Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Changing the world

Water. Drinkable water.

A basic need in life, and something we take for granted here in the U.S.A.

In many parts of the world, it is a luxury.

My friend Amy spent some time last year reaching out to children in Uganda, and in doing so she partnered with some folks who are trying to do something about it. Not just finding water, but finding a way to purify water so those most in need can have it.

But I can't do it justice with my words, so here is a slide show in the link below. By watching it you will do two things: learn more about how you can help, and also provide views that might help win the project a grant toward to the work. So please watch it:

IHPO - Changing the world

Cool, huh?

What can I do to change the world? Well, I can jump on board and help young people with this kind of vision. But even more important, I can follow their example - use my talents and gifts for more than just making money. Use them to make a difference for people God loves.

Food for thought. And prayer.

Monday, February 27, 2012

It's over

If you are the one who reads this blog regularly (hi sis!), you may remember the post last month about my broken foot.

Because of it, I had to wear this thing around for the last four weeks:

Well, today the doctor told me I could take it off. Yay! And since it was on my right foot, that also means I can drive. Freedom!

I still have to be careful. Doc said no playing sports for a month, and I need to be very careful not to turn it again.

But more than that, I need to make sure I don't forget the lessons I learned. I still need my family. I still need my friends. Just because I can get around now doesn't mean that I shouldn't depend on people who love me. And most of all, I learned that being dependent is good, and that means depending on the Lord.

Lord, keep me mindful that I'm still broken without your presence. I need you. Don't let me forget to be dependent.

Now...where are those car keys?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Extraordinary cakes

Tonight, we celebrated my niece Macy's 22nd birthday, as well as that of her friend and roommate Hillary Kate (who thus managed to stretch her celebration even longer than Macy!). Fun time...great dinner, lots of laughs with family and friends. But I never expected to walk into the house and see this:

In case you think your eyes are deceiving you, they are not. That's a cake lined with gobs of three of the world's best Little Debbie snack cakes: Nutty Bars, Chocolate Cupcakes, and (my favorite growing up) Swiss Rolls. Oh. My. Goodness. And cake with icing inside.

Or this:

That, my friends, is a cake contained inside a ring of Kit-Kat bars and covered with M&Ms. Wow!

So how did this go over? What do you think? The guests of honor looked pretty happy about it:

Happy birthday, ladies!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

God's best

I ran across this article (linked below) the other day, and I feel it's one of the best things I've ever seen written on a subject that concerns me greatly. Please take the time to read it - slowly - and let me know your thoughts.

Relevant Magazine: "The Secret Sexual Revolution"

As I read it, it hit me as being dead on. God' plan for marriage has not changed just because so many are waiting later to tie the knot. Premarital abstinence is not just for teenagers, it's for all adults who who are single. I can personally tell you that it is very difficult. I can also personally tell you that it's possible. But just as important, I can tell you that God's grace is big enough to give you a new start.

So I beg my fellow single Christian friends: renew you commitment to follow God's best on this. Whether it's by committing to stay the course on your previous commitment or asking forgiveness and starting a course of "renewed abstinence" today, pray for strength and go for it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Lent begins...

And as it does, I've looked at last year's post and I  can't explain why I observe a Lent fast any better than that. So here's a link to the post:

Why the whole Lent fast thing?

This year? Dessert. If you've never tried it before, why not now? You find a a sharper focus on what God did for you in Christ.

Happy Ash Wednesday!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The last enemy

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was
deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
(John 11:32-33)
When Jesus arrived at Larazus' tomb, he already knew what he was going to do. He knew that he had power over death. He knew that he was about to call his friend forth from the grave, despite the fact that Lazarus had been dead for four days. He knew that before too long, he himself would rise from the dead, defeating the greatest enemy of humankind forever. And yet, he was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled". What does that mean?

Today, I was face to face with the enemy - death - as well. It had claimed the life a friend, one much too young. It was hard - is hard - to understand why creation is like this. A vibrant, energetic young lady nearing there end of her college career, with her whole life ahead of her suddenly discovers a serious illness....and then is gone. In fact, this is the main reason I have not blogged for over a week. I told a friend Wednesday that I was not ready to write about this, and yet everything else seemed so trivial by comparison. Which left nothing.

It's not the first time death has punched me in the gut. My sister, my niece, my mother...as well as uncles, aunts, and grandparents. This enemy never seems to rest.

So, back to the question. What does it mean that Jesus was "deeply moved and troubled in spirit"? Well, according to a commentary I just read, the Greek verb is ejnebrimhvsato, and it indicates a very strong emotion and is difficult to translate. In fact, here is what it says about the phrase:
Jesus displayed this reaction to the afflicted in Mark 1:43, Matt 9:30. Was he angry at the afflicted? No, but he was angry because he found himself face-to-face with the manifestations of Satans kingdom of evil. Here, the realm of Satan was represented by death.
 Angry. Furious. Beside himself with indignation because death is not the way things should be. It's not! How do we know? Because when the Creator of the universe visited our planet, it made him deeply angry.

So as I sat in my pew today, and as I've prayed all week for my friend Addy's family, I have been troubled. Because this is not the way things are supposed to be - we should never lose sight of that. Jesus was angry about it and grieved in his spirit, even though he knew he was about to defeat it. We hurt. We grieve. And we are wounded.

But I was also comforted. Because the last enemy, death, has been defeated. Because as a follower of Jesus, Addy has taken her place with other saints beside the angels in heaven worshipping God. Because she is with her friend Holly rejoicing. Because Jesus' death was the death of death. It's over!
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

Amen. Take that, death...you lose.

Friday, February 10, 2012

More than enough

Today was a day that I was not looking forward to. I was out of the office all week until today, at a conference with other insurance professionals. While I was gone, checking the email from my mobile phone did not create anticipation for today. At least not positive anticipation.

Without going into details, a few things convereged to let me know this would be stressful day:
  • I already had a pretty packed schedule on the calendar for today before I even left town.
  • There were two critical stratgic areas where decisions needed to be made, and it was apparent that I would be asked to commit upon my return. I needed to create time with my staff to prepare for this.
  • I got several emails related to work product that was needed pronto. Knowong I would be in meetings all day made me wonder...when?
So, as I sat on the plane yesterday, two things were going on in my mind.

First, dozens of thoughts were running through my mind about the decisions and commitments that would be required. Finally, I decided to start writing those thoughts down so I wouldn't forget them. This didn't lower the stress, but it did make me feel more prepared.

Second, I was reading the book Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge.

As I read, I was struck by the person - and personality - of Jesus. Eldredge does a wonderful job of walking through the Gospel narrative and showing how rich the portrait being painted of Christ really is. His motive? To me it was to inspire those of us who follow Jesus to love him more.

And finally, knowing the day that I was facing, last night I asked a good friend to pray for me as it unfloded.

It was a tough day. It was intense. It was fast-moving and full of spirited conversations. But you know what I discovered? The God I was reading about on the plane had more than enough grace to get me through such a day. I picked up a theme phrase from my pastor last year that I think about often. For me, my goal each day is "Love Jesus, love people, and try not to do anything stupid."

Believe me, I went in to today really focused on the third goal. But my readings from yesterday, helped me accomplish it by fixing my mind more on the first one. I reminded myself throughout the day that if I'll just do that, he would help me with the others.

And he did. I believe he knew that I needed that book. And I needed to make those notes. And I needed Clark praying for me. God is so good, and he is more than enough.

Even for days like today.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's a small world after all

I remember it well. It was 1999 and I was on my first mission trip. We spent two weeks in Russia, conducting an English camp for college students. In two weeks, I was able to find a phone exactly once. I called home and talked to my parents for a few minutes.

Even that seemed surreal. There was a very real sense in which I almost felt like a different person - like the world on this side of the ocean was a dream or something. So little communication made it seem like a million miles. It was such a disconnected feeling. Even the 3rd anniversary of my sister's fatal accident seemed almost unreal.

That's how important context is.

And how different things are today. As I write this, I am in my hotel room in Bermuda after a long day of meetings. (Yeah, I know...it's rough.) And I am on my computer writing a blog post. After talking to my dad on my cell phone. And "texting" with my sister by means of the Words with Friends messaging function. And following the Alabama basketball game through my Twitter feed. I can even surf the web whenever I come across free wifi (but not without it - no international 3G for me).

Yep, hardly disconnected. Such a different feeling from that fortnight in Russia. So different from my first trip here about ten years ago. How the world has changed.

It's a small, small world.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fringe link: "Why did God make me this way?"

Last week I posted about an episode of Fringe explored themes of forgiveness and whether it has limits. I absolutely love how this show plunges into the great questions of life and faith.

Well, it did so in back to back weeks. In an episode that explores questions of fate versus free will (a Calvinist's dream, right?), it has the central character of the episode asking, "Why did God make me this way?" And the whole episode deals with the concept of each life having a purpose.

But enough from me. Linked below is post with a succinct but thorough analysis of the issues addressed in the episode called "Forced Perspective".

Enjoy...and start watching Fringe! Here it is:

Link: Why did God make me this way?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Learning to lean

So yes, the bone was broken. After 19,182 days. So when I went to see the doctor Monday afternoon, I got good news and bad news. The good news? The break is at a part of the bone that will allow it to heal if I keep it immobilized. Instead of resetting it and putting on a cast, I can wear a boot. If it heals like it should, I can avoid the cast.

The bad news? It's my right foot. So the doctor predictably told me that I can't drive. Not until it heals and I stop wearing the boot?

Have you ever had to have other people drive you around? Well, I've got to tell you, I did not fully appreciate how much I depend on my ability to drive. I'm single, live alone, and consider myself very independent. Well not anymore.

I've got to get a ride to work in the morning. I've need a ride home in the evening. When I got ready to go to lunch with my friend Frank today, I couldn't meet him at Street Cafe - he had to pick me up. I'm heading to Bermuda for work next week, flying...you guessed it...out of Atlanta. So I had to find a shuttle service, and I'll need someone to take me to the pickup point. I don't cook, so someone has to get me something to eat. Arghhhh!

So what I have learned in the last three days is what unbelievable family and friends I have. Joe takes me to  work and back. Dad gives me aside other places and makes sure I have food. Kristy and Kay call to check on how I'm doing. Shannon at work makes me stay in my office and runs around to get all sorts of stuff I'm used to getting myself. Clark wouldn't let me get up to fix my own food at his house the other night. Several friends have offered to give me rides - Clark, Laura, Tommy, Brian.....and on and on and on.

Clark tells me that this is good for me. That I need to learn to depend on other people instead of doing everything for myself. I need to take this opportunity to learn to lean on those who love me.

He's right, you know. We are meant to be interdependent, not independent. Galatians 6:2 says, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." The whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 12 is about the body of Christ and how we each have a part to play. No man is an island.

Not only that, but we need to learn to lean on Jesus. If I think I can do it all myself, I have excluded the One who carried my burden to the cross and wants to direct my paths every day. And here's the kicker: if I can't learn to depend on my friends and family (whom I can see), why would I be inclined to lean on God (whom I can't).

So I'm learning. It's not easy. I feel like such a burden when I ask someone to take me somewhere or when they bring me my food instead of me getting it myself. I thank, and thank, and overthank. But I'm beginning to see that as long as I think that way it means I just don't get it. We're all here for each other. And sometimes we need to just let that happen and be grateful.

And then, as a downstream benefit, we figure out that we have to depend on our Lord. For everything.