Thursday, April 24, 2008

Indiana


So this past weekend we went to Indiana!! Simply wonderful........

I drove in with my friend Jessica. We've grown up together since we were in diapers. She lives in Richmond, VA now so it was pretty convenient for us to drive together. Matthew went to work and left a few hours early and caught a flight to Indy. He beat me there by 4 hours!! That night we stayed at my sister Heather's house. Saturday morning we do that which my family does best... yard sale-ing!! My mom and I drove down and met up with my wonderful aunt Agnes and spent the morning driving around in the rain... we found some great deals by the way :). We went back to aunt Agnes and uncle Dennis' house and had brunch, yumm-o! Biscuits and gravy, sausage, bacon, eggs, etc..... Todd, Kris and Kai, Heather, Mike, Jake and Avery, Diana and Mason all came over as well. (We missed you Daddy, Adam and Matt!!)

That afternoon I met up with my friend Laura and we drove together to go to Stacy's baby shower!!! She and Jeremy are having a little girl to be named Emmalynn Michelle. Afterwards Laura, Stacy, Jess and I all went out for dinner. I can't even tell you how much I love these girls.... We've been through it all together... school, puberty, first boyfriends, first kisses, college, jobs, weddings, and now babies!! Their friendships have been such a blessing through the years!

Sunday everyone who was able was there for church and lunch. After lunch everyone left, including Matthew (he had to fly out that afternoon), and I got to spend the rest of the day with my mommy and daddy!!! This was and always is wonderful!! This was especially special since my daddy flew out to the Phillippines for 17 days yesterday. I'm glad I got to see him before he went. Please be praying for his safety as he travels and that his trip is successful.

I can't even begin to explain how wonderful it is to be able to see everyone at home. Words can't even describe how much I miss everyone... I love you guys!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Life...






So lately I'm wondering when my life will slow down.... I'm beginning to think this is it.... but I've decided that if it is... that's just fine with me! God has blessed me with amazing family and friends. I'm feeling more at home here in NC than I ever have up to this point, and am thanking God that no matter where I go... family is still family, God is still God....
The past couple of weeks have been a great ones!! Saturday I went up to Lynchburg and got to see some wonderful friends from college... I had lunch with Kelli and Laura (fabulous...) those girls are such an encouragement to me!! I love them dearly! Then I went to my friend Kathy's baby shower... Kathy's friendship has meant more to me than even she knows! She's the only person who was ever able to motivate me to exercise regularly (haha... I wish I lived closer to her for this reason!), and she was an awesome friend to me through some trying times while in college. She also has shown incredible faithfulness and grace through some incredibly difficult times in her own life... I only hope that during the valleys in my own life that I will trust God as wholly as she has. So, it was awesome getting to visit with her as well and to celebrate the upcoming birth of her precious son!
Sunday afternoons are one of my favorite times to spend with Matthew! After church (which is an experience in itself... we LOVE our church)... we usually go grab some lunch (usually Pei Wei, Matthew's favorite), go to Lowe's, then come home and work on some sort of project around the house. So last Sunday we bought a Crabapple tree and planted it in our front yard..... see the above pic. It's a pitiful little tree, but as soon as we were done a sweet little bird came and perched on one of it's few branches... as if testing it out :) haha... Matthew is super excited about spring and summer so he can continue to develop his aspiring green thumb. We'll continue to post pics as more developments are made in our landscaping endeavors.
We also have joined a couple's small group at our church. We've only had two meetings so far... but they've been fabulous! We're SO excited about the possibilities of this group and how it's going to change our lives. New friendships, spiritual growth, challenges and accountability are just some of the things we're hoping to gain from this group. The other couples really seem to mesh well with our personalities as well... which I figure is half the battle of any group setting. So all in all, we're very excited!
That's it for now... I'm excited about our weekend trip to Indiana so I'll do a post when we get back!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Naked??

So the song I want everyone who reads this post to listen to is "American Dream" by Casting Crowns (I've made it easy, see my play list at the bottom)... this song is a little old school.... unless you're not into the contemporary Christian music thing (I realize I'm a minority in this aspect) and then you won't know it's old school :)... but none the less.... I think the lesson is applicable. But wait until you're done with the post to do so... it'll make more sense that way.

So several weeks ago at church our pastor spoke on something amazing that I'd never heard. First of all, I've been raised in church, my dad's a pastor, I've attended more "revival" meetings, camps, etc. in my life than most people have regular church. I spent 4 years in a Christian college hearing some of the most prominent evangelical speakers in the country... So I'm not exactly a novice. This obviously doesn't mean I know even a fraction of what is to be known of the Bible, God, Jesus, theology, doctrine, etc... but I'm not usually completely surprised by what I hear. There have been very few times in my life where God has literally snuck up on me and slapped in the face with a truth that I've never even considered. These are defining moments in my walk with Jesus... moments where I feel I am looking into the face of my Savior.

The first of these moments was obviously when I accepted Christ as my Savior. To be honest.... the older I've gotten, the more I've grown in my faith, the less I understand what exactly that means. Most people associate this moment in their life with a prayer. However, is counting a prayer as a "conversion" any less a works salvation than say getting baptised, or going forward in church after an emotional message? Obviously it's not the words, or the act of saying a prayer that "saves" a person. It's the change in a person's heart. It's the realization of who God is, who Jesus is, and what that means for you, for life and for the world. As much as it is those things, it's also the realization of who you are NOT. Throughout the Bible it talks about this, so it's not an original thought on my part.... but it is impossible to begin a relationship with God through Jesus without coming to the end of yourself. I said "the prayer" when I was 5 or 6. I don't remember a lot about it, except my intentions. Although I believed deeply in Christ.... the reason I wanted to be saved was to avoid hell if I died. Although this is a reality of salvation, as I've grown I've realized it to be one of the least important parts of what it means to be a Christian. Ask me if I still feel that way when I'm on my death bed. I'm sure my opinion will change then. However, a relationship with Christ is SO much more than that.... but that's for another post. I'd say I really started following Christ around the age of 9 or 10. I went forward at camp to "rededicate" my life to the Lord. To be honest though, I think it was the first time I ever embraced that fact that a life following Christ wasn't just about what happens after death, but what happens everyday in your heart and life.

The second of these defining moments was my sophomore year at Liberty University. It was spiritual emphasis week and David Nasser was the speaker. By this point in my life I had fallen deeply in love with Jesus. This was one of the greatest times of spiritual growth in my life... a growth that I hunger for now. I was "serving God" in several capacities at the time. I was in spiritual leadership at LU as a prayer/small group leader for girls on my hall, I was teaching a small group for high schoolers at TRBC, among other things. The message David Nasser spoke that night was about the conceit of Christians thinking they were doing a service for God. The message was about how God doesn't "need" anyone. He didn't need to provide a Savior, He didn't need to choose men to be the preferred method of spreading the Gospel. After all, Romans 1 says that men are without excuse because nature itself proclaims the glory and reality of God. The truth is.... it's all about His own glory. The Gospel, the salvation of man, the liberty provided through salvation, and the service of men for God... is all merely part of God's plan for Himself to be glorified by whatever means necessary. Now this might sound strange at first.... but in reality, it makes the whole message of God's love more powerful and amazing. It's incredibly humbling to know that the Creator of the Universe has chosen me.... has chosen YOU.... as a tool to proclaim His grace and forgiveness to the world. (Paul knew this all along by the way... maybe if I'd payed more attention to everything he wrote I would've seen it before that evening at LU).That message brought me to my knees, literally, in the greatest act of submission to my God that I've ever experienced. I remind myself of that message every time I do an act of service, step into a patient's room, pray, or worship.

The third, and most recent, was a few weeks ago in the Easter service of our church here in Durham, (hence, what I was talking about at the beginning of this post), The Summit. This message had a huge impact on the way I think about why people do the things they do and sometimes live what seems to be self destructive lifestyles despite being incredibly intelligent people. The message was about Peter's life before and after the death and resurrection of Jesus and how it changed him. However, the part that struck me was actually what was meant to be a side note of sorts. We were reading from Mark 14 and the applicable verses to what I'm going to write about were in verses 51-52. "A young man was following Him (Jesus), wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked." It seems like an odd insert. Why would we care about some nameless Christ follower running away in what we all would rank in our top 5 of potentially most embarrassing life moments. (Seriously, I know everyone has had the "naked in a crowd" dream at some point in your life.) There's only one other similar situation in scripture and that's in Genesis 3:10 where Adam and Eve ran and hid from God because they were naked. So what's up with naked people running from God?? The truth is that as humans nakedness = shame, except in the setting of a loving relationship. Our culture has skewed this.... However, we still all know it to be true. If it weren't the windows in strip clubs wouldn't be covered, we wouldn't have age requirements for certain types of movies or magazines. With Adam and Eve, it wasn't until their relationship with God was severed through disobedience that they felt shame. No one would argue nakedness between people is OK in a marriage relationship. However, I think if any of us were honest, and we were stripped naked in public.... in front of our family, friends, coworkers.... we would do whatever it took to cover ourselves. This doesn't have to just be talking about physical nakedness. What if you were stripped spiritually and mentally naked. What if all your family, friends, coworkers knew about all of your thoughts, knew about what you did behind closed doors.... would there be shame with that? I think if most people answered honestly... we'd say yes. This is the human being without God... naked. You see, we were created to have communion with God, to have a relationship with Him. We all have heard that Adam and Eve eating of the fruit = separation from God speech... so I won't go into it. However, the depth of that fall can be seen all around us and inside of us. Every person knows that there is more to life than what we can see. This is why we hear so much about people "seeking fulfillment," "finding themselves," and so on... Some people try to cover their nakedness, find fulfillment, replace what is missing with SO many different things. Work, Money, Sex, Drugs, Alcohol, Partying, Materialism, Education, Popularity, Recognition, good works and even... yes, I'm going to say it.... Religion. I think that once again... the honest among us would admit that eventually these things prove to disappoint. Do I really have to use the examples we all know all too well but hate to bring up?? Britney Spears, Eminem, Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger, Owen Wilson, Lindsey Lohan, Marilyn Monroe (I could go on and on....)?? We hate to compare ourselves to those people. But even worse than that are the ones you know. I'm not talking about movie stars or musicians. I'm talking about the ones you love the most. Family members (moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc....) who have spent their lives seeking some type of satisfaction from those above listed vices.... and who are probably some of the unhappiest people we know. Well, it seems a little weird. If we have this "God shaped hole" inside of us, why does God allow people to go through all this trouble and pain trying to fill it. The truth is.... God will allow you to come to a breaking point....He WANTS you to be stripped, disappointed, hurt, broken.... because when you have exausted all your options... He's all that's left. Adam and Eve figured it out... so did Peter.... and Paul.... and millions of Christ followers throughout the centuries. My vice, has and always will be, recognition and approval from others. This was the catalyst behind everything I did for my entire life up to the point of the aforementioned Life Defining Moment #2, and is still something I struggle with constantly. The truth is though... my identity and my purpose is in Christ alone.... who I am to Him (a daughter of the King, one who is perfect and flawless because the cleansing of Jesus's sacrifice) and what HIS purpose is for my life (to bring Him honor and glory in anything large or small I do). Everything I do... I have to seriously question myself as to whether or not my motivator is to make myself look good, or to glorify God. And believe, me.... God has no problem sending me home crying with frequent HUGE checks to my ego to remind me of my own weaknesses. I'm guessing that this will be a daily struggle with me for the rest of my life. I'm going to end this post by copying and pasting from the transcript of the message itself because I know I can't say it better than our Pastor JD did: "God lets your health deteriorate, lets you go through diffucult financial times... When that happens, you'll have one of a few reactions. Blame the thing itself and try a new idol. Sex didn't work, so I'll turn to money. Blame yourself: I'm not good enough. If I were smarter I'd be more successful... If I were prettier. Blame the world: become a cynic. Or you'll realize that what you are missing is something the world can't supply,it's found in God.....For Peter, he thinks that if he can be good enough to cover himself he can earn God's acceptance. Jesus lets him stumble, and fall, so He can learn that the love of God is not something you can earn. Peter will learn to trust in Jesus and not himself, and count on Jesus' love rather than his own goodness as his source of worth. That saved his life. And so, his failure saved his life, because when you're flat on your back, you're looking the right direction."

Don't forget to listen to the song I talked about at the beginning of the post... and if you have some time and feel like growing read/listen to JD's entire message here. Maybe it'll be one of your defining moments too.....