Every experience God gives us, every person that He puts into our lives, is the perfect preparation for a future only He can see.
- Corrie Ten Boom

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Great Physician

Okay, so my sermon reflection is a little late this week. I've been busy reading, and not writing. The sermon I listened to this week was on the story of Naaman from 2 Kings 5. Also, it was not the greatest week to reflect on late, because I have no notes, either. lol The story of Naaman is basically this: He was a Syrian military leader who got leprosy. He met an Israelite girl who told him to go see Elisha, because he could heal him. Naaman worked this out so that he could go and he brought gifts of gold, silver, and jewelry with him. He knocks on Elisha's door but a slave says, go wash in the nasty, dirty Jordan River 7 times and you'll be cured. Naaman gets mad that Elisha doesn't even bother coming to the door, so he heads for home, angry. One of his servants says, "Hey, if he told you to do something complicated, you'd go and do it, but because he told you to do something simple, you're mad and won't even try?" So, Naaman does, and he's cured. He then decides that maybe the Israelite's God is powerful, and worships Him.

So, how does that relate to our lives today? Should we go wash in the Jordan River? No, I don't think so, or at least not as a matter of course. I think it's more that we a) need to trust God that He can heal us in any way that He so chooses and b) that sometimes what God asks us to do doesn't always seem logical.

On the first point, please remember that there are all sorts of ways that we need healing, it's not just physically. Also, because God can use all sorts of ways, He will use modern medicine and that should not be withheld in the name of faith simply because it is science. There are times that medical personnel have no answers for us, or that God will direct us away from this course, but unless this is the case, it is more than okay to use this. Also, please keep in mind, that God sometimes chooses not to heal us from (especially) physical issues for whatever reason. Just because you don't get the answer you wanted, doesn't mean that He's not answering your prayer or that He doesn't care.

On the second point, we have to trust Him, that no matter what He's asking us to do, He has our best interests at heart. It may seem odd, scary, or downright crazy, but if He's asking us to do it, we've got to have faith that it's going to change the situation. We just need to trust and obey...for while we struggle with this often (or at least I do) that's what this whole Christian walk is all about.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Life, Outside the Home

I haven't left the apartment very much lately. Going to the store for a few things has been about it, unless Ben is with me. Today, though, I went a few places, and had a little fun, spending no money except for the gas in my car. It was a good day. One I felt alive in.

So, my interview today went quite well. Well enough, at least, that I got called sometime shortly after I left to come back for awhile in the afternoon and play some more with another group of kids. lol This is a good thing, though the person doing the hiring did say that she had other candidates to interview yet. But, I figured if I wasn't in the running, there was no reason to call me and ask me to spend time with another group of kids. If I get this job, there are two little boys that I will have to keep my eye on, but such is the nature of life. I don't know that these little boys are quite as impish as my nephews, but they definitely could get themselves hurt if no one's watching. One of the girls reminded me of the boy's sister, which means she's quiet and sweet...though this one doesn't seem to like the computer as much as my niece! lol

Between my two trips to the center, I did some window shopping. I didn't buy anything, I just kind of walked around a few stores and got some ideas, mainly for when I have a little more money (i.e. after I have a job). lol I love to window shop! My husband thinks I am insane for this, I know, but I'd rather window shop than go into a store looking for something specific...especially clothing for me. That's no fun at all! I don't know if it's a pressure thing or what, but I hate it. So, after I came home the second time I made dinner for Ben and I-beef fajitas, which I really like and he doesn't so much. I did them a different way this time, and they weren't my favorite, either. I like the old way better. You live and learn.

After dinner, I went to Lake Shawnee Park and took a long walk...over 2 miles. Prayed, read my Bible, and took some pictures of water, flowers and such. Should you really be that interested in seeing them, you can find them on deviantart.com under hopefaithjoy. All in all, I felt more "alive" today than I have in a long time, which is a good thing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Teary Eyes

I don't know if this happens to you, but it does to me; I'll be doing whatever and see or hear something and tears will jump into my eyes (to steal a phrase from my 6 year old niece). Today, this happened to me. Now, I wasn't in the best frame of mind since I learned that the sale on the house definitely fell through today, but what I was seeing at the time had nothing to do with it and I wasn't particularly thinking about it at the time, either. I was driving to the grocery store for a few things and the neighborhood kids were getting off of the school bus after their first day of school. I am not sure what the problem with this was. Whether it was the fact that I don't have kids (but want to), the fact that we were thinking about hosting a foreign exchange student this year and ended up not being able to because of the job loss and move, or the fact that I don't at this moment have a job working with kids in any capacity, I really don't know.

I do have an interview for a job working at a day care center on Thursday, which is a job that will have me working with kids, but is a distant second to the other working with kids job that I have applied for. I won't hear if I'm even being considered for that job until sometime after Sept. 1, though. The day care center job I am somewhat over qualified for, but I have been over qualified for other jobs and not gotten them, so I am not going into this thinking I am a shoo-in. As for the other job, I am not sure that I am exactly the candidate that they are looking for, but I am confident that what God has for me is best and am just hoping that it comes soon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Worship vs. Attending Church

If church has been a part of your life for any length of time, you've probably done both. Sometimes we merely attend church, we are physically present, but our spirit is elsewhere. In contrast, I know that I have worshiped outside of the walls or body of the church. You know, of course, that the building isn't the church. If I learned nothing else from the 2005 fire at Crane Chapel, I learned that. While corporate worship definitely is to be a part of our lives (Hebrews 10:25) we need more than an hour or two a week of corporate worship to grow in Christ. It is also a mistake, in my opinion, to consider singing as the only (or even most prevalent) form of worship. I think that many churches called the singing portion of a church service "worship," because of ease and at some point that became part of our liturgy. That's not to say that I don't enjoy music, I do, even if my husband says that my singing is below par. lol The church I now attend actually states on its website that, "God is tone deaf when it comes to your worship. Any noise you make for Him is beautiful!" And then there is the question of movement. Even though I grew up in a tradition that moves very little during worship and lived for 5 years in the stoic MN tundra, I generally move a little. Not full out dancing, but raising hand(s), swaying, clapping, etc. are all a part of my worship style. My husband, not so much; and that's okay. 

As I said, though, music does not need to be a part of our worship. Studying or reading the Bible, praying, fasting, and loving/serving others in the name of Christ are all ways that we can worship God and they need to be a part of our lives every day. Even these, though, are just elements of worship, they can be used to worship, or they can just be going through the motions. Anything we do that helps us to encounter God and in response to Him offer your life to Him, is worship, which will inevitably draw us closer to God. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Conversations with Jesus

This is at least the third time I am reading this book, it's one of my favorites, yet I doubt that most people have heard of it. Most of the book is modern-day (or at least within the last 60 years or so) retellings of Jesus' parables. Because we don't have the same cultural understanding as the original hearers of the parables, we don't always get how radical the teachings were. Take for example, the parable of the "Good Samaritan." In our cultural context today, this is a common phrase, we have made it a part of our culture. However, the Jews of Jesus' day would never think of a Samaritan as good. To them, the Samaritans were the bad guys.

So, Harold Fickett, the author, put this in a more modern day, American context for us, where Korean-American husband and wife shopkeepers are robbed and attacked by some gang members. Then, a skinhead, a Jewish person and an African-American come to their aid, dial 911 and go with them to the hospital while working together to do so. Not so common, right? Not so expected, and that's the point. To just do what is expected of us, is not what Christ calls us to, He calls us to do the unexpected, to go above and beyond. To love people in such a way that it can't be missed, whether we agree with them or not.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Setback

So, the buyer for our house in Missouri's loan fell through. He's going to try again with another bank, not sure if that's going work, but I will be hopeful until there is no way that it will work out. In the meantime, he may rent the house from us, which would at least mean that we would have some money coming in to pay on our mortgage. Between our rent, mortgage, and storage fees not to mention the utilities at both places, and me not working at all...well, let's just say that saving for buying another house isn't happening. I am hoping that it will all work out, and soon, and that I will have a job soon as well. I know that others need jobs more than I do, we are currently "making it" after all, but I feel like if I can't be a mom, I should work. If/when I have kids, then I do NOT want to work, I want to be able to stay at home and raise my child(ren), but that is not the case. I would like to do some volunteering, but I would like to be consistent with when I can do such things, so I would like to know what hours I would be working for pay so that I can make that as conflict free as possible. So, in the meantime I am spending way too much time on facebook. Such a time waster, while at the same time a great way to keep in contact with a bunch of people that I used to live near at one of my former addresses, many of whom don't live where we knew each other anymore, either.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thoughts on Thoughts

This morning's sermon was on "we are what we think." Based upon Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Earlier in Philippians, 2:1-11 to be exact, we are extorted to have the same mind, the same attitude as Christ. Verses 3 and 4 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

The world tells us to look out only for ourselves, that we are the most important, but that is obviously not the mind of Christ. So then, what should be first in our hearts and thoughts? I think that it's how we can love others. How we can live out our faith in ways that go beyond going through the motions. 
From the moment I first heard this song, I have identified with it and it has been my prayer, that I would be sold-out to Christ. That nothing would get in the way of my relationship with Christ being my number one priority. I hope that that is your prayer, as well. If all those who call themselves "Christian" would place Christ as the true Lord of their life, this world would be a very different place. There is no doubt in my mind that the church needs a makeover, and it needs to begin within our own hearts and minds. We can't change the world until we allow God to change us. 

Captain America: Like a Pastor?

One of my former Pastors threw down this challenge to his fellow seminarians this week, and while I'm not in his seminary class (nor have I ever been to seminary) I did watch the movie yesterday and inevitably had this in mind while doing so. So, here is my rational. lol

In the beginning, Steve Rogers is a 90-lb. weakling and while we may or not be physically weak in comparison to those around us, without Christ in our lives we are all weak. Yet, Mr. Rogers is determined and fearless in the face of opposition that is much stronger than him. This is something that all Pastors need to have. Ephesians 6:12 states, "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." By ourselves, these forces are much bigger than us, much stronger than we could ever be alone. The serum and machine could be likened, then, to the Holy Spirit and His dwelling within us which gives us the power to defeat those forces. Right after that, he becomes a part of a dog and pony show, so to speak. Much of the time, early in our Christian walks we try to do things that we think will please God, but on our own terms and in our own power, a bit of a dog and pony show of our own. At some point we realize that this is not what we are made for, and submit to God's will for us--to reach others for Him. Rogers does similar when he goes out to find his friend. From this point on, he does whatever he can to help his friends and defeat his enemies. This is often dangerous work, attacks come from all sides and his enemies are ruthless. The attacks on pastors are no different, though they are spiritual rather than physical. The enemy also seems to have better equipment and more money, and this is often the case with our churches. Our churches have limited budgets and other resources, whereas the world has much more to entice those in our communities away. However, in the end, Captain America, and Christians win. 

I guess, my rational is more for Christians in general than Pastors, because I see the need for all Christians to fight the good fight and do not see that as just the work of Pastors. Rogers always led the battles, however, and that is often the work for Pastors in their churches.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Turkey Recall and Me

Cargill has recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey processed in their Springdale, AR facility. A plant in which my husband used to work (2000-2002). A plant which called him in the last go around of job searching for him to interview for the QA Manager position. But, he already had started his new job and said, "No, thank you." My husband calls it "dodging a bullet." I like to think of this as God's providence. You see, in 2002, he was laid off from that plant and it really wasn't a good time. I had been teaching at a private school which didn't pay much anyway, but was off for the summer and not getting any paycheck. We had just gotten married a month and a half prior when I got the phone call from my new husband. He said, "I got a pink slip today. We are moving in two weeks to Minnesota. Call my mother. This is the name of the local newspaper, see if you can find us a place to live, not in the NE section of town." There was no discussion, there was no input from me, this was the way it was going to be. Two weeks came, we loaded a truck, his dad came down to help drive the truck and  we all drove up to MN with no place to live, no jobs, and very little money. That was Sunday. Monday, we looked for a place to live. Tuesday, we moved in. Wednesday, the husband and his dad drove back down to AR to get the last car and bring it up while I unpacked our boxes and tried to arrange our stuff that was all together for the first time.

Those were lean times. We almost had to declare bankruptcy and really had to work to stand each other some days. He got a job first, pretty much the job he had left when he went down to AR, I started substitute teaching and then got a part time retail job as well. We made things work and little by little they got better. We were there in MN for five years, until Ben finished the one class he needed to get a BS degree. Then, he got a QA Supervisor job and we moved again to CO. After a year there things happened that were outside our control and we moved again to MO. After 2.5 years there, things happened that were mostly outside our control and we were again faced with moving. Can I tell you how much I hate moving? I do, really! So, each time we moved I didn't like it...okay, I was better with some moves than others. lol But, it wasn't fun, I didn't enjoy it and probably complained more than I should have. But, had Ben's current employer been slower in hiring him, he may have interviewed and taken the job at the Springdale plant. And had he been the QA Manager now, he wouldn't be any longer. He'd have been fired, I am sure, and not allowed to work in the industry again. And the kicker is, that it would have already been going on before he got there, because I am pretty sure that the QA Manager that was there, wasn't there when they first should have caught the problem. Granted, it shouldn't have gone on as long as it did, but that's not the point of my story.

So, the next time you (or I) complain about something that's going on that's "not my fault but I'm suffering for it" know that it might just be God protecting you from something down the road. God really does work out all things for good for those that love Him. (Romans 8:28).

What We Deserve

In the past few months I've heard a lot of, "You/We/I deserve everything 'good' in life." I can't say that I agree. The other day a friend of mine posted this on her facebook page, "The pain, suffering, and turmoil that we go through is nothing compared to what HE did for us on The Cross...But it is still hard to handle and understand sometimes..." A completely understandable and relatable statement. We all go through hard times, we all have times when we don't understand what God is doing and why we need to go through what we are going through. In comment, I wrote, "We must remember that we deserve nothing good in this life, despite the world telling us quite the opposite." And I really believe that. We DON'T deserve anything good in this life. God tells us our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). He tells us that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). To me, that means I don't deserve anything good, it means I DESERVE death. It is only through the grace and mercy of God that that is not what I get. I get life because of Christ. Because HE took MY place on the cross. Because HE took MY punishment, what I deserve, upon HIMSELF. He is the only man who ever walked this earth and didn't sin. He is the only one that didn't deserve death, and yet He chose it for Himself, for ME and YOU so that we might have life.

While we have life, because of Christ, there are still consequences here on earth from our sin and the sin of those around us. Because we live in a fallen world, bad things happen. Things that we don't like, things that we don't understand. It's not because God doesn't care, but because of our sinfulness. Because it's what we deserve, what we've earned. Yet, God in His glorious mercy doesn't even end it there, Romans 8:28 promises us that God will work out all things for good for those that love Him. Even those things that we don't like, or don't understand, He's willing to use to help us to grow closer to Him, to work them out for good. Hallelujah!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Exodus + Jeremiah + the Holy Spirit = Conviction

When I am trying to drift peacefully off to sleep I listen to books in MP3 format. Right now, I am listening to the book of Exodus. In my reading of the Bible, I am reading Jeremiah. In Exodus the Israelites are getting the laws of God, in Jeremiah they are being warned of judgement for not following them. If you are like me, you might wonder how these ancient people didn't get it. How God could have been so involved with their lives, like leading them around the desert with a cloud and a pillar of fire, providing manna and quail for them, and parting seas, all these manifestations that could only be explained by a God who was gracious to them; and yet they didn't get it, they chose to worship other gods, they turned their back on the One who was their Creator and Sustainer in favor of a god that could do nothing for them at all, that was fashioned by their own hands.

So, as I am reading these things, and these thoughts come into my mind, the Holy Spirit brings to my mind things that God has done for me, in my life, in the lives of those around me and yet the many times that I didn't get it. The times where I didn't trust God, or felt that my way was better than His. And there have been many. Conviction. As I seek to serve God with my whole heart, life, I know that there will be many of these times. While they are difficult, I know that through it God is teaching me, He's bringing me closer to Him, closer to who He wants me to be. I want that, with all of my heart, mind and soul. I want Him to truly reign in me and in order to do that, I know that there must be conviction, there must be repentance on my part. How about you? Do you truly want God to reign in your heart and life?

Crazy Love

I have been reading Francis Chan's Crazy Love for a  Bible Study that I actually haven't gotten to attend yet. Every week that I have been available (as in not in Trenton), they have not held the Bible Study, because everyone else was not. But, hopefully, I will get to meet to discuss the book with them sometime, but in the meantime my readers get to read my thoughts. The book is all about how much God loves us and how that should shape our response to Him. We often take God for granted, we comfort ourselves by saying that God  understands, that He is gracious and merciful as if these things are an excuse for not following Him with our whole lives, not loving Him with all we've got. The Bible also states that God is jealous. He refuses to make us worship Him, but He it has to cut Him so deeply when we choose to worship someone or something else. You see a god doesn't have to another god in the traditional sense, as in Buddha or Allah or Shiva. It is simply someone or something that we put before God. When we are honest with ourselves, we are guilty of that on a fairly regular basis.

How often do you choose to do something other than spend time with God? How often do you knowingly do something that you know God would disapprove of? If you are like me, it's more often than you'd like to admit. And like Chan, I don't want that to make you stop trying, or to discourage you, or to make you simply try harder. It's not about trying harder, it's about loving more. Think about someone you love, a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend, etc. while yes, you will hurt them or let them down some times, but by and large, you want to spend time with them, you want to do nice things for them, you want to show them that you love them, to tell them that you love them. Do we make that effort with God or is He somewhat out of sight, out of mind?

Chan spends the first three chapters explaining how much God loves us, maybe in a way that you've never thought of before. Read it, think about it, let it permeate your life and your response will never be the same.  You will desire to shout it from the mountain top, and live it out in your everyday life. To love extravagantly, with every ounce of energy, with every moment that you have. No, that doesn't mean that you can do nothing but read the Bible, because as we love the people in our lives, both those we like and are easy to love those we don't like so much and harder to love, we are loving God.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tell the Truth

We were back in MN this weekend, for Ben's cousin's going-away get together. She's going to be living overseas for the next 4 years or so with her family, so it was our last chance for some time to see her. While we were there, we visited our old church (as in 3-4 churches ago, ack!) and they have been going through the Ten Commandments. They were on "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." (KJV) So, in modern language--don't lie. And herein lies the problem, as Dr. House says, "Everybody lies." And we often dismiss our lies, as "white" lies, that we say don't hurt anyone. But, if everybody lies, and we all know this, than how do we trust anyone else? The truth of the matter is, we don't. We rarely trust the people around us and that does hurt. Have you ever been accused of lying when you didn't? I have! And you know what, it made me distrust the person accusing me a little. It made me wonder whether he was telling me the whole truth.

Our relationships need to be based on love and trust. When that trust is broken, or even perceived to be broken, we have issues. If we have a pattern of lying, others don't feel that they can trust us and telling one lie often leads to another and another, until the snowball effect is that we are telling even bigger lies and more of them, in order for our first lie to not be found out. It can get out of hand very quickly. So, as the old saying goes, "honesty is the best policy." Have I gotten in trouble because I've told the truth, but someone didn't like it. Yup, I am sure you have, as well. But, in the end, would it have been better to tell a lie, no.

Now, I remember, several years ago, I was in a Bible Study with some other people from my church and we were discussing lying and one of the other people in the group asks, "Well, what if I tell my daughter-in-law that I like her casserole, when really I think it tastes like wallpaper paste?" It's a lie. It's said so that someone else saves face, perhaps, if one is asked directly. Most people don't want to say that the food is awful if someone else took the time to prepare it for you. I know I don't! So, what do you do or say? Do you get creative with your answer, or not really answer it? I think that's pretty much what we decided that night. For example, with the casserole, you could say, "It had an interesting texture" or "Where'd you get the recipe?" Sometimes you want to be careful, though, you might be eating that casserole every time you visit, because someone thinks you REALLY like it! lol It's hard, but honesty is the best policy, every time. What do you do/say when you are put into a position where you either have to lie or put someone else or their efforts down?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Muddled Mind Musings

If I had written this earlier today, I would have written solely about how sad I was that no one posted anything in response to my wall post on Wednesday on facebook about how it was 19 years ago that I accepted Christ and invited anyone who had seen God work in or through me in the past 19 years to share an example. And it does sadden me, it makes me question my effectiveness at being the salt and light that I am called to be. I know that I have affected the Kingdom, both for good and not so good, in the past 19 years. When I am obedient, when I am allowing God to work through me I do well and I know that there are times when I haven't done that. There are times that I have had to repent from, that I have failed to do what God was calling me to do. While all of us could say that, it doesn't excuse it in any way. That doesn't mean that I (or you) should continually beat ourselves up for it, but that it should spur us on to make those time fewer and farther apart.

But, it is late in the day, and there is another thing on my mind now. The Children's Pastor at my new church is leaving very shortly. This is something that I have thought about doing in the past, but never had the opportunity to pursue. I have done all sorts of children's ministry on a volunteer basis for the past 14 years including: Sunday school, Children's Church and VBS, both teaching and more behind the scenes as well as assistant director (VBS), director (Children's Church) and assistant superintendent (Sunday School). I also have a degree in Elementary Education from a Christian College. The question (for me) is am I called? Is God calling me to this work or is it a just another job that I am fairly qualified for? The work is far too important for me to do without a calling, I fully recognize this. My faith is too solidified to allow me to do this against God's will, so I am now trying to discern whether this IS God's will for me. Whether He brought us to Topeka and the current Children's Pastor to Indiana for just this reason, because HE wanted ME in this position, or not. It's kind of scary, in a way, and an exciting prospect at the same time. Prayers, and thoughts, are definitely appreciated.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Costs, part 2

Some of you may know that I want to be a mom, but that it hasn't happened, yet. I have faith that should God want to change this, He is more than capable of doing so. But, for now, my womb is still barren. There is a way that I probably could have had a baby in my arms now, but after much prayer about it, both my husband and I got the most distinct "no" God could have given us. My sisters, both of them actually, have volunteered to surrogate for us. My older sister has 2 daughters; my younger sister has a daughter and 3 sons, including the one she is currently about 6 months pregnant with. Both of them said that they would provide an egg and a womb to my husband and I so that we could have a child that looks like us, that we fully know the medical history of, etc. This child would be very much my child, I just wouldn't carry it or deliver it. My husband, amazingly, consented to think about it, pray about it. So, we did. Individually. Every time I brought this up with God, the story of Sarah and Abraham and Haggar and Ishmael and all the drama and hurt, all the problems that are still ensuing because of it immediately came to mind. The same happened for him. It was the wrong way for them, it was the wrong way for us. God said, "no." I do not know if the other part of that story will be true, whether God will someday open up my womb and allow me to have my own child(ren), or if He has another plan through which I will be a mom, but I know this: following Him will bring me the greatest happiness and peace, whether anyone ever calls me "mom" or not.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Counting the Costs

I've decided that each post this week will be a narration of something that following Christ has cost me or  how it's changed me. This first one is a little of both, and will really sound strange to some of you: it has cost me the freedom to do some potentially dangerous things for Christ. Yup, you read that correctly. You see, if I take God's Word to be Truth, then I have to take all of it and that means that the several times in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Peter that it says I have to submit to my husband, I have to submit to my husband, whether I like it or not. And that means, that I can't go around doing things that my husband has asked me not to do, like help people on the side of the road with car trouble. Yes, I've done that; at least three times that I can easily recall, all before I was married. Never, at any point, was I hurt in any way, shape or form while doing this, nor did I ever do it without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, my husband asked me to stop doing this, and so I have.

When I was single, I did not have this restriction. I was free to honor God in some ways that I can't now and I think that this is why Paul says that it is better to not marry. I can understand his reasoning. This does not mean that I in any way regret marrying my husband, just that I understand that we can/should do for Christ when we are married is different from what we can/should do for Christ when we are single. In my opinion, it's not always better one way or the other, just different and as Christ calls us each to different things, He thus equips us to do them.

There is also honor in marriage, it helps God refine us. It helps us to see ourselves as others see us, and sometimes as God sees us. As iron sharpens iron, so a husband and wife can spur each other on to be better than they ever could be alone. It is also the human relationship that we have that is closest to the way that God loves us, or at least it should be. Do our spouses disappoint us, make us angry, hurt us, etc. YES! And we do it to them, as well. But, we are called to love them anyway, just as God loves us, unconditionally. That doesn't mean that there won't be consequences for the hurts, just as there are still consequences from our sin, but that when asked to forgive, we do. Our marriages aren't perfect, but the secret is to put the other person before us; their needs before our own. When both spouses do that, there is nothing that can't be overcome.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fan or Follower?

During the sermon I listened to this morning, we were asked to reflect on whether we were fans or followers of Christ. In the realm of facebook, we can simply click a "like" to be a fan of something or someone, or even a status or post of someone. We can follow a host of people, groups, and companies, again with the click of a button. There is little difference, we get updates about all of them as they come in. In the realm of "the real world" there is a difference. To be a fan, the costs are low, the changes to our lives are low or non-existent. But to follow someone or something, changes our lives and it costs us something.

To follow Christ changes our lives. It could change the direction of our life in it's entirety, Sometimes what God calls us to do makes us uncomfortable. It should. If you read about the characters in the Bible, SO many of them  were asked to do things that scared them, that they didn't want to do or didn't feel equipped to do. Moses stuttered, Abraham and Sarah were really old, David was an adulterer and murderer, Jonah ran in the other direction, and on and on it goes. Just like us, they struggled, but in the end God USED them in extraordinary ways. The whole key to know whether you are truly a follower of Christ is whether or not you are willing to let God interfere with your life, to change you, to shape you and to control your every move. It will not be comfortable, it will not always be fun, it will sometimes be down right scary, but it will ALWAYS, ALWAYS be worth it.

Friday, July 15, 2011


This week I have been at our house in MO, packing up and supervising the loading of much of our "stuff" to be put into storage until such time as we move into another house. I mentioned earlier, that we may rent a house, but this has not panned out. Once I viewed the house in person, I came to the conclusion that it would not serve our needs any better than the apartment that we are already in, and would cost us more money, thus it would take longer for us to buy our own home again. I have come to the realization that I have too much stuff...and much of it is worth almost nothing. I need to go through much of what is on that trailer and figure out what I do and do not want/need. I suppose after some time without any of it, it will make it more clear that which I will use and that which would be better utilized by someone else. The thing is, I am generally more conscience of my spending than many people. I will do research on items on the Internet and look at items in the store several times before I buy, making sure that my money is being well spent. Most of the time, my eye is towards value. Sometimes that means that I will buy a high quality item for a higher cost, for an item that will be used often; other times that will mean that I will buy a lower quality item for a lower cost, for items that I will use less often.

Americans are known for their insistence on value. What does that mean for American Christians? I heard one person say that once they had "accepted Christ" they were "safe" and could do whatever they pleased. After all, the more sin that was covered by Christ's blood, the more "value" there was to His suffering. To me, that is ridiculous! There are so many things wrong with that statement, that I would not be surprised if my jaw dropped when I heard it. First and foremost, if you have truly accepted Christ, you will want to obey Him, thus your general attitude should be one that is trying NOT to sin, not one that you can do whatever you want. Secondly, if you profess to be a Christian, but do not act, or even attempt to act, like Christ, then that is a misnomer, the early church were called "Christians" by outsiders, not by themselves. You are not going to win anyone to Christ if you act this way. The value, then, of Christ's suffering is lost, because the true value of Christ's suffering is NOT found in the number of sins forgiven, but in the number of souls saved. So let us value Christ's suffering for us, by the way that we live this life, so that we will see those who we have influenced for Christ one day in Heaven and along the way the "stuff" will become less and less important to us.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Better, Not Bitter?

"What doesn't make you bitter, makes you better." We all, I am sure, know bitter people and more than likely we have been bitter about something at some point in our lives. I am not, generally, a bitter person. I know that I don't deserve anything good in this world. So, when hard or painful things happen that I have no control over, they happen. Dwelling on them only makes it that much harder or painful. It is when I have more control over the situation, that makes things more difficult. That is when I am more likely to weep bitterly, like Peter after denying Jesus three times. (Luke 22: 54-62). Often, even in these times, while we must deal with the issue at hand we must do so relatively quickly (repent) and then move on with our lives. We often wish we could go back and change the way that we do things, what we said, or make a different decision; but we can't. What's in the past, is in the past, we need to learn from it what we can, and move on to a new day. This is easier said than done, I know.

To remind myself that I am a new creation, (2 Corinthians 5:17) I wear a butterfly necklace on a nearly daily basis. It is a symbol of my faith, that in my humble opinion, more closely represents my faith than a cross at this point in time. The cross was an instrument of torture and shame and one that Jesus took on for us, for me, and I am ever so grateful for this. However, in terms of a piece of jewelry, it is often meaningless because of it's overuse. A few years ago, when I was selling jewelry at Target, I had a guest come up to me and buy a cross necklace for a friend, who "was not religious, but this is pretty." But, it wasn't just that one time, it was all the time and so I determined to find a better symbol, not so much for others around me, but for me, as a reminder of who I am striving to be. So, now I wear a silver butterfly with a heart of gold in the center of it. Silver, because when not worn or taken care of, silver tarnishes, just as our relationships do when we don't take care of them. A butterfly, to symbolize the metamorphosis of a life lived for me, to one lived for Christ. And the heart of gold in the center, to represent the immense love and grace of God that keeps me centered and allows me to be of service to Him. Praise God for His mercies are new every morning!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Restless Ramblings

I went to church this morning after being up for over 24 consecutive hours and am writing roughly three hours after returning home with maybe a 15 minute nap in that time. I was alone, my husband was sleeping, as we got in at 4 AM from the drive-in movies. I never fell asleep so I went to church, confident that God kept me awake because He wanted me there. At some point during "worship" (i.e. singing) after we had done the shaking hands thing a young man slipped into the seat behind me. At the very beginning of the sermon, the Pastor asked us to get on our knees at our seats, something that is unusual in my experience, and asked that we really tune out all others around us and just focus on what God would have us do today. On my knees, I did ask God this, and the answer to my spirit was to ask the man behind you (now in front of me) what you can pray for him about. As this was coming to me, he let out a stifled sob. Well, no opportunity was given to get up and immediately talk to the man, without disturbing others, so I waited. Several times during the closing moments of the service, which ended how it began, with songs of worship, I felt the Spirit's leading to turn around and ask already, but I resisted, not wanting to disturb others. As soon as the last notes were played, before the benediction, I turned around to say something, but the man had already left. I looked for him in the foyer and in the parking lot, but alas, I did not find him.

I wanted to sing the last song, a song of praise and commitment to my Lord, that I cannot (sadly) think of the title of now, but the message was essentially that I would live my life to honor Him, that I would do as He led. The pitiful thing is, that by singing it rather than doing what He was leading me to do, I was, at that moment, a hypocrite. I was singing that I would do whatever He led me to do, in church, and yet ignoring Him to do so. Really? So, now I may forever wonder, what that man was/is struggling with. To be sure, I have prayed for him, several times, before and after I walked out of the building and I ask you to join me in doing so. I don't know his name, nor the situation, only that he is in need of prayer. God already knows the details. Also, pray for me, that I would not only be sensitive to the Lord's calling, but actually answer it as well. Thanks.

I struggle with this more than I care to admit, and I doubt I am alone. Paul said it best in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." It's not that I hate to worship, but that I hate to disobey and I don't think you can really call it worship (to God) if you are disobeying Him to do it, regardless of what it is you are saying or doing. Now, before I confuse you (and perhaps myself) any further, I shall sign-off and hopefully take another short nap. Please assure me that I am not alone in the comments...but more than that, pray for that young man, as I said before God knows the details. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I have to make a bunch of phone calls in the AM, making sure that the closing on our house in MO is going to happen before I call the rental management company that we rent from to see if we can move from the townhouse that we are now in to a house that they have for rent without a penalty for breaking our lease here. It's ridiculous that we might be moving again already, but we don't want to stay in this place for long, and we could stay in that house a long time so that'd we'd be able to save up for another down payment for a house of our own again. The rental house is slightly bigger than our house in MO and has a 3 car garage, so we would be able to have all of our "stuff" with us again, which is nice. As it is, I only have about a third of my kitchen items with me and I know that I will miss many of those items once fall comes and I want to cook more. But, if we do not move soon, they will go into storage and I will not see them again until we move into a house of our own, which could be a year or two, depending on a lot of factors, including where I get a job and how much I am making. There is an opening for a receptionist with the same company Ben works for, that I should apply for. They like to hire family, so I have a shot, even though I haven't been a receptionist before, though I have answered the phones at four different businesses and done a lot of the other things that a receptionist does through various jobs and volunteer work. So, we shall see. I am not sure that it's even the best time to try to get a job, if I am going to have to go back to MO three times in the next couple of weeks to finish up and close on the house, but I guess I can just say that I am not available to start until after all that is done, and hope that all works out on the right time table. God is good, though, and His plans are always the best.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Casting Crowns "Courageous"

I am a fan of Casting Crowns and have been for some time. I listened to their new song, "Courageous" today on Godtube, which will be in the movie of the same title by the creators of Fireproof, Fly Wheel, and Letters to God. On Mother's day the Pastor of the church I attend stated that it was really hard to be a woman of God in this time and place. Under my breath, I said, "but it's even harder to be a MAN of God." It is more acceptable to today's society for women to spend time and energy on their spiritual life than men. Men are told that they are supposed to be strong, not need anyone, and basically be self-sufficient whereas women are allowed (and often encouraged to) lean on others. My husband often complains that most of modern Christianity as practiced in the United States is geared towards women. My husband would also be the first to admit that he doesn't like to spend time with other people, so I am not sure what exactly he would like to see.

He also gets frustrated with women in full-time ministry over men, at the very least. I have tried to explain that, like in the time of Deborah and the judges, women feel the need to jump in when men are failing to do their jobs. Men are supposed to be heads of the church and their families, but often they are not, though we desperately need them to be. So, please pray for the men in your life, that they would be Godly men, that they would trust God in all areas of their life and that they would truly be the leaders of the church and their families. And also pray that the women would allow them the freedom and opportunity to do that. It is really essential that we do things the way that God asks us to, because it really is the BEST way.

Friday, June 10, 2011


No, not the reality TV show. Me. I am directionally challenged. Just ask my husband. It's bad. The moving around doesn't help any, because then I have to learn how to get around a new city/area every time we move. I've actually not done too bad here in Topeka, even though there are a lot of named streets. I even was able to tell Ben where something was one day--and he is not directionally challenged and he was here 5.5 months before I was! I was pretty impressed with myself, actuallyI however did get lost tonight. Actually, I knew how to get home without a problem from my original destination, I was just trying to get from one destination to another and took a wrong turn, which, if I had looked at the compass in my car I would have known immediately, but I was too busy looking for landmarks that I knew. Oh well, I made it and I only went about a mile out of my way, so overall not that bad.

There are other ways that I sometimes seem lost, though. I often, especially these days, with no job and all feel lost or without purpose. Don't get me wrong, I KNOW that my purpose is not in what I do for money, but what I do for Christ, but that seems to wane in the beginning of each move, as well. I tend to practice life-style evangelism, that is befriending people and getting to know them first, not just walking up to random people and telling them that they need Jesus or something. It seems to work better that way for me. Although, I do have to say that I gave my testimony to a group of teenagers my senior year of high school and I know that at least one person in that room gave their life to Christ that night. I actually didn't find that out until he told me 4 years later when I was giving him a tour of Houghton College, of which we are now both alumni. He is now a Chaplain at a homeless shelter in Maine, I believe. How cool is that? But, as far as I know, he's the only one that I've led to Christ in quite that manner, most have been through camps I was a counselor at, or Children's Church or Sunday School classes that I was teaching or something of that manner, plus a couple of friends here and there that were kind of random. I have no doubt that God will again use me to His glory, it's just that at this time, I feel a little, well, lost.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Interview and Other Events

I had an interview this morning. I think that it went really well. I heard a lot of "outstanding," "awesome," "great," etc. from the interviewer. When I told him that I was going to be in NY part of next week and the week after, he jotted that down, so that he would recall that. Can I tell you, though, I hate interviewing! I know that I can do the job, no problem, it's getting through the interview process that's the problem. I guess, I hate to brag about myself and what I've done in the past. But, I think I did really well on this interview, and I wasn't nearly as nervous as I usually am. I think part of it is that I have more experience than most people who are likely to interview for the position, so I am not going into it feeling like I am at a disadvantage.

So, as I said, I am going to NY, actually a week from today, very early in the AM...I have to be at the airport at like 5ish AM and I should be with my parents by lunch time. I haven't been "home" in about 18 months and I haven't seen my 2 nieces that live there since then, either. They are now 5 and almost 11, so I am sure that they have grown a lot. I hear stories, but I have not been able to spend any time with them, so that will be exciting. I will also be seeing my brother get married. He's the last of my siblings to "tie the knot" and also the youngest in the family. It's going to be a very small, family only, wedding in the bride's mom's backyard followed by a BBQ. I am sure that the trip will be great and some part of me will not want to come back to the midwest, while another part of me can't wait to get home to see Ben and the cats. In other words, it'll be like every time I've gone back and forth since I met Ben, I'll have tears both ways. I know, I'm a sap, it's just the way that it is.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Nine Years

Some years ago I had a co-worker tell me that if Ben and I were to stay married for 7 years it would be a miracle. Well, we've now been married for 9, so I guess we got a miracle. Sometimes it seems like it's been longer, sometimes it seems like it was yesterday. Our marriage has been a bit bumpy at times, with 4 moves to 4 different states. I talked to my brother the other day and he says, "You live in Kansas now? Your call came up as Kansas and I said, 'I don't think I know anyone in Kansas.'" Sad, I know, my brother and I talk about once a year. We have way different values and it doesn't seem to work out well. I have a sister who moved out of state, as well, he doesn't really talk to her either, or her kids. I guess it's a distance thing as much as it is a values thing.

Anyway, 9 years ago today, I was sick. Actually I was sick for about a year leading up to the wedding. It was great fun, not. My husband still doesn't recognize that I was ill, because I still functioned to a point, at least when he was around. In actuality, I slept if I wasn't at work or doing something with him, or about to. My daily routine was get up, get ready, go to work, do my job (teach 4th grade), go home, sleep, get up and make dinner, eat dinner with him, clean up a little, do any school work I needed to do and go back to bed to do it all again the next day. It was miserable. I had no health insurance, I was making very little money and I couldn't afford to go to the doctors. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I could have? I wonder if things would be different now? You see my illness had everything to do with my "woman parts" and now I'm barren. 9 years, no kids. It makes me sad sometimes. Most of the time I'm okay, but there are definitely days of sadness. My husband doesn't understand. He never really cared if he had kids, which in some ways is good, because it doesn't look like he's going to have any; in other ways this is bad, because he doesn't understand AT ALL why this fact makes me upset. What? Just because I've wanted to be a mom for a long time? Just because I majored in Elementary Education in college so that I could home-school my kids and the state couldn't do anything about it? Yeah...anyway, he doesn't get it. Which is sad, too and often frustrating, as well.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Atlas Shrugged, cont'd

As I read what I wrote yesterday, I thought it might be a bit unfair to my husband. While, he will be the first to tell you that he wholeheartedly agrees with Rand's statement and premise, I know that at least sometimes, when it comes to me, he doesn't follow it. I recently moved to Topeka, KS after he moved here about 5.5 months ago to start a new job. He hated the last job, but we've moved 4 times during our almost 9 year marriage (tomorrow), each time to a different state and he knew I didn't want to move again. We'd boughten a house for the first time, one that is still for sale six months after it was listed. We weren't in love with the town that we lived in and I didn't have a great job, but we were there, in home we could do what we wanted with. He tried to stick it out, even though he was miserable, was working all the time, his hours got shifted around all the time and his boss was a jerk. He was so miserable that I was about to tell him on a Sunday, when I finally got to spend more than a few minutes with him, to start looking for a new job, when he came home on Thursday and said that it was probably over. I can't say I was too sad, in fact I can recall writing "I can hear Ben laughing for the first time in a long time, so I know that this cannot be all bad," very shortly afterwards I knew that it meant we would probably have to move, as we lived in a very rural area, but I had already come to terms with that. I also knew that I had never seen him more miserable and that he was hanging on for me. It was so bad he went to see a Psychiatrist at one point. His advice? "Quit your job, it sucks, and you're not unreasonable, your boss is." Thanks, we already knew that. Have you seen the job market lately? I don't care what Obama says, it's not getting that much better. Quitting means moving, moving means we both have to get new jobs and try to sell our house. But, that's what we ended up doing. Well, he got a new job and then he moved, I finished out what I had committed to and now I'm still looking. God has a plan, I don't know it, but I know that He does. I also know that we are a lot happier here and life is a lot more peaceful, even with the uncertainty.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Reading Notes

I've been reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged for longer than I care to admit now. It's one of my husband's favorite books and he's been asking me to read it for at least 10 years. So, once I exhausted most of the other books we owned and needed a new book to read I finally picked it up. It's not my favorite book, by any means, but I am now in part 3 and have roughly 350 more pages to go. I understand Rand's reasoning for her version of utopia, but have serious issues with her principle statement, "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." My husband and I have argued this out several times, once on facebook, until we deleted it all because it got too private for the world to see. In fact, when I read this sentence a couple of nights ago, I felt compelled to write out how I saw things. These four statements are what I came up with:
1) I believe that my words and actions have consequences far beyond my understanding, thus it is my aim that in each word spoken and each deed done I would consider this.
2) I believe that I am called to serve humanity with love and honesty because we are all created in the image of the Father.
3) I believe that I cannot do this on my own, it is the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, who is in me, that allows my hands, feet, and mouth to do this work.
4) I believe that serving Christ, and thus people, is a calling to which I am privileged and not worthy, but by God's grace.

My point of view, of course, will be more honorable and closer to the truth to me simply because it is my point of view but I am curious what others will think? Feel free to comment. :-)


Man plans, God laughs. While I used this phrase to start our last Christmas letter (which was sent around New Year’s) upon further reflection it could describe much of my life. I am sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. When we are young, we set out these goals, these dreams, sure that we will be able to fulfill all of them. As we get older and “life happens” we understand that the path is not so straight, that the twists and turns and setbacks along the way will make these things more difficult to achieve. There are times I wonder whether I was really listening to God when I made those plans, as my life in the present seems so off base. Other times, I wonder about Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Am I not trusting Him now or did I not at some critical point that changed the course of my life? Or is it just that what I understand to be my path is not His? Really, I have no answers. All I know is that where I am is a far cry from where I thought I’d be.

I have often needed to write out my thoughts to help me process them. By making them public, I am inviting you into my world. Feel free to comment and make it a discussion. We do not live in a bubble, our lives are affected by and do effect those around us and sometimes go far beyond what we could ever imagine.