Friday, July 29, 2011

Friendly Friday: Kimberly Simpkins

Today's Friendly Friday guest has a special place in my heart—she was my She Speaks roommate! She was slated to guest post for me before the conference, though.

Good thing she liked me, or this page would probably be blank today.

Kimberly Simpkins blogs over at Mining for Diamonds. Her story and testimony are compelling, and I'm so glad she's working toward putting a book together. She's a beautiful lady, inside and out, and really a joy to be around. Read her here and check out her blog!

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Jehovah Shalom

I’m so excited to guest post for Rachel today! I am honored to have been her roommate for She Speaks. She is as fun and sassy in person as she is on her blog! Don’t let her sarcastic wit fool you; this girl is serious about her God and truly has a heart for Him. When her book becomes a bestseller, I’ll be able to say, “Hey! I was her roommate!” (And no, she doesn’t snore.)

At She Speaks, there is a room that is the talk of the conference. It’s called “The Prayer Room.” It’s a room dedicated to quiet meditation and reflection, and, well, prayer. The main “feature” of the room, if you will, is the table near the rear of the room with hundreds of small strips of paper stuck to several large pieces of paper. On the small strips are the names of every single attendee of the conference, as well as the speakers, staff, and volunteers. On the large pieces of paper are the Names of God. Behind the scenes, people prayed for every single name, and as they felt led, they attached that person’s name to a Name of God. The idea is that whatever Name of God your name is on, it represents a characteristic of God that He wants to reveal to you personally.

I made my way around the table, and on the last sheet of paper I browsed, I found my name on the Name of God that whoever prayed for me felt He wanted to reveal to me. That name was:

Jehovah Shalom.

Whenever we think of the word “shalom.” we think of “peace.” But it is a little more than just “absence of conflict.” That word “shalom” has a deeper meaning. I’ve heard it means “nothing missing, nothing broken.” Wikipedia says that it can mean “complete,” or “whole,” and speaks to “well-being,” “wholeness,” and “safety.”

This has great personal meaning for me, so I believe that whoever was behind the scenes praying for me at She Speaks, truly heard from God. I feel that something was imparted to me in this very personal message, which is a sense of great well-being from the Lord Himself. I really need that in this season of my life.

But it got me to thinking…

How many people really, truly experience “shalom?” As believers, we always hear about “peace”—there’s “the peace of God that passes all understanding,” “peace be with you,” or the “peace of God” ruling our hearts.

But what does that really mean?

I have often mistaken “peace” to mean absence of conflict, or being calm and quiet inside.

But it is more than that. God wants to impart Himself to us through His Peace. He is the Prince of Peace, He is Shalom. He is the God of “nothing missing, nothing broken.” When the storms of life may be raging all around us, God wants us to experience Shalom on the inside, that sense of complete well-being, wholeness and safety, knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that He is in control. Shalom is not an emotion; it is a state of being.

I have to admit, peace is not my default “state of being” when storms are raging in my life. It takes practice to really experience Jehovah Shalom.

How do we get that practice?

The answer is in Isaiah 26:3. My KJV says it this way:

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

The NLT says:

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

Regardless what version you use, the bottom line is this: we will have “shalom” when our focus is on Him, and when we trust Him.Once we take our eyes off of Him, guess what? No peace!

But it’s not enough to just look at Him. We also need to trust Him. This is another area of my life that needs more practice! It is easy for our faith to waver in the midst of challenging circumstances, but if we keep our eyes fixed on Him, and place our total trust in Him, we can experience the fullness of “Shalom.”

I pray that today, whatever is going on in your life, may you also experience Jehovah Shalom inside!

© Kimberly Simpkins, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jury Duty!

While we were on vacation a few weeks ago, I saw a little bit of the Casey Anthony trial on television. I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be interesting to be on a jury? I'm surprised I've never gotten called. Hmm."

And what was the first piece of mail I opened when I got home after vacation?

A jury duty summons. Like an answer to prayer or something. Except not.

You see, the week for which I was summoned was two weeks ago. The week right before She Speaks. So, conceivably, I could have been called to serve on a trial that would have extended into the conference. I had to call every evening last week to find out if I needed to be downtown the next day.

And I was, in fact, needed. That Thursday, I had the privilege of seeing our judicial system in action.

Excitement! Adventure! Intrigue!

But I had a peace about it. I knew I had lots of friends praying for me, I knew God wanted me to be at She Speaks, and I knew he'd take care of it. I sat through jury selection for a burglary trial, but I wasn't even questioned; they found their jury before they got to me. I was free to stroll the streets of downtown Indy by 1 p.m.!

So, contrary to popular belief, Satan has nothing to do with jury duty.

It's a great feeling, being secure in the knowledge that God's got things figured out. Even when life surprises us, nothing surprises God. It's also a great feeling knowing someone's praying for you. My Twitter feed was ablaze with prayer offerings and well-wishes. It just gave me that much more confidence that things would turn out well.

So, dear friend, I want you to know that I'm available to you. If you need someone to pray for you, send a Tweet to @LazyChristian, send an e-mail to TheLazyChristian at yahoo dot com, swing by my Facebook page, or leave a comment on any post, and know that the moment I get it, I'll be praying for you.

And sometimes, that simple knowledge makes all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Instant Replay

So remember two weeks ago, when I said I wanted an "unsubscribe" button for my brain? Well, now there's a button I have that I don't want:

Instant replay.

As it turns out, I am capable of saying an infinite number of ridiculous things. Some of them merely nonsensical, some (unintentionally) hurtful or insulting, and some just downright thoughtless.

Clearly, I'm not completely unaware of this condition. The problem is that I don't realize these things are about to leave my mouth before I say them. At least not how they'll sound to other people, anyway. Things always sound better in my head. More clever.

The problem is that, once I say them and realize whatever I said wasn't quite right, whatever I said replays in my brain nonstop.

Non. Stop.

Even if the words weren't hurtful or mean—merely stupid—I can't stop the replay. Even if I say to myself, "You know what? Whoever I said it to has probably forgotten it already. I need to stop thinking about it, " I can't. And they probably have forgotten it. Truly. There are things I said years ago that I'm sure nobody remembers (except for me) and probably nobody thought was stupid (except for me), and yet they remain embedded in my brain. I replay the scenes over and over again—as they were, as I wish they'd been, as they never will be. It's torture!

And you know who sends thoughts like that, right?

Jerkface.

He wants us to worry—to dwell in the past, to stop focusing on what matters. He wants us to linger on our imperfections and forget the grace we've been granted for all of our faults. He wants us to assume the worst in others; he wants us to assume they won't be forgiving or understanding when our tongue slips, as mine is apt to do.

He is such a jerk. For reals.

I just need to remember that I have grace from God, and that others probably have a little grace for me, too. I just need to ask for it.

Do you have one of these instant replay buttons, or am I the only one? Insanity loves company...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Being Ann Voskamp

No one ever describes me as "sweet."

It's true. Of all the descriptors people use, "sweet" rarely makes the list. I get "funny" or "sassy." Even a few mentions of "spunky" in between the (half-joking) utterances of "lazy." I mean, I'm capable of doing some sweet things—once in a while I'm even thoughtful!—but my overall demeanor isn't necessarily sweet. I don't seem to have what people call a "gentle spirit."

But you know who does? Ann Voskamp.

She made an appearance at the Saturday night session of She Speaks. I'll be honest: I didn't know who she was until about five minutes before. I had to ask someone. I'm apparently not up on all the hip books.

Keep me informed, people. Really.

Ann Voskamp. And she's pretty, too! Jeepers!
Ann Voskamp is the author of One Thousand Gifts, a new book about gratitude and thanksgiving. As soon as she got on stage, you could tell that she was just a sweet, humble person with a gentle spirit. She said, "I'm not really a speaker," and then she proceeded to spend an hour spilling the most beautiful words I've heard in a long time. Truly, it was like poetry. I was mesmerized. And silent.

And that doesn't happen very often.

As she spoke, I thought, "I'm not like that. She's so calm. She's so gentle. She just seems like such a godly woman. Is that what godly women act like? Because that's not me, then, Lord." I actually cried thinking about it.

As I left the session and headed to my hotel room (trying not to speak to anyone, lest I transition to a full-out bawl), I asked God, "Should I be more like that? Am I too sassy to be godly? Should I not be that way? What good could I possible be to you when my personality is so loud and sassy?"

After a few more tears, I felt God speak to my heart:

Rachel, I need you to reach different people than Ann does. I've got something else for you.

Oh. Right.

Isn't it amazing that God can use both someone soft like Ann and someone sassy like me? We both have a place in ministry; we both have a purpose in God's kingdom. I'm sure Ann's not always gentle and calm. I mean, the woman has six kids—she's got to freak out once in a while. I'll bet there are times when I'm gentle and calm, too.

Even if it's only for a nanosecond, I'll bet it happens.

It's fine to think about how you fit into ministry or into God's kingdom. Just don't doubt that you do. God made you. He knows who you are at the core and how you fit into everything. He's made Rachels, he's made Anns, he's made everyone in between, and we all have unique traits that make us indispensable to God. And if you're not sure how or where you fit, don't hesitate to ask him. If you're willing to serve, he's got a spot for you. Seriously.

I mean, he's even got a spot for funny, sassy, spunky, lazy me! So, clearly, he can work with anyone.

Do you ever doubt your usefulness in God's kingdom?


P.S. - I just ordered Ann's book. I'll let you know how it is!  :) If it's anything like her presentation the other night, I'm prepared to have my socks knocked off. You should go get it, too, and then we'll have something to talk about!



Friday, July 22, 2011

Blogiversary: Hanging with the J-Dubs

My one-year blogiversary is coming up, so this is kind of a "Best of The Lazy Christian" week! Or maybe just a "Least Mediocre of The Lazy Christian" week. 

This is both a reader favorite and a favorite of mine. I like it because I found it to be an interesting experience. I don't know why you people like it. Maybe because it includes a Short Play by Rachel. That's always fun. I did see my JW friend Diane at the grocery store not too long ago, and I actually struck up a conversation. She didn't seem to remember me. Ah, well. Originally posted March 8, 2011.

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Last summer, my doorbell rang. I opened it, and there stood a woman and a man.

She introduced herself as Diane, and the gentleman with her was her son (whose name escapes me). I think the first thing she asked me what was going to happen to the earth at the end of time.

I said, "Hmm. The Bible says that this world will pass away, and there'll be a new Heaven and a new Earth. I'm not sure if that means everything will be brand new or what 'passing away' looks like. I'm not super concerned. God's got it under control." She then engaged me in a conversation about living in the new heaven and earth.

The conversation didn't last much longer, but they left me with some literature to read over. It wasn't until I started looking through the materials that I realized they were—

*bum bum BAAAAAAAAH*

Jehovah's Witnesses.

Now, I've read books and taken classes on what other faiths and sects (and cults) believe. But when these people are standing right in front of you, it's hard to remember who believes what and what you're supposed to say.

Diane came back to my door a few more times, and—honestly—I hid. Straight up ducked and covered. Hid in the dark. Didn't answer the door. I felt guilty, and I could just see God shaking his head at me with a, "Tsk, tsk, tsk. I raised you better than that, Rachel."

But one day, I couldn't hide.

Diane and another woman happened to pull up as I was getting my son in the car to go to the grocery store. I couldn't very well ignore them. I may be chicken, but I'm not rude. We talked for just a moment, and then I did the unthinkable: I made an appointment with them. The following Monday at 10 a.m., Diane and another woman were going to come over and talk to me.

And I was going to be prepared.

I met with a pastor friend of mine. We talked thoroughly about what JWs believe about God, Jesus—the works. How to refute these things with Scripture. All of them. I was ready for battle.

Sooner than I anticipated, the day came. The doorbell rang. I knew who it was. I'd spent all morning reviewing my notes. I let them in. They sat down.

And I was utterly unprepared for what I felt.

In that moment, as I was ready to take them down in a hail of Scripture, God spoke into my heart. He said, "I love these women, too, Rachel." While my mind was prepared for a ruthless argument, God wanted me to show them love.

Interesting.

What was more interesting was their first question. They had me read an excerpt in one of their pamphlets that talked about the name "Jehovah." Not something I studied, honestly. Not something that occurred to me as important. I had not thought about this issue for one second. Not. One. Second.

All of my carefully prepared arguments? Useless.

So I prayed. I asked God to give me the words so I could say what they needed to hear. Diane explained to me that Jehovah was the English translation of the Hebrew name for God: YHWH (it was even printed in the literature like that). Which leads us to:

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A Short Play By Rachel: Lost in Translation

DIANE has just had RACHEL read an excerpt from a Watchtower brochure that mentions the "unpronounceable" name of God.

RACHEL  Oh. You mean Yahweh? In the Hebrew?

DIANE     Oh. You know that name for God?

RACHEL  Well, yes.

DIANE     So that is the personal name of God, and Jehovah is how it is translated into English. Do you know what's important about knowing God's personal name?

RACHEL  Knowing his name helps us to build relationship with him. It's easier to talk to him when we know his name. We feel closer to him. But—one thing...

DIANE     Yes?

RACHEL  Why would I call God by a translated name when I can just say Yahweh?

DIANE     (stating the obvious) Because it's in English. We speak English, so we'd use his English name.

RACHEL  Yes, but I've been to several countries, and in those countries, I'm still Rachel. They don't translate my name into something else. In Italy, I was Rachel. In China, I was Rachel. Anywhere I go, people will try to call me by my given name, not translate it. God's name is the same, too. I mean, if Jesus came up to me and introduced himself, he'd probably call himself Jeshua. That was his given name, not Jesus.

DIANE     (a bit shocked) And you'd call him that? You'd call him Jeshua?

RACHEL  (jovially) Well, that's his name! If that's how he introduced himself, of course that's what I'd call him. You call me Rachel, don't you? Because that's how I introduced myself to you. Besides, I think the important thing is that we talk to God at all. He doesn't care if we call him God or Lord or Jeshua or Yahweh. As long as we're calling out to him.

DIANE pauses thoughtfully for a moment. Then:

DIANE     Are you in a Bible study? Do you go to church?

RACHEL  Yes, I go to [that church over there]. We're studying Nehemiah right now. And I'm in a Bible study, too. We're studying Galatians.

DIANE     Oh.

END SCENE.



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I'm not sure why the conversation ended so quickly after that. Do they only want to talk to people who have little or no scripture knowledge? Possibly. I can't claim to know. But I gave her my phone number—my phone number, people—and told her she was welcome in my home anytime; she just had to give me a call.

I've never heard from her again.

But you know what? That's OK. I did just what God asked of me. I was gentle. I was reasonable. I wasn't defensive, and I didn't attack them or their beliefs. There was no need to come out with guns blazing. In that moment, God reminded me of the love he has for those two women and that it was important that I speak the truth in love.

When you come across someone who doesn't believe the same things as you, remember that God loves them. He wants them to know who he is, just like he wants you to know who he is. He wants everyone to come to repentance—everyone has the same chance to be saved, and their chances only increase when you show them the love and grace that God's shown you. No one was ever saved by cruelty, mocking, or judgement.

I still pray for Diane. I saw her in the grocery store the other day, but she didn't look in my direction. I'm still waiting for that phone call...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blogiversary: General Tso's Chicken

My one-year blogiversary is coming up, so this is kind of a "Best of The Lazy Christian" week! Or maybe just a "Least Mediocre of The Lazy Christian" week. 

This post was among the first I wrote. I really like the title. It's yummy! Originally posted August 7, 2010.

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I had an interesting day today, in light of yesterday's post.

My family and I went to the Indiana State Fair. It was a lot of fun. We saw animals (and fed some of them). We tried ridiculous food, including deep fried butter and a "chocolate pig," which is a chocolate sundae with almonds and BACON (don't worry—none of us ate a whole serving of this stuff ourselves). We learned quite a bit about cockroaches and Japan (not in the same building, mind you), and got to see the "Candy Man," a Japanese street-style performer who made elaborate candies (blindfolded!) and liked to play tricks on his audience members. We saw so many amazing things, and it was a wonderful day.

My husband and I planned to have a date after the fair while my in-laws watched our son. We were going to see Inception, but the showtime was too far off, so we decided to see Dinner for Schmucks. It was my suggestion, since I'd heard it was funny.

Eh.

It had a few laughs, but was disappointing overall. Kind of a tired premise, except for the actual dinner. Neither of us were impressed, and we both walked out of the theater feeling bummed.

Boo.

We decided to pretend we hadn't even seen a movie. We'd just sat together in a theater for two hours. That made it a little better. We then opted for Chick-Fil-A for dinner, but when we got there, we realized the coupons we'd brought were for a CFA on the other side of town.

Boo again.

Not that we had to have coupons, but that was really the only reason we chose CFA. We then decided to try for some Chinese, but on our way out of the parking lot, we spotted a Sonic! The elusive Sonic, whose commercials we've seen on TV for years, yet there's never really been one around to go to! We chose Sonic.

We pulled in, and while I knew what I wanted immediately, my husband took a long time deciding. An absurdly long time. Think of the longest time you've ever spent choosing menu items at a fast food joint, and then multiply it by 10. It was that long. He just wanted to get the right things, since we don't hit Sonic very often! I finally pressed the "order" button, and the woman on the other end said, "Welcome to Sonic! Will you be paying by cash or credit card?"

"Umm, credit card?" I said.

"Sorry, but our credit card machine is down," she replied.

"Like...period?"

"Yes. Sorry. It's been down all afternoon."

Boo again.

So we pulled out of Sonic.

At this point, my mood could have really bottomed out. I mean, we saw a lousy movie, tried two different restaurants, and were generally having a lousy date. If there was a time to feel grumpy, this would have been it.

Instead, we both started laughing. Hysterically. I mean, I nearly had to stop the car, I was laughing so hard.

We spotted a little place called China Bistro across the street and made a beeline for it. We walked in, ordered, and sat down. We were still kind of laughing, so in my prayer, I made sure to ask God that this would be the best General Tso's chicken my husband had ever had (he's been searching for a good one ever since we moved to Indy).

Now, I understand God is not Santa Claus. I asked for the General Tso's chicken as a joke, and I'm pretty sure God knew to take it as such. But, wouldn't you know? That was the best General Tso's chicken my husband had ever had. And I agreed. It just topped off the date perfectly.

We laughed some more. My husband made a point of saying, "I love that we can have a date that bombs this badly and still laugh together about it."

What's funny is that, when we were at Sonic, I realized I had a choice. I could pout and get grumpy and throw a tantrum, but what good would that do? I chose to laugh. A lot. I chose to see the humor in the situation and laugh instead of taking it all too seriously. After yesterday's blog post about letting my day take a faceplant, I chose something else, and it made all the difference.

Lessons learned today:


  • Blogging can be therapeutic. Who knew?
  • Stress is a choice. (See this blog post from SimpleMom.)
  • Laughter is also a choice. (See this video from The Human Face.)
  • God doesn't mess around when it comes to General Tso's chicken.

Ta-da! 

P.S. - God knows that General Tso's thing is a joke, too. Just clarifying.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blogiversary: Finally Grieving

My one-year blogiversary is coming up, so this is kind of a "Best of The Lazy Christian" week! Or maybe just a "Least Mediocre of The Lazy Christian" week. 

This post is probably my favorite. My heart was hurting when I wrote it, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Originally posted February 7, 2011.

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"You're different from other Christians."

I've heard this quite a few times over the course of the last year. Mostly from nonbelievers. When I defend Christianity to people who have been hurt or scarred by Christians or the Church (my atheist friends, my gay friends, etc.), the response I get is, "Well, not you, Rachel. I know you're not like other Christians."

Why?

I'm not a particularly great Christian. I mean, this whole blog is about how not great I am and how much better I could be—how much better I want to be. Generally, I'm a very selfish person. Selfish, sarcastic (and sometimes unintentionally mean), ungrateful, lazy (see masthead for confirmation on that one). When I compare myself to other Christians (not recommended, by the way), I land squarely in the bottom of the middle. There are Christians who are more well-read than I am. Christians who are better prayer warriors than I am. Christians who give God more glory. Better Christians. Nicer Christians.

Something about that last statement strikes me: nice. It's not really about being nice, is it? I mean, you can be nice to someone and not actually love them. Heck, you don't even have to like someone to be nice. You just have to—I don't know. Not punch them in the face?  It doesn't take much to be nice.

What should set Christians apart is not how nice they are but how compassionate they are. The true love they feel for others. 

Some Christians spew hate for other religions or for gays or for whatever other group they don't like. Why? God doesn't hate those people. God loves them. God is not willing for anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. He didn't send Jesus to save a precious few. Jesus came to atone for everyone's sins.

Everyone. He loves everyone

I've heard people pray that God would break their heart for what breaks his—that they would grieve over sin.  Every time I hear that, I think, "Oh, boy. I'm not grieving over anything. I don't really get that upset over sin in the world."

I grieved today. I cried today thinking about the people who think Christians hate them. It's been weighing on my heart for some time now, but today the weight seemed to crash down on me. People I love and admire who think I'm the only Christian in the world who loves them.

That's not what God wants from us.

All we have in this world is God. He's the only thing that won't pass away. Material possessions, money, our bodies—they'll all go away at some point. At the end of the world, all we have is God. He's all there is.

I can't bear the thought of someone not coming to know God because we have taken it upon ourselves to tell them God doesn't want them. God is the only thing that lasts. Who are we to take that away from anybody? I don't want to stand in front of God one day and feel the weight of other people's salvation denied because I told them God hated them.

Do you?

My job—if Christians have a job—is to love. The two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others. 

Not, "Love God and others, except ____________." 

When I'm following those two commandments, God is evident in my life. Other people are drawn to that. People should say, "Rachel is different," not because I'm not like other Christians, but because I'm trying my best to be like Christ. The result is that people see God in my life and decide they want to know God, too.

To my friends and readers who have been hurt by Christians, I'm sorry. Matthew 24:12 (in talking about the end days) says, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold." I'm sorry if you've encountered people whose love has grown cold. Christians are human. We make mistakes. We misinterpret scripture, we take it upon ourselves to do the judging that only God can do, and we tell you that God can't love you. 

Go to God. If you've stopped trusting or liking Christians, go straight to The Man himself. Christians can't mess God up. Our hypocrisy doesn't change who God is. In fact, it just proves God's awesomeness because he can forgive his followers despite all of our shortcomings. And he has enough forgiveness for all of us—all of us. Jesus never encouraged his believers to hate or condemn others. That's something some Christians have taken it upon themselves to do. I promise you, God does not approve. 

And to the Christians out there who harbor anger and hate in their hearts, please reconsider. Those feelings aren't from God. They pull you away from God. Anger and hatred cause others to put up barriers that prevent them from knowing God. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Tuck that in your heart and remember it always.

Don't let me be the only Christian who truly loves others. Really. I'm a lousy specimen. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blogiversary: Call to War

My one-year blogiversary is coming up, so this is kind of a "Best of The Lazy Christian" week! Or maybe just a "Least Mediocre of The Lazy Christian" week. 

A lot of people found this post really empowering. I'm glad! I actually wrote this as a script that our drama ministry performed during a service on Sunday morning. If your church has a drama ministry and you would like the script version of this, please e-mail me at TheLazyChristian at yahoo dot com and I'll send it to you. Originally posted March 28, 2011.

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You are dangerous.

Did you know that?

You are a threat.

If you only knew.

The world would be different if everyone knew.

Do you know that he’s scared of you?

That he’ll run from you?

Resist the devil, and he will flee.

Stand up to him, and he’ll show his cowardice.

But…

Do you know how to stand up to him?

Do you know how to be a threat?

You have one weapon.

You only need one weapon.

Just say the Word.

Jesus did.

“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

“It is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

When Satan tells you to worry and be afraid, tell him:

I won’t be anxious about anything! In all things, through prayer and petition, I’ll present my requests to God, and his peace, which is beyond all understanding, will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.

When Satan wants you to doubt God and His love for you, say:

Neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, my Lord.

When Satan wants you to believe that God will abandon you, that God will leave you alone and helpless, you tell him:

God began a good work in me, and He will carry it to completion!

Then watch Satan run.

Watch his demons scatter.

He can’t stand up to God.

He has already lost. He knows it.

His only revenge is to break us down.

Tempt us.

Lie to us.

Get us to doubt.

But God is bigger than temptation and lies and doubt.

God will help us.

God has helped us.

All we need to do is prepare.

Before temptation comes. Before we are attacked.

We need to be equipped with an arsenal of Truth.

We must have strength of conviction.

We must surrender to the sheer strength of the Lord.

First, submit to God.

Submit to God and know His Word.

Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Be dangerous.


Are you dangerous?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blogiversary: Sex and God and Religion and Stuff

My one-year blogiversary is coming up, so this is kind of a "Best of The Lazy Christian" week! Or maybe just a "Least Mediocre of The Lazy Christian" week. 

This post has gotten more individual hits than any post I've written, so I'm starting the week off with it! Originally posted March 29, 2011.

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I get really irritated with people blaming religion for things. I've read it in several places recently—blog posts, articles, Tweets. Religion does this or that to people. Religion keeps people repressed in all sorts of ways. Religion is awful, essentially, and screws people up.

Here's the difference: Religion may do those things, but God doesn't.

Religion was created by man. Religion is the manner in which you worship or believe, and it's a set of rules and traditions. It's an earthly system created by fallen people. Of courseit's going to have flaws. We're human. And most of us are lousy ones, at that. When you put the religion up on a pedestal—religion and the people who are in charge of it—you're going to be disappointed.

Humans make mistakes. Humans misinterpret things. Humans look out for their own best interest sometimes, even when they're supposed to be looking out for others. It's how we are. It's awful.

One thing that I read recently said that people are sexually repressed because of religion. I'll bet that's true for a lot of people.

But you know what? That's not on God.

Have you ever read Song of Songs in the Bible? It's a whole book about how awesome sex is! It's a married couple talking back and forth about sex. What they like about the other's body, how they long for each other when they're apart, how awesome sex is when they're together.

God invented sex. It's intended to be fun and awesome.

But humans have a tendency to go overboard. I mean, even Solomon (who wrote Song of Songs and was the wisest man who ever lived) had, like, 700 wives or something. And 300 concubines.

That was not God's intention. That totally came from a dude's brain.

So humans went to the other extreme. Some, like the Shakers, wouldn't allow men and women—even husbands and wives!—to sit next to each other. Or sleep in the same bed. Or procreate. For reals.

That was not God's intention, either. I'm not sure who thought that was a good idea. That's why there are only three remaining Shakers. Three.

When you're not sure what to think about Christianity, go to the source—the Bible. God. Don't take someone's word for it. Don't rely on this denomination or that to tell you what's up, since they all have different ideas and (man-made) rules set in place. Go straight to The Book and see what it says. I think you'll be surprised.

And, actually, you may be most surprised by the freedom it has for you. Not oppression.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friendly Friday: Karen Daly Cook

First, I want to mention that, since it's nearly my one-year blogiversary (Is that right? I only know how to spell made-up words that I make up), next week will be chock-full of favorite posts—your favorites, my favorites. Perhaps some you've never had the opportunity to read before, or, if you've read them before, read them with a fresh set of eyes.

If you can snag a pair. Eww.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy next week's flashback!

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Now, on to Friendly Friday!

Poor Karen. She was supposed to be my Friendly Friday post last week. And the week before that. But I somehow missed her in my schedule, and I'm just now getting her post to you.

I know. I'm awful. I'm lucky she'll even let me put it up now!

But that's just what kind of gal she is, folks. She's always so encouraging and funny as a Twitter pal, and her posts over at her blog, The Couch, are always clever and heartfelt. Only someone this nice could put up with my bumbling antics!

So, without further ado, I present to you the long-suffering Karen Daly Cook! Don't forget to follow her on Twitter, "Like" her on Facebook, and visit her blog!

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Extreme Makeover: Heart Edition


All of us have had times in life when we feel tired, run down, beat up and abandoned.

Life comes at us hard and can be as unrelenting as a winter storm. Driving wind and rain pelt us with circumstances and relationships beyond our control.

These storms leave behind damage, both seen and unseen.

Over time we lose our luster, our outward swagger and pretty soon the paint is peeling, windows are broken and the elements are beginning to ravage our inner dwelling.

I am a visual person. Kind of simple really, but I see life in pictures.

I like to think of people as a house. Not an apartment, or a condo or your run-of-the-mill, cookie cutter tract home.

I envision people as grand homes with large inviting porches that wrap around like a smile encouraging conversation and granting entry to the heart.

But sometimes our smile dims as we wrestle through the daily-ness that is life, and in our hurting and brokenness, we close the door to our hearts and retreat.

Inside, we take a look around and see that, over time, the stress and hurt has caused fractures in our heart and our hope is fading like old wallpaper that once was vibrant and glorious.

Our boundaries have been crossed so many times that the shiny finish has been stripped away. As we tour the rooms of our heart we realize that we are in desperate need of renovation.

There are many make over shows these days in the world of reality TV.

All those programs pale in comparison with the power and majesty of the Holy Spirit and His ability to make you new and restore you to the glory that God intended for you.

He knows your heart. He created you. He knows your hurt. He bled for you. He desires healing, restoration and wholeness for you, for He made you in His image and for His delight and glory.

Restoration is hard. It is messy. It is inconvenient. Restoration is necessary. Unlike the makeover shows that begin with complete demolition and destruction of the existing structure, God begins with the heart.

He rebuilds. He molds and smoothes and soothes the places of the heart that are hurting, leaking, and broken.

He creates in us beauty from brokenness.

If you are reading this and find yourself stripped down to the studs and exposed for all to see your tender heart, I pray that you allow the master contractor to renovate your heart.


© Karen Daly Cook, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Unsubscribe!

I get tired of junk mail. I do. Not in my actual mailbox, though. Ohhh, no. Those Miles Kimball catalogs can show up for eternity. I love those things!

But in my e-mail? Yuck.

Now, I don't have it as bad as my husband. My husband gets the nasty stuff—"male enhancement" and whatnot.  Which is funny because he never checks his e-mail. Mine is either stuff I signed up for and no longer want to get, or I get e-mails from overseas princes and people who "need my help."

I'm going through a phase right now where if I get an e-mail I don't want, I'll unsubscribe. Just *click*—take me off your list, please. Most of them stop. InStyle must know the state of my wardrobe, though, because they're unrelenting. Nobody needs sunglasses that big, OK?! Nobody!

But I digress.

Sometimes I wish my brain had an "unsubscribe" button. I have all these thoughts that come at me: some of them anxiety-related, some of them dredging up the past, some of them—OK, some of them dirty. I'll say it. It's like everything that I've ever seen on TV or in the movies—or even things I've imagined in a book—has been cataloged in my brain, and they come up at the worst times. The same ones will pop up over and over again, too.

I just want to click an "unsubscribe" button and make them stop.

Scripture talks about taking every thought captive, but I don't even want to take these captive. I don't want them to show up in the first place, let alone hang on to them and inspect them before I dismiss them. I know they're lousy. I know I don't need or want them in my brain.

I'm learning the importance of watching what I put into my eyeballs. Visually, I mean. Not, like, sharp objects. My brain is especially visual, so those pictures hang around forever and pop up when I least expect them. And least want them to.

Like in church, which is the worst.

How do you monitor what you take in? Any tips for unsubscribing from lousy thoughts?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lazy Book Review: Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me

It's my first book review! And I'm calling it a Lazy Book Review because it's short. And that stems less from laziness and more from the fact that I don't think I've written a review of anything since my days on the college newspaper. So I may be a bit rusty. Apologies.

But you may not need much help from me on this one, anyway. If the title isn't enough to get you interested, I don't know what is.

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron

I'll start this off by saying that I don't like to read memoirs. And this is one.

The reason I don't like memoirs is that sometimes they feel like the author is dragging you through their story instead of propelling you from page to page. I hang in there out of pity rather than looking forward to each new story.

This memoir ("of sorts," as the author clarifies), however, is different. Better. At first, it seems like a typical my-dad-was-an-alcoholic story (although I assure you, none of those stories are "typical"), but the way Cron weaves in his father's past gives it an air of intrigue and propels the story forward. And the way Cron talks about moments where he connected with God at a young age does the same thing—although it makes me wonder why I didn't have such moments of clarity until after college. Perhaps I should have more actively pursued a misspent youth.

Well. Perhaps not.

I'd like to tell you about my favorite part of the book, but it's kind of the turning point and I don't want to be a spoiler. So I'll tell you about my second favorite part: Cron and his family are driving to his first communion ceremony when the bottom of their (old, rusty, free-to-them) car drops out under their father. The image of him stuck and cursing is hilarious and, at the same time, sad and embarrassing. Cron does that a lot—makes you feel one thing and the opposite all at once, if that makes sense.

The only thing I didn't like about this book is all the pop culture references, especially to things that are very right-this-moment. It doesn't give the book a timeless quality. I mean, while I appreciate Captain Sullenberger as much as the next gal, will his name stick in our collective memory for many more years? I'm not sure. (Although the story that compares the author's mom to Sullenberger is in the aforementioned passage.) While pop culture references add to the lightly snarky tone of the author, I don't think they do much for the story as a whole.

That one complaint is a tiny part of the overall book, which is a fantastic read. I highly recommend it!

I wasn't compensated at all for this review. I received the book via BookSneeze.com for the purpose of writing a review.

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And the winner is...

Now to announce the winner of the book giveaway! With the help of a random generator, the winner of a copy of For the Love of Our Husbands is: Valerie @ My 2 Cents! I'll be in contact with you shortly, Valerie! Thanks to everyone who entered! If you'd like to buy a copy of the book, here's the link to the store!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sermon Smackdown: Deep Friendships

Sometimes I wish I were single.

Not because I don't love my husband, of course. I wouldn't trade him for anything. But sometimes I miss the things I could do when I was single. Partying all night! Sleeping all day!

Well, no. Not really. I didn't do those things. I'm so boring.

What I miss the most is the ability to spend enough time with my girlfriends to really form deep friendships. It was nothing to go out on a weeknight and get coffee or see a movie. On a weeknight! We didn't have husbands we needed to spend time with or children we needed to care for. My girls and I could spend unlimited time together—I got to know them, they got to know me, and we formed deep bonds of friendship.

It's really hard to make those connections now. We moved from Ohio to Indiana a few months after my husband and I were married, and I had to find new friendships here in the Hoosier State. It's not that I don't have any friends; I do. It just feels like I can't spend the time required to build deep, lasting friendships. Spending one-on-one time with a girlfriend once a month doesn't seem to cut it.

And, of course, the sermon yesterday was about living in unity and forming deep bonds with people in the church, and how we need that as the body of Christ.

Smackdown!

It's hard to do! There aren't enough hours in the day! And it's not like I don't see my church friends—I have meetings and rehearsals. But there are ten or more of them there, and we're trying to get things done; not exactly a "quality time" sort of setting. So it doesn't get done, and my relationships stay fairly shallow.

How do you ensure that you build deep, lasting relationships with other followers of Christ? Any tips?

Lazy Christian Challenge:  If I have to do it, why not you, too? Our church has been challenged to memorize Philippians 2:1-11. Let's all do it together!

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Today is your last chance to enter to win the book For the Love of Our Husbands! If you haven't done it yet, head over here and get your entry in before 10 p.m. EST tonight! I'll announce the winner tomorrow!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friendly Friday: Lee Merrill

Today's Friendly Friday guest is Lee Merrill, a new Twitter friend of mine and a fellow She Speaks attendee.

And a prayer warrior. I don't care what she says below.

Lee has a wonderful blog called PrayerGifts. She has such a heart for prayer, and I'm glad her post today is about it. She is such a sweet gal, and I implore you to check out her blog—it's so heartfelt! Then go follow her on Twitter and prepare to be encouraged!

Oh, and take her advice to join PrayBook. I did and I love it!

And as another quick plug, if you haven't already entered my For the Love of Our Husbands book giveaway, go do it! I'm drawing the winner Monday night!

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Confessions of a Rumored Prayer Warrior

When you have a blog called PrayerGifts, people sort of assume you’re some kind of prayer warrior. Sometimes, I think people envision my bedroom carpet with permanent knee marks from the hours and hours I spend on my knees in prayer. Well, truth is, some days I don’t pray even once, and when I do, I seldom kneel; I have bad knees.

As a new Believer, teenaged and determined to change the world for Jesus, I had prayer lists longer than a spoiled kid’s Christmas list. I prayed for every single family member down to that fifth cousin twice removed. I prayed for teachers, classmates, neighbors, and superstars. Since I didn’t have bad knees back then, I kneeled until my knees were numb, and I’d often fall asleep beside my bed. When I couldn’t get through my daily lists, I’d feel like a failure, as if I’d let down God and the people on the list.

Over the years, the Lord showed me that prayer lists aren’t in the Ten Commandments, and there’s certainly no quota for how many people I need to pray for in one “kneeling.”

I’m not saying it’s wrong to spend hours in prayer. By all means, if you are one who is called to pray marathon prayers, please add me to your list! Some folks are truly called to spend much of their day in prayer. I wish I was. I love prayer! My blog is called PrayerGifts for goodness sake!

How does a recovering prayer perfectionist make peace with prayer?

1.       I pray on-the-spot. If you are my Twitter or Facebook friend, you will find me posting prayers in response to any prayer needs right when I become aware of them. It’s so easy to say, “I’ll pray,” and then get sidetracked and never get to it. When I see a need, I pray right then and there, and I almost always write it down so the person will know what I prayed. It’s a double whammy: powerful communication with God on someone’s behalf and a balm of encouragement for the person.

2.       I write myself notes. If I have a loved one or issue that needs frequent prayer, I leave myself little notes to remind me to pray. Sometimes, I write names on my make-up mirror with dry erase marker. My school friends, many of whom are not Christians, get freaked out if I tell them they are on my mirror. I have fun with that!

3.       I stay present. If I see someone with downcast eyes, I whisper a prayer for her. If someone shares a burden, I pray for her right then either silently or with my hands clasping hers. If I hear a siren blaring, I pray for the workers and victims. If we ask God to keep our minds attune to the needs around us, trust me, He will.

4.       I use PrayBook. Just last week, I signed up for a wonderful new Facebook application created by my friend, Tim. It links up with my FB friends and gives me a list of friends to pray for that day. I can send a short message to let them know I prayed, or I can just let PrayBook do it. I encourage you to check it out at http://praybook.com. This is a great way to make our social media time eternal and not just entertainment.

I have days when I can’t see past the pity party going on in my selfish head, but those moments don’t tend to last long. Every morning, those new mercies are there, waiting for me to open my eyes. My prayer times look way different than they used to look, but I know God sees my heart and hears my prayers, always.

I hope to see you over at PrayerGifts for PrayerGift Mondays! 

© Lee Merrill, 2011