Thursday, December 29, 2005

Stuck on the bank of the river...

I won't bore you with excuses or reasons for no posts over the last....oh who knows or cares. Obviously, I haven't written anything.

Not that there hasn't been plenty going on.

I've just been in a dry spell of writing about life and it's ups and downs, ins and outs, dips and curves...well, you get the picture. I haven't wanted to look at things to carefully to get a deeper meaning or understanding.

But things are changing.

Life is passing me by and I haven't been paying attention like I need to. I'm afraid of what I might have missed while I was stuck, so I'm going to jump back into the water. No more allowing myself to be caught on the bank of life's river like a broken piece of driftwood. I want to ride down the middle of the river...over the rapids...getting drenched and having to gasp for air at times. That beats being stuck in the mud. It means I'll be moving, going forward, getting caught in small eddies to get a dazzling glimpse of new landscapes just before being swept away to start the journey all over again.

Maybe I've just been in an eddy and not really stuck in the mud these past couple of months. Hmmm...I'd better get a good look at the view before I move on!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

MIO (Missing in October!)

I don't know how I managed to miss posting for the whole month of October. That has never happened in the history of this blog - missing a whole month!!!

Well, I can assure you, it wasn't because I had nothing going on. Quite the contrary! Somehow, I have managed to become involved in more things. (Although, sadly, "more things" does NOT include a significant other!)

Anyway - life is good, and rich, and full!!! Not only am I the youth pastor at my church, but now I am also the leader of a cell group. (For more info on cell group churches, visit this link.) I love the people in my group and am looking forward to learning more about them and all of us growing in our faith walk. In addition, I'm excited about how God can use us to reach out to others in the community. That's what cell groups are all about - reaching out to others to bring them into community with believers so they, too, can accept Christ into their life, grow in the faith and then reach out to others. A place to belong. That's what we're all looking for, right?

So life is full. I'm always amazed at how God teaches me through stretching me or forcing me outside of my box. I'm learning a lot, and haven't quite been able to put it all into words. Hopefully soon. I need to get better about keeping a written journal. I'm sure there is much I'm losing because I'm not writing it down! (Note to self: write things down!!!) Hahaha!

I will leave you with this thought - just about the time you think you've figured out what it means to "be" a Christian, God is very good about challenging that idea. It's exciting to find out it's much more than I thought.

Here's to my favorite month of the year: November!! I hope to stay much more current with posts to my blog during this month. I feel certain there will be exciting things to share!!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

When I am weak, He is strong

(Jesus) My strength comes into its own in your weakness...(Paul) Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size - abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (The Message)

I got to live this experience out in a strange way last night.

Most Wednesday nights, I have the opportunity to go out with a group of fellow believers and minister to the homeless of Jackson. It is always interesting and never the same experience. Some nights we have moments of intense ministry one-on-one with people we meet and other nights we end up seeing a lot of people but don't get much time to minister to individuals. Sometimes there is a healthy mix of ministry opportunities.

Last night was one of those...we saw a lot of people but had some moments of intense one-on-one ministry in the midst of the crowds.

I wasn't necessarily feeling like a "super-Christian"...you know - ready to charge into hell with a water-pistol, but I was excited about meeting people and having the opportunity to share Christ with them. We had already been to a couple of our "hotspots" and were at our last stop of the evening. I was talking with this guy, who was a little on the confrontational side. He said it was his birthday. We had already given him some food and a t-shirt, but he wanted another one. I was trying to figure out how to talk with the guy, so I told him I would get him another shirt. We were just about out of all our supplies, but I knew there were some small t-shirts left. It wouldn't have fit him, but I was going to give him one anyway. So I asked him to wait and turned to head back to the van, when all of a sudden I find myself plunging towards the gravel/concrete sidewalk, hands first. I busted my tail so bad....and tore up the palms of my hands.

The only thing really hurt was my pride. Well, that's not true...my palms hurt, too - especially when I washed them off with cold water and then doused them with some anti-bacterial handwash. Yikes!

But the coolest thing happened. This guy I was talking to, Patrick, came running over and tried to help me up. Then he offered the t-shirt we had given him for me to wipe my hands on. I told him I was ok (and I was except for my bloody palms) and we began to talk. God used my moment of weakness to soften this guy's heart so that I could talk to him about God. It started when he told me "You have to be careful out here - it's dangerous and hard!" We talked about the scars he had from his life on the streets and I began to share Christ with him. In my mind, I was thinking about the placement of the scars on my palms and the scars Christ has on his palms. I wanted to relay to Patrick that there is One who knows all about scars, but the conversation didn't go that way. I did get to pray with Patrick and I just knew that God was planting seeds in his heart. I told him I wanted to see him in Heaven when this world was all said and done. He agreed. I told him not to wait too long to do things God's way - none of us are promised tomorrow.

It was a neat experience. I'm always amazed at how God uses everything to speak to us - if we just listen. I want to hear all He is speaking to me. More importantly, if it takes me having moments of weakness for someone else to see God's strength, I'm willing to pay the price.

The funny thing was this - as I was "cleaning" my hands (as best as one can without running water and peroxide) some of the guys on my team were standing there with me. When I put the anti-bacterial handwash on my palms, one of them mentioned something about "suffering for the Gospel's sake" and "counting it all joy". I wanted to complain about the pain in my hands, but as I looked at my palms, enduring the burning pain of alcohol in my open wounds, I was reminded of what my Savior suffered on the cross for me. At that moment, I was filled with a sense of joy I cannot explain and the pain faded away into nothingness. My suffering was/is nothing...but the fact that God could use an embarrassing moment and my pain to reach someone else was overwhelming. Still is.

But that's why when I am weak...He is strong.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Idle words

"And I tell you this, that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak." - Matthew 12:36

I knew it would happen again. Just about the time I feel like I have accomplished something in my walk with God, He shows me another area that needs working on. I guess He does it to keep me from being too proud and caught up in my own accomplishments.

My mouth has always been a problem for me. Growing up, my dad has told me more than once that my mouth was going to get me in trouble. He's been right more than I care to admit. I thought that I had outgrown that problem and along with the experience of a few years under my belt, had gotten to a place where I didn't speak out of turn. How silly of me to think such a thing.

I've realized I still struggle with wanting to be "right" or being able to comment on every topic that comes up. I foolishly believe I know things. I may have some knowledge about things, but more often than not, my knowledge is totally one-sided and doesn't encompass the whole picture. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't completely learned the principles of James 1:19 -
My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

My quick responses are just idle words and often result in someone being hurt. I'm learning that even if a response is required for something, there is nothing wrong with waiting to make sure my answer is in line with God's heart. I need to practice this more.

I hate it when God shows me how "wrong" I am. But I'm glad He does - it shows how much He loves me and that He considers me His child. What an awseome thing that is! Here is what His Book says about it:
Proverbs 3:11 - My child, don't ignore it when the LORD disciplines you, and don't be discouraged when he corrects you.

Hebrews 12:6 - For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Quick response

Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father. - Colossians 3:12-17

I've never been so aware of how important it is to make sure I am dealing correctly with people who may not agree with me or who have offended me in some ridiculous way. (When compared to the offenses my Savior endured, I can't help but see all my reasons for being offended as ridiculous.) I recently had the privilege to be offended by someone. They reacted to something I did in a totally inapprorpriate manner (in my opinion), but there I was, faced with the choice of how I was going to respond to them.

My first desire was to tell this person exactly what I thought about their behavior and even their character, but far too often, I have let "Christy" determine the path - and most times with dire results - so I asked God to show me His heart and how I should respond in this situation. It was in a manner totally foreign to my first inclination.

It scares me to think that my response to others will in some way impact God's response to me. Have you read Matthew 6 lately? Verses 14-15 say: "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." Yikes! God doesn't play when it comes to Christians dealing with others - whether they are believers or non-believers. We are held to a higher standard - to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

I only hope that God is pleased with my response. He knows that my heart's desire is to reflect His love to others and that the things I do will point directly to Him.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The things you don't see...

Today I went and spent four hours at our local coliseum, volunteering for a carnival that had been organized for the benefit of the displaced citizens now calling the coliseum "home". There are about 1,200 people living there - almost all of them from the New Orleans area.

The one thing that aggravates me with the news these days, is their refusal to focus or even mention the good that happens in times like this. Of course, it is necessary to report the bad so that something can be done to stop it and keep it from happening again, but even the really bad stuff isn't reported in the mainstream media. You have to go to sources like Scoopster News to hear all of what's going on.

So I was determined to listen closely and observe the good things that are happening in the midst of this sort of disaster. I was not disappointed.

Our group was there to present a puppet show to entertain anyone who would stop long enough to listen. We did some "oldies" tunes (along with more modern tunes) with new lyrics that share the Gospel...i.e., "Return to Sender" now sung "Return to Jesus", "Don't Worry, Be Happy" now sung "Don't Worry, Trust Jesus", "Everybody Dance Now" sung as "Everybody Praise Now". These are a few of the many songs we did. We had a blast! We had four teams, alternating 15 minute shows.

In addition to our tent, there were other tents with activities for the kids and those huge inflatable slides and jumping rings. They had a temporary basketball court set up for the guys to play ball and in one corner of the lot, a tent was set up with chairs for people to sit in and enjoy the live music. Free sno-cones were available for everyone, too.

There was always a constant flow of people walking by, and frequently, the kids would congregate under the tent to listen to one of the shows. The rest of the team members who weren't presenting a show, were free to walk around and interact with those enjoying their afternoon - or trying to. You could see the pain and uncertainty behind the eyes of some of the adults walking around. No home to call their own, no assurance for the future, no knowledge of what is to come - those kinds of things would weigh heavy on anyone. One lady was walking by, eating a sno-cone and just kind of roaming from activity to activity. I walked up to her, threw my arms around her and told her, "You look like you could use a hug!" She smiled and choked back tears. I began to ask her how she was doing, was she getting everything she needed and was her family all well and accounted for. She just was so thankful that she was good, her family was good and all the volunteers at the shelter were doing a great job of helping out. It's just an unimaginably difficult thing.

But, it is amazing to me the resiliency of children. They were able to let loose and have a good time running around, playing on the inflatable slides, getting their faces painted and just enjoying life. They will talk to anyone, too! I met this one kid who was as cute as he could be. He was 5 years old, and I couldn't understand his name. He is rather tall for his age, too. There was a guy there who was making balloon art and had made this kid a swordbelt and sword. The kid was so proud of it. He wanted to slide down the slide, so I helped him take his sword off and promised I'd hold it for him. When he came back, shoes in hand, I thought I was going to break down on the spot. His poor little toes were all sticking out through huge holes in his socks. While I turned around to get a grip on myself, he managed to get his shoes on...although on the wrong feet! I leaned down and helped him change his shoes around and pulled his socks so his toes weren't sticking through his socks. He didn't seem to care that his socks had holes! Ahh...the innocence of childhood. I wanted to get a picture of him, but he disappeared before I could.

Later on, there was this little girl who parked herself right in front of the puppet stage. She was so cute!!!! She caught my attention because she was bouncing to the music. She had her sno-cone cup in her hands and was just bouncing up and down to the beat of the music. Adorable! There was a young lady standing nearby, so I asked if that was her child. It wasn't. The lady was a volunteer, and they didn't know who the little girl's mother was. I was shocked! I looked back at the little girl and before I knew it, she walked over to me and raised her arms in the universal signal to "pick me up!" She was so sweet! I guess they found her mother, because the next time I went to look for her, she was gone.

I just want to say, for all the bad press the Superdome is getting, good things are happening at the Mississippi Coliseum. I got the chance to walk around inside and although the conditions aren't what anyone would choose for themselves, they are not bad. The restrooms are nice - no overflowing refuse in there and no bad smells! And the coliseum floor, where hundreds of mattresses and cots are laid out like a small village, was neat and orderly. I noticed several people sweeping and cleaning. For all the bad press of New Orleans, Jackson, MS has opened it's arms wide to those who fled here for safety. The number of people who are volunteering to help is incredible too. I overheard one of the Red Cross officials telling people that they were no longer accepting walk-up volunteers. They had so many now, and were requiring people to go through the Red Cross training class to become a certified Red Cross volunteer.

People helping people. That's the real story. Little things like making sure a mother has diapers for her kids or providing an afternoon's entertainment to bring joy to people - those are the things that make horrible circumstances like this bearable. The human spirit cannot be quenched and although there are thugs, thieves and murderers on the loose everywhere, the overwhelming majority of people care for their fellow man.

These are the kinds of things you don't see....and that I wanted to share with you.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Katrina...the aftermath - Part 2

So there I was at my friend's house, planning to just settle in for the long haul and try to get gas when things calmed down a bit. It wasn't long before my mom called me. They had gone to church, and on the way, they saw where one of the largest gas stations around had evidently received a load of gas. Cars were already lined up. I decided to try my luck - they probably wouldn't run out of gas real soon, and the station was just close enough that I thought I could make it. So my friend and I loaded up in my car and set out for the station.

We never made it.

Yes...for the second time that day, I ran out of gas on the interstate. Fortunately this time, I was able to pull off the road AND my friend called her mother who had some gas in a gas can. So we wait on the side of the road, cars and 18-wheelers screaming past us, for my friend's mother to arrive with the gas. She gets there, we fuel up, and just as we are about to pull out, a police officer pulls in behind us. I'm sure he was checking to see if all was well. My friend jumps out to tell him what happened and he tells her that we shouldn't try for the big station we were headed too (the lines were already outrageous) but another smaller station had just opened up not 1 mile from where we were. So we load up and head back to this station.

As we pull up to the station, all the lights are out and there are about four police cars, with lights flashing, sitting in the parking lot. My first thought was, "Dear God, someone's been killed!" Fortunately, that wasn't the case. When the power came on at the station, people started rushing to get gas. In the chaos, some woman who was trying to turn her car around, hit a light pole and blew the transformer. The station had only been online for about 10 minutes when it happened. It was crazy. So we talked with the assistant manager and they said I could leave my car there over night, and then come and wait the next day for the power to come on. So that's what I did.

I arrived at the station at 7:45 am on Thursday, September 1. I was hoping that we wouldn't have to wait long, and I would be able to go to work. Ha - wishful thinking!!! It turned out to be a long day.

At first, they told us we would have to line up on the road, and not on the parking lot. So those of us who were there, did that. After a couple of hours, the police came and made everyone leave. I was able to hustle myself right back onto the station property before they taped it off. Thank God! So there we were, about 30 of us, with our cars parked behind the station in the diesel fuel area. It was like we were hiding out so that we could be first in line for the Grand Prize! You see, the police had taped off the gas station to prevent people from blocking traffic and causing a commotion on the road in front of the station. It is in a spot that could cause major traffic jams. Anyway, we were all just hunkering down to wait things out.

All of a sudden, someone in an SUV drives straight through the tape and screeches to a halt a mere 10 feet from where I was sitting. I thought the guy had lost his mind! Turns out, he was one of the managers or something, and was there to make sure the station was open for business. Mind you - the power was out and those ladies behind the counter were having to write everything down by hand. You can imagine how crazy it would get with a bunch of people wanting a warm drink! So the guy begins to pull down all the tape, and wouldn't you know it, it was like throwing chum to the sharks. People started pouring into the gas station. Those of us already in the parking lot, hauled butt to get our cars next to a pump. We were determined not to let anyone just driving up bump us out of our spot - especially since we'd been sitting there for nearly 6 hours already. I was just waiting for the cops to come and bust the guy for creating a problem. Of course that didn't happen - they had too much else to deal with.

So there we were, once again, waiting for the power to come on so we could get the gas stored below our feet. Someone finally called the power company and we found out they weren't aware of the problem (yeah, right!) and didn't have an address (another - yeah, right!) Several phone calls had been made. It was obvious that coordination between our power company and those companies in town to deal with the damage from the storm wasn't happening smoothly. The minutes and hours slowly crept by, still with no change.

The good thing about this situation was that since no one could really go anywhere, all you have time to do is chat. I met some really interesting people and really had a great time in spite of the difficult circumstances.

To make a long story a bit shorter, the power truck arrived at 9 pm (after many phone calls to various people). The guy, who was obviously worn out (turns out he'd been working 14 hours), jumps out of his truck to check things out. You could feel the glimmer of hope rising among the crowd....perhaps our wait would soon be over! Everyone moved to the edge of the lot, near where the power guy was working, and the word quickly spread around....no help tonight - he didn't have the parts and they wouldn't be in until the next day. It was like someone poked a hole in a balloon - that's how quickly everyone's hearts and spirits deflated. There would be a crew arriving in the morning to get the power up.

After having just spent 14 hours myself on that lot, the idea of a few more hours was nothing! At least we knew they were aware of the problem and would be getting on it first thing the next morning. At least I had somewhere I could go to get some sleep. There were several people who were basically stranded...they didn't even have fumes to try and get to the next station. Those guys ended up sleeping in their vehicles overnight. My friend came to get me and we surveyed everyone to make sure they were ok. Did they need any drinks, something to eat, a pillow or blanket? Most everyone said no, they were fine, but we went to her house and fixed some stuff anyway. When we came back, they were definitely grateful! We gave the guys our numbers and said to call if they needed anything or if the situation changed.

So early the next morning, one of the men called me to let me know my car was ok and the power crew wasn't there yet, but FEMA was commandeering the station and only those on the lot would be able to get gas once the power was back up. Needless to say, I hustled to get ready and was back at my car by 7:30 am. We were expecting the power company to show up around 9 or 10 am and then we'd be done and out of there!

Again, wishful thinking!

Of course, we all knew that this was just an extremely difficult situation. Everyone was very patient and understanding considering where we were, but it was also beginning to wear thin. You could tell people's nerves were on edge. Several of us kind of became an extension of the police department. Because there were cars parked at the pumps, passersby thought the station had gas. So once again, a line started to form. We had been instructed to not let anyone on the property (since FEMA was going to be using the extra fuel for emergency personnel) and so we were out at the street, directing traffic. I can tell you, people get ugly in stressful situations. I can also tell you - I fry like bacon when I get in the sun. It wasn't (and still isn't) pretty!

With tensions running high, and the temperature rising, some people began calling the power company again. I thought they were going to explode when one dispatcher said there was no work order for that location. This was especially difficult to hear because that phone call was made at about 10:30 am....LONG after they were supposed to be there to fix the transformer. So then the power company tells us they'll have someone there by 12:00. That didn't happen either. This one girl, Amy, who was calling the power company began bartering with the supervisor she managed to get on the phone. "We'll let your trucks get ahead of us in line to gas up...just PLEASE send them!!! We've been waiting for 2 days!!!!" Word got around that they would be there by 2 pm.

Wouldn't you know they'd show up at 1:45 pm! It was like someone let the cat out of the bag. All of a sudden there were about 5 huge power trucks descending upon us to fix the transformer! You should have heard the shout that went up from the crowd. All of a sudden, everyone was bursting with energy! We came up with a game plan to get everyone who had endured their share of the gas. We were going to claim our "squatter's rights!" At some point during the day, the police decided to just quit fighting the traffic and let people line up. I guess, too, FEMA found somewhere else to commandeer a station, since it was taking too long to get this one up. So when the power company got the power back on, there were probably a hundred people (if not more) lined up to get gas. That doesn't include the 100 people on the station property that had first dibbs on the gas. The line only got longer.

There were four of us who decided to stick around once we got our gas and help direct traffic so that no one would get hurt. We just wanted to help the station workers keep things in order. It was Anthony, Amy, myself and Keith. We had formed a tight little group through this ordeal, but had also managed to have some fun. It made the experience worthwhile.

To end this long tale....we were able to gas up by 3pm. I hung around until about 5pm - my skin could take no more of the sun's rays and they were about to be out of gas. I thought it might be a good time to leave! I must say - we had things running smoothly! My job was to yell out which side of the people's car the gas tank was located so that we could get them in quickly. I was so glad to have gotten gas, I guess it showed - I had more than one person tell me it was nice to see a smiling face.

The crazy thing is this....I have never felt so hopeless in my life. This week has really challenged me spiritually. I realized just how much I still depend on myself to take care of things and God allowed me to see once again - I don't have any control. I just think I do. The overwhelming sadness of the situation in New Orleans and on our own Coast was almost more than I could bear and the knowledge that I couldn't do anything because I couldn't get anywhere really weighed heavy on me. I'm a "fixer"...I've got to be "doing" something in situations like this. And for once....there wasn't one thing I could do except sit and wait...and pray.

God is still working in my life. Of that I have no doubt. He reminded me so well that He is my source and my strength. I can't function without His presence in my life.

I wonder how many other people are being brought to the end of themselves so that God can really reveal Himself to them? I hope it is happening to thousands of people - this world will be changed when we give ourselves completely over to God and let Him accomplish His will through us....in His time and in His way. Not an easy lesson to learn, but a very beneficial one.

I hope there are many things learned in the aftermath of Katrina.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina...the aftermath

I must say, I never thought I would experience anything like this. Let me interject, before I go any further...what I have experienced in no way compares to the experiences of thousands of people on the Gulf Coast. I know I am blessed and through all of this week, have constantly reminded myself of God's blessings in my life. I can't imagine what the people down there are going through - all I can share is my experience.

At first it seemed we (my roommate and I) would weather the storm with no ill effects besides a few branches down in the yard. We had power and cable through it all, and opened our house to the rest of my family who lost power at their homes. It was an interesting day on Tuesday - we had nine extra people at our house. In order to maintain sanity, we ended up spreading throughout the house, and all was working well.

My brother found out he was going to have to work on Wednesday, but he had less than a quarter tank of gas in his truck. We decided that I would go and wait in line for gas since we didn't know how long it would take. He didn't need to be up all night waiting in line for gas. It was chaos. One thing that has really struck me through this whole ordeal is how self-centered we are. You tell anyone here in America that they will have to do without any of their creature comforts for an undetermined amount of time, and you get to see what people are really made of. I nearly got run over by people who were forcing their cars into the line at the gas station.

While I was sitting there for an hour and a half, I was amazed at all the people who seemed to be out joy-riding. Granted, some people were probably just trying to stay cool because they were without power, but I can't tell you how many SUV's I saw with 4-8 people in them - mostly teenagers. It was ridiculous. I finally got gas, but not before finding out some bad news. My brother called me from the house to let me know the power had just gone out. 8:30 pm on Tuesday night. The next day after the hurricane came through. I was so mad! At least for a split second....I couldn't stay that way knowing all the suffering that was happening around me and further south of me. Everyone, except my youngest brother and parents, stayed at our house that night. It was still cool since we'd been running the AC all day. But the next day....man it got hot!

Fortunately, my former roommate offered her apartment for our use. The power had come back up at her place (she stayed with us during the storm, too) and she and her sister (my current roommate) left for Illinois. So we packed up my sister-in-law, the kids, and all the coolers of food they had brought with them, along with my Mom and Dad over to stay at the apartment. I opted out, because it was a one-bedroom house and there would be 8 people there already. I decided to take my chances with the heat and stay at my house. Well, I gave up around 7pm Wednesday night. A friend had offered her home to me (their power came back up that morning) but I wasn't sure I could make it to her house.

You see, that morning, I had driven around town trying to find a gas station and get some gas. We had gotten word a gas station down the street was open, so we all left (my roommate, sister-in-law and myself) to go and get some gas. I went past one place to see what else was available, but didn't find one. I drove around for about 20 minutes, looking unsuccessfully for a gas station, and decided to turn back towards home since my car was running hot (another long and aggravating story), low on gas and I needed to get my nieces back to the house before we were stranded. I tried again later in the day, after everyone left the house, and ran out of gas on the worst part of the interstate just two miles from my house. I broke down crying and called 911. All I could say to her was, "I've run out of gas on the interstate....." while bawling my eyes out. I was scared I would get run over or shot for blocking the interstate. The dispatcher was very calm with me and asked me where I was...you know, the usual details. Just as I got off the phone, this old man in a pick-up truck pulled up behind me, jumped out and told me he would push my car up a bit further so I could pull off the road. After he did that, (I was still bawling, by the way), he came up and put some gas in my car. I could have kissed his toothless self - even with his wife watching from the truck!!! I asked him for his name and address so I could send him some money, but he would have none of that. I just pray that God blesses him tremendously. So I cranked the car, called 911 back (got the same dispatcher amazingly enough) and went home, where I planned to stay until I KNEW gas was available.

Needless to say, I was VERY low on gas. But I decided to try going to my friend's house anyway. I was hot, tired and hungry...plus I still had food in my freezer that was ruining. So off I went to my friend's house. I made it there fine and settled in for the night. Or so I thought....

I'll write the rest of the story tomorrow!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Where were you when the lights went out?

In Wal-Mart!!! How funny!!

Everyone was making their escape from work, fleeing before the winds and rain pound us here in Jackson, Mississippi, and of course, we all had to make that one last stop for necessities. I really did have a mission - toilet paper!!! Who can survive a hurricane without toilet paper?!?! Not 3 girls in one house! [My roommate's sister (our former roommate) is staying with us through the storm.]

Anyway, I was in electronics, trying to find some batteries, when the lights flickered and then went out. You would have thought it was the end of the world for some people....the screams were hilarious!!! Then, the lights came back on and people began rushing around trying to gather all the stuff they came for, when...poof! They were out once again! This time for good.

By that time, I had everything I came for so I began to make my way to the front.

It is interesting to me the way people respond in difficult circumstances. You've probably seen it....people either begin chatting together, forming bonds that would never have happened before, or they stand there, fuming at the circumstances over which they have no control. Fortunately, for the time I was there, most people were being nice and waiting patiently, but I imagine it didn't last.

You might be wondering why we were even standing in line. Well, amazingly, the registers were still running! Several of us joked around saying, "Wal-Mart is gonna make sure they get their money!" It was funny. The sad news is they were running on battery/generator power, and the teller in my line said they wouldn't work for very long. Not too long ago, they announced on the news that this particular Wal-Mart had to close because the power was out.

I'm just glad I made it home safely. It is a crazy day.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Raising the bar

Your fellowship with God enables you to gain a victory over the Evil One. Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world - wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important - has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out - but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. 1 John 2:14b-17, The Message

Like it or not, there is a standard. It does not sit well with most of us, either. Given a choice, we want things our way, and like most of us in this "microwave generation", we want it now.

My pastor has said several times that hell is for wimps. That is no lie! It is not easy to always do the right thing. Sometimes there are those gray areas where there's not an explicit "yes" or "no" as to whether it should be done, but if you've spent any time in the Word of God, there is an answer. The principles are unchanging....and very clear.

I'm always surprised how tempting it is to let down the "standard". "Oh, it's not that bad. I didn't do x, y or z." Sheesh. Last night, a friend of mine reminded me of the story of Moses holding up his staff to ensure the victory of the Israelites over the Amalekites. As long as the "standard" (Moses' staff) was raised, they were victorious. I was quickly reminded that I must keep the "standard" raised in my life. There can be no room for compromise, otherwise I will lose the battle. Not only that, the others around me will lose too. You see, Moses wasn't the one fighting....he was the one holding up the standard. When he let the staff down, Israelites lost their lives. Yikes! Puts a different spin on things, don't you think?

One of the things I have struggled with is the idea of not wanting to hurt people so that they have another notch in their belt of "hurts from the church." But I realized last night, that keeping the standard raised in my life won't hurt others. God doesn't work that way. People will be drawn to the light of His Truth, and their lives WILL be changed! The only way I would hurt people is if I respond to them in the wrong way. And I MUST be careful how I do that. Sometimes, my responses to people encompass keeping the standard raised. It's real easy to slip back into the way "I" want to do things.

Anyway, I've been chastised by God. I MUST keep the standard raised. He will bless me for it. Of that I have no doubt. I look forward to seeing what happens and how the battle is won!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Checkin' in

I cannot believe how much stuff is going on in my life and around me! Just about the time you think things are going to settle down a bit, all heck breaks loose! Things at my church just seem to be exploding. The street ministry I'm involved with is taking off and going to a new level. Youth group (which is part of the church explosion) is right on the verge of some exciting things - I'm believing God for that. And at work - we're about to be off and running in so many ways, it makes my head spin to think about it.

How exciting!!!

Even though there are some things I'm dealing with personally (that I wish I wasn't having to) this is absolutely the best time of my life! I've got some awesome friends. My family is doing well. I couldn't ask for better co-workers. And I've recently met some people that are really cool! It's all good!

I'm encouraged and optimistic about life and the future....and I'm extremely tired!!!!! :)

Tonight, I'm hoping to hit the hay early!

Later!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sign of Discomfort

This is the heading for one section of my devotional reading today. I'm reading in Ezekiel about how he was called by God to be His voice to the people and what God asked him to do to present His message to those people. I can't imagine how I would have responded to God's requests. He tells Ezekiel to lie on his left side for nearly 13 months and "put the sin of the house of Israel upon yourself." Each day he lay there represented one year of Israel's sin. Then, when that time had passed, God asked him to flip to the other side and lay there for 40 days - each day representing a year of the sin of the house of Judah. Then God tells Ezekiel to bake his bread over human excrement, but Ezekiel pleads his case for never having defiled himself, so God allows him to bake it over cow dung - yuck! Not only that, Ezekiel has to shave his head and God gives specific directions as to what he is to do with his hair. There are a few other things God asks of Ezekiel, but I think you might get the idea. It's not a walk in the park!

Most of us would (at least I would) cry out and say "Unfair!! Why must I suffer humiliation and extreme discomfort just so you can get your point across to a bunch of losers who just don't get it - and probably still won't! I mean, after all God - how many times have you already told them this? Is me doing all of this really going to make a difference?" I don't know the rest of Ezekiel's story yet - whether or not the people saw what he did and were impacted by it - but I don't know that it even matters. Isn't the point, really, whether or not we'll obey God in whatever He tells us to do?

A friend once said to me, "Everyone wants to be a servant until they get treated like one." Ouch! How often do we (I) exclaim - "Yes!! Yes, God, I will follow you - whatever that means!" and then the first time trouble comes or He asks us to step outside our expectations and plans do we throw in the towel or just gripe and complain? "That's too hard!" "God wouldn't ask me to suffer like this!" Oh really? We ask God to use us and then when He does, we want to cry because we feel "used".

I'll admit - the thought that God wants to use me as He wills scares the heck out of me! What does God want from me? Everything. Over the past couple of weeks, I've been reminded of the scripture in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20..."You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price." I am not my own. But honestly, how scary is that? Not very. I know that God has my best interest at heart and even though He might require difficult things of me, He will be right there with me as I go through it. Besides that, He will get the glory and isn't that what it's really all about? It's all about Him, not me.

Yesterday, I had someone tell me they felt sorry for me because I didn't indulge in a certain activity because I believe and live by the idea "I do not belong to myself...I've been bought with a high price." I've never had that happen before. I've never been pitied because I live for Jesus. This person told me I was "missing out" and all I could think was how much he was missing out on, because he allows his life be controlled by this one thing. His vision is narrowed by his pursuit of satisfying himself first and foremost. Sure, I may not get to experience certain things, or I might have to do without all the trappings of this life, but when I'm standing next to Jesus in heaven, I just think I won't care. I'll be with Him. What else is there?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

I'm a computer geek wannabe!


My computer geek score is greater than 54% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

Is it just me...

or is everyone super busy?!?! I can't believe how crazy life seems to be.

Well, I survived my first ever Lock-In where I was in charge of everything! We had a great time - I just hope my kids got something from our time together. I had a special guest speaker come, and what he shared was really great. I know God planted some seeds...I hope I will get to see them grow into something awesome! If not, I'll just spend my time watering those seeds and planting new ones. For those of you reading this that might not understand what I mean - let's just say, I know Jesus began a work in the hearts of my youth and I hope to see them become solid in their commitments to surrender themselves to Him in every aspect of their lives. I want them to be able to say (as I do) "I can't imagine living life without Jesus."

The kids seemed to really enjoy it and I had some pretty good games (how would we survive without the internet!?!?) I came up with one "event" that was a smash hit! It was like a segment of "Fear Factor"! I had three volunteer teams of two people each - one person was the "giver" the other person the "receiver". The "receiver" sat on the floor at the end of the table with a plastic cap on their head, holding a bowl on top of their head. The "giver" had two pans in front of them - the first pan had gummy worms covered by whipped cream. The other pan had crushed corn flakes in it. The object of the game was for the "giver" to root around in the whipped cream to find gummy worms with their mouths (hands behind their backs), dip them into the corn flakes and then into the bowl on the "receiver's" head. The team with the most worms in the bowl wins. As I said, I had three teams and after the worms were counted, we had a tie between two of them! That mean another round - and it was gross!!!!! They loved it!! Why is that? The grosser something is, the better. It was too funny!!!

Anyway, I now know why lock-ins happen only once or twice a year! I was exhausted all week!!! My sleep schedule was thrown off and I just couldn't seem to get rested. I think not working out for the past two weeks also contributed to that. I worked out today and feel a lot better.

On top of the youth group, things with the street ministry are taking off. We've got more people involved than we've ever had and there may be two guys that we'll be working with to help get off the street. We've been able to establish relationships with them and now they've asked us to help. We'll see what happens! I can't wait to see what God does in all of this!

My job has also been keeping me busy. It's the end of our fiscal year, budgets are due next week and we have a major golf tournament next month. As if that wasn't enough, I'm making a quick 2 day trip to Kansas City next week - and I'll be going back in November. I'm loving it, but it sure is wearing me out!!!

I guess it's a good thing I'm not involved in a relationship right now. I would be more likely to try and concentrate on the relationship and I would neglect the other stuff. I sort of did that with the last one, and I think I need to learn how NOT to do that! It will be a thought hovering not too far in the back of my mind should I get involved with someone in the near future. That, too, is in God's hands.

Well, I should get to bed - my sleep schedule is still off! Later!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Prayer works....

Several events over the past few weeks leave no doubt in my mind how true that is. I've already told you about God providing me with a new car, but today (or last night, rather) something happened that me and several other folks have been praying about for many, many weeks.

Let me back up a minute...

Since sometime in May (I don't remember exactly when) I've been involved with a group of people who go out every Wednesday night to minister to the homeless. It has been an incredible experience!!!! I have learned so much...I don't care who you are, or where you've come from, everyone just wants to be acknowledged and loved. I've never seen that as clearly as I do now. I'm privileged to be able to go out and love on these forgotten people. Regardless of what circumstances have put them on the street, they still long to be accepted and loved, and we try to do that as well as meet their immediate needs with food and clothing. We're beginning to see a real impact in some of our "regulars" lives. Our desire is not just to bring them a sandwich and t-shirt, but to really impact their lives by sharing the love of Christ with them and helping them get off the street if they so desire.

In the past 2 months, our ministry group has grown from 8 people to 22! God is awesome! It is amazing to be in a group of people from all types of backgrounds and churches - God is really doing a work in unifying His body.

Anyway, not only do we minister to those we see on the streets, as we're driving around we also pray over our city - that the leadership would be led by God and that the light of God's truth would shine on any place where evil dwells. One such place we stop at each week is an adult bookstore. We would stop across the street from it and pray that God would shut it down using whatever means necessary, that the owners would come to know Christ and that those bound by lust and pornography would be set free and their lives would be changed. We also would talk to the security guard stationed outside - to give him water and food and to let him know we were praying for God to provide him with another job. So today, we find out that the bookstore has been shut down!!! The police raided it last night, and arrested an employee. Praise God!!!

The bookstore has been in operation for a long time - even after it became illegal to sell sex toys. The police department said in the paper that they've been after the place for years...funny how now, all of a sudden, they're doing something about it. That's what prayer will do - put things into motion and change what needs to be changed. I'm telling you, folks, if God's people really believed that prayer works (like it obviously does) we could turn this world on it's ear!

I'm reminded of a scripture:
"Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14

We can make a difference...prayer works!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Why did I ever worry?

Ok, He's done it again. God has proven Himself mighty.....but I knew He would. I don't know why I ever doubt Him.

Right before the trip to Cozumel, the transmission went out on my car. It wasn't really a shocking blow, because I knew there were some issues with my car, but I was praying that God would hold everything off until I could save up some money and get it looked at. Well, it didn't work out that way. The transmission started slipping, so I had to take it in, and it turned out to be the worst case scenario....and it would have cost me anywhere from $1300-$2500 to get it fixed. My poor little car, with a working transmission, wasn't worth that much!

Fortunately, I have a friend who looked into getting me a used transmission, and found one that I could have put in for about $800. The problem was, coming up with $800. Things are rather tight, due to some bad decisions on my part (God is working on me about that), so I was in a real pickle. Buying a car wasn't an option for several reasons, so suffice it to say, things weren't looking too good.

But God began to work things out. First of all, we have a staff car (at my job) that my boss decided to let me use until something worked out. So, I just began praying for God to move and provide me with the money to get my car fixed. I would have been happy just getting it back in good working order, so I could run it into the ground for a second time. [Let me add in here that my car has served me well! I found out the other day that my car was built to really only last 3 years - I got 8 good years out of mine! So I thank the Lord for that!]

Anyway - all this time, I've just been praying about the situation and thinking to myself that I could see no way for things to work out. At the same time, I had an incredible peace that He was going to take care of things. I just had no idea how He was going to do it!

My boss came in on Friday and told me that he had decided to give me the car...yes, I said GIVE...AND...because it would come to me like a bonus - and there would be a tax expense to me - some of our staff have given money to cover that cost. But that's not all...he talked with someone else who is going to help me sell my car for parts, and the money I get from that will go towards having my "new" car checked out and serviced to make sure it is in good working order.

Can you believe that?!?! I am so overwhelmed. I've feel like I haven't sufficiently responded to God and what He has done. I mean, I've been almost speechless about the whole thing. I did, however, share my story at church this morning. Perhaps there will be times over the next few weeks where God will provide an opportunity for me to share what He has done with other people. Who knows? All I know is that I now have a car, and it hasn't cost me a thing. I was hoping for the cash to get my car fixed, but He gave me a new car (new to me!) and, it is a bit of an upgrade....it's a slightly bigger car with power windows, door locks and seats. My other car wasn't that fancy. :)

So if you're reading this, and you think there is no solution to your problem - let me tell you there is. When I was on that cruise to Cozumel, one night I was up on the front deck, looking out into the vast blackness of the ocean with millions of stars twinkling overhead. God spoke to my heart at that moment and reminded me that if He could place each one of those stars in the sky, and know them by name, and if He could form the earth, with it's vast seas and all the creatures in it, and if He could know every detail of every person walking the face of the earth, surely He could handle the problems I was bringing to Him. To think that the Creator of this universe would even care that much about me to be concerned with my travel options is humbling....and awesome. He wants to know me and for me to know Him intimately. It blows my mind and I can hardly believe it.

I only hope I will remember the awe and wonder of this moment the next time I think I need to doubt God's working in my life. Maybe it will take longer to forget how good God is to me. :)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

My trip to Cozumel

I'm baaack! :)

Even though I'm still suffering from "sea legs", it is good to be back at home. (At times the room still sways!) Everyone should take a cruise at least once!

I must say, I had the best sleep I've had in a LONG time on this cruise! The gentle swaying of the boat and the constant soft drumming of the ship's motor is a perfect recipe for a good night's sleep! The bed was comfortable, too! Of course, the constant activity of the day helped to contribute to sheer exhaustion by the time my head hit the pillow each night! It was great!

The staff on board the ship were outstanding as well. They were very friendly and worked their butts off! I don't envy their jobs! It might be nice to sail around the world, but I don't know that I'd want to work while doing it. Those folks are on that boat, away from their families, for eight to nine months at a time! Yikes! I can't imagine even taking a 14-day cruise, much less living and working on a ship for eight months straight! The people on staff that I had the opportunity to talk with were very nice and interesting.

Anyway, I have pictures from the cruise. You can check them out here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Sailing, sailing...

I am leaving my home today to head to Mobile, AL, where I will board a Carnival Cruise ship on Thursday for my first trip on a cruise! I can hardly wait!!!!

You can be sure I'll post some pictures once I get back. I'll be taking a BUNCH!!!

Bon voyage!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Be still...

That phrase has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I have always taken care of things, been able to fix what's broken, find a solution for the problem at hand...basically take care of myself and those in my care. Well this week has brought me face to face with the fact that sometimes, I just do not have an answer and can't do a thing about it.

My faithful car, that I've had for almost eight years, has given out on me. The transmission has to be replaced. The really bad news is that I do not have the funds to get it fixed and as a result of my bad financial choices and poor money-management skills, I can't get the money to fix it. I honestly have never been in this situation in my life...you know, where there seems to be no answer and no way out.

But let me tell you how good my God is - all of my needs for today have been met. This could be the lesson He's teaching me. Over the past few months, I have heard that still, small Voice whisper to me, and sometimes yell at me to "live in the moment." At the time, I couldn't really see, or didn't want to see what God was telling me, but I think I am being forced to live it right now.

I was talking to my friend tonight and she asked me how I was doing. I was about to throw a big pity-party about what I don't have when God gently reminded me that every need I had TODAY was met. So that's what I told her - every need I had today was met. I didn't miss a meal, I still have a great job, my house was still standing when I got home, I have this laptop I'm working on, my immediate family is well, and best of all - today I have a car to use to get where I need to go. Beyond that, my eternal life is secure, I am involved in three distinct areas of ministry to other people, and I believe that God is going to use every aspect of this situation to bring glory to Himself (which will make it all worthwhile) and possibly allow me to reach out to others who end up in the same predicament. What a blessing to think that the God of all creation wants to use me in His plan.

I will admit, it has been a struggle not to dwell on the negatives - what I don't have, how my past decisions have contributed to my current situation, how I don't see an answer to my problems....etc., etc. You get the idea. Satan loves to beat us when we're down and heap condemnation on our heads, but another friend of mine reminded me of God's love for me. He told me that if he, as a parent, can still desire to give things to his children, even when they've behaved horribly, how much more is my Father in heaven desiring to do the same for me. It's easy to forget God's grace and mercy when satan is reminding you of past failures. It's also easy to fall into the practice of thinking that our actions alone determine God's involvement in our lives. All day I've felt like there is no way God is going to work this out because I haven't "performed" right - I've "done things wrong", so to speak. I don't really know why I would think He is like that when I, a mere human, have been gracious to people when they didn't deserve it.

Anyway, all I know is that I have a peace that passes understanding. It makes no sense to me, but it does show me that what God's Word says is true -
Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Ever learning to be still...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Losing touch...

I have been without my laptop for the past week, and won't have it again until Monday or Tuesday of next week. Can't give any real details about how and why that has occurred, but suffice it to say, when I get my laptop, I will be a very happy camper!

Speaking of camp - we are overrun with camps here at FCA. We had our leadership camp two weeks ago; we'll start another camp on Monday, at which I'm the "music director" (more on that in a sec); then we have a coaches cruise that begins two weeks from today. Of course, I'm just totally upset about having to go on that cruise - not!!! I can hardly wait!!!

Anyway, about doing the music at our Power Camp - this will be the first time I've served at an FCA event in any capacity other than my paid job description (administrative assistant, etc.) In addition to that, it has been a few years since I've directed the music for kids age 7-13. It is going to be a ton of fun...we'll do some of the old favorites: Arky, Arky...Shake a Friend's Hand...maybe even Father Abraham (to name a few.) Kids love songs with motions. :) It will be really interesting since I'll have to teach the motions AND play the piano. I'm looking forward to it, though. I'm glad my boss will be out of town - I don't know why I would feel weird about him being there, except that I know he would see me cutting up in a way he doesn't see here at the office! It will be awkward enough since I don't know any of the kids!

Well, hopefully once July gets here, I will be able to post more frequently. Lots of things are happening and I stay more focused when I write about what's going on. I feel sort of scattered these days because I'm not writing on a regular basis. It's rather strange - I don't keep up with things as well when I have to hand-write everything down. I'm a much better typist. :)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I laughed so hard, I cried!

Y'all, this is the funniest thing I've seen in quite a while. You may have seen it circulating around the internet, but if not, you HAVE to check it out!

Dancing Trombone Guy

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Still waiting...

If you had asked me at the beginning of the year what 2005 was going to look like for me, my answer would have been very different from the reality of my life today. Here's what I thought (in January, that is) the year would hold for me: I would right now be seriously involved with someone in a relationship (that has ended - and I don't want to be involved with anyone right now); working on how to prepare my family, friends and co-workers for the fact I would probably be moving out of state (that still could happen - although not anytime real soon); I would be building a business (that is still in progress - going slower than I expected, but I'm excited about the potential) and God would be doing some incredible things in and through me. Fortunately, that last thing is still happening in spite of me and my ideas!

It's funny how when God starts moving in my life, I just take the first hints of His handiwork and run with it - usually without really stopping to hear what He has to say about it. I wish God would stop me before I get started - you know, with a loud, booming voice that says "Hold on one minute there, Christy..." Unfortunately, God doesn't work that way. Or maybe He does, but with that still, small voice that I don't hear because I'm running off after my own wishes and desires.

You see, I do believe that the desires of my heart (serving God with my whole life, marriage, business - to name a few) are put there because of God's presence in my life, but I mess up, because I haven't fully let go of my idea of how He will bring those things about. I say I have let go of my ideals, but when the rubber meets the road and I have to wait on Him to show me exactly HOW He wants to bring those things into my life, I tend to jump to conclusions and start figuring out how He'll do it. Of course, I'm usually wrong. Oh how I wish I could truly learn to wait on Him. I think I'm getting better.

Right now, God has opened a door for me to be involved with a new ministry. Something I didn't see coming AT ALL but that is very exciting to me. Things are just developing, so there's not much to say, but I can say this - the potential impact of this ministry is incredible. I am so humbled that God would choose to use me to help bring this thing to life. I'm sure I'll be writing more about it. I'm just trying to practice waiting on God and not jump ahead before He gives the "ok!"

Monday, May 23, 2005

About marriage

Today, I was pondering love, relationships and marriage. Having just ended a relationship with a guy, it's been on my mind some. :) As a quick aside, I must say - the ending to this relationship hasn't been nearly as bad as others I've experienced and best of all, I've grown so much (I think) as a person and in my relationship with Christ. There are a lot of good things that have come from the relationship and I'm glad for that.

Nevertheless, back to pondering marriage. I was driving along, thinking about what my expectations of marriage are - you know, a good relationship with God at the center, lots of love, great communication, having fun with each other, being able to enjoy life and work through the hard times, etc. - isn't that what everyone wants? Anyway, I had a thought bounce across my mind: What if God's plan for my life doesn't include that kind of marriage? What if I am supposed to marry someone who isn't all he could be and our relationship suffers because of it? What if God wants to use that to grow something in me (or him) for a greater purpose? What if God asked me to be like Hosea and marry someone who is unfaithful (not necessarily in a sexual way, but in a spiritual sense)? Would God be enough in my life to help me deal with that? Oh dear. It definitely put a new spin on things.

Something I've thought about a lot since the break-up is this: what if we give up on people too quickly? What if the other person is just about to break through to a new level and all they need is someone to hang in there with them? What if that other person needs another chance, or another 3 chances or even another 10 chances to get things right and we give up without even giving them a half-chance? Now, I'm not talking about giving a second chance to someone who is abusive or has serious issues that need dealing with. I'm talking about giving second chances to those who, like all of us, are struggling to find out just what it is God has called them to be or do and in the process of their growth, they really mess up and hurt people.

I don't have an answer. I know that it certainly is easier to just give up and walk away. Sometimes, that is exactly what needs to happen. But I wonder how often it really should happen. We are such a "microwave" generation. We want everything "NOW" and we want it perfect. All of life's problems on tv are fixed in 30 minutes, so when it takes weeks, months or maybe even years to deal with things in the real world, we get so impatient and throw in the towel....and I bet we often give up right on the verge of a major breakthrough or even a miracle.

Like I said, I do not have an answer. All I know is that this kind of thinking assures me that I need Christ at the front of my life so that I will make the right choices. I can't even imagine comtemplating marriage with someone without the benefit of Christ's direction and guidance. I don't know how non-believers make it. It seems hard enough even with God's help! At least I don't have to worry too much about it right now. :) Still waiting on God's man for me!

Friday, May 13, 2005

I wonder...

What would happen if we as believers, instead of asking each other on Sunday, "How are you doing?" started asking "What has God done in your life this week?" or "How did you let God use you to minister to others this week?" or how about this one, "What did God speak to you through His word this week?"

I wonder....

What would happen if, when we went out into the streets to minister to the lowly and downtrodden, those bound by sin, we expected to see the same kind of miracles that happened in the New Testament? You know....people healed, demons cast out, people set free from sin...

I wonder....

What would life be like if we actually started walking in the power given to us by the Holy Spirit?

I think we would see some incredible things...the towns and cities in which we live would be turned upside down...people would call us fanatics...we would certainly face ridicule and persecution - you start seeing people healed and set free from addictions there are businesses that would suffer - some folks would lose a lot of money.

It would be interesting - no doubt about it. It would be exciting. It would be a challenge.

It would be awesome!

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father." John 14:12

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Memorial stones

We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future, your children will ask, 'What do these stones mean to you?' Joshua 4:6

Are there certain smells or sounds that take you back to a good memory from your past? Or maybe even a bad memory? Perhaps a song on the radio or a phrase from a movie reminds you of a time and place that have special meaning to you. I don't think it is an accident that we have these triggers or memorial stones in our lives. God, in His divine wisdom, knew that we would have short-term memory...that we would get so caught up in our current situations and forget those good memories unless there was a way to be taken back to those times and places of special meaning.

Sometimes these memorial stones show up unexpectedly and bring a little sunshine to our day. Sometimes, we have to dig and search to find those memorial stones so that we can be reminded of the things God has done in our lives. Recently, my pastor shared about how something in his spirit he thought was lost to him was restored simply by going back and reading through passages in the King James Version of the Bible. He said it was like coming home. For him, reading those passages reminded him of a time in his life where God had moved in some powerful ways - it was a memorial stone that brought him back to God and refreshed him. It's been fun to watch the difference in him.

Over the past couple of days, I, too, have had a similar experience.

Music has always been the way I most worship God. It speaks to that deep part of my spirit that allows me to communicate with God in a way I just don't experience in prayer. Usually, when I'm having a hard time or just feel separated from God, I'll keep the praise and worship music going. The other day, I was discussing something with my friend, when she mentioned a song from a particular cd. The song is "Take Up Your Cross" and it was from the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir cd, "Live...We Come Rejoicing". I got that cd somewhere in the mid 90's and it was during a time of my life where I was growing in the Lord and really learning about Him. It was a good time. So when she mentioned the song, I immediately pulled out the cd and set it with my stuff so that I could listen to it at work the next day.

I listened to that cd (actually, I have two of their cd's so I listened to both of them) all day long. Immersing myself in that music reminded me of a time where God showed Himself faithful to me and helped me to finally let go of something that has been holding me back. I feel refreshed and energized in a way I haven't felt for quite some time.

I've learned a valuable lesson. I think it is great when we are reminded of God's faithfulness when we least expect it, but it is also very important to go back and find those memorial stones, or mile markers, from our journey of faith that force us to remember what God has done. I had forgotten some things...but by going back to this memorial stone from my life, I now remember. And now I feel like I'm going to break through to that next level that I've been unable to reach.

What memorial stones have been left on your journey of faith? Do you need to go back and visit them and be reminded of what God has done in your life? Don't get so caught up in the here and now and the destination you are killing yourself to get to, that you forget to reflect on where you've been. Those memorial stones are there for a reason.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Walkin' streets of gold...

The last of my great aunts and uncles (on my dad's side of the family) died last night. Aunt Claudia was a remarkable woman and lived a very interesting life. I will always and forever remember her because of one scripture: Numbers 6:24-26
The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.'

Aunt Claudia put that scripture on every piece of correspondence she ever mailed me. I think I learned that scripture right after John 3:16. :) It holds a special place in my heart, because I always knew she was praying for me.

Over the past few years, she would always ask if I had met anyone special and was planning on getting married anytime soon. Of course, that hasn't happened yet, but I'm hoping that she'll put in a good word for me up there in heaven. (Just kidding!) I'm sure she's too busy loving on the One who gave her hope and peace throughout her life.

Aunt Claudia had a big impact on my spiritual life. When I was a young teenager, her granddaughter, Heather, and I, would spend the night with her in her cute two-bedroom apartment. We thought we were the stuff! :) I loved to go there, because we would sit up later than my usual bedtime, talking about life and Jesus and living for Him. She would tell stories of her life and how the only way she had made it was depending on her Savior. From stories I would hear later in life, it turns out she was, at times, a bit wild in her younger years and so had experienced some hard times in her life. But one thing that always stood out to me, from all the stories she told and the stories I heard later on - once she gave her life to Christ, she never looked back. Her faith in the Creator of the universe never faltered - oh, I'm sure she had struggles just like the rest of us - but she always knew that God was in control and He would take care of her and her family.

I will definitely miss that lady. I'm glad I got to spend some time with her last year - although I wish I had made more time for her. I knew that I would regret not getting to see her more, yet I still didn't make the time. But - I'm kind of glad. I can remember her as that spunky lady who didn't mince words and would love on you with everything within her. She was and still is an awesome testament to God's faithfulness. I only hope my life will reflect God in the same way.

I love you, Aunt Claudia! Hope you're having a blast with Jesus right now!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Deeper still...

God is taking me to deeper levels. It is an interesting thing to experience. I'm always amazed at how He reinforces His message/lesson to me through His Word, other people, and things I read.

I've got a ton of things going through my mind, but haven't been able to put them into cogent, coherent thoughts. Hopefully, I'll have something of value to share soon. :)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Change is in the air...

Have you ever had a sense that things are about to change? Well, I'm having that feeling right now. The question is this - is it just a wish or desire I have that things in my life would change because I want that or is the Holy Spirit giving me a heads up about future events? I feel restless, a little dissatisfied and very watchful, but I don't really know what is happening. Either way - I'm going to get ready.

If what I'm feeling is simply a desire I have, then that means I might make decisions that will bring about change. This could be good or bad - so I need to make sure I'm listening to God and being obedient to His will in my life.

On the other hand, if what I'm feeling is the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart, then I need to be prepared to deal with whatever is coming up. That also means being able to hear what God is saying and be obedient to His will.

The truth is, regardless of where the "feeling" is coming from, I realize I just need to trust God, listen to what He is saying and be obedient.

Something else I realized yesterday is this - I don't know as much as I think I do. Duh! It is easy to make assumptions about things when you are looking from one perspective, but that can be dangerous and lead to bad decisions. So, that's why I'm trying to be real cautious when it comes to this feeling of change. I'm only looking at things from what I see and know; God can see the whole picture, so I'm going to turn to Him for direction.

I only wish that trusting God - completely - wasn't such a struggle for me.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Passion for God

I heard a sermon the other day in which the speaker asked the audience, "What are you passionate about?" She said that one way you could tell is to think about what it is that keeps you awake at night. What is the last thing on your mind when you go to sleep? I was so convicted by her words.

Most nights, even though God isn't far from my thoughts (because I'm usually talking to Him about my problems), He isn't usually the center of my thoughts. I can't remember the last time I laid awake, thinking about how good God is or how awesome He is. In fact, here lately, there haven't been many times where I have been consumed just by thoughts of God - I'm usually consumed with going to Him to help me in a desperate situation - more than likely one of my own creation!

I want that to change. I want God to be my focus. I want to be consumed by thoughts of who He is, and how great He is, how wonderful, and gracious, and mighty He is. So what I find myself doing these days is this: when I'm overwhelmed by that issue or issues that want to steal my joy and my focus from Christ, I'm choosing to concentrate on Him. It's not easy. There usually ends up being a back and forth struggle in my thoughts. But it sure is beginning to get easier to dwell on God and His greatness instead of the situation over which I have no control.

There is a song I've recently come to love. It is by Shane Barnard of "Shane & Shane". I really like their musical style. This song is especially relevant to this topic.

yearn
by shane barnard

holy design
this place in time
that i might seek and find my God
my God

Lord i want to yearn for You
i want to burn with passion
over You and only You
Lord i want to yearn

Your joy is mine
yet why am i fine
with all my singing and bringing grain
in light of Him

oh You give life and breath
through Him You give all things
in Him we live and move
that's why i sing

acts 17:25-28, hebrews 12:28-29

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I'm glad March is almost over!

This has been a busy month. First I took a trip to Fort Worth - loved it, and can't wait to go back - and now I'm in LA - Lower Alabama, that is! :) I'm here for a staff retreat. Don't feel jealous - it's a working retreat - but we do have some free time tomorrow. I can't wait - I'm going to the beach to fly my kite! A friend gave me two kites for Christmas - they're big...the one I brought with me has a wing span of about 48" (I think) and it looks like a huge bird. It's really pretty. :) Anyway, I hope there is a really good breeze. I want it to fly for quite a while. :)

I'm tired - so I'm off to bed!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Confession

Ok, I changed my mind. Actually, God convicted me and I had to change my mind. I un-subscribed from eHarmony. The main reason I did was because I didn't actually talk to God about my decision to join up - it was an impulsive decision.

The whole focus of my life is to honor and please God, and one way I want to do that is through my finances. That is the main reason I had to un-subscribe. I didn't really have the money to spend on it - joining eHarmony is not a "necessity" right now. There may come a day when I have the extra funds to do it again, but for now, I'm out. :)

The other reason I cancelled, as I mentioned, was because I made an impulsive decision. There were a lot of thoughts working in my mind that led me to do it, and after a couple of days of reflection, I realized my motivation wasn't right. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say, I was in it for the wrong reasons.

So, I'm back "off the market" - so to speak. Well, actually, I guess I'm not. As long as I'm trusting God, He will bring the right person into my life at just the right time. I can't wait to see how He works that all out. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to focus my attention on knowing God and allowing Him to direct my life as He sees fit. At the moment - He is opening some really cool doors, and I'm excited by what He is doing. There are going to be some awesome things happening - I just know it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Oops, I did it again!

Ok, "oops" might not be the right thing to say. I knew full well what I was doing when I did it. I have joined eHarmony again...put myself "back on the market" so to speak...but just for six months. I'm excited to see who I might get the opportunity to meet.

The last time I was a member of eHarmony I was matched with a bunch of guys, but only met (face to face) two of them - one guy lives in the same town and is now engaged to another woman. He is a really nice guy and we are friends. (Hi, Al!) I'm excited for him and his fiancee. The other guy I just met for the first time last year (after talking off and on for 2 years). It seemed like it might work out well, but things just kind of fizzled out. I'm still puzzled over it.

Anyway, I felt like it was time to move on, but more importantly, I need the distraction. It will be fun to get new "matches" and have the opportunity to meet some guys. Even though there's an underlying thought of "Maybe I'll meet The One!", the truth is, I've only ever seen eHarmony as a way to meet and make new friends. (After all, aren't you supposed to be friends first?!?) The church I attend is not laden with single men and because of several commitments in my life, I don't have much opportunity to get out to meet guys (I DO NOT go to bars and the like - those are just not places I'd want to meet someone.)

The other thing is this - I truly am not "looking" for Mr. Right. I read an article on Crosswalk.com the other day that really spoke to me. The author of the article suggested that it is the guy's job to find a wife. The Bible says that "he who finds a wife finds a good thing..." (Proverbs 18:22) So what I'm doing right now is working on being the best "me" I can be. I am becoming the woman God has called me to be. I do believe that if I focus my attention on God and His plans for my life, He will allow my path to cross with the man who will be my husband. I'm just putting myself in a new "walkway" by joining up on eHarmony. :) Hehehe.

Seriously though - it is going to be fun. I am looking forward to the new friendships I will form. Who knows, I might need to meet one of these guys not for myself, but for one of my other single girlfriends! (I have a bunch of them!) How cool would that be?!?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Dry spell

I hate when this happens. I seem to get quiet when I'm not hearing a lot from God. (Of course, I was out of town for five days, but that's neither here nor there!) Things are quiet right now from Him, too. I'm still hearing "WAIT". *sigh* I don't like it, but I'm trying to get to the place where I enjoy the waiting.

You know, the other day I made a comment to myself about someone....that he is all about the "destination" - getting where he's going - and not the journey and that he was going to miss some things along the way. Turns out, I am guilty of doing the same thing. It's so easy to point fingers, isn't it? I didn't think that I was doing that, but all day today I've been struggling with myself over a certain issue - I want to know how it is all going to turn out. Basically, I want to get to the destination...the end result. Of course, as my focus remains on that end point, I'm sure there is plenty that is passing right on by me. I'm sure what I'm missing most is the still, small voice of God calling out to me, which I don't hear well because of my own moaning and complaining. God, forgive me!

So the immediate result of my lack of focus is that I am not living that abundant life I wrote about in my last post. It is my own fault - no one else's. I'm just glad God is getting through so that I can re-focus my attention and live in that abundant life He has planned for me.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Living with abandon

"I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly." John 10:10


I love the fact that God is a persistent lover of my soul. So many things are becoming clear to me, but what is shouting out to me from reviewing my thoughts and feelings and ideas is the fact that God is pursuing me! "O Love that will not let me go." I've heard that many times and always felt like I didn't get it - and I didn't - until now. He is so awesome! He does not leave me alone - and I am glad. So very glad.

The thoughs my pastor shared with us today seem to just fit right in with the lesson of my life - trusting God. He was talking about what is required to realize miracles in our lives and used the example of Peter praying for Tabitha (Acts 9) and her coming back to life. He made several points, but the one that really spoke to me was this: Peter took a chance. After he had cleared the room of everyone, and remembered what he had seen Jesus do, Peter took a chance and did exactly as Christ did. He probably had thoughts like: "What will happen if this doesn't work?" "What will people think?" "Jesus, don't fail me now!" But it didn't stop him from going ahead and uttering the words, "Tabitha, get up!" The result was this - a woman was raised from the dead.

The whole idea of "taking a chance" has been something hovering around the edges of my consciousness for a while. I touched on it a bit in my previous post. Today it has become clear to me that the people who take chances are usually the ones who may fail big, but they more than likely "make it" big. They accomplish miracles. They see amazing things. They live life with abandon. No holds barred. Life is never dull for these people. I want to be and have that.

As I was driving home from church, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that I've often prayed for a marriage that is above average - something special and not ordinary. What I was really praying for (and didn't realize it until now) was that I want a life (not just a marriage) that is above average....extraordinary. I don't want the run-of-the-mill life. I want that abundant life Christ talks about. I want to live with total and complete abandon.

So beginning today, I am deciding to choose the options that lead to a life of wild abandon in Christ. I know I can trust my heavenly Father to be there with me. In fact, He'll be there running beside me. He'll be the one running ahead of me, calling out to me to "come this way!" He'll play "hide and seek" with me so that I will continue to search for Him - but I know I will find Him, because He's told me so. This will probably mean my decisions will drive people crazy. They won't understand or they'll tell me I'm making a wrong choice. It won't matter. My life is in God's hands - not theirs. I trust Him.

Here's to living with abandon....I'm believing it will be an interesting experience!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Trusting God

For the first time, I really feel like I actually shared something of real value with the kids in my youth group. Our topic tonight was trusting God - the apparant object lesson of my life for the past six months. I guess that's why I feel like I actually did some good tonight. I really connected - I could tell it in the eyes of one of the kids. Do you know how awesome it is to see a teenager wrestling with the great truths of God's Word and how to apply those truths to their lives? Wow...I'm still amazed that God wants to use me for this.

I just love how God makes Himself known to me - even more - when I share with others the lessons I've learned. One of the most valuable lessons I've learned, came from my best friend - we usually know the answer to the question we're dealing with way deep down inside, but it sometimes doesn't come to the surface until we are talking to someone else about it. That sort of thing happened for me tonight.

I told the group that it isn't enough to simply say we trust - there has to be action behind it. Our scripture reference was Mark 2:1-11 - the story of the four men who dug through the roof to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus. They didn't just tell their friend, "Hey man, Jesus can heal you! I believe it, and you should too!!" No, they did whatever it took to get him to Jesus. They didn't let excuses stop them - "If we break their roof, how are we going to fix it?" "How in the world are we going to get him up to the roof - I'm not strong enough?" "What will these people think?" They did WHATEVER IT TOOK to get that man to Jesus. I posed the question to my youth, "What are you willing to do to get to Jesus for your answer?" Of course, as I'm challenging them, the Holy Spirit is working in me. Many of my struggles from the past few weeks, suddenly dimmed or disappeared in the light of that question. "What am I willing to do to get to Jesus and trust Him for my answer?" Am I willing to bear pain, sorrow, a lack of understanding the circumstances I'm in, fear of the unknown, or even a fear that I won't get what I want? Isn't that last one a crazy question? "....that I won't get what I want?" Don't I want God's will for my life? And if so, don't I trust that scripture in Jeremiah 29 that says His plans are "not to harm me" but "to give me a future and a hope"?

This past week has definitely been a soul-searching one. I absolutely trust God with every aspect of my life. Have for some time. It's just that now I'm having to put some action with that faith and walk out that trust minute by minute. It hasn't been easy, and it is by no means over, but already I can see that God is working in me. I believe I will be stronger and more sure in my faith-walk. Perhaps I will need that confidence and strength for another day, and it will be exactly what I need because it was tried in the fire of today.

Friday, March 04, 2005

How Great is Our God

song by Chris Tomlin

The splendor of a King
Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps Himself in light
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

Chorus-
How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Bridge-
Name above all names
Worthy of all praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

I love this song. God makes Himself known to me in new ways each day. I have learned much about knowing Him and just being with Him over the past three weeks. Even though circumstances aren't any different, and I still don't know the outcome of things, I KNOW He is in control and has everything in hand.

I can't imagine trying to live without God's presence in my life.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Monday, February 28, 2005

I'm getting better...

At hearing God's voice.

All day yesterday, and most of today, I was wrestling over a situation in my life. I just wanted answers to some questions. Of course, I wanted said answers "right now"!

Now, I've been down this road several times already (a couple of times in the past two weeks, as a matter of fact!) This road has a name...it's called "Waiting Way". God repeatedly reminds me to "be still and know that I am God." I think I've got the "know that I am God" part down, it's that "be still" part that trips me up. On second thought, maybe I don't have the first part down - if I did, then it would be easy to be still. Right? Hmmm.....something to think about, that's for sure.

Anyway, the reason for my struggle was because I was trying to figure out the resolution to the situation. How, when, and where it was going to be resolved. I had taken the reins, again, and was trying to figure out what's going to happen. (I don't know why I do this - it always causes me trouble!) Instead of simply trusting God with the situation, I was trying to control it - in my mind at least. (Fortunately, I hadn't acted on any of my thoughts and "plans"!)

So today, I'm chatting online with a friend when all of a sudden, as I'm typing a response to her, God shows me clearly that my struggle has been me. I was thinking it was the situation and circumstances, but in reality, I simply had picked the thing back up and God hadn't told me I could. I clearly heard Him speak to my heart - "Are you going to give me the time I need to take care of this?" Yikes! I immediately said, "YES! I don't want to get ahead of you, God! Please, take all the time you need to work in this situation - just give me what I need as I wait on You!" It was amazing the peace and calm that came over me. I always know when I'm walking in God's will - the inner turmoil stops and incredible peace overwhelms me.

I just wish I would always keep myself here in this place. That I would never doubt or wonder "when" or "how" or "where" or even "why" when I know what He has already spoken to me.

*sigh*

I do think, however, that I am learning to hear God more quickly than before and therefore I don't struggle quite as long. I just hope I keep getting better at hearing the Father's voice! I'm sure going to try!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Open doors

I am continuously amazed at how God blesses me. There are so many doors opening to me these days. Just when it looked like a major door was slamming shut, He has stepped right in and is carrying me in a different direction. How awesome is our God? I can't wait to see where He takes me. It will be good if I will just stay out of the way.

There is an inner struggle still taking place. I wish I could just switch some thoughts and feelings off. I know that waiting on God is the best action, but sometimes I just allow myself to get ahead of Him and ask, "Ok, when will it be over?" or "How long will it take to get an answer!??!" One thing I know, His timing is always just right. Even when it seems like it is almost too late. :) I just have to remind myself of what I know - what the Word says about God and what I know from my own personal relationship with Him. I know it is all going to be ok.

In other news - I'll be going to Fort Worth in a week and a half. I'm so excited! I'll be meeting up with some new friends and attending a conference that will be an incredible experience. I can hardly wait! If anyone has some suggestions of what is fun to do there - you know some hole-in-the-wall restaurants that are a MUST or places to visit that I shouldn't miss - please let me know! I bought a city map of Fort Worth today and another booklet of things to see in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

I was in Dallas about 15 years ago for a youth conference. All I remember is the hotel we stayed in - it has the rotating restaurant right next to it (I think it was a Peachtree Hotel then) and going by the "Grassy Knoll". We didn't get to linger too long, but it was neat to be in a place where a major historical event happened. I may try to get back over there to look around. It will be different now that I'm 31 instead of 16 - especially since I have a much more in depth knowledge of history and politics. I've always loved history.

Anyway, I'm so excited about my trip. It will be a neat vacation for me and a very interesting experience. I'll be the only person there that I know well! :) Ahhh....another opportunity for growth....step outside of what I know...live on the edge a bit. :) I can hardly wait!