Saturday, December 29, 2007

Call us crazy.....


Call us crazy, just don't call CPS. I am sure people get arrested for stuff like this. Our kids heard the idea of a "totally chocolate dinner" someplace and they have never forgotten it. So, they asked if we could have a "totally dessert dinner" on Christmas night. Michaela baked that awesome looking Mud Pie on the table. Together they made the Oreo Fluff which is in the bowl next to the pudding. There are also chocolate octopus cookies behind the Mud Pie that Michaela made. The remaining items were by their request and courtesy of Wal-mart. I know, I know - we have had plenty of protein and veggies since then :-)
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Critters Christmas



Disney-Cat and Diego-Dog enjoying their Christmas pressies
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Christmas Joy

The kids opening gifts - Webkinz...the Wii & Guitar Hero. Life is sweet.





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Monday, December 17, 2007

Kasselman Family Holiday Newsletter 2007


Dear Friends and Family
So this is the latest that the Kasselman newsletter has ever made an appearance, I do apologize. But why? Let me count the ways…
1. About a month ago I dated something 1996. Clearly I am not ready for December 2007.
2. It stayed warm so long before the winter weather hit, it just felt like summer.
3. Once I missed my first deadline on getting it done, I grew very comfortable with missing the next 17 I had given myself.
So you get the picture. Then came the inspiration issue. As I like to say, “got nothing for you.” I tried to write this letter several times but it either sounded like some newspaper report or a report on how perfectly great our kids and life was. And due to the fact that we prefer to deal in reality that was not an option. So, I got creative…a poem – not good. A monthly look at the life of the Kasselmans – exponentially worse. A song – seriously it was bad. Just as I was about to tip the cheese factor over to a place of no recovery I stopped. I decided to cut the cute and just write a letter. So here goes.

2007 has been a ….year! I turned 40, ouch and we celebrated 21 years of marriage. Spencer went to 1st grade and that felt like real school compared to Kindergarten. Michaela entered 6th grade at a new school and we got our first dog. The dog about put me over the edge. Dogs seem so domestic – like what grown ups own, you know, parents have dogs. David reminded me we are parents, grown ups, 40+ and domestic already. Okay, point taken. Our dog, Diego is not just any dog you see. He is a dorkie. I have not taken up name calling – he really is. On his birth certificate mind you. A yorkie/daschund mix. Disney, our cat meows “Dork” to him and I don’t think it is because she forgets the “ie.” Her life has been altered in ways she never dreamed about.

In my attempt to avoid the travel log or kid achievement version of newsletters, I wanted just to share 4 things that have made our year special.
1. At spring break this year, we bust out the free Delta passes that we received after being bumped off a flight of theirs last year and off we headed to Seattle, WA. We crashed the home of our old College buddies, Mike and Dena Johnson for a week and it was fabulous. Their 5 kids and our 2, plus the 4 adults made for a fun week together. The treasure on this trip was seeing our kids all become friends. How great is that?

2. David led a mission team to Nicaragua this summer. After being in Paraguay last summer and seeing some of the hardships there he felt prepared for this trip but was met with some of the hardest living conditions that he had ever seen. The team did good work, met great people and as always happens on mission trips, came away feeling like they had received more than they had given.

3. The summer. I know this is a no brainer. What is not to like about lazy days and no school schedule. But this was different. We added a nephew, Matthew, who married my niece Rachel in the most beautiful wedding ever.

4. School. Michaela started 6th grade at a College Prep faith based school here in town. So far it seems like a great fit for her. It provides a good academic challenge but also places great emphasis on the Arts and so she gets to enjoy her music interests also. Spencer just slid into 1st grade like butta’. His precious teacher seems to have unlocked a window of learning in him like we never expected. He has fallen in love with books and reading although can still use them as rocket launchers, Frisbees and step stools when needed. I have continued in my graduate studies through ACU. I feel so alive and healthy in the context of school. I love the books, the conversations, the challenges. Some I love more than others, but overall it is just great.

Spencer is doing Basketball for the first time and seems to be enjoying that. He is losing teeth and growing like a weed. He started Piano lessons and seems to really love that. He has not lost his moves and for those of you have seen him bust it out to Toby Mac or KJ-52 he is still the Little Rapper Boy! I think the music gene is in him also! Michaela is still singing with the Amarillo Youth Concert Choir for Girls and is also in their show choir Pizzazz. She stopped Piano this year because of adding the show choir and the increased homework load of 6th grade. However, she still plays around on the keyboard and helps Spencer a lot. Because her new school is so small she also has the opportunity of playing sports there which is a nice change from music, music, music. She too has grown like crazy and we can not keep her in clothes and shoes!!! David is still loving his role as Executive Minister at Central and I think has really found his sweet spot. We have just completed our 6th year here in Amarillo. Amazing.

Really the only thing that matters at the end of the day or year, in this case, is time spent with the ones you love, and the One who loves us & lives that look increasingly more like His.

Have a great Christmas and New Year and as we always say, come and see us!
David, Arlene, Michaela, Spencer, Disney-Cat and Diego-Dog Kasselman.
(PS Michaela is in her Rock and Roll Show Choir uniform and Spencer is being an elf)

Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson

I have just finished this book today and it was an amazing read. Hear these words from Peterson in the section dedicated to Lectio Divina. Get this book, read it, eat it.

Contemplation means submitting to the biblical revelation, taking it within ourselves, and then living in unpretentiously, without fanfare.. It doesn't mean (and these are the stereotyped misunderstanding) quiet, withdraw, secluded, serene, or benign. It has nothing to do with whether we spend our days as a grease monkey under an automobile or on our knees in a Benedictine choir. It doesn't mean "having it all together." It doesn't mean being emotionally and mentally well-balanced.
Contemplatives fly off the handle, make bad judgments, speak out mistakenly and regret their words, run stoplights an get speeding tickets. Contemplatives get depressed, get confused, get fat, get lost, and sometimes don't get it at all. "Contemplative" is not a term of achievement. It is not a badge of merit.
Contemplative is a designation that any one of us can accept for ourselves and one that we all should. We will never read and live the Bible rightly if we don't. Lectio divina anticipates and assumes contemplation. If it makes us feel better to attach the adjective "failed" I have no objection. Failed contemplative. All contemplatives are failed contemplatives. But the word itself, whether as adjective or noun, stands: contemplative.
Contemplation means living what we read, not wasting any of it or hoarding any of it. but using it up in living.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Come before Winter

In March I am travelling with the Come before Winter team to do a renewal retreat for women in ministry on the mission field in Canada. What an incredible opportunity to join these amazing women. I am so excited about the opportunity.

Last night I shared this with our elders in their meeting and they prayed over me and I feel so confirmed in this ministry opportunity. If any of you would like to check out their website it is: www.comebeforewinter.org

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Spiritual Formation at the Kasselmans, Kinda'

I have never felt less equipped for the challenge of parenting as I do right now with a Middle Schooler. Everything seems to be weighted with future consequences and I feel like I am second guessing myself all the time...I may make a fatal mistake and mess things up in significant ways. David keeps the balance and reminds me that many a child has survived and thrived with worse parenting and our children too will be okay. Okay?? Who wants okay, can you define okay. You get the picture...I am a little paranoid right now :-)

One of those challenges is how to have some semblance of family devotional time with a 6 year old and a 6th grader. Yes, we can do our own thing with each of them at bedtime, but I was looking for something more family like. Our church has a bible reading program called MyWord but that did not seem to be working well for us, so back to the drawing board I went.

Finally I came up with a calendar that I drew up that has 4 nights of activity per week based around a theme. Meditation Monday, Terrific Tuesday, Thoughtful Thursday and Feeling Friday. I know a little cheesy, but the kids love it. Tuesdays are for sharing something terrific about the theme of the week, Thursday is an action day of doing something for someone else also determined by the theme of the week and Friday is when we talk about an emotion linked to the theme of the week. Monday is our scripture for the week and the other days are the living out of the ideas in the Monday passage through service and reflection. Are you with me? One goal being that it is an avenue for Michaela to share because she is emotionally quite a closed child. Spencer not so much.

Meditation Monday is quite fascinating. We read a Psalm aloud, read it again silently to ourselves and then read it again. We sit for a minute or two (this is a 6 year old and a 6th grader remember) and think about what we have read. We all have a turn to then share what stands out to us in the passage. The idea is to begin teaching the idea of meditating on scripture or a very basic version of lectio divinia.

Well last night, we did Psalm 23 and Michaela shared first about how cool the idea of living with God forever is. When we asked her why, she very matter of factually said, "you are living forever with your creator - that is pretty awesome." (insert - seriously, could you guys not see that?) Not really. And then Spencer started. Oh my!
"Well the part I like is this...He leads me beside quiet waters."
His voice getting softer and more sappy.
"I...I..I just like the quiet water part."
Eyes down at the text, serious face. A few seconds of silence and then insert a loud, dramatic voice
"It is not crashing and kabooming and whooshing water. It is like a lake, a stream"
Back to the golf commentator tone -
"It is calm. I just like that part."
We affirmed that and asked a question about it to which he responded.
"Well God is with us in the easy things and the hard things. Hard things like when the dog bites me or the cat attacks me. Or I have to crawl in dark places???"
Yes, we said and perhaps also harder things like when there is an illness or someone dies. Michaela suggested times like when Nana died.
David and I could not look at each other because we were ready to bust out laughing.
Calm waters, animal attacks, dark places all in a quivery voice...
How did we get such a "to the point" daughter and overly emotional son?

Both kids observations out of Psalm 23 were great. Thankfully there is no right way to do this. Just being together around the word matters.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Open to Receive

Yesterday was one of those days. My heart was open to receive.

I have had a hard few months struggling with some emotional junk and having God reveal parts of myself that are less attractive and need work. You know those times when you are wading through the complexities of oneself and needing to stay there for clarity and understanding. Over the last two years I feel like I have spent more time here than anywhere. That may not be true - about 2 years ago I had a faith crisis that took several months to work through and this has been more about me and my baggage. God is faithful and I can honestly say I am on the "better" side. With a little help from my friends.

It struck me yesterday in worship that something was different. You know those times when you are clearly more open to receive the word and ministry of God into your life. I met God in worship like I had not done in a while. That was good. Last night we got to go and hear Tquan Moore from Houston in concert. He served as a youth minister with several guys who work here in the Amarillo area while they were all in Houston. He is launching a music career - just a guy and his guitar. I love that. He has a new version of Here We Are But Straying Pilgrims and it really resonated with me. Can't say I have ever loved this song but I heard something in the lyrics that I haven't heard before. I'm not a huge fan of theology that paints the Christian life on earth as nothing but struggle and the only goal is heaven when things will be good. I believe we enter now into the abundance of eternity - you know the already but not yet. So bearing that in mind still consider these words.

Here we are but straying pilgrims
Here our path is often dim
But to cheer us on our journey
Still we sing this wayside hymn
Yonder over the rolling river
Where the shining mansions rise
Soon will be our home for ever
And the smile of the blessed Giver
Gladdens all our longing eyes
Here our feet are often weary
On the hills that throng our way
Here the tempest darkly gathers
But our hearts within us say
Here our souls are often fearful
Of the pilgrim's lurking foe
But the Lord is our defender
And He tells us we may know

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Books

I hope that we always have books. I love their covers. I love opening one for the first time. I don't dog ear pages. I do highlight and write in them sometimes. The Scholastic book fair is currently happening at my son's school. It is energizing to me to see the library stuffed to capactity with cases of colorful new books. I guess that is what has me going about books right now. I think too I am contemplating a good holiday read. What should it be?

My most current reads have been:
Junie B Jones Aloha-Ha
Life on the Vine by Kenneson
Discipleship by Bonhoeffer
Ethics by Bonhoeffer
Christ and the Moral Life by Gustafson
Heroes, Saints and Ordinary Morality by Flescher
The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog

I've dabbled with the Audacity of Hope by Barak Obama and will finish that over the holidays.

So now I need something for the holidays. Any suggestions. Just an fyi I am not into historical fiction or Sci-Fi. So bring on any other ideas.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blog Soup

(as in a little of this and a little of that)

1. Spencer sitting at the table contemplating the meaning of life..."You know, when you register for Webkinz, your whole life changes. It does. Its amazing." Michaela, David and I crack up and almost roll out of our chairs.

2. Our friends Frank and Nancy moved to Dallas and visited our old church on Sunday. I got a call from Nancy to say, "guess what I just spent 2 hours with your friend Lisa at Starbucks and it was incredible." While talking to Nancy I get a voice mail from Lisa saying, "I just spent the afternoon with your friend Nancy and it was great." I think they can leave out the "your friend" phrase - I'm guessing they are now friends. It makes me so happy!

3. I was moved at seeing my daughters response to her friends crisis yesterday. Her friend's neighbor just had a horrible car wreck and their twins were killed. The twins and Michaela's friend were very close friends. Seeing Michaela enter the pain of another was so awesome to me.

4. The spicy chicken sandwich at Wendy's gives me joy.

5. I am not feeling Christmas yet even if Wal-Mart insists on playing Christmas music already.

6. It is the book fair at Spencer's school. I am reminded every year how much I love books. Love them. The way they feel, the covers, the emotional response I have to them. Yes, I spent a little too much....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gentleness

It is about time to wrap up the Sunday series from Life on the Vine that I have been teaching. This past Sunday we talked about Gentleness. What an interesting week it was working through that idea. When is the last time you really thought about gentleness. I am not talking about what the word means in Greek, or how it is exhibited in the character of God. I am talking about looking out onto the landscape of your world and identifying people as gentle.
I started out thinking about people that I would call gentle. Sure, most of us have aspects of gentleness in different areas of our lives, but I am talking about someone who so completely models a specific trait that you would slap a label on them and be done (I know labels are bad, just an illustration...like if you knew that can had corn in it, you could label it corn).

Think about it for a moment. Right now. Pause and just let your mind wonder a little. Who would you call gentle? Why? How have you seen this exhibited in their lives?

Here are three observations that I discovered.
1. Our culture does not uphold this trait. You probably had to search your brain for examples of gentleness in your life. I know tons of terrific people..people who are kind, fun, warm, generous but people can be all that and not always gentle.

2. Unlike other fruit of the spirit or virtue traits, this one has such an intangible quality to it. Patience, joy, peace, kindness, love can all be grasped in a way that is different to gentleness. It seems to be the coming together of a way of being that is evident in a person's words, their touch, their face, their demeanor, their eyes. None of which can be manipulated but follow from a heart that is transformed by Christ.

Now this is random and how my strange brain works.....

3. You will be surprised how many large people will come to mind. When I made my list just about everyone on there was 6.2 or bigger. Fascinating to me....probably only me! Well actually when we talked about it in class and people were sharing their experiences of gentleness it became apparent that others had the same experience. But it does make me wonder if there is something to the gentle giant idea:-) It makes me wonder if sometimes tall, imposing people compensate for their presence by developing a gentle spirit. I am not suggesting all large people are gentle, but we were struck by how many gentle people that came to our minds were tall.

I feel God's call to be conscious of my choices and not saturate my life with violence as entertainment, self promotion, power broking and aggression. If we believe God has the best life for us we must conform our lives to the gentle shepherd and the incarnate Christ is surely the best example of gentleness that we have.

I think of Amy Grant who posts on this blog, Winslow Ellis a friend here in Amarillo, David Wray (friend, professor, mentor), Cathy Burns a friend and counselor, my nephew Matthew - just to name a few people who I think are examples of this fruit to me. I am thankful that I can learn from you.

And ps. all of them tall....just saying! (To me you are tall Amy....no short jokes allowed).

UPDATE: My friend Scott emailed me this and I feel compelled to add this to my blog...not sure how I missed mentioning Phil and Debby! He mentioned several people from the Riverside church of Christ in Coppell where we used to work before Central and yes, all of these are great examples of gentleness.
(from his email) How about Phil & Debby (I know, I know--they're not tall)? Don Barnes. Ken & Laquita. Pete Montgomery.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Halloween Better Late than Never


Just thought I'd let you guys see Harry and Hermione aka Spencer and Michaela from Halloween.
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Monday, October 22, 2007

Musical Moments

This post may be too sappy for some of you. Don't say I didn't warn you. It is adjective filled.

1. The first musical moment happened in the car driving back to Amarillo from Abilene this past weekend. If you have read this blog for very long, you know how much music means in my life. You have seen the posts about musicians, songs, concerts - I love it all. So here I go again. While driving back from Abilene on Saturday I was thinking about what my favorite song is. I don't prefer that question really because I want to get technical as I answer it. I want to be able to have a favorite in every genre, for different life stages, you get the picture. It is almost impossible to pick just one. However, it struck me that I think if the "pick a favorite song police" ever arrive and try to arrest me for not having one, I can avoid the disaster. I have one. Period. This may shock some of you because I am not usually seen as a "hymn" kinda girl, but read these words and hum the music in your head, it is incredible.

I grew up singing this song at the Methodist school that I attended. We also sang it at the small Church of Christ in South Africa that I attended. We sang it in assemblies at high school and not much more after that. It was not an Abilene song. Occasionally, Craig Noland one of the worship leaders where we worked in Coppell led it. I can hear his incredible voice caressing the words and music. Rarely do we sing it in Amarillo. And quite honestly I think when MercyMe released their version of it 3 or so years ago I fell in love with it again. Their interpretation is my all time favorite. Enjoy these words.

The Love of God

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song

2. The second one happened last night. After Michaela's middle school discipleship time I picked her up and we went to Polk Street United Methodist Church for an Organ Concert. Michaela wanted to go because her school choir teacher was singing, her Amarillo Youth Choir pianist was one of the featured Organists and the Conductor was Mr. Rolando Salazar who directed the Prepatory choir she was in. So off we went. I know a middle schooler dragging her Mom to an event like this??? Little did we know what an incredible event it would be. 2 fabulous soloists (one soprano, one mezza soprano)were featured, both having performed from Prague to New York. They now live here in Amarillo and teach at WT. Several amazing Organists played. The WT Chorale sang with the Polk Street Choir. The Philharmonic Orchestra was there - just unreal. The final piece was "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and it was beyond words. I felt tears just running down my face and as I looked at the lady I had made friends with next to me, tears were her response also. The music was so overwhelmingly moving that you almost felt your own heartbeat. The choirs were outstanding. However without a doubt the most amazing element was watching Mr. Salazar conduct. You could see the emotion, the music, the perfection consuming his body and his face. Every part of him was fully present in every note and his body almost danced the music as he conducted. Tears began rolling down his cheeks and it was clear that as a young, professional, freakishly talented man who turned down a position teaching at Julliard to remain in the Panhandle - this was about life and love and faith. The power of music amazes me.

Rugby Happy Dance

We won, we won.. we are the best in the world. Woohoo South Africa. Who would have thought that the group of us South Africans gathered to watch the final together would all be in tears by the end of the trophy presentation. Remember the line from an old 80's song, "wherever I lay my hat, that's my home." It's a lie.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Self Care

I almost hate to post this because I do not want to communicate a message that is individualistic or "all about me" - not even a little bit. In fact I am drawn to this subject because I think with some self care we tend to be better at community.

I had breakfast with a friend on Saturday. She happens also to be one of the best counselors I have ever known. Yes, very good for me. I get "friend therapy". We talked about what it is in us that motivates us to seek approval through the "doing" of things. Good, real, deep, insightful conversation. She made a point, that Dan also mentioned on Sunday. Hurt people, hurt people. We all operate out of our woundedness.

Even those of us who have not had great childhood trauma, we have emotional wounds simply because we have lived. As a child, we are egocentric and while our core personalities are forming we funnel everything through that "I" filter. So, for a child if my parents are always pushing me to do better and never seem pleased with my performance, instead of ascribing that to their issues, I take that on as not being good enough. You fill in the situation and the result is the same.

And I believe the Accuser hurts us where we hurt the most! So, if we believe we are not significant because of the way we attributed a set of feelings and behaviors as a child. We function out of that as an adult. We work, work, work in order for someone to tell us that we are significant. We can spend our whole lives looking for significance and when people do not fill that need our worst fears are confirmed and the cycle continues. How can we possibly function as fully alive disciples living in the extravagance of God's love for us. We can't. In some form or fashion we live out our Christian walk trying to earn God's love, the approval of our church family and hoping to just manage sin at best.

That leads to the idea of self care. Only when we understand this and know that people all around us are struggling in the same way can we begin to grow in health. We can then begin to understand people, and not just label and judge them. When we take the time, risk and energy needed to know ourselves and name our fears that drive us, there is hope. Then we begin the journey to filling our minds and hearts with the attributes of God. When we fully believe that He is enough, sufficient, supreme we can take deep breaths. We can really believe, regardless of what the 6 year old inside our head says, that we are chosen, heirs, elect, children of the King, empowered, filled and loved. Now having that as the go to list in your brain instead of the other is self care.

The other aspect to self care that I love, is God care. Actually it has got nothing to do with self and all to do with God. The result though is a full, alive self. The self is actually cared for and brought to life. The work of God in us. Transforming us into who he wants us to be. A gift, but one that we can pursue. We position ourselves in ways that soak up all he has to offer. We make space for him. We listen during prayer instead of just speaking. We do all we can to be the most open vessel possible for him to fill.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Check This Out

If you read this blog and do not read Greg Kendall-Balls blog, I would like to ask that you link over to his blog and read this post:
http://kendallball.com/2007/09/29/invisible-children-photography-trip

Besides being an incredible thinker and a gifted photographer he is also a friend of ours. Greg literally grew up before my eyes. His family attended church with ours in South Africa. My Mom loved Greg, Jordan and Jenni like they were her own kids.

He is being given an incredible opportunity and if you can help him achieve this please do. Look for the little donate button and if you can give anything at all it will help make this trip a reality.
Thanks!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Heroes Saints & Ordinary Morality

I have just completed a fascinating read by Andrew Flescher, Heroes Saints & Ordinary Morality. It is not a quick read or even an easy one. But, it is a rich one. I know I will need to reread this book, several times perhaps, before I really "get it" but after this first read I have been struck by several things. Flescher looks back at traditional approaches to ethics that suggest there is a sharp distinction between those we might call heroes and saints and the majority of us ordinary people. He looks at the views upheld by Urmson and Heyd and tries to undo that thinking by highlighting the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr., Holocaust rescuers, Dorothy Day etc. If one was to look at figures in the last 10 years we might throw out the names of Mother Theresa, 911 Firefighters, Nelson Mandela...

So here is the question. Do we all have the responsibility to go that extra mile. Or, do we leave that to those who are somehow instinctively different than us: better somehow?

Flescher closes the book by reflecting on the writing of Tillich and other developmentalists in the world of ethics. He writes (with obvious note that this is lacking in theological language and approach) "We should be responsible in living, both responsible for ourselves and for our own development, and responsible for the welfare and well-being of others. Responsibility implies vigilance. It implies watching out for our character, directing it in ways that will resist the temptation to succumb to non-deliberate, unreflective living". That statement resonates so deeply with me. And even though this statement is not nuanced with the results of the transforming work of the cross and the spirit, does it challenge you? In what ways do you see the mainstream church living and thinking in ways that are "non-deliberate and unreflective".

This makes me want to be a better version of myself. It makes me want to embrace the hard questions and discussions. (David recoils in horror as he thinks, what more deep philosophical discussions?). It makes me want to journey into the hidden places of my head and heart. Sometimes things connect deeply with me because of where I am at the moment and so it is possible you may read these thoughts and go, "nah". But if something strikes you share it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Plagarism again....sorry Amy

My friend Amy always has interesting random questions on her blog and I have copied her before, so here I go again, with minor adjustments.
I love these kinds of things because it always gives me new insights into people.
Answer as many as you like...

1. Salty or sweet?
2. Coke or Pepsi?
3. Decaf or double shot?
4. Early riser or night owl?
5. Clinton or Obama?
6. Thompson or ???
7. Italian or Chinese food?
8. Vanilla or Chocolate?
9.Favorite kind of date night?

Photo Update


This is Diego our new "dorkie" pupppy. It is a yorkie, doxon mix and Spencer's first pet. Seriously, what were we thinking. He is pretty cute I have to say. Disney our prissy but lovely cat is certain that life as she knows it is over forever. And, yes she is correct!
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Photo Update


Michaela all set in her uniform for the first day of 6th grade at Ascension Academy. What an awesome school!
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Photo Update


This is Spencer ready for the first day of 1st grade! Check out the cool messenger bag instead of the traditional backpack. He knew exactly what he wanted at the store and is pretty sure his bag is the coolest thing ever!
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Why no blogging?

About every 6 months or so there is a long lull in my blog posts. Things get busy and I begin living in too many worlds which means I choose to let this go for awhile. I struggle to let things go and so it is always hard to make that choice.

This absence is due to the following reasons:
1. My Ethics class meets for the first weekend beginning Thursday. I am behind in my reading. Way behind. Like so far behind that I will probably be writing a paper based on incomplete reading. This is new for me. As a student I follow rules (at least I do someplace in my life). I read everything and I submit everything on time. Oh well, there is a first time for everything!

2. David and I are teaching Life on the Vine on Sunday mornings in our Bible Class. He decided that I should handle the "content" and he would do the application portion. So I am spending extended time with Kenneson working through this material. So far it is going well.

3. I am in a phase where I am craving order and things being up to date. Because of my inability to handle stress well, I usually keep things running pretty well because if too much piles up I can't cope. But laundry and chores and papers being filed away etc had gotten out of hand over the summer and so I have been almost manic about getting my life caught up. I think I am there...for this second anyway. Mail will come today. Laundry will be generated today. Dishes will mount up....but I can manage one day at a time, it is just the pit that seemed to evolve over the summer that was not very pleasing to me!!!!

4. I am doing a 4 hour per week marketing job for a local Financial Advisor with Edward Jones. It is is awesome, but marketing is hard to keep to the hours I spend in the office, so it is bleeding over and filling all sorts of nooks and crannies of my life.

5. School is back and while that frees up my time a tad and means the house stays picked up almost all day, it means school volunteering is back too. I enjoy being connected to the life of the school and knowing the teachers and administrators. Somehow it makes it easier to leave your kids there all day when you feel invested. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at Michaela's school as a way to get to know a new place.

6. My favorite part of ministry is the relational aspect of it. And so with the kids back in school I can get back to my regular coffee times, lunch meetings and general hanging out times with friends and those who I am in discipling relationships with.

7. And then there is just living, you know what I mean?

Hopefully I am back to blogging on a regular basis it is such good therapy for me.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Jim Clarification

A few weeks back, I posted about how happy I was that Dan was back preaching after a summer of vacation and sabbatical. I had a comment posted by Jim and I just merrily assumed it was my friend Jim. N. Why I assumed this is still a mystery given that I comment frequently on my other friend Jim M.'s blog. I even link to it on my page. And that the other Jim N. is a blog reader and not a commenter. I replied in the comments back to him making reference to a few "inside jokes". He chose today, 3 weeks or so later, to tell me it wasn't him.

Here is the moral of the story.
1. Don't use the blog comments section for "inside jokes" unless you want to look like a candidate for creepy girl of the year.
2. When you click on the link that your commenter's name brings up actually read it!
3.If you are to make a mistaken identity error, pray hard that you mistake your Jim N. with the Jim M. you have listed in your blog links. Jim Martin is a fellow minister who I love and respect and am always challenged by. And, I might add he is gracious - gracious enough not to have replied back with a WHAT???? I am sure he was a little taken aback by my warm fuzzy declarations of how connected I feel to him and how I love him, but nevertheless he was gracious.

So Jim N. get yourself a blog profile so you can at least comment and I can harass you over the Internet!!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tough Questions

"Asking the tough questions" is a phrase you hear alot now days. Overuse can rob us from the ability to really ask the tough questions. I know some people who prefer not to deal with that kind of thing and then I know people, like me, who seem to thrive on it. Someplace in between those two extremes is probably the healthiest spot!

However last night during our Wednesday evening worship experience, we were celebrating the Lord's supper by taking bread and grape juice and sitting together at tables talking, laughing, sharing and partaking. It was real and felt so "in the moment." It was an experiential way of remembering Jesus. A little later we were discussing and journalling about two questions that had been assigned and one of them resonated with me more than usual. It is still bouncing off the walls of my heart and mind. The question was something like this, "imagine what your life would be like if Jesus had not died and risen." I know you have heard that 100 times. Like me, you probably even have a pat answer. But for some reason last night I was stretched to journal some thoughts about who I would be without Jesus. My actions, my thoughts, my behaviors, my responses.....It was not a pretty site.

I felt further convicted that there are days when the ugliness of my heart still seem so overwhelming and that is with all the shaping that God has done and continues to do in me.
Can you even imagine yourself untouched by the Potter?

Laying aside the pat answers, have you really thought about what the "Christless" version of yourself looks like. How that version would act and speak and live? Think about it for a while and then give thanks. Worship Him in praise and shout out, How Great is Our God!

Monday, August 20, 2007

God and Money

I heard a sermon yesterday that I am having a hard time with. You know the feeling when you disagree with what you are hearing and your life experiences back up your feelings but you can't necessarily prove your position? Or is it just me?

The statement was made, "God's intention, his heart is to bless you financially." There was a lot of other very good material in the lesson, but I got stuck on this one and just couldn't move passed it. I disagree. I think God's intention and heart is to shape us and that is usually a blessing but I think it has little to do with financial blessing. I think God's heart is to bless us and that usually lands up looking very different to "financially bless us."

Some of the most faithful, God-hearted people I know are poor and live in conditions that are deplorable in Africa or other areas. Have they somehow not "earned blessings" from God. I don't think so. I know that Old Testament scripture refers to God blessing our store houses and multiplying our fields etc. but Jesus seems to present such a different picture in his ministry. He talks at lengh about giving up stuff, leaving security, how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom etc. He always seems to land on the side of the poor and call the rest of us to a life of "stufflessness."

The idea of God wanting to bless us financially just seems so "Joel Osteen-ish" and that scares me. My life experiences testify to the idea that real discipleship usually costs us something, and the reward is usually a more abundant faith journey, which has little to do with anything financial.

I may be missing something crucial here, so weigh in and help me as I struggle with this.

You know you live in Amarillo when you keep dreaming of exotic locations...

Frank was wondering after my Dubai post what the other 16 dreamy destinations were on my list, and so here it is.

Santorini, Greece
Cypress
Paris
Rome, Milan, Naples, Florence, Venice, Turin, Bologna, Perugina,: Italy
Tuscany, Italy
Bordeaux, France
Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth & Sydney:Australia
Tasmania
Wellington & Auckland: New Zealand
Singapore
Mauritius
Scandanavia
Spain
Canary Islands
Hamburg and Heidelberg: Germany
Any Caribbean spot you pick.......I'm always up for a beach vacation!!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dubai, UAE and other travel dreams...

About 20 years ago I was fascinated with Singapore. Don't get me wrong, I would still love to visit Singapore. However, my newest destination fascination is Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
About 8 years ago or so it became a hot destination for South Africans to visit. It is a shopping mecca with great hotels and resorts and lots of other interesting things.

Last night I happened to watch a show on Discovery called Really Big Things. It was incredible. They focused on a new resort development that Georgio Armani has designed. It is going to be the tallest structure in the world at over 135 floors. It is going to include hotel rooms, condos, restaurants, pools, gyms, a mall etc. They also showed an indoor ski facility called Ski Dubai. It is the largest indoor ski resort anywhere - along with chalet type buildings, hot chocolate cafes etc. Excess, wealth, and materialism seem to rule the day.

I am not sure why this country is so intriguing to me, perhaps it is the fact that it situated along the northeast coast of the United Arab Emirates and in the desert. I think it is the way it has literally sprung up as a tourist destination in an area not usually known for tourism. Overall I think it is the fact that it seems to bust wide open any presuppositions one might have about a country in this region, or an economy in this region, or facilities, infra-structure or any other measurable quality one might choose to weigh.

After some reading about the area, it appears like the largely expatriate work force lives in less than stellar conditions. Construction crews run 24/7 in this burgeoning economy and so it has become a magnet for poor laborers who are desperate to earn some money to send back to family. Isn't it true that anytime a few are making billions, there are a trail of people being overused and mistreated.

David and I would spend our last dollars on travel and pre-kids, while still in South Africa, we did that often :-). My list of places to go steadily increases and I think I am adding Dubai to it. So who knows, if I live another 35 years and we take one trip every two years, we could get to number 17 on my list....yikes, I had better move it further up and bump one of those other destinations farther down.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Compilation

If you begin counting with me from May 26th, tomorrow's trip to Abilene will be the 7th since the summer began. It has been loads of fun because we have been doing graduation stuff, wedding stuff and my sister-in-law and I have laughed till we cried. I can not even begin to tell the stories, you just had to be there.

But people, I am sick of my CD's. I know, it is 2007 and I am not an mp3, Ipod using girl. I just don't like the little thingy's in my ears and it seems kinda' ridiculous to hook it all up to play through the CD player when I could just play the CD's and not have to spend the money on an Ipod. I will get there eventually. All that to say, I can barely face putting in my usual favorites. I listen to almost all Contemporary Christian music because it is such a powerful way for me to connect with God, but there has been a lack of great new stuff recently and so I am in a little dry spell.

And so I decided to remedy that little situation and download some stuff to burn a new CD to help make the drive a little better tomorrow. David is convinced my choices are to terrorize him in the car for 5 hours, but really they are not. I ventured from my usual suspects and this is just a compilation of some of the favorite (old and new) music. It makes me happy. And, Lord help me, it includes a Country Song.

Beautiful Flower (India.Arie)
There's Hope (India.Arie)
Wait for You (Elliott Yamin)
I'm the Man (Elliott Yamin)
Banana Pancakes (Jack Johnson)
Upside Down (Jack Johnson)
Heaven (Los Lonely Boys)
Somewhere Only We Know (Keane)
Everybody's Changing (Keane)
Umbrella (Rihanna)
Complicated (Robin Thicke)
When the Sun Goes Down (Kenny Chesney)

So, what do you think? If you spot one, even one, you like on this list, let me know. I need some ammunition to throw back at my ever-mocking husband.

Monday, July 30, 2007

On Being Known

It's what was so intriguing about Cheers. It's what connects us to people. It's what drives us to do irrational things sometimes. We want to be known, not in an ego-centric sort of way, but in a community way. To feel like people know us. When we feel known, we feel loved and included...on the inside if you will.

I am struck by two powerful expressions of that today. God is speaking to my heart about this and I think He has my attention.

Firstly, read today's post by Larry James. There are days, when it would suffice if I just linked to Larry James' blog and simply typed..."yes, what he said." He captures God's heart for people like no other. http://larryjamesurbandaily.blogspot.com/

Secondly, after lunch today our Outreach minister, Mark, asked if I wanted to stay and sit in on his visits with people who are coming in looking for help. He asked me to sit and listen to their stories. To hear their challenges and victories. And to be the prayer warrior of the day. After each visit he asked me to pray with the people. It was overwhelming really. Each of these people came in and had needs, some small but mostly huge. But no matter if it was help with a gas card, rent, prescription assistance, or applying for id's each person had a story. Few if any have people who want to hear that story. I felt so proud of Mark and the way God is using him to touch people's lives and to humanize their struggles.
He makes people feel known...wanted...worthy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sleepless in Amarillo

It keeps happening to me and I do not know how to cope. I am a sleeper - anyplace, anytime, anywhere. Or, should I say, I used to be.
I lay awake for hours a few weeks ago and I blamed it on the White Chocolate Mocha at Starbucks.

I lay awake for hours a week ago and I blamed it on a friend who had made a comment that was stirring in my spirit.

I lay awake tonight - nothing to blame it on, so I got up and decided to blog about it in hopes that I would get sleepy at the screen. Not so much so far. Nothing like seeing those numbers tick by 1, 2, 3....

Happy Dance

Dan's back, Dan's back, I'm doing the happy dance (add your own moves and music).

Wow, what an incredible Sunday. I feel so moved by the sermon today. I have missed Dan's outstanding preaching and am so happy he is back home! Lately we have had several families move from Amarillo due to their jobs and the thing I keep hearing in common is this..."we keep visiting churches but just can't find preaching like Dan's." I think I agree.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thankful

1. We have a family wedding in less than two weeks. It is a crazy, fun, exciting time. And the bonus is that we get to add a new nephew to the family and he is awesome!!!!! And I get to participate in the Wedding Ceremony - what an incredible memory that will be.

2. That as a woman in a cofc, I got to teach bible class in our class this past Sunday and it has spurred some fascinating extra-curricula discussion about faith formation. Paul B. you are one of the deepest thinkers I have met in a long time.

3. That in said class, some of the greatest affirmation came from one of our elders.

4. That my friends lives have settled back into a more normal routine and I can get doses of "friend fix" again.

5. For the enthusiasm that the Sofi tote was met with last night, as I displayed the Eternal Threads stuff at a women's event. I think we will be placing an order for about 20 of these bags and that can change the trajectory of life for 20 little girls in India.

6. For times of sharing with friends, like I had the opportunity to do this morning with SB, when we can share what is on our hearts and really embody spiritual friendship.

7. That enough people read this blog that I am getting harassed about not posting regularly.

8. Dark chocolate.

9. For summer camps that have impacted the life and faith of my 11 year old.

10. Reconnections. Facebook has made it possible to connect with important people from my past that I had lost touch with. How incredible to rekindle those memories and friendships.

11. A webkinz frog named Remy that my niece generously gave Spencer. It has been so sweet to watch Spencer ensure the frog has food, exercise and fun online. He is going to be a great Dad one day.

12. A song by Indie.Arie called Hope - how great!

13. My friend Chris' backyard and pool and her generous spirit in sharing it.

14. Sno-cones are cheap and oh so yummy.

15. That Bek needs to practice cookie making for her business and we get to sample.

16. That even though I was in bed and asleep before my husband came to bed, I felt him kiss me on the cheek last night.

17. For summer interns over the years who have impacted the lives of my kids: Sharon, Spruce, Brian, Valerie, Jordan, Aaron, John Paul, Jordan (again :-)), Caleb, Janaye, Hunter, Julya.

18. Tea.

19. I get to "close down" Starbucks with friends fairly frequently.

20. That God cares enough about me that He refuses to leave me as He found me and that He is shaping me to look more like Him.

(And that God made suntans in such a way that sometimes your skin bubbles and peels usually on your back where you can not peel it yourself, and that he made some of us with the desire to do that peeling. I thought this was normal until a few days ago when I realized how creepy my friends think it is that I like to peel sunburned skin :-))

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Domestic Bliss(?)

Summer is here and as a result, finding time to blog is just not a priority.

Life has taken on some interesting turns at the Kasselmans over the past few weeks. I was asked to fill in at a friends office for two weeks, which I did. Whatever notions I have had about myself being a career girl, are gone. I was. Long ago. Before kids. Before 40. Let me tell you as I schlepped myself home each night I was exhausted. Absolutely exhausted. I was riddled with guilt about my kids being shuttled between friends. I was too tired to cook. Whine, whine, whine. I have an even greater appreciation for those Mom's who do it all. Kudos to you.

But perhaps my longing to be home while at work, was a little too much. Because now I am home and we are in the middle of some, let's say, home improvements and I am ready to be back at work while this happens. We started by simply pulling up carpet in our bathroom and having tile laid. Well you know how these things kinda' grow....well, now we are in process of changing hardware, light fixtures, door knobs, the kids bathroom, stripping wall paper, painting, texturing - all at the same time - ....do you get the picture. One little thing and it has snowballed into my house being a pit. I know the end result is going to be great. But in the mean time, my haven of domestic bliss looks like a wrecking ball has gone to town on it. Anyone looking for a willing employee???

Michaela has been to her first in town service camp with the youth group and now she is away at camp in the Palo Duro Canyon. VBS has come and gone. Father's Day is gone. David is getting ready for a mission trip to Nicaragua. The kids and I are getting ready for multiple (make that 5 in 6 weeks) trips to Abilene for things we need to be at. My niece's wedding is rapidly approaching. Who said the living was easy in the summer?

But let me not forget the trips to the pool, the sno-cones, the late sleeping, the board games, the coloring, the friends over. So much great stuff too!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Do I trust Jesus

Larry James' post that I mentioned the other day has me thinking. Spending last year in the book of Mark has had me thinking. This year focusing on Discipleship has me thinking. In fact it has moved way past thinking. God is doing something in me and it is good.

But one of the fundamental questions that I am left with is, "do I trust Jesus?" Do I trust that his way, his life and his instructions are really the best for me. Am I able to read the Sermon on the Mount and know without a doubt that this is the way to life...the road to being fully alive in Christ. Or, am I able to hide my inability to really believe behind busy churchiness, or an attitude of arrogance based on the fact that it is 2007 and life is different now.

I have often wondered about the prayer, "help my unbelief." Seldom have I defined myself as one who "needed" to pray such a prayer. I can look over my life and see my unswerving faith through hard life transitions: death, cancer, overseas move, financial instability. And I have always been honest about the times when the whole "God and church" thing has just seemed too much of a stretch for my mind. I have confessed that kind of doubt and have sought out counsel from my spiritual community to reaffirm my beliefs.

But this is not about that. Most of the time in life I have discovered that, "this is not about that." This has less to do with believing in God and more to do with believing God. God is slowly showing me things about myself and bringing light to my heart and truth is being revealed.

Situations aside, regardless of circumstances, understanding the complexity of people, and considering the life of ministry and just life itself...
I want to be the person who believes it really is better to:
turn away from pride
bury arrogance
be a peacemaker
live out of a heart of compassion
seek purity with vigilence
hunger and thirst for God alone
endure hardships for the sake of the Kingdom
lay aside resentment and anger against others
seek good for all people
treat people with kindness and grace
be extravagantly generous
offer love and hospitality to those who can not return the favor
allow God to be the audience of good deeds, not people
prayer in silence aswell as with words
remain still long enough for God to speak
live a life of spiritual disciplines
allow the fruit of a life of disciplines to speak, not the act of the discipline itself
value and honor people not things
celebrate blessings by sharing
live daily for the Kingdom
differentiate between need and want
direct all my resources toward living for Jesus and not an earthly secure future
have the eyes of Jesus to see the best in people
not judge another unless I am willing to be scrutinized in the same way
seek God in everything
expect Him to answer and draw me in
abdicate from image control
allow the fruit of my life to witness to Christ
seek wisdom and discernment

What a journey!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Evil Choir Girl

Unaware that David was video taping her, Michaela is singing one of her choir songs with a creative addition or two. She then notices him and asks him to take a picture, still unaware that her choral antics are video taped forever!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Time flies

The whirlwind that we call May has come and gone and perhaps now I will get to blog again.
For now, go to Larry James blog and read his post today (June 1st). Some of the most insightful writing and thinking I have seen in a while.

http://larryjamesurbandaily.blogspot.com/

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mothers Day

My Mom died just over 4 years ago - Mother's Day is hard. For some reason, I see it more as a day about my Mom than about being a Mom...
Today I videotaped a short little blurb to be added to a montage about Mothers for worship on Sunday. It was so hard for me to do it. I wanted to and then I backed out, then I asked to do it again...thanks for your patience Steven.

When I think about my Mom, so many memories flood my mind. We were so very close. Having my Dad die when I was 11 really impacted the dynamic of the Mother-Daughter relationship. We just had to suck it up and work together through grief, financial issues, moving, turmoil, rebuilding etc. I gained a tremendous amount of respect for my Mom seeing her reinvent her life.

Taking care of her as she struggled with breast cancer and literally hearing her take her last breath has changed me forever. God equipped David and I for that three year task and He used it to form and shape us in ways that we can not really describe.

But the two characteristics about her that I chose to share on camera today were these:
Her extravagant generosity and her hospitality. She gave above and beyond and sought out people who were in need. Our house was the church event place. We always had something going on or someone over to eat, or spend the night etc etc. Great memories.

What is more amazing is that here at Central, God provided me with a friend, Becky who is old enough to be a Grandmother but not old enough to be my Mother. Yet, she has loved my kids like a surrogate grandparent would. What a huge blessing for us all. And the incredible thing is that when I look at Bek, I see someone who is generous and hospitable. Just an extra little gift from God, I guess.

So, as this weekend approaches and I continue to wipe away spontaneous tears as they erupt. My heart shouts, "this one is for you Mom."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

24 again

Whenever I post about TV or pop culture I feel the need to preface it with something along the lines of...."I know this is shallow but.." So here we go again.

OH MY GOSH and yes I am shouting. 24 last night was fabulous. I am waiting to hear from Steven about how many minutes he stood for. Seasons 1-5 were so good that he stood most of the time. This season has been different and so the stand to sit ratio went down. However, last night was incredible. I am not sure why it was so great to me, and I think that is the genius of good TV writing. It just connects in ways that are inexplicable.

Milo taking a bullet for Nadia was unbelievable. It made me shriek and cry. I loved that. Surely the nephew is really his son. The sister-in-law, who is drop dead gorgeous IMHO, needs to be loved so badly after having been married to creepo and Jack really needs to love in order to fully realize his human self and so this would all be perfect in my little world if they were together. Plus it would bring Jack full circle with her. Oh why do I care so much about this stuff....

Monday, May 07, 2007

One Another

If you have read the archive posts on this blog, you know I have written extensively about Community. I love people and relationship is what drives me. I enjoy hanging out and being silly with friends, but I enjoy equally and if not more times of real sharing. So it is no wonder that when God lays out issues of community before me, it really gets my attention.

In our Sunday morning class we have reached the section of Renovation of the Heart where Dallas Willard talks about the social dimension of the self. Essentially, I think what he is saying and I agree with is that real Spiritual Transformation does not happen in isolation. We are formed more fully into the likeness of Christ when we are living in community with others. Confession, accountability, discernment, fellowship and sharing are vital elements to us being renovated.

I am in relationship with someone in our church who for the last 7 years has struggled to heal after divorce. She has spiraled down into such a bad place over the last two years that it will make your heart ache. We got to spend several hours this week drinking hot tea and sharing on my couch. In these settings I am usually a listener, but this night I chose to really share some of what God was laying on my heart about her situation. She was literally "gob smacked" because what I was saying to her was also what she was hearing from our Senior Minister. Now you may think there are limited words to be spoken in this settings. But God was calling both of us to talk to her about things other than her divorce and rather to focus on her spiritual life. She was amazed, I was amazed but God wasn't. Dan and I are not working in cahoots with her, God is using community to speak a word to a hurt heart and He is using community to help her discern it. Don't you love that.

And then yesterday was Senior Sunday. I cry as I see the pictures of the kids and hear the great things they have to say. I cry harder when I hear what the parents have to say to them. Altogether it is an emotionally exhausting day. But yesterday I was struck by the community experience. I love that we can flood the aisles and lay hands on the kids or the person in front of us who in turn lays hands on the one in front of them, and so forth. I love that at this church it really is true that it takes a village. One senior mentioned a thanks to her second parents and then named about 6 families who are actively involved in her life and have in some way raised her. Inspiring. Last night at the Senior Banquet we were invited to sit at the table of one of the girls graduating because we are close to her family. We shared and laughed and cried. And we ate off special plates. You see this family has a tradition, the oldest daughter painted a set of plates, one for every family member and set her table with those several years back at Senior Banquet. The younger sister set her table with those also and added a few more. One for her best friend and some for us, the Kasselmans. And in doing so, she spoke words of community, family, love and creativity.

I believe completely that when we are less concerned about boundaries and more concerned about living fully in relationship with others, we allow God to transform us in ways that can not be done in other settings.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Things That (don't) Matter

Last night my heart broke as Phil Stacy and Chris Richardson left American Idol. Once again, let me say...I know it is just a TV show - but these are real lives!! Even though the hype has been around the girls this season, I have loved the boys. Blake is still there and that is good. He did such an amazing job of his Bon Jovi song this past week. In fact, surprisingly they all did good with Bon Jovi music, which is not necessarily easy to sing.
But back to Phil and Chris. Chris seems like such a sweet, genuine guy who just happens to channel some Justin Timberlake...what's not to like? Phil has had this upbeat, grateful attitude the entire time which is so refreshing. He is a Dad of two little girls and just happens to have a shaven head (love that) and so once again...what's not to like?

And now to more pressing things like....NBA play off games. I do not get enough sleep during playoffs. My team, the Mavs are killing me. Killing me. They are so close to being taken out by the Golden State Warriors - yes, I know, WHO???? This is personal you see. After Finley and Nash were no longer MAVS, it was hard for me to be a fan. I am a "Nashite." I wondered off and flirted with the Suns, the Heat (theme going) but, I have slowly returned to my first love only to be met with their sluggish, confident-less (I know thats not a word) attempt at round one of the playoffs. Come on guys!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The anti-blessing

I have not blogged much about 24 recently. Partly because it took 3/4 of the season to get really good and partly because my friend Greg is pushing me to think about pacifism and how that impacts our life.

However, after last night I just couldn't stand it anymore. Oh my gosh. Poor Jack. He has always been a broken character and that is what is so attractive about him really. But this season he seems to be even more vulnerable and broken. I have been so drawn in by the mess of his real life (as a TV character) and his emotional bankruptcy that I see him more as a person and not a CTU operative this year. Well, to crown it all - last night he has the ultimate "anti-blessing" spoken over him...."stay away from her Jack, because in some way or another, everything you touch eventually dies." Seriously - what worse thing could you say to a person. I wanted to reach out and just hold the man!!!!

I know - it is just a TV show, but those words were so piercing and hurtful that I can not shake it from my head. Dallas Willard talks about living life as a blessing in Renovation of the Heart. While I do not usually pronounce such open judgemental "anti-blessings" on people, I wonder how my thoughtless words or behaviors may crush people nevertheless. Hmm..

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fun Questions

My friend Amy had these on her blog the other day and it was fascinating seeing the responses. I know you have more pressing stuff to do with your time, but I would love to see your answers.

Here’s a few questions to get to know you even better:
1. What is your cell phone ringtone?
2. Favorite music genre?
3. Impulse item at checkout?
4. News source (tv, magazine, internet)?
5. Do you have any pets?
I’ll answer in the comments below.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Food Happiness in Amarillo, TX

Every now and again I am struck by the fact that I live in the Panhandle of Texas - not the oasis of civilization but a good place in its own right. And today while driving home from my favorite bakery the following food thoughts lingered in my mind, making Amarillo an even sweeter place to live.

1. I love Great Harvest Bread Company. Once you begin eating their bread, you just don't want anything else. It is a hefty investment per loaf, but every bite is so yummy!

2. Basil Docs Pizza is such a joy - sheer joy I tell you. The pizza is perfect. The crust has the right crunch-o-meter to bread texture level. The toppings are fresh and good for you. The combinations creative. The salad is sensational. Besides, I love the urban-loft feel of the place. The most interesting thing is who would expect to find such a treasure alongside Snowhite Bakery on Civic Circle?

3. Cafe Bella has such a tranquil and trendy interior. I love that it too is hidden behind a shopping center and when you discover it, you feel like yelling "Ahoy there, me hearties - I have found the loot." Okay, that may be too much, but it is a great find. The chicken avocado sandwich makes my tongue do little jigs.

4. OHMS makes one of the meanest Shepherds Pie's I have ever eaten. And now readers, I know my Shepherds Pie and trust me, this one is YUM-O!

5. Roosters Cafe can make a green salad with fruit and grilled chicken like no other. It is immersed in Vidalia Onion dressing which brings the entire combination together in perfect harmony.

6.Village Bakery, Franks French Bakery and Belmar Bakery each have little sweet treats to delight the tastebuds.

7.And now finally, the shrine of Pei Wei demands our attention. The lettuce wraps are so compelling that I find myself thinking of them randomly during the day. Talk about texture perfection - this is the pinnacle. Each bite has rhythm: the crunch, the crew, and a full burst of flavor...crunch, chew, aah, crunch, chew, aah....

8. Carolina's Woodfired Italian is such a treat also. The pasta and pizza is loaded with fresh veggies and awesome sauces. The Greek Salad is so refreshing and delicious that you feel like boarding a plane to Athens.

9. Then there are the "special occasion" places that are local and lovely - BL Bistro, Randys, Lincolns, Zen 721, Macaroni Joes - to name a few.

I know it is probably not completely normal to blog about food options, but who knows when one of you may need to travel to Amarillo and need food recommendations.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Happenings

1.We hosted a 24 year old Austrian girl on Wednesday night as she began a cross country road trip beginning in Lubbock and taking her more places than I can name, through July. She is friends with a friend of ours friend in Lubbock. Okay did you follow that...No real connection except Christ. She walks into our kitchen and gasps at a picture on our refrigerator. It is of some friends of ours who are missionaries in Croatia. She says in disbelief - you know Roger and Erin? Well there you have it folks...a German speaking Austrian girl who knows a friend of a friend in Lubbock spends the night with some South Africans living in Amarillo, Texas and they have friends in common who live outside of Zagreb, Croatia. Don't you LOVE that!!!!! Love it, love it, love it.

Here are some of the things I just adored about Kati , our new Austrian friend-
She talked with the assumption that we knew European geography well enough to understand the nuances of living in a country that has influences from Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia. Luckily in this situation we did have a healthy dose of Austrian knowledge because I have spent 10 days there, and South African schooling is heavy on European geography.

She apologized for struggling with her tenses in English - ahem - she was able to communicate beautifully in English, and did not ever expect us to bust out any German. It became apparent that she has some French and Italian skills also. Amazing!

She remains stunned that Americans approach Europe with the 11 countries in 9 days approach. "How can you spend a day in Paris, and think you saw it" she said. I explained to her about the 2 week vacation policy for most jobs in the US and how that motivates the quick vacation. She was stunned. We were too when we arrived here. It is not uncommon in Africa, Europe and Britain for people to receive 25 work days off a year. I love the idea of choosing one country and really experiencing it than trying to see it all and never know any of it.

And like us, she believes donuts, pancakes, waffles and cinnamon rolls are dessert not breakfast. She kept saying how hard it was to find things without sugar for breakfast. It cracked me up because I remember saying the very same thing 16 years ago. Unfortunately, now I count all the above mentioned delicacies as breakfast fare....

2. Michaela came off her skate board last night. She cut the inside of her lip. She scratched up her face. Her glasses were damaged enough that they needed a lens replacement this morning. I think her nose has a minor fracture. And all this while David is out of town. What is that about. When he leaves town, someone gets sick or injured. When I think about the times we have had strep, flu, bronchitus, sometimes all three, stomach bugs and other ailments the day he leaves it is unbelievable. Makes you wonder?

3.Sanjaya is finally gone from the Idol stage. He certainly seemed like a sweet guy who handled himself well amidst the media blast, but seriously people - he just can't sing!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Amazing Grace History/

This will give you chills. There is something to me about real life situational comedy. I am not a fan of the "sitcom" on TV, unless it really reflects the stuff that actually happens in our daily life. Likewise, contrived experiences that aim at producing emotions are very unattractive to me. But, this is the real thing. I felt my entire being respond to the music. Mercy.



Sunday, April 08, 2007

What Does the Cross Mean To You

Jesus is risen, He is alive! Our Easter service today was focused on the theme, "What does the Cross Mean to you?" Not in the "everyone share pooled ignorance, small groupey kinda' way" but in the "look at how many layers, dimensions and facets the cross presents." The actual story of what happened in the death, burial and resurrection can be told fairly quickly with little nuance. But, the depth of meaning that lies at the foot of the cross will be explored forever more. As long as people experience redemption there is a story to tell. Four baptisms today mean that four new stories emerge right out of our church in one morning. And who knows how many other people dealt with God one on one during this time and began the rewriting of their story.

Steven did a fabulous job of highlighting some different facets of the cross today. He started several weeks ago by setting up a blog on our website for people to respond to the question. That began the process of hearing different voices from within our faith community. Today, those blog comments flashed across the screens. One could get a glimpse at how different people responded. Our time of worship was focused around four different people who gave their testimony and it was clear that the cross meant different things to these four people. Freedom. Comfort. Empowerment. Reassurance. He also had a couple of our artists display pieces they had created that reflected how they interpret the cross. He began the morning by reading a piece written by one of our key youth workers which in all honestly explained this person's hostility toward the cross as it seems like a burden of guilt that can never be repaid instead of a life-giving symbol of joy. I so appreciated the doubt and raw honesty being expressed in this writing and that it was shared in worship and not having it sugar coated or sanitized.
All the different elements were not simply for creative impact on Easter Sunday. It was so much more. A visual, tangible, experiential moment to see that the Cross stands in the middle of all our faith walks and the gospel meets us where we are and Jesus transforms us in the ways we need. Powerful.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

SEXGOD

I pray this title does not get me spammed to death....

I realized this week while talking to some friends, that I am fairly undiscerning when it comes to Rob Bell. His preaching is riveting, his DVD's impactful and his writing is fabulous too. I can think of nothing better right now than combining a trip to see our friends in Traverse City and then needing to stop at Mars Hill outside of Detroit to hear Rob Bell. Maybe the travel fairies will make that possible soon!

I finished his latest book, sexgod this past week. It was a great read. I want to put it in the hand of every young adult I know. Some older one's too, actually. He does such a fantastic job of tracing the metaphor of marriage that God lays out in his descriptions of how he loves us and covenants with us. He gives such clarity to the idea of sexuality and the sacred.

One of the most insightful things is that he is not only speaking to marriage or sexual intimacy. He is challenging the reader to greater compassion, love, intimacy and respect in all relationships. I think one would be missing something huge if it does not impact how you see sex but it is about so much more than that.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Life giver

As I travel this road to being a more fully alive disciple of Jesus, I am struck by what it means to actually look and sound like Jesus. To be mistaken for him, in a sense.
You know the DVD called He's my King - the one with Pastor Lockridge listing the attributes of Christ, it always causes such a well of emotion in my heart and I want to jump up and applaud. Today I am convicted by on of those attributes - being a life giver. Jesus was a life giver - one who blessed life.
I heard Jarrod Robinson, who preaches at the Riverside cofc preach a sermon called, Lord of the Sabbath several months ago and some of these thoughts are still rambling around my head from that and some from the ongoing walk to Christlikeness.

In Mark 2 when Jesus deals with the Pharisees over his disciples picking grain and the healing of the man with the withered hand in Mark 3, he is the ultimate life giver. He reframes the purpose of law. Relationship always trumps regulation. Limitation is never the intent of law, freedom is. Law was never intended as life-draining but life giving. Because of how God values humanity he provides law as a way to honor our lives not punish us. I love the way he reaches back to their shared history and draws on the ultimate case study of David and his starving men eating the consecrated bread and it being okay. He has a tangible example to hold out to the pharisees to show that it is never about taking life, but always about giving life. Interesting that when the Pharisees leave his presence, the text says, "and they left to plot with the Herodians about a way to kill Him." Gods' desire is for us to be fully alive. He gives abundant life. When Jesus leaves people they have always had the touch of life given to them.

Jarrod made an interesting point in his sermon and I hope I am remembering this correctly. He said, God labelled the things that destroy life as sin, and the things that give life as commandments. What a powerful statement of truth. Think about it.

I know that I want to be a life-giver in the way I respond to people, in the way I serve them and the way I look at them. I want people to leave my presence having seen the intent and heart of God. I fear that too often as a vessel I land up diverting the life giving love that God intends to pour through me and the opportunity is lost.

Thank God that one of his other attributes is that He is a God of second chances!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bubba Floyd and the Bible Building

Back in the day, make that 1992, two student workers were assigned the job of cleaning out a store room in the College of Biblical Studies Building at ACU. Being the responsible workers that they were (ahem) they did the job with great enthusiasm and finished it with pride. While sorting papers in the store room, they ran across a box of about 500 architectural sketches of the proposed Bible Building. These obviously were ready to be trashed because the building had been standing for 5 years or so at the time. The female worker assumed in good faith that the male worker would trash them as he promised. But alas, the male of the species decided they would make great gifts for said female student worker. So, with attention to detail and meticulous timing the male, lets call him Bubba Floyd, began giving them to her, lets call her Ahhlene. They arrived folded into origami shapes, as postcards, as greeting cards, as fans, as paper chains, as booklets, as jigsaw puzzles, as paper strips, as regular old pictures. Bubba Floyd went above and beyond and even mailed them to her while she went home to South Africa in the summers. She would go to check her Mother's mailbox and there they were in all their glory. They would appear in her in-tray at the office, as Christmas ornaments on her tree, as door hangers at her house. For years and years, they kept coming.....
Now lets fast-forward to 2006.....Ahhlene's husband returns from work one day with an envelope addressed to "The Babe Kasselman" (sent to the church, mind you) and the handwriting immediately strikes her. She knows beyond a shadow of a doubt what the envelope contains. And yes, one more picture for posterity. This week, it is rumored that Ahhlene turned 40 and low and behold she got mail! Her husband brings home an envelope addressed to her as Choir Director of the Central church of Christ. The handwriting makes her pulse quicken immediately, but the return address suggests it is from Brandon Scott Thomas. Hmm.... He apparantely was offering her the opportunity to preach at the next Zoe conference. Amazing. But she was hoping that it was actually from Bubba Floyd, and to her sheer joy when she opened it, the joy of heaven erupted and light shone down from above and there before her eyes lay a picture of the Bible building. Bubba chose to honor her 40th with one of the special pictures!

John Grant, dude...one day when you least expect it....

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

40!

This is the day!
Not surprising at all is the fact that my friends have come out of the woodwork to shower me with their jibes, jeers and insults. Some in person, some over lunch, some by email, some by e-card, yet others took the time to purchase a card & place a stamp on the envelope and mail their harassment (thank you Susan, Wendy and others). This is the ultimate payback time I guess - all the fun I have had at other's expense is coming back triple-fold - how biblical!

One of the funnier things that has happened this week is that I dreamed I had a perfect triangle of snow white hair in the back of my head. I did not know it was there, but everyone else did and had been chuckling about it for a year. I happened to make the dreaded discovery on my birthday and was so humiliated that no one had told me. Well, I shared this dream with some of my closest friends...why...why.....:-)

Actually I feel loved by my friends and family and look forward to a fun time this weekend to celebrate.

Update: My dear friend, Becky, let herself into my house today and scattered 40's, balloons and 2007 confetti in every conceivable place, plus some places you would never think of! I will remember all year that I am 40 because that is how long it is going to take me to uncover all those pesky little pieces. Love you Bek!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Favorite Things about Seattle

Being with the Johnson's. Not since College have we had that amount of extended time with Mike and Dena. It was awesome.

Seeing our kids all bond and not want to leave one another.

Yummy coffee shops everywhere.

The Glass Museum in Tacoma. The magnificent art of this designer glass was awe inspiring.

Having clear days while we were there.

Pike Place Market.

Let the Party Begin!

Well, it is only 9 days till the big birthday but the fun has begun! On our way back from Seattle we overnighted in Dallas with friends. They decided to do an early celebration of the big 40. I think part of the delight is that I am the baby of the group. What fun! Just to top it off, the birthday cake was my favorite "Tuxedo Cheesecake" from the Cheesecake Factory. Wow and Yum!