May 132012

*The following post was inspired by a sermon by Lisa Patriquin on John 8:1-11.  You can hear it here.

Condemn: (v) express complete disapproval of; sentence to punishment; denounce; doom; declare reprehensible, wrong or evil.

What an awful word.  Just reading those definitions, I feel my spirit shriveling.  

What a terrible feeling it is to be condemned.  If we’re honest, we’ve all deserved condemnation at one time or another: our actions, words, or thoughts were ‘reprehensible, wrong or evil.’  

Condemning fingerMany people’s concept of God includes a heavy dose of condemnation.  God is watching, waiting for them to screw up so he can zap them.  He is the great, cosmic judge who dooms people to hell.  

Where did this come from?   Somehow we twisted the message of “be holy because I (God) am holy” (Leviticus 11:44) into “be holy, or else”.  What was once an inspiration is now a threat.  

I see the same thing in parenting.  We’ve forgotten the power of leading by example and instead we threaten, yell, and berate.  

The concept of ‘sin nature’ has gotten tangled up in there somewhere as well. If all people are sinners, then we all need to be beaten into submission.  Wrong! This is where Jesus turned it all around for us.  

If all people are sinners, then we all need grace, forgiveness, and a savior who shows us a better way.  

How miserable we’d be if God was constantly reminding us that we could never measure up.  Instead Jesus says to us, just like he did to the woman charged with adultery in John 8, “Is there no one to condemn you?…Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”


But Jesus doesn’t leave us there.  He expresses faith in a better future: “Go and sin no more.”  He doesn’t deny what we’ve done, but challenges us not to repeat it. He doesn’t give us what we deserve because he loves us.

I have a lot to learn here.  How do I deal with people’s mistakes?  Do I condemn?  Do I declare them reprehensible, wrong or evil?  Or do I recognize the mistakes and offer hope?  Am I able to see past the current situation into a better future?  Do I express that?  

And better yet, how do I deal with my own mistakes?  Do I feel doomed or hopeful? Do I label myself as a ‘screw up’ or determine to do better next time?

Today, I am thankful for a mom who did not condemn me for the mistakes I made.  She helped me recognize them and inspired me to move on.  I’m even more thankful for a God who does the same.

 Posted by at 18:13
May 122012

Another guest blog today because this one should be read every Mother’s Day.  This one is from another friend named Sarah – Sarah Tacoma.  She blogs here.  Get the tissues!

19 Weeks Pregnant – that’s a magical time in a pregnancy. You’re almost half way done, you can feel the baby kicking AND you get to finally have the ultrasound where you can find out the sex and really see the baby. I had an exciting date with a 3D ultrasound.


As the doctor started the ultrasound – he first told us it was a boy!


He moved the paddle around some more and then the doctor told us that the baby had a calcium deposit on his heart and that was a marker for Down syndrome and did we want to get an amnio. Shock. Sadness. Fear. Dread. I went ahead with the amnio and was numb as I paid the nurse extra money for the fish test so we could find out in 24 hours. The next afternoon – I got the call that – yes our baby had Trisome 21. I told the lady thank you, hung up the phone and started screaming. 


There is an enormous grieving process that you go through finding out your child has Down syndrome. Retarded. Special Needs. Cognitively Delayed. Disabled. Different. I lost a child that day. I lost the baby I thought I was going to have. I lost the life I thought I was going to have. And really felt my son Quinn had lost the sibling I had so pictured for him.


As the weeks went by and the depression continued I really felt that I couldn’t connect with the little boy inside me, who had no idea how sad I was because of him. And one day at about 23 weeks I decided that I needed to name him – so maybe I could start bonding with him. So one morning I called my husband at work and said – I want to name him now and I just know his name is supposed to be Gideon Michael. And God bless Mike – he took this surprise phone call in stride – and said “okay then, that’s his name.”


Two weeks later we were sitting in church and to be honest I just wasn’t paying attention. The minister was reading a Bible passage “blah…blah and the Israelites…. blah.. blah..and then Gideon….blah blah blah.” I sat up straight and whispered to Mike – did he just say “Gideon?” And Mike nodded. Now I have attended church most of my life and not once up to that point had I heard a sermon on Gideon. Briefly – This is the story of Gideon – The Israelites were at war with the Midianites and losing big time. And God came to Gideon and said you are going to lead the Israelites to victory, but you have to reduce the army of 22,000 men down to only 300 soldiers. Gideon did not understand how he was going to win with so much less at his disposal, yet he followed God’s orders and did indeed lead the Israelites to victory. As soon as the Bible passage was done – the Pastor, who really had my attention now, said “Well this story is about a man who had a huge disadvantage. God took away from Gideon. God gave Gideon less. God gave Gideon less to work with than other men. And yet Gideon overcame, because God was with him.”


Less? Disabled? Disadvantaged? Maybe, but with a little faith on my part I was pretty sure God was telling me that it wouldn’t matter. 


When we first got the diagnosis, it was a string of negative adjectives that tried to label a baby we hadn’t even met yet. And initially I dwelled on the negatives of his diagnosis and not the vibrant portrait of the beautiful, quirky person that Gideon is growing into. At 2 years old Gideon’s first full sentence was “Ma! I La You Ma! And like most little boys Gideon loves to zoom anything that has wheels – cars, trucks, trains & airplanes. At 3 years old he has more ASL signs (100+) than I do. He adores his big brother and does his best to imitate him. He’s super polite and says “hi” and “bye” with enthusiasm to anyone coming and going. And my favorite – is that when I walk in that front door – Gideon stands up and cheers that I am home. Ma! Yeah Ma!


So here are the words that REALLY describe him. Exuberant. Joyful. Determined. Stubborn. Practical Jokester. Smart. Affectionate. Loving.


Nine out of ten babies after diagnosis of Down syndrome are aborted.


90%! I’ve been in that black hole of grief when that decision needs to be made. Gideon and all the other kids with Down syndrome that I have had the privilege of getting to know LOVE their life. They live it with, quite frankly, a zest that is unmatched by the rest of us. I truly believe THAT is the measure of a worthy life. THAT is the identification that truly maters.


gideon.jpgAnd my Gideon, the boy who God gave less to, well he overcomes again and again and he does it with the biggest smile and lovingest heart I have ever experienced. 

 Posted by at 08:12
May 102012

*Alisa’s Note: Today’s guest post is from one of my blogging friends – maybe the first blogging friend I had.  Sarah’s blog is still one of my favorites. [Check it out here.]   She is a gifted writer who throws the doors wide open on her thoughts.  She was gracious enough to write a guest blog post on the topic of a ‘Teachable Moment’.


I wish I could say I was a quick learner.  I wish I experienced an “ah ha!” moment once and then always carried that little lesson around in my pocket, never having to relearn it.  Alas, I am not.  I am more of a painstakingly slow learner, often having to allow God to remind me, nudge me, and even sometimes smack me with the same life lessons over and over again.


On January 14 of this year, I became a mom for the first time.  My beautiful baby boy was born, and three days later I found myself at home with this little person who needed my attention all the time.  Rewind to about two weeks prior his birth and you would find me constantly on the move.  I’m a do-er.  Every week I made my to-do list of errands, household tasks, projects I wanted to complete and people I wanted to connect with, and more often than not by the end of the week my list was accomplished–every item neatly crossed out with a highlighter.  I’ve spent 23 of my 30 years as a full time student, I know how to multitask and I know how to get things done.  If I’m honest, I’ve found a lot of pride in how productive I’ve been in a given week.  Friends used to laugh because when we would have a 3 week break from classes I would not just travel to one place–I would usually pack my vacations full of multiple cities or states so I could visit as many friends and family as possible. Yes, aside from the one month in grad school where I had mono, I have always enjoyed getting things done.


Fast forward back to this winter and the arrival of my little one, and all of a sudden life looked drastically different, more so than ever before.  All of a sudden my most important “task” of the day was sitting in a rocking chair for hours on end feeding my baby.  All of a sudden I found myself laying on a couch doing “nothing” but holding my child who couldn’t nap anywhere but in someone’s arms.  The dishes sat there, untouched.  The laundry was done when my parents came to visit to help out. Vacuuming or cleaning the bathrooms?  Ha!  Running lots of errands and connecting with many people?  No longer an option with my son who hated his car seat and left me feeling foggy brained and incapable of connecting with others in a meaningful way.  Those to-do lists I had prided myself on were now non-existent.  And if I’m honest, so many days would come to an end and I would feel so unproductive, so lazy, and so frustrated.  Who was I now if I wasn’t Ms. Productivity?  I knew in my head what I was doing for my baby was infinitely more important than doing the dishes, but for a slightly-OCD person like myself, sometimes all I wanted to do was clean my kitchen!


It’s been four months now, since the arrival of our little one, and I think I am finally beginning to learn my lesson.  The other day I laid down with Aidan in my bed to see if I could settle him down for his afternoon nap.  He snuggled up next to me, nursed for a few minutes, and drifted off into a peaceful sleep.  “Alright!” I thought.  “I can finally go get something done!” As I lay there thinking about what I was going to go sneak off to accomplish, it hit me.  The only thing that was important to me that day was being with my son.  My kitchen was relatively clean–not perfect, but good enough.  My husband and I have plenty of clothes, I didn’t need to do laundry just because the basket was full.  All of a sudden grilled cheese sandwiches sounded just fine for dinner, no need to go prep anything fancier.  As I watched him rest, his little lips still making that sweet sucking motion in his sleep, I realized there was no where else on earth I wanted to be.  I was being completely “unproductive” by my former standards, but when I think about what really mattered in that moment, I was doing the most important thing I could have chosen to do–I stayed snuggled up next to his little body and held him as he slept in the safety and comfort of Mommy’s arms.


God commands us to “be still, and know that I am God,” and I think part of what God had in mind here is that He wants us to surrender our to-do lists to Him.  He has spent the past 4 months teaching me over and over again a new way to define “productivity.” He calls us to just be, to let go of all the things we frantically try to accomplish to somehow prove our worth here on earth.  He whispers a reminder “Sarah, you’re so much more than your list of accomplishments, that is not what gives you your value or worth.  Be still, let me be God, you worry about being fully present for the people I’ve placed in your life.”

 Posted by at 07:31
May 092012

A few days ago, I woke to a beautiful day. I enjoyed watching the sun rise over the nearby mountains as I drove my son to school, but something changed as I drove home.  The closer I got, the foggier it got.  A huge cloud had blanketed our neighborhood while I was gone.

What a difference!

In just three blocks, I went from basking in the morning sun to totally enveloped in grey.

This got me thinking about perspective and circumstance.  If I had woken a bit later, I would have labeled the whole day as gloomy.   My son spent his whole day at school above the cloud, never knowing about the fog. If I had stayed in one place or the other, how different my perspective would have been.  

But I didn’t stay still.

I got to experience both the gloom and the light and appreciate them both.  Moving into the fog, I was not discouraged, instead I realized how isolated an occurrence it was.  I knew that just a few blocks away it was bright and sunny.  The whole world was not covered in gloom, just a little section of it.   

When I left for work later that morning, I drove from the fog back into the sun.  Oh man, how I appreciated that light!  It seemed somehow brighter than it had when I left my house the first time.  It was the contrast between the two that made the difference.  I no longer took the sunny day for granted.  How refreshing and encouraging it was to see the sun again!

Taking it further, just like the weather was completely different from one block to the next, life can change radically when we take a few steps outside our current circumstances.  When things in life seem dark or we move into a difficult time, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that the sun is shining anywhere.   

Unfortunately, when things seem dark, it’s really hard to remember that the sun is just beyond the edge of the cloud. I forget the temporary nature of my circumstances.  I often let the grey settle over me, holding me in place.

I wallow.

Here’s what I learned that day: Get up, get out, and see what it’s like if you change your perspective.  

One of my favorite songs about transitioning from dark to light is by Gloria Estefan.  She recorded this after breaking her back in a tour bus accident and learning to walk again with titanium rods in her back.

 Posted by at 07:16
May 062012

Today’s Guest Post by my 16 year old son.  The following is the text from his faith story that he told in church this morning. You can also watch it here.

It was a Sunday unlike any other. It was sunny, and the birds were humming the echoing sounds of the last hymn as I sat waiting in the pastor’s office. Sitting next to me was my best friend, and we both had stood up in front of the whole church, as 7-year olds, and said we believed in Jesus, and were ready to be baptized. Coming from a Covenant church, that was how it was done. As soon as I jumped in that tub, I held my nose and closed my eyes, only to hear, “not yet, kid”. But what happened there was a transformation that I wouldn’t realize, unfortunately until much later in life.

Next Sunday, I sat in Children’s Church feeling unchanged. All these grown-ups were congratulating me and I had no idea why. And like a machine I, for what seemed like the millionth time, answered all of the leader’s questions about the bible story correctly, and got to play on the playground; same as the week before, and the week before that.

Then, in 6th grade as I was sitting down to lunch with a friend of mine, he proceeded to tell me how wrong and stupid I was for believing in any religion. Up to this point I had thought everyone was a Christian, everyone believed in God, and everyone was a nice person. I stood up for my faith, sitting on the edge of the bench staring him in the eyes while my other “friends” sat there and watched. But he shut me down; he essentially ripped my power cord out of the wall. I was distraught. Then began the doubt.

Fast-forward about a year, and flip my life on its head, and that’s where I was when I moved to Glendale: new town, new school, new just about everything else. I remember thinking as I first stepped into Glendale Presbyterian Church, “I don’t want to be here. Why is my mom making me go through this? Why am I walking into a building I have no memory of ever being in?” Then all of a sudden, I got a holy smack across the face; during the benediction I hear a little something down the row. I turned my head and saw my mom crying. Us kids thought this was weird: we had never seen my mom cry in church before. That benediction just happened to be: “You go nowhere by accident, Wherever you go God is sending you….” I only today realize the significance of that.

Whatever God did it must have worked, because here I am today. I stand humbled before you… relatively unscathed, and ready for a next step. Today is the day that I am replanted in good soil.  Growing up in love and Christ.  Growing up stronger than ever.  Since that moment, God has called me to various service opportunities that have changed lives, most importantly mine.

Jesus became my big brother, guiding me when I had no idea who anyone was. Challenging me, confronting me, checking up on me, teaching me, and no matter what he had my back, even when I told him to his face that he didn’t love me and he was just as fake as an Elvis impersonator. One thing that to this day I want to do is emulate what Jesus did, in the big brother sense, to my little brother the best I know how, and to the best of my abilities.

My faith started like many who grew up in the church. What became an easy say-the-right-answer, monotonous hour before I got to play with my friends has, over the years, turned into a radical lifestyle that I would not give up for the world. That’s the beauty of the gospel. Isn’t it? That omnipresence of God in time and space: what happens one moment may be the fuel you need to carry on later in life. 

 Posted by at 14:38
May 042012

[I’m a sucker for a well-written children’s book – the kind that clamors to be savored and shared.  From time to time, I’ll post about one that tickles my fancy.]

Today is illustrator  Don Wood’s birthday.  He is best known for illustrating his wife, Audrey Wood’s books including King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, The Napping House, and Piggies.

piggies cover

Knowing that his birthday was coming up, I started combing through our school library shelves for any of his books to re-visit.  The first one I came upon was Piggies.   It’s a simple text that equates a child’s fingers with pigs.  I threw it in my bag to bring home and share with my own kids since I didn’t have time to shanghai any preschoolers.

My 11 year old daughter and I had a few minutes together waiting to pick up the high schoolers and so I pulled it out of my bag and handed it to her.  She gasped “I love this book!” and immediately began to flip the pages.  When she got to the end, we went back through it more slowly in order to appreciate the rich illustrations.  As we talked about which pig was most like us, we noticed more and more details: the ten pigs have distinct personalities, the left hand is boy pigs and the right hand is girls, some of the pigs have props that they use in clever ways from page to page. What a treasure!

My 8th grade son picked this as his favorite page from the book.  The skiing pig is his favorite.cold piggies

There’s a great literacy building project that goes with this book as well: Kids can use their own hands to mimic the piggies in the book and then come up with their own phrases, i.e. My little piggies are flipping.  If you want to take it a step further, trace their hands onto paper and have them make ink thumbprint piggies doing what they described.  Collect them together into a class book.  

What great books inspire you?

 Posted by at 07:07
May 032012


Earlier this week, I posted the following statement:

…sometimes it’s tempting to simply tell children the answer to a question rather than taking the time to guide them through their own exploration.  When you have the time, it’s worth the investment to watch the joy that comes with a new discovery.

The reality of life is that, sometimes, we need to just tell kids how it is rather than investigating possible outcomes: i.e. we don’t stick things in the light socket.  

Or do we?

Check out my teenage son’s teachable moment.

 Posted by at 06:59
May 012012

As a teacher, sometimes it’s tempting to simply tell children the answer to a question rather than taking the time to guide them through their own exploration.  When you have the time, it’s worth the investment to watch the joy that comes with a new discovery.  

I recently overheard two four year olds, a boy and girl, talking about favorite colors:

B: I’ll do it purple because I know you like purple and pink.  They’re your favorite colors.

G: I’ll do it red because you like red.  (beat) I don’t like red at all.

I could see B getting ready to take offense.

Me: I’m surprised you don’t like red.  It’s kinda’ like pink and purple.

G: What?

Me: Red is like pink.

G: Noooo.

Me: Do you know what happens when you mix red and white?

G: No, what?

We found some paint and she tested the red on the paper, then I squirted a generous amount of white in the cup and she mixed it with her brush.  

G: Wow!  Look at that pretty color!

She swirled it around, creating a pig colored cloud on the paper.

Me: What would you call that color?

G: Pink

Me: So red plus white makes….

G: Pink!

Teachable Moment seized.  


 Posted by at 16:12