Friday, September 30, 2011

Thankful Thursday #3

Ooops! I missed Thursday... where did this week go!?

Today, I'm thankful for grace.  Costly grace.

I am reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship (slowly but surely) and his words have challenged me to meditate on the cost of God's grace towards me.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he made himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (philippians 4:5-8)  [did you catch that or did you just read it?  Jesus Christ did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. in order that he might provide a way for ME to know God.  Wow]

grace is receiving something one does not deserve.  (not to be confused with mercy, which is NOT receiving what you DO deserve).

Bonhoeffer writes, "Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: 'my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'"

Redeemed at high cost.
Christ paid a debt he did not owe because I owed a debt I could not pay.

The thankfulness that wells up in my heart when I think about that - i mean, really think about it - it can't really be put into words and yet here i am trying.

Sometimes I just listen to this song.  and think. and usually cry.  and it feels good.  to think about the Lord and all he's done for me.  (p.s. it's not the best version, but that's youtube for ya)

Forever thankful,

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Good to Great in God's Eyes

Good to Great in God's Eyes by Chip Ingram, proposes that the human desire for greatness is God-given, that God designed us to want greatness.  People want to be great professionals, careers, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, athletes, scholars, artists, musicians, etc...  Chip writes, "But when  ask believers if they watn to be great Christians, they seem to be afraid to answer the question.  They become unassuming and deferential, concerned that an ambition to be great in this most important aspect of life would seem arrogant.  Yet what's the alternative?  Should we aspire to be mediocre Christians?  Is it prideful to want to honor God with lives of great faith and excellent work?  Even after spending 3 years with Jesus, the disciples didn't seem to think so.  They argued about which of them was the greatest, and though Jesus had to redefine greatness for them, he didn't tell them they were being unspiritual or arrogant because of their...desire to be great.  Instead he laid out a clear but counterintuitive pathway that 11 of the 12 eventually fulfilled.  And their greatness, as they followed that pathway, turned the world upside down in less than a century."

Ingram goes on to suggest God loves it when his people achieve greatness for God's glory and that our purpose of glorifying God "isn't served well by mediocrity." 

He clarifies that "great" Christians aren't more loved by God and that great works have nothing to do with salvation.  "These principles are, however, an opportunity to fulfill the highest and best purposes God has for your life.  Great athletes don't spend years practicing because they have to; they do it because they have a dream.  Christians who want to live the average Christian life can do so almost by default.  None of the practices in this book are required for that.  But those who dream of eternal impact in the kingdom of God, who envision crossing the finish line as one of God's great saints, are motivated to do whatever it takes to be used powerfully by God... If the honest desire of your heart is to stand before God one day and, like Jesus, tell him, "I have brought you glory here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4), these 10 practices will make a huge difference in your life."

The chapters are set up to work well with small group discussion, although I read it on my own and really gained a lot from it.  If you read it, let me know what you think!

Desiring greatness for God's glory,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Photography Class

I've kinda always liked taking pictures and I really enjoy scrapbooking -  not because i feel like I should document stuff, but I just really like putting all those pages together.  Remembering fun moments. with people I love.

anywho, our church was offering a 4 week intro photography class so I decided to borrow my parents old fancy schmancy camera and learn how to use it since none of us really know how.

after the 1st class last week, I was sold.  There are so many cool things this camera can do and I had no idea.

So during week one, we learned about "metering modes."  (after going around the room and introducing all 50 people... ay ay ay).  But these "metering modes",  from what I understood control the amount of light that the camera picks up in the scene.  Like I said, there are 50 or more people in this class and everyone had different cameras of course.  So I kinda sorta found my metering mode instructions but really had no idea how to change them.  And never really figured it out.  which you will see from my pictures.  yikes!

Our assignment was to take a picture of someone who is backlit.  You know, when the sun is behind people and it messes up the picture.  There's a way to fix that with these secret metering modes. How exciting!  But like I said, I couldn't really figure it out on my camera.  The thing I thought was changing these metering modes did not fix the picture.  In fact, it created pictures like this.

yeah. like i said... yikes!

But I took a bunch of pics anyway.  And I found a secret dial that did change some sort of number on the viewfinder, which changed the lighting in some way because I got all these different pictures... (standing in the same spot at the same time for about 5 or 10 minutes)

And the one that I think is lit the best (but still not great)...

isn't my subject a hottie?

conclusion: I intellectually comprehend what the camera would do if I could figure out how to change these secret metering modes.  But alas, I have no clue how to do that.  Also, I'm pretty sure if I left my camera in "auto" it would have done a better job.

i think i have earned myself a D- for this week.

tomorrow, perhaps I will find out where to find the secret metering buttons!?

Philosophy of Biblical View of Immigration

Ben and I are taking a new-people intro class to the church we've started attending in Lincoln.  They gave us a booklet that has several ministry philosophies written by the church elders.  (i.e. philosophy of leadership, ministry to the poor, children's ministry, discipleship, Biblical instruction, service, worship, etc...)  We didn't really discuss it in class, but it was given as extra info if we wanted to read it.  Both Ben and I found their "Philosophy of Biblical View of Immigration" particularly helpful, especially since it's such a hot-button issue right now.  So, here it is... word for word.  If you don't have a Bible on hand, google the references to read the short passages while reading this not-so-short article.  The scripture references they've included are helpful!  (Italics emphasis throughout is mine)  I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on this philosophy!

"The establishment of La Iglesia Berea, the Latino ministry of Lincoln Berean Church, and LBC's involvement in helping establish ethnic churches in the state of Nebraska, raises several important issues, not least of which is the debate over undocumented immigration, in purely political terms.  When questions surrounding immigration arise, one tends to adopt the stance of one's own political party.  Christians need to think differently.  Our default position on matters of immigration should not be those of our political party of choice.  We are required first and foremost to respond to immigration issues from a perspective shaped by biblical principles rather than the current political rhetoric which is often based in misinformation, fear, and self-interest.  In cases of conflict between any particular political perspective and a biblical perspective, the biblical perspective must override one's political allegiance.

A number of biblical principles and themes guide the Christian's understanding of how one should respond to the issue of immigration.  First, immigrants of image-bearers of God and objects of God's love.  As image-bearers, immigrants posses both inestimable worth and full moral status, and thus, are to be treated accordingly.  How we treat those, including immigrants, who image God, is an indication of what we think about God.  Their immigrant status (whether legal or illegal) neither diminishes their image-bearing nor the degree to which God loves them.  They are our equals.

Second, the Bible is filled with stories of people who were outsiders and foreigners whether exiles, refugees, or immigrants.  The nation of Israel itself lived in foreign lands (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, etc...) and suffered abuse at the hands of the host nations.  The stories of Joseph, Ruth, Daniel, Esther, and others portray the difficulties of living in a strange land.  Many forget that Jesus was an immigrant for a time in Egypt with his family (Matthew 2).  The Christians to whom Peter writes (1 & 2 Peter) were displaced people not only spiritually, but socially and politically as well.  The Christian experience is also depicted in scripture as a story of being a foreigner and outcast in this present world with all the accompanying dangers Hebrews 11:13, 1 Peter 1:17, 2:11).  The immigrant's story is our story and Christians should be in the best position to identify and sympathize with their plight.  Part of the reason God requires his people to care for the foreigner is because that was their experience (i.e. Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:33-34).

Third, God repeatedly issues commands to his people to care for and love the foreigner, outcast, oppressed, and marginalized.  God's covenant with Israel required them to treat the foreigners and strangers among them as one of their own and to care for them (Leviticus 19:33-34, Deuteronomy 10:18-19; 14:28-29; 24:14, 19-21; 26:12-13).  The prophets frequently warned Israel of coming judgment for not honoring this requirement (i.e. Amos, Micah).  Under the new covenant [new testament] it is not different.  Jesus (re)issued the obligation to love God and our neighbor with our whole being (Matthew 22:34-40).  In Jesus' explanation of who our neighbor is, he used an example of an outcast (Luke 10:25-37).  Beyond our general responsibility to show love, compassion, and care for all the marginalized among us, the Christian is given a special responsibility to care for fellow Christians (Romans 12:9-13; Galatians 6:9-10).  Many, many immigrants we encounter today are followers of Jesus and part of the family of God to which we belong.  We, the church, are responsible for their welfare.  One of the indications that we are followers of Jesus is our love for others who likewise follow Jesus (John 13:24-25; 1 John 1:3-11).

Fourth, the consistent biblical teaching on love and justice focuses on others and not me.  The love that God expressed toward us and that we in turn are to express toward others is one that seeks the best interest of the other person (Philippians 2:3-4).  Moreover, at the heart of the biblical concept of justice is the idea that justice is accomplished when we disadvantage ourselves for the advantage of the community, particularly the least well off.  Justice is not solely making sure my rights are protected or someone gets what they deserve for breaking the law (though those have their place). Justice is done when we sacrifice for the least well off.  Consider God's justice in disadvantaging himself (the Incarnation) for the advantage of all of us who are desperately needy people (Philippians 2:5-8).  We may be most like God when we bring about justice.  Putting aside our "rights," resources, and privileges to aid those in need, including immigrants, is what God calls "good" and what he requires from his people (Micah 6:8).

Fifth, Christians are to be good citizens and honor their governing authorities and respect their laws (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).  Jesus modeled this for us (e.g., Mark 12:13-17).  But, this does not require blind adherence to any law passed on by governing authorities.  Laws that go counter to God's commands, principles, and values are not binding upon Christians (cf. Acts 4:8-20; 5:27-28).  Certainly laws requiring violation of one's commitment to follow Jesus do not have force upon the Christian.  Christians must give serious thought to whether and what extent current immigration laws are unjust, and whether they require Christians to act and support actions that are contrary to God's desires as to how we are to treat immigrants.  We must recognize that the church and the government have two different missions.  The mission of the church is to announce the Gospel of the Kingdom to all people and work for God's Kingdom making disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).  There are no boundaries or preferred groups of people.  The mission is global and the final authority is God's rule.  The aim of the state is to look after its own citizens ensuring their protection and well-being through legal, economic, military and institutional means.  The mission is local, or national, and the final authority lies with the agreed upon laws of the state and those who enforce them.  While ideally the two missions should work together, this is unlikely in a fallen world.  Though we respect the state and its mission, in cases of conflict between its aims and the church's, the Christian must give allegiance to the mission of the church.  For example, if the state or national government passes a law requiring churches to report undocumented immigrants in the midst or lose their tax exempt status, the church should not obey that law, but continue to carry out its divine-given mission of welcoming, loving, ministering to, and supporting those undocumented immigrants in its midst. 

It is through this biblical grid that the church as a whole and Christians individually must consider how to respond to immigrants and the immigration issues that confront us.  The church is called to treat immigrants (image-bearers of God living in very difficult circumstances) with love, compassion, mercy, and justice exactly as God has treated us, and because as "strangers in this land" we can identify with their plight.  We are to look after their best interests.  The church also has a special responsibility to those immigrants who are of the "household of faith" to use its resources to care for them.  They are part of our family and fellow co-heirs with Jesus."

Seeking God's heart for immigrants,

Saturday, September 24, 2011

random thoughts

1. I've been measuring the time by Husker games.  Last week - Washington.  This week - Wyoming.  Next weekend - Wisconsin.  I live in Nebraska.

2. 2 no-shows to piano lessons this week.  1 was a miscommunication.  The other... still haven't heard from him.  Calling someone after they don't show is super awkward.  "uh. hi.  i thought we had scheduled for you to come at 3:00 yesterday?"  I usually say "I thought" because sometimes i'm wrong :) like when I called the lady who I thought didn't show. and she clearly told me she would be in Missouri and we'd start the next week.  ay ay ay embarrassing.  I've thought about calling people to remind them about their lessons at first. but I'm not their moms so i decided against it.  Dilemma - both of yesterday's no-shows came for a free trial lesson, took new books, and scheduled a 2nd lesson to come back.  They'd pay for the books and rest of the month's lessons at the 2nd lesson, which they didn't show up to.  wah wah.  this system has yet to screw me - usually people just forgot and show up the following week after i call. with $ in hand.

3.  My piano studio has some diversity.  Ages 4-69 and everything between.  I have a couple non-white students.  Also, big families, small families, Jehovah's witness family, rich old ladies, families on tight budgets who are SACRIFICING to give their kids piano lessons.  I admire that.  both my parents and my husband's parents sacrificed to give kids piano lessons in times of financial hardship.  it's worth it.  always.  i will never change my mind about that.  find the $20 every week and make it happen.  [stepping off my soapbox]

4. I finally finished Good to Great in God's Eyes by Chip Ingram.  I had put it on the backburner for a few weeks, but it was so good.  Read it!  Determine to be a GREAT Christian, not just a mediocre one.

5. I read this article about the gender-inclusive NIV Bible.  Didn't even know there was such a thing.  Personally, I think it's ridiculous.  Spending that much time and $ to publish a translation of the Bible that changes the words around to make girls feel better about the fact that most of the pronouns are "he."  come on now.  Plus, it's a little like saying, "God I know you are God and inspired the Scriptures to be holy, living, and active, but you are out of touch with the 21st century, so we need to help your Word by changing the 'his' to 'theirs.' Hope you don't mind."  It just seems like if the God of the universe inspired the author to say "he" or "brethren" we can just jump on board and understand it universally applies to people.   good gracious.

6.  Some of the things people feel free to write in blog world have the jaw-dropping shock effect on me.  For example, people will get into heated "discussions" by commenting back and forth.  on the internet.  i think, you would never say that in person.

7.  i habitually lock my car... after i park it... in the garage... that is attached to my house... and opens automatically from the inside only.  what can i say?  city girl.

Feeling random today.  hope you don't mind!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cheap Food!

A recent endeavor of mine is seeing how cheap we can eat while still eating food we like.  i.e. I know we could eat for about $5.00/ week if we ate pasta w/ jarred spaghetti sauce every day.  But let's face it, that is not going to happen any time soon.

Mission: eat a variety of meals, try new recipes, bake snacks for students, and still keep it in our budget.  our tight budget.  

Added challenge: I am usually teaching from 3:30ish until 6:30 or 7:30.  We share one car so I go pick Ben up from school when I'm done w/ lessons and then we head back home for dinner.  It's 7:30 or 8 by that time... so the other part of this mission is finding food that can be prepped ahead of time i.e. when I have time to make it in the morning.  (and I'm definitely not complaining about this at all.  we like our schedule and our 1 car.  just learning to adjust cooking accordingly.)

Things I'm trying/ learning:

1.  I make my menu plan for the week (or for 2 weeks) based off of the Hyvee (grocery store) 3 day specials & get everything else at Walmart.  if chicken is on sale, we eat something with chicken.  if beef is on sale, beef it is.   Usually more than one main meal ingredient is on sale.  I plan what I'm making around that & use similar ingredients across the board.  This doesn't take as much time/ planning as I thought it might. 
2.  Walmart brand is usually cheaper - even when I have a coupon for the regular brand.  The only things we are particularly choosy about are cereal, orange juice, butter substitute, toilet paper, and probably some others that I can't think of right now.  Everything else, we get generic.  And all those things, I buy only with coupons.
3. Stack manufacturer coupon with store coupon with sale.  Bingo!  This doesn't happen very often and I don't spend a ton of time couponing, but when it does, I feel great :) 
4.  buying fruits and veggies that are in season is cheaper than, for example, trying to get pineapple and watermelon in January in the midwest.  it is what it is. 5  frozen fruit for smoothies goes a long way - snack, breakfast, or lunch!
6. yogurt in big container instead of little ones.
7. i am trying to snack on the fruits and veggies that are in season rather than junk food.  junk food is SO expensive.  seriously $3 for a bag of chips or 33 cents/ lb of bananas.
8. Leftovers. [happy sigh]  Ben eats leftovers almost every day for lunch so we don't buy a lot of lunch food (deli meat, bread, etc...)
9. Soups go along way on the budget :)
10.  I try to make things that call for ingredients we already have around - like marinaded chicken with oil, vinegar, herbs, or cheese, eggs, etc...
11.  i try not to make another trip until we are out of food. seriously.  we go through all the pasta before I go back to the store.  Some people buy in bulk on the sales.  For just the 2 of us, I've found that it makes more sense to only buy the things on my list for that week's meals and eat until it's all gone.  If I plan for 5 days of meals, but we end up getting dinner with friends one night and eating a frozen pizza, then we just keep using what we have until it runs out.  i think this saves us a lot of money.  although i can see how this strategy might change with little ones around.  [also i think we waste less food this way]
12. some meals are cheaper than others. and we don't go over in food budget for the month.  so sometimes we eat tuna casserole, spaghetti, or pancakes.  :)
13. we don't keep a lot of fun drinks around.  wah wah.  i love fun drinks - juices, teas, coffees, sodas, all of it!  Ben likes pop too!  but we just don't really buy it.  Lemonade on sale in the summer and OJ.  other than that, it's just coffee and water around here.  And the cheap maxwell house coffee that comes in a big container on sale for $8. Not the 1lb of dunkin donuts coffee that is $10/bag.  little changes go a long way.
14. we pay cash for food.  as I count it out at the register, I am very aware of how much we are spending on food, and how much we are able to spend on food... and how big of a difference a couple bags of chips and a couple 12-packs of soda makes.
15. Don't eat out.  We are minimizing the amount we eat out.  i.e. PB & J with an apple on the go when we're rushing out the door to small group instead of fast food.  Peanut butter = $3.  Jam = $3.  Bread =$3.  PB&J lasts about 3 months around here... those containers are huge!  Bread every other week at most.  So, $24 for 3 months of PB & J on thursday nights or $12 minimum for a stop at Jimmy Johns. The math is easy.  The discipline is NOT!  This is new for us and we are not even close to mastering it... just working on it one week at a time. 

not sure why I felt the need to share all this.  sometimes it helps me to organize my thoughts by just getting them out on "paper"... or on keyboard.  also, i think cutting $50 a month from groceries is $600 a year.  and most people in the circles I run with could use the extra $600.  

happy shopping and happy SAVINGS!!


Thankful Thursday #2

overwhelmed with thankfulness.  that is my heart's emotion lately. 

Today I'm thankful for a small group.  When we first got married and started going to The Moody Church in Chicago, we joined a young couple's small group that was really wonderful.  It was fun to meet other young newlyweds and get some advice from people who had been married more than 3 months.  It was fun to make new friends together.  When we decided to move to Lincoln, we prayed & believed God would lead us to a great new small group - a group of young couples to challenge each other spiritually, have fun with, hang out with, enjoy new seasons of life with.  We visited a small group last week and REALLY enjoyed it.  So, back again we go today.  We both think it's the group for us.  Friendly, welcoming couples.  People we have things in common with and differences to keep things interesting.  6 other couples who love Jesus and seem fun!  guess we'll find out.   we're going back tonight :)


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Random Link Fun

I am not informed enough to post links to cool things on the internet consistently, but these are some things I've found that I  thought might be interesting to others...

Study the Bible more effectively with these tips.  (It's geared to preachers but applicable to all us non-preaching-lovers-of-God's-Word too.)

Flying on 9/1//2011  Woman racially profiled

What to do with kids and technology in this generation? (nope- not having a kid yet :) but we were just talking about this topic in our small group) technology and kids

I'm considering ordering this to create a fun, efficient calendar!  Plus it's pretty 

Pretty Fall Decor #1

Pretty Fall Decor #2

Happy web-surfing!  [remember when people called it that? i'm bringing it back] ;)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pumpkin Goodness

Fall is here.  Woohoo!! My favorite.  Actually summer and fall are tied.  But, there is something refreshing about the first day that the morning air is chilly and smells like fall after a hot humid midwestern summer.  (no complaints)

Obviously with fall come pumpkins.  Pumpkins & Fall.  Fall & Pumpkins.

[insert Greece finale: they go together like rama lama lama
ke ding a de dinga a dong
remembered for ever like
shoo bop shoo wadda wadda
yipitty boom de boom
Chang chang chang-it-ty chang shoo-bop
That's the way it should be
Wha oooh yeah!]

Well you get the picture.

Anyway, I like pumpkins.  I like that you can get them in all shapes and sizes. I like that it's acceptable to decorate them. I like that there is squirrel repellent for them.  I like that you can make tasty things like pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread and pumpkin cookies and pumpkin cupcakes and pumpkin chicken.  Oh wait.  too far.  pumpkin chicken would be gross.

Now that we've established pumpkins are great... and now that you're craving something that tastes of pumpkin-y goodness, let me share a GREAT recipe for pumpkin bread.  Seriously, this one is really good. Like everyone at small group loved it  AND I had it for breakfast. and lunch. AND it makes 2 loaves.  More for everybody :)

It's from my all-time favorite cookbook

They have a lot of editions of this good old "Red Plaid Cook Book" and I don't really use all the bridal-y things out of here.  But if this cookbook isn't in your kitchen, stop reading and go get it.  Then come back and read about this pumpkin bread.  No recipe I have ever tried from here went wrong.  And they have EVERY normal, basic recipe you'll ever want to try.

To the point. to the point.

Pumpkin Bread
prep: 20 minutes     bake: 55 minutes     oven: 350    Makes: 2 loaves

3 c. sugar
1 c. cooking oil
4 eggs
3 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
2/3 c. water
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
[I add 1 11-ounce bag of chocolate chips.  DELICIOUS. Seriously, you should too.]

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Grease the bottom and 1/2 in. up the sides of two 9x5x3-inch, OR three 8x4x2-inch, OR four 7.5x3.5x2-inch loaf pans. Set aside. [I only have one pan.  So I just did one at a time.  time consuming and inconvenient but not a big deal.  note to self - get 2nd loaf pan.]

2. In an extra-large mixing bowl, beat sugar and oil with electric mixer on medium speed.  Add eggs and beat well; set sugar mixture aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Alternately add flour mixture, and the water to the sugar mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.  Beat in pumpkin.  Spoon batter into prepared pans.

4. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean.  [I did like 45-50 but I have an electric oven... I always fear overcooking baked goods.  No one likes overcooked bread.  Too dry.  They may pretend so they don't hurt your feelings. But they don't.  And we know it.]  Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans.  Cool completely on wire racks.  Wrap and store overnight before slicing.  [not sure why it says that?  I served it 2 hours later...]

mmmm. mmm. chocolate chip pumpkin bread.
Not sure why it has a weird dip in the middle... the other loaf didn't do that.
oh, and that fun red serving plate came from the Crate & Barrel outlet on North Ave. in Chicago... $7.99.  [sigh]  I miss that outlet.  But my wallet is glad I moved far away from it.  

Happy pumpkin season!!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

God at Work

Our culture today is seemingly a disaster.  It seems messy.  And it is.  And it would be easy, in the midst of the real problems we are experiencing today, to think that Christianity is dying.  That secular lifestyles or radical Islam is winning.  But the t.r.u.t.h. is, well, we know the ending.  

"God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place, and gave him the name that is above every name.  That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."  (Phil. 2:9-10)  

That's the end.  Everyone will bow and confess that Jesus is Lord.  Whether we want to or not.

BUT... sometimes, we look around and feel discouraged.  A sickness in the family, a relational problem, a job we don't like, lonliness, hurt, on and on.  And those things are real.  And then, there are the hot-button social issues: gay rights, abortion, religious freedom, on and on and on.

And, so here we are.  Wondering if, in fact, Christianity is dying, because sometimes we don't see the results.   

I would argue that Christianity is spreading like never before.  
Real Christianity where Jesus is Savior and He changes lives.
When we who were once lost, become found. 
And we can see it if we choose to. 
Or we can jump on the woe-to-this-generation-it-all-sucks train. 
We can choose to get involved and be part of the spreading. 
Or we can hide inside our basements and hope that we make it to the end.  

God is at work.  Like never before. Can you see it...

...In Anaheim, California (and around the U.S.)

...In India

...In the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the founding members of Hamas.  (You should read this book.  No, seriously.)

In the Middle East. Suburban Chicago  (gotta click for that one)

and in my new home, Lincoln, Nebraska

Find ways God is at work in your community and around the world.  Then, join.  Jump in.  Find a way to be a part of His Work.  Right where you are.  That has been God's challenge to me lately.  So, here we go....

Thankful Thursday #1

I feel so thankful lately.  The pastor of the church I grew up in would preach "gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for living."  Think about it.

I thought about doing a "thankful" post every day... my dear friend Kristen did that last year around the time of Thanksgiving :) I wasn't sure I could commit to post every day.  So Thankful-Thursdays it is.

Today I'm thankful for God's abundant abundant provision of private students.  We moved here about 5 weeks ago.  I have 26 students coming to lessons this week and only a couple of those are trials.  Of everyone who has done a "trial" lesson, only 2 have not stayed on in my studio.  Wow.  Can I say it again?  Wow.  Seriously, right before we moved to Lincoln, someone told me that I would have difficulty finding students - specifically that I would probably be able to get about 10 students over the course of a year.  That it's hard to build a studio.  This advice was well intentioned, of course, just realistic.  But God is bigger than realistic.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us..." Ephesians 3:20

Immeasurably more than I imagine? check.

I really believe God gave me the desire to teach private lessons this year.  It's different from my heart's desire in the past.  But He is using it to meet our needs and go above and beyond.  Who knows what He's preparing us for?!? (Only He does.)


Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Last weekend, we got this dining room table.  On craigslist....

for $140.  We had been looking at similar tables and they were running $300 or so new.  And this one is sturdier than some that we looked at.  The guy told us it was almost brand new and barely used.  Sometimes ads say that and it's NOT true... but this one looks brand new and has almost no scratches :) hip hip hooray for us.  I love a good deal... especially a good deal on something we need/want/were already planning to purchase.

So, in lieu of my recent craigslist success, I have been re-inspired to keep an out on craigslist for a good couch.  Probably we will just buy one new.  Couches are tricky to find used at a good deal- smells, stains, etc...  And the good ones go fast.  Plus they're a hassle to haul.  Anyway, while browsing craigslist, I came across this couch ad:

Ashley 3 piece set - $20 (Omaha)

Date: 2011-09-13, 2:50PM CDT
Reply to: see below [Errors when replying to ads?]

I have a 3 piece ashley retro style couch set.It has couch loveseat and ottoman.Its dirty needs cleaned.It was in a smoking enviroment and there are a few burn holes.They are still comfortable.They are a red fabric material and have chrome legs.Im only asking $20 considering the condition.Structurally still good and once cleaned they will be nice or throw a sheet over.All three pieces $20 Firm.If you can pickup and have cash Call me 402-612-2198 NO TEXTS These are not perfect so dont think you are getting perfect.They are dirty and have some burn holes but structually good.I dont have pictures.You haul I will remove once sold Thanks

What do you think?  Should I go for it? ;)


In other random news, I was chit-chatting with my bro on g-chat yesterday afternoon.  To catch you up, he just moved to Palo Alto, California to start at Stanford - working towards a phd in engineering physics, more specifically the mini-field of "fluid dynamics."  The "quotes" are because I don't really know what it means. :)  If you'd like to read me bragging about Brian in a previous blog post, you may click here.  [What can I say? I'm a proud older sister... Plus he's probably the closest chance I'll ever have to knowing someone who will likely earn some sort of science prize or invent something really cool.]  Perhaps you'll find this conversation amusing.  

 me:  what project did you pick?
 brianpierce1010:  ahh yes
 brianpierce1010:  well for projects, my choices were 1) super hydrophobic surfaces research (something w/ navy), 2) flat plate boundary layer transition from laminar to turbulent flow, and 3) application of a new numerical method to Poissons equation.  I am pretty sure I am going to go w/ number 3
 me:  that's what i would have suggested
 brianpierce1010:  even though 1 probably sounds coolets in terms of the name
the actual work...not so much
 me:  and in terms of the the navy.  so number 3 will be the most interesting?
 brianpierce1010:  #3 is great though, cause if its successful, it could really save like everyone in the lab lots of simulation time
 me:  of course! what does that mean? like what will you do?
 brianpierce1010:  so like, a professor here came up w/ a new method for solving systems and i'll be trying to see if it can be applied to a common problem
u remember systems of equations? from like jr high, where u have maybe 2 equations, and two variables?
like, 2x + 4y = 6
and 3x + 2y = 4
something like that
 me:  oh yeah i know that.  i could totally be an engineer...
 brianpierce1010:  haha exactly  so to summarize, that is a 2x2 system (you don't count the 6 and 4)  its all abou twhats on the left hand side of the =
 me:  right... and you would be working with like 100 x 100 systems?
 brianpierce1010:  lol, that would be small
maybe like 10000x10000
maybe 1000x1000
something along those lines
and then u solve like 1000 of them
 me:  LOL  i was trying to exaggerate wtih 100
 brianpierce1010:  and so what computers all do now is use "Gaussian Elimination" which says you can solve it in about n^3 operations, but if n=10000, then n^3 is huge
 me:  woah. you lost me.

For the record, I did go on to have a fraction of understanding. but blah blah blah.


I had the cutest piano student yesterday. She's 5 and smart.  From the first lesson, we learn a song by rote using the rhythm-words "pepperoni pizza" to play this rhythm:  (kids love this.  it mostly is for their finger technique/ hand position development)


So this little tyke is singing at the top of her lungs "PEPPERONI PIZZA- PEPPERONI PIZZA" while she plays her notes.  So cute.  Almost in tune.  :) 
Then, she looks over and giggles when she's done.  She loves the piano.  I wanted to video tape her singing, but decided that'd be creepy. Borderline pedifile since this is only her 3rd lesson with me.  Maybe once mom knows for sure I'm not a weirdo.  [or maybe the jury's still out on that... ;)]


I'm going to work on blogging more regularly.  I enjoy it.  it's like journaling kinda.  but public.  so kinda not. 


p.s. did you check out this post about my amazing husband running the Chicago Marathon???  you should.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011


The first church I have memories of attending is Our Saviour Evangelical Free Church in Wheeling.  I remember AWANA and VBS mostly - one time they had a giant whale made from garbage bags and fans were inside blowing it up.  We sat inside and learned about Jonah.  And I remember Mrs. Dondit.  She was the pastor's wife and she was also my piano teacher... for 12 years.  She set my foundation for learning music and inspired me to do it as a career.  She loved Jesus and others, seemingly unconditionally.  She was so patient and SO creative.  Beyond creative.  In high school, I remember thinking, if I could be half the woman she is, I'd be pretty well off. 

Then, when I was in 3rd grade, we started going to Harvest Bible Chapel.  My dad had driven by this big warehouse with a neon blue sign, which was the only reason you'd ever know it was a church.  He wanted to visit.  My mom said, no I've heard of that place. It's a holy roller church.  He found out they had AWANA (which is a Bible-teaching kids program that only puts their program in churches who agree with their doctrinal statements) and so she said fine we can visit.  My parents still go to that church. 

At a Harvest junior high winter retreat, I accepted Jesus and REALLY understood what it meant.  At Harvest, I got baptized.  At Harvest, I had amazing junior high and high school mentors who patiently taught me what it looked like to love Jesus.  They unconditionally loved me, regardless of the stupid choices I made at times.  At Harvest, I met some of my closest life-long friends.  At Harvest, I sat under the careful teaching and exhortation of God's Word week after week...after month after month... after year after year.  At Harvest, I learned what it meant to follow after Jesus with my whole life and whole heart and not just my sunday-church-time.  God's work through the people at Harvest set the course for my life. 

After going to Harvest for about 13 years, I got married and we moved to the city.  After about a year, we moved to Nebraska (as you know well if you've been reading this little blog for any amount of time).  As soon as we knew we were going to relocate, we started praying to find a church in Lincoln.  A church that would be home - that would first and foremost preach the word of God boldly and unapologetically.  A church that would challenge us to grow spiritually and provide opportunities for service and worship and connecting with other believers. 

God answered that prayer.  Almost as soon as we moved here, we visited Lincoln Berean Church.  The first message "had us at hello."  We learned that the pastor had spent 15 summers teaching through the book of Psalms.  Each week, he'd teach a new Psalm.  10 Psalms per summer (not necessarily in order) for 15 summers.  We were there on the 150th Sunday, where he was teaching the last Psalm yet to be studied - Psalm 137.  The last verse of Psalm 137 reads "O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us - he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks."  You can see why he said many pastors pray for the rapture the week before they teach this one :)  But, by God's grace and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, he shed light on the meaning of this Psalm, one that I might have just skipped over because I didn't understand.  Curious?  You can listen to it for free here!

All that Psalm 137 explanation to say, both Ben and I were hooked.  We both felt inside that this could be the church we prayed for.  We quickly joined the new-people-intro-class to learn more about the church's ministries, doctrine, etc... 

So here we are.  We've gone to Lincoln Berean for 4 weeks.  We're going to visit a young married couples small group on Thursday.  The Lord led us to meet a one of the pastors on staff, who we really connected with.  And get this- his wife is a private piano and voice teacher and works with the choirs at church!  What a great connection :)

We think this is the church for us here in Lincoln.  God's Word is taught, Jesus is worshipped, and I have to say, the people are pretty darn friendly.  And yet, sometimes, I find myself secretly nostalgic for Harvest.  I've thought a lot about this - why can't I just "get over it?" Why can't I just like this new church 100% and not compare it? 

My super-wise husband suggested that maybe it's more than church style, preaching, or worship music.  Maybe it's the fact that I gave my life to the Lord at Harvest.  Maybe it's the fact that most of my spiritual journey - the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows, the times of rejoicing and the times of mourning - most of those times have been right in that warehouse off of Highway 53 and Rohlwing Road.  The Lord has met me there time and again.  His Spirit has instructed me, corrected me, and given me insight through the preaching.  His Spirit has touched me as I worshiped Jesus wholeheartedly weekend after weekend, right in that warehouse.  God gave me the passion to minister to and love high schoolers in that warehouse. And some of my dearest friends are there - right in that warehouse.  I'm talking about the friends that know you inside and out.  The ones you can pour your heart out to.  The ones that you have served God alongside.  The ones who inspire you to live more passionately for Jesus.

So I'm grateful to have found Lincoln Berean.  More than I can say in this already-long blog post, God is doing a mighty work in this community through that church.  And I am excited to jump on board!  But, for now, I also have a part of my heart in that warehouse near Chicago.  Sometimes I wonder if a small piece of my heart will always be there, or if it will move over somewhere else?  I'm not sure. 

One thing I'm sure of - the same God that I came to know over 13 years in that Chicago warehouse church, He is the same God I'm worshiping here in Lincoln.  He's the same God believers all over the world are serving.  He's the same God that Paul, Joseph, Abraham, Mary, Ruth, Esther, Moses, and Adam worshiped.  He is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8)

Worshiping the One and Only King (from Nebraska),\


Monday, September 12, 2011

Ben is running the Chicago Marathon!

This post is in honor of my fabulous husband, Ben.  (If you're unfamiliar with blog world, click on the light blue words below to go to another website.)

About a year ago, while we were living in Chicago, we started attending The Moody Church.  We loved it there!  One of the first weekends we were visiting, some people got up and talked about how great it was to run the Chicago Marathon with a group of people from Moody.  They talked about training and asked people to come out and cheer them on, as well as support the team.  Many were first-time marathon runners, and they shared different reasons for choosing to take the plunge.  Ben leaned over and whispered to me, "I think I wanna do that next year..."

Well here we are.  Next year.  And the marathon is in 26 days.  October 9.  And yep, you guessed it, Ben's running :)  Yay Ben!  

SO, we will head back to Chi-town that weekend and Ben will run with a team from Moody to raise support for World Vision.  According to their website, "World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice."  Ben could have signed up to run the marathon solo and still achieved his personal marathon goal.  However, we really believe World Vision is doing a great work in Africa, and we want to support their organization.  They're not only working at a great cause, but they're doing it well!

Ben's goal is to raise $50.00 per mile (BEFORE running the race) for a total of $1310.00.  Would you consider contributing?  Whether you contribute $.10, $10 or $100, your gift is helpful and appreciated.

World Vision sent us this video to show us (and others who are interested) where all the money is going anyway.

World Vision gives Ben a handy-dandy marathon website to keep track of donations and give donors more information.  To donate and/or learn more about World Vision, click here!

Last but not least, a little side story.  The Moody Church (TMC) happens to be located right on the marathon route through the city.  If you don't live in Chicago, trust me when I say the marathon is a crazy day.  You can forget taking public transportation anywhere.  It's super cool to see boatloads of people running down Lake Shore Drive and North Ave.  BUT, it's crazy.  For a long time, TMC tried to still have services as normal on Marathon Sunday.  But, with parking, visitors, traffic, people running down the streets, roads shut down, etc... they decided, what the heck?  Let's just move our church service and cheer on the marathon runners.  An opportunity to support and minister to the community :) Here's a short video from the cheer station.  Can't wait to join them this year as they cheer on not only their own TEAM WORLD VISION but also the 40,000 (ish) others running the Chicago Marathon 2011.


Any questions or comments about Ben, the marathon, donating, etc...?  Email either one of us at  OR  We'd love to hear from you.  Thanks in advance for your donation! 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Commentary on Life in Nebraska

1.  There is a big, beautiful, old house on the corner of our street, about 3 blocks down.  The corner of the lot is on a busy street, and I wanted to put a sign up advertising piano lessons.  There was a man in the yard one day, and I assumed he lived there, so I went up and introduced myself.  He told me he lives across the street, and when he build that house 45 years ago, his house was as far south as Lincoln went.  (It goes south for at least another 7 miles now...)  Anyway, he also told me "the little old lady that lives in this house [the big beautiful old one] is all by herself, so i [the man] come over and help her out with the yard once in a while."  I eventually met the lady in there - she's not that old - and she's super sweet!  Well, nearly every time I drive by, that man is sitting in her yard, on a bucket.  And he has another bucket beside him (and his dog) and he's picking up twigs, leaves, acorns, i don't know!  how sweet.  maybe they're life-long friends. the romantic in me thinks he loves her.

2.  Not too far down from that house I mentioned above, there is another house.  with a lot of dogs.  well, 3 to be exact.  small, medium, and large.  [baby bear, mama bear, and papa  bear size, if you will... haha i crack myself up.]  anyway, they are sad lookin' dogs.  for some reason, one of the dogs reminds me from the dog from The Fox and the Hound.  [does anyone remember that disney movie??]  They mosey around the yard.  One has funny lumps.  They don't bark.  Not sure what to think about these dogs.  It seems fitting that there are lots of "chatchkies" on the porch and in the yard.  [chatchkies... you know, lawn gnomes, random glass decor, pots with no flowers, etc...]

3. i love an attached garage.  seriously.  when it's raining, i don't get wet.  when i go grocery shopping, i just walk from the car right into my kitchen with the grocery bags. at heart, i love the city.  particularly Chicago.  :) but i can definitely adjust to life with an attached garage.

4. it costs me about $10 less (on average) to fill up my gas tank here in Lincoln than when we were living in the city (Chicago).  if i fill up once a week, that's $40/ month... $520/ year.  If I put that money into a college savings account (for the kids I don't have yet) at 5%, I'd have about $21,000 to contribute towards college.  Just from the difference in gas price between Lincoln and downtown Chicago.  However, I am charging about $7 less that I could charge in Chicago for private lessons.  So... that makes up for it.  and, who knows where we'll live when Ben is done with school.  but, i'm just saying.

5.  There is no Marshall's or Homegoods store here.  Good for my wallet.  Sad for my shopping.  (There is a poorly stocked TJ Maxx that I like to stop by...)

6a.  People get really excited about Husker football.  I have to admit, it's kinda contagious.  I didn't grow up watching a ton of football, although the Bears games were on every sunday.  My mom is a huge Bears fan.  My uncle always jokes she's the biggest Bears fan in our family.   She knows every player, all the rules of the game.  So, Sundays in the Pierce house, you will find her blaring the Bears game so she can hear it from the kitchen where she's making a yummy dinner.  And every so often, she'll walk into the living room to see a great play :)  Anyway, Husker Football.  Like I said, it's contagious.  Now I married into husker football, so I really had no choice but to become a fan.  But it's more fun to be a fan in Lincoln than it was in Chicago.  Because everybody is.  The grocery stores have big "N" flags in the window. 

The whole downtown has these signs:

6b. Every other house has some sort of Nebraska "paraphenalia" displayed - door signs, giant corn, flags.  [Side story - I was seeing all sorts of Wooden "N's" on people's doors... they looked like monograms.  like, i might put a C on my front door for Cook.  and i thought to myself, a lot of people have a last name that starts with N.  Well, I quickly caught on... NEBRASKA!]  Every store has Nebraska gear for sale - shirts, hats, jackets, sweatshirts.  And they're on the front display.  Of course! Where else would they be?
6c.Wives that didn't grow up loving football seem to have 2 options - sulk because you think football season steals your husband & talk about it with your girlfriends OR embrace it.  :)  I'm embracing it :)  GO BIG RED!!  Plus, I like football.  Fun to watch, cozy fall weekend afternoons, an excuse to get together with friends and yummy snack food.  what's not to love? 

7.  That's all for now.

Signing off from Nebraska,


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Studio Calendar

So, I keep a blog for my piano and voice students.  With the popularity of blogs, and everyone getting internet on their phones, I thought it might be helpful to have a studio blog for parents and students.  Plus, I can give this website to people who call for more information and they can see that I'm not a random creepo, which is always helpful for teaching young children.  or anyone for that matter. 

Anywho, one thing I was hoping to use this blog/website for was scheduling.  In my perfect business setup, people browsing for a teacher online would be able to find my page in their searches for "awesome piano teacher" on the world wide web and see my availability on a calendar.  I also think it'd be helpful for planning weeks or days off (i.e. weekend trips or winter vacation).  AND I was hoping to get a list of all students' contact info so that they could just contact each other if they need to swap times one week instead of going through me as a middle-man-rescheduler.  Well, middle-WOman :)

anywho, I finally figured out how to get a calendar from google into my blog!!!

Check it out!

woohoo!!! I am having a little happy dance all by myself. no shame.

So, do you think it's helpful!? Or is it a stupid waste of my time?  (b/c I'll have to update it and don't want to spend time doing something that's useless....)  What would make it easier to understand or more helpful?