Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Don't Let His Size Fool You. He's a Hard-ass.

We FINALLY got our car back today -- woo hoo!! It felt sooo good to drive a manual again. Jason & I met with the manager of the service & parts department over some charges we should not have had to pay. Long story short, if they had correctly diagnosed the problem the first time, the labor would've been covered by the warranty, amounting to about $700 (remember, we paid over $900 the first time we took the car in).

Some friends came over to watch the kids but we decided last minute to take Charlotte, because she doesn't usually do too well with people other than me & I wasn't sure how long we'd be gone. We had read some complaints on Edmunds' website several weeks ago, when things first went sour (actually, the only comments about this dealer on the site were complaints, one being eerily close to our situation). One person referred to the guy as a "loose cannon" & that the owner "hid behind [the manager's] skirt." So, needless to say, we were kinda nervous about meeting with him. On the way there Jason & I agreed that Charlotte & I would go into the meeting with Jason in hopes of softening the guy up. Jason also mentioned that research has shown people to be less aggressive when they are out numbered.

I pictured the manager as a grumpy old man, but found a very large, intimidating 40-something man. We were there for a long time, about an hour, & the guys office was like a sauna. A lot of the conversation was annoying because even though Jason was saying, "if it was done right the first time, we wouldn't have had to pay for labor, therefore I want a refund," they guy would reply with, "people make mistakes; nobody has a crystal ball," & "I promise you we are not unethical," etc. We weren't accusing anyone of being unethical. We understand people make mistakes, but that's not the issue. The issue is that they needed to own up to their mistake & compensate us for the inconvenience & refund the unnecessary charges. Jason said later that he thinks the guy was beating around the bush just to see how far Jason would go, trying to feel him out. My man does not back down when he thinks he's right.... which is about 98% of the time....

Toward the end of the conversation, the manager said he commended Jason for the way he handled the matter & appreciated him coming to talk it out. He was very sincere, gave us a card & told us that no matter where we were, if we felt we were getting screwed by someone else we were dealing with to just call him & ask him about it. We weren't given the whole $700 back, as we do have new brakes which would've had to been replaced eventually anyway, but we agreed to $614, which was all the labor costs from the first visit. If we were to stay in this area, I'd say that dealership would've have earned themselves some repeat customers. Jason told the manager that he would write a positive review on Edmunds for them. (They need it.)

The moral of the story: don't mess with my husband :P He's a stinkin' genius & it's near impossible to screw him over. Especially when it involves his hard-earned money. I <3 my Fred Mertz.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Last summer the youth at Dani & Will's church did this skit. I bawled during the whole thing... & I bawled through this whole video. There's just something that wrecks me, to the core of my soul, watching the dance which symbolizes God's fight for me. He's battling the world & the evil within it that vies for my devotion because He loves me so much. So much that He sacrificed Himself for me. I can't even fathom -- & then I see this skit. It shows me, in a very limited human way, what that looks like.

"How can I stand here with You & not be moved by You?"

I can't.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Resurrection Day!

Easter celebration was absolutely amazing yesterday! Always is, of course. But this year ROCKHARBOR decided to do baptisms during celebration! What better way to celebrate the resurrection of our LORD & Savior than to have baptisms?! I ALWAYS cry tears of pure joy during baptisms. I can't begin to explain the happiness I feel when I watch someone's public declaration of their faith in Christ & joining our family. There were a number of people who had come to celebration planning to be baptized, but it was open to anyone & everyone who wanted to do it spontaneously. Girls (& I'm talking the "epitome of Orange County" looking girls) were getting baptized in their Easter outfits with makeup & hair all done; guys who were dressed nicely too. Even when celebration was over people were still randomly coming up to be baptized! It was so beautiful! God is good!! Man, if i get this emotional over the baptisms of complete strangers, how am I gonna react if/when my own children make this decision??

We always sing this song at the end of Easter celebration & it is truly the perfect ending to the service. Everyone dancing & shouting, rejoicing in Christ's conquering of death!

Anyway, after church we went to Jon (Uncle Cookie) & Molly's, which is always so much fun. I love hanging out with them! They had an egg hunt for Solomon & then we dyed eggs. We ate dinner with them & hung out a bit longer before heading home.

What a great day!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Seek Week, Saturday

Quick story unrelated to Seek Week: After lunch I put Solomon to bed & then went to take a nap myself. Well, instead of sleeping he decided to try & change his own poopy diaper. Since I was asleep I didn't hear him calling for us to change his diaper, if he did at all. He opened all the packs of wipes that were in the diaper cabinet (needless to say, we no longer keep ANYTHING in there) & poop was smeared all over the carpet, his clothes & his bed. I did laugh for a few seconds, because it was funny that he tried to change himself, but once I had to start scrubbing crap off of everything, I was kinda pissed. Thank God for OxiClean & Febreeze.

The end.

Mark 15:42-47

Within this story of death & resurrection, there is an invitation for all of humanity to experience both death of the egocentric self & the resurrection of a new life that is found in Christ. It is here that we are no longer able to see our lives as fragmented & isolated occurrences that are to be experienced in an independent manner.

This new way of being in Christ moves us from the haunting idea that we are in this alone to an awakening to the beautiful picture that we are all in this together. It is this shared experience of the death we are called to step into where we can together embrace our nothingness apart from God. Then this new resurrected life can become a reality we participate in together. In this new shared experience we are no longer competing, comparing, or attempting to get ahead of each other; rather we are together basking in the shared light of God's love that shines upon us for no other reason than the fact that we are.

As we look toward resurrection Sunday, ask God if you need to surrender a need to compete, compare, & attempt to get ahead. What areas are you measuring yourself against others, wanting leverage over them? Ask God that you would be able to simply receive the gift of His love that is available to all.

Coincidentally (or is it?), I just talked to my friend Kelli about something that sort of relates to this. I was telling her about how I wanted to buy a shirt but after a while decided against it because I asked myself, & surprisingly answered honestly, "Do I really need this?" And of course, I did not. When I was working I would buy stuff all the time, unnecessarily, for the simple reason I could afford it. I LOVE spending money, especially on clothes. Probably too much. So this is definitely a heart issue for me. Some people may not have considered my shirt dilemma a big deal, but for me & my heart, it is. I never really considered my "need" to have new clothes all the time as a way of competing with others, but that's exactly what I was doing. This is just one example. I compare myself to others in countless ways: my physical appearance, being jobless/a SAHM, the kind of mother I am, my education, the kind of housekeeper I am, the kind of Christ follower I am, our financial situation, my kids, my husband.... the list goes on & on.

I should be thanking the LORD for putting us in a tight financial position. Although it isn't fun, it's forced me to really think about the difference between needs & wants. I hope & pray to God that even when do we have a roomier budget again that this lesson learned will keep my spending habits in check. (It doesn't hurt that I'm married to Fred Mertz either. God knew what He was doing when He paired me up with this tightwad.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Seek Week, Friday

Today's Good Friday service was amazing (as always) & very powerful. Every year they give out slips of paper & pens so you can write down things you want to be free from, then you nail them to a cross. For those of you who have never done this, or have never even heard of this, it symbolizes your sin & your old self dying on the cross with Christ. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." -- 2 Corinthians 5:21 (emphasis added). We are now new people because of this most loving act & are no longer slaves to sin. Sometimes, though, we still live as though we are in bondage.

On my little piece of paper I wrote a note to the LORD about, of course, my anger. I wept as I wrote & couldn't control the rush of emotion that came over me. I pretty much wrote on the piece of paper what I wrote in my blog last night. I kept trying to not cry, but the harder I fought, the more I cried. I hate myself because of my anger & I am ashamed of how I treat people -- especially my own family. First John 4:7-12 says:

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."

That's a painful passage for me to read. "Whoever does not love does not know God." My heart is broken tonight.

Mark 15:1-41

When the story of our lives is shaped by an egocentricity that seeks to establish & prove itself to the world, our decisions are made based on what is going to make us look best to those who happen to be around. In this story we have no real center, so we continuously have to protect the circumference of our lives.... leaving us exhausted, unfulfilled, & restless.

In Jesus, we find the greatest expression of what life looks like when it allows itself to be shaped by the story as opposed to our own selfish desires. When Jesus was mocked, ridiculed, falsely accused & beaten, Pilate was shocked that He did not defend Himself. Jesus knew what was happening was unjust, but from a vantage point that was able to see the panoramic view of God's story unfolding, He was able to absorb the moment of injustice & death because He saw & trusted in the life & resurrection that were to come.

Ask God how you have made your life the point of the story. Ask God for a new perspective, one that views each moment of your life as part of God's larger redemptive story. Ask Him that this perspective would transform the way you live.

I'm a pretty self-centered person, so how have I NOT made my life the point of the Story? I need to be taken down a couple notches. Humbled. I really should get involved in serving again. I need to be reminded regularly that it's not all about me. I need to give myself away.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Seek Week, Thursday

I expected my week to get better as the days passed, but unfortunately it has just gotten crappier. I've had a really shitty day & I do not feel like doing this tonight. Spent some time venting to God about everything, & even blaming Him for some of it. Right now I don't feel my heart is any closer to being prepared for this weekend than it was a week ago.

Pressin' on.

Mark 14:12-72

On the night that has come to be known as the Last Supper, Jesus extends an invitation to those present to participate in a story. What is this story? It's the story of death & resurrection. Jesus breaks the bread & shares the wine with his disciples symbolizing the breaking of His body & the pouring out of His blood for the healing of the world. With this act, Jesus' words, "Come follow me" just took on an entirely new & profound meaning.

The invitation to participate in this story begins with us dying. This is a concrete ego-death where we let go of our old self, & trust in this new resurrected life in Christ. All of us want to experience the freedom that comes in this new life but we are not first trusting in the death of the old life. But it is only when we first trust in the death that we are able to experience this radical re-orientation of our entire being in Christ.

Consider what ways your old self is still present in your life. As these ways are revealed, acknowledge them. Ask God for peace to know these things don't define you. And ask Him for strength to move past them.

Hmm. My old self is still present in my life in almost every way. At least it affects me in almost every way. I cannot rid myself of this horrible anger. I've BEEN acknowledging my anger issue for so very long & have begged the LORD to heal me in this area, yet it continues to debilitate me & ruin my life. Unfortunately, my anger DOES define me & I since I've been struggling with it nonstop, I in turn struggle to trust that the LORD will heal me.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Seek Week, Wednesday

Today was not a good day for me. While I did steer clear of Twitter & FB, I let the t.v. run alllll daaaaay loooong. I have also been incredibly cranky & thus, incredibly impatient with Solomon. Poor kid. It's sad he got stuck with me as his mom. (I have a good reason to be cranky today -- in addition to Charlotte's nightly feedings, Solomon woke up around 2am & didn't go back to sleep until after 4. So, yeah. I'm tired.) I suck.

Seek Week....

Mark 14:1-11

Jesus overhears some of those at Simon the Lepers' house rebuking the woman harshly for anointing Jesus' feet with an expensive perfume. Jesus tells them to "leave her alone. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial." Burial? Can you imagine what some of Jesus' disciples & those in attendance are thinking? "You're going to die soon? We thought you were going to help us overthrow Rome & now you're talking about your coming burial?"

This moment was the tipping point for one of the disciples.... Judas.

Verse 10 says, "Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them." When Judas sees the way Jesus interacts with this woman, he realizes his expectations of the Kingdom of God are far off from reality. He feels betrayed. He feels frustrated. And he's had enough. It's at this moment that Judas glimpses where this week is going to take Jesus & what this will mean for Christ's disciples. It will not be a life of luxury, but of death. So Judas opts out by heading to the chief priests & creating an alliance that in his mind will, unlike the Kingdom of God, protect & provide for him.

Do you believe the way of Jesus is really the best way to live? Ask God if there are ways you have taken measures into your own hands to ensure you are protected & provided for. Ask God for a trust that will allow Him to show up on His terms.

After contemplating & praying on this for a bit, no instances are coming to mind in which I tried to protect myself rather than trusting God to do that for me. I'm sure there have been plenty of times but I can't really remember anything specific. Even after losing my incredibly well paying job, knowing it would be near impossible to find a new one in my condition (pregnant), I never stopped trusting that God would provide for us. And He has been, unceasingly, in various ways. For instance, we didn't have to buy diapers for Charlotte out of pocket until she was more than 6 months old.

But on the other hand....

The American lifestyle is exactly that: self-reliance. "Look out for #1!" And I am not immune to it. We are self-made people & proud of it. I don't worry about where my next meal is going to come from, or if I'm going to die from a preventable &/or treatable disease, or if my kids will be stolen from me & forced to join a rebel army. Maybe I can't think of specific instances where I tried to be my own provider/protector, but I probably do this in little ways everyday unknowingly. Because that's what middle-class Americans do.

After writing out these thoughts, I am reminded of a video I recently watched. Francis Chan is a pastor in Simi Valley, CA & has spoken at our church once or twice before (& he is amazing!).

To be honest, I am afraid to pray this prayer. It's scary to depend solely on someone else, even when that someone else is God. There are areas in my life where I certainly trust Him, but complete control over everything.... not so much. Well, I guess God has now given me the answers to the above questions.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Seek Week, Tuesday

The LORD gave me the strength & I stuck to my commitment & did not Tweet or goof off on Facebook at all today (I will admit I went on to FB briefly to get someone's email address, but that is it, I swear!). I only let Solomon watch t.v. during breakfast & lunch & then we watched FOX during dinner. The entire morning I played with the kids: Play-doh, Mr. Potato Head, blocks & just general silliness. We let iTunes play all morning so Solomon would sporadically break into song & dance throughout the morning. I was so tired this morning though.... & bored to tears (which I think exacerbated my tiredness). The afternoon was a little rough, but tomorrow is a new day.

Okay, on to Tuesday of Seek Week!

Mark 11:20 - 13:37

As Jesus enters the temple area on Tuesday, He is immediately questioned about His authority by the chief priests & teachers of the law. Authority was a big thing to the Hebrew people because, in their minds, only a few teachers possessed it. If one had the authority, they would be free to make new interpretations of the Torah -- the first five books of the Bible. When you read through the gospels, you see many times that Jesus does this by saying, "you have heard it said; but I tell you..." When Jesus would do this, people often wondered where He received this authority.

It was customary during that day for a rabbi to receive this kind of authority by being blessed by two other teachers who already had it. In Matthew 3:13-17, you see John the Baptist baptizing Jesus & heaven immediately opening up as the Spirit of God descends down onto Jesus like a dove & a voice declares, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." At this moment, Jesus receives the authority to make new interpretations, to invite people to repent becuase the Kingdom of God is at hand, & to usher in a new way to view reality.

Does Jesus have the authority to speak into every aspect of your life? Ask God if there are areas where you have not given Him authority. Ask for courage to release these areas to Him. Ask for faith to believe that God wants to bless you in new ways in these areas.

I am not in a praying mood tonight, but I half-heartedly offered up these questions/requests to the LORD anyway. Thank goodness His faithfulness is unwaivering, no matter how much I waiver.

Areas of my life I have not given the LORD authority over:
  1. Child rearing -- I depend on my own strengths way too much & rarely ask the LORD for help in this area. I just scream & spank.
  2. Time -- My time is MY time & I don't like to share it. I don't give God much of my time, devoted solely to Him (i.e devotionals/quiet times); I don't give my kids enough of my time (mostly because playing bores me to death); I don't volunteer my time for service. I don't allow God to dictate my schedule, which is kinda weird when you think about it, since, you know, HE is the one who gave me my time to begin with.
What would it look like for me to release these areas to the LORD?
  1. Child rearing -- Rather than just scream & spank, I can spend time explaining to Solomon why God does/doesn't want us to do certain things. How will Solomon reflect God's character if he doesn't know of God's attributes & His desires for His children?
  2. Time -- I've heard before, & I believe this to be true, that the cure for selfishness is service. Before having children I loved being involved in service activities, both in & outside of church. God has really put the homeless, specifically, on my heart. But I allow the fact that I have small children to excuse me from not participating in such activities any more. I believe this lack of action contributes greatly to my "stuck in a rut" feeling. I usually think of what a hassle it is to take the kids anywhere, & really, how much can I get done with them around? I also convince myself that's it's okay I'm so lazy about it right now since we're moving in 2 months. I need to give myself away in some serious ways....

Monday, April 06, 2009

Seek Week, Monday

So the week before Easter is "Seek Week" at ROCKHARBOR, during which we spend time preparing our hearts for Easter celebration. This year they distributed these handy-dandy packets with inserts for each day, Monday through Saturday. I have decided to blog my reflections each day this week, to share with you what God is doing with me, in me. (If you're only interested in reading my reflections, rather than the whole thing, skip on down to the bottom. I just thought it would be nice if people knew what I was reflecting upon.)

Mark 11:12-19:

Jesus Clears the Temple
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written:

"'My house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

When evening came, they went out of the city.

There were four courts in the temple; one for the priests, one for the Jewish men, one for the Jewish women, & one for the Gentiles. People came from all over the ancient near east to offer up their sacrifices & prayers at the temple. Imagine taking your yearly pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem & not being able to get in because the Jewish men have turned it into a bizarre where you can purchase animals for sacrifice & exchange money.

When Jesus sees the leaders of His day creating barriers for those who truly want to worship, it breaks His heart & He responds by driving out those who are selling & buying in the temple. He reminds people of Isaiah 56:7, "for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations." By driving out those who had neglected this verse, Jesus removes the barriers in the temple so that all are free to come & worship God uninterrupted.

We each have spoken or unspoken barriers that will attempt to hold us back from worshiping God this week. Ask God to reveal what these barriers are in your life. Ask God to meet you in the midst of them. And ask Him to be free to come & worship Him this week.

As I prayed to the LORD & asked Him to show the barriers in my life, two specific things were brought to my attention:
  1. Anger (the obvious one).
  2. Media/entertainment distractions (computer primarily); selfishness with my time.
After this revelation I asked Him what I can do to break down these barriers. I was none too thrilled with His response:
  1. Anger: I have no idea how to break down this barrier. This has been heavy on my heart for so long & "I'll just try harder next time" simply does not work. I didn't hear from the LORD so much on this issue during my prayer time, so I just asked, "LORD, how do I surrender this to You? You have already freed me from anger, so help me to act like it! BUT HOW??? So frustrating.
  2. Time-sucking media: God made it perfectly clear what He expected from me on this one. Fast. Fast from the computer & t.v. shows & videos. God, I just want You to know, I am not okay with this. But, I'll do it. (Please note I am only fasting from Twitter & Facebook. Email is not really a problem area for me & I want to blog, another not-so-problematic area, through Seek Week.) In place of the time I would normally spend on the computer, I will devote to my kids, showing them what it means to live a worshipful life. (I'm gonna do my best anyway.) I will only check email & blog during naps & after bedtime.