Monday, May 31, 2010

Rules of Life


This summer is the first summer that our lake house has been graced with the presence of a ping pong table. If any of you know our family, you can understand what kind of competitive spirit this has awakened within us all. Night and day, since the moment of our arrival, we have been mesmerized with table tennis.

For the holiday weekend, we decided to have a full blown ping pong tournament, complete with double elimination bracketology. Once the games began, a question arose within the game in regards to the regulated rules outlined by the USATTA (United States of America Table Tennis Association). Immediately, after much conversation, Brian went inside and obtained the official guidelines to fair play. No one wanted to break the rules. No one wants to be a cheater. All we want is to know that we did our best, played fairly, and did not create our own rules.

Joshua 1:8
“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it.” - NLT

Instructions: What a difference they make. Rules, like boundaries, are in place for a reason. If you are anything like me, regrettably, you tend to make your own rules until something goes horribly wrong…then, and only then, do you concede to the authentic Book of law.

In all honesty, it is so hard for me to be told what to do…or in the case of the Bible, what not to do. Sometimes, has odd as it sounds, I just want the chaos that comes with no instruction. But, as I have learned time and time again, chaotic living on the outside only fuels frenzied living on the inside as well.

Life isn’t just a game. We cannot learn as we go or decide to consult the rules when someone else disagrees with our methods. To be what God designed us to be, means knowing what instructions He has set before us.

We must, above all, remember: Life is a gift, not a game.

Sunday, May 30, 2010



Yesterday, I had the joy of participating in a Memorial Day tennis tournament in Highland Ridge neighborhood. The tournament was a mixed doubles round robin, thus, I constantly found myself facing opponents much larger than my usual pool of ladies. Some of these men, although quite nice people, were simply gigantic. Every shot I made seemed to be slammed back in my face with a force previously unknown to me. There was nothing I could do; fear got the best of me. In all honesty, I was just a scared little girl completely unsure of how to press on.

As the matches progressed, my fear seemed to morph into something that I did recognize easily…determination. I wasn’t going let a bunch of “dad’s” scare me out of my game. If I couldn’t reach inside myself and produce the talent that I knew was there against competitors that were kind, how was I ever going to make it in any adult league where the men weren’t my friends?

As my mom would say, it was time to dig deep. I reached inside for the competitive spirit that I knew was there and, eventually, emerged the champion.

Jeremiah 12:5
"If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” – NIV

Rivalries are just a way of life. It will never matter if you compete in games, goals or life; the prerequisite is always the same: Fortitude. Your enemy could outweigh you, your enemy could overpower you, or your enemy could simply be…a Goliath. Regardless of what stands in front of you, it will never match what is inside of you.

God gives us a Spirit to outlast the fiercest competitor. It is by simple definition that we must press on. We must not concede to fear. We must not defer to intimidation.

We must dig deep and, eventually, emerge victorious.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 28, 1981


I have spent the last couple of years learning how to deal with grief and the aftermath of untimely death. I read once that the amount of time you spend grieving over someone should never surpass the amount of time that you spent with that person. In my case, I guess I’ll be grieving for the next ten years.

Yesterday, May 28th, was the birthday of my very best friend. Although she is no longer with us, I strongly believe that her memory should never be forgotten. I always have a hard time deciding what to do on this day. When someone passes away, what becomes of their birthday? Do we celebrate in their name? Do we act as if the day doesn’t exist? Do we do…anything?

Regardless of what activities I ended up partaking in, the bottom line remains: I remembered her. Is this not what Jesus asks of us…remembrance?

Psalm 25:7
“…according to your love remember me…” - NIV

If tears could build a stairway and memories were a lane,
We would walk all the way to Heaven, to bring you home again.
No farewell words were spoken, no time to say good-bye
You were gone before we knew it, and only God knows why.
Our hearts ache in sadness, and secret tears will flow
What is meant to lose you, no one will ever know.
Author Unknown

Friday, May 28, 2010

Christmas in June


I absolutely love Christmas, who doesn’t. I love the season, I love the joyful morale and I love, love, love decorations. One of my most highly regarded priorities during this time of year is gift wrapping. My mom has taught me well. I love wrapping presents and making them shine with beauty. Whenever I give a gift, I am secretly hoping that my impressive wrapping job is not only appreciated, but acknowledged.

I remember one holiday season specifically, only a few years ago. I was fresh out of college, working as a nanny, and hardly having two twenty dollar bills to rub together. I had managed to remain well within my holiday budget in terms of gift buying and the like. Where I did run rampant, however, was with wrapping materials. I can honestly say that I went crazy. I bought bows, ribbons, two-sided tape, paper, bags…the list was endless. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I spent much more time on the wrapping than the actual gifts themselves. Always focused on the outside, my priorities were a bit…off.

Matthew 5:8
“You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” – The Message

God is not just concerned with outward behavior, but also with what goes on inside us, who we really are. For Jesus, it is what goes on inside us that determine the true value of our outward acts.

Most of us are pretty good at putting on a reasonable show on the outside; (I, myself, am one of the best). But, whether we like it or not, what we really are is determined by what is on the inside.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Priority Living


If reincarnation was a real thing, I have decided…I would like to come back as my Chihuahua Nemo. That dog has got the life, I’m telling you. He doesn’t have to work so he just lies around all the live long day simply relaxing, and not just on the carpeted floor. Nemo rests his head upon a feathery, fleece encrusted, body pillow personally crafted for him by my mom. He takes numerous vacations to the lake house where he is free to run around unleashed and, on more than one occasion, has tasted the heavenly goodness of rib-eye steak. If you were to take an inventory of his entire day, there would only be one priority that engages his attention: using the bathroom.

I realize that I am talking about a dog here, really I do, but there is something about his life that just makes me feel…well, hectic. I go to work every day. I go grocery shopping every week. I make dinner every night. I save money every month. I try to get more money every minute. I vacation every year and I preoccupy myself with worry every second. I’m starting to wonder if I have missed what life is supposed to be all about.

Matthew 6:25-26
“Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – NIV

If other people were to take an inventory of how we spend our time, or how we spend our money, what would they say about our priorities? Would they say that we spend far too much time on the outside or that we concentrate on what really matters on the inside?

As a culture, spiritually speaking, we tend to spend all our efforts trying to sustain ourselves so that we might soon begin to experience life. The catch is that we never get around to the experience part because we are spending all our time sustaining it. In the eternal scheme of things, decorations, work, clothes, etc. have no value – they only support what is valuable – life.

Are we living our lives as though the wrapping was more important than the gift?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Statistical Blindness


John 11:35
“Jesus Wept.” – All Translations

This passage in the New Testament is the shortest verse in the entire Word of God. Brief and to the point, these two words speak volumes about the character of Jesus Christ. In school, I learned that the word used here for Jesus’ weeping is different from the one used to describe the weeping of Mary and the Jews which indicated loud wailing and cries of lament. This word simply means “to shed tears” and has more the connotation of quiet grief.

Throughout the Gospels, we read of Jesus’ prayerful demeanor. He is always depicted as peaceful, patient, somber and slow to speak. As I read this verse about His weeping, I can’t help but wonder: Did Jesus ever smile? Did He ever laugh? Did He ever experience the kind of silly joy that we all remember?

This feature of Christ is one of the mysteries of the Bible, I suppose, because the experience of Jesus expressing amusement is not specifically supported from what I can tell. All the facts or statistics in the world cannot express something that is not there, and as it were, a record of Jesus laughing is noticeably missing.

Now, as Christians, we know that Jesus smiled…and smiled often. The omission of this exact phrase in the Bible is meaningless; after all, the Bible doesn’t say that he went to the bathroom either. My point is that statistics cannot be used in the areas of faith; there are so many things that go unmentioned. No, technically the Bible does not indicate that the Son of Man smiled for even a second…but, does someone who encompasses pure love not know the thrill of happiness? I think not.

Statistics are good, don’t get me wrong, but only after one considers what they have not said.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Identity Theft


A few years ago, my identity was stolen. I’m not going to lie to you, I was completely shocked. Identity theft had always been just another thing that I heard about, but never thought would happen to me. But, nevertheless, one way or another, my bank account was violated and my name used for counterfeit checks. The criminals actually managed to spend over $2,000 in the Dollar General! Ridiculous.

To make matters worse, the same thing happened about two years after that…scammed again! In both instances, I found myself feeling both stunned and, sort of, liable. Had I been doing something wrong? Had I been irresponsible with my personal security in some way? Was I to blame for this identity confusion?

Who we are is all we have, thus, our identities are our most prized possession. My mom has always said that the number one thing to protect in life is our name. Our names define us. Our names characterize us. Who we are is, in fact, irreplaceable.

1 Corinthians 12:27
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” - NIV

Understanding our identities is extremely important, and for believers, our identity lies in understanding who we are in Christ. Realizing our position as children of God, and the identity that is ours through faith in Christ, sets the spiritual foundation whereby we can come to know, experience and walk in the fullness of God.

As is the case with many things in Christianity, it's not what we know in our head to be true, but what we know in our heart to be true. Our identity does not lay with our career. Our identity does not lay with what kind of car we drive. Our identity does not even lay with our family. No, our identity lies with the blood of Christ that covers our very souls and with the God who see’s us this way.

We must remember that with our identity in Christ, comes purpose.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Radical Generosity


About eight months ago I began reading Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. Radical to the core, Chan made numerous suggestions on giving, worshiping and all-around drastic living. Throughout the book were examples taken from his own ministry on how to part with things that mattered the least: Possessions.

One illustration stood out to me more than all the rest and it was about Cornerstone Church and the location of their services. This church, led by Chan, contains more than 4,000 members and is by definition an up-and-coming mega church. Instead of building a traditional building structure, the church made plans to construct an outdoor amphitheater in an effort to save cost. The catch here is that the church had no plans of putting the saved funds into its own survival, instead, they committed as a flock to increase their giving funds. When the weather is beautiful, they worship in beauty. When it rains, they worship in the rain.

Deuteronomy 15:10
“Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart…” – NIV

Isn’t it ironic that the least valuable commodity that we have – material possessions – is that which we grip the tightest? Our hearts…changeable. Our behavior…variable. But our things…no sir, they’re staying with us.

I have heard it said that the test of generosity is not how much you give, but how much you have left. I truly believe that we all want to be greatly generous in the course of our lives, but perhaps, now we rely on the claim that we don’t have much to give at the moment. Has it ever occurred to us that we have little because we give little? God’s principles will not be violated even by those with the best of intentions. Again and again His words promise that good stewards with little will be given much.

Jesus calls us to be radical. Sacrificially radical and sacrificially generous.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lost and Found


Yesterday, at the lake with friends, someone pointed something out to me that – somehow – I had forgotten: Oh yea, I have tattoos. Even though I see my markings every single day of my life, one way or another, they have managed to become invisible to me.

How did that happen? How did something that seems unavoidable slip past my consciousness? How did something that helps define me become over-looked? Have I become so used to the presence of my tattoos that the meaning just became…lost? Not small in size, and not hidden in any way, this “discovery” made me wonder: What else have I lost?

1 Corinthians 15:18
“…those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” – NIV

Do we consider ourselves awake, I mean, really awake? Are we, everyday, putting as much effort and attention into our spiritual lives as we are the rest? Are we consciously acting as disciples in a heavenly pursuit of the Kingdom?


Are we dozing off? Have we become so comfortable in our Christianity that it has all but faded into our lifestyles? Has the thing that once defined us slowly become just that…a definition?

Giving our lives to Christ is a decision that marks us forever. It is not that this mark ever fades, but our eyes, eventually, adjust. We begin to look around everywhere except the one spot that matters. Like tattoos, are we so used to our Christianity that the meaning of our faith is all but lost?

Many things are lost in a lifetime, but those who lose their lives in Christ, only they, ever find them again.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Class of 2010


You may…or may not…have noticed my lack of blog post today. Unlike other days when I have been tardy in my postings, today I make no apologies. My husband and I spent the day in South Carolina with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes staff from South Forsyth High School.

Before Brian switched schools this past year, he sponsored these kids at South Forsyth with the entire FCA program. He formed relationships with them, poured into them and learned from them. It is not very often that we get a chance to see these students anymore, so this was a wonderful day.

These kids would blow your mind, as they do mine. Their hearts are so on fire for the Lord that I am envious of their maturity. Each one has a characteristic that strengthens the group and the ministry was better off for them. This year is their last as high school students. They are all graduating as the South Forsyth Class of 2010.

With all of their opportunities waiting in the wings, we were able to enjoy one more day of fellowship with these student leaders. I can think of no better reason for being late on my blog.

Congratulations to the SFHS Class of 2010. Truly a class that really changed things.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Choosing Sides


These last couple of weeks, in my readings, I have just felt drawn to the New Testament Gospels. If any of you know me, and my typical preferences within Scripture, it would sound a bit odd that I have focused on such an area. Typically, I find the Gospels so recognizable that I fail to “get much out of them”. On normal days, I gravitate to the Pauline letters or Old Testament passages just out of instinct. But, not lately.

Lately, I have rooted myself in one of the most renowned stories of the entire Bible: The story of the Good Samaritan. Unlike other stories, the lessons of the fallen stranger are quite familiar and spiritually fundamental to us all. Often used as a lesson in ethical behavior, the story of the Good Samaritan falls into one of two categories: Surprisingly good behavior (for a Samaritan) or surprisingly bad behavior (for a priest or Levite).

Luke 10:36
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell…” - NIV

When we read this story, and place ourselves in the same situation, it is quite natural to align ourselves with the praiseworthy Samaritan. We would never leave a poor stranger to weep in pain. We would never ignore the needs of the less fortunate. We would never outweigh compassion with indifference…would we?

When we really think about our lives, it becomes painfully obvious that anyone who really knows Jesus first knew utter helplessness. We were once the demoralized stranger. We were once in need of compassion. In need of a helping hand. In need of a good neighbor.

This story is not just a lesson on what we are to do; it is a lesson of what’s been done. Before we start picking which side we want to be on, we should first decide who we are in the story. We are not the Samaritan. We are not the priest or Levite. We are the victim.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Distinguishing Marks


In college, when I first began to really walk with Christ, I fell in love with the book of Revelation. I know, I know…could I have chosen a more difficult read? Nevertheless, throughout all my studies and during all my readings, one element did remain with me for a considerably long time: The looming mark of the beast. I was terrified of it.

Revelation 13: 16-17
“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” – NIV

Determined not to be thwarted by the Evil One, I immediately went out and purchased an ever-fashionable WWJD bracelet. I realize that this sounds quite juvenile and somewhat spiritually youthful, but I was ready to wear the mark of God! I wanted a constant identifier that placed me in the Kingdom of Righteousness. No more secret devotions, I was a full blown Christian. The antichrist wasn’t getting his hands on my arm…this wrist was taken!

It didn’t take long for Satan to shed hesitation on my over-zealous commitment. Unbeknownst to me, there was definitely no secret about the significance of these small bands. Everyone who noticed it on my arm immediately formed an opinion. It never failed…every single time that I encountered a non-believer; they would notice my spiritual statement and proceed to break me down. With the first buckle of that bracelet, my life became a constant witness.

It’s a scary position to be in; one of illustration. I wasn’t ready then and I’m still not ready now. But, when we choose to set ourselves apart from the world, we are making a decision to be held above normal expectations.

When I think about it, maybe we should all ask ourselves, are any of us ready to be a face of Christianity?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Class of 2004


In 2004, I graduated from the University of Georgia. Finally, after four long years of scholastic rebellion, the day arrived. My family was so proud of me and my completion that they all came up for the ceremonies. Unfortunately, another individual also accompanied us to the commencement events, a person that I would soon regret inviting.

This person and I were in a bit of a tiff come graduation time and I could not shake my gloomy mood. All through the ceremony I stirred in my irritation until it was time to meet back up with my family. By that time, I was so annoyed with this particular individual that all I wanted to do was go home and get rid of the Debbie Downer.

Regrettably, in my aggravation, I did not treat my family with the attitude they deserved. I didn’t want to take pictures. I didn’t want to have lunch. I didn’t want to do anything but get out of there! They had come so far, and for what… my pity party? But, alas, in true form they managed to gracefully put on an attitude of toleration and try to celebrate with me in whatever way I would permit. Each member of my family had every right to reprimand me for my unreceptive attitude but, instead, they sat silently with sympathetic sighs of understanding.

It would not have mattered what my family said on that day, my mood was set. As accurate as any of their advice would have been, their words would have fallen on deaf ears. I was tired. I was frustrated. I was done.

Isaiah 47:13
“All the counsel you have received has only worn you out!” - NIV

Advice, no matter how wise, is not always the answer. No matter how much we want to speak words of enlightenment, sometimes, there is no greater loan in life than a sympathetic silence.

Every now and then, I suppose, the art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Progress Reports


It has been about four months since this project started. Recently, I began to feel curious about my heart and if I have, in fact, made any steps forward. Immediately, I broke open my Bible and just began to read, trying so hard to blanket my eyes in unawareness. I tried to see the chapters as pure and holy, instead of sequential and diagnostic like before. I was, as it were, using the Word of God to test myself.

Specifically, I wanted to revisit certain passages that always struck me as peculiar. I tried to read the passages in 1 & 2 Samuel as historical yet, somehow, I still got trapped in the analytical. I wanted to feel the stories of faith so badly, and yet, that is still not what happened.

One test. One assessment in four months and I failed with flying colors. The bible still read like it was reading before: Purely Systematical. After all this time, after 123 postings, I have to wonder: Am I making no progress?

Psalm 62:5
“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” – KJV

When we open the Word of God, what are we hoping to gain? A stronger understanding of His love and sacrifice? Another passage to put in the vault of values? Or, are we using it for some egocentric purpose?

We all come to the Word of God with some sort of expectation, some “baggage”. In approaching the bible with particular incentives, I’m starting to wonder: Are our objectives all wrong?

Regardless of their origination or intention, one thing is certain…we all have expectations. Whether we mean to or not, when we open God’s Word, we are opening with a purpose. Some hope for wisdom while others read for peace. Some hunt for affirmation while others, conviction. Nevertheless, everyone is searching for something.

I’m starting to realize that even if the intentions are optimistic, nothing good comes from invisible restraints on our Lord.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Stationary Situation


Yesterday, my computer broke. The stupid thing has looked like death’s door for the past year and it finally succumbed to defeat. On a laptop, the monitor is attached to the base by two sets of screws. There is a little piece of plastic that holds the entire thing together, or should I say, there was a little piece of plastic. This malfunction has made transporting the computer an impossibility. We cannot afford to have the one computer in our house unusable, so now it must remain stationary for the sake of preservation.

This may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but I assure you, if you had a daily blog you would understand the trouble. I’m not really sure what to do now. My company blocks the blog site, so posting from there is not a solution. Due to the traffic on GA, writing before I leave is not an option either. I am officially stuck, all because of one little piece of broken plastic.

It is amazing to me how quickly things can fall apart. I do not mean to sound melodramatic, but I truly feel the presence of Satan in this little nuisance. At first, the cold weather stood in my way. Then, the rain was an issue that came in-between my comfort and commitment to this project. Now, after withstanding both forces, the only tool at my disposal ruptures. How can I not recognize the symptoms of spiritual warfare?

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

We are often blind to the battle going on around us, blind because we only see with our eyes. We are often caught unprepared or ill-equipped because we did not watch for the enemy approaching. Fully equipped soldiers are utterly useless if they are not alert to enemy advance, or are not in constant communication with higher command. Watchmen who sleep while on duty endanger the lives of everyone who depend upon their vigilance, including themselves. It is my hope that by recognizing the influence of warfare on my little laptop, God will instruct me on how to withstand.

Like it or not, our world is not a playground…it is a battleground.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Scattered T-Storms


I would assume that all of us could go on for hours if asked to discuss the struggles we have faced in life. I know that if I were to describe the last five years of my adulthood, the storms would be part of what defined me.

Yes, the storms in our life are what break us, but they also have much to do with what makes us. Regardless, when the storm is over and we are left with only reminders of the lessons learned, I find myself wondering: Why did I even have to endure that?

One of the hindrances to a faithful response to Jesus in the storms of our lives is our acute awareness that He let us get into the storm to begin with. Shouldn’t we have a Savior that can navigate around storms instead of pulling us out from within? Shouldn’t we follow a Lord who can see these things coming? I mean, for goodness sake, what kind of man is this?

Matthew 8:27
“What kind of man is this?” – NIV

Of course, we have a King who could navigate around the storms. Of course, we have a Lord who knows all that is to come. It is by natural design that the winds of the world and the storms in the sky must obey the Creator. He is the King of all creation.

When we think that we prefer our personal comfort instead of the storming winds, we are actually choosing stagnancy over fulfillment. We must realize that we can’t really know the Savior until we are saved. We cannot know our Redeemer until we need redemption. We must face the storms in life that lead us to ask: What kind of man is this?

As sure as ever God puts his children in the furnace, He will be in the furnace with them. – Charles Spurgeon

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tommy Boy


When I was in seminary, I learned that there was, and is, a gospel of Thomas. I was really surprised by this news, so much in fact, that I didn’t really believe it was a full gospel until I read it. Thomas? Why would he have written a gospel? The poor man is absent in our biblical knowledge with the single exception being his doubting ways. In our culture, his very name symbolizes disbelief and immature faith.

John 20:27
“Stop doubting and believe.” – NIV

It is kind of crazy how easy it is to get onto Thomas for his doubting ways when, ironically, he represents the modern mind most efficiently. How often do we hear statements such as “I’ll believe it when I see it” or “There is no proof that ever happened?” Fact is, we live in an “age of reason” in which many demand that for things to be true, they must see it, taste it, touch it or smell it.

I wish that I could say believers are exempt from this tyranny of doubt, but we know this is not the case. We cannot help ourselves when we question the power of our King. While we aren’t skeptical to the point of agnosticism, our doubt does affect our prayers. Sometimes, even if a rarity, our discouraging circumstances can seem a little bigger than our God. No matter how ashamed we are to let these trickles of doubt invade our minds, they seem to wander in at the most inopportune times.

I read once that the minds of those who follow Jesus cannot be limited by visual appearances, the kind that Thomas demanded. Jesus, as we know, tells us we won’t see until we believe. Faith is always the priority in the Kingdom, there is never room for doubters.

Do not doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light. – Victor Raymond Edman

Friday, May 14, 2010

Disciplinary Act


The other day, I officially accepted my defeat. After months of good intentions, I finally placed yet another incomplete Bible study in the bookshelf of retirement. This incident bothered me a little more than all the other unused Bible studies that eventually fell to the same fate. This time was going to be different. This time, my intentions were pure and determined. This time I had a blog for crying out loud! Nevertheless, I purchased yet another Bible study and, after two weeks of completion, quit all together.

Sadly, this is the story of my life: Good Intentions. I always feel so empowered when I leave Lifeway bookstore firm in my decision to spend more time in the Word. I spend unusual amounts of time making sure that I choose the exact one to peak my interest and keep me, well…committed. I get it home and can’t wait to rip it open and begin my spiritual journey of the next twelve weeks.

Inevitably, and almost immediately, I lose interest. When this happened on my first few attempts, it was easy to blame the study. “It wasn’t very good.” “I wasn’t getting anything out of it.” However, when an entire bookshelf is dedicated to unfinished studies, I begin to worry. Am I that undisciplined?

2 Timothy 1:7
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” – NIV

Isn’t this always the way? We strive for obedience before dependence. We rely on our own power and discipline much sooner than we rely on our King. We get something in our heads, mentally commit to it, and then find ourselves overwhelmed with inability.

It doesn’t matter if it is a Bible study, mentality or simply a way of life: If we are not relying on the strength of Christ, we are defeated before we begin.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Woman Thing


Maybe it is a woman thing, but I really hate the idea of people talking about me. I do not want to be the topic of any discussion regardless of how good or bad I may come off. I do not want to be referenced. I do not want to be thought of. Most of all, I do not want to feel forced to react.

It is almost a natural instinct for me to want to defend myself against negativity. If a statement is made about me, that I believe to be false, of course I am going to rise up and retaliate. There is no room in my life for an inflated sense of self-preservation, thus, the key to peace is remaining virtually anonymous.

Unfortunately, in a woman’s world especially, gossip is a way of life. Each of us will be the topic of conversations. Each of us will, eventually, be the victim of ridicule or condemnation. Each of us will, definitely, be faced with a decision: Turn the other cheek or seek revenge.

Matthew 5:39
“If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” – NIV

In Jesus’ code of ethics, there is no tolerance for an exaggerated sense of dignity. We are not to guard our image more than we guard our hearts. I often wonder, what leaves a better impression on our sinful culture: Forcefully defending our reputation or reacting in humility. What would we rather be known for as believers, that we were able to hold our own in the face of confrontation, or, that we were able to forgive and maintain a peaceful heart?

Jesus doesn’t tell His people to be doormats. He tells us to be reasonable. The world will always expect an eye for an eye, but no one who plays by those rules will ever stand apart. We must decide what is more important to us: a defense of our dignity, or a demonstration of the Holy Kingdom.

Revenge is the most worthless weapon in the world – David Augsburger

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hindsight 20/20


Every now and then, I catch myself remembering life four years ago. I know that I have said this before, but I was a completely different person then. I lived for the minute, and truth be told, it was a very fun year. Nothing mattered more than a good time, including my own welfare.

I remember going to concerts almost every weekend with no regard to my financial limitations. I remember staying up all night partying, and often, without cause. I remember the acceptance and inclusion that came with my lifestyle. With all of this, my faith became a mere shadow of a life that used to be, a life that…frankly…wasn’t as fun.

As we grow older, our responsibilities grow with us. Our time becomes more significant and we can often feel, well…bored. We can catch our minds wandering to times when survival seemed carefree, when there was nothing to hold us down but ourselves.

Funny, that when we are looking back, we only see the good. Our eyes don’t catch the loneliness that came from our shallow relationships. Our recollection doesn’t include the shame and embarrassment that results from a night of partying. Our minds don’t remember the hole inside of us that only grew larger without a Savior to fill it.

Humanity has always been forgetful recipients of good things. God blesses our lives with more than we deserve, yet, we always long for what we had. We hide our satisfaction from ourselves until we are utterly convinced of our deficiency.

What we fail to realize, is that God has plans for you and I that are so much bigger than anything we could possibly long for in the past. It is easy to look back and trick our minds into thinking we don’t have it as good. While our former life may have been fun, it is nothing compared to the life we will have with Christ.

We are not yet who we will be. We are not yet who we want to be. But, thanks to God, we are no longer what we used to be without Him.

Isaiah 35:10
“Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” - NIV

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Baby Sadie


Last night, Brian and I had the pleasure of meeting our good friend’s new addition. Her name is Sadie Isabelle and she was born Friday morning at Northside Forsyth. Some other friends of ours were visiting at the same time and little Sadie kept being passed around. Everyone wanted to hold her. Everyone wanted to see her. Everyone, but me. Her precious little body was so small that I couldn’t shake the image of me manhandling her. What if her little head slipped through my arms? What if her little hat fell off? No, it was definitely safer for me to assume the role of bystander.

There I was, enjoying my position as an onlooker, when everyone started telling me to hold her. What could I do! For a Christian small group there was intense peer pressure! :) Begrudgingly, I washed my hands…extra slowly. I sat down and Brian gave me little Sadie. What a fool I was being! She was just precious. It didn’t take me two minutes to be grateful for my peer-pressuring small group because I was so happy to be holding her.

Psalm 115:13
“He will bless those who fear the Lord— small and great alike.” - NIV

As I sat there and held the beautiful, and tiny, baby Sadie, I was reminded of God’s power. It is kind of crazy how something so small could make me think so big. When you have a newborn child in your arms, you can’t help but think that God is not just Lord of the incomprehensibly big…He is also Lord over the infinitely small as well. The same God that moves mountains and parts seas, the same God that saves nations and judges sin, the same God with roars of a lion…He is the same God who lives inside the tiny heart of Sadie Isabelle.

Sometimes the smallest miracles are what make God so big.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ode to My Earring


This morning, I dropped an earring down the drain. I realize that this sounds like a small event, definitely not one large enough to be writing about, however, you would be amazed at how this small event made it to catastrophic level in less than five minutes.

My thought flow went something like this:
My earring went down the drain and since we don’t have time to get it out right now, will have to wait until this afternoon. By then, the earring could drop so low that retrieving it could be impossible; we would just have to leave it in there for all of eternity. It won’t be long before the pipes begin to clog because of this little mishap. Clogged pipes could ruin the plumbing in our house. We would have to pay to get the plumbing repaired and that would mean taking money from somewhere else in our budget. What if we don’t have enough money to cover such an expense? Will we go into debt? Brian hates debt; it would really stress him out. Our marriage would probably suffer due to the added stress of financial woes. We might have to move to spare the expense of repairing our pipes. More stress. Moving is horrible. This market is terrible and we would definitely take a loss on our current house. Great, there we will be, virtual newlyweds with a rocky and stressful marriage, on the verge of bankruptcy and homelessness, all because I dropped an earring down the drain!

Luke 21:14
“But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.” - NIV

On a fairly typical basis, worry has the ability to overcome us. Worry can become larger than life and morph itself into all aspects of our day. It can affect our moods, our outlooks, our self-esteem and even our relationships. It can make the smallest of circumstances explode into a weapon of mass destruction.

Not only are we not honoring God when we worry, but we are also not being very practical. When we actually think about any given situation, we have to ask ourselves, is this really in our hands? In reality, there is very little we can do to effect real change in a situation, yes, we can do our part, but we will never be the masters of our own circumstances.

The way I see it, we have two options: We can fill our heads with worry, or fill our hearts with trust.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Oh Wise Ones


Proverbs 15:31
“If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.” - NLT

Yesterday, after speaking with my brother about my blog, I noticed something…something that had not been there before: Hostility. It was quite unsettling when you consider the fact that I was the one getting hostile!

Let me explain. To grasp how utterly absurd this reaction was, please note that he was not even being critical! My brother simply wondered when he was going to read my posting for the day since the morning had already passed and I had not yet posted anything. You would have thought that he verbally attacked me with the manner in which I responded.

For no reason at all, I instinctively felt the need to defend myself, and my blog. I said that I had plans to write that afternoon. Just because it wasn’t ready when he wanted it didn’t mean that it wasn’t coming. Who said I had to meet time requirements as well as completion ones?

After this conversation was over, and he was probably sitting there wondering what in the world he had said to set me off, I sat in my car…embarrassed. Since when did I not take constructive criticism? When did I become someone so quick to defend my actions?

The more that I sat and thought about it, the more that I realized what had happened: My brother…the poor, unsuspecting boy…had simply touched on my own insecurities and barely lived to tell about it. Just on the off chance that someone ever began to question my commitment to this project, I had a defense prepared that poor Tyler unknowingly unleashed. I was so afraid that someone would consider me slacking, I prepared myself early to rebuke any doubters.

Am I the only one who has these…these “sensitive sins”? Am I the only one who has such little confidence in the choices she is making, or the manner in which she is achieving her goals, that a simple non-confrontational question can turn into outlandish accusation? Am I the only one with doubt?

Sometimes, it takes a single statement to rearrange our entire lives. And maybe, if you are lucky, you will have someone like my brother speaking to you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Nothing to fear...


The flooding in Tennessee. The disaster in Haiti. The five o’clock news. When I look around, really look, it is hard not to believe that we are slowly approaching the end of the world. When you read the book of Revelation, and absorb all of the warning signs that prelude the “end times”, do they not sound a bit familiar to the culture that surrounds us daily? Virtually all of the signs that Jesus gave as preconditions to “the end” have been going on throughout our lifespan: wars, threats of wars, revolutions, natural disasters, famines, persecution and other predictive events.

Today’s world can be terrifying. The world of Jesus was terrifying. Every era prior to ours, and every era that will come after ours, is terrifying. How can any of us witness these tragic events and not be consumed with fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of things that could possibly be worse. Fear of what’s to come.

Luke 21:9
“When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened.” – NIV

One of the most controversial points of theology is the confusion that surrounds the end times. Scripturally speaking, God was intentionally vague in His description of what to expect. Something that is not blurred, however, is the reaction that Christians are to have in the face of uncertainty. Believers, in faith, are to look past the world of ours and focus on the coming Kingdom.

Those who are in Christ are overcomers. Those who are in Christ are victorious. Those who are in Christ have nothing to fear. Fear does battle with our faith, and there can only be one winner. When we take time to look around at the disasters that appear to surround us, let us take confidence in our alignment with the One who will prevail.

Let us feed our faith; our fears can starve to death.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cubical Confrontation


At work the other day, something kind of crazy happened. A friend of mine, who works on the other side of the building, had stopped by my cube for a little chat. I hadn’t seen this person in a while, mainly due to my laziness and the sheer distance that lied between his cubical and my own, but this visit was anything but pleasant.

He began to ask me of certain male employees, with whom I was once friends, that no longer work with us. He asked if I still saw them on a regular basis or met up with them after work hours. My first response was that I had not spoken or seen them since my wedding – which they attended. My reply may as well have been in Japanese since he looked as though he didn’t understand my words. I went on to say that, some of our old friends are married and that I didn’t think it was appropriate for a married woman and a married man to hang out together in isolation without their spouses. All I can say is…Big Mistake.

My “friend” proceeded to berate me for my unsociable ways and make no secret of his emotions. His voice was loud, his words direct and all I could really make out was: Married women are mean! He verbally attacked me for wanting to protect my marriage and even tried to pull others in on his warfare.

Luke 6:22
"Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.” – NASB

I must admit, prior to being married and understanding firsthand what God intends for marriage, I could have been on this bandwagon of attackers. Without a sound biblical knowledge of what God expects for His marriages, I had much less respect for the entire institution. I, definitely, did not understand the social boundaries.

But, I am married now and this was not a covenant that my husband and I entered into lightly. We studied for weeks and weeks about marriage and how to have one that pleases the Lord. If boundaries are needed to ensure the safety of my covenant, so be it.

Take it from me, it can be quite uplifting when the world doesn’t understand your decisions.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Joyful Noise


Last summer, my family and I joined my dad at the second annual Summer Jam to benefit the Chrysalis ministry. Primarily aimed at high school students, the place was crawling with adolescence. Everywhere we looked, kids were praising God. Some were singing while others prayed. Some were raising their hands, others were bowing their heads. If we really took a minute to think about what was going on around us, it was nothing short of phenomenal.

About an hour into the festivities, some friends of ours had joined us the back of the room. We were just sitting down and surveying the actions around us. What I couldn’t help but notice was this one young lady immediately to my right. Man, was she in her own world. Arms waving, body moving in crazy directions, hair flying around…definitely making a scene. There wasn’t an eye in the place that failed to notice her antics, her behavior, her…worship.

Luke 19:40
“If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” – NIV

There is an invisible apprehension in most of us when faced with the idea of unbounded worship. If you are anything like me, you find yourself towing the line between giving your all to God and holding back enough to ward off stares. Sure, we are feeling moved by the Spirit, but we are not those people.

When the disciples praised God, they were loud. They were obvious. At times, they were inappropriate. To the onlookers of their time, their spiritual development was misguided and immature. Is our culture so different? When we glance at someone fully worshiping God, perhaps overtly, do we think them foolish or faithful? The world expects spiritual matters to remain personal and invisible to those around us – or – if we must be Christians in public, at least be dignified about it.

Trust me, if we do not fulfill our purpose in worship, He will raise up stones to do it. But, He will be glorified by His creation.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lessons Learned


Sunday is grocery-shopping day. Every Sunday, almost immediately after church, I change clothes and head off to Publix. The shopping experience is a relaxing one, of sorts. I have a system. I have a list. I have a pattern. After I stop off at the deli to obtain a Mr. Pibb, I am off to the aisles and a typically complete my mission with little to no effort.

This week, however, something was different. Monday morning I searched and searched for items that I knew I had purchased, but they were nowhere in sight. In my head I thought, oh no, I must have left a bag on the counter and not brought it home. I was willing to let it slide considering the small significance of this missing item until I noticed something else: the four packs of chicken I bought were also missing!

OK, I made the decision, I was going to go back to Publix that afternoon and demand my missing items. I pulled the receipt out of the trashcan and circled everything that I had left without. In my head, I was rehearsing exactly what I was going to say. I was going to demand every single item for the exact same price that was paid. I was going to blame the bag boy when it came time to assign responsibility. I was going to use my consumer loyalty as an intimidation against their cooperation and threaten a Kroger alliance if necessary. Basically, I was ready for any kind of confrontation that may arise out of this mistake.

I marched into that shopping center with authority. I sought out the first manager that I saw (there was no time to deal with anyone of less significance). I whipped out my receipt and began my ramble of the irresponsible incident that caused me to not receive all that I had paid for. You would not believe the reaction…

The manager was apologetic. The manager was kind and helpful. He walked with me through the store as I picked out everything that I was missing. He benevolently bagged all the items with no waiting in line and apologized once again for my inconvenience. He was so kind that I didn’t even get to rant and rave like I had prepared for all afternoon.

I sat in my car for a while after leaving the store, bags of groceries at my side. His kindness has convicted me. I was so ready for a battle that I went in armed. It never even occurred to me that Publix would handle this situation in a non-confrontational manner, I mean; this wasn’t how things were typically dealt with in an economy like ours. This was unusual. This was extraordinary. This was Christ like.

Proverbs 15:1
“"A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare." – NIV

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Only Human


Humanity: we are just awful. Day in and day out, I encounter the obvious sin that encompasses the entire human race. I encounter vengefulness. I encounter liars and thieves. I especially encounter judgment. As a race, we should be ashamed of ourselves. This all being said, while our bodies are consumed with the bondage of sin, our Spirits remain free. Free from malicious intent. Free from self-preservation extremes. Free from ill intent towards our fellow man.

Isn’t this just how life is? Our Spirits are free to live and love with the heart of a lamb, while our bodies are enslaved. Part of being human is the fact that we cannot overcome the desires of our flesh; we cannot triumph over evil or remove the chains we forge in ignorance. After all, we are only human…right?

John 8:36
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – NIV

Not one of us escapes the lie that we are only human. We convince ourselves to put up with the sin in side of us, because when push comes to shove, it will never go away. As humans, we will instinctively crave the desires of this world and never surpass that understanding. We define our humanity as a trap from which there is no escape.

I read once that the root of our “only human” disclaimer is a tendency to settle for spiritual mediocrity. We are comfortable saying that we are free in Christ, but we never experience that freedom in life. We like the status of being free from sin while we settle into the ease of our slavery. I have to wonder if Jesus defines humanity the same way as we do.

Only human? Jesus went to the cross for humans.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Powerfully Unburdened


When I first started walking with the Lord, I was quite insecure about the whole process of Bible study. Being with my first group of believers, I wanted to be so prepared that no one could ever present me with a question that I could not find the answer to. You should have seen me, it was ridiculous. I would show up with my NIV Bible of choice, my 5 pound Life Application Bible, highlighters, pens, concordances, Christian jewelry, etc. On the outside, I appeared as though I was the Bible master and had everything together. On the inside, however, I was terrified by the naïveté that I had, also, brought with me.

Before I knew it, Bible study had taken on a life of its own, a life that I didn’t recognize. There were no passage lookups. There were no scripture quizzes. There wasn’t even a time to share all of my manifested Biblical knowledge! I had worked so hard to look the part that I neglected the true purpose of community. When it came time for prayer requests, all I could think of was how burdened my life had become with outside preparations and appearances. My spiritual well-being had taken a back seat to my façade and become obviously dormant.

Luke 9:3
“He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.” - NIV

When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach the Kingdom of God, He instructed them to take nothing. He didn’t say to load up on resources. He didn’t say to make sure and dress fittingly. He didn’t even say to bring a highlighter!

The motivation of Jesus was that of minimalism. He encouraged the men to take nothing for the journey…only a message. The Gospel of Christ is beautiful in its simplicity and requires nothing more from us than two feet. It is a powerful message. We are powerful messengers. Powerfully unburdened.

Be loaded with power but light as a feather.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Joyful, Joyful


It’s official: my favorite movie of all time is Father of the Bride. My husband and I had the opportunity to watch it last weekend and it really just sunk in how much I love it. I mean, honestly, what’s not to like? The family is beautiful, the house is stunning and the flawless wedding has inspired nuptials to this day. The solitary crisis to hit Annie Banks was her adoringly cute fiancé purchasing her a blender for their anniversary because she liked to make cappuccinos! Well, let me be the first to bless her poor little providential heart. (By the way, if she wants to come crying to someone about that gesture, tell her she can find the rest of us standing in a ten minute line at Starbucks to spend $3.50 on the Pumpkin Spiced Latte that only comes out at Thanksgiving.)

Needless to say, thanks to this movie and many like it, imagine the surprise of most adolescent women in our culture when our lives at 22 don’t include international travel, prosperous fiancés and a Frank Sinatra soundtrack. Weird.

What do we do when our lives don’t mirror the movies and when our responsibilities seem to outweigh our joys? Do we give up all together? Do we just live in our despondency until it no longer matters? Or, do we adjust the source of our joy?

John 15:11
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” – NIV

We all have different sources of joy and many of us have multiple sources and consider this a blessing. While it is wonderful to have so many areas of life to find happiness in, there can only be one primary resource: The joy of our Lord.
Once we recognize what ecstasy awaits us in God’s plan, we find serenity in waiting to see what the Great Provider has in store for us. And as we wait, we are learning to let the process be a voluntary one.

If God is not the number one spot in our “supply-store”, while things might seem great, we are missing the greatest joy of all and not even knowing it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Core Values


I am truly in love with my family, every single one of them: mom, dad, brother, husband and Chihuahua. There is not a friend who can come close, there is not a possession for which I would trade and there is not a sacrifice that I would not make for any of them. My mom is my best friend, my dad is my hero, my brother is my inspiration, my husband is my heart and my dog is my noble steed. For reasons beyond my understanding, God has blessed my life with these incredible people and used them to demonstrate His love for me.

Matthew 10:37-38
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” – NIV

These are startling words from Jesus, and frankly, they make me a little uncomfortable. Because I adore my family, am I not worthy of Him? Is He saying that I can only have one love in my life and it must be Christ? Isn’t humanity supposed to live in communities and thrive on relationships? What in the world is going on here?

When we consider this passage within the context of the whole Bible, it becomes clear that Jesus is not opposing love for our families. Where the problem lies is with disproportionate love – love that takes so much of our hearts, there is no room for our King. It doesn’t matter how loving the people are in your life, Jesus will not have rivals…even good ones.

Jesus is love, and when we deny Him the most important place in our hearts, we are denying who He really is. This type of substitution makes our souls unworthy. We are living with our replacements, living with those we place above the most important person in the world. Living in denial.

No matter what a person honors in their life: Success, Power, Love or Family…this is the god of idolatry.