Monday, October 14, 2013

Moment Of Vulnerability: A Prayer For The Shattered


Today I pray for all of the abused and broken souls of this world. So many more people than we know have been hurt by others to almost beyond repair. I see them, hear their stories, and feel their pain until... I just want to cry and plead to You to save them. Just save them. Save them from the memories, issues, their abusers, and wrap them in Your loving arms.

Most people don't just wake up one morning and decide they want to be gay or abuse others or commit suicide. There's always a reason and it is because they have no hope that they eventually resort to these things. So many broken people.... It's overwhelming. I know it is nothing You have done and instead it is because we live in a fallen world that has been given over to its passions.

I wish that You would protect all of these innocents, but no one is truly innocent- all are sinful beings rolling around in a mess of sin in a broken world. It is a miracle that anyone is saved from it. Thank You, Father, for saving the few.

Thank You for saving me from the vicious cycle. Yes, I know that I could become a victim of these sinful beings, but even if they hurt me, You have promised to protect my soul and help me through it. Now I pray that You will bring other broken beings into that protection and use me as You will to bring that about. I just pray that I will be strong enough.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Encouraging Growth: The Men In Your Life

Do you want to know who one of my favorite women of the Bible is? No, it's not Mary. Or Esther. Give up? It's Deborah. Bet you didn't guess her!

You may be wondering what this has to do with the title of this post. I admit, Deborah isn't a very talked about woman and there's not much known about her, but there's not much that we know about encouraging the boys in our lives to become men either. If you were to ask just me and me alone how to do this, I would have to tell you that I honestly don't know. But Deborah does.

Let's take a look at what we do know about our dear Deborah:

  • She lived in a time when everyone around her was doing anything but what God had commanded them. (Judges 4:1)
  • She was being plagued by an enemy nation that seemed like all it wanted to do was pick on her people. (Judges 4:2,3)
  • She was in an unusual position of authority (that most women in that time period did not have) as a prophetess and judge. Everyone and anyone who had a problem came to her for judgement, so it sounds like her days were pretty much booked with her "job". (Judges 4:4,5)
  • The men- especially the commander of Israel's army- did not seem to be stepping up to the proverbial plate and assuming their positions of leadership. (Judges 4:6,7)
Does any of this sound familiar? Like Deborah, we live in a time when people- including many in the church- disregard the Word of God. We are plagued both without and within by other countries and our own lack of repentance from sin and immorality. More and more women today feel like they have to step up to positions of authority in life and the church because the men "just aren't doing anything!" 

I think we can safely say that Deborah would understand our frustrations about what is happening in our world today. She, too, was probably a little frustrated. Think about it- in her time women worked at home, raised children, and took care of their elderly widowed mothers. She should be weaving a new tunic, not settling disputes between her countrymen. I'm guessing there were moments when she felt like she was playing mother to the whole of Israel. Now, the Bible doesn't tell us that she complained about what God had chosen for her. It doesn't say that she didn't enjoy her job. But if I were her... I'm not sure I would.

In my life, I have often felt like I was put in the same strange position. There would be a perfectly capable man in the room and I am the one who is pressed to decide what we are studying for this year's Bible study. Or maybe there is someone in need of help moving and no one but girls show up when I know the majority of young men in our church are unmarried and without a full time job.

And now I'm sure similar moments in your life are rolling through your mind.

Ok, back to Deborah. So apparently the leader of the Israelite army, Barak, was told by God to go out against their oppressors, but he hadn't gone. Maybe God told him directly or maybe because Deborah was a prophetess she told him. Either way, she knew that he wasn't obeying the direct instructions that had been given him. 

What did she do? She sent a message and reminded him. It doesn't say she nagged him or tried to guilt trip him. She just reminded him of the Word God had given him. And it worked. He would go. But on one condition- she would go with him. Obviously his response wasn't a very confidence-inspiring one, but at least he got moving. And what was her response? Well, she took what she could get. One step at a time, right?

I guess my point is that the way she approached this idea of growing up the men in her life is different than how we usually do it. She used Scripture, we use nagging. She took things one step at a time, we try to change them overnight. She encouraged growth, we try to force it. And in the end she didn't tell him "I told you so". She just praised God that something had been done to save her people.

What would this look like in practice? I'm going to be honest with you here- it will not be the same in your life as it is in mine. Long ago I purposed in my heart to encourage the boys in my life to become men and it has not proven easy. But I can tell you some of the things I have done and maybe you will get some inspiration:
  • When asked what movie we should watch or what we should order in for dinner, I ask one of the guys in the room to pick.
  • When holding a discussion, I wait for/ask them for their opinion first before I offer my own.
  • When I don't agree with them, I don't belittle their opinion or try to show them how dumb what they think is. I just tell them my point of view using Scripture, if I can (carefully and with much thought).
  • When someone needs something done that could be done by anyone, I first wait a while to encourage them to volunteer, then I offer to help while requesting them to help me.
  • When they are struggling to express themselves or are taking forever to get to the point, I wait. If they think it is important enough to work to get it out, then it should be important enough for me to listen to as well.
  • When a guy offers to carry something/open the door for me, I let them.
  • When we are having a group planning meeting for something, I invite one or more of them to be on it.
That's all I can think of for now. But you get the idea. Maybe you are thinking, "Man, that sounds like a lot of work!" 

It is. But the results are worth it. I'm not saying I remember to do this all the time. On the contrary- I fall flat on my face more often than not. (Thinking of the many, many instances is embarrassing me right now.) But think of this: If you were the one who encouraged a friend/your brother to grow into a man, how grateful do you think his future wife would be? How much headache and heartache in this world might you spare him? How much confidence might you give him? Who knows! He could go on to change the world because of you.

And all without him suspecting a thing.

So, are you a daughter of Deborah?

Think about it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Life Update: Camps 2013

Whew! It's been a long time since I've written anything on here other than that little advertisement for the Living On The Edge sermon. And I think by now I owe you guys an update. So here it goes!

The first camp we took part in this summer was the camp for people with disabilities. It was so much fun seeing some old friends and getting to know new ones. All of the people who came as participants- or campers- were Romanian, but out of the leaders and volunteers we had a little bit of diversity. There were three girls from Ukraine who all spoke Romanian, several people from Britain (most of whom were Scottish and only spoke a little Romanian), and the Luse family minus Rebecca (from America, in case you didn't know, and all speaking Romanian fairly well). Since there were so many people who didn't speak Romanian, Kenneth and I did more translating than I think we have ever done in our lives. Alyssa, mom, and dad would be able to say the same thing except they were only there half the week.

So what did we do other than translate? Well, I was on the projector/power-point for the songs (as well as making it my personal mission to engage as many people as possible in meaningful conversation) and Kenneth played the guitar and led worship. When Alyssa came she took over worship at least half the time. Mom was in charge of a group and Dad taught some of the lessons and helped lead a group. Oh, and Kenneth got to teach the morning devotions one day. Bravo, Kenneth!

So, in all, it was a good week- despite only about 5 hours of sleep a night, a brain that felt like mush by mid-afternoon, and a severe cold both during and after. But, honestly, I feel very blessed by how I was able to serve and how many people there encouraged me in my walk with Christ. Late night meetings of the "Scooby gang" were also an amazing experience. (You know who you are....) Oh, and the theme of the camp was the coming of the Kingdom of God.

On to the next camp. This year we almost didn't have a camp for the youth in our church, but a friend managed to find a camp up in the mountains that we were able to rent, so they had their camp. Dad was in charge of the program, so he chose the theme for the week as prayer. During the morning we had a couple of hours of teaching and small group discussions, then in the evening some more teaching. In between we had lots of relaxation time and even played some games. Volleyball and Dutch Blitz appeared to be the unanimous favorites. (Really? REALLY? Why? Ugh!) The camp had a short zip line, so we enjoyed several trips on that one afternoon, and they also put out a tarp covered in water and soap to slide on. (I'm going to admit it- I failed at sliding on the tarp. In fact, I had an accident that left me feeling bad for several days. I think I'm fine now, but it was NOT fun while the pain lasted. I rocked the zip-line, though.)
Dad and mom were leaders of a group, and I was a leader of another. My group was just girls and they had no problem opening up. (So thankful for that!) Alyssa and Kenneth were sub-leaders in two other groups. Four groups- around 36 people in all. The camp was pretty fun as well as being in God's creation and sleeping in "tents" (shelters). The wasps figured out that I don't mind their presence, so we regularly shared meals. I love watching God's creatures.
So, to wrap this long-ish update up: Yes, both camps were fun, but I think I liked the first one better. Probably because I was needed more. And now I am finally almost rested up from four weeks of perpetually being on the go. (Helped decorate a cake, went to a 12 hour wedding, finished a theology test, etc.) Here's hoping I feel normal soon and am able to get back on my regular schedule.

Have a great rest of the summer, guys. Write more soon,


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Convicting Topic: Is Your God Too Small?

Just a few minutes ago I listened to a message in Chip Ingram's God As He Longs For You To See Him called Is Your God Too Small? Part 2.

And I was blown away.

I've been a Christian for close to ten years now. You'd think my view of God would be better than most. But... to be honest... the "test" that Chip gives at the end of the message cut me to the heart. At best, I could probably give myself a six in each category.

Don't think that I don't see God and don't have a pretty good idea who He is. But do I really have that, "Wow...", blown away feeling when I think of Him? Do I think of Him that much- in all His intricacies and not in basic brush strokes? And can others SEE that?

Chip has convicted me today to spend more time- 180 seconds precisely- before I pray just pondering who God is. Just to sit there and meditate on His awesomeness. So I have a challenge for you, too, but you had better act fast because I don't know how many hours this message is online before they take it down: Listen to Chip's message and then answer the questions at the end truthfully.

You might be glad you did.

PS. If you read this too late and missed today's message, you can download it here temporarily for $0.99 and later for around $1.99.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Shades of Gray: On the Subject of Emotions

Emotions. Fear. Joy. Hatred. Euphoria. Anger. Love. Loneliness. These are all only a few examples of the many complex entities that we package into one tiny word- emotions. Sometimes they seem to live and breathe of their own volition. One will grab us, shake us, try and control us. And then in the next minute it will disappear as quickly as it came and another will pop up in its place.

In today's society, the subject of emotions is something many Christians have a strong opinion about. They read a passage from Scripture that says, "Fear not," so they believe that all fear is wrong. Others read that "God is love" and latch onto that, believing that we are to love, love, love people to the point of accepting everything about them- including their sins that they refuse to change.

I'm just going to say it right now: Christians need to stop seeing emotions at black and white (i.e.- all good or all bad). They need to take a good long look at not only what God is telling us to do, but also His nature. Through this they will see that base emotions in and of themselves are platonic- shades of gray, if you will. It's what we choose to morph them into that turn them into either black or white.

Before you decide to close this tab and shut me off completely, hear me out. If you don't agree, that's fine. Tell me why in the comments. Let me see your point of view. But don't tune me out just because you don't like what I have to say. (And, yes, I agree that "black" emotions need to be dealt with- in a Biblical, loving manner.)

A friend of mine told me a story about a man who was at his wife's funeral. He was old now (probably in his late sixties) and had lived his life as a man who showed little to no emotion. Even now- at his own wife's funeral- he didn't shed a single tear. My friend asked him, "Why aren't you sad?" His response was surprising. "It's a sin for Christians to be sad," he replied. Apparently, somewhere along the line, he had gotten this impression. The sad thing was, it wasn't because he was happy his wife was in heaven with Jesus or that he was contented with his long life with her- it was just because it was a "sin" for Christians to mourn.

Another instance of forced emotional denial is one that makes me want to cry a little every time I hear it. When we as single people join a group on Facebook or elsewhere that is specifically for us "single" people, we want to hear encouragement, right? Unfortunately, all too often, there is no encouragement in our loneliness when we hear others say, "You shouldn't be lonely. You have Jesus." As wonderful as that statement is, it forgets a few things: Jesus felt lonely. Do you think that he brought the disciples into the garden (right before His death) for moral support as he sweated blood? I don't think so. He knew they wouldn't be able to stay awake and wouldn't realize the gravity of His situation. I honestly think He felt lonely with the prospect of facing this last trial on His own. How about when He was hanging on the cross and God turned away from Him? The Son of God who had always been one with the Father, always connected with Him suddenly has that all torn away so that He could save a bunch of people that hated Him. That's true loneliness. And did He sin in His loneliness? The Bible says He was perfect and sinless His whole life. So... no.

You see, the thing with loneliness is that it can produce one of two results in us: Either we draw near to God or we start fantasizing and lusting after someone else. And... eventually we commit adultery. It's the same with anger. The Bible says, "Be angry and do not sin." Anger will either morph into selfish, destructive anger or into righteous anger. Regret: Either we will be dragged down into soul-crushing guilt and depression or we will choose to let it turn into repentance and draw us to God (who has already forgiven us, by the way). And how about fear? God says many times, "Do not fear," but He also calls us to "Be of good courage." Without fear, there is no courage because the definition of courage is doing something despite your fear. So, really, if we read the whole context of those passages, what is He trying to say? Let me tell you- He's saying, "Hey, I know you are human. Fear is a human emotion. I get that. But I want you to let that fear drive you to Me, not away from Me. Let Me take your fear and turn it into My courage." God doesn't want us to be puddles of hysteria. It's like the example in Proverbs where the guy says, "I think there's a lion in the streets! I better stay home today." He let his fear run his life.

God doesn't want us to condemn ourselves and others for the basic "gray" emotions we have.

He wants us to let those emotions drive us to Him, not for us to be driven by them.

So ask yourself: Do you find yourself telling people, "You're sinning," when they confide their "gray" fear, anger, grief, or loneliness with you- even if they are leading to a positive ("white") result? Or are you looking at these emotions with a clear head and Scripture in Your heart so that you can be a help and encouragement? Are you doing this for yourself? 

Think about it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Pride: The Two Types

Pride. It's the bane of our existence. No, I'm not talking about patriotic or paternal pride. I'm talking about the silent and deadly type. The kind that causes so much trouble.

"Trouble?" you may ask, "What trouble?" Let's think for a moment. What was the first sin? No, not the first sin that man committed, but the other one. The Bible says:
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' -Isaiah 14:12-14
I would argue that the first sin was committed by Satan. He thought he could be god better than God. What do we call that? Pride. Now, I would also argue that there are two main types of pride. Type one is the I'm better than you and you should know it pride. Type two is the woe is me and I'm so mistreated type. Both kinds have one main goal: to get attention. The first makes people admire us, the second makes them pity us. But either way, the end result is the same: attention.

Ok, so can I back this up with specific verses that say both are forms of pride? No. Only the first one and everyone knows verses for that one. And yet, what is the root of pride? Selfishness. To me even the woe is me people are more often than not behaving the way they are out of selfishness. They want people to look at them and stroke their battered egos.

Before we go any further, I want to clarify: I am by no means belittling anyone who has experienced loss and hardship. I understand that you have gone through something terrible. I just want you to know that I am speaking to the people who are playing the victim card to get sympathy or get their own way. Those people are often too stuck on what they perceive as being unfair and cannot move on with their lives. All too often I have heard people say, "Well, if this job had hired me, I wouldn't be in this predicament," or "If that college had let me in I would have a better job and not have to work so hard," etc.

Both type one and type two pride people tend to forget that "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5) As long as they are stuck in their pride, God probably isn't going to use them as much as He could. They're probably going to miss out on some pretty awesome stuff that God would have done with them. Instead, their going to experience "resistance". I don't know about you, but just the sound of that brings me chills.

Something that God has convicted me on recently is that I am a type two pride person. That's not to say that I don't occasionally experience the other type, but my primary problem is the second. I tend to get so wrapped up in me and protecting/promoting myself with "woe is me"'s that I forget to humble myself to God's direction. So I get stuck spinning my wheels and desiring comfort and without realizing it am refusing to open myself up to God's plan for me. I know He could force me into that plan, but I think He would rather wait for me to submit and be willing to do it. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if that is why I haven't really done anything with my life- I'm too proud and stubborn.

Finally, I would like to leave you with this verse:
"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." -Romans 12:3
Do you think with "sober judgment"? Do you see yourself clearly (how God sees you) or are you letting pride get in the way? Are you too proud of either your accomplishments or the lack thereof for God to use you?

Think about it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

DVR Use and TV Revenue

Written by Rebecca L.

Will increased DVR use cut into TV advertising revenue?

The more people use their DVR the greater the negative affect is on the TV advertising revenue. With each new generation comes a lack of patience, especially when it comes to their entertainment. People used to enjoy watching commercials as well as shows because it opened their eyes to the many new products that had just entered the market. Now that we have the internet with search engines and store fliers with lists of products people feel that commercials are unnecessary and only cut into their entertainment time. This impatience with TV advertisements causes people to DVR their shows so that they can watch them unhindered by constant 15 min. breaks. Even if this seems like a plus to most of us we rarely realize just how big of an affect we have on the businesses who advertise and on the TV channels that broadcast the commercials.

Businesses pay a lot of money in order to advertise their products in hopes that people will see these commercials and decide to buy the advertised product. The TV channels receive a large amount of their income from businesses that pay them to play their commercials, allowing them to continue playing all of our favorite shows. If we continue to increase the amount that we DVR then fewer and fewer people will watch commercials and will be less inclined to buy the advertised product cutting in to the producers income. This decrease in income will cause businesses to advertise less or may even cause them to stop advertising all together. Not long after businesses stop making commercials we will notice that the TV channels that used to play our favorite shows have lost so much of their income that they have had to shut down or at very least have had to cancel certain shows. This is the great negative affect that many people are having on the TV business through the constant use of their DVR. You can help prevent the large cuts into the TV advertising revenue and keep many TV channels in business for years to come, by choosing to watch commercials.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

True Princess: Sleeping Beauty or Snow White?

In my previous post Prince Charming: Real or Pretender, we discussed what a princess looks for in a prince. We made the point that sometimes it's hard to tell the real thing from a royal pretender. Well, today we are going to turn the tables. We're going to take a good look at ourselves and determine if we are a Sleeping Beauty or Snow White.

You all remember the stories, right? In Sleeping Beauty the princess is fated to prick her finger on a spindle and die on her eighteenth birthday. But one of her fairy godmothers changes the curse so that she actually falls asleep for a hundred years before her prince comes to wake her up. The second story, Snow White, is about a beautiful girl who incurs the wrath of her stepmother and has to flee for her life. She runs as far as she can until she discovers a little hut where seven dwarfs live and she offers to clean and cook for them. After spending many days there, she is tricked and killed by her stepmother. However, a prince comes along and brings her back with true love's kiss.

Both stories have certain similarities: a princess, prince, little people (fairies and dwarfs), and happily ever after. But there is one major difference. Can you see it? Let me see if I can identify it for you. What is Snow White doing for much of the story? Taking care of the dwarfs. What is Sleeping Beauty doing? Well, we don't know. But it's obviously nothing noteworthy!

Throughout history which has had more movies made and books written about them? Which is more beloved? I'll give you a hint: if you chose the somniac, you're wrong!

What is your life like right here, right now? Are you actively doing something important with your time- something to better the lives of others? Are you working toward a goal? Are you learning new skills or working to improve your mind? Or are you just waiting for something- anything- to happen?

If you read your Bible (which I assume you do), you have probably noticed that the Bible is a book of action. God is always telling people to do something or telling someone to tell them to do something. Even the New Testament is full of the Apostles telling people what they need to do. There are very few places where people are specifically told to "wait". And even in those times, it is a productive waiting- not a listless, pointless wait. And since the Bible was written for God's people (that includes those of us who are believers in Christ as stated in John 1:12-13), we are called to be people of action. And, specifically, here is one of the things we are called to do:
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." -Romans 12:2
Wow. That's a carriage load right there! We are called to leave all those earthly things that we obsess with behind: the make-up, the fashionable clothes, gossip columns, flirting, etc. and to instead work on renewing our minds. And how do we do that? By thinking like God. Well, how do we do that? By reading what He tells us to do- the Bible! Now, are fashionable clothes and make-up bad in and of themselves? No, not really. But we as women can go above and beyond the mere "enjoyment" of these things and become obsessed. Can't we, ladies?

What is the end result of thinking like God? Being able to "discern what is the will of God". How often have you wondered, "Could this be my Prince? Maybe it's that other guy. Or am I supposed to get married at all?" When our minds are transformed, we can know the answers to these questions! But it requires work.

Work? Yuck! Not fun. Well, what's the point of finding your prince? To make a home with him. Let's take a look at what the Bible says about the perfect wife:

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
(Proverbs 31:10-31)
Do you think that when you get married, the next morning- PRESTO! Instant perfect wife? No! That would be ridiculous! So I guess my question is: what are you doing right now to become the perfect queen for your future king? Are you working or are you sleeping? And which one do you think your prince will be more attracted to?

Are you Sleeping Beauty or Snow White?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

UNhappy: When You Just Don't Feel Thankful

Have you ever thought to yourself, "What on earth in my life is there to be thankful for?" Maybe it's always too hot or too cold for you. Maybe your children or siblings are fighting. Maybe you're stuck in a job you hate. On those days- how can you be thankful?

Confession time- I just finished the worst month of feeling unhappy with my siblings that I think I have ever had in my entire life. And that includes when we were little. It seemed like everything they did got on my nerves. I would feel myself getting annoyed, and in an effort to not lose it I would say something quick and sharp. As I would say it, I would chide myself, "Way to go, Nikitah. You just got an F in Siblings Harmony class." I knew what I was saying, but I couldn't bring myself to stop that little comment from slipping out. I felt unhappy and ticked off all the time. There was nothing to be thankful for.

You know how you are going through something and it seems like suddenly everyone is talking/preaching/singing about your problem? Yeah, well, in case you didn't know: that's a God thing. A couple of weeks after the bad feelings started infiltrating my life, Dad preached on Striving To Enter Into God's Rest. Ok, well, maybe that didn't fit entirely what was going on, but it poked at me. And then Chip Ingram started a broadcast series on Overcoming Emotions That Destroy. During that series, I was still in denial, but things were really starting to prick. And then the most random message of all just burst the bubble- his message Don't Ask Why, Ask What in his Rebuilding Your Broken World series. What really got me in that message was the quote by Dr. Viktor Frankl:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
My attitude! Was there something wrong with it, honestly? Wasn't it just that people were doing things that they knew I didn't like? A little while later I read something on the True Woman's website where Erin Davis talked about how her family had a case of the grumps. She said she fixed it by praying this verse:
"You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound." -Psalm 4:7
Is it really that easy to change what you feel about your circumstances? Could just being thankful- and desiring joy- do the trick? I purposed to find out. First, I wrote down Psalm 4:7, Luke 16:10, James 1:12, 1:19, 3:6, and Ephesians 4:29. Underneath those, I wrote a little message for myself: "'Speak life' rather than 'speaking bitterness'." Next, I started forcing myself to write down every day ten things I am thankful for. And soon I was adding things I wasn't thankful for to that list. Just consciously making the effort to feel thankful for those things (or an aspect of those things) made a huge difference.

Now, am I totally out of the "doldrums" yet? Not entirely- and I suspect I will struggle with this my entire life.  Every day I have to go back to my verses and have to write a new list. Is it worth it? Yes, yes it is. I'm not snapping at the people I love.

So I encourage you- if you have something that is keeping you from feeling the joy that Christ died to give you, sit down. Write some verses that deal with your problem- because it probably won't be the same as mine. Write that list of ten things. And then keep going back to them.

I think you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Remorse or Repentance: Letting Go of Regret

John 21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.  13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.  15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep."
I can think of none other who can embody the difference between repentance and remorse better than Peter.   "Huh?" you may ask. Well, let me explain my thinking.

When his beloved Lord and Savior was standing alone before His accusers, instead of coming to His side, he denied the fact that he even knew Him- forcefully! Immediately after Christ's death, we don't really hear a lot about Peter other than he ran to the tomb when Mary came to tell them all that Jesus was alive. I bet he was hoping against hope that he was wrong and that Jesus had never really died after all. But when he got there, all he saw was a pile of burial rags. Not only was he grieving his Master's death, but this would have rubbed his guilt in his face. He probably thought someone was taunting him. After that, he kind of drops off the radar for a few pages. It's not until Jesus shows himself for the third time that we hear about what Peter is doing. He's gone fishing. Back to his old life. As if Jesus had never existed. And this is even after he saw Jesus post-death with the other disciples!

What was wrong with him? Why wasn't he jumping for joy and signing himself up for the Lord's service? I think he felt his betrayal had been too great. His guilt was blinding and incapacitating him. The Evil One was using it to keep him from being an effective servant.

And what was Jesus' response to Peter's betrayal? "Simon. son of John, do you love Me more than these?" When Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, it was His way of giving Peter a chance to "redeem" himself. After Peter denied His Lord three times, it was time to let him do the opposite- declare his love. And notice how Jesus didn't have him stand up in the midst of a crowd and say it. This whole affair (including the betrayal) was just between Jesus and Peter.

Isn't that amazing? Even after His death and resurrection, Jesus thought of Peter. He knew that his disciple would need to stop beating himself up and accept Christ's forgiveness before he could be useful. He had to let go of the guilt.

How often do we hold onto the things we have done and don't even hear when Jesus whispers, "Do you love me?" He's already forgiven us. He forgave us the moment He died on that cross. And yet we dare to keep dragging ourselves back to the past and cling to our regrets! And every time we say, "Lord, I've done too much. I can't let go," Jesus asks yet again, "But... do you love me?" That's what it all comes down to: Do we love Him enough to let Him be enough? Do we believe that He's really and truly taken care of it?

Just like Peter had to let go of his past mistakes and move on, we have to do the same. That's the difference between remorse and repentance. Remorse drags us down and becomes a heavy load that we force ourselves to bear, thinking we are not "good enough" to do anything else. Repentance on the other hand, well, it's a totally different animal. When we truly repent of what we have done, we make the choice to let go  and say, "Lord, I do love You. Use me according to Your Will." Not forget- just let go. And that simple act freed Peter from the past and gave him permission to move on. It gave him the ability to become the person and the leader that would set fire to the church. If he hadn't become that person, 3,000 souls would not have been saved with a single message. The church might not be what it is today. He might never have died for Christ, sealing his place forever in history as the "rock on which Jesus would build His church". And the other disciples who knew how he had been before, would not have seen God's amazing transforming power in his life.

The man who went fishing that day was not the same man who came back. He left as a man weighted down by regret and came back a leader, ready to take up his sword in the upcoming spiritual battle that would rock the world.

So what about you? Are your "issues" getting in the way of your service? Of your happiness?

Maybe you don't know the answers to these questions right now. Or maybe you can't let go yet. But just remember: there is nothing in your life that is greater than Jesus' power to forgive.

Listen. Can you hear Him?

"Little child, do you love Me?"

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Prince Charming: Real or Pretender?

Don't bring me a Prince Charming
In silk and shiny tights.
Don't bring me someone rich.
Just bring me Mr. Right!
He doesn't have to be perfect.
His eyes don't have to be blue.
He doesn't have to sing real fine,
But let him, Lord, be true!
He doesn't have to be talented,
Or wear running shoes.
He doesn't even have to be handsome,
But, Lord, let him love you!
I don't ask for the Mighty Hulk
Or even Superman.
All I ask for is what I know you'll give me-
My Perfect-Match-Man!

(The above is an old poem I wrote several years ago. But the truth in it still resonates today!)

Let's face it- if you are a girl who grew up in my generation, at one point in time or another you dreamed of being a princess. And if you dreamed of being a princess, you dreamed of a castle. If you dreamed of a castle, then you obviously dreamed of a prince to share that castle with. Hey, maybe it was even his castle to begin with and you were the little non-royal Cinderella. (In that case, that castle didn't stay just his for long, am I right?)

 Yeah, that poor prince didn't have a chance.

As you grew up, you figured out that not all royals are princes. Just because he looked good, talked good, and knew how to sweep you off your feet, didn't mean he was Prince Charming. (Unless you were blessed with meeting your prince early in life. If so, the rest of us find you downright annoying.) After seeing so many of these charlatans, eventually you forget what the real thing looks like.

Maturity is a big thing- especially spiritual maturity. Those of us who are Daughters of The King are set in our decision that our prince must be a man spiritually, even if he is young physically. A few weeks ago I was asked by a friend of mine how to tell if a man is mature, so I quickly threw together this answer:
A mature man knows his faults and tries to overcome them. He loves Christ above all else and if it comes down to a choice between Christ and you (not that they are both mutually exclusive, but if there had to be a choice), he would choose Christ. He can lead others while admitting that he doesn't know it all. He also is open to Godly correction from others, showing strength and humility.
He is not easily swayed in his faith by circumstances in life.
He has to be all these things because eventually he will be the leader and pastor of his wife and children. Without them, he will find such a job very hard.
Hear that, guys? That's a lot of responsibility right there. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty basics, this is what we ladies want. But this is also very hard to find. If you are a guy reading this post, take a moment to think about yourself. Do you embody these characteristics? Take another look. Who really does this describe? When I read the above, I don't just see a man- I see Jesus.

Ladies, what a true Daughter of The King should want isn't just a prince. It should be a copy of Jesus. An imperfect copy, true. But a reflection of Him nonetheless. Now, before you go harping on your boyfriend to change, remember this- a prince deserves a princess. Think of the story of The Princess And The Pea. In the story, there were a lot of princesses who tried to win the prince's hand, but only one princess proved herself to be one. And she's the one who received the prize.

Are you a prince/princess? Or are you a royal pretender?

Think about it.

Update: If you liked this, read the accompanying post- True Princess: Sleeping Beauty or Snow White?

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Epic Battle For Clear Skin

If you've ever met me in person, you've probably figured out that I have been battling acne for years and rarely been successful. I've tried everything: chemical-filled over-the-counter washes and tonics, natural washes, ProActiv- and even some crazy home remedies like the one above. (FYI- honey and cinnamon BURNS!) My pursuit of clear skin wasn't my idea, actually. It was my mom's. She was so sad that my face made me hide behind my long hair that she swore she would do anything to help me beat the monster. I admit that acne was a downer, but since I had no vanity in my looks it took her intervention to get me started on fixing my problem. 

So, how my skin is normally: T-zone is horribly greasy with my forehead drenched and my cheeks dry. So, combination skin.
My acne: large, painful, and everywhere. My back is also suffering, although not as much.
What the dermatologist said: "Stay away from anything you are allergic to. You seem to have a sensitivity to the dye in clothing, so stay away from that, too. Apply this super cream to your back." Gee, thanks. Very little help here. Already staying away from the stuff I'm allergic to, no way I'm wearing white all the time, and the stuff for my back only peels it and makes it uncomfortable.

Time for a new plan.

After much trial and error, mom insisted on paying for a ProActiv prescription. Whereas before all the other treatments I had tried had an instant, short-lived success of two weeks, this felt better but didn't fix anything for over a month. Finally, clear skin started to emerge!! For the first time in my war on acne I could stand tall and look people in the eye. My hair started going behind my ears instead of over my face. (The view was so much better without the curtain in the way!) So my acne was mostly gone, only cropping up every now and then. A huge improvement.
You may be thinking, "Yay! You beat it!" but there were still a few problems with the picture: 
1. I had to wash my face at least once a day.
2. If I missed a day, things came rushing back.
3. My skin started to feel rougher after a while.
4. My face was still really oily.
5. Even though I never wore make-up and had always wanted to have cosmetic-free skin, I felt I would probably have to resort to it eventually to help my face look normal.
6. I couldn't touch or put anything on my face without consequences.
7. ProActiv is expensive!

So a few months ago, I quit paying for ProActiv. I was determined to beat this- without chemicals! After much searching on Pinterest as well as trial and error, I developed a new system. This little "potion" saved my skin.
This is my personal acne-fighter. He's strong enough to kill the bacteria and cut the grease, yet gentle enough not to kill or peel the skin. He's wonderful! With him, I've been able to cut my face washing down to when I shower and can even touch my face some without worrying that another bumper crop of zits is going to ruin my day! And I can wear my face and show off my beautiful skin- not my cosmetics.
To make your own Acne-Fighter, find a small container like the one above (I found mine at Wall-Mart) and fill it with:
1/4 Apple Cider Vinegar (preferably organic)
3/4 freshly brewed Green Tea (I use a green tea and lemon mixture since lemon is also good for your skin.)
1-2 drops Oregano Oil (Test your tolerance with one drop. More than two and you'll probably feel a heavy burning sensation, which we want to avoid. You should be able to find this product in a "natural" store.)

Simple, right? Yup! The apple cider vinegar helps balance the pH in your skin and cut the grease and bacteria, the green tea hydrates while its caffeine stimulates the blood-vessels in the skin, and the oregano oil also helps kill bacteria. 

How I use it: Firstly, wash your face around once every two to three days when you shower using a wet mixture of baking soda and milk. Leave that on your skin for a minute before apply a little water and scrubbing to exfoliate those dead skin cells and remove any persistent bacteria. Then, liberally apply the mixture you made above with a cotton ball to your face and down your neck a little to encourage an even look. Your face will probably look red and irritated, but it'll calm down quickly. Apply this mixture one to three times a day, depending on how oily your face gets. Moisturize with aloe vera as needed, but I've found this moisturizes my face plenty. 

More tips on helping this work:
1. Keep your nails either really clean or short! When you scratch your face or pop a pimple (which you will inevitably do- don't deny it!), you are getting that bacteria under your nails which you will then spread somewhere else. I can't help scratching and touching my face, so short nails are easiest for me.
2. Start with a weak Acne-Fighter solution, then up it as needed. For some people a quarter bottle of vinegar may not be enough or one drop of oregano oil may not be cutting it. Add more, but be careful not to burn or freak out your skin too much. If you added too much, just add more green tea.
3. Drink lots of water! Figure up your body's requirements, then carry around a bottle of water. Keep track of how many bottles you consume a day.
4. Lower your body's acidity! Do an at home pH test and see if you are too acidic. Acidic skin tends to have more problems, so eat more veggies and/or drink your water with a little lemon juice. I have to drink 8 to 9 glasses a day so I carry around my water bottle and add lemon concentrate- just enough that I can barely taste it. It makes you feel a million times better in just a few days!
5. Stay active. I know, I know, "that's what they all say", but the sweat is going to help clean your pores and encourage increased circulation to your face, so get movin'! :) I try to exercise three to four times a week if I can find an exercise buddy. Everything's easier with a buddy helping you along!
6. Try adding anti-oxidant rich foods. Fruits and veggies and even green tea and coffee (Gasp! Coffee's good for something!) are great to help boost your immune system and fight that ick in your skin. I love green tea. It's my anti-oxidant home-boy. :p
7. Drink a shot glass of organic apple cider vinegar mixed with a glass of water every day. This is full of good-for-you potassium, acetic acid, and ash to help you lose weight, cleanse, and (like number 4) balance your internal pH.
8. Try oil pulling. The removal of bacteria in your mouth and detoxing your body will go a long way to kick that acne to the curb! New to oil pulling? Click here. There are a couple ways to do it and you can experiment with different oils, but the method is basically the same.
9. If you find the Acne-Fighter isn't quite working for you after a month or so, keep researching different natural oils and ingredients to replace/add to the mixture. I can guarantee that if I found something that works for me after nine years, you will, too.

Ok, a quick WARNING: Don't drink the mixture. I know, you probably weren't even thinking about it, but the oregano can be harmful if you don't know the right way to take it internally. 

There you go! Now you can let the Acne-Fighter go to work whoopin' up on that invading bacteria while you sit back and drink the rest of your freshly brewed cup of green tea. Power to the anti-oxidants! Catch you later, everybody!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Heart of a Child

...but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 19:14
 Last night Alyssa and I were blessed to spend time with the sweetest batch of cookies- er, kids- you've ever seen. Such cuties! And they don't even realize it.

These six kids live in a technically two bedroom apartment whose rooms are barely big enough to squeeze in a bunk bed, twin bed, two wardrobes and couch. The kitchen isn't long enough to lay down in, let alone have a table, and the bathroom is just big enough. Not only that, but they haven't had electricity in... well, I'm not sure how long. So these kids don't have TV, computers, or gaming consoles to entertain them. But do they mind that they have to play by candle light? They don't seem to.

In the short two and a half hours we were there, the kids were so happy. They ran around playing a pretty much impossible game of hide and seek with Alyssa (I became the hiding place for one of them), colored with crayons that were so hard to see in the dim light that we used my cell-phone, played a word game and Mancala tournament, and then eventually all but two fell asleep to a fairy tale book. And in the midst of it all, I paused mid-play to hear the sweet sound of a three year-old singing a few choruses from songs he had heard at church.

What was important to that little kid? Was he grumping over not being able to see by the light of that dim candle? Was he thinking about a cartoon he wasn't able to watch or a toy his brothers were playing with but he wasn't? No. He wanted to sing to Jesus. He just wanted to enjoy the gift of my sister's friendship that God had given him that night.
At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;" -Matthew 11:25  

Jesus wants us to be like that little boy: innocent, trusting, and joyful in Him. How little do I find myself living like him! How often my pride pushes in on my joy and clobbers it over the head! How often I let my surroundings rob me of trust in God's providing hand.

Think about everything that is wrong in your life right now, then think about that little boy who has barely any toys or books, no electricity, lives with his brothers and sisters in a tiny apartment, and sometimes goes to bed with a growling tummy.

Why are you not trusting?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Motion of Music

What is the effect of music on our lives? What would they be like without it? For those of us who don't play an instrument, what are we missing?

Music is an extremely important part of my life. Imagine my chagrin when I started to notice my hearing getting worse! Thankfully, it seems like my ears are getting better now that I am no longer around long noises. But that thought- idea- has stuck with me.

Let me ask you a question- if you had the choice between hearing and seeing, what would you choose? Now that's a tough decision which- thankfully- none of us will ever have to make. But what would we miss with either sense? With the eyes, it would be colors, those high-powered action sequences on TV, etc. But think of sound. How much more do we miss without it? Close your eyes (mentally) and listen to the room around you. Listen to people moving around, to the TV blaring with impassioned words thick with emotion, to the music that your sister plays when she's sad.... Think of this- what is more useful to you in a dark alley before you are attacked: your ears or your eyes?

All of the above aside, how does music affect our bodies and souls? Relaxing music can sooth stress and encourage our bodies to heal themselves. Heavy metal tears away at our calm exterior and exposes the raw intensity inside (not saying that's always a good thing), often making us feel and feed the anger inside. Some jazz can be slightly depressing, feeding our sad feelings while either providing relief or compounding our sadness into depression. A good composer is so good that he can make you feel how he wants you to. And since we can close our eyes, but we can't close our ears, that's power.

Now, for those of us who don't play an instrument, what does this mean for us? How does it affect us? Well, according to Luke Russell's book How to Jam- A Guide to Playing Music By Ear, music encourages creativity and analytic thinking. Basically, it's good for your brain! And think of it this way- playing an instrument is a release for your emotions. Some people may be able to do that through singing. But what if you hate your voice? Or what if singing just isn't enough? Maybe you are drawn to a certain sound of a specific instrument, but have been told you don't have any talent. Something about me that you may not know is that I played the piano for somewhere around three years. I didn't have people telling me I wasn't any good, but I began to catch on when I was in the same "level" for a couple of years. And then my piano teacher retired- permanently. And I found out she felt bad because my younger sister was about to pass me up. Anyway, the point is, I didn't have any natural talent. But according to Mr. Russell, I was taught all wrong. I was taught the mechanics, but not the... well, I guess you could call it the soul of it.

If you feel like giving up because you aren't any good, here's my suggestion: read this book first. And then throw all of the gentle criticisms of  loving family and friends out the window. Play for you and you alone. (Ok, you can play for God, too.) Music was meant for emotional release. David used music in the Psalms for the same thing. Honestly, some of his lyrics may not be the most amazing you've ever heard. But they came from the heart. Think of yourself like a modern David. You just want to show God your heart.

And that's what I'm going to do. If I want to sing, I'm going to sing. Even if I think my voice sounds funny. If I want to play the bass, I'm playing it. It's not about becoming the next American Idol winner or about amazing my friends. It's all about getting those feelings out there.

Because it's not healthy holding them inside.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Death of a Dream: Moving On After Your World Crumbles

Today I came across this blog post on the True Woman website called Making Noble Plans by a Nashville pastor's wife Jani Ortlund. The post is a thought-provoking connection to Isaiah 32:8:
 “He who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands”
It got me thinking: Why have I not made any "noble plans" in the last few years? And why is this important?

From the time I was a little girl, I knew what I wanted to be. My basic plan was that right out of high school God would send me a knight in shining armor to sweep me off my feet and take me away to his castle. I wouldn't have to find a job or live with my parents. All I would do was clean house, take care of kids, and redecorate rooms. Life would be perfect! But did that happen? No. Post high school consisted of three part time jobs and an almost engagement that wasn't good timing for my spiritual maturity. Thank God that He stopped me before things got even crazier!

It's weird, really. After that relationship I had very few guys interested in me. They didn't flirt as much or seem to always know if I was in the room. All that stopped. I didn't know why! But now I think I get it. My dream and ideals had been crushed. I was no longer the vibrant, carefree girl that I had been before. I had lost my spark.

Now, a couple dreamless and fear-filled years later, God is doing something amazing. He's opening up my heart! He's letting me dream again. My world isn't as small as it used to be. I have choices! I'm not chained to circumstances.

You may be wondering, "Is this miraculous change going to last?" All I can say in response is, "Well, it's been going on for a while now!" You see, I am finally seeing that God wants me to dream. And when you dream and actually believe that God is in the dream, it beats away those fears.

To be honest, it wasn't only Jani's post that has produced this. It is also a book I've been reading by Tom Corson-Knowles called Rich By 22: How To Achieve Business Success At An Early Age. Now, am I planning on being rich by 22? Too late. That ship has sailed. Am I planning on becoming a wealthy business owner? Not really. Do I agree theologically with everything in his book? Nope. But is it one of the most encouraging and inspiring books I have ever read? Yes! It's helped me decide that I have two main overarching goals in my life-

  • Become a successful published author.
  • Become financially independent.

Why? Well, the first because writing is a gift that God has given me and being published is something He has been nudging me (rather forcefully) toward. The second because through a high enough passive income any active income I may deem necessary will be used to support the servants of God's Kingdom in their work around the globe. Being financially able to be actively involved in many different types of missions work is something wonderful. And who knows? Maybe I'll even adopt a few kids someday.

Maybe I don't have exactly how I'm going to do all this figured out. Maybe I don't have a degree. But I have a God who is a God of dreams and He knows where my heart is. As I like to say:
Our dreams are God's realities.

What are your dreams? Share them with me! Maybe we can help encourage each other.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Blast From the Past: Essay of the Written Word

It’s amazing how much a story can affect you. It can make you laugh, cry, love and die with every breath a character takes. It can lift you up with wings of joy or bring you down in dark sorrow. Such is the power of the written word.

There is a beauty and a curse in this power. Through the scribbling of silent writers, love has bloomed between couples; but also wars have been fought, leading to many deaths that otherwise would not have happened had someone not bothered to dip the fated quill.

As writers and authors, much responsibility falls upon our shoulders. What we write not only affects us, but others. As we pour our boiling emotions onto paper for the relief it gives, they are swallowed by another who may not have the ability to release them. Oh, how my heart aches as I write this! For them, such a life is naught but eternal torment. Thus, we as scribes are required to turn our torrent of words into carefully hewn chasms that will channel even our negative energies into a restricted flow. Yes, we still wish our prose to prick emotions into being, but only so much as they will edify and not condemn our unwitting readers.

May God bless my written words.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Field of Life

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9 ESV)
 I've read this passage so many times and heard sermon after sermon on the subject. But today it got me thinking about the last couple of years and all the things that have happened- the thorns, birds, and sun. For me, the last couple of years here in Romania were physical "thorns". When I was sixteen/seventeen-ish, I experienced something like a heart attack followed by long periods of weakness. After being poked, pricked, and prodded by our eccentric physician (and yes, they took enough blood over that year to satisfy a vampire), I was told I had a strange infection in my blood. They didn't tell me what it was, but I didn't care. It was an inconvenience. They prescribed me some pills to help de-stress my heart and get it back on rhythm and a few vials of amoxicillin. Dad got the happy job of stabbing me with a full vial of the stuff every ten days and listening to me roar in pain. (I was told later that amoxicillin is one of the most painful injections you can get.) This lasted for a couple of months. When we finally finished the last vial, I refused to go back to the doctor. I was feeling better, so I must be better, right? I couldn't be more wrong. When I finally did go back, the new test results came back doubly bad. I was basically called an idiot by my doctor and told that if I didn't deal with this, I was going to need a heart transplant by the time I was twenty-one. Talk about putting the fear of God into someone! But I still refused the injections. We compromised and she gave me pills. (Really? Really?! Couldn't you have done that in the first place?!) The following year was tough- really tough. But now there was a difference. Whereas before I was just pulling through on my own strength, I was now vulnerable. Thoughts of "Why, God?" churned through my mind, but I had to remind myself, "I gave my life to God a long time ago. That was a one-time-for-all-time deal. He brought me out of my life of sin, He can bring me out of this." But I knew He might not want to. That's a scary thing to discover at seventeen: your own mortality. I had given him my life, but could I now give Him my death, too? I didn't know it at the time, but I had proven that my roots went down deep- deeper than surface rocks, thorns, and sunlight could reach. I had grown tall. Now I was ready to bloom.

Over the following years, He would test me over and over again with health complications and, eventually, more emotional problems. But I know now that even if I can't see my own roots, God can. He knows. And He knew that I would stay put, even when the world try to pull me out by that root. I thank God for not letting me sit there and be seed snatched up by birds or choked by weeds.

This passage is so important to help answer those questions of "Why, God?" Does it tell us outright why? No. But it does tell us that if we stick it out, we will get to see how deep our roots go. And it's amazing. Having faith that He is in control of even the bad things and won't give us more than we can handle (so long as we handle it with His power) is so comforting. Life is going to be bad. Everyone and anyone can and do get diseases. Their hearts get broken by imperfect relationships. They become victims of theft, fraud, and rape. But honestly, if I have to go through those things, I would rather go through them with God by my side than without Him. That's what it comes down to, really. People think that it's this strange choice- live "free" from God's meddling or let Him control us- but it's really not. God's not a nitpicking old woman or a slave-driving taskmaster. He's a loving father. He's our loving Father. And He's holding out His hand, saying, "Walk with me."

Something that makes me sad about this passage is that many people who think they are Christians are like the seed growing among the thorns. I know of a young man who grew up "believing" in Christ, then he went to an acquaintance's funeral (not even someone he really knew well- an acquaintance) and couldn't reconcile that death with what he had been taught about God. So he became a Deist. A few years later he was struck with a disease that caused major muscle cramps over his entire body that were so bad that sometimes when he had an attack the cramp crushed bones. He tried to believe in God for a while, but again couldn't reconcile what was happening with what he knew of God. So he became an Atheist. Not long after giving up on God, he was healed. But it was too late. The damage was done and now he is a die-hard Atheist whose life mission is to try to destroy the faith of Christians. My heart goes out to this young man. What the thorns in his life did was choke his beliefs to death. He found out he didn't have roots.

Have you taken a moment to thank God for walking with you through the field of life?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Crazy (Amazy?) Happy Holidays

"Happy Holidays y'all!"

Ok, I know, I know- I didn't write anything letting y'all know what was going on for the holidays! But, my dear friends, it wasn't my fault! It was the church. No, really. Romanians are kind of mildly obsessed about going to church all the time- especially around the holidays. I'm not saying that's bad... but when Romanians hear the word "holiday", they take off like a rocket. There is no such thing as a calm, restful vacation-like holiday. Instead they are running around until well after midnight with friends. 

Basically, this is what our Christmas/New Years looked like: cookie baking, David Center party, Rebecca's cantata, more cantata, even more cantata, caroling until after midnight, more caroling, party, gingerbread house building, more cookie baking, Christmas, Christmas night church service, Christmas service/visit at a little village all day, friends over, last minute New Year party prep, New Year party until 5 a.m. with cleanup, and finally- football day until three a.m.. Whew! Busy, busy, busy. 

Admittedly, Rebecca did very well on her cantata and we girls enjoyed performing a song and skit for church, so it's not like we didn't have fun. (I decorated pretty much our whole gingerbread house by myself, so that was fun. Its carcass now sits in the kitchen where Dad periodically picks it over.) But 5 a.m.?! You've got to be crazy, even if it is New Years. The one day of the year that we try and kill ourselves off with no sleep. Who invented that, anyway?!

I'll stop ranting now before you get the idea that I didn't have a good time. The truth is, I did. But it's not like it used to be, you know? The holidays would always fill me with a sparkly, zippy feeling of anticipation. There were times when I couldn't sleep for hours after I went to bed. But now... not so much. The gifts aren't as important, the snow doesn't always feel magical, and your friends aren't the same people they were last year. Things change. Life changes. You change. But the one thing that stays the same- Jesus. No matter how crazy or even un-amazing the holidays get, the Bible promises that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever". (Hebrews 13:8) Just because we don't feel it, doesn't mean that Jesus didn't come to earth and that there isn't something worth celebrating. It doesn't mean we have the right to ignore Christmas.

So if you didn't get the Christmas you remember having as a child- or even if you did- just stop and think: Where does Jesus stand in your holidays? Is He as important to you as to the Romanians at this time of year? Did you think about the fact that He came into this depraved, sin-filled world just for you?

Have you thanked Him yet?