Saturday, December 31, 2011

Countdown to 2012

Suitz Movie
by: WittyAuditor



Well, it's New Year's Eve. 2011 is gone, and 2012 is at he door. This is the time of year when we all make "resolutions."

I have one: complete the Cherry Blossom 10 miler.

However, it's looking grim. I think I'm already injured in week 3 of training. Sadness. I'll try to recover, but...

I don't actually think that can be a resolution. A resolution, relative to New Year's is when you are determined to change something from the prior year. I didn't incomplete the Cherry Blossom 10 miler last year, so now it's just kind of a New Year's goal.

There are common resolutions that people make each year:

  1. Spend more time with friends and family - But isn't there a reason why you are currently avoiding them? So I'd have to resolve to fix that issue first...but I don't really like conflict.
  2. Stop avoiding conflict - Just kidding. Is that on anyone's list? Speak up! 
  3. Drink less - Water? No. We're talking about that stuff that usually has the word "proof" attached. Yeah, cut back; it leads to better decision-making.  
  4. Lose weight - This is probably the most broken resolution of all time; probably because lose weight has so many other resolutions (and subresolutions) embedded in it:
    • Eat healthy
      • Give up Soda/Drink more water
      • No more junk
      • No more fried foods
      • Eat fresh produce
      • Fiber?
    • Exercise regularly
    • See dietician 
I'm sure there are others, but those were three that I think get a lot of NYE play, but who cares? I think New Year's is very psychological.  Tomorrow will be very similar to today, unless something NUTS happens. However, New Year's is something that we definitely need. We need a reason to put the past behind us. And January 1st is that excuse. We need something to be fresh, and new, and full of possibility, and January 1st gives that to us. Or so we think. We don't really have to wait for January 1st, or our birthdays to turn over new leaves, or to put bad feelings on the shelf. We can do that every day, because every day is new:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning... - Lamentations 3:22-23

and...

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. - 2 Corinthians 4:16

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas World!!




In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3, 14)

Hallmark and Lifetime holiday movies will tell you that sometimes the greatest gift at Christmas is knowing someone cares.  In so many movies there’s this person that shows up JUST in time for Christmas. They make it home right when you need them. Their point is that Christmas is nothing without the ones you love. And they are not wrong. It is for this reason that all of Christmas (what it means to you, what it means to me) can be summed up in one word: Emmanuel.

Emmanuel. God With Us.

We go through life some days wondering how God feels about us: is He mad? Is He angry? Does He want me? Am I good enough? But…

Emmanuel is the answer to that question. God With Us.

“God With Us” is John 1:14, and John 1:14 is the mystery of God revealed. Jesus is the revelation of God’s plan: to be WITH us.

There’s a scripture that I was reading this weekend, and it is a scripture that is oft read at Christmastime. It’s Luke 2:8-14.

I often get caught up in the shepherds. How the shepherds are just nobodies going about their business, and how God chose them for the announcement of the biggest deal in history. But not this Christmas. This Christmas verses 13 and 14 struck me.  

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 

It’s the angels. The angels are worshipping and praising like crazy.  Because these angels know something that the shepherds didn’t know. The angels know something that sometimes WE don’t know: that Jesus’ arrival just defined the relationship. It just changed the relationship...forever.

Have you ever been at a restaurant and notice that some dude is down on one knee proposing to some chick?…it’s EXCITING! And we are all clapping and hooting, because this is a big deal. This guy just proposed.

Jesus Christ is God’s marriage proposal to human beings, and the angels are the audience. Two parties are acknowledged in their praise: Glory to God in heaven (groom), and peace to those on earth (bride) all via Jesus Christ (the biggest diamond ring in the history of the world)!  

At the birth of Jesus…God proposed. And all we have to do is say “yes.” Christmas Day is our wedding anniversary! That’s Merry Christmas: God with us. That’s the Christmas message.  But everyone doesn’t know what the angels knew. You can tell, because there was an incident in the synagogue…

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
This is like my favorite scripture of all time. I mean, can you imagine their faces. Walks up, reads from the old book, sits down and says: Yeah…that’s me. Is Jesus not hardcore?!? You would think that this declaration would be met with the same praise and worship that the angels exhibited 30 years before, but no…this was their reaction: 

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town… (Luke 4:28-29)

It seems extreme, but they didn’t know it was Christmas. They didn’t know that God was with them. Lot’s of people don’t know God is with them, they don’t know that God is down on one knee…to them! So we tell them. Via Matthew 28:19, and all the rest of the scriptures. We proclaim Merry Christmas, not a big dinner/gifts/Santa. We proclaim Merry Christmas: God with Us.

Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Diets, Legalism, and other Such Nonsense


For the past 6 days I have been on a detox diet. For 10 days I am basically a Vegan. Some days it's easy...some days it's hard. However, yesterday when I was sulking about being on detox I thought: Diets are just like legalism. To make sure that we're all on the same page for this analogy, let's drop a few definitions:

Diet - the process of adhering to strict rules and regulations regarding the food one eats to achieve health, and a more aesthetic physical condition.

Legalism - the process of adhering to strict rules and regulations to achieve both salvation and subsequent spiritual growth.


So, it goes like this: if you follow the diet, you WILL lose weight. If you do X,Y, and Z then you WILL go to heaven (I refer to the latter as "checklist salvation").

The problem with both of these premises is that they both hinge on one really important ingredient:

WILLPOWER

Willpower is the ability to do what you don't want to do. When I found that out, I knew it was all over for both my diet and my salvation...because Paul says it best in Romans 7:18-19:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
Basically, Paul...the apostle Paul is saying that his willpower is crap. So, if Paul was on a diet, he'd EAT the CAKE. And that's the issue with legalism...sooner or later, willpower runs out, and you eat the cake. And then what? You know how you feel when you break your diet: 

At first, you're terribly disappointed in yourself, guilty, broken. Then you're all like..."fat is my destiny" and you stop caring and eat whatever you want. Until you want to lose weight again, then you're back on the diet, eating right and exercising, up until you encounter: cake. Then the whole thing happens all over again: disappointment, guilt, brokenness, "fat destiny", apathy, anarchy, repentance, repeat.  Sound familiar?
So, if legalism is like the diet, then when you break a rule or don't correctly observe regulations, you're off the diet. That means, you've lost salvation, and you have to get back on the diet to get it back. This is concerning for a number of reasons: 
  1. It puts all the power of salvation in our hands. If I can save myself by following a few rules, Christ died for NOTHING (See Galatians 2:21)
  2. The only thing we're actually supposed to be doing is exhibiting the fruits of The Spirit. Note: they are not your fruits. They are the Spirit's fruits, so willpower can't produce them (See Galatians 5:22-23).
  3. It perverts the purpose of the Law (bits and pieces of which are used to this day) .The Law was not a means to salvation, but was rather to teach us how CRAPPY we are, so we realize that our salvation can only be found in Christ (See Galatians 3:23-24)
  4.  Sadly, there is always cake.
One, two, and three are bad, on a spiritual level...but number four feels REAL in the here and now. Because there is always cake. DARNED CAKE!!! What happens if I die with cake in my hand?! AHHHH!! Paul was plagued by this issue at the end of Romans 7...when he realized he'd probably (or definitely) eat some cake:

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)
...Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2)

So, via faith in Jesus Christ, we are free from what law? The law of: if you sin you die. So if we're free from that law, what makes people think that if you do X, Y, and Z you live? Hmmm...

I will now beseech God about that other law: if you eat junk food, and sit around watching Elf you will get fat. I wish faith in Jesus Christ would beat that one...

Thoughts?


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Anatomy of a Busy Holiday Weekend



Last Saturday night was my company's holiday soiree, and I kind of didn't decide to attend until Friday night. Which meant...craziness on Saturday. This is how that decision played out:

Hair

My hair salon is in the basement of my apartment building. How convenient is that?! Anyway, I washed and dried my own hair, so that all she would have to do is curl it. Hairdressers never listen, though. Went for a routine curl, came out with an unauthorized cut. Goodbye dreams of one side short/one side long. That's over. However, I didn't really care, so, I paid...let eyebrow girl do my eyebrows, grabbed some pound cake (that's how the black hair salon rolls!) and was outta there!

Dress

Voice in fitting room: "I CAN'T BREATHE!!"
Other voice in same fitting room: "You get used to it. With these on you can eat and drink whatever you want. ALL NIGHT. All these years, I thought women just looked better than us in dresses, but they've been cheating all along.
Original voice: If you can't beat 'em...join 'em.

I knew IMMEDIATELY they were having the spanx discussion. I was in my fitting room cracking up. Gotta love the mall. However, that happened when things were still funny. When I was in the early dress-search stages. After hitting up Bloomingdales, Lord and Taylor, Nordstroms, BCBG, Francesca's, Macy's, Anthropologie, and then Macy's again...I found a dress! And by then...I was pissed. I could've cut someone. Perhaps I could have pepper-sprayed someone like that woman in Wal-Mart on Black Friday, except I'd be doing it to let off steam, rather than to snag a deal.

Food

A day of mayhem precludes you from eating a good meal. Starvation was my destiny. My one bit of nourishment was the pound cake at the salon.  If I had eaten after shopping (after 4pm), I wouldn't be hungry at the party. So, I  to the grocery store pick up razors, shaving cream, and...cup of noodles. Hits the spot, but doesn't fill me up. I think it was a genius move. Genius.

Nails

It's not summertime anymore, so my toenails were in major disarray. And, I wasn't paying $40 to get them fixed up. So it was my time to shine. But I really don't have a steady hand and I'm a clutz. As I was creating an abstract painting on my nails, I accidentally knocked the nail polish into the tub, where the red polish began to immediately spread out in a magical, beautiful shade of "goodbye rental deposit." So then I spend the next 20 minutes using a mixture of acetone, Comet, and Fantastik to get my tub clean...it didn't work. And truth: my nails looked really bad, but it was dark at that party, so my hack job was sufficient.

Feet

Your feet hurt after dancing and walking around in heels. The company ACTUALLY provided us with socks and flip flops to help with dance floor woes. I decided to take both to create what I call "holiday feet." These holiday feet were seen at Circa last night, as well as on trains of DC during the "Day After."




---

Day After

So after dancing the night away, and thinking we were still young enough to have an "after party" longer than 30 minutes, we crashed post 2:30am in DC. I wake up at 8:30 thinking: I HAVE TO GO!!
Christmas cookie exchange party at 1pm and I don't even have ingredients! And I was supposed to go running at 10:00 with a friend. Run = canceled. Without question. Cookies...?? So I ran to the grocery store picked up my items and got to work.

Note: I have never baked cookies before.


The stuff in the bowl was the consistency of ICE CREAM. I thought: "this can't be right..." (called Mom, she said it should look like that). Then,



I mixed in all the junk. Still had some misgivings, but this should do. After which,


They looked good in the pan! This is promising! But then,


ARGH!!! There were some that made it though, so I took them on to the exchange! Many came back home with me. Sadness. But it was a fun weekend.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Covers - Make Me a Star!



I love a good cover song. We all do! People can become famous posting a well-sung cover on youtube. Why is the cover so great? I mean, it's just a new performance or recording of a song that has already hit the airwaves under someone else's name. The work has already been done! In my opinion, covers come in two kinds:
  1. Straight up copy - No part of this is your creation; you didn't add to it, you didn't take away. You just sing it in your own voice. But just the fact that it's your voice, adds something never heard before...rendering it as "new."
  2. Re-interpretation - a personal and creative explanation of the meaning of another's artistic or creative work. You've changed up the arrangement, but you haven't created anything new, per se, but it feels new and different (though substantially still the same).
There are ridiculously awesome covers of both types. Below is my quick-and-dirty list of my top 5 covers of all time. Please feel free to let me know of your favorite covers, because I want to hear them. Maybe you'll knock one of these out:


July Flame's All-Time Favorite Covers
  1. "I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton, as sung by Whitney Houston
  2. "Unchained Melody" by Alex North and Hy Zaret, as sung by The Righteous Brothers (I now desperately want to watch GHOST)
  3. "This Woman's Work" by Kate Bush, as sung by Maxwell (sidenote: who is like the most beautiful man in the world...but in this video he looks a little busted. Just sayin')
  4. "Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun" by Robert Hazard/Cyndi Lauper, as sung by Greg Laswell (he also does a beautiful "This Woman's Work")
  5. "Make You Feel My Love" by Bob Dylan, as sung by Adele
I want to give an honorable mention to my girl Ingrid Michaelson (I can never leave her out) for "Can't Help Falling in Love" by the late great Elvis Presley. It's very pretty, but not in the top 5.

ANYWAY, I was thinking of covers, and had this crazy thought...I am a cover song. Or at least, I should be a cover song. Or kind of like a cover song in that I have to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 28:19 for our command). And I have to live my life like He did (click here for what the entails). So my life is like a "new performance" of a life and a message that has been already hit the airwaves. That perfect life has already been lived and that perfect message has already been given. But it's my job to do it all over again. To keep it fresh and alive and heard. I had NO idea that Bob Dylan sang the original "Make You Feel My Love" but Adele brought me to him. Likewise, there are people who have no idea about Jesus Christ, but we...we help bring them to Him. Through our lives, through our love, through our continuance of His message.

Sometimes, it's required that we give the gospel via a straight-up copy, but your voice and your life experience lend something to it that is 100% unique. Sometimes, we get creative...like this blog. It's a personal/creative retelling of a biblical truth through the lens of "cover songs." But it's still the same. What kind of cover are you? Are you even singing the song? I just pray that I always be found singing, and always giving the credit where it's due: to the original author - Jesus Christ.

Sidenote: The body of Christ is like one big tribute band. Is that not the coolest thought ever? We are rock stars!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

100th Blog! Major Updates



So this is my 100th blog post. Hooray! Hooray (imagine applause, streamers, confetti, and foam...if you're into that)!

So I thought I would go back and in true July Flame list style, name my 5 all-time favorite blogs and update on what has happened since that time.


The Tragedies of Being Short - this is still a legit issue...as I have not grown. But to add insult to injury, my brother recently married a chick who is SIX FEET TALL, thus ousting me from my throne as "tallest girl in my family." This past Thanksgiving (when we put up our tree), the fam actually asked her to put the star on top SIMPLY because she could reach. Sad rudeness. Now I'm nothing, just second tallest. Tragedy continues.

Goodbye 27! - I like this one, because it legitimately captures a true moment of positivity and gratitude for my life. I had a really rough year, and I could've dwelt on the bad, b/c I can get pretty dark sometimes...but my happiness during 27 was real. I noticed that I never said goodbye to 28...I realize I forgot to count my blessings. Shame on me. That won't happen when I count down 29.

Our Friendship is Over! - this should be nominated for best animated short at the Oscars. I mean...true I didn't create the animation, but the script is golden! This was my first cartoon video and I love it. And let's be honest, many friendships end just this way. It's still happening, as we speak. I said that friendship is an umbrella that single women stand under so we don't get wet. Friendships forged under the umbrella fail (i.e. friendship born out of the solidarity of being single). So now...I avoid those. I choose to dance in the rain, splash in puddles, and find other people who are doing the same.

Critical Mass - This one deals with the aforementioned boredom. I love this post b/c it's one of the first times I started creatively applying the issues in my life as a way for me to connect with God. It was like I was trying to connect what I was going through with the Word of God. Sounds hokie I know...but after that, I wasn't afraid to say "I'm crappy, and this is how I think God wants me to deal with it." I'm still at critical mass all the time. I'm always SECONDS from the next blow up, and then prayer fixes it. I think that's amazing.

God and Math - I like re-reading this post, because often things don't seem to "add up." I get mad because my dividends are totally in arrears (accounting nerd!!). Like I've invested in this Christian life, and where are my dividends?! But I've learned that God is not a vending machine. And even if He was, I'm not putting in all quarters. I've definitely thrown some Canadian change in there... His grace is sufficient, and even given that...I'm still betting that somehow 2+2 is 5. It just goes like that somehow.

I thought about trying to write something deep and profound for the 100th post, but that's just begging for writer's block. No dice kids. Maybe something awesome will come along for post 101. 


Friday, November 25, 2011

Overheard at Thanksgiving



Time with family is awesome. I'm very thankful for my family, but it's a time when crazy things are said and discussed, and below are some of the more memorable:

How do You Know When Babies are Growing?

Aunt #1: (while fussing over a hiccuping newborn) The hiccuping means they're growing!
Me: (blank and incredulous stare)
Aunt #1: (sheepishly)...well maybe it's a myth

How do You Know when Someone's Pie is Good?

Sister: Taste my Sweet Potato Pie!!! Please!!
Aunt P: I don't know...maybe just one bite
(we all watch her chew very very slowly)
Sister: How is it?!
Aunt P: It's...alright.
Sister: Aunt J, why don't you try some
Aunt J: I think I'll pass

I never tried that pie. I instead shamelessly smashed apple pie (my favorite) and pound cake. 

Elmo?

Sister: Elmo is like the most famous muppet.
Me: Elmo ain't no muppet.
Sister and Cousin: YES HE IS!
Me: Technically, no he isn't. Muppets are a trademarked term of the characters created by Jim Hensen. They are called "The Muppets."
Sister: KERMIT is a muppet!
Me: Yes. Yes, he is.
Sister: And he was on Sesame Street.
Me: No. No, he wasn't...unless as a cameo.

That argument went on for about 15 minutes. Upon further review, we found that Sesame Street uses the term "muppet" by permission of the Walt Disney Co.; however, they are not true muppets. That honor belongs to The Muppets and the Fraggles (the trash heap has spoken).


How to Become an Addict

Sister: HAHAHA! YES!!! WOO-HOO!!!
Me: What happened?
Sister: I just bought a $15 gift card for 1 cent!
Me: Huh? How?
Sister: Online auction
Me: I want to try...
(2 hours later)
Me: HAHAHAHA!!! YES!! WOO-HOO!!
Mom: What did you win?!
Me: A ring! A $44 ring for 1 cent!!
Mom: You don't wear jewelry...
Me: SO?! You gotta watch and pray, Mom...watch and pray!
(Later)
Mom: Well, I'm going to pick up the ingredients for a German Chocolate Cake...bye
Me: Pray for me.
Mom: what?
Me: I want the 60inch TV
Mom: ok...
Me: I'M NOT JOKING LADY!
Mom: In Jesus name, amen (and then she left)

I didn't feel like she was sincere. But I also noted that I might have developed a problem. Be that as it may, I also came away with a $25 gift card that also cost 1 cent (2.99 shipping and handling). It made for a long day at my computer...in pajamas. I felt like I was at the slot machines. Note: I've never played the slots.

When You Realize Something Within You has Died

Me: Look at Jhalil (3 years old). He's just playing by himself, making noises, scooting around. He's having so much fun.
Sister: Yep.
Me: I don't remember imagination being that fun.
Sister: That's because you don't have any imagination now.
Me: ...dang

Kids with Attitude

New Niece by Marriage: (unprovoked, walks up to declare) I don't like you.
Me: Ok. That's one less gift for me to buy. Thanks.
New NbM: What do you mean?
Me: It means I'm not getting you anything for Christmas.
New NbM: (panicked) WAIT! NO! I do like you...a little. I mean, I don't know you that well...but...
Me: (cutting her off) Too late. Peace.

Maybe something else will happen. I'm going to not one, but TWO church plays this weekend...so one can never know.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!




Sunday, November 20, 2011

Miracle, Interrupted


This blog is about that moment when you think all hope is lost. Sometimes we feel this way because, logically, we've done the math. There's only so much awesome to go around, and we just saw the last of it (you know what "it" is) plucked up by Sally, Bob, or Mike. Or maybe we got there too late for "it." Whatever happened...it sucks. Despair starts to overtake us. Someone else got what you've been waiting for. You feel like you're on the brink of a major vom, throwing up the pit that has settled in your stomach, when a voice says:

Just Believe. 

My favorite miracle of Jesus is the woman with the issue of blood, but yesterday it was pointed out to me that her miracle interrupted the miracle of someone else. Check out Mark 5:21-43.

Here's the breakdown:

There's this dude named Jairus who's 12-year old daughter is dying. He falls before Jesus and asks him to come heal his daughter. Jesus consents to go with him and sets out towards his house. On the way, the crowds throng him (delay), and a woman who has been suffering (maybe even dying) of a blood disease for 12 years thinks to herself: "if I can just touch the hem of Jesus' garment, I can be healed." So she presses through the crowd and touches JC. JC stops, looks around and starts asking his disciples: "who touched me?" The disciples are like: "are you kidding me JC, look at this crowd...we don't know who touched you." But Jesus is not having it, he's waiting around for this woman to come forward.

PAUSE.

I have always been wowed and blown away by this woman's faith. The story (for me) is usually about how she presses through the crowd with faith so awesome, that she knows if she can just touch his clothes. Not even His body. She doesn't have to get His attention. He doesn't have to speak to her. If she can just touch His clothes she'll be healed. What faith! So wowed by the faith that I never considered the despair. Jairus' despair. Imagine him. Imagine you are him.Your situation is urgent, and JC is wasting time trying to figure out who touched him! He has to be freaking out by now.

UNPAUSE.

The woman, having been healed (she stopped bleeding immediately) comes forward, tells Jesus what she thought would happen if she touched His garment, and proclaims to everyone that she is in fact HEALED. Jesus gives her some kudos; I bet the crowd is rejoicing, and suddenly some of Jairus' servants walk up and say:

“Your daughter is dead,”...“Why bother the teacher anymore?” Mark 5:35

If I'm Jairus...I'm about to throw up. I'm about to just lose it, screaming in the crowd. The thing I asked for, was just given to someone else, in my sight. Jesus was on His way to my house, when He was distracted by the needs of someone else. I'm probably having 1000 different crazy, messed up thoughts, when Jesus overhearing says:

"Don't be afraid, just believe."

I'm going to end the story there. We know that JC goes to Jairus' house and raises his daughter from the dead*, but...that moment where he almost gave up. I'm almost always in that moment, where everything that I want isn't happening, but yet seems to be happening for everyone else: the blessings, the raise/promotion, the new house, the new marriage/new baby, the peace, the contentment..."it." I'm in that moment so much, because it is easy to believe in the finite. There is a finite amount of "awesome" and there is a timeframe that we have to get it in. We believe in "windows of opportunity." But with God, there's no window. Jairus found that out...I'm trying to learn it too.

Less fear. More belief.


*There will probs be a part 2 on this portion.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Working Out Sucks



As a person who has had some health problems in the past, I know that this is a dangerous statement: Working Out Sucks. Exercise is necessary, don't get me wrong, but let's not lie to each other anymore: it hurts. I've been doing the Insanity Workout, and have spent the day limping around the office. Every movement hurts. When I go into the restroom, I'm trying to maneuver around so gingerly and yet I still groan (which could give other restroom users the wrong idea about me!). Sadness. I will now enumerate the pros and cons of working out (of ME working out):

Pros for Working Out
  1. Health - regular exercise (A) controls weight...but I'm not overweight. I suppose I will be if I shun exercise forever. It also (B) combats diseases and health conditions. Blank stare.That ship has kinda sailed, but Combats does not equal Prevents. Combats is good...it's a pro.
  2. It makes you sleep like a rock - You know that sleep that you thought was reserved for "I-had-a-glass-of-wine-and-had-dreamless-sleep"? Skip the wine! Do Insanity Workout and you will be KNOCKED OUT. I've had good sleep 2 days in a row, woke up before my alarm completely rested.
  3. Feeling of accomplishment - The first night, I had to shut it off with 9 min to go. I was done for. I just couldn't do it! Second night, I finished...and I felt like I had just won Biggest Loser. Imaginary streamers were falling on my head, and confetti was sticking in my eyelashes (does that happen on Biggest Loser?). In any case, it was great.
Cons for Working Out
  1. It Hurts - Like a mutha! My legs were shaking yesterday. During the stretches. That's when you know it's chopped: when you can barely get through the stretches. Granted, I'm crazy out of shape. I could run a mile without stopping if I was forced (i.e. chased by zombies), and I can get through a zumba class w/o sitting out. However, I am not strong.  That's why I don't hold doors for people, I mean...the door is too heavy for me to wait for slow people to walk up at their leisure. (J/K! I hold doors...for people moving swiftly).
  2. It's time consuming - this is only true in the sense that the 45 min to an hour you spend working out, is time I could spend gaining weight: eating chips and ice cream while watching DVR'd tv shows. Or it's time that I could be relaxing, curled up with my newest book (currently reading A Feast for Crows).
  3.  Your Hair Gets Jacked Up - this may only be a con for people of color, but a good workout requires a good washing of the hair afterwards, and as mentioned in a previous blog (point #1 in this old post), I can't wash my hair every day. That being said, I have a small dilemma. I want to work out tonight (despite the cons), but I have a hair appointment in the morning to get a relaxer. Will this cause probs? Please help if you know (no one ever responds to my polls...so I guess I'll just have to update you with a story of either triumph, tragedy, or laziness borne out of fear).
Should I work out tonight, even thought I'm getting a hair relaxer in the morning? 


Well, I'll let you know how it works out. I might not work out b/c my legs feel like jell-o. Or maybe I'll just do light workout on the treadmill and pick Insanity back up once my hair is done. So many choices.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tired of Being Good


You see that brokedown Marge Simpson? That is what my spirituality/righteousness/"goodness"/whatever feels like right now. This was one of my rougher weeks, and if I was "on fire" for biblical love last week, that picture of Marge depicts how busted and disgusted my love is right now. Remember that biblical love is a supernatural ability, and sometimes, I find myself using the shameful excuse: "It's only natural for me to feel this way." And so, while I do still feel like Marge, it made me think of a scripture that kind of didn't make sense to me until this past week:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. - Galatians 6:9-10

So, it just never hit me that you can really get tired of doing the right thing! Isn't that nuts? I have this vision that it feels good to be nice to people. You know "it's better to give than to receive" and that awesome feeling you get after volunteering your time to the needy? That never gets old. You know what does get old? Swallowing pride. Turning the other cheek. Biting your tongue. All the "good stuff" that we hate to do. We? Fine...stuff that I hate to do. I admit it, I hate it with a bitter hatred. I hate it especially with those who belong to the family of believers. Why? Because I like to think it should be unnecessary in the family of believers. Why am I turning the other cheek for someone who I wouldn't expect to slap me? Awkward.

I once heard a preacher talk about the difference between "the saints" and "church folk."  Technically, all believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ are "saints": a person set apart for the Lord and His kingdom. But often, I'm reminded that sometimes we are also "church folk": crappy people who just go to church. And saints/church folk get TIRED of doing good, because saints/church folk don't make it very easy. But...we are all in process. I try to remember this. We are all in process. No one is perfect yet. My feet are still on the ground; I have not stepped onto a cloud and peaced out. It hasn't happened.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.- 2 Corinthians 3:18

So, I had one idea when I copy/pasted that scripture...but now I'm having another one. My first point was that we are "being transformed." That we are in process. That we have to be patient and wait for the ever-increasing glory to come from the Lord. We have to wait to be like him. And we have to wait on other people to be like Him. That is legit. I have taken that to heart.

But my second thought was:

How obvious we are. 

Lord, I don't want to be so obvious! When Moses came down from the mountain, he had a veil over his face, so that the Israelites wouldn't see the glory of the Lord fading off him. They could hear God's message unfettered by their view of Moses. And so they wouldn't be distracted or concerned by the obviously fading glory...Moses put on a veil (see Exodus 34:29).

But I don't get a veil! I either reflect the Lord's glory, or I don't. You either see Him, or you see ME. God's message either comes through loud and clear, or the audience is distracted by my fading? While I'm being transformed into his likeness, can you see me changing...or do I still look (too much) like ME?! I don't get to hide behind a veil. With unveiled face, I should be reflecting the glory of the Lord. Today...I think I look like me. Like Marge. And I wonder how obvious it is...and who I've distracted. I have taken that to heart, as well.


He must increase, but I must decrease - John 3:30

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween!!



A couple of days ago, my company had a Halloween costume contest. The day before the contest, I had this conversation in the breakroom:

Me: So are you ladies dressing up?
Chick 1: Nah. It's too much work.
Chick 2: OH NO! I'm a Christian, it is Satanic...I mean, just the origins of it. I can't dress up.

And then she walked away. My first thought: "Hey! I'm a Christian too!" was overshadowed by the thought: "a simple 'no' would have sufficed."

All the following is "in my opinion" (imo). But this is my take on Halloween:
  1. Witchcraft...seriously?- Some people say if you're going to do Halloween, avoid dressing yourself and your kids up as goblins, zombies, devils, witches, etc. because scripture speaks out against those (I've yet to find a goblin/zombie scripture, please let me know if you do). I don't have any kids, but if/when I do I'm going to dress them up as doctors year after year. I will dress them in flashy little suits with a white lab coat and stethoscope.  But why? Well, clearly, there is a relationship between what you dress your kids as for Halloween and what they will become when they grow up. Dress them like Hermione Granger and they will become a cute, loveable, but ultimately hellbound witch with crazy hair. Dress them up like Sanjay Gupta...and hey you get a kid who will take excellent care of you in your old age. It's a no-brainer.
  2. There are other Activities - You can have a "manly" Halloween by flinging pumpkins from a giant slingshot for the church harvest festival, you can have a huge bonfire at your church, you can attend a church "hell house" (which doesn't make Christians look crazy at all). You don't have to dress up, trick-or-treat, or attend a haunted house (like I did). Have fun as you wish...no one should care. IMO, you can do whatever you want because ultimately it's all about:

  3. Different Strokes for Different Folks - this is my overarching view, because we have to admit that there isn't a scripture that says: "And ye shalt not go from house to house, begging for candy, dressed as a zombie"... however, I think there are some things we can infer based on the following scripts:
    • Colossians 2:16 - this was most likely in regard to Jewish holy days (whether they continued to celebrate them or not), but I'll take it. IMO, we shouldn't judge or be judged in regard to Halloween.
    • 1 Corinthians 8:4-8 - this is my favorite. I feel like this has wide application. In this scripture there are people who can't eat the food sacrificed to idols b/c they think of it as being offered to a false God...and for them it is defiled. If you feel that way about Halloween DO NOT celebrate. However, if you know that Halloween is nothing (the same way the idol was nothing, and that meat was just food) then I think you are "free" to celebrate as you see fit, because nothing is defiled to you. 
But this is the part that is not my opinion: it is NOT "the devil's day." People who hide out, and claim that this day is Satanic, and that its origins are evil give honor where it is certainly not due. The true origin of every day is God. We don't have to "take back the night" or anything like that. God never relinquished the day. So for me, as a Christian, it's just an opportunity to have fun in a way I normally wouldn't (i.e. dressing up, making stuffed pumpkin for dinner, eating pumpkin cupcakes, watching scary movies just for the hilarity of hearing myself scream...all that). Psalms 118:24 says "This is the day the Lord has made" so every day belongs to Him...even October 31st. Just sayin...

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Prelude to a Diss: The Good Samaritan




So in the past couple of days, there was a story in the news about a Chinese toddler named YueYue who was the victim of a hit-and-run accident on a busy street. The hit-and-run by itself is tragic, but what outraged a nation, and caused global concern was that the little girl laid in the street for 10+ minutes, while people (18 in all) went right past her.


She was ultimately pulled from the road by an old woman, a "scavenger" the news reporter called her. She alone had mercy. But the fact remained: 18 people couldn't muster up compassion for a baby that lay bleeding in the street. Some people have blamed this occurrence on "jingshen kongxu" or "spiritual vacuum." But I think it's a love vacuum. It put me in the mind of a famous parable: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

We know the story, a man is traveling on the road, is robbed and left for dead. Two of his own kin (priest and Levite) pass him by, leave him for dead. Then a Samaritan comes, pulls him out the street, bandages him up, puts him on his donkey and takes him to an inn. Basically, the Samaritan loved him.

And so, I'm reading this article in the news, and I'm reading Luke 10, and I thought to myself: "Who are you leaving for dead?" One of my favorite sayings when I'm angry is "s(he) is dead to me!" Note: this person I'm speaking of is NOT actually dead. Parable guy in the street was NOT dead. YueYue was NOT dead, but they were treated as if they were dead. Treated as if they don't matter. Treated as if they don't deserve your attention.

I think a lot of time we focus on who stopped: the good samaritan and the scavenger. But here's the diss: I'm not like them. No, we need to focus on the people who didn't stop. That's who I identify with the most. I'm so busy trying to do EVERYTHING right. To live this holy and acceptable life to God. The Priest and the Levite--by virtue of their professions--were accustomed to living by the rules. But all 613 mitsvot are garbage...reading the whole Bible, going to church, attending small group, LEADING small group is garbage if we don't truly love. Every rule, every praise and worship service, every small group hinges on what?

‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Everything depends on love. And so again I ask myself: who am I leaving for dead? And WHY am I doing it?! Helping people who don't like you...it's nuts. Helping people who make you feel small, bitter, and worthless...harsh. Do you know that Jews hated Samaritans? Oral Jewish law says "to eat the bread of Samaritans is equal to eating the flesh of swine." It defiles them just to eat their bread. Scavengers in China wade knee-deep in trash created by the affluent members of society. They are the super poor, looking for treasure in the trash of the super rich. YueYue was the daughter of a businessman. Businessmen walked over her. The scavenger picked up a treasure that other people walked over like trash. There is something to this...

I'm reading the parable, and I'm concerned because it doesn't mention an important element of what the Good Samaritan did: the DIFFICULTY. Why isn't there even a sentence about the difficulty?! It's difficult to help people who hate you. How do you love when you haven't been the recipient of love? How do you love people who have what you want...and who throw it away? That is difficult...when you're walking according to the flesh. And so...yeah., I'll admit, that I often have difficulty. And the excuse I often use is "I'm only human." And I totally am. But I don't want to be "only human." I want to be more than that. I want that supernatural ability to love. I'm still praying for it...



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pack up! Move out!



I have moved a lot. I was born and raised in Toledo, OH. Then I lived in Indiana. Then in Chicago, IL. I moved 4 times in Chicago in 3 years. Now I live in the DC Metro area, and I've moved 3 times in 2 years. Like I said, I have moved a lot.

And every time I move, I throw things away. Usually, it's junk I know I don't need. But often, it's stuff that I once deemed to be "important" and that has outlived its importance and usefulness and needs to be in the garbage. The dumpster was always its destiny, but I kept delaying it. The following is a list of things that stick in my mind as stuff I had a hard time letting go of:
  1. Red Pants - So once upon a time,  I bought a pair of red pants. They fit great, they looked good.  But when I got them home, I couldn't think of a single thing to wear with the red pants. Then I couldn't even envision myself wearing the red pants out of the house. I kept those pants for 7 years, never wore them once before I put them in a donation bag (will anyone want those pants?).

  2. Get-Well-Soon Posters - When I was sick, a bunch of my friends made me get-well-soon posters. When I had them, I hung them up all over my house, as a source of encouragement. They hung for a LONG time. When I moved, I lovingly packed them up into a box to my next home. I never took them out to look at them, but I liked having them there. I kept those for 15 months.

  3. Letters from my Ex-Bff - This was my first big purge. These letters filled up a box (not of the shoebox variety). That was my first deep friendship, and we talked every day, multiple times a day...via little folded-up-origami-style notes that we passed to each other in the halls, or stuffed in each others locker slits. At one point, the friendship ended (badly), but I still valued the way it began in junior high, so sometimes...I read them, reminisced, and dwelt on all the feelings that created. I was 23 years old when I threw those letters away.

  4. TiVo - TiVo lost its usefulness (for me) when the channels switched from 1/2 analog, 1/2 digital to ALL digital. That was a prob. Then I got Fios, and Fios goes to sleep, and TiVo can't wake it up...so I came home to lots of recordings of "Press the MENU button to view Fios cable." It was a disaster, but I still kept it b/c it held so many recorded TV moments (i.e. the episode of Guiding Light when Tammy dies). I just threw that out and got DVR.
And there are so many other things that I've thrown out but didn't want to. Stuff that had sentimental value. Many of these items had been holding on to me, more than I'd been holding on to them. Sometimes they represented a relationship that I should have gotten over long ago. Sometimes they represented an obligation, that I still thought I might make good on. Sometimes they represented memories that depict a me that no longer exists, or that are best forgotten. And sometimes they were just pieces of my past that I didn't want to forget.

But every time I move, I throw such things away.

And you know what? I never miss them. Sometimes I throw stuff in the trash, and I see it in there and think: I can still get it out! And that's when I immediately take it to the dumpster, or immediately throw something gross on top of it (like spaghetti) to keep myself from cracking. But once it's gone...I don't find myself wishing it was in my possession.

What's the point?

THE POINT

Sometimes the things we hold onto go beyond "stuff"in our apartment. There's something in your life that was (1) never "you" in the first place, it never quite felt right but you kept on with it; (2)  something that had served its purpose, and was no longer of use; (3) a reminder of pain, of loss, and of mistakes that have to be forgiven; (4) made obsolete by better alternatives, but you stubbornly held on to it. I'm talking about the broken relationships, habits, sins, negative thoughts, and crazy behaviors that should have been long gone. God is moving you, but you're dragging a trailer of "stuff." So we need to develop a new spiritual habit: every time you "move", throw something away. Scripture says so:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?... - Isaiah 43:18-19

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  - Philippians 3:13-14


When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. - 1 Corinthians 13:11

There is a time for everything,  and a season for every activity under the heavens:  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build - Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

I really like the last one, because sometimes you're tearing down what you've built. Sometimes you're uprooting what you've planted! It's easy to tear down someone else junk, but my own? There is a time for that.

I think I'm ready to move spiritually, but I have boxes upon boxes of crap that I need to jettison from my life. I'm praying that I'm ready. What have you been moving with you from place to place? Is it time to let it go? I bet we won't miss that junk.

Food for thought.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Love: Prelude to a Diss

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails... 
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

If the Bible can be played, then this is one of the most played verses EVER. We hear it all the time at weddings. In fact, I've heard it so many times, that I have VOWED this will not be read at my own (wedding date currently unknown/unplanned). Today, though, this scripture was particularly hard to read because it's really quite convicting when you use it as a litmus test for the question: does love abide in me?

The first time I started writing this blog, it was all jokes and sarcasm. All plays on the different characteristics of love...but this is so serious. Perhaps we'd grasp the gravity of the situation if we read from the beginning of chapter 13. Why do people start at verse 4? Let's start at the beginning, at 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Let's de-romanticize the whole thing, by introducing what I call the "Prelude to a Diss." The popular verses 4 - 8 are not some mere commentary on what love is. When read in conjunction with the first three verses, it is about all the things we HAVE to be. It's about all the characteristics we HAVE to possess. And I find myself lacking.

And I've been writing and re-writing, trying to figure out what is my major issue. And I think I've found it: I simply can't get hurt. If you hurt me bad enough, every single thing in the chain of love breaks down. It makes sense: it's hard to love you while you're hurting me. Scripture talks all the time about loving your enemies, and turning the other cheek...but what does that LOOK like? I think it looks like this:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 
Romans 5:8 

While we were yet sinners. That means while we were still committing sins. That means while we were hurting God, Christ died for us. That's why John 3:16 is powerful; God didn't love just any world, He loved the world that rejects Him, that doubts Him, and that hurts Him with its sin. And so, I have to learn to love through the hurt. I'm talking major hurt (all manner of betrayal). I have to because I'm commanded to:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another
John 13:34

I heard a pastor say before that the command wasn't new. And it wasn't..."love thy neighbor" had been said before. But you know what was new about it? Now it had an example. Now there was a standard. A lofty, hard-to-reach standard. This is why love is a "fruit of the spirit" (see Galatians 5:22); because its a supernatural ability. Love in spite of crappy treatment is a supernatural ability. I pray that the Lord works that fruit in my life. In greater measure. I love, but I don't love as He has. 

Just some food for thought.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Night In



I haven't posted in a while. But I don't really have a huge readership...so I'm sure no one is bothered. In any case, as a brief update: my life has been a little topsy turvy. I'm moving again. Bah! I think I might move more than chess pieces. I've never moved twice within a 60-day period! I'm so ashamed, I didn't even ask my friends for help. I just hired movers. Also, the transitions from my old OLD home, and my old job have not been as smooth as I would like. I forgot that transitions suck. There is much to be said for "same old, same old." People say that phrase as if its humdrum and lame. This is dangerous and untrue. "Same old, same old" is victory. That's right: VICTORY. "Same old, same old" means I haven't been fired, evicted, robbed, dumped, played, tricked, or ultimately murdered. See? "Same old, same old" is good. I don't have "same old, same old." I have new crap.

However, I know that in 3 - 6 months, I'll have new routines that will lull me into a new false sense of stability and security. Don't get me wrong, there are some legit stabilizers out there: God. Your family. Yourself. However, I often build my stability on my home, my job, and my friend groups. As the WHOLE world knows, this is the epitome of "building your house on sand." So...the "rains" have definitely come and washed me out a few times. You would think that given this knowledge, I would stop "building" full-fledged houses, but rather make a shanty or a "lean-to." Some temporary dwelling that I'm less invested in...but we all have our patterns.

I've been kind of experiencing this "Murphy's Law" type existence for the past couple of months, and since everything is going wrong, I'm trying to apply Psalms 20 to my life these days. Especially, Psalms 20:7 - Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Replace "chariots" with "job", and replace "horses" with "people." That's me!

Anyway, it's Friday...and I'm doing my favorite Friday night activity: NOTHING (recall my feelings concerning Friday night by clicking here...I clicked and realized I've lost about 60% of my humor. Sadness.) But I was sitting here, reading blogs, saw a poem...and decided to write a poem about my Friday night chill. Then I decided, I'd share it. Good luck to you readers, I hope you don't go blind or fall asleep:

It’s Friday night, but I’m not seeking Friday’s light
Because the day’s fight ends in surrender to my chill
Wherein I can get my fill of lounging, and of allowing
Myself some time to recline on the bed that’s mine and
Think…just think…I don’t need to go out for a drink,
Because I’ve spent the week waiting; it’s been a 5-day-countdown
To the very intoxicating pleasure of my own Company, I’m so into me,
Spent the workday waiting to surrender its insanity
To the calming oasis of my chill, where breezes don’t rush over windowsills
But rather over my heart, cooling down the issues that made it stop and start
Too fast for me to breath easy, ever since Monday I’ve been wheezing
But in my chill...the air is ridiculously fresh and I can exhale the rest
Of the madness that exists beyond it boundaries:
Those people, those things…they’re not here with me
Because time is sacred within my chill.

No formatting. No time for that. It's time for me to watch movies, read books, and otherwise disconnect from reality. Happy Friday!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Samson Part 2: Faith Wins



After telling Delilah that his hair was his strength, Samson lost his hair AND his strength. And it was pretty much downhill from there:

Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison - Judges 16:21)

But it was there, in his captivity and pain that he realized where his strength came from. Nowhere in Judges 13-16 do we ever see Samson pray until just this moment. Prior to this moment, Samson has killed a lion and 1,030 Philistines with brute strength. Strength that he attribute to dead cells on top of his head. But in that moment, in that horrible moment of weakness, Samson found his true strength:

Then Samson called to the LORD and said, “O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. - Judges 16: 28 - 30

Samson has no right to expect anything from the Lord. Look at where he is. Look at what his life has come down to...but that didn't stop him from asking. It didn't stop him from putting his last shred of trust, and his last remnant of faith in God. And when he did, two things happened:
  1. His strength returned, and he fulfilled the purpose God had set out for him, and 
  2. He obtained his good report
Clarification? Sure.

For the first point, it's obvious that his strength returned and he was given power that the Philistines thought they had taken from him. But know this: those who are set apart by God, always belong to God. By the angel, God had already spoken a word concerning Samson, and it was going to be fulfilled (see Isaiah 55:11). Do you remember that word God spoke: "...and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines." In life, he killed 1,030 with brute strength. At his death, he killed 3,000 with his faith! Faith Wins.

We too have been set apart. So I don't care how bleak your situation looks, don't give up on God. And no matter what mistakes you have made, never neglect to cry out to Him for help. 

For the second point, I put this out to put an end to all the "cautionary tale" chatter. Samson's story is one of ultimate victory! Twenty years he judged in Israel without a clue. But in one day, in his worst moment...he obtained a good report by faith. Samson's faith pleased God. The fact that Samson would cry out to Him, pleased God.  How do I know? The Bible tells me so:

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight... and these all, having obtained a good report through faith...

There are people in that list who have been doubted (Samson and Jephthah), but of this there is no doubt: by faith they were found APPROVED. They are stamped APPROVED and ACCEPTED, and are even now waiting for the rest of us to join them in eternity. And it is by faith. Don't knock it...because:

Faith Wins.



I love this song...and I don't know...it reminds me of Samson.

Samson Part 1: Where Does Your Strength Come From?


Most people know the story of Samson. That angry guy with superhuman strength and the long hair? Yep, that's him! His story is often told as a cautionary tale. You can go to websites and ask "what can we learn from Samson's life?" and they'll tell you that:

Giving in to temptation leads to sin, and sin can have grave consequences

That's a true statement...but I don't think that's the lesson that we should learn from Samson's life. That is a surface-level lesson that you can learn explicitly from any number of scriptures. But when you look deeper, you get deeper. There are two (maybe 3...maybe 1 million) lessons we can learn from Samson:

Lesson #1: Know where your strength comes from

If you don't know the story, read Judges 13 - 16.  If you know the story, read Judges 13 - 16. Either way...it'll be new. I had forgotten that Samson was one of those miracle babies (i.e. Isaac, Samuel, Jesus), born to a barren mother, heralded by an angel:

Then the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”  - Judges 13:3-6

Is there any mention of strength? Is there any mention of the source of this strength being hair?

Even though God never said that his hair was the secret of his strength...Samson thought it was. When asked by Delilah where his strength came from, Samson first thwarted her with lies. First he told her that if they bound him with 7 cords, he'd be weak. When he woke up bound in cords, that should have been a clue that this chick was bad news...but men...sigh. After 2 more lies, Samson finally admitted: "If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man." (Judges 16:17)

This is the problem with Samson: MISPLACED FAITH. He put his faith in his strength, and he attributed his strength to his hair.* How many of us are like that? We put more faith in the gift than in the God who gave it.

*PAUSE: Some may say Samson put his faith in his Nazirite vow. But Samson didn't make a vow. God consecrated and set him apart for a specific task. Plus, if his faith was in the vow, he would have feared wine ("if I drink a glass of wine, I'll lose my strength"). That wasn't the case. Clearly, he's all about the hair. UNPAUSE*

What if Samson had answered: "My strength comes from the Lord. If He should take His Holy Spirit from me, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man. I pray daily against such."

What would Delilah have done then? She would have surely been stuck. She would have thought: "If his strength comes from the Lord who am I, that I could be able to take it from him?"

If your strength comes from the Lord, who can take it from you?!

Samson's true weakness did not come from a bad haircut, but it was a weakness born out of misplaced faith. Faith in the wrong place can harm you. Faith in the wrong place can give you a false sense of security (faith in your hair, your intellect, your job, your relationship, etc.).

Ephesians 6:11-17 urges us to put on the whole armor of God. And that our faith is our shield. But misplaced faith is no shield at all, it's paper-thin and leaves you defenseless. 

Samson didn't have a shield. Where's yours?


You might be thinking: ...umm, this is still a cautionary tale. Nope! Check out Part 2. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You?



I went to church this morning hoping that service wouldn't be political just because today is September 11th. I was thinking: "I can watch memorials and tributes on TV. I've come to church to hear about God."

I think my attitude was wrong. The church speaks biblical truth into our lives, and 9/11 is a part of our lives. Forever. The service was about remembering. And it was about the Christian reaction to tragedy, and it was about justice, love, and humbly walking with the Lord. And it was very political in the process. That's almost inescapable. Sitting in the service, I listened, and allowed the preacher to speak the horror of ten years ago back into the hearing of my today. And...it was loud. Just last week I was talking about the impact of September 11th. About how I can barely remember things from last week, but I know EVERYTHING about that particular day. I know nearly every detail of where I was, who I was with, jokes we were making in the car prior to the realization that the radio personalities were no longer playing music or telling corny morning commute jokes. It's crystal clear. But do you know what I can't remember at all? September 10th. What happened on September 10th doesn't matter, b/c on September 11th we were at "ground zero." And going forward, everything was changed.

Ground Zero:

1. The point on the earth's surface directly above or below an exploding nuclear bomb.
2. A starting point or base for some activity.


And, it is Sunday, which means if there is a post...it's about Jesus. And so I was thinking about the spiritual "ground zero." Jesus dropped a bomb on religion. And his death became the starting point for new life, and new access to God (in a way that was previously unknown).

I imagine that for the followers of Jesus, and for the people of Israel there was another really memorable day:

"Where were you when the veil of the temple was rent in two?"
"Where were you when the sky was darkened?"
"Where were you when the earth shook?"
"Where were you when Jesus was crucified?"


We talk a lot about 8:46 a.m., 9:03 a.m., 9:37 a.m., and 10:03 a.m. But today I was thinking about 3 o'clock ("and at the 9th hour"...Mark 15:34). How, everything prior to that moment is subordinate to what happened in that moment. Because once Jesus died, spiritually the world was at "ground zero." I say the world, because that's who Christ died for (John 3:16). Going forward, everything was changed...everything.

Just food for thought from a Christian American.

Go Jesus!

Go USA!

P.S. By the way, I was on my way to Multi-cultural Literature at the University of Toledo, riding in the car with Valerie Thompson, when we heard a little something on the radio, about the first plane hitting. We didn't get it. We got to class, in the Honors Center, and the place was in turmoil. Our professor, Dr. Denk, herded our entire class into a large room, where other students/teachers had congregated. In that room, we watched live coverage on a big screen TV.  And in that room, with crying teachers and students, Val and I watched the first tower fall.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blog Catch-Up: Medieval Times



For the past two weeks, I have been living in Medieval Times (minus turkey legs and the garb). That is to say, I've lived 2 weeks without cable and internet in my home. It was hard, but I caught up on some reading, some sleep, and became more closely acquainted with Redbox*.

Now I'm back, and will update you on the past two weeks:


1. New Job Update

I have found that regardless of where I work...I'd rather be at home. However, I'm really enjoying the new opportunity. I find myself busy, and working on projects that "expand my horizons." I miss my old co-workers, but the new ones are not too shabby. Very sociable, and lighthearted. Today, I was laughed at for like a solid 5 minutes because I didn't know how to spell "Booz Allen." I'm not ashamed to admit that I spelled it "Bose." Well, I'm a little ashamed.

2. New Home

Two weeks in the new apartment, and I won't lie to you...as of yet, I have used NONE of the amenities that were so important to me, except for the business center when I was in internet withdrawal. As for the rest:
  1. Media Center - nope
  2. Indoor basketball court - do I need my own ball? 
  3. Pool - I had 4 days to go before it closed for the season. On the 5th day, I inquired about when the pool closed. Oops!
  4. Billiards Room - I haven't pool hustled any residents yet. Yet!
  5. Golf simulation - I think that's broken anyway...
I haven't even spent a lot of time with the new roomie...all in good time. I think we're destined to be pals...we have the same initials! So far, so good.

3. New Books

A Song of Ice and Fire series. I'm on book 3. It's a serious time commitment, but now there's no turning back for me. This really intensified the medieval feelings. If you're into medieval fantasy, magic, murder for power and that type of stuff...you'll like this.

4. Miscellaneous

*Redbox is a corrupt business. Perhaps even a sham. I tried to return a DVD, and the box wouldn't take it! There was some number to call...but I'm too lazy to do that! So that malfunctioning box cost me an additional $1.00 and applicable tax. Rude!

I actually went to the Renaissance Fair in Maryland last week. It was terrible, with the exception of a glass-blowing demonstration, and the joust. That joust was great. Hazaa! There were some minstrels (?) playing at the food area, and some random medieval belly-dancers shaking their groove thang for our entertainment. That was funny in a very sad way. But yet, I was still entertained.

On the non-secular side, methinks you should expect a future blog about Daniel.





Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Your Way or the Highway


I heard about a sermon preached in Toledo. I didn't hear it, but I wanted to read the story to see if it translated into a decent blog. Here goes!

Have you ever been in a really bad situation, that you prayed and expected God to deliver you out of? You know...you're sick, or you lost your job, or you are caught between two impossible decisions and need clarity?

In these sitches--because we're God's beloved children--we want:
  1. Miraculous healing
  2. Someone to call YOU and say: "I want you to come work for me"
  3. You want to put an Old Navy Fleece out on the lawn at night, and find it dry in the morning
But we don't usually get our deliverance in those ways.

So it was with Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19).

The situation: Naaman is a great guy, respected by all, beloved of his king, captain of the army, and valiant warrior. BUT, he also happens to be a leper. This sucks. Someone tells him that there is a prophet in Israel who can heal him, so he sets out in search of his miracle.


The miracle: When Naaman gets to Israel, the prophet Elisha says "go wash in the Jordan 7 times, and you'll be healed."


The reaction: Hold up, hold up...I came all this way to jump in a river? Why don't you lay hands on me, and just heal me? Do you know who I am? I'm a big deal...I need a big deal deliverance.

And herein lies the main point: WHY DO YOU CARE HOW YOU ARE DELIVERED?

The main point is deliverance. Do you want to be healed or not. Helped or not?

Sometimes...
  1. Instead of the miraculous healing, you have lots of doctor's appointments, tests, and diagnoses and your healing comes later.
  2. Instead of the divine job offer, you have to go on dozens of interviews and network when you're afraid. Then, months later the job you prayed for materializes,
  3. Instead of signs and wonders (like the fleece), God shuts every other door, until you have only one choice...and there is your clarity.
For Naaman, he ultimately washed in the Jordan, did what he had to do, and he walked away healed. It might not look like you want, it might not come when you want, but sometimes...you just have to do what you have to do and walk away with your deliverance...regardless of how it came.