Monday, June 27, 2011

Comedic Marital Relief... From the Bloggess...And Thats Why You Should Learn to Pick Your Battles

Found this article and so wish I had thought of this a few times.  It's hilarious... You gotta love a wife with this kind of sense of humor.  Props to you, Bloggess...  Click here to read full article.  ****Language Warning!!!****  ****Language Warning!!!****   ****Language Warning!!!****

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fighting Cystic Fibrosis...Again.

If you have been around in this world for very long tragedy has intersected your path. It may be a horrible injury that forever alters your life, some form of abuse or the death of someone close to you.

Tragedy intersected my world on June 29, 1998 when my big brother died. His name was Andy and he was less than 4 months away from his 30th birthday when complications of cystic fibrosis took his life. If you aren't familiar with cystic fibrosis you can read more about it here. CF has killed multiple members of my family but admittedly, losing a cousin doesn't effect you like losing a brother. In so many ways my world was forever altered when Andy died.. Andy was 7 years older than me and I looked up to him in almost every way imaginable. Through my whole life we always did everything together. From fight, play sports, stand up for each other and make one another better...with me always receiving more than I gave...he was always there. So many lessons in life I still follow came from him. I could go on and on, but all of it is to say that he was incredibly special to me and life hasn't been the same without him here.

Certain events in life have been bitter sweet without Andy being present to offer his wisdom, love and wit. Brook never got to meet Andy. I know he would love her and they would probably leave me with the boys all the time as they rode horses. Andy wasn't present for the birth of the boys. I know the boys would be with Andy constantly if they could. Kids always loved Andy and my boys would be no different. They would love their Uncle Andy and would likely be so spoiled by him.

Cystic Fibrosis is such an awful disease. The death one typically suffers is the person and their family. Once you go through such an event I don't think you can ever hear of someone having CF without knowing how your path has been effected and feeling a special sympathy for the person. I have said that I would do anything to keep someone from experiencing such a disease and ultimately such a death. The truth however is that next week will be the 13th anniversary of Andy's death and only once have I been able to actively approach people and/or families dealing with CF.

Prior to our kids being born, Brook and I went to Children's Hospital and took orders from the CF kids and their families. We simply asked what would make their time in the hospital better, easier or brighter. We took the list and went to several stores like we were Santa. I purposely couldn't tell any of the families why we were doing what we were and how my life had been effected by CF. I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain my composure long enough to tell them. I think the parents somehow knew...and the kids didn't need to know. That night brought a lot of joy to the families and to us, but it was so incredibly hard to re-enter that situation. That was the first and last time we did anything like that.

Yesterday I was looking online to see what progress may have been made toward treatments or possible cures and ran across a relatively new marathon and half marathon in Atlanta, GA and another in Miami, FL that benefits the CF Foundation. I decided that it was time to get back in the ring and fight cystic fibrosis so I decided to run in the race next year and raise money for the CF Foundation.
Everyone in my family that was born with CF has died from the disease so I don't know anyone directly that will be blessed by a cure or a new treatment. To me though running the race is about fighting for those who need help and running for people that can't run a marathon to save their life, maybe enough other people can run to save lives. That will be my prayer and my goal.

There will be more information to come...

Thursday, June 16, 2011


First of all let me say that we are back in the blogging business. We were posting regularly until the tornadoes ravaged our state on April 27th. We became very involved in the clean-up and recovery efforts. On the heels of that it was time for school to get out so we were in the midst of the chaos that time brings about. Add to that 2 trips out of town and we have been busy. Anyway...we are back and settled in for the summer and ready to think, write and discuss life in unique ways.  YaY!!!!

 The most significant change in our lives as of late has to be in the ecclesiological area. {Ecclesiological= Ecclesia= Church (in lay man's) ever so fancy that man o mine.}  If you know us at all you may be shocked by what you read here. In case you don't know us, let me give you a bit of background. In an attempt to balance our perspective of the truth and fairness to others I will withhold names and other labels that may overtly indicate the parties at hand.

Brook and I are workers and we are passionate people. That is an amazing combination in the right context and when kept in check. It can also be a recipe for relational and organizational disaster in the wrong context. We have no desire to sit on the sidelines of included. We will work, serve and participate often to the point that it becomes detrimental to other areas of our lives.  {All or nothing folk, if you will} The first 7 years of our married life we spent at one church {Well, we were open to lots of spiritual experiences...we went to many kinds of bible studies, etc}. We served on various committees, even leading some of them and we loved the people we were with. At some point we realized that our journey at the church was coming to a close. The reasons we felt like we were leaving caused bitterness, resentment and it was hurtful on levels too deep for either of us to fully understand at the time.

Once we officially broke our ties from that congregation we entered what a dear brother of mine appropriately labeled "church detox". We needed time to regroup, refocus and engage at some point in the future. We were in no hurry to engage at another congregation, much like people wounded deeply in romantic relationships aren't eager to go out on dates for a while. Also like fractured romantic relationships, we would be entering new relationships with churches and the people there with a touch of skepticism and hesitancy.

For over a year we did nothing in any religious-corporate way. We had family prayer time and discussions of Biblical themes and stories with the boys, but we never set foot inside a church. After a while we felt the need to engage faith in a group setting but we were in no way interested in attending a church, meet in a church building or hear a sermon on tithing, church growth strategies or any other polemic sputtering.

Brook and I began discussing what we wanted in a spiritual community and the more we discussed the various characteristics and dynamics the more it became obvious to us that we were surrounded by what we wanted. Our neighborhood had some like minded families and after discussing our vision with them individually we decided to partner together in ways that run deeper than simply living near one another. For the next 18 months we met in our homes, shared meals, disciplined {discipled} kids and increased the depth in our relationships with God and one another. Even this venture, that largely was our dream come true in so far as "church" goes, ran its course. In a very peaceful and uneventful way we stopped meeting. No hurt feelings and no resentment...just the end of a chapter.

We again were left with the desire to be in a spiritually focused community, but didn't want to return to traditional churches. We continued through life for a few months without any official church plans and largely we were content {I was a little unsettled...the soul yearns to connect with other souls, to be encouraged, refocused}. Over time though, it became clear that we should connect with others...but how? Where? When?

We decided over Christmas last year that January 1st would kickoff our quest for a new church home. We didn't know exactly where we would end up but we were determined to engage, connect and take chances. We knew that community is more important to us than doctrine at this point so the particular flavor of church didn't matter as much as the people we hoped to find there.
We decided to visit one church per Sunday for the first 7 weeks of the year and we weren't to visit a church twice until the end of the 7 week period. We visited a newer church plant and really enjoyed it. I connected well with the pastor and Brook had some friends there too.  I thought that it may well be where we ended up and we visited several times. For some reason it just didn't fit us and we knew better than to settle for "almost".

All totaled we visited 3 Presbyterian churches and 1 Methodist church. Each place we would visit was decided by 2 factors. They were not affiliated with the denominations Brook nor I grew up attending and the churches were geographically close to our home. {I also wanted to end up somewhere the kids had some school friends}

The last church we visited was Faith Presbyterian Church. It seemed different from the start. The people at every church we visited were very nice and inviting, but this group went well beyond that. During our first Sunday School experience we sat in a class of 20-30 people and listened to people request prayers for real problems. Frankly, some of the issues the people were having would be embarrassing for me to discuss in such a setting. The fact that the requests were being discussed told me the people were close, safe and loved. Nothing else would produce such transparency and vulnerability. The preaching, if I'm being honest has not yet touched me to any significant degree. That probably has more to do with me than the preacher. The church has a meaningful way they take communion each Sunday and the worship time is thoughtful and meaningful. It isn't like a concert and it isn't like an old country singing either.

As for me, I knew the criteria we had stated earlier was going to be a challenge. I am such a denominational/spiritual mut, and I really didn't have a clear grasp on what it was right now that God wanted to teach me through this next communal step, so I just tried to be as open as possible knowing that my ideal was nowhere around us, and God wasn't really interested in my "ideal" anyway.  He can use whatever he wants to teach his children.

It was still so very odd with my own spiritual philosophies to "visit churches."  I am so exhausted by the consumerism in our culture, and the process we were embarking on just seemed to be as consumeristic as it could shopping around.  Ugh.  It grates me.  I would so prefer God to just tell us where to go, which he has done before and I know he can do.  But, for some reason, he wanted us to explore.  
So many other things really grated me too:  Are we judging these families?    Are we trying to feel some sort of emotion from what we can only know from first impressions?  It was like dating!  Which, anyone who has read the blog knows I was not very good at.  Being goos at it and enjoying it are different things all together. In dating, yes...but also in church. I am admittedly wonderful at playing the church game if I am trying to provide emotional space, protect myself or whatever. Ironically, I know that those very games are absolutely detrimental to true community.

Speaking of dating, allow me to go off on a little tangent.  I promise it applies...   
My opinion of dating is, yes, there may be one person out there for everyone, and sometimes the angels sing and the stars collide, and people live happily ever after.  I can look back on my own experience and say that could have happened maybe at first, but I don't think that's most often the way it works.    It's a matter of perspective.  Call your own experience what you will, but I believe that most any two people can be put together, and with enough commitment and enough perseverance, and enough, well, about any two people can make it.  I say 'work' because I think any married person will tell you it is work.   Whether fireworks went off and you are married to your soul mate or's work to die to yourself and your own desires and blend your life with another (especially to have a good marriage, which...why would I be talking about anything else??  That's the whole point of this blog...Come on people, let's  have truly GOOD marriages!!).

So, we made it to 5.  We couldn't visit the entire 7 churches as we had planned.  Did we run out of options? Kinda not really.  Were we exhausted? Absolutely.  But I don't think that's the reason we stopped, and I in no way feel like we settled. 

I agree with Hubby (unusual I know), the first time we went to Faith, it was that spark in my spirit like, "Okay, I can't say we have been to anything like this yet."  Which is what we needed.   It was new, and fresh, and different somehow, even tho it sort of followed the same format as most everyone else (you know, Sunday school then worship with your basic prayer, songs, preaching, songs, know, the Biblical model...{rolling my eyes right now}).  It may not be something everyone experiences, but it had what we needed: 
1.)I love the smaller's intimate enough to be needed and involved, and I love the esthetic {it's English tudor on the outside, but very little mountain church house and casual inside with organic, blue-grassy type music and leaded windows looking out on the beautiful Alabama pines.  But also sort of formal and 'high church' feeling with the high ceilings, great acoustics, instrumentalists,  and chior sometimes.  It is reverent, but also very FAMILY feeling}.  
2.)Most of the people there we have talked to seem to be there out of a conscious decision.  Not just, well, my wife or husband grew up Presbyterian kind of thing.  In fact, I think most people in the congregation did not grow up Presbyterian.  I think they just came and fell in love with the grace of Jesus.
3.) I also love that they are outwardly focused. They support themselves minimally mostly making sure the children are taught, but most every service, there is a time to talk about a foreign or local ministry.  For example, last week everyone participating in vbs was asked to stand and be prayed for.  Most everyone (young and old) stood.  The week before, a sweet-hearted lady stood and spoke about a local ministry called Project Readmore, where you simply go and read to children without parents to do it.  I was amazed when more than half the congregation stood up that they had been downtown and read.
4.)  I am absolutely in love with the way they take Communion together.  It is hands down my favorite part.  {I actually cried the first Sunday.}  Blake grew up in a tradition where they take communion every Sunday, so we did that for 7 years.  It can, at times, lose the meaning and get a bit worn out.  Although I don't know that it is a Presbyterian tradition to take communion every Sunday, this church does, and they way they do it is beautiful.  It is interactive sort of like a Catholic church or something in that you have to get out of your seat and walk to take the meal, but unlike a Catholic church, it is not an individualistic thing.  You walk to the front and congregate in large circles, take the bread and wine (yes, there is wine and juice...woohoo!!!) and pray together.  It is such a representative moment of the heart of why we take communion: "When you come together... do this in rememberance of me."  It's a family meal.  I love it.
5.) RELATIONSHIPS.  That's the biggest thing.  Brand new ones getting started, and existing ones being deepened.  There is just something about raising your children together with a diverse group of like-minded people, shared experience, authenticity within a people you can trust, exercising your God-given gifts in community, etc.  that is just beautiful.  And it is the reason why we go in the first place.  

Those are the main things for now.  There are still plenty of things I don't know, am not sure how I feel about, and even just don't like (as I think there would be anywhere), but so far, I have not been disappointed with the place God is growing us.  Maybe I will let you know when the fireworks go out, and the 'work' and staying begins.

So we have continued to "visit", cultivate relationships and get involved as much as we can. I think we both feel very comfortable with the group and see ways that we can serve and be served {I think sometimes it is much harder to be served, but also a very pivitol part of community}. I think safely we can say for the first time in over 4 years that we have found a church home that isn't actually a church meeting in a  home. I increasingly think that this whole search and find has been orchestrated by God. Neither of us are Presbyterian and I can make a much more convincing argument against reformed theology than I can for it. Again, the community is worth more to us than the doctrine.

I'm sure we will be checking in and blogging more about our new experiences, but for today I can simply write that we are happy, we are connecting and we moving forward on our journey. Knowing God and knowing us I am confident that it will be an interesting and adventurous ride.