Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Around the dinner table

One of the things that I missed most while our kids were both away at college was dinnertime laughter and conversation. I love the banter that goes on around the table and our family is always telling "old" stories about each other and laughing.

Glenn called and said that he and his sweet girlfriend, Lauren were going to be in town for the weekend. Laura remembered that Lauren's birthday is coming soon, so we decided to cook a "birthday for Lauren/homecoming for Glenn" dinner on Friday night. We also invited our sweet friend Anna from church. We grilled steaks and chicken and we had a great big salad with all sorts of toppings and hash brown casserole. I made a 1-2-3-4 cake with chocolate butter cream frosting. I was afraid that I left a cup of sugar out of the recipe but it tasted pretty good.

We bought a couple of gifts for Lauren.
A friend of mine (knicknats design - Natalie!! - http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=7063550)has a business making the cutest earrings (now in Wrapsody in Patton Creek and Auburn) and Laura gave Lauren a pair of KnickNats orange and blue (War Eagle) polka dot earrings. Lauren had recently asked for a recipe for a tailgate party so I bought a "Temptations" (our Trinity UMC) cookbook for her, a really cute apron, a clear acrylic recipe box and cute recipe cards (Smith's Variety in Homewood has the best gifts!! http://smithsvarietyshop.com/about_us)

My favorite part of the evening was talking and laughing around the dinner table. I love sitting around our big dining room table. I loved that I was able to decorate a little for Halloween.

Laura and I are both "loud." Glenn and Mark tell us that often. We get carried away as we tell a story and we get louder and louder and louder. One of us would start a story and another would interrupt filling in the blanks. We laughed a lot! What a fun evening enjoying one of the things that I miss the most.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tea for Two? Tea for Preachers? and what in the world is that?

Did you know that this week is Preacher/Pastor Appreciation week? Well, it is and I am blessed to work on staff at a large United Methodist Church. Our friend, Jan, who used to work with us started serving us tea during the long dark winter days. It is a tradition that we have continued. Yesterday we honored our preachers at "tea time."

In the circle, we have Dave and Suzanne and Buzz and Andy and Mack and David and Tim. We truly appreciate them and all that they do. They are each so different and it is so cool the way the Body of Christ fits together. Buzz is a "retired" UM minister who works part-time and I think he knows everyone in the greater Birmingham area - maybe even the state and beyond. He is a wonderful story teller and has entertained us many times at tea with stories.
We served lots of delicious food. We served apple slices and caramel dip. We served nuts. We had a wonderful pumpkin dip with ginger snaps and graham crackers. We also had a chicken dip and a sausage/cream cheese/rotel dip and fritos and crackers and cheese cubes. We had chocolate cake and of course, we had tea. It is funny that I'm spending more time describing the food than the preachers!
Your eyes are not deceiving you. Yes, it is the swine flu season so there is a bottle of hand sanitizer right in the middle. We did move it from the center of the table!!

I decided to take a couple of pictures of my incredibly messy office while I had the camera handy. I am the membership secretary and I support two of the associate pastors and am in charge of the prayer ministry. I don't know if I just love chaos or if it is because I'm always working on multiple projects . . .but my desk looks like this every week. I clean it off on Thursday afternoons and by early Monday morning, the mess is back. But it is organized chaos. I can usually put my hands on what I need quickly. Those are reading glasses hiding under a piece of paper. Most of us "middle-aged moms" require reading glasses.

Does anyone know what this is? I just had to take a picture of this antiquated cabinet. This is the way membership records were kept before the computer. My project (in my spare time) is to slowly transform these paper records to a much easier-to-access system. The data is already in the computer, but our church has a need to have a piece of paper in hand . . .so I continue on.
I was blessed to be able to stay home with our kids for many years. Now that they are "grown", I must admit that it is wonderful to be able to go to a job that I love (on most days!) . . . and a job where we can have tea every once in a while :-)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sweet baby girl!!

Last Friday, a friend called and asked if I could babysit their sweet baby girl who had been sick and unable to go to daycare. Here are a few pics from our day! She was so sweet and she has those great babygirl thighs that make me chuckle! It is the only time in life when a girl can have chubby legs and be considered totally adorable. You see that I thought those thighs were photo-worthy! We played peek-a-boo (or pee pie as I grew up calling it - but I don't know how to spell that??). We spent some time on their deck watching the leaves fall. We spent some time on their front porch steps waiting on daddy to come. I had forgotten what it feels like to hold a warm baby and give them a bottle (though she wants to hold her own bottle). I was amazed at how quickly I remembered to make the spoon "zoom" through the air like an airplane when I was feeding her. I also had forgotten how a baby can be mesmerized by an adult "clicking their tongue." I was hoping she would start doing it and surprise her parents. I forgot to mention something very important. This sweet baby girl is a twin. Her twin brother was at daycare but I've heard that he is sick this week. Spending time with her took me back almost 22 years . . . back to the days when Laura and Glenn were that age. Once again those musings of a middle aged mom . . . life sure is different these days!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What body part do I have to cut off today???

This was our lesson this week - the last one from Wasabi Gospel.

Some things are quoted straight from the book and I give the author all the credit!! We had door prizes . . .wasabi almonds, wasabi paste, wasabi peas and one other thing which I can't remember!! I'm copying and pasting the lesson straight from my word doc and I type like I talk . . . so punctuation is out the window. Here goes . . .

Each week there has been a letter at the front of each chapter. I’ve used bits and snippets of the letters written by a woman who has had a hard life and is now living with a man to whom she is not married and this week I wanted to read a couple of paragraphs to you.

"It’s kind of like me and clothes. I can put on a nice outfit, high heeled shoes, do my hair and put on all kinds of make up – trust me, when I make this type of effort I look pretty good. I look like I have it all together, that I have a good life and I’m something to see. But in reality, I’ll be completely uncomfortable all day long and at the first opportunity, I’ll head for home, put on sweats and a ratty t-shirt, wipe off the makeup and pull my hair into a ponytail. I can work at looking good on the outside, but it doesn’t change that I’m a ratty t-shirt type of girl and I always will be."

Then I’m going to skip a couple of her paragraphs and pick back up with this:

"At church this weekend, they read this verse about things flowing from our hearts, that good things come from good hearts and evil things come from evil hearts. I never thought of myself as evil – that seems pretty extreme, almost like a comic book bad guy. Lex Luthor or the Joker plotting to take over the world. But I certainly haven’t found myself surrounded by much good stuff either. So does this mean that my bad decisions and rough life are the result of sin? That I am in fact, evil?"

Now our scripture for today is from Matthew 5:30 – "and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

Our author named this chapter, “So – Jesus, what happens when I don’t have any limbs left to cut off?"

Many of us in this room have children and they were once little. I think Glenn and Laura were maybe three years old or so when they became fascinated with bathroom words as most young children do at one time or another. Why is that? Anyway, they wanted to call each other poopy heads. They wanted to say poopy or poop or doo doo. They were into potty words. Once again, why are little children fascinated with those words? We as adults would never be fascinated with poopy words. But what if we were to define poop as something gross and disgusting in our lives? What if we were to define gross and disgusting as anything outside the will of God? What if we were to define anything outside the will of God as sin? Now thinking about those questions, are we ever fascinated with poopy words?

Is there a sin in your life that eats your lunch?

You have tried to shake it, but the truth is you are being destroyed by it.

The world is full of great examples of people who desperately want to say those poopy words – want to be involved in the poop of life.

Poop happens in this world. We read about it in the paper everyday. We hear about it on the today show. (used Letterman as example) We see it on the internet. Poop happens.

We know the sins in our lives are nothing but poop. But the problem is that most of it seems to attack us from within our minds. This is the scary sin that is not easily discarded and we sometimes wonder if the sin is going to eventually win.

What does Jesus have to say about this sin? Well, our scripture verse from Matthew 5:30 says, “and if your right hand causes you to sin, do what? Cut it off?” That’s pretty serious. To be fair, Jesus is speaking specifically about adultery here in this passage but I believe that the principle of avoiding sin at all costs is general. It is also easy for us to think of that “sin that eats your lunch” in stereotypical ways like sex, drugs and other really bad stuff. But all sins gets us in trouble. Remember several weeks ago we talked about how God doesn’t grade on the curve. Sin is sin.

What was really going on here was that Jesus noticed that people were not scared, flat-out terrified by sin’s possible effects on our lives.

Have you ever found yourself starting to loosen your standards when it comes to a sin in your life? We like to rename our own sins. We call it cute names like, “We have issues.” Or “I have some bad habits.” Or oops that was a slip up. Or how about I’ve got some stuff I’m dealing with.” (used a quote that I couldn't quite remember from the noticer -- here it is -- "“We often judge ourselves by our intentions but others by their actions.” (p. 111)" We are guilty of desensitizing ourselves to a point that we are not only ceasing to make progress on our sin, we truly begin to believe it is not sin at all. What Jesus desires from each of us is that we take our sin very seriously.

You’ve heard this old expression – “serious as a heart attack”? Well, that explains Jesus in this scripture. He was serious as a heart attack. He uses hyperbole in this passage to illustrate just how serious he is. He says we are to cut off a body part that causes us to stumble. There would be a lot of men in a whole lot of hurt if they cut off the body part that causes them to stumble. Sorry – I couldn’t resist. I would be handless because I partake in the sin of gluttony. And I sure wouldn't have a tongue. Back to the title of the lesson though. So Jesus, what happens when I don’t have any limbs left to cut off? I don’t know about you, but it seems that I am often finding myself back in the same battles with the same sin, and I only have so many arms and legs. Does that happen with any of y'all? What’s even more dangerous is that a lot of my sin – and maybe a lot of your sins – are in our minds. A lobotomy perhaps?

I read the lesson two weeks ago when I was asking Scott to sub for me last week. Then I sat down and read it again on Thursday night in the middle of a major sin fest. Let me just say that I was in a deep dark hole on Thursday night. As a matter of fact, one of the deepest darkest holes I have ever been in. As a result of being down in that hole, I was mean and irritated. I finally just stopped talking for fear of what would come out of my mouth. You know, I could rename that sin as “being frustrated after an incredibly hard week at work” but in reality I wasn’t nice. Now I kept most of the stuff just rolling around in my head which for me is a miracle in and of itself because it is usually spilling out of my mouth faster than a faucet. Thursday night, if I had to cut off the offending body parts . . .let’s see. I probably gave Mark the “evil eye” so pluck that out. I know I said, “hell” at one point and I wasn’t talking about Hell’s kitchen. I never cuss but said, "what the hell?" or something similar . . . But I said it Thursday night. Dang – cut out that tongue. I may have slammed a pot or two around the kitchen. Shoot – there go the hands. Cutting out the tongue and off the offending body parts would certainly have shut me up but in reality the problem is in a different place. Most of the time, the problem is in our hearts. Instead of cutting out a tongue or cutting off a hand, maybe Jesus is suggesting a radical heart transplant.

Listen to this wasabi punch found in Luke 6:43-44
A good tree can’t produce bad fruit and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs never grow on thorn bushes nor grapes on bramble bushes.

I love that scripture. I’ve told y’all about our Sunday School teacher back in jr. and sr. high in my home church. She said that we can’t be judges but we can certainly be fruit inspectors. According to this scripture, we better be inspecting our own fruit. I don’t know about you, but I know that I have produced some bad – actually some rotten fruit. At times, I’m rotten – evil to the very core of my being.

Luke 6:45 says, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

The author of our book tells this story. His grandfather was diagnosed with heart disease in his early fifties. On the outside, he looked like a healthy man. BUT he had a diseased heart. The heart disease didn’t start when they ran the tests – it started way before. He said, “it probably started back when he ate eggs, bacon and grits every single morning and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for thirty five years. The pain was simply a symptom of an already existing issue.

Our sin is a symptom of a major heart issue. The fact that you hurt other people with words and deeds is a symptom of a major heart issue. The fact that your relationships all fall apart is a symptom of a major heart issue. The fact that you are a negative Nellie – always saying negative comments – is a symptom of a major heart issue. The fact that a man or woman has an affair is a symptom of a major heart issue. The fact that you cannot seem to kick a habit or hang-up or sin is a symptom of a major heart issue.

Remember our scripture said to cut off the offending body part but the problem is our heart. Jesus is suggesting rather strongly that we trace the source of our sin back to the origin and eradicate that from our lives.

At the beginning of the lesson, I read a couple of paragraphs from the letter. Remember she said that she could get all dressed up and look pretty good? We try to do that. We think we can hide our heart disease from others and sometimes we can. But we try to hide it from God and that is just too funny. He knows all about us. We think we can hide our heart disease from Jesus but Jesus is the best heart surgeon ever. Mark and George’s Uncle Billy – Nancy Smith’s dad – was a doctor for many years. He had the gift of being able to diagnose people quite easily and he was right on target with most of those diagnosis. Jesus is like that – he is a great diagnostician. He has access to our hearts that only he can see. Jesus “gets” us. Jesus knows how we are.

The concept of heart transplantation dates back to at least AD 400 in China. Humans have known for quite some time that we need to get rid of bad hearts. The first heart successfully transplanted into a human occurred in 1964 at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. A team led by Dr. James Hardy transplanted a chimpanzee heart into a dying patient. The heart beat for seventy minutes before stopping.
(at this point I had asked the class if they knew who performed the first heart transplant and their answer differed - researched again and here is what I found -- Dr. James Hardy braved a storm of criticism in 1964 when he pioneered the world's first heart transplant — chimpanzee to human (this was the one I mentioned in class)

The first human-to-human heart transplant was performed by cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard at Groote Schuur Hospital in South Africa on the 3rd December, 1967 by a team led by Dr. Christiaan Barnard. (this is the one that many of you mentioned)

The concept of heart transplantation dates back to at least 400 AD in China. The book of Liezi tells a story of Bian Que exchanging the hearts of two warriors to balance their personal characteristics (isn't that an interesting reason?)

Back to the lesson . . .People need a good heart. People want a good heart. I want a good heart. The chimpanzee heart beat for only 70 minutes. The good news is that we can have a heart transplant by the great surgeon himself. We can be transformed. We can bear good fruit. Jesus is asking us to change everything we are and take on a new heart. The word Heart as we translate it in English was the Hebrew word for the “center of our emotions.” I think of it as the very core of our soul. So many times we try and deal with our sin by changing our bodies. We change the way we dress, which could be a good thing. We change the way we drink. We change whom we hang out with. We cut people off from our lives. All of those things are good but until we allow Jesus full access to our hearts – to those deep dark places like I experienced on Thursday night – then and only then can we truly change. It is extreme. We will be changed. Heart surgery by the great phsycian himself will cause us to die to self. BUT . . . AND THIS IS A GREAT BUT at that point, we will be truly alive in Christ and we will never again be the same.