Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Morning in Pictures!

I don't do a whole lot of pictures on my blog because I've been unable to find my camera adaptor since moving (a year ago, I know, I need to tear my apartment apart looking for it) and therefore only have my phone to capture rather fuzzy images.  But sometimes you just have to have visuals. 

The first is an image depicting one of my obsessions: journals.  I think I technically received my first one in elementary school, but did not become completely enamored until Freshman year of high school when a good friend gave me one with a note on the inside encouraging me in my life and walk with God.  That journal is still safely tucked away at my parents house, but below are my three most recent ones.  Each full to the brim, God has used writing to focus my time with him and help me see into my own motivations and thoughts much more deeply.

I <3 journals="journals" td="td">
 The second is a present from one of the girls in our graphics department.  If you know anything about me, you know that I cannot keep plants alive.  I water them and give them sunlight and they still wilt into depressing nothingness.  This morning, Crystal brought me a plant that she claims I can't kill: bamboo!  Time will tell if her assesment is true or not...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Generous Serving of Humble Pie

A few months ago I got sort of a promotion at work, moving from the front desk (much rejoicing) upstairs into the Human Resources Department to become the HR Assistant.  I think my official title is something like Employee Services Admin and Staffing Admin but really all that means is that I’m the Human Resources gofer girl…which in all honesty I think is a much better title for me.  One of my main functions is dealing with Disa, an online service that helps me coordinate drug, alcohol, and background screens for our employees.  When the job was given to me it was very much like a game of pass the hot potato.  Nobody wants to deal with it because the service can often be way more trouble than it’s worth, but we have to use it as some of the big companies we work for require it.  I’m fairly certain my supervisors threw a party after getting it off their hands.

Now, generally speaking when I have a problem with their service it’s their fault.  I will put names in the system and when I go back to look at them, somehow they’ve been changed; half the time the records I know I put in correctly are completely messed up; I’ll get twenty e-mails and a phone call a day about the same problem (Office Space moment anyone?).  Needless to say, they can be a huge headache, and the running joke around the office is that if there’s a problem, you blame Disa.  Recently, however, I got a big fat serving of humble pie (read: the whole pie, tin and all).  I’d  gotten yet another e-mail from them about a missing form and I was completely and totally convinced that it was their fault.  But amidst my fuming and shaking my fist at them I realized that in this particular instance, it wasn’t their fault.  In fact, it was mine. 

There’s not a whole lot more humbling then realizing the very error you are railing against in another person was actually your error.  This happens a lot more to me than I would like to admit.  People cut me off in traffic, I complain, then I do the same thing.  I’m left out of a conversation, get irritated, then in hindsight discover I’ve done the same to someone else.  Someone is impatient with me, I grumble about it, then I lose patience with someone else.  It’s kind of like being in the middle of one big humble pie fight where I somehow imagine I’m not covered in lemon meringue and rhubarb, then look in the mirror and realize I’m the messiest one in the room.  It hurts most of the time, but it’s a very good thing.

The beauty of the Christian life is not becoming puffed up with our own self-righteousness; rather it’s realizing how weak and sinful we are.  God allows us to be humbled that we might look at others with grace.  How can we puff up in anger and refuse forgiveness for a sin committed against us when we realize we’ve done the same to another?  Most of the time it’s because of the log (or plank depending on the translation) obstructing our view.   Humbling moments begin to obliterate the obstruction, enabling us to see much more clearly.  So I’m thankful for them, as much as they hurt, and pray that I will remember the lessons learned when in the midst of a moment of self-righteous anger.  By God’s grace I will grow to understand my own weakness more and more, and be better able to praise Him for His great mercy on my life.

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and [a] by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how [b]can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Egg Plant!

Tonight was a cooking night.  These such nights happen often and typically result in a huge kitchen mess...
Thankfully the only kitchen disaster of the night

....and way too much food for one person.

Tonight, I made stacked egg plant lasagna with a recipe I got from Kiki over at I Still Hate Pickles.  It's a recipe I've tried before and absolutely loved.  The sauce is good for just about anything including pizza sauce.  Careful though, it's pretty amazingly spicy!

The final product!

I also made a pizza...but don't worry, while I do eat a lot I'm not going to eat it tonight...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Three Things We Singles Need to Remember (Plus One)

Two posts ago I wrote about some statements that I've had others make in regards to singleness and how those particular statements might be taken no matter how benign the intentions are.  Most of the time these things make me laugh because of how often we all (myself included) tend to believe that we've figured life out and that a one sentence platitude will solve everyone else's problems.  Less of the time (mostly due to pride) these statements can be rather convicting.  So here are three things I think we as singles need to remember in light of the statements we often hear:

  1. Statement: I found my husband when I was finally content with being alone.  What we need to ask ourselves: Are we being content in all circumstances?  In our jobs, in our singleness, in our schools and churches, in our families?  No circumstance in life will ever completely satisfy us.  We will always want something more because this life was never meant to satisfy.  God alone can fill the void; not marriage, not success, and not what we would view as the "ideal life".  (Philippians 4:12-13) 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.   
  2. Statement: Your standards are too high.  What we need to ask ourselves: Do we have a right view of what marriage is?  I think a lot of us (maybe it's just me) have a romanticized view of marriage in general and this messes up our attitudes towards others.  The idea of soul mates pervades our society and often leads us to impossible standards for those we might consider marrying.  I think what we need to remember is that, while attraction and compatibility are important for a life time together, love is and must be a choice.  It's too long so I won't write it out here, but a good verse to mediate and pray over to fight this attitude is the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians.  
  3. Statement: Nothing sanctifies you like marriage.  What we need to remember: Nothing sanctifies us like a day to day relationship with God.  His plan is perfect for us.  He will absolutely chose the best means by which to make us more like Him.  He works all things for the good of those who love Him and who He has called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
  4. Tag on Statement:  How can you be tired?  You don't have any kids!  What we need to consider:  I added this one on Facebook right after I'd finished my post and it was the one that really convicted me this week.  What I've been questioning is whether or not I am using my time wisely as a single adult.  Do I spent my time in selfish pursuits or do I seek to use the time God has blessed me with to serve His kingdom?  It's a little scary when I consider how many hours I day I might waste on vain and meaningless things, on "chasing after the wind" (Ecclesiastes 1:14).  The fact is, I need to be seeking the kingdom, being a tool God uses to help build that which moth and rust cannot destroy, but is that what I'm doing?  (Matthew 6:33)
    But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
No matter what circumstance I am in life I need to remember that God is both good and sovereign, and that the world in which I live is only temporary.  He is redeeming it, making it new, setting things right, and I can either waste my time grumbling about my circumstances or praising Him for His blessings while seeking to serve Him out of gratitude.  I pray for the latter and hope that as I grow that God will change my attitudes to better reflect His own.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Very Superstitious?

Confession:  When I kill spiders in my house I apologize excessively, fearing some sort of grand vengeance being taken upon me by the evil, spider if they would take such an apology.

Hi, my name is Courtney, and I have arachnophobia and a very overactive imagination.  A combination of which never goes very well.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

3 Things Not to Say to Your Single Friends

I've been thinking a lot about singleness lately.  Not moping about it, just thinking.  In a lot of ways it's not a bad thing (sole possession of the remote control, right?) but in a lot of ways it can be hard.  Especially in the South where nearly all of my friends got married right out of college, at times I just feel out of place in groups of adults.  I struggle with whether or not I should have turned Mr. X down just because of various and sundry reasons, I wonder whether or not there is something wrong with me (or with everyone else because clearly it can't be the former), and I've even declared that I must have been chosen for celibacy (don't worry, Mom, those moments are typically few and far between).  It's an up and down sort of thing, but what seems to be consistent is that everyone has advice (or this great guy they want you to meet who lives in another part of the state/country/world).  The following are a few things I've heard in the last few years that now make me laugh and why you should avoid saying them to your friend who might not be so jazzed about singleness.

  1. Statement: I found my husband when I was finally content with being alone.  What it sounds like they're saying: You're being punished for not being content in all circumstances and you need to be more like me.
  2. Statement: Your standards are too high.  What it sounds like they're saying: Settle, you should snatch the first guy who asks you out and thank your lucky stars that he did.
  3. Statement: Nothing sanctifies you like marriage.  What it sounds like they're saying: You're not getting the special brand of sanctification I'm getting and if you never get married you never will.
These sorts of comments sometimes bug me, but lately they've just been making me laugh...specifically at myself.  Most likely, the married person making the above statements is well intentioned and really just wants to help.  The problem isn't so much the pride I imagine them saying these things with but rather Who I am trusting to provide for me; whether it be a marriage or sanctification.  God has the best plan for each of His children (Romans 8:28) and that is the lens through which all of us need to look.

Still, the next time you consider one of the above statements in regards to a single friend, think about how they might hear it and consider another alternative.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Insomnia, My Old Friend

It's 37 minutes past midnight on Wednesday morning and I'm staring wide awake into the computer screen.  What are you doing?  Right now, Late Night Courtney is thinking that sleep is so overrated, but tomorrow, Early Morning Courtney is not going to be pleased.  If you know me even a little bit you are well aware that I struggle with insomnia at least every few months, and if you know me personally, you know that most of the time it's fueled by fear or anxiety.

Tonight it's anxiety...and a weird ear thing.

No seriously, there is something wrong with my ears.  Ever since I started living in Peru in 2008 and wanted to shut out the sound of roosters crowing at night (seriously, not when the sun rose, just in the middle of the night!) I've worn ear plugs to bed.  This worked great for when I moved to an apartment near a busy intersection and when my neighbors get noisy, and up until recently I haven't had any problems.  But a few weeks ago something started happening.  I got a box of new ear plugs and thought I'd hit the jack pot because of how well they worked.  They blocked out the sound better than any I'd ever used before but I could still hear my alarm in the morning (I'm a super light sleeper).

Then my ears started to ache.  Having become so used to wearing ear plugs I decided to ignore this and continue using them.  Of course, the problem did not and has not gone away.  In fact, now the insides of my ears are swelling and scabbing.  Now I have an even bigger problem...I can't sleep without wearing ear plugs but the ear plugs hurt my ears!  Lame.

But I'm pretty sure that the weird ear thing is not the root cause of my restlessness tonight, but rather a bit of anxiety.  In an effort to save a little money and get a little closer to work, I decided to find a new apartment.  The search has come up somewhat dry and in my scramble to find a better deal I didn't think to look at my lease.  Today, I was informed that I had to give my current complex not 30 days notice but 60...meaning all of my planning this afternoon was pretty much blown out of the water.  Whoops.

I'm worrying.  I'm anxious.  I know that I will be able to get things worked out tomorrow, but because I can't resolve them right this very second I am if that will add an extra day to my life...or my lease.

Funny how just a few days ago I read Luke 12:22-34.  Amazing how God provides through His word at the exact time I need it.  "For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!  And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span?  If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?"  (22-26)  This is just a little thing, a very little thing that God is completely sovereign over, and my worrying will not change that.

I'm always amazed at how much He uses uncomfortable and trying times to bless me the most; how during months of sleeplessness He always teaches me deep truths about Himself and draws me closer to Him.  How I can ever doubt His goodness is really rather laughable.  I praise God for my insomnia, for bizarre medical problems, and for confusing contracts, and I look forward to seeing how everything is working together for His perfect plan.

Friday, June 29, 2012

And then...That Happened...

Not the biggest of disasters really, but it was still rather funny.  I don't even remember what I was carrying, but I turned around a little too fast and this was the end result.  Apparently, I need to slow down.  A few weeks ago I ran into the corner of my desk and ended up with a bruise on the side of my leg that looked like I'd taken up roller derby again.  Why is it that disasters like these can be so amusing?  Maybe it's because they are often so ridiculous that you almost can't believe they've happened (like my tire cover which, by the way, fell off again this time in the Fiesta parking lot)?  Maybe it's because they tend to look way worse than they are?  Or maybe it's because in the ridiculous accidents that happen in your life you connect with other people who have similar ridiculous stories?  I rather think it's all of the above.  And in this spirit of bonding through life's little disasters, what's something crazy that's happened to you this week?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Other News...

I got accepted into RTS Houston! 

I've spent years praying about this decision.  Wondering if it was, in fact, a wise move.  Finally, I decided to take the leap and apply.  My prayer going in was "God, barring your wise and welcome intervention, I'm going to act in faith in Your good sovereignty."  I've had to pray a lot about motivation, I've had to pray for energy and determination, I've had to pray for His help, and for His peace. 

Honestly, I didn't think I was going to get in. 

Then, today around 3:30 I go to look in my inbox and bam, there it was!  It's not going to be easy, but I think it's going to teach me a lot and hopefully make me a better worker for His kingdom.  Please keep me in your prayers and thank you for that which you've already given!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Last Week Disaster Week!

Last week was what I like to call a "Murphy's Law" kind of a week.  It wasn't bad or anything like that, but really and truly it seemed as if something could fall apart it did.  This all began on Saturday when I started house sitting for a nice family at our church and got locked out of the house.  Let me preface by saying that I tried to find a neighbor before I resorted to the destructive measures you see below:

Busted lock
Cracked sheet rock

 When all other options failed, I, being the rational and unemotional human being that I am (please hear the sarcasm), busted open the door with my hip.  While this might have been cause for some boasting had it not been someone else's house (I mean, come on, I broke open a door with my body) under the circumstances I was simply distraught.  Thankfully, a good friend from church had a contracter who helped us get it fixed, but I still felt pretty bad about the incident.

That, however, was not the end of my troubles.  As I was into the parkinglot for bootcamp Thursday evening, I noticed that everyone was looking at me with rather interesting expressions.  When I got out of the car, I was informed that my back tire was completely flat.  Lame.  After removing the now useless peice of rubber, we realized that there was a nail in the bottom.  Again, thankfully, I have a good spare that is now serving just as well.  Fast forward to this morning, 7:30AM.  I am driving through the Kroger parking lot when I hear a loud thud.  Looking back, this is what I see:

Spare tire cover

Naked tire
All I can say is that I am very glad this happened when I was driving ten miles an hour in a parkinglot rather than 65 on I-10.  Hopefully, nothing else will get broken this week...either by me or by circumstances clearly beyond my control.  For now, enjoy the disaster and pray for my patience when things do fall apart!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Psalm 73: Reflections on (the day after) My Birthday

Psalm 73:1-3

Surely God is good to Israel,  to those who are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;  I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 

Yesterday I turned 27.  It was a very good birthday.  A sweet friend made me chocolate-chocolate chip banana bread, I got birthday cards, great gifts, and my mom and brother took me to Olive Garden.  I'm nowhere near where I thought I'd be by now.  

Before college I assumed that by the end of four years I'd be married.

Before graduation I assumed I'd have found my calling in Peru...and be married.

A year after graduation I assumed I'd be in vocational youth ministry for a long time.

Last year I thought I'd be out of Texas, in youth ministry.

I see lots of my friends experiencing what I view as success and, to be utterly honest, I envy them.  It's hard to see "the wicked" succeed.  You don't understand why, despite the horrible things they did to you in high school or jr. high, or elementary school, they are getting everything you want.  But honestly, sometimes it's almost harder to see your friends succeed.  It's not that you don't want them to.  No, you really do so desperately want to see them happy; but you also want what they have, and the envy you feel brings greater guilt than what you feel when seeing your "enemies" succeed.

It's a hard thing to rejoice in the success of others sometimes, but what I'm being reminded of is that God has the best plan for me.  

My pastor told a story on Sunday that illustrated this really well.  His wife was trying to find a parking space near his building and so she called him for help.  He, quite a few stories up, was able to see the whole parking lot and direct and guide her through the process.  It didn't necessarily make the process go faster, but being connected with one who had the bigger perspective was infinitely helpful.  God not only has the bigger perspective, but He is sovereign over the occurrences of my life.  The more I connect with Him the more I am able to rejoice and to trust and to give my frustration to Him.

I'm praying that God will help me to rejoice with those who rejoice and to see the good He is working in my life.  I thank Him for 27 years of His guidance, of His blessing of good friends and family, and His constant provision.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jesus' Baptism: Reflection on a Humble God

Luke 3:21-22

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized to.  And as He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

 This is one of those passages you read in Sunday school picture books.  You see the picture of Jesus waste deep in water wearing a white robe looking up to parting skies and smiling at a dove descending.  I don’t really remember what I thought of this as a kid, if I thought anything about it, but reading the story recently struck me as much more significant than it ever had before.  I started with a pretty simple question; why did Jesus get baptized at all?  Baptism is symbolic of a washing away of sins, of repentance; Jesus is without sin, so what was the point?

 I think the key to understanding at least part of His purpose is in the phrase “when all the people were being baptized…”  Jesus had come to be one of us, human, and in getting baptized by John, He was identifying with those He came to save.  Amidst the rebellious crowd in desperate need of the baptism He would provide, Jesus humbles Himself and is baptized.  This was scandalous in many ways.  John himself tried to deter Him, saying that things should be the other way around (Matthew 4:14), but Jesus insisted.

I’m always amazed at the moments of humility Jesus displays in scripture.  As if leaving perfect and close fellowship with the Father to become human was not enough, He lived in poverty, He lived perfectly, He lived like us, He suffered for us. 

This is what changes us.  God’s Law reveals our need but it can’t save.  We become Pharisees, assured by false righteousness, or we become prodigals, burnt out with trying, choosing to live in any way we please.  But for the love given by a God Who stepped out of heaven to live with His creatures we’re changed.   

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Advancing the Kingdom: Reflections on Work

Matthew 6:33
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

It's been a strange couple of weeks for me.  God told me "no" to a deep desire of mine, then almost immediately turned around and gave me a different position at the company I work for, moving me away from the front desk and the phone to HR.  I've been training the new girl and doing my own training and planning Marvel Movie Nights (yes, I've seen The Avengers and embarrassing number of times in theaters, don't judge me) and all the time wrestling.  I've been tired and stressed and praying for direction from the Lord.  My foundations are being shaken to no end as most of the things I hope to happen fall flat.  Nothing I've assumed God would "do for me" by now has come to fruition.  I have a passion for youth work but find myself exhausted at the end of the day and putting off serving them for my own personal time.  This often causes me to resent my day job.

But really I am doing kingdom work.

I've always had this understanding that if you do whatever it is you do for the glory of the Lord then you are doing kingdom work, but I'm not sure I've ever really believed it... or at least never applied it to me.  That may sound strange, but I've always thought I'd end up in vocational ministry because of my passion for it and so I always sort of viewed secular jobs as a means to an end; tent making; something to trudge through so I could go on with my life after the eight hours were over.

I've had the wrong attitude.

Sure, this job can support the youth work I do, but at the same time, I can do kingdom work all day long.  I can work to make communication between all of our offices go well to bring stress levels down, I can be organized so that my supervisors don't have to worry about employee records, I can be a listening ear when the office experiences heart ache, I can pray, and I can always be a friend.   This is kingdom work: showing God's love to people, doing a job well no matter what that job is, seeking to honor those made in His image even when they are having a grumpy day and don't quite respond the way I might want.

My feelings may not follow as quickly as I'd like them to, but viewing my work as His work, seeking to serve Him by serving others will eventually change my attitude and ultimately please Him.  I know I can do this because I'm not having to fight for His affection.  He's already blessed me with that, with His love, and He has promised to do what is best for me.  I am so thankful that His plans are better than mine and that even tasks that might seem menial can have eternal meaning if done well and for His glory.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things: More Reflections on Joy

In college, a time when I struggled the most with depression, I tried to make a habit of spending my mornings thanking God for the things He's given me.  Lately, I've been trying to get back into that habit.  What's really cool is that god often surprises me with little things that give me a great deal of joy.  Here's a list of a few little things that just plain make me smile:

Listening to Led Zeppelin on an evening jog

Decorative Toms

Unexpected presents (for those who can't tell, this is a sunflower magnet with a bee: I LOVE bees and sunflowers)

Gray skies with surprising splashes of color.

Crack cookies (read: chocolate chip cookies)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Refusing the Easy Way Out: Reflection on the Cross

Mark 15:22-24
22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh,(R) but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots(S) to see what each would get.

Jesus was about to suffer greater agony than anyone has or ever will suffer.  From the beginning He had perfect communion with the rest of the Trinity, He followed the law to its very heart, and on the cross He was going to experience complete separation and wrath for that which He was not guilty.  No one will ever understand this kind of pain, not even those who suffer in Hell.  Yet, Christ refused to even take a bit of wine mixed with myrrh to try and dull the pain.  I don't know that it would have worked considering the sort of suffering He was going to experience, but I know it would have been tempting.

Why did He refuse something that might have eased His pain?  To remain fully conscious for the ordeal? To suffer fully that righteous justice might be satisfied fully?  To give up His spirit rather than allowing it to slip away apart from His will?  Honestly, I'm not entirely sure.  What I am sure of is that facing this sort of pain for people in rebellion against Him is so baffling that it almost seems absurd.  It's the foolishness of the gospel: The King laying down His life for the least and the lost.

This last weekend I went to see The Avengers.  In one scene of the movie, two characters have a conversation about what it means to be a king.  One asks the other if he believes himself above the human race, and when the other responds that he does, the first responds in a rather profound way; that this mentality proved he was not fit to be a king.  The true King, the Lord of the Universe, is above us, yet He brings Himself low that He might draw us to Himself.

I want to reflect on that more, especially when someone is treating me unfairly or I'm going through some sort of "pain".  If the God Who created all things could become a suffering servant, how much more should I die to myself and show mercy and grace to others?

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Small Bits of Joy: Fondant Expedition

Lately, I've been a little obsessed with a blog called a site that gives me a good laugh almost every day with horrible, hilarious cake disasters.  However, on Sundays, the author posts truly incredible examples of absolutely amazing cakes.  This always makes me hungry, and inspires me to want to attempt an amazing cake on my own.  This week, I attempted to make fondant cupcakes.  Needless to say, if I were a professional, what I made today would definitely be considered a cake wreck.  But it was still fun, and tasty.  

Chocolate cupcakes with regular frosting

"Decorated" with'll probably take some practice.  Next time I'll at least dye it...that might cover up the ugly.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

In All Circumstances: Reflection on Giving Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:18
give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

My question is, can I give thanks and submit to God's will while seeking to change my position?  Joseph did not hesitate to ask the Chief Cup Bearer to remember him when he got out of prison (Genesis 40) and even Jesus asked the Father to take the cup from Him, so is it wrong for me to do the same?  I'm not in prison, I'm not about to suffer the way Jesus did (none of us ever will), but I am amidst circumstances that are highly stressful and frustrating.  Can I be thankful and joyful for a situation I work to be free of?

Have you ever struggled with something like this?  How did you deal with it?  What did God teach you through it?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Priorities: Reflection on Traffic Accidents

I was driving home from work today when I heard a warning that there was an accident on Mason.  My first thought was, "Ah crap, traffic is going to be awful."  My second thought was probably not my thought at all but rather a gentle nudge from God.  My second thought was, "Why am I grumbling about traffic and considering praying that God will get me home fast instead of praying for the people in the accident?"  It was rather convicting and majorly humbling.  I am focused on myself and my own well being pretty much 99.9% of the time, and I'm fairly certain that the 1% I'm not is when I'm asleep.  Though I know as a fact that I'm not the center of the universe, I act and think as if I believe otherwise.

Do you grumble about traffic because of accidents?  Am I the only one?  My challenge today is that I would pray for God to be with the victims and that He would teach me patience and give me a heart that breaks for others more than it breaks for myself.  Maybe then traffic won't be so stressful, maybe then I'll have a bit more peace.

1 Corinthians 13:4-6
 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Love Effect: Jr. High Girls Retreat 2012

Last Thursday, my parents headed off on a trip to France.  This left their beautiful house in Fulshear wide open for me to take the Jr. High Girls on a little retreat this weekend.  We're all a little sleep deprived and, what a shock, I'm a little sunburnt.  Here's some of what happened, picture style.
The weather was gorgeous, but the pool was fairly cold.  Some were brave... 
Other... not so much
Brooke found an awesome craft on Pintrest where you glue crayons to poster board or a canvas and melt it with a hair dryer.  

Abby's creation, not quite done

Beth - I can't figure out how to flip this...

Brooke's boat

Ravyn's curtains

Margo's rain...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Who Am I and Great are You: Reflections on the Horizon

Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare theglory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Did anyone see the sky this evening?  I just walked out to take the trash and I literally could not take my eyes off of it.  A mesmerizing array of grays and blues and pinks; a picture no artist could really capture.  I was struck, as I quite often am, at the thought that God is an artist, God is the artist.  He didn't just create the world with little thought, He fashioned it with pride and with care, with artistry and precision.  Do you ever think about that?  About how God is the creator of art and science and beauty and all that is good in this world?  

I really needed this sky today.  That may sound weird but I really did.  It was halting, so much so that I quite literally had to stop and stare.  All the stress of my crazy Monday sort of faded as I stood in awe of what God's hands have created.  It reminded me of a song one of my favorite groups sings called Who Am I.  The chorus has a line in it that says "Because I'll never hold a picture of the whole horizon in my view, because I'll never rip the night in two it makes me wonder, who am I and great are You."  
I had to spin to view all that was above me, and even then my view was obstructed and broken up.  It gave me the slightest taste of just how vast and big our God is.  It reminded me that even though I feel somewhat lost and confused right now that He is in control; He has a plan; He is good; and I can trust Him.  

Who am I and great are You.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Early Morning Kitchen Disaster

It's been one of those mornings.  You know the kind; where you're not quite there yet and you end up turning on the wrong burner and melting a plastic bag on it?  Yeah, that kind.  It gave me a good laugh!
Melted plastic...mmmm

Plastic and heat do not mix...apparently I should wait until after drinking my coffee to try cooking.

Monday, April 09, 2012

When God Says "No": Reflection on God's Will

Mark 14:35-36
 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36Abba,[e] Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

God always answers prayer.  It’s just that sometimes the answer is “no”.  Very recently I got this answer and it was so not an easy thing to hear.  I can safely say that it broke my heart and I’ve spent the last few days struggling with the mentality that He’s somehow being unfair, that I’m being kicked while I’m down, that everyone else seems to be succeeding while I’m stuck in the marshes.  Add to these thoughts the horrible and depressing thought that I’m just not good enough and that I completely lack any worth whatsoever.

I’ve talked about Satan’s lies before, and these are the kind he most often tends to attack me with; probably because I have this bad habit of listening to them.  I forget to remind myself of the truth God has given me.  The truth that if an earthly father can love his kid enough to know how to give them good gifts then how much more will my perfect heavenly Father give me (Luke 11:13)?  I forget that He gave me the ultimate gift, the gift of His Son.

The verse above hits me deep during this time of disappointment.  It shows that Jesus knew what He was about to suffer, that it was going to be the worst pain imaginable (complete separation from the love of His Father), and it reminds me that God the Father said “no” to His Son.  The Father said “no” to Jesus.  I can’t really wrap my mind around this at all, it’s way to big for my pea, human brain, but that’s what happened.  Moreover, had God the Father answered “yes” and taken the cup from His Son we would have had to drink it ourselves.  It’s wildly humbling, baffling, tragic and yet a victory.

Now, I’m definitely not comparing myself to Christ by any stretch of the imagination, but mediating on the fact that God’s answers always lead to the best outcome is extremely helpful in these circumstances.  Yeah, it still hurts like crazy, and, as a friend said to me this weekend, it really sucks, but I can stand on the faithfulness of God.  One day it won’t suck.  One day I’ll be thanking God on my knees that He said “no” to me, but for now I will continue to pray for faith and direction.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Happy Easter

Luke 24:5b-7
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

Slow we are to listen, slow we are to understand.  Like David holding up the severed head of Goliath Christ came from the cross and the grave holding up the severed head of death, the victor for His people.  Moreover, He took us with him from the cross and the grave to new life to be free of the curse of sin and the law that we might live and walk with Him.  

May we celebrate His resurrection, today, and every day, and strive with the help of His Holy Spirit to break old habits and flee from the death in which we once lived.  

Feliz Pascuas!

Monday, April 02, 2012

God Chases Foolish Things: Reflection on Our Shepherd King

Chasing Song
Now and then these feet just take to wandering
Now and then I prop them up at home
Sometimes I think about the consequences
Sometimes I don't

Well, I realize that falling down ain't graceful
But I thank the Lord that falling's full of grace
Sometimes I take my eyes off Jesus
And you know that's all it takes

Well, I wish that I could say that at the close of every day
I was happy with the way that I'm behaving

'Cause Job, he chased an answer
The wise men chased the Child
Jacob chased her fourteen years
And he captured Rachel's smile
And Moses chased the Promised Land
Joseph chased a dream
David, he chased God's own heart
All I ever seem to chase is me

Well, they say a race can only have one winner
And you know you've got to pull out front to win
God knows the only time I'm winning
Is when I'm chasing Him

So, I wish that I could say that at the close of every day
I was happy with the way that I'm behaving

'Cause Samson chased a woman
And he chased the Phillistines
I'm not quite sure what Jonah chased
But I know he caught the sea
And Cain, he chased the harvest
While Abel chased the beasts
David, he chased God's own heart
All I ever seem to chase is me

And Jesus chased the money men
And He chased His Father's will
He chased my sin to Calvary
And He caught it on that hill
And Saul, he chased the Christians
'Til his blindness made him see
David, he chased God's own heart
All I ever seem to chase is me

Isaiah 53:6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

My heart chases after many things; comfort, pleasure, approval…really anything that will make my life easier and more enjoyable.  I chase things that I believe will give me fulfillment and purpose, things I believe will somehow make me valuable and worthy.  I’m chasing the wind.  I rarely catch the things I chase and when I do I am, inevitably disappointed.  The pleasure is lacking, the comfort temporary, and the acceptance never quite enough.  There’s a reason scripture calls us sheep; we constantly wonder after foolish things. 

God chases after foolish things as well, He chases after us.  The amazing thing to me is that He is our Shepherd, but also became a sheep.  He walked with us as one of us.  He was tempted without sin, beaten without cause, tried without justice, and chased our sin all the way to Calvary. 

This song by Andrew Peterson is one of my favorites and has had me thinking all weekend about it.  The line that has been playing over and over in my head is in the last verse of the song: “And Jesus chased the money men, and He chased His Father’s will, He chased my sin to Calvary and He caught it on that hill.”  The image described is not only humbling but super convicting.  Jesus chased the money men… those who worshiped wealth and swindled their own people in order to stuff their pockets.  I think a lot of times we forget that He went after the wealthy along with the poor, we imagine Him as a sort of Robin Hood who steals from the rich to give to those in need, and forget that he came to show both their spiritual poverty and desperate need for Him.
This week, as Good Friday and Easter approach, let’s mediate on how Christ, our good shepherd, chased us and how He is calling us to chase others for His kingdom.  And may we be eternally thankful that He refused to give up on foolish things.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Beloved: Reflection on Remembering Who(se) I am

Deuteronomy 33:12
About Benjamin he said: “Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.”

I am a recovering sin addict.  Though I was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, sin entices me daily and I chase after it like a druggie begging for another hit.  The “good deeds” I do are marred by bad motives that reveal them to be the filthy rags scripture calls them.  Apart from Christ’s sacrifice I would be spiritually dead.  I am prideful, self-worshiping, distracted, lazy.

I am beloved.

So often I remind myself of my sin, wanting to combat pride, wanting to understand more fully the grace shown to me on the cross, and while this is good, it often makes me forget my true identity.  Genesis says that we were created in the image of God, Psalms says we were knit together in our mother’s womb, Ephesians says that we are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works”.  I, we, the Church, all need to balance the hard truth and the baffling one: we are more sinful than we could ever believe, but we are also more loved than we could ever imagine.  We are the beloved of God.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hunger Games in Review: Twilight Part 2?

Dystopia or just another emo teen drama? 

I’ve heard both ends of the spectrum and have been contemplating it myself a lot lately.  Is The Hunger Games a true satire of dystopia or is it just another stupid love triangle that feeds a young girls fantasy of being fought over?  There certainly is a bit of a love triangle woven through the pages of the novel and many young women have turned the two male characters into another version of Jacob and Edward in the Twilight series by forming “Team Gale” and “Team Peeta” groups, but in truth, the love story is rather peripheral in terms of purpose. 

As a reader myself, I was much more consumed with the greater elements of the story, such as the horror faced by the families and their children, the condemnation of entertainment at another’s expense, and the overindulgence of our own society mirrored in the attitude of The Capitol than I was with the love story.  And while this is most likely due to the fact that my major in college was English and I love writing and analyzing literature and art, this does not take away from the intention of the author.

The more I’ve thought about the book and movie and the questions surrounding the two, the more I realize that questioning the purpose of the book is really not a valid question at all.  The topic, the content, everything about the story lends itself to good discussion and consideration, and there is value in doing so.  Rather than questioning the books intentions as the writer of the article above does and honing in on the reason its audience (mainly Jr. High and High School aged girls) actually reads it, we as parents and mentors should really be encouraging discussion.

In the article from the NY Post, the author argues that the youth reading or watching The Hunger Games do not view the situation as horrific and rather see it as a grand adventure with the opportunity for fame and glory.  This is one of his main reasons for criticizing the story.  Maybe he’s right, maybe this is the way youth read the story, maybe they read and simply miss the point (for the record, most of the youth I’ve spoken with were fairly discerning about the content), but that can be true of just about any novel or work of art.  In my opinion, rather than bemoaning the fact that the point has been missed, as parents and mentors we should be encouraging discussion and challenging any shallow view the youth in our lives display. 

If our purpose on this earth is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then His work of redeeming His creation is our work as well.  I’m not, of course, saying that everyone should read or go see The Hunger Games; it’s not for everyone and it’s definitely not for younger viewing audience, what I am saying is that we can and should use this as an opportunity for good conversation and discussion.  Let’s learn how to be good debaters and conversationalists, let’s strive to flee from the emotionally driven and illogical conversations that pepper the comment sections under articles on the internet.  Don’t follow the mob, take a beat and respond rather than react.

P.S. Especially in light of this post I welcome good discussion on my blog and really don’t just want to hear the sound of my own voice.  Don’t just comment if you agree, I want to hear if you disagree or see things from another perspective.  But keep it cool and appropriate or I will delete you. 

Little Things...

Easter is a dark time for little bunny foo foo...

Serving size: 1/2 rabbit

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lessons from a Vending Machine: Reflection on Church Discipline

Romans 6:1-3
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

At my office, out in the shop, we have a vending machine.  It carries Coke, Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper, Root Beer, and a few off brand soft drinks that I can’t remember right off hand.  When I first started working at my company, I was pretty excited about this, especially since two in the afternoon is my greatest enemy and a Diet Coke would be just the thing to cure the slump.  I soon learned, however, that the machine has a glitch.  When I press the button for Diet Coke the absolute worst thing happens; I receive a Root Beer.  Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I abhor Root Beer.  I think it is the second most vile soft drink on the planet, coming in just a hair behind Pepsi, and during my afternoon slump this does not go over well. 

Now, no one called me “unfair” or a “killjoy” when I called the repairman to come out and try to fix it.  The machine was created for a purpose, for our use and enjoyment, and it’s not functioning properly.  In fact, most people would consider a call to the repairman a fairly logical act and if I did not do so, I would be thought of as somewhat stupid and or lazy. 

This incident (still in progress, by the way) reminds me of the Christian life.  Just as the glitch causes the machine not to fulfill its purpose properly, so our sin hinders us from fulfilling our purpose in life.  We were created to love God and enjoy Him forever, yet in the garden we made the decision to rebel against Him and stop functioning as we should.  I don’t need to point out the havoc this has caused; we all see it every day as our own attempt to live for ourselves backfires and hurts everyone around us; we see war and famine and murder.  The world has a glitch and while we try and blame it on society and politics and even on the rain I think deep down we know the truth.  Humanity screwed up and it needs a savior.

I’m not going to go major cheese ball and call Jesus the repair man, but He did come and He did suffer our punishment for us.  The thing is, He didn’t just save us that we might be free from sin in the future, He saved us that we might fight sin daily, that we might begin to live free from its reign!  This is another reason why He gave us the Church, and why He set up discipline within the church.  If we continue in sin, we are not living as those who have been freed of it.  Our church families, our close friends, love us by helping us fight sin.  It hurts sometimes when we’re confronted, it feels unfair, but the fact is, we so desperately need that accountability.  It would not only be completely illogical and stupid for our Churches to ignore our sin and do nothing about it, but rather it would be unloving and lazy on their part. 

This should obviously not be something done lightly or with any amount pride, but it should, in fact, be done.  I pray that God will give me the humility and strength to both hold and be held accountable, I pray that the church will seek His guidance in such difficult matters, and that slowly but surely we will all begin to function as ones who have been set free to live as we were created to.   

Monday, March 19, 2012

Little Things: Reflection on God's Sovereignty

Luke 12:24-25
24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

I feel like I learn this lesson over and over again, and I will probably continue learning it until the day I die and become fully aware of its truth: God is sovereign, even over the little things.  I had an important phone call I was waiting for, one that gave me some stress and anxiety and drove me to my knees in prayer.  It was scheduled first for Tuesday evening and rescheduled due to the epic stomach bug/strep that has been taking the Houston area by storm, then it was rescheduled Wednesday due to the unexpected for Thursday evening.  During this time, I was, of course, being very careful to charge my phone just in case it decided to die before the call came, thus causing a rift in the time continuum (what?  I saw ZZ Top in concert last week and Back to the Future is on the brain).

Well, Thursday morning I get a text asking if I could reschedule to have the call a little earlier.  At lunch I got the call and not two hours later, my phone died.  It's a little thing really.  I have a work phone and so it might not have been the end of the world, but it certainly would have been one more thing to be stressed about.  God was taking care of me even in that tiny little thing.  It was just a silly little phone, one silly little time adjustment, yet His timing was perfect.  I can only see a little piece of it, that one hours span of time in which certain things had to fall in place, but it reminds me that His timing is always the best, and He takes care of me.

God takes care of the ravens, the lilies of the field, and He even condescends to take care of me.  How had He taken care of you in the little things?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Unclean: Reflections on the Outcasts

Mark 1:40-42
 40 A man with leprosy[f] came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
 41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

I’ve read this passage many times over the years, but it recently struck me just how shocking Jesus’ actions truly are.  Leprosy made a person “unclean”; they could not enter the temple; they were cut off from worship; if you touched someone with leprosy, you were considered unclean as well.  Jesus, God in human form, touched this unclean man.  He didn’t have to.  He could have simply said “Be clean” and not taken that extra step, but instead, He touched him.  That was earth shattering, unthinkable, amazing.  Holy God touching unholy, unclean man and making him right, making straight what had been made crooked.

The implications for us today can sometimes be difficult to consider.  We don’t have the worship regulations of the Old Testament because of what Christ did on the cross; He’s made us clean, right before God (Acts 10:15).  But I do think our society has people that, in a way, are considered “unclean”.  It’s probably a bit of a stretch, and maybe not what you would assume, but bear with me.  These that we consider unclean, these people we try and disassociate ourselves from at all costs, are the socially awkward, the weird, the rude, the unintelligent, the annoying…the bigots.  Think about it.  Or rather, let me think about it.  Upon my high horse of either self-righteousness (in the case of the bigots and the like) or fear of being seen as socially awkward myself (in the case of the social outcasts) I do everything I can to separate myself from them.  I might snicker at a dorky comment, divert my eyes when they speak with me, gossip about a wrong they’ve committed, but whatever I do, I *do not* touch them.  After all, I wouldn’t want to be associated with *those people*, right? 

It’s ugly, disgusting, but very true.  I treat others as if they are unclean because I don’t want to become “unclean” myself.  But Jesus touched the unclean, He reached into their lives to make them right, to make *me* right.  God is convicting me a lot lately about this sort of thing.  It really hurts, but so does digging out a splinter.  I’m thankful for the work He’s doing and I’m praying that it will make me merciful and gracious to those who don’t deserve it and who may never show me kindness (or get a social clue ;-P).  I myself don’t deserve grace, but it’s been given to me, and that in itself should spur me on toward love and good deeds.