Sunday, August 20, 2006

First Poem

In honor of my friend, Kevin, who recently shared his first poem with me. This is mine:

Ode to a Mosquito
by Jenny Abbas, age 10

In the land of ten thousand lakes
People suffer from bug bite aches

The reason is, of course, the mosquito
who flies through the air like a torpedo

lands on some innocent skin
and sticks his little pain-causing needle in

And that is why
in the land of ten thousand lakes
people suffer from bed bug aches

My Prayer

One the major ways I've been spending my days the last few months is getting my house ready to sell. In addition to the regular things, like cleaning, fixing and painting, I've also been (finally!) taking time to tackle paperwork and electronic files. I signed my book contract a few weeks after I moved in, and sustained my head injury shortly before my book released. So in the five years I've been here, much too much has collected, mostly in my office.

My latest endeavor has been cleaning out my desktop. A friend was helping me with the task, and just when I thought we were about done, he asked if I had any floppy disks or ZIP disks that needed to be converted to CD-ROM. Thus the latest trip down memory lane as I've discovered very early versions of my book, years-old journal entries, college papers, and even some poetry.

The poem below is still the cry of my heart:

My Prayer

As I make my way through this life
I find myself thinking I'm doing it on my own
that I can do it alone.
Thank you Jesus
for being my constant companion
reaching out
gently convicting
and encouraging me
I love being close to you.
You are truly my best friend.
When I think to the future
and all I desire to be,
I know you'll be right there with me.
When I struggle between the conflicting voices
of Your word and Your world
I thank you for giving me strength
to pursue righteousness.
Continue to mold me
shape me
transform me
to be the one You have called me to be.
Help me to be a transparent light
that others will see You through me.
Thank you for giving me a future
and a hope of complete redemption.
Use me to reach those who need You.
Make me a willing servant.
I want to be other-focused, not self-centered
I want my relationships to reflect Your love
I want others to desire what I have found
and love.
I want to be so filled with who You are
that it changes who I am.
I want to be so filled with what You did
that it changes what I do.
I can't wait to be made perfect
and to be near You forever.
Help me to be patient and devoted
to my current mission.
Thank you for the assurance
of knowing
You care
You bless
You heal
You love.
When I fret about my future
When I get impatient to fulfill my desires
Ground me
remind me
show me
Your love is all I need.
This is my prayer.

Jen Abbas
March 30, 1996

Friday, August 18, 2006

Holy Hospitality

I've been back from Ohio about a week now. The last night I was there, I again visited the Tuesday night group. The agenda for that night was a presentation of a new "church-within-a-church" plant. The core elements of the new church include an emphasis on hospitality, service, community and creativity. For those of you who have followed my blog for awhile, you'll understand my enthusiasm for this new endeavor. I didn't have any intentions of moving to Ohio when I visited, but last Tuesday, I sensed God finally direct my next steps.

I've spent some time this past week talking to friends, praying and seeking counsel. There are a million logistical things to work out--namely, selling my house and figuring out where to live. I've been in GR for seven years and it was been my home, but as one friend said, "God has been pulling the tent pegs for you for months. I have a peace about releasing you to Canton."

Ironically, before the message at church this weekend, there was a commissioning for several church members embarking on a new church plant. Again, the word release was used as we blessed those involved in the new church.

I met a girl in Canton who is buying a home and looking for housemates. I've lived on my own for 12 of the last 15 years. I know this isn't good for me. I yearn to share my life with others. I'm excited about the possibilities. Post-head injury, I'm a new person with new priorities. I need relationships more than I did. Or maybe, I just realize my need more now without that pesky self-reliance and independence in the way. My health has taken a dip again. I haven't been able to work for two months now. It's scary, but I sense God's presence more closely now that I have in months. I'm seeing my neurologist next week. This last headache has lasted about a month now, at times so painful I can't see. All the more reason to have others around me. On good days, I've been having friends over--to talk, or more often, to play Catan. I want to cultivate more of a heart of hospitality. I haven't had many dinner parties since my head injury. I want to start again. When I told my mom about my hope to buy a big, cheap house in Canton at some point, she reminded me that one of the happiest times in my life was when I shared a modest house with three other women. We had game nights, movie nights, theme parties, football parties, late night talks and many, many meals. I miss those days. I look forward to sharing them again with my new friends.

At church on Saturday, our pastor started a new series, Holy Hospitality. I think maybe God is lighting the road ahead.

Kids and divorce: crisis of faith

Kids and divorce: crisis of faith
By Deborah Potter
Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Jen Thompson looks at family pictures, the memories are still painful.

Her parents divorced when she was 14, and with the sense of loss came a crisis of faith.
"My father was emotionally just barren," she says. "... So I came across as thinking that my father was just impossible to please. And that definitely carried over into my relationship with God ... that I was, in God's eyes, unforgivable and unlovable."

A recent national survey of adults who were kids when their parents divorced found Thompson's experience is not unusual, that the separation had a major impact on their spiritual lives. They were, for example, much less likely to go to church or to call themselves religious than those adults whose parents stayed married.

"One extraordinary finding in our study was that of those grown children of divorce who were active in a church at the time of their parents' divorce, two-thirds say that no one in the clergy or congregation reached out to them," said Elizabeth Marquardt, the author of "Between Two Worlds," a study of children and divorce.

Her study found that adults often feel the church abandoned them as children when their parents were divorcing and that their pastors were no better than anyone else in helping them cope.

"At the time of divorce," Marquardt said, "people ... don't know what to say; they don't want to offend the parents. They're afraid they might upset the child, so they don't reach out."

Jeff Williams, a leader of the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries, was 10 when his parents divorced. He says no one seemed to notice the cataclysm that was taking place in his life.

"We went to church, and the older ladies were complaining about the temperature of the sanctuary, and the ushers, the people who served, went on with their rituals, and nothing seemed to change there, while my life had radically changed.

"And I know now they didn't know what to say," Williams said. "But it's like you have had a leg blown off or you've had a wound and it's terrible and nobody sees it."

Linda Ranson Jacobs, executive director of Divorce Care for Kids, or DC4K, says her group's program, which has been adopted by some 2,000 congregations — including some in the Puget Sound area — argues that divorce affects every area of a child's life — emotionally, spiritually and intellectually.

"We wanted to put together a program to teach churches what the children are experiencing, the grief that they're going through, the stress that they're under, and bring them into the church family," Jacobs said.

"You know, what better place for a child who's lost their earthly family to be than in a church family," she said.

Training videos by DC4K feature children wrestling with common divorce-related problems, such as being torn between the parents' two homes and their two churches.

"I think the biggest accomplishment is just keeping God in front of those children, changing how they look at a father image or a parent image," Jacobs said.

According to Marquardt, some children of divorce become more religious after their parents' breakup, but they do so in a different way. More than 40 percent of those adult children of divorce who are members of a faith community describe themselves as born again. Marquardt theorizes that they are drawn to the theology found in evangelical churches, "where you have a more direct personal relationship with God as father through the son, Jesus Christ.

"For instance, they're much more likely to agree that God became the loving father or parent [they] never had in real life," she said. "So they are turning to God and the faith for something they didn't have in their own lives. And in the midst of that healing, in the midst of finding wholeness, there's also a very poignant story of loss."

Williams agrees. "I'm interested in looking at God not as ... what he can do for me but what I can do for him — appreciating life, even being thankful for the experiences," Williams said. "The compassion born of sorrow has allowed me to feel deeply and minister deeply to the children of divorce and parents who are going through divorce."

Friday, August 04, 2006


I'm writing this post from the home of some friends in Ohio. This past Tuesday morning was the day I had been dreading for over a year. My best friends, the family down the street, left for their new home on the other side of the world. The thought of driving back to our neighborhood after seeing them off at the airport was more than I could take, so I was very grateful for the opportunity to head out of town for a few days.

A few weeks ago, the message at my church was about how sometimes, when we pursue God's will, things get worse. I've often said that I'm not afraid to do the hard thing, so long as I know it's the right thing. The challenge of this particular season of my life is not simply that change is here, whether I want it or not, but I don't know what I'm to do next. With the challenges of my health, I've finally accepted the reality that I am unable to do the work I've done for the last ten years. However, I don't yet know what I can do well. I know I can no longer afford to live in the home I love, but I don't yet know where I will live next. I know that it is not in my best interest--physically, emotionally or spiritually--to live alone, but I don't know yet with whom I will live. I feel as though the road I have been traveling has come to an end. There's no fork, no narrower path. Just emptiness ahead. And I wonder if somewhere along the way I got lost, or if this is the next step of learning to trust God. I'm seeking that pillar of fire or clouds to lead me. Someone once said that when you are unsure of your direction, to go back to the last place you felt confident of your route. For me, that place is here in Ohio.

The last few days have been restful and have brought so much peace to my heart, even in the midst of the unknown. Being away from home is giving me clarity to see what I'm missing and to define what I really need. I'm enjoying the conversations I'm having as I reconnect and deepen relationships with friends here. I'm grateful for this oasis in Ohio.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Generation Ex on MP3

Good news on the book front...I just learned that Brilliance Audio, who created the CD and cassette versions of my book, are now making an MP3 version of my book available in October. You can pre-order it from Powells.