Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Link up to the KangaMelf Story

While Brandi (aka The Dysfunctional Supermom) is taking a break from posting for a couple weeks, she asked me to guest post for her. I jumped at the chance! I met her through my buddy Carri and I really love this girl. She is so honest. What you see is what you get with her. She's the most UNpretentious person I've ever met. It's refreshing. I love that!

If you've read my "About Me" section, then you already know that I love a good story. I've written stories ever since I was a little kid. My own space isn't particularly conducive to random creative writing. When Brandi offered me a space in her blog for "whatever I want"... I thought SCORE!

So... for a story with almost NO redeeming value beyond a laugh and the opportunity to mock me for my drawing ability.... go visit Brandi's blog and read the randomness that floats inside of my brain when I'm allowed to include doodles... :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Abi's Story

"I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough. I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength."
Philippians 4:11-13 (NCV)

When my daughter Abigail was born we were so thrilled to finally get to meet her. Matthew had been born 13 months earlier and had been so much fun to play with and snuggle that we thought having another baby right away would be really wonderful. Everything was awesome for the first 5 days. My parents were staying with us and offered to babysit both babies so that Dave and I could have a date night. I gave her that first bath. She nursed like a champ and slept really well. She was also so darn cute!

Day #6 it all went to pot.

I had gone grocery shopping and my parents were at home with the babies. When I got back, my Mom was changing Abi's diaper and all of a sudden she said, "Ummmm Sarah, we have a problem!" I came over and looked at Abi and saw that ALL of her skin was bright red. Red like a lobster... or like she'd been sunburned. She'd spent all her time inside... she wasn't sunburnt. So, I called our doctor's office and he said to come in right away. As soon as I got her to the office, the doc took one look at her and sent us to the local hospital. Their lab was faster when it came to bloodwork and he wanted tests results ASAP.

Drawing blood from a 6 day old baby isn't easy. Their veins are so tiny that it's really hard to do it quickly. It was not fun for Abi. It also wasn't fun for me since I was the one holding her while they were drawing blood. The tests came back with troubling results and the doctor admitted us to the hospital right away.

Abi was connected to all kinds of machines. She had oxygen tubes going up her nose to get her blood oxygen levels up. She had an apnea monitor attached to her chest because when she slept, she would take too long to take another breath. (When that machine's alarm went off, it was scary. Abi never completely stopped breathing. I think the loud alarm would wake her up and "remind her to breathe again.") Abi had a pulse/ox monitor on her foot... to keep track of her heart rate and her blood oxygen levels. Abi had a blood pressure cuff on her arm that would take a reading every little while. She had an IV in her arm to keep her fluids up and to administer a cocktail of antiobiotics. If you think drawing blood on an infant is hard... try putting in a line. She was itty bitty.... 7 lbs 9oz when she was born. They had to tape her arm to a board to keep it from bending and popping that IV line out. We had to weigh her diapers every time we changed her so that they had some idea of what her output was doing. On top of all of that, she had a really high fever.

So. Not. Fun.

It was scary but, I had this weird sense of peace. I've been through a lot in my life... I'll share more about those things later. But I'd learned that when the shit really hits the fan... God is the only One I can count on. God always keeps His promises and He gives us the strength to handle whatever life throws our way. I believed that and I know it gave me courage. I was still praying like the dickens for my baby girl but, I knew that God would handle it. If God let us continue to have Abi with us then, He would equip us to handle whatever medical stuff was going to come along with that. And if God took Abi home to heaven then, He would equip us to handle that as well. God would be faithful to us no matter what. It was our job to steward the story God was telling through our family in that season and to trust God to meet all our needs. The Book of Hebrews says that "Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it." (Hebrews 11:1 NCV) The kind of faith we were being called to was an active faith. Not a sit in church and go through the motions kind of "faith"... but actively, continually choosing to see that God was going to take care of us and living like we believed that was the truth.

Abigail was in the hospital for about 24 hours when I started feeling gross. I wasn't healing properly after her birth. (I'll just leave it at that ok? I'm not down with the TMI when it comes to that stuff.) I'd developed an infection and had to be placed on a wicked antibiotic that would not allow me to nurse for about 2 weeks. That SUCKED. I was adamant about continuing to nurse and so, that meant, for the next 2 weeks... every 3 hours... I attached myself to a pump and then had to pour all the milk down a drain. It was so disheartening. Abi was put on formula which she hated. Eventually they switched her to a liquid soy formula because she was throwing up the regular kind.

They still didn't know what exactly was attacking Abigail's body though. They ran every test under the sun. She had an MRI, and an EEG (that's the test when they attach what looks like a million wires to your head and watch your brain waves), and a spinal tap. Our doctor was on the phone with the infectious disease specialists at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock trying to figure out what was wrong. They put Abi on two really strong (like WICKED strong) broad spectrum antibiotics that would cover just about anything they could think of. They were the kind of drugs that burn really badly when they inject them and so, they'd dilute them in her IV so they wouldn't burn as badly. It might have been "better" than injecting them alone... but you could see that she was very VERY uncomfortable and she'd cry when the medicine was administered. Talk about sad. The bad news was... it wasn't working.

Abi's body temperature went from being really high to being way too low. Her blood pressure was way too low and her output tapered off significantly. Abi was going into renal failure. She was lethargic... barely awake and not very responsive. Abi wouldn't even really cry any more. None of the things that they had done were helping. My baby's body, now 9 days old, was shutting down.

They put Abi on a helicopter and flew her to Little Rock. She was placed in the Intensive Care Unit for little ones and they reran all of her bloodwork and put in a new IV line. They changed her antibiotic. They took her off the two she was on in Fayetteville and put her on a totally different one... one that was just as tough but covered other things.

Dave and I were exhausted but, we were so concerned about Abi. She was in really good care in this new hospital. She wasn't in a private room but rather, a really big room full of other babies attached to all kinds of machines. We had been really troubled over Abi being hooked up to so many different kinds of tubes and wires but, these other children had so much more going on. They had ports, ventilators, and feeding tubes and some had been there for MONTHS. Their families had been in the hospital so long that they had toys and decorations attached to their cribs. While on the one hand, it was really sad to think of such small children being so ill (I'm pretty sure every child there was under 2), it was also encouraging to us. "It could be worse... so SO much worse" was what we were thinking. We saw Abi's lack of all the other tubes and wiring as the light at the end of the tunnel. God was going to take care of Abi in this new space. We were able to relax over the situation enough to go to the parent's waiting room and fall asleep.

We were only asleep for maybe 4 hours when we got up and went back to check on her. Abi had turned the corner and ALL of her vital signs were getting better. She was going to be moved from that big room to her own private room because she didn't need to be watched as intently. YAY GOD!

We were still perpetually watching her vital signs and still weiged those diapers but, she was getting better. She was discharged when she was 12 days old. The paperwork says that Abi had "scalded skin syndrome due to a hospital acquired form of staph." I was still pumping and dumping breastmilk so, she was still on soy formula. Her tummy was really upset and she had some blood streaking in her poop from that wicked infection. She went home with the apnea monitor and we had to use it ANY time we weren't looking right at her. (Do I even need to say that I wore Abi as much as possible when I was awake?)

She had reflux really bad... and I mean REALLY bad. She would cry any time she was laying down flat. She cried after she ate. She cried a LOT... so much more than Matthew... but, I was so happy to have her home that I didn't care. To me, crying meant that she was getting healthy. She was responding to being uncomfortable or hungry or whatever and wasn't just checking out. She would projectile vomit like no baby I'd ever seen. I could rock Abi after feeding her in our glider and when she would "spit up", she'd throw up all over the wall behind us. But... she was going to be OK. If I had to change my shirt 50 times a day because of baby puke, I wasn't going to care because Abi was getting stronger.

God had been faithful to our family. We had the gift of Abigail being home and with us for the second time. We know that is the truth. A few months later, when she was completely healthy, we had her dedicated at church under the Bible verse Philippians 4:11-13.

Abigail continues to live up to her name which means "The delight of My Father" in Hebrew. She also continues to embody her dedication scriptures. She is the kindest person that I know. She sees the good in EVERYONE. No joke. She's WAY better at that than I am. She can look at the biggest jerk and find something NICE to say about them and really mean it. She is never sarcastic. Abigail finds something to be happy about all the time. She makes friends so fast it's insane. She can win over the grumpiest grown-ups and she makes people's days brighter. She is honest and loyal and defends people who can't or won't come to their own defense. She hates injustice and is the first to be friends with the kid other kids don't like. She's tough and endures hard things with perseverance... but she has more compassion than ANY person I've ever known. She's not perfect, that toughness can sometimes come with a temper but, she's an amazing girl and I'm blessed to call her mine.

I KNOW that Abi is very much a reflection of her Heavenly Father and that God's gift to me, in Abi, has been many MANY lessons she's taught me about seeing people the way God does. To Abi, everyone is valuable. Everyone is worth her time. Having that daily CONSTANT reminder living in my house... is HUGE.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sunday Funday 2!

Linking up with my buddy Carri for Sunday Funday again! If you haven't already seen her post about why she'll never be BFFs with Lil' Wayne... for there NOW! But don't try to drink anything while you read it... you'll spit-take all over your screen! :)
Blog on Carri!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Cherry on Top Award

I received this award from fnkybee yesterday and am only just getting around to talking about it because I was LITERALLY up to my chest in a dirt trench helping Dave RE-lay our septic system leach field lines. Needless to say, ending a day covered in nastiness BUT while also receiving an award is pretty ballin'. It's a nice way to round off St. Paddy's Day too! Thank you so much chickie!

fnkybee cracks me up. I met her a few weeks ago at #wineparty and laughed over how #WereJustThatClassy jokes. We bonded over our children's totally "rad" taste in music... they prefer Led Zeppelin to Barney... clearly we're "winning" at this parenting thing, at least when it comes to music. The girl is just really stinkin' funny. She also has a big heart. You can go read her ramblings on her blog All Things Fnkybee

My List of Three Things I Love About Myself:

1. My ability to find humor in not-so-fun situations has helped my sanity on numerous occasions. Not JUST my take on how love and vomit go together (though they DO! Check out my take on Love in the Time of Nausea if you think I'm kidding!) But honestly, I think the ability to find SOMETHING to laugh about in the face of tragedy has helped me. That sense of humor has definitely been something that God's used to bring me back from some pretty dark places. I wouldn't trade that... even if it means I have the privilege of embarrassment from getting the giggles in church sometimes!

2. I love that I have friends that know me well enough to have their own parking spot at my house and will walk in the backdoor without knocking. I LOVE that I don't have to "play hostess" to those people and that they'll get their own plates, forks, drinks, etc. They'll also tell me children to chill out, open popsicles, and "oooh and ahhhh" over new artwork done by little people. These friends care about MY FAMILY, not just me, and that is HUGE. Obviously not ALL friends are that kind of friend but, it's awesome to have a handful of people that I can really just "be me" with, especially on Hot Mess Mondays when I'm considering duct tape as a viable method of discipline.

3. My marriage is pretty darn awesome. Don't tell me that I've jinxed it because I just broadcast that to the blogoverse. Dave and I are best friends and genuinely happy together. Not 100% of the time. If you hang out with someone long enough, they're GOING to hurt your feelings or say something stupid that rubs you the wrong way. HOWEVER, Dave and I CHOOSE EACH OTHER DAILY anyway. We may have eloped in Vegas at 20 and 22, but we weren't idiots. We knew that having a marriage that was really going to last "'til death do us part" wasn't going to be a cakewalk the entire time. We knew (and KNOW!) that life was going to get Real... and it wouldn't always be easy. But we make a conscious effort to spend time together, not get vested in things that bend our hearts away from each other (NO that does not mean we're twinsies and literally attached at the hip and go everywhere together. Y'all get this right?), and ahead of everything else, we're FRIENDS. Friends cut slack, help each other, keep each other honest, and are faithful. Even on our cruddiest days, I wouldn't swap a day of the last 11 years for a day of anything else. Not everybody can say that. It's one of the things I'm most proud of in terms of accomplishments... although the Cherry on Top award is pretty high up there too. ha ha!

I'm passing the award on to THREE totally awesome blogs that I absolute LOVE:

Carri at Adventures in Mommyhood is ridiculously funny and really honest about how life really is. I know her in real life, not just electronically, and let's just say she's one of my most favorite people evah! She's married to the guy I was dating when I met my hubby so, it's slightly "scandalous" that we're friends. However, we've got lots more things in common... our love of tank tops, flip flops, and a love of writing. Our back stories are similar and we have a ferocious love for our children as a result. She's battled the loss of a dear friend, life with a parent who has bipolar disorder, and fought post-partum depression valiantly. Carri's awesome and if you haven't already found her blog... you should go read it NOW!

Noelle at MetroMom is pretty darn fantastic too. I've known her since I was 13 and we went to high school together. She is one of the most refreshing people I've ever known. She's a mom of 3 and married to a pastor... and completely NOT like you'd think she'd be given that information. She's really transparent about life and her own struggles and I totally dig that about Noelle. She wrote a post and compared the state of her closet to the state of her heart and I'm STILL mulling that sucker over. (Also, it reminded me I needed to clean out my closet!)She's currently visiting Haiti... rocking babies and caring for people who need help. She's a DO-er. She doesn't hear about things and wish and hope and pray that they get better. She DOES SOMETHING about it... even when she knows it could break her own heart. THAT is courageous... and I wanna be more like that. The girl encourages me in huge ways. Blog on Noelle!

And finally my cousin Donna! Her blog at Team Rwanda Donna's actually my 3rd cousin and one of the most amazing big hearted people I know. In the past several years, she's spent TONS of time in Rwanda working with New Hope Homes. They've established several homes for children that are NOT orphanages... they're a family. The story is HUGE and AMAZING. Donna's blogged all about it... it'll take a while to read the whole story... but I DARE YOU to read it and not be moved. Donna's actually applied for dual citizenship because her love for the children and homes there is so great. Our family has been following them and keeping up with all the kids. Matthew's even been able to play his guitar for them via Skype. It's AMAZING to think about little kids on the other side of the world singing "Jesus Loves Me" along with a kid playing his guitar in rural Alabama. Sometimes technology blows my mind. Donna uses technology to bring the stories of this organization and the needs of these precious children to light. That's BEYOND worth your time!!!

So there ya go! My thank you to fnkybee and my self-indulgent 3 loves. Now go check out the blogs I'm passing the award on to.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hello "Kettle", I'm "Pot"

You know that expression "It's like the pot calling the kettle black?"

Or "It takes one to know one!"

That's me today. And I'm so frustrated about that!

Here's the deal. There this person in my life that drives me NUTS because she constantly points out things she thinks are annoying about other people. Being overly critical is definitely irritating to the people around you. I mean who wants to hang out with someone who just gripes 24/7? Not I! The thing, about this particular person, is that the things she points out, are things SHE ACTUALLY DOES HERSELF! It's infuriating to listen to her bitch and moan about things that are "so stupid" or "SO annoying" and "Why can't they get a clue?" when we're all thinking the SAME THING about the choices SHE makes!

OK. Here's the thing. I've just caught myself doing the same stupid thing.

I've had a bunch of conversations with the RiceCakes lately about discipline. Explaining WHY our family has made certainly choices about what they are and are not allowed to do... and about behaviors that are and are not allowed. We've spent some time lately with some kids who've got some pretty wicked issues with obstinance. Kids who just WON'T follow directions from grown ups and kids who throw fits when they don't get their way. The RiceCakes don't like hanging around kids who act like that and were asking me what the deal was. I gave 'em this speech about how it's a parent's job to draw lines with their kids and show them how the line doesn't move even if the kids don't like the boundary lines. Then children know what is expected of them ALL the time, instead of just some of the time, or "if they feel like it." I threw in the "Because we love you, we discipline you" line even!

Most of the time, the RiceCakes are pretty fun to be with. We haven't had any issues where other grown ups in other places have had problems with their behavior. We've actually had people come up to us in restaurants and waiting rooms and compliment the kids good behavior. That is awesome! Nothing makes you feel more proud than other people noticing that your kids have good manners and can wait patiently without flipping out.

HOWEVER, I think that I've been really slacking with SOME things around our house and the consequences of that laziness on my part stink.

Remember how last week I was talking about Jonah and I gave an example of my kids being stubborn about cleaning their rooms? I talked about how Dave and I really have to draw hard lines sometimes and really be sticklers until the kids come around to acknowledging Who is in charge around here.

Here's the thing. When I wrote that... in my own brain... I was only considering the OLDER TWO RiceCakes.

Matthew and Abi have had some pretty serious training in the Rice Casa of Manual Labor. We're huge fans of having the kids be solely responsible for certain things as soon as they are mature enough and big enough to handle them. For example, when you turn 18 months old, you're now in charge of throwing away the fabric softener sheets from clean loads of laundry. When you turn 4, you're in charge of putting away clean silverware from the dishwasher. When you're 8, you're in charge of vacuuming your own room. We're trying to instill a sense of pride in the kids when it comes to caring for their own home, toys, and room. We're trying to have EVERYONE pitch in and keep this joint running smoothly. And not every job is HUGE, but it's "one less thing" for Mom and Dad to have to do. And when Mom and Dad have less work to do... EVERYONE gets to have more fun.

Sounds reasonable right?

The thing is... and it hit me about 2 days after my stupid post published... the Younger Two RiceCakes haven't had such a hard line drawn. Oh they TOTALLY have jobs to do. But I'm CONSTANTLY reminding them. Jack's dog would absolutely go without food and water if I didn't point out that he hadn't fed and watered him yet. Joshua wouldn't pick a single toy up EVER if I didn't say anything. And when it comes to cleaning up their room... a room they SHARE upstairs... when Mom says, "Go clean your room and don't come down until it's done." It's actually coming with the "if you feel like it" tagline.

Those boys will LITERALLY spend ALL DAY upstairs "cleaning". While sometimes that joint really does look like a ToysRUs crack Den... it's not NEARLY Hoarders-like enough to require HOURS of cleaning.

Those two will spend all kinds of time up there. Eventually, I get sick of it and "help them out" by going up there and pointing out stuff that needs doing and delegating jobs to each of them.

Yeah... that's not "helpful."

Not at this point anyway. They're QUITE big enough to be able to handle their own room these days.

See... their room is uber-organized. There are boxes and bins for every sort of toy they've got. They know EXACTLY where everything's supposed to go. We've spent TONS of time getting things really simple and easy for a 5 and 6 year old's abilities. Every time I go up there and "help", I'm actually showing them that I don't mean what I tell them that it's THEIR RESPONSIBILITY to manage their own room. I'm showing them that if they get lazy and goof off, that I'LL do their work for them. That stuff all over the floor isn't mine. I didn't get it out. I didn't play with it. But here I am, picking it up (so that "it'll get done quicker!") and totally UNdoing any lessons about "pride in completing a job that was tough" and "finishing what you start."

That. Is. Lame.

Ring, Ring!
Clue phone!
It's for ME!

I've totally become the parent that gets on my nerves. I've let my younger two dictate whether they'll choose to obey me or not. And I've let myself get swayed by frustration (on my part), tears (on their parts), and completely lost track of The Bigger Picture. Poor self-control on my part. That Picture is one where they'll grow up and get jobs and have bosses that expect certain things to be finished at a certain time. If they learn that directions are only to be followed and deadlines are only to be met "if they feel like it." They're going to end up pretty miserably unemployed.

YES. I realize that in my own brain I've jumped ahead MANY years and exaggerated some things but, the POINT is still the same. I don't want someone else teaching my kids that the consequences for not following directions can be pretty steep. I don't want someone else doing MY JOB as their parent. I don't want the FIRST lesson they learn in obeying authority the FIRST time they're given to instructions to be from another person. It'll cost my children so much more if someone else teaches them that lesson.

It's MY job to baby-step them into the bigger choices and bigger directions that have weight when it comes to consequences.

We've gotten off track. And it sucks. Having to draw a hard line after being overly lenient SUCKS.

And so... tonight... after 4 hours of goofing off instead of picking up... there are two little boys who've gone to bed without dinner. They CHOSE to miss dinner, I even caved a little and told them they didn't have to clean up their closet, by not getting their room together by 8 o'clock.

I didn't help them at all. Despite the fact that looking at the BIGGER mess they'd made while "cleaning up" made my skin crawl.

There were HUGE tears. It totally sucked.

I hope they get it. I hope we don't have to do it again tomorrow.

And truly, BECAUSE I LOVE THEM, disciplining them is my job. This disciplining thing is as much about self-control on MY part, as it is teaching them self-control. How the heck did it take me THIS LONG to figure that out?

"If they obey and serve Him,
They shall spend their days in prosperity,
And their years in pleasures."
-Job 36:11 NKJV

"Know in your heart that the Lord your God corrects you as a parent corrects a child."
-Deuteronomy 8:5 NCV

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sunday Funday

Linking up with Carri at Adventures in Mommyhood today. She's hilarious and one of my favorite people. Go check out her blog and prepare to laugh!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Worthy of My Concern Part 4

OK so all of this talk about Jonah started with my talking about how I was thinking that I was a freakin' GENIUS when it comes to Jonah right? I had it all figured out. I was getting an A+ and totally lookin' cool without even breaking a sweat right?

I believe I mentioned my EXACT thought was "I got this."

*cue the ego deflation*

In the car, on the way home from church, my husband and I were talking about what was said in that class. I went off on my LONG tangent. (My parents SHOULD have named me Wordy McWorderson.) After all, I’d spent 4 months up to my ears in Jonah right? I was The Resident Jonah Authority (with the Cartman mirror shades riding the Big Wheel, "Reeeespect Myy Authorityyyyy!" and ALL!) in the car on that day right?


Dave listens to everything I have to say. (Did I mention that he's a good listener?) And then HE weighs in.

All Dave has to say is this: “Oh that Fishy Time Out was going to happen. One way or another Jonah was going to end up in the water… in the belly of that fish… to think about what he’d chosen to do. If the crew didn’t throw him in, a big wave could’ve done it. God was going to get Jonah in the water.”

OK two things:

Thing 1) Heaven help me to follow directions before it comes to God having to get me in the water!!

Thing 2) Dave uses 57 words when I use 2000. He's more wise with his lexical budget than I am. I dig that. It’s hard to trip over words when you don’t waste ‘em. I should probably try to practice that more often.

Back to my point…

That fish barfed Jonah back on shore, near where he’d started running in the first place. Square one. And guess what? The directions, about where he was supposed to go, hadn’t changed. The line in the sand was in the same place. But Jonah’s heart had changed about following directions and about Who is The Boss.

OK so the question is: Who have you decided is not “worthy of your concern?”

Will obedience to care about those particular “others” require God to “get you in the water” by any means necessary?

What will it take for you to bend and see that God cares about everyone and that means YOU also should find EVERYONE worth of your concern?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Worthy of My Concern Part 3

We ended yesterday with the crew of Jonah's "cruise ship" tossing him in the sea and God calming the waters and saving all the men.

Jonah is safe too. God sent a fish to swallow Jonah.

Call it Fishy Time Out.

Jonah didn’t get to choose disobedience any more. God was going to deal with his heart. God cared for the Ninevites but, God also cared for Jonah. Jonah had decided that he wasn’t going to obey The Almighty God because he didn’t want to.

I have 4 little kids who sometimes do the same thing to me. It’s SO frustrating sometimes! Most of the time The RiceCakes are very compliant and easy going but, occasionally, they lose their minds and are under the impression that THEY are The Boss. They decide that they don’t have to listen to me or their Daddy. They think that when we say, “Go upstairs and clean your room” that we actually mean “If you want to.” This obstinance lands them in Time Out. It doesn’t really matter how long they have to stay in Time Out or how many times we have to put them there. Discipline will take however long it takes for them to come around to the truth about who is in charge. They are going to clean their room whether they know it yet, or not. Eventually, the hardened little heads and hearts BEND and decide that we actually are The Sheriff in town and opt for following directions. But it takes that discipline… us drawing the line in the sand and not moving it… for them to finally get it.

Jonah stayed in the fish for 3 days before it threw him up. That’s a lot of “alone time” to sit and think about the people who he’d just been with.

I’d like to offer this as my explanation:

God knew that Jonah would run. God knew Jonah’s heart was hardened against the pagan people He was sending him to speak to. God cared for the crew of the ship as much as He cared for Jonah and Nineveh and wanted to make Himself known to them. God used the crew to give some practical "first person knowledge" of pagan people to Jonah so that he could see them as more than “evil murderers” but, as people who wanted to do what was right and valued the lives of innocent people. (Ever notice how your opinion of groups you’ve stereotyped changes when you actually KNOW a person from that group?) I’m willing to bet God pre-arranged Jonah’s voyage before Jonah had an inkling about taking a little cruise. God also used the opportunity to show Himself to the pagan crew and allow them to encounter His power in a way that they would not ever forget. They were obviously open to such an encounter. Jonah didn't preach to them and it was not a fight between people but, God simply showed up and exercised His authority in the situation. WIN-WIN

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Worthy of My Concern Part 2

OK so we were talking about Jonah and how much he hated the pagans living in Nineveh and how those were the exact people to whom God was telling him to go and speak.

Today I want to talk about how people are not always how we assume they are. There's that joke about how "assume" makes an ass out of you and me... but seriously, when it comes to people we've never met, we're better off NOT assuming ANYTHING.

The boat Jonah chartered to make his run to Tarshish had a crew of pagans. (Jonah runs away from spending time with pagans in a city by getting on a boat full of pagans instead. Am I the only one thinking that’s ironic? How many times do I pull the same kind stupid swap when I don’t want to follow God's directions?) When the seas went nuts, they all started crying out and praying to their own gods. Jonah is a first-class jerk. While the sea is so bad that the crew fears that the boat will be torn apart, Jonah is sleeping in his cabin. While they’re throwing stuff overboard, he’s napping. FINALLY they wake him up and he realizes that the jig is up. He says that HE is the reason that the storm is threatening all their lives.

Any chance you can think of a time when you did something wrong that impacted the lives of others (maybe even strangers to you?)in a severe way? Can you think of a time when another person's bad choice impacted you negatively even though you had nothing to do with it? Which one's easier to remember?

They cast lots and the lot shows that Jonah IS the reason for the trouble. (Yay, divination! One more “pagan thing” that Jonah is hanging around for!)

(For the people who want an actual definition of “casting lots” here ya go: "Cleromancy is a form of divination using sortition, casting of lots, or casting bones or stones as in lithomancy, in which an outcome is determined by means that normally would be considered random, such as the rolling of dice, but are believed to reveal the will of God, or other supernatural entities.")

Jonah tells them that if they throw him overboard, they’ll be safe. They don’t want to do that. They value his life. These pagan guys, that Jonah thinks are such dirt bags, aren’t willing to kill him to save their own necks. Instead they try to row to shore. They don’t make it because the storm gets worse. So, the pagans pray to Jonah’s God. They ask not to be killed for taking Jonah’s life. They acknowledge that Jonah’s God caused the storm because of Jonah and so they don’t want to be punished for killing an innocent person.

The New Century Version says it this way: “LORD, please don’t let us die because of this man’s life; please don’t think we are guilty of killing an innocent person. LORD, you caused all this to happen, you wanted it this way.”( Jonah 1:14)

The crew might not have been worshippers of Jonah’s God but, they were willing to respect Him, acknowledge His power and authority over the situation, AND value Jonah’s life.

Am I the only person catching that Jonah didn’t do ANY of that for his own God and certainly didn’t value the lives of people different than him?

Then they threw Jonah overboard and the sea became calm. Immediately, the crew begins to worship God by making sacrifices and promises to Him. They were safe in more ways than one.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Worthy of My Concern Part 1

I’m working my way through a Bible study about the book of Jonah. I’ve been working my way through it since November. That’s right. I’ve spent 4 months in a book of the Bible that contains only 4 chapters. I’m not even at the end yet.

Can you say “slow learner?”

Anyway, while working my way through it, I’ve had some epiphanies about my own mindset and how I treat others. I’ve thought I kinda had the whole thing figured out.

*cue the Gibbs head slap*

Dave and I have recently started going to a new church. Not new to the area, just new to us. The reason for the change is a subject for a whole OTHER day. But let’s just say that we’re “The New People” and we’re trying to figure out where we fit into the church’s smaller groups. Anonymity in a large church CAN be really nice… but not being connected to ANYONE stinks. So, we thought we’d try out a morning group for couples together.
We walk in the door and the teacher says, “Oh hi! We’ve been working our way through the Minor Prophets and we’re just beginning Jonah this morning.”

Who has two thumbs and now thinking “Oh I’ve GOT THIS!” ????

That’s right. Me.

Slight hitch. There are TWO Conversation Hogs in this class. Every group usually has one. That’s par for the course. But this one… has TWO! And here’s the kicker. Those two people were turning the story of Jonah into something that it isn’t. They’re talking about how Jonah gotten eaten by the fish and that he was lucky (that’s right I said “LUCKY!”) that it spit him back out and he got to go to Nineveh because God was “this close” to finding someone else who’d go. Do you understand how difficult it is for someone who absolutely KNOWS that someone is wrong to NOT be able to point that out?

Yes. I realize I am totally making myself sound like a know-it-all person you'd hate to sit near right? Please go with me for a bit OK. Humor me. I promise that this story doesn't end with me wagging fingers, pointing out other people's screw-ups, or anything like that at all.

I said exactly ZERO words about Jonah or anything else for that matter.

(At this point, you may not know what I’m talking about. I realize that MOST PEOPLE do not spend 4 months in a 4 chapter book. For the actual specifics of what I’m talking about, go read Jonah. The whole thing will only take you about 10 minutes. You’ll get the gist of what I’m talking about. It’s NOT necessary to spend months in this book. I am in the slow class!)

OK, here is my issue. The Conversation Hogs were implying that God didn’t know that Jonah would opt to run to Tarshish INSTEAD of following directions and going to Nineveh. Also, they said that if Jonah didn’t obey God, that God would find someone else to do it and the fish that swallowed Jonah “just happened to be there.”

God knows everything. God is not an idiot. God knew Jonah would run.

(Please don’t argue with me about this. A) I’m not big on arguments. If you disagree with me, I have no beef with you. B) This is stuff that either you believe or you don’t. I don’t feel like it’s debatable from either side. C) People’s hearts don’t change about things in debates. Things that have to do with God are an issue of the heart. The End.)

Jonah was a prophet to the Israelite nation. God’s chosen people were “his people.” He’d been a prophet in Israel for some time. He wasn’t “The New Guy.” The people God was sending Jonah to speak to THIS TIME were people Jonah hated. Israel and Assyria were enemies. Nineveh was an important province of Assyria and, in the first half of 7 BC, they had a reputation for inflicting psychological AND physical terror on their enemies. It’s pretty likely that Jonah had not just racial bigotry kinds of reasons for hating the pagan Ninevites but, that he actually had PERSONAL reasons for wanting nothing to do with them. It’s quite likely that many of his friends’ families (if not his OWN family) had been killed by those people. Their stuff had been hauled off and their homes had been burned to the ground when their cities were sacked. During the back half of 7 BC, Assyria began weakening nationally and it’s more than likely that Israel and Jonah would have liked to see that continue to happen. Jonah didn’t give a crap about God wanting to extent mercy to people he’d regarded as evil, idol-worshipping murderers.

God knew all this. He knew Jonah would run but, that didn’t change God’s mind about the issue of wanting to extend grace to the people of Nineveh.

It also didn’t change God’s mind about wanting to change the heart of Jonah.

And because I'm wordy... I'll talk about THAT tomorrow.