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.