August 31, 2008

How can a place so empty, be so full?

An empty house, so full of memories.
A backyard that no longer hosts Easter egg hunts and cricket matches.
A kitchen that no longer smells of warm, home-cooked meals.

An empty house, so full of memories.
A silent hallway that once echoed the sound of children playing tag.
A bedroom that is empty without a bed.

An empty house, so full of memories.
That smells of being cooped up, with no fresh air.
Walls bare, that now have tiny nail holes where precious paintings and pictures once hung.

An empty house, so full of memories.
A living room that now boasts of plenty of floor space, as the TV and chairs have been removed.
Closets that were once packed full of trinkets and treasures are empty and the doors kept closed.

An empty house, so full of memories.
A front door forever closed.
A front porch light that no longer flashes "goodbye", as no one is left inside.

August 10, 2008

"Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win."

The eyes of the world recently turned to Beijing, China to watch the 2008 Summer Olympics. I have been a pretty dedicated Team USA fan - at least I've spent plenty of time in front of my TV watching the competitions! My favorite competition to watch is gymnastics, but I also enjoy the swimming, diving, and cycling competitions.

While watching the opening ceremonies on Friday I learned that many nations that are represented at the Olympics have never won a medal, and most likely will not win a medal at these games. It is quite inspiring to me to realize that men and women spend hours training for the Olympics, dedicating their entire lives in preparation for these games, knowing full well that they will not win a gold, silver, or bronze medal. But they are Olympians, nonetheless. One athlete whom was being interviewed (I wish I could quote the source, but I cannot) stated that his country has not sent him to Beijing to start the race, but rather to finish the race, to cross the finish line. There are powerful spiritual implications to that statement!

Today (which was actually yesterday, due to the time difference) the competitors have faced a bit of set back with the weather. There has been a pretty consistent drizzle that has hindered the women competing in the bicycle race, and the men competing in beach volleyball. Watching the competitors plod on through the rain reminds me of the passages in the New Testament that equates the spiritual life with a race. The author of Hebrews eloquently describes the Christian race in chapter 12: “Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of Him, so He endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought Him. Then He received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.”

Let’s break this down. Frequently American TV viewers are given a view of the stands and spectators that are watching and cheering on the competitors. Just like former Olympians and gold medallists have migrated to China to cheer on this year’s contenders for the medals, so we as Christians are surrounded “by a great cloud of witnesses.” Among these witnesses are the great “Heroes of the Faith” discussed in Hebrews 11. In addition to the Biblical patriarchs, kings, and prophets, we are also surrounded by excellent examples of faith, many of whom have already completed their race.

The author of Hebrews boldly exclaims that we as Christ Followers have no reason not to finish our Christian race! He entreats his readers to get rid of any distractions, especially sin that so easily slows us down! What sins slow us down? EVERY sin! Hebrews 12:1-2 encourages us to persevere, never give up in our Christian race. How do we persevere? Stay focused on Christ! The Message version of the Bible translates verse 2 so appropriately, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed.” Perseverance requires absolute focus on Christ and Christ alone.

It is true that out of thousands of Olympians, only a few will be worthy of receiving a medal. The Apostle Paul writes to the Christ Followers at the church of Corinth, “You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got.” There is no question about the coaching we receive from Paul in this passage. We are instructed to persevere and aim for the eternal prize. Don’t just start the race – finish it. Finish it well.

Peter writes of the glory (or prize) that we are to receive. I Peter 5:4 states, “When [Jesus] appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” The prize for which we are running is an eternal prize, and not just a gold medal, but rather a crown of glory! Revelation 1:6 confirms Peter’s description of our prize, “He has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him.”

I am not intending to distract in any way from the amazing athletes and their accomplishments. But honestly, in 20 or 30 years, what will mean? What will it be worth? They will probably still have their medals, proudly displayed in their homes. And the lucky ones will once again grace the cover of People Magazine or Sports Illustrated in a special edition of “Where Are They Now?” Some of them will continue the rich tradition of the Olympic games as sponsors and coaches. But most of their world records will have been beaten, and the accolades and praise will be for a younger, faster, stronger competitor.

This is NOT so in the Christian race. As Christ Followers we have one goal, Christ Jesus. Ultimately our eternal prize (a crown of glory) will be given back to Christ in an eternal act of worship. Revelation 4:10-11 describes this ultimate worship; “They threw their crowns at the foot of the Throne, chanting, Worthy, O Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power! You created it all; it was created because you wanted it.” The race in which we run is indeed for a prize, but not for ourselves. The glory, the honor, the accolade is for Almighty God – He alone is worthy of any prize we receive.

August 9, 2008

Not-so-identical Fingprints

It is pretty easy to identify identical twins because they look so similar - identical in fact! But did you know that identical twins have nearly identical DNA? That's because identical twins are formed when a zygote (fertilized egg) splits after fertilization, forming two embryos. The two identical embryos develop into two completely separate, yet identical individuals.

I imagine it might be difficult to be an identical twin. Growing into your own individual and unique person is hard enough in this culture that promotes "going with the flow." Then add to the mix another person who looks just like you and literally shares your DNA! In this society it is easy to claim the well known cliche' "I'm unique - just like everyone else!"

Sometimes as a Christian I forget about my individuality in Christ. I often feel like there is a Christian mold that I have to fit into to be a good Christ Follower. This week, while I was reading Psalm 139, verses 13-17 really stood out to me: "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous, and how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life is recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable!" I find it amazing that God's thoughts about me are "innumerable!" That literally means that God thinks about me (and you) more times than we can imagine or count. Isn't it amazing to realize that God THINKS about you - as a unique individual?!

Do you know what is really amazing to me about identical twins? Even though they look exactly alike, and have nearly identical DNA - their fingerprints are different! They leave a completely unique imprint wherever and whenever their hands touch something. Isn't God wonderful to use this small detail to remind us of our own individuality and complexity?! We are indeed "fearfully and wonderfully made."

August 3, 2008

Merchant's Ship and Wal-Mart Semis

"Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is worth more than precious rubies.
She is like a merchant's ship; she brings her food from afar."
Proverbs 31:10, 14

"Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over." Proverbs 3:9-10

Do you ever feel like the Proverbs 31 model woman is just a little unattainable for you? I do - often! I mean, this woman seems to have more than 24 hours in a day, and it is easy for me to compare myself to her and find myself lacking. But today I had a little personal victory realized that, at least for today, I lived a little bit of Proverbs 31.

Verse 14 describes a woman who provides food for her family from "afar." As a young home school girl, one of my assignments was to illustrate the Proverbs 31 woman. The picture I drew for verse 14 was a large box of Cheerios aboard a ship. Little did I know that 15 years later I would realize how close to the truth that drawing is!

Today I went price match shopping at my Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. I nearly always prefer to go to Kroger, Albertson's
orTom Thumb, but this week's sales were SO good at all three stores, and none of my coupons were eligible to be doubled grocery stores will triple all coupons up to $0.39 and double coupons up to $0.50 - Wal-Mart accepts coupons at face value.) and I wanted to take advantage of "one stop shopping." After price matching and using coupons, I bought the following items for about $16.00.

11 tubes of Speed Stick deodorant
8 bottles of Advil
2 boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios
2 boxes of Strawberry Yogurt Cheerios
2 boxes of Raisin Bran
4 boxes of Eggo whole wheat waffles
8 boxes of Pop Tarts

I estimate the original Wal-Mart price for these items to be about $125.00 - that's a savings of about 88%. The Kellogg items are also part of a mail-in rebate that is available, so after I receive the rebate check I will have spent a total of $6.00 for all of those products!

In this modern day in which we live, Cheerios and Advil may not come to us via merchant ships. Most of the items above are made in the good old US of A - and arrive3d in Fort Worth via a Wal-Mart semi...but it did still come from "afar."

Shockingly Seventeen

Yesterday, while I was at the nail salon waiting to get my nails done, I perused through the June 08 edition of Seventeen Magazine. I was interested in the article about country music sensation Taylor Swift, and I ended up reading the whole magazine! I have to admit, I was shocked at some of the content in Seventeen Magazine - and even more shocked to realize that it's target audience isn't actually seventeen year old young women, but rather girls, ages 12-17. I admit, I'm far past the target age group, but I feel that the some of the magazine content is wholly unacceptable for Royal Daughters of any age.

Taking advantage of any summer theme they could get their hands on, the writers/editors of Seventeen Magazine had a 4 or 5 page article about bathing suits to fit any body shape. Please remember that the target age group is preteen and teenage girls. Most of the featured bathing suits were bikinis, and the few one-piece suits that were featured were mostly "cut out" suits (exposing the waist line, chest, and other unmentionable areas of the female body.) From string-tied bikini bottoms, to low-cut halter tops, there were a handful (if that) of modest bathing suits. Seventeen Magazine encourages girls to expose and flaunt their bodies at the beach/swimming pool. However, the Word of God gives explicit instructions for Royal Daughters, "
I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves..." (I Timothy 2:9) Peter, a disciple of Christ also writes in I Peter 3:4, You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."

There were several articles about summer love. In "How to Meet the Hot Lifeguard" and "Getting Any Guy at the Beach", readers are encouraged to take the initiative in summer romances. According to Seventeen Magazine, girls shouldn't wait for hot guys to approach them - but be bold and introduce themselves and even give out their phone numbers. When it comes to kissing, girls should once again take the initiative and make the first move. Seventeen Magazine also consoles the girls whose new crush is leaving the beach with his family. They write, "for every one hot guy who leaves, three more hot guys show up, and now you've got your pick of three!" The adolescent girls that read Seventeen Magazine are reading that fickleness and promiscuity are completely normal and acceptable behaviors. This is completely anit-Royal Daughter behavior! In Song of Solomon we read,
"Promise me, O women of Jerusalem...not to awaken love until the time is right."

In the OMG! (basically a most embarrassing moment) section of the magazine young readers write in with stories about being caught making out with their boyfriends (one girl was making out with a boy who was actually dating someone else - talk about OMG!), being embarrassed in front of their crushes, being heard describing their new underwear to their boyfriends, etc. What is exceptionally shocking about this is that the readers who wrote these OMG! moments were 12,13, and 14 year old girls! They have probably never read the Bible,where it says that Royal Daughters should
"live wisely and be pure...then they will not bring shame on the Word of God." (Titus 2:5)

I say, shame on you, Seventeen Magazine for leading astray vulnerable young girls! They are created by, and in the image of God, and they are precious in His sight! I wish the girls could read Proverbs 31:30, "
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God."

August 1, 2008

Slow Fade

Slow Fade - Casting Crowns

Be careful little eyes what you see
It's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade

Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day

The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you're thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

Oh be careful little eyes what see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see