Murder Mystery Friends

One of the things I like best about living in Lakewood, and attending our church, is that we have acquired some very interesting friends. We’ve been here for more than ten years, now, and we have been greatly blessed. It is a little strange for me, since I’ve never lived anywhere else for more than five years at a time.

One couple that we greatly love and admire recently celebrated the birth of their seventh child, but chose not to have a typical baby shower. Instead, Peter and Abby invited us to attend a Murder Mystery party, hosted by John and Shari and catered by Chris.

Several items of great value were auctioned-off, adding some complexity to the game.

Several items of great value were auctioned-off, adding some complexity to the game.

It was a lot of fun; I played the bumbling detective, and Kathy was an actress-turned-shop-owner, but was secretly an heiress. Prizes were given for:

  1. Guessing the murderer
  2. Having the most net worth at the end of the game
  3. Playing their part the most effectively
Kathy and her 'uncle', who played the butler, and provided the feast (and corroborated her story).

Kathy and her ‘uncle’, who played the butler, and provided the feast (and corroborated her story).

Sadly, I did not correctly guess the murderer(ess), but we had a lot of fun along the way, and very much enjoyed the meal. Baby Tuff did attend, so hopefully he enjoyed the party as well.

Tuff was clearly the MVB (most valuable baby).

Tuff was clearly the MVB (most valuable baby).

Project 365, Day 58

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The Answer is Found Here

The Lord and I have been wrestling today. Actually I’ve been wrestling with my own heart, spirit and sin. My brokenness and flesh raise its ugly head at every opportunity. Thankfully the Lord has an answer for my struggle and for my weaknesses.

Learning so much about love

Sarah painted this for me.

He’s been meeting me in every moment. I’ve been called to really grow and stretch this month. I’ve had to operate in His strength and not mine. I’ve had to walk through situations, covered in the prayers of friends. I’ve been so empty of my own wisdom and knowledge and ability to walk forward, that His wisdom, glory and love shone brighter than I’ve ever seen it.

My new journal Bible from Tim.

This morning I sat with these two books – my big journal and my new Bible

And this morning, when I came to Him with some hurts and pain, He was there. Quietly breathing life and truth into my soul. As the intensity of the situation has passed, it leaves in its wake the bruises of hurts and offenses and more brokenness.

I can hear my pride fussing about how I was wronged. I hear my self-righteous spirit whine about the sins of “other Christians.” Instead of peace and joy, I find myself wanting validation and justification, even maybe a little vengeance thrown into the mix.

His Word brings me comfort and truth.

His Word brings me comfort and truth.

And so the words in Matthew 5 were especially tender to me today.

“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil again you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

With eyes once more focused on Him, I picked up my pen and confessed my sins to the Lord. I scribbled down my hurts and my concerns and my fears. I listened. I opened my hands, again, to what He is doing through me. I promised to trust Him – His timing, His leading, His protection. With unsteady hands, I told Him I would obey, even if the steps were painful. I would be pure in heart. I would be merciful. I would be a peacemaker. I would rejoice and be glad, even if others persecute me. I will be meek. I will hunger and thirst for righteousness, not personal satisfaction or public glory.

I will love.

I found the answer, again, in His Word, His Presence, His Truth.

Project 365 – Day 57

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OK, I admit, SALL is not a very good acronym.

I created a Serve and Drama Team for our AWANA program this year, but I just couldn’t pull together a decent acronym. Sometimes you have to know the limits of what you can do. I’ll leave the acronym generation for those who follow on with this program.

Serve, Act, Lead, Love

Serve, Act, Lead, Love

For several years, I’ve been worried about a disturbing trend I am noticing in churches.

While kids are in elementary school, some churches do a pretty good job of teaching them about the Bible and giving them a chance to be involved. At our church, fourth, fifth and sixth-graders serve in the nursery, lead worship for the younger grades, or help out with preschool classes. In AWANA we encourage them to memorize God’s Word and bring friends with them to church. There seems potential to become useful members of the body of Christ.

Then they get to Junior High age, and it seems like everything changes. Lay-leader adults, effective in the elementary years, find themselves ill-equipped to handle the hormones and energy often found among Junior High kids. Some youth leaders focus on reaching un-churched kids from the community; because of this, typical youth programs end up being heavy on games and entertainment and short on in-depth Bible teaching. Many of the service projects that youth groups pursue are really fundraisers for their own retreats and parties.

For some reason, it is rare that I see teenagers held to a high standard of servant leadership. It is no surprise to me that many young people leave the church after high school. For six years they are typically treated to a steady diet of entertainment and self-focus, and then are suddenly dumped, entirely unprepared, into the adult church body. Lacking the maturity to appreciate good Bible teaching and worship, they are also severely atrophied in service, and so (from this consumer mentality) they conclude that the church has nothing for them.

My favorite drama and serve team kids.

My favorite drama and serve team kids.

So I started a Serve and Drama Team as a way to begin building the ‘serve muscles’ among some of the youth (in this case AWANA achievers) of our church. My hope is that our teenagers, with all their passion and energy, could discover their spiritual gifts and be a blessing and an asset to the church.

This is our pilot year. So far, we’ve performed about ten different skits for the Council Time part of AWANA, serving the Sparks and T&T kids (and their leaders) by acting out Bible stories and gospel-illustrating skits. We have also done several service projects, including:

  • Detailing the cars of AWANA leaders
  • Creating gift baskets for the five pastors of our church
  • Providing a tasty snack for the entire choir, at the end of their rehearsal
  • Cleaning and reorganizing the Drama Resource room
  • Writing more than two dozen ‘Thank-You’ cards to church leaders
A pile of thank-you cards, written tonight.

A pile of thank-you cards, written tonight.

My hope is that the best and brightest of the Junior High kids will choose to serve their church and their Lord during these (typically self-absorbed) years. I started by pre-selecting the best kids in our AWANA program. The prerequisite to the Drama and Serve Team is completion of three of the T&T books, which requires a significant level of effort over several years. (I’ll accept a comparable level of effort in scripture memorization, for kids who haven’t been involved in AWANA during their 3rd-5th grade years.)

I hope to equip and inspire these kids to offer their energy, leadership and spiritual gifts to the Church, and to set a challenging standard for the other teenagers in our community.

They sneakily wrote me a note while I was out of the room!

They sneakily wrote me a note while I was out of the room!

I have ten kids in the program, ranging from age 10 9 to 15, and I have to say, they are well on their way to becoming champions. I am very excited at the prospect of preparing them to be the core of the next generation of servant leaders at our church.

Project 365, Day 56

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Sometimes you laugh and delight over the little things. Sometimes you cry and grieve over big things. Life seems to be about big, little, and everything in between. I want to be faithful in what God is calling me to do. I want to be willing to grow, even if is painful and stretching along the way. I want the fact that I am a follower of Jesus to make a difference in what I say, how I say it, what I think, how I act, and how I love/chastise/encourage/walk among the people in my life.

This has been an interesting and challenging two weeks. Today I was grateful for many, many things.

1. Sunshine
2. Prayer time w/friends
3. Hot tea & strong coffee
4. Wise counsel
5. Laughter
6. Teens who are listening to the Lord
7. Children who pray for me
8. A godly husband
9. Peace and direction from the Holy Spirit
10. Late night Winco shopping & friends who (unknowingly) match

I'm thankful for friends who match - even when we didn't both plan to be in purple!

Love that we both ended up wearing purple today!

Project 365 – Day 55

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Mais Oui!

Yes, we may. We may happily devour Poulet Cordon Bleu, thanks to David’s French homework. He is taking a class online with The Potter’s School, and one of our favorite assignments of this semester is for each student to cook a French meal.

Chicken fillets pounded thin, wrapped around pieces of ham and swiss cheese, coated in butter and breadcrumbs .... Mmmmm.

Chicken fillets pounded thin, wrapped around pieces of ham and swiss cheese, coated in butter and breadcrumbs …. Mmmmm.

Kathy wanted me to take David out to dinner at a French restaurant, but all the French restaurants in our area are inexplicably closed today or have gone out of business. We’re busy late tomorrow, and yes, the assignment is due Wednesday. Planning in advance is not our strength.

So we gathered the necessary ingredients and assembled four large portions of Chicken Cordon Bleu, and popped them in the oven. While we waited, we made two different versions of crêpes, liberally spreading them with jam, sliced pieces of fresh strawberries, and whipped cream.

Easy Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu Basic Crêpes

There was nothing creepy about these crêpes ...

There was nothing creepy about these crêpes …

Yes, it is a hardship to be a homeschool Dad these days. I don’t know how I manage to do it with such savoir-faire and panache. (Those are bonus Frenchy-type words, to make this blog post more Cultural.)

As I was checking my plate for any microscopic crumbs I may have overlooked, Kathy belatedly spoke up.

“Did you save any for your lunch, tomorrow?” Kathy asked plaintively.

Preparing my food for the days I work in the city is one of Kathy’s least favorite chores. I’m gone so long, she has to come up with something for all three meals of the day, which is no picnic, at 11 pm, when she’s ready to think about it. Alternatively, if she doesn’t send me off with a well-stocked lunch bag, I’ll probably eat biscuits and Nutella all day, and will come home ten pounds heavier. Since many of us are in the midst of a weight loss plan (you can see our progress at the bottom of the left panel), I figure she’ll rassle me up something (but it won’t be leftover chicken Cordon Bleu, since I ate my entire piece at one go).

David and Sarah wisely saved half of theirs for tomorrow.

David and Sarah wisely saved half of theirs for tomorrow.

Project 365, Day 54

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The musings and ravings of a bloggart family