Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Getting Out of the Boat...Or Not.

I'm not doing well.

I'm doing better physically, though I'm still not 100% yet. But what really pains me right now is how poorly I've done on my own challenge. You remember--the pursuing God challenge?

The very day I issued that challenge, I came down sick. Very sick. And it threw a lot of things in my life, including this. And what I want to do is blame my current spiritual lassitude on having been sick. That would be justifiable, right?

But it wouldn't be honest.

Though my health certainly made spending time with the Lord more of a challenge, the real problem is this:

I've discovered that I've got both feet firmly planted in the boat.

And I do mean firmly. I am not even close to being a risk-taker. Once, on a (3-hour, professionally-administered) temperament analysis test, I scored a 3 out of 100 on risk-taking. Get the picture? I am in NO WAY a risk-taker. If you have ever seen me take a risk, just know that it was a God-thing.

And as it turns out, getting out of the boat is risky.

Here's my current struggle: There was a sacrifice that it occurred to me to make, one that would cost me dearly, financially as well as emotionally, and would have even 'cost' those around me, too. It came to me suddenly, but quietly, so quietly that I wasn't honestly sure that it was God's voice.

And I didn't want to make it.

So I questioned it. I justified it. I finagled it until it wasn't God. I became sure it wasn't God. Or if it was God, the question was just a test, a reminder of an attitude I needed to have.

So I didn't make the sacrifice.

And now, I have the strong and sinking feeling that it WAS God, and it WAS a test...and that I failed with a score of 0 out of 100.

And I so don't want to be me right now.

This feeling is so overwhelming that I have a genuine fear that I have missed something very significant. The kind of something that never gets redeemed. And it makes my heart hurt to think that I am so tied to this world and my comfort and safety that I wouldn't act in faith when God called on me.

I want to be a woman of faith.

But the truth is, today, this month, now, I'm not. I am a woman who's treasure is gonna rot soon, whose fear of the storm keeps her--as it did 11 of the disciples--from even seriously considering getting out of the boat.

And can I tell you that it is those eleven guys that give me hope? I've so often identified with Peter--zealous in heart, but the actions get all mixed up in practice. And promises made, but broken. But in this case, I see myself with the other disciples in the boat and ask myself if they too wondered, "Will I ever get a chance to actually try this again...and get it right?"

And just to be clear, there is no record in Scripture that they did get to take that particular test over again. But each of them did fulfill his mission of being a witness to Christ to the ends of the earth. And that gives me hope.

But it still hurts.

Still His, but faithless,
-J

You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you. May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me, O Lord, the LORD Almighty; may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me, O God of Israel. -Psalm 69:5-6, NIV
...If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. - 2 Timothy 2:12-14, NIV

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Just Wondering...

I am pondering the fact that I am hosting my family's Christmas for the first time. I am so excited!! They are coming to ME! To share in my life and stay in my home (well, some of them...)!


I am also a little intimidated. I'm no longer used to cooking for a crowd. I love to host, but frankly I'm a tad out of practice. But mostly, I cannot wait for everyone (sans my far-out sis & fam in Asia *frown*) to arrive!


Wanting to make this year as special as I can, I'm thinking through everything as thoroughly as possible. Menus are taking shape, places to visit/things to do are being added to the list. I am a huge 'traditions' kinda gal (song & all! *wink*), and have a few of those kinds of things in my back pocket for this year.


But as I shape the plans for our annual time together, I thought that you smart people might have ideas too! So, please share...
What "makes" Christmas for you? What traditions/activities/people/moments/services/etc. do you look forward to each year?


Some things that I think "make" Christmas, in no particular order:
--Singing Christmas Carols and Hymns (sometimes for hours) as a family
--Candlelight and tiny white lights
--Special Church Services, especially on Christmas Eve
--Cold weather...snow is preferable :-)
--Hot cocoa, tea, and apple cider
--Cooking together with my mom/sister(s)
--Shopping, especially together with family
--the reading of the Advent story before we open gifts
--Having gifts handed out/opened one by one so everyone gets to share in the joy!
--Getting to give carefully selected gifts!

....and so much more. But I want to leave room for you to share...PLEASE! :-) What do you love about this season? What do you do to make it special? What suggestions do you have for me as a new host? I'll take all that you want to share!

Loving the season, but more so The Reason,
-J

"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. ...to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." --Luke 1:68, 77-79, NIV

(c) 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I've Been Sick...

I've been absent because I have been sick. Quite sick. For 183 hours, so far, if anyone was actually counting. Which of course, I am not. Totally not.

I've tried to keep up my part of the challenge I left us all--most especially myself--with last Monday, but I haven't really done as well as I would have hoped. But I do have some thoughts on the journey so far, and I'll tackle the first one quickly today. ("Quickly" being an entirely relative term with me.) If you're sure you're ready for it...

There are some things about God's workings that I simply--really deeply--don't like.

Okay, who's mad at me now? Frankly, I edited that statement. What I wanted to say was that there were things about God that I don't like, but I don't know that that's 100% accurate. Why would I say either one of those things? Well...

Last week, I found myself reading at the end of the book of Judges. Now, if you've read this book, you know it's filled with sorry stories about sinful, self-seeking people over the course of generations. It's not a place for the faint-of-heart to start. However, at the very end there is a very telling story about an unnamed Levite who travels with his wife/concubine (she's called both in the passage) to an apparently wicked city in the tribe of Benjamin. The men of the city are so wicked that they clamor for this guy to be sent out to them so they can perform indecent acts on/with him. It's shocking, and very reminiscent of a story God relates from Sodom. This Levite, instead, sends his wife outside to them, and they abuse her so horribly during the night that by daybreak she is dead.

I know, my stomach is kinda turning too. God uses this scenario to reveal the wickedness that this entire tribe had allowed to grow in their midst, and then to exact judgment on them for it. The wickedness is removed from Israel, at the cost of tens of thousands of lives and the near extermination of the tribe of Benjamin. Justice is done.

But........!

I want God to judge this Levite. How could he treat his WIFE like that? ANYONE like that? I wanted God to make HIM pay for his wicked acts... I found myself wanting to scream!

I know, some of you are saying, "We aren't told the whole story here. Only part is recorded in order to fill us in on the history/tell of how God judged this tribe." Yep. Okay, I get that. But my struggle lingers: Why isn't the next part of the story recorded? Why isn't there one word of condemnation of this man's horrific behavior?

And this, my friends, is where faith enters in. I understand when I look at the whole of Scripture that God doesn't condone men using their wives as shields. I understand that God never says, "Oh, just let those evil men have their way with her." But what I want is complete and immediate justice for this wrong. For. Each. Wrong.

Except...I don't. Not really. For if God did such a thing, who could stand? Surely not I. Most certainly not. Somehow, in His sovereignty and His grace and His mercy, God does 'balance' the scales--ultimately. And frankly, I don't think He cares if I'm on board with His timing or not.

This is where my knowledge of God Himself and of the promises and prophecies He has given comes into play. His nature hasn't changed. His promises will be fulfilled. And even if I don't get to see God work all this out, those things are still true. To believe that is what faith is.

So, I don't have good answers as to why God allows such evil--globally or on an intimate scale--to reign. I have answers, but in the face of it, they don't feel like good answers. But the nature, character, and faultlessness of my God stand in mute testimony that there are purposes and there are days of accounting.

So I don't hang my trust on what I don't understand. I place my faith on the Who I do know. And someday, maybe, when God has expanded the peanut in my head to be able to comprehend His ways better...maybe then I'll 'get' it.

Until then, I rest in the knowledge that the story juxtaposed immediately against this torrid tale is the sweet, tender, remarkable tale of a kinsman-redeemer whose rescue of a certain woman foretells God's own intervention into history. And the grace that is demonstrated in that tale is mine. Blessedly mine.

Not always clear, but confident,
-J

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. --Hebrews 4:13-14, NIV

If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? ...I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. --Psalm 130:3, 5, NIV

(c) 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

Um...Ouch. Time to Get Out of the Boat

I had a little thought/conversation/realization the other day, and it kinda hurt. And since you guys are getting used to receiving my confessions, well...here goes.

I often find myself walking around thinking about what I'm going to teach "my kids" (middle school class on Sunday) or "my girls" (the high schoolers I meet with throughout the week). This (blessedly-long!) weekend was no exception. I found myself pondering the lessons I wanted to communicate during this Advent Season. And when I got to "my girls," I heard myself 'say' (in my head), "I want them to know that Jesus is worth pursuing."

And then, a still, quiet Voice replied, "So, what about you?"

Uh...um... Have you ever stumbled over your words in your head?! And as I stumbled over this questions, a painful realization swept over me: It would be a serious stretch to say that I pursue Jesus regularly.

I know Jesus (thank You!!). I walk with Him. I obey Him (mostly). I pray. I read and study His Word. I teach His Word. I push/pull/encourage/exhort others to relationship with Him and application of His Word. But do I pursue Him?

There have been times I have. Dedicated periods of listening, seeking...and by His grace, hearing. There have been times where He was all I could and did cling to. But typically? Pursue would not be the right adjective for my life.

And I was saddened.

And challenged. What if I did more than just walk with my God? What if I put my all into knowing Him? What if I ran after my God to hear His voice, to see His face, to feel His heart?

It was thirty-two years ago this fall that I came into the Kingdom of the Son He Loves. I've walked with my God a long time. But what if the verb 'walk' was changed into 'run after'? What would that look like? Wouldn't that amount of effort change...everything?

Recently, I've had this growing sense. It's kinda hard to put into words, but I'll try. I get the feeling that no matter how close I--or anyone--press into knowing God, no matter how well we know Him, we will be overwhelmed by His presence, His glory, the moment we pass through the veil. When we see clearly--except that God Himself give us new bodies and preserve our lives--I truly think the radiance of His glory would simply consume us whole. That's what He is like.

Think about it: The Perfect (having never sinned) creatures in His presence are shown in Scripture to cover their faces and their feet in the presence of His holiness (Isaiah 6). When the saved of all the ages declare the preeminence of the Father and the Lamb, the angels fall on their faces in worship (Revelation 7). How much more would we be overwhelmed by the glory of the Lord? (What I think is that I would like the shock to be as minimal as possible. *wink*) A God whose very radiance is so powerful, and yet who set it all aside to take on the form of a servant (human) and humbled Himself to death, even death on a cross? Surely that is a God worth pursuing.

The Holy Spirit has 'thrown down the gauntlet,' so to speak. Will I pursue Him?

I'm not wholly sure what that will look like, but I know it will look different from the sleepy Scripture readings I tend to do 3 minutes before I fall asleep. I know it will look different from the random and incomplete prayers I often send 'upward.' I know that pursuing God will require more of my time and energy. It will require less of my self-impositions into the process. It's likely it will require sacrifice.

I am a tiny bit scared. My life is kinda comfortable right now. I am wrapped secure in my relationship with God, in the forgiveness and direction He has offered me. Then I think back to C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, when Eustace asks Reepicheep about Aslan (representing Christ), "Is He safe?" "Safe?! No He's not safe. But He's good."

This doesn't feel safe. But it does feel right. And my God IS good.

So, since "Pursue God for the rest of my life" seems a bit too large of a chunk to bite off right away, here is what I am committing to:
1.) I will pursue God in some tangible way every day during this advent season (December 1 to 25).
2.) AND, I will share at least some of what that looks like here.

I just might be launching the journey of my life, and it might be a wild ride. But faith is the siren call, and the only answer I can give is to step out of the safety of my boat.

Here's to life on the sea,
-J

P.S. I don't know what God is working in your life right now, and this might not be the lesson/time for you, but I feel compelled to ask, "Any other takers? Will anyone join me on a 25-day odyssey?"

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
--Philippians 3:7-14, NIV

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Sweet Reminder

I feel badly for leaving you with the last post and no follow up...though your many encouraging comments (and even a phone call or two) were deeply appreciated. We have headed into our second busiest season at work, and I don't have as much time to post here now as I would like. However...This is what I should have shared with you on Sunday:

Worship on Sunday was...wonderful. I LOVE singing God's praises with His people. I think I would never tire of that. And as is so often true, it is in the midst of those special times of worship that God whispers truths into my heart.

This past Sunday was no exception. And here is what He whispered:

J, I must bring you to the place where you are empty and needy so that I might fill you with Me.

Except God is so much more eloquent than I can duplicate here. But those non-word truths that He 'spoke' into my heart? They were a healing salve to my soul.

It's not the first time that He's said such a thing to me. And honestly, it probably won't be the last. But His gentle, tender voice reminding me of greater things than I can imagine...I will never grow tired of that either.

I so truly love the One who has loved me with such infinite, depthless love. His hand nudges my chin upward just when I have lost sight of the greater things. He is answering my deepest prayers...that I might KNOW Him. That I might gaze upon His beauty. That I might become a moon to His glory. That there might be less of me, and more--ever more--of Him. That I might be desperate for Him. And to get there, I must be emptied.

This life...this life isn't about what I DO. I forget that a lot. Our society measures things that way and sometimes it just seeps into my soul. This life is about getting to know the lover of our souls. I recently found a 3x5 card I stuck in my Bible about a year and a half ago. I had written myself a note when--in the middle of a conversation--I had an "a-ha!" moment. And here is what I wrote:

"My purpose isn't in my task; it's in my relationship. Point your nose toward His throne."

Not Shakespeare, but it IS what I so often miss/forget/ignore. I was placed here to do good works--that's true. But those good works must flow out of my RELATIONSHIP with the one who ordained those good works for me to do.

You've probably mastered this truth already. Me? I'm a bit of a slow learner myself. But with such a gentle, grace-giving schoolmaster, someday I'll get this down. And in the interim, feel free to remind me to point my nose toward His throne.

And if we could sing His praises together a bit more, I might get there a little bit faster.

Never out of His grip or His plan,
-J




But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. --Ephesians 2:4-10, NIV
(c) 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Facebook Statuses I Don't Have the Courage to Post

So I pop on FB and get to see everyone from my life--past & present--'s lovely families and lives and ministries. And I am so happy for them. Genuinely. Seriously. Without taint.

But sometimes, there's a part of me that feels sad afterward. It's the part that just compared my life to theirs. This is a bad idea. I know. I don't do it intentionally because I know that it is a bad idea. But sometimes, when I'm done looking at their so-very-happy pictures, I want to change my FB status to...

--J is a tiny bit sad that God never made her a mom. (Sometimes the adjective changes.)
--J wishes that she could be a Mrs.
--J loves the humility that has come with her current jobs, but wishes she could say that she had done something really cool for God.
--J absolutely knows God hasn't forgotten her, but sometimes her head has to re-instruct her heart on the matter.
--J is waiting for a really cool God-story to be written into her life.
--J loves the perks of being single (like sleeping until 10:40 a.m. today!) but would be willing to trade those in for the right scenario...

You can't post those. I probably shouldn't post them here, as they might taint your perspective on my perspectives. I rarely 'go here.' Really rarely. But today I did. And since I didn't have the courage to post them for real (especially as my FB people have been known to get the wrong idea and then set about fixing me), I'll post them here under the cover of partial-anonymity.

Thanks for hearing me out. Now, I can move on with my day. It's time to wrap up my lesson for tomorrow. Paul's in Thessalonica! Sabbath-reasoning, prominent-folk believing, bad characters creating trouble...There aren't pirates or sword-fights, but it's still a pretty cool story. Let's see if I can make middle schoolers believe that.

Off to live the life I've been given, and placing my confidence in heaven-stored treasures,
-J

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. --Romans 5:2b-5, NIV

(c) 2008

Just For Fun

This little email has been bouncing around in my family the past couple of weeks, and--while I have many other things I could share, I don't have time to organize those thoughts right now. So...here are some worthless little tidbits about me. (The assignment for the first part was to place an X next to those items that were true about you/your life.)

( ) Gone on a blind date – It’s never even been suggested. Should I be offended?

( ) Skipped school – Well, I kinda played more sick than I was a couple of times…

( ) Been to Canada – On the wish list

(X) Been to Mexico – Went when I was 11 or 12, and saw glass being blown for the first time.

( ) Been to Florida – I live this close (in the Deep South!) and I STILL have never been to Florida. I have, however, been to 34 or 35 other states!

( ) Been to the Caribbean – On the wish list

(X) Been overseas – Uh, YEAH!

(X) Been on a plane – Oh so many times… (Plus, it's much easier to get 'overseas' this way!)

( ) Jumped out of a plane – This is something I hope to avoid…

( ) Been on a helicopter

(X) Been on a train – Never in the US. I’ve had both good and bad experiences here.

(X) Been lost – Sometimes I try to get lost. You learn a lot that way.

(X) Been on the opposite side of the country – Thanks, Far-Out Sis & Fam!

(X) Gone to Washington, D.C. – love, Love, LOVE DC! (Clarification: I love the city; the politics can be another matter…)

(X) Swam in the ocean – Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Sea of Japan, stood on the shores of the Mediterranean, but it was too cold to swim.

(X) Cried yourself to sleep – Glad they didn’t ask how many times…

(X) Played cops and robbers - But not particularly willingly. There were boys involved...

( ) Recently colored with crayons – But I love to!

(X) Sang Karaoke – More times than I can count. First time was with my BF from middle school (though we were in college then), in a Vietnamese ‘restaurant.’ There’s a good story there…

(X) Paid for a meal with coins only – Sadly, fairly recently. Times, they are a-tight…

(X) Done something you told yourself you wouldn't do – both good things and bad things.

(X) Made prank phone calls – I “sold” subscriptions to Garbology Today to friends in junior high.

(X) Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose – milk, junior high. Not my only unfortunate experience with milk in junior high, either. Those were some rough years...

(X) Caught a snowflake on your tongue - :-)

(X) Danced in the rain – With my MOM! In high school. It was a really heavy storm, and I think we both got sick afterward, but what a memory…

( ) Written a letter to Santa Claus - I was the child trying to inform everyone about the TRUE meaning of Christmas...which of course meant that I started an early career as a myth-debunker. I'm sure I was very popular with the parents...

( ) Been kissed under the mistletoe – But am willing to try it…

( ) Watched the sunrise with someone you care about or love – well, with friends, but I don’t think that is what this is referring to.

(X) Blown bubbles – Best memory is doing so with my niece and nephews just before most of them abandoned me left for Asia.

(X) Gone ice-skating – Love it!

(X) Gone snow or water skiing – Does it count if you didn’t get out of the water? Well, I actually did get out; flying through the air and landing head first back in the water is skiing, isn't it?

(X) Gone to the movies – I almost never go (maybe once or twice a year; who can afford it?!), but this is one of my favorite things to do. I love to lose myself in a story.

( ) Been to Africa – On the wish list

( ) Ate cookies for dinner – I’ve eaten cookies WITH dinner, but I don’t think I’ve done this alone.

( ) Ate cookies for breakfast – Uh…the stomach is quite particular in the AM.

(X) Body Piercings? – Yep. Six of them. Do I sound mysterious?

(X) Been on TV – Yes…but that wasn’t me on America’s Most Wanted. You can’t prove it was…

( ) Stole a traffic sign – Grrrl, I am SUCH a rule keeper. Uh, no.

(X) Been in a car accident – Yes, but it’s never been my fault. I’ve either been completely stationary or not even in the vehicle at the time.

( ) Tattoos – But they did just became legal in my state…

* Favorite drink? In order: Water, Coffee, Diet Dr. Pepper (with Sonic ice!)

* Do you love your job? YES! But I can think of several others I would jump at the chance to do if God opened the door…

* Favorite vacation place? A trip to Hong Kong was the best vacation I ever had, but generally, the mountains in the fall.

* Favorite TV Program? I grow more ‘sketch’ on TV by the day, but currently… Antiques Roadshow, Masterpiece Theater, As Time Goes By, Heroes, Eleventh Hour, The Mentalist

* Drive a 2-door or 4-door vehicle? 4-door. Her name is G.G. We should talk about her sometime...

* Favorite salad dressing? Newman’s Own Olive Oil & Vinegar (Worth every calorie!)

* Favorite number? BF's cell phone

* Favorite pie? Pumpkin, every time, baby!

* All Time Favorite Movie? Name a classic musical

* Favorite holiday? I cannot decide. I LOVE the calm and celebration of Thanksgiving; but I love the ‘family togetherness’ of Christmas. And the songs. And the decorations. And the weather. And celebrating my birthday the week before… (less than 30 shopping days remain…)

* Favorite dessert? Angel Food Cake, or chocolate

* Favorite food? Ohhhh, I am such a foodie. I cannot choose. Maybe Thai? I love ALL foods. Seriously.

* Favorite day of the week? Friday night—there’s (usually) nothing that I need to prepare for for the next day.

* Favorite Brand of Body Wash? Anything non-floral. I’m generally allergic to those.

* Favorite toothpaste? Colgate paste, not the gel

* Favorite smell? Something savory cooking, especially if it has onion &/or garlic in it. And gardenias (though I’m kinda allergic). And pine. And the confederate jasmine that blooms on our arbor. And coffee brewing. And that cologne that sharp-dressed stranger was wearing when he passed me in the Korean bus station (Mmmmm...I do wish I knew what that was!). I think I’m very olfactory-oriented. :-D

* What do you do to relax? Exercise (especially Pilates!), watch TV/movies, read

* Favorite Sport? Whatever my friends are into. I love the variety of the Olympics best, both summer and winter. I’m a total Olympics junkie!

* How do you see yourself in 10 years? Well, I tried to guess where I’d be now ten years ago, and I got that ALL wrong, so I think I’ll abstain from this one.

Okie-dokie. That's all the gibberish I can come up with for now. Did you learn anything new? No? Sorry about that. Maybe next time I can be a tad more creative for ya.

Blessings all!
-J

"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. --Luke 12: 4-7

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Happened!

It's happened! I said it! What a DAY!

Let me back up a bit.

Last night my roomie mentioned that the temperatures this morning would begin with the number 2. Uh, I live in the South. We don't get temperatures that start with 2...especially in November! And so, since my newest hobby is FREEZING TO DEATH CONSTANTLY, I decided to pull out my biggest, thickest sweater--big, fat turtleneck and all--and layer it over a long-sleeved shirt.

Now this sweater was purchased for my trip to Chicago two winters ago. It's a serious sweater, not one of those wimpy ones you find in the South. And seeing that I bought it two years ago, it's a little...big. I think it's designed to fold under at your waist, but mine hangs straight down past my hips.

Earlier today, as I was in the ladies room, I was looking in the mirror and thinking how big and lumpy this sweater was. And I thought, "Boy, this really makes me look fat."

And then it happened. In my own head, I said the word. I didn't mean to. I didn't even know it was coming. Honest! I suddenly heard--through my tumbling thoughts--I suddenly heard myself say..."I don't care. I know that underneath I'm skinny."

Did you catch it? My own self-talk used the word SKINNY. About MYSELF! THAT is a change. Words like chubby, fat, lumpy...maybe. But skinny? THAT has never happened before! Probably not ever, considering how I viewed myself even as a child/teen.

I'm still not to goal, but I have come a looong way. (Oh, you want details? How about 95-pounds-gone-worth? Will that suit you? *wink*) And you know what? This instance, this stumbled-upon thought process, tells me that I've come along way in my head and heart too.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all a Jesus thing.

Enabled by His gift, buoyed by His Spirit,
-J

For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code...Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering... Romans 7:5-6; 8:1-3a, NIV

(c) 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Conversations With God

Here is the blog entry I started yesterday, when rain paused but the trees shone: All the world is gold...and red, and green. The trees here...

That's as far as I got, but you can see that I was seeing the world as beautiful. And that gave me hope. That was nice.

Today, I ran across this website via a couple of friends' communications: http://alirae.net/blog/

I haven't read much, but this woman is a pediatric nurse on a mercy ship, currently off the shore of Liberia. And here is what sent me into a self-indulgent stew of sorrow: "I spend my days in a delightful whirl of crying babies, cast-footed kids, and even the occasional grownup. I've never been so happy....(Please let me stay forever.)"

That's when I realized that questions that I thought I had answered weren't so fully answered, and that the peace that I so often feel is more tentative than solid. Many of you know that I spent the vast majority of my life planning for and moving toward cross-cultural ministry, from about age 7 to about age 31. I'm no math major, but that's a lot of time.

But after a brief stint overseas, and achieving the necessary master's degree, it all came to a screeching halt. God said, "Wait."

Okay, I can wait...a few months. A year. Or, apparently, more.

Then God said, "Wait on ME."

Okay, that one is harder. It's not just the hunkering-down, holding-on-for-dear-life kind of waiting. In fact, it's not holding on at all. It's a release, an utter, willing submission of yourself to the hand of God. Harder, but I learned.

Then, I asked God, "When?"

But God just said again, "Wait."

So I waited. I tried to make myself useful during this 'intermission.' I delved deeply into ministry. I learned how to disciple. I saw life from the 'professional ministry' side. I worked with a church plant. And every so often, I would ask again, "When?" "God you know my heart is already in Central Asia. They don't know you there..."

"Wait."

I learned how to manage serious physical pain. I learned that God can heal what doctors declare you will live with forever. I learned how to seek His face...and that when you do, He meets you there in ways words cannot define. Amazing lessons...but in many ways, I still felt that I was just treading water, waiting to go.

Finally, years in, I asked, "Am I going? Please tell me where to point my nose."

And God said, "You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language...not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you."*

And I cried. I cried for two years.

How can I not go? Is there a greater calling?

Then God spoke quiet truths into my heart:
"I don't need you to accomplish great things for Me, J. I AM great, and I will accomplish all that I desire."
"Cross-cultural ministry is not the greatest thing you can do. Knowing Me is."
"Put roots down, J. You've never learned how to be where I've put you."
"Pursue Me. Seek My face."

"I love you. Unconditional, all-encompassing love. Let that sink into the deepest parts of you."
"While you've been banging on the doors of heaven, asking Me to change your circumstances, I've been changing you. This is the greater part."
...
And so many other truths and promises.

Finally, my heart came to a place of peace, and I found this was my prayer: You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.**

But today, I found myself questioning anew, "Is this really it, Lord? I don't intend this as a complaint, but my heart still yearns for...something. For some things. And sometimes, I feel sad that I'm not there, doing that, serving in that way. What do I do with that?"

What I'm doing now is choosing to remember this: The LORD is my light and my salvation... The LORD is the stronghold of my life.***

I am remembering that this is what I've asked of God, and that it is the greater part: One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.***

And so I end with the same lesson with which I started: Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.***

So Lord, I'm waiting...on You. But this time I know that You know where I am, that You will fulfill your plan for me, that You love me in ways I will spend all of eternity trying to absorb, that Your face is worth seeking--it is so beautiful.

O Lord, Hineni.****

-J

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands. --Psalm 138:8

*Ezekiel 3:5-6, NIV
**Psalm 16:11, NIV
***From Psalm 27, NIV
****This Hebrew term basically means, "Here I am." More on this soon.

P.S. For more of my thoughts on the waiting/longing process, you can review this post.

(c) 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Would You Pray...?

Ummmmm...I'm having lunch today with one of My Girls. The one I'm most concerned about. The one I feel most like I need to have my A Game ready for. And today, right now, I'm working off my Q game. I haven't quite reached my Z game, but I'm a long way from my A game.

In light of my previous post, if you dear reader, read this blog before 1:30 p.m. EST (we are meeting from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.), and if you have a relationship with God the Father through Jesus, would you pray for me, for this interaction? I feel empty and unprepared, but God is strong in our weakness. May it be so today.

-J

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. -Romans 8:26, NIV

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. --2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV

(c) 2008

Out of Sync

Today, I feel like I'm doing everything incorrectly.
-Relationships with friends
-Relationships with family
-Relationships with co-workers
-Relationships with 'My Girls'
-Relationship with God
-How I manage my time
-How I manage my money
-Where I spend my energies

I feel befuddled and confused and overwhelmed.

I don't like how I'm feeling. I understand that feelings often lie...it's just that I don't have Scripture or data to contradict these feelings right now.

Please understand the million caveats here: I'm not doubting my God or my relationship to Him. I'm not doubting that I am loved. I'm not really doubting at all. It's like...like one big word has been stamped on my forehead: WRONG.

By noon, these feeling could be gone, and my head clear. But right now, I feel shaken and oppressed, and I just want to crawl away and hide.

Just how it is,
-J

The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.
Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, "Seek His face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

--Psalm 27, NIV

(c) 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Am My Own Barbie...

Do I have your attention now? Well...

My Journey has produced one unforeseen habit: I have become my own Barbie-doll.

The change in my body and the complete turnover of my wardrobe means that putting together an outfit is no longer an automatic thing for me. Each evening:
...I find myself checking the weather (even temps in the upper-60s mean I'm going to need a sweater; I simply run that cold now. Someone PLEASE tell me my metabolism will reset itself...).
...Then I head to my closet and stare into it for awhile, wondering what goes with what.
...I start pulling out bits and pieces and--and this is where the Barbie-doll part comes in--I start trying them on. One outfit after another goes on, mixing and matching, trying to determine:
1.) What currently fits (some things are now too big; some new acquisitions are still too small);
2.) What matches; and
3.) What is 'me' (most of the items have been given to me, so I have to determine what fits my style/body).

Last night at 12:30 a.m., I found myself laughing--at myself--trying to figure out how to dress myself! But it turns out that that tan jumper I've been waiting to fit into is now just the right size...

Not that I'm wearing it today. Today, the high was 65*. That called for a sweater. ;-)

Waiting for my Ken, pink car, and jacuzzi-ed home (*wink*),
-Barbie

Lacking clothes, they spend the night naked; they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold. -Job 24:7 (I'm just KIDDING! Come on, it is funny!)

(c) 2008

For Those of You Who Miss the Olympics as Much as I Do...

Because every Monday should start with a smile, enjoy this:



There are a couple more really great ones, but I think this is the best. (He has a floor routine and an uneven parallel bar routine, too.) TOO much fun! ;-)

-J

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rich In Mercy, Rich In Grace...

There's a passage of Scripture that moves me to almost-tears virtually every time I hear it. My response is so instantaneous and comes from the very deepest places in me that it catches me off guard almost every single time. I read it again this morning, with the same response, and so thought I would share it with you. Please allow me to walk you through my thought process...

...And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, Boy howdy, yes I was.
...in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, I was in allegiance with the world and with the devil.
...of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. That same spirit is still at work in those who don't know Jesus. Those poor people...
...Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, I absolutely did all of those same evil things; my life was completely about me and my desires.
...and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. I was under God's WRATH. I had earned 'enemy status' in relationship to God, and He was furious at my sin. This makes me tremble...
...But God, Oh HOW I LOVE these words. They are the interjection of God into humanity, of Christ into my life!
...being rich in mercy, Rich. Overflowing. Abundant. ...in MERCY. The withholding of what I have earned (God's wrath!)...
...because of His great love with which He loved us, What kind of love is this? Why would He bestow it on me? How very great it must be indeed!
...even when we were dead in our transgressions, D.E.A.D. Completely unable to help myself. Dead under that wrath, covered in the evidence of my guilt.
...made us alive WHA-HOO! I am ALIVE. Living, not dead. No longer helpless and without hope!
...together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, When Christ was raised, so was I. Though my life had not yet begun, yet it had already been redeemed. I was made alive with Christ!
...and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Where am I now? Well, physically I am on planet earth, awaiting my death or the return of my Savior. But positionally, I am seated with Christ in the heavenlies. That's how fully sure my life is. It is already confirmed as 'checked in' to heaven!
...so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. WHY? Why did God rescue me, give me life, pay my debt? WHY? To show off His grace. The riches of His grace. He demonstrates how full of grace He is through the kindness He showed me in Christ Jesus. When does all of this culminate in bringing Him glory? "In the ages to come..." There is so much more ahead of us! The best really IS yet to come!
...For by grace you have been saved God extended this gift though there was nothing, NOTHING about me that appealed to Him. In fact, everything about me was revolting, so fully steeped in sin was I. His gift was just favor, just an act of generosity on a level the world has never known.
...through faith; The door to heaven swings open on the hinges of faith. Grace draws us to the door and pulls us through!
...and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; It's not about me! NOT me! There is such freedom there! I can't earn it--even if one could, who could actually achieve such a thing? I can't lose it; I never again have to walk in fear for my life! It's not about me! I'm free!
...not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. I think He included this part just to keep me from missing the point when I start to do the good works He prepared in advance for me to do and start to get all "big-head" on Him. Those works are from Him and for Him, but they are NOT about my salvation. If I could earn even a part of my salvation, why would Jesus have had to die?!
(Ephesians 2:1-9, NIV)

I start crying right about the "But God" part. If I was speaking out loud, you'd hear me emphasize the words "rich" and "mercy." We have been given so very much, that words don't really cover it...But Paul made a pretty good start here in Ephesians, and I am so very, very glad!

Feeling the riches of His mercy and grace,
Rejoicing in His love,
-J

(c) 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On This, The Morning After...

So many opinions, so many emotions are flying around today, on both sides of the political landscape. I thought I'd weigh in with this, the place God brought my heart to rest this morning:

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. –Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, NIV

That's it, ladies and gentlemen. God is on His throne; our mandate is the same. The earth hasn't shifted (for good or for ill) as much as everyone feels it has.

Resting, seeking, waiting,
-J

Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. --Psalm 47:6-8, NIV

(c) 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Finis...

The day dawned chill and blustery, the kind of gray day that makes you want to sleep late and sip hot cocoa over an unhurried breakfast. But that wasn't a luxury this day afforded. Dressing as quickly as my not-quite-ill-but-not-quite-right body would allow, I reviewed my choices, checked names, reread amendments.

And then I was off.

The line at the school was lengthy long before I arrived at 8:30 a.m., stretching out the door and around the parking lot for nearly a quarter of a mile. The people in line were quiet, mostly bundled against the cold and damp that the wind kept whipping against their faces. A slow shuffling rippled through the line occasionally, giving hope to the faint of heart. I added myself to the end, preparing myself to practice a cheerful spirit.

An hour passed. I had reached the canopy, a very slight protection from the mist, and a small victory of sorts. My stomach clenched as the condition from earlier emphasized itself. But I would not leave the line. My task was too important to be interrupted for any reason.

One and a half hours. I could see the tiny cubicles which were my destination. Sorting us, the workers shuffled the lines to verify our identities. Confirmed in who I was, I proceeded...right, away from my goal. A very long line yet awaited me down a stretch of hallway unseen until now. The line reached to the doors at the opposite end of the hall, though no one was exiting. As each face rounded that corner, it fell, realizing that the wait was not over.

Two hours, fifteen minutes. A slight motion from a seated woman told me that my moment had come. Now was my chance, a culmination of hours of attempted indoctrination, of research, of conversations and contemplations.

It was finally my turn to cast my vote.

A few minutes to review, to be sure I had marked all that I intended, and it was done. My hours had been redeemed, my voice had been expressed.

As I strode out the doors, I placed myself in another line, the line to the throne of God. Having done my part, I cast the outcome, the blessings and the cursings, before that holy throne, returning to my walk of faith down the sidewalk of an elementary school.

-J

(c) 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

There's No Plan B?!?!!

I think one characteristic which all people share is the desire for options. Do you know what I mean? I don't mean 10,000 choices of cereal...though if you live in the U.S., that is certainly available to you. I mean knowing that if Plan A doesn't work, that Plan B is an option. And maybe plan C, D, F, G, and H, if necessary. We want to know that we aren't trapped, and that if this whole thing falls apart, we're still gonna be okay.

We feel this way in the small things ("If Wal-mart doesn't have this, then Target will.") and in big things ("If I lose this job, then I could always go work for company x."). We even--unfortunately--feel this way about relationships: If my church/friend/spouse doesn't work out, I could always find another... I believe this is even the reason that suicide is an option for people. It is Plan Z, but, "If plans A-Y don't work, there's always Z..."

But it strikes me that God isn't a Plan B kinda guy. In fact, there's only ever been one plan, unfolding in perfection since before time began. God never shifts (theological term for God never changing: immutable). He doesn't hold that extra card in his back pocket, just in case... His plan plows through difficulty, beauty, righteousness, and unrighteousness, accomplishing His purpose without delay or fail.

Our plans tend to move along just fine when things are going smoothly, but tend to look for a detour when the roads become rough. But the God of the universe who calls us His own also asks us to live as He does: one plan, one road...one Body, one Spirit, one Hope, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism... Think I'm going over the top? Check me:
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. --Ephesians 4:3-6, NIV

You know, the last verse of this passage tells us why "One" is so important: Because there is only ONE God. His very nature is unity, singularity. He doesn't need to vary and variance doesn't fit his character. God designed the plan (sovereignty), knows the plan (omniscience), has the power to work the plan (omnipotence), is everywhere working out His plan (omnipresence).

So, if God is working His Plan A, and there is no plan B...And if we know the God of Plan A...why is it so hard for us to simply stick to the plan? Perhaps it's because we didn't design the plan; we don't know the plan in full; we don't have the power to enact all the plans we would wish. And we are stuck in the spot where we are, impotent to make really radical changes/decisions in general.

This is why we are called to walk by faith. This is what it means to walk by faith. And when we walk by faith, we are agreeing to honor the one-plan system that God has put into place. We are agreeing to Plan A. This is part of what marriage is designed to demonstrate. "Until death do us part..." No Plan B. Through thick, thin, and thinner still. This covenant is designed to help us know and show the God of Plan A, in all the beauty of His holiness.

A story is told of the Spanish explorer Cortez, who, upon finding the New World embarked on exploration of it. However the going was tough, and his troops began to discuss Plan B, taking the ships and returning to the Old World. But Cortez understood the principle of being a one-plan man...and promptly burned their ships. There would be no retreat; the job must be done.

So it is in this life. I have chosen to align myself with the God of Plan A. There is no retreat. There is no detour. And...there is no need to fear. For the God of Plan A IS working out His plan, with the detail and skill only the creator of the universe could display. And the end? Well, he's told us the end:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. --Revelation 22:1-5, NIV

Stickin' with Plan A,
-J

(c) 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Who Am I?

Sometimes, when I imagine myself living at the time of Jesus, I see myself as part of the masses for which Jesus had so much compassion. I see myself as among those thousands who were drawn to hear the miraculous words and to witness the transforming healings that this 'unschooled' man offered as proof of His claim of deity. When I picture this, it is because I am remembering how very lowly I am, how I am so very often incapable of doing the simplest acts of righteousness.

But other times, when I picture this God-man in pastoral Yisrael, I see His eyes as fiery, burning into me and my fellow Pharisees. I see the hypocrisy in my heart, and I know that He does too. I see His words piercing me, ferreting out the lies of my own righteousness that I have fed everyone, including myself. And I feel the pang of His rejection of this deceitful heart. And just when I can bear it no more, I remember...

That I am already His.
I am His own.
Bought by His blood.
Declared eternally righteous because of the gift He bestowed.

How can such righteousness reside in one so very, very sinful? How can such vast Perfection and Holiness show love...and kindness...and mercy...and grace to one such as me? Because THAT is who He IS. It is His very nature, these things so wholly His character that it simply--though intentionally--overflows onto us. It wasn't because of who I was or who I would become; it wasn't what I could or would do that drew Him to me. It was simply, abundantly, unfathomably His loving grace that called me, "MINE."

I cannot put my brain around it today. But, it seems that since it is true, I'll have all eternity to plumb the depths of this kindness and sing the praises that I find there.

Oh may this simple, Pharisaical woman be...
To the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.
-J

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. --Ephesians 1:3-8, NIV

(c) 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quote & Note

Ran across this, and in light of next week's big event (No, that's not the end of daylight savings time. I mean the ELECTION--here in the USA, at least.), I thought I would plant this thought:

Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.
--Margaret Thatcher

I would like to kindly recommend that we each review that philosophy, and then vote it.

Thanks for indulging this political moment.
Smiles,
-J

(c) 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ten Things For Tuesday Returns!

Well, I've let this weekly meme ride for a while now, but I think now is the time to pick it back up. This week's theme:

Ten Reasons I Listed at the Beginning of The Journey for Losing Weight
1. ...because control brings contentment.
2. ...because I'd like to get to know my cheekbones!
3. ...because discipline is never a wasted lesson.
4. ...because someday I'm gonna borrow my husband's shirt and I don't want it to FIT!
5. ...because Jesus really is enough.
6. ...because some of my health can be earned.
7. ...because swimsuit season shouldn't be an annual shame. ;-)
8. ...because I want to own a little black dress!
9. ...because being trim doesn't close doors, but being overweight does.
10. ...because life is measured on all kinds of scales, and I only want to be 'ample' in the fruit of the Spirit!
BONUS: ...because when I meet someone, I really want to them to only see Jesus.

And, bonus #2:
When I went back to these notes, I also found a list from those first few months titled, "I feel good about..." Here are a few of those:
Ten Outcomes of The Journey I Feel Good About...
1. ...gaining control and losing fat!
2. ...meeting my mini-goals!
3. ...not going hog-wild at Christmas!
4. ...not quitting after I gained weight at Christmas!
5. ...believing in the when, not the if!
6. ...moving more!
7. ...searching for ways to fit movement into my life!
8. ...my falling "Points" (copyrighted by Weight Watchers) values!
9. ...wanting to exercise!
10. ...refusing to stay discouraged!

Just another glimpse into my Journey. It's been a good, God thing. :-)

Joyful in The Journey,
-J

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. --Psalm 16:11, NIV

(c) 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Adjectives...

I have many thoughts swirling in my head, percolating for sharing purposes. But until that pot is fully brewed, I thought I would share this with you:

I was just on another site, where someone was referencing a movie I haven't seen (so I won't name or recommend it). From it, they pulled a scene where each person at a dinner party was to list five adjectives (or nouns, in a pinch) that described themselves. This sounded, to my random self, entertaining. So I made my list.

But before I share it with you, I want you to know that I consider this a tit-for-tat arrangement. I'll share mine with you if you'll share yours with me. If you read my list without leaving yours in the comment section, you will discover a charge for $29.95 on your credit card statement at the end of the month for 'entertainment expenses.' Or not. Oh, just compose your list and share already, even if you post it anonymously. It's just fun!

Now, I haven't prayed over this or put lots of mental energy into it. I haven't consulted friends or a thesaurus, though I did reference a dictionary (you'll know for which one, promise!). That said, I am...
...forgiven
...loved
...conservative
...metamorphosing
...seeking

What say you?

Entertained by the simplest things,
-J

P.S. If you need it, www.dictionary.com is a handy tool... *wink*

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. --2 Corinthians 5:16-19a

(c)2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gloomy Weather And Other Sundry Items

Remember that glorious afternoon a few days ago?




Well, today isn't quite so lovely. While I'm sure we need the rain, it is gloomy weather. (This picture was taken at the exact same time of day as the first one. Can you see the rain?)


However, the soup I'm going to make this weekend and the hot chocolate I'm going to consume will make it better, I'm bettin'!

I'm also planning to search for warm-weather gear: coats, sweaters, sweatshirts. All of these items have been out-shrunk(?!), which is wonderful, but... When you've lost a significant amount of weight, one thing that tends to happen is that your body gets colder, faster. (Remember science class? Fat is an insulator...) Anyway, I'm freezing constantly now, though our temperatures are still averaging 65 during the day. And it turns out, I don't like being cold constantly. We'll see what the Goodwill can do for me. :-)

Oh, a special little joy in my life right now (warning: I do have on my sarcastic hat...) is the second round of conjunctivitis I've got going on in both eyes for the second time in two weeks. So.much.fun. Really. You should try it.

Or not. ;-)

Well, the weekend is upon me. I think I head out of here. Hope your weather and other sundry items as less gloomy than here in the South. Don't worry about me; by tomorrow afternoon, it'll be a glorious, sunny, 70-degree day here! Jealous? ;-)

Just callin' 'em as they are,
-J

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about...what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? ...your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. --Matthew 6:25, 32b-33

(c) 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Well, It Brightened MY Day...

This is so stinkin' funny. I hope you enjoy:

The Bible Song

This baby's got Book!
-J

Along the Way...

On this Journey, I've picked up a few saying/ideas that have helped me keep things in perspective and keep focused on my goal. Though admittedly some of them are cheesy, they have helped me. I thought I'd share a few of them with you:

--I can have anything I want (to eat): It's how much and how often (I eat).
--Don't waste your points/calories on foods you don't love.
--You can 'start over' at any moment. (i.e., don't wait for tomorrow, next week, next month--if you mess up, start over NOW!)
--Don't give up what you want most for what you want now.
--The first bite tastes as good as the last, so try not eating more than those two bites!
--Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.
--When you're craving something specific, eat some of it. Otherwise, you'll eat around the world and then end up eating it anyway!
--This isn't the last time you'll ever eat _____. Don't eat as if it is.
--SLOW DOWN! Savor the food you are eating.
--Take a break to assess your fullness (WW words: comfort zone).
--Try new things: new foods, eating less of something and seeing if that satisfies, new forms of activity, etc.

I'm not really a 'mantra' kinda gal, but I have found these truths--while not all self-evident--trustworthy. I try to eat healthfully, but I also always allow room for my highly-developed sweet tooth. So far, it's worked for me, and I think that it is something that I can keep doing for the rest of the time I have on earth. (I'm counting on the fact that we won't have to worry about caloric balance in heaven!)

There are other sayings/truths that guide my life generally:
--When you're unsure (say, about a major life decision), don't.
--Get permission first.
--Love liberally.
--Give as much grace as possible.
--Choose right. Your heart will follow your head.

Do you have any sayings or ideas that guide a particular area of your life? That have been particularly helpful? I'd love to hear them.

Lovin' the journey we call life,
-J

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. --Mark 8:34-35, NIV

(c) 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Afternoon Light...

I love the afternoon light in the Fall. It is so beautiful, and the weather is so perfect... And so yesterday, when I walked into the sanctuary where I work, and spotted this, I had to share:

Afternoon sun on an old wooden pew makes me want to grab my Bible and just be with Him. Alone, in a quiet, warmly-lit place of worship...it makes me want to worship.
Is there some setting/place/environment that does this to you?

Seeking to be quiet in His presence,

-J

...He said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." -Mark 6:31b
(c) 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Things I Love About The Journey

The Journey has been filled with ups and downs, pluses (mostly) and minuses (a few). It has certainly been filled with pit-fall-ins and get-up-agains. But mostly, I've really loved this journey.

I am now at 85+ pounds trimmer. I find that very, very surreal. If you've never made this journey, or had as far to go on this journey, you may not understand this, but...I never imagined (really and truly contemplated) that I had that far to go. That far, and more. I tossed numbers sometimes, but mostly, you are just going through life, one over-eating moment at a time, and not thinking about what it would take to get back to a healthy weight.

And here's what it has taken me:
--13 months, so far
--Lots and lots and LOTS of daily decisions to do 'differently'
--Lots of self-/re-educating
--Lots of cash: Weight Watchers, gym membership, rebuilding my wardrobe--4 times!, healthy foods (they cost more!)
--Lots of emotional energy (You simply don't get that heavy without playing some mental games that have to be unlearned and redefined in the shrinkage process.)
--Lots of spiritual energy (It wasn't my genes; it was my choices. And many of those choices were sin, plain and simple.)
--Learning: to make wiser choices, to refute the naysayers, to put my old (gluttonous) nature into subjection

It's been hard sometimes. But not always. And there have been some very wonderful benefits:
--Getting to redefine myself through my (new!) wardrobe
--Being able to shop anywhere, not just at specialty stores/departments
--Being seen as taller (seriously!)
--Having people not recognize me (This actually happens quite a lot these days.)
--Not being able to recognize myself (I mean this literally. I sometimes mistake my own reflection for someone else.)
--Feeling oh-so-much-more comfortable in my own skin
--Fitting into chairs/airplane seats/fair rides more comfortably and without fear
--No longer fearing that I am too heavy for someone to save in case of an emergency
--Not feeling ashamed to eat in front of others
--Feeling more outgoing than I've felt in almost two decades
--No longer being overlooked (It's amazing how a larger person can simply become invisible sometimes...)
--Really liking the person I see in the mirror
--Finally feeling in control
--Knowing that I am setting a healthy example for 'my girls' (the girls I disciple)
--No longer having to think about me and my body at all times and in all places. I am free to do what Christ says and truly think of others first.

I sense more and more that I am returning to the person that Christ designed for me to be. And that makes all the ups and downs of this journey worth every minute.

May I be--in every way--to the praise of His glorious grace,
-J

For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold...And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
--2 Corinthians 3:10-12, 18, NIV

(c) 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's Getting Late, and I'm Clearly Getting Tiiirreeedded...

Since I missed work on Monday due to having conjunctivitis in both eyes (Ick!!)...
And since I missed work on Tuesday afternoon due to my BF's B-day (Yea!!)...
And since I missed work this morning due to reclaiming my car from the body shop (Ugh!)...
And since tomorrow is a major event here at work (Mmm...)...
I am here late. And will be here later still, probably. So...I thought I'd just share 'me' right now with you:


Are you sensing how I'm feeling?
Looking forward to going home,
-J
(c) 2008

God Won, I Lost, But I Might Have Learned A Lesson Anyway...

On Sunday, September 28, here was my schedule:
--7:45AM: Rise, work on shining
--9:00AM: Leave for Church
--9:30AM: Teach my middle schoolers, coffee (aka, the elixir of life) in hand
--10:45AM: Rush to wrap up my class on time (I really love to talk, and I really love to teach about the Bible--a deadly combo for those poor kiddos!!)
--11:05AM: Arrive late, as usual, to worship after catching up with my high school girls &/or parents of youth.
--12:25PM: Church ends, and I uncharacteristically rush out the door
--12:45PM: I'm the last arrival for lunch with a couple from the church where I work (not the same as the one I attend). They are hosting our (single) guest artist from our Friday night organ concert. I suspect a tiny push in the set-up department, but manage to simply be pleasant and avoid the rest.
--2:30PM: Go to the grocery store to pick up the snacks for our guest artists for that evening's concert. These include 8 brass players in addition to the aforementioned organist--all guys. I get lots of food.
--3:15PM: Arrive at work, only to find that my boss did the one thing I was really pushing to arrive early in order to accomplish. Used the time wisely on other work, and all was well.
--5:00PM: Set up meal for artists
--5:30PM: Make sure artists and Maestro (what I jokingly call my boss) are all on time. Wander, greeting guests and making sure the ushers have enough programs, etc.
--6:00PM: Make sure everyone is in their places before plopping down in my seat. Enjoy an hour of gorgeous worship and find myself anxious to get to heaven, as that's the only place I can imagine that it will be better.
--7:00PM: Begin clean-up.
--8:00PM: Begin proofing the church newsletter, as I promised the secretary I would leave her an edited copy by Monday, but have now decided to take Monday off.
--8:45PM: Arrive at home and, in a decidedly uncharacteristic fashion, immediately change into my PJs.
--8:50PM: Talk to my roomie/BF, who says she's going elsewhere to watch the football games since I am not in a football kinda mood.
--8:53PM: Hear the most awful crash, screech, and bang just outside my window...

And that's when the day unravels.

My car, parked innocently (and legally, and safely) on the street in front of my house has just been hit by a slightly (? or more...?) intoxicated woman who was talking on her cell phone while her dog jumped around in her car. Or at least, that's what I reconstructed from the ensuing conversations.

The story is long, and difficult, and tiresome to even recall more-or-less to recount or read, so I won't bore you (additionally, that is. *wink*). I will say that it became much more involved and complicated than any other accident I've ever been involved with. Therefore, I began to pray two things:
1.) God, give me wisdom! (If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. --James 1:5)
2.) God, make this about Your kingdom.

#2 is obvious, but #1 was a desperate need. The situation grew so complicated that I felt completely out of my depth. I ask God to just give me the kind of wisdom (some translations use the term cunning) that Scripture says He uses with His enemies. It was that challenging.

So...two and a half weeks later, the dust finally settled this morning. It felt complicated, and it took a long time, but at the end of it all...I heard myself grousing. :-( It was not a pretty thing to hear. I was grousing about my fears (not reality), about reality, about people, about circumstances--all the things that swirled around me in this scenario.

And here is what I realized: God did EXACTLY what I had asked Him to do, at least on #1. (#2 remains to be seen.) In every scenario, though clearly un-life-skilled for these kinds of negotiations, God guided me. Every issue &/or wall that came up, I knew exactly what to do at the exact right moment (though not earlier). And as I heard myself grouse, I realized that God had fulfilled His end of the bargain. He really did give me wisdom!

And then I realized that while I had started strong--and remained so for about two weeks--in the end, I had not behaved or believed as a child of The Omnipotent God should have. I ended up doubting the outcome, worrying about the process, and--and I am most ashamed of this--defaming the participants.

In the race to behave righteously, God won and I lost. Of course, God always wins. But this particular race is structured such that others (in Christ) can win too. That was the finish line I didn't cross.

Perhaps this observation is a win of sorts, however. I recognize where I went wrong, and why. I ceased to keep my needs before Him and tried to work it out myself. A classic case of the storm sucking you under, no? Perhaps, next time, I'll hold out for right behavior all the way to the finish line. I think I'll make that a goal.

But perhaps 'next time' doesn't have to involve a car accident? I think that would be nice... *wink*

But a traveler on life's journey,
-J

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
--Matthew 14:22-33, NIV

(c) 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Deep Thoughts? Maybe...

I have feature on my Google homepage that is intended to be funny. They post inane thought under the title "Things to Ponder." Think "Deep Thoughts by Hal Lindsey " from the early 90s and you'll have the idea.

However, recently they spoofed this quote from Shakespeare's As You Like It:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

With this:
If the entire world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?

Well, it's actually an excellent question. And the answer is quite easy:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. --Ephesians 3:10-11

Did you know that your life--and in this passage, specifically the mystery of the Church--is being played out on a stage for all the angelic beings (good and bad) to witness? It is designed so that they may recognize the wisdom of God.

It seems that this then begs a question: Are they recognizing His wisdom in my life? I don't know about you, but some days, I'm ready for the next part of the play to start, a tiny 'refresh' moment where I can get my 'motivation' right and properly prepare my 'lines.' So today...I'm declaring the start of Act II! :-)

Not play-acting, but an actor in God's play,
-J

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. --Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV

(c) 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pitiful, Just Pitiful...

Here's something pitiful. I just ran a search in my posts list...and I have A DOZEN drafts started that have not been published. Some of them are quite long, too. And I have list after list of blog ideas that never even make it to the draft stage.

Why would you care? Why am I telling you this? I share this with you so you'll know that even when I'm absent--as I have been often over the past weeks--I am thinking of you. ;-)

That said, I'd better post this now, before it becomes a draft!

Stackin' 'em up!
-J

"See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord." --Colossians 4:17b

(c) 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm Taking A Poll

I need your help. Well, need would be a strong word for this. Let me rephrase: I am curious; you might be able to help, if you even care about this insignificant--and highly random--subject.

Here's the deal. I've never been able to determine my face shape. This becomes important for things like choosing hairstyles and applying makeup--topics I don't normally cover here. However, The Journey is a topic I cover here, and it is said journey that has changed things up for me. See, my face used to be round as a bowling ball:


But since God has brought me along on this journey, it is no longer round. But what is it?


So, just for fun, I though I would add a poll to my page. Check out the column on the right to cast your vote. It's not nearly as vital as, say, the election on November 11. But it might cause you less indigestion. ;-)

Smiles,
-J

A Post Script Lament: I think it's cool that my eyes seem to have gotten larger. But why did my nose have to do the same?

P.P.S. In response to popular demand (thanks to the two of you!), more on The Journey is coming soon!

(c) 2008