Monday, November 26, 2007

Representing Christ

"But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do." James 2: 18

I was out to a brunch with my mom and Carter recently. As we left, a man held the door open for us all, and Carter rushed out mumbling something that sounded very similar to, "scuz me". I dismissed it right away as a coincidence, but my mom asked, "When did he start saying, 'excuse me'?" I started to pay more attention to this phrase when I heard Carter say it. Indeed, when he goes through a crowded doorway or squeezes by something tight, he says, "excuse me." He was saying it to the dishwasher the other evening, as he squeezed between the dishwasher's open door and the kitchen island. The odd part of this phenomenon is that I NEVER have intentionally taught Carter to say excuse me. I have mentioned it occasionally when he burps in public, but he still doesn't repeat it on those occasions. This led me to realize that Carter learned this phrase through modeling and my example.

Before anyone pats me on the back, however, I have to confess that my "excuse me" phrases are usually said with a drip of sarcasm and impatience whenever anyone is blocking the middle of an aisle with a shopping cart or their bodies. It is my "nice" way of reminding them they are blocking everyone trying to get through. Carter doesn't know this, luckily, and he is using it correctly--asking people to excuse HIM.

Panic set in as I realized the power my actions had on this little boy I constantly have next to me. He sees me groan in frustration at traffic, he sees me laugh at funny stories, he sees me singing praise songs to Jesus, he watches me pray with gratitude to God for blessings throughout the day and he sees me roll my eyes when I am not being loving. Everything I do is soaking into his thoughts and behavior. If I truly realize the depth of this responsibility, I would be on my knees, asking God to strengthen my fight against sin and to increase my desires and modeling of righteousness.

The truth is that we all have eyes and ears absorbing our every action and word. We often forget the influence we claim over others, but we represent Christ to the world. Our co-workers hear us gossiping or encouraging. Family members see us pouting in anger or hugging in forgiveness. Members at our church see us serving the body of Christ or hear us making another excuse as to why our needs take priority over those of the people at church. Our neighbors see us smile and wave with sincerity, perhaps even taking time to converse; or they see us quickly usher our kids into the house as we close the garage door. Our actions demonstrate Christ to others, and they are watching.

It took a 20 month old boy learning a habit of mine to remind me that I influence the actions, words and thoughts of others. I can use this influence in a positive, godly way, or I can let sinful actions taint all my efforts to point to Christ. Who do you influence on a regular basis? Are you representing our holy Christ well or are you conforming to the patterns of a sinful world? Start fresh today and model the righteousness of Christ in your own life! People may come to know our Savior through the words and actions you demonstrate.

"We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God." 2 Corinthians 5:20

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Encourage one Another (I Thessalonians 5:11): Rose White and Roberta Cleary

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Once a week or so, I have been trying to encourage people in my life. I use the call of I Thessalonians 5:11 as my motivation, and it has been such a joy and powerful tool--more so than I could ever have imagined. Today's recipients are both working side by side in the classroom hallways of our church. If you have young children and you attend Compass Bible Church, you have been blessed by Rose White and/or Roberta Cleary. Under the talented direction of our Children's Ministry Director, Susan Grover, they cordinate the children's ministries for the early childhood and elementary age children.

What you may not realize is the stress and joy that comes with participating in children's ministries. Having taught elementary school for nine years, I am well aware that working with kids means not only training the hearts of little ones, it means working with fellow teachers, supervisors, and parents. It is not always a job that gives you thanks in equality to your efforts and energy, but it is a job in which you are greatly affecting the lives and hearts of others.

Rose and Roberta work tirelessly to do their job well because they know through it, they are loving the church body and serving our Heavenly Father in every phone call they take, every diaper they change and every baby they hold. "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Ephesians 4:16

Our family has personally been blessed by both of these ladies. We met Rose a few years ago, when she and her husband, Jeff, were a mentor couple in our marriage Bible study. Immediately, I was impressed with Rose's honesty, openness and willingness to discuss real struggles and trials. Ryan and I just loved working with the Whites, so I was ecstatic when Rose took the job as early childhood coordinator for the church. I knew our 19 month old son would be in good care, and I knew that, as a volunteer in the nursery, I would be interacting with a caring and loving sister-in-Christ. As expected, Rose always returns e-mails, always stops by the classroom to make sure I am doing well, always responds to requests and always does her job with every bit of energy she can. She thinks of her own sacrifices rarely, and her thoughts are constantly on the needs of the kids and the volunteers in the classrooms. In all she does, she is humble and always points to the Lord in her efforts and achievements.

Our family met Roberta when we had our son, Carter. Roberta originally had Rose's job (and did an amazing job as well) and more, but as our church has grown, she has moved to the more specific role as our elementary age coordinator. What strikes me most about Roberta is her joy in all circumstances. Though she might be dealing with a difficult situation or have a screaming toddler in her arms, she smiles and radiates God's love. She lives by the truths of I Thessalonians 5:17-18, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." Right away, she got to know our son. Admittedly, he isn't always the easiest child. He needs attention from time to time, and he is either in a GREAT mood or a BAD mood. He has highs and lows and very few in-betweens. Roberta has, on several occasions, taken Carter and strolled him in the stroller through the hallways. She has taken him into the older kid's rooms for music, which he absolutely loves. Her time and attention allow my husband and I to co-lead the Thrive marriage ministry and for me to co-lead a small group in Women's Bible Study. If Carter were not loved and given time from Roberta, it would have resulted in quite a few phone calls to Ryan or I to come retrieve our cranky son. She has no idea how very thankful we are for her individual concern and care for our precious son.

Rose and Roberta work harder than any of us can imagine. I am constantly thinking of how great a reward they are earning in heaven. I want them to know how much I personally appreciate what they do and who they are in our church body. If you have a little one, don't forget to tell them how much their labor has blessed your family and served the church body.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

From Eden to the Movie Theater: Putting off Deceit

I Peter 2:1 "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind."
In Women's Bible Study last week, we studied the passage of I Peter 2:1. The scripture listed five specific types of sin that believers should stop practicing. All of the behaviors listed were extremely convicting, but the subpoint discussion of deceit was the most powerful to myself and my small group.

The speaker, Tana Larson, defined deceit as covering up the truth and giving a false impression for your own benefit. She explained that deceit was the sin Satan used to tempt Eve and Adam in the garden of Eden. (Genesis 3) My first impression was, as your's probably is, that you don't cover up truth on a normal basis. You make efforts to tell the truth and not lie to others. However, as Tana continued her discussion, she moved into the practical ways that we all practice deceit. Ouch! As she continued the list, I sank lower and lower into my chair. There are so many "harmless" things that we do, basically because society has deemed them "normal." It is a case of "everyone does that."

How many of you still bring your own "snack" into a movie theater? We all know that candy and popcorn, let alone beverages, are outlandishly expensive in a theater. A nice dinner is equivalent in cost to some munchies for the movie. However, there is a rule that you may not bring in outside food. We are deceitful when we sneak in our own goodies.

Do any of you speed when you are driving? The speed limit is 40, so you go 50 down the parkway. You might be over the speed limit, but you are going with the "flow of traffic."

How many of us completely stop at every stop sign? Do we obey the parking spaces that say 15 minutes only? When the sign says, "Right turn only", do we turn left? Do we lie to the telemarketer who is asking to talk to our husbands. "He isn't home right now," you say, as you look right at him.

Pastor Mike, my head pastor at Compass Bible Church, talked about this subject once in a sermon. His refinance company had wanted him to backdate signatures he was putting on his home loan papers. They told him everyone does it, and it was needed to speed up the process. He didn't want to practice even that deceitful habit, and he had to wait longer for his loan to go through--which might have cost him the lowest rate he could get.

What do all these examples have in common? They use excuses as their foundation. The movies overcharge people for food. I am only speeding because we are late or because I'm going with the flow of traffic. I don't need to do more than a rolling stop here because there are no other cars around. I can park in this 15 minute space because there are no other spots, and that is the fault of whoever planned this parking lot. They say right turn only, but that is because of school traffic. School isn't getting out right now. If the telemarketers would not call my home, I wouldn't have to lie to them to leave me alone. If I lie on this refinance date, it is harmless. I will get the best rate, and the company won't think I'm some righteous freak. Etc., etc. Satan used such excuses in the garden. Eve blamed the lies of the snake, and Adam passed the buck onto Eve for his deceit. However, when the sin first occured, the goal of each person was to benefit him or herself. The excuse given is to try and free him or herself from the consequences and guilt.

Now, we might not practice all these offenses, but one or two might look familiar. Why is it so important not to practice these deceitful actions, even though so much of society does and thinks us weird for avoiding them? First, God asks us not to be deceitful. I Peter 1: 15 says, "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do". That should be enough if we properly fear God. Secondly, as Christians, we are representatives of our Heavenly Father. What message do we send to the non-Christian who recognizes us in the movie theater when they see us pull a box of Red Vines from our jacket or purse? What do our lost co-workers see when we take office supplies home from work in order to use at our own home? They see us acting just like the "pagans." We are immediately labeled hypocrites, because, like our Creator, they hold Christians to the high standard of holiness. Our witness is tarnished and much less effective. In addition, those of us with young children, do we not realize our actions speak louder than our words? We are teaching our little ones where we draw the line of holiness and how we expect them to obey God by the standard we hold.

Peter urges the churches to rid themselves of "all" deceit. There is no exception or excuse. We need to actively pursue truth and purity, purposefully ending all deceitful practices that entangle us and weaken our usefulness in reaching others. Ask yourself, "What deception is in my life?" "What do I do to avoid consequences?" "What do I do to gain for self?" God will reveal the areas that need repentance and effort on your part. Remember this necessary battle against deceit next time you are tempted to steer your eleven item cart in the direction of the express checkout line.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Haircut

Well, I didn't think it was possible, but Supercuts asked us to leave--ever so politely. "Perhaps we should try this again another day," they whispered. I don't know why they were whispering, because you couldn't hear much over the screaming wail that was coming out of Carter. He was fine when we walked in the door. He was fine when we were waiting. He was fine smiling at the hairstylist lady. He was not fine when he realized he was going to sit in that chair and get his hair cut. He screamed the most ear-piercing scream I've ever heard him perform. We only got as far as putting him in the chair and trying to put an apron on him. That alone took about five minutes. It was a rough start, and the hairstylist knew it was a useless situation. All the other men getting their cuts stared wide-eyed at the snot covered kid in the haircut chair. Most of them were wishing he'd stop screaming and leave them in peace. Well, humbled and somewhat humiliated, I left Supercuts, ushering Carter through the exit, barely noticing he was covered in the sticky, green lollipop they tried to give him while consoling him. I'm not sure, but I think we were kicked out of Supercuts.

We've had about five or so haircuts. I've lost count. Each time it gets worse. He is deathly afraid of the razor. Unfortunately, this does not bode well, as Carter inherited my thick, fast-growing hair. I dread the haircuts. One morning I'll realize his hair has reached that unkempt level, and I'll bite my lip in dread. After that point, I still wait about a month before I admit the need for his haircut out loud. What is funny is that Carter will hear me and joyously repeat, "Haircut!" I think he just tries to make me feel better, so I'll even attempt walking in the door.

After our Supercut ban, we went the next day to First Cuts in the mall. We had gone there for Carter's first haircut, and it was more expensive than Supercuts. I walked in timidly, knowing they would only smile at me on the way in and scowl as we left. So sad. The poor hairdresser was amazed at Carter's lung capacity, but, since this was a kid's haircut store, they couldn't really ask us to leave. I'm sure they get criers from time to time. They probably even have a Carteresque screamer once a day or so. Other hairdressers came to the aid of the poor lady doing Carter's hair. They brought toys and books and more toys. They blew bubbles and tried to distract him. I sighed and knew better. Only Thomas the Train on TV could get him to take 2 second pauses between the siren wail. I had them cut his hair EXTRA short--army cut short. I don't think I can do this again anytime soon. I cleaned up his snot covered, puffy face and left an enormous tip for the unlucky hairdresser. I was tired and relieved as we limped out of First Cuts. We survived and Carter's hair got cut. I'm not going to think about what I'll do in 2 to 3 months. I also can't imagine what going to the dentist with Carter will be like. I still have a year and a half to be in denial.

Palm Springs

A couple of weekends ago, Ryan and I took Carter out to Palm Springs for a couple of nights. We stayed at the Embassy Suites right off Highway 111. We left on a Sunday after church and let Carter nap on his way out to the desert. Driving on the tollway, we had an upfront view of some of the Santiago fire damage. It was a huge wildfire.
Ryan went swimming with Carter once we got to the hotel, and I tried to take a nap, as I was just starting the healing process of a bad cold (17 days later, I am still sniffling and coughing from time to time). Carter loves swimming, as long as you bring a ball into the pool. He is obsessed with throwing things, "high", as he calls it. Usually that means throwing the ball straight up, having it land on his head, and then watching him giggle himself silly. He also likes any rough and tumble play with daddy.
While we were in Palm Springs, we enjoyed pool time, the Living Desert Zoo, the Children's Museum, parks in La Quinta, and eating at all the fun restaurants at The River. By far, Carter's favorite activity was watching all the trains at the miniature train "land" at the Living Desert. Forget feeding the giraffes or petting the goats, watching the tiny trains travel around was the highlight of the trip. I've never seen a child so in love with choo-choo trains. He doesn't even watch Thomas the Train on television. He just loves choo-choo trains, whistles and train crossing guardrails. Ryan and I have taken him to San Juan Capistrano, just to sit and watch the commuter trains and Surfliner trains stop and go in the station. He is fascinated!
We had no injuries or trips to the emergency room! As many of you know, that is always a worry after our Seattle trip. We had a great time in Palm Springs, and we made sure to stop and see the giant dinosaurs near the freeway on the way home. Enjoy the pictures!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Weeping Bitterly

Some of the saddest verses in the Bible are Luke 22:61-62, " The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly." I choke up every time I read these verses. I sadly identify with falling short in what God expects of me. I mourn Peter's sin, as it could easily be my own, and ache when I think of how I would feel if Jesus turned aside and gazed intently into my eye at such a disgusting, sinful moment. I can't fathom the sorrow.

We might think that we are lucky we won't have to see Jesus's eyes personally witnessing our sinful moments, since Jesus already completed His ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection here on earth and is now glorified once again, next to the Father. However, we are missing our understanding of a very important attribute of God--He is omnipresent. He is everywhere. Though He is with God the Father, He is with us. He is with us when we tell lies, when we have impure thoughts, when we are unrighteously angry, when we are disgustingly proud, when we purposefully slander a brother or sister, and when we sit mute and do not stand up for Him--essentially denying Him much like our poor brother, Peter. In addition, we will all stand before God one day. Believers will account for and be rewarded for the gifts they used for God's glory. Those who cannot claim God as the Lord of their life will have to face that gaze without hope. They will weep bitterly, never to stop.

As Christians, haven't we all felt the intent gaze of God upon us? Don't we recognize that pang and our inward gasp when we understand His loving, patient, hurt, comforting, forgiving and encouraging presence? All at once, He admonishes, loves, teaches and encourages us with the help of His Holy Spirit. We should be utterly touched by the despair of Peter, for we have all been under His precious gaze and tangibly felt his sorrow at our sin.

What we have, that Peter did not at that moment, is the completed sacrifice of Christ. We are not utterly ruined and hopeless. We do not give up and return to "fishing in Galilee", for we know His mercies are new every morning.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he
has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or
fade—kept in heaven for you" I Peter 1:3-4
If we have put our confidence in Christ's work and repented of our sin, we are sure that we are forgiven. We know that gaze is one of love and help, not the judgment and wrath that will fall to unbelievers.

It should give us all the more sadness when we cannot properly be obedient, knowing what Christ gave to pay for our denials and sin. May we weep bitterly when we fall short, but not utterly despair. We should run to the One who gazes in sympathy and love upon His repentant children, and weep in His loving provision. In the process, we need to rejoice at His mercy and grace. Knowing our forgiveness is complete, we should have the renewed desire to show Him our thankfulness through our obedience to Him. Mourn sin and cling all the more to the just and holy Father who loves us enough to credit us the righteousness of His Son.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

We are Family

But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. I Thessalonians 2:17-20

Before I was a Christian, I was attending UCLA and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority. We would sing a song every year at rush to the tune of the famous song, "We are family. I got all my sisters and me!" With a big smile and heartfelt hugs, we would belt out the song to the girls in rush, and then, when the girls who were shopping for a sorority were gone, we would wipe the smiles from our faces and separate into our own little, comfortable group of friends. We weren't quite the family we were hypocritically portraying to the outside world.

Pastor Bobby Blakey did a sermon at church this weekend on 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20. He entitled it "Church is a Family: Seeing Each Other as Brothers and Sisters in Christ." He made the point that Christians are all born again into the same family: the family of God. We are, therefore, brothers and sisters. The Greek word, brother, or bretheren, is adelphos. This is derived from delphus, or womb. As Christians, we are spiritually born again from the same "womb"/Father. Because of this, we should be passionate in loving, caring for and helping one another, just as we might help our own brother and sister from growing up in our biological family.

He layed out some practical ideas that challenged us all to show care and concern for our bretheren. Some examples were being at church on time, getting together consistently and often, and making sure to know what is going on in other people's lives. Face to face contact is ideal, but, when that is impossible or delayed, he said we sometimes need to call, e-mail or even read one another's websites/blogs! I knew I would someday get endorsed for spending time blogging!

Seriously, however, we need to find ways to love one another and invest in the lives of the brothers or sisters we encounter. Along with the great ideas that Pastor Bobby illustrated to the church, I thought of some others. Why don't we all park in the least desirable spots in the lot, thus allowing some frazzled bretheren, driving in at the last minute, to have a close spot? As our church is getting more crowded, why don't we take seats in the sanctuary that aren't the best or the preferred spots, thus freeing up spaces for others that are ideal? Instead of putting our Bible next to us on the chair, we should keep it on our lap, allowing another person to possibly sit immediately next to us during the service. Perhaps we might even strike up a conversation with him or her. We can, of course, be passionate about others and show them love in many tangible, practical ways. Volunteer in childcare so a couple can hear the Word of God without interruption and worry. Remember a person's birthday by taking him or her to lunch or sending them an e-card. Bring someone a meal and include a list of helpful scripture. Burn a C.D. full of songs that speak to a trial that a person is facing. Pray for the person who is needing comfort, and mention the prayer and ask for an update on the trial when you talk to them. Visit the new mom or sick person in the hospital, and bring an appropriate treat with you--an In n Out burger or a Ruby's milkshake, flowers, scripture upon which they can meditate, comfy socks, a scented candle, etc. Be creative! Babysit for that mom on bedrest or the couple who can't do date nights because they are low on funds. There are a million ways you can purposefully serve and love the body of Christ, just as you would love and be there for a biological sibling.

Pastor Bobby went on to mention that Satan kept Paul from revisiting the Thessalonians. In fact, Satan hates the unity of the church and the love we show for one another. We are being foolish if we don't think he is working against us in our efforts. The sermon mentioned time, money and distance/effort as the three big roadblocks that keep us from being close to our church family. If time is an issue, write out a schedule of your day--hour by hour. Look at how much time is actually "me" time--napping, reading for pleasure, watching T.V., being on the computer, shopping, etc. Make a goal to take one of those selfish roadblocks in your schedule away. DVR that television show so you can go to Bible study, cut your nap short by half an hour so you can make a phone call, or tell yourself you cannot turn on the computer until you have written that encouragement card to your brother or sister in Christ.

If money is a roadblock, look at your budget. Perhaps sacrificing eating out one time a month or not getting that pedicure or new pair of jeans would allow you to buy groceries for that family who is out of work. Maybe such sacrifice will help you afford ingredients to make a nice dinner for that couple who is new in your small group study and you want to invite into your home. If distance is a problem, think about how you can turn your negative attitude into a positive one. Use the driving time to make a thanks list to God, call that member of your old Bible study to see how she or he is doing, or to pray to or worship our Heavenly Father as you drive the commute.

Many of us, myself included, have our plates full. We are trying to balance quiet times and the ministries to our spouse, family, and church body. To ask us to take our involvement and effort with bretheren to a higher level is overwhelming and, at first, paralyzing. However, our ministries do not have to be isolated and separate. Intertwine your commitments and service, as they are not always exclusive. Combine part of your heart training of your child by working in their classroom, their high school or junior high group, or their AWANA program. This allows you time as a parent, time to minister to the church body, and time to get to know bretheren. Be a part of the Thrive marriage ministry on Thursday nights. This is a great way to minister to your spouse and marriage, while getting to know bretheren at church in a real and wonderful way. Take a member of the church body through the Partners program, which gives you an opportunity to further your study of scripture, serve the church, and disciple a brother or sister at Compass Bible Church. During your long commute to church, use the time to minister to your family and spend one on one time with them. If you bring someone a meal, have your children help make the dish or create a card for the person. You are teaching them to serve and love others, while also ministering to and loving a brother or sister in the church body. Be a ministry leader in a home group or church Bible study, allowing yourself time to get to know others and train yourself in the doctrine of scripture. There are so many creative ways to combine your time and efforts, as God wants us to be fruitful in all areas. Pray and see where the Holy Spirit leads you. Remember it isn't easy, and we have to make it a priority and a goal. Satan wants us to give up, but we must resist his tactics and barriers. James 4:7 urges, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
What a wonderful message Pastor Bobby gave to the church body this Sunday! He truthfully explained God's word and gave us all much to contemplate and apply. What strikes me most, is he that he and his family are walking the walk he preaches, which speaks even more powerfully to the congregation. May we all love our church family like Christ loves us--with passion, sincerity, sacrifice and forgiveness. As Pastor Bobby reminded us, may we delight in these relationships to the end. May you, my brothers and sisters, truly be my glory and joy as I run the race God prepares for me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Encourage One Another (I Thessalonians 5:11): Yvonne Foust

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Proverbs 31:26-28

Yvonne Foust is not a person who is always front and center on the Women's Bible study teaching stage, but numerous people have spoken with her by phone or e-mail and have partaken of the fruits of her labor. For many years, Yvonne has overseen the Partners discipleship program at church, blessing countless people with opportunities to study true repentance and biblical sanctification.

I first met Yvonne back in, I believe, 1999. I was attending my first women's retreat at a church I was newly attending, and she was my small group leader. Attendees would hear the teachings at women's retreat and then go back to a leader's room, with several other ladies, and discuss the teaching and the practical application. Yvonne was amazing! Her honesty and boldness to these strangers was powerful and effective. After a year of avoiding the "singles" Bible studies, she convicted me to be an obedient daughter and be plugged into church. This led me onto a path from which I have never looked back--delving into Bible studies at whatever stage I am in life and serving the body at church. Having grown up in churches that didn't talk about the true gospel or quiet times, and having truly become a Christian in 1996, this was also the point at which I clearly understood that I needed to apply myself to daily Bible reading and prayer. I wrote my goal for daily discipline on a stone, which I still have to remind me of my priorities to our Heavenly Father. What wonderful fruit she has helped me to bear in my life!

This story alone is encouraging, but that is a fraction of what Yvonne has done in others' lives. In overseeing the discipleship program at church, Yvonne has taken the great commission and put it into very real practice. "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 She will say that she didn't write the program and is not taking every dear brother and sister through the chapters, but her love for God's truth and her desire to see people saved and growing in holiness is evident in the hours she spends pairing partners, answering questions by phone and e-mail, and setting up trainings for Partners graduates. I certainly have been thankful for her guidance in going through and taking others through the program.

What strikes me most about Yvonne is her quiet and gentle humility. She weighs her words carefully before she speaks, making sure they are encouraging to the hearer or in agreement with the Word of God. In her family, she trains her children diligently in the scriptures and in knowing their Creator and Lord. As a wife, she is thoughtful, loving and submissive to her husband. "Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." 1 Peter 3:4 She is a role model to so many young women at church, and, I'm sure, that is a place that makes her uncomfortable, as she, instead, quietly points to God and His provision and grace. You can read about Yvonne and her Biblical insights at the Foust blogsite. If you haven't gone through the Partners Program, read more about Partners here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

First Opinions: Chaper one, Verse one

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Christians are often labeled as seeing black and white, being judgmental, being legalistic (although they are misusing the word) and putting too much credence into rules and laws. However, we know as believers, God has definite truths and laws in His word that are very black and white. The world doesn't like these absolutes about sin, but we know we are to cling to and love God's directives for us. Thank goodness we have clear sin and clear righteousness spelled out for us.

Sometimes, however, I believe we transfer our nature of seeing things in terms of black and white into areas that are merely opinion. I can't say whether this is a human quality or a problem that plagues the church body, but we often find ourself judging others on areas that do not warrant judgment.

For example, some believers ademently believe in homeschooling or Christian school. The Bible does have directives on teaching the Word to your children and being holy, but the Bible does not say to avoid public school. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with believing that this or that school is the best situation for YOUR family, but we run into problems when we project our preference onto others. Another family could be doing more teaching of the Bible at home with their publicly schooled children than you assume a Christian school is doing for your child, while you don't as zealously pursue it at home since the Christian school is "covering" it.

The book of opinions runs deep: what foods you should be eating, the amount of activities into which you can place your child, what vitamins you should be taking, how expensive of a car is being vain, how much money should be given to church, whether television in any amount or capacity is evil or unholy, the correct way to feed your children, the book method of discipline to which you ascribe, how many Christian books we should be reading, preferential birthing methods, at what age children should date, what is a more biblical curfew: nine or ten?, when and if can girls wear makeup, whether dancing is unholy, and the list goes on and on.

The Bible gives us truths to follow and apply in our lives. I believe the Bible is applicable to all situations we face. For example, television can be bad when it is given priority over our relationship with God or our serving our ministries. Also, it can be sinful when the content you are watching is unholy. Even when we have "gray" areas, there are right and wrong answers for each of us, but they might differ from one situation to another.

We all know we need to repent of our sin and put our faith and trust in Christ, we need to make God our number one priority, we need to love others more than ourselves, we need to be involved and serving in the church body, we need to discipline our children, we need to encourage and admonish others, we need to be holy, and we need to go and make disciples of all men. There are commands we cannot ignore or see as "gray."

However, we must be careful about our strong opinions. We can cause division and false judgment of others when we see our preferences or where God is leading us as the only way (I am NOT talking about the truths spelled out clearly in God's word). Before you cast judgment on another believer, see if God's word is in agreement with you or see if you are only clinging to an opinion. We must remember that everyone's situation is different regarding finances, schooling, diet, etc. When you come to decisions in life, look to the Word, pray, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Once you make a decision, thank God for giving you wisdom and leading, and humble yourself to know that God is the one who imparts wisdom and insight, not us. We are all, hopefully, sheep looking to the Shepherd for answers.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Christmas Events/Activities for families in November and December

I know this post is early, but many of these events begin in early November. Plus, as party and get together invitations escalate, I know November and December calendar planning is a delicate science. Orange County is not at a loss for celebrating Christmas, or the "holidays," as many of the events are entitled. I have been to some of these fun events, so if you have a particular question, you can e-mail me or make a comment to the post. I highly recommend bringing a hot, steaming cup of hot cocoa or a Starbucks flavored concoction when you go to many of these places. Even if it is only 65 degrees out that night, bring a fun red scarf or a festive knit cap to get you in the spirit--and you'll be bound to get some cute pictures! The Hawleys go to Roger's Gardens each December, and we even got a Christmas picture out of it last year. The boat parades, driving through Nellie Gail and visiting El Corzo street are also "must dos" in the Hawley list of traditions. We hope you find some of your favorite traditions listed here, but, if you don't, and you have a suggestion, PLEASE let us in on it. Make a comment and let us know what fun event we are missing.

Of course, these activities are fairly "worldly" in focus. We hope you take time, in all this crazy season of Santa Claus and Christmas lights, to talk about the precious gift of Christ Jesus. As Christians, that is our celebration and joy, and we pray, our focus at CHRISTmas! If you don't have a church to visit for Christmas or Christmas Eve--or even attend in general--here is the website for our home church. Merry Christmas, everyone!

The 22nd Annual Dana Point Harbor Turkey Trot: This is the only Thanksgiving event on this post. It is an annual walk/run race on the morning of Thanksgiving. There is a 5K and a 10K event. Adults cost $35.00 to enter a race if you register after November 1st. What a great way to feel okay about eating that second helping of stuffing and mashed potatoes later in the day! You can get details at

Holiday in the Harbor: There are three Christmas events at the Dana Point Harbor. You can find out about all of them at The quaint, local funspot is celebrating the holidays with carolers, face painting, bands, magic and juggling shows and, of course, a visit from Santa Claus. You can partake in the family fun on Friday, November 30th from 4 to 8 p.m.

The harbor will also be hosting boat rides with Santa for free. Kids can come take boat rides and pose with Santa from 10-2 on Saturday and Sunday, December 1st and 2nd. Pictures cost $4.00 if you get one. Be ready for some lines and waiting, especially if you get there late.

Finally, the Dana Point Harbor is having its 33rd annual boat parade of lights. The theme this year is "A Merry Mardi Gras". The parade runs Friday and Saturday nights on December 7th, 8th, 14th and 15th. It all begins at 7:30 p.m. If you would like to be in the boat parade, you can get on a boat through the Dana Wharf Sportfishing shop. Adults cost $25.00 and kids are $15.00.

South Coast Plaza--The 27th annual tree lighting ceremony, associated with South Coast Plaza, is November 26th at 6 p.m. It will take place at the town center park, next to the Westin/South Coast Plaza. In addition, you can come for the Santa "arrives" parade on November 16th at 4 p.m. It will be in the Jewel Court, on the first level. If you miss both of these events, you can always come later to just stroll around, shop and check out the Christmas decorations throughout the mall/shops. Santa will be there all season to visit. You can get more information at

Fashion Island--We love to come here to see decorations, because it is outside and you can bundle up and hold coffee. Plus, we make it a fun night to also see Roger's Gardens (further info later in the post), which is right across the street. They will have an opportunity to take photos with Santa November 16th- December 24th. This usually requires that you buy a portrait package of some sort.

They have a huge tree that stands in the center each year. The tree lighting ceremonies are November 16th and 17th at 6 p.m. This will be in the Bloomingdale's Courtyard. They light the trees and Santa arrives. There will also be a song and dance performed by the California Conservatory of the Arts.

Carolers will be at this mall on weekends from 1 to 5 p.m. by the Christmas tree. This will be in effect on the weekends from November 17th to December 23rd. Usually they also have a Christmas train that kiddos can ride for a small price. All of these events at Fashion Island can be read about at

Spectrum--The newest of shopping centers, the Spectrum also enters the season with some fun treats. They will have their annual ice skating rink from November 1st (soon!) to January 21st. It will be in the Giant Wheel Court. Santa will be at the Spectrum November 23rd to December 24th. Photo packages with Santa start at $13.95. Santa will be stationed outside the Target and H&M stores area. Like Fashion Island, this area is all outside, which makes it fun for feeling "winterish." Find out all the information at

Irvine Regional Park--It is time for the Christmas Train! Currently, the park is closed, as it is a maincamp for the men and women fighting the Santiago fire. Check the website, which is well updated, to see when it re-opens. There shouldn't be a conflict, as the Christmas train begins November 30th and is also open December 1,2,7,8,9,and the 13th through the 23rd. The time is from 5 to 8 p.m. The cost is $8.00 per person, but the normal parking fee is FREE after 5 p.m. You take a twelve minute train ride through the park, and see all the decorations and lights, including the tunnel with hundreds of lights at the end of the ride. You can meet Santa, and they allow you to take your own pictures with your own camera. If you forget your camera, their polaroid picture of your dear ones and Santa is $5.00. They will also be selling coffe, hot cocoa, fresh popcorn and cookies. There is also a way you can pre-mail your child's Christmas list to Santa, so when you visit, it will be right there on Santa's list. The mailing instructions and all the details of the Christmas train can be found at They say to dress warmly, as it does get chilly out there when the sun goes down!

Santa Ana Discovery Science Center--The science center is having an exhibition called "The Science of Gingerbread." It is through the month of December. Kids, ages 3-17 cost $9.95 (under 3 are free), adults are $12.95, and parking is $3.00. Last year, they had a snowblowing machine at the entryway, and we spent a good 20 minutes there listening to Carter laughing at the snow and the kids dancing in it. I am not sure if they will do this again, but I'm guessing they will. Find out more at

Anaheim Nutcracker Festival--December 4th, from 3 to 7 p.m., you can go to the Center Street Promenade in Anaheim for a holiday street fair. Food, games, music, face painting and family fun are promised. You can call 714 956-3586 for more information, or you can look here.

Roger's Gardens--This is an upscale nursery/boutique type store in Corona Del Mar. It is right across the street from Fashion Island, so it is easy to combine a visit to the two places on the same night. Once you enter the store, you can veer to the left and see hundreds of ornate trees, each with hundreds of ornaments for sale. The gardens are the beautiful part. Head straight back. They have model train sets going, music serenading visitors, and photo opportunities (such as a set up sleigh) throughout the beautiful, Christmas light covered garden. The entry is free, and it is a quaint little excursion to help make the season slow down a bit. For directions and information, look at

Newport Harbor Boat Parade--This is a hot cocoa must have event. Go down anywhere along the Newport harbor in order to view the sailboats and watercraft float by with Christmas music and lights. It is approximately 2 and 1/2 hours long, and it happens every night from December 12-16th. The event starts at 6:30. Dress warmly, and have beach chairs ready in the car (along with some snuggly blankets). For more information, see

Santa Ana Zoo--The Holiday Lights Festival at the zoo takes place December 21,22,28th and 29th. There will be strolling musicians, holiday crafts, and lights. For more information, the website is

Laguna Niguel Holiday Parade--You can pretend you live in a small town. This is a true hometown parade, with cheerleaders, mayors, bands, baton twirlers and lots of old vintage cars. Yours truly marched in this parade once or twice in high school. Join the fun on December 8th. It starts at 10 a.m. The route is Crown Valley Parkway, between Nueva Vista and the Crown Valley Community Park. Expect some road closures and re-routing that morning.

Cruise of Lights in Huntington Beach--I've never done this event, but this looks fun. It is a benefit for the Philharmonic Society. It is a Narrated cruise through the waterways of Huntington Beach. You get to see a waterway view of the Christmas lights and decorations on the pricey homes. This takes place December 13th-23rd. On weekdays, you can go at 6,7, or 8 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, the departures are at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, or 8:30. On the 17th, the prices are adults-$11.00 each and kids over 2 years-$8.00 each. On weekdays other than the 17th, adults are $13.00 and kids over 2 are $8.50 each. On weekends, adults are $15.00 each and kids are $9.00 each. Find out more at or call 714 840-7542.

Light Viewing--Our family always has three favorite spots. We drive through all the streets of Nellie Gail, playing Christmas music on the radio and sipping hot cocoa. You can spend over an hour doing this if you drive slowly.

El Corzo street in Rancho Santa Margarita (also known as Candy Cane Lane) is the best! You park at the end of the tiny cul-de-sac and walk. Plan to be amazed. Snow machines, music, animatronic creatures and thousands of lights greet you. There will most likely be many people joining you, as it is usually crowded. You can Mapquest the directions.

Finally, Ladera Ranch is another great place to drive to see lights. Last year, we bought hot cocoa from kiddos selling it on a light laden street. Fun! Have dinner beforehand and get the little ones sleepy with a drive through the festive city.

Of course, all the amusement parks, from Disneyland, Knott's, Sea World, and the Wild Animal Park, offer some Christmas themed fun. I hope you get some fun ideas from this list. Remember to share any ideas I missed!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Fall Fest 2007

What fun we had last night! We left a bowl of candy on our porch and drove over to Aliso Viejo for our church's Fall Fest. WOW! It was amazing! There was any type of carnival ride you could imagine, free Carl's Jr., free popcorn and cotton candy, photo buttons, pony rides, hay mazes, face painting, balloon animals, and more candy than I've ever seen! Carter was not ready for the fun he had last night. At first he squirmed in his costume, but by the time we left, two and a half hours later, he was grinning from ear to ear, running around and giggling with glee (and he didn't even have more than a bite or two of candy in his system!) He was so sad to say bye-bye to the funnest place he's ever seen--we haven't done Disneyland yet. Hee, hee. The hay maze and swing ride were his favorite by far. We let him do the swings three times, but we cut him off after that because we didn't want him to get sick. He would kick his legs and belly laugh the whole time. It was hilarious! Hay mazes are just perfect for Carter. He's contained and he can run as fast as his hyper little legs will carry him. This one had the bonus of exiting right next to the entrance, so he would just run laps over and over again. It was a crack up!
So many people came! I saw a few people from the elementary school at which I used to teach, which is right around the corner in Aliso Viejo. It was also fun to see what everyone was wearing and see each child in their get-ups. I'm including a few pictures of Carter from the evening. (Ryan took tons of pictures of families in our marriage group--I'll let him show those at our Thrive group and e-mail them to the families.)