Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I am a hypocrite.

"After years of consideration I've come to the conclusion that, within limits, gear is more important as a topic of conversation than as a way of making music. It's just not that important."
- Chris Smither

For the last several weeks, or probably months, Andy and I have been on a mission to determine our stance on small groups. Do they work? Are they beneficial? Are they a waste of time? Are more "organic" groups that are unofficial and unstructured the way to go? Should we even go to a small group? Have we ever been to a small group where we felt a real connection, felt like we had real community, or were impacted deeply? I call it a misson because that's how we saw it. We began asking friends all of these questions about their thoughts on small groups, to gather data to come to our hypothesis. We began to pick apart everything about small groups, talking about all the flaws, looking at it from every angle. And, the strange thing is, the more that we talked about it, the more negative and discouraged we became about it, until we finally almost reached the conclusion that we just shouldn't waste our time with small groups - what is the point? The more we talked about it, the more critical we became, the more discouraged we became, and the more we started to make other people discouraged along with us.

Finally, it dawned on me. I am a hypocrite. For all my talk about small groups having lack of community, I have not made an effort to really get to know the different people in my small group. For all my talk about not being impacted deeply by the teaching, I realized, how can I be impacted deeply when I go in with a passive attitude about being taught, not ready to learn? I say I want diversity in the small group, but when people who have vastly different personalities or ideas than me are present, I would much rather them sit still and quiet, so that I am not bothered by their different opinions.

All of the sudden, like a ton of bricks, I was struck with the fact that I am just like the Israelites in the wilderness, wandering around complaining day in and day out, while all the while the Lord was providing for them manna from heaven. I am just like the Israelites, who when they were delivered from Egypt, began grumbling and complaining, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?" (Exodus 17:3) God has provided for me a wonderful local church. Seriously, I can't imagine what I would do without it. My pastor is amazing, he is sound doctrinally, and is so incredibly challenging. The vision of the church is incredible - exactly what I think it should be. And yet, instead of diving in and choosing to love people, choosing to begin to cultivate community and care for people (even people who are vastly different than me), I am complaining, just like the Israelites. And, if I'm honest, complaining is sin.

The quote I began with is a quote from Chris Smither, an excellent guitarist and musician. Any musician will tell you that there are ongoing debates on what kind of gear is the best, what kind of guitars to use, what kind of strings are the best, and so on. Chris comes to the conclusion that it's not the gear that is important in making music - it's the musician. An excellent guitarist will still be an excellent guitarist, even if he is using a cheap, crappy guitar. Likewise, a crappy guitarist will still be a crappy guitarist, even if he is using a top notch $20,000 guitar. Now, this doesn't mean that a better guitar won't sound better. What it does mean though is that the musician is more important than the gear they are using.

In the same way, I think you could compare this to small groups. When it comes down to it, I think my conclusion is that the method of small groups is not as important as my heart is. Methods will change. In ten years, the way that we are doing small groups will most likely not look the same as it does today. It will morph and change. However, if I go in to a small group with a negative attitude, and am not pouring myself out, like Paul said, as a drink offering (2 Timothy 4:6), then why should I expect to see anything positive. I am ultimately the problem. What we really and truly need is a collective group of people with an attitude that they will pour themselves out, their time, their money, their comfort, and convenience, so that the body of Christ will be edified and so that, ultimately, Christ will be exalted! What we really need is the blessing of God. Without it, we will not succeed. All of this begins with me taking on a humble attitude, and begging the Lord to create community where it is impossible.

I think we have a choice. I can choose to either complain and be miserable, bitter, and jaded about the church, or I can choose to pour my life into people. I can choose to pour out mercy on imperfect people, who are just like me. I think in general we are on one of two sides of mercy: either receiving it or giving it away. I don't want to look back on my life and realize that I spent it being bitter about the imperfections of people, or the church. I would much rather look back on my life and realize that there are imperfections, and lots of them, but look back on my life and realize that I have poured out myself as a drink offering for the sake of the gospel, I have been constantly giving mercy away.

Oh that the Lord would grant us humble attitudes, that he would draw us out of the sin of complaining, and would grant us the grace to serve and to love imperfect people (even hypocrites), just like Jesus did!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Blue Like Jazz

I just finished this book and really enjoyed it! It was certainly refreshing. The subtitle is "Nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality." It's basically Don Miller's story about his Christian journey, filled with lots of stories of people he has met and conclusions he has come to. It's very clever and made me laugh the entire way through. For example, one of the chapter titles is "Church: How I Go Without Getting Angry". The way the book is written is very interesting and artistic. It certainly made me think!

Here's a few quotes I liked:

- "The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me."
- "If we are not willing to wake up in the morning and die to ourselves, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether or not we are really following Jesus."
- "Loneliness is something that happens to us, but I think it is something we can move ourselves out of. I think a person who is lonely should dig into a community, give himself to a community, humble himself before his friends, initiate community, teach people to care for each other, love each other."
- "Passion is tricky, though, because it can point to nothing as easily as it points to something."
- "But the trouble with deep belief is that it costs something. And there is something inside me, some selfish beast of a subtle thing that doesn't like the truth at all because it carries responsibility, and if I actually believe these things I have to do something about them."

And a poem from C.S. Lewis that he quotes:

"All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin;
I talk of love - a scholar's parrot may talk Greek -
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Diversity and the Church

Andy and I have been doing a little bit of research here lately on diversity in the church and why we even need diversity. Here is a quote I stumbled across that I really liked:

"'Church' is not an event. It is people—people whom God calls us to love. What is more, it is in a very important sense an involuntary community of people: we don’t choose our brothers and sisters—God does. And sometimes (oftentimes) those people are not terribly compatible with us—not the people we would choose to hang out with. But it is this very incompatibility that is so important, for at least two reasons. First, learning to love the people I don’t like is by far the best way to learn how to love (it’s easy to love people I happen to like). Second, the church is supposed to be a sociological miracle—a demonstration that Jesus has died and risen to create a new humanity composed of all sorts of people.” Charles Drew

Friday, February 15, 2008

My 7 Random Things

1. I used to live in a dinosaur museum which was previously a mortuary.

2. I played music for the grand re-opening of the Silver Falls Roadside Park, west of Crosbyton, Texas.

3. I had a mustard epiphany when I was 19. It was August of 1999 in Prescott, Arizona during the Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Up till that time, I had always hated the taste of mustard and would not eat anything that even had a hint of mustard on it. When the epiphany occurred, I was in line to get a hotdog and suddenly, I was craving the taste I used to hate. I got my hot dog, loaded it up with mustard, and it tasted excellent, as I knew it would. Since then, I've loved mustard.

4. I once worked for the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Program. My job was to set and check boll weevil traps.

5. I've been kicked off a ranch, out of a casino, and out of a hat shop. I was kicked off the ranch for quitting. I was kicked out of the casino for being underage. I was kicked out of the hat shop for saying that cat's did not have eternal souls.

6. I have double jointed knees.

7. One time after a gig on a ranch outside of Hamlin, TX, I got lost while trying to drive out of the ranch during a thunderstorm. I ended up driving my parent's minivan off into a ravine. I miraculously survived and had to walk 10 miles before an oil field worker found me and gave me a ride back into town.

Valentine's and Oysters

As you all know, yesterday was Valentine's Day. In celebration, Andy and I decided to go to a nice restaurant in downtown Lubbock with a professional chef for dinner. It was one of those meals where there are five courses that are brought out individually. The second course was oysters. Now, I've never tried oysters before, and I'm not much for seafood, but I figured what the heck, I'll give it a whirl. They didn't look bad either, they had a topping on them that looked like spinach and artichoke dip. And all over the place there was sprinkled parmesan cheese. When I saw the oysters, I thought, "Oh yummy, it'll be like seafood, with a bunch of spinach and artichoke dip, and cheese!!! Cheese makes everything delicious!"

So, I got a big bite of oysters, and the spinach topping, and just covered it all with the "cheese". Little did I know, this was NOT cheese. It was salt. And, the other thing I did not know is that oysters are absolutely disgusting. It was absolutely the most disgusting thing I've ever eating, I think. It tasted like butt with and eighth of a cup of salt (I don't know what butt tastes like, but this has to be it). Even now when I think about it, it makes me want to hurl...

Despite that horrible experience, it was a fun date! Here a picture for your enjoyment from our Valentine's date.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

7 Random Things About Me

In response to Brian's blog, I will post seven random things about me. Hopefully Andy will post about himself too.

1. I fell into the water fountain at the local mall when I was about 4 or 5 years old. It was terribly embarrassing to me at the time and for about 10 years after.

2. I own about a dozen whoopie cushions. It used to be more around two dozen, but we lost some during one of our whoopie cushion parties. These consisted of several grown adults playing with whoopie cushions for hours on end. Also, one time Andy and I decided it would be funny to leave a friend a voicemail of just a whoopie cushion going off. Unfortunately, when they heard the voicemail it sounded more like a faint cry for help, which alarmed them and caused them to call several people we know to make sure we were ok.

3. I have webbed toes. It's genetic. And no, it does not make me swim faster. I had a friend in high school who thought it would be funny to buy me toe socks.

4. I read . I know you probably think of me less now that you know this about me, and I probably would too if I was you.

5. Two of the things I beg my husband to do the most are 1) learn about and watch football with me, and 2) please don't do laundry so much.

6. I think babies just look adorable when they cry.

7. When I was a child I wanted my name to be Jolissa.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Amusing Ourselves to Death

I just finished this book, and highly recommend it. It's written by a secular sociologist who has incredibly fascinating views on how television has effected politics, religion, education, public discourse, and journalism in America. From the back cover of the book: "The prophetic landmark work exploring the corrosive effects of electronic media on a democratic society."

And, one of my favorite quotes in the book by a gentleman named Henry David Thoreau about the dangers of the telegraph when it was invented:

"We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.... We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough."

And headlining in the news (to prove his point): "Britney's Dad Didn't Trust Her Manager",,20177604,00.html

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Andy's Favorite Amy Carmichael Quote

To finish my little run of favorite quotes from A Chance to Die, I will leave you with Andy's favorite Amy Carmichael quote. This stems from her constant frustration with her physical limitations:

"What asses bodies are!"

Next time you're sick, you'll find yourself agreeing wholeheartedly with her.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Amy Carmichael on Children

Amy was lovingly referred to as "Amma" (mother) by her children at the orphanage. Here are some quotes by her about children:

How Amy handled her orphans' heritages:
"The children's genetic history was never divulged. All who asked questions about their origin received the same answer: You are where you are first because God brought you, and then because we loved you very much."

Amy on Scripture memorization with children:
"It is a great mistake to think they should understand all they learn; for God has ordered that in youth the memory should act vigorously, independent of the understanding - whereas a man cannot usually recollect a thing unless he understands it."

Amy on training children to be missionaries:
"The training of a missionary should begin in the nursery; school should continue it; home should nourish it. All the influences should be bent one way. That training should not be perplexed by a mixture of thoughts, but expressed in a single line of conduct, clearly recognized for what it is. In other words, till the life of a child has had time to root, it should not be exposed to various winds (confused or conflicting examples and ideals, different ways of making t's). After it has rooted, let the winds blow as they will. Then they will cause the roots to take a firmer grip."

Amy's thoughts on caring for children:
"Let those parents that desire Holy Children learn to make them possessors of Heaven and Earth betimes, to remove silly objects from before them, to magnify nothing but what is great indeed, and to talk of God to them, and of His works and ways before they can either speak or go."

Amy's thoughts on the gospel made manifest through caring for children:
" 'There is much done every day in Dohnavur that no caste person would do for pay, however much was offered,' wrote Amy, who mentioned to one of her trainees that she had no doubt cut thousands of small toe- and fingernails - 'I who said I would never do any work but "preach the gospel". It takes some of us years to learn what preaching the gospel means.' "

Amy's goal with her children:
"To lead children out of themselves and into service for others, untarnished by earthly thoughts."

Amy's prayer for her children:
"Father, hear us, we are praying,
Hear the words our hearts are saying,
We are praying for our children.

Keep them from the powers of evil,
From the secret, hidden peril,
From the whirlpool that would suck them,
From the treacherous quicksand pluck them.

From the worldling's hollow gladness,
From the sting of faithless sadness,
Holy Father, save our children.

Through life's troubled waters steer them,
Through life's bitter battle cheer them,
Father, Father, be Thou near them.
Read the language of our longing,
Read the wordless pleadings thronging,
Holy Father, for our children
And wherever they may bide, Lead them Home at eventide."

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Chance to Die

I just finished reading Elisabeth Elliot's biography of Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die. Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India in the late 1800's through the early 1900's. She founded the Dohnavur Fellowship, an orphanage to rescue children who were doomed to be temple prostitutes. She served fifty-three years in India without a single furlough. Here are some quotes I really liked:

"Our prayers for the evangelization of the world are but a bitter irony so long as we only give of our superfluity and draw back before the sacrifice of ourselves."

"If by doing some work which the undiscerning consider 'not spiritual work' I can best help others, and I inwardly rebel, thinking it is the spiritual for which I crave, when in truth it is the interesting and exciting, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"'Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.' How often I think of that ought. No sugary sentiment there. Just the stern, glorious trumpet call, OUGHT. But can words tell of the joy buried deep withing? Mine cannot. It laughs at words."

" ' Dead to self, alive to God -' dead to all one's natural earthly plans and hopes, dead to all voices, however dear, which would deafen our ear to His."

"Be the first wherever there is a sacrifice to be made, a self-denial to be practiced, or an impetus to be given."

"O my children, if only you would make up your minds never to doubt the love of another sister or brother in Christ, but always to think the best and never admit an unkind thought in your heart, how happy, how heavenly, life would be... If this were the last time I could speak to you I should say just these words, Beloved, let us love, O let us love. We perish if we do not love. Let us love."

"Not relief from pain, not relief from weariness that follows, not anything of that sort at all, is my chief need. Thou, O Lord my God, art my need - Thy courage, Thy patience, Thy fortitude. And very much I need a quickened gratitude for the countless helps given every day."

"Soldiers don't ask for ease or expect it."

"Lord, do Thou turn me all into love, and all my love into obedience, and let my obedience be without interruption." (a quote Amy Carmichael liked from Jeremy Taylor)

"Nothing too precious for Jesus."

Sunday, February 3, 2008

This Machine Kills Fascists

I would imagine that Woody Guthrie's guitar was the inspiration for Mr. Roach's banjo. Here's a picture of Woody's famous guitar and a picture of me at the Woody Guthrie memorial in Okemah, OK this past fall.

"I was born in western Oklahoma and drug up in the Texas Panhandle. That's where the wheat grows, where the oil flows, where the dust flows and the farmer owes - where you hunt for wood and dig for water - where you can look farther and see less - where there's more weather and less climate, more crops and less groceries than any other dadburned place in the universe." - Woody Guthrie

Saturday, February 2, 2008

This banjo kills kittens.

Tonight I went with my good friends Ben and Beth to hear a folk singer named AJ Roach. This is the second time I have heard him in concert. The first time was probably three years ago when Andy and I stumbled upon him at a coffee shop here in Lubbock. Because Lubbock isn't the most artsy place in the world (understatement), he was virtually ignored at that concert, except for a few people like us who were eating up his music. Much to my delight, he stopped through Lubbock on this tour and I was able to hear him again. It was a small venue with not much more than twenty people in attendance - one of those that are so incredibly amazing because you are so close and can really savor the music in such a small setting - but at the same time you almost feel bad that not more people are enjoying it.... Anyways, if you haven't heard of AJ Roach, check him out, .

And yes, this is a picture of his banjo, which I found amusing.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Big Shoes to Fill

My brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and their son recently moved to Lubbock and we have enjoyed having them close by. Joel was playing with everyone's shoes a couple of nights ago, and I couldn't resist snapping some shots of it. You'll see him in Ronnie's shoes (my father-in-law), Jason's shoes (my brother-in-law), Shannon's shoes (my sister-in-law), and Andy's shoes (or boots, rather) - all of whom I consider very godly and have tremendous respect for.

I couldn't help but think that little Joel has big shoes to fill.