Saturday, June 28, 2008

What would you change? ...

Today I had this thought:
If I were God for a day/week/whatever, what changes would I make in my life (the life of Heyyoulady)?

(key word here is MY life ... I couldn't change someone else to make my life easier - for example, make my husband pick up his dirty laundry. The change had to be in ME.)

Part two of the thought:
What is the specific impact that these changes would have in the lives of other people around me?

And part three:
What can I do - with God's help - to make those changes take place? What is my initial plan of action?

Before I post my answer, I'd like to see what others think.

Anyone? ... Anyone?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Afraid - Very afraid....

There are things that make people afraid. Things like having to take a test. Scary movies. Roller coasters. Visiting the dentist. Speaking in public.

Then there are things that make people
very afraid. Such as physical attack, facing a loss of freedom (i.e., going to jail), losing your security (your home or your income), facing death of a loved one (or your own, for that matter).

Yet it seems that there are some people who don't scare very easily. For example, a friend of mine got a phone call from her husband asking her to get him at work and take him to the emergency room to be seen by a doctor right away. He hadn't been feeling well for a few days, and his coworkers wouldn't let him drive anywhere.

Now, most wives would kind of freak out a little bit if they got a phone call like that. Not this chick. She was perfectly calm. She even threw some humor into the situation. "Worst case scenario, I get to his job and he's dead. At least he works at a mortuary..." (Turns out his blood pressure was out of whack. He's going to be OK.)

What makes her different? Why wasn't Ms. Chick
very afraid, like she should have been? She's got a strong faith in God. There's a verse that she clings to in times where she should be scared out of her wits.

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?

- Psalm 27:1

This verse reminds her that the God she believes in is able - more than able - to protect us and accomplish His will, and that God keeps His promises to walk alongside of us, even when we don't sense Him. That's one Awesome God!

And one awesome woman. Maybe someday I'll be like her.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gas Prices

I've been cringing whenever I find myself running extra errands on the weekends. Why? My "Fun Bucks" seem to be going more and more into my gas tank. And that's not much fun.

Everyone I know, and most folks I don't know, seem to be saying the same thing:

"Gas is so expensive!"

People everywhere have been re-evaluating their budgets to adjust to the new economy. And, sadly, relationships are suffering.

Have you noticed that your social life may be running a little empty compared to what it was just a year ago? Think about it ... A year ago, a friend might have invited you to a movie or shopping, or even doing something "touristy," and at the drop of a hat, you zoomed away in your car and had a great time being together, even if you happened to lose your direction in the process.

Now it seems that choices about which friends and relatives to visit are even coming under more careful consideration. Face-time that was limited in the past seems to be even more so now. A colleague of mine recently was invited to two events on the same day, one locally for a long-time friend, and one 70 miles away for a close family member. Last year it would have been an easy decision to go be with family. But now, as much as it broke her heart, she simply couldn't afford to be with them. What changed?

"Gas is so expensive!"

For some, even church attendance is a decision driven by whether or not you can afford the fuel. The fellowship we need the most when times are tough is ironically out of reach for some because times are tough. And I'm sure that in many churches where attendance and offerings are down, we can point to gas prices as a contributing factor.

Here are some things that we can do to help our relationships with one another thrive despite the pain at the pump:
  • Carpool together when you run mundane errands. Everyone has to go grocery shopping.
  • Help each other out. That's what friends are for.
  • Make spending time together a priority. The writer of Hebrews tells us, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another."
  • Invite your friend and his/her family over to your place for dinner. If the table isn't big enough, spread out a blanket on the living room floor and have an indoor picnic. You don't have to serve anything fancy. Just be relaxed and have a good time.
  • Visit your local park. Chances are, your community has one within a short walking distance of your home. Watch the kids play on the equipment. Let them roll down a small hill. Join them. Who says kids aren't the only ones that can have fun? Besides, your kids want your presence more than your presents.
  • Take turns with your friends hosting a movie or game night at home. Board games are interactive, and you may even learn something new!
  • Tell stories about different ways you have experienced God's love in your life, especially to younger generations.
Be creative in how you invest your time with your friends and loved ones. Even though the price of gas may be draining your wallet, you can experience the richness and fullness that comes from nurturing your relationships.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

God is good, even when life is bad

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -- Romans 8:28 (NLT)

Not quite three years ago I participated in a process at church called "Focused Living." One exercise that we did individually was to make a timeline of our lives, writing significant events on yellow post-it notes. We then took the painful events and transferred them to pink post-it notes.

After putting all the post-it notes in chronological order, something significant surfaced.

It was during the "pink" times that I would ask God "Why?" It was during the pink times that I asked God "How could you let this happen? I thought you loved me!"

It was not long after the pink times that God would place me in situations and bring people into my life that would strengthen me and help me move forward in my faith.

One circumstance that comes to mind was when my husband and I relocate over 300 miles away from Long Beach a town of a little less than 50,000 people in Central California. Away from family and friends that we love and that love us, to a town where we knew virtually no one. About a year after the move, my husband made the decision to move back to Southern California (I won't get into reasons here). The problem was, I couldn't move back, because my job was where I was. So, for a year and a half we were geographically separated.

Pink Post-it Note. Big time.

God is good, even when life is bad. During this time I had people in my life that strengthened me spiritually. A guy named Pete H., who had been going through a huge pink post-it of his own at the time, gave me a word of encouragement. "Make your decisions based on eternity, not on your circumstances." Those words helped me to hold on, to work on rebuilding my marriage, to move forward in my relationship with God.

Even though that was a painful experience, and at the time I couldn't fully understand why God would allow it, I can see that God never left my side and brought me through it and toward becoming the person I am today.

Do you have a story of a "Pink Post-it" experience where you saw that God is good even when life is bad?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

God at work

Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 -- A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (NIV)

There may be days when work feels like a curse. There may be other days when you feel great satisfaction in what you do. Believe it or not, both come from God. How can you make God a bigger part of your work life?

This is something that I have struggled with, and I'd like your input.

Whether you're an office worker, or farmer, or construction worker, or medical professional, or race car driver, or professional surfer, or student, or stay-at-home mom... or whatever you do for income...

How do YOU make God a bigger part of your work life?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Childlike Faith

Children amaze me. They believe in nearly anything, as long as the person telling them is someone that they trust. I remember before I entered kindergarten I honestly believed that Santa Claus squeezed through the mail slot on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts (we didn't have a chimney), that it was a good idea (at the time) to write my name in purple crayon on the wall in the hallway, that the oil islands off of Long Beach were really Hawaii (see picture above), and that my daddy could fix anything.

With these beliefs came grand expectations: I could peek out the mail slot in search of Santa; mom would treasure my artwork; the world was smaller than it really is; and daddy could make all things good as new again. I believed in all these things because I had complete faith and trust in the people who loved me, an unwavering faith that they would never do anything to harm me.

The faith of a child.

But then I grew older. I made discoveries about the world around me. Things weren't as I once believed. People don't fit through the mail slot. Crayon marks belong on paper (inside the lines), not on walls. Luaus are not common on the oil islands. And there are some things that are beyond repair and have to be thrown away.

Often times when we first encounter Jesus we are no longer in a state of wide-eyed wonder of a child. Yet there is something about this Son of God that makes us want to know more about him.

It's been said that children are a reflection of their parents. And Jesus is no exception. God has chosen reveal Himself through His words and actions, and Jesus is God's perfect self-revelation to us. By studying the words and actions of Jesus, we learn that God is faithful to keep His promises and is worthy of our trust. And our response to this is "faith."

Jesus holds children in very high esteem. He even tells us that unless we change and become like little children, we will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. When we come back to the place where we can trust Jesus with a childlike faith we will receive more blessings than what will fit in any mailbox, realize that our names are engraved on the palm of God's hand, stand in awe of the beauty of the vast universe that God created, and have full access to our Father in heaven, who truly does make all things new.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Spiritual Warfare

I don't know about you, but it often seems that when I step outside of my comfort zone to do something to further the Kingdom of God, things that have been under control start to spin horribly out of control. This phenomenon is so much bigger than Murphy's Law. It's part of the battle between God and Satan for control of our loyalty. It's Spiritual Warfare.

Satan used to be one of God's angels. That is, until he got prideful and got to be rebellious. God does not allow rebellion in His kingdom, and consequently, Satan was cast out of heaven along with his entourage which numbered 1/3 of all the angels.

Needless to say, Satan wasn't happy about this. In his fury, he does whatever he can to keep us from God.

That's why he makes the sin so attractive ("You'll feel better if you drink this/smoke this/sleep with her ... no one will get hurt from it, and no one has to find out.") It doesn't take long before we're caught up in that sin, and so stuck in our guilt that we believe that we are of no use to God.

*stops the flow of the post*

Even as I write this post, I sense some spiritual warfare going on. My friend Chris and I decided about a month ago to blog each week on the same topic. This week it's Spiritual Warfare. Chris posted on Thursday. My intention was to have mine up by early Saturday afternoon. Now it's Sunday night.

During the week I've done some reading and written notes on the topic. I have no idea how to tie all these notes together. It seems every time I sit down to write, some distraction comes up. I look for a Bible verse or a picture on the internet to stimulate my creativity, and spend way too much time looking. Or a friend will send me an instant message online. Or I'll start messing around on Facebook. Saturday morning I even had to make an emergency trip to the optometrist (nothing serious ... just a minor allergic reaction to something).
It seems as though this post is trying to be kept from happening.

Murphy's Law? I don't think so. Spiritual warfare isn't always an all-out assault. Often (as is this case) it's subtle. And we're deceived into thinking we can handle it on our own. The truth is, we can't handle this adversary on our own. We need assistance from the One who has already defeated him -- Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul gives us some great battle strategy in chapter 6 of Ephesians:

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.
Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.

For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Satan is not greater than God, nor is he equal to Him. He is actually subject to God's authority. That doesn't stop him or his minions (demons) from wreaking havoc in our lives. But we are not in this battle alone. We have other Christian warriors on our side to help us out. And we have Jesus Christ in the battle with us, watching our backs. And Christ comes out victorious!