Praise Project, Week 12

This week I’m praising God:

1). For the privilege of celebrating 14 years with Nicholas Drew Nielson. I love being his mom.

2). For God’s grace

3). For God’s omniscience

4). That He is trustworthy

5). For rest

6). For Jason, who helped my husband get back into the kayak after he flipped it in the Pacific Ocean.

7).  That we are all created with a choice-the choice to accept God or reject Him; the choice to trust Him or not trust Him. Every day we are presented with choices. We have more control than we think.

The marriage between yours truly and my significant other almost didn’t happen. At the time of our engagement, my husband was on the fast track to becoming a youth pastor. Though I was thrilled to be marrying someone who loved the Lord enough to spend his whole life in ministry, I knew his salary would be sparse and not the least bit accommodating of an addiction I had-traveling. Wanderlust took over my life the moment I drove into downtown Chicago at the ripe old age of 15. My desire for traveling and seeing the world has become a hunger not unlike that of a drug addiction: the more I experienced it, the more I wanted it.

It was not the first time and, certainly not the last, that I would have to die to human desires and follow the path God had for me. In retrospect, it doesn’t appear that I did much dying as the following list of places I have been tells a different story. The point of the list is not to evoke envy or any kind of negative emotion. Rather, it’s simply a reminder of the fact that all good and perfect gifts come from “the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:7, NIV).

Here’s where I’ve been:

Geneva, Switzerland (twice)

Bern, Switzerland

Camping in the French Alps for two months

Paris, France

Grenoble, France

Reykjavik, Iceland (for dinner)

Jamaica (cruise)

Mexico (cruise)

Grand Cayman (cruise)

Luxembourg

Liechtenstein

Germany

Czech Republic

London (okay, just the airport but still)

Sleeping under the stars on a Navajo Reservation in New Mexico

New York City

New York State

Texas (Dallas, Ft Worth, Corpus Cristi)

Florida

Disney World

Arizona

North Carolina (outside of Raleigh/Durham)

Colorado (Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs, Denver, Boulder)

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Boston to watch the Red Sox

All over the East Coast

Toronto, Canada

Despite visiting all of these places, the one location I’ve been begging my husband to take me to is California. Since I grew up hearing it was going to land in the ocean, I really wanted to see the place before it did! Finally, after 20 years of marriage and countless miles of travel, we got there. As a matter of fact, as I write this I am sitting in a small (and I mean SMALL) bungalow on the beach watching the waves crash against the rocks and marveling at the fact that I am here. Here is a smidgen of California and what we have experienced, a debut into travel writing, if you will-something else I’ve always wanted to do.

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Let’s talk food, shall we? Fish tacos are a big deal in California. I didn’t know how I felt about them until I bit into one that was oozing with shredded veggies and white sauce. And then I decided I loved them and must have them…frequently. Also, never in my life have I been to a place that sells nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches. Who knew grilled cheese could be an art form? Maybe when I serve it for dinner in the future I’ll feel less guilty, less like it’s better-than-nothing-it’s-all-we-have and more like it’s-art-so-eat-it.

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California is a HAPPY place. Take, for example, the sidewalks, in particular those below painted to look like waves. They had to be painted by HAPPY people. And why are they HAPPY? Because it’s SUNNY twelve months a year! Who wouldn’t be HAPPY? It’s like going through the Starbucks driver-thru and leaving HAPPIER. Everyone there is HAPPY to be alive, and I think I might want to work there for that reason alone.

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And then there’s the wildlife. There are dogs sunning themselves wherever they want, squirrels that will take food from your hands and not bite, wild birds hanging out at sidewalk cafes, sea creatures that are a normal part of the landscape, and just general fabulousness in the animal kingdom.

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And finally, everything that is California:

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The sunsets                                                                                                                                  Fat and sassy palm trees strutting their stuff

 

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Over-the-top sand castles                                                    and water sports

 

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last five months in the polar vortex that is the Midwest; maybe it’s because I had to wait so long to get here; maybe it’s because of the kindness of others that I did get here; I don’t know what it is, but for whatever reason this has been one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. I’ve loved the sand, the sun, the warmth, the quirkiness that defines California, the glorious palm trees that line the streets like street lamps, the food, the culture, the animals. All of it has been everything and more than I had hoped for. So if you can get yourself out here, do it and live it up before it lands in the ocean and the only California you’ll have is my opinion and these pictures!

Praise Project, Week 11

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This week I’m praising God for:

1). Beautiful sea creatures

2). Vacation and the friends who made it possible

3). Morning coffee by the ocean

4). Family time

5). Much-needed rest

6). The friends and life waiting for me back home

7). The fact that He knows my future

 

Praise Project, Week 10

This week I have a lot to praise God for:

1). We were able to trade our gas-guzzling truck and 20-year old car in for a small, cheap, fuel efficient little number for our daughter.

2). We made $1,189 on this deal.

3). A very generous client gave my husband and me a gorgeous van; so now we are both tooling around town in minivans!

4). For almost 16 years (T-18 hours and counting) I have had the privilege of raising an amazing kid that’s really not much of a kid anymore. It has been a privilege that I don’t deserve.

5). Yesterday and today felt/tasted/smelled/sounded like spring.

6). I hear the distant call of the ocean on the western side of the country beckoning me to come and visit. I will be answering that call in 72 hours.

7). The only reason that anything in life works and works well is because Jesus works. No amount of planning, saving, organizing, thinking ahead, or following a formula can accomplish what Jesus alone can accomplish. Yes, I’ve had a great week, but it’s only because of the grace of God and because all good gifts come from Him.

Is Jesus Unreasonable?

A couple of weeks ago I watched a debate between Bill Nye, engineer, entertainer, scientist, and most notably creator of his own show, Bill Nye, the Science Guy and Ken Ham, president/CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis, president of the Creation Museum, and a young-earth creationist. The debate, live streamed from the Creation Museum in Kentucky, centered on origins, more specifically “Is creation a viable model in today’s modern, scientific era?”  Your basic creation vs. evolution debate. Admittedly, I’m not well versed on the arguments of an evolutionist. I know that their worldview is much different from mine. I know they believe that the earth and life as we know it is the result of a cosmic boom, a boom that happened millions of years ago. And I realize most of them are obviously atheists.

What struck me most during the debate was a statement Bill Nye made and one I’ve been pondering ever since:

“Mr. Ham and his followers have this remarkable view of a worldwide flood that influenced everything we know now. A 500-foot wooden boat, eight zookeepers, 14,000 individuals, every land plant in the world under water for a full year. I ask us all, is that really reasonable?”

I could counter with is it really reasonable to believe that I am a result of a boom somewhere far out in space? Both are an issue of faith when you get right down to it. Frankly, I don’t have any more faith to believe this view than the average evolutionist does to believe that we are the result of intelligent design. The debate that night, like all the others before it, left the two sides at an impasse.

But the question that has haunted me everyday since then is this idea of reason. Is God reasonable? Is Jesus reasonable? Is Christianity reasonable? Is it reasonable to believe that, not only are we the result of intelligent design, but that this Creator craved a relationship with humans so much so that He created them and a world for them to live in with the knowledge that they would disobey? Is it reasonable to believe the Son of God would willingly come to earth only to have His stay ended in one of the most savage forms of death in human history because of this disobedience?

A couple of months ago a mom from school called me and asked if I would be interested in getting our daughters together for a night of dinner and hanging out by the fire. She’s Italian, and she was cooking. All I had to do was bring Abigail and an appetite. I think we all know what my response was! We settled on a date that worked for both of us and decided to keep it as a surprise for the girls.

What I didn’t know is that God had put my daughter on that mom’s mind to pray for her. She didn’t know why, but she sensed that Abigail needed it. She ended up turning that night into a celebration of Abigail’s upcoming 16th birthday complete with homemade lasagna, roasted garlic, homemade bread, salad (for which she apologized for not having time to make her own dressing) homemade tiramisu, gourmet coffee with fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings. After dinner, in a stupor of carbohydrate drunkenness, we lumbered over to the fireplace where they presented my daughter with 16 gifts for her 16th birthday. They weren’t big expensive gifts, but each one was exactly something Abigail would have purchased for herself-her favorite snacks, a twelve-stone necklace representing the twelve tribes of Israel, hair and beauty products, and a devotional. Each one spoke her language. I’ve known this mom and her daughter since our girls were in preschool together, but it’s not as if we have spent hordes of time together. We haven’t. So it was stunning, to say the least, to have this amount of kindness poured out on us because “we just wanted to bless you.” Mission accomplished.

If reason is about applying logic and making sense of things, coming to a conclusion based on logic, then no, nothing we believe is reasonable. Though I had known this mom for years and believed her to be kind, I didn’t know her well enough to believe it reasonable for her to lavish us with such love and kindness. I had no collected data to support any idea that she would behave this way.

Here are my thoughts on reason and proof:

1). The merits of engaging an evolutionist/atheist with sound apologetics cannot be overstated. However, if it’s proof the other side wants, then I would ask us as believers where our actions fall in this category. James 2 is very clear about backing up our words with actions. Anybody can say anything, but if our claims aren’t backed up by actions it’s about as impressive as a failed science experiment.

2). The battle cry of the evolutionist has always been “show me the scientific proof!” If it cannot be proven by science than it’s unreasonable to call it truth. First, there is no amount of scientific data that can explain the loving actions of a person moved by the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t mean the kindness doesn’t exist. Second, what Christians forget and atheists don’t acknowledge is that the science the evolutionist holds so dear to their cause as proof, has been authored by the same Person we use as our proof. Oh the irony.

3). Is Jesus unreasonable? To the human mind, yes. We trip ourselves up every time we try to explain or understand Him from a human perspective. We forget that we are made in His image, not He in ours. As soon as we can’t explain the “why” of a situation, we write Him off as unreasonable. The only unreasonable thing about Jesus was His willingness to die for a race of depraved people for the sole purpose of having a relationship with them. I don’t know about you, but I don’t love anyone enough to go to a cross for them especially an entire planet of pagans! But I see glimpses of His reasoning through the loving acts of the Body of Christ like my friend and her daughter.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
 does not become weary or tired.
 His understanding is inscrutable” (Isaiah 40:28, NASB).

Is Jesus unreasonable? Yes. Humanly speaking, Jesus is unreasonable.

Praise Project, Week 9

This week I’m praising God:

1). That He walks with us through our calling. How great is that?

2).  That despite what’s going on in the world, none of it is a surprise to Him.

3).  That He is not limited by mathematics. Again, how great!

4).  For neighbors who let us borrow their car at 6:00 in the morning to jump the car of our guests because NOT ONE of our THREE cars was able to get the job done.

5).  For the privilege of watching the Body of Christ fulfill its function right in front of my eyes.

6).  For being able to watch my kids grow in their relationship with God.

7).  That today I got to see the beautiful faces of friends I’ve missed seeing for a couple of weeks.