easy to attain, then nothing would be worth having. As I was pulling away, I made a conscience effort NOT to look at the truck behind me. But I couldn’t help it. I glanced at him just as he was turning his head towards me. I’m not a great lip reader, but I’m pretty sure his way of saying thank you translated into “What the F***!?!” And that was good enough for me…(smile)

Meeting God in the Tuffshed

I miss my friend Tamara. When I first starting painting people’s houses for money, I asked her to help me. Not because I needed help (not that I didn’t, I did), but because I wanted to get to know her better. I also asked her to help me because I really don’t like to be alone for long periods of time. I crave fellowship with others. I would make a terrible monk. After she moved away, I was just not very excited about taking painting jobs. I took them, but it wasn’t the same. She’s my paint buddy.

Awhile back, my husband bought a tuffshed to store our lawn equipment. But before we’re able to put anything in it, it needs to be painted. I started with the basecoat, but I’ve been putting off the completion of the job. The main reason is that it’s so stinkin’ hot outside. But the other reason is that I knew I would be doing it by myself. Get my husband within 10 feet of a can of paint and he breaks into a cold sweat. There’s an unwritten rule in our home: painting anything is my department. I’m usually fine with this. When I’m inside, my kids are here to keep me company, or at the very least, I can turn on the radio. In the tuffshed, I stand alone.

The basecoat is finished. I completed it yesterday. And yes, I spend most of the day without any human company. But sometimes, forced seclusion is the only way I get some really good face time with God. Such was the case yesterday. As I was painting, my mind began to wander. For some inexplicable reason, I started to think about the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I remember watching the television in horror as the drama in New Orleans played out, thinking to myself, “How could this happen? Why are these people stranded and dying in the streets of New Orleans?, where is the government?” This post is not about whose to blame. I think there’s plenty of blame to go around. This is about the thousands of refugees who came pouring into Houston in the days and weeks to follow, and the ones I came face to face with right here in the little town of Katy.

Like most churches in the area, mine held a meeting to discuss how we could help. Among other things, we set up a clothing and basic toiletries donation center in our church. We also signed up to feed the Katrina survivors who were staying at another local church. A group of volunteers from our church went over once a week and cooked and served lunch for approximately 100 people. It made me feel good that I was able to help out. I came in with such a great attitude, ready to bless the socks off those poor people. Many of the survivors were truly grateful, and again, that made me feel good. But others were not as forthcoming with the thanks you’s. They were downright nasty. They complained about what type of food we served and how much they were given. Many just glared at me and others from our church. I’d like to say I didn’t take it personally, but I would be lying. I got pretty indignant about the whole process: “Who do they think they are? Don’t they know we’re trying to help them? They should be grateful they got out of New Orleans alive and have a roof over their heads!” I don’t regret what we did, and I’d do again in a heartbeat. But after my conversation with God yesterday, I think if there’s a next time, my attitude will be different.

While I was painting in the tuffshed, God said to me, “It’s not about you.” Now, I realize that that’s Rick Warren’s line – but hey, He is God after all, so I guess they’re all His lines. I’m pretty hard on Christians who sport the Jesus fish on their car, never miss a Sunday in church, let everyone know that they’re going to heaven, but don’t strive to live a life abiding in Jesus. And then I realized that’s exactly what I am. The fact that I expected some gratitude from those people exposed my heart to me for the first time since it happened. My motives were completely wrong. I wasn’t trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus, I was expecting payment in the form of gratefulness. So, I’m laying this at the foot of the cross, asking God to forgive me for selfish motives and seeking His help to become a true follower of Jesus, and I am convicted by these words:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself and became obedient to death —

even death on the cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

Do everything without complaining or arguing,

so that you may become blameless and pure,

children of God without fault

in a crooked and depraved generation,

in which you shine like stars in the universe

Philippians 2:14-15

I want to be shiny…

Ann and Nancy, I don’t know if I heart you anymore…

When I was in junior high, I was Ann Wilson and my friend Laurie was Nancy of the superly awesome band Heart. We chose each sister because we had long brown hair and long blonde hair, respectively. Naturally, we both got perms to completely pull off the look, and Laurie played a mean air guitar. To me, these 2 sisters were the definition of cool. Ann with her amazing vocal range and Nancy with her daft guitar playing skills. Nancy wasn’t just a chick who could play guitar, she was actually a great guitar player. Little Queen, Dreamboat Annie and Dog & Butterfly were, to me, three incredibly amazing albums. Granted, they put out a sizable amount of really crappy music after that, but much can be forgiven when you have that kind of legacy. (Call we all say “Aerosmith” together?) I also got the sense that Ann and Nancy were true and faithful to their art. It was the work that mattered, not the fame or the money. What was “Barracuda” all about anyway? It’s been many years since Heart’s heyday, but great music remains great. From time to time, I still dress up in my saucy wench outfit, put on my “Little Queen” cd and get my angry diva on. That is, until I saw this:

Not only did they sell out to THE MAN, but they allowed my beloved “Barracuda” to be used in an effort to convince soccer moms that driving a minivan was cool. Bono himself could drive one — cool, they are not!

In closing, I would like to add a personal message to Ann and Nancy Wilson (because I’m pretty sure they read my blog):

“Sell me, sell you the porpoise said,
Dive down deep to save my own head
You…I think you got the blues too.”

INDEED! (This is me, slowly shaking my head in disappointment.)

Finally Full

I don’t read many blogs. There are a handful that I read on a fairly consistent basis, and others where I do the occasional “pop in”. There are a lot of great writers out there, and if time wasn’t an issue, I would no doubt read many more.

Now, let me tell you something else. I must confess that I’m often disappointed when I happen across a blog and many of the posts are nothing more than links to other blogs. If I take the time to search out some one’s blog, it is because I’m interested in what they have to say, not what someone else has to say. I typically won’t do this, but today I’m going to, because this particular blogger is not only my friend and my pastor, but is also an incredibly good teacher and storyteller. This particular link will be to his latest entry, “Full – Part 4”. If you only have a few minutes to spare, read this post. But if you have some time, I think the entire series is an incredibly good read…

Freaks Like Me (Part One)

I’m a freak. Always have been. Close friends and immediately family already know this. And if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably figured that out as well.

I was born in Fredricksburg, Virginia over 40 years ago. My father was (is) white, and my mother was (is) from Japan. Times have changed. People are more accepting of children from mixed race couples. But back then, I was an oddity. Being Asian in rural Virginia back then would have been enough to set me apart from the rest of my classmates; being a little bit white and a little bit Asian was a double threat. This is not to say I didn’t have friends. I did. The wonderful thing about young kids is that they are not inherently prejudiced; it’s a learned skill. The older I got, the more I came to understand I wasn’t like everyone else, and the more that I began to understand I just wasn’t going to be accepted in certain circles. Not that I didn’t try. I watched my mother skillfully change people’s attitudes towards her by going above and beyond what was expected. She treated my father’s family and our neighbors with kindness and generosity. She went out of her way to endear herself to them. It was amazing.

But I didn’t have those kind of skills. I thought that by pretending I was just like everyone else, people would simply play along. That didn’t work out so well. Not only was I a freak physically, I was also ADD. I would not be diagnosed until I was 22 years old, so for all those years, I was just annoying. I have always had a handful of close, wonderful friends. For their own reasons, they were social outcasts as well. But as a kid, your ultimate goal was to be among the ranks of the popular, the beautiful. To add insult to injury, during my junior high and early high school years, I also struggled with my weight and my complexion. Oh, and did I mention that my parents divorced when I was in the sixth grade? For a brief period in high school, I was on the fringe of the popular crowd for the simple reason that I looked older than I was and was able to get into the hottest club in town. Something highly desirable to the popular crowd but not attainable without me. I held the golden ticket. I also no longer struggled with my weight, thanks to a friend’s brother who turned me on to bodybuilding, coupled with the fact that cocaine was the drug of choice for the night club crowd. I was partially accepted into the inner circle, but only long enough to get them into a club. I had a total of one date with someone from my school. My other dates involved men I met at nightclubs who thought I was older than I actually was. Nice.

This is not meant to be my life story, so let me just briefly sum up my life in my late teens and twenties: Lots of binge drinking, a fairly decent amount of drug experimentation, and basically looking for love in all the wrong places. (Sorry, bad song analogy.)

I met my husband when I was 28. I had been in several bad relationships, the latest of which had recently ended after 7 years. I was all partied out. It just wasn’t fun anymore. And while our lives together hasn’t always been a barrel of monkeys, I now realize that God reached down and put him in my life because He saw two broken people who, when bound together through the amazing love of Jesus Christ, were more complete. My husband grew up in the church, but had had his fair share of a life apart from God. After the birth of our first child, I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown and he decided it was time to get back to church. I was out of options, so I agreed.

I’m not here to tell you that going to church saved my life. Acknowledging my brokenness and laying it at the cross did that. But that’s for another post…

Bragging Rights

From time to time, I reserve the right to use “Hey look, a chicken” as a vehicle to be a proud mama hen and display stuff my kids do. This is one of those times. Without further ado, I give you a poem written by my 4th grade son, Cameron:
I am William B. Travis
I wonder when this war will end
I hear screams of dead men
I see death
I want this war to end
I am William B. Travis
I pretend I am not here
I feel confident
I touch my rifle
I worry I might die
I cry to God I will be alive
I am William B. Travis
I understand that I must do my duty
I say I want freedom
I dream that I will see my family again
I try not to worry
I hope this war will end soon
I am William B. Travis
I’m a little vaclempt….talk amongst yourselves…..
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