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[He]’s out of his surgery…but the doctor had less than stellar news to tell us.  ….it doesn’t seem like it can be controlled at this point from any human standpoint or intervention. 

I’m in a great deal of emotional pain right now.  Thankfully, somehow my thoughts are being protected from spiraling too deep into the what ifs and what coulds.  I still cry a lot though. I am comforted by God at this time and I’m trying to live minute to minute, day by day.  I know He’s crying with me and I know He’s guarding and protecting me as well as [him].  Whatever happens next is all part of the masterpiece of our lives. 

I’m tempted to shout out that it’s not fair, that we don’t deserve this, that we’re so young, and that we’re good people who deserve to be happy… but all of those phrases get cut off before I even finish thinking them.  They are replaced by phrases like: he is not mine to keep, this is all part of His plan, we’ve been happy, these 6 years have been the best gift I’ve ever received, and the Lord feels and He knows the pain of loss.  I really don’t think that all of these phrases come out of human rationalization, they are of God and are the fruit of your prayers for us.  Thank you. 

I am still comforted by the story of Gideon and the story of Job.  I’m not sure if our ending will be parallel to their story, but there is still hope.  It’s not over yet.

I will never be able to speak about all of this as much, as deeply, or as eloquently as I can write it.  Think of these emails as windows into my heart. 

I’m so tired.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

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Cold

I joined the FBCC flag football tournament, which spans four Sunday afternoons (started 12/21) over the holiday break.  The teams consist of college and career mixed together, so I don’t know most of the people on my team (Orange).  I’m glad Justine and BJ are our managers.  It’s been quite an experience.

You would think living here for so long I wouldn’t be surprised, but I still am.  Like that week when it snowed outside and then the very next day it was spring.  Well, the first Sunday we played it was INCREDIBLY cold, and it was the day after a sunny 70+-degree temperature Saturday.  Last week it was the same, though it was not as cold.  And then AGAIN this weekend: yesterday was so warm when we were playing basketball (my first time out there at 6000 Greenbriar) and then this afternoon the temperature is dropping with wind (though not as cold as last week yet).  Being sick (really since Wednesday but been trying to deny it), I will not be out there this afternoon.  Go Orange!

I think I just have a cold, thank goodness.  Yesterday my head hurt so bad that I finally took 100mg of ibuprofen–the last time I took a pill was probably at least a year ago.  Below is a handy chart from WebMD and an acronym for the flu:

Symptoms

Cold

Flu

Fever Rare Characteristic, high
(100-102°F); lasts 3-4 days
Headache Rare Prominent
General Aches, Pains Slight Usual; often severe
Fatigue, Weakness Quite mild Can last up to 2-3 weeks
Extreme Exhaustion Never Early and prominent
Stuffy Nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Usual Sometimes
Sore Throat Common Sometimes
Chest Discomfort,
Cough
Mild to moderate;
hacking cough
Common; can become severe

Complications

Sinus congestion
or earache
Bronchitis, pneumonia;
can be life-threatening

Prevention

None Annual vaccination; amantadine
rimantadine or oseltamirvir (antiviral drugs)

Treatment

Only
temporary
relief of symptoms
Amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir
or zanamavir within 24-48 hours
after onset of symptoms

FACTS about the flu:

  • Fever
  • Aches
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Sudden Symptoms

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http://www.tomandnancylin.com/bio/

Risk-Taking: Holy Investment Challenge
Luke 19:12-27
targeted to college and career

Doing risky business with

  1. Our opportunity to be students
              Those who go off to college often find themselves in a different life stage than the rest of us who are workin, building marriages, and raising children.  They have the opportunities to build close friendships (how many say their life friends were made in college), study academics with vast resources around them, to talk late into the night.  Examples of those who have taken advantage of this include a trash outreach in one of the biggest dorms in the nation.  “We are Christians who just wanted to serve in a small way.  Would you like us to take out your trash?”  Some wanted to pay them, others gave them even more trash, but by the end of the night four joined them to see what they were about.
  2. Our money and possessions
              John Ortberg wrote a book titled When the Game Is Over It All Goes Back in the Box.  What do you win that you get to keep?  We need to invest what we have before it all goes back into the box, before we leave this earth, before the Master returns.  A college friend of the speaker’s barely had enough to pay rent.  But whenever JP would come upon some cash he would immediately celebrate by spending it with a friend.  He’d want to play tennis with the speaker so JP would use the money to buy a racquet.  He bought a television set for his roommate.  He’d give (not sell back) his books to incoming students.  And sure enough, there would always be enough by the end of the month.  A couple in their thirties wrote the speaker a $10,000 check because they believed God’s work through his ministry and wanted to invest in that.  A group in Harvard donated $20 each and then used that combined amount to serve their classmates on campus with free coffee during finals week.  The speaker himself, at his initial job, would hold a raffle at his desk to give away free stuff.  Coworkers would congregate around his desk and eventually they built personal bonds.
  3. Our social networks
             Instead of sticking to the same subjects (e.g. weather, daily routine, television shows), we need to risk conversations.  The speaker said that one time the Spirit prompted him to ask his nonbelieving roommate about God.  “Anybody but him!  He’s my roommate!  I have to live with him!”  But eventually he finally asked, “What do you think about Jesus?”  “I’m glad you asked.  I was just thinking about the time I had this near-death experience in a car crash.  I told God if he saved me I would start seeking him.  I went to church for a little while but eventually stopped….”
  4. Time
              We start out all the same, as the parable demonstrates.  Instead of imitating the attitude of the third servant, who knew the minas weren’t going to be his soon anyway and thus did not pay much attention to it, we need the attitude of Schlinder in Schlinder’s List.  At the end he still realized that he had not done all that he could have (e.g. his pin and car).  “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”  Being trustworthy in a small matter, the first servant was given more.  The command is to invest (not to make as much as possible). 

What prevents us from risk taking?

  • Fear (of the Master, of what others think, of failure, of a language barrier..).  “Do not fear” is mentioned 366 times in the Bible, perhaps due to our cowardliness in investing what God’s given us?
  • Asian adverseness for risk.  We recall what our parents tell us essentially: “We took those risks so you won’t have to.”  We’re encouraged to keep a low profile so as to not make waves. 

Pastor Dick asked what we thought of this idea:  He would give everyone in the congregation $5 (financial risk for the leaders) and ask us to give it to the kingdom in some way (social risk for us congregants).  Maybe we want to take someone out, maybe we could pool the money and do something bigger.

Middle of Nowhere: Mongolia 2002 – 2006
I Kings 19:1-19
targeted to the English congregation

Elijah’s Gobi Desert experience:

  • Beersheba is a desert
  • he left his servant behind
  • he made an additional day’s journey deeper into the desert
  • broom tree is only about ten feet high
  • suicidal

Speaker’s desert experience

  • sixth and eighteenth months were the hardest
  • strained marriaged
  • declared he’d buy plane tickets back to the States
  • issues unresolved from the States were brought up in Mongolia

Our own dry isolation experience

  • Quarterlife transition.  We moved away to attend college and miss the familiar community we had at home.  We’ve moved back and find everything different.
  • Family transition.  We recently became engaged, married, had children….
  • Tragedy.  A loved one is severely ill or has died.  No one understands.  We’ve experienced loss and disappointment.  “Where are You, God?”
  • ‘Dry’ spiritual life.  The spiritual connection with God is not felt.

Four stages of desert life:

  1. Stripping process.  Elijah, by leaving his servant behind, he was declaring that he quit his job of being a prophet for God.  There appeared to be external successes but he still felt like a failure inside.  There was the incredible demonstration by God on the altar and yet Jezebel is still unrepentant and wants him dead.  Victory after victory and yet there is still failure. 
  2. Wrestling with God (v. 10).  We complain to God.  “I’ve done all this for You, and there’s nothing still.  It’s unfair!”  The critical decision comes down to this:  Do you give up on God, or go deeper with God?  Coming to this point is a given, but it is especially keenly felt among leaders.  The only question is WHEN (not if) this point will come.  Horeb, the mountain of God, is actually only a seven-days journey from Beersheba, yet it took Elijah the “long time” of forty days, probably because he was wandering and wrestling with God.  Note that though Elijah gave up, God did not give up on Elijah.  God helped Elijah continue to wrestle.
  3. Intimacy with God.  “Angel” in the text means a messenger from God.  This can be a human being who is doing God’s work, or simply feeling the presence of God.  In other words, God doesn’t always come “supernaturally.”  Intimacy is God meeting us at a time of great need.  Sometimes you wonder if it was right that you moved, that you were supposed to be here.  The place where you are now is not a mistake but the very place where God has brought you to meet Him.  Elijah didn’t run away to Horeb; God brought Elijah to Horeb.  And then God asks, “What are you doing here?” (v. 9).  Why did God bring you here?
  4. Transformation and release
    1. From self-seeking confidence to dependence on God and others.  In verse 14, Elijah speaks as if he is the only hope for God’s redemption of Israel.  For the speaker, he was doing pretty well in the States.  But in Mongolia, the children made fun of his since he couldn’t speak Mongolian.  It was quite clear that God would be doing the brunt of the work there.
    2. From being a lone ranger to a community participant.  We think we’re all alone, very unique, but we’re not. 
    3. From an old identity to a new identity.  Other Biblical examples include Moses and even Jesus.  Moses was a prince but had to go into the desert before returning as God’s prophet.  Jesus went into the desert for forty days and forty nights.
    4. Only then did God told Elijah what to do next.

Practical suggestions for going through the desert:

  • Be honestThis is so hard!  Especially for us, with our emotions.  We need to admit that we have an issue with God.  We need to bring our burning questions to God.
  • Determine ahead of time to go deep with GodOur temptation is to seek a thing, an action, another person to fill the loneliness and void.  That’s what the Israelites did by making the golden calf.
  • Rest with the other 7,000 (v. 18).  If you don’t know who else is in a similar situation as you, maybe your pastor would know and bring you two together.  If you can’t discern God’s voice, ask another fellow believer to help you hear God’s Word and see why you are going through this desert.  Don’t wait; initiate.

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Good news

The recipient of the following letter forwarded this to us to share the good news:

How have you been?

There’s so many things (literally) that I wanna share with you right now, but I’m just gonna share one thing that happened to me TODAY, August 2nd, 2008.

To make LOOONG story short, I confessed myself as a Christian today (does it make sense?). I was hanging out with a girl from California team and in the middle of conversation I was repeatedly saying “I’m becoming Christian”, and she told me that I AM a Christian but I’m saying I’m “becoming” because I’m not sure or I just didn’t get any chance to like officially say it aloud that I’m a Christian.. which most ppl do when they get baptized I guess? So.. going back to her apartment, she prayed for me first and then I proclaimed that I AM a Christian, thanking that Jesus died for me and God loves me so much and I prayed for God just being thankful that God has been with me and apologizing Him that there were so many times that I just ignored Him… then strangely my tears just came out from my eyes and I just couldn’t stop it.

So… I don’t know, I feel like my “new” life has just begun today! and I’m so happy and I really wanted to share this with you because you’re the one who’s been encouraging me so, so much, and you’re one of the few and precious people who were with me when I was going through the hardest time in my life (so far).

I just love you so much! and thank you so, so much for having me in your life.

…Know that you’re always in my prayers sister!!
God bless you and your life back in the States!

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Seasonal friendships

I was trying to find this but instead stumbled upon the following email from an old EPIC friend dated Sunday, May 1, 2005 9:11 PM:

Well, I took long enough getting back to you.  How are you?  I read your last email, but there was so much to take in that I wound up not responding to any of it, haha.  You had a lot of really great thoughts.  I hope all is well, and although it was many, many weeks ago, I’m glad you enjoyed your trip to Austin.  I happen to enjoy visiting old places, but it is true that I end up very nostalgic because it isn’t the same as I remember.  I can relate to the thought of seeing familiar faces yet somewhat regretting not getting to know them better.  There are people from high school who I would love to see just because we connected for a semester back in high school, but at the same time, we weren’t really close either.  I call those relationships seasonal friendships.  In fact, not too long ago, I wrote a short journal about it:

This is a letter of gratitude and fondness for my seasonal friends.  Do you know the type I’m talking about?  There are always those really cool people in your life who you may only see once or twice a year–at best.  However, when you do happen to cross paths, you connect and click with them immediately.  A big smile spreads across your face, and you run to greet them.  You pick up where you last left off, and it’s as if you’ve never been apart.  You may not be keeping track of what’s going on in each other’s lives, but when you talk, you can still relate to what they say.  These are the people that don’t immediately pop into your head when you’re thinking about your friends, people that you may not think of at all until you meet again–and that’s ok.  Because when you meet, you can talk with them about everything and anything; you laugh and share for one night…and then not talk to them again for months.  To see them again is like a holiday surprise: it only happens once a year, but just that one evening is enough to satisfy you.  They float in and out of your life, tied to you by only one fond shared memory or experience–a single, thin thread, but one that is unbreakable.  They are the people you don’t realize how much you miss until you meet again.  Though we may not keep in touch very well, I want to thank you, my seasonal friends, for being the very cool and awesome people that you are.  I am SO glad that I met you, and I am very fortunate to have someone like you in my life.  I can’t wait until we meet again.

I don’t know if that’s the kind of feeling you meant.  It funny how much a single shared memory can tie you to to someone for life.

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Reason, season, lifetime

People come into your life
                              for a reason,
                                        a season,
                                                  or a lifetime.
When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do:

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a Godsend and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrong doing on your part or an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die.
Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand.

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on.

When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They may bring you experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real!  But… only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people (anyway), and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of our life. It is said that love is blind, but friendship is clairvoyant.

The PRESENT is the gift from God that you receive when he puts someone in your life.

God may put someone in your life for
                                                  five seconds,
                                                            five years,
                                                                      five decades.

God doesn’t promise us any certain time with someone and it’s what we make of that time that is our gift from God. That’s why we call it the PRESENT.  So enjoy this PRESENT from God.

Thank you for being a part of my life. May God hold you in the palm of His hand and angels watch over you.

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And Mary said:
   “My soul glorifies the Lord 
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
 for he has been mindful
      of the humble state of his servant.
   From now on all generations will call me blessed, 
    for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
      holy is his name. 
 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
      from generation to generation. 
 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
      he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 
 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
      but has lifted up the humble. 
 He has filled the hungry with good things
      but has sent the rich away empty. 
 He has helped his servant Israel,
      remembering to be merciful 
 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
      even as he said to our fathers.”
(“Mary’s Song” from Luke 1:46-55)

I had a work field trip today (honor code).  You can find the history and background for Magnificat House in the links below.  They have a rule to be home by 9 pm.  They have enough staff to provide guidance but not enough for it to run without the consistent multiple input from members.  The house they are in is quite an old house–it even has servants steps from upstairs down to the kitchen for back in the day when they are to stay out of sight as much as possible and to be readily available to quickly bring refreshments.  They have a sand volleyball court in the back, but it doesn’t seem to really be used.  They gave me a video to watch (about how this clubhouse model started, playing “Against Me” by Godspeed in the background), and a guy who had slight tongue thrust came in, sat in a chair, and started rocking back and forth.  It really is a clubhouse because you just come in and do whatever you want, hang and chill or do work, etc.

I met the sisters present that afternoon and Ernie, an HCC professor of transportation law who comes Tuesdays to teach Bible study.  I was paired up for about an hour with an ex-prisoner for him to tell me about what they do out in the yard (horticulture’s quite a big factor here – I helped with flower arranging earlier).  I was told one of the Sisters is actually an OTR (pediatrics), but she’s not here today.

“Work is a regenerative force.”  They have a sense of together helping the house run well.  It gives them a sense of success and companionship.  In fact, they don’t only have the opportunity to contribute but the expectation to do so.  They are members for life, because it’s okay to not be strong 100% of the time.  They utilize horticulture duties as I mentioned earlier, hospitality and kitchen (I ate lunch with them, which was prepared and served by the members), chapel, household/newspaper (they have their own newsletter that they work on together and print), admissions, and education/employment (learning skills, helping each other out, etc.).  They work and reach out to help get student loans forgiven.  They make and edit videos to give to sponsors as to what their money is going towards.  I only asked a few questions, which was answered like they all have a Gold Card for health care, although a few have private insurance.

  • Four Guaranteed Rights of Membership:
    1.) A right to a place to come
    2.) A right to meaningful relationships
    3.) A right to meaningful work
    4.) A right to a place to return.
  • Magnificat Houses Inc, is a nonprofit charitable organization chartered by the State of Texas in 1968. The agency has been providing the poor and homeless of Houston not only with the basic needs of food and shelter, but with hope and the belief that every human being has dignity. The Magnificat House, Inc. was founded by Rose Mary Badami with the intention to help those in Houston who are most in need. Magnificat Houses, Inc. now includes nine residential houses for the homeless, the recovering mentally ill, ex-offenders, women and children, and anyone who might need a place to stay. In addition to the nine residential houses, Magnificat also runs multiple programs including a house for those with HIV/AIDS, St. Joseph ClubHouse, a psychosocial program for residents recovering from mental illness, a soup kitchen located on Houston’s “skid row”, an overnight emergency shelter for street women, and a thrift store that offers discounted furniture, clothing, etc. For more information on the organization, see: http://home.surfree.com/~magnificat/houses/index.html (Aurora Seminara, GSBS).
  • Eli Lilly and Company announced today the winners of the 2004 Helping Move Lives Forward Reintegration Awards.  The annual awards honor individuals or groups who help and support people living with severe mental illness; the achievements of people living with severe mental illness who offer hope to others facing similar challenges; and local and national efforts to raise awareness for mental illness:  http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/micro_stories.pl?ACCT=916306&TICK=LLY&STORY=/www/story/11-11-2004/0002403814&EDATE=Nov+11,+2004
  • The Artistic Contribution Award honors accomplishments in self-expression, in areas such as painting, video, dance performance, music, design or fashion.  The Fountain House Audio Visual Department (New York, NY) won first place with “Opening the Door,” a thoughtful, well-crafted feature length documentary that tells the story of Fountain House, the first clubhouse program for individuals suffering from severe and persistent mental illness. The film was created by the Fountain House Audio-Visual Department, which is comprised of ten Fountain House members and a staff member.  Founded in 1948, Fountain House offers a rich array of social, residential, educational, vocational, and advocacy opportunities. Membership is lifetime, voluntary and fee-free. Upon visiting the clubhouse, located in a Georgian colonial-style building complex in mid-town Manhattan, one is immediately aware of the commitment and teamwork of members and staff who are working together to enhance the program, while maximizing the ability for each member to achieve his or her greatest potential.
  • “A model of the dissemination of self-help in public mental health systems” by Edward L. Knight, Ph.D. (DOI: 10.1002/yd.2330227406).  Self-help in public mental health systems has been disseminated with five different strategies; these strategies sometimes overlap and complement one another: The four forms of self-help discussed are mutual support, advocacy, consumer/survivor-run services, and coping.
  • Fountain House Sketch by Scott Martin (book)
  • Prince Michael

More links:

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