Sunday, December 31, 2006


I couldn’t help but mention the fact that it is New Year’s Eve! I can’t believe another year has flown by. It has been an exciting year for me. This year, my husband and I bought our first home after being married for 6 months; we both quit our jobs and got new ones (at the same time!); my first book was published! So many dreams came true this year. Goals that I had set for my life were met.

What about you? Where there some goals you had set that were met this year? I kind of hate the pressure around New Year’s for resolutions. When I was in high school, my teachers would force us to come up with three resolutions. All I could think of was losing weight, exercising consistently and reading more. I hated that exercise for some reason. I felt like because I was forced to make the resolutions, they were superficial and meaningless. One thing I had never thought of then was the idea of setting spiritual goals for the New Year. What kind of woman do you want to be by next year? Do you want to be someone who is strong, wise, sensible, pure? Take a little bit of time today and write out some qualities or characteristics of the kind of woman you want to be. Maybe there is a woman in your life that you would love to be like. Think about what you love about that person and write it down. Then, create a New Year’s resolution based on the characteristics you want to be.

This year, I want to be a woman who:
-Diligently discovers God’s Word
-Believes truth even when her feelings scream something different
-Loves and respects her husband
-Treats others with the mercy God has extended her

Dream about the kind of woman you want to be. God promises you a future and a hope, you just have to believe Him. He plans are to prosper, not to harm, and to give you a hope and a future. We are to call upon Him and seek Him. May this year, be an exciting year for you!

Sarah Bragg

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Fun with the Family

Last night we returned from spending a week with relatives in Alabama. Picture nineteen people with strong opinions about how things should be done all crammed together in a medium-sized house. Unlimited potential for conflict, especially if one is perpetually drunk, and another is a teen-aged mother of a two-month-old child, and another threatened not to come to Christmas at all because he disapproves of the teen mom's behavior.

We prayed a lot about this gathering before we went, and God was merciful. In fact, if a neighbor had passed by the house at any given moment, rather than shouting and arguing, he would have been much more likely to hear laughter. Much of the credit for this can go to my college-aged son and a game he taught us. Anyone who can write a sentence can play this game, and all you need is paper and pencils. So I thought I'd spread the laughter by sharing it with you.

1. I'd say this game is best if you have five to nine players, but the number is flexible.
2. Each person takes a sheet of paper and writes a sentence at the very top. Then he passes it to the person on his right.
3. That person illustrates the sentence. The more abstract the sentence, the more difficult this step becomes (and the more humorous the results). No words are allowed in the drawing, but symbols like question marks or equal signs are okay. Then he folds the sentence back, leaving only his drawing visible. Each paper is passed to the right again.
4. The next person looks at the drawing and writes a sentence based on what he sees. Then he folds the illustration back and passes his sentence to the person on his right who attempts to illustrate the new sentence.
5. The process continues around the table until the paper returns to the person who wrote the first sentence. He unfolds the paper and reads all the sentences aloud to the group.
6. The papers are passed around the circle so everyone can enjoy the sequence of sentences and illustrations.
7. Pass out fresh sheets of paper and repeat the process as many times as desired.

We laughed so hard. For example, one of my original sentences was, "Light shines in the darkness, and it sets the people free." After attempts to depict this idea in pictures, it became, "Day and night I shine and adorn myself to make the cows happy."

I suppose we could extract a moral from this game--like the importance of clear communication, or the fact that different people see things from different perspectives. But for me it was all about the kind of laughter that makes your stomach hurt and tears pour down your cheeks.

So, next time you've got a crowd of family or friends together, gather them around the table, pass out the paper and pencils, and let tensions dissolve into laughter. It's a language anyone can speak.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Digital Friends

In some ways, I love how technology has changed the face of this world. I now have the chance to connect with people all over the world, develop friendships and consider the points of view of as many different people as I can find. I like how I can throw my cell phone in my purse and still make my phone calls while I run to the grocery store. It's a good thing! I turn 34 tomorrow (I know it sounds old but it totally isn't!) and I remember getting our very first computer with huge floppy disks that were 8 inches across. Now, I have to upgrade my computer and cameras every few years simply because the technology moves so fast.

Time Magazine declared that you are this year's Person of the Year. "You. Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world." Interesting to think that common people with everday ideas now have the chance to influence culture in a new and unique ways, simply because of the technology.

But reading the article I can't help but wonder what God thinks about all this technology. While there are many great and wonderful parts to it, I wonder how "people" are doing with their regular face to face relationships. Growing up, I was the new kid constantly because we moved around. I had to make new friends every few years. And it wasn't easy. Real life friends see parts of you that digital friends don't. They see the good, the bad and the ugly. Online you can just stay quiet or stop blogging and IM'ing for a while if you're going through a rough time. (Uh, yeah - I've totally done that.) But you can't hide from real friends.

The thing is, I would imagine that we just don't have as much influence in the cyber world as we might think. At least not enough to give up on developing real life relationships. Because in the cyber world - everyone has an opinion. Everybody gets a chance to spout their point of view or make a comment about anything they want. And those opinions, comments and points of view are just as easily dismissed if the person reading doesn't have the same opinion. But in real-life relationships, others get to see the deeper side of who you are and what you believe in a way that affects them. Maybe even challenges them.

So even though I love being online and responding to e-mails and blogging and all of that good stuff - I want to encourage you to seek out new friends. The real, living kind. Yeah, it takes time to get to know someone. Expand your circle just a little and make room for some new people this coming year. I really have been doing this myself the last few months and it feels great! Trust me:-)

And if you want to chat here's a question for you: Of all your relationships - how many are "real" and how many are the digital kind?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Called. . . to what?

Suzie Eller here, glad to be able to post again. The last few times I've tried I've been unable to share, so yeah that today I get to talk with you again!

I'm writing a book right now titled "The Woman I Am Becoming". In fact, the deadline is Monday. I have several twentysomethings who have joined me in a focus group, and one chapter captured their attention. It was "Called. . . to what?".

You see, this is something that each of them thought about. God, where are you taking me? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? What is the next step? How will I know when I get there?

I believe that our calling isn't what is around the corner, or down the road, or in the future. I believe that our calling is to daily live as a woman of faith. You see, we often focus on the big picture so much that we forget that it is the small things that add up.

Five years ago I sat in an altar asking God the big questions. I heard someone cough. I turned around and saw a young teen and his little sister sitting on the front row.

"Can we have a ride home?" he asked.

I climbed up and took his little sister by the hand. "Sure!" I said. "Anyone hungry?"

The thing is, I knew they would be. It was Christmas break and they only got one meal a day when they weren't in school. Mom was sick with Hepatitus C. Dad was in jail. Things were tough for these two.

The young teen wrapped me in a huge hug. "Burger King?" he said.

And suddenly God spoke to me. You asked me what you are supposed to do, where I'm taking you, what is the next step? For today, taking a hungry boy and his sister to Burger King, that's what you are to do.

That was my calling. That continues to be my calling. To live as a woman of faith every day, to listen for the voice of God. Allowing all the small pieces of everyday life to add up to the big picture, having been led one decision, one moment at a time by my Heavenly Father.

Love ya,
Suzie Eller (T. Suzanne)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Resolving Some Resolutions

It's that time of year again. You know, the time when you start thinking of all you want to do differently beginning January first. I've set many yearly goals, but every year I resolve to get some biceps. I know, very spiritual. Well, it hasn't happened yet, and my six year old nephew has bigger guns than I do. So before I jump into what I need to change this year, how about some resolutions for others?


Yes, they have some moral issues to get straight. And yes, they are blazing a trail for humanitarian efforts that no one can deny. But frankly I just wish they would resolve to quit being so disgustingly beautiful. Enough already. Seriously, you're like freaks of nature. Beautiful, nearly perfect nature.


Where to start? May '07 hold no more couch jumping for you. And Tommy, we are NOT here by way of aliens. Puh-lease. Someone send this boy a Bible.


Poor Pluto got demoted as a planet this year. Pluto, resolve to rise from the ashes and just be yourself. You will never be just a mere "dwarf planet" to me.


No more hunting. In the business you're in, you need all the friends you can get. And shooting them? Not a real people pleaser.


Lay off the sauce and enroll in some anger management. But do keep making some thought provoking movies. Integrity on screen AND off.


Sir, your number is up. Admit some guilt. It does wonders for the soul.


2006 was the year of the tainted Chalupa. I haven't had an artery clogging bean burrito (minus the onions) in nearly two months. You are on this earth to dish out meals with astronomical calorie contents--not Ecoli. Resolve to safely provide your cheesy, beany, meaty goodness without ill effects. I long for the day we are reunited.


Girls...tsk, tsk, tsk. Resolve to wear underwear on a regular basis. Like daily.


Sir, we have a serious epidemic on our hands. It's time to get serious about an issue of global proportions (refer to Brit and Lindsay). We need you to enact a Panty Policy. Some Bloomer By-laws? Lingerie Legislation? Whatever it takes, Mr. President, we cannot let this growing trend to continue. First Hollywood starlets encourage unrealistic skinniness, prompting women and girls everywhere to eat nothing but lettuce and the occasional saltine. NOW the underwear situation (or lack of it). Call in the National Guard, sir, because I for one, believe you should resolve to stop this revealing new trend.

And now for me.
You know a funny thing happened to me this week--I had a deep thought. (It doesn't happen often.) I was thinking about New Year's resolutions, and it occurred to me that I have never asked God what I should resolve to do differently for the coming year. God and I have a big heart to heart every December 31st. It's our tradition. I usually sit out on my back porch on New Year's Eve at some point with a blanket (it's cold), a candle (gotta see), a notebook (prayer journaling),and my cell phone (cause sometimes I lock myself out) and just get on my face so to speak with God. It is my most significant time with Him all year. Where do You want me to go? Where do You want me to grow? How are you going to help me with my new goals? But this year I'm going to ask God to show me what my goals should be. I'm sure He can come up with something better than my goal for '05--to drink more water. Or my goal for '04--to eat more cookies (I wanted something I could finally achieve).

What are your goals this year? I encourage you to consider and pray upon Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to
prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

So in this time of new goals--weight loss, organization, discipline, more exercise, better quiet times, etc, ask the Lord what he would have you to achieve, to work for. His plans for you include so much more. Prosperity. Hope. A future. I want in on that, don't you?

Here's wishing you a God-inspired 2007. And Britney and Lindsay, one word for you ladies: Hanes.

Much Love,

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Christmas Present

This year I decided I wanted something different. Something very different for Christmas.

I'd had these two oil paintings my mother did piled up with junk in the basement. Almost forgotten about them. One's of me at age six. The other's of another little redheaded girl wearing a pink hat.

My bf's mom died a year ago tomorrow (Dec 27th). It's been a rough year for Robin. She's talked to me about the things she misses--watching her mom's hands sew, cook, and paint. Robin misses being able to call her mom to tell her silly stuff. You know, the tiny things that you only tell someone special.

So, I got to thinking about what REALLY matters. I dusted off these 40-year-old paintings and I had them custom framed. For me. For Christmas. You should have seen my mom's expression when she saw them yesterday! She traced the little girls' expressions and said, "They aren't even good. Why'd you do this?" I could see she already understood why. ♥♥♥

"Because YOU painted them."

She smiled. I smiled.

I wanted her to know how much she matters to me. As I've watched Robin miss her mom this year, I experienced a new gratitude for my own mom.

Is there somebody special who needs to know how much you love them?

♥ Julie

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Thinking Past Christmas

I love that Christmas brings out the generosity in people. Take for example, an experience that I had in Wal-Mart this week.

I was standing in line, paying for some last minute Christmas gifts. The woman ahead of me kept looking over her shoulder. Sure that it had something to do with the fact that I’d almost rammed her with my cart twice, I sent her an apologetic smile. She seemed to be in a major rush to leave after paying for her items. So much so that she almost forgot one of her bags.

“Sorry.” She laughed and grabbed the last bag. “I’m so scatter-brained today.”

She hurried off before I could say, “Join the club.”

As the cashier bagged my items she asked. “Do you know that woman?”


Then the cashier set some folded money on the counter in front of me. “Here. For you.”

Assuming that she was encourage me to keep what some pour soul had lost, I said, “Oh no. That isn’t mine.”

“The woman ahead of you left it.”

“She might come back for it though.” I can’t take money that doesn’t belong to me even if I know that the owner is probably miles from the place where they dropped it.

“No no. She left it for you. It’s $10. She said to apply it to your bill. That’s why I figured the two of you knew each other.”

I tried to picture the woman. Did I know her from church? A past job? Had she taken one of my writing workshops through Park and Rec? Nope. “I didn’t recognize her.”

“Well, your bill is $10 less today. That’s probably why she was in such a hurry. She knew you’d refuse it.”

And I probably would have. Instead I got a surprise discount!

“I hope she didn’t do it because I looked poor, or helpless or something,” I told my friend when she picked me up. I mean, I did almost ram the woman with my cart. If such accidents don’t annoy people, it clues them in to my low vision, sometimes provoking unnecessary sympathy, particularly in senior citizens. “Oh, the poor thing.”

“I can assure you that wasn’t the case,” Jane assured me. “Someone probably just wanted to spread a little Christmas cheer.”

Later my husband, who works for a grocery chain, told me that he has had many customers slip him money to apply to the next person’s bill.

“It must be a Christmas thing,” I decided.”

“I think it is.”

Remembering how good it felt to have a stranger do something nice for me made me want to go out and do the same for someone else. Since I don’t plan to step foot in a store until well after Christmas, I’ve decided to pass on the kindness after the holidays are over. After all, why should unusual generosity only be a Christmas thing? I took this experience as a nudge from God to look for opportunities to spread unexpected kindness year round.

Why do you think Christmas brings out the generosity in us? In what ways are you more generous this time of year? Consider how you might carry this spirit of kindness into 2007.

I’d love to read some ideas for random acts of kindness and generosity. If you had an extra $10 how would you use it to bless someone else?

Have a blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Nativity Story: Romance 101

If you haven't seen The Nativity Story, you're missing out on a great chick flick featuring a wonderful hero. In contrast to the mooks, geeks, and sex-obsessed studs in other movies, director Catherine Hardwicke's character of Joseph serves, protects, provides for, encourages, and honors the object of his affection. And the movie's strong and courageous Mary comes to love, respect, and admire him, along with most of the girls in the theater watching, I'm sure.

As he portrayed Joseph in the movie, Guatemalan-born actor Oscar Isaac came to realize the importance of humility in both romantic love and in the love of God, as he revealed in an interview with Rebecca Murray:
...(The movie) is this big epic journey with this kind of little intimate love story. It's kind of the story of how these two people that are forced together — I guess one more than the other — how they ultimately become a family. I think that in itself is a fantastic story. Also, the fact that it's about humility and it's about love ... that God decides to come to earth to the most ostracized and oppressed of people — particularly two people who are ostracized by their own community in the little hick town of Bethlehem — in a cave, I think that's what the message is. It's not the powerful and the rich and the proud that are exalted, but the humble and those that act out of love that God exalts.
As I watched the love story of Joseph and Mary unfold, I was reminded that the feminine heart is still hungry to be cherished, and the masculine heart designed to offer sacrificial love, despite what the culture teaches about male-female relationships. And God continues to call young men and women to great things, serving side by side in an epic, dangerous, world-changing Story. This movie helps us to see that our instincts are right about what's great and good in relationships, and that the culture would have us settle for something much, much less.

Monday, December 18, 2006

When Life is Less Than You Dreamed

Do you ever feel like your life is less than you dreamed? Are there some dreams you had for this time of your life that are just not a reality right now? I can definitely think of a few for myself. Can you remember a time in your life—and maybe that time is now—where the dreams you had and the reality of life ran into each other and they hated each other?

I remember a time in the 8th grace when that happened. I had my first boyfriend. His name was Mark. To me things were spectacular. As I was hopping into my mom’s car after school, Mark handed me a note. I thought that was so sweet that he wrote me a note! It happened to be April Fools Day that day. As I read the note, I realized that he was breaking up with me...on April Fools Day! Only, it wasn’t a joke. He really did break up with me! Reality showed up and kicked my butt.

I think the times in life when we experience hurt are those times—when we realize life is less than we dreamed it would be. What do you do when life is less than you dreamed? If you have time, read Matthew 26:36-46. It’s about Jesus and how he handled the fact that he was about to die.

There are two things that Jesus did in this passage. He verbalized his pain to his friends. He wanted the support of his friends. Then, he verbalized his pain to God. Most people don’t do heart-work with God. We say nice things to God and even about God, but there is so much pain and rage towards God that we are too terrified to admit it out loud. Instead, we pretend that we are not hurt and angry towards God. And someone invites you to church and you don’t want to go—or you go to church and the people around you are worshipping and you can’t be intimate with God because you have so much displeasure towards him that you never got out.

When you speak honestly to God, receive what he offers you in return--love and acceptance.

You are loved,
Sarah Bragg

Saturday, December 16, 2006

But I'm Just a Teenager!

I’ve done a lot of waiting in my life. Waiting for that next phase, you know? When I’m in junior high, THEN I’ll be cool. When I’m in high school and have a car, THEN I’ll be happy. When I get a boyfriend life will be perfect. When I get that latest purse I will feel totally cute. When I’m Homecoming Queen then life will be complete.(Sadly, that one never happened. A moment of silence, if you will…) Then finally you wake up one day and realize you’ve accomplished nothing… but a whole bunch of waiting.

So what are you waiting for? Think you’re too young to make a difference? Not old enough to accomplish your dream?

In fifth grade, Nancy Yi Fan began writing a story about birds struggling for freedom. This story turned into the book Swordbird, which will hit stores this February. Nancy will be thirteen when the book debuts. Unbelievable!

And what about the author of Eragon and Eldest? Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon when he was fifteen! Do you know what I was doing at fifteen? Probably watching Saved by the Bell reruns or something.

Katie Hoff is only sixteen. She is on the U.S. swim team and took home three gold medals last year at the World Championships. Not only that, but she set a new U.S. Open record for the 400-meter. And to top it all off, she has a ten year endorsement deal with Speedo.

Shannon Sullivan, 14, of Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, helped start a chapter of Teen Angels, a teen-led group trained by the FBI to help shut down internet predators. She helps the FBI at fourteen!! That would make some great cafeteria conversation. "Are you gonna eat your tator tots? Did I mention I work for the FBI?"

Jourdan Urbach, a fourteen year old from New York, is a master at the violin. He has been using his musical talents to fund the organization he created, Children Helping Children. He has raised over $200,000 for his charity, which helps raise money for medical research and brings music to sick children.

Though only eighteen, May Lan Dong has already contributed much to our world. After taking a trip to the African nation of Guinea with her dad, she has been soliciting funds for the organization she founded to help the people of Guinea. Her efforts have paid for books, supplies, AND a girls’ dorm at an impoverished West African school. How awesome is that?

And then there’s this teen named Mary. You might know her. She was the mother of Jesus. There’s an old Amy Grant Christmas song about her that says:

I am waiting
in a silent prayer.
I am frightened
by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now.
Be with me now.

Breath of Heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of Heaven

I hate to admit this, but it wasn’t until I heard that song that I really thought about the fact that Mary was just a teenager when she had Jesus. Back in the day, girls were married VERY early. They were practically children. Can you imagine her circumstances? She was unwed. She was pregnant. And she was about to give birth to our Savior. No pressure.

But surrounded by animals, Joseph, some wise men she didn’t even know, and a bunch of straw, Mary cradled her newborn son in her arms. Had she felt prepared? No. Had she felt scared and overwhelmed? Absolutely.

God chose Mary, though she was incredibly young, for this special task. He knew what he was doing. He could've picked someone older, wiser, prettier, wealthier, worldlier. But he picked Mary. Not only that, but he created her for this miraculous task.

Is God asking you to step out on faith and achieve something? Could he be asking you to step out of your comfort zone? What is that big goal pressing on your heart?

And most importantly…what are you waiting for?

Merry Christmas, G3'ers!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Brain is Blinking

off and on like Christmas lights. Not the kind on the tree inside, but the strings of lights outdoors that go round and round pieces of the house. At our babysitter's house where I sat in the driveway Tuesday night, the lights blink in a slow rhythm for around 30 seconds and then go into a frenzy of blinking for around 15 seconds. This too reminds me of brain function.
I object to bushes that have one lonely strand of lights. There are sometimes six or even a dozen poor insufficiently covered bushes/trees in yards. Better, in my opinion, is to choose one lucky plant in the yard and bedeck it spectacularly. Perhaps I could solve my brain blinking problem by not putting my lights all over the Christmas scene and instead choose one element that I want to emphasize spectacularly. I think I'll choose Jesus.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Let's Turn the Page

One of my favorite things to do is read books to preschoolers. I love their excitement as they become part of the story. I adore the way they giggle over the illustrations, and how they immediately turn to the front of the book for "mor" when the story ends.

Personally, my favorite children's books are those with the windows cut out of the page. You know the kind . . . they allow you to see part of the illustration, and for the life of you can't figure out what it is. Then, as you turn the page, the whole picture is revealed and you can see how the small part fits into the whole.

These books remind me of how God works. They remind me that sometimes my perspective is through a very small window.

Thankfully, God sees the complete picture. He knows how the small part that I see, fits together in His perfect plan.

And, as we are approaching the Christmas holiday, I can't help but comment on how Jesus was part of that plan.

2,000 years ago, shepherds saw a small part of the picture. They saw a baby in the manager.

When Jesus grew up, some of the people of Israel also saw a part of the picture. Some saw a healing. Others a feeding. And still others the death of their friend.

Jesus' disciples got more of the picture through Christ's resurrection, but even they only saw a small part. Years later, we see more--the spread of Christianity all over the world. We see our part in the kingdom of God, and we witness how He is worshiped all these years after He walked the earth.

There is also another part of the picture we see when we invite Christ to be our personal Lord and Savior. You see, while most of our world acknowledges the connection with the baby Jesus and Christmas Day . . . if you turn the page . . . we realize this gift wasn't only for God-come-to-earth back then, but Christ-come-to-live-and-abide IN US today.

It's a picture that overwhelms me, but even that is not the end.

Since I have Christ-in-me, the page will turn yet again. Someday I will be with Him in eternity. It's a picture I can't even imagine, but one I look forward to with eager anticipation.

Oh, what a complete picture that will be!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sometimes Mom Makes Wings

Disaster hit during rehearsal for the children’s Christmas pageant at church. We couldn’t find the halos for our baby angels. After a frantic search and some debate over whether we needed them, considering that the angels would only be on stage for about 90 seconds, someone found them. One problem. There weren’t enough.

What to do? Let the littlest kids wear them? Make more, but a less fancy version? Or maybe we should just forget them? But what would we tell those starry-eyed 6-and-7-year-old girls who had been begging for their halos since they saw the wings and gowns.

“Nathan looked so cute in his last year.” I told Jane.

“And my daughter is dying for one.” Jane examined one of the garland-crowned hair bands.

We exchanged glances. Oh, how complicated could they be to make?

Unable to disappoint a chorus full of 3-7-year-olds, we organized a plan to get a dozen halos made in a day-and-a-half.

Just as we’d come down from the satisfaction of handing the children their much-anticipated heavenly accessories one of the moms approached Jane halfway through final practice.

“Where can I find a set of wings?” Colleen asked. “My daughter doesn’t have one.”

As it turned out, another little girl was also missing wings. You guessed it. Jane grabbed a pair to use as a prototype, Colleen dashed to Wal-Mart for supplies, and the three of us spent that afternoon constructing two sets of angel wings. Colleen’s daughter danced around us, giddy with excitement and seizing every opportunity to help.

“Thanks so much for taking the time to do this,” Colleen said as we cleaned up sprigs of white garland and bottles of glitter glue. “Obviously Laura would have lived if she didn’t get wings. But it did mean a lot to her to look like everyone else.”

We all agreed that there are certain times when it’s worth it to make our kids happy, knowing how much something as simple as everyone having pretty wings and halos means to a child, even if they only get to wear them for five minutes.

“Yeah,” Colleen said, “I guess sometimes we teach our kids lessons and sometimes we make wings.”

As a mom, there are times when I must stand back in agony and allow my kids to live through disappointment. Other times, I sacrifice spare time, sleep, a little extra cash, and even a bit of my sanity to fulfill their heart’s desire. Maybe the thing that Nathan or Christian wants seems unimportant or silly to me, but their eyes tell me that it means so much. As with the halos and wings, it’s possible for me to provide, so why not? And hey, sometimes I even learn a new skill in the process. I am now a master halo maker!

Think about a time when your parents (or perhaps another adult in your life) went out of their way to provide something that you didn’t need but desperately wanted. Why was this thing so important to you? How did the sacrifice deepen your appreciation for the gift?

Now consider times when God has provided for you in a similar way, by going beyond your needs and providing for your wants. Think back over this past year and try to count the times.

It’s easy to track an ongoing list of life’s let-downs and disappointments. But how much more fun is it to begin counting those small but significant answers to prayers, only to find that we can’t count high enough?

I’d love to hear about the memories that this post triggers in you. Tell me about a time when, instead of allowing you to survive disappointment, your mom, dad, another special adult, or God Himself, made sure that you got your halo and wings!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Gotta Give It

I love this time of year! I love the lights, the trees and especially the gifts. Everyone seems to be in a good mood. Everywhere you look this season, people will say that Christmas is about giving. That’s why there are traffic jams at your local mall. We all like getting gifts, but what about giving gifts? The simple definition of the word gift states that it’s “something given to someone for pleasure or to show gratitude.” When it comes down to it, is that why we often give? Is it to show pleasure or gratitude? What motivates us to give? Is it to show gratitude or is to out of selfish motives?

2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

What we can see from this verse is that giving is never supposed to be an obligation, but it is a matter of the heart. We should never have ulterior motives when it comes to giving gifts. We shouldn’t give out of obligation or out of the hopes of getting something bigger and nicer. If you give out of obligation, then most of the time you give grudgingly or halfhearted. That removes the joy that should come in giving. We should give because we want to bring pleasure to someone else and we want to show our gratitude. That’s what giving is all about. When you give with right motives, your heart is cheerful. That’s what God desires.

I was watching Fox News the other day and they were interviewing Jewel. I guess she’s teaming up with MasterCard to give away some money. I found it interesting what she said about giving. Jewel said, “It doesn’t matter what your motives are. The results are the same.” Is that really the case for Christians? Throughout the Bible, it talks about what matters most is the heart and your motives. If fact, one verse says that “man looks at the outward, but God looks at the heart.” It’s all about our heart. Our motives spring up from our heart.

Think about how you are going to give to others this season. When you make your Christmas list, make a list of the motives behind why you are going to give. Every time you shop or think about gifts this season, ask yourself “Does God love my attitude toward giving?”

Merry Christmas!
Sarah Bragg

Monday, December 04, 2006

Friend Pain

There's this guy, Davey Pollack. He's 23. Davey seemed larger than the front door when he walked in our house. He went to high school with my daughters. Funny, sweet, huge football player. He's so big that you'd be scared of him if you didn't know him.

Davey played ping pong in our basement once and beat my husband. Nobody beats my husband.

Somebody gave him a Bible when he signed to play football for the University of Georgia. He became a Christian.

After UGA he went on to play for the Bengals, a pro team. Then he broke his neck. Now he's in a halo--one of giant things that screws into your head. He doesn't know if he'll be able to ever play football again. He may have to give up his lifelong dream.

Guess what he's doing ? Visiting children with spinal inguries--telling them it's gonna be okay. He's smiling and trusting God with the outcome.

I met a woman without hair. She has a disease and her hair will probably never grow back. For a while, she went into deep depression. Shut down. Closed herself off. One day she decided to stop wearing her wig. But going out in public is still scary. Little kids stare and point.

But God's calling her to a mission field--one where she'll keep her wig off. She's going to start visiting children with cancer. She can sing and play the piano for them. This friend is discovering Davey Pollack's life-changing secret.

Sometimes our Father allows pain for a purpose. He allowed His Son to experience death for us. Is it possible that the hard things we go through might be used to teach us how to love others?

Is there anything in your life that hurts?

Anything you wish you could change?

Me too.

What's hard for you today? Let us know and we'll pray.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas Music

I've been listening to online music at This is so fun. You enter the name of an artist or title of a song and it creates a station for you that plays a song as you requested and then tries to match the tone of that one with similar artists and songs. For each song you vote whether you like it or not and with each vote, the program narrows in on your particular taste. It is amazing to me how eventually this "station" figures out what I want to hear and most of the songs are right on target. That's

You know our brains are like that. God originated a program for our choices. Each time you are presented with a situation, you chose whether to accept or reject the circumstances. You can stay and drink a beer with friends, or you can leave. You can choose to listen to dirty jokes or steer the conversation into better channels. You can read pornographic "romance" novels or pick wholesome material. Eventually as you make your choices, you will find that the things that come your way are more often well suited to your chosen lifestyle.
Part of it is that if you always make bad choices, you end up with people who are prone to that lifestyle, and you find yourself in places where inappropriate things are going on.
If you consistently make good choices, you run with an entirely different crowd and attend different functions.
However, this doesn't preclude a situation that is at odds with your proclaimed preference. But you still have the right to cast your vote. Yeah or nay!
Now to complete go off in another direction. On this Pandora Christmas music station I have created I have heard a couple of times a very old Christmas song from World War II. It is by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and believe me, it is over the top corny. But I listen to it and end up praying and crying. The general idea of the song is a man and woman writing back and forth. He is at war, and she is home with the kids trying to have Christmas. The style of music is archaic. Their voices are dorky when you consider what is popular now. The song is mushy and all that is sentimental. But it touches me and I remember our troops who are in the war zone now. I pray for the same sentiments that are expressed in that old song. The ideas are not out of date even if the presentation is dated.
Have a happy holiday season, but don't forget to keep in touch with God on what is important.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Vision -- Becoming Part of Something Bigger

Three years ago I volunteered to serve with a team traveling to Brazil. We flew to San Paulos and then drove to a harbor where we boarded a large boat. We traveled down the Amazon and it was stunning. Eventually the water narrowed, and then again, and we climbed out of the larger boat into smaller boats, and then eventually into canoes. And then we entered the heart of the rain forest.

People canoed down the Amazon, some all night long, in the deep darkness with the marble-sized yellow eyeballs of crocodiles watching their journey. It was dangerous, but for many of them health care wasn't an option. This was their opportunity to have infected teeth removed, diseases treated, and for the group that came my way, a chance to see. I was in charge of the eye charts.

I loved the moments that happened throughout the day--the moment that a pair of glasses was put on the face of someone who had never owned a pair, or perhaps only owned a cracked or worn pair inherited from a relative (wrong prescription, wrong fit, but all that they had). Some people's vision was so limited that they literally had their sight restored. It was awesome!

They shouted. Some danced. One grabbed the team member and swung her around. Others went to friends and family and delighted in "seeing" them for the first time in a long time.

There are many kinds of vision. This story reflects one kind. But there is another type of vision. It's the ability to see beyond yourself. Dreaming is one thing, and it's awesome. It's your goals. Your hopes. Your desires. But vision is becoming a part of something greater.

A visionary looks down the road. She looks at her community, her school, her friends, her faith, and asks "where do I fit in this?".

This past Thursday I spoke at a highschool in my own city. I'm a community mentor and speak in four different high schools to freshman girls. You see, that lines up with my vision. My heart/my mission is to show that God is relevant today.

I don't talk about my faith, because I cannot in the school system. But I walk in as a woman of faith and through my words and my actions, I SHOW what a woman of faith looks like. Living as a person of faith in every part of life (not just in church or church stuff) shows that God is relevant in everyday life.

Vision. It's why I mentor writers at Real Teen Faith. It's why I write books to teens. It's why I speak. It's why I'm a community mentor. It's why I blog. It's interwoven in my life with my children, and my husband. It's seeing the bigger picture in what you get to do every day.

You see, having vision means that you will leave a legacy.

This spring 475 freshmen girls and 30 community mentors will work together on our first 2010 Challenge project. We want to leave a mark on our community. The ideas that the girls shared are amazing: working with the homeless, creating a beautiful archway of all of our hands and placing it downtown, repairing the homes of the elderly, having Christmas in March for children who may not have had it in December. The ideas flooded--once they realized that they could be visionaries. I'll let you know later what we decide and share pictures this spring.

So, vision is:
  • seeing beyond your own dreams
  • seeing beyond your own circumstances
  • seeing the needs of your community or of others
  • seeing where you can play a small part
  • joining others to leave a legacy

What is your vision?

Suzie Eller (T. Suzanne)

What is your vision?

Friday, December 01, 2006

The P Word

When I was twelve, I made a list of all the things I would NOT do when I was a mom. I can't remember what it said, but I'm sure there were things like:

I won't make my kids go to bed at 9:00 p.m.
I won't tell them what movies they can or can't watch.
I won't limit phone conversations.
I won't bug my kids about their homework.

Of course, as it turns out, I'm even more restrictive with my kids than my parents were with me. Not only do I do all of the above, I also make my kids consider all their actions in light of God's Word. (Which is an even bigger responsibility!)

Sometimes it's hard to forget out parents were once kids. Or that we don't have it all figured out.

What Parents Wish Their Teens Knew ... but are too afraid to tell them.

1. Sometimes I feel like a poser. I can't believe I have the be the responsible one.

2. Sometimes I feel guilty because I don't think I'm doing a very good job.

3. Sometimes I want to watch the same movies and TV that you do, even when I know it's not good. It's hard to "be the example."

4. Sometime I give you a hard time about your relationships because memories of my old boyfriends still haunt me.

5. Sometimes I sign you up for activities just because I never had a chance to do them, but wish I did.

6. Sometimes I give you a hard time about your homework because I wish I would have tried harder in my own studies.

7. Sometimes I bug you about little things like your driving or goofing off because I did some pretty dumb stuff myself.

8. Sometimes I'd like to just throw up my hands and take a break. I keep going to show my love, even though sometimes it doesn't seem like it.

9. Sometimes I question my decisions. Okay, more than just sometimes.

10. Sometimes I forget to turn to God for help, even though I need Him most.

I know there are a lot of books out there that encourage parents to pray for teens, but today I'd like to ask teens to pray for parents. We need it!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Journey on the Titanic

Picture this. You are 18 years old and sailing with your baby son, from England to America, where your husband is waiting to start a new life. A few days into the voyage, the ship hits an ice berg and suddenly everyone is scrambling for the few lifeboats available. Being a poor immigrant, you have a third-class ticket—low on the priority list when it comes time for lifeboat assignment. When you finally find your way to a boat, a crew member snatched your child from your arms, hands him to a woman on the lifeboat about to lower, and tells you to wait for another one. In agony, you watch your baby sail away with a stranger, wondering when and if you’ll be together again. Worst yet, will you ever escape the sinking ship? After a freezing, heartbreaking night, watching hundreds of your fellow passengers, parish before your eyes, you are finally reunited with your son. How would you deal with the trauma and the memories forever engraved into your young mind? What kind of person would your husband find when you finally reached America? How would that temporary but excruciating separation affect your relationship with your son? How much of this story would you tell him once he grew up? How would this experience shape your faith, or the view of God that you pass on to your children? Would you ever find the courage to travel by ship again?

The day after Thanksgiving my parents took my sons and me to a Titanic exhibit in San Francisco. In addition to artifacts taken from the wreckage, replicas of areas like the Grand Staircase and both a first and a third-class room, and a real ice berg that we could touch, they had a piece of the ship. It didn’t matter that I’d seen countless documentaries, movies, and T.V. specials about this famous shipwreck, the up-close-and-personal view made the event more real than ever before.

In order to bring the story closer to home, we were all given a boarding pass with the name and mini bio of an actual passenger. At the end of the tour we found out if our passenger lived or died. I received a card with the name of 18-year-old Leah Ake Rosen. Halfway through the tour I found Leah’s story of being separated from her baby. Something about holding that card in my hand erased any romantic images left over from scenes starring Kate and Leonardo, accompanied by Celine Dion. I can’t imagine being 18, already a married woman, traveling alone with an infant to a strange country. And then to live through such a horrifying experience! How would I have handled it?

All I could do was thank God that I didn’t have to—that He ordained Leah Rosen’s life for her and my life for me. I thank Him that, though I’ve had difficulties, I know very little about tragedy.

Think of a time when you felt like you were walking in someone else’s shoes for a short time—perhaps through a museum exhibit, a book, a movie, or a real-life experience. What did it teach you about yourself, God, or human nature? How did the experience deepen your appreciation for the life journey that God mapped out for you? How might your life be different if you had been born in a different time period, country, or family situation?

Psalm 139:16 says, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Take a moment to thank God for loving you enough to plan your life long before your creation, for knowing exactly what you needed to experience or not experience in order to fulfill His purpose.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Discussion About Church

I am currently working to create and develop a new student ministry strategy for a company called The reThink Group. I have worked full-time in student ministry for 6 years. I have just recently stepped out of full-time church role into a role that just involves writing and speaking. I am so excited to create a new strategy for student ministry because I think that some churches have pushed students away rather than attracting them. I would love to hear YOUR thoughts about this.

If you have any involvement in church, what do you like about it? What would you like to change if you could?

What has been a defining moment in your life?

Your thoughts will help me to create a ministry that will be attractive to you and your friends.

Happy Post Thanksgiving!!
Sarah Bragg

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving--It's More Than Just Turkey

On this day after Thanksgiving, I'm gonna be oh-so original and share with you what I am thankful for.

1. I am thankful that these two finally got married.

Had they not, I never would've known that in a Scientology ceremony the alien, er, that is groom pledges the following to his soon-to-be wife: clothes, food, and tender happiness and frills. A pan (A PAN??), a comb, perhaps a cat. And what does she pledge in return (besides a her frequent flier miles on the Mother Ship)? Kissing. Yup, seriously. So he gets kisses on demand and what does she get? Some Farberware fry pans and a lazy feline, both of which will require cleaning.

But I'm thankful for TomKat because their wedding has provided hours of entertainment for me.

2. I'm thankful that Thanksgiving is a time in which napping is socially acceptable. In my family, if you are caught sleeping during the day, you are given the look that says, "You are a lazy oaf. You should be doing something useful like cleaning the gutters, organizing your sock drawer, bathing the dog, or alphabetizing your lipstick collection." But not on Thanksgiving. Did you know turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan? Tryptophan releases a calming chemical into the body, thus, making us sleepy. So I can nap in peace without becoming the shame of the family.

3. As I'm writing this I am about to embark on Black Friday, the busiest, craziest shopping day of the year. Why is it called Black Friday, you ask? Good question. It's called this because I will be in mourning over the fact that I get up at 3:30 in the morning to particpate. THREE THIRTY!!! And I will be in mourning all day long over how many times my personal space is invaded. Over how many times the family member I ride with circles the parking lot over and over to get "the one" parking spot. In mourning over the fact that Wal-Mart sold out of whatever it is I needed to buy to somebody who had been camped out since one a.m. Black Friday is NUTS. And yet I make myself go every year anyway because it's not about good deals for me. It's about hanging out with my family and continuing a tradition. I've gone every year but one since I was born. And that was a LONG time ago. (In the Stone Ages when people didn't camp overnight for a stinking laptop and a Tickle Me Elmo.) And I figure, if my eighty-five year old grandmother can still hack it, then so can I.

4. I'm thankful for this blog and that I get to come and share my rants, as well as my heart. I love the diversity here. There's always something new to read about and think about every day. We're so glad you stop by.

5. I'm thankful for God, the author of my life and all blessings. When I have to get up with the moon to shop today, He says, "Child, you are nuts, but I love you anyway." When I skip a meaningful daily task to read up on TomKat or Britney and K-Fed, he says, "You are totally wasting the time I give you, but you are still mine." When I mess up and open my mouth and shove my foot in, He says, "Not cool. But there's a book I'd like you to read." And I give him glory because by the time this hits the 'Net, I will have finished my second book in the Katie Parker series, and I honestly didn't think I would survive it and see the final page. But I did. And it's only because of Him. This has been a whirlwind, awesomely, fantabulous year for me. And I give God the glory. Because he looks at all my doubts and fears and says, "See,I told ya so. You and me--we gotta stick together."

6. We'd love to know what you're thankful for. And please pray for me as I endure elbows, grumpiness, mean looks, and yelling on this horrific shopping day. And pray for everyone I encounter. Because the elbows, grumpiness, mean looks, and yelling? Yeah, um, I was talking about me.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

stray kitty I didn't want

My husband brought home a stray kitten yesterday. My 15-year-old son took a picture just now. The kitten we saved isn't either of these two kitties in the picture. These are MUCH CUTER than our stray. She's a calico who needs more color--too much white.

We couldn't get the picture to transfer from his picture phone to the blog.

Oh well. At least these two got your attention. :-)

I didn't want a cat. I didn't want to love her.

There are plenty of reasons why I'd planned to say no to having a cat.

I'm allergic to cats.

We have an indoor black Lab.

How do you keep them apart?

The dog might chase her up a tree.

We have leather furniture.

But she melted my heart.

She's SO sweet. You can hear her purring from across the room. We brought Little Kitty in the den together last night with Cooper, the dog. No problem. They get along. You can't upset this little cat. She's so grateful. She ate and ate. We made her a bed of old rags which she loves. Little Kitty runs to you--she's not independant like many cats.

Little Kitty looks like she's about six months old. She has a boo-boo under her chin. We're taking her to the vet and having her spayed and getting her boo-boo checked.

I didn't want to keep her.

I didn't plan to love her.

I'm so glad God is different that me. His love is unconditional. He doesn't only pick the cute people as favorites. And He still loves us when we run from Him--even when we hide and don't want to be rescued.

Little Kitty with no name (yet) you taught me a lesson.

♥ Julie

Happy Birthday to ME!

Yesterday was my birthday and lots of positive things happened. I could also celebrate finally making progress on my new book. Ever since this "illness" which started in August, my brain has been like a cotton puff. Not only in my chosen profession (writing), but in my day to day life as well. Little things like where I put my credit card, did I write that letter, do I know my Social Security number, blah blah blah, etc. All have been a real bother. So celebrating my birthday and a new chapter was wonderful.
We have a tradition with the little boys in the family. These are my grandsons who are 2 and 5. They are taken to the jewelry aisle at Walmart and allowed to pick out any piece of jewelry for the birthday person (aunts, Mom, and Grandmas). It is wonderful because the jewelry they choose is often off the wall.
Their mom got this plastic creation that was supposed to look African with hunks of ivory on it. I got lots of red beads.
How often do we say that it is not the gift that counts, but the thought? These bright and crazy necklaces prove the point. We will treasure them for years and maybe even wear them on occasion.
There is not great spiritual truth behind this blog. Just enjoy the people around you whether their taste matches yours or not!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Need a Mood Lifter?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes the chilly weather and early sunsets of the fall and winter months do a number on my mood. Recently some struggles with my health have sent my enjoyment level plummeting more than usual. However, this experience has also reminded me that it is possible to lift myself out of the gloom.

The next time your spirit needs a lift, try one of the boosters that I’ve found so helpful lately. .

Encourage someone: After a difficult day I got to pass on a message from a magazine editor that I work with, to one of the teens at my church. One of her poems had been accepted for publication! Sharing this exciting news and hearing the thrill in Krystal’s voice made my whole week.

When we encourage others we encourage ourselves. Who could use a kind word or some good news from you? See what happens if you e-mail or call a friend just to share something that you appreciate about her.

Laugh: The other night I was feeling down and my 16-year-old son turned on a funny movie that I’d given him for his birthday. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I could feel the medicine of laughter healing me from the inside.

If you’re in a bad mood, watch your favorite comedy or a silly cartoon. Read a funny book. Search the Sunday paper for the comics. Go to a park and listen to children laughing. Kid laughter is extremely contagious.

Play: My parents sent me a new CD when they found out that I wasn’t feeling well. As soon as it arrived I turned it on and slow danced with my 4-year-old. When we got tired of that we played with one of his toys, made popcorn and talking about silly stuff. It felt so good to just relax and play.

If you feel discouraged or stressed out do something fun. Invite a friend over and pull out one of your childhood board games. Dance. Turn on a CD and sing your heart out, even if you can’t carry a tune. Let the kid in you run wild!

Avoid negativity: I drove to a meeting with someone who kept complaining and talking about negative things. My mood took an immediate nose dive. The next day my friend Susan called and ended our very upbeat conversation with a joke. What a difference!

Spend as much time as you can with friends and family members who bring out your best, have a positive attitude, make you laugh, and are otherwise pleasant to be around. Thanks them for brightening your day just by being who they are.

Praise God: This week I was forced rest and actually started thanking God for it. I discovered some blessings in my unexpected time of slowing down. I relaxed, spent some much needed time with God, and enjoyed some sweet time with friends who called, drove me to the doctor, or stopped to talk when I picked up my son from preschool. Each day I see God using this season for His purpose.

What do you have to thank God for today? Spend time praising Him for the little things, the big things, and the blessings that have come out of difficult times.

I pray today that God will fill your heart and mind with His goodness!

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Top 10 List

No one doubts that sexual activity is physically, emotionally, and socially dangerous.

What are the risks? Here is . . . The Top 10 List

10. The risk of death. More than 600,000 cases of AIDS have been reported in the United States since 1981, and as many as 900,000 Americans may be infected with HIV.

1 Corinthians 6:18 says, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body."

9. The risk of lost relationships. When you choose to develop a sexual relationship with someone, you've immediately changed the definition of the relationship. There is no such thing as casual sex. Once you have developed a sexual relationship, that relationship turns a critical corner. After the relationship ends, you and your partner will experience that guilt and pain of promises broken.

Hebrews 12:16 says, "See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son."

8. Risks of incurable disease. Imagine that you have found that one special person with whom you want to share your life ... and now you are forced to break the news that you have an incurable disease. Even though such diseases like herpes are generally not considered life threatening, there are no cures. Not only is it incurable, it fills a life with worries, awkward revelations, and continuous need for medication.

1 Corinthians 6:13 says, "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body."

7. The risk of damaging the destiny of your future marriage. There is no way that premarital sex of any kind could be a positive thing for your future marriage. (Just ask my husband how he feels "knowing" about my past.) It only causes suspicion, mistrust, and regret.

Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."

6. The risk of permanently damaging your testimony as a Christian. You'll never be able to honestly say, "I was a virgin before I was married." You'll never be able to live as an example of committed purity.

Ephesians 5:3 says, "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people."

5. The risk of depression. Those who participate in premarital sex experience emotional damage that may lead to an increased chance of mental depression and emotional despair.

2 Corinthians 12:21 says, "I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged."

4. The risk of placing your future children in spiritual harm's way. The Bible clearly speaks of the concept of generational sin. What you sow (plant) spiritually may be reaped in the life of your children. Remain pure before God and you'll be tenaciously guarding the future of the next generation.

Proverbs 20:7 says, "The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him."

3. The risk of sexual dysfunction. People spend millions of dollars to correct sexual dysfunction through drugs and psychotherapy. Why? Because they entered marriage with unresolved sexual issues. For example, a man may think that he will be free from the curse of pornography once he gets married, only to find that the problems are even more noticeable and controlling. Sexual purity before marriage is the first step to incredible sexual fulfillment after marriage.

Mark 7:21 says, "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,"

2. The risk of shame. Premarital sex imputes a spiritual state of shame that becomes a major weapon for our enemy. God forgives you, but you will still be vulnerable to Satan's whispering accusations on your worth.

1 Corinthians 5:1-2 says, "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you . . . Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief?"

1. The risk of disobeying God and letting Satan get a foothold. The Bible, time after time tells us to flee sexual sins. Why? Because it is a major strategy of the devil to sabotage God's work on Earth. How can God work through you, when you aren't living up to His standards?

1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality."

So, what do you think?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

God's Love Hasn't Grown Cold

I just recently purchased Bethany Dillon's latest CD entitled "Imaginations." Have you heard it? I actually purchased it for one song. I was speaking with a friend last weekend who told me about it. This song is called "My Love Hasn't Grown Cold." Check out the lyrics:

You shake your head
What is so hard to believe?
When you are in your bed
I sing over you the sweetest things

Because oh, my love does not tire
I'm awake when the moon is full
And I know the times when you feel lost
And you just aren't sure

Lo and behold
My love hasn't grown cold
For you

You cold steal away in the middle of the night
And hide in the light of day
While you cloak yourself in the darkest lies

But oh my love, it swims in the deepest oceans of fear
And as soon as you lower your head
I am here

Lo and behold
My love hasn't grown cold
For you

If only you could see
How heaven stills when you speak
I know all your days
And I have wrapped you in mystery

And oh, my love for you
Is as wide as the galaxies
Just hold out your hand and close your eyes
And come be with me

Lo and behold
My love hasn't grown cold
For you

I absolutely love those words. This song is not about my love for God growing cold, but about how His love does not grow cold for me. Sometimes it’s easy for me to think that God has put me on the back burner and forgotten about me, but His love hasn’t grown cold. Try this.... Purchase this song off iTunes and then listen to it while laying on the floor face up toward the sky. Let His love cover you. You are the beloved of God. Rest in that....

Sarah Bragg

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Greener Grass

I love the banner on this blog. When I open the link, I'm greeted by happy green grass and perky little lady bugs. It's so cheerful, I'm already smiling before I read anything, and then after I read I'm either smiling bigger or thinking about something important or praying for someone. All good things.

But the idea of "greener grass" usually isn't a happy one. Most of the time it represents envy and the way other people's stuff always looks better than our own. Seems like one of the hardest things is to simply accept ourselves. I don't mean making excuses for bad habits or secret sins, but I mean being content with who God made us to be.

Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit because they wanted something that wasn't meant to be theirs, and human beings have been following in their grabby footsteps ever since. Sometimes it's just possessions. Clothes. Shoes. Cars. Purses. Sometimes it's abilities. Athleticism. Artistic talent. Musicality. Intelligence. Sometimes it's looks. Height. Weight. Hair. Eyes. Teeth. No matter how many amazing blessings we have, our nature is to want someone else's.

It's not a happy place to live, but the good news is we can pack up and move on.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Then Christmas. Have you already started making a list of what you want? I'd like to suggest a couple of different lists this year. First, a "What I'm Thankful For" list, and second, a "What Can I Give?" list. Instead of thinking about what we want, let's think about what we have. Maybe we should encourage our families to do the same thing, and everyone could share their lists at Thanksgiving dinner. Then let's think about what we can give--whether it's something physical like a coat for a homeless person, or some act of service like baking Christmas cookies for nursing home residents.

I'm going to make a prediction. If we keep our focus on others this holiday season, we'll begin to notice just how green the grass around us really is. And I also believe we'll feel as cheerful as I feel every time I stop by this blog.

I don't know about you, but this year I'm dreaming of a green Christmas!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

HIM vs. him

Let’s face it girls, at a certain point in your life, if you’re not already there, one of the main reasons you will draw breath is to gaze lovingly at the boys. The guys. The dudes. (I personally reserve that special gaze for chocolate and Frappachinos, but I digress.)

As daughters of God, we are called to love him first. We are also taught to love ourselves and walk in righteousness (and no, no matter how hard you try, you cannot accomplish that with any portion of your underwear showing.).

Isa 61:10-11- I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

When your eyes cross and you fall under that spell called “Boys,” it’s time for a checklist.

Rule Number One: Listen to God. Is he directing all your steps or are you? (Or worse, is Mr. Potential Prince Charming?). Don’t date anyone without consulting God. He’s like the ultimate matchmaker. eHarmony has nothing on the Lord! And as hard as it may be, if God says no, then stay away. You’re just asking for heartache.

Rule Number Two: Set boundaries. Let’s say you are with Boy Wonderful. Decide from the beginning where your line in the sand is—the point that you will NOT cross. And then get some accountability with some friends, people who will check in with you and hold you to your commitment to purity. Girls, our lives shouldn't resemble the O.C.

Rule Number Three: Get some God confidence. There is no one prouder of you than your Heavenly Father. There is no one more interested in your success than Him. Walk tall and confident in that. And F.Y.I., confidence is hawwwt. It attracts people—maybe even that cute boy in Algebra. I teach in a high school, and if I see one more uber-short denim skirt, I’m gonna puke. Is that really necessary? Yes, cool clothes are important to us. But your confidence shouldn’t be wrapped up in skin revealing outfits, makeup, and famous label jeans. God wants you to be about holy substance.

Rule Number Four: Listen to your friends and family. If they say Mr. Boyfriend or Mr. Crush is bad news, then he probably is. And if he’s on a downward spiral, he’s only gonna bring you down with him. I offer up exhibit A:

Repeat after me: I cannot change him. I cannot fix him. I deserve more.

Finally...Rule Number Five: If he’s a bad rapper, run away. Run far, far away.

This week, make sure you are wrapped in His robe of righteousness. It's even hotter than those tiny denim skirts.

Have great weekend.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

No blog words necessary.

See if you feel what I felt.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Girl time

I had a date with a girlfriend today. No, there is nothing kinky between us, but I maintain that it is necessary to have some time with a person of the same sex to hone our perceptions of things.
First I had a dressing change for my wound that resulted from the infected incision for the hysterectomy. Believe me, this is not pleasant.
So it was wonderful to have my friend call me three times while the procedure was taking place. *very big grin*
First she called to have me remind her where the restaurant where we were getting Chinese take-out was located. Then she called me to ask me what kind of soup I want. (I got egg-drop.) Last she called me for directions to my house because she had never come from that direction before.
Each time she called, I heard behind the mundane need for information, the cheerful anticipation of some time together.
The home nurse left after doing her magic on my big owie. Then my friend arrived. We ate Chinese. I had ordered chicken and she ordered beef, so we shared and had more than enough and a variety.
I thought about our afternoon and the kind of communication we have. We are both Christians, so when we talk, we mull over problems we are having and what we've seen God do recently.
Later in the day, I was doing some simple things around the house and prayed as I went along. Suddenly it struck me how similar my conversation with God was to my chat with my friend. Oh how comfortble it is to discuss things with God when you do it on a regular basis--mixed in with whatever you are doing. I do pray at times in the stop everything and concentrate manner. But my talks with God are just like my talks with my friend. Even the three phone calls interrupting an unpleasant situation. Man, it is good to have God.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

When Great Men Fall

It's been a tough week in the Christian world. A respected man has fallen. Worse, the eye of the world is upon him and his family, and also upon Christianity as a whole.

You may have questions when something like this happens. How should I react? Are all Christians hypocrites? Why did this happen?

I don't have all the answers, but I cried the day I read that press release. I was sad on a number of levels. I was sad for his church of 14,000. Sometimes when a leader fails, new believers become disillusioned. I was sad for his family. He is married and has five beautiful children. Their lives have changed overnight. I was sad for our faith, because there are many who see this as a huge opportunity to say that all Christians are fake.

But most of all I was sad for him. You see, no matter how much the spotlight is upon you, there needs to be a place where you can go to share the truth. I'm struggling. I don't know where to turn. If I talk about this, I might lose everything.

Because we all sin. People often see sin as on different levels -- as if there's small sins and big sins -- and yet that's not truth, according to scripture. Christ and his death upon the cross covered every sin.

If you struggle in secret, you miss the opportunity to find support and strength, and satan tries to isolate you, and that's a very difficult place to be -- in church and living a secret life and feel that you can't tell anyone.

So, what can you and I do during this difficult time? We can pray. We can learn from it. We can be real with others when something is trying to trip us up in our personal life.

We can also put away our pointing finger when people admit their struggles, and pull out the scriptures that promise that God is:

  1. a healer
  2. a restorer
  3. faithful
  4. a forgiver

and believe with them as they find restoration and healing.

That's what I'm asking God for. . .

My two cents,

Suzie Eller
Real Teens, Real Stories, Real Life
Making It Real - Whose Faith Is it Anyway? (January, '07)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Naked Barbies

Without a doubt weight has been on of THE biggest struggles in my life. I journal every morning, and I can pick up anyone of them and find dozens of prayers, asking God to help me with this problem.

Photos through the years document my struggle. Up. Down. UP.

Most of all, there is this inner desire for PERFECTION. To be perfect. To look perfect.

I’m not alone. This is what my friend, Lucinda Secrest McDowell had to say in Spa for the Soul, "When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time with a naked woman--my Barbie doll ... I guess in many ways Barbie was my first introduction to glamour and fashion and what a grown-up gal should look like ... Yet, if a Barbie doll were a real person, she would be seven feet two with a forty-inch bust, a twenty-two-inch waist, and thirty-six-inch hips. Her neck is twice the length of a normal human's neck.

An average woman is five feet four with a thirty-seven-inch bust, a twenty-nine inch waist, and forty-inch hips. She wears a size 12. In fact 60 percent of American woman wear a size 12 or larger! So there aren't that many real-life Barbies walking around today. Marie Claire magazine reveal these facts in addition to the announcement, "There are 3 billion women who DON'T look like supermomdels and only 8 who DO!"

So what do we do?

Pinpoint the problem. Paula Rinehart, author of Sex and the Soul of a Woman, said: “Women's lives are being shaped by a culture with a sexuality gone mad."

I’ll add this on: Women’s SHAPES are also being transformed by a culture with a sexuality gone mad.

Has your perspective of your body weight been distorted by the media? (It probably has, in some way.)

Here are: “The Average American Woman Dieting & Weight Statistics

The average American woman is 5'4" tall and weighs 140 pounds.

The average American model is 5'11" tall and weighs 117 pounds.

Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women.

Four out of five American women say they're dissatisfied with the way they look.

On any given day, almost half of the women in the United States are on a diet.

Dieting is out of control in the United States...

Almost half of American children between first and third grades say they want to be thinner.

Four out of five ten-year-old children are afraid of being fat.

On any given day, one in four men are on a diet.

Half of our nine and ten-year-old girls say that being on a diet makes them feel better about themselves.

More than one out of three "normal dieters" progress to pathological dieting. One fourth of those will suffer from partial or full syndrome eating disorders.

Americans spend over forty billion dollars a year on dieting and diet related products.

Between five and ten million women and girls in the United States struggle with eating disorders and borderline conditions.

What can we do? Stop comparing.

As God's creations, we all know we are unique and precious to God. Yet why do we struggle with comparing our lives, our grades, our talents (or lack of talents), our bodies with others?

Men may check out women’s bodies, but women do too. Because we want to know how we measure up!

We all do it. We compare. Where we are weak, we see others’ strengths. Why? We lack understanding.

2 Corinthians 10:12 says: “For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding.”

We need to pray for understanding. To see our bodies in light of eternity and our place in God’s creation.

We need to remember that statement that there are 3 billion women who DON'T look like supermodels and only 8 that do.

We need to remember we are beautifully designed by God.

Now, that's something I SHOULD be journaling about. How about you?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Deleting the Junk Mail

“Hey, Larry, check out this watch!”

A message with this subject line appeared in my e-mail several times a week for about a month. One problem, my name isn’t Larry. Sometimes the message arrived addressed to another name.

“Hey, Brad, check out this watch.”
“Hey, Lisa . . .”
“Hey, Tiffany . . . “

The closest the sender ever came was “Hey, Georgette” (at least he/she got the last four letters of the name correct). But the thing is, even if the message arrived with, “Hey, Jeanette, check out this watch,” I wouldn’t open it. It bares all the tattletale signs of spam—I don’t recognize the sender’s name, it appears in the folder notorious for virus-infected junk, and the subject line screams “scam alert!” So I delete without opening.

The last time that I deleted one of these e-mails, I wondered why I couldn’t do the same with other junk “messages,” such as the thoughts that clutter the inbox of my mind sometimes.

Here’s an example, one that I feel silly even writing about it now. I can’t drive due to low vision, so I often need to call on friends for rides to the store, doctor appointments, and church activities. A couple of weeks ago, I woke up in a panic because I’d forgotten to buy an important item at the store. I needed it THAT DAY! I called my friend Jane but got her answering machine. As soon as I hung up, it started—the “You’re a burden on your friends” thoughts. Insecurity set in and twisted its knife as I tried my friend Susan.

“I’ll take you to Wal-Mart,” Susan said. “When can you be ready?”

I shouldn’t put Susan out. She’s getting over a cold. How could I be so insensitive? How could I have forgotten to buy everything I needed in the first place? How irresponsible! Those ridiculous thoughts nearly drowned my gratitude for my friend’s help.

Later that day, I recognized my thoughts as the junk that they were. I mean, come on! Jane and Susan know that I can’t drive. Both have said repeatedly, “Call if you need a ride somewhere.” They also know that I’m not the type to ask for favors that aren’t important. I know in my heart of hearts that neither of them sees me as a burden. Delete!

My system nearly crashed due to mental spam last week, to the point where I hit the weekend in an emotional tizzy of discouragement and tears. On Sunday morning, after talking to a precious sister in Christ, I recognized that, once again, I’d opened too many junk messages. Why I bought into their lies and deception, I’m not sure. But it had to stop because I’d contracted a virus that was destroying my attitude, sense of self-worth, and most of all my joy.

So my prayer for this week is that I’ll recognize mental junk mail and refuse to open it. I plan to ask myself the following questions when filtering thoughts. Maybe you will benefit from them too.

1) Do I know and trust the sender? In other words, is this message from God? Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” So, for example, since a message like “You’re a burden on you’re friends” isn’t very loving, I can assume that it didn’t come from my Heavenly Father. Knowing how nice my friends are, I can safely say that they wouldn’t send such a message either. Delete!

2) What does the subject line tell me about the possible content? If the theme of a thought contains negative comments about me as a person, my relationship with people that I know love me, mistakes from the past, or the work that God has done in my life (such as, “You haven’t changed all that much” or “You will always struggle with this.”) then why read on? Delete!

So far I’ve done pretty well. Yesterday I deleted several including one calling this blog post “lame and pathetic” (Can you believe that? How rude!). Weight lifted with each mental dump. Now all I need to do is keep it up.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me . . . “ (Psalm 139:23-24) including those things that are offensive to my well-bring.

Father, erase the thoughts that harm my mind and spirit. Guard my heart against lies that strip me of my joy, my ability to enjoy friendships, and most importantly, my focus on You.

I pray the same for you today.

May your thoughts be pure and lovely!


Sunday, November 05, 2006


I had an amazing opportunity last Friday to share my testimony. The 700 Club came to my house and taped an interview with me to put on their show! It all came from an article I wrote for them a few weeks ago called Confessions of a Teenage Witch. It looks like it will air on Thanksgiving Day so check the listings for the 700 club in your area to catch it.

It's made me think about that time in my life a whole lot more than I normally do. Flipping through old pictures, remembering what life was like, was hard in some ways. But it also made me very, very thankful. I was in the bottom of a deep dark pit with no way to get out and God reached down and plucked me from the darkness. He didn't have to save me. He didn't have to be so gracious. But He was. And I'm so glad. My life could have gone in a hundred different directions but it went this way because He made Himself known to me.

God is after every one of us but because He comes after us all in different ways, we sometimes can forget to notice. I once heard God described as the perfect gentlemen, one that waits to be invited in. And while that's true in some ways, we can forget that God is in love with us. When you are in love with someone you don't just sit at home and wait for your love to show up. We pursue people we love, and God pursues us, we just have to be willing to see it.

I didn't recognize God's pursuit of me for many years but when I look back, I see all sorts of people that He sent my way to demonstrate His love. Circumstances and people who urged me to try something different than what I had always done. They pointed me to God long before I ever realized the valuable treasure they were urging me to find.

So look around carefully. Keep your eyes open.

God is pursuing you.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Hip-Hop That Values Girls

We listen to hip-hop in the car, and while I enjoy the clever rhymes and sing along with some of the songs, I definitely don't like it when rappers describe a girl as a bunch of shaking body parts. That's why I was so glad to hear a hit song by Lyfe Jennings called S.E.X. (catchy title, eh?). Check out the lyrics to the third verse, when a female singer joins Jennings in a plea for girls to stay pure:

[Verse 3]
Eh yo Lyfe, she may take it better coming from a woman (Give it to her)
See he’ll tell you all kind of things to get in your pants, yeah
Baby it’s a fact, that once it’s gone you’ll never get it back (never get it back)
Hold on, to your innocence
Use your common sense
You’re worth waiting for (You’re worth waiting for)
Be strong
Honey don’t give in
Blessing come with patience
Until we meet again, I’m praying, for you

"...It's not like people are coming up to me like, 'I love the song because of the melody,'" said Jennings. "They come up to me and say, 'That song made me want to keep my virginity.'... And I think that's the greatest thing, to have a person who can love the melody but also love the message." You go, Lyfe ... you're heading in the right direction.

Friday, November 03, 2006

How Much Does a Father-Figure Figure?

A.W. Tozar said, “The most important thing about you is what that person thinks about when they think about God.”

If you have the wrong picture/concept of God, then you will spend your whole life responding to God in the wrong way.

People’s Pictures of God:
Faceless, nameless force—a thing, a mysterious force, distant
“On Star” God—means God is your GPS satellite technology
Grandpa God—he’s old, but there is you need him; gives you candy
Score Keeper God—He’s keeping score of your right and wrong actions
Stain Glass God—he lives at the church
Average Joe God—just like us, the man upstairs
Ebay God—Go to get stuff that you can’t get stuff anywhere else & where you get rid of stuff
The No God—I don’t believe in God
PC God—politically correct, non absolute, non offensive

How do you know what God is like?

Jesus taught us that though God is eternal, powerful, creator, and that He is our FATHER. We are the children of God. 1 John 3:1-2 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Do you see it? Are you tuned into the fact that God has poured out an amazing amount of love on you? Lavished means a lot of it!!! This is a big, big deal! We need to know Him as a perfect Father.

The desire of probably every kid is to have a blessing from their dad. In many cases, hearing that God is a father is not that great of news. If you have the wrong picture/concept of God, then you will spend your whole life responding to God in the wrong way. Sometimes we judge God by our earthly father. Maybe your father left you. Maybe you were victimized by your father. Maybe your father doesn’t notice you. How do you picture your heavenly Father? If you don’t know His character, you’ll judge Him by your circumstances. Get to know your heavenly Father....You are loved by a perfect heavenly Father.

Sarah Bragg