Saturday, April 7, 2012

Season of Hide and Seek

Let's just get past the fact that I haven't blogged in 5 months. I have. 

I think somewhere between meeting Jesus for coffee back in October and my ambitious list of resolutions on January 1st, I lost myself. Kind of like how a kid gets lost in a department store. In reality, their mom's just 5 feet away, but the clothing racks are so tall that they can't see over them, the shiny things everywhere are vying for the young lad's wandering eyes, and the noises grow so loud that it becomes difficult to distinguish the direction of the mom's voice saying, "I'm right here."

That's where I was with God. He was so near, but I forgot the stillness of sweetness of His voice. I let the world grab my attention, and with my worry I built up a wall tall enough to cover the Lord's wisdom and truth.  I was lost in a sea of confusion and endless thoughts, nay an ocean of them, with a hurricane in the forecast if I didn't wake up and change. I was uncertain about my future. The past was haunting me again. Negative attitudes were affecting me more than ever. Church was annoying me. Theology was confusing me. And my quiet time got peculiarly quiet.

Then I remembered that one time in middle school when I gave up lip gloss for Lent. It was dumb, but it reminded me that the mediocrity of habit and normality can be cleared and Jesus can revamp the way we are viewing our present situation. Then, the thought of partaking in Lent was confirmed when my friend began talking about the spiritual discipline of fasting.

And so I fasted--Daniel style--not Jesus style. I cut out all meat and animal products, all dairy products, all sweeteners, all leavened bread, all refined and processed foods, all deep fried foods, all solid fats, and any beverage that's not water. This is all based on a 21-day fast devotional series that you can check out here.  I found though that fasting from these foods also freed up time for me to focus on Jesus. I spent less time worrying about what I would eat and more about what nourishments my soul needed. After about 3 weeks I was starting to find myself again. I was relearning the truths that God has always spoke into my life. As I cleaned the junk food out of my life, I cleaned the moral junk out too. And as I restocked my cabinets with fruits and vegetables I was restocking my heart with God's unbelievable Word.

I must admit though that the road wasn't easy. Choosing celery over popcorn or ice cream is not an easy judgement call. There were days that I wanted a sweet tea. Days that nothing sounded as delicious as McDonald's chicken nuggets. EWWWW (I know)! But some part of me wanted them. And that's how it will be as long as we as Christians are living in this world! Sin is made to look so beautiful, and the troubling part is that it's fun. Sin is fun! Anyone who says sinning isn't fun, is lying; it just is. It's the guilt, the consequences, the judgement, the reactions from our sin that isn't fun, but this is also the part we so easily forget.

The more we draw near to God, the less appealing sin will become. That's a fact. The Holy Spirit working in us is constantly changing us and remolding our desires. Now, 46 days into my fast with only 1 to go, McDonald's looks like a heart-attack. I just want to go protest outside their doors with a sign reading "There's something that tastes better and is better for you!" The same is true with Jesus! The world's offering is appealing, but what Jesus offers is so much purer and lasting! It's amazing how one week with just water to drink gives you more energy than 10 red bulls! One day with Jesus is better than a life full of the pleasures of sin.

Here's what I've learned and now share with you in hopes that you will share with others:

1. Fasting involves your mind, spirit, and body. Fasting expresses sorrow and self-denial. As our self becomes less important there is a greater awareness of God!

2. God always has something for you. At times, we are in a "spiritual desert" and we say that God has nothing for us right now. That's a myth! God always has something. When it seems He has nothing, that's probably when He has something big, but it's so big He refuses to release the information until our hearts our prepared.

3. Throughout this journey I did a 47 day Bible study tracking Jesus' steps all the way to the cross! The resounding truth I walk away with is that my price is paid. My sin is paid for, yet I live every day like the world still owns a part of me. This world has no right to me! Satan and sin has no power over me! Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection gave me justification for the sin in my life. It's time to live like someone who's been freed from a life of darkness and regret. Life's to short for regret!

4. Everything is for God's glory! What an understatement! What truth! In the end, God is.

I leave you with my two favorite verses from these past few weeks:

Jeremiah 9:23-24 "Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD."

Luke 11:9-10 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened."

Check out this song. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Meeting God for Coffee

I'm honestly not sure where to begin. This story is one that happened back in October and I haven't been able to interpret it yet. I was at Starbucks, drinking a coffee and reading a school book. Then, all of the sudden, someone was sitting across from me. I couldn't look up. I was afraid. The presence was strong...and in the deep corner of my mind...I knew it was God. He was sitting right there watching me, waiting on me to say something...

I wasn't sure what to say so I kept still and continued reading my book for Romans.

God wasn't letting me off the hook though. With every thought from my reading I could hear his response. He seemed a little disappointed. He slid around the circular table until He was right next to me overlooking my reading. I could feel Him. I was so breathless. I literally couldn't breathe and my hands felt a slight tremble. He wasn't saying anything, He wasn't whispering mysteries of the Gospel, He was just sitting there waiting on me to move and acknowledge His presence.

Ok...still no words.

He puts His arm around my shoulder and continues to watch me read. I begin to feel convicted about everything: what I am reading, how I am living my life, the bitterness in my heart, my inability to face what He has to say.

My eyes get cloudy...Starbucks is no place to make a scene...let's go.

We get in my car. I didn't exactly invite him, but by the time I get in my seatbelt He's in the front seat with me looking at me again. He kept staring into my soul. Looking for me to acknowledge and look back at him.

As we pull up to the redlight, I break down.

I cry, I cry, and I cry... and then speak out for the first time, "i'm sorry". The words slip out before I can process why I said them.

Here's God right here with me, intervening in an unimaginable way and I am speechless. So we begin to talk. By talking, I mean that I cried, I cried, and I cried. I was opening my heart through my tears. I was surrendering all over again. There were secrets I wasn't admitting to Him. I finally let loose and did it.

We pulled into the Religion Hall parking lot as I begin to let the tears dry up. But the emotions were making this strange encounter feel all the more real. I wasn't ready to let go. I wanted 5 more minutes with God. My body yearned for a few more precious moments with my Father.

Soon enough, we finished our talk. I made my committments, dried up my face, fixed my makeup, and stepped out of the car. As I walk in to the building I feel the hovering of an eight foot man's shadow casting over me. It was so warm. He wasn't scary. He was my protection, my guardian. It all felt and seemed so real. God was here. He was with me. Of course looking around there was no one but in my heart I knew how close he was.

I walked into class and sat down. I didn't feel like talking to anyone. (Mostly because He was still there beside me, watching me). The teacher began his lecture and I could hear God's thoughts in my head.

So what does all of this mean? Am I crazy? Did I just have too much coffee. NO! It was Jesus. He was here with me. It was His Spirit. And the thing that I finally realized was that He is always here. Somehow though I put him in a box. I call that box my Bible. He can only come out when I am in spiritual mode and reading the Word. But this is all backwards. God is always near. He wants our every thought to be about Him.

Friend, when is the last time you really talked to Jesus? He wants to be with you. He wants our souls to long for Him, to speak His name, to sing of His glory! He's so near, just let Him in.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

do as the Cambodian Buddhists do

As I am walking towards the temple I begin to hear strange music, but there are clearly no instruments involved. Only voices going up and down on an unfamiliar scale to the beat of words that are not in my language. The occasional gong rings. We're late for worship.

Hands together now, a man soon signals to me; it was kinda the way your mom taught you to pray when you were a little child. Each finger tip meets its parallel partner as your bring your palms together. Legs crossed, but this gets uncomfortable because a rug on a floor can only cushion for so long. Eyes closed, you must focus inwardly. I can't chant along--not that I would, but I can't even say hello or thank-you in their language.

They seem happy...or maybe content is the best description.

The men wear white dress shirts and casual slacks. The women wear plain tops and long skirt-dress-type-things. I peek one eye open and see a Prada bag, then I spot a Coach, next Louis Vuitton, and then Fendi catches my eye at the last minute. Their faces aren't natural. The blush and eye-shadow is heavy, and the jewelry produces a noticing sparkle. The median age looks to be 55-65. Who are these people? What is their story?

Apart from all the things I am distracted by, they maintain their focus. Their bodies are facing the Buddha, whom they call the supreme teacher. After a while they turn to face the monks seated on a platform ahead, then their primary teacher. A couple of ladies begin to nod off as the teacher speaks. There are a few yawns and leg movement becomes more frequent in a back and forth motion. Turns out after taking a closer look, they too, aren't as perfect as they first appeared.

Finally, the teacher gives his last statements from his tall, golden chair.  Everyone begins to leave after a slight commotion regarding the giving of more money, then the man in front of me sends his peace to everyone in our group and instructs me to spread it along. It's all over. 1.5 hours of foreign worship. I am shocked. I have heard of this type of religion, but wow...that was surreal!

The President of the temple came over to 'debrief' with our group a little. He shared basic beliefs of Buddhists, hitting all the main points; such as, karma, reincarnation, Buddha as a teacher, etc. When asked how to become a Buddhist he told us that a person is not converted to Buddhism, but rather they just study the teachings of Buddha and this offers a better life and they become a follower.

Seems nice...even convincing

I mean, these people challenge my Christianity. They are super nice, very peaceful, uncommonly humble, non-invasive, and overall appear very wise.

So where are their flaws?

Better yet, why am I not a Buddhist?

1. The Bible answers my first point easily. "Jesus is the only way."You can't argue with that. If you believe in the authority of Scripture then you must receive that information as truth, thus making Buddha and his teachings false and flawed. So what if you're not a Christian...

there are some personal reasons, like...

2. I am not ok with not knowing when the world began and the point of my life. These are basic questions that every human has to discover for himself. Buddhism tells me that none of this matters. That the problems in my life are my own fault (karma) and Buddhism as a whole dismisses the cause or reality of death (reincarnation). The earth always was and we live only to live again in another form, which is uncertain based on our karma from previous lives. This philosophy, in my opinion, is frustrating and would indeed cause insecurities and ultimately apathy, while shooting out any spark of enjoyment in living life and embracing who God designed me to be.

3. Lack of reason. When it comes down to it Buddhist aren't looking for more than the common knowledge their religion offers. Rarely, does one find a Buddhist who is simultaneously an intellect. This gives the entire religion a mindless-zombie sort of feel.

and lastly...

4. I love Jesus. Have you read the Bible? Maybe even just Matthew or John would do. Jesus loves people. He like really does. Jesus came to earth to minister to the poor and lowly. He came to spread a new message that no one had heard of. He came to offer a gift of life transformation that would radically change every aspect of our lives. This is someone worth following. Someone worth laying my life down for. I hope anyone reading this gets the chance to encounter Jesus to. He is alive and near, just open your eyes to Him.

Grace and Peace.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Adventures in Fall

Scarcely a kind word is spoken on your behalf,
Most of us overlook your wonder, and even fewer of us recognize the depth of your capacity,
We are tense in your presence and anxious for you to move on,

You stop traffic, awaken sleepers, leave trails of smoke, scare our children, bother our dogs, ruin our picnics, crowd our cities, kill our loved ones, destroy green nature, and steal from our wallets.

Don't believe a word they say.

You are beautiful. Your sound is like a mastered symphony. A stringing together of notes that can hardly be put onto paper. You soothe my soul and alert my studies. You can be a distraction though, but rarely are beautiful things not a distraction. One glance at you and I find myself in another land, at another time, with another life and another crime. I imagine hopping on your back and traveling with you for a few miles. I suppose after a while I would want you to bring me home. I would most likely miss my bed and my family. But you have much to offer. You come through bearing the spirit of adventure and passion of  an old soul who has seen the world many times over.

So one night, dear train, will you stop for me please? Call for me with your horn and draw me in with your appeal. I'm in for the ride. Let's go.

Choo-Choo :) Happy first day of fall, internet.

Monday, August 22, 2011

It's been a year. Like, a whole year.

Yeah. You know what happened a year ago today (aka: August 22, 2010)? Well, a big plane flew from France to Budapest, Hungary and I stepped off of it into the great unknown.

That's what happened.

Then you know what happened 4-ish months later? I came home. But what's a home? It's where your heart is right? Well if home is where the heart is then I shall never go homeless.

Know what i'm doing a year later? I'm thinking about those 4 months. Compared to a year they seem small, but those 4 months changed everything. I came back a new person. A person with stronger convictions, more love, less aggravation, new friends, new experiences, overall you could say an abundance of blessings.

I want to move on, but I think God keeps reminding me of that time and those people to remind me of who I was and what I said I would do upon my return. Nostalgia just about kills me though. I hear it in songs, see it in pictures, and see people I knew in the eyes of strangers. It's that heart sinking feeling when everything is going great then you see the framed photo beside your bed. . .on the nightstand and think, why did I leave? and when can I go back?

I want that time back. I don't mean I want a re-do I just want the feeling. That feeling of usefulness and belonging (?). Yes, if you can imagine sometimes this American girl doesn't feel like she belongs in America. Shocking.  But let me not be faint and ill. I trust God. He's got mad plans for me and simply put He's just got this. He's a know-it-all and I love it! Because following Him keeps me sane. Following Him gives me peace in the middle of life's tornado. And Following Him is love. What more could I ask for? What more?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Being selfish in a selfish world.

It's normal right? Well, what is normal? Being 'yourself' is normal, but me being you is just not normal. It's normal to be different, to be unique, to be observant, maybe even to be only on occasion a little selfish.

Right. . .

I mean, I need to look out for me? Because, honestly, who else really is? I have friends. . .but they can be selfish too. Skeptics say that the most popular word in any individual's vocabulary is their own name. That's selfish.

Let's take a test: 1-10 of how selfish we are. One being little, Ten being a whole Bunch!
1. Do you blah blah blah...TEN!

We all will fail. Because well one, we are human. Two, we are sinners. Three, most of us are Americans. And Four, we're selfish. End of story.

So, I had this conviction of sorts recently that I have a very limited ability of being content where I am. (Ha! Even right now as I type this I can think of 20 other places I would like to be, and things I could be doing instead of blogging. I mean, seriously, who wastes time doing this?!!!)

But do I deserve to be in my future when I am so ready to escape my present. I often live from trial to trial, from paper to paper, from meeting to meeting. Ready to be on the downward path of my present hill of confusion. I long for the light at the end of the tunnel . . .I suppose that is probably the best way to say it in simple terms.

Anyways, this story was shared with me tonight about a little girl named Rachel Beckwith. Rachel was a "good little girl." Probably a teacher's pet, the smartest kid in her grade, friends with everyone (even the losers), and a lover of people. Here's the thing. When I turned nine years old I am almost positive I had a huge blowout party at the local skating rink and had all my friends come and join. My personal slogan was probably, "Bring presents, get cake!"

Man, looking back. Why didn't I get it? What didn't click? What made me so selfish? It's too late to dwell on the past, but what I can do, and what we all must do is focus on today. Are we making the most of everything we are given, even if that's a bag of chips, and $10 to use?

Are we lovers of humanity or lovers of ourselves? I can tell you this as a fact. If I only have one actual fact to offer, it's that: a lover of God, is a lover of humanity.

Friday, August 5, 2011

If I learned anything...

Summer 2011. It was a big step for me. I crossed the line, assuming there is one. I crossed the line from talking to practicing, from dreaming to living, from good intentions to driven focus, from participating to leading. Some nights I cried. Some nights I praised God. Some nights I worshipped. Some nights I let sleepiness take over. Some mornings I rose with the sun. Some mornings I prayer rode to the houses of my kids. Some days I worried. Some days I guessed at what to do. Most days I smiled. Most days I learned something new. Every day I prayed. Every day I surrendered.

Because at the end of the day....

It was not about me. It was all about Jesus. He lead me. He taught me. He protected, provided, and blessed.

I learned that children come in and hook onto your heart like it was a great white shark and they never let go. They trust easily. They're amazed my simplicity. And once they get a glimpse of God's love they break. Children can be frustrating. They can be loud, messy, uncontrollable, moody, and wreckless, but they have so much to offer. They keep you young and alive. If you dare try to be mad at them, they make you laugh by doing something so silly and innocent. They say things like "Pickles!" when they stub their toe and it's so adorable. They inspire me. They give everything to their faith. They pray expecting God to SHOW UP BIG TIME.

Dare I even get started on teenagers. They're a mess...and a half. They wrestle, make fun, speak fluent sarcasm, play pranks, try everything imaginable to get out of a church service, demand donuts for breakfast, have crazy nicknames, demolish all food in sight, have no understanding of self-control (well, very little), talk about girls, rave about boys, and have drama...and if there is no drama, they create it immediately. Oh, but I love them so much! One hug and I break. They have heavy hearts. They have sensitive spirits, a genuine meekness, unassumed wisdom, and an innate ability to feel what you are feeling. They get something that we forget by the time we're 25 or so. They still see life as an adventure they are willing to risk it all for. They fear very little and let nothing get to them. They are boundless spirits. You can't tie them down, you can't yell loud enough, but you must earn their respect. They desire to see genuine faith. Not the fake stuff and not the overly preachy stuff either. They want the truth. They want the nitty gritty. I love that! I love it soooo much! They challenged me. They challenged me to find challenges for them! They made sure I didn't get away with a John 3:16 lesson every Sunday and Wednesday.

I now walk away with the desire to walk back and do it all again. And I would. Amidst hardships and trials, I wouldn't trade a thing. I wouldn't trade a sleepless night for 12 hours of rest. I wouldn't trade falling while skating for getting my nails done. I love those kids. Every last one. They showed me more about life. Because of them, God increased my capacity to love more and harder. God showed me more of His love for me through loving those kids.

"A city on a hill cannot be are the light of the world."

Youth playing sardines...found them all in the church pantry

VBS time!!! 
VBS family night!

Skate Night! Great crowd!

Spaghetti Fundraiser!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Genesis and Play-dough

One Sunday night this summer I was just itching to tell the creation story. I think it's one of those topics that our society attacks and reduces the value of. Just tonight I was listening to the news anchor talk about a "double moon" from 400 million years ago. Like, really? #andwebelievethisoverGod!

Most kids know about as much of creation as they do of organic chemistry. Darth Vader, we know him. Chuck Norris, done deal. Adam and Eve, that's those people that screwed everything up for us all, right?  It's an old story. It's irrelevant. And not to mention there are parents who whisper that all those Bible stories are fairytales anyways.

So, here I am, sitting, with Genesis 1:1 and a task. One of my favorite parts of creation is when God gets down in the dirt and molds a human body. He forms us. He probably said something like, "great, an arm here, hey, let's do two of 'em, they look really useful." What a beautiful picture!

And so the play-dough came to be. I got it! We would make home made play-dough and form our own creations from the story.

My kids loved it, so I wanted to share.

Happy Summer.

Supplies: Vegetable Oil, salt, all-purpose flour, cream of tartar, coloring.

Instructions for 2 color teams 

Pretty lime green!

A perfect pumpkin and a sad pumpkin

"And on the 7th day God rested" a lazy boy? 
Not sure what God made this day...

Let's call this one a starfish :)


The winning tree!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's a great feeling. We call it salvation.



        Awkward feelings.

          Uneasy emotions.

               A step of faith.

          One big hug.

        A few small words.

     "...I want Jesus..."

That's what it is all about.



     Eternal Security.


Endless LOVE. The real way. The way it was designed to be. A love between God and His magnificently created child. We messed up. He intervened. I get that. I really get that. I want that. I have that. She now has that. Let's spread it. Let's spread the word. Let's get people going. Let's knock on more doors. Not wooden ones. Heart doors. Doors that come with baggage. I'm up for the journey. Are you?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Country folkz with Big City Dre@m$

I have now completed 11 days of what looks to be an epic summer. By epic, I mean awesome, and by awesome, I mean God has BIG plans.

Yesterday started off a little gloomy. Painting plans for VBS were cancelled so I made some much needed coffee and went to the office for computer work.

And then the call came. . .

"Wanna help us move one load of junk out of the basement?"

A little bit of background here. Years ago the basement was a big room with bright colors for kids with two little Sunday School rooms splitting off the back wall. Over time the little rooms became storage/junk closets and the big room was basically forgotten about.

The clutter in the two rooms was indescribable, but with face masks, gloves, and an army of five determined people, we cleaned them empty. So, yes, our one truck load became more like three or four, but something in us said "keep going." After fighting mold, mildew, nasty ceiling tiles, corrosion, fading paint on the concrete, and of course spiders, we came out with a semi-sound mind and an unbelievable feeling of achievement.

Oh and for the big city dreams...

Yeah, well the youth want to completely remodel the room now and make it their own space to hang out, have fun, invite friends to, and most importantly meet and experience God. Their idea is for the space to resemble a New York City theme. I just think it's brilliant . . . but ironic that YES, in a little country county known as "Lake Country", these teenagers want to see a Big City Theme. They have the determination and all they lack is funding, but are willing to have fundraisers for money.

It's interesting because . . .

The whole theme sort of reminds me of God's desire for our lives. Jesus says in Matthew 5
"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven." 

Isn't it something that the Creator and Sustainer of this world choses to use us little country folk to be His witnesses. That's Love worth fighting for.

Kae Jay

P.S. This week has involved some other events worth noting too; such as, my niece graduating from high school, me catching my first catfish, and me almost getting arrested at the church. (we won't discuss that last one...) Oh country life. . . I love you too :)