Building the Church

Tomorrow is the dedication day for the new building at the church I attend.  (For the five of you who read this who don’t know me well enough to know, I attend Liberty Bible Church.  You can see us at www.lbnaz.org).   The new building has been a several year project involving lots of plans and finance meetings and work days and the standard blood, sweat and tears.   In reality its a 35 year project that started in a living room of a house.  I remember.  I was five.

The first seven years that Liberty Bible was around there was no building.  Or rather there were lots of buildings.  We just didn’t own any of them.   I watched my parents and a small group of friends move chairs and rent buildings and dream big dreams.   My faith sprouted in those days of wandering.

And then.  I remember an early morning service on the bare empty land we’d miraculously just purchased.  Grandma Gertrude broke ground and we started to build.    By the time i was 13 we actually had a room the teens could call their own.   We decorated the walls with little folded pieces of tissue paper to make some sort of odd border.    Sure wasn’t fancy.   But pretty fantastic things happened.   We sat around in that little room and talked about the BIG questions.   No, not the ones about why does bad stuff happen to good people.  More like,  “Why do the other girls in Jr. High have to be so mean?” Or “Why doesn’t that boy ask me out”.  Those big important questions.  One Bible study we did was titled “How not to be a goober”.   The theology questions came later but were made possible because we trusted the people in those little rooms.     My faith blossomed in a building.

I hear some people say that Jesus wouldn’t care about buildings.   I don’t actually agree.   But I completely understand why they say that.  I’ve stood in Africa and shook my head at the American church and her excess.   I will never forget a service in Rwanda at a church where part of the service was spent in a praise and prayer session thanking God that they had enough money to buy a mop and cleaning solution.

If I’m honest, part of the reason I’ll never forget that church is the thankfulness for the mop and partly because I had just had my most embarrassing moment.  Nothing will ever top it.  Even the Epic event on Monday was not even close.    (You can read about it at A Lesson in Rwanda.)

I’ve also toured some amazingly gorgeous cathedrals world-wide and wondered if it wouldn’t be better if the money was used to feed the hungry.    But I’ve also stood in those spaces and my soul has sung at the beauty and wonder and grandeur and I think heaven will be similar.    My faith has been strengthened in beautiful buildings.

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 If you’ve read the Bible you’d know that God digs buildings too.   Much of the Pentateuch (big theology word for the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) is spent in time where God is telling his people how to build a place for them to worship while the traveled around the desert.  And the Tabernacle (another Bible word for the place they worshiped) was a super fancy and super expensive.  King Solomon spent a vast amount of time and money building the temple again all at God’s direction.

And then i read the gospels  (first four books of the New Testament – they tell the story of Jesus).  i see that while Jesus spent much of his ministry binding up wounds and feeding the hungry he also spent a lot of his time in the temple.  And his biggest show of anger was at people who were misusing and defiling the building because it was a place where people met God.     So I believe God sees the value in buildings.   But my guess is that He thinks buildings have value only because people have value.

Fast forward to the next book of the Bible and here the issue of church buildings gets tricky.   The book of Acts is all about the building of the church of Jesus.   And it wasn’t a building at all.   It was people.   The group of people who claimed to be followers that hung out and ate and prayed together was called the church.   They met in homes.    Which is why many people in the Christian community don’t buy the idea that a building is important.   But if you read on you’ll see many of those early leaders preaching and teaching and meeting still at the temple.  A lot.  The big fancy building.    Until the persecution kicked in big time and then they met in secret places.   Like believers now in countries all around the world.

I completely agree that the church is not a building.  it’s the living people who work together and pray and love God and push back on darkness.   And building the church is not about a hammer and nails.  It’s about discipleship (a church word for helping people learn and mature in their faith) and evangilism (church word for telling other people about Jesus) and about meeting practical needs of hurting people.

But I still don’t think the existence and importance of home churches (or home groups, or small groups, or life groups, or whatever trendy new name the local church calls a group of people who get together to study and pray) negates the need for an actual brick and mortar building….or tent…or coffee shop…   In at least some churches.  For some groups of believers.

All that hedging aside, what i do know is that Liberty Bible needed a physical addition.   We had lots of people added.   So we added space.    It’s a great space.   Lots of room for people to talk.   Big nice clean kitchen.   Huge storage space for all the Bow the Knee sets that previously were scattered all over the county.   Beautiful classrooms.    I can’t wait to see the people in them.

Liberty Bible is not a perfect church by any means.  We bump heads sometimes and we let people down.   We have loose ends and we’ve got blind spots.   All churches do.   It’s cause they are made of people.   And the only perfect person in all of history is the One we follow.

One of my favorite Bible verses is a command from a preacher to the people in his church.

 Colossions 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Bear with each other.   I think he told them this because he knew that we’d drive each other crazy and there absolutely would be plenty of occasions where forgiveness was necessary.   Some of my favorite people are ones I’ve had to forgive.   And most of them one time or another have had to forgive me.   The ones who haven’t don’t know me very well yet.  But i also know that I would not want to do my life without my church.   And by that i mean the people.   Not the building.

LIberty Bible is not the only great church.    I love New Heights and their free clinic.  I love Living Hope and their outreach to broken and hurting people.  I love that Summit View partners with my daughter’s public elementary school and there are tulips currently blooming by her door because of that church.  That stack of shoes in the foyer at Crossroads right now is pretty fantastic.  I love our Bow the Knee partner churches.  I love our Rwanda team partner churches.  I love Starting Grounds and First Evangelical Free and Real Life and Nampa First and Ridgefield Nazarene and John Day Nazarene…..ok i’ll be honest, partly I love those ones because dear friends I grew up with at Liberty now serve at those churches.    I love SaddleBack and North Point.   I love little churches and big churches and home churches and alternative churches.    I love the church in China and Yemen and Israel.     The beautiful thing about all these great churches is that they are all so different and yet they are all pointed the same direction.  And there is probably a place that would be perfect for you.

But Liberty Bible remains my favorite.  Not because its better.   Because its my home.  Its my family.  Its my people.   And i love them.  At any rate, this group of believers built a building.   And we’re pretty excited about it.   You can come to our dedication service tomorrow morning if you want to join in the cheer.

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Sweet Sixteen

The traditional gift for a 16th wedding anniversary is wax.   I looked it up.   Wax.    Today is the 16th anniversary of the day that the resident chef and I said yes.

 Aaron Mindy Wedding

I do not want wax as a gift.   I don’t really understand wax as a gift.  Frankly I don’t even like the word wax.  Gross.   I received  a Fitbit.   If you compare our most recent photo with our wedding photo you will see why at 16 years I wanted a fit bit.   Thankfully this photo was taken two months ago BEFORE our we don’t eat diet started.

aaron and mindy beach

My spouse likely does not want wax either.  Maybe wax paper?  He does cook a lot.  But I went with what he asked for and  I gave my spouse video recording equipment.

As I usually do, I’ve been thinking a lot as this date approached.  Why I’m grateful for my husband and what I celebrate at 16 years.

I’m grateful for our kids.   For a big strong dad and two little girls.  For Mickey Mouse Yahtzee and pancakes and good night stories.   For a partner in parenting.  For the looks that we have shared over the heads of 8 year old bad attitudes or funny jokes or sleeping babies.

aaron and yahtzee

I’m grateful for adventures, for toes in sand and mountain cliffs and memories.    I’m grateful for dinners and parties and for huge guest lists.   I’m grateful for answered prayers.    I’m grateful for tears and fights and that even on the bad days I know that we aren’t going anywhere.   I’m grateful that in doctors offices and waiting rooms that my spouse shows up with quiet strength.  I’m grateful that when I call home and say “what do you think about…” that his answer is almost always “go for it”.

Sixteen Years.  I feel like we need a cake with sixteen candles.  Wait.  Those are wax.   Maybe the gift of wax is more like a metaphor.   At 16 years you celebrate the fact that you’ve been flexible and bendable and that you’re stuck together.  And that can shine a light.   Like wax.

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Epic

The resident chef and I are on a diet.  It shall remain nameless but basically the terms of the diet are you don’t eat.   Effective.  Hard to eat out.   However, we went to dinner last night with my husband’s family to celebrate a birthday.

We went to a local restaurant that specializes in seafood.   Loud, crowded, great view of the river.   At any rate we previewed the menu and agreed to split some shrimp, split some broccoli, split a side salad and split a small steak so we had an approved diet plan.   We got there at six.

The manager on duty warned us that they had several people call in so he was busing tables as they were understaffed.  Way understaffed.   Our food took a full hour to arrive.   I was fairly proud of my kids and nephews and nieces as they all held it together.  All the adults were actively playing tic tac toe and hang man and those little connect the square boxes.   My daughter informed us that the “real” rules to hangman require that not only does the little man get head, body, arms and legs before she was out but he also had to get 12 spikes of hair and freckles.  We went with it.  Anything to keep the kids in line while the monster wait for food happened.

When everyone’s food arrived mine did not.   The waiter came by and sheepishly said the kitchen had over cooked my steak so were doing a new one and would bring it “in two minutes”.  Twenty minutes later and everyone else is done (except my spouse who waited for me….we were splitting remember?).   Tada!   My food arrived.    We sighed happily and split our food.  We each ate a bite of broccoli.   We each ate a bite of shrimp.    My youngest leaned over for and asked mommy for a hug.  I thought how nice is this.  Dinner out,  kids behaving, nice view, hug from a cuddly two year old.

And then.

She puked.

The sound of throwing up in public is louder than the 12’s on game day in Seattle.  The people at the table next to us gasped and moved away.  The entire restaurant went silent and looked our way.

This was nice because then they could hear her PUKE A SECOND TIME…..AND A THIRD.

Silence.

No one moved.

I was covered.   My daughter was covered.  Puke in our hair, down our shirts, pants and shoes.   Puke on the table.  On my steak.  Puke in the high chair and all over the floor.

At this point I started laughing.

The stressed manager was quite loudly telling various people to go clean it up.   No one moved.

I grinned.

My sweet spouse grabbed the youngest child (covering himself in puke) and headed for the door.   I told our waiter we were leaving and our family would cover our bill.

I changed the poor baby on the outside bench.   Last time we got vomit in a car seat we threw the car seat out so I didn’t want to repeat that.   My eldest wanted to know if she could get her after dinner prize that was promised her on the menu.

I gave her the mom look.

“Honey.  Look at your mom.   I have puke from head to toe.   I am not marching back into this restaurant to ask for their after dinner prize.   Get in the car”.     We got in the car and drove home with the windows down.   I gave the eight year old a diaper and told her to catch any more puke in the diaper.   To her credit she didn’t respond and quietly took the diaper.

She gave her sister the big sister look.

When we got home I threw out the kid’s shoes.   So not worth it.    My suede boots and leather jacket I may try to save.   I may not.  My husband is my hero.   He drove by for take out and did the laundry.
I don’t think we will be going back there.

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A purple miracle

The eldest child is in 2nd grade. She reads crazy fast. She writes that way too. It’s messy. She is a loyal and brave and funny person. This makes her a great friend but It also means that her report cards and daily behavior chart at school typically mention the need to slow down and not talk to her neighbors. Mine said the same thing in 2nd grade.

The class management program at her school is a clip chart. Kids start out every morning at green. They clip up or down based on their behavior. The warm side of the rainbow is not good. Yellow. Orange. And then the dreaded parent contact red. The cool side of the rainbow is good. Clip up to blue. Pink and the oh so good kid purple… Role model. People like my daughter and I hang out at green a lot. Sometimes visit yellow. When we really strive we hit blue or pink. Purple not so much. Way too many ways to wiggle and giggle to get up to purple.

I seriously still get in trouble. A friend loves to tell about the time I got scolded at by a in home scrapbooking party lady. I still bought the obligatory friend is having a party item. This is one of the main reasons I like being self employed. No behavior clip charts.

So Thursday the 2nd grader had a rough day. Spent most of the day in the scary Orange clip area. She said she was so relieved when at the last minute she clipped up and was able to report only a yellow. Whew!

Our morning conversation on Friday went like this.

So is today going to be a good day?

Yup. But Mom….purple is impossible. I never have made purple.

Ah yes but don’t forget nothing is impossible with God!

Okay I’ll pray! God help me make purple!

And I thought….well it would take a miracle.

I always tremble a bit when I tell kids to pray. I understand that sometimes God answers yes. But I worry about fragile faith when God answers no or wait. I really shouldn’t worry. God is the one who told us to have faith like a child.

Check out the 2nd graders clip report for Friday.

We cheered!! God is so good. Purple miracle.

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Nigh and Naught

Mornings at our house have a pattern.   On good days, when I don’t hit the snooze button, the pattern includes time to think.  Snooze button days not so much.   Part of my morning includes standing in the bathroom holding my daughter’s towel and waiting for her to rinse the conditioner out of her hair.   I help her get dressed, we talk about the day and I brush her hair into its familiar double ponytail.  There won’t be very many more years that she’ll let me do this so I treasure the time.    Many days while I hold her towel, I read her daily Bible verse while I stand there and wait.      Today’s verse gave me pause.

bible verse

In my coffee deprived mind the words rattled around and came up with this meaning  “God is naught.  No where.  Hard to find”.     I shook my head, hugged my kiddo’s bright orange towel closer and looked again.     Nigh.   I had associated Nigh with No, Night, Never, Nope, Nada.    Nigh does not mean Naught.   Whew.

Strange that nigh and naught are so different.   In the midst of a trial I sometimes feel like they are the same.  But feelings are not truth.  Reality starts with clear definitions.  Nigh is near and God is good.  All the time.     When I start with proper definitions I see clearly.

Last night we took our kids to the school playground around the corner.   The big sister rode her bike and ran and jumped and generally caused a ruckus.    The little sister went down the slide all by herself.  She grinned like she was big stuff.     We put the little sister back in the stroller and went for a walk on the track.     Little sister became concerned.   Asked for “sister?”.   She became worried.   Yelled for “sister!”.     She didn’t know that the one she was calling for was close by – circling, coming up fast and wouldn’t dream of leaving her.     When the bicycle went zooming past the baby settled back in for a content ride.

the girls

And that’s what I reminded myself this morning.   When I am broken-hearted and worried I don’t need to panic.    I can call out His name because He is Nigh.  Next to.   Near.

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Welling Up

This is a busy crazy week.   Let me rephrase.   This is one busy crazy life.    I’ve developed a fairly stable system to handle this.   It involves a lot of lists.  I have a joint digital calendar and digital list with my spouse, a hard copy calendar and scheduled review session with my business partner/mother.  I have bits of random lists on my phone and by my bedside.  I have lists that track how many glasses of water I drink and if I made my bed.  I don’t always accomplish everything on my lists and most of the time I have lots of loose ends.   But it generally works. However lately there is one area of my life I’m not controlling all that well.    Tears.   I’ve had a lot of tears.

Before you worry about me and send me off to counseling (been there…done that) know that we’re doing fine.   It’s more that this stuffing all the joy we can handle into our lives has put us very close to people.  People who sometimes hurt.  People who frequently overcome. Plus I have two daughters and a husband.

family

That would do it all by itself.   I’m blessed and I hurt.   And so I cry.

The resident chef and I are about to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary and I still adore the guy.   Last night I spent hours of time trying to impress him with a new casserole involving peppers and cheese.  It was okay.  Kinda boring and certainly not worth the work. I really should leave the cooking to him.    For St. Patrick’s tonight he’s making the traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage but just for fun he made Irish Brown Bread and Creamy Vegetable soup that are EXACTLY likes the ones we had when we were in Ireland for our tenth anniversary.  I can’t wait! When  I watch the video he made of that trip and I think about the past fifteen years and boom – tears.

One of my dearest friends had some heart ache in the last couple of years.  (Haven’t we all?)  I’ve cheered them on.  They make me proud.   I love watching how God is revealed in their conduct and character.  She sent me this photo from her recent doctor appointment.

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    Tears.  Lots of tears.

Our church is in the midst of a remodel.   Couple of weeks ago a wall was torn open and this was found.   A message written there years ago by a family friend who lost a terrible fight with cancer.    Psalm 46:1  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. ”    I love that this message was placed right where it would be seen again and would testify to us all about the goodness of God and how He carried her through her battle.

joann

  Big tears.

My youngest is almost two and she pats when she gives hugs.  God knew at this stage in my life I’d want hugs and so He sent this sweet loving little miss.    The chef and she Facetimed me earlier today and showed me her new grin.

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Tears.   Smiling grinning sloppy tears.

My oldest will be eight in two weeks.   She’s a fierce, loyal, brave and independent kid.  Huge heart.  Last six months she’s proved it through some personal battles.  Most recently, she just raised the most money in her school for the American Heart Association.  Every time someone agreed to donate to her I smiled and felt the tears threatening.    A close friend emailed her with her donation and told her that she could see what kind of person she’d grow up to be…a person like Jesus.   My little fighter said “oh mom. my tears are welling up “.   And that’s where I’ve been living lately.   Tears welling up.

dylan and meg

The things that make me cry are varied and frequent.   My daughters sitting at my grandma’s piano. Holding my nephew.   Kneeling and looking into the huge big eyes of my niece.   My daffodils.   A really good joke.   Every song in Bow The Knee.    (It’s this weekend….go see it!)    Friends who take over when I can’t handle things.   My mother.   Sunshine.   A great book.     As it turns out,  even the painful tears are good.   Doesn’t make them not painful.   But painful isn’t always bad.

So I thought I’d better tell you all.  The true list that holds my crazy world together is all of you.  People who bless me.  People who take my loose ends and tie them together.    It’s a list from God that prove He is good.    All the time.    My list of gratitude to God.   And its all of you.

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Horses, Horses, Horses Revised

Three years ago I wrote a blog called Horses, Horses, Horses.    Its an odd thing to read a blog I wrote with which I no longer agree.   I spent fifteen years remembering my scary fall.   I spent thirteen years ignoring my husband when he talked about how much he wanted our daughters to ride horses.  He always wins.  He’s way more tenacious than I am.  Therefore, I have spent the last two years praying like crazy that my daughter would not fall off as we sent her to horse camp.

Somewhere along the line I decided that I didn’t need to live with a fear that I could probably overcome.     I don’t want to be the kind of mom that sits on the sideline.  I want to be the kind of mom that gets in there and plays and learns and grows and fights.    So I signed my daughter and I up for lessons.

The first week I was absolutely terrified.    However seven weeks of watching the courage of my daughter and listening to our crazy patient teacher I’m doing better.    My horse, Chaktah and I have come to a level of understanding.    I know how to groom and tack and do their feet.   I can tie a 4H knot.   Last night we loped.   (For those of you with an elementary horse knowledge like myself loping is to Western riding what Cantering is to English riding.  Its fast.  It’s a little scary.  It’s a lot of fun).    I’m still clumsy and have to be continually reminded to watch my posture.   But over the last seven weeks my inner dialogue has switched from “Don’t fall off,  Don’t fall off.”  to “Shoulder’s back, Heels down.”   This is progress.

Really I wanted to write this updated blog solely to show you this photo.    I didn’t actually know that I loved horses until I saw this photo.

chaktah and mindy

Sometimes it is fun to be wrong.  Turns out I love the sound and feel of the leather saddle.  I love the smell of the barn.  I love the curry brush.  I love watching my daughter ride.  I love that my baby smiled watching us.   I love that my husband told me last night to go buy a pair of cowboy boots.   I love this sweet giant horse.   He reminds me of a preschooler.  So a revision was due.

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