Wednesday, August 30, 2006

REMEMBER SPUMONI?

I thought I'd get a little creative today and share a little story . . .

REMEMBER SPUMONI?
by Tricia Goyer
(told by John Goyer)

I was sixteen, almost a man, and there was something I had been keeping from my father for a very long time. The thought of hurting his feelings had kept a complaint on the tip of my tongue. What would he say?

"Dad?" I said, my anxious eyes looking into his. "I didn't want to hurt your feelings, but . . ." I took a deep breath as he tilted his head, waiting for my words.

I decided to go for it. "You know how you've only bought Spumoni ice-cream all these years? Well, none of us kids like it. We hate all those little candied fruits. We always dreamed of double-decker sundae, rocky road, or even vanilla, but every time it was spumoni. We couldn't confess, Dad. We knew you like it. But since I'm am adult now, I decided I might as well tell you."

My dad grinned. Soon deep laughter erupted. My mouth dropped open at his unexpected response.

"What's so funny?" I asked.

Between fits of chuckles he managed to say, "I never liked spumoni either! I got it for you kids. I thought you liked it!"

My laughter joined his, but deep down I was troubled. I couldn't believe it. It horrified me. We ate spumoni all these years and no one liked it! Yuck! I made up my mind right then and there that I would always be truthful. Well, at least I would try.

So I started trying the truth thing. I even tried to say honest prayers instead of repeating memorized phrases. It worked for a while. Until . . .

It hadn't been that great of a day. Nothing had gone right. That night as I lay in bed, I knew I should pray, but I didn't know what to say. Should I be honest and tell God that I felt He had totally abandoned me. I couldn't do that. Could I?

"God," I finally said, "thank you for my health and . . . " I paused for a moment. "Thank you that when I slipped in the parking lot in front of all my friends I didn't rip my jeans."

I turned over and tried to sleep but images of candied cherries danced rings around my headboard. I took it as a hint Someone knew I wasn't being truthful.

"Okay, God," I finally mumbled. "I'm not being totally honest. I feel like Alexander in the storybook Mom used to read me when I was younger. It's been ‘a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day.’ The only difference is Alexander was only a little kid, and if he got peanut butter in his hair it would wash out the next day. But when I forgot the English report that was due, I lost my Big Mac money, and almost got in a wreck during driver’s ed, I'd say things are pretty lousy. Couldn't you have cut me some slack and intervened a little?"

It was almost as if God spoke down from Heaven. "You didn't get in an accident did you?"

I felt better knowing that even though God hadn't kept me from embarrassment, He had kept me safe. I rolled over in bed, this time with true thankfulness in my heart. Yes, it does help to be honest with your Father.

Well, despite all the trouble I had during driver’s ed, I finally got my license. Boy, did I have fun after that. I could drive to work and drive to school. Best of all, I could drive to the baseball games, to the shooting range and my even friend's house any time I wanted. My mom and dad complained they never saw me, but, hey, I've been around for sixteen years, you'd think they'd be sick of me.

Everything was great until a few weeks later when I was on my way home from Max's house. We just had an all-night Fear Factor marathon, and I was wiped. Since Max lived way out in the country, I was looking ahead to a twenty-minute drive home. I popped in my P.O.D. cd, hoping it would keep me awake. It did, but that still didn't stop the deer from jumping out in front of me. Frantically, I jerked my wheel, my car spun off the road and into a ditch. "Oh great," I mumbled.

After twenty minutes of trying to get my car out of the ditch I gave up.

"God," I finally said, "help."

And then, as if God was speaking to me from Heaven and across the dark clouds gathering in the sky, a thought crossed my mind. You talk to God when you're in trouble, but what about all the other times? Like when you were at school or work or the baseball game.

I had cut off communication. Didn't I learn anything from the spumoni incident? Communication is key.

"You're right, Father. I've been keeping the words to myself. I don't need to worry about what You think. I don't need to get older before I have enough guts to tell You how I feel. I just need to take time to communicate with You. You're here for me. You understand. Best of all, I'll never, never have to hide that fact that I don't like spumoni. You already know, and I'm sure you'll make candied cherries off-limits in Heaven."

Well, after that honest prayer, I discovered God has a sense of humor too. Within minutes a large white truck came to my rescue. An ice cream truck to be exact. Soon, the ice-cream guy had chained my car to his truck and pulled me of the ditch. It wasn't until the truck was pulling away that I noticed the picture on the back. It showed a young boy with a huge fruit-dotted ice-cream cone. Only two words covered the back doors, "REMEMBER SPUMONI?"

OK, so maybe there will be Spumoni in heaven, but not in my bowl, please.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Deepest Wants

Today, I was thinking about Hannah who is in the Old Testament. Hannah was heartbroken and desperate. Her heart ached because more than anything she wanted a son, but her womb was barren. Hannah’s story is one of brokenness before the Lord. She cried out to Him through tears. Have you ever wanted something so badly that you prayed about it everyday and literally cried out to God for an answer? If you answered yes, you will relate to Hannah.

Hannah was barren. She couldn’t bare children. What is your barrenness? Is it a broken marriage between your parents? A broken heart? Sickness? Finances? A lack of attention? Friendships? Not being accepted at school? I want to encourage you to bring it to God just like Hannah did. The Bible says that she “poured out her soul before the Lord.” (1Sam. 1:6) She prayed to God every time the thought came to mind. She fervently asked God to give her a son. God heard Hannah’s cries. He was present in her barrenness. In His timing, He answered her cries and provided her a son. First Samuel 1:20 says she exclaimed of her newborn son, Samuel, “I have asked him from the Lord.” Not only did Hannah give us an example of a prayer warrior, but she showed us what it is like to remain faithful. Hannah remained faithful to the Lord even when He hadn’t answered her prayers.

God is ever present in your barrenness. And just like Hannah, He wants to do more than you could imagine. Cry out to Him. The Bible says that He puts our tears in a bottle. (Psalm 56:8) God promises to meet you in your most desperate moments.

Blessings,
Sarah

Friday, August 25, 2006

What will be, will be

Today I read Daniel chapter 11. The entire chapter is the middle part of a speech made by a heavenly being who appeared to Daniel after he'd been praying earnestly and fasting from "tasty food" for three weeks. The speech is a detailed explanation of what would happen "in the latter days." The messenger speaks of kings rising up and being overthrown, of armies and alliances, of schemes and betrayals. He speaks of people's evil intent and their ability to get their way with smooth words. He speaks of what they will think and what they will say.

Many scholars for many centuries have tried to figure out which kings and armies and countries are meant in this passage. How many of these events have already taken place? How many remain? I don't pretend to know the answers to those questions, and honestly, I don't feel a particular need to know. But something else amazes me about these prophecies.

This messenger from heaven spoke with authority from God, and he told Daniel exactly what was going to happen in the future--even down to the intentions of people's hearts. Do you realize what this means? God not only knows your heart and my heart today. He knows the future intentions of every future heart. He knows what will happen as surely as though it has already happened. In Daniel 11, He knows who will betray whom and whose son will rise up against his father. If he knows these things, it doesn't take much imagination to realize he knows everything about everyone's future.

You make choices every day, and you are responsible for the consequences of those choices. You are not a puppet. And yet, God knows what choices you are going to make before you make them. He knows your past, present, and your future. This, my friends, is a mystery we will never fully grasp. But it's a mystery that should make us shout for joy.

God has promised He has a plan for your life. He has promised to answer prayers prayed according to His will. If we come to Him and ask that His plans be accomplished, we can be confident they will. Not only is He all-knowing, He's all-powerful. He can bring His will to pass in spite of anything anyone else does. And nothing ever catches Him by surprise, because He already knows the entire future down to what color you will paint your toe-nails ten years from now.

Isn't that amazing? Wonderful, comforting craziness.

The rise and fall of kingdoms is in the hands of my Father who loves me. I hope that makes you feel as loved and safe as it makes me feel.

If your brain isn't exploding, I'd love to hear your thoughts about all this. :)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Two girls and a fight

Last week a fight happened after youth service in my home church. One girl fought another and before the night was out it got ugly.

Do I live in NY City? Nope. Big ole Muskogee, Oklahoma. Bible belt. Land of beautiful hills, green pastures, nice friendly people, and lots of tubing and skiing at the lake.

And yet 2/3rds of the youth that come to our services deal with things that would be at home in any larger city -- addiction, parents who are absent, home life that is a hard place to be, and more.

Last week part of the youth were worshiping God. I read their xangas and they talked about a service that was awesome, about the places they went after service to eat, and the friends they hung out with. Because the drama was taking place outside, very few youth knew what was going on and I'm grateful for that.

But as I prayed about this situation I thought about the two girls who started the whole fiasco. One comes faithfully. She doesn't pretend to worship God, but in our conversations I hear a hunger for something real and spiritual. Her mom kicked her out at 15 and she lives with a friend and her mom. She doesn't have the money to buy the clothes she'd like to wear, so she gets creative and her clothes and hair are her artwork -- pieces of this and that with some black nail polish thrown in.

The other girl hasn't talked about her past, but she's 13 going on 35. She's already cynical about life. She came to church with a friend. That friend stopped coming, but she's still there week after week.

I wish I could reach these two girls. They like me. They trust me. They know my faith is real. They don' t mind if I sit with them and they are open to a hug and a word of encouragement and a conversation, but I've noticed that it is the adults who reach out to them.

I wonder what would happen if someone their own age sat next to them. Not anything earth shattering -- not trying to change them or make a big deal out of it, but just sit next to them in service.

What would that do? Would that put someone in their corner that worshiped God during service? Would that help them to know how to pray if they wanted to talk to God? Would it give them incentive to stay during the entire service, rather than being drawn out by the others who sit alone?

I don't know the answer to that. All I know is last week two girls found themselves alone and angry in a parking lot, and I'm asking God for answers on how to love them and reach them right where they are.

I realize that they have problems and that some teens don't feel equipped or know the right words to day. But I don't think these girls are looking for someone to fix them.

Maybe all that is needed is someone their own age to ask them to sit by them and their friends during service.

Maybe that would be a beautiful act of worship -- the same as praising and lifting your hands -- as you reach out to someone who is looking for God and not real sure how to find him -- yet.

How do I know this? I was once a girl just like them.

Suzanne Eller
visit Suzie's website at http://realteenfaith.blogspot.com

Monday, August 21, 2006

Real Life Q & A

I don't know about you, but I like reading advice columns. I especially like the ones in the morning paper that deal with everything from "handling a cranky mother-in-law" to "telling someone they have stinky feet." Sometimes I don't agree with the advice given, but most of the time I do.

Do you ever wish you had a direct line to an advice columnist? I have a problem . . . can you help . . .

My teacher belittles me in class.
My boyfriend gets jealous of my friends.
My parents want to rule my life.

Then, when you opened the next morning's paper, the perfect answer would be there?

Thankfully, there are people all around us who can offer good advice. Sometimes the advice is given without us asking (okay, many times!). In other instances, we seek people out. The key is knowing who to listen to . . . and when. Below are tips to help you do just that!

ABCs of Getting Good Advice

A-sk away: It's okay to ask for advice. No one knows it all!

B-e proactive: Remember, what you do (or don't do) is your responsibility. It's up to you to take the initiative and to make good choices. And remember, not making a decision is actually a choice too.

C-onsider your options: Look around and consider: Who can help me find the answer to this problem?

D-ecide who could offer the best help: Seek out different people for your various life issues.

E-liminate extremes. Here are two: 1) being too independent, or 2) expecting someone else to be your complete authority.

F-ollow the Leader. Look for those who have provided you with good advice in the past.

G-ive special attention to those in authority over you. This includes parents, older adults, employers, and church or group leaders.

H-ope for success. One of the worst things we can do is let things slide instead of dealing with them. Put your hope in the fact that things can get better. Having this mindset will make all the difference in finding a successful solution.

I-nvite the input of several counselors for bigger decisions. Proverbs 15:22 says, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."

J-udge whether your issue is a matter of right or wrong. Is it a moral decision or a personal preference? Always strive for "right."

K-eep yourself from asking advice from only those who agree with you. Listen and weigh other opinions, especially ideas from others who have faced some of the same life experiences.

L-isten to your heart. Novelist Erica Jong says, "Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." Deep down do you already know the answer? Go with that.

M-ake sure you seek help from people who adequately know you and your situation. In most cases, it's better to give more weight to the person who's supported you for ten years, in comparison to someone you met last weekend.

N-ever rush into a decision you're not comfortable with. Give yourself time to sift through all the advice and weigh your options.

O-pen your heart. When it comes to seeking advice, consider prayer or meditation first.

P-ay attention. Does the person offering advice follow it herself? Does it work?

Q-uestion how your decision will affect your future. Ask youself, "Five years from now, how will I view this decision? What decision will I be most happy with at that time?"

R-equire mature advisors. Your kid brother or a crazy friend from high school might not be the best choices to turn to for help!

S-eek advice from someone you'd like to imitate. Baby birds learn to fly by imitating their mothers. We can choose whom to imitate—and if choose the right people, we will soar!

T-rust the advice of those who inspire you. They can be people you know, or people you admire from afar.

U-se common sense. Don't ask for advice when your common sense provides an adequate answer.

V-isualize the outcome. What are the pros of someone's answer? What are the cons?

W-eigh your motives. What's the deeper issue?

X-pect that not everyone who gives you advice will agree. Different people have different opinions. It's up to you to choose the best one.

Y-ield to "good enough." You may not find the perfect solution right away, but work on a solution that's "good enough" while you continue to search.

Z-zzzzz Zzzzz. Sleep on it. Your problems always seem bigger and more overwhelming when you're tired. A good night's sleep does a world of wonders!

Be sure to check out Tricia Goyer's daily blog at: www.triciagoyer.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Good-bye Summer??

Around here, school starts in just a few days. I can hardly believe the summer is almost over. The pools will be closing, and the buses will start picking up kids to take them to their new school years.

I always liked the beginning of school. A new year, new possibilites, new teachers...and one more year closer to being finished!

But it's also a time that I start thinking about what I want to accomplish this year. It's one thing to just "get through" the year. It's another thing to make it count.

So what can you do to make this year count? Pray about it. ponder it. See what God might show you. God doesn't waste anything in our lives. And even though school can be a drag sometimes, you are there for a purpose. He has things he wants you to accomplish this year.

Maybe you will finally talk to that lonely looking girl about Jesus.

Maybe you will put more effort into your math class this year.

Maybe you can put aside more time to spend with your family.

Maybe you'll try out for a new team.

Whatever it is, I pray that God will show you something special that He wants you to do - and that He will give you the courage to follow through.

And if you're so inclined - tell us what God shows you - and what it is you are going to do to make this year count.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

abusive relationships

I've taught high school girls Sunday school for many years, like at least 14. This past Sunday we had the best discussion I've ever experienced.

One of the girls suggested we study the book, Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs. I knew it was going to be good as I cried reading the introduction of the book. Sunday morning, we didn't cover the points in my neatly planned lesson.

See, the author of the book does something so beautiful. She opens with a dramatic story of a girl dating a pretty scary guy. The kind of opening when you're cheering for her--trying to help her escape from danger. Then she goes on to share that this girl trapped in an abusive relationship is herself--Liz Curtis Higgs.

You know what? As soon as I told the class the author was the girl, they opened up and talked. Transparent writing brings an amazing reaction from readers. I witnessed instant trust and respect.

We talked about this sort of stuff:

What might cause people to stay in abusive relationships.
How drugs and alcohol might lower your inhibitions.
How abusive relationships don't usually start out in the extreme, but gradually get bad.
Other forms of abuse, like talking down to someone.
How you feel about yourself if you're dating an abuser.

Thank you, Liz. Your writing is making a difference.

Thoughts anybody? Experiences along these lines? Warnings from readers who've been there?

My love♥
Julie

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Oprah's Recent Show

When it comes to TV talk shows, I usually watch Regis and Kelly. I love that show mostly because that would be my dream job. I don't think that I have ever watched a full episode of Oprah until yesterday. I had seen a preview of yesterday's show so I set my TIVO to record it.

The show was about young women being obsessed with their looks and bodies. I have an interest in that topic since my new book is about just that, but also because I used to struggle with body image so intensely. The first two women on the show had daughters that were three and four years old. Their daughters were obsessed with being beautiful and not being fat. These girls weren't even in kindergarten! I believe that their mother's are the reason why they think this way at this age. I think that mother's do not realize the influence they have on their daughters. The mothers had issues with their body image and it was being manifested to the extreme in their daughters.

My heart really broke when a teenage girl told her story. She wept as she spoke of her dislike for her body and face. I cried along with her. This was a beautiful girl by the world's standards, but see was disgusted with the mirror. She couldn't even see the beauty on the inside.

I would love to hear your thoughts. What is it that is in us that makes us long to be beautiful? Why is it that we are never satisfied with what we see? Has your mom been an influence (good or bad) in the way you view yourself?

Much love,
Sarah

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Big World, Little World

Last night George and I had brownies with vanilla ice-cream, fudge sauce, and fresh peaches for dessert. It was yummy, but the biggest treat was sharing it with Katelyn and her grandmother.

We've known Katelyn since she was two. Now she's a lovely 21-year-old who spent last spring in Florence, Italy studying art therapy. She's full of eager potential and a kind of trembling joy that comes with standing on the edge of a cliff and gazing into a wide-open future--knowing the time will soon arrive when she'll be forced to jump, but not knowing where she'll land.

In the course of our conversation Katelyn said, "I painted Grace and Luke in one of my projects. We had to represent the way we played as children, and I chose an imagination game we used to play called 'Big World, Little World.'" She explained that they'd gather at the base of a large tree in our yard. If they circled the tree one direction, everything in the world was small. Blades of grass were really trees. If they circled the tree the other direction, everything was big. Trees were blades of grass. Once they'd chosen a direction, they interacted with everything as though their play-world order were true.

I love so much about this glimpse into childhood imagination. This is how stories are born. One minute you're asking, "What if I walked around this tree and everything in the world became tiny?" Next you're writing a book like Gulliver's Travels. But, as big a fan as I am of imagination, I'm an even bigger fan of what it teaches me about truth.

Big World, Little World. We live in a big world where a young woman can spread her wings and fly away to study in distant lands. It's a little world where she once again finds herself seated at a kitchen table in East Texas with old friends.

It's a big world filled with millions of people and diverse cultures, customs, and languages. It's also a little world in a vast universe. The footstool of God.

It's a big world where we sometimes come around the corner to find our problems looming like giant redwoods.

It's a little world where a change in perspective reminds us our problems are really no bigger than blades of grass in the hands of an all-sufficient God.

I'd love to see Katelyn's painting. I'm sure it's as delightful as her sparkling eyes and disarming smile. I'm also sure she'll be an amazing art therapist when she launches out into this big, little world. Just thinking about her art has encouraged me.

Monday, August 14, 2006

“A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to a person that isn’t.”

A George Barna survey showed that, in a typical week:

22% of evangelical Christians do not read the Bible at all.

Thirty percent read it only once or twice a week.

The Gideons, who put million of Bibles in hotel rooms every year, say this about the Bible:
The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.

The Bible is God’s word and it is available, culturally relevant, historically accurate, valuable, and holy. How should that change the way we read it?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hospitality: It's Not Just 4 Da Peeps In My Posse

Ever avoid somebody because they're so ... well, er, different than you are? My own lack of hospitality to a stranger was revealed on a flight from Louisville to Boston. I’d secured an aisle seat towards the front and was looking forward to reading my book in peace.

I was hoping I’d have all three seats in the row to myself when a girl dressed in tight black clothes -- part Goth, part trash queen -- pushed past my knees. She swore as she stumbled into the window seat. Noting her spiky black hair, pale skin, tattoo, and the hook dangling from a pierced lip that accentuated her angry expression, I knew I didn’t have to worry about making small talk. This rebel would have nothing to say to a nerdy older person like me.

I went back to my book, but as the plane began to gather speed for takeoff, I noticed the Goth princess hugging herself tightly. I looked over. No way! Yes! This pierced and tattooed alien who’d used the "F-word" instead of "excuse me" was actually ... crying.

My maternal instincts shifted from neutral into high gear. "What’s the matter, sweetheart?" I asked.

"I’m — I’m scared of flying!" she blurted out frantically. An open hand, green fingernails, skull ring, and all, was thrust into the empty seat between us. "Could you hold my hand — just during takeoff and landing?"

I did, of course. She let go only once we were high in the air with the seatbelt sign turned off, and I dried my sweaty palm surreptitiously. My row-mate kept her nose (and hooked lip) plastered against the window and didn’t say a word the whole flight. About twenty minutes before we were scheduled to land, the same open hand plunked down on the empty seat between us. Again I took it, and again she clutched mine until we reached the gate.

We parted without saying much, but I’ll always be thankful for the way this particular traveling companion forced me into being hospitable. Her vulnerability exposed my condemnation and kindled a courtesy that had been lacking in my heart. And anybody representing the King of hospitality must be armed with courtesy, ready for all the green-tipped hands reaching out for His.

Fly baby, fly

Fly Baby Fly

The most bizarre thing happened yesterday. I'm working on Chapter One of a new book for 20-somethings called The Woman I Am Becoming.

Anyway, I told the story of how we are designed to fly and I used a bird as an example, how a bird is frightened when it leaves the nest for the first time and how it doesn't learn how to fly until it takes that first step. It was a poignant glimpse of nature and how fear can keep you from discovering who you are.

So I'm feeling pretty great about this analogy until I go outside last night and I see a baby bird on the driveway. His beak is wide open in fear and his little wings are flapping like crazy. Why? Because he's cornered by two cats.

I was talking to my niece Kimberly and I freaked out. She thought something bad had happened when I shouted, "oh, poor baby, no!". I explained that I needed to save the baby bird and hung up. I ran to the driveway and I shooed away the cats, but now the bird was scared of me.

I get that. I'm 100 times bigger than the baby bird. He doesn't know if I'm giong to hurt it or help it. All he knows is that he's landed in deep doo doo and here's yet another large being trying to capture it.

It hopped under the car and so did the cats. I laid down on my belly trying to get to this bird. I smell oil and I'm sucking up dust from the driveway, but all my efforts only frighten the bird. I finally reach to try to grab it before the cat does and it tries to attack me with its beak, so I back off and wait.

I never did catch it, though I tried everything. Eventually the cat got it and trotted off with it in its jaws.

I was totally bummed by this. Stupid story, I thought. How in the world can I use that analogy? The stupid bird should be scared because it tried to fly and look what it got. I went back into the house prepared to cut that part out of my book completely.

And yet this morning I suddenly saw this in a whole new light. I see how hard I tried to help the bird. I see how fear pushed it into the mouth of the enemy, instead of allowing me to gently place it back where it belonged.

And instead of changing my story, I realize now that the little bird was intended to fly, but sometimes you have to let something bigger help you when your back is against the wall, and then you'll fly again.

I'm sorry if this sounds insane. After all, it's just a bird, but I know that there have been times that God has asked me to take a chance and fly and I've hesitated for a number of reasons, most founded on fear. I've learned to trust God. I've learned that he won't let me down, but that doesn't mean that I won't face difficult times or people, but I can turn to him.

I know that there have been times that God has reached for me, and for others. He's put himself in dirty and awkward situations as he's reached into the dark places to find us, and we can turn to him and let him help or not. That's our choice.

Just my two cents.

Suzie Eller, Real Teen Faith
http://realteenfaith.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Watch out!

This is going to sound creepy. It's true. When it happened, I couldn't wait to blog about it.

We live on seven acres in the woods and are surrounded by nature. A few Saturday mornings ago I went out to the garage for dogfood to feed Cooper, our black Lab. My husband has some unusual hobbies. One of them is raising parakeets. The baby parakeets live in the garage until he moves them to an outdoor gazebo. He heats the gazebo in the winter. It never gets too hot for the birds in the summer.

Anyway, I opened the garage door and scooped the dogfood. For a split second I had the impression of something not being quite right in the garage. Sort of like chill bumps but it was in July. Maybe a writer's instinct--I don't know. I forgot about it and went on about my Saturday stuff.

Later, my husband brought out a huge black snake from the garage. The snake had slithered in and had eaten three of his parakeets. Mr. Snake was coiled up behind the cages. Rick killed the snake. (It's the second one we've found in a year. The first one was in our kitchen pantry and bit his hand several times as he removed it.)

Here's why I'm sharing this. Right after it happened I thought of that scripture, John 10:10. That verse shows us that the evil one comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Satan doesn't play fair. The evil one doesn't looks like a snake. He's sneaky. He's sly. His destructive ways don't appear to be trouble at first.

I believe we each have at least one area of weakness--and the enemy tries to worm his way in through our weaknesses. My biggie is fear and worry. Others might struggle with drugs, lust, jealousy, power, anger and so on.

Be on the lookout. But never forget who's our Defender. ♥God. ♥And He's a whisper away.

My love,
♥Julie

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dad & Me

Yesterday was my father's birthday. My memories of him have been in and out of my thoughts all week. It's been almost two years since he died and though it seems strange to me, I still find it hard to believe that he's really gone.

I was the first-born in my family and growing up, we had an interesting relationship. When I was little, I was scared of him. He was the disciplinarian that my mother would threaten us with. I still remember the sound of his leather belt snapping together. When I was a teenager, as long as I behaved, I was given a lot of freedom, a car and his trust. (Though it was undeserved in some ways, I'll admit.) But I also watched him have an affair with a woman in our town and hid when he was strung out on cocaine. When I was in college, he hated that I had become a Christian and we went for several years that were tense. Then, as he began to realize that Christ wasn't something I was going to walk away from, he developed a respect for the person I was becoming. He, of course, wanted to take the credit for me turning out the way I did.

We had a tough relationship - but I loved him dearly. He was diagnosed with cancer when he suddenly starting having major symptoms. It was too late by the time they found it. He died less than four weeks later.

As hard as that was, I must admit that when I look back at my memories, I have no regrets. I was honest with him, but respectful. I disagreed with him regularly, but I honored him when I did it. I told him that I loved him often. And when it came to say good-bye, I found that I had said everything I needed, and wanted, to say.

I guess my hope in sharing this with you is that you'll cherish those you love, even when the relationship is hard. We never know what our tomorrows will bring. We don't know the plans God has for us. But we can cherish today, and those that God has placed in our lives.

And do me a favor - will ya? If you still have your dad around...tell him you love him.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Dangerous Curves

We were invited for lunch and a swim at a friends' house. My teen guys had known the girl of the house since second grade, but when she came out to greet us, we couldn't help noticing that things had definitely changed. New, lovely curves were winsomely displayed, even in her relatively modest bikini (an oxymoron?)

The boys, who had roughhoused and played with this girl for years, fell silent. They didn't look at her. In fact, they avoided all contact with her in any shape or form.

The girl was a bit hurt by their reaction. Had she done something wrong? No. She'd just grown up and filled out. Same smile, same heart, same sense of humor, but her new shape was making her friends feel ... odd. A bit dazed. Confused.

Warning: Your curvy body can do strange things to a male friend's brain. The Surgeon General recommends that you use it wisely ... especially around your buddies.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Identity

Do you ever wish you had someone else's identity? If I could have someone else's identity, it would be Kelly Ripa. I think she has the greatest job. I would love to co-host a show with Regis. I think we would work well together. I say a lot of dumb blonde comments so he would find it easy to make fun of me. Plus, she has an amazing wardrobe! She seems to have a good life. I have a TV interview on Wednesday on a morning talk show in Birmingham, AL. I am so excited because this is my chance to come closer to experiencing my dream job as talk show host.

For many years, I didn’t know my real identity. I knew that I had trusted Christ as my Savior and that I was going to heaven, but never really saw myself the way that God saw me. I lived under a false identity. I believed so many lies that Satan told me. Understanding our identity is absolutely essential to our success in living the Christian life. Our identity in Christ is one of the most liberating truths we will ever understand.

I reminded myself of this truth as I was drying my hair this morning, and I want to remind you. As a Christian, God has given you a new identity. You are a child of the King which means that you are chosen, holy and beloved. If you are struggling today and feeling less than wonderful, may you be encouraged. Every day, I have a choice to either live by the standard of the world, but walk in the truth of my identity in Christ.

You are loved,
Sarah Bragg

Friday, August 04, 2006

Thankful To Be Alive

I read in the paper about a man from Australia that was born without arms and legs. The photo accompanying it shows this handsome young man, Nick Vujicic, giving an inspiration message in front of a church group.

In telling his story, the article said “He can walk/hop almost anywhere (including up steps), using his only foot. And he can type with his only two toes (43 words a minute, thank you very much)…And he writes, gets dressed and opens doors with his mouth.”

Talk about someone “doing the best you can with what you’ve got.” It made me realize what a baby I am. His story makes my getting upset over a bad hair day or pimple look very vain and shallow indeed. Nick is thankful to God that he is alive. I think we could all learn a lesson from Nick.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

True Freedom

"I used to think freedom meant doing whatever you want. It means knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing on this earth, and then simply doing it," writes Natalie Goldberg in the book Writing Down the Bones.

Do you agree?

Of course, the REAL question is . . . how do we know what we're supposed to be doing?

Last week, I was going through my bookshelf, looking for a new journal (I'd filled up my old one), when I found one dating back to 1998.

In the beginning of the notebook, I had notes from the Mount Hermon writing conference. It was amazing how the notes I took then still ring true to me today.

One set of workshop notes came from my dear friend and mentor, Robin Jones Gunn. I'd signed up to take her class hoping for some ideas on how to write better fiction. Robin helped do that by first pointing us to our own hearts.

Two questions she encouraged us to ask were:

What purpose has God given me? What is His desire?

The next thing Robin had us do, in class, was to write our personal story, starting from our birth to present day--hitting the high and low points.

After that was done, she asked us to highlight certain areas with different colored markers. These points were:

Key people.

Key events.

Key lessons.

Lies.

This was a life-transforming activity, and these themes could clearly be seen:

Unwed pregnancy (both me and my mom)
Love of books and reading
Abortion
Intimacy and Heartache
Longings for love
Single parenting
Falling in love (for real)
God's liberation and transformation in my life

So what about you? Where major events have touched your life? Where can you see God at work? As David Crowder sings, "Wherever you've been, He's been there."

I would highly recommend you try this activity. Once you see where God has been working, you may see a "trend" developing . . . and perhaps know where God wants to continue "the good work He began in you."

Tricia Goyer
www.triciagoyer.com

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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