Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Santa or Jesus?

I was doing some Christmas shopping the other day and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" played over the intercom. As I listened to this familiar Christmas song I thought about who Santa is and who Jesus is. Both represent Christmas in some way, but it would seem that Santa is more popular than Jesus. People stand in lines at the mall for hours so their children can sit on Santa's lap, we sing about him, he's everywhere you look in Christmas decor. Some of our most cherished Christmas stories have to do with Santa. How much of that time and energy is spent on celebrating and recognizing Jesus? I would venture to say not nearly as much.

So as I thought about this, I thought about the characteristics and roles of both Santa and Jesus. Santa is a happy, jolly, man who brings toys to children once a year. He watches them all year long to make sure they've been good. If they have been good, they get lots of presents. Supposedly, if they have been naughty, they don't get anything, or maybe a lump of coal. Now, most little kids get presents from "Santa" anyway, even when they've been naughty, but the idea is to convince them to be as good as possible so they can get the presents that they want from Santa. It's all dependent on their behavior for the whole year. Think about the lyrics to that song:

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

It's really kind of weird if you think about it. It's almost like instead of teaching your kids to be good because it's the right thing to do, you teach them to be good because otherwise Santa won't bring them presents. I know most parents don't see it this way; they're just going along with a fun tradition. But if you really think about who Santa is...well he's not very forgiving, he shows favoritism, and he doesn't provide any real joy, only superficial happiness from possessions.

What's interesting is this is actually how a lot of people think about God. They think He's up there watching them all the time to make sure they're being good to see if they will be able to get into Heaven or not. They think if they're good enough, He'll answer their prayers or bless them with money and possessions. Much like Santa, they think He watches for a really long time only to make one decision--Santa decides what presents you get on one day based on a year's worth of behavior, and God decides if you get into Heaven based on a lifetime's worth of behavior.

But that's not at all true! God sent us Jesus on Christmas (technically it wasn't on Dec. 25th, but that's beside the point) as a substitute for His wrath. Jesus paid the price for our sins and poor behavior. Because of Jesus, we can not only be forgiven for our sins, but we get new hearts with the Holy Spirit living in us. He doesn't just forgive us, he SAVES us. And that doesn't just mean saving us from Hell, it means saving us from the bondage of sin that we live in while on Earth. Our new hearts change us to give us strength and goodness to defeat Satan and his powers of evil. That is totally and completely different than anything Santa does. Santa doesn't forgive us, he doesn't provide any assistance on doing the right thing, and he certainly doesn't provide any type of substitute to bear our mistakes. Um, so why is he more popular?

Just read some of the lyrics of another familiar Christmas song... "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." And you tell me--who would you rather celebrate?

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

"Fear not then," said the Angel,
"Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan's power and might."
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Help for a Friend

As most of you know, one of my coworkers Jan Reynolds has been struggling with a failing heart. I'm pleased to say that she is doing better than she was a few weeks ago. She actually started back to work this week, but only for half days. She is still very weak and has to be careful with everything she does. At this point she is just waiting on the phone call to say they have a heart for her. Please be praying with us that this happens soon!

I'm also excited to announce that the Georgia Transplant Foundation has opened up donations for Jan's medical expenses. A lot of the costs of the actual operation will be covered by insurance, but the medications and treatments she will continue to need after the operation are extremely expensive. Even with insurance, the copays alone can be too expensive for the average income.

I know money is tight for all of us right now with the holidays just around the corner, the recession, and general expenses. But I also know that we cannot out-give God. Please be praying about whether or not God would have you donate to this fund, and how much you should give. If you give faithfully and with a cheerful heart, you will be blessed. I'm not trying to say if you give to this God will give you a surprise check of some large amount, but I do believe if you give to Jan's fund, God will make sure you still have what you need. So, please, consider giving to this cause. It is something that is very important to me and my entire office. We all love Jan very much and want to help her in any way possible. Scott and I have made a small donation and plan to give more after our next paycheck. Every little bit helps, so even if it's only $ will help! And you can always give more later if you feel called to do so.

The website is This is the blog about Jan's condition, recovery, and fundraising attempts. There is a link on that post that will take you to the actual donation site. I thought you might like to see the blog first so you can read a little more about Jan. If you want to stay informed about this issue, please follow that blog.

Thanks so much for your donations and prayers! God bless!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Ripple Effect

This message kind of piggy-backs off the last one about God making good from bad.

I recently read the book "Same Kind of Different as Me" by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. If you have not read it, PLEASE do! It's incredible! It's a faith-based book about the way God worked in the lives of a husband and wife and one homeless man. He brought them together in a way that changed all of their lives, plus the lives of countless others. And even if you aren't a "crazy Christian" like me, you can still enjoy this book b/c it's about humanity and real issues in the world.

There is one really sad part in the book. I read it and lay in bed crying with Scott looking very concerned. It's a true story, and I had a reaction similar to that of one of the characters. Why would God do this? Well, in the book we see several lives that are changed because of that one sad thing. Right away God revealed part of his purpose. Then, as I read it and felt encouraged and inspired by these stories, I realize I was being changed, too! The people that this happened to could not have known what type of effect it would have on anyone, and they certainly would not have predicted it would have any effect on me! But God knew. When God did that sad thing, He knew each and every life it would affect. He planned it that way.

Then I realized, everything that happens in this world is like a stone thrown into a pond. It has a ripple effect. One action (the stone thrown in the pond) causes lots of reactions (the ripples). I realized in that moment, I am a ripple of this one incident! And I don't personally know these people; I wasn't there when it happened. But it has changed me and countless others who knew the people, have heard the story, or have read the book.

This also reminded me of the movie Letters to God. It is also a book, but I've never read it. Sorry to spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but the little boy in the movie ends up dying from cancer. It seems so tragic because he has such unwavering faith throughout the whole movie, but God still takes him. But we see at the end of the movie how it has helped his family grow in their faith. Also, during the credits (this was a true story), we see testimonies and stories of real people who were touched and inspired by this story--particularly other cancer victims and survivors. Who knows how many people were saved because of the death of this one boy?

And of course that made me think about Jesus. He was perfect. Never sinned. Loved everyone. Was God's only son. And he was beaten and killed. God did that to his own son. And I'm not saying that to claim that God is heartless or anything. I'm pointing this out because of what happened due to Jesus's death. By his stripes we are healed! Because he died and rose again, we too can die to our old selves and rise again in Christ. Because he took on the wrath of God, we are saved from our sins and do not have to suffer in that same way. I mean, we can't even truly understand the amount and magnitude of the good that came out of that terrible event. I am a ripple.

Ripple effects don't just happen from bad things. "Same Kind of Different as Me" has lots of wonderful things that happen. And each of those things has affected me and others as well. It makes me kind of think of a boiling pot of water. Or a rainstorm. So many eruptions in the water, so many ripples--all colliding into one another, morphing along the way. That's kind of how life is. And what's awesome is it looks and feels chaotic to us, but it is all perfectly planned by God and He is completely in control of all those ripples. So crazy!

So, again, when something happens in this world and it doesn't seem fair and you question God and can't find any good in it whatsoever, just trust that there are ripples being sent out into the world, and good is going to happen. You may never see that good, but it's out there...even if it's several ripples away.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Making Good from Bad

Today I studied the story of Tamar for my women's small group at church. I have read this story a few times in the past, but had not given it much consideration. This time around I found it to be very enlightening. That's what I love so much about the Bible. You can read it time and time again and still find new revelations throughout.

For those of you not familiar with the story, it can be found in Genesis 38. I'll give you the recap. Tamar was married to Judah's son Er. After Er died, as customary in these times, Judah ordered his other son Onan to lay with Tamar so that she might give birth to a son who could carry on the family name. Onan basically practiced the method of withdrawal as birth control because he did not want to father a son that would be considered his brother's. (Which is how they would have viewed it) He ended up dying also. Judah had one more son but refused to give him to Tamar b/c he was afraid he would also die. So, Tamar left town. She heard that Judah would be visiting the town, so she veiled herself and pretended to be a prostitute so that he would sleep with her and she would bear a child. When Judah found out she was pregnant he sentenced her to be burned to death for adultery. When she proved that the baby was from him he said she is more righteous than he is, and he let her live.

Okay, so this story is really weird to us, much like most of the stories in the Old Testament. We can't really relate to those times. The practice of sleeping with your dead husband's brothers (and then tricking your father-in-law into sleeping with you) seems really off-putting to say the least. I found a few things interesting in this story.

First of all, the customs were so different back then. There were no real issues with men sleeping with prostitutes, but women couldn't sleep with anyone other than their husbands or they were sentenced to death! This is mainly because carrying on the family line was so important. It was okay, and even encouraged, that she sleep with her brothers-in-law because this would preserve the family line. If she slept with someone outside the family, it would be a disgrace because that child would not be part of that family. It was confusing to me that Judah claimed she was more righteous than he was. I mean, after all, she tricked him into sleeping with her. It seems they are both equally to blame for this. But her actions were seen as righteous because her attempts were to keep the family going by having a male heir. He had denied her his other son, thereby breaking such an important law and custom. It's just interesting to see the differences between today and then. At the same time, it's interesting to see how human kind has struggled with immorality and rash behavior since the very beginning. Many of these customs seem offensive to us, but how many people are out there in the world doing things like this or worse right now?

But the best part of this story--what I found especially encouraging--is actually found in Matthew 1:3. Tamar and the son she has from Judah are in the family lineage of Jesus Christ! Now you can argue for their reasons and possibly empathize with these people, but I think we can all agree that their actions were questionable and not entirely moral. But look what God did with their mess--He made Jesus! The one who saves the lost! How encouraging and awesome it is to see God turn something that we would deem as "bad" into something marvelous and PERFECT!

Not only is it an encouraging, but it provides a very good example of God making good from bad over a very long time period. Tamar and Judah's son was only the 3rd generation out of the 14 that lead to the birth of Christ. They definitely didn't see the awesome transformation of their mistakes in their life time. Nor did those in the lifetime after, or after that... I think that's an important point to remember. It's easy for us to proclaim that God makes good from bad, but when something "bad" happens in our lives, we always search for a direct result of it turning into something wonderful. And we can't always figure it out. This can be discouraging at times. We may start to doubt that God works all things together for our good or that He always uses what people do for evil into something for His glory. I think we need to remember that it may take a long time for that result to come about. We may never see it. It may affect someone else and not even be about us at all, and we may never know. Or it may cause a long term effect of something that doesn't even happen in our lifetime. We just can't possibly know for sure. But I believe we can trust that He truly does take the messes we create and transform them into beautiful things that will ultimately bring Him glory and benefit His people.

Lord, thank you for taking even my worst mistakes and using them to benefit the Kingdom in some way. Remind me of this whenever I may become discouraged with my life or the state of the world. Help me to see the good whenever I can, and fill me with your peace and joy in knowing that even when I can't see it--there is good to come in some way. Thank you for your unbelievable grace, love, and wisdom that you pour out on us each and every day. In your name I pray. Amen.

Friday, October 15, 2010

More than Enough

I was convicted about my doubt and disbelief last night.

Jan Reynolds, one of the ladies who works with me in CEPS, has been in the hospital for the past week with heart troubles. After surgery, a stroke, and coding once, she is still fighting for life. They found a bloodclot and determined that her heart is beyond repair. They are now planning to run tests to see if she qualifies for a heart translant. She has to stay hospitalized until she either gets a new heart or... something else happens.

Everyone in my office is sad and concerned for her. She's a wonderful lady who works constantly and is a HUGE part of our operations here in Continuing Ed. As the news keeps getting worse and worse, more people are saying, "All we can do is pray."

I have been praying for her and have asked everyone I can think of to pray for her as well. Last night in my Bible Study we prayed for her as a group. Again and again the phrase all we can do is pray ran through my mind. I realized I was looking at it as a very disheartening thing. There is nothing left that we can do to help her in our own power. At this point only God can help her. When we say this, we're usually implying that there is very little hope left. I went to bed last night, praying silently and feeling sad.

As the phrase went through my mind again, I feel like God really showed me something. I was not fully believing in the power of prayer. I was looking at it as a desperate last attempt to do something. But the fact is, all we can ever really do is pray. I mean, we can try to do things in our own power, but it's up to God to make things happen and we need His strength and wisdom to figure out the best things to do in situations. God is so much stronger and more powerful than any of our feeble attempts at fixing anything could ever be. So, prayer is always the best thing we can do. And it's not something we should go into with discouraged and downtrodden hearts. We should turn to God will joy and hope and ask him to help us, knowing that He cares for us and He will help!

So, as we're all praying for Jan--and I hope you'll join me--I hope we all remember that God loves us and that NOTHING is impossible in the name of Jesus! Prayer is not a last resort, prayer should be first! Because if we really believe all the wonderful things we say about our God, well shouldn't we be extremely confident in His power to heal and save? Prayer is not hopeless, prayer is the answer. God can and WILL move in our lives! If all we can do is pray, then we must believe that that is more than enough.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Joys of Autumn!

I'm loving this fabulous fall weather! I feel bad for Scott having to ride to work in the mornings on a motorcycle in 45 degree weather...but aside from that point, this weather is fantastic! I know I usually don't blog about the weather. I usually wait until God puts something on my heart to write about. But today I'm just overflowing with happiness as I'm taking in the change in weather, and I just had to write about it. Don't worry--it involves God, too! :)

Fall brings me a mix of emotions. Mostly I feel alive again when the weather starts turning and the temperature starts slowly dropping. I'm a weaker version of myself in the summer. The heat is so stifling. I hide out indoors, avoiding the suffocating heat, the sweat, and the bugs (namely--gnats and mosquitos). But as soon as autumn starts coming around the corner, I want to take walks, ride in the car with the windows down, dance around and sing happy songs! My body just prefers this type of weather.

The first fall breeze takes me places emotionally as well. This year I was overcome with feelings of new love as I remembered the excitement of 3 years ago...constantly messaging with Scott on facebook, incessantly texting, staying up talking until 5 am, walking around campus listening to Better than Ezra and Jason Mraz and thinking about how I am falling hopelessly in love. Now as I drive down the road with the windows down or walk through campus, my heart flutters and my pulse quickens and I swear my stomach feels a little nervous--it's like my skin remembers falling in love with Scott and relates it to the coolness of the air. I'm loving every second of that feeling! I hope I never forget what that felt like. (This is a Better than Ezra song that I listened to over and over. I also severely overplayed the Wicked Soundtrack)

Fall also brings reminds me of new love because it was last fall that I fell in love with Jesus. I had recently withdrawn from the Masters in Teaching program at GSU after deciding that teaching wasn't what I really wanted to do with my life. Because I had been student teaching, I didn't have another job. That meant after leaving that program, I was not only not in school, but I was unemployed as well. I had a LOT of free time on my hands for about 3 months. Parts of it was nice, like sleeping in and doing things at my pace and having time for errands and chores. Other parts were not so nice, like feeling useless and like I wasn't contributing enough. But the best part of it was that I had enough free time to really sit down and focus on God. I had wanted to set aside 30 minutes of God-time a day for a long time, but always claimed to be too busy. I had never really read much of the Bible, aside from Genesis and snippets of the NT. I had prayed lots of times, but never for more than a minute or so at once. So, I took the time to sit down with worship music playing softly in the background. I started with a prayer, then dove into the Word. I first studied Ephesians. There was no real reason for it. I just happened upon a verse from that book and decided to study it more. I would read a little and pray about it, think about it, and journal about it. It actually took me a week to get through Ephesians (it's not a long book) because I studied it so intently. By the time I was done, I understood and knew God like never before. I finally understood the glory of the Gospel! And that's when I was saved. While I don't have much free time at all this time around, I'm still reminded of that feeling of being newly saved, of figuring out how to live with my new heart, and of feeling true unconditional love for the first time ever.

Autumn just fills me with joy! It reminds me of how God turned my life around, first by bringing me and Scott together, which really changed my life, and secondly by saving me and opening my eyes to His love. I'll never be the same! Now with each cool breeze and breath of sweet, crisp air, I come alive. My body awakens from the summer long sluggishness, and all my senses are reminded of falling in love. Thank you, God for this fabulous season!

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Plank-Filled Eye

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7: 1-5

Being a Christian is strange sometimes. It is so easy to miss the mark and with naive intentions, take everything in the wrong direction. I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes people dislike Christians. I realize that darkness cannot live with light, and Jesus told us the world will hate us. I can accept that. But I'm wondering about those who maybe would be interested in hearing about Jesus, would find the true foundations of Christianity appealing, those who God wants to save and wants to use us to reach. How many of those people won't even give us the time of day because they have had bad experiences with proclaimed Christians? It's fine to understand that the world cannot accept us, but if we never try to reach people, if we stop loving people because of this, that's a problem. It makes me sad to think there are people out there who could know the love of Jesus but won't seek it or accept it because somewhere along the way they were disgusted with a Christian and now claim to dislike them and their whole belief system.

I started thinking about big examples of people turning others off with their faith. The most recent example that came to mind is Westboro Baptist Church protesting a soldier's funeral. They were taking their beliefs in the sin of homosexuality and other sins committed by Americans (and everyone else, for that matter) and using it to condemn others. They feel that they are called to correct the sins of others to perhaps shine light on it and cause change. At least, I'm guessing that's what they're doing. Another example is something that was a huge topic of conversation in the first few weeks of my counseling classes this semester. A girl in the Augusta State University counseling program refused to work with homosexual clients. She even went as far as to try suing the school. The case was dropped and I believe she left the school and transferred to a Christian-based school. She believes homosexuality is a sin, and because of that, she feels she cannot help them or work with them in a counseling relationship. And lastly, Scott recently applied to seminary at Liberty University. After applying, he did some research on the founder Jerry Falwell and realized that he too had caused a lot of problems in his lifetime by condemning others based on the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. (Scott has since decided to not attend Liberty after all)

So, what's the problem with all these examples? Well, it seems like they know sin. They are well versed on what is wrong according to the Christian faith. These all have a lot to do with condemning homosexuals, but it goes beyond that as well. It's the idea of condemnation itself that is the problem. Are these people wrong about these things being sins? Not if you believe in the Bible, which I strongly do. But I believe the message of the Bible is NOT one of condemnation. These people have missed the biggest mark of all. Jesus tells us (and I know I've said this many times before, but that's b/c it so important!) that we're called to love God and love others. That is the greatest commandment. So, we have the 10 commandments that tell us all the things we shouldn't do. But Jesus tells us, more important than all that, we should love God and love others. If someone is condemning others (in other words, telling them they are sinners and going to Hell), they are not loving them. And since they aren't doing what God has called us to do, they aren't being very faithful to Him either.

Those are extreme examples, but most people encounter Christians like this fairly regularly. They aren't necessarily protesting funerals or suing universities, but they are acting on these same principles. There are so many Christians who are judgmental. It's hard not to be because we are inevitably going to have an opinion on pretty much everything. But with hearts of love and mercy, Christians should be able to look past that opinion and see the situation for what it really is. But I think we all have planks in our eyes, and we're all zeroing in on that speck in someone else's eye. Why? And how can we start to remove that plank?

I think new Christians often have the biggest planks. It's almost undoubtedly going to happen. Because this is generally what happens when Christians become Christians: Most of us had to be completely broken before we were humbled enough to seek the Lord. Usually we all have one big thing that provides security in our lives and it's often to do with relationships and/or money. So a lot of salvation stories start off with losing someone, ending a relationship, losing a job, or having a financial crisis. Once we find that we cannot place our security in these things anymore, we feel broken, lost, and confused. We end up being humbled...realizing our own lack of control in our lives. Somehow or another we end up being saved by God. We may have turned to the Bible, had someone talk to us about Jesus, hear a particularly enlightening sermon or song, just try out praying, etc... But we are usually at a low point, empty of ourselves, and therfore ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit. After this happens, after we're "saved," "born again," "transformed," "get a new heart," whatever you want to call it, our eyes are opened to the truth. We better understand who God is, who we are, and what the world is like. We often see sin for the first time. Things that didn't seem like a big deal anymore b/c they're so accepted by the world now seem bad. We know that God has saved us and is working within us to make us righteous by His name, and we see all these lost people out there. It would be pretty difficult to not in some way think you are better than those people. It might not seem like we would think that. After all, we were just like those other people...lost, broken, sinful. Even though we're saved, we still have the sin of our flesh tempting us constantly. Nothing actually makes us better. But it's so easy to feel that way, at least a little. We look around and are disgusted with the sin of the world. We think, "These people are awful! They are going to Hell!" I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I've definitely thought that before, especially when I was first saved.

So, it makes sense that there are a lot of Christians out there turning people off from the faith because of their judgmental statements and actions, turning up their noses at others, or going as far as verbally condemning them. There are also people out there who claim to be Christians who, quite frankly, aren't. The world looks at these people and thinks they are such hypocrites, claiming to be Christians but gladly continuing to sin. I'm not saying Christians never sin and make mistakes, but if someone is happily continuing in sin after claiming to be saved, they are simply not saved.
"No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." 1 John 3:9

I think these plank-eyed Christians in combination with people who profess salvation but do not possess salvation are really making Christianity look bad! And unfortunately, we've probably all done it at some point. We focused on that speck in our brother's eye without even realizing we had a plank in our own! So, how do we avoid this?

The best advice I can give is to return to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Constantly remind yourself that you are righteous because of Jesus NOT because of how good and great you are. Remind yourself of where you came from. Don't dwell on the past, but never forget that you too were once a lost sinner, and remember that you still struggle with your own temptations today. And remember that sin is bondage. Sin makes people slaves. And these people are SLAVES to sin, they don't know the love of Jesus, and they are JUST LIKE YOU WERE. You may not have sinned in the same ways. Sometimes it's hard to say a murderer is as bad as a gossip, but it's all sin and it's all apart from God and it all leads to the same place. And you were just as lost. And remember what Jesus calls us to do. LOVE!! It is not our job to condemn anyone. It never gives us instruction in the Bible to tell someone they are going to Hell. We should love these people. If we truly love them and wish for them to be saved, should we tell them to change their ways or they're going to Hell? Would that make you want to change? No! It would make you angry! But if we love these people, we should care for them, not pass judgment, and form meaningful relationships. We don't have to go preaching the gospel right away, but we should show them the love of God through our actions. Eventually, as a relationship forms, Jesus will inevitably come up because He's so a part of who we are. And then, once the person trusts you and knows you, they are much more likely to listen. I'm not saying to form fake relationships to convert people. I'm saying form real, loving relationships. Pray for people. We don't know who will be saved and who won't. God can save the worst of sinners. So, even if their current actions could send them to Hell, we don't know if God will save them in the future or not. So, we really have no business playing fortune teller and telling them they are going to Hell anyway. But beyond that logical point, love should resonate within us and every relationship we form. That goes beyond friends and family. That goes for neighbors, coworkers, classmates, and people you see on the streets. Even a simple action can show love. And that's what we're called to do.

Lord, remind me of your grace and what salvation and sin are really all about. Help me to look past the sin of someone and love them. Convict me of moments that I may become self-righteous or start to condemn. Remind me that acceptance doesn't mean approval; that I can love someone as you love me without loving everything they do. You loved me while we were still enemies, help me to love like that! I'm sure my eye will be filled again and me continue to remove it. Amen.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I have several praises to the Lord today. Often we as imperfect humans spend much of our time asking God for things. Sometimes we ignore him completely until we want something from Him. Many of us, myself included, fall into the habit of coming to God in prayer with our needs and desires. This is fine to do, but we should never forget to come to him with our praises, thanking Him for all He has done. So, today that is what I want to do. I have already thanked God for much of this, but I wanted to share my praises in blog form to really show how He is working in my life.

First of all, He helps me with school. I started a graduate program this semester, and I've wanted to stay ahead and use my time wisely. Being 20 minutes away from home, I stay on campus between work and classes. This has given me time to do homework, work out, etc... God has worked our circumstances out in such perfect timing that I've been able to really utilize the time in each day because of the location of our new house. It has been important to me to try my best to get things done during the day so that I can limit the time I have to spend away from Scott doing homework at night and on weekends. This is my first semester of school as a saved Christian, and I have approached it in such a different way from my past. I used to let things pile up and wait until the very last minute. If I felt overwhelmed, I usually continued to put things off until I was panicked and sick with stress. This time around, I'm praying through things. With each assignment, and this is at work and school, I first pray that God will give me His wisdom to complete the assignment in a way that is pleasing to Him. I pray that He will guide me and encourage me to use my time wisely and plan accordingly to get things finished in a timely manner. I pray that He take all my stress, worry, and anxiety from me during the process. I pray that He not let anything draw a wedge between first myself and Him and secondly myself and Scott. I also pray that I do not get so bogged down in work that I don't allow time for fellowship with family and friends, service at church, or simple rest and relaxation time for myself. Now, you could argue that the difference in program, the difference in my schedule, or even my natural maturing as I get older is making the difference in my school habits. But I know who I am apart from God, and it's not pretty. I'm a wreck half the time, and I allow myself to put things off without remorse. I can tell perhaps in a way that no one else could, that I am now stronger, calmer, more diligent, and put more care into my work. I can say that I'm further ahead with my projects and assignments than ever before, and I feel like I can approach each of them with more certainty than before. If only I had this relationship with God during undergrad or the MAT program! But it's also comforting because I feel like God approves of this path since He is guiding me along it so well! :) And, as I said, this applies to work as well. I've been helping with marketing more and more and have no background in it! I'm learning as I go. I often am presented with an assignment that I really don't know how to handle. I pray about it, and then I manage to get through it. Usually God clarifies it for me so I better understand what I'm doing. Sometimes I feel directed to seek help or knowledge through a specific source. But whatever it is, the things I've been doing at work have already started producing fruits for my office! Just this week I had someone from Civil War News contact me in regards to an email I had sent and they want to run a story on our museum and the Camp Lawton findings.

This past week I had a few scary things happen. They may not seem like a big deal, but they are things that really made me praise God for His protection! There were two bank robberies last week. One of them was our credit union! I had planned out my afternoon schedule and was planning to be there at 2:30, after finishing my lunch. As I was eating, I thought I would watch a show online. I was only going to watch the first few minutes until I finished eating and then leave. Instead I ended up watching the whole 44 minutes of it and got to the bank around 2:50 instead. As I pulled in I saw that it was closed, but there were cars and people inside. I pulled up to see what was going on and realized there were police officers there. One pulled into the spot beside me, and I left. I found out the next day that it was the bank robbery and that it happened at 2:30! I could have easily been there if I had followed my schedule better. I'm not trying to promote watching TV and procrastinating, but I believe God altered my plans in the simplest way possible to keep me from being there when it happened. Could be a coincidence, but I don't think so. Either way, I praise Him for me not being there when that all went down.

Another crazy thing, Friday night Scott and I decided to bake a cake. We allow ourselves to bake one dessert a month, and we decided to cash in our Sept. treat. We were watching a movie and I had a view of the kitchen from my spot on the couch. I looked over and saw that the inside of the oven was lit up and flashing! I said, "I think the oven's on fire!!" Scott ran in and the heating element inside the oven had a short and was sparking and flaming. We tried pouring water on it, but that didn't help. Not knowing what else to do, we pulled out the fire extinguisher and emptied it in the oven. Neither of us had used one before and didn't realize that it would fill the entire house with this powdery substance. The air was full of it and we had to open all the doors and windows. Every surface of our house was covered in a thick blanket of powder. We called Jeff (our neighbor/land lord who is also a fire marshall) and he came down with a box fan to help us air it out. Today someone was supposed to come out to see if the part can be replaced or if the whole oven needs replacing. I'm sure we'll find out from Jeff this evening what the call was. Anyway, though it was scary, ruined our cake, and resulted in about an hour and a half of cleaning the house around 9:00 at night, I am so thankful that nothing worse happened. If I hadn't seen the fire, it could have gotten out of control. If we didn't have a fire extinguisher, it could have gotten worse. If we didn't have nice and caring neighbors nearby, we would have hard time getting all that out of the air. I praise God for protecting us and watching over us at all times! Things that may seem bad often have reasons to be thankful, too!

And finally, God has put it on Scott's heart to go to seminary to pursue ministry! He applied today to Liberty University for an MA in Pastoral Counseling. For those who don't know, Scott has always lacked clear direction in his life. For more details, you can read his blog about it. But it's a HUGE deal that he is feeling strongly called to ANYTHING, and it is such a blessing that it's ministry! I couldn't be more pleased and excited for him! I can really see him in this role and I know God has big plans for his life. I thank Him for speaking to Scott and guiding him to this degree. We often have to wait for God's timing to work out, and often this can be frustrating. Scott has been waiting and praying about this for about a year and a half now. I believe God wanted him to be content with what he had and also seek first the Kingdom. Once Scott stopped worrying about it, starting seeking God and not obsessing about his future, God opened the doors for him. He used other people to share and encourage Scott in this direction, and though he has received some opposition, we believe that ultimately, God's will is what is important. Scott believes he is being called in this direction and so do I. I have prayed about this countless times, and I've always felt in my heart that ministry and seminary were in his future. I couldn't force that or try to convince him of it. I have been supporting him no matter what his thoughts, ideas, and plans are. I'm excited that he now seems to have a clear vision and it's something that I understand, agree with, and am proud to say he's pursuing. Many of his other aspirations were okay, but not something I would have necessarily wanted for us. This feels right in every way! Praise God! :)

That is it for today, though I could go on and on forever! I love that I serve such a good God who loves us, walks with us, guides us, and protects us every step of our lives! Thank you, Jesus! :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Going Mobile

Last month Connection Church, my & Scott's home church, did a series titled, "Going Mobile." Brandon, our pastor, based the sermons on the fact that the whole world seems to be going mobile. Everyone is connected and mobilized by technological advances such as the internet, lap tops, cell phones (now with all kinds of crazy abilities, or "apps"), iPods, iPads, etc... But the church generally doesn't seem to be very mobile. So many of us happily go sit in church once a week, maybe do some fellowship with other church members, maybe invite someone else to church, and that's about it. But the Body of Christ (the church) is about much more than that. We're meant to be the hands and feet of Christ! We're called to do His work, serve and love others, and help build the Kingdom. Attending a church service is a great way to learn more about God, worship, and fellowship with other believers. But if we want to really serve others and build the Kingdom, we must be willing to do more. We have to go mobile. After 3 sermons on this topic, we were challenged to preach the message for the 4th Sunday by actually doing what we had been talking about. We took the day, and went mobile with our church. We shared the love of God with our community by putting roofs on houses, cleaning apartments, doing yard work, building wheel chair ramps, painting dumpsters, visiting residents of nursing homes, and having our kids fellowship with kids from the community who may not know God or have the opportunity to go to church. We took the day to take the focus off of ourselves and a typical church service and we worshipped and served God by serving the community. And really, this is what being missional is truly about. Yes, going to other countries and sharing the love of God is important, but a missional church will also share the love of God with people right here in our own neighborhoods. We should be a walking mission for God...wherever we go and in whatever we do. This video does a good job illustrating this. This is not a video made by Connection Church, but I thought it explained the idea very well.

This is what we should be doing everyday, but our church specifically took a day to work on this idea and to help reach out to our community.

We arrived at church at 8:30 in the morning. We then broke up into groups, each going to a different place and doing different work. Scott went with a roofing group, but he mainly helped with the yard work. This particular family had a house built by the husband, but he had left the picture. He didn't do a great job with the house, and the roof was never finished. He just nailed plywood up and put a tarp over it. Needless to say, this caused lots of leaking. The son, not knowing what else to do, would just nail another piece of wood over the wholes. This was essentially causing more holes and worse leaks. In addition to the roof problem, no one had taken care of the yard. It needed to be cut and there was garbage, debris, and lumber scattered about. They filled 4 whole dumpsters full, and Scott and one other person cut all the grass. The rest of the group worked on getting a roof put on the house. I volunteered to work with the kids as we still needed child care and we believe it's important that the children are also learning to serve others. I was in the 1st-5th graders group. We took them to Gentilly Gardens Nursing Home to do arts and crafts with some of the residents. It was incredible watching these young children fellowship with these older adults. They were so kind, patient, and loving towards them. It was such a blessing to witness! I think the residents greatly enjoyed the experience as well. Then, after lunch, we took the kids to Little Lotts Creek Apartments to play with some of the kids there. Some of these kids live in very unfortunate circumstances and may not have parents who tell them about Jesus. We played games and hung out with these kids. It was amazing to see the diversity of all the kids happily playing together. That's what the love of God looks like. It was truly moving to see how these children from strikingly different circumstances could come together with the love of Christ to play together and have fun.

I know I was deeply moved, as was Scott and many others from our church by this service day. I feel so blessed to be a part of this church that reaches out to others, does not judge, but acts in love and service to others. Our mission wasn't one of going out and trying to convince people to believe a story...we were going out and demonstrating the very thing we believe in while helping them in ways they could not help themselves. I believe that is the very best way to witness to others and spread the message of the gospel. Beyond myself and the community, I know this encouraged our church members to move forward in a missional and loving attitude. Jon Irvan made this incredible video to share some of the testimonies that we all shared after returning back to the church that evening, paired with some footage from the service day. Check it out, it's really inspirational!

I challenge each of you to move forward in your lives with love and kindness towards others. The best way to worship and serve God is by loving and serving others! Thank you, Connection Church for helping us all witness this first-hand!

Friday, September 3, 2010

What do you do?

Scott and I were having a conversation about work the other day. He's still hoping for another job opportunity as he doesn't feel like he's reaching the potential God has set for him at his current job. We discussed that while your job is certainly important, it's not the most important thing in our lives, and what really matters is serving God and bringing Him glory.

This got me thinking about work in general and how it really consumes our lives! I know it's important and we have to do it in order to have the money that it takes to survive. I know after the fall, God cursed Adam with having to work for his food, and we still carry that curse today. But I don't believe God means for it to consume us. The only thing that should ever consume us is love for God!

But just think about it. When you're little everyone asks you what you want to be when you grow up. Then as you get older, people start talking about college majors, which are intended to prepare you for a future career. We spend all this time and money on school so that we can get a job. Then we spend the rest of our lives in said job. When we meet someone, what is the first thing they generally ask you (aside from your name)? "What do you do?" And of course, they mean, what is your occupation, where do you work, what is your job description, etc... When you start a new class or join a group of some kind, there are usually round-table introductions. When it's your turn, what information to you give (assuming it's not a decided set of questions to answer)? Usually you say your name, where you live, where you work, major/degrees, if you're married with kids, etc...

What this tells me is the world largely identifies us with our jobs. It's what we do and who we are. But is our job what really defines us? Granted, some people have jobs that better define them than others. Certainly a counselor, minister, teacher, doctor, etc would be able to justify how their job illustrates their values and personalities better than someone working at Wal-Mart or McDonalds. And it's not just about the quality of the job. Someone could be a lawyer, have a great paying job and lots of money, but be completely miserable because either the job isn't fulfilling their potentials and/or because they are placing too much importance on their job. Jobs will never fulfill us, even jobs that we love, that are perfect fits for us. No job alone can provide constant joy and security. Only Jesus can do that.

So, whether or not you are currently in a job that is well suited for you and whether or not you are pleased with your career, should it be your defining attribute? Think about the questions. What do you want to be? Most kids answer with job. Firemen, police men, teachers, baseball players... And that's what the person asking the question is actually looking for. But if you think about what the question actually is, is your job all you want to be in life? Do I just want to be a student affairs personnel? No. I want to be a servant of God, a loving wife, a mom, a friend... And aren't those really more important than a job anyway? And then the question we all get asked, What do you do? What do I do? Taken very literally I would say, I hang out with my husband, I read, I worship God, I go to church, I do Bible Study, I go to school, I watch TV and movies, I sing (a LOT), I dance (badly), I laugh, I pray, and yes, I go to work. But looking at that list, which of these things is most important or most displays my personality and values? The things related to loving God and loving others. That's what is most important in life because those are the two specific things that Jesus calls us to do. Those are the things that most define what type of person we are and what we value in life. Yes, our jobs could and should reflect that because we should be loving God and others in every area of our lives. But are our jobs so important that we should let them completely define us? That we should let them get in the way of loving God and loving others? Certainly not.

And just a fun fact that I actually picked up from another blog title "Life in the Fast Lane," The average American works 122,400 hours of his/her life. Now I don't know if this is accurate and I really am not mathematically gifted enough to know the percentage of our lives this is, but I know that's a BIG number!

The world is often so backwards from the truth. The world places the majority of our purpose in life on our jobs. Yes we should work, yes we should strive for jobs that fulfill our potentials, that make us happy, and that illustrate our personalities, but jobs are NOT the majority of who we are or what we do. I hope I never lose sight of my real values and priorities in life. What am I? A Christian. What do I do? Love God and love others!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Driving Like Jesus

It's been a while since I've blogged, and it's because I just started my graduate classes last week and am still adjusting to the new schedule and balancing a slew of responsibilities. My work week has been cut in half, but that just means I have to be even more efficient at work since I'm not there as much. After work, I have been trying to find time for working out and doing homework. I have classes 3 nights a week; Monday's class doesn't get out until 10:20 pm! And when I'm not on campus for one reason or another, I'm fulfilling my role as a wife--helping clean, cook, shop, take care of the pets, and of course spend quality time with the love of my life. And above all these things, I'm trying to keep God at the forefront where He belongs. I admit my time with God has decreased in the last week or so. The best I can say is that I plan to work on it, and I praise God that He has already forgiven me for this lull in faithfulness that I'm showing. While I haven't been studying the Word or spending time in meditative prayer as often as I would like, I can still say that God has been on my mind and heart. In just about every thing I've done, I've thought about it in light of my Christianity. I've found that since my salvation, and even more in times that I have drawn closer to the Lord, my Christian lense for viewing life gets more and more clear. I find that God uses even the tiniest things in my life to teach me something or to make me wonder about something--which in turns draws me back to Him for answers.

Since moving to Portal (about 20 minutes outside of town), I've been driving a lot more lately. I make the 20 minute drive to and from Statesboro just about every day, either for work/class or for church. Saturday is the only day I don't have to go there, but there's usually some reason to do it anyway. I don't mind the drive, it's actually kind of nice to have time to think and focus before going somewhere. When I lived 5 minutes from work, I would push it until the very last minute and spend those 5 minutes sweating, tapping the steering wheel, and checking the clock. This automatically made my entry into work a less pleasant one. Now I allow for the time and can empty myself, talk to God, listen to music, or just zone out (as safely as possible!) before starting another busy day. My only complaint with the driving is the crowd. This year we have 20,000 students at Georgia Southern and they're out in full force! If they're not driving on the roads, they're riding their bikes, walking, running, etc... And all this driving, and all these people, it really got me thinking about our driving attitudes. What kind of people are we when we get behind the wheel?
Here's what I have gathered about myself and other people I've seen drive. We lose our patience much more easily than in other circumstances. Suddenly getting where we're going is the most important thing in our lives and any delays are devastating! If you're walking behind someone who is going too slow, you don't usually walk super close to them until they have the sense to move out of your way. But that's what we do when we drive. And we pair that action with frustrated words or sounds. We groan, sigh, growl...we say things like, "What is this idiot doing?" Some of us say worse things than that. If someone cuts us off, we may shout obscenities, use vulgar gestures, lay on the horn, or if nothing else, we steam on the inside with anger. From what I can tell, most of us become totally different people with different values when we're driving. Not always, but we're almost like time bombs when we're driving...we aren't always crazy, but it could start at any minute. It's like we forget who we are and we forget that people driving around us are people and not just inanimate cars. We may strive to exhibit and embody the fruit of the spirit in our lives, but that is not necessarily evident when we drive. How often do we show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control when we're driving? I feel like patience is often the first to go and the rest just follow along right after. Why do we do that? Does our Christian lifestyle pause when we get in a car? Maybe we don't think about it because road rage is so common and accepted by the world...but so are most of the sins that we try to avoid. Maybe it's because there are no teachings on driving in the Bible, maybe because Jesus himself didn't drive. But I would think (and I got this bit from Carl, who is the leader of the GSU Wesley Foundation), if Jesus came in an era of driving, He certainly would have driven. So, it's that question we should always be asking ourselves: what would Jesus do? If Jesus were driving, how would He drive? Would he transform into a frustrated, angry, impatient, and agressive person when He was driving? I seriously doubt it.

So, to deal with the admittedly frustrating task of all this driving around all these people, I have decided to remind myself that I am a Christian at ALL times. So, I should be acting like Christ. And He would drive with all the Fruit of the Spirit. He would love others enough to not be a rude or aggressive driver towards them, and He would be merciful and loving enough to forgive those who were rude and aggressive towards Him. He would not let worry and anxiety consume Him. If we find ourselves becoming someone we don't like when driving, I suggest turning down the radio, taking a breath, and talking to God. Driving is a great time to pray (with your eyes OPEN!), and I've found it really helps me to drive like Jesus!

"Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:37-39

"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." Leviticus 19:18

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." Romans 12:14

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Good, Goodness, and Getting into Heaven

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22

I'm a big fan of the Fruit of the Spirit. I know that's a weird thing to say. What Christian isn't? But I really enjoy studying it and praying over it. Today I was thinking about it, and goodness popped out at me. Usually I think about the first bit--love, joy, peace, and patience. I often pray for those, seek those, and wish those upon others. Goodness I never give much thought to. But, in my opinion, it might be the most difficult one to understand. It's kind of vague isn't it? I mean, how often do we use the word good? All the time! "How are you?" "I'm good." "How was your trip?" "It was good." "This burger is so good!" "Good game!" "Good morning!" And the examples could go on and on. So what does it mean to have goodness? And while I was wondering this, I started to think about the claim, or complaint, people often have about "getting into heaven." I've heard many people say, "I don't know if he was a Christian, but he was a really good person. I'm sure he's in Heaven now." Other people, who have heard that you can only go to Heaven through Jesus, have gotten angry and argued that claim with, "If God is so good, how can he send good people to Hell just because they don't believe in Jesus?" And I think the answer to both of these questions, regarding fruit of the spirit and getting to Heaven, can be answered by carefully considering and studying what the word "good" or "goodness" actually means. So, that's what I did.

First of all, the English word good actually stems from the word god. There's a reason for this. The Online Etymology Dictionary ( gives us some definitions of good. Some of these include right, suitable, fulfilling expectation and purpose, bringing about a benefit or blessing towards another, holy, and Godly. So, if you think about it, when you say something is good, you usually mean that it is satisfying; it fulfilled it's purpose or your expectation of it. If you say a vacation was good, you mean that you expected it to be a certain way (fun, relaxing, etc...) and it met those expectations. If you've found a good doctor, you mean that the doctor fulfills the purpose and expectations held for that job description. Makes sense. Now the benefit or blessing part makes sense, too. A "good person" is usually someone who does nice things, tries not to be hurtful towards others, and helps people. Most of us think of that when we say someone is "good." These people are benefitting or blessing others by their actions. Okay, next up--holy, Godly, or "of God." The actual origin of "Good day" or "Good morning" meant "God be with ye." So, it was as if you were saying "God be with you this day/morning/night/evening, etc..." The phrase "my goodness!" or "Oh, goodness!" was actually started to replace the word "God" so as not to use His name in vain. Does it make it right? That's another discussion! More examples..."the good book" is the Bible, or more specifically The Holy Bible. Bible is latin for "book." So, "the good book" is actually a trasnlation of "The Holy Bible;" it's not just saying it's a decent read! "Gospel" is actually translated as "good news." You may have also heard of "good tidings." This is all refering to the announcement of the salvation through Jesus and the coming kingdom of God. In other words, the news of God.

Okay, so we have a solid idea of what the word "good" means and how it's often used. So, then, what does it mean to have "goodness" as part of the Fruit of the Spirit? In other words, what does it mean to be a "good" person in the eyes of God? Well, it means to be God-like. To have the qualities and characteristics of God. To be Holy. To benefit and bless others. And to be exceptable and pleasing to God, fulfilling His purpose for you in His kingdom. And what are these characteristics of God? Well, it's the rest of the Fruit of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." I've found in my studies and talks with God, that the Fruit of the Spirit is one thing. My pastor once explained this saying, "that's why Paul says 'the fruit of the Spirit is' not 'the fruits of the Spirit are.'" This means you can't have one without having them all. It's a package deal. They're all connected and you can't fully understand one without considering another. We've all heard "love is patient, love is kind..." Paul uses patience and kindness to describe love. And in the same way, I would use all the other fruits to describe goodness. So, to have goodness is to have all these other fruits--the attributes of God himself. It also means to be holy. In order to be holy we must have the Holy Spirit living within us. We only have this because Jesus came and died on the cross. He did this not only to cover our sin and save us from death, but to give us the Holy Spirit so that we have a living God inside of us, growing fruits and working in our lives. So, the Holy Spirit inside of us (meaning, we are Christians) is what grows goodness within us. Good people bless and benefit others. They are kind, loving, and patient towards others. You cannot be good without these actions because it's part of what being good is. This is why faith without works is dead, but I digress... And lastly, if you have goodness you are meeting the standards of God. You are exceptable to Him and are fulfilling His purpose for you. God's standards are nothing short of perfection. His standards are for you to be like Him.

This brings me to my next point. Why do "good" people go to Hell? Well, the short answer is--they don't. But if you know me, you know I'm going to give you the long answer, too! Bearing in mind what we just discussed as the definition of goodness, we have to recognize the impossibility of it. We all know that humans aren't perfect. We're definitely not like God. We sin, we make mistakes, we have impure thoughts and desires. We're not always going to exhibits all those other fruits. We become angry, we're unkind, we lose self-control, we're demanding, greedy, and impatient. The list of our imperfections goes on and on. No one can claim to be completely perfect by their own will. But these are the standards that God has set for going to Heaven. You must be like Him! You thereby must be perfect! But we can't be. That's why we need Jesus. Jesus has interceded for us and taken the wrath of God for us. Now justice for our sins has been met. It's just that we aren't being punished for them, Jesus was. As a saved Christian, we have the Holy Spirit living in us. The Holy Spirit grows the Fruit of the Spirit in us and it becomes evident in our lives. This is where the goodness comes in. God lives within us, growing us towards perfection. We are forgiven for the mistakes and we're being pushed towards the standard of perfection, always growing closer and closer. Growing in goodness is becoming more and more spiritually mature--that is, more and more like God. To have goodness is to have the other fruits of the Spirit, and to be actively fulfilling our purposes by building and benefitting the Kingdom of God. We are gaining His holiness, thereby meeting His expectations of perfection and being truly "good." So, if that's what it means to be good, then if you aren't a Christian, if you don't believe in Jesus as the risen savior, if you don't have the Holy Spirit living in you and working in you, then you are NOT good.

Now, people may be good by the world's standards. The world's standards are far lower than God's. We're okay with lying, cheating, sexual immorality, alcoholism, drug addictions, and so on. We may say someone is good because they always seem nice. Or they may even be involved in charities and help a bunch of people. But without Jesus, they simply are not good enough. Good enough for the world maybe, but not for God. And Galatians 6:7 says, "Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." If people got into Heaven based on our standards of goodness it would be like saying it doesn't matter what God wants or believes. We think it's good enough so we're coming on in! No. We cannot mock God. When it comes down to it, He is more powerful and greater than any of us. His standards are perfection and that's what counts. And since none of us fallen creatures are capable of perfection, we can only get to Heaven through Jesus. And while this may anger some, let me assure you, this is GOOD news! He has saved us from our helpless states and is giving us eternal life through Jesus! Let us rejoice and embrace that love and mercy and grace! Hallelujah! God IS good; and He is growing goodness in me! And through the blood of Christ I am going to heaven! Amen!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Money's Just a Number

Today Scott and I paid bills. We balanced our checkbook, and set to writing various checks and paying several online bills. As I wrote my checks, clicked "submit payment," and subtracted the amounts from our checking account total I thought of how it seemed like nothing more than a math problem. Our total increased when I added in our paychecks on Friday, and now it was quickly decreasing. I was adding and subtracting. I was typing in numbers on a website and clicking "ok." I was signing sheets of paper with numbers written on them. Never once in any of this did I touch cash. We rarely use cash and when we do, I consider it play money. I almost feel like it doesn't count when I spend cash. Oh, goody, I have a dollar in my wallet! I'll buy a coke!
I realized in all of this that money is really nothing more than a number. It's not really an exchange of any sort, it's just changing around the numbers in various accounts. I looked at my online account for my student loans, and briefly thought how it seemed like an awful lot of money, but I quickly dismissed the fact. It's just a number that we're gradually subtracting from. Eventually it'll be gone. It will probably take a long time, but eventually the number will be zero. And in that moment I realized how insignificant money really is. It's just a number.

I started thinking about how much we let money rule us. God warns us against this several times in the Bible, and for good reason! It's extrememly difficult to not let money rule your decisions. So much of the world seems to run on money and you need it for almost everything. People decide where to live based on money, when to get married, where to go to school, what career to choose, how many kids to have, what to eat, what to wear, what to drive, how much to give....the list goes on and on. So, how do we regard it? How do we biblically approach the concept of money? I think it's something that we all struggle with--believers and unbelievers alike.

Before continuing, I must admit that this is all a hodge-podge of ideas in my head right now, and I should probably take some time to plan this out so that it's more coherenent and thorough, but because this is a blog and only a handful of people will read it anyway, I'm jumping right in!

First of all, we are told that we should not love money and that we cannot serve both money and God:
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will love the one and hate the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and wealth." Matthew 6:24
"keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have." Hebrews 13:5

We immediately throw up our defenses, don't we? "I don't love money! I'm just being practical!" "What am I supposed to do? Just not pay my bills and go to church all day?" It's hard in this world where we're expected to pretty much live to make money (working) and spend money (the fun times...when we aren't working). Of course we need to pay our bills and we do have to work in order to do that. And no we shouldn't go spending our money all willy-nilly making crazy claims like "money's just a number!" ;-) But seriously, where is the line?

And I think the sin comes not from the money itself. There is nothing evil about paper money, nothing evil about checks, debit cards, or credit cards either. I used to be scared to get a credit card. I had heard so many horror stories of college students going into major debt. It wasn't until I finally broke down and got one that I realized the card didn't make you go into debt, it was your mentality towards the card. Some people see the card as endless magic money that gets them things they otherwise couldn't have. So, they charge up a bunch of debt and later blame the card. But the card didn't make them do it, their thoughts about the card did. And money in itself isn't evil and it doesn't make us slaves to it, it's our mentality about it.

It's the love of money that is a sin. It's the fact that desiring money and stressing out about money CONSUMES us! It completely takes our focus and trust off of God, which is really the problem with all sin. So many people are scared to do anything because of money. They won't give to others or the church because they're afraid they'll run out of money they need for themselves. They completely disregard the point that if we're faithfully giving, God will provide for us. Some will stay in jobs they hate, jobs where they aren't fulfilling the potential God created them for, simply because they make good money. And even if they aren't doing it because they claim to love money, they may be doing it because they feel like they need the money to survive. This fear/desire associated with money prevents them from taking a leap of faith and trusting in God to guide them and provide for them accordingly. And as I've said before, if we're stressed about money we don't have, we're essentially saying God isn't able to provide what I need in life. And I admit, it's definitely a challenge when funds are low to stay calm and trust in God to pull you through. But if you talk to God about it, and spend time in His word, you are guaranteed to feel better about matter how challenging it is for you: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ." Philippians 4:6-7 It may seem impossible to you to not let money get you down, but God promises that, though it's hard for you to understand or fathom, He will give you peace if you talk to Him about it.

And if you are always looking for money you will never be satisfied: "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless." Ecclesiastes 5:10. Not only will you always be left wanting more, but should you end up in a challenging financial situation, you will be left devasted, anxious, and afraid. Those who trust in God know that He is bigger than money and will take care of us.

After all, if God can create the entire world and set it into motion, change a sinner's heart, heal diseases, and on and on and on because we believers know nothing is beyond God, then how is it so hard to believe that He can control money? After's just a number.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Prayer Requests

Hey, everyone. I have lots of prayer requests today. Rather than writing a ton, I think I'll just list the requests. Thanks for your prayers and support!!

1. Someone that Scott works with just found out that he has stage 3 lung cancer. Apparently this is a terminal stage. He quit smoking over 20 years ago and has just now developed the cancer. Please be praying for God to heal him and to guard his heart and mind with the peace of Jesus. Also be praying for his friends and family as they deal with the pain and shock of this news.

2. Scott did not get the job he interviewed for. Please be praying that God's will be done and that He guides Scott to the right job. Pray for patience, peace, and faithfulness for me and Scott as we wait and continue to serve God.

3. Bobbie's mother has severe arthritis and is suffering with a lot of pain today. Please pray for God to take away that pain. And pray that He gives strength and peace to both Bobbie and her mom.

4. Jeff is having knee surgery on Friday. Please be praying that God is with Jeff and the doctors so that the surgery is a success and Jeff walks away completely healed and renewed!

5. My mom's fiance Mike's dad ( mom's future father-in-law) has cancer and is in the hospital. At this point everyone is basically waiting on him to pass. Please pray that God is with him and his family.

6. Brett started a new full-time job at Olive Garden this week! Praise God for that! Please be praying that God is with him and uses this job to make a change in Brett's life.

I think that's it for now! Thank you so much for your prayers! They are much appreciated! :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

And Why do You Worry about Clothes?

"Therefore do not worry about your life. What you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes?" Matthew 6: 25

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lillies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying 'What will we eat?' or 'what will we drink?' or 'what shall we wear?' For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:28-33

I read this last night, and patted myself on the back. Scott was out of work for a month due to the mandatory 30 days off for casual laborers at GSU (no pay), we've had seemingly endless car trouble (expensive), and paid several moving expenses like Uhaul and paint supplies. We literally have about $30 in our checking account right now and close to $1,000 charged on our cards from car trouble and moving expenses alone. On top of this, I have had 4 friends and/or ministries ask us for money lately. I'm not saying all this to make you feel sorry for me and I'm certainly not asking for money, but I wanted you to know the extent of our financial burden right now. And here comes the back pat--I'm not worried about it at all! I read this passage and smiled and nodded my head and said a little thank you prayer. I know that God will provide for us and give us everything we need. I'm just patiently waiting for things to even out again. Great! Right?

Well, this morning I had to stop and think back through the verse I had so casually read. I was getting ready and, given my nature of procrastination, I had not given any thought to what I would wear today until 20 minutes before we had to leave for work. I pulled on a pair of hand-me-down pants from Scott's mom that no longer fit her and a hand-me-down shirt from Scott's sister that she didn't like anymore. I frowned at my reflection. I tried playing around with the shirt--buttoning different buttons. I sighed and went to my pile of shoes. Nothing looked good with the outfit. I decided the shirt was the problem. I tore it off and tried on an old shirt that I've had for a little over 2 years and am therefore sick to death of. (Girls...starting to sound familiar? Guys...sorry this is so boring!) I put on the best shoe match I could think of, still not satisfied, and left the house thinking I look like a blimp and I hate my clothes. I took one last look at my closest, groaned, and exclaimed, "I hate my clothes! Nothing goes together and nothing looks good on me anymore and they're all cheap and ugly!"

I then rushed to smear makeup on my face in our last 3 minutes before leaving while my poor husband resigned to making my lunch for me and politely asking if I wanted to take my book to read during lunch. I was fuming inside and out. My self-esteem had plummeted and my frustration had lead to a clammy face which made the makeup difficult to apply and I was running out of time. GRRR!!! I thought to myself, I know God is going to provide all we need, but what about all we want? He's not going to give me new clothes when I have a whole closet full already! I know our bills will be paid, but am I ever going to be able to buy new things that I want?

Then God told me to remember the verses from the night before. Why do you worry about clothes? Pagans run after these things. If God clothes the lillies, will he not clothe me? O, me of little faith!!! I'll sheepishly retrieve that back pat now...

God knows what we need better than we do. And He knows what we want. And He wants us to have good things and blessings in abundance. Is God going to give me a surprise $500 to go on a shopping spree with? Probably not. But He will make sure I have enough clothes and if I really need some new ones (which I think I might...), He'll provide a way for me to get some. But I can't be greedy, impatient, or demanding of these things. And I certainly shouldn't spend my time worrying about them. If God clothes his creation in unspeakable beauty, how much more will He clothe me? Again, I'm not talking expensive, closets full of clothes, but He will make sure I have what I need. Just when I think I know it all, God goes and shows me how much I still have to learn...imagine that!

Here's my plan, and I encourage those who struggle with this (or wants/needs of any kind) to join me.

1. be THANKFUL for what I DO have. Just b/c I might be tired of my clothes, doesn't mean I don't have any. I'm blessed to have several things to wear. There are so many people in the world with next to nothing.
2. Talk to God about it. There's no sense in hiding the fact that I want new clothes from God. He already knows. I can share this desire with God, but rather than just pray for new clothes, I want to ask God to redirect my heart to Him and help me trust that He will provide and that I need not worry.
3. The things that really don't fit anymore and just make me feel bad about myself when I try to force my body into them...DONATE to people who aren't as fortunate as me.
4. Give myself more time to get ready in the morning or (better yet) pick out my clothes the night before. And not just pick them out, but put them on and make sure I'm satisfied with them. That way I don't have to worry about starting my day out on a sour note.
5. Make my husband lunch tomorrow because he is the most patient and understanding man and he deserves it! :)

There are so many more important things in life than what I'm wearing. Why worry so much about it? Why let it consume me? And by worrying about it, I'm actually saying that God isn't good enough or powerful enough to fulfill my needs and I am not satisfied with what He has given me. Do I really feel that way? Do I want to feel that way? NO!!! So, be careful what you complain about and think about what you're really saying by complaining. Do you really mean that? I need to take my attention off the mirror and focus it on God. Then how could I be dissatisfied? "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Where God Guides, He provides."

I recently read this on a church sign and thought, "Wow. A church sign that is actually useful and not something silly." In the past month I have come to find that this couldn't be a more true statement.

I have heard several stories of people feeling God calling them to do something, being hit with all kinds of opposition, and God continuing to provide in the most miraculous ways. I had never experienced back to back, continuous provisions before...or at least not in such extremes that I really recognized it as God. This month, however, that is exactly what Scott and I have been experiencing.

We have been talking about moving into a bigger and nicer place than our apartment for almost 2 years now, but always ended up agreeing that it was worth the noise and the size to pay less in rent. We had decided to stay there until we could afford to buy a house. Every time another option came up, it never seemed to be a better deal. Even if it was a nicer place, the rent would be so much more that it would put us further away from affording a house of our own. We finally gave up on the idea of moving, deciding to be content with what we had.

Meanwhile, our pastor's parents, Jeff and Bobbie Williams had been dealing with a problem of their own. They own 14 acres of land. They live in a house on the property and they have another house that Jeff's parents were living in. Both his parents are in nursing homes now. They have been struggling to pay the insurance and taxes on the house and considered renting it out. They were nervous about renting and wanted to make sure it would be someone they trusted.

At the beginning of the month Bobbie brought the house up in our Bible study small group. She said she wanted to rent it out to a nice, young couple and wanted to know if any of us knew of anyone. I didn't immediately think of us because I knew we had already resigned our lease through December. I decided to mention it to Scott anyway and he asked me to email her for more information. After several emails and a trip to the house, we knew it would be perfect! It was only $15 more a month than we were currently paying, water included, and it is twice the size plus so much land! It all seemed perfect except that we had our lease...

We all prayed about it. We felt like it was God's will, but wanted to make sure we weren't imposing our own wills and calling it God's. Scott went by our rental agency and they said they could not let us out of our lease, but we could sublease it. This seemed like a set back. Regardless, I just kept on praying and knew that if God wanted us in that house, He would get us there.

I posted the apartment on the facebook marketplace and within 2 days I found a married couple who needed an inexpensive 6-month lease. It took 7 days total from finding out about the house to having the sublease papers signed! Awesome!

After signing the papers we found out that we had less than 2 weeks to be out of the apartment. The house still had furniture and a lot of the previous tenants' things in it. Our apartment had to be packed and repainted to the original color, and we wanted to put fresh paint on the house as well. In less than 2 weeks!!! But I knew that God wouldn't get us this far and then leave the situation. He made it happen! We were blessed to have Alora staying with us for the week and she was super helpful. The Williams helped out a ton (including Brandon and Susan) and Don and his brother from church moved all the furniture and boxes out in 1 day!

Then came time to move. We had rented a Uhaul but had no one available to help us move. Not only that, but I was supposed to be driving Alora back to Atlanta that same day! It was a blessing that she was able to come 1 week; we were seriously doubtful that she would be allowed to stay a little longer. Randomly, one of Scott's SCUBA friends texted him to see how he was doing. We told him we were moving and he offered to help! So, we had help, and managed to get it all done on Friday night after work!! THEN Alora found out that she could stay an additional week! These were all highly unlikely things, and God provided all of them! Just like that!

We are all moved in now! A lot still needs to be done around the house but we've made HUGE progress. God has truly blessed us and answered many people's prayers. OH--AND we didn't have a washer and dryer. We prayed about it, looked around online, but everything was either broken or way too expensive. Then, one day, we found a couple selling a fully operating set for only $150!! Thank you, Jesus! :)

So, the question now is, can we really afford even a slightly more expensive place, not to mention the extra gas money b/c it's 20 minutes outside of town, AND with me starting school and making less money? Well, we no more considered that when Scott got a call about a job interview for a full time job in the College of Education! He should find out in the next day or two if he got it or not. God has just been working overtime in our lives and we are so thrilled!! :) Not to mention the amazing blessing of having Alora around for 2 weeks! That was totally unexpected and I loved spending time with her. God is SO good! :) And where He guides, He certainly does provide. So, if you feel like God is calling you to something that seems impossible, just remember that everything is possible with God. He wouldn't call you to something and then stop. He's going to keep working to get you where He wants you. You just have to listen and be faithful. I'm so excited to see what He does in our lives next! :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

About Me

Hello, and thanks for stopping by my blog Living in the Promise. My name is Christy. I love Jesus, and this blog is meant to be a sort of chronicle of my love story with Him. I want to share with you all the things that God is doing in my life and the lessons He is teaching me every day. 

I'm married and completely in love with my husband. We live in south Georgia in a small town called Statesboro, which is about 45 minutes away from Savannah. I moved here to attend Georgia Southern University and I ended up sticking around for a Master's degree as well! Now I work at the University in Continuing Education. My husband and I recently bought our first house and we're having a great time redecorating and making it our own! 

This blog has been an ever-changing journey for me. In the past three years I have focused on various things--lessons from God, losing weight, exploring myself through a 30-day photo challenge, and every thing that has happened to me in between! Lately I have decided to rededicate my blog to God and get back to the original purpose of sharing His work in my life. 

Living in the promise means living in the promises that God has given to me--my salvation, my new heart of flesh, His provisions, His love, His presence, and my constant sanctification to look more and more like Christ. That is what I want to share with you. 

I'm sure there will still be fluff. I'll still share pictures of our redecorated home and my adorable nieces. I'll probably still talk about my weight occasionally and the fun date nights I have with my husband. But I want this blog to be a source of comfort and encouragement to others. That is my heart in this endeavor. I hope you'll join me for the ride! 

~Christy Curley~
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