Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Changing in the Spirit

This is the unedited version of a recent article I wrote for our church newsletter last week.

Transformation can be exhilarating or instantaneous but most of the time it’s a process: A long slow, painful, frustrating, agonizing, and sometimes downright selfish process. Why would we ever want to change?

Friends, I’m in my own head way too much of the time. As much as I like “doing” I spend a whole lot of energy thinking about what to do, how to do it, how it was done, and how it should be done in the future. I’m going to chalk that all up to being the daughter of a Psychologist. I love you Dad, it’s healthy to place blame right? Ha!

The questions I ask myself are often meant for the greater good, but in the end one question that I’ve let nag me for over a year has done more damage to my soul and my leadership than ever intended. In a culture where setting goals and accomplishing tasks is highly valued, I’d been wondering how I measure up. I posed the question, “Am I effective in ministry at Newberg Friends Church?” I’ve answered that with everything from a definite, “No,” to a sappy whiny, “I dunno…maybe…a little.” Oh good grief. On occasion I would see the fruits of my labor and thank God for the reminder that His presence is peace - Until I asked the question again.

After a year of reading through Scripture, being a part of a Compassion International leadership training book group and discussion, feedback from my patient husband and children, participating in Women’s Bible Fellowship study on the Psalms of Ascent, many discussions with Gregg, prayer after tearful prayer, and devouring the book Kisses From Katie, a transformation has taken place. It’s so simple; I’ve stopped asking the question.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean I don’t care about my “effectiveness” as a leader. It doesn’t mean I’ve laid down goals and dreams for helping to create healthy ministry for children, families, and women here at NFC. On the contrary, the transformation, the change that’s taken place, is my heart’s desire to wake up everyday with a heart centered on God and not self. It’s not about what I can or can’t do; it’s about what God wants me to do and my willingness to obey.

This transformation is about saying, “thank you” instead of “please” and really meaning it! It’s not asking how can God make others do what I will, but relying on timing and circumstances that I don’t understand and being comfortable with tension. It’s about grace. It’s about releasing pride. Ouch.

As a follower of Christ we submit ourselves to change. We don’t always like it, but we let it happen through faith. We hope, we pray, and if we wait long enough, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Are their questions that you ask yourself over and over again? Does self-doubt seem to have a stronger voice in your spirit than that of our Savior? Are you hoping for circumstances to change instead of your response to reality? Friends, I hope that in many ways you are not experiencing those things, but I believe that the truth is we so often listen to the enemy wrapped up in “holy” clothing. We forget the true meaning of Christ’s words when he said, ”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Today I’m reading that verse with this mindset: I’m commanded to love God more that to question my abilities or focus on my insecurities. If I’m following Christ, I’ll spend my time and my thought life learning what it means to love and putting that into action. I’ll chose to release worry about how exactly I performed and focus more on how amazing it is that God can work through even me. I’ll acknowlege with a humble and grateful heart the ways God has been able to use my gifts to care for others. If I want a life poured out as an offering to God, I’ll love others in any way, place, or time that He asks me too. Then, I’ll let God ask the follow-up questions.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Power of a Puppy

If you are my Facebook or Instagram friend, you have noticed that I'm in love with a fluffy little mop of fur named Bella. From the first moment I saw her, I knew she had to be MY dog. My husband was a bit harder to convince, but you'd never know it now. He too has caught the Bella bug. In fact the whole family is infected. We love this girl like crazy. It's been a little over 4 months since Bella came into our lives and changed us in ways that seem a bit too profound to credit to a dog. But who cares, I'm going to do it anyway.

Bella has focused our family foursome on loving and caring for the same thing. Of course we all love God, our family, friends, and Compassion. But this little dog is holding Happiness with a waggly tail. We all want what's best for her. And most of the time we work together to make this happen. As a mother of 11 and 15-year-old daughters...it's rare to have both my girls care about the same thing. My husband has always had hobbies/interests, but in the past these obsessions are his alone. Bella has united us as a family.

Bella makes us stop. When Bella's doing something cute (which is just about all the time) one of us will call out, "Hey, look at Bella." No matter how "busy" we are, we'll stop what we're doing, pull away from the TV, computer, homework, Bible study, the laundry, dishes, or piano practice and look. Not a big deal - but it is. Because life moves fast. And Bella reminds us that it's the present that matters. Moments where we stop and look together are moments that we spend together, building memories and sharing smiles. These were far too few before Bella came into our home.

Bella makes us sit. We cuddle more since little Miss Flufferbutt came to our family. (Sorry Mom, I know butt is a bad word.) We love our "Bella Boop." Snuggling with a warm puppy is one of life's great pleasures. If you haven't done it, you are missing out. We sit on the couch, bed, or even on the floor and curl up with our girls...all of them.

Bella makes us play. Have you heard a sixth grader shriek and tear around the house with a 7lb dog the second she gets home from school? No? You're lucky. 'Cause it's LOUD. The stomping, the flopping, toys flying, paws racing. Sometimes it's too much. But mostly it's the sound of pure joy. This summer we spent countless hours as a family watching Bella race through the grass, hopping like a rabbit. I can't remember laughing and grinning that much in a very long time...if ever. I've noticed puppies don't really do naughty things. They are just living life, having fun, and learning along the way. And if you're smart, you join in.

Bella makes us focus. It's not just puppies that need training classes. We all do. Sometimes when your family gets as old as mine, you fall into ruts. You do the same old things, act in the same old ways, and forget that perhaps there's something better. Having a puppy has given us a clear vision for what it means to enjoy life. Things as simple as taking a family walk used to be forgotten...but not with a puppy. The "mine" game transforms into "what does she want to do?". And we remember how to share, submit, and serve.

Life isn't all puppy kisses and rainbows. But around here these days, living in the soggy NW, with a doggie named Bella...it's pretty close. I am grateful.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thanksgiving Defined

This week it was my turn to bring a "spiritual practice" to the pastoral team. Sometimes I try to put together something more elaborate, but this week simple was key and it felt right. Our agenda including planning our annual Thanksgiving service and so I set my heart on thanksgiving and came up with a few reflections around giving thanks. Reading Ann Voskamp's excellent book, "One Thousand Gifts" has been inspiring me to live a life fully right where I am. (Somedays are easier than others.) It's also made me realize that all worship begins with thanksgiving. So I offered a sheet of paper with the graphic you see here and these instructions: Take a few minutes to think about some of the gifts God has given you. How might you express this gratitude in your actions, spoken words, and reactions throughout the rest of the day? Compose a written prayer of thanksgiving.
Here was my response:
God you are good. I want my heart, my mind, my words, and my actions to be set on thanksgiving - appreciating and worshipping you for all that you've done in my life  - FOR MY LIFE. Too often I spend time thinking about the places/pieces of my life where I want. You are helping me to see this is a waste of time. My goal should be to live fully right where I am and to live each moment in gratitude. In that spirit, I can trust you will move me forward and ever closer to You. Thank you God for loving me completely. Help me to return that love with thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Praying in the Desert

What's the deal with Jesus going out to the desert to pray? What significance did the desert have for Him and what does it mean for me as a follower of Christ? The Bible describes, based on what translation you prefer, Jesus withdrawing himself to "the wilderness," "lonely places," "desolate places," or "deserted places" to pray.  Note it says "deserted places" not "desserted places"....but I have prayed at the Cheesecake Factory, "Thank you Almighty God for this enormous menu filled with every kind of cheesecake imaginable. Please bless me with a chocolatey delight and a decaf. Amen."

Each one of those translations holds some mystery and I hope some answers as I study God's Word, the life of Christ, and look for ways to live my own life. Why did Jesus feel so compelled to go out to these lonely places to pray? Was it to escape the busyness of his daily life that consisted of teaching and serving others to no end? Did he isolate himself to take away distractions or to find refuge? Is this proof that Jesus was an introvert and needed to be alone to recharge? Did he just want a private conversation now and then with his Papa? Don't we all? And yet for so many of us when life gets too busy...our conversations with God, our allotted time to connect with Him seems to quickly work its way down our To Do list. Allotted God Time?

Whatever the reason, I'm stuck with the idea that Jesus went to the wilderness...to the desert to pray. When you hear the word desert what do you picture? Death Valley? For me it's this place of drought, oppressive heat in the day, and bitter cold at night. It's a landscape filled with dangerous animals such as snakes and scorpions. Howling coyotes. Windstorms. The desert is parched and unwelcoming. It provides little shelter or nourishment. Yet here is where Jesus went when He wanted to center in on his relationship with God. Some people claim to love the desert. I would argue it is the air-conditioned, laying by the pool, irrigated golf course version of the desert they are thinking about.

The Bible never mentions Jesus finding an oasis in which to pray. It speaks of lonely places and mountainsides. Mountainsides in sandals. Not only did he find reconnection with his Father in dry and dusty places, sometimes he had to climb a mountain to get to that "right spot" where He would sit and listen. This doesn't seem like my ideal environment to pray and commune with God. I like comfort.

Where do I go when I want to hear from God? This is where conviction hits me big time. When I'm not at church or Bible study and I just want to speak with God, to connect with him, to study the Word, I want an oasis. I want the perfect sanctuary: I want to lay on my bed with a cup of hot coffee, to be cozy in my robe and slippers, I want the house to be quiet, I want a full tummy, and most importantly an empty schedule. I want.

Perhaps it's my desire to be free of distraction, to hold comfort in high esteem, and my uncanny ability to find valid reason after reason for not creating Allotted God Time that most often leads me to my own desert - my spiritual wasteland. What if I decided that praying in the wilderness, in the middle of the noise and danger was the exact right place to speak to God? What if I decided that no matter how little nourishment was provided for me, I wouldn't withhold my praise? What if the desert was my everyday life and I found refuge in God right in the midst of it all?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Know I Am Loved By The King...

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
  • During my best moments I feel God the Father speaking to me His affirmation and encouragement, "Go Daughter, you know what to do, I've taught you, and I'm right here with you." 
  • Some of my worst moments come when I feel stuck not knowing what in the world Jesus wants me to do next. Not hearing clear directions from Christ is lonely and at times downright frightening.
  • Many times I listen to the Holy Spirit, try to act accordantly, and the results are often less than "successful" by the world's standards. What's up with that Lord? Who am I doing this for?
As I ponder those three ways I experience God, I'm working through a Bible study on the Psalms of Ascent. Beth Moore said a couple of things in the intro video that have stuck with me. She reminded us, "We ain't stayin' here." She asked us to, "Come hungry."

The truth is, as real and as hard as our issues are in the present...we ain't stayin' here. If we choose to move on with God...we will. As much as I want to go to the next place with God, it's amazing how wrapped up I become in my everyday earthly troubles. Especially at certain times of the month...ugggh. TMI. If I play the comparison game (which we shouldn't-but I really need to in order to make this point) I know that the things that weigh heavy on my heart might seem inconsequential to the next person. Our passions, pasts, and present problems vary. Just as God asks us not to create a hierarchy of sins, so must we refrain from hiding our "unimportant" prayer requests. It all matters. Finding a safe place to share our hurts, disappointments, and suffering is crucial to our life in the body of Christ.

We can also in essence shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot. Taking that next step with God might make us painfully vulnerable. Staying where we are, although not ideal, is strangely more comfortable. Stepping up leaves us exposed and requires that we let God conform us more and more to the image of Christ. Christ who suffered.

Moving on.... when I first heard Beth Moore say, "come hungry" tears welled up in my eyes. It was an instantaneous reaction in the depth my soul. Perhaps you and I are so exhausted by the everyday earthly troubles that we can't even venture to think about what it means to "come hungry." Making it through takes precedence over praise. We focus on the daily not the Deliverer. I'm imagining a person with their eyes and nose just barely above the surface and underneath the murky water their arms and legs are flailing wildly just to keep them afloat. They might be starving, but the energy that it would take to paddle to shore, sit down, and eat is simply overwhelming.

So how do we "come hungry?" How can we offer one another a meal in the middle of a muddy swamp? How do we assure one another that we "ain't stayin' here" without sounding trite? How do we speak hope to one another and remember that no matter what we hear, whatever the results, we are dearly loved?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Home Therapy

I'm wired to find contentment in accomplishment. On the best days of my life accomplishment has been defined by giving birth, figuring out how to speak to a child in Honduras in shabby almost non-existent Spanish, and trying to reconcile the deep emotional chasm I experienced laughing with my 13-year-old daughter as we wound the back streets of a Filipino village on a "tricycle" only to be dropped off at our first home visit. Just steps from the tricycle we entered poverty like I'd never experienced before. In my life filled with so many gifts, my best days have included every day of directing Twin Rocks Girls Camp and driving hundreds of miles per day on our family's "real road trip" in 2007. The kids and Alan have decided that our trip by van to Colorado Springs this summer does not qualify as a "road trip" but only a "destination trip." I dare not argue. What matters to me and what my patterns show is that children, family, and relationships are always at the heart of my best days.

Of course checking off the daily "to do" list brings a sense of accomplishment as well. Today that list included four loads of laundry, a stack of ironing, and tackling the file of last year's school papers. All-in-all a good day...but not nearly as exciting as a Compassion sponsor tour or a new baby. Exciting - no...Therapeutic - yes. My amazingly flexible work schedule allows for days when I need to simply be: h o m e. Perhaps it's the "stay-at-home" mom in me that needs these respites. Days where the kids are off at school and the house is quiet. I know that someday soon, ok in 6 years, the house will always be quiet. There won't be a 2:45pm deadline till the whirlwind (aka: youngest daughter) blows through the door. But that is a whole other post...when I'm feeling even more wistful than I am today. Even for this bonafide extravert, I breathe deep the stillness of the house and the freedom to get things done without distraction.

If I look even deeper into the need for "home therapy" I come up with one word and it's not so pretty and peaceful: Control. I battle everyday with a desire to do it all well. I simply cannot. At home I attack the pile of ironing and I win. I clear off the desk and I win. At least for today. For a few hours. Mini-victories. These things in the quiet I can control. Of course there are other things that have been left undone today. And these nag at me. I tell satan to knock it off and try to focus on the positive. Come On...this is therapy for goodness sake.

Monday, September 24, 2012

It H U R T S

It's hard to lead when you're not following. God is making that uncomfortably obvious today as I struggled through my run. I'm in pain. My body aches, my thoughts are muddied, and my spirit is suffocating.

Too many parts of my life feel out of control and I've been trying to self-medicate with sugar, carbs, a puppy, and Jesus. Hey, great, at least Jesus made the list. I admit at least I'm not trying to do it ALL on my own. Pat self of self-righteous back.

I'm reading a spiritual leadership book with a group of other Compassion advocates. It's good stuff and the highlighter is getting lots of use. I'm keeping up (within a day or two) of my daily Bible reading. I'm on track to finish my Beth Moore Bible study for the week by Wednesday's group. Gooooo Me!

Eleven days ago I turned 40. I'd given up my "fabulous by 40" fantasy months ago. It was obvious that my lack of exercise this summer topped off by a road trip killed that dream. I killed that dream. Yet I still want to put on my running shoes and prance through 5 easy miles. When I lay in bed at night and imagine myself running...it seems so easy. That's what I want - easy. Pain is hard. It's painful. It makes me breath funny.

The physical manifestation of living my life out of God's control is controlling me. My soul is not at rest and when silly things like my dog getting a bad haircut happen, my family witnesses me sprawled out on the floor whining like a three-year-old.

I'll admit it's not just a sugar addiction, lack of exercise, and a botched "puppy cut" that have me spinning. Life throws some incredible curve balls sometimes and the day after my 40th surprise birthday party was a doozy. From the highest of highs to the depths of despair in a matter or minutes. Our family framework was fractured. So I have a right to wallow. To pout. To sit and stare and wonder, "What God? What now?"

Like the Psalmist I cry out for God to remember, rescue, and redeem. I trust that He will. It's time to put down the cookie and pick up the pace.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Happy New Year It's September

My blogging muscles have atrophied over a season of chaos and little time given to center myself on my thoughts or disciplines. I've let my poor eating habits pop back up in the name of "summer fun." Exercise has been nearly non-existent and my legs often feel restless and achy from the lack of use. My mind wonders to the times when I ran and ran and felt blissfully exhausted and satisfied. For all the freedom the summer brings, I regret the way I have let good intentions simply be that - intentions.

So welcome to the New Year. September 4. The day when I traditionally let go of the "I should really..." and embrace the "have to's". If there ever was a deadline and a date to grasp opportunities, this is it. School started today and this means one thing - routine. With this routine comes a framework for making good choices, starting fresh, the excitement of time management, and the thrill of multi-tasking. I'm ready to jump in with both withered legs and give this year my best.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Last year we went to a Amy Grant/Michael W. Smith concert at a local church. It was great, and after the concert we decided to sponsor our third child through Compassion. Nshimiyimana caught my eye with his soft smile and bright orange shirt.

We have friends who live in Rwanda and are missionaries there. Our goal is to visit them and Nshimiyimana (on a Compassion Sponsor Tour) sometime in the next 4 years.

Today my heart hurts because Nshimiyimana's smile is gone and his shirt has faded. I'm guessing this is his "best clothing" to wear for pictures. My family thought the new photo of him was so different that they questioned whether or not this was really the same child. I believe it is, but it is sad to see a picture so different from the one we recieved just about 10 months ago. Of course all children scowl sometimes...so maybe this was just a bad picture. Praying for my sweet boy. Join me.

Our original picture of Nshimiyimana on the left and the new one on the right. 

I don't believe in fortunes, but this coincidence was pretty interesting. I went out with our pastoral team for lunch today at a Chinese restaurant. My fortune said,"Someone in your life needs a letter from you."

Time to send Nshimiyimana an encouraging letter.

Friday, June 8, 2012

It Ain't Over Yet

Nike had an ad that said, "There is no finish line." It's supposed to be inspiring. Right now it just makes me tired. I've decided to re-write the ad:
There is no finish line, but there are water breaks, bathrooms, and energy snacks along the way.

Today was a huge "water break." My friend Julie shared the bounty of gift certificates she received for her 40th birthday and let me and our friend Lisa, join her for a day at the spa. We were treated to facials, hour-long massages, yummy food, and brief visits to the steam room and sauna. We arrived at 9am and were pampered until about 2pm when we decided it was time to re-join the real world. I know that today was a day of extreme extravagance. We literally were lathered in luxury. I mean it - I went home a slathered in oil and hydrating creams.

On the heels of a week where our family hosted 3 children, most likely orphaned by AIDS, from Burundi, Africa, the timing was both welcomed and confusing. I was exhausted from the physical and emotional toll of the having a houseful Monday-Wednesday while trying to balance work and family. The experience vividly reminded me that my life is cush. Dragging my weary self to the spa this morning was a reminder that I live in the land of "first-world problems." I found myself fretting over what to wear when one has to walk into a 1st class full-service spa, take off afore mentioned outfit, and put on a giant robe and squishy sandals. (For the record, I decided jeans, a gap t-shirt, a Nike pullover, and a pair of black Converse would suffice. Unfortunately my closet doesn't contain any of those velour blinged-out sweatsuits yet.) I needed a "water break."

Me, Lisa, and the birthday girl - Julie. 

Not all water breaks need be so grandiose. But I have to admit, I enjoyed every minute...even the ones where I fell asleep during my facial and awoke to the sound of my own little snore/snort noise. I loved the time of conversation with dear friends and the ability to put the to-do list on hold for a day (or at least from 9am-2pm).

Maybe this is TMI, but you know that bathroom breaks are also essential and have their own sort of, well,...release. These short breaks provide necessary bits of time where one can't be disturbed. This analogy breaks down if you have small children, because moms know that it when you're in the restroom you are suddenly in greatest demand. Ok, let's get off the toilet and on to my third point.

Energy snacks. Yes please. When you're in a race there are often folks cheering you on (most of the people you don't even know) and sometimes those good people hand you energy snacks along the way. Their bright smiles, shouts of encouragement, and the baggies of treats freely given are the fuel that keeps you going. In everyday life, energy snacks vary from person-to-person. Some crave words of affirmation,  others thrive on a kind deed, or a thoughtful gift. We derive our energy from God-given passions, dreams we hope to reach, and the pursuit of goals we want fulfilled.

As a person who loves to see a task completed, I often wonder, how I'm supposed to keep running the race when I can't see the finish line? I'm one of those people who creates a list of things that need to be accomplished and then adds on chores/jobs I've already done just to get the satisfaction of crossing them off the list. That's a bit sick, huh? With that mindset, how will I know when I've arrived, or when I can stop? Yet, God has created me with love of surprise and a love for life. So when life feels overwhelming, remind me that it ain't over yet and water, a bathroom, and a snack are available along the way.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

All In

Wanting and doing are often two very different things. That was played out this morning by my desire to be the "host" for church today so I could be the one to give the announcements and share with the congregation the need for more Vacation Bible School volunteers. I wanted to be the one to speak so I could make sure that the recruiting message would be spoken with clarity and enthusiasm. Instead I found myself staring at my notes, fumbling with words, and not feeling engaged with the people with whom I had so desperately wanted to connect. Here's a little of what I said:

Vacation Bible School is a children’s ministry that we’ve made clear as congregation we want to offer. I love this because I believe offering VBS is one way we demonstrate how deeply we value children. Two weeks ago Eric talked about that fact that we need one another, that community is important, so important in fact, that we need it to survive. When we pool our resources, there is always enough. Last week Gregg spoke about Jesus breaking down barriers. Christ is invitational and Jesus wants everyone to have access to a personal relationship with him.

These two themes on community and relationship couldn’t be a more perfect setup for asking you to be a part of VBS. As youth and adults coming together to serve children we are able to provide the care that the children who participate in VBS need. I really hope you’ll grasp on to the spirit of this year’s VBS, that anything is possible with God, and recognize that you have the ability, opportunity, and privilege to help a child know what it means to trust Jesus Christ!

I left the pulpit expecting that no new volunteers would arise from this morning's call to action. This very attitude and lack of faith shows how severely I need to kick my pride to the curb. I know at the head level that it's not my "delivery" that will make or break VBS recruitment. I understand that I can't create in others a desire to serve kids in the ways that I want/need them to for the sake of a certain ministry. But at a heart level, oh how I wish that I could inspire people to rearrange their priorities and put children just a little bit closer to the top. I want to be able to express in public the things that rattle around in my brain and burn a hole in my gut. It's this desire that keeps me going. So I will keep challenging myself to speak as an advocate for children.

It was easy to sit there in my pew and stew about my own shortcomings. Then today's scripture from Mark 12 made me see once again how blessed I am to serve a loving God, the merciful Jesus Christ, and the empowering Holy Spirit. Serving God is something we're asked to do with every ounce of our being. It's certainly not based on performance, results, or recruitment skills.

There is a debate in Christians circles as to how we should serve. Some say it's best to offer up our strengths - to do what you good at, to serve out of our "God-given gifts." Others say, God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called. In our weakness Christ's power is made perfect. We might not be very good at what we're asked to do, but we are supposed to say "yes" anyway. So which one is it: do we serve out of our strengths or out of our weakness? 

In Mark 12, Jesus tells a story about a widow who put into an offering box a teeny tiny bit of money. The poor widow gave out of her poverty. At first glance this story seems to honor the widow because she gave out of her weakness. In essence she said to God, "I don't have much, but I'll give it all to you." But this morning I also came to see the widow as a woman who  gave out of her strength. Her strength was her tremendous faith. She gave to God all that she had, her mind, soul, heart, and personal well-being. The widow trusted God with every part of herself. She had strength that I admire. She was all in. I want to be that kind of person. Giving with all that I am, even when it feels like it's not much, and trusting God to be enough.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Created vs. Creator

How often do we focus on learning about the created instead of the Creator? What more might we learn about ourselves if our attention shifted to the One who made time, space, earth, and dwells within us? Do I want to know more about me or more about God? The answer to that question is a  measure of how I choose to live. Am I more concerned with serving myself or serving Christ - accumulation or sacrifice? Do I fix my eyes on the present or the eternal?

How often do we focus on learning about the Creator instead of the created? What more might we learn about God if we shifted our attention to his creation and studied His masterpieces? Do I want to spend my life reading books and acquiring knowledge about God or do I want to see Christ at work in my own life? The answer to that question is a measure of how I choose to live. Am I more concerned with giving to Christ than honoring what God has already given - service or gratitude? Do I fix my eyes toward heaven or do I enjoy the gift of the present?

How often do we choose one or the other, created vs. Creator, putting God in a box or time with him on our "to do" list? What more might we learn about Christ if we listened continually to the Holy Spirit that resides in us? Does the choice have to be Jesus time vs. me time? What if Christ was my constant companion? The answer to that question is a measure of how I choose to live. Am I more concerned with trying to find time and space in my life for God or do I see God as active and present in all that I do and say? Do I fix my eyes toward religion or my friend Jesus?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Most Important Person in the World

 Who is the most important person in the world? If I were being disgustingly honest, I'd have to say the answer is: me. Sometimes it's nice to give the "Jesus" answer. But since we already know that he died and rose again, let's not, for the sake of my argument, count Jesus as a person in the world. Nope, I'm not even going to go for what seems like an upstanding moral answer and say, "my child." 

I don't think I'm alone in this "me-ness." I'm going to venture to say that there is no other person on the planet that you care about more than yourself. This isn't all bad, self-preservation is an important part of keeping our kids and families safe. If we aren't in a safe place, how can we keep our children safe as well? We want to live. Our schedules, priorities, finances, behaviors, and attitudes proclaim this as truth. We do a lot for our children and families, but that's because they are OURS. I can just hear those seagulls on Finding Nemo, "Mine, mine, mine." At the root of taking care of our children and families is the desire to have our own lives maintained and preserved in the way that we want them. 

If you were to set up a hierarchy of important people (people you care about) in the world, you'd probably be at the top. A close second would come your kids and spouse, then parents, siblings, BFF's, and so on. I'm guessing it would be a pretty long list before you got to your mail carrier or the grocery clerk. If you continued the list to include every person on the planet that you knew, how would you choose #567 and who only made it to #629? And then the kicker...what about the billions of people on this planet that you don't know? How do you rank those people? Do some countries or continents hold a more special place in your heart than others? 

These types of questions rage through my brain when I try and think about what it means to live out love. We talk a lot, as Christians, about love. We want to love like Jesus loves. We say we want to care about everybody and follow Christ. We hold in high esteem the Bible passages about the last being first, welcoming children, and loving our neighbor as ourself. But then when I look at the world, the church, and my own life, I see a very different way of living. 

Too often I see self-preservation as a higher priority than love. This comes down to simple things like the hot water supply in my house. If I'm the last one in the shower on a Sunday morning, I don't say, "Oh, isn't it nice that my precious children and husband got a warm shower? I don't mind that mine is freezing cold. I'm just so delighted for them." Instead my reaction is, "Whaaaaat...you guys used up all the hot water and now I have to freeze!? Jerks. Thanks a lot." I am most important. My needs and my desires are more important than theirs. If I'm out running errands or perhaps on the way to meeting, I don't stop for a person with car troubles on the side of the road. Nope. I gotta be somewhere, I've got something to do. Plus, I don't want to stop and get out of my nice safe vehicle and help a stranger. What if that stranger is dangerous? Yikes. Nope. Must self-preserve. If I hear of a storm in the mid-west that wipes out a small town, I don't sell my house, pack up my family, and head to tornado alley to rebuild a farmhouse for a family I've never met. That kind of love is extreme...and extremely inconvenient. What if a child in Africa is dying of hunger or a preventable disease? Well, that's nothing new. That happens thousands of times every single day. Every day. The news doesn't even cover those deaths anymore. Almost like those children aren't important at all. 

At this point my head starts to explode and I think, "Ok, wait a second. It's normal to be irritated by a cold shower. Aren't we supposed to live and love in the the place where God has placed us? I don't even know how to change a tire or build a farmhouse. I'm supposed to serve out of my strengths, my God-given gifts. Don't start in the "starving kids in Africa" talk. We are supposed to serve out of love not guilt. We can't all be Mother Teresa." God is God and I'm not. Yeah, yeah. I know. 

In the middle of all those thoughts that I don't know how to reconcile, God brought me a piece of peace. In heaven love will reign. In the palm of God's hand our names are inscribed. But they aren't written in some gigantic list with Jesus at #1, Moses, David, and all the other Bible bigwigs at the top. There is no hierarchy of love. In heaven you and I will care just as deeply for our child as we do for the child of a prostitute in India. We'll love that farmer from East Africa just as much as we love our father or our best friend here in America. In heaven, a place without sorrow, a place of perfection and everlasting joy, we will see everyone as most important. I'll finally be able to lay down my selfishness and I won't have to worry about self-preservation anymore. 

One last thought - What if Christians believed?: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Just A Tour Group...I Don't Think So.

One year ago Alan and I got on a plane, flew to Houston, and met a bunch of people from all over the United States who sponsor kids through Compassion. We boarded a plane together to Honduras and came home 10 days later with the most amazing group of friends. Every month since last May's Compassion Sponsor Tour, the group has kept in touch by email, Facebook, and most importantly prayer. What was planted in the Houston airport, grew in Honduras, has been nurtured by a year apart, and flourishes today as a testament to the power of prayer.

I think God wanted to give each one of us a gift. A love of children, a desire to help those in poverty, and a commitment to share hope in Jesus Christ brought us together. Now it is not only the memories we made in Honduras that keep us connected, it's the friendships and true concern for one another that have bonded this group into something that none of us expected. It's a gift. A blessing.

In the months since our trip, not a week goes by that I don't either receive an email from a member of the group or at least have them pop up in my Facebook news feed. I pray for my friends and I know they pray for me. Maybe that sounds a bit obnoxious to you. Perhaps you're thinking, "Good grief people, get over it, move on, the tour ended 12 months ago." Or, "Why not plug in to a community of prayer partners that at least live in the same state!"

I agree, to some degree. It would be nice to have a community of local prayer partners that really cared for one another the way this group does. In many ways I do. I have lots of friends in town with whom I can share my heart. I belong to a congregation and a Bible study where I can be honest. So, I don't want to diss what God has given me in my own neighborhood. But (oh, there's always a but) what I've experienced with the Honduras tour group of men and women age 16-65+ is a more faithful connection than anything I've been able to find here. How can that be?

It's a matter of prayer. It's the kingdom at work. It's seeing the Body of Christ alive and active. It's shared vision amongst a group of highly diverse people. It's not accepting that distance makes it too hard to stay connected. It's being intentional. It's love. It's cherishing the gift. Honoring the blessing.

We write our prayers, we ask for prayer, we ask for prayer on behalf of one another. We send notes that affirm and letters that empathize. We make plans for the future, remember the past, and live life fully in the present. We share our heartaches and hopes and admit our successes and failures. We visit one another when possible...we make it possible. And again we pray.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

From the Moon to the Garden of Eden

Today our family watched a documentary called, "In the Shadow of the Moon." I've seen several films about the Apollo moon landings, but this one ended on a particularly spiritual note. Each astronaut gave a "testimony" of how the experience of space travel had revealed to them the existence of a Creator. One spoke of having an epiphany while seeing the moon, sun, and earth out the window of the command module; he realized that we are all connected. Another was so struck by God's handiwork, that he gave his life to Christ soon after returning to earth. These seems like fairly typical responses from someone who has been off the planet for awhile, but the line that grabbed me by surprise was from an astronaut, so taken by seeing earth from space, that he described the whole planet as "the garden of eden." The WHOLE earth...I've never really thought of it that way. I've imagined a lush garden - full of fruit and nut trees, various veggies, and juicy grape vines created for Adam and Eve. I pictured it with borders. Maybe even a nice bright white picket fence.

The whole earth... hmm, now I've seen pretty scenery in the midst of poverty-stricken countries, and I often take a look at the acres of farmland near my home and feel grateful that beauty fills the earth. But to rethink that the Garden of Eden described in the Bible, actually is a way to describe Earth, this was an epiphany for me! It makes sense and it also encourages my desire to find ways for humankind to do our share of joining in God's redemptive work. There are no borders, no fences containing what God has made for us to share, love, and enjoy. When God created Earth, it wasn't just a gift for Adam and Eve, but for you and me. Too often, in the part of the Garden of Eden that I live in, we've made the gift just about us. Instead of sharing the gift, we've claimed it as our own. We have exploited other parts of the Garden, and the people who live there, for selfish gain. We continue to destroy vast portions of it in the name of greed. I'm part of the rich, white, American culture that cares more about personal comfort than I do about the Garden. I want out.

Or do I? There are times when I'm just so sick of it all. Then I look at my new 400 thread count sheets and say an "Amen." I run late to an appointment and I'm glad I have a car instead of a horse, or just a pair of sandals. This world that we live in, that we've created, that we put borders around to keep out those who aren't "one of us" is a sickening mess. But it's still the Garden of Eden.

I ordered three books from Amazon last week. I'm remembering how the fact that I have the luxury of buying $37 worth of books is a extreme luxury that the vast majority of Garden dwellers can't afford. The books arrived in the mail today and I'm tempted to set aside all other priorities so that I can immerse myself in:
Just a Minute by Wess Safford, Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis, and A Place at the Table - 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor by Chris Seay.

I live a life of mediocrity, wanting to make a change, but not secure enough to really do so. I live with a desire to learn more about how to eradicate poverty, but I do so from the sanctuary of my suburb. I pray that God will continue to create, grow, and produce a Garden of love and compassion in my life. And as he does, I promise to share. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Vainglory? Who...Me?

This week I punted, pitch hit, or what ever other athletic phrase you want to use for stepping up to the plate (pun intended) and speaking at Women's Bible Fellowship when our regularly scheduled speaker backed out. No biggie. At this point in my life I'm very comfortable with being upfront. I don't see it as a burden or a frustration, simply a chance to dive a little deeper into the study and see what God brings to my attention. As an added bonus, I get to share my thoughts with a group of women I love. WBF is a safe place. But then I opened the book. Chapter 8 of The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith is titled: Learning to Live Without Vainglory.

Vainglory...have you ever heard of that word before? We all know what vanity means. And glory sounds nice. But put them together and it was a bit of a heart check to read the definition: too much pride, especially in what one has done. Remember when kids in grade school would pound you hard on the chest and say, "heart check"? Heart checks hurt, your shoulders slump forward, torso caves in. You want to yell out, "Hey, stop that you big jerk!" But you can't because you're working on breathing normally again. Yeah, well, that's what reading the definition of vainglory in the children's version of Webster's online dictionary felt like. I'm pretty sure God had me punting for a reason. (Hmmm, is God the big jerk in this scenario?)

I've struggled for the last year or so with the questions: What is effective ministry? Am I a successful leader? I have believed and still do to some extent, that they are valid, important questions. Smith says the false narrative, that we often see as truth, is based on our need for affirmation. Smith writes, "The world measures our worth on the basis of our appearance, production, and performance - which seem to be the only things that count. We feel the need to be appreciated, respected, applauded, and affirmed for what we do. Then we feel good about ourselves." Reading these words, I am faced with the ugly truth that sometimes when I ask myself about ministry and leadership, my feelings of wanting to live and work for Jesus are jumbled with my own insecurity and vainglory. The questions really become, "Are people recognizing and appreciating what I'm doing? Why haven't more people taken part in what I have to offer? Aren't I good enough?" Do you see all those disgusting "I's" in there? I do. Heart check.

Just writing those questions makes me queasy. As much as I tout vulnerability and honesty, I would love to be a little further down the spiritual maturity road. I told WBF, "There is nothing uglier and more deceitful than a person who appears, speaks, and acts holy, but is filled with pride inside." Insecurity and vainglory are an evil mix. It can shred a person to pieces. The antidote is finding your value in Christ alone.

Philippians 2:3-4 says it best.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 

Perfectionism often gets a bad rap in our society. The desire to do a job thoroughly, thoughtfully, and with accuracy is often distorted as an illness only afflicting control freaks. The truth is, God invented detail and purpose. Our innate need to create order out of chaos comes from God. I've also found that appreciating and demonstrating affirmation can be poo-pooed. The desire for relationship, to be loved, respected and liked by family and friends is seen as detriment to our character. (Isn't God enough?) We are created in the image of God and our hunger for affirmation is hard-wired. I'm pretty sure Jesus loves affirmation! Of course, our reliance on perfectionism and affirmation can become a place of brokenness, selfishness, and pain if we don't depend on the Source. I disagree with Smith's suggestion that, "Jesus encourages us to do good things with absolutely no concern for what others think of us." I believe that as followers of Christ, we are called to set an example for others. God knitted us together with the desire to be concerned with our work and our words and how they effect others.

1 Timothy 4:12-16
…set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Memories of Honduras

There are days when I find myself turning in circles and wishing that I was living out love in a place where I could feel the Holy Spirit as intensely as I did here: 

Feel as joyful as I did here:

Feel as thankful as I did here: 

Feel as humbled as I did here:

 Feel what it means to love as I did here:

 And experience true community as I did here:

God has allowed me to see so many beautiful things in the midst of poverty. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Making up the Gospel

People love telling stories. We exaggerate and expound. We like re-telling other people's stories. As well-meaning Christians we find ways to explain the unexplainable in the Bible. I believe we do this to make scripture more entertaining, palatable, or to fit the supernatural into our frame of reference. We want to connect with God's Word and unfortunately we often create stories from the Bible instead of taking them at face value. I am no exception.

This weekend I attended a Young Lives (a Young Life ministry for teen parents and their children) retreat and our speaker read the story of Jesus healing a paralytic from Mark 2. She was a young woman who obviously loves God and wants to share the Good News. But she included in her re-telling of the story a phrase that doesn't appear in Mark, Matthew, and Luke: four friends brought a paralyzed man to Jesus. The gospel of John doesn't include a version of the story from Mark 2:1-12:

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?  But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The speaker read directly from the Bible and gave her own observations of the story. Then she invited us to a time of discussion. I couldn't stop thinking about those "friends" that she had mentioned. For four faithful friends to find a way to haul a paralyzed man up onto house, through a crowd so large you couldn't even stand near it, to have the gall to dig through a roof (apparently unconcerned with the consequences of destroying property), lower their poor helpless outcast friend through the opening, and plop him on top of Jesus in order to be healed, is pretty amazing. The story speaks of determination, faith, and true love. It's an engaging story told to people of all ages and abilities. Maybe that's why we use it so often in Christian education. 

Often our pictures and our versions of the story from Mark 2 are so "clean" they are watered down versions of  Jesus' power and grace and the rawness of human interactions.

But I have a problem with it. I think we made it up. Where in the Bible does it say that these four men were the paralyzed man's friends? It doesn't. We assume that they were his friends. We like to believe they were his friends. It makes a nicer story if we call them his friends. I'm not convinced they were his friends. We also like to imagine the paralyzed man as meek and helpless from birth, a beggar void of wrongdoing, laying helpless by the side of the road. So in the spirit of make-believe and out of the desire to connect with God's Word in a personal way, here's my version:

There was once a strong man who was so arrogant he thought he could do anything he wanted, regardless of how it affected those around him. Because of his selfish attitude, he had no friends. One day he found a wild horse, grabbed it by the mane, and tried to ride it. He did this in a foolish attempt to impress a beautiful young woman he would soon take as his bride. The horse reared up and threw the man to the ground. The man laid there in agony; his back broken and instantly paralyzed from the waist down. In one moment the man lost everything. No longer could he walk or work. His bride-to-be was given to his younger brother and even his family cast him aside, since he was of no use to them financially. 

The man spent his days sitting by the town gate. His arrogance turned to bitterness and his heart was hard, his tongue venomous. As the townspeople would come and go, the man would yell out, "give me something to eat you pigs, throw me a shekel." He berated the people for not helping him. When they did give him a bite to eat or a small coin, it was not out of pity, but a futile attempt to shut him up for a few minutes. Day-after-day he cursed the wild horse for bucking him, demanded assistance from passersby, and spat at the woman and his brother when he saw them. The townspeople grew to hate the man even more than they did when he was healthy. He was a blight to their community and a real pain in the neck! 

One day, four of the town elders heard that Jesus was coming. They had been told of the miracles that Jesus was working all over Israel. They wondered if this was the answer to their prayers. Finally, a man that could heal...maybe Jesus was The One who could make the angry man walk again. If so, Jesus might be able to get this evil man up and out. They prayed and made a plan to take the man to Jesus. It was worth a try, as they could no longer stand the daily verbal abuse. 

Jesus entered the town and the crowds began to gather. Escaping the beating sun, Jesus went into a home to preach and heal. The four town elders went to the paralytic man and told him about Jesus. The man was indignant and called them stupid. "I'm not going with you...No man can make me walk again. Now get away from me you idiots!" But the four men were determined to bring the paralytic to Jesus. They found a large mat and forced the paralyzed man to lay down while they tied him to it. With the paralyzed man screaming obscenities at them all the way, they walked to the home where Jesus and his followers had gathered. When the townspeople saw who the elders had on the mat, they would not make room them to get into the house. The townspeople despised the bitter angry man and saw no need for Jesus to use his powers to heal such a wretch. 

But the elders were determined. If Jesus could heal the man, perhaps he would be able to get up and leave. With all the trouble they had gone to, the elders knew they must find a way to get the paralyzed man to Jesus. Around the back of the home they found some large stones. Stacking the stones as a way to access the roof, in the miserable heat, they pulled and tugged the man to the top of the house. The elders began to claw at the roof tiles and soon they had made a small opening in the ceiling. One of the elders peered in and saw Jesus healing a sick woman. With renewed strength, the elders ripped open the roof until they had made an opening large enough to drop the paralyzed man at Jesus' feet. Jesus was usually the one doing something shocking. But here Jesus stood amazed and delighted by the elders determination and faith.

Jesus looked at the tortured soul placed before him. The paralyzed man wasn't grateful to be in this place. In fact he was clearly enraged. Jesus saw the man's broken spirit. He looked at him and said, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Immediately the paralytic's countenance changed. In an instant the words that Jesus spoke changed his heart. He felt a peace as never before and he sat their astounded by the rush of love that was washing over him.

Some of the teachers of the law in the house looked at Jesus and condemned him for speaking blasphemously. "Only God has the power to forgive sins." Jesus affirmed that he indeed was the Messiah. He answered the teachers of the law by saying, "Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?  But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” The man got up and went home with a smile on his face and joy in his heart. The townspeople were amazed. They now stood in awestruck wonder as the man walked out and praised God by saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vice Vice Baby

Sugar is my vice. I love it, crave it, and if I don't cut it out of my life completely, I find myself with a mouth full of cookie dough and an ache in my gut. We all have vices. You know the list: caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, sex, shopping, gambling, exercise, etc. The list could go on and on because as human beings we are pretty darn good at finding something we enjoy and enjoying it to death.

I write this blog as a place to journal my own thoughts, but since I also post the link on Facebook, I'd be kidding myself if I said I just wanted my writing to go unnoticed. When I write, I hope someone will read, respond, and remember. Because dog gone it, I need people. I need people to keep me accountable. I need people to help me say, "hey, I thought you were off sugar?"

So here I am again... after a few months of being back on the sugar train to Chubbybunsberg, I'm ready to say, "NO" again. Again. With the big 4 0 approaching, my goal of being in the best shape of my life at 40-years-old is going to take some serious work. It probably means saying "no" to more than sugar. Those fries at Burgerville today-yep, that was the last time for fried food. Juanitas chips-gone. Oh stink, no more dip crack. (Dip crack = the amazing concoction that is created by dumping a can of RO-TEL, a block of cream cheese, a giant scoop of sour cream, enchilada soup mix, whatever other cheese I've got on hand, and a handful of spicy sausage crumbles into a crock pot until it is bubbling deliciousness.)

Just typing these words makes me want to curl up in a corner and cry. Detox from yumminess is hard and it makes me hungry. I'm sitting here actually trying to contemplate other vices I can have. In the words of my 11-year-old, "wow, Mom, seriously?" Seriously, because that's what we do. If we say we won't do one thing, we find something else to put in it's place. We are vice-a-holics.

Today I actually gave that advice to a friend of mine. I said, "well if you can't do that you can do this!" For about two seconds I thought I was brilliant. I actually said to someone, "Find a new vice!" Really. Wow, Michelle, seriously? See the problem with someone like me dispensing wisdom is that sometimes I'm not very smart. When you haven't done the spiritual, physical, and emotional work that a situation requires, it's best not to give half-donkeybehinded advice.

So, now I've had some time to think. And the truth is that nature abhors a vacuum. That's why when we see a space we want to fill it. Emptiness and nothingness are not happy words...unless you're a mother of little children who happen to be at the zoo with their grandparents for the day and you are home in an empty house with nothing but peace and quiet. So my suggestion to my friend that she should simply find a new vice wasn't off-base by the world's standards.

As a follower of Christ, I hope for more. I hope for more than healthier alternatives, new vices, and filled space. I hope to be content in the empty places. The places that aren't filled with anything and delight in nothingness. I hope to be so consumed by God's love that I don't need to consume anything else to feel fulfilled. I want to delight in a life not lived in pursuit of the next vice but delighted by the God who pursues me for eternity.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bikinis, Beer, and Kiddie Yogurt

This week I zipped into my local Safeway for some cheese and a few last minute dinner items. As I was headed to the milk case I noticed this:

Do you see it...right there across the aisle from the kid flavored yogurt? The beer is on the same aisle as the dairy/deli case. As you make your way down, the beer gets cheaper. Tucked up against the crappy beer and some randomly place Capri Sun, a display of the the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

When I saw this, I was furious. I made a stink about it. I huffed and puffed my way through the rest of my shopping. After I went through the checkout line, the store manger got a firm but polite earful. I let him know of my disgust and frustration that Safeway would be selling beer and mostly naked women together. The marketing strategy (although probably profitable from a financial standpoint) made me sick. His response was that at least 30% or more of the floorspace in Safeway was sold to vendors. He had "no control" over where the magazines were placed. Apparently, I was, "the only one he had ever heard complain" about such a thing. Feeling pretty agitated I did what any good 30-something-mom does...I updated my Facebook status: 

NOT impressed but the placement of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue by the cheap beer at Safeway. (Get your 24pk of Hamms and enjoy some nude women.) Barf! I made a complaint to the store manager. He says the space is rented by vendors and he can't do anything about it. Maybe if we all complain, corporate will get the message.

24 comments and 8 likes helped me process a bit and I was happy to hear others join me in finding the placement of socially acceptable porn next to alcohol as repulsive as I did. My friend Nate posted this:

This is a bit long, I couldn't find a youtube or Mp3. but from John McCutcheon (one of my favorite musicians) written in 1984...
But now, at last, the card's been played
Our hand's been called, the piper paid
A woman's bought and sold once more
And on display down at the store
We shake our heads and curse those crooks
But stand in line to buy a look
Just one thin swimsuit stands between 
The porno star and the beauty queen

Flesh merchants run the magazines
The shops, the books, the movie screens
The beauty pageants, and, God knows,
The ads, commercials, TV shows
Pornographers of every guise
The bad one sells but the worst one buys
Just one thin swimsuit stands between 
The porno star and the beauty queen

My friend Marta came up with a terrific sample letter to send to Mr. Burd, the CEO of Safeway:

Dear Mr. Burd and the Safeway executive team,

Women are not products to be consumed and washed down with a beer. I'm writing to ask you to remove the Sports Illustrated swimsuit displays from your beer and deli aisles. This pairing of alcohol and objectified women is offensive and harmful to both women and men. Please put the magazines back in the magazine aisle where they belong. My children and I shouldn't have to see them when we're shopping for dairy items in your stores.

I am not the only customer who is angry about these displays. Parents are voicing their anger about the on Facebook. Your Facebook page says, "We're proud to be your neighborhood grocery store." Please make us proud by removing these displays. 

I would like to hear from a member of your team as soon as possible about this matter.

Thank you.

I wish I had the time, energy, and determination to see this issue resolved by myself. But the reality is that I won't. Other passions, responsibilities, and activities are my priority. I am not naive enough to believe that a few letters to Mr. Burd, a couple of complaints to my local store manager, or this blog post will do much to change our damaging, objectifying, addictive, and offense culture. But perhaps it will help you be more aware of the insidious messages all around us...even the ones across the aisle from the Danimals. It might not create the change I'm hoping for, but it's always worthwhile to speak truth. I hope you'll join me by checking out the beer aisle at your local Safeway store. If you find the SI swimsuit placed next to alcohol instead of on the magazine aisle, talk to your checker, other shoppers, and the store manager. Use the letter sample or write your own to the CEO of Safeway.

A little "ps" to this post, my mom did email Mr. Burd the sample letter and she received this reply:

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the magazines sold at your local Safeway store.

We appreciate the time and effort you have taken to express your concerns about this publication. While we respect all of our customers’ points of view, we would rather not be in a position of trying to determine or dictate what constitutes the mainstream of contemporary readers' tastes. Your comments will be directed to our Public Affairs Department for further review on the matter.

Additionally, please provide us with the exact location of the store you are referring to, so that we may research and assist you in best possible manner. Thank you for your patience.

Should you require further assistance, you may reply to this email or phone us at 1-877-723-3929 and refer to Contact ID 20997060. One of our associates will be happy to assist you.

Thank you for shopping at Safeway.
Safeway Customer Service Team