Saturday, November 21, 2009

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

It's been another pleasant weekend, particularly in the food category.

Jim and I got a date on Friday, did a little Christmas shopping, and got to eat at our favorite Indian Restaurant.  I heart Indian food all the time, but when I'm pregnant, I dream about it.

Today the Hartzler family gathered for Thanksgiving at my grandparents'.  We are so blessed that both of my grandparents on this side are still so healthy and active.  My grandma continues to insist on fixing the entire feast for the whole family . . . I've lost track of how many that is now . . . four children, eleven grandchildren . . . I forget how many great-grandchildren, and a few great-great grandchildren!  My grandma's cooking is amazing . . . homemade bread and jam, pies, creamed peas, turkey, stuffing, potatoes, noodles . . . this is one very satisfied pregnant woman tonight!  

Here are some links I liked this week . . . I'm going hunting for ice cream.

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?
Shane Claiborne- Letter to Non-Believers, in Esquire magazine

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An Invitation to the Perfect Saturday

Wait for a warm and sunny late-autumn day, and find your way to Amish Country.


Wear something pink and sparkly, because it makes my girls very happy.


We'll start the day at Der Dutchman.  I recommend the breakfast buffet, even if you're not pregnant.


We'll go the the Farm at Walnut Creek.  It is beautiful there.

We'll take a wagon ride . . . or, in the winter, a sleigh ride!


We'll linger with with llamas . . .


 Jest with giraffes . . .
Visit an Amish home and Dottie house . . . don't you just love the word Dottie house?  Doesn't it make you want one?  


Smell the fresh bread . . .


Drool over the canning cellar.  
Think that all is right with the world.


Play on the playground, dig in the dirt until you get crabby.

Stop at Walnut Creek Cheese on the way home, for just a little bit of everything.

Come to the Stocks' for dinner . . . I'll make you this carrot cake!

We'll watch the Buckeye beat Iowa . . . or maybe we'll fall asleep on the couch reading Real Simple.

End a perfect autumn day!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

water

This is a video everyone should watch . . . I snagged it from my friend Ruth's blog.



I only lived in Haiti for less than two years . . . not long enough to say that I did much of anything . . . but Haiti lives with me every day.  I remind myself all the time that I do not need or deserve for life to be this easy.  I still feel guilty when I flush the toilet, knowing that the clean water in our commodes is something that most of the world must travel a great distance to find. Honestly, every time I turn on the dishwasher or do the laundry, a little part of me says, This is amazing.  Do not forget to be amazed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Do It Again . . .






"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
— G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mommy Needs Girl Time


I happen to be sitting in a McDonald's where a giant flat screen is blaring a certain cable news channel, and it made me want to turn around and leave.  It's not only this particular cable news channel that irritates me, but nearly all cable news . . . I cannot watch cable news without feeling like I'm being manipulated into panic and terror and suspicion and hatred . . . none of which seem very Christlike or spirit-controlled.  I love, love, National Public Radio and Public Television.  It seems more balanced, in-depth and less reactionary than the cable stations.  And there is always something interesting to learn or think about.  And we don't have cable anyway!

I got to get away this past weekend and it was fabulous.  A girls' weekend away with no kids, and the fun part was that my two girlfriends are pregnant, too, so I didn't have to feel fat.  We invited our mothers to come along, and we shopped, ate, talked without being interrupted . .. did I mention there were no kids?  I love my children dearly, but some time away does a Mama good!  I came back feeling like I'd retrieved some parts of myself that tend to slip away in the dailiness of motherhood.

It became really clear to me again how much women need connection with other women.  We need time to talk, and we need to be able to talk about things other than our kids and life within the four walls of our homes.  When I had my first baby my mom told me, now is the time in your life when you will need your friends more than ever.  I think every day how true.

The other thing the weekend reminded me was of who I was, and still am, before I became a mom.  Without realizing it, I can tend to become so consumed with my kids and our routines, that I let myself go- my appearance, my intellect, my interest in the things I used to do before children.  I think it's really important that our children see us engaged with the world . . . challenging ourselves . . . trying new things . . . maintaining some interests that don't involve them.  For our own sake, and also for the sake of our children.  That is the kind of woman I hope my girls will become, so I had better be modeling it.

Nikole, one friend from the weekend, just had her baby yesterday and I got to go hold him and drool all over him this afternoon!!

Well, if this seemed random and superficial forgive me . .. Glenn Beck is about to send me over the edge.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why I (still) Like Christians: Camp Buckeye!

Why I (still) like Christians:  
Camp Buckeye!

(That is me on the right and my best friend Jenny on the left at Camp forever ago.  I forget the guy's name . . .
 and it was Nerd Night, people.  I'm supposed to be dressed like that).

This post has been written in my head for a long time . . . 

Summertime means Camp.  It always has.  

Camp Buckeye is a small, grassroots Christian camp in our area that our family became involved with when we were kids.  We all started out as campers, and most summers one or more of us still find our way back to camp, in one form or another.  

Of my three brothers and I, a couple of us are pretty turned-off to organized religion.  There is some cynicism among us, maybe a skeptic or two, a little disbelief.

We all still believe in Camp Buckeye.

Nate and Vi are these idealist-types who catch a dream and actually pursue it, whatever the cost . . . and twenty-five years later, when most people their age have retired and bought a condo, their campfire is still burning.

He was a teacher, she was a social worker.  They gathered the people and resources to purchase an old boyscout camp with this vision:  God, kids, and the woods.  That's. All.

And from it's shear simplicity, something miraculous happens, Every. Summer.

Each year, Camp raises funds and works with local social services to provide scholarships for kids who would never otherwise have the chance to attend camp.  

Every year, kids from devastatingly broken lives, and church-going kids from middle-class Christian homes live together and hike and swim and sing songs, and the church-going kids don't know the difference.

Every year, the same kids have head lice, or nightmares, or don't get picked-up on time. 

Every year, counselors hear stories that would break your heart.

Every year, God is in the woods and the kids know it. . . .  Maybe it's the fresh air and healthy food.  Maybe it's the silence, or the green beauty, or the lack of television and rotten parents and labels . . . but there is safety, and tangible love, and grace, and kids. just. know . . . God is there.

Maybe these kids will never ever enter into a church.  But they have had a week in the woods, God was there, and somewhere, something green begins to grow.

I'm always amazed at the way that camp affects the counselors.  Sixteen, seventeen year old kids who if not at camp would likely be at the mall or working out . . . are given a chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  They fall in love with the kids, their heart breaks, and it changes them . . . .  Camp finds the idealist in everyone.  Given the opportunity, idealism opens wide in teenagers.  At camp, when given responsibility and told to go make a difference, they thrive.

I had the opportunity to work at the camp for a year or so, and I saw up close the kind of sacrifice that goes into maintaining camp:
The goals are huge.
The work is endless.
There are never enough funds.
There is an organizational nightmare required to keep it running that I can not even begin to grasp.

It may run on the tightest budget, and have the simplest agenda of any ministry that I have been a part of . . . and it just may be the most fruitful.

Nate and Vi are still the backbone of camp, still dreaming, giving, working . . . tirelessly . . . to maintain a place for kids to meet God every summer.  There would have been plenty of reasons to become burnt-out, plenty of hours of work never noticed, but somehow they keep ahold of their idealism, their simplicity, their love for God, kids, and the woods. 

And that, is one of the reasons why I (still) like Christians.
 
I  grabbed this quote from Vi's facebook status, because I think that it sums-up perfectly the work that they have given their lives to at Camp:
No moral effort that has for its final issue only the destruction of sin can hope to be successful. The motive is inadequate , and the undertaking is impracticable. You cannot fight the moral battle armed w/negatives---no matter how sound those negatives may be. Jesus did not come to destroy thorns. He came to grow fir-trees. He did not come to uproot briers. He came to plant myrtles. As the one grows the other dies. Instead of the useless shall come up the serviceable; instead of the ugly shall come up the beautiful; instead of the thing that wounds shall come up the thing that heals. This principle of displacement, this ousting of evil... by good, runs through the teaching of Jesus"
 -A Thornless World by Percy C. Ainsworth - Weavings

My brain feels sorta like the cracks in my kids carseats- all linty and fuzzy and full of old gunk that should not be there.  

I'm trying folks, really.  I'm trying.

Here's a link to chew on.  


Friday, November 6, 2009

So I have failed twice in my attempt to blog every day for one week.  Geesh.  Well I heard that November is blogging month, or something like that, so maybe I will keep trying (and failing) for the rest of the month.  If nothing else, it keeps me thinking and it's good for me to do something for myself other than counting the days until I'm no longer pregnant.

This one is for yesterday . . . I'll hopefully get another Why I still Like Christians post up during naptime today!

My brother Joe's latest commercial . . . he's the one on the couch:


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why I (Still) Like Christians- my parents!

Is it obnoxious to write about your great parents?  Kind of like the parents who speak a little too highly of their children?  Well, I'll try to keep it light and not gush.  But if I'm writing about people who've influenced my faith, I have to start with my mom and dad.  They're the first Christians I knew.  And, if it is true that your image of God is cultivated in the first few years of your life, then they have a lot to do with my perception of God the Father.

It's difficult to sum up 32 years of observing someone's faith.  So I'll stick to the first things that come to mind.

I love my parents because they don't take themselves, or anything, too seriously.  Did I grow up in a legalistic home?  Some may perceive that I did, but I disagree.  We were pretty conservative- we went to church A LOT.   I had to fight hard to go to dances or watch certain movies.  My parents always voted Republican, they didn't drink (in front of us).  But I don't think of our home as legalistic because of how lightly they took those issues.  They didn't make the rules the point, and they were really open-minded about different opinions.  My three brothers and I have all grown up to break the rules in one way or another . . . we're all completely different, with wildly different (strong) opinions and beliefs.  Our family gatherings are loud with heated debated, but rather than being tense, it is hilarious.  I never laugh harder than when my family is arguing about money, religion, and politics . . . I suppose we have learned from my parents not to take ourselves too seriously, either.

My parents sincerely want to obey God, which means that they have always been open to examining themselves and changing their mind and admitting where they were wrong.  They still vote Republican, but there are things they like about the Democrats.  We have wine with dinner.  Rather than going to church on Wednesday nights, my parents invite us to dollar burger night at the Tavern on Wednesdays.

So if the Rules weren't the point, what do they take seriously?  My parents genuinely, really really like people.  I don't remember them being critical or holding grudges or saying that they didn't like someone.  We didn't sit around and criticize people for fun, or try to judge other people's motives.  They loved having people around, anyone was welcome in our home.  Not that they were perfect, of course.  They experienced hurtful relationships and frustrating people, and they talked about it, but they didn't dwell on it, and they were quick to let it go.  They place a lot of value on their friendships.  I don't think my parents ever consciously tried to teach us this, be we have all grown up respecting people and attempting to see the good in them.

There was a lot of grace in our home.  It took a while to get into trouble, and forgiveness came quickly.

We laughed a lot.

Their marriage, and faith, was really resilient.  I watched them go through difficult times, heal, grow, and become stronger. 

My parents were generous.  My dad owned his own business, and there were a lot of lean years when he wondered about paying the bills.  But even when finances were tight, even when they couldn't afford extra things, I always, always saw them writing checks to missionaries, giving to the church, giving here and there as they saw needs.  I know they wouldn't want me declaring that to the whole world . . . sorry!

They take work and fun seriously, too.  They believe in hard work, but believing that God gives us all things richly to enjoy, they don't feel a bit guilty about taking time for fun either. 

My parents are both optimistic, positive, and deeply grateful people.  Here's an example:  my dad has spent the past several years trying to cultivate a small grove of fruit trees.  This summer he told us how a couple of the trees had died, and the rest had yet to bear any fruit- except one.  One tree that year produced one tiny apple.  And it was a good apple!  He said, triumphantly.  This sums up my dad perfectly.

There are many other things I could say here, but these are the first that come to mind.  From my parents, I have an image of a God who is much bigger than our simple rules and opinions.  God, to me, isn't even all that concerned with the rules, but rather with my heart and how I treat my neighbor.  Thanks to my parents, I know a gracious, generous God, a laughing God who sits at your table and discusses things with you rather than shouting at you from the sky.  The God I know satisfies you with fulfilling work to do, and is pleased when we take time to enjoy life too.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being this kind of example to me of genuine faith.  How could I help but follow a God like the one you have shown me?

(This is the first post in a series of Why I (still) Like Christians, based on this post).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Why I Like Christians

After my post on Saturday and asking myself Why do I still believe, I was instantly reminded of the many people who's life has positively impacted mine for Christ, completely unlike the negative image I could choose to dwell on. So I've decided to write about some of these people, my own version of Why I (still) Like Christians.

People close to me have chosen to reject the church, or simply take a good long break from organized religion. I can understand why they have arrived at this place, but my husband and I do not choose to join them. The church is still something too precious, too vital, too much a part of who I am and what I believe. I still believe that the Church is Christ's beautiful, amazing plan: His body on earth, and the only option he has given us. And I find the community of believers to be cleansing, soul-refreshing, and life-giving; necessary, even, to my spiritual and physical health.

In addition to people, gratitude quickly comes to mind as one of the reasons that I find it so necessary to believe in God; daily, almost constant, reminders of all of the beauty, all of the grace, all of the amazing good in the world, despite the ugly and evil, and believing that there must be a Great, Gracious Someone for me to thank.

I am so excited to begin to write about this! In thinking about who I will write about, and what to say about each person, my only drawback has been not wanting to embarrass anyone. Because I realize that the people who have had the greatest impact on my spiritual formation are usually unaware of having made any impact at all. I know they aren't looking for accolades or to be elevated to sainthood. They weren't "trying"to teach me anything, didn't spend time with me for the purpose of allowing their Spirituality to rub off on me in some way. Really, these are all just normal people, friends and family, who follow Christ and along the way allowed me into their lives, to become so close that I could observe their actions and reactions, the things that motivate them and what they love, their wounds and failures and what they choose to do with them . . . from them I learned grace and wisdom and a clearer picture of the Christ we follow.

Looking forward to writing about some of my favorite people this week . . . I'd love to hear about yours!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

OH ME GOSH!

This has become the favorite dramatice phrase of Annie lately. When she's looking for a toy, she says Oh Me Gosh! When she realizes it's time for dinner, it's Oh Me Gosh! When she's lost her little duck . . . the one she cannot sleep or breathe without . . . Oh Me Gosh! Spoken with all of the surprised voice inflection and drama of a two year old that you can imagine.

So when my husband read my post yesterday, and clicked on the I don't like Christians link and said that it could possibly be inferred that I don't like Summer, my reaction was the same as Annie's!

Please be clear- it is the form of Christianity that has been represented to Summer that makes me angry! I can completely understand Summer's negative reaction, because I have had the same reaction at times, as I have seen up-close the kind of arrogance and rude behavior among Christians that she is referring to. I am ashamed to admit that I have been a part of it, and I am sure that it is still rooted in me, as I continue to dig up ugly things I find inmyself.

And when I linked to Greg Boyd's Painted Idolatry, I HOPE that it is clear that I am not angry at Greg Boyd, but the ethnocentricity of the kind of "Christianity" represented by the painting that he is referring to.

Whew! I hope I've cleared that up . . . I would hate to think that I gave the opposite impression.

Thinking about Summer's post today, I realized that this is the very thing that has caused me to question my own faith at times. It is hard for me to understand why the "closer" people try to walk with God (i.e., the more time they spend reading their Bible, doing church-things, etc.), the more they can often become just like the people she describes.

So I'm asking myself, why do I still believe? I know that I love God, but what hope is there for His church? And into my mind come examples of people . . . many people . . . who I have known in my life who are the exact opposite of these kinds of people . . . merciful, humble, wise people who love God AND their neighbor and left an impression on me of authentic, vibrant Christianity. These are the people, though imperfect, who continue to give me hope for the church. I'd like to blog about some of these people this week.

(By the way, this is Day Four of my attempt to blog every day for a week. Oh Me Gosh!)