Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We Literally Have Nothing to Fear

Do you believe in God?  Really believe in Him?

Then you have absolutely nothing to fear or worry about.

Psalm 46:1-3
1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

God is our refuge and strength.  Did you catch that?  God!  Does it get any better than that?  The God who created the universe is holding YOU in His arms! That truth, that fact, is incredible!  Isn't it??

The neat thing here is, while this reads of natural disasters, it can mean SO much more.  Yes, God will be with us through earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, blizzards, etc.  But he will also be there through political turmoil, desolation, or confusion (Wesley and Henry)!  You name the trouble, He is our help!



Because of that wonderful truth, we literally (and yes, I'm using this word correctly) have nothing to fear.  

I am so guilty of worrying about the future (or sometimes the present...and well, let's face it, the past too...).  And I forget that the God of the universe loves me enough to tenderly hold me in the palm of His hand.  I have to remind myself constantly that no matter what comes my way, God is my refuge and strength!  

In my selfishness, I want to be angry that He doesn't just take all of the bad stuff away to begin with.  Because, while I know He is my refuge, that doesn't mean I don't have to endure the pain of this world (losing a loved one, being diagnosed with a terminal illness, etc).  But we live in a fallen world and while the Kingdom is present, we haven't yet entered into the fullness of that glorious Kingdom.  One day, troubles will be no more.  Natural disasters won't occur.  Political unrest will no longer be a plight.  Illness and death will be defeated.  It will all be over.

Until then, we must find solace in the fact that God is keeping us in His hands.  He will never let go.  If I truly believe in Him, in His power, and in this truth - I've got to leave my worries, my fears, and my anxieties behind.
If not, I'm getting in the way of the glorious things He has promised me.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

Reacting, Responding, and the Gospel of Peace

Apparently, it just made headlines that Tim Tebow, in an interview with USA Today, stated that homosexuality is a sin.  Of course the media is up in arms and blowing it out of proportion.  The NFL even issued a statement including the line, "...we will not now, or in the future, offer contracts to any person who is openly homophobic."
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What was your reaction just now?  

Did you instantly turn to Facebook and post how atrocious it is?  Did you text a few of your close friends with your shock and anger?  Begin ranting about how horrible and sinful homosexuals are?  Start forming a blog response in the back of your mind (this is my go-to)?  Decide to never watch anything having to do with the NFL again?  Well, here's the thing, none of it is true.  I made it up.  I'm sure for some NFL fans that was pretty obvious.  As well as for many others.  I'm not very good at pulling the wool over people's eyes.  lol.

The point here is not about headlines being fake.  Or about rumors spreading like wildfire - though those things are relevant.  The point is, our reaction.

I do not think that we have been reacting to headlines such as Phil Robertson's not-so-surprising stance on homosexuality in the right way.

Now please hear me out before you push the 'x' on the above tab....

I am a Bible-believing conservative Christian.  That means I agree with Phil Robertson and many others, publicized or not, that homosexual acts are a sin.  Just like murder, divorce, stealing, lying, cheating, adultery, etc.  This post isn't about that.

This post is about responding instead of reacting.  This post is about our anger having appropriate outlets.  And, yes, this can be applied to all areas of our Christian walk, not just this one.

A famous quote, attributed to Albert Einstein says that "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results" (or something like that...).  Well guess what folks, that is what we have been doing.   

Any time something in the media has anything to do with homosexuals and Christians, we lash out about how angry we are that we are being criminalized, we rant about how right we are. 



The anger there isn't a problem.  We should get angry; we're allowed to be angry because of the injustices of this world.  BUT, is the way we are reacting in our anger making a difference?  Absolutely not.  We can't keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result!

You see, "we should never be rash in speaking of the things of Christ, but weigh well beforehand what we have to say, lest we speak amiss" (Matthew Henry).  Scripture has quite a bit to say about what we do with our anger and I'd love to discuss a few of those in regards to this matter...

First, here are few thoughts from the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 15:1 -  A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:18 - A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute.

Proverbs 19:11 - A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.

Proverbs 29:11 - A fool gives full vent to his anger, But a wise man keeps himself under control. (NIV)

Those few simple verses alone should make us reexamine our approach to the mess that has become "Christians vs. Homosexuals."

But Proverbs isn't the only place where anger is mentioned.  There are a few sections of Scripture I would really like to bring to light today.  The first is Ephesians 4:26-31:

26 Be angry, and yet do not sin;... 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity... 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God... 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

I'm not going to focus on the first part of this (Be angry, and yet do not sin), though it is pretty relevant.  The part that jumps out to me here is vs. 29 - Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear (emphasis added).

Are the words we are speaking edifying to those that need them in the moment?  Are they giving grace to those that hear?  Looking back to how I've reacted to being called intolerant and criminalized for my beliefs, I can answer 'no' to that question.  I have come a long ways from my original reaction.  I used to lash out for all to hear (or see rather since it is usually on Facebook). While it may have been edifying, my words definitely did not include much grace.  

To clarify, the definition of edification is "the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually" (Google).  Yes, I wanted the  world to know that the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is a sin...and not just in the Old Testament.  I was trying to improve our country morally.  But my words didn't contain grace.  And I truly believe this is true for many Christians out there.  

Something like the Phil Robertson mess comes up and we lash out on Facebook about how right we are, neglecting to think about the implications of our words.  And it hasn't done anything to help.  It has only given the enemy more fuel.  He (by way of the media) has twisted our reactions to mean intolerance and hatred - when I'm sure that most of us are not intending that at all.  

Let's look at another passage - James 1:19-20 - This you know, my beloved brethren.  But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

In my generation, in a few generations before, and in every generation after - no one knows the meaning of "slow to speak."  Because of Facebook, Twitter, e-mails, text messaging, and many other outlets - our thoughts can be read by 100's (if not thousands) of other people in a matter of moments.  It is also relevant to note that tone cannot be conveyed well through the written word.  Things are misinterpreted so very easily.  And not many of us take the time to really think those things through.  Though, for various reasons, we spend hours trying to get just the right "selfie" (and, no, I'm not speaking from experience here...).  Sometimes once those things are sent or posted, they can't be undone.  It's too late, someone saw it, someone read it.  This could be an entire blog post in itself so I'll stop here.

The point is, we are to be slow to speak - whether that is audible speaking, sending a text, or posting a status.  And we are also supposed to be slow to anger.  Honestly, this is something I struggle with, mostly in my marriage.  I am learning that if I don't react to a situation, lash out in the heat of the moment before thinking, things go much more smoothly.  If you are slow to anger, slow to speak - you give yourself time to respond.  And responding means you've had more time to think your emotions through.  You've had more time to put words to the correct emotions.  Responding means you don't say things you will regret the next day.  It means you are able to communicate better and run less chance of hurting someone else (which never helps a situation).

And did you catch the last bit of that passage - the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.  It doesn't get much simpler than that.  Our anger doesn't do anything to bring about God's righteousness!  So what exactly is the point then?  If it doesn’t do any good, then there has to be a different solution.   

The last bit of Scripture I want to bring to your attention, was brought to my mind by a recent sermon:

Ephesians 6:13-16 - 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

First of all, I just want you to notice - none of the items listed here are offensive, only defensive.  Interesting isn't it?

Most importantly, however, the Gospel is referred to as the Gospel of Peace.  It doesn't say to shod your feet with Gospel of condemnation or the Gospel of righteous anger or anything else like that.  We are to shod (or shoe) our feet with the Gospel of Peace.

Yes, there is a Spiritual Battle beneath the surface.  It is a war we are fighting every day.  I truly believe that.  But when we confront the physical world with swords swinging and guns blazing it doesn't do us any good.  The people we are trying to 'save' from a world of sin end up running away in fear or standing up to fight back.  It is a fight or flight response.  When someone comes at you red faced and arms swinging, those are the two reactions - fight or flight, neither of which are going to win anyone to the Gospel.  And that is exactly how so many Christians approach the debate over homosexuality - red faced, arms swinging, swords out, and guns blazing.

It's about time we left the definition of insanity behind.  It is about time something changed.  The next time a headline screams something about how Christians are intolerant or that some TV star or corporation doesn't support homosexuals, don't react, respond instead.  Take some time to think and process everything.  Don't let your anger get in the way of your witness, because that's all it is doing.  When you finally decide to say something or post something, think about what the reaction will be - is it going to cause the fight or flight response or is it going to cause an atmosphere of peace?  Because we need to strive for the latter.  It is the only way to bring light and life to a dark and dying world.

I don't have an answer for what that response of peace should look like.  I don't really know anyone who is homosexual or transgender and so it is difficult for me to understand.  I could come up with all sorts of ideas but I can't guarantee that they wouldn't be offensive or even taken the right way.  But it is something I'm striving to figure out.  My heart has been hurting over this matter for a long time and God is still working on me.  I am trying every day to understand what God wants from us in days like today - when the world has turned what is black and white to grey.  But one thing is for sure, we have to show His heart, not His wrath.  I ask that you would join me, and pray for this issue.  Pray that God will direct your heart, that He will give you the appropriate words when you need them, that He will make you more like Him every single day.  He has told us that anger doesn’t bring about His righteousness, pray that He will show you what will!

I apologize to any who heard or read some of my rash Facebook posts (or anything else).  I didn't understand then how hurtful simple words could be to a group of people I'm unsure of how to relate to.  I apologize for interfering with your chance to truly know what our Lord is like.  I'm sorry for making you fight or flee, for making you believe the Gospel was about condemnation and righteous anger.  It isn't.  It is so much more than that.  It is the Gospel of peace, love, hope, forgiveness, a future, and so very much more.  Choosing the Gospel, choosing Christ, is the best choice you could ever make.  You will no longer live in darkness; there will only be light.  You will no longer be dead; you will be given new life.  It doesn't get much better than that.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Fun! This Week I...

Since I don't feel like doing anything productive tonight and since we aren't big Valentine's people, I thought I'd end my night with a quick post.  Thanks to Your World: Healthy and Natural for this weekly questionnaire!  

In my life this week... 
I started a new job watching a precious 3 month old girl.  She is such a good baby and I am loving every minute of it!

I am inspired by...
Women who have worked their blog to the top!  Something I also hope to do!  :)

 
My favorite thing this week was...
Having dinner with my parents Wednesday night.  I love that we have our own home now and we are able to open it up for them.  Family dinners are the best.  :)


What's working/not working for me...       
     Working -  Writing.  For some reason, I have been on a roll this week with my writing.  I've got a couple of posts ready for future dates and I've gotten a couple published this week.  My New Year's resolution is on the right track!  :) 

     Not working - Going from not working at all to working 4 days a week has thrown me a bit.  Need to get back to managing my time better.  Maybe my writing is not such a good thing.  ha!  I take it back...I want to be writing...I just need to be doing the dishes too.  :)

Questions/thoughts I have... 
So, so many.  But I'm going to spare you and keep them to myself this week.  ;)
  
I'm reading...
  
I just started reading a book on my Kindle called the Woodlands (I got it for free at some point).  I really like it so far!  It reminds me of the Hunger Games a little bit...without the Games part.  And I've never read Divergent, but from the movie previews I get the same vibe in this book.  However, it still has me wanting to not put it down.  In fact, as soon as I finish this post, I'm headed to bed and reading until Hubby finishes up his work tonight.

I'm cooking...
We had omelets tonight.  And other favorites this week were Monterrey chicken and BBQ Pork.  But since the whole time management thing...we did have leftovers more times than planned.  Oops!
  
I'm grateful for... 
My husband.  Our relationship has grown so much over the past year.  It amazes me every single day.  I can't wait to see where the next year takes us!
  
A photo, video, link, or quote to share...
"In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." - Blaise Pascal



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Now that you've gotten a glimpse of my week, share something from your week below!  :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thanks in the Midst of Winter

Snow.

When I say that word, what comes to mind?

For me it is bitterness.  Hatred.  Horror.  Drudgery.  And maybe, if I look deep down inside to days that used to be I think beauty and comfort.

This winter has been a very hard winter for very many across the nation.  And I am so ready for it to be over.  As is most of Facebook from all of the status updates and memes I've seen out there.  This is my very favorite (not sure of the source...apologies):



But I'm not writing to complain.  I'm writing to remind myself and so many others that at the end of the day (even if you wrecked your only 4WD vehicle), we still have so much to be thankful for while the blanket of snow that started at 4 inches in November just keeps growing.

This winter...

*I am thankful for heat (and for the ability to get a new furnace almost immediately after our blew up this weekend).

*I am thankful for the extra time I have to spend with my hubby.  For awhile, we only had one vehicle.  Now, we still drive together when it is bad out so that I don't have to.

*I am thankful for the beauty that does exist in the midst of such cold and horrid conditions.  God planned that on purpose I think.  It is so beautiful!  I love seeing the trees coated in trimmings of white, like pearl necklaces with a little black dress.  And the fact that every single snowflake is unique - that is incredible!



*I am thankful for a job that is considerate of bad roads and doesn't make me come in if it will be dangerous.

*I am thankful for a break from the summer heat (after living in Oklahoma for a record-breaking summer I promised I'd never complain about the cold again, apparently I forgot about Pennsylvania winters...).

*I am thankful for blankets.  After I dug them out of boxes that is...

*I am thankful for the excuse to rest and stay in.  Sometimes I just need one.  ;)

*I am thankful for sweaters, winter jackets, boots, gloves (especially the touch-screen friendly kind), and hats.

*I am thankful for shelter.  Some people don't even have a place to rest their heads let alone find heat during this season.

*I am thankful that no matter what season it is, God never changes.

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What are you thankful for this winter?

We're Having a Baby!!

You read that right!  We are having a baby and we are so thrilled!!  I'm about 9 and a half weeks along and our first ultrasound is a week from today. Can't wait!!  Here is my first (lack of a) bump picture - taken a few weeks ago. We used this pic to tell some of our family. 


Below is a letter I wrote to our little one on the day we found out we were expecting. Enjoy!

February 9th, 2014


Dear Baby Sherman,

Tonight your dad and I found out that you exist!!!!  You are this tiny little growing human inside of me - that's crazy!  The moment we found out we were so excited.  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  We have been waiting for this moment for awhile and I was so afraid you might never come.  In the very same moment we were both so terrified.  Because you exist it means that we are going to be parents!  For real.  It isn't just a distant future thing anymore, it has become an imminent future reality.  

We have so many decisions to make before you get here and that is just the start!  After you are here the real decisions begin!  We want you to have the very best life - full of success, love, and joy.  But most importantly, we want to make sure you grow up to follow the Lord - and that isn't the easiest task.  We don't know what the future holds for you but we are praying every day that we are the parents God wants us to be for you.  After all, He already has a plan for you!  That is a truth I hope you know and live by throughout your entire life.

For now, we are doing what we can to prepare for your arrival.  I am striving to be as healthy as I can be for you!  I've never been more serious about exercise and a healthy diet.  And I am reading article after article about what I can do for you now and later.  Your daddy, well he is in full go-mode.  He has a crazy long list of stuff to get done at our new house before your arrive.  Your room wasn't on the priority list until today.  He has even taken an interest in what the decor will be (which I am thrilled about).  And we pray for you every day, multiple times.

On a lighter note, I know you don't like vinegar very much and this morning you weren't a big fan of cereal (which happens to be one of my favorites) - let's try to keep these aversions to a minimum, okay?  ;)

We both love you SO very much!  We cannot wait to meet you!

Love,

Mommy (& Daddy)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

6 Quick Meals, No Stove

So I've been working on a post that is very near and dear to my heart this week.  I keep adding and deleting, rereading, rearranging, deleting some more - but I want it to be perfect before it is published.

However, I do want to try and stay true to my new year's resolution and continue to write one or two posts a week.  So here's a fun post!

As most of you know, we recently moved into our new home!  And I couldn't be more excited!  We have so many projects ahead of us.  Right now we are in them middle of remodeling not just one, but both of our bathrooms...which, by the way, is not recommended.  It is rather inconvenient and was never part of the plan - but we'll get to that in another post.  I've got lots of great posts planned because of this: How to remove wallpaper, remodeling a bathroom for under $500, and so much more!  

But before we moved into our home, we were living with some very good friends of ours.  Honestly, the "living with people" situation was really good.  We had our own little section of the house - a bathroom, *tiny* living space, and a bedroom.  It was perfect.  The only thing we were missing was a kitchen.  We did use their kitchen on occasion to change things up.  But most of the time we just got creative!  We had a mini fridge, microwave, a waffle iron, and we borrowed the George Foreman from downstairs occasionally.  It all worked out really well.

Here were our favorites:

1. Mexican Tuna Salad - This was a meal the guys my husband worked with last summer taught him to make.  And it is AMAZING!  I plan on sharing the recipe in a future post.

2. Walking Tacos...that didn't walk. - I got Fritos or Doritos, a can of chili, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream - we threw it all on a plate and pigged out.  ;)

3. Paninis out of the Waffle Iron

4. Burgers - off the Foreman

5. Breakfast for dinner - out of the Waffle Iron...did you know that eggs and hashbrowns can be cooked on a waffle iron!?!?  Then we nuked sausages in the microwave.  It was fun.  lol.

6. Quesidillas - out of the Waffle iron!  This is my personal favorite.  And I can tell you, I will never, ever make quesidillas on the stove again.  It was so easy and SO fast!  Below the picture are the directions.



Quesidillas on the Waffle Iron (for one)

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tortillas
  • Oil Spray
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Whatever Else You Like  :)

Spray waffle iron.

Place 1 tortilla on bottom half of iron.  Sprinkle cheese all over - as much as you want!  Then add other ingredients (our favorite was black beans, Rotel, and pickled jalapenos...sometimes we added canned chicken).  Cover ingredients with more cheese.  Place 2nd tortilla on top, close iron...and cook away!

Now you have a sealed quesidilla, read in just a few minutes!  Wonderful!

Never, will I ever, cook them on the stove again.  ;)