Monday, December 24, 2007

When your baby brother gets hitched, you should visit a mansion in your time of mourning.

This past Friday, my baby brother gots himself hitched to the now Rachael Baker.

There was much revelry and celebratory-type activities throughout the city (village) streets of Montreat and Black Mountain, North Carolina. For several days, I shared a cabin with Mom, Dad, Clay, 4 Grandparents, and My Aunt. Woo-wee! For several days, we all had to wait in line to pee.

After the revelry was waning, we all said, "Enough of mourning Sean and Rachael's departure into the sweet land of matrimony! We're going to take 8500 of our closest friends to party at the Biltmore Estate!" So that's what we did...visit the Vanderbilt mansion.

I have to say, the Biltmore Estate was pretty rad. 250 rooms, an indoor swimming pool and bowling alley, a 35-foot-tall Christmas tree, 30 some bedrooms and 40 some bathrooms. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Vanderbilts were worth 96 Billion Dollars in today's money, which was before there was income tax. A double Woo-wee to that!

It reminded me how vast the discrepency is between the rich and the poor. And you know what the crazy part is? To most of the world, we are closer to the Vanderbilts than we are to them. The fact that we're reading this on our computers is proof of that.

It's Christmas eve, and since there are now a few days to rest in between my brother's wedding and Clay's sister's wedding, I'd like to try my best to celebrate Christ-mas today and tomorrow. And I'd like to ask the Lord what he wants me to do with my wealth? Should I build a mansion? Should I give to the poor? Should I build a mansion for the poor to live in?

What does He have for us this week?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sweet Coffee Shop Respite on a Busy, Dreary Day

If you ever come to Black Mountain, North Carolina, you should have coffee at The Dripolator Coffee House. It's really great. In fact, even though I'm using free wi-fi in North Carolina, it feels like I'm using free wi-fi in Seattle somewhere. The skies are gray, I'm drinking an feels like a very abnormally normal day.

...oh, except my one and only baby brother is getting married today! And I'm in a city I've never been to before staying in a cabin with my entire extended family.

The Americano is making my day pretty great. Why is it that coffee and coffee shops are so therapeutic? I mean, I guess craving some nice tasting stimulants on a gray day is well not so thrilling, but why is it that I crave a spot like this when I need some alone time or some rest? I'm not exactly alone--there are 30 other people in the coffee shop. And I'm not exactly unplugged, since I'm sitting here on Clay's computer...

What is is about a coffee shop on a dreary day that feels so good?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Let's Ditch Christmas and Make a Christ-Month

Since Saturday, I have visited all of the following shops:

Kohl's * Best Buy * Sally Beauty Supply * Adara Hair Salon * Macy's * JC Penney's * Foot Locker * Cascade Mall Movie Theater * Quick Lube * Sunny Teriyaki * Knot Just Yarn * USPS * PWG Design * Padgett and Padgett CPA's * NAPA * Red Robin * Skagit State Bank

In that time, I've also gone to church twice. Once was for the choir's Christmas program on Friday, and once was for Sunday morning church. Something's out of balance there, right? If there is sin to be confessed about falling prey to the consumerism of Christmas, let me first confess that my heart is not where it should be.

Christmas is really what we've made, running errands, and preparing for cross-country plane flights. Let's just be's not really about Christ. This year it feels especially not about Christ because on top of the shopping, errands, and plane flights, are two weddings in two different states. Christmas just feels like it's getting in the way of all the other stuff I need to get done. That doesn't mean Christmas is about bad things; it's about family, loved ones, bringing them joy by giving them fantastic gifts we've worked so hard to find.... But it's not about Christ.

You know what would be really great...if we moved Christ's birthday to a month like February. People mostly stay indoors in February, and they're in the process of paying off the credit card, so there are no outings to be had. What if we changed February to Christ-month. We could easily move Black History Month to January, so it could culminate with Martin Luther King's Birthday. We could move President's Day to July 5th, since everybody usually takes an extra day off then anyways. And February could just be about Christ. We could still have Christmas in December, only, we could rename it per my friend Stuart's suggestion: MeMas.

What would Christ-month look like? Lots of worship services and corporate prayer. Maybe a morning and evening vesper service everyday. Maybe some fasting. (Woah--this brainstorm is starting to sound like Ramadan!) So--we wouldn't want it to be crazy legalistic, but we would want it to be holy.

And we could title it what it would be about:"Christ-month: Getting Back on Track." It would be a chance to reunite from the way we've strayed away from Christ throughout our pagan holiday celebrations, when we erect a golden Christmas tree in our living room and lay our gift offerings at its feet. Instead, during Christ-month, we would kneel humbly beside a tattered wooden cross and lay our lives down at Christ's feet.

I know I'm supposed to sacrifice daily, but would it be so bad to have one time a year to really get back on track? A realignment towards North? Maybe that's what Lent is supposed to be...that time of preparing ourselves to bring our own sacrifice to Christ in honor of the sacrifice he's made for us at Easter. Maybe I'm already thinking past Me-Mas and looking forward to Lent, knowing it will lead me back to Him.

Would you join me in celebrating Christ month?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

Are you familiar with the idea of green living?

A few months ago, I bought a book called The Virtuous Consumer because I desire to live as a good steward, but I wasn't exactly sure how to get started. Since I live 30 miles from my church and boyfriend, riding my bicycle everywhere is highly unlikely. (Also, I haven't had a bicycle since the days of my Bahama Mama 10-speed.) I chose this particular book because it didn't recommend I make a hut out of banana leaves and throw away all of my electronics--but it did recommend small changes, like buying local foods, buying low-impact makeup...stuff like this. So--if you're interested in knowing more about green living but aren't ready to go Vegan, read this book.

On the green scene, my brother and sister-in-law-to-be have started a green living blog. I'm excited that they're partners in the green scene...excited that they're hoping to buy a hybrid...well, and excited that they're getting married next week. Please read their blog if you're interested in the green scene....

And on that green note, a video for you:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pursuing your passions

I'm confident that we're better servants of Christ when we out of passion rather than obligation.

Take, for instance, my service with my local church. I think that for the last three years I've been volunteering more out of obligation than out of passion. What's the difference? If I'm serving out of passion, I'd be excited to serve; if I'm serving out of obligation, I'm excited when my schedule conflicts with my volunteer commitment. If I'm serving out of passion, I dream up new projects to drum up support and involvement; if I'm serving out of obligation, I refuse involvement in anything other than the bare minimum. If I'm serving out of passion, I go to as many of the events as I can and talk to others about it freely; if I'm serving out of obligation, I contribute enough to get by and talk about it with grimaces and groans.

Last night Clay and I were talking with Pastor Greg about our Spiritual Gifts, and my gifts are predominently in Discernment, Wisdom, Artistic Craftmanship (especially handicrafts), Leadership, Administration. They are not in Teaching, Pastoring, Mercy (as they are with Clay). It suddenly makes so much sense why I jump at the chance (oftentimes dropping my responsibility of the moment) to help Clay prepare a sermon or edit his parent newsletter or run a volunteer meeting while at the same time, I'll throw a fit when he asks me to teach Sunday School or fill in for a missing small group leader. The Discernment, Wisdom, Leadership, Craftsmanship, Administration is a natural part of who I am and the Teaching, Merciful, Pastoring side is painfully stressful.

The conversation with Greg and thinking about these gifts and thinking about my passions has renewed a desire to pursue these passions in the context of helping my local church become a church that I would love to be a part of. The exciting part is that there are two opportunities to do so:

  1. Yesterday, I was offered the opportunity to speak at Women's Retreat in February. I've been desiring speaking opportunities, but have not pursued them. I'm excited to invest the time, energy, and prayers into encouraging and challenging the women of our church...and I'm excited to introduce them to a Heather that they do not know...because the one that they know is "the youth girl."

  2. This morning, I talked to Pastor Greg about doing a showing of Amazing Grace at the church coupled with a presentation on modern-day Human Trafficking. He was excited about it, fully behind it, and told me to pick a day and time when we could schedule it. The purpose of it would be to educate our church body on the human trafficking that's going on around us (and worldwide) and compel some members of our congregation to join me in action. He pointed out this is particularly fitting with the Free Methodist church, which has its foundation rooted in abolitionist movements.

The point of sharing all of this is not just to tell you about my passions. Yes, I'm going to make a concerted effort in 2008 to be living out my passions in my daily actions...but I also want to invite you to join me.

New Year's is coming can make your resolution more than a self-centered, "fit into my old jeans" goal! What is the dream you totally desire to live out? What is it that you're passionate about that you can actually do something about in 2008?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Boycott the Golden Compass? Yes or No

So, there's a lot of hubbub going around in Christendom saying that I should actively boycott a movie I know very little about. In fact, the only reason I now know anything about The Golden Compass is because I receive emails saying I should boycott it...and there seem to be about 500 groups on Facebook dedicated to not supporting it.

I really hate jumping on an "anti-this or anti-that" bandwagon before I know anything other than something's "anti-God." It certainly is wise to check into things before tromping off with the whole family to see a film like Narnia only to discover you're closer to Dimension X. At the same time, it's also wise to know something about something before you start boycotting it.

I've never read the books...the trailer looks interesting enough...and I certainly am not worried I'll lose my Christianity by going to see it. I'm guessing I'll probably see it on DVD and I'll probably read the first books--if not the whole trilogy--at some point, because I like epic fantasy good vs. evil flicks...and it's a bit fascinating to think about watching a side of the story where good doesn't win...and think about what that would look like.

My question is why is it so many Christians' response to boycott something the minute they hear it may be anti-God? Is our God so small that He cannot overcome an anti-Him movie? And why is it okay to forward hate-mail about a movie you're never going to see based on a book you've never read? What's going on here?

Are you going to go see the movie? Why or why not.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I'm a Role Model!

In working with teens, you definitely invest a lot more in them than you receive back in encouragement.

Here's an encouragement for me, though. One of my students, Montana Cox, just participated in the Seattle Marathon and raised $2200 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I'm so proud of her! And guess who she says her role model is? Heather Baker!

You can read the article here: Super Kid: Montana Cox

Willow Creek Apologizes

So Willow Creek Church is definitely one of the most influential churches in America. In October, Bill Hybels, their pastor, comes out and says, "We made a mistake."

Apparently Willow Creek has built their ministry on making programs and measuring people's participation in programs. The assumption they operated under was that if people are active in Bible studies, weekly meetings, and other programs, then they're growing spiritually. A recent survey indicated this is not actually the case, and Willow Creek is now going to completely start over.

You can read about Bill Hybel's interview here.

My response to this is two-fold:

  1. I am so thankful that a Christian leader is able to confess to the church, "We made a mistake." It's so refreshing to have that kind of raw honesty and humility from an "influential church leader."

  2. I am glad to hear someone acknowledge that program attendance does not equal spiritual growth. There are so many churches out there running to keep up with the big guys and develop cool and attractive programs, that the church spends more time trying to keep people entertained involved than actually helping them develop a deeper relationship with Christ.
It challenges me to openly acknowledge my own weaknesses, because my confessions have the ability to minister to others. It also challenges me to be in immense prayer about the decisions I make in leadership--knowing that we can be boldly leading others down a less-than-ideal path.