Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

>More Meaningful Bling

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post for All Things Chic about a beautiful bracelet I have that benefits parents in the process of adopting. I am fiercely pro-life, pro-adoption and supportive of organizations that work to support orphans and children living in severe poverty. So when I can spend my money on one of my little addictions, jewelry, and it benefits more than just me? Win-win!

So my friend Kristen from We Are THAT Family has started a non-profit maternity house in Kenya that will house and support pregnant girls with no place to go and no resources. Many of these girls have been forced into prostitution and would otherwise be seeking backstreet abortions. Kristen and her husband are going way way way out on a limb in faith to do this and one of the many ways she is supporting the Mercy House is by making and selling gorgeous jewelry, some of it fashioned out of paper beads like those made in Kenya.

So I got to hang out with Kristen on Monday and bought a bunch of her jewelry, AND her adorable new book, Don’t Make Me Come Up There! Check out these fabulous hand-crafted accessories. Lots more are available on her Etsy site.

I’m all about meaningful bling and I encourage you to check out her shop online. 

>How To Find Your Inner Self-Control

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Are you self-controlled or like a wild horse?

Last night I went to a group meeting for moms at a church I don’t normally attend. I had considered joining the group a couple years ago when we moved here, but decided against it, but when I found out my blogging friend Kristen would be there promoting her Kenyan maternity home, Mercy House, I thought I’d drop by and say hello. I’ll write more about Mercy House, a cause I have been supporting for awhile, later this week. But today I want to reflect on the subject that the evening’s main speaker covered, self-control.

The woman speaking was Lori Joiner, who works for Campus Crusade and apparently also teaches aerobics. She looks like and has the energy of an aerobics instructor for sure. She talked about how important self-control is in the lives of women like us, and pulled out a ton of scripture about it. Lori said that the enemy often encourages us to believe one of two lies:

1. “This is just the way that I am. I’ve always been this way.” She used several specific examples, such as having an anger problem or an over-eating issue. She even brought up that crazy TLC show about the bizarre addictions like the woman that eats detergent or toilet paper. These people often say that’s just the way that they are, but they are consumed in a destructive way by their lack of self-control.

2.”Every other area in my life is great and glorifying to God, so it’s ok if I just let this one little lack of self-control go.” Like when we tell ourselves and God, “I pray, I read the Bible, I volunteer here and there, look how great my life is! It’s not really harming anything if I gossip, or shop too much.”

Self-control is all about the choices we make. The more we make the choice to indulge our temptation, the stronger it gets until we feel helpless to it. Addicted. She used the image of having two dogs inside our heads, the spirit and the flesh, always battling it out. Which dog wins? Well that depends on which dog we feed and which dog we starve. So there are many ways that we can starve that dog that wants us to give into the flesh and have no self-control.

  • Praying offensively, especially at the start of the day. Don’t wait till things happen and you have to react, pray first thing that the Lord would use your eyes, mind, feet to serve Him that day. Pray for victory in whatever area you are struggling with.
  • Fasting. She suggested looking online for resources on the various kinds of fasting that can help you claim victory over temptation. Lori was very encouraging that we should try fasting when we are struggling with self-control. 
  • Memorizing scripture. Particular scriptures that relate specifically to the thing you are wrestling with. 
We had a great time of discussion at my table about our weaknesses and how we might tackle them. Some that came up among the women I sat with were laziness, pride, negative body image and nagging. We agreed that some of these areas where we lack self-control can be really easy for us to hide as SAHM’s. We tell ourselves that we have worked hard and we deserve to sit in front of the TV or internet at night instead of folding the laundry. We agreed that as girlfriends we have a tendency to enable each other in some of these weaknesses, like shopping or skipping the gym. Finding the right person to hold you accountable is also a great way to starve that dog of the flesh as well. 
One verse that really hit me was Psalm 32:9-10.

Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in Him.

So do any of these sound like good ideas to you? If you’re willing maybe you could share an area you’ve either been wrestling with, or one that used to be a problem but you’ve claimed victory over? 

>The Adjustment Bureau: Sci-Fi Thriller or Chick Flick?

>The commercials I’ve seen for The Adjustment Bureau all seem to show Matt Damon and Emily Blunt running at top speed away from someone. I’ve seen it billed as a sci-fi thriller in the vein of Inception. I haven’t actually seen Inception, but from what I heard it really kept you on the edge of your seat and left you somewhat confused about what was real and what was just a dream. I’m here to tell you that The Adjustment Bureau is NOTHING like that.

On Tuesday night I was provided with the opportunity to see an advanced screening of the new Matt Damon movie thanks to my being a crazy Twitter addict and having a pretty high Klout score. The invite was a Kloutperk, and I was very excited because I really love movies but I only get to see them about once every six months. Mike is not a big movie fan so going to the movies is not his first choice of date but The Adjustment Bureau looked like a guy movie from the trailer so he agreed we could get a sitter and go. It was nice getting the VIP treatment too, showing up and bypassing a huge line of people hoping to get in and being seated in a specially reserved row.

The tag line for the movie is “Do you believe in fate or free will?” which had me very curious given my bent for the theological study of Calvinism verses Armenian doctrines. So The Adjustment Bureau turned out to be almost exactly that, a discussion about whether or not all of human kind really makes their own choices or whether we are all just following some big plan written by a higher power. So yeah, the movie was in fact deeply theological. It was also extremely romantic, so much so that I’d classify it as a chick flick before I called it a thriller. An action movie it most definitely was not. There was a bit of suspense and plenty of mystery, but not enough for me to call it a real thriller. Yet I found it highly entertaining, if for no other reason than the lead characters are really nice to look at.

The most interesting part for me was the big philosophical question about fate or free will. Most people will instinctively believe that of course we have free will, we make our own choices all the time. I’m one of those on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, believing everything that happens is part of God’s plan. I wrestle with the details of that philosophy all the time but it is comforting when thing happen that beg the question, why? The Adjustment Bureau mostly just raises the question but provides a very shallow look at the possibilities and gives no satisfying answer. It’s not meant to be a movie that makes you think very hard, the theology is just a slightly provocative plot device.

The Adjustment Bureau is not going to win any Oscars and it’s not going to leave people talking about it for a long time afterward, but I think it has a little something for everyone to enjoy and I do think it’s worth two hours of your time for entertainment value. It opens in theaters everywhere tomorrow, March 4th.

So tell me in the comments, do you believe we have free will or that our lives are controlled by fate?

>Of Life and Loss

>I haven’t felt especially inspired to write at this here blog lately, but that’s not because I haven’t had lots of amazing thoughts and discoveries lately. I sometimes just feel like I don’t have the adequate words to describe them. I read a lot, and I am quite often humbled by the magnificent writing of great storytellers. That’s one thing I have never been very good at, storytelling. I can talk up a storm, but the ability to weave a compelling story is a special gift I don’t have.

But leave it to hormones to make me all emotive. Yesterday I heard a lot of bad news. A blogger I read who contributes at this awesome site for moms of boys called The Mob Society lost her entire house and dog in a fire. Her family is thankfully not harmed. Another blogger who is a member of Beth Moore’s Siestas community and a wife and mother of two girls had a massive stroke and is currently fighting for her life. I can’t even imagine what they are going through right now.

My thoughts also turned to Haiti as we remember the anniversary of the devastating earthquake that took hundreds of thousands of lives and left millions homeless even still. I watched some incredible videos, one of a tent city that is functioning fairly well without aid, and one of the Ivey family the day they were finally able to bring their adopted son Amos home from Haiti right after the earthquake. Moving stuff.

For some reason yesterday, and this is unusual for me, I thought of the baby I lost before Alex was born. Someone on Mike’s blog had said that 2006 was the best year ever (I guess for PSU sports and college kids it was) which made me remember my miscarriage that year. Sometimes I still grieve that child, but without that event we wouldn’t have had Alex, who is adorable and precious and funny and feisty. God is sovereign. That photo of me and Nathan was taken at the height of my grief, the weekend after our fateful ultrasound but before my D&E. I love that photo, it is a strong reminder of the unique life that I never got to hold.

Oddly enough later in the day yesterday I stumbled across a review on Amazon for a new bestselling book called Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo. I’ve never been into that kind of book, but since it’s going to be the NYTimes #1 best seller this week I was curious.

It’s a supposedly true story about a 4 year old son of a Nebraska pastor who during surgery goes to heaven and comes back, telling amazing details in the way only a child could, including meeting details about a great-grandfather he never knew and meeting his miscarried sister he didn’t even know about. Of course I’m highly skeptical of stuff like that, but the first review I read was also by a Christian skeptic, and he seemed to find it remarkably believable. What caught my attention was he specifically recommended the book for mothers who had lost a child to miscarriage. It kind of startled me. So I’ll be picking up that book now. I’ll let you know what I think.

>Hope for a New Year

>New Year’s Day has a way of reminding everyone that there are opportunities for a fresh start, a do-over, a clean slate. We set resolutions and try our hardest to make ourselves better human beings. The reality is that we can try and try and appear to make progress through growth, but we can never truly be good people in the eyes of the Lord on our own. It’s just not possible to live up to God’s standard of perfection. Lucky for us, He knows that, and cares enough about us to give us a chance for a clean slate in His eyes through Jesus. So for me, New Year’s Day is a reminder that God is reconciling us to Himself, giving us a fresh start, a do-over, through the sacrifice of His only son.

This year I chose to bring in 2011 with worship and prayer. Everyone in my house was asleep by 10pm, since my husband’s parents had to catch a very early flight home the next morning. I sat in the dark and watched fireworks going off for hours all around my house through my huge two story windows, by the glow of the Christmas tree. My church has a practice of asking its members to choose an hour to pray on either New Year’s Eve or Day, and though I had not signed up for this, I used their excellent prayer guide to commune with God for an hour as midnight approached. I listened to some worship music with my headphones on and just spoke to Him with adoration, confession, thanks and supplication (A.C.T.S.) casting all my anxieties of 2010 before Him and basking fully in the hope Jesus provides for the coming year.

I highly recommend this experience, and you can still take an hour to pray sometime today or tonight when your house is quiet. Even though the prayer guide is designed for our church, it contains tons of awesome scripture that can and should be prayed back to God. Try it, you’ll be amazed how you feel.

>Overheard at Panera Bread

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Tonight I headed to our local Panera Bread to pick up a little dinner since Mike is sick and not wanting a big deal with lots of dishes to clean up. Sunday nights at Panera are not particularly busy, and I think it’s like the third string of staff working.  I’m in there a few times a week, so I know the first string of managers and wait staff pretty well. While trying to get the soda fountain to work properly, I overheard a rather disturbing conversation between a busboy and the guy behind the counter who makes the sandwiches. Of course, since I ordered take-out, I had to stand in front of the counter and wait quite awhile listening as it got heated.

Busboy: Wait, so YOU celebrate Christmas?
Sandwich Guy: Yeah, so? Christmas is not a religious holiday.
Busboy: Of course it is, it’s a Christian holiday.
Sandwich Guy: Nah, Christmas just means, “Imma gonna get sum presents.”
Busboy: It’s Jesus’ BIRTHDAY, duh, that’s a Christian holiday.
Sandwich Guy: Wrong. Christmas is a pagan holiday that was taken over by the Christians and then taken over by Hallmark. Christmas is a Hallmark holiday. Everybody knows Jesus wasn’t even born on December 25th.
Busboy: Of course Jesus was born on Christmas! Every Christian knows that.
Sandwich Guy: No! Jesus was born in the springtime, December 25th was a pagan holiday.
Busboy: You’re thinking of Easter, Jesus’ death. Jesus died in the springtime but I GUARANTEE you 100% of Christians KNOW that Jesus was born on Christmas.
Sandwich Guy: Wrong, Jesus was born in springtime. And anyway Easter isn’t about Jesus’ death,  it’s about his resurrection!
Busboy: …and his death! Jesus died and then three days later was resurrected. What do you know anyway, you believe in Univers…cintology.
Sandwich Guy: Scientology?! NO. (Very loudly) I’m an ATHEIST! I believe in SCIENCE! FACTS! REALITY!

(this is the point at which it was all I could do to not jump in that I, too, believe in science, facts and  reality…and Jesus as my Savior.)

Sandwich Guy: I know all about Christianity. I don’t actually DISBELIEVE in anything, any religion, until I know everything there is to know about it. (emphasis mine)

This is the point at which my number was called, I exhaled sharply and ran out, praying all the while for both kids, who could not have been a day over twenty.

Ah youth. I remember when I had a very similar attitude to that sandwich guy. I thought I knew everything there was to know about anything of importance, and most especially anything to do with Christianity. And I was pretty quick to tell people too. Age and experience has taught me how little any of us really know about anything at all. Maturity has taught me how little I know of God, despite knowing what the Bible says and believing its authority as truth. What I do know is that He exists, science has proven that to me. And I do know that He is loving and personal, experience has proven this to me.

The whole conversation was saddening to me, the fact that so many people do believe Christmas is all about getting presents, and that so many have been led to believe that science proves there is no God and religion is stupid. So many young atheists fail to see how religious their beliefs really are.

>Hope in a Dark World

>One of the toughest questions that many people often ask religious folks is “How can there be a God that would allow so much suffering to go on in this world?” While I have never doubted that God exists, I have often asked lots of questions about what He’s like and why He would allow certain things to happen. Is He really a loving and personal God or does He take a hands off approach to our lives? The Bible portrays Him as both loving and wrathful, both merciful and just. It can be pretty confusing. I personally have come to see that there is both happiness and hardship in life and in the whole world around me. It’s not always where you expect it either, often times there is great sadness and pain in homes or even nations that appear to have it all, and there is definitely great joy and peace in some people that have had to endure unfathomable difficulty.

The answers aren’t easy to find or easy to accept but through a lot of reading and prayer I have found some that satisfy me about the nature of God. The idea of a completely sovereign God gives me incredible peace even in hard circumstances. The idea of an eternal hope in Jesus Christ gives me unspeakable joy. This joy and peace are something I wish I could instantly transfer into people around me who I see suffering every day. So this leads me to a conversation I had with my 90 year old, brilliant grandfather the other night.

Me and my grandad, 30 years ago

We were talking about his neighbor having traveled to New Guinea, and he stated that he didn’t think he’d ever have any interest in going there. This is from a guy that loves to travel and has seen a lot more of the world that most people. I said without hesitation that I would, and there I couldn’t think of any place in this world I wouldn’t want to see someday. I have a HUGE travel bug. He said, “But there is so much trouble in the world, in places all over. How would you keep that from making you really depressed?”

I thought about that. In reality, there is trouble right here at home in the U.S. But we do have it easy compared to say, people born in Kenya where our Compassion child, Mbeyu, is from. But I have seen through Kristen’s blog that the children in the desolate slums of Kenya are joyful, especially those who have been told about Jesus. I have read in David Platt’s book about Chinese Christians meeting in secret house churches to worship and devour the Bible, only to be thrown in jail and tortured for it. But they have hope, peace, and joy too.

So I told my granddad that I have an eternal hope in Jesus, I know that God is in every hard situation and is in complete control, and that I refuse to let circumstances dictate my emotional state. He said that was good, but he didn’t think God wanted us to leave people in suffering, to not feel empathy for them. I agreed that He does not want us to never be concerned, but to have compassion and do everything we can to help, but without letting it make us overly anxious or fearful. We have to bring these problems to Him, in prayer, do what He wants us to do, but trust Him to take care of it. That may not mean the end of suffering in this life, but there will be an end to the pain for those who know Him someday. That’s eternal hope.