Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What it's all about

Today's Halloween. So, I think a Halloween blog makes sense.

I know Halloween can be a touchy subject with Christians. When I was little, one year my mom handed out Christian pamphlets. No candy. Word got out and not many kids stopped by our house.

Sunday, our church had the most amazing Fall Festival! I can't tell you how much I felt Jesus right there in the church parking lot. Some of the men stayed awake all night long on Saturday to cook the bar-b-q. There were ponies to ride, goats to pet, and the smell of popcorn floated around us. We had a cotton candy machine, boiled p-nuts (it's a southern thing), and snow cones.

Some of "my" high school girls painted faces. We gave away prizes with every game--win or lose. Kids and their parents came from everywhere--even the local children's shelter.

You know what? Jesus loved people through us--through our smiles, our food, and our excitement. He loved on people. Children. Parents. Teens. Grandparents. Those who know Him. Those who don't. No pressure to be like us. No pressure to return to our church.

When we love unconditionally and meet people where they are, the WAY THEY are, something always happens. He melts our hearts to His. He is lifted up and others are drawn to Him.

Happy Halloween.

♥ Julie

Monday, October 30, 2006

OoooOOOooooOOOOooo

Twas the night before Halloween, and all through the land,
Christians were puzzling over which acts to ban.

Is begging for candy, indeed, quite a sin,
if your dressed like a monkey or a man made of tin?

Some think it is fun to dress up all ghoulish
and others mutter epitaphs against things that are foolish.

Walmart and Hersheys and kid costume stores
sit back and gloat as their stock options soar.

What is the right thing to do on this day?
At the risk of sound ing trite, "What would Jesus say?"

Are we celebrating evil and death and the devil?
Or is it spoofing shennanigans that aren't on the level?

Do we remember, for Christians, death has no sting,
And God casts out fear and each evil thing?

Do we offer a candy and also a tract,
when we are presented with a trick ot treat sack?

Do we hide in the closet, the bedroom, or bath
when black cats and witches cross our path?

When goblins and princesses ring our doorbell,
do we open the door widely and yell, "You're going to ****!"

Nah, that's not what our Savior would say.
He'd teach them the difference between truth and play.

He might wear a costume and hand out some treats,
and show them the way to His Heavenly streets.

So be careful what you choose to do on this day.
Will you help or hinder those who don't know the way?

The 2010 Challenge

I wear a black and white bracelet. It's not fancy. It's made of small black and white beads that you can get at a craft store, and the word ADVENTURE is spelled out in neat black letters on the white beads.

You see, I started an adventure this year. I talk a lot about mentorship, about how important it is to put strong and gentle and faith-filled people who in your life who exhibit characteristics like integrity or grace. In our culture the role models are often not what they should be. Sometimes they are women who are talented musical artists, but who put out a message of sexuality that collides with God's amazing plans for that part of your life. Sometimes they are celebs that are doing cool things with their money, but not with their relationships.

I felt challenged personally. Is it okay to talk about the power of mentorship, but do nothing? Hmm. Not really.

So I joined the 2010 Challenge, a program in my community started by a group of women who really care about girls. They aren't all believers, but they are all amazing people and I was honored that they asked me to be a part.

We are on an ADVENTURE with over 400 freshman girls and that journey will last until 2010 when they graduate. We are talking about cool things, taking it into the schools where we meet once a month in groups of 40.

We want to share how powerful it is to Acknowledge the people in your life that affirms (believe in you and let you know it) you, and who believes in your abilities, and who gives you advice, and who is always there for you.

We want to share that Dreams are possible for any girl, no matter her background. My story is an example of that, but there is a difference between a wish list and achieving your dreams (something I'm talking about on Real Teen Faith blog today and tomorrow). There's "d" words like discipline, do-able, diligence, dare, determination).

A cool thing happened as I stepped outside my Christian comfort zone. God was big enough to step into this venture with me. The girls in my community know that I'm an author and that I write about faith, so that connection is made instantly. When I send them to read my story, they see the miracles that God can do in anyone's life.

I wear the bracelet because if they see me in the community--at the mall, the library, anywhere--they know that I'm there for them, along with many other women who aren't afraid to dream. They are wearing their own bracelets (green and white or red and white or blue and white) with their school colors. Their bracelets also spell out ADVENTURE.

When they see my bracelete, if they need to talk to someone or they are preparing to make a huge decision, they know they can ask me to help them by listening or perhaps sharing advice. In that moment I am free to talk about faith and beauty of knowing a God who loves and cares about your life.

I'm grateful to be a mentor and I'm thankful for this ADVENTURE.

Suzie Eller (T. Suzanne)
Making It Real - Whose Faith is It Anyway

Friday, October 27, 2006

Uh-oh...

Okay - I must have mixed up my feeds a little bit, so if you subscribed to G3 before today, you'll need to go over and click it again. I think I have it fixed now:-)

Sorry 'bout that!

If something's not working , just let me know...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Get the feed!

Neenee asked if we send these devotions out when she played with our snazzy new chat box and well, your wish is my command. Over to the right is a little orange "feed" button. Click that button, put in your e-mail address and poof! the Girls, God and the Good Life posts will be mailed right to your inbox! We can even track how many of you join!

And it's easy to click the post title if you want to come here and comment:-)

And I already mentioned our cool chat box.

Anything else you'd like to see, let me know!

I hope you all are enjoying G3 every day. I know when I come to read I am blessed and encouraged (even though I haven't been a teen in quite some time!)

Have a great day girls!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Thoughts About Culture...

I've noticed that many Christians want to run from culture or even blame our culture for what students do. What do you think?

I don't think that we should run from culture. Don't get me wrong. Culture can affect us. I struggled with eating disorders and body image issues for more than 10 years. Part of the fuel behind my struggle was comparing myself to a standard of beauty our culture set.

Christians tend to separate themselves from our culture. Culture is not the problem. The problem lies in what people do with culture. I think that we should look at our culture like any other culture. If I moved to Africa to be a missionary, I would immerse myself in the culture. I would learn the language and the different facets of the culture so that I could more adequately minister to those people. I think the same is true with our American culture. We need to learn the culture and not separate ourselves from it so that we can more adequately minister to our people.

I greatly admire people like the band Switchfoot. They are Christian guys who are in the secular music industry. They aren't there to necessarily witness to their audience, but rather influence the other musicians in the industry. We need more influencial people like that in our culture.

Again, people can misuse aspects of our culture, but we must learn to not become so separated that we lose our effectiveness to minister. What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading!
Sarah Bragg

Monday, October 23, 2006

here I am again. . .

I've been so busy with writing, preparing a home to sell, and with life in general that I've missed my time with God. I've been doing God-like things--like this blog and others--but nothing can take the place of just spending time in God's presence.

Now that it's been a matter of weeks and my time with him has been like that of a nice friend--I see him when I can and I like it when I do--I realize that this is not the way I want to live as a Christ follower.

Even as I tried to carve out time today I allowed distractions to chip away at the morning, until finally I realized that I must shut the door--literally and spiritually.

I got alone with him. I didn't know what to say, so I sat quietly until I felt peace settle around me in the small room. I talked to him honestly about my doubts, about my efforts to get the word out about the book, and how I had somehow let everything--all good things, but not God--get in the way of our relationship.

And then I prayed for those who were on my heart.

I felt the old and wonderful presence settle in my heart--the security of knowing I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Sometimes a hamster-wheel mentality robs me of that intimacy. Run as fast as I can to do all that I can. And yet, what is it that God wants from me?

Me. He simply wants me. Every other door that will open--or not--will be less than earth shattering because I hung out with him that day and the most important part of my faith walk was complete.

Thanks for allowing me to be honest. This author, this speaker who loves God with all of her heart, is first just "his girl", and today I had to cut through all the stuff just to say:

"here I am again, Father. . . just you and me."

Suzie Eller
http://daretobelieve.org
http://realteenfaith.blogspot.com

Embarrassing moments

Everyone has embarrassing moments (EMs)--those times in a crowded room when you blurt out something private right when everyone else stops talking, or when you come out of the restroom and realize the back edge of your skirt is tucked up in your underwear, or when you catch your foot on the edge of the step getting on the school bus and land in a heap on the driver's lap. (I've done all of those, by the way.) The question isn't whether or not we have EMs. It's what we should do with them after they happen.

I had another EM yesterday at church. I sing and play piano for our praise band. It's an honor and privilege, and I love it. But for this EM I was right up on the platform holding a microphone while our other pianist, Nate, happened to be at the keyboard playing the song, "Shout to the Lord." Do you know that one? Great song. Our pastor had specifically requested we sing it right before his sermon. You know, to prepare everyone's hearts for the message and all.

The last line in the song is, "Nothing compares to the promise I have in You." As we practiced before church, we repeated that line several times in an overlapping echo. Deanna and I harmonized on the echo after Ben sang it solo. It sounded very pretty and worshipful. I was sure the pastor would be pleased.

When we sang the song during the actual service, though, Nate began to ritard at the end. I thought, "If Deanna and I go ahead and sing the echo, he'll follow us." So we started singing it. But Nate didn't follow. He just played an arpeggio and ended the song. Deanna cut off after "Nothing compares." I got as far as "Nothing compares to the prom." By then, the piano had died away and I was singing alto all alone into a microphone. So I just stopped. Right in the middle of the word.

I walked back to my seat feeling mortified but also trying not to laugh. Nothing compares to the prom? That's an awesome way to set the tone for the sermon. Yessiree, folks. Nothing compares to the prom. If you haven't bought your gown or rented your tux yet, better get on that.

For a few moments I wondered if I'd disappointed the pastor or maybe even God. But then I realized something. I hadn't meant to butcher the ending of the song. Nate hadn't meant to stop too soon. We're human, and sometimes we just mess up. And the truth is, by the end of the service I don't think anyone even remembered it. (Except me. And I save this kind of stuff for writing fodder, so I don't count.)

What do you do with your EMs? If it hurts someone else, I apologize. But if the joke is on me, then I try to just laugh. That puts others at ease and banishes any awkwardness they might feel on my behalf. And if by chance there are any jerks around who want to make me feel bad, they'll have a harder time making fun of someone who's already laughing at herself.

Next time you find yourself having an EM, remember you're not alone. Everyone has them. Laugh it off and think about something pleasant. Like the prom.

After all, nothing compares to the prom.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Measuring up? To a false image?

I saw this video this afternoon and just had to share it with you. I was shocked even though I had been told how extensively models are changed. I thought it was a matter of a little air-brushing. Look at this video and be relieved of the burden to measure up to impossible physical, but artificial, standards.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U

WARNING: not all the videos on this site are wholesome.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Days We Need Warning Labels


Do you ever just have one of those days? When you wake up exhausted and would give your entire nail polish AND purse collection just to stay in bed? When your morning routine takes longer than it should? When neither your clothes nor your hair seems to fit?

These are the days we hate, but Satan loves. When it takes very little for Satan to prompt me into saying or doing something completely ungodly. And I struggle enough as it is.

This week included a few of those days. I am around a couple of people who are not overly friendly. People I wouldn’t want to be standing next to if my clothes were on fire or if I needed CPR. We all know some people like that. And it’soooo me to try and one up them. You know what I mean? To that girl who always has something outrageously rude to say, I can go one better. To that guy who looks away when I say “good morning,” I am perfectly capable of throwing him a world class dirty look. To that person who never has time to help out, I can dish it right back and then some.

But…that isn’t of God. It sure is of me though.

I had that challenge this week. Someone was off the charts hateful. To the point where you are standing there with your mouth wide open, like “Did that just happen?” I pray for God to take control of my thoughts daily. To tie up my mouth when I want to verbally pin someone against the wall. I struggle with my mouth ALL THE TIME. And frankly, sometimes I lose that battle. But not this week. I was actually able to walk away. And get this: I even prayed for Mrs. Rudeness. Okay, that idea didn’t come to me until much later, but still, I did eventually feel led to pray for her, for her salvation. Did it take everything in me to NOT pray for her to lose a finger in a freak stapling incident? Yes. But I felt God whispering, “You could be the only example of Christ she sees all day. All week. Her reaction is not what’s important. Yours is.”

So I challenge you. Next time you find yourself in the midst of a bad day and someone pushes you over the edge, stop and pray. Let God deal with that person. You take the high road. Because He’s watching. And so is Satan. Who are you gonna allow to claim the victory?

The Perfect Dancing Partner

Teenagers are my favorite people. I'm especially drawn to rebellious girls. Probably because my own two daughters rebelled. (Deep down, I think we all fight God in one way or another--some people just do it louder than others.)

I teach high school Sunday school. In my mind, I'm going around the room and picturing each girl. Every single one is going through pain and hard stuff.

One had major foot surgery and has been in so much pain. She was born with CP. Her one dream in life is to dance. She's scheduled to have a second surgery next month on the other foot.
One is a ballet dancer who's been unable to dance because of an injury to her leg muscle. She'd finally gotten better when she tore a muscle near her ribs. Breathing hurts her. Now she can't dance until she heals all over again.

One's boyfriend just broke up with her. She has "that look" in her eyes. We've all probably felt it. The deep ache that comes from being hurt. Who wants to dance when you're crying?

There's pain going on in the lives of the girls that I can't even blog about.

Nothing that happens to us slips by unnoticed to our Father. One of my daughters was date raped. She didn't tell anyone. She was a "church girl" who felt covered in shame after it happened. It's taken some time, but Katie's been set free. I guess you could say she's dancing again. :-)

God cares. He's working good in our lives. He can use our scars to heal others.

In the name of Jesus, I'm praying for anyone reading this.
Anyone who's hurting.
Anyone who's been used.
Anyone who's been ignored or rejected.
Anyone who's running from God.
Anyone who feels unworthy.
Or ugly.
Anyone who wants to learn to dance again.

May we allow Him to love on us and teach us to dance.

So much love♥
Julie

Friday, October 20, 2006

Joy Regardless

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Rom 12:15)


I find it pretty easy most of the time to mourn with those who mourn - girls often have a natural empathy for those in pain. But lately, I've had a harder time with the first part. Oh, don't get me wrong. I can rejoice with anyone...as long as things are going pretty well for me. But there are times when it feels like good things happen to absolutely everyone but me.

Now, I know that's not true. There are many good things in my life that I am thankful for. But there are also things that have been difficult, and I would really like to see change. But God has me in a holding pattern of sorts.

You see, it's pretty easy to think that maybe God just doesn't like you as much as someone else. That another girl got a blessing, and you got passed over, because God likes them more. Even if we know that to be ridiculous, it's still easy to let our thoughts wander there.

I've done it. Maybe you have too.

But that's what Paul was talking about when he said:

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Cor. 10:5

Words like "demolish, captive and make" tell us that we have to put forth real effort to deal with these wrong thoughts when they come. If something isn't true - meaning God said it - then we can't let that thought live inside of us. We have to take it prisoner and then shine truth in its eyes. We cannot just be passive participants. We have to make war on these things.

Mostly because these wrong thoughts will really hurt us, and those around us. We can become bitter and angry very easily if we believe wrong things about God.

Because the truth is that God loves you best. God doesn't play favorites and He never will. God cares for you, will never leave you and offers to be your daddy. If you believe those things (instead of the other things) then it's easier to trust that God knows exactly what He's doing. That perhaps you haven't receieived that blessing for a very good reason. God's ways are not our ways, and it can be tough to look at the "unfairness" of life and wonder if God really does have everything in control. But he does. I would stake my life on it.

I get that it's not easy to do what I'm telling you to do. Because I'm right there with you today, making war on my thoughts and forcing them to line up with the truth of God's word. It's not easy, but it's all a part of that molding and shaping that makes us more like Jesus.

Lord, help all of us to trust in who you are. To believe your word over what we might think or feel inside of us. Help us to trust that you have the best plans for us, and that you only mean us good and not harm. Help each of us to hide your truth in our hearts so that we can hear you better. We do want to be like Jesus. Father, help us to know you better each and every day. Amen.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Is God More Than a Feeling?

I'm so excited! My newest book for teens will hit the shelves in 10 weeks!


It's called Making It Real: Whose Faith is It Anyway?

This book is the first in a series for teens who want to take their faith to the next level. Each chapter ends with daily devos that help you put feet on what you've learned. In the first chapter you learn that: God is more than a feeling

So, will you explore that thought with me today?

Grab your Bible and read Acts 16:19-34.

Isn't this exactly what you don't want? You're doing everything right and suddenly everything goes wrong.

A fortune teller traipses after Paul and Silas and they take time to tell her about Jesus. She hangs an "out of business" sign as a psychic and her owners aren't happy. They see dollar signs disappearing so they throw Paul and Silas in jail.

Now Paul and Silas have to spend a few days in the clinker. Civil rights weren't a huge issue back then, so jail wasn't the greatest place to hang out.

Around midnight, Paul and Silas start singing a tune--praising God with all their heart. I don't understand this fully, do you? Paul is naked and battered, and the guy is singing like he’s trying out for the choir. But Paul and Silas have learned that faith isn't about feelings or circumstances. They know that this will work out for the greater good if they keep their focus on Christ.

Your lack of feelings--or overabundance of them--doesn't mean that Godisn't on the scene. When you're doing everything right and life is crumbling all around you, you can stand on truth instead of feelings.

I've lived this. When I had cancer and I looked at my three beautiful small children, I turned to truth rather than fear. When my son was hurt by a drunk driver and spent six weeks in the hospital with 13 fractures from the waist down, I turned to truth rather than anger or desperation.

There were moments--lots of them--when feelings tried to overwhelm me, and that is when I got very alone with God and was honest with him, but also opened my arms and my heart to embrace the truth that I was not alone.

May I pray with you today?

Thank you God that you are bigger than feelings. I know that you are with me, and with this beautiful daughter of your's who is reading this right now. I know that you are trustworthy and faithful, and that difficult times somehow fall into place as we trust in you. Thank you that in the midst of difficult times, you walk with us, carry us, and help us to live a consistent faith life with you. I pray that she will sense that you love her and that you are with her even now. Amen.

Hey girls, it's such a privilege to hang out with each of you! I hope that you will spread the word. Let people know that we are here! We're ready to grow!

Suzie Eller (T. Suzanne)
http://daretobelieve.org

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Let The Children Come ...

One of my favorite things about Jesus is how he loved to be around little kids. Doesn't the sight of a child's sweet face lift your spirits? If so, here's your kid fix for the day. Photographer Danny Goldfield set out to photograph one child from every country on the planet. The only catch was that they all had to live in New York City. Goldfield's finished product proves that the Statue of Liberty is still in the right place:


Monday, October 16, 2006

Today

(Tricia Goyer in Glacier National Park.)

Today I was reading in the gospel of John about the crucifixion of Christ. One thing that stood out to me where Jesus' words, "Shall I not drink from the cup God has given me?"

Jesus obeyed God because He desired to do God's will. He took the cup, which included humiliation, pain, anger, lies, and death, and accept it.

As I meditated on Jesus' words, I thought of my own cup. The one God has given me for TODAY.

What is inside? What will my day hold? Whatever it is, I know it's been given to me from God and I can either accept it--understanding that He is a God of love and His will is always perfect--or I can complain, moan, cry and lash out.

Looking through my journal, I can across this quote. It's from the devotional book My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers:

"We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the growth of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never believe that the so-called random events of life are anything less that God’s appointed order. Be ready to discover his divine designs anywhere and everywhere."

Okay, I have to admit, this is a hard one for me to grasp sometimes. at 7:30 a.m. After my quiet time when the house is calm and peaceful, it's easy to believe the random events of life are God's appointed order. It's harder to remember at 4:30 p.m. when the kids need my attention, the phone rings for the 50th time that day, the dog is throwing up on my carpet, and I still haven't figured out what's for dinner.

Yet today I'm going to TRY to remember this throughout the day. Maybe I'll use sticky notes or even resort to writing on my hand.

Okay, I've done it. I've written this on my palm: Divine Design. Yeah, I like that.

Now, here is one more quote for the road:

“I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. I ended up by asking Him to do His work through me.” ~Hudson Taylor

In what ways will God work through you today? I can't wait to find out.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Interruptions

“Jeanette, can you can here for a sec?” My husband called from the other room.

“Again?” I mouthed, since the kids were within earshot. Grr. I smacked the coffee table (or something equally as mature) and got up to help Norm, yet again, with an essay for his on-line English class.

Why couldn’t he do his own homework? I’d been answering to whiney kids all day, between our two boys and my part-time job at our church’s after-school program. How could he not see the importance of the activity that he kept pulling me away from? Christian and I had been waiting all summer for the season opener of Lost. It’s one of my few guilty pleasures—that and (you guessed it, Sarah and Jennifer) Gilmore Girls. Of course he only needed me during the good parts, which happen about every three minutes on a pivotal episode of Lost!

Later, I’ll admit, I felt pretty childish thinking back to my teeth clenched scowls, the ever-so-loving “Can’t this wait ‘til tomorrow?” that I greeted him with after the third request that didn’t take place during a commercial break. Oh and that super-Christ-like moment when I mumbled, on my way down the hall, “Can anyone do anything for themselves around here?” I mean seriously, how much brattier could I be? Not much. And over a TV show?

My friends describe me as a patient, gentle person. They obviously don’t have to live with me. Unfortunately, I also have an icky side, which usually comes out when my agenda gets altered without my permission. Here are some glaring examples.

Case #1 - It’s Friday night. I’m vegging in front of a movie (don’t ask how many times I’ve seen it—the fact that I’m saying lines along with the actors speaks for itself). The phone rings. “Don’t answer that,” I instruct my family. “And on the eighth day, God created the answering machine and it was VERY good.” I don’t care who it is. I just don’t want to be bugged.

Case #2 – I’m reading the latest novel by Tricia Goyer. The action is so intense and real that I fear for my safety. What’s that pounding? Are the Nazis at my door? Where can I hide the kids? No wait, it’s my foot, pounding against the side of the couch. You know, like Thumper when he’s excited?
Suddenly, 4-year-old Nathan appears beside me, his big brown eyes pleading for attention.
“Mommy, I’m hungry.”
“What? I’m in the middle of something. Christian, get your brother a snack!”
See, I’m terrible! Be thankful that I’m not your mother.

Case #3 – I’m scrambling to finish a posting for this cool teen blog that I write for. One problem, I can’t find a single Bible verse that expresses my point. A tender voice reminds me that it has been awhile since I read my Bible for more than looking up verses for writing projects. I didn’t pray this morning or take even a minute of time to read a devotional.
Maybe you should take a break and have some quiet time now. It might help.
But God, I don’t have time. This is due today. I’ve already been interrupted by the phone—twice. Can’t You see I’m busy?

Now those are the interruptions that bring me to a screeching halt—the times when I discover that I don’t even want God messing with my plans for the day.

I learn a lot about my true self through my responses to interruptions, whether they come from my family, friends who call at “inconvenient” times, and yes, even those that come from God. I see that I’m a lot more selfish than I want to let myself think. Considering the blessings that I have found in times when I willingly accepted an unexpected detour, you’d think I’d be more open to them. So I’m praying that I’ll learn to not only accept, but to embrace life’s unexpected curves—especially when my Father is calling.

What about you? How do you respond to interruptions? Pay attention to what God does through them today.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

Friday, October 13, 2006

Scary School Things


Lots of chaos in the news lately. Who would have ever thought school would be such a scary place? Yes, the cafeteria meatloaf has always been a risk, but now there’s even more to take in. School shootings. The case in Joplin, Missouri, where the student brought the gun to school? Forty-five minutes from my home.

I’m a teacher, and I’ve found there are bigger things to fear than two girls in a hair pulling, face-scratching fight. (Though that ranks a REALLY close second.) This week, as President Bush had his powwow about school violence, our high school had a crisis drill. It was kind of like a dream for me. You know, the ones in which something crazy is going on, and it’s like you’re watching it happen from a distance?

In our high school we have our doors blacked out. No one can see out; no one can see in (has a nice homey, Alcatraz feel). Then when the drill begins, we lock our doors, huddle the students along a back wall on the floor, and think all sorts of scary thoughts. “What if?” was the question of the day.

“What if the shooter is inside this room?”
“What if the shooter gets you (the fearless teacher)?”
“What if we’re outside? In the cafeteria? In the bathroom?”

We have a procedure for most of these situations, designed to do everything possible to protect every student. But in my head I’m thinking, “You pray. You just pray.” Because I know when frightening things hit, whether it’s school violence or a car wreck or maybe a family member diagnosed with cancer, the best thing you can do is pray. Give it up to God, though that is beyond difficult. But even though things like school crisis drills are scary, we gotta remember that we’re in His hands. Psalm 91:4-6 says:

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

I love that visual of being under His wings. Safely sheltered and protected. God is in control, and we are in His grip. And that’s a comforting place to be.

Jennifer

Thursday, October 12, 2006

In control

We all like to think we're in control (even though we can't even control our hair!) And, if we're honest, a lot of times we say we're trusting God, but what we're hoping is that we can somehow control Him by praying or bargaining or being good.

But God isn't our personal ATM machine, dispensing blessings when we plug in the right prayers. Sometimes His choices for us are painful. Sometimes, when we ask for what we want, His answer is "no"--not because He's mean, but because He knows all things and only gives us what is best.

Whatever you're going through right now, I pray you'll know that all God's gifts are good. They're not always fun at the moment, but they are ALWAYS good. He loves us more than we can imagine, and He is working out His plans with perfect faithfulness.

May you sense His smile on you today. Even if you have to see it through your tears.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hair

I think every family is weird about at least one thing.

Something our family obsesses about is our hair. When I was 17 months old my mom gave me a perm. A perm at 17 months!! And every Saturday night before church, my sister and I had to roll our hair using this cold green glop called Dippety-do. Back then, my mom went to the beauty shop once a week and came home with hard helmet hair.

Yesterday, Mom had another hair crisis. She woke up at 4 a.m. thinking about her hair. She called me really early. "Julie, I'm leaving for New York Wednesday. What am I going to do? My hair feels like material it's so dry(she doesn't have helmet hair anymore), plus it's completely flat on top. I hate the color!"

Because we panic about our hair, I talked her through it. She called our hairdresser at home and scheduled an emergency consultation this morning.

I understand. I've freaked about my hair too.

But yesterday I was thinking about it.

This is for real.

Could our hair be more important (at least on some days) to us than God?

Whatever takes up our thoughts, is that person or thing or problem bigger to us than God?

I confess. Yes. So many times I've put my hair ahead of my Father.

Anybody else?

♥Julie

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Power of Worship

After a brief break, I found myself being called on to sing with the worship team more often than usual. This has been an emotional couple of months, particularly the past several weeks. You’d think I would secretly be wishing for a week or so off to regroup. The truth is I am grateful to Jose for needing me so often. I needed to be scheduled. Through all my recent stress, I needed to worship, to focus on God instead of my thoughts and emotions, or the fears that fought for top billing. I needed to be with Jill and Jane, Jose, and the musicians, feeling their love and support, regardless of whether or not they knew what was going on in my life. During practice, and while singing on Sunday mornings, I needed the words of both the new and the familiar songs.

“Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? Though you have made me see trouble, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up” (Psalm 71:19-20).

In David’s darkest moments, he chose to worship the God who had been faithful in the past and would be again. Considering that my most difficult problems hardly compare to those that David faced, how can I not at least attempt to do the same? And what amazing things happened in the past weeks, all because Jose called on me to lead others in singing. For a brief but precious time on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings, tension eased, songs became my prayers, God’s love felt more real, and reminders of His great track record brought hope that my battle would soon end. Not only that, but I’d be better for it and have a fresh list of reasons to thank my Father.

This past Thursday night, as I practiced with the worship team yet again, I sang with a new level of passion, as I felt the joy of release from the pit (okay, maybe “pit” is a bit dramatic, but I’d just dealt with a pretty intense issue). Though I still had some things to work through and let go of, I’d found my way out of the cold, dismal valley. Not only did I overflow with gratitude for the God who had already brought so much good out of a bad situation, but I praised Him for teaching me the beauty of worshipping him through it all.

“My lips will shout for joy when I sing to you—I, whom you have redeemed. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long” (Psalm 71:23-24).

God, let this be true on good days and on the most difficult.

No matter what this week brings, may God fill your heart with reasons—and opportunities—to worship Him!

Many blessings,
Jeanette

Saturday, October 07, 2006

That "ONE"

As my husband and I drove home tonight we talked about "us".

"What if you hadn't went to college?" I asked. "Would we have met?"

"I'm sure we would," he said. "We were meant to be together. I know that God brought you into my life."

Right now you might have one of two reactions: Ewww. Or, hmm sweet.

Is God a puppet master in the sky, turning and twisting our paths to meet people, to find the next footprint in our destiny, or do we just tumble in and out of each other's lives by accident?

I believe it is somewhere in the middle. I think that he gives us clear direction on what to look for in a mate. I think he paints a beautiful picture of marriage and relationships. And then he gives us the ability to choose.

When Richard came my way, he fit the portrait of a godly man--not just on the outside, but inside. He also had "fruits" in his life like integrity, compassion, gentleness, and more.

As the years have passed, the exterior for both of us has changed. We've gotten older. I've had babies and my body has changed (Eww, again). But those characteristics that were present the first time I met him have only deepened.

So, whether it was destiny or whether it was choosing a mate that was a good man, a kind man, a generous man, a man that truly loved God. . .

I'm thankful.

Choose carefully, girls. Go deeper than just the surface. Choose someone that you can wake up with 25 years from now and still love, and be happy together even with the bumps and jolts that come with life. Maybe one day he'll look deep into your eyes on a clear fall night and say. . .

"we were meant to be."

Friday, October 06, 2006

PASSION

Last night I had the chance to talk to seven teen moms (all under the age 19) about my experiences of having a baby at age 17. Every time I talk about that depressing time in my personal history I'm AMAZED what God has done with my life--mainly how He's transformed my teenage passion for romance with my boyfriends (to put it bluntly) into a passion for Him.

Don't get me wrong, I love my husband and my kids. On this earth, they are first on my radar screen. But I all my heart desires focus on pleasing God and growing closer and closer to Him.

C.S. Lewis is a good guy to quote--maybe because he can put into words what my heart feels. This is what he said:

"Indeed if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

And another wise guy, Augustine had this to say, "How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! . . . You drove them from me, you who are the true, sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure."

What about you? Have you been far too pleased, entanged, enraptured by the things of this world? Are you making mud pies when God is offering you a holiday at the sea?

I use to look for love in all the wrong places--and I ended up as a pregnant teen. Now I'm gaa-gaa over the Creator of the universe. And the more I love Him, the more I want to love Him.

It's an awesome place to be.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Beauty of God's Creation


I want to share with you an excerpt from my journal during my vacation to Hawaii earlier this month....

“I am overwhelmed by beauty. All of God’s creation is beautiful, but there is something breathtaking about the beauty of earth. We place so much emphasis on the beauty of people that the beauty of earth is sometimes unseen and neglected. I sit in a place far from home. The beauty of Hana, Maui is ridiculous. We drove through a rain forest to get to our house. It was a three hour drive of beauty that had only been in our dreams. We saw trees and plants that we had never seen in any other place. There are black rocks along the shore. How did they get here? Did God make them just as they are and place them on the coast or did they form from volcano lava? You can’t help but be in awe of God’s creative activity.

I can’t see anything in the distance. No other land for miles and miles. I can hear the ocean beat against the shore. What does it speak of? For whose glory do the waves break? In the Psalms, waves are used to describe the wrath of God and the agony of despair. Waves are something so beautiful and mysterious. It’s strange that they would be used to describe something painful. Maybe the same parallel can be drawn about the wrath of God and despair. Both seem negative but maybe as you dig you can see beauty in the mystery. I don’t have to face God’s wrath because of grace but it is beautiful that He will vindicate Himself someday. Every knee will bow before Him. The agony of despair is not beautiful in and of itself, but seeing God in it is beauty. The drive to rest in Him and wait for Him is beautiful.”

Every morning, we would wake to the sunrise. Every morning was a new and unique glorious portrait. This picture is from our backyard overlooking the ocean one morning. You don’t have to be in Maui to experience God’s beauty. Look around you today and breathe in His beauty.

Sarah

Monday, October 02, 2006

Heaven

I'm reading 50 Days of Heaven by Randy Alcorn. This book and Heaven for kids are powerhouses of good information.
Let me share just one word from today's devotional.
Zeteo
Isn't that a cool word. I'm thinking of naming a minor dragon Zeteo. It's a cool word to say even before you know what it means.
It translates from Greek in the New Testament as "set your hearts on." It is used in the Gospels to announce that the Son of Man came to seek (zeteo) and to save that which was lost.
Zeteo also denotes ardor as in fervor to accomplish. Zeteo is used in the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the merchant who searches for fine pearls.
Paul uses zeteo when he tells us to pursue in a diligent, active, single-minded manner . . . what?
We who have been to church often and involved in numerous Bible studies are predisposed to answer . . . what?
What pops into your mind as the object of a Christian's ardant seeking?
Christ? God? Scripture?
The answer here is Heaven.
That's right! Heaven!
Why?
1. It is where we will spend eternity. If we are going to the Gulf Coast for a holiday, we spend a few hours surfing the net to find out the fun things we will encounter. Seems like our curiosity would be piqued as to what Heaven has in store for us. I have my ticket to vacation there.
2. A place reveals a lot about the person who built the place. By becoming familiar with what Heaven is like, we become even more familiar with He who created it.
So don't pass over the passages about Heaven as something beyond our imaginations. ZETEO, man. Look into it.

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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