Sunday, December 31, 2006

Resolutions

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

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

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

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

Sarah Bragg

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Fun with the Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 29, 2006

Digital Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Called. . . to what?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love ya,
Suzie Eller (T. Suzanne)
http://realteenfaith.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Resolving Some Resolutions

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

BRAD AND ANGELINA



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

TOM CRUISE


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

PLUTO



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

DICK CHENEY



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

MEL GIBSON



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

SADDAM HUSSEIN



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

TACO BELL



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

BRIT AND LINDSAY












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



PRESIDENT BUSH



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

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

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


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

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

Much Love,
Jen

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Christmas Present

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

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

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

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

"Because YOU painted them."

She smiled. I smiled.

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

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

♥ Julie

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Thinking Past Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

“No.”

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

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

“The woman ahead of you left it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I think it is.”

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

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

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

Have a blessed Christmas!
Jeanette

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Nativity Story: Romance 101

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

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

Monday, December 18, 2006

When Life is Less Than You Dreamed

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

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

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

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

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

You are loved,
Sarah Bragg

Saturday, December 16, 2006

But I'm Just a Teenager!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

And most importantly…what are you waiting for?

Merry Christmas, G3'ers!
Jen

Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Brain is Blinking

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Let's Turn the Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, what a complete picture that will be!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sometimes Mom Makes Wings


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Gotta Give It

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!
Sarah Bragg

Monday, December 04, 2006

Friend Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there anything in your life that hurts?

Anything you wish you could change?

Me too.

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

♥Julie



Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas Music

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

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

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Vision -- Becoming Part of Something Bigger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your vision?

Suzie Eller (T. Suzanne)


What is your vision?

Friday, December 01, 2006

The P Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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