Posts Tagged ‘God’


It depends on where your focus is.

Every year, right after school lets out for the summer, our church hosts a week long day camp called VBS. Or as we VBS 011affectionately call it “vibs.” In most parts, Vacation Bible School is a well known event among church goers. Children gather for a few hours and participate in Bible stories, crafts and maybe learning a few songs about Jesus loving us.

At our church, we believe that kids relate to fun so we make VBS hugely fun with an entire morning and afternoon production, sports games, crafts, special events — a climbing wall, bounce houses and a petting zoo (to name a few).

The kids are in age/gender teams and create banners, team cheers and close friendships. They spray water guns and fly down a zip line. Stories are acted out on stage in front of them and discussed during team time with their adult leaders and teen assistants.

It’s a week of special treats like the snack bar, snow cones and ice cream. Songs are sung with dancing and hand motions in an outdoor amphitheater with the words displayed on huge banners. A dance team worships the Lord, encouraging the kids to learn the moves and dance along. Bible Buddies, or B Buds, act out the verses for the day which all fit with the theme for the week.

Today is the our day and will end with an amazing barbeque and final production to give the parents a glimpse of what their children have experienced all week – the reason they are all smiles, dirt and good tiredness.

Sounds like fun, huh?

Did I mention that approximately two hundred volunteers donate their time, often their vacation time from work, to help make this event a success? From that first year I stepped into the role of “team leader,” I couldn’t imagine not helping with VBS.

But last year, I became ill and as we got closer to the event, I realized that my acting role that year was not going to happen. Others stepped in for me at the last minute, and I traveled out of state for some rest. I watched my husband and daughters perform online via live streaming. I missed it. And this year, while I’m better, I’ve still been sick.

I didn’t think I had the physical strength to participate.

And I didn’t have the energy to care. I decided I would stay home and pray. People asked what I would be doing.

Nothing this year,” I’d answer.

But one day a few weeks back, a friend made a simple request. The man directing traffic was desperately in need of help. Since my husband and I had been in charge of traffic a few years ago, my friend wondered if I would consider helping out at all. Even for a day or two. I didn’t think it would work, but I agreed to pray about it. After all, it would only be a couple of hours in the morning.

I said yes.

The traffic director said I made his day. Imagine that. Something so simple brought such joy to him. Monday I arrived in the fog with excitement stirring in my heart. I greeted cars and directed them to the appropriate places. God gave me the energy to run around even when an unexpected situation arose that required way more than I thought I had to give.

After I finished, I watched my daughter sing and dance, kissed my two grand kids and went home to rest. Tuesday I woke with a migraine, but since I felt better standing rather than lying down, I took some pain medication and headed off to VBS again. Within an hour, my head wasn’t threatening to explode anymore. During the singing and dancing, I held my grand daughter.

And so it continued. A few hours of  chatting with friends, welcoming strangers, and participating in song and dance with my grand children in the morning, and then I’ve rested in the afternoon.

It seems like I haven’t done anything much.

But something has happened to my heart. Each day as I’ve worshiped the Lord, waved to parents, cheered for my daughter, watched my son with his team and snuggled my grand kids, I’ve been infused with joy. Overflowing, tears pouring down my cheeks joy.

Nothing in my circumstances has changed. I’m still sick. Our finances are tight. My husband is battling with job issues. We still don’t know what to do about mold, and our landlord has raised our rent, but not made needed repairs. My son sprained his knee and got hit in the chin with a baseball. Life kind of stinks. As do the lives of many of the people I’ve been serving with this week. Illness, injuries, and tough life challenges abound.

But my focus changed this week.

What I see is different. A smile goes a long way to cheer someone. We are in this together, joined by Jesus and our trials. My daughter’s face radiates the joy of the Lord as she belts out worship songs and dances on stage in front of hundreds of kids and adults. Our son rejoiced when one of his friends accepted the Lord. I wake and go through my day with the lines from songs echoing in my head. Words like:

I know You love me. You are for me, not against me …You only think good thoughts about me.

Or

Take me. This is all I can bring. (this little bit of sick, weakness) I feel alive. I come alive. I am alive…

It’s ended up being a great week. I’m no more tired than usual, but my heart is far less heavy. And I’ve found that having joy in the midst of life’s difficulties all depends on our focus.

To check out our VBS FUN visit www.coastlands.org and find us on Facebook.

 

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This post is my response comment on Diana Rasmussen’s site.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – photo from Google Images

My eleven year old son was on a field trip to a local amusement park with his class this past week. He was disturbed that while he and a friend waited in line for a ride, a male couple in line in front of him was kissing. It really bothered him and his friend. We happen to live in an extremely liberal area where any and all sin is accepted, condoned, and promoted as the best way to live so this situation isn’t the only one to which my children have been subjected.

What should I say to him?

I’m so sorry that you were subjected to the sinfulness of other people’s choices.

I explained that the Bible is very clear on this issue of homosexual relations using the verses you shared here(Romans 1). And that God loves us all. We all choose to sin in various ways every day. That sin affects others too.That is why Jesus died for us.

He understood that and said,

But Mom, it really bothered me. A lot. Why would someone want to choose to do that?

He instinctively knew it was wrong – meaning not the way God created us, even though we haven’t really talked a lot about homosexuality. It has come up in discussion, but we haven’t had an agenda about it. I also explained that it used to be that if people wanted to participate in a sinful lifestyle, it was private. Maybe affecting their life, but not so much the public. By law certain behavior choices were not allowed (and still aren’t in some places) to be exhibited in public. At least others didn’t have to be subjected to the depravity of drunkenness or drug use or cursing or stealing or….name it.

I guess all that is to say that I agree we need to pray and love others.

Can we or should we mandate sin? The Bible does. For God’s chosen people (the Israelites and those of us grafted in who follow Jesus). But as you say, the world lives according to the world standard, not biblical standards. What is our role then? I think of Paul in Greece who acknowledged the gods of the people while pointing out the one true God. (Acts 17:16-32) Many sneered at him, but many were open to hearing him speak. I guess that means that in love and kindness we should be willing to confront as we feel led by God in order to share the gospel-his love and plan for us.

We’ll be laughed at, but we will also be heard.

How does that apply to lawmaking? Maybe the same way – in love and kindness those in authority must stand for what is right and make good laws that will protect all not only cater to a small percentage. Then be willing to be maligned by some for those laws on behalf of those who want to live in the truth. And continue to pray and love and pray again.

Also, remember we are aliens in our world that is dictated by Satan. There will come a point, according to the Bible, in which the Holy Spirit’s influence to hold back sin will become less and less and our world is going down. I think we are in that time or coming quickly to it. So our focus may need to be on loving and sharing with individuals more than legislating sinful behavior. Just a thought :)

What are your thoughts?

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Today I visited a friend.IMG_0642

I dropped my daughter off to ride horses and ambled through country roads under marshmallow studded cerulean skies. Pastures rolled across the landscape embellished with the white arches of raspberry tenting. One ribbon of road cut through apple orchards stretched out towards a quaint farm house. Crisp spring air blew through my open sun roof whipping my hair.

Ah, the delightful beauty of the day.

In that moment, I savored the presence of the Lord in the wonder of his creation. Yes, I was on my way to a particular place for a planned reason. I drove my car.  But for that short span of ten minutes, I was being not doing. No emails overflowing my inbox, no Facebook poking me with notifications, no cell phone beeping, buzzing or sending me alarms for my next activity. The superhighway fast lane sped to various destinations five miles away from my peaceful world.

In cherishing this space, I longed for a simpler life.

Outside pressures of job, kid’s sports, church activities and social media clamor for our attention. The world’s technology has caused our tight knit communities to welcome the world. On one hand, that’s great. I’ve many blogging, Twitter and Facebook friends and connections that I am thrilled to have because of that technology. On the other hand, I don’t have the capacity to hold the world in my heart or hands. I don’t think anyone does. And I’m not so sure God asks us to. So what do we do with the needs, demands, and interests of the world?

Internal pressures abound as well.

We use busyness as an escape. Insecurity drives us to be responsible and in control of every situation. Legalism reminds us of all the shoulds and should nots. Expectations, perceived or actual, command us to do more, do better, achieve at any cost to claim success and abundant life. Performance driven, we jump through hoops to prove we are worthy of God’s love and others’ favor.

But Jesus calls us to sit at his feet.

And go into the world making disciples. Can those two realities co-exist? This week I read the story of the good Samaritan. I believe I saw the simplicity of being in the presence of Jesus as the Samaritan man reached out to be the “church” to his neighbor. This dear man traveled along attending to whatever business was at hand for him. Maybe he was headed to work, or a friend’s house.  Or on his way to worship. Perhaps he was enjoying his journey simply for its own sake.

But he was open to interruption. Jesus calling.

Willing to give a bit of his time and some of his resources, he cared for a wounded fellow traveler and went on his way. He also made a point to check back to follow up on the man’s well-being. It didn’t seem an inconvenience to him nor a new project to seek out every hurting person in the country. He simply helped someone in need who happened to cross his path – or rather whose path he crossed during his everyday life.

Am I going to or “doing” church, or am I being the church?

Am I running around like Martha so concerned about getting everything done, checked off, accomplished, worked out, served, made, corrected, or controlled? Or can I sit at Jesus’ feet soaking up his love, grace, mercy and wisdom – the peace of his presence? Not only in my life circumstances, but in the posture of my heart.

These are questions I’ve been asking myself.

While I don’t read this version often, I kind of like how The Message puts it in Micah 6:8:

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.

Mary had it right.

She didn’t escape or neglect her life, but she knew the best place to be was at Jesus’ feet. And Jesus commended her not for all her activities or service or community projects, but for being with him. Isn’t that why we were created?

How about you? Are you able to sit with Jesus? What kind of external or internal demands drive you?

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I confess I don’t have time to write a blog post today.

The truth is I am in the final pages of my first novel and all the good stuff is happening. Since I never know what my characters may do, especially in the heat of crisis, I’m afraid to leave them alone too long. I already took too long over dinner. (My son needed really needed me.)

So now, I beg your leave with apologies. I will come back next week and attempt to offer something helpful, challenging (thinking of last week…) or encouraging. May God bless you.

Until then, I hear my protagonist calling. She’s in a real dilemma and doesn’t know what to do…DSC_0002

 

Oh, and FYI my first book, The Miracle of Us: Confessions of an Online Dater, is on sale on Amazon in paperback or kindle, or you can order a slightly imperfect copy for a great deal (thanks to a printing error) on my website.

 
What do you do when your characters start doing things you didn’t plan?

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Are we shouting “crucify him?”

Finally, after decades of complaints, prayers, token support and watching “B” Christian movies barely funded and with the best intentions, but not always much in the way of acting, movie goers have been inundated with a plethora of positive cinema. All in this month before Easter. You’d think the Christian community would be thrilled and celebrating.

Of the famous four, “Son of God”, “Noah”, “God’s Not Dead” and “Heaven is For Real,” I’ve only had the privilege of viewing the first, so far. Plans to see the others are in the works. Kids are begging for them, especially after viewing all the trailers a couple of days ago. My opinions, therefore, are limited.

But the point of this post isn’t to give a review.

I saw “Son of God” with a girlfriend the second day it came out. I felt it was well done, and while it may not have depicted the intensity shown in “The Passion of the Christ,” it evoked deep emotion. I appreciated the scenery which created an experience for me of walking with Jesus, and the way he was portrayed in such a personable manner, as I imagine Jesus would have been. Woman followed him in the Bible, so I appreciated the inclusion of the female gender, not only the men who were his disciples.

While some of the scripture was re-ordered, omitted or changed (probably for cinematic affect), the message remained unscathed and potent. Jesus came to save us, sinners, through love and compassion and ultimately his death on the cross and resurrection. We weren’t blown away by the film, but liked it a lot in spite of its “creative license.”

The shocker to me?

The criticism these movies have garnered from the Christian community. I don’t expect reviewers who don’t believe to rave in a positive way about any of these movies. After all, they talk about God and the Bible, Jesus and Heaven—topics that often raise objections among the majority of folks. What I didn’t expect is the flak from Christians who have complained on a number of points.

Really people?

The arguments seem to stem primarily from the pious protecting the Bible, or worse, their personal theological views. But the end result is cutting the throats of fellow believers who are living out their faith in a way they hope will make a difference by infusing the public with a taste of the Lord.

It may be presumptuous, but I choose to believe that each of the participants, who created, acted in, produced and directed, sought wisdom from God in what they did. Did they miss the mark? Probably in some ways. Are they human? Yes, which makes them potentially fallible. But did God use them to touch lives by showing people a bit more of him through these films? I’m betting, yes.

What’s the real point?

God created us, loves us and wants to be with us. Jesus died on the cross and rose again in order to make that a reality in spite of our free will leading to sin. We can have all kinds of theological debates(which we’re admonished not to do – see 2Tim.2:23 & Titus 3:9) over the “right way” to portray the truth, or simply be grateful that someone has the guts enough to do it. In some manner, these movies have the potential to bless believers and sow seeds for those who may not have thought about God before. Maybe some curious chap will choose to view and actually come away choosing Christ. It’s possible, regardless of what many are saying.

Bottom line?

Today we celebrate what Jesus did for all of us, and look forward to symbolizing his resurrection in a couple of days. People do that in many ways all over the world. It means something different to each person, each year depending on their personal relationship with Jesus. In the same way, the message of a movie, book, blog, or work of art can inspire whatever God wants despite the human factor of the messenger.

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.                 Philippians 1:18

When will we lay down our agendas and uphold our brothers, the church, and join in unity to bless and not curse?

Oh gaze of love so melt my pride that I may in your house but kneel, and in my brokenness to cry, spring worship unto Thee.”  Hymn by Jars of Clay

What do you think? Seen the movies? Read reviews?
 
Disclaimer: I did not create this YouTube.

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How many of us really know who we are?

Most of us have been shaped by words spoken to us in anger or impatience or from another person’s broken perspective. Who of us didn’t have some kid or kids at school tell us we were stupid, lame, ugly, fat or unwanted for some reason. I know I did. Repeatedly. Statistics show that most children have also suffered from the criticisms, insults and abusive words flung at by overwhelmed, scared or generally messed up parents (aren’t we all?). Many of us have felt the abandonment or rejection divorce brings. Four out of five have been exposed to some type of sexual abuse.

Is is any wonder we struggle to understand who we are?

God created us with a specific design and plan for our life. (Yes, even you.) He delights in the unique personality that makes us, well – us. He knows every nuance, every tilt of our head, all the abilities we possess and what makes us smile. And he loves it when we exhibit those traits. No wonder Satan, the enemy of God and us, whispers lies, uses the wounds others have pressed on us, and creates circumstances to distort the beautiful creation of God that we each are.

But how do we find out who we are and become ourselves again?becomingmyselfbookcover

In her most recent book, Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You, Stasi Eldredge shows us how. Becoming Myself takes us straight to the throne of Jesus where we are loved, delighted in and encouraged. As we read, we are transformed by the renewing of our thoughts about ourselves, our God, our relationships and our world. With intimately honest stories that come from the depths of her heart, Stasi reveals how we can see ours more  clearly. While her primary audience is women, every person needs what God shares through Stasi in this book. It tops my “must read” list of books. It’s not only enjoyable and entertaining, it is a life-changing read.

 

In what ways have you lost yourself? How have you learned who you were truly meant to be?

 

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The saga continues.

Almost five years ago, within months of becoming a newlywed, I began to feel sick. Flu like. Tired. Nauseated. Dizzy. Headaches. At first I wondered if I could be pregnant. I mean, it would have taken a miracle, but God had already done that putting Brendan and me together. We would have welcomed a baby.

I took a test. Negative.

That was okay. We had enough adjustments to make without adding a pregnancy and newborn to the list. But my “sickness” didn’t diminish. In fact, it became worse. We took a trip to Disneyland, and I had to be pushed in a wheelchair because I didn’t have the strength to walk or even stand in line. It was a little overwhelming and discouraging. And I became sicker. Until I could barely crawl out of bed on most days.

Eventually, we discovered we had mold growing in our house.IMG_4523

A lot of mold. One of the giveaways was how I would feel better when I was out of the house for long periods of time. When the landlord finally decided to address the issues we presented (mushrooms growing in the bathroom for example), they tore open a small section of the bathroom wall and discovered everything was covered in black mold. They tore out more, more mold, etc. Until the bathroom was gutted, as was the laundry and the floor under the kitchen. Many months of cleaning, a long story of homelessness and two years of a law suit later, we seem to have arrived in the same place.

Seriously?

For the first two years of living in our current house, I was finally becoming healthy again. Yay! Then, a year ago November my “illness” returned. I felt similar to that first year in what we “affectionately” call “the mold house.” But there were no visible signs. No musty smells. We had some leaking faucets and a pretty substantial crack in our shower that seemed a potential for mold, but with no clear evidence, we passed it off as winter colds, and me pushing myself too hard in a busy life. Stresses contributed. Family loss and troubles with a couple of our kids. You know. The usual stuff. But I became more ill. A plumber finally fixed the leaks and “sealed” the crack in the shower. Never mind the now obvious water marks on the ceiling below said shower. I became sicker. I started a symptoms log. In addition to the first illness symptoms, there were others. Awful itching, blistering rashes, choking congestion, stomach pain.

I went to doctors.

One said I had rheumatoid arthritis even though I had no common symptoms and blood tests were clear. More blood tests. No clear diagnosis. A friend recommended a naturopathic doctor who ended up being a life saver. Through diet, rest and supplements I began to feel like life was returning. But not fully. I can’t seem to get past the 75-80% mark. I still need a nap each day. I’m tired, dizzy and have headaches often. I can’t exercise or be around too many people at once without exhaustion setting in. Or if I can, I end up paying the next day.

Then our son broke out in a terrible rash.

With no known cause, he had hives from head to toe and ended up having an emergency room visit one night after vomiting, fainting and shaking. He now has to use an inhaler before exercise for allergy induced bronchial spasms. Our daughter became ill with sore throats and extreme fatigue (okay so she’s a teenaged girl, but still…). Brendan and I hated to think it, but the only common thread was the dreaded mold. Next door, construction of a new apartment complex had been going on since November where they had torn down a few very old buildings. Could that have contributed as well? Now we noticed two growing water stains on our bedroom ceiling…

We finally did mold testing last week.

I guess its good and bad when you hope for the answer to be positive for something. You hope to have an answer. But you dread the answer. We have mold growing in our house. No wonder we have all struggled this year feeling terrible. We’re still waiting for the detailed test results.

After hours of research, I found information about essential oils killing mold.

Natures Mold Rx by Dr. Ed Close, explained through numerous case studies how mold had been eradicated in buildings and homes by diffusing a blend of essential oils over long periods of time. I felt hopeful for the first in a long time. Within a week, I had two diffusers going – one upstairs and one down – in an effort to bring health to our home. At first, it seemed to help. After blasting our air for eight hours, we were breathing a little better. I stopped having choking fits at night. Our kids felt better. But then I quit running the diffusers all the time. I decreased it to a few hours, a couple of times per day. This week I’ve not felt well at all. Same symptoms again.

Discouragement set in.

As of this writing, we are wondering about moving. About how to deal with our landlord. Again. About cleaning our things and finding a house free of mold. It’s a daunting and exhausting situation. One that I keep reminding myself God has an answer for.

I’ve learned so much this past year and a half of illness. I’m grateful for all the Lord has taught me, shown me, and how I’ve learned to rest in him. But I’m also ready to move on. I long to be healthy and active again. To take a walk and make dinner without feeling done in. I thought this week of my blogger friend Bill, and wondered how I could even think of complaining when he has such an amazing attitude while being in his constant state of illness. He wrote a great blog recently about purpose. I’m thankful for the challenge in my perspective. I also want to act with wisdom where I can take steps in faith to act.

I write this because it has been hugely encouraging me to read about other people’s stories. To discover I’m not crazy, nor suffering alone. And to say thanks for being with me…

Have you experienced any of the same situations?

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