Friday, December 31, 2010

My heart aches for you - 1 John 3:1

On our road trip to IL and back, Ben discovered a new interest, Veggie Tales. (I think it's all the music.) The particular one he likes is The Wonderful Land of Ha's about the prodigal son. At the end of the DVD, the verse that they discuss is 1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!.

In the last few weeks, I have encountered various people at various stages in their relationship (or lack there of) with God. And it seems to me that these people who are weighing on my heart tonight are missing this truth. We are children of God. He loves us! He really and truly with all his heart loves YOU! Just like you are broken and bruised, tainted and tormented, and anything else you might be feeling. If you could grab hold of this truth, way down deep in your heart, this would change your life. While this verse can obviously speak to non-Christians, it is an important reminder to Christians as well. There is nothing we can do to earn God's love. It is freely given.

Love is a precious commodity, especially in our world today. There are so many who are need of it and so many who aren't willing to give it away. There are those who doubt their worth. There are those who hide their pain with friends, alcohol, games, funny words, etc. There are those who have been Christians for years and still can't quite accept this truth. There are those that stumble forward on the road of life not knowing where to go because they aren't looking at the map. There are those who become dependent on other people to fill that void inside. There are those that won't admit there is a void inside. There are those that have built a very thick solid wall around their heart and make sure no one gets in. There are those who have given so much of their heart there seems to be very little left. For all of these people and so many more, God loves you. No strings attached, nothing to fix, nothing to change. He loves you the way you are simply because you are his child. You don't have to be worthy enough, good enough, smart enough, righteous enough, etc. You just have to accept it.
My heart truly aches for those out there who do not know the comfort and power of this verse.

As this year closes, I pray that God touches your heart and that you are forever changed. May 2011 be a year of change for the good, a year of love and compassion, and most of all a year of God at work in you. God loves you and so do I.

A few quick thoughts on road trips

1.  The amazing packing you do to get everything in car explodes on the road making unpacking much harder.

2.  Sometimes putting an extra hour of time into the drive is worth it for a good meal.

3.  Portable DVD players have changed the road trip forever.

4.  Is there ever really a comfortable ride when you are going that far?

5.  Getting home is always good.

Sorry for the short post this week.  Maybe I'll come up with more to say tomorrow.  (Don't hold your breath waiting on that one.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas

So if you read my other blog, you will see that I didn't have much to say about Christmas. Well I guess I lied because now it seems that I do have something to say. Christmas is really a very special and happy time around the world. When you stop to think about why, you might say all the feel good movies, the festive songs, the good food, the traditions, the decorations, the family time, the spirit of generosity, etc., etc. All of those are good things, but the real answer lies in the reason for the season, the birth of Jesus. All of those things come from love of something or from something. That love is really Jesus. Here we are 2000 or so years later and despite many efforts to the contrary Jesus is still pervading everything we do and say and feel. His birth 2000 years ago is still bringing love into this world today.

God entered the world in the form of Jesus. The eternal stepped out of Heaven and entered Time. He came knowing he would die with the sin of the world weighing on him. He knew he would be rejected and suffer, but he came anyway. He did it all for us. He did it because he LOVED us. He came in an unexpected way even though it was foretold he would come. People today can argue about how we celebrate it, what we say about it, and even when we celebrate it. Call me crazy, but I don't think any of that matters. We are commemorating the time that God entered the world as a baby and changed all of history. We are commemorating the time that God showed us how much he loved us. Is there anyway we can wrap our human minds around this event? I don't think so and I'm not even going to try. I'm just going to stop and say thank you.

Good blog topic?

So I guess December has been a little busy because I haven't posted a blog since Dec. 9th.  I haven't forgotten about you all, I just haven't had much to say.  I'm sure that seems odd with it being Christmas.  This time of year everyone wants to share their traditions and stories.  So shouldn't I have lots to say about all this?  Not really.  Maybe I'm just not in the "Christmas" spirit.  I really don't have lots to say about Christmas.  I love this time of year, the decorations, the giving that you see from people, the family time, and the freedom to talk about Christ.  However, all of this doesn't seem to be like a good blog post.  What does seem like a good blog post?  Bowel movements!

Ben has begun to grab himself when he is pooping.  This is a good thing because that means, he is beginning to realize what he is doing.  So when I see him grab himself, I take him to the potty and we wipe and flush the toilet.  However, he doesn't like the potty so much.  Not surprising considering he could easily fall in.  So today we are going to get him a potty.  This is a pretty momentous step.  Ben is really growing up fast and now he's even starting potty training.  I'm not sure we are ready for this, but evidently he is.  I'm not really sure what the next step is or what kind of time table to expect.  I'm kind of expecting him to let us know what is next.

So the big news around our house is not what Christmas presents we might get or Christmas plans.  It is that Ben is starting potty training.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Favorite Things

A few of my favorite verses with a little background.

Exodus 14:14 - I first found this verse when I was reading through the Bible the first and only time.  I was in high school and for no particular reason, this one stayed with me.  I suppose there was some comfort in it because He would take care of me, but there was also some responsibility on my part.  Stop trying so hard!  Just keep still and stop trying to fix it all yourself.  That's kind of a big deal for me.  I like to fix the problem and to fix it right away.  Maybe that isn't always the best idea.

Jeremiah 29:11 - I found this one my senior year of high school.  What great timing huh?  God is pretty cool that way.  It was very comforting to know that I was going to be okay.  My future was not in my control.  Thank goodness!  My success did not depend on me.  I just had to follow after to him to get to my success.

Psalms 37:4 - This one came to me in college.  I can be a bit stubborn at times and toward the end of my college years, God told me Drew would be my husband.  I was pretty skeptical and took the "yeah right" opinion.  That very night that I was doubting a friend was writing in her journal and this verse was on the page.  She said, "I think this verse is for you." and read it to me.  And it was.  I took God at his word.  He would provide me with the desires of my heart, a husband who I loved and was great friends with.  Someone who I could laugh with and cry with.  Someone to really share my life.  He did give me that and I am forever thankful and in awe of the blessings I get everyday that I don't deserve.

Isaiah 49:14-16 - I think this one was in college as well.  I attended Sunday evening services irregularly back then and I almost decided not to go to this one.  But something told me I should even if I was a little late.  So I did.  I sat in the back while an evangelist spoke.  He had an altar call and I was still sitting in the back.  He called me and two other girls up front and said he had a word just especially for us.  These verses was that word.  I didn't even know I was feeling alone and abandoned.  But as soon as he said those words, I knew I was feeling exactly like Zion.  And God spoke directly to me and let me know, I was not forgotten.  I was not abandoned.  I was right there with him the whole time.

Isaiah 40:31- This one is the most recent verse.  I was pregnant with Ben and I was determined I wouldn't need drugs.  A friend of mine recommended me to look up verses on strength and have them with me.  I looked up several and while I was in the hospital, I read back over them.  There were a couple that stood out at the time.  When I was in the middle of labor, this is the one I remembered.  I couldn't even remember the whole thing.  I just remembered "they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary."  I repeated that part over and over to myself and I gave birth to an 8lb 13oz baby boy without drugs.  Maybe more incredibly in this story, I don't remember the pain of labor.  All I remember is this verse and a few other things that people were telling me.

These are the verses that have spoken to me and touched my life.  I guess you could say these are the verses that tell the story of my life.  What verses tell your story?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A few thoughts on "My favorite things"

Exodus 14:14 - The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.

Moses told this to the Isrealites when they had mountains on either side of them, the sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them. They were really in a pickle and what was needed. They had to let go and let God handle it. How often do we try to handle our own crisis? Too often! God is ready and willing to help us out, we just have to let him.

Jeremiah 29:11 - "I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

So if he is going to handle our crisis, how do I know that he'll do it the right way? (Yes you have really thought this! I know because I have too. We just don't like saying it out loud.) This verse attests to his promise to us. He plans to give us hope and a prosperous future. Are we willing to step back and let him give us that? This isn't as easy as it sounds because if we are going to step back, we have to give up our ideas and plans. Are you ready to give up your stuff to get His stuff?

Psalm 37:4 - Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Isn't it hard to give up my stuff? Well not if you follow his plan. What is that plan? This verse. Delight yourself in him. Where do you get your delight, your joy, your happiness, etc? If you are looking to him to fulfill you, then your stuff slowly becomes his stuff and it isn't so hard after all. Of course, not everything is that easy, but keep focusing on him and the rest will fall into place. The desires of your heart will be the desires of His heart. You get what He wants you to have and you are happy with that.

Isaiah 49:14-16 - But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,/ the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast /and have no compassion on the child she has borne? /Though she may forget, /I will not forget you! /See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; /your walls are ever before me.


Sometimes we forget that God is really watching out for us and paying attention to us. We all have had those times. When we do, let's remember what he said here. We are on his hands. Every time he looks at his hands, he sees you. Your "walls" (face) is always before him. He can't look away from you. He can't forget you!

Isaiah 40:31 - but those who hope in the Lord/ will renew their strength./ They will soar on wings like eagles;/ they will run and not grow weary, /they will walk and not grow faint.

And when the road gets long and the days get hard, remember this. Put your hope in him. Put your focus on Him. Put yourself into His hands and you can make it through.

Which verse speaks to you? Which verse will help you get to the next step? Memorize it, so you will always have it with you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Responsiblity of a Parent

Genesis 18:19 "For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him."

Deuteronomy 6:7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Psalms 78:4 We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I'm not really sure what made me think of the Proverbs verse today, but I did and upon investigation I found these related verses that seemed appropriate. While a couple of them do refer to fathers and I could focus on the role of the man in the relationship, I won't. Today my thoughts are more on parenting in general. Being a relatively new parent and a rather Type A personality, I have read/ am reading several books about parenting. I love reading for the information, ideas, explanations, and stories I am given in them. These are important to me because some days the task seems too overwhelming. Other days it is extremely stressful. And still other days it is fun. I am still leaving out a whole range of emotions, but my point is made.

We see in Genesis that God has given parents a rather enormous task. Get your children to follow the way of the Lord. Deuteronomy and Psalms basically tells us to always tell our kids about Him. I'm guessing he means even when they don't want to listen and when they are throwing a tantrum, and when they are moody teenagers, etc. So after all that I'm thinking, "How in the world can I do this? That job is too big!" Well the first problem with that idea is the word I. So after realizing that and saying lots of prayers for Ben and probably not enough for me, I'm at the verse I started the day with, Proverbs. This verse is comforting because it reminds me that if I do my job to the best of the ability God has given me. I'll be okay and so will Ben. When I think a little more, I start wondering, exactly how do I do this training. And that's where Ephesians comes in, which relates back to the verses at the beginning. (And yes that sounds like circular logic.) So when I get overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenthood, I should come back to these verses and see that it isn't about me. It's about God. It isn't about MY kid(s). It's about the kid(s) HE's given me. When I focus on HIM and follow HIM, everything will fall into place. Whether that everything is parenting or teaching or whatever is going on, it's HIS job to lead and my job to follow.

From the South

I thought I would share a few observations I have noticed about myself recently.

You know you're becoming Southern when...

1.  Sweet Tea at 8 am sounds like a good idea.

2.  Sweet Tea involves as much Sweet as it does Tea

3.  You call your  purse a 'pocketbook'

4.  Grits are good.

5.  You think you really do need bread and milk when it snows.

6.  You think college sports really are the best.

7.  Going to a yard sale at 7am on Saturday sounds like fun.  (Maybe that's just Catawba County?)

8.  You use the phrase 'bless her heart" in conversation.


Okay, so I just threw the last few.  I can't say that I actually do those, but it sounded good.  However, I have noticed how attached I have become to sweet tea and then the other day I called my purse a pocketbook.  And I thought, "Whoa, that was weird."  Also I recently began to discover the wonder that are grits.

I was hoping to come up with 10 because that sounded like a good round number.  Unfortunately, I'm stuck at 8.  So anything you think I missed?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

John 9 Coming to Jesus

This chapter shows some interesting attitudes that people bring to Jesus. At the beginning of the chapter, we see his disciples asking an honest question based on what they have been taught. Because they came to him with an honest question that they wanted answered Jesus healed the man and showed them they had been taught wrong. When we come to Jesus with an honest, open attitude, miracles can be accomplished. We are letting him do his best work because don’t consider ourselves equal with him and his abilities. With that attitude we recognize that he has the answers and we need to go to him to get those answers.
By contrast the Pharisees think they have the answers and therefore question the man about his healing. They end up arguing amongst themselves and throwing the man out. They even go back to the old standby, “You were sinful at birth, so you were blind.” How often do we get caught up in the rules and forget to listen to what God is really telling us? “Drinking is bad, so how dare you go to bar to witness to someone.” “People sin and break the law. So they deserve to go to jail and rot there. No one would in their right mind would think of witnessing to a criminal. They are too far gone.” Etc., Etc. I’m sure there are tons of examples of things Christians just aren’t supposed to do. Sometimes these are good general rules, but we can’t get so caught up in rules that we forget to listen to God telling us to reach out to people. Jesus even tells them that they are responsible for their sins. If we are in church listening to people talk about God and Jesus, at Judgement we have no excuse to say we didn’t know.
The blind man himself comes to Jesus with yet another attitude. He doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah immediately upon his healing. He recognizes that he is a good man and that he has been blessed with gifts from God. Jesus comes to him again and speaks with him. Jesus shows him who he is and talks with him and the man believes. Some people need to be presented with Jesus more than once before they believe. They aren’t anti-Jesus, but they just have more questions that need to be answered. They are open to the possibility of Jesus, but they just need to know more before they believe.
And finally we have the man’s parents. They confirm the man is their son who was born blind, but they will not say that he was healed by a miracle. They are too afraid of being kicked out of the synagogue to affirm what they know. Are we like this? “I know I need to get saved, but what will my friends think?” “I know God is calling me to seminary, but what will my family think?” “I know God is calling me to be a missionary, but I can’t leave my life here.” “I know God is calling to me to talk to that guy/lady I work with, but what will they think of me if I talk about God?” Are we more concerned with how people will perceive us or how God perceives us? Are we more worried about the temporal things of this world or the eternal things of the next?
What category to you fall into? What attitude are you coming to Jesus with and how can you affect people you know that fit into other categories?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Long Weekend

We haven't had a free weekend in awhile.  We finally had a free weekend and we made some plans.  We hung out with some friends Friday and Sat. night.  Saturday during the day we planned to put up Christmas decorations, vaccuum the house, go to the dump, do the recycling, mop the floor, sort Ben's old toys and get rid of some, and those other fun adult things.  We also planned to take Ben to his gym class for the first time this month.  Friday night we couldn't go to the restaurant we planned, but there was another one close by, so that was okay.  Ben did wonderful and sat/stood between us and played great during the movie.  The two poopy diapers from the sweet tea he drank weren't great.  (We didn't want to give him tea, but he didn't scream during dinner that way.  We did switch him to water.) 

Saturday during the day was nothing like we planned.  It started out so good.  Ben slept in and I got to get on Facebook and play around a little bit.  We got ready and took him to gym class only to find there was a meet and there was no class.  I didn't actucally go in.  When I couldn't park, I figured there was no class.  We went home slightly disappointed, but I figured we could go to the mall to play.  So Drew mowed over the leaves after jump starting the lawn mower.  (Yes, the lawn mower battery was dead.)  We went to the mall, had lunch, and took Ben to the play center.  He loved it of course and was well behaved.  They even had the first "snow" of the year with soap suds.  It was super cute!  Then visted PawPaw and dropped him off with Nana for a nap and some play time while we cleaned and decorated.  Drew got a pleasant and unexpected phone call from our landlord saying they were taking $200 off our rent this month because we were good renters.  Yay! (Tithing really does pay off.)  They asked if everything was good with the house and we said yes.

Then we got home and went to the basement.  There we discovered it was raining.   Well Drew discovered this, came upstairs and told me not to freak out.  So of course, I was ready to freak out.  One of the pipes was shooting out water.  We called the landlord and she sent someone right over.  Drew tied a rag around it and we started moving boxes.  The freaking out didn't really come.  We just got to work.  I started sorting and thorwing away while Drew and the landlord's dad thought of ways to fix it.  Some boxes of things I looked at and had no problem tossing them out.  And some boxes I looked at were miraculously dry or dry enough to save.  Those were the important things.  I say miraculously on purpose.  God is in the miracle business and he performed one on Saturday.  Neither Drew nor I freaked out and the important stuff was saved.  What's more impressive, Drew and I had been saying for a couple months that we needed to get down there and toss stuff out.  God had been preparing us for it even though we didn't know it.

Sunday was realtively normal.  Thankfully!  I even had time to sort through Ben's toys.  Wed. I'm off and now that will be a busy day with Christmas pictures, Christmas shopping, getting blood drawn, cleaning the house, going to the dump, and Christmas decorating.  That's a good kind of busy though.  Isn't it amazing how God works even we don't know he is working?  Praise God for the long weekend that we had!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Coffee With a Sparrow

I received the below devotional yesterday by email. Very rarely do I participate in chain e-mails -- especially those of a Christian variety -- mostly because I completely agree with the author's last 2-3 sentences of the devotional I've posted below. Even though there may be a wonderful message in said emails, I strongly resent the notion that often accompanies them suggesting that Christ's love has strings attached to it or that His blessings can be manipulated in any way. So the chain normally stops with me. But this, I got such a blessing from this yesterday on a day that I truly needed one, that I couldn't resist sharing. I hope you enjoy and receive a blessing yourself:

THE SPARROW AT STARBUCKS

The song that silenced the cappuccino machine.

It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop on 51st Street and Broadway, just a skip up from Times Square.

Early November weather in New York City holds only the slightest hint of the bitter chill of late December and January, but it's enough to
send the masses crowding indoors to vie for available space and warmth.

For a musician, it's the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world, I'm told, and consequently, the tips can be substantial if you play your tunes right.

Apparently, we were striking all the right chords that night, because our basket was almost overflowing. It was a fun, low-pressure gig - I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion instruments. We mostly did pop songs from the '40s to the '90s with a few original tunes thrown in.
During our emotional rendition of the classic, "If You Don't Know Me by Now," I noticed a lady sitting in one of the lounge chairs across from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.

After the tune was over, she approached me. "I apologize for singing along on that song. Did it bother you?" she asked.

"No," I replied. "We love it when the audience joins in. Would you like to sing up front on the next selection?" To my delight, she accepted my invitation. "You choose," I said. "What are you in the mood to sing?"

"Well. ... do you know any hymns?" Hymns? This woman didn't know who she was dealing with. I cut my teeth on hymns. Before I was even born, I was going to church. I gave our guest singer a knowing look. "Name one."

"Oh, I don't know. There are so many good ones. You pick one."

"Okay," I replied. "How about 'His Eye is on the Sparrow'?"

My new friend was silent, her eyes averted. Then she fixed her eyes on mine again and said, "Yeah. Let's do that one." She slowly nodded her head, put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center of the shop. With my two-bar setup, she began to sing, "Why should I be discouraged? Why should the shadows come?"

The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed. Even the gurgling noises of the cappuccino machine ceased as the employees stopped what they were doing to listen. The song rose to its conclusion.

"I sing because I'm happy;
I sing because I'm free.
For His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me."

When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar that would have rivaled a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall.
Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the din, "Oh, y'all go back to your coffee! I didn't come in here to do a concert! I just came in here to get somethin' to drink, just like you!"

But the ovation continued.. I embraced my new friend. "You, my dear, have made my whole year! That was beautiful!"

"Well, it's funny that you picked that particular hymn," she said.

"Why is that?"

"Well . .." she hesitated again, "that was my daughter's favorite song."

"Really!" I exclaimed.

"Yes," she said, and then grabbed my hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was business as usual.. "She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last week."

I said the first thing that found its way through my stunned silence.
"Are you going to be okay?"

She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed my hands. "I'm gonna be okay. I've just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing his songs, and everything's gonna be just fine." She picked up her bag, gave me her card, and then she was gone.

Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that particular coffee shop on that particular November night? Coincidence that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular shop? Coincidence that of all the hymns to choose from, I just happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter, who had died just the week before? I refuse to believe it. God has been arranging encounters in human history since the beginning of time, and it's no stretch for me to imagine that he could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting him and singing his songs, everything's gonna be okay.

The next time you feel like GOD can't use YOU, remember,

Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
John the Baptist ate bugs
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer...
And Lazarus was dead!


No more excuses now!! God can use you to your full potential. Besides you aren't the message, you are just the messenger.

God bless. Pass this on to someone else, if you'd like.

There is NO LUCK attached.
If you delete this, it's okay:

God's Love Is Not Dependent On E-Mail.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good Advice

Probably the best advice I ever got in my life was from my dad.  After camping one weekend, we were picking up our campsite and he asked me to pick up some trash.  My response was that it wasn't mine, so why should I have to pick it up. He told me that we should "leave it better than we found it."  These words convinced me to pick up that trash, but also spoke to me much deeper than simply in that moment.  He gave me words to live by.

I can't say that I always live this out, but I try.  I recycle some (not as much as I should) to try to leave the Earth better than I found it.  I try to educate my students about Spanish and also about the world in an effort to leave them better than I found them.  I'm working on reading my Bible every day and praying every day in an effort to leave this world, my family, my friends, etc. better than I found them.  I am honest with the youth in our youth group about my struggles, my past, etc. in an effort to leave their relationship with God better than I found it.  I am an active member of my church in an effort to leave it better than I found it.  So I guess the purpose of this post is a little thank you to my dad for such great advice.

John 6:68-69

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”


While these are only a few short verses in a long chapter that could bring forward many questions and comments, I find these verses speaking to me.  Yesterday in his sermon, Pastor Scott mentioned some of the things the disciples gave up to follow Jesus:  Comfort, Careers, Possessions, Position, Family, and Safety.  When you consider all that they gave up, Peter's statement becomes much more powerful.  They could have gone back to family, their jobs, their houses, their businesses, etc., etc.  However, they didn't consider any of these a possibility.  They knew that real life was held in Jesus' hand.  They put Jesus so far above everything else that they saw no other option, but to follow him.


How does this relate to us?  Do we see other options?  Do we keep our backup plans around?  I would venture to say there are several of us out in the world, who see Jesus as an option.  If he doesn't work out, then I can always go back to my family, my business, my car, my house, etc., etc.  Jesus doesn't want to be an option.  You can't simply take a little of him to make sure you life goes better.  He must be your only option.  What is standing in the way of making him your only option?  Is he really worth giving up EVERYTHING?  This is the cost of discipleship.  Can you say you have no where else to go?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Labels

Just a few quick thoughts on this Monday.  I hope I can clarify these jumbled thoughts.

Whether we like it or not, our lives are filled with labels.  We label ourselves one way or another to belong to one group or another.  Other people label us based on their perception of us.  How often do we group labels together as if one automatically assumes another? How often do we define ourselves based on previously assumed labels?
I am an American Christian.  I am a Christian American.  I am a Democratic Christian.  I am a manly Christian.  I am a manly American.  I am an American man.  I am a Christian man.  I am a womanly Christian.  I am a womanly American.  I am an American woman.  I am a Christian woman.  The list could go on and on and on.  Do these labels have to go together or should they be separate ideas?
What are your labels? What should be your labels?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Luke 5:1-11 Jesus Calling

In this passage, we see Jesus calling his first disciples after a miraculous catch of fish.  In many ways, this may be a story we have heard many times.  We might marvel at the catch of fish.  We might focus in on the words, "fisher of men".  We might even find it amazing that Simon and the others just followed.  While all of these things are good to notice, there is still so much more in this passage. 
A few other things to notice:

1. Simon allowed his boat to be used by Jesus when it was needed.  Are we making our boats, houses, cars, money, talents, time, etc. available to Jesus when they are needed?

2.  He was a professional fisherman, but he put aside his pride to listened to Jesus when he asked him to do something radical.  He followed through and was rewarded with an enormous catch of fish.  What radical thing is Jesus asking us to do?  Maybe we need to talk to that family member about Christ.  Maybe we need to get up earlier in the morning to spend more time with him.  Maybe we need to turn off the TV/cell phone/computer a little more often and spend time with Him/our families/our friends.  Maybe he's calling you to go back to school.  Maybe he's calling you to join a ministry at church.  Maybe he's calling you to start a ministry at church.  The list could go on and on.  What rewards are waiting for us when we follow obediently?

3.  Peter's immediate response was one of humility.  He recognized he was not worthy of the blessing Jesus had bestowed upon him.  Way down deep in our hearts, are we really that humble?  Do we think we are worthy of those blessings?  I wish I could say I was this humble.  I think I often take his divinity for granted.  He is the God of the Universe.  Why do I deserve anything he has given me?

4.  Jesus' repsonse to Simon's humility was to call him into a totally new direction.  I think Simon Peter could safely say he never expected that for his life and he wouldn't have traded that life for anything either.  Do we get a little "homesick" for our old life?  Do we look back at what might have been?  Or are we pulling our boats to shore, leaving everything, and following him?  For Peter, it was all worth it.

Where do you find yourself in this story?  How are you going to move to the next level?  Let's not leave this as a nice story about Peter.  Make this story personal.  Find yourself in this story and move forward. 

Halloween

I have seen several Facebook statuses and a few blogs about Halloween and Christianity.  Some very anti-Halloween, some in the middle, and some "taking back" the holiday with a Fall Festival.  Maybe this is just me and I could be all wrong, but our intent towards the holiday seems to be more important than the origins of the holiday.  We all know the origins of Halloween are pagan and a little bit of Catholicism thrown in there for good measure.  I don't think what it was matters as much as what it is.  Today it is a festive holiday where kids get to play dress up, visit neighbors, and eat candy.  Of course this is not all that goes on at Halloween, but by and large this is the holiday.  Is this in and of itself bad?  I don't think so.  Ben participated in the Fall Festival at church and the Trunk or Treat.  He loved running around and visiting with people and kids from church.  Our intent was for him to eat candy, run around, and look cute.  He did.  We were also able to visit with a lot of people in the community in an non-threatening, non-intrusive way.  We gave their kids candy, complimented them on how cute they were, and spoke to them about our church.  My God is big enough to be able to use anything as a way to honor him and show his love.  That is what we were hoping to show with our participation in the Fall Festival and the Trunk or Treat.  If we had hired a psychic to predict the future of the children and talk to departed relatives, that might have been cause for concern.  But playing some games (fishing for ducks, find the pumpkin in the haystack, bean bag toss at a pumpkin), getting some candy, and playing dress up don't seem to be a cause for concern to me.  Let's not worry so much about what we call it and worry more about why we are doing it.

Just my 2 cents for the day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reading

I love to read.  I will read just about anything.  I remember when I was little I would read the back of the cereal box at breakfast to have something to read.  I read fiction and non-fiction.  I read contemporary novels and classics.  I have a few favorite authors (Austen, Hawthorne, the Bronte Sisters) and probably only two that I don't like at all, Melville and Stienbeck.  (Sorry to all their fans!  Just my personal preference.)  Most of the time this desire to read anything is good because I never run out of things to read.  However, sometimes it is a bad thing.  Right now it is a bad thing.  I am really, really, really wanting to read about 6 books right now.  It is hard enough to read one book with my schedule, but 6!  That is just impossible.  So I will have to be patient.  This seems unfair.  I don't want to be patient.  I want to lock myself in a room and do nothing, but read until I read them all.  Somehow I don't think this will happen, but I would like to do that.  So in the meantime, I will try to rank the books I want to read.  That is hard, but I think I have done it.

1. 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 By Dr. Thomas W. Phelan
2. The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir By Katrina Kenison
3. The Strong Willed Child By Dr. James Dobson
4.  The Queen of the South By Arturo Perez-Reverte
5.  Raising Boys by Dr. James Dobson
6.  The Titan's Curse By Rick Riordan

There are also 3 more that are a little more distant, but on my radar.

1. The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekateringburg by Helen Rappaport
2.  The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? By Slovoj Zizek
3.  Engaging Biblical Authority by William P. Brown
4.  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (rereading)

So I guess from the titles you've noticed that my reading preferences are a little varied.  :)  What about you?  Is there one specific type you read or do you just read anything?  Do you have a favorite author?

The cost of following. Luke 9:51, 57-62

Starting in 9:51 we notice that Jesus "resolutely" sets out for Jerusalem.  He knows what lies ahead of him (the cross) and sets out anyway.  He doesn't do it grudgingly either.  He resolutely sets out.  He has made up his mind and he is going to do what he has been called to do.  Thinking of that we can see a little bit of why Jesus reacts as he does in the next passage.

9:57-58 Isn't it amazing to think that the Savior of the world was a homeless man?  The man says he will follow and Jesus calls him on it.  Can you really do that?  Jesus may call us to follow him to crazy places, but the point is that we are called to follow him.  He goes there first and he is with us as we are going.  Are you prepared to really follow Jesus?  Where is he calling you to go?  Can you go with him?

9:59-60  This one seems a little unusual because Jesus calls this man and then reprimands him that he is not ready.  Some scholars think this man's father had just died and others think he was on his deathbed.  Either way, he had a familial duty to perform.  Jesus tells him there are more important things than familial duty.  That is to preach the gospel.  We can't let anything stand in our way of what we have been called to do.  What are you being called to do?  What is standing in your way?  What are you going to do about it?

9:61-62 The third man puts a stipulation on it.  I will follow when I have this other stuff finished.  There is an immediacy to the Gospel.  It is not something that can wait until everything esle is fixed up okay.  It is something that needs to be preached right now.  If you wait until, everything else is settled the way you want it, you will never be ready.  God is calling you to something right now.  What is it?  What stipulations are you putting on your obedience? 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Grocery Stores

I didn't have time at the same moment I had an idea for last week's blog, so you got nothing.  Sorry.  I'll make up for it this week by regaling you with my deep thoughts!

Grocery stores have really made it all so much easier for us to be humanitarian and help save the world.  We were at Food Lion last week and right there at the check out they had bags of candy.  For an extra dollar, you could donate a bag of candy to (insert some helpful group here).  They also quite often have little slips of paper where you can donate $1, $5, or $10 to some worthy cause.  It doesn't get much easier than that to help out.  At the end of your shopping trip, does $1 make that much of a difference.  Probably not, so throw an extra dollar on the tab and help save the world.

Yes I know, this is short and you are thinking, "It took 2 weeks to come up with this?"

The answer is yes, it took 2 weeks to come up with this.  But just stop a minute and think about 10 years ago, did we see grocery stores stepping up to make a difference.  I didn't.  It is just so refreshing to see that big chains are taking the time to bring these issues and humanitarian groups to the American consciousness.  I think it is nice to see and I wanted to say so.  And now I have!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The tale of Samson

This week, we explore Judges 16 and look at the story Samson and Delilah and the death of Samson. Next to Jesus, Samson is probably my favorite character in the Bible. Samson's life shows us the great gifts God can bless us with, the realistic vices of the flesh that we all struggle with, the negative consequences that can occur and the subsequent blessings we can miss when we don't use wisely what God has entrusted us with, and finally - it's an amazing story of redemption...how we can still be useful to further God's kingdom despite our past transgressions.

16:1-15 - Not all of us are blessed with the spiritual gift of discernment, but we are blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us through difficult and even dangerous situations. We need to see things and even people for what and who they are. Samson was so taken by Delilah's beauty and his weakness for the ladies that he failed to see Delilah's manipulation and her true intentions. Maybe we all don't struggle with lust in the same manner as Samson, but Delilah can still come in many shapes, sizes, and colors for us. Maybe for us, Delilah is a bad habit - or even addiction - that we need to let go of. Maybe Delilah is something material that we covet that takes our eyes off of where they truly need to be. Maybe Delilah is even a person in our lives that is keeping us from taking the next step in our spiritual walk and growing closer to God.

Our human nature is going to take over at some point and allow us to become consumed with feeding our flesh rather than feasting upon things more pleasing to our souls. That's why we cannot do it on our own and need to use the power of the Holy Spirit, which is available to us at any time. We have to be willing to be honest with ourselves and recognize what Delilah may be in our lives and the distractions she can cause. We also have to be willing to trust God to pray about it and to respond humbly and obediently to how he calls us to deal with it.

What is Delilah in your life today? Please let us pray for you if you are struggling with anything at all in your walk!

16:16-21 - It wasn't until Samson grew tired of Delilah's nagging that he finally relented and spilled the beans about the secret to his weakness - his "kryptonite" if you will. :) We are going to encounter people from time to time who are difficult to deal with in a spiritual sense. Satan uses people to try to knock us off our games, whether it's someone who challenges our faith, someone who frustrates us, or someone trying to deceive us. In these instances, we need to stand firm in what we know is right. Don't let the enemy or anyone else dim your light!

We also need to keep in mind that our gifts aren't to our glory, but to God's glory. As such, handle with care! Samson didn't use his gift of his mighty strength wisely in this instance and it cost him his eyes and a lot of physical and mental torture.

16:23-31 - In spite of Samson falling short of the glory of God, God was still able to use him one more time in a mighty way to destroy the pagan temple. More importantly, Samson found repentance and restoration through a humble heart and a God whose love for him, and you and I, is immeasurable. Don't believe the lies of Satan. When you're forgiven, God is more concerned about your next move than your past mistakes. Turn your "mess" into a "message!"

There have been times we've all run away from home in the spiritual sense, and God is always right there waiting at the door, inviting us in out of the rain....dry clothes, a warm meal, and a seat by the fireplace waiting on us!

Be very careful with that, though. Don't attempt to manipulate God or take his mercy and grace for granted. That's not a free pass to go out and sin again, knowing he will forgive us for anything. God isn't our genie lamp or our magic 8-ball! This is where having a humble and repentant heart truly comes into play. It's also where faith and obedience is put to the test, as often the things (and even people sometimes) we're called to turn away from are very difficult to let go of...but we'll never go wrong.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Waiting

This is one of those weeks when I don't think I have anything that I am just dying to tell you about, so I guess I'll mention some of what I have been learning lately.  In case you can't figure out what I've been learning, it is waiting/patience.

It seems to go without saying that having an 19 month old will teach you patience or drive you insane.  (Currently it's a little bit of both.)  However, this isn't the only place that I'm learning about patience and waiting.  This isn't something that I ask for, but just something God has been giving me.  Aren't I lucky?  :)  Seriously though, Drew and I have both felt that God is calling us to something more ministry focused.  Drew quite literally in the ministry somewhere at a not too distant point in the future.  Me- I feel that at some point I will probably be called away from the classroom and into something else.  When?  I have no clue.  What is this something else?  I have no clue.  However, I have learned over the past few weeks.  I need to be preparing for whatever that is.  So I need to be reading and praying to be sure that I am where I need to be with God and learning what I need to learn to be ready when the door opens.  What door?  I have no clue.  Some days this not knowing bothers me more than others.  Most days it doesn't.  I truly know that God has my future in his hands and it is good.  When will I get to this future doesn't matter as much as how I get to this future.  So in my waiting, I need to be learning and taking one day at a time.

Another waiting lesson that I learned, this week was a particularly rough one.  The new AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) for testing results is going to really jump this year and everyone at my school is already stressing about this.  This stress makes things tense around there and in the tension, some good intentions get lost in frustrated questions and answers.  Being on the recieving (and probably some of the giving) end of this frustration this week really had me wondering, if I was where God wanted me to be.  Normally, when I start to wonder, I want answers right now.  I told myself in this situation I wasn't going to be that way.  I was going to wait on answers.  God really made sure I was waiting.  The rest of the week went swimmingly.  My students were wonderful.  I got so much accomplished and got some great ideas from collegues.  So I really felt God's hand in the end of my week.  He was going to make sure that things went well, so I had no choice, but to calm down, think rationally, and wait on his answer.

So while I currently wonder where I will be in 10 years, 5 years, next year, 5 months, and even in 10 days, mostly I'm not worried about it.  God is holding my future and it is good.  Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future."  That is something worth waiting on.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Before and After Colosians 3:1-14

1-4  As Christians we should be looking to the things above for inspiration, guidance, etc., etc.  We shouldn't look to this world for answers or help.  We need to be looking to Christ.  If we claim we are Christians then we are in him, so in him we should be finding what we need.

5-9  Paul doesn't leave anything off this list.  If we are in Christ, we should no longer be a part of any of those things from our former life.  There should be a difference between the former and now.

10-11  It is all about Christ and who we are in him.  It isn't who we were or how the world might define us.  We should be defined by Christ alone.

12-14  And it is more than just not being like before.  We must be all these things as well.  How many times throughout the Gospels do we see Christ demonstrating these characteristics.  And one doesn't come without the other.  If we are compassionate, then we will also be kind, gentle, and patient.  And isn't love the thing that summarizes all those characteristics?

While we may mess up on this walk that we call the Christian life, we must keep trying.  We must keep striving to put God first and to put away all those things of the old life.  We must work at becoming more Christlike, more loving.  There are people in our life that test on this.  There are situations in our life that test us on this.  However in those things that we are facing, let's take some time to stop and ask, "What has Christ already done for me?"  When we answer this question, I'm willing to bet we no longer find any reason we should be continually failing the tests life throws at us.

Sometimes it is difficult to be doing the right things and saying the right things and thinking the right things.  Let's not forget to take a step back and remember why those are the right things and try again to get it right.

When the day sucks...

As Christians how often do we hear that we are to be different, that our response to a crisis will let people know who we are.  Well today was a rough one, okay the last week or so has been a rough one, and what was my response?  Mostly complaining.  I'm still not totally happy about the situation and feel more than a little overwhelmed with what I am being asked to do.  Well more accurately told to do.  We often hear that we are to go to God first and tell him how we feel.  I must admit, I suck at this!!!  God is often not the first person I turn to.  Most days he is somewhere around 10 or so on the list.  When things are going well, I think I can do this.  I can go to God first, or at least move him up to the top 5, and then a rough day comes and he's back down to 10 on the list.

And as many times as I mess this up, the Lord still blesses me with wonderful people who gently and sometimes unconsciously remind me of who he is.  Thank God for putting those people there at the right time to keep me trying to do better.  His love and patience truly is amazing.  If he does all this and so much more for me, why am I striving for anything less than my best for him?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Turning 30

While some might stress and freak out about 30, I really haven't thought much about it.  It is just a number and I'll be getting to different numbers in the coming years.  However, this weekend did seem a little more 'epic' than I imagined it would be.  This weekend was the first time in a long time that Ben slept away from us.  And so that was a bit of an 'epic' moment for him.  For Drew and I it was the first time in a long time that we got to spend quality time together.  We watched a movie and went out to eat without worrying about if he was yelling and bothering other tables or watching him run around in front of us while we are trying to watch a movie. Saturday we went to the Momentum Concert/Convention.  Some of the girls from youth and I saw Britt Nicole speak, went to Coldstone with Drew to celebrate my b-day and then went to the Momentum Concert.
That was just the fun stuff this weekend.  It did feel like some big things were happening this weekend.  Britt Nicole's message was to prepare yourself for the big doors that God might be opening.  The worship time with 7Miles and Thrid Day was very special and I think was the beginning of a heart for ministry for me.  I didn't really understand what that meant until this weekend.  I'm not sure that I truly understand it yet, but I'm beginning to.  And then on Sunday Katie Hawkins spoke about her heart for ministry and going overseas to Albania.  She was speaking about the place where God uses your talents and passions and answers your questions.  That is where you can best serve his kingdom.  While I don't know that place yet, I do know that God will be using me in different ways in the future and I need to prepare for that.  And maybe more than just preparing for God's plan for me, I am excited about what that plan might be.
So I am now 30 and I'm looking forward to whatever else might be coming.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My new discovery

This discovery started in the summer when I was visiting my family.  However, I didn't really understand the magnificence of it all until last week or the week before.  What is this wonderful thing that I discovered?  Pesto sauce!

This summer my parents had some of the pesto sauce my uncle makes.  It was good, but somehow it didn't click about how good it was.  My husband fixed some Farfalle with Pesto sauce last week.  Very plain dish, no meat, no fancies.  Just pasta and sauce.  It filled me up, tasted wonderful, and it really only took a little bit of sauce and pasta.  I guess that is the thing that I really noticed.  I doubted the wonder of pesto before because it came in a small jar.  I have discovered that it was in a small jar because only a little is needed for maximum flavor.  Drew made some last night and used some from the jar last week.  And there is still some left for another meal.  How wonderful, tasty and cheap!

Pesto sauce is an amazing thing.  Try some this week, you may discover a new wonder in your life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Distractions Hebrews 2:1-4

A little background and then we're going to start with 4 and work our way back to 1. 

The author of Hebrews is writing to a generation or two removed from those who walked with Jesus.  These are people who have only heard stories of Jesus and his work, a lot like us.

Verse 4:
In tough times and times when we feel distant from God, let us not forget what we have already seen of God.  Let us not forget how he has worked in our lives and the lives of those around us.  I'm sure we all have stories of how he has performed miracles in our lives.  Those are the stories we need to be sharing with others. 

Also it mentions, "gifts of the Spirit according to his will."  The gifts he has given us should also be a testimony to others about who he is.  We are all talented with different things and have different hobbies.  Are we using those for God and his glory?  Are we using them to the fullest extent for the kingdom?  If not, what is keeping us back.  Is it fear of a crazy idea?  There are organizations who are bikers and Christians.  There are hunters who are also Christians. (http://www.myteamharvest.com/)  Etc., etc.  Don't let fear keep you from doing for God.  Is it that you don't want to give everything to God?  Do you not think he can use it or do you not want him to use it?  Who are you not reaching because you won't give him everything?

Verse 2 and 3:
Let's remember what Jesus has done for us.  We are no longer sacrificing animals to cover for our sin.  Jesus did that for us.  He covered it all.  He suffered and died to get us to him and to get us there easier.  The old Law of Moses was binding and those punishments should be ours.  Jesus saved us from that.  Are we living like it?  Do we realize the grace that has been extended to us?  Are we sharing this with others?

Verse 1:
"...so we will not drift away."  And here is the point of all of it.  Jesus did all of that for us and we should be giving our all to him.  Why don't we?  DISTRACTIONS.  How do we use our time?  Are we distracted by technology, people, worries, etc.?  How do we use our finances?  Are we tithing and giving like we should?  Are we being wasteful and therefore not giving God the control over our finances?  Are our finances a distraction?  Do we worry so much about them that we aren't concentrating on God and what he wants us to be doing?  I could go on and on about potential distractions.  Not all of them are bad, but when they come before God there's a problem.  We need be conscious of what we are doing and why we are doing it.  What are we thinking about and putting effort into?  Is that where God wants us to be?  Even "good" activities or "church" activities can become a distraction when it comes before God.  Our families can be a distraction when they are interfering with our time with God.  What are the distractions in your life?  What are you doing about them?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Make the calories count

This weekend I finished reading a book entitled, Thin is the New Happy.  A very good book about a woman trying to overcome her obsession with dieting and those last 10 pounds.  Sometimes it was more than that she was battling, but overall those last 10 pounds.  Like probably every woman who ever lived, I do worry every so often about my weight, so the book spoke to me.  By the end of the book what she learned was that she had spent so much time stressing about every calorie she ate or didn't eat that she had lost significant time with family and friends.  So she stopped counting calories, she ate what she wanted, stopped when she was full, and worked out on a regular basis.  When she went on vacation, she ate what she wanted and didn't stress about the calories or whatever.  By the end of vacation she was excited to get back home and get back to her eating routine and her exercise routine.  She didn't feel tied to it.  She had fallen into a healthy routine and so did her body.  She had become the size she was always struggling to attain and maintain naturally.  Studies have shown that we are genetically programed to be a certain size.  She believed that and lo and behold, her body fell into a size that was natural to her.

All of this seemed to confirm what I already believe.  Basically what I believe is that we should make the calories count.  Don't eat it just because it is there.  Don't eat it because you don't want to throw it out.  Don't eat it to be polite.  Etc.  Etc.  Eat it because you enjoy that food and you want that food.  Stop when you are done and eat when you are hungry.  Don't waste time, energy, and calories on food that you don't really want.  And not just food, drinks too.  I don't drink much soda.  Maybe 1 a week.  Those are calories that are wasted to me.  I don't really enjoy them, so I drink water instead.  I genuinely like drinking cold water.  I do LOVE sweet tea, but I only drink it when we are out somewhere.  I am lazy and don't want to take the time to make it.  I have one cup of coffee some days a week.  In the winter, I'll probably have a latte or cappucino every so often.  And when I do, I will enjoy them.  However, I don't have one every day because I don't want to waste my daily calories on something I drink.

I like food, so that's what I want to spend calories on.  Most breakfasts, I have a high fiber, high protein cereal to keep me full until I can eat lunch at 1.  At lunch I have a lean pocket or yogurt with fruit.  I try to eat a healthy snack after school and I eat whatever I want for dinner.  I try to spend most of my calories on dinner because that is where I enjoy food the most.  On the weekends, sometimes we'll go out for a big breakfast.  I LOVE a big country breakfast, but I can't fix one on a daily basis, so that is a treat every so often.

I also like running on my treadmill.  I do not do this like I should, but I'm hoping when life calms down a little and I'm not working 12 hour days, then I'll be able to find time to do that again.  I'm also hoping Ben is getting to the age where he won't want to be running with me.  It is a goal that I have for myself to get back to running.

I am not perfect, but I don't stress about the calories I'm eating or drinking.  I love eating, but even more I love the company and the occasions that I am eating.  That is the important part and I don't want waste my  calories on food that I don't want to eat.  I also don't want to waste my time stressing about these things.  I do need to lose some weight and I'm making changes to try to stick as closely as I can to my food beliefs.  I am realistic that it won't happen over night.  Hopefully in a couple months, I have lost a few pounds and over time these changes will help me lose some of this and get back to the normal size that my body is.  So happy eating and make those calories count!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When Zombies Attack...

Or my current thoughts on the new Scooby Doo cartoon on Cartoon Network.  I guess I could also label this as the geekiest blog you will read today!

So I was a bit excited when Cartoon Network announced they were going to have a new Scooby Doo cartoon.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but I figured if you had those 5 characters and a mystery you couldn't mess it up right?  Well, they're trying hard to mess it up.  A few complaints that I have are the new aspects of the characters, the animation itself, additional characters, and the setting of the show.  At this point, you are wondering what do I like about it.  I'm not sure what I do like about it, but I'm still watching it after about 4 or 5 weeks.  So evidently I like something about it or maybe I'm still watching in the vain hope that it all magically changes and gets better.

In the new one, there's too much teen angst between the characters.  Daphne and Velma are in or are trying to be in relationships with Fred and Shaggy respectively.  The guys are pretty oblivious to the way they "should" be acting as boyfriends.  So a good portion of the show is spent discussing this which I think is totally unnecessary.  Just focus on the mystery who cares about these supposed relationships.

The animation itself is to has too many sharp edges to it.  I think they are trying to make the show scarier and darker.  I don't like it!  The show isn't supposed to be dark and scary.  It's supposed to be fun.

There is a Mr. E that I suppose is some kind of play on Charlie's Angels or  something.  I'm not sure what his purpose is.  It might be that he is trying to point them to some larger mystery, which is kinda cool.  The parents of the kids are more involved as well, which I thought at first was going to be cool, but at this point I find it annoying.  Once again, too much teen angst.

The setting is Crystal Cove, "the most haunted town in America".  First off, everyone knows that the kids are from Coolsville.  So where did Crystal Cove come from.  I guess it is a lame attempt at humor.  Not liking it.

And one more thing, Scooby is not the pet of the whole group and a fun, loving, scardey cat type dog.  He is more just Shaggy's friend.  So not the point of Scooby Doo and he has yet to say Scooby Dooby Doo either.

So with all these complaints, I'm still watching it.  There is this overarching mystery that is slowly being revealed.  I guess I'm waiting on that, but I'm getting impatient.  If it doesn't get better soon, I think I'm taking it off DVR.  Cartoon Network managed to mess up a good thing and I'm not happy about it!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Parable of the Shrewd Manager

Drew here, pinch hitting for Andrea.  :) 

This week's study comes from Luke 16:1-13, where Jesus gives the parable of the shrewd manager.  This passage was part of our harmony of the gospels study in Sunday school a couple weeks ago and it was a tremendous blessing on my life and I felt the Lord lay it on my heart to share it with our group and whoever may be reading this post.  I sincerely hope and pray you get a blessing from it as well. 

(1-8):  How much we're willing to let God be in control of our finances is a good litmus test as to our relationship with him, more specifically, his lordship in our lives.  Money has a lot of power in our lives and can be used for good or evil.  We must use our resources wisely as they belong to God and not to us, and in such a way that will foster faith and obedience.  Store up your treasures in heaven!

(10-12):  There is nothing wrong with having ambitions, hopes, dreams, desires, and so forth, so long as they don't take the place of God's plan for our lives.  Personally, I feel in a state of transition in my life.  I feel the house we're currently living in isn't likely going to be the house we end up buying.  I feel like my field is a dying profession and I feel the Lord calling me into full-time ministry at some point in the not too distant future.  We're also in need of a new car.  Andrea and I have many other wants and desires for ourselves, our son and our friends and loved ones around us.  But times like these, we need to step back and take stock of the blessings we currently have in order to give way to clarity and peace of mind right now, so the answers that are to come later on don't take precedence in our lives today.  Are we being responsible with what God has already blessed us with?  It's been my personal experience that God has rightfully (though I didn't feel that way at the time) withheld blessings because I was neglecting what was already under my nose.  For example, if I have a poor attitude at my current job, why should God see fit to bless me with the job promotion I've been praying for for a while?  God needs to see that we can responsibly handle the little things before he often provides more for us here on Earth, and not to mention trusting us to responsibly handle the heavenly riches to come.  It's an old adage, but count your blessings.  God will reward you on this side of heaven and in his kingdom of glory.

(13):  As I touched on in the first section of verses, money has the power to take God's place in our lives.  It can become our master ahead of God easier than we realize.  Money is a very hard master, and a very deceptive one.  Have you become a slave to money today?  Do you think and worry about it frequently?  Do you sacrifice things you should do and would even like to do in order to make more money?  Is it hard for you to give away money?  Just remember that great fortunes can be made and lost overnight, but no amount of money can buy your happiness, health, or more importantly, your eternal life.  Let's let God be our master today.  He offers us a peace of mind and security unlike any material thing in this world, both now and forever.

Please feel free to leave any feedback, praises, or anything we can help you pray for in the comments section!  Have a blessed week! 

Drew

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nicodemus John 3:1-21

3:1-5  Nicodemus is a Pharisee and comes to visit Jesus at night.  He tells him they know God is with him.  This indicates that more than one person thinks this, but Nicodemus is the only person willing to go to him and say this.  So he obviously has some guts to go against the grain and see Jesus.  Visiting him at night could suggest a desire for an intimate conversation away from the crowds.  Nicodemus is an educated man who is very aware of how these things work.  To get the best information, it needs to be more of a one on one conversation.  Jesus doesn't wait for a question.  He tells him it's more than just realizing who I am.  He puts it in plain words and not a parable.  As I said, Nicodemus is an educated leader in Israel.  He shouldn't need those extra helps.  However, he still doesn't get it.  Upon further explanation, Jesus refers to water and Spirit.  It could be physical and spiritual birth or spiritual birth and baptism.  Either way Jesus is telling him how to be born again.

3:6-8 Jesus continues to elaborate on the idea and hits on the idea that those of the Spirit don't make sense to those without the Spirit.  There are going to be those that don't get why we do what we do.  They might even be against what you are doing.  So those of the Spirit may have to separate from those without it or at least distance yourself from those without it.

3:9-15  Nicodemus still doesn't get it and Jesus is amazed.  So he tells it to him straight again.  Paraphrasing:  "If you don't believe something as small as giving sight to the blind, how can you believe something as large as salvation of a soul?"  Don't we know people who have turned their backs on God because he didn't give them what they wanted when they wanted it.  How can we be prepared for what God wants to give us when we are putting restrictions on him like in a time period or it has to be done a certain way?  We must stop waiting on God to make himself more like us.  We need to make ourselves more like God.

3:16  Probably the most famous verse in the Bible and rightly so.  In a few simple words, Jesus sums it all up for us.  But look at the power of the words he uses.  The word believe in this case means "to place confidence in".  It is what we say when we are talking to a friend and we say "I believe you."  It is more than just I know this.  It is I know it and I am compelled to act on that knowledge.  When we say "I believe you" to a friend, those are powerful words.  We are saying we have confidence in who they are and what they stand for.  We are placing our trust and faith in them with the thing they are saying.  This is what we need to do with Jesus.  He also mentions eternal life.  Can we conceive of this?  If we put our confidence in him, we will have eternal life.  And not a life like on this earth, it is "a life active and vigorous." and "the absolute fullness of life."


3:17-21  Then Jesus follows with a discussion of Light and Dark.  What captures me about this discussion is that those in Darkness focus on their actions.  It is selfish.  It is all about that person.  In the Light, it is not about individual action.  It is God.  It is what God has done.  I am just the vessel.  In my personal opinion, this is the biggest failing of Christians today.  There is an unwillingness to step into the light.  Something that sets Christians apart is our willing to say, I'm sorry.  I messed up.  Not God messed up, but I did.  People in the Light should be willing to analyze themselves and say "This thing is too much about me.  I need to give this to God and apologize to him and others for holding on to it."  It is this that so many of us are missing.  I am not  exempting myself here.  I am just as guilty of it as anyone.  It is a process, but so is our Christian walk.  It is something that we have to keep trying to get better at.


Overall, this whole passage is more than just verse 16 that we focus on.  Jesus explains what to do to get to heaven (5), why you want to(16), and what to do between here and heaven(21).  There is so much packed into these verses it is amazing how much of it seems to be overshadowed by verse 16.  Praise God Nicodemus had the courage to ask these questions and the education to enough to get a straight answer.

The little things that matter

People always compliment us on Ben's smile or his laugh or being a happy baby, but those aren't the things that I love best.  There are so many little intimate moments that really take my breath away.  So many times that I am amazed at God's creation and the part he has given me in making his creation flourish.

Like when he's first waking up, I love watching him stretch and rub his eyes.  He'll sit up, look at me, and reach for me to get him out of his crib.  I also love when he's watching one of his TV shows in my lap and we talk about what's going on.  He's so still watching it that I can get right there with him and whisper about what's going on.  I love watching him in the car (not when I'm driving).  He loves looking around and he'll crane his neck to see more of what is going on outside of the car.  When he does that, he opens his mouth and looks like he's just amazed by it all.

One of his current favorite toys is his alphabet djembe type drum.  He can turn it to music, dancing, or alphabet in both Spanish and English.  He likes playing with those controls just to push those buttons.  He doesn't quite get what they do, but he pushes them until he gets what he wants.  He likes the alphabet part being on.  He sits down on Drew's bean bag and then kicks his feet and wiggles his butt until he's perfectly situated.  Then he puts the drum between his legs and hits it as many times in a row as he can.  He can go from A to S in about 5 seconds.  The whole sitting and getting comfy and playing his drum process is so cute to watch. 

So while I enjoy my son's laugh and how happy he is.  I really love those moments that just Daddy and I get to see.  Those intimate moments of life are very special and I am blessed to be a part of them.  Praise God for those little things he gives us every day!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

College Instructor, Wife, and Mother

I knew that today was going to be a long day.  I had lots of errands to do, the doctor's office, DMV, passport office, get a faculty ID and parking pass.  I was very surprised that the DMV and passport office were very easy to get what I needed.  The on campus errands were much more difficult.  I got my room assignments, but it didn't really work, so I had to try to get that changed.  Changing anything seems to be quite an ordeal and this was no different.  In the end, it worked out wonderfully. Praise God!  Getting my faculty parking tag was super easy.  The faculty ID was difficult.  I had to talk to like 3different people all over campus in the middle of the day and it was hot.  Yuck!  I got it done though.  All I had left to do was to check email and print 2 things.  Unfortunately, the lab assistant was new and so were the computers, so he didn't know how to set it up to print right.  So after some and messing, I put my flash drive in a different computer and got it printed.  Whew!  Errands complete.

I got to come home for about an hour and play with Ben, talk to Drew, and relax a little.  It was just enough time to start making me a little nervous.  : )  I got back to campus in time to make a few copies and get things arranged in my classroom.  Tonight I had a small class of 8 and I ended up getting the room change I needed.  The students all participated wonderfully, listened attentively, worked well together and individually.  They all participated and even asked me a few questions about myself.  (I always give my students a chance the first day, but most of the time they don't ask anything.)  It was a really great class!  I have a seated lab class, which at first seemed a little unnecessary because their entire lab book is all online.  However, it was great to have that time today to work with them and figure out the program together.  So great first day as a college professor.

The best part of the day, however, was hands down getting to come home and play with my son and eat dinner with my husband.  I have a wonderful husband that got me a black olive pizza for dinner as a celebration of my first class.  There are lots of people that don't like olives so it is always a treat for me to get them on my pizza.  Ben was literally climbing all over us and begging food off our plates while we were trying to eat.  He was also running, laughing, playing his bongo drum, and settling into his perfect place in the bean bag.  It was all so ordinary and so wonderful.  Later when I was putting him to bed he grabbed my hand, well really a couple fingers and laid down.  He just wanted to hold my hand and his blanket while he fell asleep.  I can't believe I am so blessed to be doing something that I love every day and get to come home to such love and joy. 

I expect to have a very busy semester and I was more than a little worried about how I can manage to do it all and still be the wife and mother that I need to be.  Tonight God showed me that the quality is more important or at least just as important as the quantity.  I think this will be a great test for me to see if I can discipline myself to manage my time like I know I need to.  If I do it right, then I can enjoy more nights like tonight.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Daniel 3:8-30

Background:  Nebuchadnezzer built a 90 ft. statue of himself of gold and demanded that people worship it when the music began.  Those that didn't were thrown into the furnace.  90 ft. is nearly the size of the Statue of Liberty.  When the music began, the 3 Israelite boys did not bow to the statue.

Someone told on them and they were brought before the king.  He gave them another shot to bow down.  They said no.  They went on to say that our God is big enough to deliver us from your furnace and even if he doesn't, we're still with him.  What an amazing faith that took from them!  Would we be able and willing to stand up to someone like that?  He was the king and threatening them with death.  They stood by God.  How often do we let God down in much smaller matters?  When we are tempted to say no, to doubt, to back down from our standards, let's remember these boys and the faith they showed.

King Neb became furious at this and ordered the furnace seven times hotter than usual.  It was so hot the soldiers that took them up there died because of the heat.  Isn't it amazing that the 3 boys made it to the furnace?  Isn't it a further testament to God that the boys made it into the furnace?  It would have been impressive if they hadn't died when the soldiers did and they got out of it then.  But God pushed it to the limit and their faith held strong.  Maybe God does that to us sometimes.  We get up to the fire and we're still strong when others are fainting away.  But that's not it, God pushes it farther because he knows we can take it and the miracle will be bigger because our faith allows him to work in bigger ways.  Let's shoot for that kind of faith.

King Neb next notices that there are 4 men walking around the furnace and says one of them looks like "the son of the gods."  Some say it was an angel and some say it is a pre-incarnate Jesus walking around with the 3 boys, either way it was an incredible heavenly being that even King Neb realized was important and impressive.  When God shows up, even those without faith take notice.

King Neb calls them out and there is no damage to them, their clothing, their hair, etc.  No damage after being in that fire!  Not even a smell of smoke on them.  Once again, do we have a faith to stand in the fire and know we will come out unharmed?  God really did these things with these boys/men!  This really happened, so why do we wonder if God can do something for us?

King Neb ends saying, "Don't dis their God or else."  Now he isn't saying he believes, he just recognizes what this god has done, so he's the new big guy on the block.  Be careful that we aren't just putting God on some list, but that we are making him the only one on that list.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ben's new words

With the last couple weeks being a bit heavy, I thought this week would be a bit lighter.  It is amazing to see Ben growing.  Not that it hasn't been for the first almost 18 months, but these last couple weeks have really been amazing.  It seems like he is learning a new word or two every day!

Just this weekend he learned...
Friday- yucky and hot
Saturday- puppy, Alex, and tutu
Sunday - arm and um
Today- help and up

Not that he uses all of those regularly, but he clearly said them within the appropriate context of the conversation.  He already knows Hello, Bye Bye, Amin (as in Benjamin), Ball, Abbey, Happy, Eyebrow, Mama, Daddy, Nana, PawPaw, Nana DeeDee, and more I can't remember.  He is starting to respond to simple commands, like Eat and Bring that here.  It is amazing to see how much he is learning every single day.  Wow!  I knew the human brain was amazing, but seeing it at work like this is pretty cool.  It makes me think of how much bigger God really is than us.

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37

The Good Samaritan is probably one of the most famous 'stories' from the Bible, but when we look at it a little more closely we discover some things that someone might miss at first glance.  The man who began this discussion was an expert in the Law.  He quoted from Deuteronomy and Leviticus concerning the most important laws.  He understood we have to give God everything and we must love others.  Even though he understood this, he was still looking for a way out, so he asked who is my neighbor.  Jesus did not answer this question.  Jesus told him how to be a neighbor.  He knew the reason behind the question and he spoke to that.

In the parable, Jesus made sure to use examples that would challenge this man's world view.  He used a priest and a Levite, the highest in the 'holy' game of Jewish society.  Both of those in his example passed the man.  The one that tended to him was a Samaritan, a pariah in Jewish society.  Samaritans were not pure Jews.  They were a mixed race.  They were a people to be avoided.  We see this in the expert's answer.  He can not bring himself to say Samaritan.  He says, "The one who had mercy on him."

This Samaritan helped the guy out and that was wonderful, but let's look at the way he helped him out.  He bandaged his wounds.  He was willing to make himself unclean to help the guy.  He took him to an inn so he could rest and recuperate.  He also left money with the innkeeper in case the guy needed anything else.  He went out of his way, spent his money, and risked infection himself to help this guy.

A few lessons:  God doesn't always give us the answers we want.  He does give us the answers we need though.  Are we prepared to be a neighbor to ANYONE who crosses our path?  If not, why not?  Continue to check yourself and work on it.  When we do help a neighbor, are we helping them like we think they need or are we helping with what they actually need?  Let's be careful to help as we are called to and work on the need they give us.  For instance, people will say they don't want to give a homeless man money because he'll just use it on alcohol.  It is not our place to judge what he does with it.  If we are called to give, then give.  If he misuses that, it is not on our head, but his.

Feel free to fix anything I missed or add anything else you thought of.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Guilty of being rich

This past weekend I had some hard thinking to do about various subjects, but one of them was feeling guilty.  "Guilty for what?"  Guilty for being rich.  "Rich?  I thought you were a teacher."  I am a teacher, however simply by virtue of being middle class in the USA makes me richer than probably 75% of the rest of the world.  As I mentioned in my last post, I have seen a little of what poverty looks like when I was in Mexico.  That and my frugal upbringing have combined to really make me feel guilty for being rich.  Drew and I do sponsor a child in Guatemala.  We give often to charities as needs come to our attention.  I do so gladly and joyfully, but do I also do so selfishly?  Do I give to make myself feel better or is it really for God's glory and a genuine desire to help my fellow man?  Most of the time I do think it is a desire to help my fellow man and for the glory of God.  However, the guilt does remain.

I even feel guilty for a show of wealth from others.  For instance, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought like a $40 million dollar house somewhere in Europe this past week.  The probably have enough money and they certainly do good works as well, so don't they have the right to spend their money.  Yes, but I still feel guilty for them.  Was all that house really necessary?  What could have been done with that money?  Maybe the most important question, why is it my business?  It isn't, so why do I get obsessed about things like this.  Shouldn't people, myself included, be able to enjoy what God has given them without worrying about others every second of the day?  Yes and I often don't get caught up in this guilt, but some days I do and it is overwhelming.  At what point is this a healthy guilt that pushes me to remember the blessings God has given me and my responsibility to give to others and at what point is it unhealthy and unrealistic?  I don't have answers, but it is a struggle for me trying to balance these two ideas.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Let God break your heart

After a Saturday of visiting the beauty of NC at Linville Caverns and Grandfather Mtn.  I was awed by God's creative powers.  He could create the beauty of the mountains and the caverns and still he cares about me.  I thought of Psalms 8:3-5  "When I consider your heavens, /the work of your fingers, /the moon and the stars, /which you have set in place, /4 what is man that you are mindful of him, /the son of man that you care for him? /5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings /and crowned him with glory and honor."  


As I was marveling at God's creativity, I was also thinking about church.  There are many things that one can say is wrong with the church today.  In my opinion one of the biggest is that we don't love like Jesus loved.  Now you're thinking, "How can we do that?  He was Jesus and I'm not."  I don't have all the answers, but something that has worked in my life is to let God break my heart.  If you do not let God break your heart, you will not be able to love as Jesus loved.  In John we see Jesus weeping with Mary and Martha.  He was weeping because of their pain and grief, not the death of their brother.  His heart broke for them and then he gave them a miracle.  I'll give you 3 personal examples to hopefully make my point a little clearer.


In high school, I went on a mission trip.  We went to this youth camp that was attended by inner city kids.  They were bussed from their house to this camp out in the country.  They heard about Jesus and got to play in a safe and fun environment.  A friend and I were the leaders of a cabin of 5 to 7 girls.  One night after the service one of the girls went forward for prayer and I as her counselor went with her.  She told me that sometimes her mom hit her with a tennis racket and asked me if that was normal because she didn't like it.  That's what she was praying about.  I don't think I said anything to her.  I think I just hugged her and cried a lot.  To this day it brings tears to my eyes.  I didn't go on the mission trip for the purpose of having my heart broken.  I just went to serve God.  I don't think we can prepare for those moments when he breaks our heart.


In college, I studied abroad in Mexico.  I taught English for a few weeks at a very small, very poor school.  It was graduation time and the students who graduated had parties.  One of my students also knew the family I was staying with, so we were all invited to her party.  When I arrived at her house, I experienced 2 unforgettable things.  I experienced a hospitality that was unlike anything before.  I was fed until I was stuffed and regaled with stories by her grandfather.  I was treated like a guest of honor.  I also experienced poverty unlike anything I had ever seen.  Their house had a dirt floor and wooden boards for walls.  There were places in where the board had been broken and in those places there was cardboard covering it.  There were 2 rooms separated by a curtain.  They had a stove top, but no oven.  There was no refrigerator or sink.  I didn't see a restroom of any kind either.  They had a tiny TV with the rabbit ear antennas.  There was no sofa or living room type furniture.  There was one large table with benches on either side.  Once again God broke my heart.  I was treated like a guest of honor by people of very humble means.


Another one was just yesterday in church.  One of our music leaders sang a beautiful rendition of the Nicole C. Mullen song "One Touch".  I thought of the uncertainty that so many of our graduates face.  There were 2 in particular from my personal experience that I thought of.  God broke my heart again for the agony that they are living in because they don't know how to trust in his plan.  They see a life time of dead end jobs instead of the passion and adventure that God wants for them.  They see classes that lead them to nowhere or at the very least to some place they may not enjoy instead of the career that will engage them and impassion them.  How do I communicate to them that God wants so much more?  I don't have the answers, but I know the one that does if they only trust, seek, and obey.  How do I let them know it is a hard and scary road at times, but he is there with them every step of the way?  Are my words enough?  I don't know.


So here I am back where I started marveling at the love that God has for me and wanting to share it.  I have to let God break my heart in order to do that.  If I don't let him do that, I'll never love as Jesus did.  And "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:3)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Missing Summer?

This week I had no clue what to blog about and then in the last couple days I saw some photos on Facebook from different people enjoying their summer.  This really got me thinking and so I'll put those thoughts on here.  Several people on my friends list have taken short weekend trips and taken some wonderful photos of those trips.  While looking at some of them, I found myself being jealous.  Why?  I wasn't really sure.  It hasn't been the easiest summer with all the replacing  of car parts and computers.  My sprain didn't help things and whatever I did to my back a few weeks ago.  However, we have done plenty of things that qualify as short trips, so why weren't these relaxing, fun, and memorable?  At first I was rather unsure.I feel like I haven't had any great relaxing vacation time.  We went to a Cardinals game while visiting the IL family.  We had an awesome cookout while there as well and got to eat with some good friends.  We have also taken the youth swimming and tubing per invitation of some very generous church folks.  Ben and I have been swimming in our little backyard pool a few times this summer.  All of this should add up to some fun right?  So why don't I feel like it?

After much deep contemplation, I have decided that I feel like I have been missing summer fun because I am trying to be too responsible.  Having a 1 year old and watching after several teens certainly doesn't make for a carefree adventure, but it doesn't have to be a total drag either.  In case you didn't know, I'm a type A control freak type person, especially when I have to be looking after other people.  It certainly is a responsibility that is important, but I think sometimes I take it too far and worry too much.  That has been my problem this summer.  With that in mind, I got to work doing a few things around the house today and I started feeling better.

In the next couple weekends, we have a few things planned.  A friend of mine is coming into town this weekend.  Not sure what we'll be getting into, but I'm going to make an extra effort to enjoy it.  The weekend after that we are taking the day and going to visit Uncle Alex with Nana Diane.  Once again, not sure what we'll be doing, but I'm going to try extra hard to relax and have fun.  So whatever the rest of the summer may hold, I am going to relax and enjoy it.