Monday, July 28, 2008

My List

I’ve been really frustrated with guys lately. It’s probably because I’m single and I watch too many movies. It seems like all the guys that are right for me I can never be with. I was talking to a friend of mine who was sharing with me a list she wrote when she was a senior in high school and it inspired me to write one of my own.

1- He has to love God more than he loves me or himself
2- He has to be able to be funny and serious
3- He has to get along with my family even when I don’t
4- He has to let me cry on his shoulder even if I’m crying for no reason
5- He has to be level headed to even out my hot headedness
6- He has to be willing to sacrifice HIS dreams for OUR dreams
7- He has to have a smile that just makes me melt
8- He has to love me for who I am but constantly challenge my walk with Christ
9- He can’t be afraid to mess up and when he does he’s honest about it
10- He has to respect me
11- Our dates have to be as good as or better than my daddy-daughter-dates
12- I have to be able to trust him with my life and my heart

That’s my list. Pretty high standards I guess, but not impossible. My Uncle Rudy use to always tell me, “Girl, you don’t play hard to get; you are hard to get.” That is true and I hope one day a guy comes along that doesn’t mind a challenge.

What-A-Jesus at Whataburger

Well I’m sitting in Whataburger waiting for my little brother to get done with his exams and I can’t help but smile at the group sitting diagonal to me. It’s a group of about 10 to 12 older people, probably an average age of 65 or 70. They are here every Tuesday. They laugh and talk about the most random things, food, friends, how it was in the “old days,” and life in general. Today as I sat eating my biscuit and writing in my journal I heard a scratchy voice say “excuse me, young lady.” I looked up to see the whole table looking at me. “Yes ma’am,” I said rather hesitantly. She smiled sweetly at me and said, “Can you help us with something?” I thought for a second, my biscuit is really good and I’m kinda in the middle of something, but you know what’s a few minutes of my time? So I answered her with a “sure, I’d be happy to.” The rest of the conversation I can’t even believe myself.

LADY: “We noticed you have a Bible there”
ME: “Yes ma’am”
LADY: “You don’t see many young people carrying Bibles to Whataburger with them”
ME: “Yes ma’am, I know, most young people are afraid of how it would affect their image.”
LADY: “You’re not?”
ME: “No ma’am, I’m confident in Christ, he is the essence of who I am.”

She then walked over and sat at my table while the rest of her group back where there conversations had left off.

LADY: “How old are you, young lady?”
ME: “I’m 18.”
LADY: “18? You don’t talk like and 18 year old!”
ME: “Well thank you”
LADY: “Will you tell me what you see in God that makes you brave enough to read your Bible in public without fear of criticism?”

I’m thinking to myself FOR REAL?! What the heck do I say?! O my gosh, ok God here it goes but you seriously have to show up cause I have no clue what I’m doing!

ME: “O wow where to begin?! The reason I don’t care what people think about me reading my Bible is because I know what they think really doesn’t matter. I mean God sent His Son for me- not only did he send Him He sent Him to die for me. What an amazing God! Jesus took all my hurt, shame, inadequacy, failure, and sin onto Himself; He gave me life. The fact that he would do all that for me makes worrying about a little criticism seem kinda silly.”
LADY: “I have been in church all my life and never once has anyone spoke about Jesus with as much passion as you did just now”
ME: “Well he changed my life. Because of that I am confident in the fact that no matter what people say about me or how much I mess up he still loves me, and as I’ve grown up I’ve realized that’s all that really matters.”
LADY: “Thank you.”
ME: “For what?”
LADY: “For showing me Jesus”

The rest of her group had already started to filter out. She got up, smiled at me, and left. I sat there for a second in awe. I have to say that was a first for me. I don’t even know her name. I still can’t believe it. What if I had decided it was too much of an inconvenience to answer her question? I never would have been able to show someone Jesus. What-A-Jesus.

James 4:7-10 (the message)
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.

Everyday Superhero

Yesterday was a really great day. My dad pulled me out of school just to have a hang out day with him. It’s funny, when I was younger we use to go on “Daddy- Daughter dates” all the time and we talked about school and sports and what kind of fun stuff I was doing with my friends. As I’ve grown older our conversations have shifted. I think it’s been hard for him seeing his little girl grow up. We have always been best friends, you know, he’s my hero. Our discussions have become more and more Christ- centered. I find myself getting so frustrated with religion and “academic faith” (if those can even coexist) and the weakness of the church and for the first time I can really see myself when I hear him talk. You know, he introduced me to my other hero, Mike Yaconelli. You’ve probably heard me talk about him before. He’s what I like to call a hardcore Jesus freak. His books have changed my life… or should I say they have helped Jesus ruin my life. Well anyway… back to my dad. You know all the superheroes on TV? How they have theses super defined bodies and they’re decked out they’re decked out with their tights and capes, complete with their secret identity and handy butler. Well yesterday I discovered a new kind of superhero. He’s a superhero of the soul. He’s slightly out of shape leaning towards the teddy bear side, armed with his jeans, crocs, and coach’s hat. He is void of any secret identity and confident in the rawness of his inadequacy. He’s not perfect, and that’s his superpower. He changes lives because he embraces the life ruining, grace filled, and accepting Jesus that created the world. He’s the superhero that no one expected and he’s my dad.

Love Is...

A very close friend of mine has been struggling a lot lately. I can see the hurt in her eyes and my heart aches because I feel her pain. I can never feel exactly what she’s felt or know what she’s been through; but I hurt with her because I love her and I hate seeing the people I love hurting. She’s confused. She told me tonight that she doesn’t know what real love even is anymore. I can understand that; I don’t think any of us really do. Love is so warped and overused in the world today, so much so it’s lost its power and meaning. Whenever I need a refresher on the real meaning of love I go to 1 Corinthians 13. Let’s break it down and look at it one step at a time. Love is PATIENT. I guess that’s like staying up until midnight talking on the phone… well more like just listening in silence and crying even though you just got in a fight like 2 hours before that. Maybe it’s more like sitting outside a batting cage watching your friend hit softballs even though it’s been a really long day and you really just want to go home and sleep. This is beyond just being willing to wait; this is about having the right attitude while you do it. Love is KIND. That’s the hug every time you see each other or buying them Dippin’ Dots after a bad day or even just that text that says I care about you. This is the little stuff you do just to show them how much they mean to you. Love does not ENVY. This is the one I struggle with. This means being OK with the fact that sometimes it’s really important that your friend is hanging with someone else. This is sacrificing what you want for what they need and being content with it. Love does not BOAST it is not PROUD. This is realizing that they deserve better than you. This is about not needing constant words of affirmation and edification. This is being confident in your imperfections and realizing that there are more important things than your comfort. Love is not RUDE. This is the simple form of love. This is your friend treating you with respect and kindness. Love is not SELF-SEEKING. This is unselfish sacrifice. This to me is the all encompassing factor of love because really all the others parts of love fall under this. This is driving 30 minutes just to hang out or see them in their prom dress or losing sleep just because they need to talk. This is giving up your needs for them. Love is not EASILY ANGERED. This means no matter how many times they yell at you or throw pens at you they still see the calm, ever reassuring look of love in your eyes and feel safe in your embrace. Love keeps no RECORD of WRONGS. This is not rubbing all their mistakes in their face. This is forgiving and forgetting; understanding their imperfections and sticking with them anyway. Most importantly it’s refusing to give up and them when they feel like they’ve failed. Love ALWAYS PROTECTS. This in not just taking a bullet this is taking the blame, taking the load, and taking the shame. Love always TRUSTS. This is knowing that people are going to mess up- including your friend- but choosing to allow yourself to put your faith in them anyway. This is jumping first and fearing later. This is knowing that no matter what happens your friend will be there to put the broken pieces of your heart back together again. Love always HOPES. This is seeing your friend at their lowest point and being there to help them keep their head above the water, even if that means yours stays under. This is praying with them and believing that they’re going to make it. Love always PERSERVERES. This is not giving up on them or turning your back on them even when it gets hard. Love is not something that you should fear except in the essence of respecting its power. It is moving and powerful and has the power to change your life. I can honestly say… I love you girl.

1 Corinthians 14:1 (the message)
Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does

Dancing Trees

Today I feel alone and inadequate. I feel like nothing that I do matters, like everything I do is wrong, like I will never be good enough. It hurts. I was sitting on my friends couch the other day and looking out the window. From the angle I was laying at I could only see the tops of the trees. It was a little windy outside and the trees were swaying in the wind. We were listening to a worship CD and as I watched the trees it was almost as if they were swaying to the beat of the music. It was amazing to me that in the midst of my inadequacy and inability to worship, the trees did. I think maybe it’s that whole “the rocks will cry out” thing that Jesus talked about. Maybe it was just God telling me that it doesn’t take much to worship him, just being created by him. It doesn’t matter how much I lack or how worthless I think I am because worship isn’t about me; it’s about Him. You know, I might not mean anything to anyone else, but even if that’s the case He loves me. In Romans it says that NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ. There’s nothing we could ever do to make Him love us less. NOTHING. There’s nothing we could ever lack to make Him love us less. NOTHING. Nothing we could ever say, nothing we could ever be, nothing we could ever be confused by, nothing we could ever imagine, NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. That’s what makes the trees worship; because that is one powerful love.

Romans 8:38-39 (the message)
I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

Paz En El Medio De La Tormenta

Today I lost one of my closest friends. She passed away at 6:00 tonight. Just like that she’s gone. I feel so numb all over completely powerless and detached from the world. Today as I sat on the dusty streets of Mexico with my back up against the concrete wall of the church, tears pouring from my eyes I realized how unfair life is. I will miss her so much. I’ll miss her laugh and her sarcasm. I’ll miss her loving, involved, marker chunking, teaching style. I’ll miss the words of encouragement and constant support she gave me. I’ll miss getting to vent to her about not being able to spell or how frustrated I was with my jump shot… we never did get that down just right. She was at my first and last basketball game. She was my hero and my mentor. Every time I eat a BMT from Subway or a sourdough bread bowl with broccoli cheese soup from Panera I will laugh and think of her. One day I will get married and I’ll wear white Converse shoes and if God blesses me with a baby girl her name will be Jennifer Renee… because that’s how much she touched me. She’s gone. It’s still not real. The only thing that keeps me going; the only thing I have to hold onto is that God has a plan and one day I’ll get to see her again. Tonight as I laid there shaking from the pain and sorrow the arms of my Mexican brothers and sisters wrapped around me and picked me up. Their words were in a different language but I heard them loud and clear. My teacher wrapped his arms around me and put my head on his chest and just held me letting me know it was all going to be OK. God was there. He was taking care of me. It was by His grace I had her for as long as I did and it’s by His grace that she leaves me. I love you JJ. See ya soon.

*J.J Marks 1975-2008*

She led the classroom where students learned to love more than math.


Psalm 142:3, 5 (the message)
As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away, you know how I’m feeling, I cry out, GOD, call out: ‘You’re my last chance, my only hope for life!’

Jesus- Smack Dab in the Middle

Today I met someone. We are just going to call him “Caiaphas.” Caiaphas is probably one of the biggest jerks I have ever met. He’s one of those people that walks around thinking he is better than everyone else and trying to convince everyone else that his way is the best way. He has this condescending look, you know that look? Well, he gives it to me every time he sees me. He hates me. I know why too. It’s because when he looks into my eyes he sees confidence and freedom, both of which he hates because he fears them. It used to bother me… but not so much anymore. It doesn’t bother me because I realized something. I realized that all his hatred and his bitterness and his illusions of superiority hurt no one but himself. He has no power over me because he has no power to destroy me. I stand covered in truth and wrapped in the arms of grace and mercy and nothing can change that. What he thinks of me doesn’t matter. What he thinks of my “feeling-oriented” faith really doesn’t matter. See, because my faith isn’t about him (unlike his faith) it’s about the man named Jesus that saved my life. So, Caiaphas, find someone else to pick on!

Most Loved Speck

Today I went and saw Horton Hears A Who with my youth group. It was really a great little movie for kids and adults. As most people have probably figured out by now I don’t see things for just what they are; Jesus is everywhere and let me tell you Jesus was in Horton Hears A Who. If you haven’t seen the movie it’s about an elephant name Horton that hears a voice on a little speck of dust. Well Horton get all excited about it and starts telling everyone about this speaking speck. Now, there is this snotty little kangaroo that is kind of the leader of the jungle where Horton lives and she does not like the fact that Horton is “corrupting the children” by telling them lies that make them use their imaginations. So, she tells Horton exactly what she thinks. She tells him that when it comes down to it if you can’t see it, can’t feel it, or can’t hear it then it’s not real. That’s funny… I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that somewhere before. How about every time I go to a science museum or turn on Arthur or maybe even take a trip to a historic site. I hear it every time I try to explain my God to people that simply can’t accept Him. I’ve heard some Christians try to explain God by saying, “well what about the wind… you can’t see the wind but you can feel the wind just like we feel God.” NO! I disagree. You don’t feel God you experience God. He’s like true love. Love isn’t a feeling; love is an experience that pushes you toward action and moves you to do things that you would never do on your own. Love ruins life as you know it… a good ruin. It’s earth-shattering and mountain moving, and it makes people say. “Wow, they really love each other!” That’s what God is; God is love. I can’t see Him, I can’t hear Him, I can’t physically feel Him, I can’t even explain Him, but He’s real. He’s a dangerous, life ruining, imagination invoking, mind shattering, rule breaking God and we are the most loved speck that He protects.

Psalm 145:3 (NIV)
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no-one can fathom

A Talk With My Pastor

ME: Can I ask you a question?
BRAIN: Bring it.
ME: Is it wrong for me to be fed up with Christianity?
BRIAN: Of course not. Probably a very natural response for where you are right now.
ME: I don’t even know where I am. I’m just so fed up with the academic, putting a box around God, religion I am seeing more frequently.
BRIAN: Frustrations are a good thing. They force us to do something – something different. Sounds like God is preparing you for something unique and different
ME: That's a little scary. Do you ever get tired of Christianity?
BRIAN: Everyday.
There have been times of greater frustration than others. One of those was prior to the start of the Saturday encounter. The second, prior to the start of the Sunday encounter. Others? – prior to the start of the men’s Whatburger mornings and 9 events.
Frustration and dissatisfaction are indicators of the God-part of you not being happy with where you are. He uses that to push us to something new.
ME: You think he's pushing me?
BRIAN: Seems pretty obvious.
ME: You know it would be alot easier if He just told us where he was pushing us but it seems like He always has us blind folded and disoriented... that scares me
BRIAN: Vision in the kingdom is not by sight, but by faith. It is frightening at times, but also terribly exciting, challenging, and rewarding.
ME: Maybe it's like when you go really high in a swing and you get that weird feeling in the pit of your stomach that is a mixture between fear and exhilaration and then you jump off and you feel completely vulnerable as you’re flying through the air and then you hit the ground runningBRIAN: Told you it was obvious.

On A Bus With Jesus

I was on my way home from a basketball tournament/ retreat in Whitney, one of the three who were left to ride home on the bus. I was sore in just about every place imaginable and too tired to even think about moving. I sat for a while in the silence looking around me. There were half-overflowing sports bags in the seats, discarded athletic tape from taping up ankles cluttering the floor and two lumps that resembled my teammates huddled under blankets. It was a fairly common view for me, rounding my 6th year of school basketball, but today was different. Lately my spirit has been so restless, longing for something more. This scene showed me my life, the mixture of priorities. I plugged my ipod into my ears, scrolled down to the “worship” playlist, laid my head against the back of the seat, and closed my eyes just taking in the music. The song “You’re Everything” by David Crowder started playing and as I listened to the words tears started running down my cheeks.

You're everything
I could want
That I could need
If I could see
You want me
Could I believe?
'Cause You're perfectly
All I want, all I need
If I could just feel You're touch
Could I be free?
Why do You shine so?
Can a blind man see?
Why do You call?
Do You beckon me?
Can the deaf hear the voice of love?
Would You have me come?
Can the cripple run?
Are You the one?

To raise me up
From this grave
Touch my tongue
And then I'll sing
Heal my limbs
Then joyfully I'll run to You

He’s everything. The eyes we see with, the ears we hear with, the legs we run with, the voice we sing with, the heart we love with, He’s everything. He’s all I need. Jesus was on that bus with me. We worshiped together.

Romans 5:17 (the message)
If death got the upper hand through one man's wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?

Christianity Without Christ

Today is the day for a rant. I am so angry right now and I’ll tell you why… I’m sick of “Christianity.” I’m tired of being in “bible” class at my “Christian” school and feeling as if either I’m being treated like a baby that doesn’t know that we’re supposed to “obey Jesus” or a Bible doctrines major that only cares about getting all of the rules right. I just don’t see how that is even Biblical at all! I think Mike Yaconelli said it right, “What is the deal with Christian schools, anyway? Shouldn’t they be graduating students who are revolutionary, anti-institutional, anti-cultural extremists? Isn’t anyone else upset that most of our Christian schools are graduating compliant, materialistic, irrelevant students who don’t have a radical bone in their bodies? Who will push the envelope in the generations to come?” The fact of the matter is we are so focused on figuring out all the mysteries of Christ that we lose the essence of what He stands for. I’m pretty sure that reading your Bible and having your quiet time aren’t His top priorities. I’m pretty sure His top priority is, well, HIM! You know what reading your Bible and doing your quiet times are suppose to accomplish? They’re supposed to bring you closer to Him! Who says you have to sit down and fill out a little devotional workbook to be close to God? NOT HIM!! And another thing… who freaking cares about whether we have free will or not; or which version of the Bible is better; or whether your music is “too loud for church;” or how you’re baptized! GOD DOESN’T! God hated… that’s right, He hated… those kind of people. He called them hypocrites and vipers and idiots! So when did it become ok to warp Christianity into that? Jesus never changed His mind and He doesn’t hang out with those kind of people. You’ve lost Christ. Now all you have is ianity.

Philippians 3:7-9 (the message)
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness

Lessons Learned From Luke

Well today I babysat from 7 AM til around 7 PM. Twelve hours of babysitting which I don’t really mind because I really love kids. I find that every time I spend a lengthy period of time with any kid I learn something new. Today I learned a lot of things. Luke is so cute; he’s about 17 months old and a ball of unique, crazy, octopus color book loving, fun energy. His teaching started right off the bat. Right as Sabrina got in that car to leave he darted out the door and tried to chase the car. I mean he didn’t even blink he just started running after his mommy. Well I couldn’t let him do that… what kind of a babysitter would I be if I let my kid get run over by his mom’s car within the first 10 minutes? So I ran after him and picked him up, he was squirming and crying and shooting snot out of his nose so I took him back inside. He didn’t stop crying. Before I could even think about doing anything he was one the floor throwing a hardcore fit. Luckily I’m experienced in dealing with Luke fits. I just left him there, walked into the living room, and sat down in the chair. He continued his fit for about 5 minutes, but once he realized that no matter how much he cried mommy wasn’t coming back he came over to play with “tickle me Elmo.” I laughed, amazed at how easily this passionate fit of anger and devastation at being left behind quickly turned into a satisfied squeal at the fury red distraction. Immediately the unusual wheels in my head started turning. That’s how it is with us and God. We’re enjoying this awesome happy time that God has put into our life and then… it has to go. And we get so worked up we just run after Him and jump of the cliff of uncertainty and when we find that there’s no net we throw a little hissy fit. We just lie down and refuse to do anything but cry and pity ourselves and get mad at God. Then all of the sudden we realize… the fit isn’t changing anything. We pick ourselves back up, wipe our nose on our sleeve, and realize that happiness never really left… it just took a different form. Later we were reading the infamous “color book.” I’m not sure what is up with Luke’s weird obsession with this book but I’m pretty sure I had to “read” it to him like 37 times. Anyway, we were reading this book and it has these little sea creatures that match whatever color is on that page and they are kind of like puzzle pieces the way they are embossed in there. For some reason we always had to go from the back to the front which at first I couldn’t figure out. The last page is the blue octopus. That was Luke’s favorite because he could get it out and put it back in perfectly. He didn’t even want to go to any other page he just wanted to take that octopus in and out in and out over and over again. Well sometimes I can have some “OCD” tendencies and I really wanted us to go to other pages (that and I was tired of the dad gum octopus!). I finally convinced him, and we turned to the page with the yellow starfish. He tried to get it out, he pulled and pulled and he grunted at it but no matter what he did he couldn’t get that starfish out. Finally he looked up at me and sort of pointed to the page and started crying. So I reached over and in one swift motion, popped up the starfish. He stopped crying and gave a little giggle of approval as if to say, “That’s why I keep you around.” See the reason he only wanted to do the octopus is because he had done that one so much that it had become easy to get out on his own. What a perfect picture of what we as Christians tend to fall into. We get so comfortable living our little Christian lives of praying, reading our Bible, and going to church twice a week that we are afraid to move to the next page. It’s here at this next page that we face our starfish. We get to it and we struggle and fight and try everything we can think of to do it on our own and then finally we look up at God and realize our inadequacy. We cry out, “I can’t do this without you!’ and God says, “Ya, I know.” Then He reaches down and with one easy motion, He pops up the starfish. We really can’t do anything without Him. I guess that’s what makes Him God. All in all I learned quite a bit today, maybe I’ll take lessons from Luke more often.

2 Peter 2:9 (the message)
So God knows how to rescue the godly from evil trials. And he knows how to hold the feet of the wicked to the fire until Judgment Day


I was thinking today about friendship. Friendship is so relevant to the lives of every person in the world today. Everyone has a friend or wants a friend or needs a friend. Everyone has this kinda preconceived idea about what being a friend means. My whole life I've struggled with friendship. I mean it's not like I didn't have people that claimed to be my friend it's just that it seemed so empty to me. I've always longed for that friend that sticks closer than a brother. It's funny how God works, just when I had given up on ever finding that friendship He gives me someone that defines friendship for me. She makes clear what I never really knew before… what friendship really is. FRIENDSHIP is comparing basketball wounds. FRIENDSHIP is being content just lying in bed watching Jeopardy. FRIENDSHIP is not letting each other give up on life. FRIENDSHIP is rockin' out to John Meyer. FRIENDSHIP is driving 30 minutes just to hang out. FRIENDSHIP is being confused about God together. FRIENDSHIP is fishing off the back of a four wheeler. FRIENDSHIP is feeling each other's pain. FRIENDSHIP is seeing each other at your best and worst. FRIENDSHIP is being honest. FRIENDSHIP is knowing exactly how they feel just by reading a text message. FRIENDSHIP is having inside jokes that no one else understands. FRIENDSHIP is loving like bananas. FRIENDSHIP is knowing that you're there for one another 24/7. FRIENDSHIP is sacrificing for one another. FRIENDSHIP is finding that your weakness is what makes you strong. I thank God everyday for this friendship.

Proverbs 18:24 (the message)
Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.

detrevnI samtsirhC

I hate Christmas; as sacrilegious and scrooge like as that may sound it’s completely true. I hate the fact that if I go into Wal-Mart to get some milk I have to wait in line for two hours while hearing the rude and inconsiderate shouts of unsatisfied customers that are being (unlike the rest of us) so inconvenienced. I hate seeing people that can barely afford to put food on the table feeling obligated to buy presents for everyone and their dogs. I hate hearing the Christmas songs that have nothing to do with Christ everywhere I go. I mean really if we’re celebrating Christ how about we sing some worship song about HIM! I hate seeing the commercials telling me to buy more and more and more stuff. I hate hearing people on the news say that their Christmas was “stolen” because someone destroyed their Christmas lights. Is that what Christmas is about now… pretty lights? I hate turning on a Christian radio station that is supposedly “keeping the Christ in Christmas” and only hearing Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells. I hate seeing people that thumb their noses at God everyday come to church because they feel like they have to. I hate seeing Christians so focused on the fact that people are saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” that they forget the whole meaning of the word they’re fighting for! Christmas in its purest form is a celebration of the gift that God gave us so that we could have an opportunity at life. It’s not about the presents or the decorations or even the word “Christmas.” It’s about praising our Savior. That’s why I hate Christmas. I don’t need a holiday to dictate when I celebrate the phenomenon that is Jesus Christ; because that purpose is the same purpose for every minute of everyday of our lives. It’s what we were created for. It’s not about one magic day of worshiping Christ, it’s about a lifetime of passionately living for that little babe that took on the world for us.

John 1:14 (the message)
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

Forgotten Reverence

Yesterday I was once again on the way to a basketball game. I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the sound of the girls gossiping, coach going over his directions, and the repetitiveness of the cars whizzing past. So, as usual, I plugged my ipod into my ears and stared blankly out the window watching the world pass by. We came to a stop light and right outside my window was a juvenile detention center. I noticed there were four men dressed in military uniforms marching toward the flags. It was right around sun down and they were taking down the flags. I watched curiously as they systematically went through the protocol of taking down the flags. Three stood saluting as the other slowly and almost rhythmically lowered the flags. As the bus pulled away I thought to myself… kind of silly to do all that just for a flag. See, we as Americans see the flag as just another bumper sticker on our cars, design on our t-shirts, or cover on our history books. We see the symbol for what it is and not for what is stands for. I think Christians do the same thing with the cross. It has become just another symbol of Christianity. The problem with that is; that’s not what the cross symbolizes. The cross symbolizes death and pain and suffering. The cross symbolizes the agony that Christ went through in order to give the undeserving a chance at life. The cross doesn’t symbolize a religion; it symbolizes and act that gave us a chance and a relationship. With the same reverence that soldiers have for the flag, we should revere the cross.

Ecclesiastes 5:7 (NIV)
Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.

Comforting Darkness

Do you ever have those days where when you finally get to bed you completely and totally collapse onto your pillow? Basketball season is in full swing and this past weekend I had a basketball tournament. When I finally got to bed last night I was so relieved. I remember thinking before I crawled into bed… man this room is a mess; I should clean this junk up! - Ah well it can wait. Once that light went off I didn’t care any more; I couldn’t see it, couldn’t feel it, and I was tired. I was lying there contentedly in the darkness when all of the sudden I realized… I forgot to turn my printer off! My printer has this annoying little green light on it that flashes rhythmically. Well you know, it wouldn’t really matter during the day because you could barely see it but in the pitch black of my room it looked liked a strobe light going off. I was so tired and comfortable and I was thinking to myself… that is so annoying but I REALLY don’t feel like getting up! So, I tossed and turned for a while, trying to ignore it, but eventually it irritated me to the point where I got out from underneath my soft warm covers and turned it off. I was thinking about this later and I realized… you know that’s really how God is in our walk with him. There is this point that I think we all come to at some time in our walk with him where we find contentedness in the darkness. Life tires us out so much that we just stop fighting. I mean we know there’s junk that we should deal with but we dismiss it because in the darkness we can’t see it, can’t feel it, and we’re tired. It’s here in the pitch blackness of out faith that God’s annoying little green light calls us to get up. It’s always been there, that purpose that God has for us, but in the light we couldn’t see it. We’re lying there, tossing and turning and trying to ignore it, but it just seems to get brighter and brighter. Then eventually we gather up our strength, pick ourselves up, and go toward the light. The thing is it never stops. It’s always there. Waiting for you.

John 1:5 (the message)
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn't put it out.

Trading Waterbeds For Rain Clouds

I’m a people watcher. I love to just sit and watch the world go by. Recently after watching the world and people, I find myself thinking more and more of heaven. The pain I see more frequently drives me to hope for something better. Everyone has different views on what heaven is like. Some say it’s a place that’s always bright with little angels playing harps all day. Others say it’s a place where you get whatever you want- kind of like a magical wonderland or something. To me that never really was how I saw heaven. A friend of mine once said that when he gets to heaven he was going to sleep on a rain cloud like it was his waterbed. I tend to analyze statements and usually they end up meaning something to me that they never meant to the person who said them. To me this statement is my perfect description of heaven. Allow me to explain… when I think of rain I automatically think of storms; and figuratively speaking the storms in my life. Now, when I picture heaven I picture a place where I can comfortably lie on top of all my problems and pain and storms in my life in confident happiness. I can just picture lying there with Jesus, laughing and learning. Just seeing his smile and hearing the trickle of the water in my rain cloud resound- It was worth it all. To me, that’s what heaven is… learning, loving, laughing, understanding.

Matthew 13:10-12 (the message)
The disciples came up and asked, "Why do you tell stories?"
He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn't been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears

Table-Flippin' Furious

You know one thing I never really understood about Jesus is how he could “be angry and sin not.” I mean when I was growing up my anger always went hand in hand with my butt blisters; so naturally when I read about Jesus getting angry and tossing around tables I saw a few problems. First of all, Jesus was in “church” and we all know that the only emotion you’re supposed to feel in church is happiness… that means anger is a no no. Secondly, Jesus wasn’t just mad… he was table-flippin’ furious! This problem never really was resolved in my mind until just recently when I experienced my own form on righteous anger. See, Jesus wasn’t angry because he wasn’t getting his way or because his little brother stole his toy; Jesus was angry because he saw people thumbing their noses as God. He was angry because he saw people that knew what they were doing was wrong and yet the kept doing it. Another thing I realized was that he wasn’t just angry he was sad too. I can just picture the tears running down his face as he turned those tables over. God has hard wired me with this love for truth and justice and it angers me so much to see people throw away their character and forsake truth while still trying to cling to the name Christian. At the same time it breaks my heart to see them slap my Jesus in the face. Why would you stand behind something that you know is a lie? Why would you take that truth that God has given you and throw it away for someone who doesn’t even care about you? It’s time to flip some tables!

Mark 11:15-17 (the message)
They arrived at Jerusalem. Immediately on entering the Temple Jesus started throwing out everyone who had set up shop there, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of the bankers and the stalls of the pigeon merchants. He didn't let anyone even carry a basket through the Temple. And then he taught them, quoting this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer for the nations;
You've turned it into a hangout for thieves.

His Grace Is Enough

Last night I hit the bottom of my spiritual barrel and as I laid there on my kitchen floor shaking from the brokenness I felt everything I ever stood for crushed to dust and blown away by the wind. And you know, the thing is I knew it was coming. I ran from it for so long but I always knew it was chasing me. That point is scary. You feel so hopeless and out of control… vulnerability at its height. But here in this… this pit of failure… for the first time in my life God spoke to me. I don't think I'll ever really understand why he picked that time to do it… maybe it's because he knew that's when I needed it the most. I was lying there curled up in a ball just sobbing and I cried out, "God, help me!" Then there was this warmth. I mean I could feel his arms wrap around me and hear the whisper of "I love you." I didn't really understand, "God, I've failed you. How can you love me?" "Jess, you're going to fail that's why I give you my grace. My grace is enough. You don't need others approval or your pride or perfection; my grace is enough." His grace is enough. I just have to hold onto that. Thank God his grace is enough!

2 Corinthians 12:9a (the message)My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Life Lessons Learned From Video Games

Sometimes when I’m going through hard times and I’m dealing with problems and pain in my life I get really angry with God. I mean everyone keeps telling me it’s going to be ok and God’s got everything under control but it just seems to me like He’s not doing a very good job. Yesterday, I was playing Playstation with my little brother and I was getting really frustrated because I just could not beat this one level. He kept saying, “Jess, I can help you,” and I was like “No! I can do it myself!” I kept trying but was sadly unsuccessful. Finally, I reluctantly handed over my controller. It took him about 10 seconds to beat it. I was shocked. I said, “Chance, how the heck did you beat that so fast?!” He turned, looked at me, and shrugged, “It was easy; I’ve beaten that level before.” Maybe that’s how it is in our spiritual lives. Correction… MY spiritual life. God keeps telling me, “Come on, I can take care of this you just have to let me be in control.” And I keep telling Him, “No, I can do this… I know I can.” Then when I lie there completely broken before him and reluctantly offer up control to Him He says to me, “Jess, don’t you know… I’ve already beaten this level.” I sat there for a little while longer and just watched him play. A purpose for every action. I noticed he kept running into the bad guys and fighting with them. When I asked him why he told me, “Well when I beat these little guys it makes me stronger so I can fight the big bad guy.” Maybe that’s what all these problems are all about. I’m just getting powered up to fight the big bad guy. Either way God’s at the controls and He’s beaten the whole game.

1 Chorinthians 10:14 (the message)
So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can.

Like Bananas

I was in Cox farms the other day... you know that fresh vegetable/organic food store in Duncanville... and I noticed the bananas were almost gone. I guess I came in right before they restocked. Anyway, I was looking at those bananas and I thought to myself... I wonder why no one picked those bananas? Don't ask why this thought popped into my mind, but it did. So I decided to look a little closer at those bananas. As I looked at those 5 bunches of forsaken bananas I realized something. In all those bunches there were two or three bruised or rotten bananas in each bunch. No one wants to buy a bunch that isn't nice and ripe right? I think that's how it is in our friendships/relationships. Just like one bad banana ruined the whole bunches chance of getting picked... one poorly chosen friend or hurtful relationship can affect all your relationships. I don't think it should be this way... but it is. I mean all the rest of the bunch is good right? I find that when I get hurt or betrayed once then I refuse to trust anyone anymore. It's kind of stupid really. I mean what if Jesus did that. All of His friends left him at the time He need them the most, and then when some one asked His best friend about Him he was like, “No way! You kidding me I don’t know Jesus!” What if Jesus gave up there? What if He refused to allow any relationships with Him? Where would we be? How alone and helpless would the human race really be? We need that. We need that amazing friendship that overwhelms us at every moment of the day. This friendship is what every friendship should be modeled after… live, love, laugh, and forgive.

Ecctisiasties 4:12a (the message)
By yourself you're unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst.

Living Curiously

Currently I have been revaluating my life and the way I live it. With that comes alot of questions. I started looking at my faith and my God and wondering things. My quest through curiosity taught me some things. I learned that most people don’t like it when you ask tough questions. You know what I mean? Those questions that no one really knows the answers to; those ones that you're never really suppose to ask. Jesus loved the curious. He hung out with 12 of them 24/7! My two favorite are Peter and Thomas. I like Peter because he really thought he knew all the answers and then he'd open his mouth and Jesus would say "nice try....but no." I can relate to that. Just when I think I have everything figured out Jesus says, " learning." Honestly I think Jesus loved it when people asked the "tough questions." He didn't condemn them or tell them to stop, he ANSWERED them! That’s what it should be about. We ask, we learn, we teach. I like Thomas alot too. So often he's seen as the unbeliever in the group. But I think he's one of those curious people that Jesus says, "O silly, silly child." The disciples tell Thomas they've seen Jesus alive again and Thomas says "I won't believe it until I see it and feel it for myself." What does Jesus do? He honors the request. He quenches Thomas' curiosity. Thomas in turn proclaims, "My Lord, My God." This is Christianity at its height. I mean in order to know you have to learn, Right? So for me I will be like Peter and Thomas and continue to ask questions no matter how much people don't like it. And if when I find that people can’t answer me I will rest assured in the fact that I will always be able to say, “Rabbi, teach me.”

Proverbs 18:24 (the message)
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding

Underneath the Covers

I remember when I was young and I used to get so scared of the dark. I thought that there were raptors under my bed and that they were trying to eat me. Now I know that sounds irrational but no matter how irrational it seems I was terrified of them. I remember that I would pull the covers over my head because that was the only way I could get away from them. I felt safe but then again I was in constant fear that they would reach up, grab me, and eat me. I would cry and sometimes I would stay under there so long, refusing to get out for fear that they would eat me, that I would get drenched in sweat. I remember my dad coming and sitting on the edge of the bed. He would reach up and slowly pull the covers back revealing my curled up, wet, and trembling body. I was afraid, and he would reach down and pull me up, laying my head on his chest, as he gently wrapped his warm and protecting arms around me. Here is where I found true peace and safety. In my father’s arms, and though it took fear and pain to get me there; that is where I found my true safety and comfort. It can be like that in our own lives sometimes, I know it is in mine, we get so scared and afraid that we hide under our covers so the pain and problems can’t get us. We search for the temporary protection when we could have permanent renewal.

Underneath The Covers
I keep running away from my Pain because I’m scared to face it. I run to my bed and try to fall asleep because then at least I escape for a moment no matter how small. I run and hide, and then cautiously I peek out again to see if my Pain gone, but then in seeing its continuous existence, quickly hide again. I dare not face it; I dare not look into the dark swallowing pit of my fear and anguish. The epitome of my sorrow. And yet somehow here under my covers I feel safe for a moment and though brief in satisfaction it is a moment of safety. Here under my covers, my tears fall into pools of sorrow on my pillow and the shrill sound of weeping gradually falls on the ears of that which is chasing me and it grins and licks its lips waiting to devour me the moment I set foot out from under my covers. I cling to my covers, I call for You. I beg for Your embrace to come and comfort me, to gently hold me and wipe away my tears; and You wait…for that moment longer until I am completely broken before You. Then when I am at that point of utter despair You come and chase away my predator. Then You come and sit on the edge of my bed and gently pull the covers, drenched with my tears, back to reveal my shaking body. I hang my head in shame. But You in all Your greatness condescend to me and wrap Your grace covered arms around me silencing my sobs and wiping away my tears. I am intoxicated by Your love and as I get lost in Your embrace You carefully put the broken pieces of my heart back together again. And once again I am whole. I am whole.

Proverbs 18:10 (the message)
God's name is a place of protection— good people can run there and be safe.