Monday, April 18, 2011

All is far from quiet....

     It's been a while (again-- sorry) since I have posted anything.  I only have the normal litany of excuses for it, so I'll even save you the blah-blah-blah of them.  However, I do intend to get some more posts up here in the near future.  Some great books that I have read, some activities we have been doing, another Arizona trip right around the corner.  So there is some good stuff coming.  Now if I could just find some spare time sitting around...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Friends and Family-- and a huge debt of gratitude

      This past month has been a bit crazy here at the Haley household.  I won't go into too much detail, but with the holidays (remember, a month ago was only 12/20), driver's licenses, returning missionaries, school activities, work, etc, we have constantly been on our toes.  And this last week has literally been an emotional roller coaster for us.  Expectations have been blown away in exchange for reality, and life has once again reared its ugly head and threatened to throw everything into havoc.  Not that all of the good stuff is still not good, but it is tempered with the knowledge that other stuff out there is not so rosy.
     Those of you that know me are probably saying "So?  What's new?  Your life is always tipped a little towards the insane anyway.  Why is now so different?" 
     Well, let me tell you.  The highs in this case are some major life events.  Steven getting his license.  Heather turned 16.  Zach got home.  Christine did awesome in school.  My TV debut approaches.  But the lows are just as fantastic in the negative.  Christine's dad is deteriorating quicker than we thought.  He spent a few days in the hospital, and was released just to find out that there is not much anyone can do for him anymore.  Heather's first relationship is driving her insane (along with the rest of us).  None of us are really sleeping good.
     So needless to say, things are a bit hard to tame.
     But we have cause for HUGE celebration.  We all of a sudden discovered that we have been blessed.  And we don't know how it happened, but we thank God for putting us exactly where He knew we would need to be.  You see, he gave us friends and family that are AWESOME.  We didn't even realize how much we mattered.  We knew that they mattered to us VERY much, but we have been relatively late comers, so we didn't figure on being counted for much yet.
    Now we are awestruck at the outpouring of love and caring we are feeling.  There is just no better way to say it.  From seeing his needs and getting her dad on the prayer chain, to taking care of the details of stuff so that we don't have to worry about them, to just being there.  Christine and I are SOOO grateful for everything that you guys have shown us.  Even those friends who are overseas, who didn't have any idea how important it was when they  recommended music that is literally giving me strength right now.
     I guess what I am trying to say is just a universal thank you.  To God, for using our choices to place us in a community of believers that took us in as family and have been just awesome; to our friends, for doing even small things that mean so much to us-- you have no idea the gratitude we have for you; to our family, for coming together to rally around Christine's dad (and each other). 
     We love you all.  We only hope that we can have the opportunity to show you how much (although hopefully in a positive way) :-).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I'm gonna squash you like a bug!!

     When my youngest brother was smaller, his one goal in life was to "take me down."  It was always in fun, and we wrestled around quite a bit.  And being 14 years older than him, it was pretty clear who the winner was going to be.  So in the midst of these bouts, the line above was one of my favorites to taunt him and keep him trying.
     Now that we are both grown, he could (probably) say that to me.  He has served in the military, and has kept up his fitness for the most part.  So I'll admit that if we were to have a go at the take down now, I would probably look like a rag doll in the mouth of a rabid dog.  The times have changed, and so has my perspective.
     This morning I had another perspective shock in three random things that have collided at almost the same time that are so remarkably focused it was enough to break me out of my blog slump.
     The first spark was on my way to work this morning.  As anyone who has been outside near sunrise or sunset lately can attest, the past couple of weeks have been gorgeous in Southern California.  The cloud formations have been unique, and it has resulted in beauty that we normally see only rarely.
     Anyway, on my way down Studebaker, as I was crossing over the 22, I was struck by a contrast painting that only God could have created.  You see, there is a power plant at the end of Studebaker, and its skyline is a harsh profile of wire towers, smokestacks, scaffolding, and water tanks.  If you can picture any of the negative ads about pollution, global warming, etc, you know what I am talking about.  The iconic symbolism of man's footprint in nature. 
     But today, behind the stark edges of the plant's skyline was a panoramic paradise of color and spectacle.  Greens, reds, oranges, and blues sprawled across the sky as the sun peaked over the horizon.  And the sky looked HUGE.
     I was struck with the contrast of God's creation against the feebleness of man's.  And it was humbling and awe-inspiring at the same time.  And it reminded me that what I have been thinking of as important really is insignificant compared with God's priorities.
     The second spark happened when I was reading my friend Tory Satter's blog.  He and his wife run 3:18 Ministries on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Globe, AZ.  His blog is here:  Anyway, today he was talking about synergy, and the realization that we are only called to be faithful, and God will do the rest.  It was humbling again.  I think that many times I feel discouraged when I see things not going the way I want or anticipate them, and instead of remembering that I am only an instrument for God, I try to do the work on my own, like one of Handy Manny's tools.  I need to just relax, knowing that while it does take intentional action to shape minds, the end result is not in my hands (thank goodness).
     The third spark happened during my HSM NT:365 reading.  Romans Chapter 8 today has this statement (along with a ton of other great stuff): "Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God.  That person ignores who God is and what he is doing.  And God isn't pleased with being ignored."  I think this may be me a little, lately.  I have been so wrapped up in my life, and what is going on around me, that I have not seen all that God is doing in my life. Throughout the holidays, a time that was created to worship Him, I was so busy with schedules that I was distracted.
     All of this to say that my perspective has shifted again today.  It is probably better to say that my perspective WAS shifted today.  It was like God was urging me on to keep fighting, and keep focused, teasing me with "I could squash you like a bug!" awesomeness. 
    So thanks for that perspective, Father.  When I see even a bit of Your big picture, all of my worries just melt away as I am made aware that the Power that can create such brilliance is also trying to create a brilliance in me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Praise Habit"- David Crowder, my notes

     At long last I am using this site for another of its intended purposes!  A book review.  Well, actually it's going to be more of my thoughts as I was reading it, important notes I took, etc.  As I am getting older, I am finding that my retention when I am going through several things at once is not what it used to be.  So this is a way for me to focus for a few minutes and put pen to paper so I can go back later and get the gist of it.  And here is the first; "Praise Habit" by David Crowder.
     First off, some background.  This book was nowhere near my radar.  I don't think that I had even heard of it.  In fact, back when my friend Evan McElrath was reading one of David's other books, I did not get a resounding approval of it (although he did enjoy the book, I didn't know how much he did until later).  So when he offered me up this one, it came as a bit of a surprise.  But it looked short, and I do like the band's music, so I figured I'd give it a shot.
    I am sure glad I did.  In reading it, I discovered a new appreciation for the psalms, a new appreciation for this life God has blessed me with, and a perspective that I am trying to apply to my life.   And as you can probably guess from the title, it is all about praise.  Recognizing the rescue and salvation we live within because of Christ, and letting our thankfulness and devotion spill out into everything we do.  Finding praise in small and big, in dark and light, in hope and despair.  And letting that praise define us.
    Crowder takes the reader through all of this in a commentary, if you will, of 21 of the Psalms.  There is, of course, the intro section where we come to understand his point of view.  Then he jumps right in.  And between his anecdotes, his wit, and his style, he shows the reader how each of them exemplifies a habit of praise.
    I am not going to go step by step through the book (that would give away spoilers:-)), but I will recommend this book whole-heartedly.  It has certainly made me concentrate more on finding the praise in every situation, and then splashing my extra (my cup overflows, remember) onto those around me.  And it is definitely a book that I would read again (I almost did just writing this review). 
     Thanks David, for this insightful book.  And thanks to God and Christ for my salvation!
Here are a few of the more significant passages that I really liked:

"Here [in Scripture] are the stories of our running and His running after."
"What we praise signifies our treasure."
"Sometimes praise comes face to the ground, unable to move because we are so aware that this holy, terrifying God has busied Himself bringing us back to Him."
"What is this praise He is after? It is Praise Living.  It is GOD leaning in and shouting "I am the center!" and the sum of our lives nodding back in agreement.  It is the core of our hearts echoing this statement."
"When we are fully aware of rescue, it should also cause us to bring an offering of our best, with the knowledge that we can not respond in equal measure to God's actions but with all that we have available to express our gratefulness for such deliverance."
"We have not been promised palatial housing, but we have been promised His presence."
"We regularly learn and discern that there in the darkness-- more than anywhere else-- newness that is not of our making breaks upon us and we are surely then drowned in Him.  Psalm 88 shows us what the cross is about: faithfulness in scenes of complete abandonment."
"If you put life together in any way that doesn't include Yahweh Caps Lock GOD... it is not life."

See, I did just read a bunch of it again.  Great book!  Thanks Evan!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Growing up and letting go...

     It has been a very tumultuous time around the Haley household for the past several weeks, to say the least.  Since Labor day or so, things have just been crazy.  Not uncontrollably crazy, but crazy in that there is always something going on.  We have work, school for the high schoolers, night school for Christine, drill team for Heather, HSM, adult small groups, various service projects, church, and getting everything ready for Zach's trip to Scotland, just to name a few of the things that have pulled at us.
    And now we are in one of the most complicated weeks yet as Zach, Eric, and Evan are in the final few days before their trip.  Set in among the "normal" activities, we have to do some last minute clothes shopping, be sure that his finances are in order, go to the good-bye party, and see them off.  And yet, in the midst of all of this commotion, I am finding that I have been more reflective than I have been in a long time.  This opportunity for Zach is unparalleled, and we are so excited to see what God will do through and with him, but at the same time there is alot more at stake, too.  This is his first long-term outing as an adult, and there is a chance this week is the last time he calls our house his home except for between semesters.  He has grown up.
     I have spent alot of time thinking about Steven, too.  It seems that prayers are being answered, and things are moving in a positive direction.  We are excited to see what God has in store for him, too.  Yet, as he is approaching adulthood right behind Zach, I find that I am constantly questioning myself.  Did I do everything I could?  Are his foundations sound?  And worst of all, the realization that we are beyond all that.  There is no going back.  No way to redo it if I did something wrong.
     Then, the other day I was watching our three-year old playing.  He has taken a liking to the movie "How to Train Your Dragon." Excellent movie, by the way.  If you get a chance, check it out.  Anyway, I was watching him as he talked to his imaginary pet dragon.  He brings it along everywhere, and it is very cute watching his imagination flourish as he goes on adventures with it.  And as I was sitting there, praising God that He put me in this moment, another thought jumped in to stop that worship.  It said "you will never have another moment just like this," and that sobered me up quite a bit.       
       Three separate instances when praise was interrupted by foreboding.  When shouts of gladness were turned to murmurs.  When causes for worship were deformed into apprehension.
      When I was thinking these things, my first reaction was sadness.  I looked out to my future, and saw that at some point all of the kids are going to become adults.  That we will have less and less a part in their lives (as it should be), and I will be left with only memories of them. 
     But then another thought struck me.  "Why?"  Why am I sad?  I have been tasked by God to bring up these children, so why are examples of their growth a cause for sadness?  In all other aspects of life, when a project reaches completion it is cause for celebration.  The only answer I can come up with is fear.  I am afraid for the future, for what is in store for them, what is in store for me. 
     God didn't create fear.  In fact, the first time fear is mentioned is not until after man had been separated from Him by sin.  Rather, the serpent first put fear into our hearts when he caused us to turn our focus away from pleasing God and start worrying about ourselves.  When we worry about OUR smallness, about what WE are missing, then OUR world becomes THE world, and we are afraid because deep inside we know we can't control it all, we can't do it on our own.
     Satan is a funny guy that way.  He introduced us to sin with the allure that when we choose based on our own selfishness, we will be better off.  That sin only lead to death and separation from God.  Then, with death now imminent, he thrives off of our fear of that death, hoping that we slip more and more into self-focused despair, and, more importantly, away from God.  He coaxes us off the path, then laughs as we get more and more lost.
     So how to cure the fear?  Simply stated, I just have to renew my focus.  God is doing incredible things here, and what I am seeing is only the tip of the iceberg.  It is like a small island that is the peak of an underwater mountain.  And while I may not understand it on my own, when I am content to relish in praise of Him for what He has provided now, and let Him take care of what comes next, my fears can be relieved.
     Father, help me to be content.  Your Word promises that I do not have to worry about what is coming, and I know You hold everything in your hands.  Help me to resist the temptation to focus on my worries as if I could take care of them better than You.  Help me to recognize fear and apprehension for my future as a lure to take my eyes off of You.  And most of all, help me to stay focused on You and to live with your Son as my example.  Amen
But I still hope there is TIVO in heaven.  Matt was so cute the other day....:-)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's been a while...

OK, so I know that it has been a while since I posted anything.  I have a few ideas in the works, and I am definitely going to have a book commentary started in the next few days.  I just haven't had time to be on the computer in the past couple of weeks.

But I promise I have not forgotten about the blog...

Monday, September 20, 2010

HSM Year 2-- The Beginning

    So now we are about 2 weeks into our "normal" HSM small groups.  We had our start-up party two weeks ago, and our first official meeting last week.  In our group this year: L.J., Andrew, Ray, Emerson, Jeff (the returning students), and Daniel, who we have gotten to know over the summer.  We are really excited about the opportunities and possibilities for these guys this year.
    As many of you know, the high schoolers are going through the New Testament this year.  The effort is to read the whole New Testament, because many of them simply have never taken the time to read God's Word.  So I have started posting a daily dose of reading on facebook for them every day with a pace set so that they will finish.  Can't wait to see what kinds of questions they come up with.  And they are reading the Message Bible, so there are bound to be some funny quotes in there.
   As for service, we are partnering with the Treasure Box, an organization that provides prepackaged meals to our community.  For $30, you can get enough food to feed a family of four for a week, or a single person for a month!  We will be helping on distribution day.  But our big project with them involves their annual Holiday meal box.  For $35, a family will get a whole turkey, veggies, sweet potatoes, pasta, and a pie.  We are trying to get 50 of these Holiday boxes donated, so that they can be distributed to families in our neighborhood who would otherwise not be having a meal for the holidays.  Our official kickoff was yesterday, and our fundraising goes through November 7. If you would like more info, you can go to and look under "holiday box."  Or you can find one of us at church.
    We have also already developed a web page.  It is still in its infancy, but we are calling it Zombies With Jesus.  I am going to explain our name in the "About" section soon, but it will be a cool funnel for all of the activities we are going to try and do this year.
    And as for activities, we are still coming up with some solid ideas, but our first is Sunday night, when we will be going as a group to Mosaic in LA to hear Erwin McManus speak.  Should be a fun night for all of us!
  That's about it for now.  As always, many thanks to my fearless co-leader Evan for putting up with random texts about ideas and such, and welcome to our temporary intern (gofer) Zach, who will be joining us until they leave for Scotland in October.
   See ya later, and as our tag line states "Get undead and Come Alive!!"