Friday, September 3, 2010

Telling the right story

It is no secret that RJ and I are barely making it right now. I really don't want to talk about it that much, to advertise, or place our burdens on other people as well, but it seems to always come out like word vomit.

It is just so much of what occupies my mind lately. I really try to play it down, because we are okay, but the wrong words always come out. In the midst of another story last night I mentioned not liking to leave leftovers at restaurants because we rarely have enough food at home. My mom sent me home with all of the leftovers in their refrigerator. I hate when this happens.

This is the real story. When I balance our checkbook these days, or sit down to pay bills on pay day, it is very discouraging. We seem to have an impossibly small amount left over every time. It is true that I cut our list down to nothing and we went to the grocery store the other night with $15 plus WIC (which made up the difference on a $42 tab). Our refrigerator was almost completely empty when we left home.


God truly does provide our daily bread. I often do not know what we are going to eat tomorrow, but even with an insatiable toddler and a pregnant woman at home all day we never go without a meal.

Why is this not the story that pours out when I am talking to people? I honestly don't want our choices to become a financial burden on our family and friends. If I tell you that we are broke, it is just because "being careful" is what's in my head all day. It si hard having conversations with people and they say, "Well you just need (ant poison, baby benadryl, vitamins, camera charger, a date...)" and having to fess up that we have $0, without them feeling like they should help. I want to be better at sharing that WE ARE OKAY. God provides our every need. And sometimes my parents help, bless them. I wish we were not an additional strain on their own tight budget. I don't want them to give us money, but then I sometimes don;t know what we would do without it. Sometimes God provides for our needs in ways that make us uncomfortably humble, but that is not my story today.

Do you ever find yourself telling the tough part of a story, and never managing to fit in the part where God saves the day, ever day? Why is it so hard for us to get this part out?

Where I am right now pt. 2

Our Family

So many things are going on right now.

Mary Beth moved in when school started and the other roommates moved to campus. We miss Leah, but Mary Beth is like family.

RJ starts working at Dominoes tonight. He is working 9am-2am today and tomorrow. He is going to be so tired and we are going to be so lonely. But being able to buy vitamins and waterproof nylon when he get's paid will be pretty nice.

He also turned in a resume and portfolio to Willie's Tees yesterday. This is a t-shirt printing company in town who is looking for a new graphic designer. This would be a real, full time, normal hours, degree using, grown-up job. He is pretty nervous, but I know he will do great if he gets this job.

I can't wait! I would get to see him more often. He would have more energy, and we would maybe even have enough money to do fun things every once in a while. I try not to be materialistic, but a date would be wonderful, and honestly I would really enjoy a modest shopping trip. Nothing out of control, but we could get Julian's pajamas, a Cabbage Patch Doll to give Efrim when the baby comes, and a few winter clothes for me. It would just be fun to walk around shopping together without saying no all the time. I don't know what RJ would spend money on if we had a little extra. He has pretty simple tastes, and a closet full of clothes.

Another possibility (once we pay off our minor medical loans and RJ's wedding suits) would be applying for an internship at World Hunger relief. This would be a little way off, since we really need for him to work a job that pays money for a little while and have some sort of savings. We need cushion in general, and it would especially be wise to have the $2500 for another baby put up before we get pregnant, definitely before we commit to a nonpaying position for a year.

It hope to have my Etsy shop up in the next week or two. I have some more sewing to do, and then I need a friend to come help me take pictures to get things posted. Hopefully RJ can help me make a cute banner, and then I can join the Etsy Cloth Diaper Group, which will list me in their directory for free.

Of course, now that I am in my last trimester, it is really crunch time to start getting everything ready for Julian's arrival. We have to buy the supplies kit, make bedding, and make sure he has sufficient warm pajamas and diapers waiting. I am trying not to get too excited just yet, or the wait will seem interminable. (but it's pretty hard, when he is wiggling so much, I just want to kiss his cute face.) Plus there is so much to do.

Since I am alone all day, my first instinct is to call and make plans with someone, but I think today is going to be my day to organize my thoughts on all of the things that need to be done. If I am lonely tomorrow I will find someone to do something with.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Acts 3 and 4

We tend to focus on Acts 1 and 2 when we are learning about the early church, but have you read chapters 3 and 4? They will blow your mind. Clearly I have read these before, since there are several passages underlined, but I wonder if I have ever read the whole story together before. You should read it for yourself before you go on to my commentary.

Peter and John are going to the temple, this is not that remarkable an act in itself, it was a normal practice of Jewish people and the early believers as well. So they were just following their normal routine when they are stopped by this man who is crippled. It says he is put in this place every day. Suddenly I read this short little story as I would a letter or e-mail from PLC. This is a real person, with a heartbreaking story of captivity to his physical brokenness.

When he asks them for money, which he is accustomed to doing, this is his only way to live, They reply that they have none. This is easily skipped over when I have heard it before, but when you reach the end of chapter 4 you will see that there is so much more to this statement than meets the eye. Instead they give him something better. Can you imagine, if you got a letter in the mail about a child dying of heart disease, the pain tearing their family apart, and you were able to give them something better than money?

Peter heals the man and he goes walking around, people are naturally astonished, and Peter responds to them, "It is Jesus' name, and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him." Some times we try to make things so complicated, but all of the power is in knowing Jesus. Peter goes on to share a powerful gospel message with the people who are gathered around, and the scripture says that, in spite of guards coming in to bring Peter and John before the religious officials, many believed- probably several hundred since in addition to the 3,000 from Pentecost, and those who the Lord had been adding to their number daily the total is now counted at 5,000.

When Peter and John appear before the Sanhedrin, and are questioned about their behavior, they are given words by the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus promised in Luke 12:11-12. Thank goodness. Annas and Caiaphas are sitting right before them. These men crucified Jesus probably less than 2 months ago. Can you imagine what they would have said if they had prepared something on their own? Probably not something very spiritual and uplifting. However, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter again shares the gospel, very simply. The Sanhedrin are appalled that after killing Jesus to keep themselves safe from Roman suspicion of rebellion, people are still calling attention to his name. They threaten John and Peter, but are not sure what to do because so many people are excited about the miracle which they have seen.

This is the part I have never noticed before, even though I have a few verses in it underlined. Although we are given insight into the thinking of the Sanhedrin and their bewilderment, Peter and John clearly did not see their threats as empty, in light of the persecution that follows shortly, neither should we. They go back to the other believers very aware that, although they know that God has given them a word to share, the threat is very great if they do so. So they pray.

Their prayer goes something like this:

Lord, you are all powerful, you made everything, and you control it all, you even knew that this would happen. So why does everyone still plot against you? It seems like every earthly ruler has taken a stand against the name of Jesus, all that we stand for.

As a matter of fact they just killed him, and you allowed them to do it.

So, Father, consider all of the things against us now, all of the threat that we face. We don't pray that you remove these dangers, Lord, but that you give us boldness to act in spite of them and continue to reach out and heal people in ways that cannot be denied.

And he did, and they did. They were again filled with the Holy Spirit, just as they had been a few days before at Pentecost (so this is not a one time thing, the church is to pray for and receive this filling over and over), and they went out and spoke the words he had given them boldly- in the face of every kind of threat and opposition.

Is this not where we are today? We can gather in our churches and live a life that looks close enough to following Jesus, but is not offensive to anyone. Everyone will like us, and we can all be happy. But the truth is that Jesus, the truth about him and all that his life means, is a stumbling block. If we place the truth before people they will fall, either in submission or defeat. If we live as Jesus truly called us to live, people around us will be offended in one way or another. If we truly follow Christ we are surrounded by threat.

Will we ask the Holy Spirit for the boldness to live the word that God has given us in the face of all that is in opposition to his truth?

I think the next bit is there just to show how radically opposite they were to those around them, how much their obedience was likely to draw attention all on it's own. It says, "No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had."..."There were no needy persons among them." In a culture, that just like our own, revolved around an economy of want and consumption, where the money was the god, Peter truly had no silver or gold. I think a lot of time we pass over verse 3:6, because it is not uncommon for us not to have any cash on our person, or even to "be low on funds". But this is not a day of checking accounts and debit cards. If Peter had no silver or gold, he really had no financial possessions. It was all given to the collective body. They met a man who's only hope was money to spend, and gave him instead a father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, actually on every hill. Today as our financial burden seems impossible to bear, and resentfully it seems that is sometimes all we ever have to think about, this means everything.

This is another way in which God both made the believers so offensive to the culture around them, and simultaneously made them immune to it. They had nothing to lose.

I always end up with no words to explain. Just read it for yourself and see the power of knowing (the name) Jesus, and the Kingdom that is born in the hearts of those who believe.