Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Journey on the Titanic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Discussion About Church

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

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

What has been a defining moment in your life?

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

Happy Post Thanksgiving!!
Sarah Bragg

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving--It's More Than Just Turkey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

stray kitty I didn't want

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

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

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

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

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

I'm allergic to cats.

We have an indoor black Lab.

How do you keep them apart?

The dog might chase her up a tree.

We have leather furniture.

But she melted my heart.

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

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

I didn't want to keep her.

I didn't plan to love her.

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

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

♥ Julie

Happy Birthday to ME!

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

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Need a Mood Lifter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Top 10 List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what do you think?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

God's Love Hasn't Grown Cold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Bragg

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Greener Grass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 12, 2006

HIM vs. him

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have great weekend.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

No blog words necessary.

See if you feel what I felt.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Girl time

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

Thursday, November 09, 2006

When Great Men Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and believe with them as they find restoration and healing.

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

My two cents,

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Naked Barbies

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

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

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

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

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

So what do we do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can we do? Stop comparing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to remember we are beautifully designed by God.

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

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Deleting the Junk Mail

“Hey, Larry, check out this watch!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I pray the same for you today.

May your thoughts be pure and lovely!


Sunday, November 05, 2006


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

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

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

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

So look around carefully. Keep your eyes open.

God is pursuing you.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Hip-Hop That Values Girls

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

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

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

Friday, November 03, 2006

How Much Does a Father-Figure Figure?

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

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

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

How do you know what God is like?

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

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

Sarah Bragg

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Ah, romance. Brings certain images to mind, doesn't it? Candlelit dinners. Dancing under the stars. Fluttery feelings in your gut when that certain someone gazes into your eyes.

We all dream of finding romance, and lots of people like reading stories about it. You know the pattern. Boy meets girl. A bunch of stuff conspires against them. Boy eventually wins girl. They a) kiss, b) get engaged, and/or c) get married. Then comes The Happily-Ever-After End.

Most of us fall in love with this formula as soon as we're old enough for classic Disney movies. And I'm not knocking it. Fairy tales are delightful. Every little girl dreams of being Cinderella or Jasmine or Sleeping Beauty.

But then there's reality.

Life doesn't usually work out like a typical romance story. And maybe that's not what we really want anyway. Maybe we're longing for something else. Something better.

Maybe what we really want is a love story. A story about acts of self-sacrifice and kindness. Heroism, not of the Indiana Jones variety, but the Jesus variety. Love that sees us in our sin and filth and indifference, then lays down its life in our place anyway. Hosea-type love that knowingly marries an adulterous wife. Then, after she runs away, goes to the slave market and buys her back again.

God is the greatest Romancer of all, but His story doesn't fit the mold. He calls and woos his bride. When she loses interest in Him and goes after other lovers, He waits. Oh, how patiently He waits! And he even promises a happy ending. But the story world is broken, and there's only one way to reach happily ever after. The Lover must die for His beloved. And then He leaves--a long physical separation during which the bride learns obedience through suffering. She groans within herself, longing for a redemption of her body that will not come this side of death.

No candlelit dinners. No dancing under the stars. No gazing into the eyes.


Prince Charming may never carry you off into the sunset on a white horse. But Jesus is coming back for His bride, and He promises happily ever after. We’re all invited to be part of that love story. I'm in. How 'bout you?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


I saw Chris Tomlin in concert this weekend (That's me at the concert with some friends. I'm the girl in the center--with the REALLY flat hair.) Seeing Tomlin live is something I highly recommend. This guy has got it going on. I mean, he gets it, you know? It's only been in the last few years that I've "gotten it." Worship isn't about us. It's about Him. (Um...God, not Chris Tomlin.)

I like to sing. I'm not great at it, but I enjoy it. (Though I did sing the National Anthem at a mule jumping contest once, thank you very much. Not that I'm bragging...) Not too long ago when I'd sing in church (or in the shower, in the car, in the middle of the mall, whatever), it would often be about me. Me harmonizing with those sitting next to me. Me humming my own free-style add-ons. Me trying to sing better than the tone-deaf woman behind me. Me, me, me.

But the song "Made to Worship" is a great reminder that God has created us to worship. And not only with music, but with our lives. Does your life worship God? Do your words? Your actions? I know I fail that test often.

It's also about being in a spirit of gratitude and humility and reverence when we're worshipping. A line in the song says, "He has filled our hearts with wonder so that we always remember." What a cool idea--that we are created to worship God. It's like a car designed to always have gasoline. Our hearts are already filled with everything we need to give him glory.

Next time you're singing or playing an instrument for God, really focus on who your audience is. It's not those around you. It's for Him. It's not about sounding pretty (though I'm sure the mules were grateful at the time they heard the "Star Spangled Banner." ). It's about giving up a praise offering to the Lord. Honoring him with everything you've got--your focus, your concentration, and your attitude. And not just your voice.

"You and I were made to worship. You and I are called to love."
Give it a shot. Look for those opportunities to worship Him today with all you've got.
Jennifer B. Jones

Check out Chris Tomlin discussing his motivation and inspiration here.