Thursday, May 29, 2008

Being Available



Just completed and submitted an article to a magazine on self-injury—talking about the hidden hurts and the dilemma for those of us who want to help.

I think the first step is . . . be available.

Do you know someone who is self-injuring? Someone who has thought about it? If so, consider checking out my February 6th blog entry on my author site called self-injury—helping teens. (Once you’re there, scroll down just a bit.)

And if you have questions, comments, or experiences you want to share, something you’ve discovered—either as someone who has struggled or someone who has been an encourager—please feel free to leave a comment here or write me privately.

Available.

Jan

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sometimes we forget...

My kids are VERY creative. Being homeschooled, they usually had 2-3 hours of school work and the rest of the time they goofed off ... or entertained themselves. Creativity is the result. They write songs, write stories, read, and do video productions ... just for fun.

Also, they've recently "taken over" their youth group's drama department. This week Cory, Leslie, and Nathan are doing a skit on the theme "I am Bold." Nathan (14) has amnesia and he is very timid. The other two tell me that he's actually an accomplished and well-known person, and they enourage him to Be Bold.

The point of the message, of course, is to remind us who we are in Christ. Sometimes we forget.
Okay, most of the time we forget.

Anyway, here are a few of the illustrations the kids came up to to prove Nathan's success. I thought they were great!



Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Courageous Leadership

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” 1Thessalonians 5:24

God is faithful! He is worthy to be believed. There was a 350 year period when the Judges ruled the land. This was when Israel was pulling away from God. Even though they were pulling away, God remained faithful to them. God sent Israel a deliverer. Her name was Deborah.

Deborah was called by God to be a prophetess and judge. She was in tune with the voice of God. Not only could she hear God, but she also had the courage to act on what God was saying. Israel was threatened by King Jabin. Deborah sent word to her co-leader, Barak, and reminded him of the word from the Lord, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops…and against you I will deploy Sisera…and I will deliver him into your hand?’” (Judges 4:6,7) Deborah felt God’s presence in her life and leadership. She called back to the promises from God. That gave her the boldness to act on what God had told her to do.

In the midst of battle, we need to remain in a place where we hear God’s voice. We need to remember God’s promises and act on what He is calling us to do. God is faithful! When we listen and act on God’s word, we begin to live a victorious life. The fear of uncertainty and the unknown are destroyed and our faith is strengthened.

Sarah Bragg

Monday, May 19, 2008

When Life Seems Unfair: A Sad Sequel

Earlier this month I told the miraculous tale of the return of my cat Lucia. Not only did she come back safe and whole but she seemed to have grown a backbone. She spent more time roaming the house and less hours hiding from the dog on the shelf over our refrigerator. She didn’t even mind the new cat. Well, she did give one token hiss in passing, as if to say, “The Queen has returned. Off with your head!” We had gotten used to the idea of being a 3 cat family. Then, exactly a week after Lucia came home, we woke up to find her lethargic and clearly sick.

Ironically Tatiana, the new cat (my birthday gift) had a bad kitty cold. But after trips to the vet for both of them it became clear that they had completely different things. While Tatiana bounced back Lucia got sicker and sicker, to the point where I had to feed her pureed, watered-down baby-food-like cat food through a baby medicine dropper. Half the time she gagged on it.

On Friday we made the heartbreaking decision to have her put to sleep. The vet decided that she must have developed pneumonia, possibly while she was on the road. Or she could have caught Tatiana’s cold and, being much older, couldn’t fight it off. As I waited for the vet to come in and give the injection I wondered for the hundredth time why God would send my precious cat back to me only to have her die. The only thought that comforted me was, as least she died with me instead of alone in a bush somewhere. At least I got to hold her and stroke her and tell her what a good kitty she was while she slipped away on my lap. Still it didn’t seem fair.

This happened at a time when so much doesn’t seem fair in life. I won’t pour out all the drama. Let’s just say that losing Lucia was just one more hard thing. This morning I read a passage from the book of Job (yeah, I know, what a nice pick me up when you’re already down). God had just responded to Job questioning by basically asking, “Um, are you God? Did you create the world?” Humbled Job responded, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

I closed my Bible with the sense that God knows what He is doing even if none of it seemed fair or logical to me. I still miss Lucia. I still wish many things were different. But God still cares and has a plan even if I can’t see even a tiny bit of it.

Maybe there is something in your life that seems unfair. Ask God to help you cling to His love and purpose today.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hands and Knees

A few of us went to help with a mission project Thursday. The lady in charge must have been in her 60's. She's helping refugees settle in. 5,000 of them--most don't speak English.

Some of us helped them set up e-mail accounts. Some helped with food distribution. Some will be teaching English.

My job was to clean up a concession stand at a ballpark so they can have summer camps. We wiped down the counter tops, sprayed them with Clorox, and swept out spiders. We took the water hose and sprayed pollen off the concrete surrounding the concession stand. Then we dropped to our hands and knees picked up trash in the area.

I can't tell you how I sensed the Spirit of God on my hands and knees. God showed up right there in the middle of an inner city concession stand in a junky ballpark. There's a scripture that begins, "And taking the towel He knelt..." meaning Jesus knelt to wash His disciples' feet. I believe He considered it joy and a privilege.

Maybe God is in the small things. The things that go unnoticed by the crowds. The almost invisible things we do for others--no matter how small. I can tell you, He was with me as I knelt in the floor of that concession stand.

Love,
Julie

Thursday, May 15, 2008

BAGS!

Camy here, gushing about something I’m unashamedly, illogically addicted to: bags!

I come by my addiction honestly. My mother looooooooves bags. She gets a new purse every year, not because the old one has worn out, but because she wants something new.

I am almost as bad. While I’ve had the same cutie pink Dooney and Bourke purse for two years now, I’m not averse to other types of bags making their way into my “collection.”

I have these awesome tote bags that I get free at conferences, and I use them for everything—my knitting, to hold books, to hold jackets, to carry packages I have to mail at the post office, to hold my stuff when I go to youth group at church, for my light and music when I have to lead worship, to carry a change of clothes, etc.

I also got these really cute Hawaiian print canvas tote bags at the Aloha Flea Market for like $5 each, and they’re lined, with two small zippered pockets in addition to the main compartment, and the top zips shut, too. I use those for my knitting projects. (Yes, plural, I have more than one thing I’m knitting at a time. Kind of like how some people are reading more than one book at a time.)

I also have three laptop bags, although I admit two of them were free. The problem is that I only have two laptops, and one is an old Dell klunker that I never use and wouldn’t care if I dropped, anyway.

And I love those little satin Asian jewelry purses you can get for a buck at the Aloha Flea Market. Not that I have that much jewelry, but they’re handy for ones I need to keep separate from the others.

My mom also gives me bags she’s tired of, or that she buys but decides she doesn’t like anymore (like a beautiful black and tan Dooney and Bourke tote bag that she bought for a trip to Japan but gave to me because it ended up being too heavy for her to use everyday).

And then, if that’s not enough, I really like knitting my own bags. I have a pattern for a mesh grocery/beach/anything bag that I’m going to knit as soon as I finish a few of my other projects. :) And then there was the Ugly Bag I just made, which is actually a lot uglier than the picture because I stretched it out a little to make it look nice before I took the shot.

Well, I’ve made my confession. How about you? Any addictions you care to share? It might even make it better to confess it. :) (Not that it has for me, I’m still going to acquire more bags, probably until I’m too old to carry one.)

Camy Tang lives in San Jose, California. She previously worked in biology research, and she is a staff worker for her church youth group. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, and her new Asian chick lit novel, Only Uni, just released this month. Join her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly Christian fiction giveaways!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Hungering


“If there really was a bomb and it went off, where would you go—heaven or hell?”

That’s what a friend asked me in high school as we sat in bleachers on the football field while security teams scoured classrooms and lockers. None of us believed there really was a bomb at that time, but I did take my friend’s question seriously. Even as little as I thought about God or heaven or hell, I had absolutely no doubt I’d go to hell. I think my candid response shocked her. She didn’t know what to say next.

Maybe hers wasn’t the best witnessing technique in the world, but it made me think. Growing up in a family that pretty much ignored faith, except to buy new clothes and attend an Easter service each year, I really hadn’t thought deeply about my life or where it was headed. Until that moment.

I can see now that God had already begun to work in me and draw me to himself. Looking back, it’s unmistakable. I started to notice that I was thinking about God a whole lot more, hungering to know about him, to know answers to all that had been building up inside me for a long time. Somehow I knew I needed him desperately, but I wasn't sure what to do about it.

I told my mom one spring night after a meeting I attended in the high school gym that I had accepted Jesus into my heart. At that time, before she discovered her own faith in Jesus, she rolled her eyes and told me, “It’s just a fad.”

It wasn’t.

Now, many years later, that hunger to know more of God still rumbles inside of me. So do more questions. And I don’t want any of it to stop, ever. That seemingly unquenchable desire, which I fully believe is God given, keeps me running toward him every day.

I am drawn to writings. old or new, that inspire a moment-by-moment relationship with God. Here’s one I rediscovered this week:

There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.

Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

A deeper knowing. Talking to God. Trusting him. Continual. Moment by moment.

I want that.

I’d love to know your stories or favorite quotes about hungering for God. Please share!

Jan

www.jankern.com
http://www.choose2livefree/

Monday, May 05, 2008

A Reminder that He Cares

Two weeks ago my cat, Lucia, ran away from home. I don’t know if it was the earthquakes we’ve been having (I live in Reno where we’ve had literally hundreds in the past few weeks), if she’d had enough of the dog getting in her face, or both. But one night she took off across the backyard and the next day we couldn’t find her anywhere.

Lucia has been my baby for years. She lays with me when I’m not feeling well, rests on my desk, licks my hair to get attention (okay, that’s a little annoying), and is incredibly sweet. I missed her like crazy. We put up posters, called the animal shelter, alerted friends to keep an eye out for a beautiful tortoise shell cat, everything. We prayed and prayed, “Please help Lucia find her way home.” Ten days later, Lucia (also known as The Queen, Lady Lucia, and Santa Lucia) had not returned. I finally had to accept that she was probably gone for good. Our house backs up to the freeway, our neighborhood is full of dog, it’s not unusual for coyotes to wander down out of the hills, and Lucia is declawed.

Knowing how upset I was my husband presented me with an extra special birthday gift on Thursday. You guessed it: I opened the box to find a new cat—velvet black with piercing green eyes. Deep down I wasn’t quite ready to accept a new Queen. But knowing that he meant to be sweet I doted over her and dubbed her Tatiana (also known as The Grand Duchess, or Tati, which is Nathan’s name for her). After a few minutes I said . . .

“Norm, what if Lucia comes home?”

“J, come on. There is no way.”

Yep, you guessed it again: we found Lucia that same night. I think she smelled an intruder. She’d lost a little weight, was dirty and scared, but our baby was in one piece! And she was home! I considered it my birthday gift from God.

Lucia has become my reminder that God really does care. He took care of her for 10 days. He answered our prayers just when we’d given up on the idea of ever seeing her funny multi-covered face again.

So now, the question remains, what to do with the Grand Duchess. Our house is pretty overrun with animals. But I’m tempted to keep her too. Lucia can be my reminder that God cares and Tatiana can remind me that, even on those days when it seems like he doesn’t get me at all, my husband cares too.

What are your recent reminders that God cares and hears your prayers? I’d love to hear about them!

Cross-posted on my blog

Saturday, May 03, 2008

heart soul mind strength



Mark 12:30 gives us a major guide to life. We're to "love the Lord with all our heart and soul and mind and strength." Then the Bible says that "no other commandments are greater than these."

Yesterday I was lifting weights at the Y. This is a Christian work-out place with scripture plastered all of the place, so you wouldn't think I'd lose my focus. But I did. My heart wasn't in it. I got tired in a hurry, rested too long between sets, and started slacking off. All I could think about was checking exercise off my list, getting some lunch and going shopping.

Then I noticed all the effort from those around me--drenched shirts, grunting, and total concentration.

I wonder. What if life is a lot like working out? What if I started praying more--no matter what I'm doing--even when I'm at the Y? I bet my strength and endurance would increase and my heart would be turned toward God.

Has anybody tried to pray while going about routine things, like working out, studying, shopping or cleaning?

What if we were to daily honor God with our:
physical abilities?
power?
thoughts?
reasoning?
thinking?
intelligence?
desires?
emotions?
passions?
feelings?

Julie

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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