Sunday, October 23, 2011

And I Repeat... -God

I'm visiting my family this week and attended my parents church in NY. The guest preacher said these exact words in the conclusion of his message on missions.

"It doesn't take an economic genius to know that you won't have any money to give if you keep spending all of your money on yourself." Dave Hertwick

There you have it. Whether I am in Washington or NY, a non-denominational, a baptist or an Assembly of God church, I am getting the same message. Does God ever do this to you?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gut Punch.

Kathleen Norris laments:

"It is indeed apathy's world when we have so many choices that we grow indifferent to them even as we hunger for still more novelty. We discard real relationships in favor of virtual ones and scarcely notice that being overly concerned with the thread count of cotton sheets and the exotic ingredients of gourmet meals can render us less able to care about those who scrounge for food and have no bed but the streets."(3)

Please put down your iPhone 4S for a moment, close your Urbanspoon app, your app, your Facebook app, your Pottery Barn and shopping screens. Think about this statement. Reread it now, twice or three times.

If you are less distracted, take a moment to ponder this word.

Driven to Distraction
Margaret Manning

"Being unable to cure death, wretchedness, and ignorance men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things."(1)

Though writing hundreds of years ago, Blaise Pascal captured the spirit of our present age prophetically and profoundly. With the reality of suffering and the specter of death facing us all, most seek lives of distraction. Whether or not we recognize that the fear of death is an underlying, albeit unconscious, motivation, we nevertheless recognize that our lives are filled with distractions. Whether it is in the juggling of priorities, the relentless busyness of our age, or perpetual media noise, our lives are so full that we rarely give ourselves space or time to reflect. Particularly in Western societies, we fill our lives with mindless consumption that numbs us to the eventuality of our mortal condition and our finitude. The advertising industry is not unaware of our propensity to consumptive distraction. Marketers spent over 295 billion dollars in total media advertising in 2007.(2) Perhaps we mistakenly assume that our vitality is inextricably bound up in our ability to consume.

It is easy to understand how our fear of death and suffering would compel human beings to live lives of distraction. Yet, the cost of that distraction is a pervasive and deadening apathy—apathy not simply as the inability to care about anything deeply, but the diminishment for engagement that comes from caring about the wrong things. Kathleen Norris laments:

"It is indeed apathy's world when we have so many choices that we grow indifferent to them even as we hunger for still more novelty. We discard real relationships in favor of virtual ones and scarcely notice that being overly concerned with the thread count of cotton sheets and the exotic ingredients of gourmet meals can render us less able to care about those who scrounge for food and have no bed but the streets."(3)

Sadly, our inability to recognize our own mortality and to live our lives in light of the fact that we will die leads to the diminishment of our ability to genuinely care for others—because our care, by its very nature, will demand our willingness to suffer, and to lose our lives for someone else. The more we love, the more we open ourselves up to vulnerability and the possibility of pain. And yet, if we choose against loving engagement, we are left with a diminished and distracted life.

The ancient Hebrew poets, while meditating on the brevity of life, prayed, "So teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). It was the inevitability of death that motivated this prayer for wisdom for living. This was a wisdom that didn't try to hide from the realities of life—be they joys or sorrows—but rather sought to keep finitude ever before it. Indeed the poem ends with a cry for God to "confirm the work of our hands." Numbering life's days led to meaningful engagement in work—and this was the mark of wisdom.

Being mindful of our own death leads some to distraction, sadly, yet it can lead others to wise engagement. Jesus, himself, faced his own death with intention and purpose as he walked the way of the cross, not only up the hill to Golgotha, but also as he offered his life in loving service to those around him. "I am the Good Shepherd...and I lay down my life for the sheep....No one has taken it away from me, but I lay it down on my own initiative" (John 10:14a-18). The way of wisdom demonstrated by the life of Jesus calls us to engage our mortality as a catalyst for purposeful living. While following Jesus insists on our laying down our lives in his service, it can be done in the hope that abundant life is truly possible even in the darkest of places. For the one who laid his life down is the one who was raised. He is the one who declared, "I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in me will live even though he dies."

Margaret Manning is a member of the writing and speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Blaise Pascal, Pensees, (Penguin Books: New York, 1966), 37.
(2) As referenced by Allan Sloan in "Fuzzy Bush Math" CNN Money, September 4, 2007, accessed October 15, 2009.
(3) Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer's Life, (Riverhead Books: New York, 2008), 125.

© 2008 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. All Rights Reserved.

Words and Deeds.

I'd like to recommend a book that has challenged me to the core. It isn't super deep so you can get through it even if you are a working woman or busy mom. It will inspire you. I promise.

Please order "What Happens When Women Say Yes To God" by Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 ministries. I've had it on my bookshelf forever, but the cover looks cheesy and it didn't initially appeal to me. Plus, it was given to me when I had a newborn and I struggled to find time to shower, let alone read. But last month, I came home from the service about lukewarm Christianity and this is the book that called my name. I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to read it and it has prompted my challenge and my blog. Do you want to join my online bookclub?

Update On My Challenge
Week one: I purchased a cute headband at Target for a few dollars. I justified it, because it was "so cheap" and it would make my "boring" wardrobe "more fun." However, I felt soo convicted about it that I had to go back and return it later. I thought I had learned my lesson...
Week Two: A few days later I was near Ikea. I have a poster from a trip to visit family in Europe that is several years old. I have a lot of blank walls in my home and I want to hang that poster up, but it needs a frame with European (metric) measurements to fit it. Ikea is pretty far from my home, but I drove right by it running another errand. I went in quickly and prayed "God, I've had this on my to-do list for three months. I don't think it's breaking the deal, but if it is, please let me know." Guess what? Ikea, the store that produces everything en masse was sold out of the only frame that would fit my poster. Really. They usually have bins with 500 identical items on the floor at all times. "Okay God, I've got it."
Week Three: I bought some clearance curtains this summer, but the color has been bugging me. Buying more to replace them is out of the question, but repurposing them is just fine! I found a website that taught me how to dye the fabric with RIT dye in my washing machine. It was a $4 project that was successful! Honestly, I'm a little addicted and would love to dye everything I can get my hands on right now.
Week Four: I've been looking at winter coats/snowpants for my son. They are CRAZY expensive. $80-100 online and at least $50 for a set from cheaper, big box stores too. I prayed about it, because that seems like such a waste for a child that will only wear this size for one season. I found an awesome winter set on Craigslist for $20 that included a jacket and snowpants and both had only been worn once. I even negotiated the price down a little bit and she delivered them to me. It was great!

My challenge tips are to repurpose things you already have, recycle (Craigslist, swap parties) and when in doubt about a purchase... just pray. :) Do any of you have updates or fun stories?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Since we are new to the area, we've been visiting different churches looking for our new family and new home.  Two Sundays ago, the pastor preached on lukewarm Christianity.

Rev. 3:16 "Because you are a lukewarm Christian, neither hot not cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."  A mediocre Christian makes God vomit.  Yikes.

Here are a few points that completely convicted me.  They are from a checklist on lukewarm Christianity:

1. Lukewarm people give money to charity and to the church as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living. If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so, After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right? 1 Chronicles 21:24, Luke 21:1-4

2. Lukewarm people are moved by stories of people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act. They assume such action is for “extreme” Christians, not average ones.  Lukewarm people call “radical” what Jesus expected of all His followers. James 1:22, James 4:17, Matthew 21:28-31

3. Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion. Matthew 10:32-33

(See the rest here:

There have been common themes at every church we visit... refresh your faith, take a risk, give generously, seek justice, eliminate poverty, pray for divine intervention, and meet the needs in your community.

My husband and I had a long talk a few weeks ago about our budget.  Our hearts want to be generous and give more than we do, but by the end of the month there is never anything left in our account and we spend the last week of each month eating PB&J and cereal trying to avoid debt.    Unfortunately, we have debt.. a car payment, student loans and mortgage.   We can pay our bills just fine, but a big chunk of income is spent before it is even received.  The rest is spent on gas and food and random items mostly from Wal-Mart.   Yup, crazy, cheap, junk made in China. I want to cut back on frivolous purchases so that I can have more financial freedom to give when it's asked of me. 

I've been praying, "Lord, help me to be a wise steward of what I have so that I can radically obey You."   

Over the past two weeks, God has honestly challenged me not to buy anything for myself for a while- clothing, shoes, accessories etc. ... maybe for an entire year.    I tried to ignore that thought, because it kind of depressed me.  I'm not even a big spender, but I can power shop with the best of you and I LOVE bargain hunting.  I live in a rainy place and I'm a stay-at-home mom, the mall is my exciting day out of the house.  It's an escape and sadly, a refuge.   But, I don't need more stuff.  The clothes that I have are just fine.  My shoe supply is actually embarrassing.  The prodding won't stop and I know this is my challenge.  I'm sharing it with you so can keep me accountable.  :) I'm really weak in this area.  Don't tempt me, ok? I'm serious!

Here is my challenge to radical obedience: 
1. I can't buy anything for myself (except hygienic products so if you can use it in the bathroom excluding make-up, it's okay).
2. I can buy things for my son who's ever growing into a new size, but I can't be excessive or indulgent.  It has to be an absolute necessity.   I can't go into a store and buy him things on a whim just because they are "cute."  (He has the best wardrobe of all of us anyway!)
3. I can buy things for my home, but they must also be a necessity.   No more decorations.  The excessive and indulgent rule applies here too.

It's only been one week of this challenge, but it's SOO amazing how God is changing my heart.  It's not torturing me like I thought it would.  I actually feel liberated from conspicuous consumerism.   I've realized how many great things I have that just need to a little love.   It's inspiring me to repurpose what I already own.  It's making me more creative with my outfits and I actually like my style better!   Most of all, my heart is becoming so much more grateful for what I do have and much less tempted to lust after the newest trends that I don't have.  I am not entitled to more stuff.  Others are actually entitled to mine.   My hand has gone from gripping what I have to wanting to give or lend a lot of it to others. 

At a different church this past Sunday, the Pastor preached on 1 Timothy 2.  Verses 8-10 confirmed it all for me.

"Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works." 

I want to have a fashionable heart.  I want to be beautiful.  Really, truly, gorgeous.  :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Organic God

I've recently moved and made a new friend.  At her house was a large farmhouse table covered in Christian books.  She was preparing for a conference and had them all laid out, but one in particular caught my eye.  The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg.  I mentioned that I had heard good reviews about the book and she offered to let me borrow it.   I brought it home with great intentions, but it sat on my dresser for weeks.  I have a very active toddler and quiet reading time is very difficult to come by these days (or any day since his birth!)

It took a while to get to it, but I love Margaret's perspective.  She is filled with awe about the nature of God, His mystery and the adventure that comes with serving Him.  Adventure is the key descriptor of my life so I was all about it!  

Then I got to chapter 8, called Unbelievably Stubborn.  I wish I didn't know anything about that topic, but for better and for worse, I do.     Feinberg is ethnically Jewish and mentions a Jewish practice called Midrash.  Midrash means to "search out" deeper truth from the Hebrew Bible.   You are to wrestle with the text and read it looking for something unfamiliar.  You are to cross-reference the topic with other scriptures and try to better understand them in order to better understand the heart of God.   She first tried this practice with Genesis 19 and the fate of the city of Sodom.   Often, we hear Sodom in context of Jude 1:7 that talks about it's tradition of sexual immorality and perversion, but she references

Ezekiel 16:49-50:  
"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.  They were haughty and did detestable things before.  Therefore I did away with them as you have seen."

Arrogant. Overfed. Unconcerned.  Check. Check. Check.    As a nation, we are very proud, overfed (literally and figuratively), indulgent and selfish.   We think we help the poor and needy, but our efforts are as measly as donating a couple of crusty cans from our pantry to a food drive that promises us free entry at the fair or a discount in our favorite department store.   As an individual,  I am guilty too.    

I am no different than anyone found in Sodom and Sodom was destroyed.  

I can't shake this message.  Since I read this passage a month ago, the same message has been in my face... everywhere. I. turn.    

Setting the Stage

I haven't blogged in years.  5 years, actually.   My last blog entry was written from Africa and my blogs were articulate.  I was also completely idealistic.   I was spunky, passionate about God, people, life and love.   Since then I've gone to grad school for a Master's degree in Social Work that hasn't been used, married an amazing man who is on an unbelievable adventure of his own and become a mom to a sweet, but very spirited son.  I cherish them, but they can both be exhausting.  It seems like I've lived 100 different lives in the past 5 years, but with each new role new lessons and passions have emerged and old passions have been buried deeper and deeper under the layers of surviving everyday life.  Over the past five years, I have often felt completely out of control.  Let's just say that my husband's boss is REALLY demanding and my husband has very little control over his career.  God is in control and we surrender it daily which has brought us two defining miracles along the way.  It's been amazing to watch this unfold, but sometimes I feel like I'm just tagging along on someone else's adventure.  We both have to be flexible, prepared for anything and ready to move.  My coping mechanism is to "go with the flow" and "have fun on the adventure," and while I still believe in both of my mantras, it has really contributed to my current state of complacency.   But recently, God has been calling me out of complacency.   He is reawakening some of the old flames in my heart.  He is calling me to another adventure, but I haven't the slightest idea what it is, when it will be and how I'm supposed to be involved.   It might be tomorrow or 20 years from now, but stay tuned...