Friday, June 30, 2006


I am sitting in an hotel room in St. Louis, MO typing this blog post. Our family has just spent the last 4 days at the NACC - North American Christian Convention in Louisville, KY. We have not been able to attend any other cofc and Christian church gatherings yet this year, so this was our first.

So much has taken place here that my head is swimming with thoughts and ideas, questions and plans. I love that the 2 streams in our fellowships have taken 2006 as a year to make an effort to work together and act like family. I love the hope that it holds out for the future. I love the impact it is making all across the world as mission teams unite (Mozambique, Kenya etc), as American churches serve the hurting together (Gulf coast), as US churches merge (Seattle, Washington) and as others partner to pray and get to know each other. No one is asking for us to give up our unique congregations and be one but we are being asked to work alongside each other so that God is glorified. How cool is that!As Jeff Walling said last night, it is time for us to stop acting "nice" (emotionally removed, pleasant but distant) and start acting like family (intimately connected at the core).

100 years of division and family feuding is not taken away in a one year unity effort, but I can testify that more has been accomplished over the last 6 months than either Rick Atchley or Bob Russell could have dreamed of. Last night Jeff Walling and Dave Stone (preacher at SouthEast Christian) swaped bibles and so did many others representing our churches, colleges, worship teams and other organizations. The stage was full of people hugging each other holding each others bibles as symbols of unity with tears streaming down their cheeks. It was history in the making - a new chapter. One that I am proud to hand down to my kids. We were there. Wow.

There was so much more. I can barely recount at a keyboard all that took place. I am thankful to have been a witness to it and to have the plea for unity for God's glory on my heart.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Oh Mavs

You will not find me posting about sports very often. We are not a very sports oriented family and are not particularly gifted in the athletic arena either. I am not a fan of the sports analogy when applied to our life in Christ either. So today I am breaking several rules of my own.

Last night while watching the final game in the NBA playoffs I was struck by something, and it was not an airball by the Mavs. I am a Mavericks fan and I think they have come a long way. I like Mark Cuban's off the wall ways and I think Avery Johnson is a gem. Do wish he would smile a little more often. All that time spent with Tim Duncan has left him a little emotionally comatose in my opinion. Love Tim too...however. Given that I am a Mavs fan, I am saying this with all due respect for what they have accomplished.

The Heat looked like they believed they deserved to be in the finals last night. Their body language, their comments, their focus - all told the same story. The Mavericks acted like they were lucky to be there. Their demeanor was markedly different to Miami. In some ways it was like they had won a spot in the game and not earned it. I am not a sports psychologist or analyst but if I could see this surely anyone could.

It made me think about how we live our life in Christ. Do we live in such a way that we believe that God loves us so passionately that He sent His Son to die for us and the world? Do we see ourselves as cleansed in Him? Do we believe that He pursues us with a love like no other? And as Max says, do we believe that if God carried a wallet, our picture would be in it?
I think that when we are living a life that reflects the power of the spirit and the unconditional love of Jesus, we truly advance the Kingdom in ways that He desires. We join Him in the work that He is already doing and we become His mouthpiece, hand, foot, arms etc.

However, when we live in such a way that shows the world that we only half think we are worthy of being a Christian and we don't really embrace the idea that God desires to be with us we do little more than hinder the work He is already doing in the world.

I am not suggesting that we live in arrogance and pride, but I do think we can confidently know that God is God and He knew us before we were born, and has great plans for us that will make our lives more complete in the Kingdom and He in the quite, longs to sing over us if we will be still long enough to hear Him. God makes us worthy.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Willow, Fathers Day, Infected Toes & Tech Support

Random things that have happened over the last few days that I need to mention.....

I just got back from a few days in Chicago at an Arts Conference at Willow Creek Community Church. I have been there before in 2000 and was quite amazed and "gob-smacked" at how they do church. In fact as one friends says, it takes about 3 months to reacclamate to normal church after a Willow experience. However, this year I was doubly amazed and even more "gob-smacked." Obviously, they pulled out all the stops with a crowd full of Artsy folks. In many ways it was like drinking from a pool of refreshing water that was inspiring and regenerating. In other ways it could be the most depressing thing to contemplate that "we'll never be able to ...."(fill in the blank). It depends on how you choose to look at things and see God working. Instead of depressing me this time, I think I was able to see God's mighty hand all over Willow and how they inspire others to be just a little better and then to see what the potential is for us. Delirious recorded a live CD and DVD on the Tuesday night and we got to be part of that. It was fabulous - awesomely incredible. Yes, I liked it. Although it was a quick day and a half it was great.

Fathers Day rolled around on Sunday and church was literally more than I could bare. I miss my Dad obviously (29 years later, and there is still an ache there). But the clincher was our theme of being "Fathers to the Fatherless." Wow, it was incredible. Dan preached through the texts that call us to be champions of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the marginal - the Fatherless. They showed a video piece from World Vision that outlined the millions of children around the world who are left fatherless from AIDS. Christian Relief Fund was there and they had packets for people to take and adopt a child. Dan in his alter call, asked if instead of walking down the aisle to save ourselves, we would walk down the aisle to save the life of another. The aisles were packed - Christian Relief Fund ran out of packets there were so many people waiting to be a Father to the Fatherless.

My friend Missy has infected toes from a youth trip, Elevations. She jarrred them so much while coming down the mountain in Colorado that her toes are infected and in fact her feet are too. She had no downtime between Elevations and Youthwave, so she called me from Urgent Care in Austin last night to tell me the toe news. I can barely stand the thought of that pain - sore feet are bad enough.

And the final random entry is about the new look of the blog. My friend Angela, who has been moonlighting as my tech support dropped a site meter on my blog and set up my link list. We discovered that I needed a new template because of issues I was having with the old one and so this is the new look. It is so much fun to have someone who knows what they are doing and I just email her and tell her what I need and then magically it appears and works. I am trying to get her to do the same with laundry, house cleaning etc, but she hasn't taken the hint.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

World Peace and Cookies

This is just a short little post, that will unfortunately let you into the mind of Arlene Kasselman. A rather unusual and interesting place, I promise.
In South Africa and other British Colonies they are known as Marie's. I believe in Mexico, Guatemala, Spain and several other Latin countries they are called Maria's. In Paraguay they are called Mana's.

But here's the thing - the packaging looks similar no matter the country, manufacturer or language. The actual cookie (what we would call a biscuit) looks the same no matter the country, manufacturer or language. The taste - yes, the taste. You guessed. The same. They are not overly sweet, perfect for enjoying with a cup of tea. They are a deep cream color, round in shape and about 2 inches wide, with a Greek inspired imprint around the border. They are perfectly crunchy without being too well cooked. This single layer delight needs no filling, icing or chocolate to make them delicious.

It is hard to ignore how soccer unifies the world during a World Cup year and as one famous coach was quoted as saying, "Soccer is not life and death, it is so much more." I agree - this sport played in more places that we can count, and this World Cup, watched by more people than any other event in the world is something.
But can you imagine the potential for unity if we all brought our Marie's, Maria's and Mana's to the table with a good cuppa' tea?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Heart of an Artist

Its a fragile yet complex thing, the heart of an artist. I know because I was raised by one. My Dad, although he died when I was 11, was the ultimate thespian. He sang, he played a bizillion instruments, he acted, he did stand up, he oozed creativity. And because of that he was passionate, he was overly emotional, he was easily angered and hurt, but loved deeply. He was the life of the party and sometimes the death of it. He felt to the depths and the heights often at the same time. And so I have a heart that is drawn to the artist, the creative and the passionate.

Churches of christ were not havens for these kinds, I promise. My Dad was our "song leader." That meant he sat on the front pew, thumbed through the blue book and selected a few songs and lead them. But, short of that, there was no room in the inn for those who God gifted in this way. I saw it and noticed that he didn't really fit in, but what were the options?

Last night, and tons of times in the last 5 years I have been able to say, "this one is for you, Dad." Our Wednesday evening summer program began and we do Central Perk, which is a worship, experiential themed evening each week. While moving between stations, a lady from our congregation came to me, just sobbing. She is an artist. All she could say as we prayed was "thank you Jesus, for us being able to do this" over and over again. The heart of the artist was touched and she felt like she could be free and authentically herself. If nothing else significant happens during Central Perk this summer, it doesn't matter to me. One spiritually starved artist among us in this fellowship was able to sit at the banquet table and feast last night. I know God has more for us at Central Perk this summer because He always does, but I am filled from just that. That one was for you Dad.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Community - Sharing Life Together

I know that I have blogged on and on about how impactful real community is, but here I go again. Today I am struck by it on several levels because of experiences yesterday and today.

I have mentioned before that we have a special friend, who now has a blog, and her name is Bek. She is not only a friend of mine, but a friend of our family. She jokes that she hired us here at Central, and in some aspects she did. She was on our search committee and became a heart friend about 5 minutes after we met. Bek and her family have become our family. I do not mean that in the "cheesy" way that we sometimes say that about general people we go to church with. They have become our family. She is not old enough to be my Mom, but she acts like a grandparent to our kids, she guides and mentors us like a parent, sister and friend. Her home is like home for our kids. Yesterday we went over to have a coke together and visited for a while, she invited the kids to stay while I ran some errands. They of course didn't want to and I had to force them. HA! They jumped on that plan - staying with Bek is always first choice. However, she had already offered to keep them later that evening, so David and I could meet with someone. Well, of course, they landed up fanagling a way to stay with her through dinner and until 10:30 infact. When we picked them up, I hugged and thanked her and tried to express my appreciation. Her response was, "hey, I love to do it - I'm standing in the gap." I have tears running down my face as I type this, because of how much this relationship means to me. This is community.

One of the reasons for the kids being with Bek was so that we could go to Starbucks to visit with Dan and Amy. David has been away for 10 days and so he needed to get caught up on what was happening at the office and I really needed to visit with Dan about some things at church. He is our Senior Minister. David and him work very closely together in ministry and so this was work and play really. However, as we sat and talked about the work of ministry, the joys, the frustrations, the current challenges etc it was evident that we were authentically sharing our lives. This is community.

Today, my friend Missy leaves for 3 weeks. It is summer, Adam and Missy are in youth ministry - need I say more. I think they do Elevations, Youth Wave, and Trek back to back. That translates to them being physically gone from Amarillo for 3 weeks. The rest of the summer will also be frenetic at some points, but at least they'll be home. I am excited that they get to grow our students by sharing these life changing events with them, but I hate not seeing her for all that time. I know that this is nothing compared to her moving to Antarctica say, so I am not trying to be a drama queen. But we have talked about the fact that some days we will talk 5 times on the phone, and we can share whatever is on our hearts in detail. And frankly, just knowing that I don't get to do that while she is working for the next 3 weeks scares me. This is community. (or weird-stalker-like-bad-boundary-friendship you make think :-))

In other words, I am the best version of myself because of the love, support, and friendship of those around me. That is community.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Church today

Although I have not admitted this to many, I could take or leave sermons. The places of greatest connection for me in worship are usually songs, artistic expressions and communion. I have nothing in particular against the sermon but my desire would be for a teaching ministry that was more intertwined with the entire experience of worship and not an actual sermon. Having said that, I am quite a Mike Cope fan and could listen to him for hours. In fact, leaving Abilene was so hard for me, simply because I did not want to leave Highland. I was also blessed by so much of Art McNeese's teaching while we lived in Dallas and feel very blessed to hear Dan Bouchelle each week.

Today however, I was very moved. Whenever I try to break down what made up a service that was so moving, I am unable to do that. That is because I think so much of it depends on where your heart is at the time and what the Spirit is doing in you. Today, I loved the honesty I heard from Dan (not that he lies other weeks :-)). The sermon today served as a mirror for me. The worship time was simple with nothing overly creative, but it touched me deeply. My sense is that God had been invited to participate through every song and prayer and He did. I was moved as I reflected on our church and where we have been over the last 5 years. I was moved as I realized that the path we have chosen (staying down town, new vision and mission etc) is not the one to rapid growth or external success. I was moved when I realized that God has worked and is working and in just a few years I have been witness to life changes in people and a church who has tried to change its image and reputation. Obviously as a part of the ministry team here, I share my husband's frustrations about "the life and work of ministry" and it is easy for me to get aggravated at times. But today I was struck by what a huge task this has been to turn this "country club church" ship to something more on the course of "outpost for the Kingdom."

I confess that sometimes it is easier for me to be irritated by the pettiness of people than to understand them. I confess to also being "covetous" of how other churches do things and have longed to be like them. I confess to having feelings of pride that make me want to be at a church that is more forward thinking, more progressive etc. I try to teach my children that "stuff" does not make a person great. Yet, I tend to rely on "stuff" to enhance my church experience instead of relying on God to transform me. Today I am convicted that God has placed me here in this place to work, live and love along side people who are flawed just like me. My focus today is to see God working here in this place at this time with me as a part of the plan and not the problem. Somedays this is easier for me to embrace and believe, and other times it is rhetoric. Today I can say this with a convicted heart.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Spencer's take on Abilene

Because David is away, I decided to take the kids to Abilene to spend time with my brother, sister-in-law and their cousins. It has been a blast! They always enjoy the time we spend there, but I did not realize just how much Spencer enjoys it.

Spencer: "I wish we could live in Abilene"
Me: "Why, Buddy?"
Spencer: "Because it's more better"
Me: "What makes you say that?"
Spencer: "They have much more water than Amarillo"

Obviously I have missed the tropical, nautical appeal of Abilene! Now I know that Amarillo is dry, but this was a little alarming to me. So I pressed the issue with questions like, "do you mean they get more rain?" and so on. His response was just, "no, they just have more water." After using my best detective skills and trying to figure out what he meant, I realized. He was talking about the pool at the hotel. Aaha! I was so relieved that I had not spent almost 6 years living in Abilene, only to find out what an oasis it was after I moved.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Love & Marriage, they go together like a horse & carriage

Actually I am not inferring that either of us are horses, or even old world methods of transportation.
But I am thinking about love and marriage today. Mainly because my man is far away in Paraguay and I am missing him terribly. Only 4 sleeps to go...Woohoo! I taught my kids to count in sleeps when they were younger because it seemed to go faster, I count in sleeps for a whole other reason but that should probably not be blogged about :-)!
Innuendo and fun aside, I really want to pay tribute to David today.

He is an altogether great husband and Dad. I am constantly amazed that he is grown into such an incredible human being after coming out of a family system that did not equip him with the tools of trust, certainty or unconditional love. He has struggled to overcome abandonment issues that tend to permeate ones life in unexpected ways. However, having said that his family has grown too and they are my family too now and we love them!

The easiest way for me to describe some of these awesome characteristics of the man I married 20 years ago is by list, so here goes:

1. He is unselfish with his time and energy. He will put the kids and me above everything else including TV, golf, work etc (maybe not "24").

2.He has deep faith. The kind of faith that makes him never waiver in belief. Considering how "flaky" I can be this is so good to me.

3.He is intelligent and quite a thinker!

4.Although an introvert he has a heart for people and sees the value in stretching his "normal" to make himself more of a people lover.

5.Once per week he eats lunch with a 4th grade little boy at an impoverished school just to be a good influence.

6.He loves a good practical joke, of which I am usually the recipient. You know the type who takes their 5 year old son's slimy lizard and places it between the sheets for his wife to feel as she crawls into bed.

7.He is a "foodie" like me and we can both enjoy a good meal and/or preparing one in the kitchen.

8.He makes the meanest cup of hot tea ever!

9.He loves me in such a "covenant" kind of way that it is not just about me, but an act of worship for him.

10.We have fun together and love to travel and experience new things together.

Oh there is more, but I will stop here. Thanks for indulging me today.