Friday, March 31, 2006

Yellow, Yellow

Sunshine, I expected. Joy, happiness, and energy are no-brainers. But did you know that yellow also is associated with intellect.
Yellow is known to warm a room. It stimulates cheerfulness and promotes muscle energy. But it also generates mental activity.
Too much yellow disturbs the psyche. Babies cry more when surrounded by brilliant yellows. Yellow against black causes babies to perk up and focus. That color combination is also used for warning signs.
It is amazing to me that God engineered light to give us colors. A rainbow stirs my soul and puts me in awe of the great Creator.
As is true of so many things, what we observe is only the surface. God is intricate, and His creation reflects that. Yet He made our salvation simple. Just believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and accept His work on the cross to cover our sins. This simple truth opens the door to so many not so obvious things like joy, Heaven, comfort, eternal life, and . . . well, you get the idea.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Assimilation vs. Isolation vs. . . .


I wish that all the Christian T-shirts, billboards, rubber armbands, and bumper stickers could be tossed in one big heap.

But it's my witness!

Maybe so, but I don't believe that that our outerwear does much for the seeker. In fact, the worn T-shirt that we toss on because it's comfy and our favorite color might just be the wrong message when it doesn't match the lifestyle of the wearer.

But how do you let others know that you are a person of faith?

This was our conversation last week at the Boom-R-Ang Diner in Muskogee, Oklahoma. I'm the discipleship leader of a college ministry and once a week we hang out at the diner to talk about faith. It's really a very cool environment. 70's music in the background. The smell of pancakes and syrup and hamburgers. A waitress who knows us by name and likes to hang out and listen to the conversation.

Our topic was assimilation vs. isolation vs. how to live your faith in a way that makes sense in the world.

It's a tricky balance in this culture. People seem to view Christianity with less clarity. They don't get the message of hope, or understand why we believe the way we do.

Take what happened in SanFrancisco this past weekend. I wrote about it in my Real Teen Faith blog. 25,000 teens showed up to listen to musical artists and worship together and hundreds of protesters showed up, holding up signs and calling them names, really awful names. The assemblyman of that district called Ron Luce and his conference, BattleCry, a hate group. This confrontation hit all the airwaves and media outlets in 24 hours.

It was something that Ron Luce didn't see coming. No amount of armbands and T-shirts could overcome that perception.

So, what is a follower of Christ to do?

Back to my discussion at the Boom-R-Ang Diner.

Maybe we should just blend in, you know? Not make a fuss. Stop talking about issues.

I was taught to stay apart, you know isolate ourselves, from people who don't believe the way I do.

But how can you tell people about God if you do that? That doesn't make sense.

We danced around this issue for a while, and then looked to our ultimate partner for the answers. What did the Bible have to say?

As we studied the life of ordinary men and women who called themselves followers of Christ, we saw that they didn't blend in. In fact, when they shared their truth, they often faced persecution. Sometimes they were misunderstood. But often, their lives and dedication to their faith and reliance on something greater than a set of rules, won over those who had questions.

We can't isolate because our greatest example didn't. He made friends. He went where the need was, and then showed them the Father. These people walked out of their old lifestyle and followed in the footsteps of the Rabbi because they saw something worth following.

We can't blend in because truth doesn't often hide in the murky waters. It tends to stand out. Besides there are a lot of people who are asking questions.

But we can speak that truth with grace, something that Ron Luce and others of his organization did when the protesters showed up. They didn't change their program. They worshiped God. They encouraged 25,000 teens. They spoke the truth, but with grace. And with an extraordinary love that didn't make sense in light of the circumstances.

I guess that's the answer.

We can't assimilate and we don't dare isolate, but can live in our everyday world and exhibit a message that goes a 1,000 miles deeper than a WWJD bracelet.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sudoku


Anyone out there a big Sudoku fan? I've always loved working crossword puzzles or any kind of word game, especially if the clues are tricky and make you think in creative ways. But lately I've also become enamored with Sudoku. The name is a Japanese word combining "number" and "single." Its origin stems from an 18th century game by a Swiss Mathematician. Some newspapers print a daily puzzle, but if yours doesn't you can work one online.

I like Sudoku because it wakes up the analytical part of my brain. The puzzles are ranked for difficulty by stars. Only one or two stars means most choices will be logical if you scan the numbers already provided. The harder ones require thinking ahead by several moves--carrying the consequences of one choice to later conclusions to see if a number will cause a conflict down the road. You have to literally "think outside the box."

Isn't life a lot like that? Some choices are obvious. If I do this, then that will happen. Others require more analysis. If we don't want to hit a dead end down the road, we have to take a different course. If we make the bad choice anyway, we wind up having to backtrack and try to "erase" all the other problems our original choice caused.

Next time you're faced with a dilemma and aren't sure what choice to make, pray for wisdom and ask yourself what the logical consequences will be. Maybe the better choice will be to go home and play a game of Sudoku! :)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Mission Minded


My church has been talking about missions a lot lately. We've got various teams roaming to various parts of the globe to serve others and share a little bit of Jesus with them. Recently, a family from our church with kids ranging in age from 13 to 2 left to serve in Turkey for...well, they may stay there permanently.

I'm of the opinion that a mission field doesn't have to be overseas or foreign - a mission field is wherever you are. A teen I know lives with a grandmother who is less than kind. Being nice to her and loving her daily - well, that's a mission field too.

But still, I also think all believers should go on a mission trip at some point in their lives. You don't have to move to Turkey, just join a trip with your church. Take a risk and step out there. It can change your life.

I went to Haiti when I was in college. Years later, there is something I learned that has stuck with me all these years - their joy was unmistakable, their faith unshakeable, even when they had next to nothing. We all know we live in a material culture but we don't really know it until we go to another culture and get a look at ourselves from another perspective. Saying we love the world, and actually loving it can be two different things. When we went we ran a Bible School, painted and built benches and ran a medical clinic. We ate raw sugar cane and played with hundreds of little kids in the courtyard of the church every day. And we visited an orphanage where every child was dying of AIDS - where the picture above was taken. It's an experience I have treasured for many years.

I've got my eye on Romania now - and I know that one day my time will come to go there.

Sometimes we feel "called" to a certain place, but there is also a time to just go. Go and be Jesus' hands and feet. I'm going to be running a new contest on my website soon - an essay contest about missions. I'll announce it when the details are available but for now I ask this - Where do you have the chance to go? Are you willing to give missions a try? I'd love to hear from those that have been on missions trips and those that want to go. It's an experience that can change your life and mark you in unexpected ways. I know - I've done it. And many of you have too. How has God marked your heart?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Teenager To The Rescue

After squinting at the ancient television in my parents' bedroom and realizing I couldn't determine either the race or gender of anybody on the screen, I took my father out to buy a new one last weekend (that's us in the photo). He was following me to take a closer look at an LCD flat-screen model when I heard a shout and a crash.

Turning, I caught sight of something I'd hoped never to see in my life: my almost-eighty-year-old father face down on the floor. Thankfully, it wasn't a heart attack or stroke; he'd tripped over an empty stand jutting out into the passageway, and broken the impact of his own fall with an arm. But he was bleeding, he was sore, and he was scared.

I sat on the floor, helped him turn over, and cradled his head in my lap. People were gathering, and my self-reliant father wanted to stand up. He's a big man, though, and I couldn't get him to his feet on my own.

That's when I heard a man in the store calling to his son: "Joe! Come and help!"

Immediately, the teenager turned away from the XBox he was admiring and raced to obey. Together, the three of us hoisted my father up. As the boy's father ran for a cup of water and I pulled over a chair, I heard the boy murmuring to my father: "It's okay, lean on me, I've got you, I'm right here."

Later, once my father was safely home, I found myself giving thanks for the oft-maligned "9/11/Tsumani/Katrina" generation. Growing up in the shadow of disasters can generate the kind of compassion I saw last weekend, when a teenager had the presence of mind not just to give physical help but to provide the encouragement an older man desperately needed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Life in the Real OC

Although I have never watched a single episode of either The OC or Laguna Beach, I do happen to live in the real “OC” in a city just a few miles south of Laguna Beach. I could be at Laguna Beach in less than ten minutes if I wanted to.

Just this last week I read an article in USA Today expressing the opinions of some of my disgruntled neighbors who claim shows like this are giving our community a bad name. Judging by what they are saying about the shows, they portray everyone in Orange County as being rich, gorgeous and completely self absorbed.

According to the Orange County Register the typical OC resident:

• is well educated
•enjoys where he/she lives
•likes his/her job
•values health and fitness and make them priorities
•is skeptical of organized religion
•tends to like contemporary music
•enjoys designer coffee
•lacks meaningful relationships
•is self-satisfied and is proud of the status he/she has achieved in life
•prefers the casual and informal
•has high expectations
• is over-extended in both time and money

So let’s break this down a bit.

Rich: it seems to me that most people in Orange County live completely financed lives. They drive cars that aren’t paid for, the live in houses they will probably never pay off, and most of their extravagant purchases are put on credit cards with high credit limits and ridiculously high interest rates. So by comparing what they owe to what they actually own, most people in the OC really aren’t rich. Even those who make a lot of money still seem to spend an average of ten percent more than they make. And considering those surveyed said they lack meaningful relationships in life, this takes the wealth factor down another notch. Not only are my neighbors not rich in money, they also aren’t rich in relationships.

Gorgeous: Now, it is actually true that there seems to be a day spa on almost every corner. People here tend to pamper themselves more than people anywhere else I have ever been. Most of the women (myself included) color their hair and get their nails done. And designer clothes really aren’t in short supply (although in my closet they definitely are). But being that most of my neighbors polled are skeptical of organized religion, and therefore do not have personal relationships with Jesus Christ, there is an inner beauty that is missing. Taking that point a step further, the Register proclaimed Orange County the least generous county in all of the United States. Considering it is also probably one of the wealthiest (based on income levels and the amount of credit available to its residents), I think that really makes a statement about the hearts of the people who live here. (Now granted, my pastor recently shared a story about how people at our church tithe so abundantly that our church brought in one million dollars more than they needed to run the church for this whole next year. So now we are able to do more outreach stuff. So obviously the statistic doesn’t include everyone.) As far as being gorgeous goes, some of these people may look like they are made of plastic, but since they are hollow inside it really doesn’t matter.

Self-Absorbed: I think we covered this point in the gorgeous section.

So there you have it. The materialistic wonderland that Hollywood has created does in fact exist, but it really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Orange County is, in fact, a very beautiful (and expensive) place to live. But many of its residents don’t have it all because they don’t have Christ. And in the end, He really is everything.
What about where you live? If you had to make a list about the average resident of your city or town, how would it define your friends and neighbors—and maybe even you?

If you don't have anything nice to say...

I grew up in a family where everyone said whatever they thought – whenever they thought it. I recently wrote a story about an incident in my life. I got an e-mail that it’s going to be published in a book about Verbal Abuse. That was the first time that I’ve ever attached the words “Verbal Abuse” to my life.

If anyone has studied Thumper-omics 101, they would know “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In Colossians 4:6, the Bible says Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

This was a reminder to me, to make sure I never use words to hurt others.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Open Arms

I've been thinking a lot about China lately. Okay, not about the country so much, but about a special girl in it. I don't know how old she is. I have no idea what she looks like, but there's a girl that a year from now will be mine.

James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

My grandma, a widow, moved in with us last February (05). Hopefully by next February (07), we'll have an orphan too! Only she we no longer be an orphan. After the adoption is complete, this baby girl will have a mom, dad, sister and two brothers who love her very much.

I've been thinking about my own adoption too, into God's family. Ephesians 1:5 says, "His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave Him great pleasure."

Before I even could comprehend my place in this world, God longed for me to be His. Then He paid the price to make that necessary.

Sure, we have to come up with $20,000--which is quite a feat. But God paid through the blood of His Son, giving me a position alongside Christ as a rightful heir. How cool is that?!

How about you? Have you taken time to think about your adoption into God's family? As someone who is happy to be one of God's kids, I can say that I'm forever thankful the price was paid for me.

Monday, March 20, 2006

moms just need to know


So, I hung out with about 6,000 moms this weekend. . .

Cool, huh?

I taught a workshop called Home Sweet Home, chatting with moms about the things you say makes home a safe place.

These moms were there because they cared. They wanted to get the scoop on how to connect with you, how to talk about things that mattered, and how to let you know how much you mean to them.

I listened to stories all day long. Some moms cried. Some moms bragged on their teens. Others listened quietly and I could see the pain, knowing when the room cleared they'd share their concerns, their fears.

Being a mom is a hard job. I guess that's why they honor them with a whole day once a year.

Just doesn't seem like a lot when you consider what these women do, or hope to do, in your life.

Maybe we should have a mom's day once a month or on a quarterly basis.

Or maybe it's good just to let them know every once in a while how amazing we think they are.

They need to hear it -- honest. If you think they just ought to know it, hmm. . . Think again. Most of the time moms work really hard and don't get to hear the "thank you" or "I love you" that comes with all that they do.

An unexpected hug is like receiving candy and hearts and flowers all on the same day.

So, step away from the computer and find your mom -- or the person who loves you like a mom -- and give them a hug for no reason. If she faints, she'll come around sooner or later. If she asks you why, just tell her it's because she's your mom and you love her. Even if she doesn't respond, I promise it means something very special.

Mom just need to know. . . you know?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Orange

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Banana.
Banana who?
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Banana.

Banana who?
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Orange
Orange who?
Oran geh glad I'm not a banana?

Orange's other claim to fame (besides being part of one of the oldest knock-knock jokes) is that there is no word in the English language that rhymes with it.

I'm still mulling over the information I got on a website that gave meanings to colors.
Orange is a warm color. Walls painted orange tinged with brown can make a person hungry, and conversely, reduce tension. Maybe its when you eat chocolate because of the toasty orange wall, your tension expires in a slow comfortable death.
However, as orange moves away from the autumn tinge to the bright circus orange, it can infuse people with energy. Too bright and it leads to anxiety.
I know some orange people. People who have normal skin tones, but exude orange personalities. When they are in a mellow mode, we dine together. I relax and I thank God for the friendship of these wonderful people.
Sometimes, however, these same friends kick up the orange juice running through their veins and start double-pumping life. It's fun to go along for the ride for a little while. But I am not an orange person, and I'm soon tired, trying to keep up. I get anxious about how long I'm expected to run alongside, or what the consequences of so much unbridled activity might be. So I take a break.
And I thank God for the friendship of these wonderful people. I also thank God that neither He nor these friends expect me to have an orange personality.
I appreciate who they are in the rainbow scheme of dispositions and feel free to be where I am in the spectrum.

Thank you, God.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Gardening is my "God" time.

I mean I try to make Christ the center of all I do. I think of Him-- or at least attemp to-- in everything that I do, but feeling my knees against the cool, moist dirt, the wind kissing my brow, and the sun warming the back of my neck, well, that brings me the closest to God. Something about having the essence of life-- the soil that God created-- between my fingers just fills my soul in a more personal way than any worship service ever could. That's my time to talk to Him-- not a forced prayer when I need something, but really talk to Him. Something about holding a little seedling in my hands makes it easier to hear what He says in return. There is probably few moments in my day that is more precious to me than those moments with my Creator.

I planted all of six pansies today. Had to replant four of them after the three-year-old tried to help. I also watched her mutilate two tulips, but I smile now at how well they light up my desk here. The bulbs will grow new plants for me to tend to next year. I am just thankful that she will still be here to tear them apart then if she so choses. I stood at my front door, sobbing, sure my heart would never heal two years ago as I watched her birth grandmother's car pull from my drive. She was MY baby. I may not have given birth to her, but I was the only mommy she ever knew. There she was, nine months old, strapped in the back seat of someone's car she didn't really know, leaving forever. I was so mad at God. I didn't think I could ever talk to him again. I didn't want to.

Two years later, she's back. Forever this time. We're waiting to celebrate that big Gotcha Day, the day she and her two sisters legally become Huffs. That little girl is one tough little cookie. She's seen things and endured things that no one should ever experience. I could be mad at God all over again for that. But I can't. For all her issues, she loves her Jesus with all her heart and soul. She reminds me every day that God is talking to me all the time, not just when I am gardening.

At this rate, I might have these two flats of pansies planted by the time that the mums start to bloom...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What's it worth?

We decided to refinance our house this year and today was the day of the appraisal. The guy came over and walked around our house, took pictures, measured things and looked carefully over every room. Without saying a word you could see the calculations going on in his mind. Counting bedrooms, counting bathrooms, asking questions about the heat and our apparently non-exisistent sump pump (I don't even really know what that is.) All of it to figure out what my house was worth.

It was all a little odd. Being a woman, my home is my domain and it reflects a part of who I am. So when someone comes through in order to put a price tag on my home, well, it kind of feels a little bit like they're putting a price tag on me. I was weighed and measured and found lacking a sump pump.

Seriously though, aren't you glad that God doesn't measure us that way? Knocking on our door with a clipboard in hand?

How many missions trips have you been on?
How many hours do you serve in the church each week?
How many times did you pray?
How many pages in your Bible did you read this year?

God doesn't calculate our value based on what we've done or haven't done. Our value doesn't skyrocket when we do good things, or plummet when we fall into sin.

God made the calculation of our worth a long time ago. He looked us over, measured us, and found us valuable enough to send His Son to die for us. We are a valuable, prized possession and nothing can take that away. So the next time you feel like someone's looking you over and measuring your worth, just remember that God already did that, and He has declared you a treasure. And His opinion - well, it's the only one that really counts anyway.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Dirt About Mom and Dad

Adults know that we should talk to teens about the dangers of substance abuse, porn, eating disorders, promiscuity. But a slimy voice inside our heads asks, "What right do you have to preach? Remember what you did when you were that age?"

Many parents avoid certain subjects of conversation because we're so ashamed. What if our kids asked, "What about you, Mom? Did you ever get drunk in high school?" or "Hey, Dad, did you have sex before you were married?" Here's my question: can parents tell you the truth about their mistakes without tempting you to follow in their footsteps? Do you really want to know the whole messy truth about our teen years?

Some people think that teens need heroes to look up to. They counsel that withholding the truth is not the same as lying. Others recommend that parents leave the door slightly more open for self-disclosure, pointing out that confessing our mistakes, past and present, may encourage our teen to tell the truth about her own struggles.

Would finding out about the mistakes your parents made as teens be helpful to you? Would it bring you closer, and make it easier for you to confess your own shame or pain? Or would it be too much information?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Man in Black

This weekend my husband, Michael, and I rented "Walk the Line" (the movie about the life of Johnny Cash). We happen to like some of Mr. Cash's music ("Ring of Fire," anyone?) and we enjoyed the movie--although there were a few colorful words and some references to drug, sex and alcohol we could have done without.

But after the movie one thing stood out to us more than anything else: the movie failed to mention Johnny Cash's renewed faith in Jesus Christ in the later years of his life. That's Hollywood for you--they will tell all about a man's bouts with drugs, sex and booze but they won't mention the name of Jesus. Why do you think that is?

I don't know about you, but I want to live my life in such a way that if anyone wanted to make a movie about me they couldn't do so without mentioning the name of Jesus.

What about you? If your life were a movie how would your story be told?

~Shannon
www.beingagirlbooks.com

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Seeing Red

I ran across a site the other day that had the listings of what different cultures thought about colors. Red in the Western Culture denotes courage and love. But the Chinese use red for their bridal gowns and Americans use white. I thought that was interesting that in the short paragraph they chose to make that clear. Were they saying that perhaps brides should wear red because it denotes courage and love?
Then, the idea hit me as not being so strange after all. It does take courage to vow to stand by someone for life. It does take courage to open that emotional part of you that is so vulnerable, you could easily be crushed if the other person chooses to stomp heavily on you. And it does take courage to look at yourself and realize you have selfish parts that will have to be controlled in order to make a good marriage. None of us are perfect, right. Yet the one we love deserves the best we can give.
Red might not be such a bad idea.
Oh, and there's love. You have to love someone to accept him, or her, warts and all.
I'm really getting into this red wedding dress image.
And then my mind does one of those quantum leaps that lands me in my spiritual realm. I'm flabbergasted. I realize that many people don't have the courage to become Christians because they don't trust themselves to stand by God for the rest of their lives. (Someone needs to explain that God doesn't expect you to be perfect in this new relationship. That's His job.) They don't have the courage to reveal the sore parts of their hearts. (Someone needs to explain God is in the habit of healing, not hurting.) And some don't have the courage to look at their own wretchedness and be willing to try to bring those things that displease God under control. (Someone needs to tell them God helps in these areas. He doesn't sit back and sneer at our sin.)
And there's love. The more He loves us, warts and all, the more we love HIM for accepting us.

Red stands for courage and love. Muse on that and see what you come up with.

Fortune Cookies


I love Chinese food, I even like opening the fortune cookies and laughing at the predictions. Once I opened a cookie that said, “You’ll be receiving a gift.” That day, someone gave me a car. God generally speaks to me through the scriptures. Did He use a fortune cookie to speak to me? Yes. He can do what ever he wants – He’s God.

It’s funny that Fortune cookies are more American than Chinese. Most of them are manufactured in Queens, New York. People are paid to write the fortunes, which are always positive and encouraging. They aren’t prophets, just people who get paid to write little sayings like, Something Wonderful Is About To Happen To You!

Jeremiah was a prophet. In the book of Jeremiah (29:11) it says For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

I didn't find that in a cookie, but in the Word of God!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Disney Me!


Last week my family had a six days full of fun at the Disney Parks in Florida. For us, vacation doesn't mean relaxing on the beach. How boring! Instead we roamed the magical parks from sun up to sun down, zooming on rides, attending shows, eating tons of junk food, and paying little heed to our sore, aching feet.

One day, at MGM studios we stopped by at a small exhibit highlighting Walt Disney himself. There were no lines waiting to enter. No flashy lights or huge costumed animals to draw our attention. Yet as I read the history of the man behind the mouse (Mickey, that is), the thought struck me that one man's dreams started something far bigger and greater than he ever imagined.

This morning, during my Bible reading, I thought about Walt again as I came upon Ephesians 3:20-21. Walt had no idea of the HUGE enterprise that would grow out of his small venture. Likewise, you and I have NO clue know what God has in store for us and our dreams. Yet in God's Word it says, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

What are your dreams? Where do you feel God is leading you? We many never have theme parks named after us, but we can be sure of one thing . . . God, according to His power at work in us, can do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine. Seek Him. Love Him. And ask Him to help you to seek and love more each day.

I've made a point to do this in my own life, and let me tell you--seeing God work is more thrilling than Space Mountain and Splash Mountain rolled into one. WAY more!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Let it rain


In the past three months I've watched over six wildfires destroy thousands of acres. One night at 2 a.m. my husband were driving home and stopped to wake a family up when we saw a mile-long fire from the turnpike. It surrounded this sleeping family. The home next to them (thankfully empty that night) was consumed by fire.

I live in beautiful Green Country Oklahoma.

I know. I know. You think Oklahoma is flat and brown and a dustbowl like the old movies. The truth is that the old movies were filmed in California. Where I live, it is green and beautiful with lots of trees and lakes and hills.

But not lately. Drought and fires like tornadoes have swept across homes and farms and down the highways, creating infernos of flame and smoke.

Last night I woke up at 2 a.m. to the sound of wind and rain. Harsh storms can spring up quickly in the spring, so I got out of bed to check the weather. Satisfied that we weren't going to be swept into the air like Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, I settled on the couch in the darkness.

It was sweet and peaceful. I lingered. I thought about God. Just me and him. I started talking to him.

And then I felt something I hadn't felt in a long time.

It was a rain of a different sort.

I quietly whispered to God about the things that were important to me.

My family. The hurt of one family member.

My ministry. The teens I love. The college students I get to hang out with every week.

My writing. God, I'm juggling like crazy. Where do you want me to be.

I nestled under my OU blanket (Go Sooners!) and the sweet spirit of God lingered with me. And I realized how dry I was, how combustable my life felt, how I carried the weight of things I couldn't fix.

I didn't ask for it, but he saw that I needed it. God poured out his spirit -- his rain -- over my life. Like drops of saturating rain, it eased into my heart and soul. I think it is ironic, poetic even, that he came to me in the midst of a storm.

I pray that for you today as well -- his rain. His refreshing. Knowing that God is so intuitive, so big, and so very real.

Suzie

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Maybe It's Too Easy Being Free?


Today I served as an election judge. This meant I had to be at the polling place at 6:15 AM, and I didn't get to leave till 7:15 PM. Right now my brain is fuzzy. I'm tired. When I got home, a stack of mail and phone messages awaited me. And tomorrow will be crazy, because I have to pack and leave town for a week.

I'll be honest. For several weeks I've been dreading today and wishing I hadn't agreed to serve as election judge. But it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, it had its moments of downright inspiration. Like when a little old woman hobbled in on her cane, determined to do her patriotic duty. It must have taken her five minutes just to cross the room. Another woman arrived unassisted in a wheelchair. She'd already gone to a different polling place and was told she needed to vote at ours. So she'd re-wrestled her chair into the car, driven across town, and repeated the painstaking process. And yet she wheeled herself into our precinct with a smile on her face.

When my alarm went off at 5:30 this morning, I groaned. I didn't want to drag myself out of bed and sit at a table all day. But watching these proud Americans go the extra mile to exercise their rights humbled me and reminded me that voting is a privilege. We have freedom and a voice in our country. Many people around the world can't say that.

There are more than 1800 registered voters in my precinct. A total of 134 voted in this primary. Apparently I'm not the only one who needed an attitude adjustment.

If you're old enough, vote. Why? Because you can, and you should want to keep it that way.

Monday, March 06, 2006

"In the Beginning You Will Be a Starving Artist"

Here's the next in my series of posts on Truths and Myths about writing. Each time I post, I'll start with a truth or myth about the writing life, the publishing industry, etc. Hopefully you'll enjoy some of these secrets, tips and tricks.

So #5 is "In the beginning, you will be a starving artist." What do you think? Is that a truth or a myth?

Yeah, unfortunaely, it's true. I wish it weren't. I wish I could say that most of us write our first work and it's a New York Times Bestseller, we get on Oprah and we're "all the buzz."

But the truth is, like most good things in life, the writing life doesn't come easy. It takes time to develop your craft. It takes time to be a really good writer. It takes time to find your niche. Most writers don't make much of anything for the first couple years they write. But if you hit it hard and keep writing and keep submitting your work, and keep improving what you write and keep learning, and pursue good leads, you will be published. And you will find your niche.

Will you become rich? Maybe. Maybe not. Most successful full-time writers "make a living," meaning they make a decent living, enough to stay home and enjoy life. That's just the truth.

But I don't find that discouraging. I find it encouraging. It means that if I work hard at it, it's likely I'll be able to work at home full-time, be with my family, wake when I want and never wear a watch. And if that's what you want, you can do it too. But it takes diligence.

So will you be a starving artist? Most likely. But hopefully not for long.

Until next time--enjoy writing!

Chris

Christopher Maselli
TruthPop.com

Friday, March 03, 2006

Lessons from a Three-Year Old


My youngest daughter turns three today and in her honor, and in the grand tradition of "All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten." I offer you these thoughts on making life just a little sweeter this month:

1. Put together a puzzle.
2. Swing on a swing at the playground.
3. Paint a picture. With your fingers.
4. Eat candy. Before breakfast.
5. Watch Barney. On second thought, you might want to avoid this one.
6. Play hide and seek. Just be sure to tell others you are hiding.
7. Draw on a sidewalk with a fat piece of chalk.
8. Use a hula-hoop. Roll it down a hill and see how far it goes.
9. Make a wish on a star.
10. Wrap your arms around your mom or dad's neck, give them a kiss and tell them how much you love them.

My daughter's joy is amazing. I think we need to be amazed at the little things of life again. And remember how sweet life really is - if we're willing to see it.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Note to Stupid Girls: Vestire Benefactum!

Pop musician Pink is currently #8 on the iTunes list of top 100 downloads with her song Stupid Girls. Here are the lyrics to Pink's hit rant about the pressure on girls to become nothing more than mindless sex symbols:
Stupid girl, stupid girls, stupid girls
Baby if I act like that, that guy will call me back
What a paparazzi girl, I don't wanna be a stupid girl

Go to Fred Segal, you'll find them there
Laughing loud so all the little people stare
Looking for a daddy to pay for the champagne (Drop a name)
What happened to the dreams of a girl president
She's dancing in the video next to 50 Cent
They travel in packs of two or three
With their itsy bitsy doggies and their teeny-weeny tees
Where, oh where, have the smart people gone?
Oh where, oh where could they be?

Baby if I act like that, that guy will call me back
What a paparazzi girl, I don't wanna be a stupid girl
Baby if I act like that, flipping my blonde hair back
Push up my bra like that, I don't wanna be a stupid girl

(Break it down now)
Diseases growing, it's epidemic
I'm scared that there ain't a cure
The world believes it and I'm going crazy
I cannot take any more
I'm so glad that I'll never fit in
That will never be me
Outcasts and girls with ambition
That's what I wanna see
Disasters all around
World despaired
Their only concern
Will they **** up my hair
...
Sigh. I thought my generation had demolished that pressure in the last century, but I guess not. The music video reveals the battle for a girl's soul with some interesting symbolism (warning: the sexualized content, while satirical, is pervasive, and there's a graphic depiction of bulimia). A small Barbie-holding girl is watching television when two supernatural beings appear at her side, one a fiery female demon and the other a white-clad angel. The demon tries to tempt the girl to flaunt her sexuality and package herself as an object. The angel tries to show the stupidity of living like that and challenges her to become an "ambitious outcast." Then, in a disappointing finish to the intense battle over her identity, the little girl picks up a football.

Don't get me wrong. Sports are definitely a way to resist the culture's pressure to become an object of lust, but these days, they're not enough. Now you have to be a star athletes and a hottie at the same time. (Remember the names of the Olympian swimmers who posed for the covers of Playboy and Maxim? You don't? Hmmm...) Besides, the symbol of the football seems to imply that a girl needs to become masculine to be smart, instead of championing the unique freedom and strength of true femininity.

Pink herself hints at the antidote to stupidity when she mentions disease, despair, and disaster in her song. In his first letter to Timothy, St. Paul lists "bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, (and) helping those in trouble" before adding that a godly woman devotes herself to "all kinds of good deeds." Pouring out life-giving, nourishing, healing grace — that's what smart women do. But is there an acceptable artifact in pop culture that symbolizes a woman's call to vestire benefactum (to clothe in good deeds)? My peers and I couldn't come up with anything better than an angry fist and a football, which might explain why we're raising a generation of sad and stupid girls. (Exceptions, please submit applications to become my future daughter-in-law.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real

Have you ever been afraid of something? I'm not talking about being afraid of the dark or of loud noises. I am talking about being absolutely terrified to do something.

Did you know the number one fear of all Americans is public speaking? People are more afraid of what other people might think of them than they are of what will happen to them when they die. It just doesn't make any sense.

Most of the things we are afraid of trace directly back to our fear of failure and rejection--our fear of actually being seen for who we are. But it is in being seen that we are released from our fears and free to live life as it was meant to be lived.

Just this last week I was thinking of the woman with the issue of the flow of blood who came to Jesus for healing (Luke 8:43-48). Afraid to be seen she reached out and touched the hem of his garment when nobody was looking--and she was healed.

But Jesus knew she needed more than healing--she needed freedom. She needed to be called out, she needed to be seen.

Turning around He asked, "Who touched me?" The Bible says, "when the woman saw that she was not hidden she came trembling and falling down before Him" (v. 47). Talk about fear!

Have you ever been so afraid of being seen for who you truly are that you found yourself trembling? If so, take comfort in Jesus' answer to this woman.

"Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace" (v. 48).

Sometimes we cry out to God for healing, and He gives us something more: validation. Calling this woman out of the crowd gave her value and worth. And then--in front of everyone--He spoke tender words of affirmation to her. Chances are, in that moment the One who healed her body also healed her soul.

Are you afraid of being seen? Are you in need of healing? If so, come before God openly and honestly. He will speak words of affirmation over you and He will give you permission to go forward in peace.

~Shannon
shannon@shannonkubiak.com

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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