Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Under Authority: Reflections on Sovereignty

But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it."  Matthew 8:8-10

Matthew 8 describes two scenes in which Jesus performs miraculous healings.  The first is a leper, the second, a servant of a Roman centurion, a Gentile.  Both are radical, both reveal faith in the ability of the Christ to heal, and both express a willingness to accept His will in the matter.  What has always confused me, however, was the speech of the centurion in verses 8-10.  Certainly, it makes sense that he might feel unworthy in Jesus' presence, but why on earth does he begin to talk about authority?  In the past, it appeared to me as a sort of random rant that had nothing to do with anything.  Rabbit trail maybe?  In scripture?  Probably not.

To add to my confusion, just after this little speech, scripture says that Jesus marveled at his words and claimed to have never witnessed such faith in anyone in Israel.  Maybe he was just ignoring the rabbit trail.  Again, not a likely conclusion.  Tonight, however, I began to understand why the centurion begins to speak of authority.  He was not simply going on about his responsibilities or bragging about his power, rather, he was acknowledging Christ's authority over physical ailments.  He likened his own ability to command soldiers to Jesus' ability to command sickness or pain to do His will.  He understood that this man had authority over our very flesh, and this was why Jesus points out his great faith.  If the servant was not healed, it wasn't because the Son of Man did not have the authority to do so, it would have been because He did not will to do so.

What a hard and awesome concept to wrestle with.  We pray for healing, we pray for miracles, we pray for our way and when it doesn't happen our faith is often shaken.  But what if, along with the centurion, we believed deep within ourselves that our good God has the authority to heal, but may simply choose not to on the basis of a wisdom we can't possibly understand?  We might just live our lives differently.  We might realize that our way may not (is probably not) the best way.  We might even find peace amidst physical suffering, knowing that God is good and sovereign and will not with hold His best from us.

How terrifying it would be to worship a god who did not have this authority?  He could be sweet and all that, but completely powerless, sitting by and watching just as helplessly as one of us.  Do we really want to worship a god like that?  The fact is that He does have authority over all things, that He is good, and that His will will be done.  

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 30

Wednesday, November 30, 2011:  That I can't do a dang thing on my own.  "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins..." (Ephesians 2:1)  "What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24).  The older I get, the more I realize that at the center of my being, I am a powerless sinner.  In early years, I thought myself a good person.  Yes, as a good reformed Christian I knew I was am a sinner saved by grace and that my righteous works apart from God were like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) but I know that deep down I really didn't believe that, and my thoughts and emotions about other people proved that.  Hatred of sin is one thing, indignation and animosity towards one created in the image of God is quite another.  But over the years, God in His great mercy has begun to humble me.  Not in a self-focused, degrading, "I suck" sort of way, but in a realization that no matter what I do sin is right there with me (Romans 7:21).  Even my "good" thoughts and prayers are marred with the desire to serve or comfort or worship myself, and I often find myself frustrated with the idea that nothing I do is pure.  I am starting to believe, however, that this may very well be the point.  That realization that I am helpless on my own, that I can never hit the mark of God's perfection, and that I MUST rely on the sacrifice and good works of His son for my salvation and the help of the Holy Spirit for Holy living, is true freedom, is the gospel.  The moment I begin to believe I have no need for Christ's sacrifice and for the empowering work of God's Spirit living within me is exactly when I will fail.  I am so thankful for God's infinite mercy, and I can say along with Paul, "Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord"  (Romans 7:24) and to rejoice that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  (Ephesians 2:8-10)  

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 29

Wednesday, December 7, 2011:  Amy Flach.  We are no longer in the month of November (obviously) but   I would still like to finish up my 30 Days of Thankfulness.  The week after Thanksgiving I got "promoted" (?) to Sales Secretary and began training for the position.  This meant overtime and crashing nearly the moment I got home.  Now that training is over and my brain is functioning outside of work again, I am going to write the last two I meant to write on November 29th and 30th.  For the 29th day, I am thankful for our Accounting Assistant Amy Flach.  She has been so helpful to me at TMC, so encouraging, and such a good friend.  I truly don't know what I would do without her there.  God is gracious beyond my imagination.  Thanks Amy for always being there.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 28

Monday, November 28, 2011:  Crystal Gellenthin.  At work, I sit at the font desk.  We joke that I am the door keeper and that no one gets past me without a run down and password.  Ok, I'm kidding about the password, but the point is, someone has to be up there to answer the door and the phones.  Enter Crystal to save the day.  Crystal sits at my desk while I go to lunch.  Thanks Crystal!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 27

Sunday, November 27, 2011: Jessica Meyers and Kristen Novak.  God has blessed me so much in the last few years with wonderful friends, especially in college.  These two girls got me through some hard times, laughed with him, cried with me, and have continued to be blessings in my life.  Jess, thanks so much for speaking logic to my emotionalism and being willing to confront me in my ridiculousness, Kristen, thanks so much for your empathy... and for being my unofficial roommate summer 2007.  I miss watching Stargate with the two of you as well... thanks for getting me sucked into it.  I thank God for you two and I hope you know how much y'all mean to me.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 26

Saturday, November 26, 2011: God's perfect timing.  I am a very impatient person and I don't think that our instant gratification culture has made it any better.  I want what I want when I want it and I get antsy and whiny when I don't get it.  The thing is, God's timing is perfect.  He knows what we need and when we need it, and if we are His children, His plans for us are for our best and for the advancement of His kingdom.  This isn't something I always believe though I know it to be true, but it's a good thing to remember, and to be thankful for.  The hard thing is realizing that it may never be the perfect time for me to have something, and therefore I won't have it, but then I can be thankful that again, God has the best plans in mind for me.  So while I am waiting for things I hope to have, I will thank Him for being both good and sovereign.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 25



Friday, November 25, 2011: My brother.  Sometimes we don't get along, but we can always laugh and I know we will always be there for each other.  Thanks for being there Thomas.  I love you!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 24

Happy Thanksgiving!
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

Thursday, November 24, 2011: Having all of my family together for Thanksgiving... and apple pie.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 23

Wednesday, November 23, 2011: My job.  After a year of looking and living with my parents I am thankful to have income.  God provides, even if it's not really in the way you expect.  He has taught me a great deal through this situation and I hope to cling to these lessons.  One of my prayers now is that He will help me to seek to do my best where I am and that He will continue to guide my steps.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 22

Tuesday, November 22, 2011:  Kirsten “Kiki” Oliphant.  Starting in Jr. High I entered into out church’s youth group.  After quite a few years of feeling a bit on the outside socially (I have come to terms with the fact that I was a pretty stinkin’ weird kid) it was wonderful to become part of a group… even if a good majority of us were nerdy church rats.  Through those three awkward years I was taught wonderful biblical teaching and my freshman year of high school, our church hired a girls youth worker named Kirsten St. Claire.  I thought she was pretty much the coolest person I’d ever met, and despite that, she took the time to disciple me for the first two and a half years of high school.  She instilled in me a deeper love for God and a passion to work with girls younger than myself.  Thanks Kiki for praying for and challenging me in my faith.  I can’t tell you how much God has done through you!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Days 20-21

Sunday, November 20, 2011: Pastor Carter Sanger (and family).  Thank you Carter for all you do, for persevering through the hard times, for challenging and exhorting us, for working hard to assess the health of our church, and for seeking God's direction for His ministry.

Monday, November 21, 2011: Pastor Nathan Carico (and family).  Thank you Nathan for your hard work, for listening, for praying, for taking on a thousand and one tasks, for preaching the gospel and challenging us, for seeking God's direction and wisdom for His ministry at and through Cornerstone, for picking up my slack.

We are so heartily blessed to have two pastors who care deeply for their flock and for the ministry of the word and I hope we all thank God daily for them.  Keep them in your prayers and do not take them for granted.  And please do not limit your pastor appreciation to one month out of the year!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Days 18 and 19

On the roof of the church in Arevalo
Friday, November 18, 2011: My Daddy.  I guess it's appropriate that I am writing this today as it is his birthday, even though I'm writing it for Friday.  Thank you Daddy for always being there for me, for your prayers, advice, generous spirit, and financial assistance ;-).  I love you and will miss you next month.  Christmas won't be the same without you.  Happy Birthday!






Saturday, November 19, 2011:  My Mommy.  I have to write about them both at the same time, it just seems wrong otherwise.  Thank you mom for your generous spirit, prayers, advice, and logic.  I love our Monday lunches together and am so thankful we are able to meet.

I thank God for both of you every day.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 17

Thursday, November 17, 2011: Learning how to cook.  While working at Christ EPC in Houston, the staff took a cooking class during the summer taught by the great foodie Kandy Steen.  I think I've always enjoyed cooking, but those classes really made me love it.  The fellowship, the stories, the creativity; there is so much more involved in cooking than just food.  I am so thankful for the experiences I've had and the ability to share recipes with others.  Tonight I am attempting to make breakfast pizza a la Kelly Chartier.  The results are pending.  Hopefully it will turn out well.  Thankful for the experience either way!

Whole wheat dough
First cook book from Kandy, next years was called "Nasty Bad"

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 16

Wednesday, November 16, 2011:  Wednesday night music practice.  I've been playing the guitar (fairly badly) since I was about a sophomore in high school inspired by our girls youth director at my church and one of the other girls in my youth group.  I've never really had the opportunity to use it as I'd like, to help lead worship, with any consistency until recently when our associate pastor offered to let me play with the music team.  I'm so often blown away by worship, being given the ability to praise our God and King, but I am especially moved (that's not the right word but I can't find it... convicted, baffled, excited...) when I can play and sing.  By no means am I a great guitarist, often Nathan has to help me with chords that I don't know and I'm hopeless when it comes to bar chords, but it's amidst that weakness that God speaks to me.  I am thankful for the patience of the other worship team members, Nathan's work in overseeing just about everything, the sound guys (Jack Kutzer, Mark Jorgansen)... it's an amazing ministry and I am super blessed to be apart of it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 15

Tuesday, November 15, 2011: Sleep.  I am so often an insomniac, that I really need to remember to thank God when I am able to sleep.  What a blessing it is to have a few hours for the body to just rest.  Thank you, Lord for sleep!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 14

Monday, November 14, 2011 (yes, I realize it is now technically the 15th, but I'm going to believe I wasn't late):  Heart to Heart.  At my local church there is a woman's ministry called Heart to Heart in which women mentor one another.  I did it for the first time last year and had a wonderful experience with our pastor's wife Rhonda Sanger, in which she counseled me, offered practical ways of helping me, and prayed for me.  I am very thankful for all of the time she spent and for her continued presence in my life.  God has blessed me so much.  This year, my mentor is Janette Cogliandro.  I am so looking forward to what God is going to teach me through her as well.  Thank you ladies for giving sacrificially of your time and thank you Lord for putting them in my life.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 13

Mmm tea
Sunday, November 13, 2011: Chamomile Tea.  Recently, I have become a fan of hot tea, and as an insomniac, chamomile tea has become one of my favorites.  I very much enjoy the fact that it helps me chill out before bedtime, and sometimes it actually helps me sleep.  I am very thankful for this particular tea.

Grilled Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onion, Spinach, and Bell Pepper Sandwich

Yes, I have a goat cheese addiction
Recipe:

  • Two slices of bread
  • Crumbled goat cheese
  • Purple Onion
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Spinach
  • Olive Oil
  • Sugar
  • Salt
Add olive oil, sugar, and salt (the secret ingredient to all things tasty) to a pan along with sliced purple onion.  Saute until soft.  Add red bell pepper and continue to saute until the onions are brownish, then add spinach.  When the spinach is wilted, pile veggies onto the bread and add goat cheese.  Add more olive oil to the pan (I burned mine because I forgot to do this) and cook until browned on both sides.  Enjoy!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 12

Saturday, November 12, 2011: Kelly Chartier.  During my senior year of high school, I caught what I'm sure most students catch those last few months of grade school: senioritis.  I got antsy, impatient, and had some of the worst insomnia I'd had up to that point.  Part of me was so irked that I was willing to do anything to get out of my house.  I even thought about going straight into mission work as opposed to going to college, clearly an overemotional decision that probably would not have ended well.  Thankfully, God blessed me with a girls youth director through my youth group, Kelly Chartier.   We met nearly every week I think of that year.  Most of the time she just listened, but her prayers and counsel got me through a difficult time.  To this day she continues to encourage me and I am so thankful for her.  Thanks Kelly!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 11

Friday, November 11, 2011: Antibiotics and Mucinex.  Need I really say more?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 10

Thursday, November 10, 2011: Sharli Takekawa.  In the fourth grade, my family and I moved back to Texas after three years in Georgia.  Moving is always hard, even when moving back to God's country ( ;-)) and as we moved during summer time, the prospect of making friends was a bit daunting.  But the apartment complex pool is a fabulous place, not only to make a fool of yourself, but also to meet the other children.  That was where I met Sharli, a wonderful friend through whom God has taught me so, so much. Thank you Sharli for being such a good friend, for praying with and for me, for sharing your creativity, for challenging me constantly.  Love ya girl!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 9

Wednesday, November 9, 2011:  Megan Wilkins.  In August 2010, my job at Christ EPC ended.  I was very sad to be leaving, had yet to find a job, and was moving back in with my parents.  While I had already mourned the loss of this job for months, the sadness really hadn't gone away.  However, amidst all this, God brought me a new friend in Megan Wilkins.  I am so thankful for her friendship, counsel, prayers and help with the youth and when I realize that I might not have become her friend had I not lost my job at CEPC, I find myself comforted.

Thanks Megan for being a wonderful friend!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 8

Tuesday, November 8, 2011:  Obedience.


5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
 6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, 
   did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
7 but made himself nothing, 
   taking the very nature[b] of a servant, 
   being made in human likeness. 
8 And being found in appearance as a man, 
   he humbled himself 
   and became obedient to death— 
      even death on a cross! 
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place 
   and gave him the name that is above every name, 
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
   to the glory of God the Father.


Christ became obedient for the disobedient, for me.  How I need to remind myself of this constantly.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Days 6-7

Late again, but still thankful!  Here goes!

  • Sunday, November 6, 2011: Yesterday I was exceedingly thankful for many things including but not limited to excellent preaching, communion with my local church, and a great church luncheon.  The thing I want to focus on though was my prayer/accountability partner Marcelina.  I texted her last night for prayer and she called soon after to pray with me.  I am so blessed to have her in my life.  Go stalk her at  My Cup of Tea!
  • Monday, November 7, 2011: Small compliments.  This morning, a Monday (everyone's "favorite" day of the week) a gentleman who came into the office told me I looked "lovely" today (he has the coolest accent).  It was small and simple but made me smile none the less.  I often get irritated by minor things, therefore, I am trying my upmost to instead take stock of the little things I am thankful for, no matter how insignificant they may seem.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 5

Saturday, November 5, 2011: Vibram running shoes.  A little expensive, but my knees feel better, my calves are stronger, and my race time is faster.  They look ridiculous, but I absolutely love them.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Reflections on Thankfulness

Ever plan to do one of those challenges, then forget to start on the right day?  That's pretty much what I did, but rather than give up, I'm going to play catch up!  The goal?  Thirty days of things I'm thankful for.  Go has been teaching me A LOT about attitude among less than desirable circumstances, and as meditating on what you're thankful for typically helps in having a joyful attitude, I decided to take a little challenge... too bad I missed the first four days of the month.  Doh!

Thankfully (see how I did that there), I remembered today.  So here it comes in warp speed, my first four days of thankfulness wrapped up in one post:

  1. Tuesday, November 1, 2011:  Tuesday night bible study.  I love my local church in Katy, but as there are very few people there my age (and none that aren't married) it's sometimes nice to hang out with some single people.  The studies and discussions are always good, and the fellowship is always refreshing.
  2. Wednesday, November 2, 2011: Lunch with my mommy.  Since I moved back to the states from Peru, my mom and I try and have lunch at least once a week.  I love that time with her and hope we can continue doing it for a long time.
  3. Thursday, November 3, 2011:  Vietnamese Noodle Houses.  Kind of a silly one, but these have become my new obsession.  I visited one for the first time on our mission trip into Houston this summer and was hooked. 
  4. And today, Friday, November 4:  My job.  Not my dream job by any means, but an amazing provision from the Lord after over a year of hunting.  God has taught me so much already, and I am so thankful that this job has allowed me to continue working with the girls at my local church.
So what about you?  Anything you're specifically thankful for today? 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Dinner



Sauce a la Kiki.  Check out her blog over at I Still Hate Pickles.  She has lots of amazing recipes and great insight into parenting, among other things!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

MIA: Reflections on Lessons at Work

Whew!  Have things ever been crazy.  Since starting this job and trying to continue meeting with the girls on the weekends I feel like I have no time.  It makes me appreciate the moments I do have to myself, and long for just a little bit of solitude.  But God has been teaching me a lot and I am so thankful to have income, even though I don't particularly enjoy my work.  He's reminding me that His greatest desire for me is to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, and that some times you have to experience difficult or uncomfortable things in order for that to happen.  This job often makes me uncomfortable, sometimes it's even made me cry (I'm a bit of a marshmallow), but I'm starting to look at it like a workout: if it's not hard you're not going to see any change.

I'm also learning a lot about my attitude.  This lesson is two fold really.  The first part came with the realization that joy and even happiness are entirely based on attitude.  Romans 12:2 talks about how we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that if we do so we will be able to test and approve of God's will.  I doubt I could do a great job of really fleshing this verse out, but what it's taught me lately is that I need to allow God to renew and change my mind that I might view the world through His eyes.  When He does this, by teaching me about Who He is and what His purpose is, I will begin to understand that His plan is a) for His glory, b) for my good (read, being conformed to the likeness of His Son), and c) much bigger than my little story.  When I begin to understand this, how can I possibly be anything but joyful?  A hard circumstance comes along and rather than moan and complain I can thank God because I know He is good and sovereign and that there is purpose in it.  Of course, I don't always remember this and find myself grumbling and complaining way more often than I should, but when I do I find my emotions set above my circumstances, I find myself joyful.

The second part of this lesson in attitude has come with the realization that I love to believe myself the victim.  It's always someone else's fault, people are always against me, and I am always in the right.  Sound ego-centric and insane?  Of course it is, but then our thoughts, or at least mine are very subtle, they trick me into believing that they are true when they are really absurd!  For example, I make a mistake at work and I'm chewed out for it.  My automatic response is to make excuses and grumble about the unfairness of the reaction dumped on me.  "I'm still new"... "I wasn't really trained that well"... "He/she's just a bitter jerk".  See that?  Rather than taking responsibility for my mistake I make myself a victim and the other person a criminal.  Rather than using the situation to improve, I use it to throw a pity party.  The worst part of this is that I murder the one who reacted to my mistake by turning them into the antagonist in my plot by ripping them to shreds in my mind.  Even if the way they handled the situation was unfair, my response is equally so!  Did they yell at me?  Were they sarcastic?  Were they unfair?  So what!?  How many excuses did I just make for myself when I screwed up?  How can I not offer them the same leeway I offer myself?  I am now the one being unfair and unjust.

Don't read this wrong.  The idea could certainly be misunderstood and misused very easily.  I'm not learning that I should excuse sin or that I should never be bothered when someone does me wrong, nor am I saying that I'm right in excusing my mistakes or sins in the first place.  Rather, I'm learning that I need to show a little mercy on others by seeing my own sinfulness more clearly.  I need to stop seeing myself as a victim pitted against this other person and start seeing myself as this persons fellow criminal.  I know I'm not explaining this well.  After reading anything by C.S. Lewis (lately I've been trying to finish The Weight of Glory) I typically feel like my prose and logic are clumsy at best.  But let me try and end this post with an explanation of what I mean.  Like this other person, I rebelled against the God of creation, the One by Whom and for Whom all things were made.  Like this other person, whoever they are, I fall painfully short of the standard of God's perfection and deserve nothing but condemnation. And like this other person, I am in desperate need of grace.  Furthermore, because I have received grace by means of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, how dare I not offer grace to those I perceive as my enemies? That is a great sin indeed.

So though I struggle with being a receptionist, though I often find it uncomfortable and difficult to be in this particular circumstance, God is teaching me a LOT and I am incredibly thankful.  Pray that He will continue to conform me to the likeness of His Son and that rather than always play the victim, I will see my own sin in stark contrast to His perfection.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

New Breakfast

I have never been a big fan of breakfast.  Breakfast food in general has never been my favorite thing to eat in the world, and I've always looked more forward to lunch or dinner far more than my first meal of the day.  Add to it the fact that I've always tried to find something healthy that will keep me full for much longer than an hour and I never really wanted to put much effort into it.  In college I often resorted to a diet coke and peanut butter crackers or an Ottis Spunkmeyer Chocolate Chocolate Chip muffin... hardly healthy or long lasting (though tasty).  Recently, however, my attitude toward breakfast has changed, mostly due to my discovery of turkey bacon, goat cheese, and cocoanut milk (excellent in coffee), and I'm always looking for new recipes.  This weekend, I was told about a delicious recipe a friend of mine had eaten at a farmers market in Houston.  Tried it this morning and fell in love.

Recipe:

1/4 cup of Quinoa
Handful of spinach, chopped
Sauteed veggies (I used green peppers and purple onions though I think red peppers would have been better, and you can, of course, use any kind you want)
1 poached egg
Goat cheese (I just sprinkled it on without measuring)

Anybody else have interesting breakfast recipes?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Driven to Prayer: Reflection on Hard Times

‎"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word...It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees." Psalm 119:67 & 71


I couldn't bring myself to call what I'm going through suffering, the word almost seems presumptuous especially in light of what I consider real suffering, but I will say that I am not going through an easy time.  Why God has me where He does is a mystery to me and I often believe lies that I am somehow inadequate and that is why I am amidst these circumstances.  But I had a great conversation today with my pastor that truly uplifted my spirit.  God has been showing me lately that the most important thing in life is to be conformed to the likeness of His Son and to run to Him constantly.  What conforms us to the likeness of His Son and what makes us run to Him most?  Difficulty, tears, longing, sorrow... in comfort we often grow lazy, in good times we are prone to lose sight of Him, and in success we take the credit, but when things suck (sorry Mom and Dad), we are driven to our knees.  


Don't get me wrong, this realization, this lesson is not making me skip through the daisies and smile like some sort of deranged Easter Bunny (Yes, I'm very much looking forward to Christmas and Christmas Story), in fact I've had a pretty rotten attitude lately and I definitely cried to my mommy tonight, but there is that strange peaceful joy in my heart, a closeness to my savior that reassures me that He had the best in mind, that His suffering for me was far greater than mine ever could be, and that He will be right beside me all the way through.  Right now I'm amidst a tapestry; God sees the whole picture and all I can see are the threads.  One day I'll look back and rejoice on the mercy and grace I didn't see before, and for now I will remind myself of the grace and mercy of the cross.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Daily Logic Lesson: Reflections on Fallacies

I've noticed lately that when people argue, especially on social media such as Facebook or comment seconds under news articles, they generally use horrific logic and emotionalism to try and get their point across.  This usually leads to pathetic name calling and no decent discussion gets done.  I've noticed this verbally as well, if any discussion happens at all, and so I decided to begin daily logic lessons.  I find logical fallacies interesting and unfortunately we are so undereducated in the art of discussion and argument that pretty much all of us use them.  So today, I looked up the Straw Man Argument.

"A straw man is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.  To 'attack a straw man' is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the 'straw man'), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position."

It would benefit our society to be better at supporting our opinions, especially as Christians.  Christ warned His disciples to be shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16), and I think that learning to argue well is probably part of this.  So the next time you find yourself in a discussion with anyone really, step back, keep your emotions in check, and avoid using this fallacy.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Short Update: Reflections on God's Plan and Timing

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

I did not get the job in North Carolina.  It makes me sad, discouraged, and frustrated, but I rejoice because I know that is clearly not where God wants me, and I know that He does have a plan for my life.  At the moment all I can see are the threads of the tapestry, the brush strokes of the painting.  Cheesy metaphors, but I rather like them.  This rejection is another part of God's conforming me to the likeness of His Son, of bringing glory to His name.  "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those He predestined, He also called, those He called, He also justified, those He justified, He also glorified."(Romans 8:28-30)  We often find comfort in that first verse, but forget to look on to the next two verses.  His plans for us are meant to conform us to the likeness of Christ, who justified us by the spilling of His blood, making us His coheirs.  Coheirs!  We are called coheirs of Christ, His brothers and sisters, God's children.  We by no means deserve this.  We rebelled against our great Creator who gave us paradise to live in, we rejected Him, despised Him, and then we nailed Him to a tree... yet he makes us His sons and daughters and promises to work our circumstances for good, not just good but best.  I will continue to remind myself of these things and hope in His promises.  One day I will look back and see how He has guided my steps, but for now I will hold tight to His truths and hope that these words might encourage someone else.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Post for My Vegetarian Pals

Looks kind of gross, but is delicious!
Sometimes, it's cheaper to be a vegetarian.  Occasionally, I will go meatless simply to save a few bucks and to give my colon a break and it's in these times that I get creative.  Last night I was trying to come up with a healthy dinner to eat that didn't require too many ingredients and involved black beans.  It was then that I came across black bean burgers.  I had to search for a simple recipe for a while but eventually stumbled across this one:


Ingredients:



  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 can black beans, well drained
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 slices bread, crumbled
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying
Preparation:

Sautee the onions till soft, about 3-5 minutes.  

In a large bowl, mash the beans until almost smooth.  Add sauteed onions and the rest of the ingredients, except the oil, adding the flour a few tablespoons at a time to combine well.  Form bean mixture into patties and fry patties in a small amount of oil until slightly firm.

Because I love guacamole, I topped it with that and made kale chips, which are so simple it's amazing.  

Kale chips:

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt!

Directions:
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (I skipped the parchment paper).
  2. Pull off leaves from the thick stems in bite sized pieces and drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Back until brown or about 10-15 minutes.  It only took mine about nine because I didn't use the whole head.
I thought they were going to be soggy at first but on my first bite I knew I was wrong.  Crunchy and light and delicious!  Certainly not the same as regular chips but still very good!


Monday, July 04, 2011

Red, White, and Blue! Reflection on Freedom

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."  Franklin


star spangled cupcake!  yum!
More importantly than a free nation, however, is a soul freed from the bondage of sin and given peace with its Creator.  The price was high; the wrath of God was poured out on His own Son as an atonement for our sin, so that we might be freed from sin and brought into a relationship with God.  Today, let's celebrate our freedom in Christ as well as a nation.  Take neither for granted.


"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."  Galatians 5:1

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cooking Escapades! Patriotic Style

One of the best ways to bond with others, in my humble opinion, is to cook with them.  Today, one of my Jr. High girls and I made fruit pizza together.  Here are pictures and the recipe:
Step 1: Mix 1 cup of sugar, 8oz of cream cheese, and a tub of  Cool Whip.

Step 1B: Enjoy yourself while sugar cookie cooks whilst sharing embarrassing moments.

Step 2: After cookie has cooled dump frosting on top... then spread.

Step 3: Decorate with fruit.

Step 4: Enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book List

Book list as of June 2011:
When I first began Les Miserables, I was a bit overwhelmed.  1194 pages long, tons of French history, and the first 54 pages or so gave great detail to the priest.  Yikes.  But when I began reading it again today I finally met Jean Valjean and the story began to pick up.  Maybe after I finish this one I can try and tackle War and Peace... but we'll have to see.

As always, Lewis is a wonderful, if not challenging, read.  He addresses things in such a way that I never would have thought to, and explains things so well.  I am having to read it a little at a time, but I look forward to discovering what he has to say.
Nero Wolfe is my literary junk food, but it's not actually junk food.  The mysteries are fairly easy reads but the writing really is very good and he always keeps me guessing and laughing.  I read this to give my brain a break from Les Miserables and Weight of Glory.  I highly recommend Nero Wolfe to anyone who likes a good mystery.

Another Shameless Plug

Kiki over at I Still Hate Pickles is one of the best bloggers out there.  A bold statement, but then her posts are informative, insightful, and often hilarious... and she's my friend.  Right now she has a goal of reaching 200 followers so here is my shameless plug of the week: go check out her blog!  Really, you should follow her.  Her kiddos always give you a good laugh (as well as her daily disasters), her coupon advice brilliant, her recipes divine, and she's an excellent photographer and artist.  So go follow her!  You won't regret it.

Shameless plug ended.

New Shoes

My new favorite shoes.
When most girls begin gabbing about new shoes, they are typically referring to super cute heels with some sort of amazing bedazzle that they either got on sale or for some price they refuse to divulge, when I talk about new shoes, I normally mean one of two things: a) something under $12 from Target, b) awesome new running shoes whose price I do not care to divulge.  Today, I'm gushing about the latter.

When I first heard about "barefoot running" I was torn between skepticism and excitement.  For most of my life I have preferred to tramp around barefoot and if it was socially acceptable (and safe) I would probably never wear shoes again, but I had been so trained into believing that I needed tennis shoes to run that I wasn't immediately sold on the idea.  I had played Ultimate Frisbee barefoot for a long time and love it, but that was on the grass, grass I knew to be at least somewhat safe.  Then, I had two guys tell me that "the rumors were true", that ever since they began running either barefoot or in the Vibram Five Finger shoes they had been injury free.  Finally, I decided to take the plunge myself.

I'd been having trouble with my left knee for a while, so much so that I'd given up on the idea of ever running anything more than a 10K, but when I began training in my Vibrams the knee pain slowly but surely went away.  Where as I used to wake up in the middle of the night with an aching knee, now I could run without any of that horrible, pounding pressure under my knee cap.  I wouldn't have believed it had I not tried it, but I'm totally sold on the shoes.  They protect the bottoms of my feet and help me run more on the balls of my feet.  I don't really care how ridiculous they look, if they will help me avoid pain, I'm sold.  Anyone else tried these?  Got another brand you prefer?  I hear they also get rid of shin splints and pretty much change your running form entirely.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Early Post of the Week: Reflections on Singleness

"Singleness is never carte blanche for selfishness.  A spouse is not a sufficient countermeasure for self.  The gospel is the only antidote for egocentricity.  Christ did not come simply to save us from our sings, He came to save us from our selves.  And He most often rescues us from us through relationships, all kings of relationships."  Paige Benton

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Unintentionally Funny Signs

Get vaccinated against singles!

It's not so much that the sign is unintentionally funny as it is the fact that I misread it.  On first look, more than once mind you, I read "Protect Against Singles".  For about a nanosecond I was very offended.  Haha!  Anyone else misread a sign that made you laugh?  And or get offended?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hesitant Update

"13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil."  James 4: 13-16


I always shy away from talking too much about my job search on Facebook and my blog mostly because it's been over a year since I've been looking for one.  Add to that the verse above and the fact that if I find a job I will in many ways be abandoning the ministry I am currently volunteering at and I become all the more hesitant.  Moreover, when you have been turned down for at least five jobs you start to grow a bit fearful, especially when it comes to ministry.  I start to worry that maybe I misunderstood what God is calling me to do, that I'm being too picky, too specific, too bullheaded, not willing to try something different.  I also struggle with the fear that the reason my last job ended was because of something I did wrong, that I stink at what I love to do.  I've lost night's of sleep spent in worry (and in prayer) over all of these things, including the fear that I will disappoint someone no matter what I do.


And so I find myself hesitantly excited about my job interview tomorrow.  I had all but given up my search for youth ministry positions when Richard Harris, the Young Adults Pastor at Christ EPC, found one that I had missed.  A PCA church in Matthews, North Carolina, a place I'd never heard of, is hiring a full time Middle School Girls Youth Director ASAP.  ASAP.  As in July.  Unlike the other times I've applied for various youth positions I applied for this one with very little hope.  When I got an e-mail back with the application I struggled through the answers, feeling like I was hitting a wall, like I was brain dead, and I ended up sending it in feeling even more dismal than before.


But God never ceases to surprise me.  Two weeks ago I get a call from the Youth Pastor and have a little mini interview, then yesterday he calls again to set up a Skype interview with the staff.  I'm excited... but still hesitant.  A church in Mississippi flew me down for an interview a few months ago only to turn me down later, and the prospect of such a large church is a little overwhelming, but I know that even if I don't get the job it's all part of God's good and sovereign plan.  It's been painful.  It's been exhausting.  But God has shown me so much about Himself and I am learning to trust Him while I wait.


So please pray for me as I prepare to interview tomorrow.  Pray that I would have wisdom, a clear mind, and that I would rejoice no matter the outcome.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quote of the Week: C.S. Lewis

"...poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually the tide lifts a grounded ship."  

Battle with a Door Knob: Reflections on Clumsiness

First black eye

Every since I was a little kid I've been a bit clumsy.  Most of my childhood pictures have me sporting giant goose eggs on my head.  I was much like Maggie from the Simpsons, falling face first into whatever was in front of me.  For some reason I couldn't figure out that throwing my hands down to brace my fall would save me some brain cells one day.  Even in high school, after years of dance I still had issues with falling.  My dance team even gave me a fall limit per class period.  Once in college I fell in front of an entire History class, getting myself trapped between two chairs that had been screwed to the floor.  Not my most shining moment.  But believe it or not with all this falling I have never broken anything (except a few toes) and I had never gotten a black eye... until now.

You would think this incident would start off with something like "Last week at roller derby..." but instead it begins in the bathroom.  Yeah, seriously.  Don't worry, this will not be a TMI post, I was actually just bending down to pick something up.  It was when I straightened that it happened.  I must have straightened up way too quickly because all of a sudden there were stars exploding in front of my eyes and ringing in my ears.  With my hand to my head I literally felt the bump grow... very weird.  I figured the worst I had to worry about was headaches, which I've had for a few days, and missing at least one day of Camp Gladiator (Patrick did not, in fact, let me work out the next day) but I didn't think I'd end up with a black eye.  It's not painfully obvious, but the bruise that is still mostly on my forehead has moved down around my eye just in time for a wedding.  The space between my eyes is also swollen, but the goose egg is pretty much gone.  I would like to say "Yeah, I look bad but you should see the other guy..." but the door knob pretty much looks the same.  Maybe next time I'll win.

So what's your story?  Any epic bruises to tell about?

Monday, June 06, 2011

Burn Away the Dross: Birthday Reflection


Grace, grace for all who love the Lord Jesus Christ, with an undying love,
Grace, grace to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ, with an undying love!

Give me an undying love for You,
Lord won't you set my heart aflame with passion for Your name.
Give me an undying love for You,
Lord won't you take me to the cross,
I count it all as loss,
please burn away the dross so that nothing else remains,
but an undying love.

 "Remove the dross from the silver, 
   and out comes material for the silversmith."  
Proverbs 25:4

Dross must be removed from silver in order to increase its purity, its value.  In order to do so, the silver must be placed where the fire is the hottest so that all the impurities will be burnt away.  No doubt if silver had nerve endings this would not be a pleasant experience.  But what is also interesting is that the silversmith doing his work must sit holding the silver until it is done.  He can’t simply leave it and go about his other business.  If the silver is left too long in the flames it would be destroyed therefore he must keep his eyes on it the entire time.  And how does he know when it is completely refined?  When he can see his reflection in it.

Trials to us are like flames to silver, refining us, making us pure and holy.  Yet amidst the flames we often forget that God is also like the silversmith, sitting with us, not a passive observer but an active refiner.  Every second has purpose and He will not allow us to be destroyed.  My prayer for this new year of my life (year 26) would be that I would remember my refiner while I am in the flames and that I would learn to praise Him in the most difficult situation.

Warning! Shameless Plug

Occasionally I use my blog for shameless plugs.  Here's one now.  I heard about Camp Gladiator from a friend and after checking out their free preview week I had to sign up.  It's a great work out for many reasons but I'd have to say the top three reasons are as follows:

  1. The trainers are certified personal trainers who do care that you are doing things right (a.k.a. proper form) and can help you out with injuries (Patrick, the Katy trainer figured out where my injury was and I feel eons better now).
  2. It's all about competition in a group setting which makes you push yourself
  3. When you sign up you can go to any location you want to.  Ex: Houston, Austin, Katy, Dallas.
  4. When you sign up because I told you about it I get a discount (what?  that's not the best reason?)
  5. There's a spouse discount
  6. We play games
There are many more reasons you should join, but these are just a few.  Hope to see you out there!

Shameless plug ended.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Always Pray: Refection on Memorial Day

No matter how we feel about wars past and present, no matter how we feel about the military, no matter our political persuasion, we should always pray for our soldiers and their families.  1 Thessalonians 5:17

"I Hate All Your Show": Reflections on Worship

 21"I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
   I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
   I will not look upon them.
23Take away from me the noise of your songs;
   to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24But let justice roll down like waters,
   and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5:21-24


Often times when a particularly convicting passage of scripture is presented to us our first response as recovering sin addicts is to think of someone else.  I find myself doing this all the time.  "Yes," I muse to myself.  "I know of someone who would benefit greatly from reading this passage.  'X' should be convicted by this truth."  I then proceed to go on my own merry, self-righteous way feeling that God is very lucky to have me on His side.
The problem here, of course, is not necessarily that 'X' would not benefit from such convictions, but rather that I often allow myself to be blind to the fact that I am the one who needs to be convicted.  Even if on the surface it seems I am innocent of a particular sin, if I look deeper, allow the Spirit to dig into my deepest motivations and thoughts, I will see with absolute certainty, that there is no sin I am not guilty of.  
Take the passage above as an example.  As a fairly conservative Christian of the Reformed Presbyterian persuasion (frozen chosen we are often, unfortunately called) I might be prone to look at other denominations, particularly the Pentecostals (Pente-crazy as my Pentecostal friend calls herself), and immediately prescribe this verse to them.  I note the emotionalism of their worship, the effects used to create mood and tone (fog machines anyone), and label it a show rather than true worship.  After all, I think, it is often the most emotional worshipers I would see the following Friday or Saturday night participating in extreme versions of partying like it's 1999 (Or May 21, 2011, wait...).  I saw this occasionally in college and of course now as an adult I see it even more.  Clearly these are the types of people Amos would have been talking about, those who put on a show at Church and then going about and living every day as if they had no relationship with their savior whatever. (On a side note, Pentecostals would not be the only denomination my self-righteous judgment would reach but for the sake of time and space I won't list them all.)  The problem with this is not that others are not guilty of sin themselves, but rather that I am guilty as well.  
Often I joke about being an unofficial politician.  Not only am I good at convincing others of my own innocence and perfection, but I can even deceive myself into believing this lie.  My version of this "show" as Jon Foreman calls it, is being a biblical, spiritual nerd.  I know the Bible well, I pride myself on obedience to parents, and on the fact that I avoid 'R' rated movies, and that I don't go partying like those other "sinners" do (Trivia question: who do I sound like?  Hint).  But this is all deception.  My outsides might look good but on the inside sin is embedded deep!  On the hidden underbelly of my motivations are pride, a desire to be worshiped by others for my "good deeds", and a feeling of false superiority.  Yet very often I can barely see it, I am blind because I've had great practice lying to myself and others for a good 25 years... I can't even save myself and must cry out with Paul "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24).
But his cry does not end there.  He continues on with the hope I must cling to myself, that I have a great savior in Christ, who makes the blind see.  "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!"  (Romans 7:25)  Because of His sacrifice, I can see through to my own sin and be rid of my own show and fall to my knees before Him with the promise of a righteousness that is not my own and a justification I do not deserve.
May I continue to Hate All My Show, and overflow with justice and mercy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sometimes KSBJ Does Good...

Sidewalk Prophets

You Love me Anyway

The question was raised
As my conscience fell
A silly little lie

It didn't mean much
But it lingers still
In the corners of my mind

Still you call me to walk
On the edge of this world
To spread my dreams and fly

But the future's so far
My heart is so frail
I think I'd rather stay inside

But You love me anyway
It's like nothing in life
That I've ever known
Yes You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
How you love me

It took all of my strength
To simply be still
To seek but never find

The reasons we change
The reasons I doubt
And Why do loved ones have to die?

But You love me anyway
It's like nothing in life
That I've ever known
Yes You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me

I am the thorn in your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas' kiss
But You love me anyway
See now I am the man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with a smile on my face
With this sin in my heart, tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still call out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life

But You love me anyway
Oh God, how You love me
Yes You love me anyway
It's like nothing in life
That I've ever known
Yes You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me

You love me (x4)

How You love me (x3) 


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Missing Peru

Bought the dress and the necklace on the beach two years ago in Peru.
Picture idea totally stolen from my fellow blogger Roxy.  

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Live Because He Lives: Reflection on the Resurrection

"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed."  1 Peter 2:24

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday: Reflections on the Cross


"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life - only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from my Father."  John 10:17-18

"Put your sword away!  Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"  John 18:11

"My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place."  John 18:36

"I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise."  Luke 23:43

"It is finished."  John 19:30