Welcome Claira!

Standard

Wow, it’s been 2 weeks since I posted on the blog!  Work and life have been busy.  September is so full of extra activities with the transition to fall and the return of school schedules, there haven’t been many free moments to conceive of blog ideas, let alone time to write!

imageDennis and I have been thinking and talking about adding a dog to our family for several months.  The kids have been asking for about a year, but we were taking our time and thinking through the changes to our life and routine.  Since this summer, Dennis was ready to take the plunge and I was the holdout.  I knew that most of the dog care activities would fall to me, so I told him I really needed to “fall in love” with the right dog.

Yesterday we made an impromptu trip to Michael’s for Halloween decorations.  We have plans to craft a bunch of black bats and put them up in our tall living room walls!  Afterwards, Dennis suggested we stop by Petco to see if they had an adoption event going.  Sure enough, they did.  Second Chance Dog Rescue was setup out front with around 10-12 dogs.  The bio for each dog was posted around the pen where the dogs slept and played with about a dozen volunteers.

I read the bio of a terrier named “Claira” and thought I spotted her in the pen too.  When I inquired, they told me the dog I noted was actually her brother.  Claira was bigger (although still a small dog) and was sitting next to her brother, on the lap of a volunteer.  During this time, Dennis and Sienna were quite taken with another little dog.  But, I only had eyes for Claira!  We asked for Claira to be brought out so we  could play with her.

033The woman who was fostering Claira was at the event.  She told us that Claira was pretty shy and timid.  They were originally weary of placing her with a family with young kids, particularly because Mateo is still young.  But, luckily for us, Teo was tired (it was nap time) and just about asleep on Dennis’s shoulder for most of the time we were there.  Sienna sat calmly and petted Claira, until she started to demonstrate behaviors that showed the volunteers that she was comfortable and happy.

Sienna must have asked me twenty times, “Can we get her?!”  When we finally said, “Yes, we’ll get her and see how it goes.”  She was thrilled!  She said, “This is the best day of my life!  I can’t believe I’m finally getting a puppy!”  We were all pretty excited.

Through this rescue there’s a 2 week period called “Foster to Own” where they’ll take the dog back if it’s not a good fit for your family.  Fortunately, we seem to be a perfect fit, Claira and us.  She has warmed up to all of us quickly and easily.  She slept great in her doggie bed in our bedroom last night and waited to “go potty” until she was let out this morning.  When we returned from our morning at church (she’d been alone in the house for 5 hours) we were met with several accidents (all on the laminate flooring since the doors to our carpeted bedrooms were all closed). So, we have to work on our routine for long days left at home.

Claira is a 7 month old puppy.  She’s a terrier mix, with West Highland Terrier being the most obvious breed.  She’s calm and happiest curled up next to us on the couch.  She’s currently watching the Dolphins game snuggled up next to Dennis.  She’s fiesty though, barking at our neighbors much bigger dogs; already protecting her family.

clairaReflecting on this experirence, it’s been another great example of how much better it is to trust that things will work out for the best, instead of planning and controlling big decisions.  We did our research and discussed what we wanted out of a dog, but rather than plotting, planning, and forcing the process of getting a dog, I let go.  Several weeks ago, I said a little prayer of surrender: “Lord, let us know when the right dog for our family comes along and just let it all work out.”

So far, so good.

Be Perfect

Standard

12876462-icon-of-the-lord-jesus-christ

My dad sent me a link to an article the other day with an inquiry regarding my thoughts on the piece. In the midst of my busy workday, I took the time to read the brief article on an ancient debate between Augustine and Pelagius. The nature of their disagreement was the nature of mankind and specifically the existence or non-existence of original sin. Whether or not humanity exists within original sin has far-reaching implications for our lives and the ways in which we live.

The article cites the similar views of Augustine and Luther (I assume this is partially why my dad sent the link to his Lutheran daughter!). Luther agreed with Augustine that human beings are all tainted by the curse of original sin and therefore are incapable of doing good or achieving any type of righteousness or sanctification without Christ. The article notes that Augustine called humanity a “mess of sin,” incapable of raising itself from spiritual death. “For Augustine man can no more move or incline himself to God than an empty glass can fill itself. For Augustine the initial work of divine grace by which the soul is liberated from the bondage of sin is sovereign and operative. To be sure we cooperate with this grace, but only after the initial divine work of liberation.”

Pelagius, on the other hand, argued that man could do good works that aid in the process of sanctifying oneself. His theory can be summed up as: “Nature, free-will, virtue and law, these strictly defined and made independent of the notion of God – were the catch-words of Pelagianism: self-acquired virtue is the supreme good which is followed by reward. Religion and morality lie in the sphere of the free spirit; they are at any moment by man’s own effort.”

When people believe that their actions, will, and deeds are capable of either bringing them closer to God (through upholding the Law) or distancing themselves from God (through breaking the Law), they are trapped. The only course forward is for the individual to enter a sin management program where they track their sins against their good deeds in a hopeless attempt to measure up before God.

This morning Pastor asked the First Communion catechumens, including our daughter Sienna, “Do you have to be perfect to stand before God?” to which the children quickly answered, “No!” He rephrased the question, “What is the standard for God? Does he demand perfection?” This time their “no” responses were a little more doubtful. His explanation went on to quote Jesus in Matthew, chapter 5: You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. The kids replied, “But, we can’t be perfect. No one can do that.”

Exactly.

God, in his divine perfection, requires nothing less than perfect righteousness to enter his holy presence. The Law had to be upheld; our debt of sin had to be repaid. When Jesus, after living a perfect, sinless life, died on the cross he paid the price for our treason against God. It’s only when one is baptized into Christ’s holiness and righteousness that they will be judged as perfect, in Christ, before God.

Back to the article – it argues that the modern church and many current philosophical ideals, including liberalism and humanism, continue to hold to this view – that man’s will is inclined toward and can achieve virtue. What follows is the hyper focus on self-improvement and an unhealthy individualism.

In my experience, there’s a glorious freedom and peace in embracing that I am in need of God’s grace, always. As it says in Romans, chapter 3: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good; not even one. Romans 3: 10-12.

The glorious good news is that we can do everything through Christ. God works through his people to love, serve, care and provide for one another.   Paul writes in Ephesians, chapter 2:  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift from God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Similarly, by realizing just how little will and inclination I have toward doing good, when God accomplishes good deeds through me, it’s Him working, so I may not boast.

If our works factor into the equation of our salvation, even just marginally as Pelagius claimed, we are hopeless to achieve the perfection God demands.  How can we live up to the title of this post: “Be Perfect”?  Only through Jesus and his perfect righteousness.

Football Musings

Standard

If you know my husband, even a little bit, you know that he LOVES football.  Literally, it’s his favorite thing in the world (after his wife and children, I’d like to think).  His teams are the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami (“The U”) Hurricanes.  Watching football games together has been a part of our relationship from the beginning.  I recall going to Hooters for a Dolphins’ game when we were still just coworkers and friends, a few months before we started dating.

Dennis quickly indoctrinated me into the culture and excitement of college football.  Watching all the bowl games our first New Years together was so much fun!  We even made a trip to Miami to catch both a Hurricanes and Dolphins game in one quick weekend.  Awesome memories!

As our family grew and priorities shifted, our days of watching football for half the weekend were long gone.  Our routine of eating breakfast while watching the Dolphins at Rock Bottom Brewery downtown is just memory.  Luckily we now have NFL Season Ticket and the ability to DVR games and watch them (commercial free!) after church.  Now we can get Sienna and Mateo into the family tradition of cheering for our (yes, somewhat random) Miami teams.

Dennis and I are fortunate to share a love of sports, but still this sign made me giggle when I saw it (and I can relate to the sentiment):

July 2013 255

Hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of football season!

Enriching the Soil

Standard

I’ve been making my way through the Book of Matthew, one chapter per day (most days), for the past couple of weeks.  The thing that has struck me during this reading of the Bible is how much more meaningful and relatable the passages are, now that I’ve come to depend on God more and rely on myself less.  Seeing myself as a person in need of a Savior, in need of God’s grace, and unable to fulfill my own needs allows the richness of the gospel to be come through more clearly.

soilFor example – Matthew, chapter 13 begins with Jesus telling his followers the parable of the sower:

“A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched.  And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13: 8-8

When Jesus’s disciplies asked him to explain the parable, he replied:

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the world and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Matthew 13: 18-23

This passage reminded me of the insight Deaconess shared with me, that through these trials, God was growing my peace in Him.  Before God helped me to face how much my planning and sense of control had driven me into myself and away from God, I was unable to bear good fruit.  Like those who hear the word and spring up quickly without roots, I was enthusiatic about Christ, as long as it wasn’t challenging to follow him. Through God teaching me to be present in the moment and depend on him, he was tilling the soil of my life.  Surrendering to Him, relying on His grace to be sufficient for my life enriched my soil to bear good fruit.

Reflecting on this parable also brings to mind the mainstream evangelical churches that focus on positive feelings and the “prosperity gospel.”  When Christians act as if living a certain way will bring endless joy and happiness, they’re very much like the rocky ground that will not endure through tribulation or persecution.   On the other extreme, this parable points to martyrs for the faith, including the very recent killings of Christians in Iraq; people who have heard the word and understood it, even unto death.

God knows us perfectly.  He made us and sees all of our weaknesses.  Reading the Bible from this position of humility and meekness certainly lightens the burden of life.