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It has been a really good week here in oregon… lots of multiple activities and the Lord blessed me with a really cool reminder of an insight. Sometimes God has to take me back to previous messages. I was looking through an old journal and came across the statement from Ge 41 that has struck me where Joseph is summoned to Pharaoh. It was a life transformational moment. Until that moment he had been in the dark, sure we know God was blessing him, but Joseph did not necessarily SEE anything to prove that. Only that the cupbearer and baker had left prison and no word was heard. The cupbearer had forgotten about him. The Lord used this a year or so ago to remind me that no matter how insignificant, how isolated, how “dark” life may “feel” at moments, that my like of sight does not equal His lack of activity. Until the day when Pharaoh summoned Joseph — and who could tell if that would mean his death, Joseph did not know — until that moment, life was pretty dismal. Then in a moment, in a call, in a summons all was changed, and changed forever, never to return to where he had been. That was what I was thinking today — how quickly all can change, all can alter when walking with the Lord. Today I needed to remember that, today I needed to see that anew. It was a good reminder. Life can change in a moment, so enjoy the times that are light and the times that seem dark.

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I LOVE MY FAMILY

Saturday of the banquet!

I started the day with handstands and wall walking (part of my new exercise routine)—love the handstand pushup! I am not great at it yet. Still growing in that! After some exercise – I was panting – I went over for a sauna and prayed for an hour. Ah! And did some other situps over there. Then I practiced through the message for tomorrow a couple times.

Then I worked on the house – washing laundry, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, making Luke’s bed with clean sheets, folding his laundry, etc—meanwhile Gabrielle washed and ripped lettuce – 5 hours of ripping lettuce for her this am! That’s a lot of salad.

Mom walked the dog – beautiful, clear, crisp day – went to the church and worked from about 9:30 until 1 pm on the prep work. Lots of hands are helping. Everything is getting ready. Great food coming forth! After I finished everything in the house (all that cleaning, it sparkles) I read aloud to Gabrielle from RED. That was great. I read for 2 hours.

Currently I am listening to Brooklyn tabernacle Choir and writing to you! I love you!

I finished reading the first book of the vampire love story series, Twilight. Actually, it is okay. I was interested in the use of the words “salvation” and “saved” in the context of this story. Also, it is a great picture of committed, sacrificial love offered in the book. It also has some very clear as I view it now Mormon theology about life and eternity. Interesting. I know the author graduated from BYU but don’t know her current affiliation with that movement.

Basically it is a “superhero” love story with a “vampire” mix in with it. I told the folk at home that it began to get good on page 343! I had to wait a while. The first pages are a teenage love story with the fluttering heart of a teen in love! And the writing is definitely first book style – not rich and deep certainly, no JRR tolkein – but really obvious WHY it is so popular. And I enjoyed it overall. Interesting to read it. I have asked Dana to put the other ones on hold and see if I can get them to read. I kind of have a feel for how it is going to continue!

You know no matter what the story, nor the beliefs of the author, it is very difficult to get away from the “true” and “great” story – in all I encounter the great account of One who came to die and deliver. You find it woven into all good story everywhere and it can be found here too.

I am reading lots of other great books – like Annie Dillard’s “An American Childhood” which is filled with great, great writing and humor; and Richard Swenson’s “More than meets the Eye” – dynamic and challenging. I am reading William Wilberforce’s selected writings and Olaudah Equiano’s personal account of his life growing up as a prince in Africa, being sold into slavery, brought to America and eventually ending up in England and his book becoming part of the great movement for abolition of slavery. So these are keeping my heart alive to the great work of God in and through my life.

Last night we watched the movie Fireproof! It is great. Really great. Some marvelous scenes and a clear, oh so clear Gospel and expression of the love of Jesus and the call to “live” that love. It was really good to watch. The ending is worth the movie. So that was cool. It is the third by the Sherwood Baptist church in GA. Incredible outreach for the gospel.

With Dash I shout: “I love my family!”

Dad

Sunset over Pacific July 2008

Sunset over Pacific July 2008

Dear Family!!!

As a continuing education project, I am part of a group of pastors working with another clergy member of this annual conference who is in the midst of his Doctor of Ministry studies. We are reading a book and discussing aspects of leadership in the church and the highs and lows of our ministry experiences. To begin with we posted the stories of how God called us into the ministry in the first place on the group’s website.

That took me back to 1983 for me. I looked through a scrapbook I made of how God moved in my heart and life and in our lives in order to move me from the travel agency and Karen from her job at Santa Barbara Christian School across the country for seminary and ministry.

I remember on April 11th (1983) wrestling with the Lord about this call – one of my concerns was the children. “Lord,” I wrote, “I don’t want my kids to be antagonistic toward You because ‘daddy is off serving the Lord’. My greatest concern is that they be converted, and how silly they aren’t even born or coming soon (this was 2 years before Anna’s birth)… I want to serve you but I want the promise before children come that they will be saved, that they will acknowledge you as their Savior. Please help me know that answer by morning.”

God used this exercise in writing about my call into the ministry to remind me of all He had done, and part of that has been in the lives of our beautiful girls. What wonderful young women each seeking to serve God in their own way. I was staggered.

Had you traveled around with me over the past month or so, we would have been with folk in the hospital, in homes, playing basketball with some 10 year olds, visiting with people over the phone, email and in person, participating in a Bible Study with others, working in the office preparing sermons and practicing prayer.

My three day prayer retreat the last week of January was a wonderfully refreshing immersion in God’s presence and helped me gain my footing a bit for this new year and preaching in the book of Galatians.

At one of the basketball practices I was shooting baskets with a young guy named JJ. He said, “Wow, you are tall! How tall are you?” I answered, “About 6’1”!” His eyes bugged. “And you must be at least 20 or something, right?” I chuckled! “Actually I am 49,” I said. “No way!” he exclaimed! Clearly that was “way old” to this 10 year old.

One thing age brings is perspective – what seems ancient to JJ seems younger and younger to me. As I live I continue to reflect upon this – my life is a breath, a wildflower here today and tonight withered and burned, a mist that appears for a moment and then is gone – and since this life is brief means that every moment, every action, every decision matters immensely.

YOU are on my mind :]

Well, I was going to send Dad an email to respond to the one he sent me, but I thought I could just write on this blog, since we made it and it’s here to write on. We don’t really seem to be using it…but we’re all very busy, so that’s probably why.

I had a great time at the Solo and Ensemble festival. It was in the Tecumseh Middle School so I got up at 5:15 this morning so I could leave by 6:15, get gas, and drive to the school in order to arrive on time and allow for wrong turns. Tecumseh is about an hour away. I borrowed my friend Holly’s car and it was really nice to just get off campus and drive and drive. The competition was really fun! I played for 17 students and the warm up and performance rooms for each instrument or group of instruments were set up all over the building. The performances began at 8am, and I am pretty sure that about 12 of the students I was playing for were scheduled for between 8 and 9! It was absolutely crazy! I accompanied the first trombone player at 8:00am (they started exactly on time) and then ran down the maze of hallways, consulting my map of the floor plan. I held on to my list of students, reviewing it again and again, worried that I’d forget someone and be late for their performance. I finally reached the trumpet warm up room. The student’s performance was supposed to be at 8:08. I got there at 8:11 and I had two students scheduled for 8:16. It was absolutely out of control and INSANE! But I had such a blast! By the end of the day (as in now) I was (and am) pretty worn out and feel as if I could go to sleep right now, at twenty till 9! But I had a great time. I got several compliments from the adjudicators and lots of fun conversations with parents. They laughed with me as I zig zagged all over the school, running to play for various instrumentalists!

So that was basically today – on my way home I got a chance to talk to Gabri! (Yay!) And then pumped gas into my friend’s car – all by myself, with my credit card! That was fun too. You should have seen me – a picture would have been really great. Here’s a word picture for you: I was standing on my tip toes because I wore my long black pants and had flats on and I didn’t want to get gasoline on the hems of my pants. I wore flats because I knew I’d be running middle school race today and I also knew that I cannot play in heels! So there I was, with my left hand holding the phone talking to Gabri, standing on my tip toes with my hair in my face (because it was windy) and pumping gas with one hand! It was just fantastic. :]

When I got back to campus, I went and practiced piano and had a really productive practice. I finished memorizing the second movement of my Beethoven sonata and working on cleaning up Gershwin, as I get to play it for the first time with the band on Monday. After dinner I  vacuumed my room and washed my cups and emptied my trash – housecleaning things. I cleaned my desk and tidied my space. And then I sat down to write an email back to Dad and thought that I’d write it here instead!

So that was my day. Jesus really blessed me today – even though I was scurrying around. He even provided a Subway for lunch! On the way into Tecumseh at 7 in the morning, I only saw restaurants like McDonalds, Wendy’s and KFC and I didn’t want to eat there. I had an hour break for lunch, so I left the school and searched and searched and was just settling for looking for some kind of salad at one of the fast food places when I spotted a Subway! So that was  big blessing, because I was really hungry, but I knew a fast food option would make my stomach hurt. So that was a blessing. And you know what else? It was 50 degrees outside today! It rained last night and I can see the grass! Some of the pavement is DRY! And yes, that was a blessing as well!

Seeing all those families there today made me miss you guys though. I thought about all those Junior Festivals and exams and recitals when we all would go together, wait and listen and then celebrate. Dad would maybe take us all out to eat to have a party – to say “good job!” to us! So, I was thinking about all of you all day today!!

I love you all! And I hope you’re doing terrificly well.

Love,

Suke

Aha!

Well, it took me a little while, but I got myself set up as an administrator on this blog! So, if it took me a while, don’t get too discouraged Mom. I know you can do it too! I also changed the settings, Sukli, so that it doesn’t ask for every comment to be approved. I think it’s better this way.

Guys, I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch hardly at all since arriving here. I guess in some ways it’s been nice for me because if I don’t hear your lovely voices and see your smiling faces, then I don’t miss you as much. But after chatting with Dad today in the morning and then reading Ephesians where I was reminded to honor my parents so I’ll have a long life (!), I realized that probably closing the door slightly on family relationships, just to protect my own emotional state, wasn’t very honorable. So i’m sorry about that. I really do love you guys! And I have been busy…

What was my day like today? I’ll try to give you a brief glimpse…starting with yesterday.

Sunday afternoon, I spent about three hours working with Álvaro, installing various things in my room (a rod for clothes, a rod for the curtain, a book shelf) which was a simple process made complicated by the fact that all four walls are concrete or a similar material with bricks behind. I helped mark the holes and then he did the hard work, drilling holes, screwing screws… But we finally got everything installed. Hallelujah!

I left and went to visit María Jesús, one of the ladies I’d been discipling last year. I didn’t have time to talk with her after church and she’s busy all week now, so I went over and we talked for a good hour and a half or so. It was good to catch up and she was very pleased to talk with me. Then I came back and cleaned and organized and hung up clothes and finally put books on a proper shelf and hung up pictures (with sticky tack) and my fantastic calendar… It’s great to have a real room. I’ll send pictures sometime soon hopefully.

Today, I actually got up and did pilates. Patricia was going to do it with me, but she slept longer. You’d be proud of me though! I did pilates! I might even do it again tomorrow. Had a shower, read a bit of the Shack, went for our morning prayer time (9am four days a week), then to work. I’m the official administrative assistant to the church and Javier and Patricia, which means I sit at a cute desk all day (10-1 and 3-7), answer the phone, call people to arrange or confirm appointments with the pastors, create and organize documents of all varieties…Every so often Javier comes downstairs, pulls up a chair and begins, “Primero…” and lists off a zillion things he’d like me to do. Reminds me of working at the Honor Academy, although I’m quite a different person.

Surprisingly, I am a pastora asistente and misionera now. It takes some getting used to and I definitely feel the weight of more responsibility. But I really believe this is a God thing, He is in this, and I also know it’s only the beginning of whatever is coming in the future.

So…I’m doing well. I do miss you guys. I feel a bit crazy, having been so busy I haven’t even checked facebook. People could have gotten married and I wouldn’t even know. And (this will be shocking) I realized today I hadn’t read the news basically since I arrived! So I took a brief look. It’s terrible, really. I missed reading about the presidential inauguration and everything!

I love you guys. I hope you’re doing well. I think this blog is a great plan…as long as we keep it up, eh?

Con mucho amor a mi amada familia…buenas noches de Perú

Anna

Practicing the Presence of God

It finally got warmer on Friday. The temperature rose over 30 degrees F for the first time in ten days. I didn’t wear gloves. I breathed deeply and the air didn’t make my lungs ache. I smiled. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. It was a blessing beyond imagination. I could wear tennis shoes without wondering if my toes would be blue when I removed them.

Saturday dawned. Sunday came. It is 5 degrees again. Above zero, yes, but bitterly and bitingly cold. I wonder once again about blue toes. I miss my family. I miss the rain and the do-able cold. I miss the green trees and the smiles I see when I wake. I climb out of bed and shower. I check my email and find that Ma has chosen “A Slice of Life” as the title for our new blog. Having agreed to set it up, I begin signing up. 11:00 comes and I realize it is time for church. It is the first time I have been outside today. I slip on my wool coat, scarf and gloves. The snow is a brilliant white color where it has not been disturbed. But the places where it melted on Friday have frozen into grayish, dirty ice. I walk carefully to church, thinking about the “Slice of Life” blog. Wondering what to use as the main title. Wishing I could be walking down the street to my own home church. Wishing I could see Ma leading worship and hear Dad’s sermon. I feel alone.

But walking into church, I notice what feels like a breath of fresh air. Yes, I was just walking outside on frozen slush, picking my way to not fall. I was just breathing the ice cold air and now I am in a huge building, bursting with smiling people. The greeter shakes my hand and hands me a “worship program” (as they call them there in that church). He says “welcome” and looks me straight in the eye, smiling. I cannot help but smile back. I am surrounded by people who, even if they don’t know me, they love the same God I love. They are there for the same reason I am. They care about me, even if they don’t know me. Though I hate to use the word “pregnant” when describing anyone but a woman who is in the “family way”…I cannot tell of the wonder I felt any other way. Music was playing when I walked in. “Here is our king, here is our love; Here is our God who’s come to bring us back to him…” My friend Maggie called to me and I went to sit with her. She invited me, smiling brightly.

The worship leader stood up.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

When can I go to meet with God? Well, here I am, right now, right here – meeting with God. I can feel His presence in this place. We sing the first song. “Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing they praise!” We heard from the Word:

“You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” (Nehemiah 9:6)

I thought about my sister worshiping in Peru, my parents and other sisters worshiping in Oregon. We are worshiping the SAME GOD! We are far apart. I miss them terribly…but we love the same Creator. The Pastor’s theme today was seeking the face of God. “God made you so that He could pour out his eternal, righteous, holy and loving life upon you.” My highest pursuit in life is and must be to know this God and seek His face. To spend time with God and to wait on Him.

“I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.” (Psalm 63:2-4)

I am encouraged. These truths are true all of the time. I may feel alone, here in the cold – but my God is a God who delights in me. Those around me love me. I am not alone. I spend my days practicing Spanish, Fugues by Bach and a Gershwin Rhapsody. I practice eating well and contemplating memorized Scripture. I am soon to be entering new classes and will become a student of Organic Chemistry and music….but I am also a student of prayer, worship and the Word of God…and a new practice becomes clear: I must also practice the Presence of God.

~Suke