Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Christians, start your engines!

You probably already know this. But in the off chance that you're NOT like Jeremy, who's been counting down the days since the end of December, I'll fill you in on what I wouldn't know if it weren't for my NASCAR-lovin' husband:
This coming Sunday is the 54th running of the Daytona 500. It's also the first official race of the 2012 Sprint Cup racing season.

So, as all of North Carolina starts to feel the heat of rubber hitting the road at 200 miles per hour, it seems like a perfect time to hear a couple of drivers--both of whom have won the 500, by the way--talk about their own journeys in the Word of God.

Want to see more celebrities brag about the bigness of God? Visit the I Am Second website.

Monday, February 20, 2012

He Cares for ME?!

Do you ever hear something that you just can't stop thinking about? Maybe it's the first time you heard a certain song or the first time you saw a certain face, and, for whatever reason, you just can't get it out of your head

I had one of those experiences today.  I heard a pastor say something that I cannot quit thinking about. Here's what it was:
"While you may not hear God call out your name audibly, He knows it; He knows it well, and He knows you. He knows every turn of your heart, every struggle of your soul, every doubt, every fear, every sin, and He loves you still, and He leads you still, and He calls on you to trust Him no matter what."
God knows MY name? The One Who created the universe? The God so big He breathes stars (Ps. 33:6) cares about ME?! As impossible as it is to believe--even David, the man after God's Own heart, was blown away by this, wondering, "What is man that You are mindful of him?"--it's true. The Bible tells us in Psalm 139 that God has searched and known each of us.
"You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with ALL MY WAYS. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it altogether." - Ps. 129:2-4
Further, we know that He cares for us, because I Peter 5:7 tells us so. Once again, I agree with David, who wrote, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it!" (Ps. 139:6). But the fact that it's so hard to believe doesn't make it any less true.

How does this reality change your life? What does it mean to you to know that the God, for Whom nothing is too hard (Jer. 32:17), not only KNOWS you, but He cares about you?

I, for one, just can't stop thinking about it.

a MONUMENTAL Heartthrob

Like most women between the ages of 32 and 37, I had an adolescent crush on one Mr. Kirk Cameron. Like most of these same women, I decorated my 5th grade Trapper Keeper with pics of Kirk I'd clipped from that week's Tiger Beat and spent each Growing Pains Tuesday nite camped out in front of the television set that sat on the floor in my parents' room.

Having seen a trailer for his latest work, I imagine that I'll soon be spending ANOTHER Tuesday nite "camped out" to see Kirk again - this time on a BIG screen, instead of a small one and with a sincere interest in his content instead of his cuteness.

If you agree with Kirk - and me! - that "our families are worth fighting for," plan to see Monumental in its ONE NITE ONLY showing on March 27th!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thank God for all I missed ....

I often tell Jeremy that music is my love language. I'm not sure Gary Chapman has actually identified that as one of his big five yet, but if you want to tell me you love me, don't waste your breath on "Words of Affirmation." Just turn on the radio.

As fate would have it, however, I just so happen to love a man who both works out without headphones and, though he's had his iPhone over a year now, doesn't have a single song on it.


How did this happen?! Seeking to put a song in his heart, I put an 8 hour playlist on his iPhone for Valentine's Day. The list included this little ditty by Darius Rucker, which perfectly sums up how I feel about the man who makes every day picture perfect.

Nite Light

This post will be short, sweet, and totally plagiarized ... well, almost totally plagiarized.

For the past several weeks, I've been reading in Exodus. Though this has nothing to do with the post itself, let me just say that Exodus is perfect for the adventure-loving Bible reader. There's even some sci-fi-like stuff tossed in there (the plagues and all. Tell me THAT'S not stranger than fiction?!), but after all that action in the beginning, the book sorta tapers off into "Here's how to build the Temple," like a Harlan Coben thriller that suddenly turns instruction manual. No disrespect intended, but to be honest, six verses in to the "priestly garments" part, and I'm longing for Leviticus!

Regardless of the literary structure of the second book of the Law, the fact that it's so fresh in my memory is probably what made this excerpt from Linda Dillow's Calm My Anxious Heart jump out at me, as I read it last nite:
God doesn't keep us immune from trouble. He says, 'I will be with you in trouble.' In the book of Exodus, we find the children of Israel camped by the edge of the Red Sea. It was nite, pitch black except for the pillar of fire God had placed between His people and the Egyptians. Can you imagine their fear? The screaming threats of the enemy filtered through the darkness. What would they do when dawn broke? Each mother hugged her child to her breast in fear that this would be their last nite.

Who could have imagined the miracle that awaited them? Hidden in the text is the tiny phrase, 'All that nite, the Lord drove the sea back' (Exodus 14:21). While the Israelites were quaking in their boots, the miracle occurred 'all that nite.' Because it was nite, they couldn't see what the 'wind of God' was accomplishing on their behalves. God parted the Red Sea, and they walked on dry ground to freedom
None of us are strangers to the proverbial nite, nor are any of us immune to fear, so we can all use Dillow's reminder that God is always at work, when we can see Him and when we can't. Whether you're sick or you're scared or your short on this month's mortgage, you can know that the God Who neither slumbers nor sleeps is wide awake, working all things to the good of those who love Him.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Family Annual 2011

Because, deep down inside of me, there STILL lives a high school yearbook editor, I give you ...

Click here to view this photo book larger

Shutterfly photo books are the new way to preserve your memories. Create your own today.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Put Your Hands Up!

A girl can learn a lot from Moses.

Yes, that Moses, the guy who wrote as God dictated His Ten Commandments and penned the first five books of the Bible, the Moses who pleaded with Pharaoh to "Let [his] people go," the Moses who killed an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew.

Yeah, so I never said that everything a girl can learn from Moses is necessarily a "do as I do" sort of situation. Today, though, Moses - well, his example, more like - taught me a couple of things that are as relevant in my Christian walk today as they were in his walk through the Desert of Sin 5,000 years ago, and no. I'm not being allegorical about that. "Sin" is the actual name of the desert.

Join me, if you will, in Exodus 17. Having made it through the aforementioned desert, the Israelites are now in a place called Rephidim. They've had their fill of manna and are insisting on water to drink, doing a trick they could've learned from me, basically saying, "God, in spite of all the miracles You've worked on my behalf - the plagues You've sent, the seas You've split - You must not REALLY exist if You don't give me what I want RIGHT NOW." God does, of course, provide, but the Israelites soon learn that thirst is the least of their problems.

They're attacked by the Amalekites. The Amalekites were the descendants of Esau; the Israelites were the descendants of Jacob. Anybody sensing the tension? It doesn't take a PhD in Bible History to know that the former group had a birthright-sized bone to pick with the latter. In spite of themselves, God was on the side of His Israel, and the passage tells us that,

"As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning. but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning." - Exodus 17:11

Following this prescribed pattern was so important that, whenever Moses's arms got tired, his brother and another guy would sit on either side of him and hold up his hands (v. 12). By this, we can know that the victory was NOT due to the Israelites' battle prowess. But there's also a couple other things we can know from this passage, as well.

The first is that God DOES have a prescribed way of doing things. Now, I'm NOT suggesting that we should throw up our arms whenever we're fighting one of life's many battles. Out of work? Reach towards the sky, and BAM: instant employment. Infertility? Hands to Heaven. Congratulations! It's a BABY. In fact, I'm a sports fan, and if you do that gesture in my direction, I'm either going to assume you're saying, "touchdown!" or that Kentucky's scored another three point basket.

What I AM saying, however, is that God blesses when we do things His way. Why did He only give enough manna for that day? "In this way," He said, "I will test them and see whether they will FOLLOW MY INSTRUCTIONS" (Exodus 16:4). I'm not promoting legalism here, but it's undeniable from these texts and others that God wants His people to do things His way.

The second principle that jumps out at me from this passage is a symbolic one. After reading the same account in May of 2003, I described it this way in my journal: "It's only when our arms are useless - stuck straight up in the air, for instance - that God can really work without us trying to interfere and, inevitably, mess things up."

There are a lot of other times in early Exodus when God tells Moses (or his brother Aaron) to do this same gesture. "Stretch out your hands over the dust, and it will become gnats" (Exodus 8:16). "Stretch out your hands over the waters of Egypt, and they will become blood" (Exodus 7:19). "Stretch our your hands over the sea, and it will divide" (Exodus 14:21).

Time and again, God tell His children to lift up their hands, in a sense, relinquishing their control of the situation, so that He could get to work in it. It reminds me of something Louie Giglio says in his "How Great is Our God" talk. He's mentioning how understanding the vastness of the universe helped him to grasp the vastness of God. That changed Louie's life. In the way only he can, Louie said,

"[Until then], most of my praying had been advising God, correcting God, suggesting things to God, drawing diagrams for God, reviewing things with God, counseling God."

But in understanding Who God is, Louie was finally able to toss his arms in the air and say, "You know what? You're gonna be better at this than I am, God. You take control from here." And if you know anything at all about Louie's ministry, then you know God's done exactly that!

This is a lesson I learn and relearn a thousand times a day. We are to "Cast our cares upon Him" - another image, by the way, that involves us throwing our arms up just like Moses had to do! - and while I'm pretty good about doing that, I'm even better at picking my cares back up. When my arms are full of my struggles, though, how can they be free to lift them up to the only One Who can fix things, the God Who is big enough, as Louie (and the psalmist) puts it, "to breathe stars"?

So, see? Exodus isn't all about the Golden Calf, and Moses is more than just the baby who was hidden in some bulrushes. He's a guy that a girl can learn a lot from, if only she'll put her hands up and listen.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Wedding Album

I know ours isn't exactly the traditional wedding album. My mother's - and even my sister's - come to mind. They're both of the typical ilk - composed of mostly 8X10 images that are beautifully bound in a leather casing that's been embossed with a couple of names, a date, and, in some cases, a pair of bells. But let's be real. If Jeremy and I were after "traditional," we probably wouldn't have waited 34 years to get married.

So here you have it - a non-traditional album without a trace of leather on it - that contains the courtship, engagement, wedding, and honeymoon of me and that blue-eyed boy I was lucky enough to marry. Knowing me (and my Shutterfly obsession), I'll probably make another album one of these days. It may even include a little leather on it.

Until then, though, this one will do just fine.

Click here to view this photo book larger

Turn your favorite photos into a photo book at Shutterfly.com.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What's so Bad About "Daily Bread"?

I have this weird habit.

I tend to get stuck on a favorite food and eat nothing but that for weeks - even months - on end. Don't believe me? Just ask Jeremy how many times we've eaten homemade pizza since getting married or Elizabeth Wexler how many times she's heard me give the same order at the Sonic drive-through.

It's probably because of this tendency that I'm not all that put off by my reading of Exodus 16. In it, the Israelites have just been freed from their oppressive Egyptian captivity, but in their haste to get the Sam Hill away from Pharaoh, they must've forgotten to pack a lunch, because they're all wandering around in the Desert of Sin wondering when in the world it's gonna be time to eat.

If you know anything at all about the Children of Israel, then you know how they handled the situation. They grumbled, cursing everyone from Moses to the God Who'd just parted the Red Sea that they might safely cross it.

It's embarrassing how much in common I have with this motley lot. Their cycle of belief and unbelief, of contentment and complaining is exactly how I contend with conflict. Graciously, though, God chooses folks like this to be His people, and just as graciously, God heard the Israelites' cries for food and fed them in a way that would've been fine by me. He gave them the same meal. Every morning. For FORTY YEARS.

What's the big deal about that? I'm over a decade in to my almost-daily trips to Chick-Fil-A. If a little of something is good, then a lot of it is even better, right? Turns out, that's the very thing that strikes me about this Old Testament account - my desire for "a lot." While I'd have been absolutely fine with the same supper for nearly half a century, it's a lot harder for me to get my head around just having enough in the cupboard for that day's dinner. But that's what God commanded. They were to take "enough for that day" (verse 4). No more, no less.

Why would He, Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, choose to delve out His provision drip by drip? Heaven knows, He could've flooded them with food - enough on the first nite for the entire forty years - but He didn't. Why? Well, He tells us in verse 4. "In this way, I will test them and see whether they will follow My instructions."

I can't help but wonder if they, like me, ever worried that God would forget to provide for them? It doesn't matter, if they did worry about it, because He didn't forget. He faithfully provided, in spite of their doubting and in spite of their complaining. Every day they'd go to get their allotment. Just enough for that day - no more, no less. He, Who cannot deny Himself, has been just as faithful to provide for me ... in spite of MY doubting, in spite of MY complaining.

I think the experience of the Israelites has so many applications in my life. Whether it be food or money or strength or energy, I want a stockpile. I want to know there's a trove where I can get what I need, so that I don't have to trust God to give me "daily bread." In other words, I want to walk by sight and not by faith.

But that's not the way God works. That's not "following His instructions."

He knows we are "prone to wander." When there's a big reserve - or enough manna on hand to make it through the next forty years - we tend to do things our way, and we begin to forget our daily, desperate need for the One Who promises to "bring [His people] in and plant them on the mountain of [His] inheritance-the place, Lord, You made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, Your hands established."

Knowing that He's bringing me to His dwelling place makes me so excited. I just hope He serves homemade pizza.

enraged by the "Cage"

Do you ever get that “I’m-so-fat” feeling?

For me, the better question is, “do you ever NOT get that ‘I’m-so-fat’ feeling?” For as long as I can remember, I have felt fat, and to be honest, my size has ebbed and flowed for most of my life. Just ask my doctor. His chart of my weight has all the peaks and valleys of an erratically behaving stock market.

Just before I met Jeremy, I was probably the thinnest I’ve ever been. Thank you, two-a-day work-outs and a budget that only allowed for very small portions. Since dating isn’t at all conducive to dieting, though, I put on … well, I don’t even know how much I put on, because I’m too scared to stand on a scale. What I DO know is that I loosely wore a dress in June that wouldn’t zip on the honeymoon. In October. “Fat and happy,” they call it, but as I quipped to my fellow bulge-battling friend Brian a few weeks ago, “When it comes to getting dressed every morning, I kinda miss ‘thin and miserable.’”

How messed up is that? I have an incredible relationship with a wonderful husband, who also happens to be the most patient person I have ever met – and thank goodness for that, because if he weren’t, there’s no way he’d put up with the many times each week when I grab the paunch in my middle and say, “I hate my body” – in spite of my abundantly blessed existence, all I can think is, “How many more miles do I have to run before my metabolism gets faster?” and “Why don’t those tips in Self magazine ever work for me?!”

I know I’m not alone in this. In her empathy-saturated semi-memoir Life inside the ‘Thin’ Cage, Constance Rhodes takes what she calls “a personal look into the hidden world of the chronic dieter.” I love this book. So do the many friends to whom I’ve texted excerpts, like this one:

I can recall whole conversations passing me by while I sat detached, engrossed in determining whether I was on track for the day, or whether I had eaten too much at lunch. Social events that should have been fun were spent evaluating how many calories and fat grams were in the meal I had just eaten.”

She could’ve ripped that right out of my journal. Or from the calorie-tracking app I keep on my iPhone. I hate how much time I spend strategizing my diet. I hate the dread I feel when getting dressed every day. I hate that, instead of enjoying the very full life that God has so graciously given me, I feel like things will only be perfect when I look perfect, but the truth is that perfection is a moving target. Remember the thinnest I’ve ever been? Even then, I thought I was fat. “Ten more pounds,” I’d tell myself, or “two more sizes.”

Rhodes’s cage analogy, then, is a great one. It’s a self-imposed imprisonment, obsessing over what I weigh. My husband sure doesn’t put the pressure on me. Even my mother responded when I said, “I’ve gotta go run off the ‘fat and happy’” with “I don’t think you’re fat, but I’m glad you’re happy.” It’s an unnecessary containment of my own creation.

So if I’ve locked myself into this “cage,” shouldn’t I also hold the key to free myself? Sure seems like I should. So what would make me feel better? Clearly, getting thinner hasn’t done it, because when I was, I still wasn’t happy with how I looked. And what determines how I think I should look, anyway? That question is actually what prompted this blog entry to begin with.

An old friend tweeted a link to this video.

Fotoshop by Adobé from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

It got me to thinking (again) about what a stronghold our secular, self-obsessed society has on my mind. As a Christian, I am called to be in the world, but when it comes to body image, I am very much of it, expecting my 34-year-old frame to fit the form that only comes from, if this video is to be believed, computer-enhancement (by “A-dough-bay” – I love that!).

But let’s break it down even further. Did you see the part about “secular,” and “SELF-OBSESSED”? How incredibly narcissistic (read: SINFUL) of me is it, no matter the very real external pressures of our society, to spend so much time thinking of only me – how I look, what I weigh, the size I wear. I wonder how many other women satan has ensnared with this same inward-focus. I say “ensnare,” because when my mind is full of me, there’s no room for you, for the “you”-niverse of others that God has called me to love as I love myself, which, as you can probably imagine, is a LOT.

What would it look like if I turned the time and money I spend worrying about and fighting with my weight in to time and money spent serving other people? Or advancing the Kingdom of God? You know what they say: “if you want to be free from yourself, just look outside yourself.” I’m sure that’s true. I just have a hard time diverting my gaze from the one I see in the mirror. The more I think about it, though, the more that I believe that's the key to my escape.

There’s no neat little ending to this entry. This is mostly because the battle is ongoing. Tired of living in “the cage,” I’m trying to write my way out of it, like those jailbreak movies where the inmates, little by little, dig a hidden tunnel that they hope will ultimately lead to freedom. And, as Christians, aren’t we also to be free?

God, You came to set us free, yet I am in bondage. Free me from the narcissistic grip of thinking first of myself. Release me to live in elusive contentment. Help me to esteem others better than myself, and forgive me for my obsession with self. In Jesus’s name, Amen.