Monday, March 31, 2008

Go Bruins!

Being a UCLA alumni, and being a fan of watching Bruin sports, I have been thrilled that the Bruins have had such a successful run in the Tournament this year. Carter loves to run around the living room yelling, "slam dunk!" and then do exactly that with his Fisher Price basketball hoop. He also makes sure that we have the UCLA flag flying in the front yard. Our neighbor has an identical flag, which Carter saw one day and thought he stole from our house. When I was able to calm him down enough and dry his tears, I showed him our flag was still at our house. He was consoled.

When I was attending UCLA, our team won the national title. It was phenomenal! I also loved walking on campus and running into George Zidek, Tyus Edney or one of the O' Bannon brothers. Ryan makes fun of me because I always talk about the Tournament game when Tyus Edney ran across the court and made a basket in a matter of seconds (to win the game). I never camped out overnight to get tickets to Pauley Pavilion during their winning season. However, I watched every game intently on television.

Sports are fun, and I can't wait until little Carter gets older and picks his favorite. His current dream is basketball, but we are trying to push him to a sport where you can be average to shorter in height. Soccer or baseball are great options for my busy little man. We'll see what he wants to do . . .

For now, go Bruins! I am having a great time rooting for my team!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Encourage One Another: Pastor Pete Lasutschinkow

I Thessalonians 5:11, in the context of looking to our future glory and hope in Christ during our temporal sufferings, says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." Though the people I highlight in these I Thessalonian posts may not be facing the sufferings of the Thessalonian church Paul was addressing, we all must navigate through trials, weariness, and spiritual warfare in our ministries. What a motivation booster to see that our work on behalf of our Heavenly Father, thanks to His gracious gifts and the opportunities He prepares for us, is producing fruit!

It is such a pleasure to highlight the hard work of Pastor Pete Lasutschinkow. He is the Associate Pastor of Compass Bible Church and a bold and valuable worker for God's glory. He and his family sacrifice much of their energy and time to shepherd God's flock and reach the lost in the community around us. If Pastor Pete isn't meeting with the staff and ministries he oversees, he can be found preparing sermons for weekly ministries, counseling those in need of Biblical guidance, and performing a whole myriad of other tasks that help our church run smoothly.

One recent weekend, Pastor Pete was running between giving a sermon to the high school ministry and doing the announcements in the main sanctuary. Another Sunday morning, he continued after both morning services by supervising and leading two meetings for the Bridge and Thrive ministry, leaving at the end of both to graciously attend a church member's birthday party. Last week he took the time to meet with the Thrive leadership team for over an hour and then give a teaching to the Men's Bible Study about an hour after the first obligation. Needless to say, his schedule is FULL.

Instead of becoming weary or complaining, Pastor Pete rejoices in these opportunities. It struck me as quite telling when Pastor Bobby Blakey recently told the congregation how Pastor Pete had told him he was SO grateful for the opportunity God had given him to work with the church body at Compass Bible Church. He loves God's people and, most of all, He adores his Heavenly Father. His joy and thankfulness are evident in his daily service and attitude.

In Women's Bible Study, we are finishing our year's study of I Peter. I was completing my study questions concerning the passage of I Peter 5: 1-7. The first four verses address pastors, or elders, who shepherd God's people. It says, "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (verses 2-4) After reading these passages, one of the questions asked, "How does your pastor show his eagerness to serve? How is he an example to the flock?" I answered this question in regard to our Senior Pastor, Mike Fabarez, who is also an amazing servant of our King. Looking at Pastor Pete, however, yields similar results.

Pastor Pete shows his eagerness to serve us by preparing his teachings and SEARCHING God's scripture so he can accurately show what God has to say. This is an example to us in how we value God's Word, how we spend our time, and how we give priority to reading the Bible. In addition, it underscores how much Pastor Pete cares that we obey God's commands and live holy lives in thankfulness and obedience to the Lord.

Also, Pastor Pete is constantly supporting ministries feeding the flock and looking for ways to grow the ministries so new people can be reached. He cares about our lives and our spiritual health. His desire is to see Christians flourishing in our walks with God and to support the groups that can foster an increased understanding of how we are to live for and follow our Creator. This is a great example to love others and consider them better than ourselves. Any ministry blessed enough to work under Pastor Pete is spurred on in service to others by his example.

Finally, Pastor Pete is a terrific example of a pastor never seeking self-edification. He gives all the credit to fellow workers when they have worked hard, and his focus is always on giving thanks to God for the opportunities, strength and ability to work for Him. What an example this is to all of the church. To those leading ministries, it is a template of humility in leadership that we all can strive to follow.

I will never forget when Ryan and I had our son, Carter. We were in the hospital with a newborn. Not many friends came to visit due to the fact we were not long in the hospital. Both Pastor Dale and his wife, Shawna, and Pastor Pete took the time to come see Ryan and I, however. Not only did Pastor Pete come visit, but he brought a precious little gift for our son. This little act of care is something I will always remember and hold dear. Ryan and I have both known Pastor Pete for several years, and each one has been a blessing. We pour thanks out to God for the opportunity to work under Pastor Pete. He has always been approachable, honest, forthcoming, quick to respond, and Biblical. His wife, Val, too has always been such a great example of a godly woman to me. I so admire her support and love for her husband and her gentle spirit. She is beautiful inside and out!

Next time you see Pastor Pete at church, tell him how he has been an example to you. Thank him for being a servant leader and encourage him. God has used him greatly in our lives, and I look forward to seeing how his obedience will be used in the years to come!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter 2008

This year, Carter was very interested in collecting eggs--not the colorful variety you hide, mind you, but the sore, red bumps you get on your forehead. Two weeks ago he fell in Sunday School (on a Wednesday for Women's Bible Study, but Wednesday School sounds funny). His little head went right into a window divider in his classroom. The day before Easter, he decided that lovely mark was healing too quickly, so he dove headfirst into the patio pole in our backyard. He wanted to make sure his title as the crazy toddler stuntman of Compass Bible Church didn't get taken. Oh, well. You will notice evidence of these little spills in some of our pictures.

Eggstravaganza, on Good Friday, was a joy. Carter ran around the park with my mom and dad until he was exhausted. The Easter egg hunt was immensely fun for him this year, and he actually collected them himself, unlike last year when mommy had to compete with the toddlers taking the eggs around him. He ate cookies, donuts and chocolate until his little tummy could hold no more. He has to sneak those goodies while mommy isn't looking--I was busy face painting for two hours, festively wearing bunny ears and covering every finger and fingernail in seemingly permanent paint. I honestly was so busy, I hardly had time to look up from my station. I had fun, however, and it was great to be able to meet and greet some of the community members who visited our church event.

We attended Good Friday services on Friday night, and we collapsed after our busy day. On Saturday, we surprised Carter with his backyard "park" for his birthday (which is actually this Monday, the 24th). This was the event which prompted the head dive into the patio pole. He seems to like the climber, but this amazing heatwave in Southern California has made the plastic untouchable these past couple of days. Saturday night, we took Carter out for a birthday dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in South Coast Plaza. He was able to meet the treefrog and see all the animatronic animals along the perimeter. He had so much fun, and we ended the night with a jaunt to the Disney Store and a ride on the carousel.

Sunday, we went to first service at Compass Bible Church, which was packed! Carter looked so cute in his Easter finery. The church had a Bible times bazaar, complete with animals. This was handy since Ryan had to go pick a screaming Carter up out of the nursery in the middle of church services. He was asked to sign him out and spent the rest of the time visiting the animals and watching the older kids learn at the bazaar.

After church, we went to my parents' house for a delicious brunch. My younger sister and her family were there too, and it was fun to see the kids playing together. Carter took a two hour nap at my parents', and then we were off to Ryan's folks' house to continue the Easter celebration. We had a traditional Easter dinner and got to play with Carter's cousins. What fun!

Needless to say, it was a wonderful Easter celebrating God's sacrifice for our sins and His victory over the grave. However, we are still recovering from our "Easter tour 2008", and Carter's cold has finally taken residence in both Ryan and me. We honestly wouldn't trade it for anything, though!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

An Easter Poem

Easter Morning

Radiant morning! What brilliant sun!
The warmth of God's glory. His victory won!
The tomb is found empty and the rock's rolled away.
Death now is conquered on this glorious day.

Radiant morning! My soul lifts in song.
The Righteous has paid for my every wrong.
The tomb is found empty and the rock's rolled away.
My Savior is risen on this glorious day!

Radiant morning! I worship my King.
Our access to God only Jesus can bring.
The tomb is found empty and the rock's rolled away.
What joy overflowing on this long promised day!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Isn't God Good!

"Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time." Deuteronomy 4:39-40

I was playing the Music Machine: The Fruits of the Spirit CD in the car this weekend, and Carter was listening intently. He loves music, and he asks, "louder, please" if I don't have it on at a normal volume.

The CD was playing the part about the fruits of the Spirit, and the song was about love. The chorus says, "Isn't God good when He asks us just to love like He does. Isn't God good when He asks us just to be so kind." I was struck anew by the point that God's commands are a blessing, and He is so good to give us His rules and regulations. In this case, the command to love others is a direct blessing on our attitudes, the way people will see God reflected in our lives, and, often, how we will be treated back (though that isn't guaranteed in a sinful world). How much better do we feel when we choose love over bitterness or resentment?

So often, society views God's commandments as a list of boring restrictions. Even as Christians, we can see commands with which we struggle as tedious obstacles we have to master. Sinful flesh views righteous action as limited in fun, experience and freedom. Being followers of God, we know that living for the flesh is not freedom, but it is living as a slave to sin. We too easily lose the focus of God's goodness in what He asks. Knowing He is Holy and Omniscient, we need to realize His laws are for our benefit, and He is good in requiring us to follow Him and pusue His holiness.

"Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!" Deuteronomy 5:29

A toddler is a perfect example of how none of us, especially those who have not submitted to God as Lord of their lives, like being told what to do, even if it is for our good. My two year old is a fairly obedient child, but when he has chosen to battle his will against mine, he will say "no" to anything--even if I ask him if he wants a snack or a trip to the park. I chuckle when he gets his stubborn streak, knowing he really does want that snack or jaunt to the park, but his little sinful self is too deep in its own will to relent.

Are we digging in our heels or even following God's commands with merely a yawn and an attitude of indifference? We should be rejoicing at His guidelines for us! Our actions should reflect our attitude of thankfulness. We should be scouring the scripture and memorizing commands to memory. When we sin, we should recognize the danger of being off God's directive and immediately repent of our fleshly foolishness. Are we thanking God for His rules? God isn't asking us to be robots who just follow His commands. His commands are filled with His love and power. They are blessings for His people! Isn't God good when He asks us!

"but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you." Jeremiah 7:23

Friday, March 14, 2008

Eggstravaganza 2008

Well, it's that time again! The Navigating Motherhood ministry at Compass Bible Church will be hosting its third annual Eggstravaganza this Friday, March 21st. It is from 9:30 to 11:30 at the Laguna Hills Community Center and Sports Complex Park.

Carter and I were able to go for the first time last year, and we were absolutely blown away! There were over a thousand people attending. For no charge, moms and young kids were enjoying face painting, bounce houses, egg hunts, balloon artists, donuts, snacks and fruit. We had so much fun. The kids have even more fun, as they get to romp around, play and get tons of candy!

This year, I get to paint faces on kids visiting, while Grandma and Grandpa watch Carter and partake in the festivities. This event is such an amazing outreach to families in the community who are looking for a church, are wary of visiting a church, or are not even thinking about church! This is a safe first step to introducing people to the body of Christ and what we represent. Visitors get goodie bags with free T-shirts, coupons for free VBS for one child, and a CD of one of Pastor Mike's sermons. We had a huge amount of growth at our church after last year's Eggstravaganza. What a work God is doing with this event.
Even if you don't have young kids, come to the event just to witness the wonder of what God does and how mighty He is. Talk to visitors and help them realize how caring and friendly our church family can be. Even better, lend a hand in one of the many volunteer positions. I had a heart that could just burst last year when I saw His provision at Eggstravaganza.

Here are some pictures of Carter at last year's event. I'll be sure to post new ones after the event on Friday.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Celebrating Two

This month Carter turns two. It seems like yesterday that I found out I was pregnant and was dreaming of all the days of mommyhood.

Carter made life "different" six weeks into my pregnancy. What I thought was a bout of food poisoning or the stomach flu turned out to be almost a full nine months of weakness, vomiting, and an aversion to anything but root beer and plain carbs--even water tasted awful and triggered nausea. Strange!

All the suffering of nine months disappeared when Carter was born, however. After 18 hours of labor (and vomiting in labor, mind you), Carter was emergency vaccumed out. He came out with the cord twice around his neck. He was dark gray and completely limp. There was no apparent life at all. The NICU team rushed in and bagged him with oxygen for 10 minutes. Ryan and I prayed and wept. It was one of those moments where shock keeps you outside the situation and helps you from completely falling apart--like you are watching something happening to someone else.

After 10 minutes of petitioning our Heavenly Father, God gave us a healthy baby boy. I loved Carter immediately, but I love him even more now that I know him.

Carter is nothing what I imagined when I dreamt about him. He is better. He is the soul God created, and I thank God so much for letting me rear this child. He loves to laugh and be funny. Like his daddy, he likes to be giggling and telling jokes. He loves to dance. He'll dance anywhere, but if he hears music, he moves. It is half Irish jig and half crazy man. Much to my dismay, he likes junk food. He is infatuated with trucks, cars, trains and the trash truck. He loves balls and sports. One of his first words was "baketball." (basketball) He loves attention and will show off for anyone, as long as they oblige him with a laugh. He loves the park, and he knows when I spell out the word "P-A-R-K" to Ryan. We have a codename for it now--Treeland. I'm sure he'll figure that out soon enough.

He suddenly says please and thank you to everything--it just clicked. I am always concerned that his little heart be thankful for God's blessings. When daddy goes to work, I explain that he works hard to make money for things we have. Carter thinks this mainly consists of balls and bikes. The other day when Ryan was home working on the computer, Carter ran up to him in a hug and said, "Thank you, dada for money." Wow! I don't know if he really gets that Ryan works hard for us, but I was blown away. Now if only he can understand it ALL really comes from God!

He is more active than I EVER imagined. People tell me he's just a boy, but I think he's on the active side of the scale. He loves to swing on things like a monkey, climb planters and short fences, kick balls, run races, and throw things in the air. We HAVE to get out of the house each day to burn some of that energy. He's already had stitches on his lip and had a toenail fall off--all consequences of crazy stunts. He doesn't like to sit still to color or do puzzles. He'll sit on my lap for a story, but that is usually when he is sleepy. Which reminds me, he loves to sleep at night. Who wouldn't, with all that activity during the day?

I can't sum up Carter in a blog post. He's such a blessing in my life. Ryan and I thank God for allowing us to participate in his life. Every day, he makes me chuckle and smile. He's just like his daddy--full of light and full of joy.

May I always trust God with whatever plans He has for Carter, and may I be a godly example that plants seeds in him. I pray that he, God willing, submit his life to our Lord someday. For now, thank you God for the past two years of knowing this little soul. We are thankful!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Keeping up with the Joneses: Envy and Jealousy

I remember the first time a friend told me they were engaged. I was so excited for her! This was the beginning of a world filled with weddings, receptions, bridal showers, and looking at registries--all the romantic dreams of a girl. Little did I realize at the time, but God wasn't calling me to marriage until I was 28. After awhile, as the years rolled by, hearing friends announce their engagements and model their shiny engagement rings was hard for me to receive. Excitement quickly turned to envy as I realized it wasn't my turn anytime soon.

I just finished reading Jerry Bridges' Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins we Tolerate. One chapter that spoke to me in particular was the chapter on envy, jealousy and other related sins, such as competitiveness and control. I love how the author defines and compares the sins of envy and jealousy. He clearly demonstrates the problem with both emotions and gets to the root of the sin: Pride.

Jerry Bridges defines envy as "the painful and oftentimes resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by someone else." We can let envy lead to coveting, where we want what the other person has OR we can just plain resent the fact someone received a blessing. The book goes on to spell out two areas in which envy thrives:

1. We envy those with whom we most closely identify.

2. We envy in people the areas we value most.

I don't identify with a Hollywood actress, for example. I am not in entertainment, I am not in movies, and I am not in tabloids. I do not envy any of those ladies. However, I might see a young mom at church who just lost weight. I identify with her and her struggle, and I might resent her new advantage--being thin. I don't identify with people driving REALLY fancy cars or buying designer clothes. I can't fathom that kind of spending or luxury. However, I might see my friend in a really cute, new dress from my favorite store or see my neighbor drive up in a NEW, shiny Honda. I can identify with these things and this type of lifestyle, so it might provoke envy.

As far as value--moms, what do we value? We value God and our families for sure. Does it create envy when you see another young mom get praise from a church leader for a job well done--especially when you've been working hard for God too? Do you feel a bit of envy when a child in your son or daughter's age range meets a milestone early or gets constant praise for behavior or intelligence? Do you feel envious when a friend's spouse has a better job, when a friend's husband is a more mature spiritual leader, or when a more outgoing friend gets more recognition in your circle of aquaintances? You get the picture.

Jealousy is often thought to be a synonym for envy. However, this book defines it in a subtly different manner. While envy relates to resenting someone else's blessing, jealousy ties to our feeling of superiority being potentially damaged. Jerry Bridges defines jealousy as an "intolerance of rivalry." In a way, jealousy is tied to extreme competitiveness. There is a holy type of jealousy--God is jealous when we don't make Him number one in our life. It is Biblical to jealously protect your spouse from a person trying to drag him or her from your marriage. However, most of our jealousy is sin. We get jealous when we believe someone will be equal or superior to us in some sense. We try to protect our "superiority." A great Biblical example of jealousy is King Saul and David. I Samuel 18:7 tells us that Saul burned with jealousy when he heard people singing that Saul had killed thousands and David tens of thousands. From that day forward, he festered with insane and powerful hate and jealousy against this threat to his power and superiority.

We all know, however, that younger, newer, more talented people always will come along to exceed us in whatever we are doing. Just as we know God gives various gifts and talents, he also gives everyone a different scale of success in those gifts. Even if you focus on the gift with which God has given you the most success, there will inevitably be SOMEONE who is even better at it than you!

The problem with envy and jealousy is that when we feel these emotions, we are telling God He isn't fair. We are pointing our finger at the Holy, omnipotent, sovereign Creator of all and telling Him that He isn't doing it right. If we are envious or jealous of a Christian, we are forgetting we are all one body of Christ. We all have a common goal and purpose. We are allowing our fleshly pride to lead us into sin. I Peter 5:5 tells us that "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." There is no humility or love in envy and jealousy. They are self-seeking.

These sins are also hard to recognize in ourselves. We so easily dismiss these feelings until they lead to sinful actions--such as gossip, slander and arguing. Jerry Bridges recommends asking those close to you to give you honest feedback about these areas. Where do we tend to fall into patterns of envy and jealousy? What are some actions we can take to fight these sins?

The world will continue to keep up with and compete with the Joneses. We, as Christians, are not to waste our limited time here with such endeavors. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and thank God for His sovereign plan in His children's lives.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Ryan and I watched an old movie about a poet this weekend. It inspired me in an area I have not practiced in a LONG time. I was an English major in college, and I always enjoyed writing poems and stories. I have no proper sense of meter, rhythm and proper construction, but the creative expression is what always made me happy. I have old binders from elementary school which are filled with poems and stories. I'm not going to be publishing anything anytime in the near future, but I wrote two poems these past two days, and I thought I'd share. One rhymes and one is just free verse.


The scattered, fallen, and restless leaves tiptoe in symphony,

Ushered into place by the pressing, urgent breeze.

The cacophonous melody of nature's orchestra,

Searching for a key, fills the audience--

the shrill flute of birds,

the booming drums of the sea billows,

the violin strains of the dancing trees under the tired bow of the Western Wind.

Suddenly, all is still. The audience waits.

A brilliant purple and orange glow spills from the stage.

In one perfect note, the performance begins and ends.

The light fades to black, and the music softly dies.

The silent applause of the slowly waking stars, to the Maker of all--the conductor of life,
is deafening.


Life can be hard, an uphill climb, trials to face each day.

I carried this worry all through my life, pretending that I was okay.

God whispered to me, "Let ME be in control. Bend your knee to me.

I can carry that load. I can give you life--life more abundantly.

Stubborn as I am, I endured the goads, stumbling under the load I bore.

I pridefully lived as I thought best, until I could take no more.

With tears on my face, my sin smothering me, I finally bent my knee.

"Forgive me God! Be in control. Be Lord and Redeemer to me."

He gently whispered, "Daughter of mine. From your sin, you are now set free.

I chose you to be saved, redeemed and cleansed before I suffered on Calvary."

Now I live for Him alone. I remember the sin that was once mine to bear,

So thankful I laid it at the cross, forever in Christ's loving care.

Each day He reminds me that I am free. His Word promises grace.

I repent of my weakness and worship His strength, aching for the Day I will see His face.