Friday, November 20, 2015

I Didn't Want to Get a Cat

I didn't want to get a cat.
I knew the house would smell of litter and their food.

I didn't want to get a cat.
I knew they'd cost a lot to feed & maintain.

I didn't want to get a cat.
I knew they'd get sick & need cleaned up after.

I didn't want to get a cat.
I knew they'd ruin our couch.

I didn't want to get a cat.
I knew they'd infringe upon my sleep.

I didn't want to get a cat.
I knew my life would be simpler & cleaner without one.

I didn't want to get a cat.
I knew they'd cover everything in cat hair.

Yet I got a cat. I got two cats.
Yes, I can smell their litter.
Yes, their vet bills can be pricey.
Yes, we have had to clean up cat vomit.
Yes, our couch has claw marks.
Yes, I lose some sleep because of them.
Yes, life is more complicated.
Yes, cat hair is everywhere.

But I forgot in my calculations, that they bring more than trouble.
A purring cat on my lap serves as a blanket.
Two playing cats bring joy and laughter.
A cat brings companionship.
A cat teaches gentleness.
Even though my life has been rearranged to add in these cats, it has changed for the better.


Now, I do not want to get a dog. :-)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Sunken Realms by Serena Chase: A Review

I read The Ryn.


I read The Remedy.

I read The Seahorse Legacy.

I was waiting and waiting and waiting for The Sunken Realms to be released. Then it happened. I was given an Advanced Reader's Copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
It took the utmost levels of self-control to put this book down in the middle in order to get a proper night's sleep. 

This book is full of clever sayings and verbal sparring matches. We yearn to see justice serve, yet we are taken through several plot twists that continually change the game. A major theme in the first part of the book deals with overcoming shame & blame for past actions, as well as choosing to love. In the second part of the book, a major theme is learning to work together in marriage as epic, justice-serving pirates!! 

The Sunken Realm is an epic tale. It has all the classic features of a story: clever dialogue, adventure, romance, struggle, fighting, and reconciliation. I loved reading this story & I sincerely hope Serena Chase adds more to this series & delightful world that she has created. 

As soon as I finished the book (took less than 24 hours), I started reading it again.

I highly recommend this book, but you'll need to start with book one to love the characters even more.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Plus Giveaway!!)

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day!!!

Ahoy, me mateys!! Today, the 19th of September, be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Now, listen, you scurvy dogs!! There also be a giveaway to enter.

In celebration of this holiday, one of my favorite authors (Serena Chase) is giving away a Kindle Fire HD6 AND her entire Eyes of E'veria series. You can check out her website here.

The first three books of the series will be on sale for $2.99 each from midnight to midnight on September 19th.


Book One of the Eyes of E'veria: The Ryn

Book Two of the Eyes of E'veria: The Remedy

Book Three of the Eyes of E'veria: The Seahorse Legacy

Coming Soon: 
Book Four of the Eyes of E'veria: The Sunken Realm



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Monday, August 24, 2015

Who am I to Do the Work Set Before Me?

Since coming to Cactus, I have struggled with feelings of unworthiness. I find myself asking who am I? (Now I expect my mom to call me with words of encouragement telling me not to feel unworthy)

Who am I to direct an ESL program with teachers who are older and more experienced than I am?

Who am I to minister to refugees who have experienced things I cannot even fathom?

I am a young, white, middle-class, married American citizen. The longest time I can remember going without food is...wait for it...2 meals. I missed supper & breakfast one night in high school as I participated (voluntarily) in part of a 30-hour famine.

As I sit here typing, I could fix myself spaghetti, ravioli,  mixed bean soup, refried beans, chicken & rice, chicken noodle soup, chicken & rice soup, grilled cheese, peanut butter & jelly, eggs any way imaginable. If those don't tickle my fancy, I could have cheese, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, protein bars, or one of four types of nuts to make sure I'm getting enough protein. I have several types of fruits & vegetables in my fridge, freezer, and pantry. My fridge is full, as it my pantry, but I had trouble deciding on a meal, because I...wait for it...have nothing to eat...that tickles my fancy.

I have lived in a country for a year where my native language was not the official language spoken, but when I went to to the doctor, I could explain my symptoms in English and receive my diagnosis in English. I got a small taste of what it was like to get instructions in a new language, but translators were never far away.

I have been in a country where it is not safe to drink the water, but I stayed there a total of 9 days. Any inconvenience can be lived with for 9 days, especially if divided into a 4-day & 5-day trip.

We were told before coming to Cactus, Texas, that although we *technically* are in the United States, we should really consider ourselves in a third world country, within an hour of American cities.

Living in an older (i.e. drafty) house, I have felt colder than I planned and I have had our pipes freeze on us multiple times here. I feel cold when the house is 60 instead of 68, yet I have more than enough layers & blankets to keep me warm at night and during the day. When the pipes freeze, I still have a pitcher of it in the fridge, a tea kettle full of it on the stove, as well as a collection of bottled waters & bottles of water in the fridge. When the pipes unfreeze, we get bathroom water first, so I can fill a bowl in the tub & use it to wash dishes as needed.

I feel unworthy of service because I realize that I am yet another well-intentioned soul offering aid and advice when I have no clue what it is like to be a refugee. I feel ashamed, because I have lived a life of luxury and yet, I'm proud of my creative resourcefulness with "limited means".

Yet, I can learn from those around me and I can care for those who have had different life experiences. God cares for the poor, the oppressed, the ones who are called the least of these. God can teach me to do the same.

Who am I do the work set before me? I am no one of consequence, but I serve a God who is the only One who matters.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Prayed for Compassion

I prayed to have compassion, because it is a skill that I lack. (Seriously, ask my husband. He may be polite & I am more forthright with him, but I have a distinct lack of compassion when I feel that the choices people make put them in their situation.)

I prayed to have compassion and suddenly difficulties arose in my life.

I never understood the loneliness felt by stay-at-home moms and at-home workers, until I was working at home and my husband was working outside the home. You see, for the first two years we were married, I was a student & as an introvert, I got enough "people time" that I was always grateful for alone time. Then for our third year of marriage, I was substituting, volunteering, and preparing to move to another country for ministry. Again, my need to be around people was always met. On our foreign mission field during our fourth year of marriage, I had generous amounts of quality time with my spouse, and spent my days in language classes and office work. I would feel "peopled-out" and enjoy my introvert time, content that I was a strong introvert, a 10/10 on the Myers-Briggs introversion-extroversion scale.

When we moved to Cactus, for the first month and a half we were here, my husband was at home with me all the time, as we settled in and started our volunteer work. "Alone time" meant that I was in one room and he was in another. Then, my husband went off to work for 8-10 hours a day. Then I realized that my need to be around people had always been met, leaving me to feel like the introvert of introverts. I was lonely. I felt isolated, because we were in a new place and so many of the people I knew were working during the day. I was alone, and then I began to understand the stories my friends & family members told me of feeling isolated & trapped at home, or of watching mindless tv shows just to have a semblance of human interaction.

I never understood scarcity until my pipes froze multiple times in our first winter in Cactus. Suddenly, I had no water, or limited water. I would fill bowls with water from the tub to wash dishes. It was inconvenient, but functional.

I didn't expect, when I prayed for compassion, that I would face difficulties that would allow me a greater sympathy with others. But maybe, if God just gave me compassion, I would not have valued it as much. Instead, God gave me empathy through shared experiences that allowed me to experience the compassion I so desperately wanted.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What Would Jesus Do? A Review of In His Steps

I recently finished a book called In His Steps “What Would Jesus Do?” by Charles M. Sheldon. I realized after reading this book that this book may have been the driving force behind the WWJD? movement of the 90s. What surprised me about this possibility was In His Steps was published in 1897.

The basic premise of this book is this: a pastor challenges his congregation to commit to asking themselves the question "What would Jesus do?" and then doing what Jesus would do for the next year. People examine their actions, from newspaper tycoons, to rich heiresses, from business men, to thugs. At the same time, people, even other Christians, think that to try to live in a way Jesus would is fanatical, over-the-top, and weird.

As I read this book, the thought struck me, how would have Jesus acted in the 1990s when WWJD? become a popular slogan, making money for Christian publishing companies? Would He have made money from a pithy catchphrase? Would He have marketed it to the churches?

Those questions aside, the author makes a point of having each character decide what would Jesus do in their shoes, no one else's shoes. They acknowledged that another person in similar circumstances may be called to act differently. They just were to try to live their lives in a way that they thought Jesus would, while meeting with others of a similar mind to pray for and encourage each other. Some people would ask advice of others, but the ultimate decision was each individual's, because each individual would be standing before God one day, answering for their actions.

I recommend this book. It is challenging, but it also makes me wonder, what would the world look like if every Christian asked themselves "What would Jesus do in my situation?" and then went & did that thing?

Monday, June 15, 2015

100 Prayers for Your Marriage and Giveaway!!!

Darlene Schacht has a new book out!! Check out 100 Prayers for your Marriage: Draw Close to Each Other and Closer to God at Amazon!!




I am so very excited about this book!!

Prayer is critical to a Christian marriage, but sometimes, it's hard to know what or how to pray. The prayers in this book are themed and paired with Bible verses. It can be a beneficial resource in your marriage!!

But, wait, there's more!! 

As a member of Darlene Schacht's launch team, I am able to host a giveaway here on my blog. I am able to give 5 copies of her new e-book away for free!!!

So here's how it'll work...
You can enter below using the Rafflecopter form. At the end of the contest, I will contact the winners & email them their PDF copy of the e-book 100 Prayers for Your Marriage by Darlene Schacht.

May the odds be in your favor. :-)

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Liz's Favorite Verses Regarding Slander and Gossip


I tend to have a very broad definition of gossip & slander, so I decided to hit the books...or rather *The Book* to find out what the Bible had to say on these topics & what my view of them should be. It turns out, it has a lot to say. Here are my top verses on slander and gossip.

Verses on Slander 
Leviticus 19:16-In one word, "don't". In more words, "don't spread slander." Say what? Old Testament laws still are relevant today?
Psalm 15:1-5-David meditates on those who can live with God. (hint: no slander is part of the equation).
Psalm 101:5-Slanderers won't be tolerated. Silence the slanderers.
Proverbs 10:18-Do you want to be a fool? If so, spread slander!!
Proverbs 30:10-Slandering leads to cursing being brought down on you.
Matthew 12:31-Slander & sin can be forgiven, but don't blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 15:19-Slander, murder, adultery, immorality, and theft are evil thoughts from our sinful hearts.
Mark 7:20-23-Slander, murder, adultery, immorality, greed, malice, deceit, envy, arrogance, folly, and lewdness, and theft are evil thoughts from our sinful hearts.
Romans 1:28-32-See gossip.
1 Corinthians 4:12-13-When we are slandered, we are to answer kindly.
1 Corinthians 5:11-We aren't to associate with the slanderer (among other types of people).
1 Corinthians 6:9-11-Wrongdoers won't enter this Kingdom of God...this includes slanders.
2 Corinthians 12:20-See gossip.
Ephesians 4:31-We are to rid ourselves of many things, including slander.
Colossians 3:8-We are to rid ourselves of many things, including slander.
1 Timothy 5:14-We are to live in a way that the enemy cannot find a way to slander us.
2 Timothy 3:1-5-There will be slanderers (among other types of people) in the last days.
Titus 2:3-Older women shouldn't be slanderers.
Titus 3:1-2-We are to obey our leaders, do good, and not slander.
James 4:11-We aren't to slander each other.
1 Peter 2:1-We are to rid ourselves of many things, including slander.
1 Peter 3:15-16-Behave in such a way that slanderers are ashamed for having slandered you.

Verses on Gossip
Proverbs 11:13-Are you trustworthy? Or do you betray the confidence people place in you?
Proverbs 16:28-Are you ending people's friendships through your words?
Proverbs 20:19-Are you to be avoided? Do you betray confidences?
Proverbs 26:20-Are you stirring up strife and dissension? Are you preventing reconciliation through your words?
Romans 1:28-32-If you gossip or slander, you are of a depraved mind, doing something that ought not be done, and ranked with God-haters, disobedient children, murderers, and the like.
2 Corinthians 12:20-Anger, rage, slander, selfish ambition, and gossip are all grouped as negative things Paul worries the church in Corinth will display. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Does God Promise to Toss Our Sins in the Sea of Forgetfulness?

There are some beautiful word-pictures in the Christian faith, unfortunately, not all of these word-pictures are Biblical in their origin.

For instance, you may have been told that God will throw our sins in the Sea of Forgetfulness when we confess our sins to Him. While there are many verses talking about forgiven sin, there is no Sea of Forgetfulness mentioned by name in the Bible.

A person on answers.yahoo.com had some brilliant insights.

Now before freaking out because this word-picture is not Biblical in origin, let's look at some passages in the Bible that does address sin, forgiveness, and forgetfulness.

God will pardon our sin, have compassion on us, walk over our sin, and cast our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19) This one is the closest to the Sea of Forgetfulness, but it's a generic sea, not a named sea.

God is all-knowing. (1st John 3:19-20)

God wipes out our transgressions and chooses to not remember our sins. (Isaiah 43:25)

God will be known by us, forgive our sin, and remember our sins no more. (Jeremiah 31:34)

God will be merciful and remember our sins no more. (Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17)


Our sins will be cleansed (Isaiah 1:18)

God has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (hint: they never meet). Psalm 103:12

God forgives us and shows lovingkindness. (Psalm 86:5)

Take heart, God promises to not remember our sins. He promises to throw them away and forgive us. That's a reason to celebrate, even if there is no specific sea of forgetfulness.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Being Considerate on Mother's Day

Mother's Day evokes a lot of strong emotions for a lot of women. Some emotions are positive, like the warm fuzzies I get when I think of my mom, grandma, & mother-in-law. They have served, guided, and encouraged me throughout my life and have set a good example of sacrificial love. Other emotions are painted blue, especially if you are remembering a mother who has died. Some women feel emotional pain, as they are unable to bear children or had a baby who died. There is a wonderfully heartfelt and loving open letter written by a non-mother to pastors about the painful side of Mother's Day for many women.

Recently, when I had a survey online asking about my Mother's Day habits, I actually felt dread when I realized that this holiday was quickly approaching once more.

I dread Mother's Day because my go-to site for dating your spouse switches from practical ideas to date your spouse to almost all Mother's-Day-themed for an entire month.

I dread Mother's Day because I know for the 5th year in a row, I will be left sitting in the pews at my church, while I count just how many women in the church are NOT mothers and how many are married but still childless. One year, all but three women in the church were lined up in front of the church & of the three of us remaining, two were married but childless.

I dread Mother's Day because I know that in the joy of first & second years of motherhood & Mother's Day celebration, my facebook will be flooded with reminders of what I lack...I mean, pictures of Mother's Day presents & celebrations. Don't get me wrong, I celebrate those special years with my friends. I especially celebrate my friend who got pregnant after 13 years of marriage & my friend who was told she couldn't have kids, but she is a proud mama. But when I see those pictures, even while I am happy for my friends, I am reminded that I have been married for over 4 years & still do not have children. I am reminded how I must smile as I tell yet another person that my husband & I don't have kids. I am reminded of how I am on the outside of the elite club of motherhood.

I dread Mother's Day because I feel left out and like my value is somehow lessened because I have not given birth or adopted a child. There is no wife's day that is celebrated. In the US, there is little recognition of the International Women's Day (March 8th) like in many other countries around the world. As I work through why I dread Mother's Day, I realize that the unspoken message that I am getting from the church is that I am somehow worth-less than mothers, that I am somehow incomplete & not fulfilling my purpose if I am not a mother. I feel like my contributions to my household & family are not acknowledged or recognized because no pint-sized person is the recipient. Society doesn't send this message; the church does. Society just capitalizes on yet another money-making holiday. But the church elevates, praises, & reveres mothers so much, while childless wives and single women are left on the outside (unless they are told that they can to get in on the celebration by giving birth or adopting kids).

I made a basic Venn Diagram that maps some (but not all) of the tasks of 'just' a wife and 'just' a mother, and what are the shared/overlapped tasks. As 'just' a wife, I still do many of things that mothers get praised for, but there is no public praise or pat on the back for working at home without kids. Even though I cook, clean, laundry, and keep house for my husband, it does not get recognized with a special day because I am 'just' a wife and not a wife AND mother.




I don't mean to be a downer in this blog post, but imagine with me the pain of a woman who...
-cannot physically have children
-who lost a child through miscarriage
-who lost a child through an accident
-still serves her family, even if her family is just two people

So this Mother's Day, as you celebrate being a mother (or expressing gratitude to your own mothers or mother-figures), I encourage you to reach out to non-mothers. Tell them why you value them. Notice what they do for their husbands, if they are married. Tell them 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Working on a God-Sized Project

Sometimes, I feel a little intimidated by our assigned work in Cactus. Sometimes, I get a glimpse of how HUGE this project of developing an program for English as a Second Language students truly is.

I realize that I cannot do this on my own, or even with the help of other dedicated individuals. This is a God-sized project.

Many times, I am not working on God-sized projects, but rather Liz-sized projects. I spend my time on things I can handle, or activities that sorta stretch me but not too far, mind you!

 There are several benefits to joining with God on a God-sized project:
1. I really depend on prayer.
2. I realize that I cannot do this alone (contrary to the American spirit of independence and self-reliance, Christianity consists of dependence on God and interdependence on our brothers & sisters).
3. The work is worthwhile. To do work that has eternal significance is highly encouraging and motivating.
4. He does most of the work. We see Him work and orchestrate events, sometimes before we are even aware that we have the need.

Working on a God-sized project may be intimidating, but it is worthwhile.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Prayer Warriors Needed

Lucas & I are starting up an ESL (English as a Second Language*) program in Cactus, Texas. Our students are immigrants & refugees. Although our students don't have to be Christian to take our English program, Lucas & I recognize, as the program's coordinators, the vital need for all aspects of the program to be saturated in prayer.

We would like for people to commit to praying for the Cactus Nazarene Ministry Center and its ESL program. If you would like to join in praying for the CNMC's ESL program, email us at CNMCesl@gmail.com to ask to be put on the monthly prayer requests email and to receive a prayer prompt guide. (Sorry for those who prefer to get prayer requests in the mail. We are just emailing them out at this time).

Our current needs:
1. Wisdom in planning the budget & financial provision for the program. Due to start-up costs (i.e. one-time expenditures) there are a lot of expensive needs in the first year's budget.

2. Volunteers. We need teachers, kitchen helpers, and child-care providers to make our program possible. By ourselves, Lucas & I could teach up to 20 students, but we are expecting to have hundreds sign up. If you are interested in teaching or volunteering, please email us at CNMCesl@gmail.com to let us know about your interest. If you speak English & want to empower refugees & immigrants, you meet our criteria.


3. Wisdom in choosing curriculum, advertising the program, and other decisions (such as which days & times to hold classes, class size, etc).

4. Future students. Please pray for the students we will be teaching this year.

5. The construction on the ministry center to be completed so we can use it for our English classes.

*Actually, for many of the residents of Cactus, English will not be the first or second language they learn. We met one refugee who speaks 7 languages!! While it is a more fitting name to call our program EFL (English as a Foreign Language), ESL is a more commonly recognized acronym.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Luke 9:23 In My Life

Deny oneself. Pick up one's cross. Follow Jesus. (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23)

While these verses are quotable, I wonder how it looks to apply them to our lives. 

Self-denial implies self-sacrifice and...well, denying myself things that I want. Although there are others out there who are living with more stuff and less self-denial, how well I am denying myself does not depend on comparison. I know that while I could be more self-indulgent than I am, I am not exactly denying myself.

A cross is a heavy, instrument of torture and death. It might get in the way of how I live my life. What is my cross? What is my burden? What am I doing out of love and duty for Christ?

Follow Jesus. Surely this command means more than to just attend church, throw a bill in the offering plate, read my Bible, and recite prayers. Surely it means to study Jesus, to emulate Him, to seek His input, and to follow His instructions. 

It is a common practice to seek out the reassuring promises of Jesus and God throughout the Bible, but also within the same holy pages are commands that those who love God as called to obey (read 1 John for more details). These include instructions to be generous, share the gospel with the lost, and even sell our possessions & give to the poor (see Luke 12:33). While we typically tie that last instruction as one specifically given to the rich young ruler in Mark 7:17-27, it was also given in Luke to Jesus' disciples. Therefore, if I am a follower of Christ, then that command applies to me as well.

Luke 9:23 has become especially meaningful of late. Then Jesus said to them all, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me."

Monday, March 16, 2015

Meaningful Verses in the Life of Liz o' the Niche

This post started because of facebook. I was challenged to post a Scripture on my facebook wall every day for a week and challenge a friend to do the same. However, I much prefer to have one large post than seven smaller ones, so I decided to post my top 8 meaningful verses (passages) and tell why they matter so much to me.


Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. -Luke 9:23
I have decided that this verse is my life verse (or at least my year verse). It challenges me to do more than I am doing, in order that I might be a better disciple of Christ. As I write this in the middle of Lent, I ask myself what it looks like for Liz o' the Niche to deny herself, what is my cross that I am to take up daily, and how well am I following Jesus.

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? -Isaiah 58:6-7
I love Isaiah 58. I encourage you to read all of it. These specific verses remind me that fast is not just about self-denial for self-denial's sake, but rather, so I can better care for the poor, the hungry, the naked, and the oppressed. It challenges me to go beyond the traditional Lenten fast of giving up something, but rather I should give something up in order to give more in another area.


“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. -Proverbs 30:7-9
This is one of my favorite prayers in the Bible, but I also recognize that it is very dangerous. When I pray for just "enough" I realize that a lot of the time, my definition of enough is my higher than is necessary. I realize that because I live in America & I have a car, I drive to the grocery store to buy my weekly (and sometimes monthly) food. I never have only had enough food for today. Dare I pray this pray of enough in a land of excess?


Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. -James 1:22
Yes, I know that we are saved by faith through grace so than none can boast. But Jesus said that not everyone who calls Him "Lord" will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but rather those who do God's will (Matthew 7:21). He also said that if we love Him, we will keep His commands (John 14:15-21). This verse reminds me that faith without deeds are dead (and actions without love are worthless). If I say I am a follower of Christ, I best be following His Way, example, and instructions.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. -Proverbs 16:9
As a (recovering) control freak, I need a reminder that God is directing my path and my plans are not the driving force of my life. I'm working on being more available to spontaneous events and needs, but it's a work in progress.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. -Habakkuk 3:17-18
Habakkuk? Who have a favorite verse in Habakkuk? Is that really in my Bible? I discovered these verses when I was reading Pollyanna and she was talking about the rejoicing texts. I searched the Bible for "rejoice", "glad", "joy", and other similar words. Although my life has not been touched by famine and financial loss, these verses serve as a reminder that when trials come, I should still rejoice in God.

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? -1 John 3:17
I discovered this verse when I was reading Living More with Less. I have become convinced that when the Bible talks about the rich, it applies to the "average" Christian in the US. Rich does not just refer to the mega-wealthy, but rather it refers to people with enough food, clothing, water, and shelter. It refers to us who have a week's worth of food in our house. It refers to us who don't have to depend on God to meet our financial needs. This ties back to my favorite verse in Proverbs, because I don't want to disown God. When I read the Gospels and the rest of Bible, I never find the phrase "the deserving poor". God didn't add that distinction, we did. My frugality would result in stinginess without the generosity of my husband prompting me to give.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" Hebrews 13:5-6
These verses challenge me to keep my life free from the love of money and to BE CONTENT (a rare trait in our culture of consumerism). The funny thing is, I have read this verse in several books recently, but they all leave out the first half of verse 5. The quote says that God has told us that He'd never leave us nor forsake us, but the book authors leave out the command to keep our lives free from the love of money and to be content with what we have. I need a reminder to not go after security in riches and to be content instead of looking for the next great deal.

You might find it odd that my top 8 verses aren't more promise filled and encouraging. This happened for two reasons, 1) my inner hipster resisted selecting the "popular" verses, the ones that we normally go to and 2) My life is comfortable enough that right now I am wrestling with the challenging commands of the Bible and looking at how I can live them out. I don't have anything against verses of comfort and reassurance, but rather, I feel drawn to verses that challenge me to better live for my Savior.

New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ways to Pray for Your Husband

As a Christian, I'm a big believer in prayer. As a Christian wife, I'm in favor of praying for my husband. This list is by no means complete, but these are some prayer prompts to cover your husband in prayer.

Ways to Pray for Your Husband

1. Thank God for your husband. I once read something online that really made me think: What if the only things you have tomorrow are the things that you thank God for today? Since then, I have thanked God daily for my husband. Thanking God for your husband helps you stay grateful for him.

2. Pray for upcoming events. If your husband has a report that's almost due, lift it up in prayer. If he's going to spend time with his guy friends, pray for their safety. Lift up your husband's activities as a way to pray for him.

3. Pray for his character & faith. Take time to thank God for your husband's positive character traits. Silently pray for areas you feel may not be as strong.

4. Pray for his body. Ask God to protect your husband's body & to keep it healthy.

5. Pray for your marriage. Ask God to show you things you need to change.

What are ways that you pray for your husband?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why Self-Denial Matters

I am a fan of Lent, the 40 days (not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Resurrection Sunday. Technically there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Resurrection Sunday, but historically Sundays are not days of fasting, because they are days when we celebrate the presence of the bridegroom with us. It is a time of self-denial, fasting, and repentance. Some traditions have three main pillars of lent: prayer, fasting, and service. There are a lot of articles and ideas about fasting and what to deny ourselves floating around the internet, so I won't try to reproduce them.

Self-denial is not a popular theme in our world today. Advertisements and stores urge us to buy new products to support our economy and find happiness...until the next update or upgrade comes out. Yet, Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, to take up our crosses, and follow Him (Matthew 10:38, Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23).

Lent is not about some masochistic delight in denying ourselves. Isaiah 58 records that God is not pleased when we fast and humble ourselves but also continue to exploit and fight with others. God wants our fast to fight against injustice and oppression. Instead of just denying ourselves food, He wants us to share our food with the hungry. God wants us to shelter the wanderer and to clothe the naked. If we give up shopping, can we also donate some of our bounty of clothes or could we donate the money we would have spent to distribute clothes to the naked?

Lent is not a time to shed those extra pounds from Christmas dinner or to build our bank account. Fasting can lead to losing weight and saving money, but that's not God's purpose. We aren't to replace one bad habit with an equally bad habit. We aren't even to cut out one bad habit for our benefit. We are to deny ourselves to grow closer to God and to recognize that the people around us are also made in God's image.

What might fasting look like in today's world, through the eyes of Isaiah 58?
-If we give up coffee, soda, or other beverages, what if we also gave money to build wells in impoverished nations?
-If we give up social media or other entertainment, how can we grow closer to God? Could we read devotionals, pray, study the Bible, or share hospitality with a neighbor?
-If we give up chocolate or junk food, will we also donate food to the food pantry?

In the 'glorious land of opportunity', it is counter-cultural to deny ourselves anything. It is odd to save up for a big purchase when credit cards are so easily accessible. But giving myself my every desire removes my dependence on Jehovah Jirah (the God who Provides). Denying myself reminds that that Liz o' the niche is not lord of her life, but rather, that I serve a Savior who demands my everything.

When I reach heaven's gates, I want to be told "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come and share in your master's happiness." (Matthew 25:21) I want to have used my resources and gifts in a way that brought glory to God throughout my life.

I don't want to hear, "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you." (James 5:1-6)

I don't want to one day look in the eyes of my brothers and sisters and hear them say, "You chose desserts over feeding us while we were starving. You chose expensive beverages while we were dying of thirst. You chose to put more clothes in an already full closet while we were shivering with cold. You prayed that we would be warm and well-fed, but did nothing about our needs (James 2:15-17). You saw us in need and refused to help; how can you say that God's love was in you (1 John 3:17)?"

By choosing to deny myself, by becoming less in a world of self-glorification, I can better care for the least of these and by doing so, better care for Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:31-46)


Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Biblical Thoughts on Love



Since Valentine’s Day is in February, it seemed fitting to have look at love. 

However, it is hard to just choose one passage on love. 
1 John 3:16-18, 1 John 4:7-5:5, and many other fitting passages. 

The Bible reminds us that without love, we are nothing despite our accomplishments.  (1 Corinthians 13)

It informs us that God first loved us and calls us His children (John 3:16 and 1 John 3:1). 

The Bible teaches us that love is self-sacrificial, active, and relational (1 John 3:16-18). 

Love comes from God and so we should love each other (1 John 4:7-5:5). 

We should we love God's children by loving God and carrying out His commands (1 John 4:7-5:5). 

It's not surprising that we love a God who is pure, holy, compassionate, merciful, and just. It is surprising that God loves us, sinners though we are (1 John 4:7-5:5).

Love should characterize our interactions with each other and with non-believers. 

Then when we are asked why we are doing something, we can reply, God loves you (John 3:16), Jesus loves you (John 15:12-17), and I love you (John 13:34-35).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How an Introvert Makes Friends Through Crocheting in Church

In the month that my husband and I have been in Cactus, I've gotten a reputation as a crocheter in our local church. This reputation is well-founded, because every Sunday School lesson, every Sunday service, and every Wednesday Bible Study, I am crocheting a scarf.

While to some this may seem rude or even outright disrespectful of the speaker & God, I do not crochet out of spite or in order to distract myself.

Why I crochet:  I am able to focus on the lesson better when my hands are occupied. Without something to keep my hands busy, I fidget terribly. In the past, I would play with my "fidget rock," a smooth rock to keep my hands busy, but I would often drop it or misplace it in my purse. Keeping my hands busy helps me to still my mind & not chase rabbit trails through the Bible (since a Study Bible, while wonderful, can change my focus from the speaker to the footnotes & side articles).

How it effects others: I let my teachers, pastors, and fellow church-members know that I fidget unless I have something to occupy my hands. By being upfront about what I am doing & why I am doing it, people don't have to wonder at my actions instead of paying attention to the speaker. Most of my work is done in my lap so it's not a huge distraction for others.

What blessing does it bring: My hobby gives me something else to look forward to about Sundays & Wednesdays. Most days, I do not crochet at all. Other days, I may just crochet in the evening while my husband & I watch a movie. Because I am connecting an activity that I like with church services that I like, I end up really looking forward to the services & the conversations that follow.

How I'm not distracted: I am doing simple repetitive stitches so I can put down my project to look up a Bible passage and so I don't need to be counting stitches. It helps me push out mental distractions & focus on the speaker's message.


Why I want to keep it up: Most importantly, I feel like this is a community-building activity. I am a shy person and it is a daunting task to begin to get to know an entire congregation. Since I started crocheting, I have met other crocheters, knitters, and sewers in the church. We are talking, not just about the weather, but also about our hobbies & our progress in them. Because of this, I am learning names & starting friendships. While people are nice when they don't know my hobbies, I feel valued when I am asked about the progress of my scarf & how well I am learning stitches.

When a friend of mine moved into a new neighborhood & got a puppy, she noticed that her neighbors talked more with her after she got the puppy. It's like people are waiting for an invitation to begin meaningful conversations.

I challenge you to look for ways of going beyond small talk. Find ways to learn more about new people & share about your own interests.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pray for the Persecuted Church

Will you join me in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world?

The Open Door USA releases an annual World Watch List each year.

This list have the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution worldwide.

You can download fact sheets about each country, a global map of persecution, and a report highlighting the top three countries here.

You can even sign up for weekly prayer prompts country by country and monthly prayer calendars. For general prayer requests of persecuted Christians, check out Persecution.

Will you join me in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world?

Will you suggest that your church participate in the international day of prayer for the persecuted church? 

Will you commit to praying for one of the top 50 countries each week this year? Will you encourage others to join you?

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Review of Choosing Him All Over Again by Juana Mikels

I was given the opportunity to be on the blogger launch team for "Choosing Him All Over Again". This is a wonderful (true) story of redemption by Juana Mikels. I received an early PDF of the book to read & review, so without further ado, here is my review.

It came out on Amazon on December 10th (2014) and in other places in January 5th, 2015.

I was first intrigued by the cover of this book, because Elisabeth Elliot is one of my heroes of the faith & she endorsed Juana's book. Juana gives her back story, tells of her separation, and eventually reconciliation. She is incredibly open with her past, her sins, & her mistakes that brought her marriage down. Her book is divided into three sections: The Old Life, The New Life, and The Life of Faith & Marriage.

While this book is specifically written for a Christian wife with a non-Christian husband (or a husband who isn't acting like a Christian) or separated spouses, I found it to be very useful for my marriage as well. Juana's book is full of godly advice, intriguing quotes by other Christians, and references to the best book of all: the Bible.



 

Juana references other books we can read about Christian marriage & Christian reconciliation and she emphasizes the importance of finding godly counselor to help navigate a separation.

Juana writes about the importance of being obedient to God & obeying your husband in the little things. Her book nudges women to cater to their husband's preferences, instead of ignoring his requests. She encourages women to prioritize God first, then their husband (& home), and finally others. 

I loved the resources this book had to offer. Juana gives 9 areas you can focus on during a separation & reconciliation in your marriage. The book gives 11 checkpoints to refresh your marriage and prayers you can pray for your husband.

For those who are interested in getting "Choosing Him All Over Again" by Juana Mikels, there is a FREE study guide at Ambassador International.

So for those interested in reading a Christian book on separation & reconciliation, or just looking to improve your marriage, I recommend Juana Mikels' book Choosing Him All Over Again.

1/26/15
Anonymous, I couldn't post this reply as a comment or a reply to your comment for some reason, but here is my reply to your comment:

This is Juana's story and her experience does not include domestic violence, so I did not expect her to talk about it. My interpretation of this book was that marriage is worth fighting & working for, even though society doesn't value working through problems. Since Juana's story is one of seperation & reconciliation (without abuse in the mix), she writes about what she knows and not about what she didn't experience. While this book doesn't specifically address domestic violence, it does talk about not enabling self-destructive and family-destructive choices.
 
A quick online search for Christian resources for abused spouses turns up many results such as: http://www.abusedwomen.org/resources.html
-Liz O' the Niche