before we get started... HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!! i love you much, thank you for everything you've done for me over the years and continue to do for me/us now that i'm all grown up. you're going to be a great grandma (eventually... once your grandkids have kids... heh heh).
wow, hard to believe it's been almost an entire month since the last post! shame on me. actually, i only feel a little guilty, because, after all, i am pretty pregnant these days. 36 weeks, 4 days to be exact. talk about hard to believe. i guess that's a good place to start as far as updates go. as many of you know, i was all worried for a while about the fact that, at my 33 week OB exam, the baby was decidedly sideways in the womb and, despite my best efforts (making bryan try and "talk the baby down", shining a flashlight on my belly, doing all kinds of crazy inversions and stretches), (s)he apparently had every intention of staying sideways. i started calling him/her our "still stubbornly sideways" little one.
HOWEVER, i was beyond excited to learn at my 36 week appointment that baby had turned!! turns out (pun totally intended), our little one is, well, really little (but perfectly healthy), and just hadn't reached the point where (s)he was running out of room and had to turn. in the wise words of my doc, "you're just a little lady with a little baby." but, he went on to tell me, (s)he is doing "really fantastic".
ohhhh, i hope (s)he comes soon. and at the same time, i hope (s)he doesn't. because i'm so excited, but i'm also so terrified. i hope i hope i hope.
bryan's OH clan threw us a really amazing baby shower last month (september 8th, to be exact) complete with a really amazing cake that you'd never in your life believe was homemade by auntie sarah. but more on that once i'm able to snag the photos from the hubby.
man, if i thought being pregnant was getting to be a drag (yes, i said it, and i'm not ashamed! i am so over being pregnant. as wonderful as i know the payoff is going to be, i think i'm ready for that payoff now, thanks very much), i should've thought about how much worse it would be to be pregnant and sick. which i am. right now. and for the past week-plus. i guess this bug is making its way around and some people have been stuck with it for up to two weeks, and i guess that i'm likely to be "some people". let me tell you, it's hard enough to breathe with a small child crowding your lungs, nevermind trying to do so whilst also having super stuffy sinuses. NOT FUN!
thankfully, bryan is amazing and keeps making me soup and replentishing my stash of nyquil and cough drops.
the weekend before last, i had the honor and privilege of going on the annual people of praise women's retreat. as with every year, there are so many things i could say about the weekend, but i'll do my best to be concise.
i was really inspired and just overall PUMPED listening to what charlie and carmen fraga had to say about the church and christian community today. most of their material was actually gleaned from recent studies/books, etc. by various christian leaders (one of which i'm reading now and LOVE, but i'll get to that in a sec). the overarching theme, if you will, was seeking to answer the question, "if salt loses its saltiness, what is it good for?" charlie talked about the temptation many christians experience to sort of hole up in a safe place together away from everyone else. because that is so easy to do! but if we do that, if we lose sight of the fact that christ sent us out into the world, what are WE good for?
to use one of charlie's examples, what good is a light if you only shine it in places where there is already plenty of light? no good at all. a light can only serve its purpose by being shone in dark places. places we'd rather not go.
but that's exactly what christ called us to do in the very beginning. to be a light to the nations. the salt of the earth.
one of the books charlie and carmen referenced is called the forgotten ways by alan hirsch. in his research into the effectiveness (or more accurately, ineffectiveness) of evangelical christianity in the west today, he estimated that, in a given area of the country, several churches will be competing for about 10% of the local population. that is to say, the part of the population with whom the rest of the congregation is comfortable relating. middle class, white collar, "family values", conservative... you get the idea. hirsch found that whenever a church reports growth in the size of its congregation, the vast majority of that growth comes from "switchers", or people who are simply switching over from one congregation to another, as opposed to new christians. so in essence, churches in the west are simply shuffling and competing for the same 10% of the population.
*disclaimer: i realize i've provided no actual data, but if you read the book, i promise you there are lots of graphs and charts and other research-y things that are all very thorough and scientific and do a much better job than i would of breaking all that down*
but is our goal, either as churches or christian communities, simply to grow in numbers? no! our primary calling is not to get more people to join this church or that church, or this or that community, whichever one we happen to belong to. our primary calling is to introduce more people to christ. period.
so what about that other 90%? what about the people we're NOT comfortable relating with? and for that matter, why aren't we comfortable relating with them? all this got me thinking, of course, about my own role in this whole little problem...
why don't i relate with very many people who are not like me? specifically, with non-christians?
well, aside from the fact that i just don't come across many non-christians in my day-to-day life (after all, i work at christians in commerce), i had to admit that i am also afraid. don't get me wrong, i have lots of non-christian family members and friends whom i love. but even in these relationships, i find myself secretly hoping that the whole faith topic never comes up.
why am i afraid?
this one took longer to answer. i remember someone getting up at a people of praise meeting and asking that same question: "why are we afraid to explain our faith? no one seems to be afraid to question it."
i think, when it comes down to it, that i am afraid i won't know what to say. i think all of us are naturally terrified of misrepresenting those things/people that are most dear to us, because we care so much about them. also, being raised with the whole "turn the other cheek" mentality doesn't exactly make us comfortable with confrontation or debate. not that we should abandon that mentality by any means, we just have to work at these things a little more and strive to understand the difference between turning the other cheek and turning a blind eye. humility and self-denial are often good solutions, but simply ignoring something never is.
i came away with the conclusion that i need to make a better effort to always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you the reason for your hope (1 peter 3:15). because if i don't have an answer, i'm going to continue avoiding people who might ask me for one, and if i continue avoiding those people, i'll never have to give an answer, and thus be unprepared. it's a vicious cycle, folks.
it occurs to me that i ought to give that answer here, now. but the truth is, i haven't prepared it yet. my testimony (because that's what we're talking about really). but i'm working on it, and i hope you all will hold me accountable for getting it together sooner rather than later.
after all, just a little over 3 weeks from now, not-so-stubbornly-sideways little one will be arriving on the scene, and someday (s)he will want to know the reason for my hope.