Friday, April 30, 2010

Arsenal of Attitude


In the past few months of my life, a reoccurring theme has developed: Easier said than done. With my job situation, I should just be happy to be employed at all and not be disappointed that I am not teaching…easier said than done. With my peers, I should not let callous people have the power to hurt me, I should just set my heart on things above…easier said than done. With this blog, I should stop worrying about how many more posts are to come and just concentrate on sending one out everyday…much easier said than done.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t seem to set my mind on anything! No matter how much I try, and no matter how virtuous my intentions are, I cannot seem to control the self-deprecating thoughts that bleed into my consciousness. Like it or not, my mind always puts myself above my creator. Luckily, there is hope. God has provided us with an arsenal of weapons to use against our fleshy subconscious. And the trick to setting our minds on things above: Carrying surplus oil.

Matthew 25:10
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.” - NIV

Matthew 25 teaches about the five wise virgins and the five foolish virgins who did not carry surplus oil. When the time came to meet the bridegroom, many were caught unprepared because their minds had been elsewhere. This lack of prudence caused them to miss the bridegroom completely.

The fact is, when we engage in Godly endeavors … we are setting our mind on things above. When we make the conscious choice to prepare our hearts and ready our minds, we are thinking heavenly. Prayer is a crucial way of assuring we will have sufficient excess oil for your lamps.  Frequently spending time in God’s Word is another.  Spending more time in God’s presence, whether in church or praising Him with our own with uplifting music, will relieve us of our earthly burdens.

Many things in life seem all too difficult to endure, but setting our mind on Christ… as easily done as said.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Excuse Me


Thursdays, what a day. Within five minutes of being awake, I was automatically downstairs and on my computer. I would like to say that I was blogging during this time, but alas, duty called elsewhere. I spent my day working from home and carrying a fuller load than I ever handle in the office. For some reason, all day today, the requests came pouring in. I did not have a second to eat. I did not have a minute to take a shower. I definitely did not have an hour to write a blog.

Then, to capitalize on my busy day, I rushed to Marietta for a T2 tennis match scheduled for 6pm. There, upon arrival, I was greeted by my brother who had apparently noticed my lack of blog posting for the day. As a natural reaction to his questioning, I opened my mouth and the excuses began to pour out like water. I was busy. I was rushed. I didn’t have time to gather my thoughts. Blah, blah, blah.

Luke 14:18
“But they all alike began to make excuses.” – NIV

Excuses, man are they easy to come by. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, one thing that we can be sure of is our ability to weasel out of responsibility for it.

Regrettably, this realm of our personalities does not elude our spiritual lives. How often do we hear: “Well, the Bible doesn’t say I can’t do this” or “We live in a different time, the culture of Jesus wasn’t what it is today?” Every time a sin is justified, an excuse is made. Every time a moral imbalance seeps into our lives, excuses are made. It would not be far fetched to claim that, in our culture, our ability to make excuses is the single biggest threat against our spiritual welfare.

There aren’t enough crutches in the world for all the lame excuses – Marcus Stroup

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Guilty Conscience


One of my biggest regrets in life stems from a time in childhood that I remember well: Being grounded. Grounded, for us, meant no tv, no telephone and no friends. In a neighborhood surrounded by buddies, it was always difficult to stay inside on a warm summer day. But, as I often remembered during this time of punishment, I did have a little brother.

My brother and I had a strange little game that we often played, every time I found myself grounded for whatever reason. It really was silly-simple, whenever I was homebound, he and I would play “Friends”. Not much to this game, we would simply hang out with one another and play games around the house. We would grab a Monopoly board or we would set up legos, anything to entertain ourselves. For however long, we were no longer siblings…we were friends.

Eventually, however, I would find my punishment over. My mom would inform me that I was free and I would take off running to the neighbor’s house. I would shoot my brother a quick glance and say the words that haunt me to this day: “Friends is over.”

What a heartless sister I was. My brother, much younger than I, was rarely invited to play with us. The moment I found myself with no restrictions, I pushed him aside for something (I thought to be) better. Now, more than fifteen years later, I still carry this shame like an open wound in my heart.

Romans 8:1
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” - NIV

How big of a role does guilt play in our spiritual lives? Have we hidden away bad decisions that always seem to rear their ugly head in times of prosperity? Have we carried this burden so long that our shoulders are blue with shame?

Guilt is such a domineering force; it can stop us in our tracks or keep us from taking steps at all. Fortunately, God knows the power of the culpable cross we carry and He sent His Son to do the heavy lifting. The entire message of Christ is grace, mercy and forgiveness. God knows there are things in our lives that must be covered in grace, it is a biblical fact. The nature of God is forgiveness; and to remove our guilty hearts, we must allow Him this role.

I have to wonder: Have we let our guilty conscience overpower our graceful God?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A for Effort


My last semester of college was turning out to be one of great turnaround. Known for my past antics and reckless collegian behavior, I had finally matured past fun and found my faith. Truly longing for some part in ministry, I applied for a semester-long internship with the Shenandoah Baptist Church youth program in Columbia, SC. After weeks of anxious waiting, I received a phone call from the senior pastor welcoming me to the program. I was so excited!

Two weeks before I was scheduled to move to SC, my college advisor requested my presence. Apparently, she had made a mistake in my core requirements and the amount of hours I would be obtaining from my internship would no longer meet my graduation requirements. If I still wanted to pursue this opportunity, I would have to return to school for an additional semester and take one more class once my internship was completed.

This was horrible! I couldn’t ask my family to pay for another semester of room and board for just one class. I couldn’t pay tuition for another semester just to complete one more requirement. I couldn’t miss the chance to graduate with my best friends. When it all came down to it, no matter how much I felt that I earned it, I couldn’t go.

Psalm 127:1
“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” – NIV

Sometimes, there are no explanations. Sometimes, there is no one to blame. Sometimes, we can manage to do everything right, complete every step or justify every cause but, nonetheless, things still go incredibly wrong.

It is so maddening to learn what little power we have in life, yet, it is strangely calming at the same time. Let us not deny it; we all want to be in the seat of power, we thirst for such a thing. We want our decisions to count and our efforts to be significant. We are great with God sitting shotgun, but we will never let Him drive.

Whether we understand it or not, one thing is certain: The intention of God is far more crucial to the outcome than the efforts of man.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rate our Service


I have come to the opinion that something must be in the water for Fulton and Forsyth County, some extra little invisible tidbit that sucks the joy right out of the customer service industry. Repeatedly, my husband and I have noticed a steady decline in guest relations no matter where we are and I fear that this exceeds our county lines.

Regardless of the business classification, Restaurant, Retail or Service, employee efforts must be at an all time low. Table service in restaurants has never been worse. In shopping situations, employees are so consumed with commission efforts that a potential consumer is openly fought over like a piece of succulent steak. The effort is lacking in all areas of personal service, and yet, a tip is still requested.

What is going on here? Is the poor economy to blame for this lack of service, or, is the lack of service to blame for the bad economy? A man’s word is no longer viable. A coworker would just as soon consume you as commend you. The world is just…not what it used to be.

1 Peter 4:11
“If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides…” - NIV

It is somewhat silly how often I find myself yearning for another time. A time when relationships mattered and loyalty was not a weakness. A time when “service” was taken seriously, no matter what environment the service was in. A time when God was a priority and His words a mantra. Sadly, at my age, I have yet to know a time like this and I do not find myself with great confidence that the future will be different.

What people my age do know is that no one is more important than yourself. What we do know is that if we are going to survive, we must look out for number one. What we do know is that God will provide, but we want more than He is going to give and we can get that ourselves. What we do know is that success overshadows service.

In all of this, I have to wonder: Do we really know anything?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 25th


Today is April 25th. Two years ago, on this very day, the only best friend I have ever known was shot and killed in a violent act of love gone wrong. With one event, my entire life changed with no warning. I have spent all day trying to think of what I wanted to say about this; I mean, shouldn’t I say something?

Two months after her passing, I was consumed with the same dilemma; shouldn’t I be doing something? A writer even then, all I could muster up the strength to do was write about her, write about what I was feeling. Other than my husband, no one has ever seen the words I wrote or even heard me speak of them. Here we are, two years later, and I think I have finally found my voice and my courage to share:

Nothing's really happened to me,
you can all be sure I'm fine.
Funny, how many used to ask
when tragedy was on their mind.
Two months now have came and went,
74 days to be exact.
Outside I seem to be so brave
while weight lays upon my back.
I see your face everyday
but that is nothing new.
I saw your face yesterday,
and I will tomorrow too.
Quick to listen and slow to speak,
has been my life these hours.
I want to love and feel again
but my fear of loss devours.
Wasn't long before this end
I was happiest of all my time,
then all was taken like a thief in the night
from one 10 second crime.
Anger isn't something I feel right now
nor loss, or fear or doubt.
I know that God has overcome
and I will learn to live without.
I've never been so alone
and the silence makes me doubt;
my unforgiveness towards this sin
is not what God's about.
Every sinner has a future
I know this all too well.
I pray that my friend asked for grace
And in your arms she dwells.
I try to be strong to help the weak,
as Jesus says to do,
but is there a point when you can just sit down
and have Him take care of you?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Harboring Hearts


Not since middle school have I experienced the kind of social drama that I have been experiencing lately. The kind of drama that isn’t overtly obvious, but the kind that tears you up on the inside… a.k.a. plain ol’ bitterness. On a fairly regular basis, I have the pleasure of encountering a certain individual who simply just rubs me the wrong way. Their words always offend me, their actions always provoke me and I can’t seem to escape the cloud of negativity that looms over their very presence.

To make matters worse, this resentment has begun to take up a permanent residence within me. Even when our meetings are trouble-free, my heart remains burdened. Though I may feel justified in my aversion, I am harboring animosity for this individual even when they are nowhere around! I am always plotting my defenses. I am always remembering past wrongs. I am always…merciless.

Mark 11:25
“When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” – NIV

I have to wonder, when we encounter difficult relationships, could there be something bigger at stake? Satan finds a way to work himself into the most unlikely of situations, but always for a bigger purpose. He has the ability to use the most simple of disruptions to wage an all out spiritual war. When a relationship becomes difficult, and either party begins to sow seeds of bitterness in their hearts, he knows that it hinders our prayers.

There is a direct link between forgiveness in our hearts and the efficiency of our prayers. For those of us who choose to live in animosity, we can’t possibly be in sync with the character of God. Our hearts are only so big; they cannot harbor both resentment and the Spirit.

Like it or not, when we do not forgive, we are making conscious choices to harbor bitterness instead of the Father.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cold Calls


The best day of my workweek, by far, is Thursdays. On this day, every week, I get the pleasure of forwarding my phone at the office and working from home. This is a relatively new policy for my company and it is really making the week much more agreeable.

Yesterday, when my workday was complete, I headed to Lambert High School to watch the tennis team compete in a regional match. It was such a beautiful day that, for the ride home, I let down my windows and turned the radio up. I was cruising down the traffic-free road, with the wind in my hair, and all of a sudden, my phone rang. Not even thinking, I picked it up and let out a definitely-not-professional hello. As soon as I heard the voice on the other end of the line, I knew: I had forgotten that my phone at the office was still forwarded.

There I was, busted. While I wasn’t doing anything wrong, my workday had ended, I still felt negligent. I had not answered my call in a professional manner. I was not in a position to answer any questions. When it all boiled down to it, I wasn’t ready to be called in the first place.

Matthew 24:44
“But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” – NIV

We all consider ourselves planners to a certain degree. Some of us plan days, months or years in advance, while others only moments. No matter how many attempts we make to schedule our lives, one thing will always be spontaneous: The Return of our King.

Christ IS coming back. There is no doubt, no mystery or no uncertainty to this fact; It will happen. This will not be an event we can plan for. This will not be an event that we can predict. This will be an event so spontaneous that it will catch us right in our tracks, no matter how ready we are. There will be no time to start acting appropriate or responsible. All there will be is our behavior and response to the call.

When the most important call of your life, finally, comes in: What will we be doing?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Multiple Choice


After our wedding, my husband and I honeymooned in Carmel, California. It was so exciting for me to visit a non-Georgia-bordering state and I loved the idea of crossing the country. We had an adorable place to stay and nothing but time to enjoy our surroundings.

Every morning we would have breakfast at our hotel and every evening we chose a place to have dinner. One night we ate Mexican. One night we ate seafood. One night we ate ourselves silly with free cheese. No matter what we wanted to have, we had the ability to have it. Our choices were endless and our options abundant.

At the end of our stay, surprisingly, both of us were yearning for a home cooked meal. The idea of having to make another dinner decision became troublesome. All we wanted to do was sit down, in the comfort of our own home, and have a meal together. Upon our return, I am pretty sure that we did not eat out again for weeks.

John 14:6
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – NIV

Although the idea of abundant options always seems appealing, is this always the case? Consider the realm of spirituality in our culture; each individual has nothing but choices. Just at first glance there is Judaism, Mormonism, Christianity, Kabala, and of course, the choice to have no religion at all. The world screams at us to observe religious tolerance, be accepting of all spiritual belief structures and consider none above the rest…but, when you get down to it, this is not Biblical.

When push comes to shove, no amount of tolerance will save your soul. The only person who can claim salvation is Jesus Christ. We cannot substitute the red blood of Christ for a red string tied to our wrist. We cannot believe in God and forsake His Son. We cannot disregard the biblically taught foundation in marriage and take more than one spouse. Most importantly, we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that we have more than one way to find salvation.

In a world of endless choices, sometimes it’s nice to know you only have one.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Complaint Department


At work, I have the honor of sitting in a 9x9 cubical. While it may not sound like the life of luxury, I have come to make it my own. On the back wall, I have pinned up Twilight posters. Directly in front of my monitor are pictures of my Chihuahua, Nemo. To the side are pictures from my wedding and a small lamp that reminds me of my dad’s office growing up.

While I have made every effort to enjoy my workspace, there is one persisting problem: My cube mate. Man alive this girl complains! She hates her coworkers and is not shy about expressing that emotion. She loathes her job and always has. Frankly, I am pretty sure that she just hates life. I can hear her constant complaining over my running iPod. Her attitude drowns out my music, drowns out my good mood and, really, just makes me want to move to the other side of the building!

Numbers 11:1
“Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused.” - NIV

The definition of a complaint is the expression of dissatisfaction or discontentment. By the sheer act alone, we are expressing our unhappiness at the current circumstance or situation. We are unhappy at how God is managing our life and our condition. Complaining brings outward the grief from within and proves that we are, in fact, bitter.

How does our Heavenly Father react towards our complaining? The Old Testament reveals that God considers the act of complaining confirmation of distrust. The Israelites made a name for themselves as complainers, they never ceased. The act of grumbling became who they were. Let us ask ourselves: Is that what we want to be know for?

Paul urges Christians to do all things without complaining. The letter of Jude places Christian complainers in the same category as ungodly sinners. Non-believers are filled with complaints day in and day out, but this is not a lifestyle for Christians. Believers are to always act out of faith, having confidence that our Lord will provide and protect.

I will not be as those who spend the day in complaining of headache, and the night in drinking the wine that gives it. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Welcome to Tennessee


Three weeks after getting my drivers license, tragedy struck a friend of mine. Well, to be perfectly honest, appendicitis struck…but to a sixteen year old, it was an e-m-e-r-g-e-n-c-y! I remember rushing to the hospital as if my friend had thirty minutes to live. Not really understanding what appendicitis was at the time, it might as well have been brain surgery.

There I was, fresh off a learner’s permit and not really understanding my surroundings. For those of you who know me, my sense of direction is embarrassingly bad. Even though I had lived in the area my whole life, and the hospital was no more than fifteen minutes from my house, I wasn’t exactly sure where I was headed.

The travel time began to concern me as my commute approached one hour. “Perhaps I missed it a couple miles back”, I thought. Then, there it was: Welcome to Tennessee!

I had practically driven across state lines in an attempt to get to a hospital fifteen minutes away. I was going so fast, and so distracted with my own objective, that I missed all the signs. I had no idea that I had completely missed the entire destination until it was no longer an option.

Psalm 48:14
“For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.” - NIV

Do we recognize our surroundings? Do we know exactly where we are? Or, have we wandered so far past our home that nothing is recognizable? There are many times in life when our humanity leads us astray. We set our eyes on the destination, take off in a hurry, and then just find ourselves…lost.

Fortunately, as believers, we have a spiritual compass. Our Spirit warns us in times of misdirection. Our Spirit guards us against bad choices and wrong turns. Our Spirit gives us the assurance that no matter how off course we find ourselves, our destination is never out of reach.

Let your Spirit guide you and it will always point due North.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Panera Problem


For the past couple weeks, I have just felt burdened. Those of you who know me have heard me discuss this blog with more and more dissatisfaction as of late. I have tried to dance around this issue in my writings, but this morning, I am going to come clean.

When this project first began, it was all about God. Early in the morning, I would provide myself with enough time to speak with Him, listen to Him, read about Him and write about Him. Everyday I would sit in my little booth at Panera and beg for His presence, and every morning He arrived. It was obvious that He was blessing this effort and sustaining my pleasure in this project overall.

Today, however, here I sit: Alone. I no longer start my days with prayer, no time for that. I no longer spend time in His word, no time for that either. I grab my computer and rush through a blog posting without even exiting my car! I do not even take the time to walk into the local Panera. I sit in my car, outside the restaurant, and use them for their wireless service.

Each minute I spend in quiet time, is another minute later that I get to depart from my office in the afternoon. Each minute I spend in quiet time is another minute that traffic builds up in the afternoon. Each minute that I spend in quiet time is another minute that something else could have been done. There is no time to waste.

John 6:12
“Let nothing be wasted.” – NIV

Here is a troubling thought: This project was once bearing fruit. I was growing in my confidence that God would always show up. I was growing in my devotional abilities. I was growing in my prayer life. And, most importantly, I was growing in my relationship with my Lord. But now, there is no fruit to bear, only burdens. By turning this project from God to myself, I have let my crop wither and go to waste.

Now that my eyes have opened once again, may I always remember: Waste Not, Want Not.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Bold Approach


In some of my reading the other day, I came across the story of the bleeding woman in Mark 5. This story has always caught my attention for whatever reason. Could it be the lifelong suffering that she had experienced? Could it be the purity of her faith that moves me? Or, could it be the boldness with which she acts?

This woman, ceremonially unclean in all areas of Old Testament law, boldly approaches Jesus Christ and touches his cloak. She obviously had some idea as to who this man was for her actions to be so intentional. With one arm length, and one small step, she took a giant leap for her soul. True, it was an act of desperation…but also an act of great faith. We would do well to understand why a woman, convinced of her unholiness, would seek out Someone who is holy. We would do well to understand her expectation that within His holiness would be unrenowned grace.

Mark 5:34
“Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” – TNIV

When we actually think about it, are the two most common needs not peace and freedom from suffering? Are these things not the concerns most lifted up to heavenly ears? When life gets away from us, stress becomes overwhelming and failure knocks at our door: We seek His peace. When illness becomes a way of life and we long for a pain free existence: We seek freedom from suffering.

We must all ask ourselves: What drives us to the Holy One with our concerns? Do we seek Him because it is the right thing to do? Do we seek Him because we are hoping that, this one time, He will hear us? If this is the case, do not expect an answer anytime soon. God does not respond to obligatory requests.

However, if what drives us to Him is the knowledge that He hears us: He will respond. If what drives us to Him is the belief of His merciful character, He will respond.

God will respond to bold faith, to those who know exactly who He is.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saying vs Doing


Growing up, there was a distinct variation between myself, my brother and the way we responded to responsibilities. My mom would ask us to do a specific chore and, sure enough, our responses could not be more different.

My response would be an immediate acceptance of the chore, but actually doing it would be an entirely different battle. Laziness would eventually win out and the assignment would go untouched.

My brother, on the other hand, would adamantly refuse to stop what he was doing and complete the request. He knew he wasn’t going to do it right then and he had no problem saying so. His words, although at times rebellious, always matched his actions. Inevitably, he would come to his senses and eventually complete the task set before him.

Now that we are adults, I often wonder: Of the two responses, which was worse: The person who was compliant, but never acted or the person who acted, but antagonistically? I have come to appreciate first-hand the extreme difference between saying and doing.

Luke 6:46
"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?” – NIV

How often I find myself acting in faith the way I acted in childhood. I exalt God with my mouth, but dishonor Him with my actions. I have a reluctant fickleness about me that I have never seemed to overcome. While my intentions are always pure at first, in due course laziness leads to idleness, and idleness leads to inaction.

This verse in Luke reeks of Jesus Christ. In one sentence he manages to put his finger on the unpredictability that invades all of our hearts. We all have nothing but the best of intentions when deciding to follow Christ, but by the end, that is all that remains: Good Intentions.

So what is the answer to this question: Why do we call Him Lord, but do not do what he says? Is it because we are afraid of change? Is it because we are set in our ways? Is it because we know ourselves enough to know that we are the way we are and nothing is going to transform us at this point in our lives?

I think that is the point: We know ourselves too well, and Him not enough.

Friday, April 16, 2010

High Prices


Recently, I accepted the first promotion of my career, and all I can say is…finally! At last, I have been granted the recognition that I have been yearning for. It took over three years for someone to see that I deserved a higher role within the company and, I must say, it feels good.

The first week of transition from my old job to the new one was simple. With my old job being back-filled, it is just a waiting game until that process is complete before I can fully embrace my new role. A couple days ago, however, I was introduced to some of my new responsibilities: Meetings. I had to stay at the office until 5pm – a time that is crazy considering I typically leave at 3:30. There I sat, in a room with no windows, wondering if this promotion was the best route to go. I sure do love my new title, but I also love missing rush hour.

No matter what choice I made, remain at my old position or accept the promotion, it was going to cost me something. Either way, there is a price to pay.

Matthew 16:26
“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” – NIV

We all have choices to make in life, some easy and some difficult. There is one choice; however, that outweighs the rest: Our Faith. To follow Jesus Christ is the fundamental foundation of all of our other choices; and no matter the outcome, a price will be paid. Will we choose to act out of defiance, or discipleship?

Do not be fooled; the cost of discipleship is a high one. Jesus does not mask this fact in his words or appeals. In fact, in light of the earthly suffering that could accompany a life of discipleship, Jesus urges people not to follow Him unless their decision is unconditional. We may not feel the weight of discipleship at first, but eventually, life will become hard. The world will hate us. Our decisions will never again be trouble-free. There will be times when we find ourselves, sitting in a room with no windows, wondering: Did we make the right choice?

Every human being pays an extremely high price – either the cost of discipleship or the cost of opting out of it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sibling Rivalry


There is one person in the world that has the ability to awake the competitive beast inside of me more than any other does: My little brother. That punk and I have been at war since the day he arrived at MY house. If it wasn’t Nintendo, it was four square. If it wasn’t pool, it was grades. If it wasn’t over little Debbie Swiss cake rolls, it was getting the last leg of bbq chicken. Our entire lives have been a longstanding, but friendly, battle to the death! I wish that I could say that we have since matured and begun to nurture our ties that bind…but nope…we still boast about whose Master’s degree was more difficult to obtain.

Fortunately, throughout all of our bloodthirsty bickering, neither one of us has ever wished anything but happiness for the other. There is no one else that I would wish more success. There is no one else that put such effort into. And, there is no one else that I pray for more.

Matthew 5:22
“I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” – NIV

Who can say that they have not experienced a little sibling rivalry? The words in Matthew 5 address every single one of us, even those of us without siblings.

Once we become parents, and have children of our own, perhaps then we can see things from God’s perspective. God sees all of humanity as brothers and sisters of the faith. He does not side with one of us and forsake the other even in times of extreme disagreement. No, God patiently offers unconditional grace and instruction in hopes of teaching His children to grow in unity.

Siblings, however, are out for blood. We expect those against us to get in trouble or, somehow, meet their demise. It doesn’t really matter what the issue is when we know we are right. God should bless us and punish them.

Let us hope, for the sake of humanity, that we all grow to be like our Father.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

One of those days...

You may have noticed the lack of blog today...or, perhaps you did not. Perhaps no one is reading this. But, if someone is reading this, my apologies.

My husband had some car trouble this morning and I had to help him when I, normally, would have been writing.

Now, I could sit here and try to pull something together that has no heart and is simply meeting a completion requirement, but that is just not me. If I cannot write from my heart and make this blog an act of worship, then the point is lost.

So, for tonight, I will just rest.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Go Dawgs


I am a Georgia Bulldog. I graduated from UGA in 2004 when the university was ranked seventh among all party schools. I would like to say that my feet walked a straight and narrow path; however, this could not be farther from the truth. My first two years of college can be classified as a disappointing blur. I slept instead of studied. I promoted alcohol instead of purity. I used my sorority for T-shirts instead of relationships. At a time when I could have experimented with a variety of ministry options, I experimented with substance instead. It shames me to say that, at this time, my faith actually was smaller than a mustard seed.

It is an odd feeling to graduate from college, look back, and realize that there was not a single thing that you would do the same way. All I see when I look at my college album is wasted time. I could have built myself such a great foundation there but, instead, it just becomes a matter of could of, would of, should of.

2 Corinthians 5:10
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” – NIV

Make no mistake about it: At the end of our earthly lives, we will all be held responsible for the manner in which we lived. What did we do with the time we were given? Will this be a time of celebration or a time of despair?

Not one of us will be able to plead a case of ignorance on judgment day, for we all know the manner in which to live. God gave us the most perfect example to follow in Jesus Christ, and if that was not enough, He also wrote it all down. There will not be another chance to rectify our choices. There will not be an excuse big enough to cover a faithless life. It will not simply be another case of could of, would of, should of.

When our time comes, will we be living with Christ or living with our past?

Monday, April 12, 2010



In my adult years, one aspect of humanity has had the capability to aggravate me more than any other: Irresponsibility. In our society, I have come to believe that people simply do not care about anything but themselves anymore. They don’t care about time, they don’t care about service and they don’t care about sheer respect of others. I mean, call me crazy, but I expect certain things from the rest of the population:

I expect that when I pay for a service, it will be done correctly.
I expect that when I am provided with a schedule, the timetable will be adhered to.
I expect that others will take their commitments seriously, as I do mine.
I expect that people will respect my time, emotions and efforts as I respect theirs.

Lately, I find myself wondering: Am I expecting too much?!

Romans 13:7
“Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” – NIV

Where is the line between submitting to others and demanding the respect owed to you? I read passages like Romans 13:7 and wonder, am I the only one who feels that respect is owed to me? Could it be that my life on the inside is far more virtuous than what others are witnessing? Has my obsession with schedules, planning and responsibility taken a turn for the worse and become a hindrance on my mercy?

In regards to personal respect: Am I expecting more than what is owed?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Don't Believe: Follow


Last year, my then fiancé shared with me a personal goal that he had set before himself: To read the Bible, cover to cover, in one year. It sounded like such an amazing goal that I decided to join him in the process. Slowly, my obedience to the initiative began to dwindle. I found myself falling more and more behind until, finally, I abandoned the goal completely. My fiancé, however, pressed on.

Fast forward to this year and, my now husband, was still going strong. This past week, I had the pleasure of hearing the news that he had completed the goal. He had read the entire Word of God from cover to cover. What an accomplishment. I couldn’t be more proud of his dedication and faith. He felt God calling him to this effort and he followed.

Luke 9:23
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”- NIV

Following God. What does that mean exactly? Does it mean that we become believers in Him? Does it mean that we agree with His teachings? Does it mean that we go around quoting scripture?

As I have come to learn in my recent years, there is a distinct difference between believers and followers. A believer trusts the message of Christ, a follower lives like Christ. A believer makes an intellectual choice to be a Christian while a follower bears a cross. A believer hears a sermon on reading the entire Bible and agrees that it may be a good idea. A follower acts.

In our contemporary culture, evangelism puts emphasis on producing believers. While this is the initial objective, we must ask ourselves what comes next: A faith that believes, or a faith that follows?

God may lead us to places of uncertainty or fear, but as true disciples, we follow.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Daily Bread


Growing up, it was always my job to say the blessing at the dinner table. Not quite sure how that responsibility landed in my lap, but I was not afraid to seize the moment. Even now, as an adult, when I grace my family’s dinner table, it is almost inherent that I will say grace. They all hold hands, bow their heads and shut their eyes to listen to my mature, Seminary graduate, spiritual blessing:

“God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands, we are fed. Thank you Lord for our daily bread. Amen.”

Almost like clockwork, restrained smiles seep out of the corners of our mouths as we realize the innocence of my children’ prayer, but hey, if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it!

Luke 11:3
“Give us each day our daily bread.” – NIV

If you really think about it, this prayer is anything but childlike. We are requesting that God meet our needs on a daily basis, in every circumstance. There is a popular opinion, growing larger in acceptance every moment, that people can worship enough on Sunday to carry them for the rest of the week. One day of dedication is enough to sustain seven days of negligence, isn’t it?

What we all must realize it that true bread, heavenly bread, is granted on a day-by-day basis. The prayer we offered Sunday does not alleviate the need to talk to God on Monday. The tithe we offer on the first of the month does not alleviate our commands to sacrifice daily.

God wants us to come to Him every day, to trust Him every day. Moreover, God desires a relationship with us every day. If He provided a week’s worth of blessings to us on Sunday…would He see us again? God knows that if we are given everything that we need, for however long that period of time is, we are as good as gone. We store up our directions; we store up our blessings and remain distant until our supply runs out. The principle of daily bread does not work that way, and neither does God.

Ask for daily bread today, and then, come back tomorrow.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Motion Detectors


It is getting to be that time of year again, lake time. Every summer weekend my Friday afternoons are spent in transit to Lake Allatoona where my parent’s have a lake house. My husband and I love this little break and always enjoy our time out there. The last couple of summers though, there has been a huge infestation problem…snakes! Well, to be perfectly honest, I suppose you could say that one snake sighting a summer is not a “huge” infestation problem…but I would fundamentally disagree.

In hopes of calming my fears, my dad always purchases this miracle concoction called “Snake Away”. It comes in a relatively large jug and, once dumped around the perimeter of the property, snakes are supposed to stay away from that area. Naturally, dumping duty is priority #1 at the start of the season.

One particular dumping session, while my husband, mother and I were playing cards at the table outside, I happened to glance over at my dad while he was spreading around the Snake Away. I couldn’t believe my eyes…he was fake dumping! I watched him prance around the perimeter of our property, pretending to dump the product, but nothing was coming out! He was simply going thru the motions to ease my mind, but nothing was really getting done! (Apparently, he had run out.) Frankly, I was shocked!

Matthew 12:34
“It's your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words.” – The Message

The more I think about the experience with my dad, the more I wonder: Is his behavior and mine really all that different? There have been numerous days in my life when my heart is just not in the “spiritual” mood. I will go through the process of writing my blog. I will go through the process of looking up Bible verses. I will even utter a small prayer as I drive out of the parking lot. But, when all is said and done, my heart was nowhere in the entire process.

What good does it do us, to simply, go through the motions? God is no more fooled by our behavior than we are. He knows when our hearts are pure, and He knows when we are preoccupied. I truly believe that a prayer uttered in distraction is worse than no prayer at all. May the Lord enthrall our minds, may He take captive our attention.

Why bother going through the motions, because without the purity of our attention, the motions mean nothing anyway.

Thursday, April 8, 2010



Back in January, my heart was on fire for God. It was a new year, a new time and a new attitude. There were not many distractions for me at that time and I could not help but feel ambitious about the upcoming year. I was dedicated to growing in my faith. I was pursuing any, and all, possible ways to regulate this growth. I was praying daily, filling my life with Scripture and openly discussing my spiritual ambitions. In short, I was bearing fruit.

Here it is, April, and I wonder where my enthusiasm has gone. Of course, my heart continues to long for God and I do want to grow in my faith, but these days, life seems a little less…still. Work is busier. With the new season came a scarcity of time and motivation. I am finding myself hoarding away the fruit I beared in January for fear that it will not come again this year. My biggest fear: The rest of 2010 will be a period of stationary faith and personal fruitlessness.

Psalm 1:3
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season…” – NIV

When we read the Bible, it seems like the lives of the disciples are always in bloom. They are constantly praising God, suffering for the cross and devoting their lives to serving Christ. By comparison, we should be ashamed of ourselves, right?

What believers fail to see is the time of inactivity. No Christian is fruitful all of the time. Truth be told, even Paul, Peter and Jesus had seasons of idleness. There were many silent years of Jesus Christ that we know nothing about, times of preparation and peacefulness. Should the expectations for our own lives be so different?

Where the problem lies is with those who never know a season of productivity. While it is true that no Christian is fruitful constantly, it is also true that no Christian is never fruitful. We must use our dormant time as a season of preparation and discernment.

However, following this rest will come a call into action, and when we hear the call, we must be ready to produce a crop.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Inside Out


This past Easter weekend, there were a number of movies on TV that depicted the story of Jesus Christ and His crucifixion. Each one is dated prior to the new millennium and reeks of old fashion cinematography, and still, I enjoy them every year. There was this one, however, that stood out from the rest with its depiction of our Lord. Truth be told, the man playing Jesus just did not look the part. His hair was shorter. His face was quite boyish and, to be honest, his entire demeanor just seemed…off.

Now, who are we kidding? We know what Jesus is supposed to look like. He has been portrayed the same way for all time, and yet, this director felt at liberty to take, what can only be called, artistic freedom? I just could not get on board with his interpretation, and thus, missed the entire message of the movie because of it. He just did not look like himself, so from that point on, it didn’t matter what he said or did; I couldn’t recognize him. Sometimes, is it what’s on the outside that counts?

2 Corinthians 4:18
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” – NIV

How do we really know our Savior? When we get to heaven, will we know Him as soon as we see Him? Will we recognize the flowing brown hair or the peaceful blue eyes? Will we identify Him by His clothes or His shoes?

Or, will we know our King of Kings by His words? Will we see the Holy One in action and, immediately, run to His side? Will we automatically know the hand that had been holding ours for our entire lives?

In life, it is scary how much emphasis humanity places on the outside of everything. The outside of our homes. The outside of our handbags. The outside of ourselves. I have to wonder, if the people in our life lost their sight, how would they know us? Would they recognize our peaceful touch? Would they identify with the arms wrapped around them in times of hardship? Would they know the foot that kicks them while they are down?

I worry for a culture where women bear Fendi instead of fruit, and men crave power over prayer.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spirit of a Soldier


Last Thursday, my company formally offered me an immediate promotion to a senior level position. Amidst the corporate welcome and voices of encouragement, I was granted my first official assignment of my new career: Assist with the hiring of my replacement. Suddenly, I felt so small. Who am I to be deciding another co-worker’s professional fate? Was I even equipped to help make this decision? Aren’t there others who are much more qualified than I am? This one assignment made me second-guess my entire promotion that I, originally, felt so ready for. How was it that I could feel so ready, yet so unprepared at the same time?

Ephesians 6:12
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” - NIV

When we utter that sinner’s prayer and begin our lives as Christians, are we ever truly ready for what comes next? Do we feel confident enough in the tools we currently possess to walk into the lions den? The moment we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, we are promoted to the front line of a great spiritual war. Even though we believe in the cause, can we believe enough to see past our own weakness?

The life of a believer is anything but effortless; in fact, walking uprightly takes more intentional awareness in one single step than the entire journey of the lost. We are to protect our hearts from those who would deceive us. We are to guard our mouths against unholy slander. We are to arm our feet to flee from the unrighteous temptations of our surroundings. We are to be on guard against this whole world that serves another master.

To be perfectly honest, I am exhausted from the efforts before my day even begins. The weight of a believer’s load is unbearable. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a believer who can shoulder this cross single-handedly. Lucky for us, we have the Spirit of a soldier. We have a God that will not only remain by our side, but who will carry our weight Himself. He will guide us. He will protect us. He will ready our feet and seal our hearts.

We can fear the job ahead of us, or we can believe that our Spirit will prevail. No matter the case, we must choose a side.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sacrificial State


Yesterday, my family was able to enjoy some quality time with my husband’s family over a wonderful Easter lunch. With my sister-in-law being pregnant, the conversation naturally flowed into baby land. We discussed strollers, nursery themes and the inevitable childcare plans.

While my husband and I do not have any children (or any on the way), I couldn’t help but think of what our childcare plans would be when the time does come. In our culture and economic state, it is almost assumed that a stay-at-home mom is a thing of the past. To even have that option be a possibility, a certain level of sacrifice would be vital.

Herein lays the problem: Sacrifice. Who like’s the idea of deprivation? Human nature is not one of surrender; in fact, one of our many powers is the power of indulgence. Why would we want to give everything away before we even have it?

Romans 8:29
“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.” – The Message

The life of Jesus was a life of sacrifice. He constantly gave himself up for you and for me. He poured out his time in ministry. He poured out his soul to his followers. He poured out his blood for all.

Chris Tiegreen says that while we may be thankful that he “made himself nothing” on our behalf, we cannot escape the implications of his example: Our attitude should be exactly the same as His. God’s intention for us is to be just like Jesus Christ, it is our purpose. If He is sacrificial, we are to be sacrificial. We are to break ourselves down and build others up. We are to live with nothing so that others can have something.

I wonder: Has there ever been a great victory without a little sacrifice?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is Risen


John 19:30
“With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” – NIV

In our contemporary times, we have certain advantages in regards to spiritual matters. When reading the Word of God, and learning about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we already know the end game. We have the understanding that the death of Christ is not the end, far from it actually. Our awareness was not always the case, however, and I cannot help but think about those who experienced this event in the dark.

To the disciples, Jesus Christ was dead. He was brutally beaten, crucified and mocked. They physically watched Him suffer and pass away. Can we even imagine what they were thinking? Can we imagine the confusion, terror, grief and fear that consumed their existence? I have the ability to send myself into a full-on panic based on the idea of losing someone I love; can we imagine witnessing the gruesome torture of the One who loves us?

Matthew 28:6
“He is not here, for He is risen, as He said.” – KJV

Oh, how amazing to witness this resurrection first hand! With the disciples feeling as though all was lost, desperate and downtrodden, He appears. There are, literally, no words for me to use in describing the miraculous happening that would do it justice.

I have typed out a variety of paragraphs to end this blog with, but none of them have seemed appropriate. I, mistakenly, kept trying to make the Easter story more interesting or fun to read. The way I see it, why try to illustrate a story that’s fundamental happening is big enough for any reader?

The Son of God, the crucified Lord, is alive again.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Beautiful Burdens


Today was a great day. The weather was beautiful, the temperature was just right and the Easter weekend sales were insane! My mom and I hit all the local shopping spots while my dad, brother and husband rebuilt the dock leading from our lake house to the water. Even my Chihuahua was able to enjoy some outside time today and, hopefully, shed some of that holiday weight he has been toting around since 2009.

Yes, today was great, but all the while, in the back of my head, I couldn’t shake the fact that I had not yet written my daily blog. I knew that posting a blog daily was something that I had committed to doing earlier this year, how could I have deferred it?

To be perfectly honest, this blog has been a little overwhelming lately. Only 80 days in, and I am already feeling the weight of 285 more posts. In an effort to be fully transparent, just seeing the number 285 typed out sends me into premature cardiac arrest.

Somehow, over the last few weeks, the emotions of this project have morphed into something I did not expect: Obligation. I feel like I made a pledge to the Lord, and for this commitment alone, I must continue.

I have to wonder, is the best reason to serve our Father…because we said we would? Should we not fall at His feet out of perfect freedom and desire? Out of love and surrender? Should we love Him, not out of spiritual duty, but simply because He has first loved us?

1 John 4:19
“We love because He first loved us.” - NIV

How easy it becomes to forget why we are serving when the work is more visible than the reward. When all we can see is the effort put forth, our blessing slowly becomes a burden. “I don’t want to write today.” “I should never have committed to this much time.” “What was I thinking?”

I’ll tell you what I was thinking: I was thinking how much God loves me. I was thinking how much effort He put forth to save me. I was thinking that the thirty minutes I spend in obedience, would never outweigh the time I waste in sin.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Inconvenient Truth


I feel a lot of pressure today. It is Good Friday, one of the three most significant days in the life of a Christian. Today is the day that our sacrificial lamb was slain for our sins. As a result of this tragedy, I feel an intense need to make today’s writing one of the best that I can do. Today’s writing should be impressive, passionate, meaningful and unusual. Today should be a day when I do something more, something faithful, or, just…something.

Tonight my husband and I will work a nursery room at our church for those who wish to hear the Easter service today rather than Sunday. These stipulations are necessary due to the high volumes of people who will flock to the church on Easter Sunday. While this does not include everyone, it is a safe opinion that many of those in attendance will not visit the building again until December 25th.

Psalm 68:19
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

Do many people feel this way? Do people feel that on Good Friday, Easter and Christmas our behavior should be a little more committed? I have to wonder how our heavenly father views these three significant days…as more important than the rest?

The sacrifice made for us by Jesus Christ is just as significant on Easter Thursday as it is on Easter Sunday. The pain of our sin does not dwindle in July or fade in February, and yet, our commitment to the Lord seems to disappear the day after Christmas.

Shame on me for thinking that today’s entry needed to be more significant than last Friday’s. Is the required sacrifice for my sin not the same today as it was yesterday…blood? The God of our hearts bears our sin daily. Every moment, He is shouldering our discretion, hammering the nails and wearing the crown we forge in life.

Thank God that He does not show His commitment only three days a year.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Good Friday


The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot and, with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed a bit. This will allow the victim to try to lift himself up in order to breathe and to relieve the pressure on his arms. As he slowly sags down, this causes more weight on the nails in the wrists; excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. The nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves (veins) as well. As he pushes himself upward to avoid his stretching/pulling torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again, he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of the feet.

As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward anymore, in order to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but not exhaled. He fights and struggles to pull himself up in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside, due to his near-death state. Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves himself up and down against the rough timber of the cross. Then another agony begins; a deep, crushing pain, deep in the chest as the pericardium, (a cavity or space that contains the heart), slowly fills with serum and begins to compress, or squeeze, the heart.

It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level — the compressed heart is struggling to pump sluggish blood into the tissues — the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues — finally, he cannot fight or struggle anymore. He can finally allow his body to die. – Taken from

John 13:12
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” - NIV