Pray. Pray for me, Pray for Chris and pray for our daughters. For days, weeks, months, there have been worries and concerns I wish I could share but I can't, so I haven't. I can't tell you how many posts I have started and then deleted. Life in ministry is lonely even you are surrounded by loving friends and church family. So tonight I ask you to pray for us. I ask you to pray for renewal, for wisdom and for peace.

And because I can't just give you that vague post, I can assure that while those worries and concerns are big they not our whole life. We have plenty of blessings and good things going on.

Our girls are happy. They had the opportunity to spend a lot of quality time playing games and talking with their aunts Kendall and Rosie and their Oma and Opa on consecutive weekends. Zee continues to be active in Karate Demo team. Aay is busy with her music, drama and art. They are thriving.

I recently had the very fun experience of being interviewed by LatinoUSA. They wanted to talk to a Latino family whose members span the whole political spectrum. The whole experience was fun. A local radio producer, Matt came twice to our house and set up a mini-recording studio. My sister and I had a chance to talk over the phone to Fernanda Echevarri one of the producers of the show about our family and the way we talk about politics and how we react to politicians who don't understand the diversity within the Latino community. Fernanda and Matt were both very nice and interesting people to get to know. They plan to check with the rest of my family throughout the year as the election nears. In my church life I have transitioned from help lead adult Sunday School to working with our youngest kids. Parents are ever so thankful and all I feel is blessed when I am done.

Chris has many busy nights, full of church or library board meetings but in his spare moments he has been diving deep into music research projects, most recently Blues and 90's Alternative Music. As family, we have really enjoyed the playlists he has crafted. He is starting to make plans for spring educational trip.

So if you think of us, please add us to your prayer list.



When I want to do.

I don't know about you but I'm a very practical person. I like to be able to fix and do. I have a hard time listening to people vent without suggesting solutions or taking it as invitation or request to take over and fix the issue. This can lead to unwarranted frustration when the solutions or fixes are not wanted or in fact requested. Over the years I have learned to set boundaries, learning to ask and double check to see if people in fact want me to take over or help them. I've learned that there are some kinds of venting that I can simply listen to, and learned to excuse myself from the conversations I can't handle listening to without intervening.

Last week in Sunday School we were watching the second 1/3 of a video on the great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We talked about his ministry and activism in Germany as part of the resistance movement against the Nazis. As those conversations are wont to do, we ended up at the end of class talking about Putin and the ISIS, and what kind of responses our nation and we as people should have. A few people suggested bombing or military intervention, others like me didn't feel that would be the right response, but we all understood the desire to act, to do, to not simply stand aside and watch atrocities occur.

Afterwards I was talking to a friend, and I tried to express how saying, Pray and actually praying in the face of injustices, atrocities, feels so small, so feeble, so inactive. But again and again, it should be where we start.

Nearly 8 years ago I was part of an amazing conversation with a nun at Coptic Convent in Cairo. She was serving as the interim Mother Superior, and welcomed our small tour group into her office for tea, when we showed up at the convent to see some of their amazing icons on the wrong day. It was a Friday, a day when the convent is normally closed to tourists and open only to friends and family. She would have in her rights to simply turn us away, but instead she welcomed up and treated us like family. We asked her questions about her life in the convent. She told us she had not left that convent for over 50 years, only seeing the friends and family when they came to see her on family Friday's. We asked what it felt like to see the world outside the convent walls change as dramatically as it had in her lifetime and how she felt about being cloistered within the walls of her convent. She responded by telling us about her call to a life of prayer. How she dedicated her life to it as she saw the Coptic church in Egypt face greater and greater persecution and upheaval. The certainty and peace she had in her call was a powerful and unexpected lesson.

I am in no way saying protests, calls to action or even military interventions cannot be the right response, but over and over for me, I need to remember to pray, especially when my first desire is to move and act under my own power.

When a friend calls or texts with tough situation, I will always offer my hands, my sympathy but I need to remember that it is no minor thing to say, "I will pray".

Praying is a surrender, a sacrifice of my will to God, and to say, "this is not something I can do alone". It is often painful, quiet and lonely but we are called to pray, and I so often need to remember that.

Marlena Graves's A Beautiful Disaster

At RCRC I have the incredibly privilege of helping lead one of our adult Sunday school classes.  We have two adult Sunday school tracks at RCRC, one is a bible-study track and the other a book-discussion group.  In our book-discussion class we tackle books on theology, spiritual living and other material that comments on christian faith. In the past year we have read  Lewis Smedes's memoir  "My God and I", Gordon Fee's book "Paul, the Spirit and the People of God:" and we just finished a unit, discussing the play Athalie by Racine and wrestling with the biblical passages in Kings and Chronicles that served as its inspiration.

We just are about four chapters into our discussion of Marlena Graves's book on suffering, "A Beautiful Disaster".  Marlena is a former youth leader & member of our congregation.  Marlena and her husband Shawn moved away for Rochester right at the same time Chris and I moved here.  We know each other mainly through social media and through acquaintances.  It has been a blessing to discuss the book as mixed group, those who personally know her and those like me who know her through her words.

I think all of us in the book-study class are being blessed and challenged by Marlena's book and I wanted to share here some of our discussion questions, so those who are not able to participate with us every week can still share in our discussion.


Dropbox link to our discussion questions

Amazing Race: Coffee Break Edition

Hmsg_res_logos_hmcb_o06_2 Yesterday I had a day off mami-duty. Call it a warm-up for our Egypt getaway, I left the house at 9:20 and wasn't back till nearly 9:00 pm at night. Not a full twelve hours but the kids were asleep by the time I came home, and even thought I had my phone with me, I didn't call home and I didn't get a call from home the whole day. bliss

The reason I was away from home all day was that our Coffee Break group was treating us to a special one-day retreat. They brought in a guess speaker from northern Alberta, Joanne VanBeek, a associate pastor at a Alliance Church in near Edmonton, who grew up CRC and was one of the first people involved with Coffee Break Small groups when they first got going in Alberta. In the morning session we spoke about friendships, in the second personality types and how they affect and enrich our friendships and in the evening in a joint session open to spouses, we discussed the importance of Equality in marriage for satisfying relationships.  In between the sessions we had two half-hour long Worship times, a 2hr, 4 leg version of the Amazing Race and in addition to Lunch and Supper.

I actually was part of the Worship team, which should surprise any of  you who have heard me sing. But Joyce D. who was organizing the Worship time was short of people willing to play instruments (our pianist otherwise occupied with the Brooks Music Festival), so I volunteered to shake some maracas. Joyce did a fabulous job creating a inspiring and joyful line-up of songs, played guitar and led singing with Mary and José singing and manning the overhead projector. I believe I managed to keep good rhythm, and not embarrass myself and enjoyed participating in this way.

Img_4368 The Amazing Race portion of the day was a lot of fun. My team, Lil and Rhonda were great sports and even thought we arrived last we did our best. We got off to a great start quickly arriving at our first task (Bake Chocolate Chip cookies and then deliver to 4 different church members) , but we found the venue locked, and I didn't  have my church key with me. So we wasted about 10 minutes right there, before one of the race facilitators arrived. WeImg_4372 quickly and smartly cooked our cookies, despite another gaffe in oven management.. We then raced out of there to deliver ourImg_4381 freshly baked cookies. It took a bit of doing but we found the address eventually (sadly falling prey to the race cliché of driving around without a map).  The clue then sent us off to the Ropp's Pet Store in town where after finding the clue mug hidden in the store we directed to aquarium filled with mice ( 58 little colorful little mice). Lil quickly bowed out of this task, but Rhonda and I booked thru it, quickly and efficiently moving all the mice from one aquarium to another by their little tails.  I later heardImg_4416 that Joyce D. had coped with this experience by imagining the mice to be really really tiny cats.  Our next clue sent us a bit of ways out of town to the Veenstra Farm. There we were told to put on overalls and enter the shop. There we had to paint the Beehive shelters for the Slomp family farm. We had to do them in 4 different colors, spread bee larvae on trays and add some beehive insulation to the protectors. We arrived at the time as another team ended up leaving in second place, but unfortunately that was already their last task since they had done the Pet Store first, and we had a whole other task to complete. The last task was making food hamper for a family of 4 at the Brooks Food Bank. Anna-Marie met us a door and walked us thru the process. While my teammates assembled the hamper, I restocked the shelves. Another fun exercise. After-wards we teased Linda and Karl that they could have gotten all 15 of their Beehive shelters painted if they had made us do not just one but 5.

The race was the most fun when there was another team at the same task. Watching them work and laugh together was a lot of fun. I do wish we all had to do the same tasks at the same time, instead of doing them in different sequences. Not realizing that we weren't all heading to the same task meant that we were unable to determine how were doing, and apparently one of the teams the mice moving task was hoot, with much squealing and shuddering, and it was a shame that we didn't see those freakouts.

I imagine a few more TV's will be tuned in to the race tonight as a few our ladies had never seen a episode of the race and are now more than a little interested in it.

( I will hopefully be able to add images of the yesterdays mayhem later, when I hear back from Linda and Jose our designated phototogs.)  Thank you to José for these!  More pictures of my race here: 2007

Rice with Three Toppings -- Japan

Eating with Missionaries #3

Last week we had to abort out Guinea/Mali combo meal because Chris was too sick to participate. So this week when Chris picked up the cookbook to look and see what we wanted to cook this week, he noticed that I had left it open to the Japan section. The recipe submitted by CRWM's Michael and Kim Essenburg had looked interesting and simple. It was white rice, with three different kinds of toppings, the first ground chicken topping flavored with sake, soy sauce and ginger juice, the second was sweet scrambled eggs again flavored with sake and soy sauce and the third simply fresh boiled peas.Dsc00190

We schedule our E.W.Missionaries meal for either Thursdays and Fridays so we can  use fresh ingredients whenever possible. Today I picked up a 2lb bag of fresh peas from the Weaver Family's booth at Farmer's Market, and picked my first ever bottle of Sake at one of the local liquor stores. On a different week would have use market fresh eggs too, but I had dozen left this morning so we used 6 of those.

Once we got home and we unloaded our groceries, we set to work. Aay quickly focused on shelling peas,Dsc00195 a task she took very seriously, and which she performed well for over 20 mintues. She tried to school Zee is the proper sequence of shelling and sorting peas and use of the various bowls, one for the discarded pods and the other for peas. Before Aay could grow frustrated with Zee's decidedly independent approach to pea shelling (part snacktime, part confetti party) Chris came to her rescue by drafting Zee to come help him crack the eggs for the Egg Topping and to help him mix them up.

We ended up getting a little ahead of ourselves and had the scrambled eggs and chicken done before the 2 cups of peas finally got boiling and the rice was ready. We simply kept the warm in the oven till we finished up the other two.

As a family we all really liked this dish. It was quick and simple thing to make, and with the exception of the sake we had all the ingredients on hand (and we could have done without the sake as the recipe provided the alternative of using a dry white wine instead). It was a very child-friendly dish since each element of the meal was cooked separately and picky eaters would be able to at least find one segment of the meal appetizing. Aay our resident picky gourmet, chose to only eat the rice and peas while Zee woofed down the chicken, rice and peas while only picking at the egg topping. My favoriteDsc00196 topping was Chicken one. I have never  cooked with ground chicken before and I liked both the texture and sweetness. I am not sure if Japanese people keep the topping separate from each other once they start eating but I enjoyed trying them separately at first and by the end combining them together for new texture & flavorful combinations. This now ranks as our second most favorite E.W.M. meal, but the one that we are mostly likely to share with others, since our favorite, Pineapple Curry, might overwhelm those not fond of spices. If our Church ever decided to hold fundraiser meal based on this cookbook, I would recommend this dish be on the menu, since it would be easy to prepare for a large number of people and has a high likelihood of pleasing a mixed crowd.

World Missions Cookbook is available from the CRC publisher Faith Alive: International Cuisine...From the Ends of the Earth. It is reasonably priced: $8.50 for the cookbook, $6.50 for a CD or $11.50 for both.

Year eating with Missionaries...

This weeks Chris got a cookbook in the mail from Christian Reformed World Missions. International Cuisine - From the Ends of the Earth when he got it out of the envelope it fell open to page 33, Pineapple Chicken Curry or Anarosh Murgi Torkari, Bangladesh. He immediately walked out of his office and asked me if I was still planning on going grocery shopping that afternoon. I was, so he handed me the cookbook and asked me to procure any of the ingredients we didn't already own. We had most of them, except for some rare spices, like whole cardamoms (ground will just have to do) and I even had fresh pineapple already in the fridge.

Yesterday afternoon I started defrosting the chicken, and set out all the ingredients when Chris walked in from a errand. He asked if I had started, and I said not exactly, to which he responded, GREAT. I asked him if he had changed his mind, and he said he hadn't, only had not meant for me to cook it, that he wanted to cook the curry. I happily gave up my spot by the cutting board and after a short chat, busied myself with the leftover lunch dishes, and reorganizing my chaotic spice shelf. He will now be able to find all the spices for the curry easily and it allowed me to do some overdue weeding out of stale spices. I hope that in the next few weeks I might make the kitchen a little bit more user-friendly so I don't put up obstacles in front of Chris, since he enjoys cooking so much, but not the hunting around for everything that he needs.

In the end, we had a lot of fun mincing red onions, pineapple and later watching the whole thing simmer. Zee wondered in and helped Chris make the rice. The curry was fantastic, hot but not overly so, sweet and saucy. We rounded out the meal by munching on slices of fresh pineapple that we unfortunately couldn't temp Aay to try. How do you explain what a pineapple tastes like? Chris told Aay that it was like an apple only sweeter and juicer...which was sort of it, but not quite.

The experience was so positive that as we browsed the rest of the cookbook many other recipes caught our eye, that we are thinking that we might turn it into a weekly ritual. to eat the food our missionaries around the world sample during their work and to think of them and their new communities as we enjoy new food. I'll try to report back on how we are doing. If you follow the link above, you can get information on how to get the cookbook for yourself.

CRWRC seek aid for Katrina relief

I found the following newsrelease on the site,

CRWRC seeks $2 Million in Katrina Aid

Aug. 29, 2005 -- After clipping the tip of Florida and pummeling the Gulf Coast, hurricane Katrina was passing through central Mississippi, with potential tornadic activity as far as the Florida panhandle. Most residents across the coast evacuated or moved to higher ground, and floodwaters rose several feet in New Orleans. Relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts are expected to be in the billions of dollars.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) is launching a $2 million fundraising effort to address the destruction caused by Katrina.

The funds will provide:

  • Rapid Response Team deployment and early assessments
  • Initial flood and damage clean-up and repairs
  • Development of community-based recovery organizations
  • Community needs assessments
  • Long-term reconstruction volunteers
  • Building reconstruction materials and transportation

For more information about this effort, CRWRC-DRS Administrator Bill Adams is immediately available for interview at 616-560-2782. CRWRC Executive Director Andrew Ryskamp is also available at 616-498-0816. To contact CRWRC media relations between 9 am and 5 pm EST weekdays, call Stephanie Tombari, Media Contact, at 905-336-2920, ext. 224.

Financial support for CRWRC's response to hurricane Katrina and elsewhere can be given by calling 1-800-730-3490, or online at Cheques should be made out to "CRWRC," earmarked "Hurricanes 2005," and sent to 3475 Mainway, P.O. Box 5070 STN LCD 1, Burlington, ON L7R 3Y8.

For more information about CRWRC’s response to Hurricane Katrina and in the 2005 Hurricane season, please visit or call 1-800-730-3490. CRWRC is a Christian non-profit organization ministering in development, relief, and justice education with people in need around the world since 1962. CRWRC is present in 36 countries and has an international reputation for “living justice, and loving mercy.”

This is a group that I really respect. It is branch our denomination and they do go relief work worldwide.


UPDATE: They have updated their goal.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH - With the human toll increasing and local circumstances deteriorating along the devastated Gulf Coast, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) is sending a Rapid Response of seven volunteers into the area to set up volunteer sites and initiate clean-up efforts as flood water begins to recede.

Due to the generous response to the hurricane survivors, CRWRC is increasing its fundraising goal to $5-million from $2-million. These funds will provide:

  • Rapid Response Team deployment and early assessments
  • Initial flood and damage clean-up and repairs
  • Development of community-based recovery organizations
  • Community needs assessments
  • Long-term reconstruction volunteers
  • Building reconstruction materials and transportation

Harry Potter and Christian Ideals

This is an article I stumbled on to this evening. It is a interview with Prof. at Baylor University. The Christian Post. I like what he had to say. It always drives me a little crazy when I hear people ignorantly repeat what another has told them without investigating the matter themselves. I am glad that there are people in the Christian community willing to put themselves on the line and educate even when they seem to be going against the popular opinion.

I particularly like Dr. Moore's attitude toward the role parents have in helping their children engage with the culture around them.

Christian Post: Considering not everyone, more so for children, can easily decipher the Christian symbols in the books, is there some danger in leaving the novels to children to explore on their own?

Dr. Moore:I don’t think children should be left alone with anything—television, video games, music, books, or whatever. Parents should be involved in the lives of their children and we must know what our children are reading, watching, and listening to. That being said, I do not believe that the Potter books pose a “risk” to children. They are classic tales of good versus evil and they affirm and teach great Christian virtues like forgiveness, hope, courage, generosity, and especially love.

However on the same site they had another not so good interview with Caryl Matrisciana, Harry Potter: Making Evil look innocent

They are being taught occult symbology and perversions wrapped up as "innocent" "just fantasy". The ideas in JK Rowlings' books are not fabrications or imaginary. Rather, they are age-old principle of Wicca and Paganism believed by thousands of witches today.

I personally know people who practice Wicca and they would be shocked to discover this. I remember talking to our Wiccan friend in Grand Rapids after the first books came out, he mentioned that he expected that a few people might seek out Wicca on the basis of the books, and that once they did they would be sadly disappointed, because the kind of magic they seek to work has very little to do with fantasy work of J.K. Rowling.  Their religion is quite a hodgepodge of all sorts of earth-centered worship, some borrowed from Native American, some re-invented ideas with that borrow heavily from Celtic Mythology, none of which are present in the books.

Ms.Matrisciana also condemns the books on the basis that their fantasy is not fantastical enough

The Christian classic fantasies are not generally confusingly set in the real world as many of Harry's

and that it is to be condemned because children want it to be true. I will guess that she hasn't read the Chronicles of Narnia either, and if she had she would condemn them also. Since the books were set in firmly in real world setting. Children sent as refugees out of the major Brit cities into the countryside. There they stumble upon a ordinary looking wardrobe that transports them into a magical land...I think countless generations of children have also wished to stumble upon magical wardrobes. I think she severely misunderstands the nature of imaginative work, and the need of the fantastical in the life of children.

She also has several misstatements as this one.

Even in Harry's books, those who don't believe as Harry and other witches do are derogatorily called "muggles".

Actually the term muggle has nothing to do with belief. Muggle simply means someone born without magical abilities.  Magical abilities in the Harry Potter have nothing to do with belief, are in fact more of a birthright. Children of wizards almost always wizards, and the few exceptions, those who aren't born with magical aptitude are called Squibs.

Hopefully those who read this article published today read Dr. Moore excellent interview first and might be able to use their critical thinking to evaluate the claims of Ms. Matrisciana

Coffee-break Lessons

This morning I headed out to Coffee-break, a women’s bible-study that is held at our church every Thursday from 9:30 to 11:30 am. Women from town and the surrounding countryside come. They are from all sorts of different denominations, and backgrounds. It really makes for interesting group. Coffee-break has become my lifeline here in Brooks. I get a chance to meet and interact with women, some my same age, some not, some with kids, some empty-nesters, and just share. It has helped me make friends with ladies outside our church, which is great, because I am not “pastor’s wife” to them, just another lady at Coffee-break. Aay also gets to have a great time, there are over 30 kids under 5 at the come every Thursday and so Aay always looks forward to seeing her friends too. This morning we were reading Luke 7:36 through 8:21. The focus of the study was on how we respond to Jesus’ message of forgiveness. There was a lot discussion on the call to contemplate, listen and not just hear. It really spoke to me, as I have been struggling with my feeling of disconnectedness, it confirmed for me that I had made the right decision to start writing.