Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Here's to an odd and old year.....

The rain is falling softly outside as I sit here at my computer sipping tea and reflecting on our time here in Portland.
We have lived here for well over a year now. Though it has happened in stages, our lives have changed dramatically. As usual, I have learned that there is so very much for me to learn! It has been like lying down in your cozy bed, in your lazy town only to wake up and find yourself in Wonderland. I have become increasingly suspicious that my Master's hand has had a much greater influence in the mundane realities of our lives than we could expect or imagine.

Before we moved here, we were warned by many of the well intentioned that this, Portland, was a physically and spiritually dark place. My point in this post is not to refute that claim as I have found it at times to be those things indeed. It is not so dark however, as to overshadow the Father of lights! (James 1:17) 
 Have you ever noticed how very noticeable one little light is in an otherwise utterly dark space? The light of Christ is like that. It is brilliantly beautiful and people are drawn to it. They are drawn to Him. I have to believe that even Christmas lights are a testimony to this. They glitter and shine and we are in awe of them against the backdrop of darkness. We all need and want illumination not just in the natural but the spiritual as well.
So this basic longing we have for light is simply testimony to our great need for Christ. The human heart aches for Him. It's true whether you think it is or not.

I am feeling bolder these days. I am feeling unapologetic about it. Our lives are supposed to be spent in some way that matters in the big scheme of things. Why, oh why, do we sweat the small stuff?
This has been a very interesting year. I've made some very interesting friends, each one challenging me in some new way. I have seen, firsthand, God working in ways that you usually only read about, but never get to see. I am watching Him melt hearts all around me, including my own. I am weak in the knees and I am stunned.

Hope deferred has become realized. I want to keep living this way.

As this year wraps up I await the new one with anticipation. As I celebrate Christ's birth this year I am thinking about how God did a new thing. This world has been forever changed because of what He did in Christ. In 2008, I couldn't have imagined all He would do in 2009. He's still doing new things. His creative way of loving us is astounding. Seriously, I can't make this stuff up!

Thank You Lord for this wonderfully strange, old year.

And this from our Lord:
"See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" Isaiah 43:19a

So what are you hoping for in 2010? I wanna hear about it!



  1. I am hoping for:

    1) A time when we do not put celebrities on a pedestal - wouldn't it be great if we did not care about a pro-golfer who cheated on his wife, or about an eighties pop phenom who died because he took too many pills?

    2) A return to common sense fiscal policy, both in our government and in our families! Debt is dumb! Trying to spend our way out of a recession is like amputating your head because you have a toothache.

    3) I am hoping for a return to simpler times, getting pleasure out of simple beauty. May we sell what we don't use, the stuff that clutters are closets and attics...its all monopoly money and at the end of the game all of our stuff goes back in the box.

    4) May 2010 be a year where people take responsibility for their own health - by cutting down on junk food, eating healthy alternatives, exercising... and NOT relying on the federal government to do that for us!

    5) Last, I am hoping the Steelers come out of their slump and again return to their place of destiny.

  2. For me personally, my hopes are:
    1. That I would grow in peace and both identify the cause of, as well as significantly reduce, things for which I experience anxiety. Philippians 4:6-7 really challenges me.

    2. That God would miraculously provide so that our mortgage is completely paid.

    3. That financially we can afford for Marilyn to work no more than 30 hours/week.

    4. That I would be truly "inspired" by God in completing the book I began earlier this year. And, that it would minister deeply and significantly to those who read it.

    5. That I would be the major influencer in at least two people coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior this year.

    6. That God might restore my capacity such that I can minister 1-1 to at least one person this year.

    Those are hopes that come to mind at this time. But, even if not realized (see Proverbs 16:9 and 19:21), I pray most of all that my actions and reactions will bring glory to my God and Savior, irrespective of whether my own hopes are realized.

    God bless,

  3. The blogger known as Kara is back, and I rejoice! :-)

    I will post my hopes for 2010 a bit later, but just wanted to comment that I enjoyed reading what you had to write, Kara. I feel compelled to also comment on how you were warned by some (likely Easterners and, though definitely not me, likely some in my family of origin) that the Pacific Northwest (Portland specifically) was a physically and spiritually dark place. I must add that, as followers of Christ, we know that our Lord's entire Creation is a dark place spiritually because of sin. I am increasingly frustrated to hear people isolate regions of the United States as worse than others in this regard. Let's look at the Bible Belt. Sin reigns there. It may manifest itself in regular church-going, Bible-talking and touting of religious family history, but it doesn't always mean that a person is saved. I preface this talk with the humble acknowledgement that I am not professing to judge a person's salvation - not at all. I'm just speaking of my experience and observations. Here in my corner of the world (the Southwest), I was warned by Christian friends that I would find everyone here is a professing Christian - and, as a rule of thumb, I have found that to be true. Everyone is quick to tell you they are a Christian and that they attend so-and-so church. Build a relationship with these folks or work side by side with them daily, and you sometimes realize there is not a personal relationship with our Lord. They know the right words and the right language, but the heart of faith is not there. I say this because we live in a lost world. We live in and among sin and sinners. It is only through God's amazing grace that we are saved from it, and, no matter where we are in the WORLD, we have been given a commission from our Lord - our Lord who yearns to have each heart draw close to Him - to share that Good News.

    One more thing: I think you're learning that, once you know a place physically, you come to love it as you could not as either a visitor or outside spectator. Those who told you Portland is a dark place physically - yes, there is some truth (all that rain). But because of that rain (just like Kauai), there is green and beauty in God's creation that you never experience on the East Coast. In the short time we saw Oregon with you in May, we came to know its beauty: Haystack, Seaside, downtown, Greg's office view, Multnomah, the park and lake near your first house, Grace Waites' home and piano studio, the beautiful Martinez family, and so much more. Likewise, in New Mexico, we have found some of God's best handiwork of creation in the light, the mountains and the open spaces. Visitors don't see that. Family asks why we'd want to be in such a God-forsaken place. God has not forsaken this place! God's beauty lives in Portland - in a very physical and real way - and can be found EVERYWHERE in His Creation.

    Sermon out. :-)

  4. I love this deep pool :) I sing His praises that I am blessed to be a friend!
    As for 2010... where do I begin and would there be an end? maybe another day :]

  5. First, at the risk of getting too long-winded, let me say a few words about the pieces written by both Kara and Kayla: You both show a lot of insight into the human condition, including the spiritual aspect, and give one a lot of food for thought. And as far as locations go, I have never lived in either Oregon or New Mexico, but I know that both Kara and Greg and Jason and Kayla are great at making new friends, and plucking the very best out of wherever they live. And if and when they do come across some lemons, they're great at making lemonade.
    Now, my hopes for 2010:
    1. A VICTORIOUS end to the war in Afghanistan so we can welcome our brave service men and women back home.
    2. Peace in all parts of the world that are consumed with violence, and prayer for God to comfort and protect all the innocent peoples there.
    3. While trying to resist getting up on my soap box, I would like to make a few comments: I would hope and pray for some semblance of pragmatism and common sense in our government. Fiscally speaking, you don't find your way out of a hole by just continuing to dig, and you don't make our country more secure by crippling our intelligence forces, i.e., the CIA. And, you don't "help" or "unite" our country by completely disregarding both the intelligence and the will of the American people by passing a health bill that has a slew of negative provisions in it that have nothing to do with better health care for Americans.
    4. I would wish for more time with our children and grandchildren, and for their success and happiness.
    5. I would pray that God might enable me to be a positive and lasting influence in the life of at least one child and one older person, or anyone who might fall in between.
    6. And lastly, that I might write something creative.

  6. My hopes for 2010:

    1. As God's chosen, holy and dearly loved, I hope to clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

    2. It is my goal to bear with others and forgive whatever grievances I may have against another. Forgive as the Lord forgave me.

    3. I purpose to put on love, which binds us all together in perfect unity. I hope to choose daily to let the peace of Christ rule in my heart, since as members of one body I was called to peace.

    4. I desire to be thankful.

    5. I hope to let the Word of Christ dwell in me richly as I teach and admonish others with all wisdom, and as I sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in my heart to God.

    6. Whatever I do, whether in word or deed, I hope to do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

    7. Finally, in view of God's mercy, may I offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is my spiritual act of worship.

    I know they are not originals... I am choosing them as my own for 2010:)

  7. Oh, I am loving this!!!!!

    Mark....you are so classically YOU!! I love it. A hearty AMEN say I to your hope for simplicity and less stuff.

    As for the Steelers, well.....

    Paul, I am always inspired by your zest for life and for God's word and how even in challenging times your trust in our Lord does not waver. Thank you for sharing your heart!

    Honey, few can preach it like you can! I love how you challenge me. I love the way you live your life and mostly I just love YOU! I look forward to you coming back and posting your New Year's hopes.

    My heart is so full of love for you that I think it could burst. As always, thank you for sharing your heart and mind with me. I treasure you!
    you should run for president. ;>

    My sweet Tobitha. How incredibly blessed am I to call you sister and friend. You are one of the most beautiful people I know, inside and out.
    I think I am going to steal your #'s 3, 4, and 7.
    Thank you for always showing me what it means to love Jesus with purpose and purity.


  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. For 2010, I hope that...

    1)...God's Word will indwell my heart more deeply. As I read the Bible through this past year, I prayed each day that every word would draw me closer to Him.

    2)...I will let the Holy Spirit penetrate my mind and heart. I pray I will be more receptive, available, and in communion with what He has for me, which is far better than my uninspired plans for daily life.

    3)...I would love God with such passion and abandon that others would see Jesus in me.

    4)...when others see Jesus in me, I will not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ - no matter who it is and no matter when it is. Period. Witnessing the salvation of a friend this year was a great joy, but one saved soul in 2009 is far less than Jesus requires of me, far less than He deserves. I want to be more bold.

    5)...I will pray and worship Jesus more often each day, and will commune with the Lord in most of my waking hours. I too often look in the mirror before I ever look outward, much less upward.

    6)...I would love others with more selflessness, and show God's love to everyone I meet.

    7)...I will submit to my husband in the Lord, showing him the respect he so deserves. I find it so easy to love my husband and claim I respect him - others would tell you I do - but I know my heart like no one else does, my sinful thoughts and intentions. He is a Godly man who communes with the Lord daily and leads our family in loving the Lord, not to mention how he lavishes me with undeserved love and attention. Jason demonstrates trust in me, and I have learned to trust him explicitly. He listens like no other man I know. I desire to become the listener he is. At times he knows my heart better than I. I pray I become the wife he needs, and that he is drawn closer to the Lord because of my respect and love for him.

    8)...my worship at church would become more authentic. It has always been a struggle for me to be the primary music leader in church throughout my life (organizing all the semantics of church music) and maintain the ability to worship God with my whole heart in the moment. No problem in private. No matter how hard I try, as the Pastor is completing the prayer that preceeds the next hymn, I begin setting the organ stops, preparing my feet on the pedals and getting ready to roll. I long to be in each moment of worship - prayer, spoken liturgy and, yes, even song - as I am able, so that I can meet the Lord in worship each Sunday in a real way.

    9)...to demonstrate more and more to the surrogate children God gave me, Samuel and Sarah Grace, how deeply and passionately I love them. God may never grant bio-children to me and Jason in this lifetime, and I can openly testify before the Lord that I have accepted that, and still live life with great purpose and joy. The Lord has vividly demonstrated purposes in our lives outside of children, which I never thought possible. Still, my heart has a Samuel- and Sarah Grace-shaped hole in it, which only they can fill, and they do so beautifully. Despite our distance, I desire to show them relentless and passionate love. More than that desire, I pray they continue to grow in wisdom and stature, and deeper in love with their Lord.

    10)...I will learn to love my enemies more. I have no named enemies, but I have those who more difficult to love. I pray I will demonstrate the grace and forgiveness toward each of these that I undeservedly receive from my Lord. Only then can I begin to love them.

    11)...I will catch at least one wave in Hawai'i next week. If not, I'll settle for a deep tan and successful performances with my little wunderkinds at the University of Hawai'i! :-)