Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Not much has changed.

It was a kids' birthday party, for crying out loud. Two weeks ago, Christopher and Nathan had twelve of their friends over for water wars, and the party ended in a fight between siblings.

It was Jonathan's fault. He demanded a second ice cream sandwich, and I refused point-blank. No, sirree. You can be a glutton elsewhere, but not at your little brothers' birthday party. Save some ice cream for the kids, buddy!

The fight in pictures...

Thank heavens for Heather. Just look at the peace and serenity on my face as I sit with my sis-in-law... The Langley family desperately needed another female.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Order the Dehli Durbar!

I'm overly excited about my new find. Last night two of my friends and I discovered a hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant on Sunset Boulevard: Paru's Indian Vegetarian Restaurant. It's amazing.


Entrees are around $12, with plenty of food to feed two, and the ambiance is enchantingly and authentically Indian. I was giddy the whole time I was cramming the tasty fare down my throat.

Hope some of you can make it in the future... Or join me for my next visit. ;-)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Every season

On my run tonight, I passed a soccer field where two girls’ teams were competing. In an instant, I was transported. Long nights under the lights in shin guards and cleats, sweaty nylon jerseys and itchy tube socks—beating the enemy to the ball and eating orange slices after the game. It didn’t get any better than that.

I played all four years of high school—and as they were for all of us, those years were challenging, exciting, and transforming. I was figuring out who I was, forming my convictions, falling flat on my face, developing new skills, and exploring a variety of interests.

Theater kept me out late on more than one occasion. Babysitting did not. (I love kids, but very few children were well behaved enough to induce me to spend hours with them.) Writing newsletters, short stories, poems, and stage plays (laughable material now) sealed my fate: I would forever be wed to a pen. Late-night street hockey with my brothers and Ben Flower, beach trips and driver's ed, church ministries, singing with Christine Lattimer and Roland Urgino, Katy's birth and Linda's death, Mexico ministry, and my first college visit…

And then there was the inevitable first battle with depression, loneliness in the midst of a crowd, friendships lost, personal failures, hormones, a crisis of faith, and… math. If I remember correctly, I cried through all four years of high school math.

Tonight I’m reminded again that every season of life has its unique joys and trials. It’s so tempting to long for summer’s heat in the midst of winter’s chill—and then gripe about the sweltering temperatures when June finally arrives. Comparing my season of life with yours doesn’t accomplish a heck of a lot either. You can’t have Christmas gifts in July, and I probably shouldn’t sunbathe at the beach in December. But in the words of my dear mom, we should “squeeze the joy out of every day we’re given,” making the most of winter in the winter months, and summer in its months too.

Today, whether there be snow falling outside your frosted window or a balmy sun beating down on your beachhouse, may you know the joy of living by faith and living to the fullest.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

“He did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Photos of the Week (My friends have the cutest babies ever!)

My "niece" Claire Elaine, Thailand.

My "nephew" Caleb, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This blog will bug you.

In the course of my 32 years, I’ve killed my fair share of gnats, ants, flies, mosquitoes, mosquito hawks, June bugs, beetles, rollie-pollies, spiders, and crickets. I’ve even bare-handed strange bugs in the middle of a class when a student—typically of the female gender—begins screaming over the realization that during lunch break her purse, book, or (heaven forbid!) her shirt became home to a new species of creepy-crawly.

Yes, I’ve grabbed that ugly beast, put on a formidable face, walked to the door while Bug writhed around in my sweaty palm (all feet and wings and buzzing), and thrown the demon out on his backside.

I’ve had other students—typically of the male gender—put my bug bravery to the test by thrusting lizards, frogs, or rubber bug imitations at my face. I haven’t screamed yet.

But there is one little pest I cannot tolerate. Just one. Let a bee sting me, a pincher bug pinch me, or a moth chew through my socks, but let a cockroach anywhere near me, and I come undone. I will scream (be it stifled or unbridled) every time.

As tradition would have it, our school hosts the annual California Cockroach Convention every summer. Cockroaches from all corners and crevices of California make the pilgrimage to our all-too-welcoming facility. From the women’s bathroom stalls to the teacher’s workroom to classrooms all over campus, large winged cockroaches are to be found drinking, lounging, chatting, and idling away the summer months.

This has presented too many traumatic scenarios for me to recount in this brief blog. But suffice it to say, I may finally surrender my flip-flop heels for closed-toe shoes and begin wearing hats when I go to the bathroom. (The toilet is an awfully vulnerable place to face your worst fear.)

I just realized I’ve been scratching myself as I write this. My skin is absolutely crawling.

Well, friends—whatever the cockroach may be in your life, I wish you peace, safety, courage, and a super-sized can of bug-killing spray.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saving Seductive

In a culture that lets it all hang out, I want to preserve a little mystery, femininity, purity. I want to be naked for one man only. I want to seduce just one man. I want to yield all of my womanly sexiness for him alone.

I’m hiding it, guarding it, keeping it for him. That is what sexy is all about.

On a drive into L.A. years ago, I saw a billboard advertising a brand of wine. It pictured a gorgeous guy and voluptuous girls hanging all over him; next to the bottle of wine it read, “The only thing that’s still pure in L.A.”

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, pure is defined as unmixed with any other matter; free from dirt or taint; free from what weakens or pollutes; containing nothing that does not properly belong; free from harshness or roughness.

Ironic, isn’t it, that we covet purity in a car, a meal, a wardrobe, a sport, a paycheck, or a bottle of wine, but we taint our inmost parts—we actually chase after sexual impurity—as if our lives depended on it. It’s a race to see who can defile herself the fastest.

Our “bottle of wine” has been spit in, dumped out, mixed with dirt, roughed up, and we keep drinking. We joke about sex, dress to attract sexual attention, look at naked people for sport, and give out sexual favors without even thinking twice.

When my dad revisited the issue of pornography from the pulpit last Sunday, he said that it “hollows out a man’s soul.” When a woman offers her body visually or physically to men (it’s our warped way of trying to feel valuable, beautiful, loved), it hollows out her soul, too.

Sexual sin deforms the heart and mind until what is bad and harmful seems good and normal. If there’s anything that’s sucking the life out of our generation, hollowing out our souls, it’s sexual perversion. I sat next to a table of teenagers at Redlands’ Gourmet Pizza Shoppe on Thursday night and listened as one of the girls asked a guy, “Would you dig a hot girl, I mean a really hot girl—if she used to be a guy?”

How did we get here?

It’s the Church’s fault. No, it’s my fault. For compromising in the little things. For laughing at the inappropriate joke because I was afraid to speak up and look prude. For watching that movie. For dressing and acting seductively. For allowing lust a home in my heart and mind. For wanting to be lusted after. For that second and third glance.

Proverbs 5:15-23 may be the most poignant Scripture passage on this topic:
“Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman? For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and He ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.”

Purity is definitely out of my reach. Except for the grace of God, the righteousness of Jesus, and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, I would have no hope of purity. My best efforts at holiness would look like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

Purity is such a precious gift. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” And because it is so very precious and valuable, the battle for it is perhaps the toughest we will ever fight. Especially for us singles. With no sexual outlet, and hormones and passions that are raging, we face very unique challenges in the midst of a sexually saturated culture.

But God is stronger and better and rewards His obedient children. (As my Uncle Bob said, “God is not a debtor.” He never owes us!) Just as Moses “was looking to the reward” and so “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt,” we too need to decide what is truly valuable and worth fighting for. Our world worships Sex. We worship Almighty God.

This week I’m praying for purity of heart, mind, and body. I’m praying I would “save seductive” for my future husband—and not let my springs overflow in the streets. I’m praying I would “shun evil” and “turn my eyes from worthless things.” Would you join me in these prayers? We’re all in this fight together, and we have a very powerful God who fights on our behalf and is forever for us! Let’s trust Him to do the impossible, to grant us grace and forgiveness in our sin and weakness, and to show Himself holy and good to a generation that desperately needs to see Him lived out in us.

“Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21

Friday, July 11, 2008

This World is not Conclusion.

This poem may make my Top 10. Amazing truths. Beautiful language. Emily Dickinson.

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond—
Invisible, as Music—
But positive, as Sound—
It beckons, and it baffles—
Philosophy—don't know—
And through a Riddle, at the last—
Sagacity, must go—
To guess it, puzzles scholars—
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown—
Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies—
Blushes, if any see—
Plucks at a twig of Evidence—
And asks a Vane, the way—
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit—
Strong Hallelujahs roll—
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer school started today and reminded me how much...

I love teaching.

I love making myself get up early, picking out a snappy outfit and accessories, sipping on my morning coffee, driving through downtown Redlands over the cobblestone streets, and walking the school halls before the silence is broken by chaos.

I love the early morning smell of the halls (by afternoon, the smell has taken a decided turn for the worst), opening my classroom door to the sight of the white board crammed with yesterday’s grammar lesson, and the student who drops by before class just to chat.

I love making eye contact with my students as they walk through the door, to remind them that they are the highlight of my day—the reason I teach.

I love bantering with the witty boys and crouching beside the shy girl’s desk to hear her repeat her soft-spoken question.

I love giving high-fives to Steve and huge hugs to the twins. I love it when my students tease me about my gallon of drinking water or my hideous drawings.

I love interrupting an English lesson for a heart-to-heart talk about divorce or gossip or relationships, or to boast in who God is and show Him off to kids who need Him desperately.

I love it when old students come back to visit, try to make the transition from “Miss Langley” to “Colleen,” or drive me in their car to get coffee and catch up.

I love using my passion for drama and singing and writing and speaking to communicate what can easily be very dry and lifeless language concepts to teenagers. I love it when a student grasps one of these concepts and uses it in everyday life.

Teaching was the farthest thing from my mind when I graduated from college. But a sovereign God changed my course and then graciously granted me unexpected pleasures in my work. (Yes, it’s tough as nails sometimes, but my frustrations and shortcomings are far outweighed by the joys and the knowledge that this is what I’m supposed to be doing!)

And now back to lesson planning for tomorrow…

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Because He loves to answer these requests!!

This is what I'm praying for myself, my dear friends and family this week... That we:

1. "may be filled with the knowledge of His will" (Colossians 1:9)

2. would "store up Your Word in our hearts that we might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11) and "be doers of the Word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22)

3. "love one another earnestly from a pure heart" (1 Peter 1:22)

4. "turn our eyes away from worthless things" (Psalm 119:37) and "shun evil" (Proverbs 3:7)

5. "fear the LORD your God, walk in all His ways, love Him, serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 10:12)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Knocking on the door of the brothel

"At [God's] right hand are pleasures forevermore" declares the Psalmist (in chapter 16). And tonight I return to a question I have to ask myself often: what "lesser pleasures" are ruining me for pleasures that last?

In Ravi Zacharias' devotional, A Slice of Infinity, Jill Carattini writes...

"We live in a world for which the pursuit of pleasure is the most celebrated passion, and yet, our own restlessness in the midst of this boundless pursuit testifies to the timeless truth Augustine once declared: God has made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. In his candid manner, G.K. Chesterton declared similarly, 'A man knocking on the door of the brothel is knocking for God.'

"That the Song of Songs is included in the canon of Scripture is an affirmation of the goodness of human love and pleasure. But, like all expressions, it too has limitations. Pleasure for pleasure's sake alone can become devoid of meaning. Boundless pleasure can in fact become binding. Yet in its given context, human love and pleasure can point us to the triune God who in his very being is the source of all love."

Am I bound to pursuing pleasure in anything besides God? Am I a slave to pleasing myself? O Lord, don't let us settle for less than You, cheat ourselves out of Your pleasures, or waste this life on cheap passions.

Turn our steps away from the brothel door and let us find forever-pleasures in Your presence tonight.