Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Sunday and All Saints Day

Reformation Sunday: On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses in Germany. It was a spark which began the Protestant Revolution. It is typically celebrated as the last Sunday in October.

Why Halloween? November 1st is All Saints’ Day and most of Luther’s village would be at Mass for that holy day.

I challenge you to get in touch with history this Reformation Sunday. What did Luther write? What are the tenants of your denomination? How did they come into being?

All Saints’ Day: This holy day occurs on November 1st, or the first Sunday after November 1st. (For Orthodox churches, this day is the first Sunday after Pentecost). This is a day to honor martyrs. During the night, people pray and fast. The service celebrates the saints of the Lord, both dead and living.

Who are martyrs that you admire? What did they die for?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Respecting the Men in Your Life

"People will live up to, or down to, your expectations of them." My behavior management professor taught us this from the start.

Society doesn't respect men. Not as leaders. Not as the head of the house. Not as a decision maker. Books, movies, tv shows (especially sitcoms), and commercials shows this disrespect.

What are things that I try to avoid, in order to respect my hubby? (I'm not perfect with these yet)

Not calling him a child.
Not treating him like a child.
Not publicly criticizing him.
Not attacking him with "always" and "never."
Not ignoring his advice when I ask for it. (Today, as I write this blog, I asked my hubby what he would like me to wear to church tomo. I was thinking of some of my favorite outfits that I would like to wear. He suggested something different. I'm wearing what he suggested, because I value his input.)
Not talking more or more positively about other guys (celebrity crushes, other stories with guys)

What are things that I try to do, in order to respect my hubby? (I'm not perfect with these yet)
I try to wear outfits he likes to see me in.
I try to cook foods that he likes to eat.
I try to manage our money well.
I try to dress modestly in public, not because he's controlling, but because it makes him smile to see me in modest outfits in front of other guys.
I try to make sure that the first and last things I say to him are positive each day. (Some days, I sleep in and when I get up, I notice something negative, after he's at work. He did something differently than I would have done. But my goal is to avoid sending an email or text that starts off our interaction with "you did this wrong."
Remember details from old stories told.
Get excited with him about stuff.
Give him down-time after work.
Say positive things in public about him (especially to other people).
Do things hubby wants, cuz hubby likes, even if I don’t.
Run ideas past hubby (to see how it affects him).
I try to ask, not order. (THIS ONE IS REALLY HARD)

Sometimes, some wives don't respect their husbands. This disrespect may come in the form of public criticism and arguments. It may show itself in the form of body language (rolled eyes, sighs, and aggressive stances). It may show itself in stories told or descriptions used of husbands.

Then men get slammed for not being a part of their children's lives or not being the head of the house. But they sometimes get attacked verbally when they try. "That's wrong." "Let me do it." "How could you dress the kids that way?"

If you criticize anyone too much, they give up. They stop trying. Why bother? They can't earn your praise anyway.

I've said it before and probably will say it again, wives are to respect their husbands. Period. Not respect their husbands, IF... Not respect their husbands, WHEN... But wives are to respect their husbands.

My challenge:
Spend some time with the Proverbs 31 woman. Spend some time in 1 Cor. 13. What are ways that you (I'm writing to wives) can respect your husband in your words, thoughts, and actions?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Praying Big Prayers

Sometimes I'm self-conscious of my prayers. It's not that I have an issue praying in public or talking to God, but sometimes I don't feel like my prayers are fulfilling their potential. Sometimes I don't feel like my prayers are properly focused.

"Lord, help me pass this test."
"Lord, heal my loved one."
"Lord, fix the air conditioner in my car."

Me, my, mine, I. Wrong focus.

That's not saying that I shouldn't bring my requests to God, but when's the last time I've prayed a big prayer? Bigger than what's described in a medical dictionary. Bigger than my life, my family, my circumstances. When's the last time that I've prayed for those I don't know and may never meet, but I know of their problems?

Wait...that's right...I don't read (or watch) the news, so I'm not aware of what is beyond my immediate world.

Not reading the news means that more stress over the problems of others isn't added to my life, but it also means that I can't pray for others if I don't know about them.

Not reading the news means that I'm safe in my own little bubble, but ignorance doesn't change circumstances; prayer does. Yet, even though I'm "safe," my prayers are dry, dull, and self-centered, because I pray the same prayers repeatedly (if at all).

My challenge for myself is to read local, state, national, and international news. By being aware of prayer requests, I can pray and keep praying until I see results.

In order to remember my prayers, I'm starting to write them down: when did I start praying, what is the request, when did God answer it, how was it answered? This way, I can track the answers. How sad is it that when God answers my prayers, I don't even notice?

If you are interested in big prayer topics, check out Voice of the Martyrs, to learn about present day persecutions around the world.

So that's my goal: to pray prayers bigger than just me, my, mine, and I.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Christian Community-Why It´s Important

    Community is important in Christianity, yet I find myself resistant to opportunities to fellowship and 3 church services a week. I selectively enjoy fellowship, but it must be on my terms and oftentimes on my turf. Opportunities to fellowship felt like a punishment to me. And so I decided that I would need to start studying Christian community in the Word, if I wanted to change my perspective of community (from a negative outlook to a positive outlook). 

    When I started studying this topic, I found over 2 dozen passages speaking on the importance of and directions regarding community. What did I find?

    1.      Too much alone time isn’t good (Genesis 1:24-2:25)
    2.      It’s pleasing to God to see His people living in unity (Psalm 133)
    3.      More advisers increase the likelihood of plans succeeding (Proverbs 15:22)
    4.      I’m better off if someone is watching my back (Ecclesiastes4:9-12)
    5.      The second most important command is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40)
    6.      Jesus is where 2+ believers are. Also, we are to follow a specific procedure when disagreeing with another believer. (Matthew 18:15)
    7.      Jesus had fellowship and had community. (Mark 3:14)
    8.      We are a branch of God’s tree. We are a part of His community. (John 15:1-12)
    9.      Jesus prayed that his disciples and future believers would be unified (John 17)
    10.  The early church had a vibrant community (Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-37)
    11.  We are many parts of one body (Romans 12)
    12.  Paul pleads for us to be united (1 Corinthians 1:10)
    13.  We serve the same God. We have different gifts. We are one body (1 Corinthians 12)
    14.  We are to carry each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2)
    15.  We are to encourage each other (Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.) We are to love, be kind, and be compassionate to each other (Ephesians 4)
    16.  We are to pray for each other (Ephesians 6:18)
    17.  We are to be of the same mind, after all we serve the same God (Philippians 4:2)
    18.  We are to do good to those who do wrong to us (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15)
    19.  We are to brainstorm ways to encourage each other and keep meeting with each other (Hebrews 10:24-25)
    20.  We are to NOT gossip (James 4:11)
    21.  We are to be hospitable (1 Peter 4:9)
    22.  We are to shepherd those in our care (1 Peter 5:1-4)
    23.  We are to fellowship with each other (1 John 1:7)
      • Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
      • And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
    Community isn't bad or a punishment. It can be challenging. It can be frustrating. But God wants us to interact with other believers (and non-believers). Community stretches us, but teaches us important lessons on interacting with people-broken, faulty, well-intended humans...just like me. Quiet time and solitude has its place, but so does community. 

    What would happen if I stopped being resistant to community and started to work to bring God's ideal community (outlined in His word) into reality in my life?

    My Dream's Community

    Ironically (or maybe not), my blog post prepared for today is on "Christian Community-Why It's Important."  
    This morning, when I awoke, I could recall the fragments of a dream. It was a dream of a Christian community. My dream's community did not come populated with people already, but it was an idea of community and Christ-like characteristics.

    I preface my dream's community description with the statement that I typically avoid community. When people ask for a prayer meeting at church, I scoff since naturally I can pray at home. When there's different events at my church, I mourn the loss of my typical evening activities. Typically, when I hear the "Fellowship of the Believers" passage from Acts 2:42-47, I spurn it because I don't think we could pull it off now-a-days.

    Nonetheless, my dream's community was set up much like the boarding houses of old. Each person (or married couple) had their own bedroom, but we shared a kitchen and dining room, as well as a common room/worship area. Meals would be shared and duties would be split. We wouldn't need to individually own many things such as shovels, rakes, leaf-blowers, snow-blowers, lawn-mowers, tools, and dishes, but would instead rely on a community set of each of these. My dream's community had enough extra rooms and places at the table to house guests and strangers.

    As I sit writing this, a picture comes to my mind. This community would be housed perfectly in the hotel I stayed in during my Uruguay mission trip.

    Our hotel had so many of my dream's features
    It had a courtyard (ok I didn't dream this, but my hotel had it)
    It had a sitting room.

    It had a common area, kitchen, and dining area.

    "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." -Acts 2:42-47

    For the first time (perhaps ever), this passage sounds desirous to me. My heart is filled with this dream that a small hotel in Uruguay awakened in me.

    What is your dream's community? What does living out the Christian faith look like?

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    Learning From Those Who Have Gone Before

    I have encountered mentors. Some I have met in person. Others I have meet in books. Elisabeth Elliot (Passion and Purity), Corrie ten Boom (The Hiding Place), and George Mueller are some of my mentors through reading.

    Elisabeth Elliot taught me about waiting for marriage, setting boundaries, and when to say "I love you." When my hubby (then boyfriend) and I discussed her book, we decided to incorporate her approach of love. Her husband was taught to "never say I love you without having an engagement ring and being ready to propose AND never propose without having said I love you." We incorporated that into our lives and the first time my husband (then boyfriend) said I love you, he had a ring and shortly became my fiance.

    Corrie ten Boom taught me the importance of memorizing scripture (for I may not always have a Bible). She taught me how it looks to serve with gladness and what it means to love your enemies (she turned her childhood home into a refuge for those who collaborated with the Nazis during the war).

    George Mueller taught me about prayer. His autobiography teaches me that I need to pray in line with God's will and keep praying until it's answered. I learned a lot about what it means to live dependently on God and to trust Him to provide. He modeled how to claim God's scriptural promises.

    Corrie and George died before I was born, but their words continue to instruct me. Now I'm not saying that their books are better than the Bible or that they are equal to God, but rather, that in learning about their lives and their faith, I can get inspiration, ideas, and encouragement.

    Who are the men and women of the faith that you admire, respect, or learn from? Have you told them thank you?

    Saturday, October 13, 2012

    Secular or Sacred?

    One of my campus ministers once asked a group of students if a sunset was sacred or secular. A debate ensued.

    This is technically a sunrise. :-)

    The distinction that my campus minister uses is a fairly simple one. If something brings glory, honor, or respect to God it is sacred. If it does not glorify God, it is secular. If your thoughts are directed toward God and His awesomeness, it is sacred. If your thoughts are directed in other directions other than positively toward God, it is secular.

    For me:
    Sunsets, sleeping babies, mountain scenes=sacred.
    Overly violent/cursing/sexual movies, arguing people, and dark stories=secular.

    What things would you classify as sacred?

    What things would you classify as secular?

    Will everyone's list be the same?

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    Where's My Titus 2?

    At my church, some of the more elderly people commented on the fact that the older they get, the harder Satan tempts them, because the devil knows he doesn't have much time left. They commented how younger people think that they face hard temptations, but it only gets worse. I wondered why I wasn't being taken under the wings of these people to learn from them and their successes/failures. I wondered why this was the first time that I heard about this, at the age of 22. I wondered where is my Titus 2? (between Titus 1 and 3-ha ha)

    My Bible isn't missing Titus 2 (as a side note, I once thought that my campus minister's Bible had the lost letter to Laodicea because she referenced Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22 and I thought she had the letter mentioned in Col. 4:16. It turns out that her Bible has all of the same books that mine has).

    What am I asking for when I throw out "Titus 2?" I want to know:

    Is sound doctrine being taught? Or is comfortable Christianity being spread?

    Are our older men temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance?

    Are our older women reverent in the way they live, not slanderers or addicted to much wine, but teachers of what is good? 

    Do the older women urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God?

    Are our young men encouraged to be self-controlled? 

    Where is their example of those doing good with integrity, seriousness, soundness of speech (that can't be condemned)? 

    Are we living in such a way that those who oppose are are ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us? 

    Are slaves, servants, underlings, co-workers of a lower rank being taught to be subject to their bosses in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive?

    Are we taught to say  “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions? Are we taught to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age?

    Are we waiting for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good?

    Are we teaching this? Are we encouraging each other?

    Titus 2:1-15

    I have a godly woman as my mentor, but I wonder why there isn't more talk of this passage in the church, why there isn't a push for young and old women and men to align their lives to Titus 2. 

    Friday, October 5, 2012

    The Blessing of Back Pain

    Two summers ago, I was a summer missionary in California. Two summers ago marked the 4th year of chronic back pain for me. In high school, cross country aggravated my back and I had a leg ligament that continually popped over my hip bone when I walked. MRIs, chiropractor appointments, physical therapy, shoe inserts, and medicine combined to help me battle my pain. I wanted to run, to swim, and to fight instead (I was taking karate lessons at the time).

    My back appeared to be better at the start of college. Could it be that I wouldn't suffer anymore? Gym class rock climbing begged to differ. Cue more therapy and more medicines and the ever-classy backpack with wheels. I began to learn the difference between needing help and wanting help. If I wanted help moving stuff into my dorm, I might have sore muscles in my arms and legs if no one showed. If I needed help moving stuff into my dorm, I would have back spasms if I did not utilize help (i.e. moved my stuff alone or alongside my help). I learned that my friends cared and didn't view me as an inconvenience. I learned that I could still serve others without starting off a muscle spasm. (i.e. my campus ministry was volunteering during freshmen move-in; I was cooking for the moving crew. My mission team was doing hard manual labor; I was cooking and praying).

    These were the events that preceded my departure for summer missions. I went, armed with an inflatable pillow for my back, back brace, and 3 types of medicines for back pain (2 over-the-counter with instructions of upping the doses to prescription strength and a prescription muscle relaxant).

    Summer missions aggravated my back. My two weeks in the mountains caused shivers so severe that muscle spasms and tears were brought on. My hours in the car caused me to grit my teeth and keep counting down until the next dose of meds. My attempt to be a junior coach at a Spanish VBS-soccer camp brought the worst back pain I can remember experiencing.
    Here I am in the mountains of Cali, wearing underarmor, 2 long-sleeved shirts, a t-shirt, a hoodie, and a winter coat. I looked like a marshmallow.
     I prayed so hard that summer for healing. I told God that if He healed me, it would be a testimony to His power. I told Him that I could serve Him better without chronic pain. I told Him that this was a small miracle for the God who parted the Red Sea, raised the dead, and brought forth victory and healing. Prayer warriors back home and on the field were praying for me and my healing. Yet still I had pain. During the first and last weeks, I was taking 9 pills a day for back pain and still counting the minutes until the next dose. I wondered if I was like the man born blind (that the Father might be glorified) or if I was like Paul (with a thorn in my flesh to keep me humble).

    Sometime over the past two years, my pain faded away. Sometimes my pain level spikes. Sometimes I need a pain pill (non-prescription strength). Sometimes I am required to do therapy stretches on my own. But my prayers have been answered. I can swim again. I can do Zumba. I can do my normal activities without pain. I am quicker to ask for help when I need it. I am slower to think that I can do it all on my own. I am able to manage the occasional sore back time. I am able to thank God for both the healing and for the occasional reminder in the form of back twinges to not do it all on my own.

    Why is back pain a blessing? When my back twinges now, I remember that summer with more pain than I thought I could bear (and more happiness and more bonding and more VBS songs). I see where I was with my back and how far I have come. I remember how willing my friends were (and are) to help me and watch out for me. I remember when I learned that the Christian community gathers around its own. I remember that God can use back pain to teach His daughter about His nature. And for that I am grateful. For that, I am blessed.

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    Investing Time

    Even though my hubby calls me "Sneaky Liz," I'm not very sneaky. Typically, he finds out his gifts months in advance of his birthday. Typically my secret date ideas are shared within days of thinking of them (or researching them).

    In short,  I'm notoriously bad at keeping my date ideas secret and horrible at asking secretive questions.

    So I hatched a plot. I collected over 50 dates from the "Dating Divas" site. I saved the websites and summarized what each date was and what would be needed for it. Then I created a questionnaire (I was in teacher mode at this point). I made a 55 question survey for my hubby to answer, so I would be armed with his likes and dislikes as I planned these dates. My theory was if I ask all the questions at once, I'll be armed with the knowledge, so I could so plan the dates without spilling the beans each time. The large amounts of questions should throw my hubby off each specific date, since he won't be able to trace each question to each date.

    (I was planning on just giving him the 5 pages of questions I came up with and having him answer them via writing, but he preferred that I interview him). 

    He *LOVED* the interview. So much, that every time I finished a page, he checked to see if there were more questions for me to ask.

    He felt spoiled and loved and attended to.

    Sometimes, I get into "efficient Liz mode" and I forget to invest time in those I love. My goal was noble: verify my hubby's preferences before planning dates, but my method was too time-oriented and not enough person-oriented.

    We spent over an hour with my survey and I severely enjoyed "studying" my hubby.

    Somethings I knew (like he loves brownies).
    Other things, I didn't know (like he had such a stringent ranking of the best types of pizza).

    That was a date in and of itself.