Monday, October 31, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Last week, I posted a giveaway of an adorable byTavi tote bag! The winner of that bag, selected by a random generator thingy, is...

Jenny


Congrats, Jenny! I'll get the bag to you ASAP! Thanks to everyone who entered, and I hope you'll check out byTavi's entire product line. They make great gifts!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friendly Friday: El Barba

First, I need to apologize—again—for my continued absence. This baby is still making me way sick. Apparently, it has decided to mess with my thyroid and make it all hyper. Excitement! Adventure! Intrigue! So I appreciate your patience with my lack of writing for the time being.

But today's Friendly Friday is from El Barba over at Rambling with the Barba. No, his name's not really El Barba (which, if my limited Spanish serves me, means "the beard." He does have one of those!). He and his families are missionaries in South America, and he's always got a really unique perspective on faith. Be sure to check out his blog and follow him on Twitter!


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El Barba (and his barba)

Let's Make a Deal

Woohoo! I was five years old and there was no way I would miss a trip with my Dad. In my Mom’s eyes, he drove too fast. To me, head bobbing out the window between sips of an icy Coke full of peanuts, it.was.perfect. Dad rolled into our small town and grumbled about the price of gas while I took a look around.

“Two dollars worth of the cheap stuff, Johnny. You’re killin’ me here,” Dad moaned.

As I peered around the front of the truck my heart nearly leapt from my chest. Just a few feet away from me was a genuine mini-bike. A real motorized two-wheeler. The Hot Rod gene passed to me by my father burnt rubber on my brain. I had to have it.

“Hey Daddy, I want that mini-bike.”

“Go make a deal and buy it then,” he chuckled.

I meandered my way into the store and found an ancient man with what looked to be small poodles growing out of his ears.

“How much you want for that old, broke-down mini-bike out there?” I was making my case.

“Whaddya give me fer it?” he says, smirking at the balance of the retirement home field trip watching our exchange.

“Fifty cents,” I told him with resolve.

“Alrighty. I guess that’ll do. It don’t run anyway.”

I pulled out my cowboy wallet, spilling cash and coin like some kind of miniaturized slot machine. At seeing this, Mr. Furry Ears began scurrying his way out of our deal.

“Hold on now, I was askin’ more than that fer it,” he pointed out.

“You shoulda told me so when I asked.”

“You shoulda offered more,” he chided.

“You asked me what I would give not how much I had.”

Grandpa Deals-a-Lot helped me load it while I reminded my dad he said to make a deal. No worries, it wouldn’t run. Three days later my teenage uncle salvaged the necessary parts from my dad’s brand new Snapper riding mower to repair my fifty cent mini-bike. It would fly!

And thus began my wizardry with words. I found that a well-placed word with the right tone and body language could take a person far. I wove my words to gain the advantage. I spoke convincingly to get the things I wanted. I was crafty in the art of debate. I was perpetrating an image. I was Everyman. I became all things to all people, not to gain them to Christ, but to gain them to me. I needed that validation.

I soon found myself audience to my own oratory and believed I was telling the truth. I didn’t outright lie. Not often, anyway. I just chose to “help” the truth. I told people about a Me that wasn’t nearly as cool in real life and told myself about a Me that wasn’t nearly as bad. I was certain God was snookered, too, but He wasn’t. He knew exactly who I was and, without reserve, loved me anyway.

I’m the same guy today. I have to make sure that the full truth is served when I speak, but it’s still me. I still want to be one of the cool kids. I like it when people comment on my blog or click like or tweet me a pat on the back. However, I can’t worship the praise of men to such a degree that the truth suffers damage. When the Sirens of peer approval try to woo the silver tongued devil out of me, I have to remember the words of my God. Not the stinging reprise of condemnation that comes from my enemy staring back at me in the mirror, but the true expressions of love from my Savior. Every day I have to retune my mouth from a free-flowing fountain to a lazy stream trickling. Every day I have to adjust my ear to hear the words spoken about me by God.

Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. - James 3:10

I think back to that old man and realize that if knew my heart like God does, I would’ve paid more.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm Back---With a Giveaway!

Well, I have plugged back in following a week's vacation to the lovely Eastern Shore. And I returned to over 250 e-mails.

Really, people? I'm not that important. I promise.

Fortunately, a lot of those e-mails were replies to my Week of Wisdom bloggers. Thanks so much to Stefanie Brown, Jennifer Luitwieler, Heatherly Sylvia, Marni Arnold, and Brittany Williamson for sharing their stories. They were fantastic! If you haven't read them, go do it!

And I have not returned from vacation empty-handed. I come bearing gifts for you! My friends over at The Center for Global Impact, in conjunction with byTavi, are letting me give away one of their beautiful (and I mean beautiful) tote bags. Here are some samples:


Aren't they gorgeous? They're even more stunning in person. I have my own, and I've gotten them as gifts for others. They're made in Cambodia by women (including Tavi, the company's namesake) who need to work to keep themselves and their children clothed, fed, and out of slavery. That's the best part about these bags, really: the difference they make in the lives of Cambodian women and children. From the byTavi site:

Every dollar spent on a byTavi product is used to compensate the designers and seamstresses, purchase materials, cover the cost of the building lease in Cambodia, and fuel other CGI projects in Cambodia that are designed to equip and empower the poor. With your support, women like Tavi are given the opportunity to provide for their families and live a life of hope in a part of the world that is notorious for the atrocities committed against the poor.

I'm so proud to own one of these lovely bags. Because CGI is located here in Indianapolis, I love going around town and seeing other women with byTavi bags. They're so easily recognizable, they always start a conversation!

Let's get a conversation started in your town. To enter to win a byTavi tote, please peruse their site and leave a comment telling me what item (they also have scarves and quilted purses!) and what pattern/color you'd most like to wear. For additional entries:

  • Subscribe to The Lazy Christian via e-mail, Networked Blogs, or Google Connect and leave a separate comment telling me you've done so (or that you already do so).
  • Follow @byTavi on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you've done so.
  • Follow @LazyChristian on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you've done so.
  • Tweet the following and leave a separate comment telling me you've done so: I just entered to win a super cute @byTavi tote from @LazyChristian! http://bit.ly/noDbJo
  • Like byTavi on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you've done so.
  • Like The Lazy Christian on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you've done so.
There you have it! That's up to seven entries per person! Enter once, enter seven times. Whatever you like! Entries will be open through Saturday, October 29th, at 9pm. Then I'll randomly choose a winner and announce it on Monday morning. 

Just because you have a whole week to enter doesn't mean you should put it off, though. Enter now!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Week of Wisdom: Brittany Williamson

"You sacrifice cats, don't you?" He phrased it like a question, but even a 10 year old could sense the accusation. "Well, do you? My mom says you do."

The familiar mix of fear and embarrassment soured in my mouth, paralyzing my tongue and welling up behind my eyes. I fiddled with my old, cheap CTR ring and grasped at words. I knew they would make no difference. People believed what they wanted to believe about Mormons. About me.

Photo courtesy of 2355 Photography
My childhood was a sad series of hiding my faith and wearing the weight of friends' shocked expressions and hurtful comments like a scarlet letter, a dress of shame I was born into and couldn't remove no matter how hard I fought to break free. Remarks like, "You know you're going to hell, right?" and, "You're weird," and, "You don't really believe in the Bible," bombarded me from every direction. Children, grown-ups, teachers. They thought it was okay. Righteous, even. I guess they believed their insults would save me.

The truth is, I found saving in a song.

I am no longer a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I've read and prayed and studied and come to a different conclusion than many in my family. I love them just the same. But my journey to the Jesus I know now didn't begin with a loving conversation or a prayer or a Christian friend. It began with the radio. Because the radio didn't accuse or judge. It didn't ask questions or condemn or call me names. It didn't throw lies about my religion in my face, like it knew more about my faith than I did. It certainly didn't tell me Jesus hated my people. The radio loved better than every Christian I knew.

And that breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart because love is what it takes. Love is required. Love is the only power strong enough to open minds and change hearts. It doesn't matter how smart we are or old we are or witty we are, we're never going to transform a life by making a joke about multiple wives or secret underwear or modern day prophets. We're never going to glorify God by mocking a heart that needs truth.

I don't mean to say that no Christian ever loved me. My own grandma is the very picture of Christ's love, a precious, rare soul that loves even when she doesn't understand. But we, together, can do better. We must do better. We have the ability to impact eternity for the glory of God, but we have to make the choice to release our assumptions and reset our default. to rely a little more on listening and a little less on lectures.

To point, in the end, a little more to Love Himself.

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Brittany Williamson is a 20-something who loves Frappuccinos, gray nail polish, and all things politics. She recently experienced an identity crisis after the whole grown-up thing didn't turn out quite like she expected (translation: apparently you don't get to jump into your dream job, dream marriage, and dream life immediately after college graduation. and oh yeah, bills stink. who knew?), but she is grateful to have finally found the only true source of worth and purpose, her loving God. You can read more about her journey through this in-between season of life on her blog, www.faithinbetween.com

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Week of Wisdom: Marni Arnold

Mistakes, by worldly standards, can often be the bane of our existence. Scarring our reputations for days, months, years – sometimes for a lifetime – and they can leave us in states of dismay that ail our hearts deeply.

The world can be a cruel place. It can bring about the ugliest in people, in turn bringing out the ugliest in us all due to judgment, confusion, and just plain unwillingness to love.

I lived like this for a sum total of six years of my life before coming to Christ. I allowed myself to be embraced by the world in such a way, that – when I embraced it back – I did so with an ugliness in my heart.

When I was in my mid-teens I found myself beginning to be jaded with the Jewish religion – so by the time I was 20 and met my boyfriend (now husband of 12 years), I had had my fill of the Jewish religion. I was tired of trying to find out who God was, because I was just tired of the default answer of, “That’s just the way things are," from any teacher or Rabbi I had spoken with.

How I did this was by embracing a life of Paganism. I lived my life, fully and very publicly, as a practicing Wiccan – a Witch. No, not the kind of Witch you read about in Harry Potter or The Wizard of Oz. Practicing Witches in real life don’t conjure up spells than can transfigure, make things disappear, or make things come about out of thin air. Sure you get your wild, crazy stories from some who claim to have done such things – but sincerely, it’s really all just a bunch of hocus pocus on that level.

Practicing Witchcraft is a lifestyle – much like living a Christian life. It’s a chosen mindset, and mindset dictates the way we function in our lives. Due to my dismay with the Jewish religion, my embracing Witchcraft into my life was basically my way of saying to God, “Since you didn’t answer me, I will figure this life thing out on my own.” It was my proverbial middle finger pointed up in His direction mocking Him all the way to the moon and back.

Yet, after living a Pagan-based life for about 4 years – I once again found myself dismayed at the religion I was following. I wanted to know more. I wanted to go deeper.

And I did – in the wrong direction.

I began to work with what many in this world would consider “the dark side.” I won’t bore (or confuse) you with minute details – but in summation, I was beginning to work with a side of Witchcraft that most of my Pagan friends constantly warned me to stay away from. Why? Because it was very negative. Yet, due to my dismay once again, and having a thirst for knowledge, I dug my heels deep into it and I took the leap into the darkest abyss spiritually that I had ever known.

What shook me out of it was finding myself celebrating the Winter Solstice with a group of Pagans in late 2002. The repercussions of that night left me physically ill for 5 days (without any medical explanation) - which lead me to know I was spiritually attacked for the first time in my life and my body was responding to the spiritual affliction.

The details beyond this moment are deep, but the whole point here is this – I learned that 10 times out of 10 when we think we know what we’re getting ourselves into without the direction of God, we will always wind up paying severe consequences for it. He won’t let us be destroyed, not by a long shot; but He will let us live through the consequences of a life lived without Him involved in it – and it will hurt deeply.

The wisdom I have to impart on you all today is this – even as a Christian, don’t forgo your life without getting God in the mix of every part of it. It’s not easy, because we humans are hardwired by nature to go against God – but the hardwiring that goes much deeper than that, the creation He made us to be, craves this kind of connection with Him. It takes intentionality on our parts to make this connection – and once it’s made, what a beautiful life you will live (even in the cruddiest of moments).

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Marni Arnold is a happily married wife, and stay-at-home-mom to one son - whom she home schools - in Charlotte, NC. Attending Liberty University Online for her Bachelor's of Science in Religion, she is also a blogger and writer whom is working on her first book. Her professional background is in EMS/Fire, and comes from a very diverse spiritual background as well. Marni enjoys reading, meeting with people over coffee, music, movies, autumn days filled with leaf tossing and laughter, as well as art, science and historical museums.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Week of Wisdom: Heatherly Sylvia

"You are a steward of all that you learned in the valleys."

Those powerful words from Carol Davis changed my entire perspective on sharing my story. I spent most of my college years and seasons of a few years in the "real world," battling a very real battle with depression and anxiety.

I learned a lot and ended up much healthier physically, emotionally, and spiritually as a result of my personal war, but I also ended up with a lot of battle scars. Many of those scars I received from fellow faith-livers, who, with the best of intentions, caused more injury when I was already the walking wounded.

As a result of these wounds, and the fear of being judged for a condition that so many in church-going circles misunderstand, I didn't often share my story, and I certainly did not share the wisdom I had painfully (and gratefully) gleaned along the way.

But I'm braver now, thanks to Carol's words and the encouragement of people who have benefited from hearing my story. I've learned, through their stories, that it didn't matter if they had lived with depression, or simply had pain in their hearts, what I had experienced ministered to their spirits.

May I share with you some of the wisdom I now carry in my (mostly) healed-up heart? 

Photo courtesy of 2355 Photography
Never tell someone you "know how they feel." You don't. Even if you have been through similar situations. It is not helpful. I become suspect whenever someone tells me they know how I feel. I brace myself for unsolicited advice or a long, drawn-out story of their own woes. Friendship is two sided, but when you're talking to a hurting heart, it's time to listen.

Don't use scripture as a band-aid; it may feel like a bomb. Don't misunderstand me—a huge portion of my testimony and the basis of my speaking ministry is the truth that replacing the untruths of this world and ourselves with the living and active Truth of God is a powerful and essential thing. 

But has this ever happened to you? A well-meaning, but ill-equipped saint feels the need to say something anything to help, so they throw one of the promises of God in your lap? When I am healing, it does help to know and trust that "all things work together for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purposes," but when the wound is fresh, it feels like a flaming arrow. Make sure that your use of Scripture is sincere and well-timed.

The September 2011 issue of ParentLife  includes and article about supporting friends who have just learned of a special needs diagnosis for their child. I believe the wise words of Amy Felton Lee are true for the friends and family of anyone who is hurting.

She writes:

"Acknowledge the pain: Nothing you can say will lessen the pain and grief a family may be experiencing. Often well-meaning expressions can be received as an effort to diminish the feeling of loss. Avoid common and well-meaning sentiments like these:

·      Any statement that begins with "At least..."
·      "God doesn't give us more than we can handle."
·      "Everything happens for a reason."
Instead, let your presence be their present. In 2009, I wrote a blog post on the Jewish practice of shiva after the loved one of a friend passed away. I learned that it is our presence and silent support that is the most helpful to a hurting friend- whether they are grieving the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a dream, or having to adjust to a "new normal." I believe we could all benefit from someone saying to us, "I know that right now you are in deep, deep pain, and I am sorry." 

Let us all weigh our words carefully when we are given the blessing of being a supportive friend. 


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Heatherly Lane Sylvia is a mom, wife, homeschooler, speaker, aspiring writer, and apprentice grace-giver. Her greatest desire is to live a life following after God with abandon, and she hopes to be a blessing to as many people as she can while she figures out exactly how to do that. Het is passionate, loud, addicted to books, and loves her friends, old and new. She adores the blogosphere and would love to “meet” you there. She’s also pretty sure that blog comments and tweets  are her love language. Check out her blog A Pinkdaisy Life or follow her on Twitter @Pinkdaisyjane

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Week of Wisdom: Jennifer Luitwieler

Photo courtesy of 2355 Photography
I’m a runner. I run for pleasure and for clarity. I run for me and only me. I don’t race anyone. I don’t pay too much attention to my times, although I have been known to choke in awe at the speed of others. On my worst days, I’d say I run to get that dimple in my bum that real athletes have, but I’m way beyond that, on so many levels. I’ve been running longer distances for about a year now, anything up to about 15 miles. It started with a 15k (nine miles) last October, and I plan to run that race again, with a half marathon the following month.

Last year, I had very clear goals. I was just at the beginning of this love affair with running. I wanted to train for and run the Tulsa Run. All. By. My. Self. And I did. I spent a lot of time on the local trails, trying to convince my body and my mind that I could, in fact, run that distance without dying. At that point, my fear was that I didn’t belong in running tights. I didn’t belong on the starting line. I didn’t belong. I managed to get past that obstacle.

But that won’t stop me from finding something else to worry about. I’m a mother; it’s what we do. The closer the big race gets, the more I find myself walking up to a new fear and backing down.

Well, not so much "backing down" as "running away screaming."

You see, since I ran that race by myself, I got myself a running buddy. Not just any old running buddy. One of my best friends in the whole world. We don’t get to spend a lot of time together, so running together is precious time. We talk and laugh. We debate. We worry about our kids. It’s like Coffee Talk but with running and lycra, and sweat. And though we both will run the race, we are not going to run it together, for various reasons, all of which are good and happy and lovely.

Which puts me back to training for longer distances alone, of which I was suddenly and inexplicably afraid. My father would tell you that I like a good fight. He'd say I'm scrappy. I don't know about that, but I do know that if I find myself afraid of something, my instinct is not to run. My instinct is to stand tall and face whatever it is I'm afraid of doing by doing it. I might delude myself by thinking, "That'll show it!" But what I'm really doing is showing myself.

I had a longer distance run scheduled for this weekend, and none of the usual suspects was available to go with me. I could either run alone or not go at all. Not going was not an option. I was going to have to woman up and get my run on. And I did. And it was fine. In fact, it was all rather quite enjoyable.

Fear is such a stupid foe. I don't mean it's stupid to be afraid. I mean it's a waste of time for me to give in to it. Fear is a little kitten, hunched in the corner. We throw a light of acknowledgement on it and it appears to be the shadow of a tiger, claws out, fangs bared. Suddenly, what was just a harmless thought, running nine miles alone, is a predator stalking me and only me.

Not everyone has that same instinct, to fight. Some days I wish I didn’t have that mind set. It’s how I manage to try new, scary things. It’s sometimes how I manage to leave my house. I teach myself, every time I accomplish a new goal that I am stronger than I thought, and I’m sure as heck tougher than a kitten in a corner.

What about you? What do you do with fear?

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Jennifer Luitwieler is the author of Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo, available at civitas.comamazon.comand b&n.com. She runs, writes, reads and spins various other plates in Tulsa, OK, with her husband of 16 years and their three kids. And The Dog. Find her on twitter and facebook.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Week of Wisdom: Stefanie Brown

I love living in Texas!  I love its healthy pride.  I love its easily accessible amenities.  I love its BIG SKY.  I especially love its big sky when traveling west across its vast terrain.  Its star-filled sky goes on for miles and miles.  Just when you think you’ve reached the end, it extends more.

As we drive on, wheels bearing down firmly on the concrete below, heading, well, wherever, we can’t help but notice the architecturally sound towers holding and connecting power lines.  One after another, they line up in perfect order allowing the flow of electricity to meet our needs.  One by one, they nest behind each other, in near perfect symmetry.  By moving to the side, either right or left, a greater view of each structure is observed.  Tower after tower, as far as we can see.  Step back in front and they fall in line like sweet little Kindergartners learning the concept of walk appropriately in the school hallway. 

A phrase continually tickers across my mind:

Off in the distance…

Off in the distance…

What awaits us off in the distance?  The immense sky and flat landscape allows us to see for what seems like miles.  New lights, new towns, oncoming cars, power towers…  Still, there is more off in the distance.

To find what is there, we must keep driving forward.  Turning around or putting our car in reverse would cause us to miss out.  Miss what?  Who knows?  More importantly, won’t know if we don’t continue forward.

A new word replaces off in the distance.  FAITH floats through, edging off in the distance out.  Isn’t the concept of faith much like that of off in the distance?

Although we can’t see what is around the corner, by FAITH we continue.

Although the sky seems overwhelming and never ending, by FAITH we continue.

Although the darkness falls and streetlights are few, by FAITH we continue.

Although we are nearly the only vehicle on the highway, by FAITH we continue.

Although we’re unsure the distance to the next town, by FAITH we continue.

What if the woman with an issue of blood, seeing Jesus off in the distance, turned and went in the opposite direction because the task of getting to Him seem too overwhelming?  No FAITH, no healing…

What if Jairus opted to turn the corner away from Jesus rather than boldly approaching Him, asking Him to come see His daughter?  No FAITH, no restoration of life…

What if the thief on the cross, the thief, which came to believe, kept his mouth closed or worse, ridiculed Jesus as the other?  No FAITH, no hope…

What if…

What if…

Fill in the blank…

“And it is impossible to please God without faith.” ~ Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

Faith presses forward when you can’t see what is around the bend.

Faith believes, although you’re uncertain what lies ahead.

Faith continues, even when the darkness closes in around.

Faith motivates, especially when you’re the only one on the road.

Instead of walking in the “what ifs” of life, may we faithfully walk in anticipation with Him, excited to experience what is “off in the distance”.

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Stefanie Brown is the wife of Dan Brown, Executive Director of LIFT Ministries.  She is a graduate of Berea College in Berea, KY where she received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing.  She practiced nursing for 10 before leaving the profession to stay at home with her son, Alex, now 8.  During her time at home she started ZERO2THREE Pediatric Rehab Services, a company, which provided therapy services to children ages birth to 3 with developmental delays.  She recently passed this Kentucky-based company on after 9 successful years of service. She and Dan, who just celebrated 9 years of marriage, re-located their ministry to the Dallas Metroplex in 2009.  She and her family reside in Plano, TX and are partnering with Canyon Creek Baptist Church, Richardson, TX.  She blogs at UpLIFTing Words and can be found on Twitter at stefanieybrown as well as Facebook, Stefanie Young Brown.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friendly Friday: Unity Faith Miller

First, I want to apologize for my absence this week. I've been feeling terrible, so if you could keep me and my pregnancy health in your prayers, I'd really appreciate it!

Also, next week I'll be unplugging entirely, but you'll have some very special posts from some great writers. It'll be a Week of Wisdom. These people have all had life experiences that give them unique wisdom on a topic, and they're going to share their wisdom with you. Pretty cool of them, right? So be sure to check it out!

Now, today's Friendly Friday post comes from one of the most heartfelt women I met at She Speaks, Unity Faith Miller. Unity is a writer and speaker who has such a pure heart for God, and she shares some of her wonderful heart here with us today! She's a new blogger, too, over at A Woman's Heart: Pouring Out What is Poured In

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Unity Faith Miller

Letting Go and Trusting God

Trust is such a big thing, especially when you have put your trust in others and have been let down time after time. I have struggled with trusting God completely with my life for a long time, so imagine how my trust is with other people.

I recommitted my life to the Lord in May 2006. It was different then when I asked Him into my heart as a child. God is not this far-off being who just watches as our lives unfold. He wants so much more than that from us. He wants to be our friend, our healer, our Abba father, and more. My life took a whole new turn, but in doing so, I had to trust the Lord. That was—and still is—hard for me at times.

You see, I blamed Him for things that happened in my childhood, and, until recently, I have come to realize He did not want those things to happen to me. He was there carrying me through those things, as the people who were given His free will decided to use it to abuse me.

Now I have such a deeper and different relationship with Our Holy Father than before. I love Him and want to glorify Him with my life. But I have one problem: I still sometimes find it hard to trust Him completely. I tend to pray for Him to help in a situation, but then I try to “help” Him along, never leaving Him to work alone. So, instead of being blessed, I experience another storm in my life.

Recently, I was on this roller coaster of trust and questioning the Lord again, when He pointed me to something He lead me to a couple of years ago. It is this little card that is entitled "Let Go and Let God:"

“As children bring their broken toys
with tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God
because He was my friend.
But then, instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help,
with ways that were my own.
At last, I snatched them back and
cried, “How can you be so slow?”
“My child,” He said, “What could I do? You never did let go.””
by GAMZ

As I read this card to myself, tears began to fall. I realized that is what I was doing, and I really needed to let go. The Lord also led me to Proverbs 3:5 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

What does this all mean? To me it means I need to “Let Go and Let God” and to trust Him. I do not need to understand, for I am human and am fallible. He wishes to bless us, so we need to have faith and to trust Him. Completely.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Friendly Friday: Michael Brandon

Today's Friendly Friday post comes from Michael Brandon. He writes for several Christian sites, but has a very interesting site called Prayers for Special Help. If you'd like a prayer or a Bible verse on a specific topic, he's got it. Or it's got famous prayers, from the Lord's Prayer to the Serenity Prayer. You can even submit your own prayer requests! We can all use a little extra prayer in our lives, right? Right. The story he shares with us today is truly fascinating. Enjoy!


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The Lord's Purpose


Photo courtesy of 2355 Photography
It wasn’t going as planned. Life, that is. High school was over, and it felt like a hangover was due.

My adolescence was filled with a lot of late nights spent drinking and carrying on. Even though I was usually surrounded by a lot of people, I was alone in most every aspect of my life. Collectively, my friends and I were searching. We were searching for a purpose, but instead, all we found was a few moments of satisfaction from a bottle of liquor or from a few moments underneath bed sheets.

With high school fading fast into the rear view mirror, I decided that I needed to get away from my life. I packed my canvas back pack with some new white shirts, a pair of pants, and little else. But where would I go? I didn’t have much money, and I wasn’t very interested in making more.

A family friend said he knew a guy in the North Carolina mountains that I could stay with for the summer. That seemed good enough. Anything seemed good, really. Maybe the difference in altitude would give me a better view of where I was headed.

I arrived by bus in a small town called Milton. I was told to ask for Max. But who should I ask? The bus driver? I was regretting my decision already. I went into a nearby gas station, and asked him if he knew a Max. Surprisingly, he said “Everybody knows Max,” and he pointed towards a store front down the block.

Max made rocking chairs for a living. He was in his mid-sixties with a beard as big as a bee hive. He showed me around the shop. He had a lot of tools, but they all looked to be about as old as him. What was I doing in Milton, NC? It seemed like I was about to have a few of the most boring weeks of my life. I eyed the rest of Main Street for a liquor store.

The longer I stayed with Max, the more I realized that he was probably the happiest person I had ever met. One afternoon, while I was helping him fill a truck with scrap pieces of wood, I asked him what his secret was. “How are you so happy all the time?” He threw a piece of oak into the truck and smiled wide. He said, “God showed me long ago my purpose here on this planet. He showed me my purpose, and I fulfill that purpose every day. It fills me with more joy than I could ever ask for.”

Max was put on this earth to make rocking chairs. It was as simple as that. He made his first dollar making a chair for his mother. He met his wife when she came to him commissioning a chair for her dad. His church pews have the same stain that he uses on each of his chairs. He re-stains them every three months.

In many ways, Max was the life blood of the town of Milton. Whenever someone was having a bad day, they would head on down to Max’s shop and chat with him for an hour or so as he sanded a piece of strong wood. I’m sure Max saved more marriages than Dr. Phil. It seemed as though everyone gravitated towards him. I couldn’t argue. I mean, I was there too.

On my last day with Max, he gave me a pat on the head and said “Many plans are in a man's mind, but it is the Lord's purpose for him that will stand.” I wanted to talk about it more, but my bus was about to board across the street.

Before that moment, it seemed like my main purpose in life was partying. But really, the partying was just a way of coping with the fear that I wouldn’t find a purpose. I was afraid that God wouldn’t speak to me, or that when he did, I wouldn’t listen. But Max helped me see that it is impossible not to listen to God when he talks. I never could imagine being happy making rocking chairs for 50 years, but Max showed me how much I had to learn.

When I returned home from that summer, my life wasn’t the same. I was no longer running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I didn’t need to drink until I passed out or hit on girls I didn’t know. Instead, I had found the strength to wait for my purpose to unfold. I sat out on my parent’s front porch, rocking back and forth, and I would listen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Myth of Unconditional Love

There is no such thing as unconditional love.

It's true. Argue with me in your head all you want. I'll bet that argument sounds like this:

That's not true! I love my child unconditionally!

Nope, there's a condition: he/she is your child. Conditional.

That's not true! God loves me unconditionally!

Nope, there's a condition: we're his creations. Conditional.

Now, you don't have to think of this as a bad thing. I think it's a great thing, especially for my silly human brain.  Because if all love is conditional, then when I'm having a hard time loving somebody, all I need to do is find a condition!

It's genius, really.

A few years ago, I met a woman I didn't like very much. Part of it was that she looked like someone from my past, and I didn't like that. The other part of it was that she was annoying. I couldn't relate to her, I couldn't figure her out, and I sure didn't love her. But I wanted to. I had to. I was around her a lot.

And if you're trying to figure out if it's you, the answer is no. It wasn't you.

I had to figure out what to do. I couldn't go on being annoyed by this woman! It was stressful! So I found a friend who knew her well. I said, "Can you tell me how to love her? Please? I need some kind of information that will help me love this woman, and you know her better than I do."

So she did. She told me some good traits about this woman and some info on her background that I didn't know before. It was like a light switch flipped in my brain.

Oh. I didn't know all that. So there are good things about her? This woman is lovable? OK! I can do this!

And I did. I set my heart to "love" and actually spent time with her.We're not, like, BFFs or anything now, but where I once found her annoying, now I understand her better and we can hang out. Chat. We're friends. I love her.

Because I found a condition that helped me do that.

Who do you need to learn to love in your life? Or who do you need help continuing to love? What condition can you come up with that will help you love him or her?

And, if you run out of ideas, the condition can be that God loves them. Or that God loved you enough to die for you, so you could probably love someone else. I'm just sayin'.