Saturday, February 28, 2015

Untimed suffering

Everywhere I have looked lately has had sickness and death. From relatives of my volunteers at work dying to my dad's uncle passing away to my grandma being diagnosed with cancer to prominent members of the community dying.

Then of course there are the terrible stories of death and destruction in the news, especially the heart-wrenching stories of the 21 Christians being beheaded overseas by ISIS. It made me sick just reading about it.

That's what a sinful world brings about --- death and illness and destruction. What do we do in times like this?

We pray, we draw close to God and we ask for strength to deal with the circumstances around us in a way that we couldn't without our savior.

This winter, to stay in shape, we've been doing Insanity and just started T25. These workout programs are intense, but what is nice is there is a timer scrolling across the screen. With each exercise, I can see how much time I have to endure the struggle. When you know it's only 10 more seconds, it helps you deal with the pain and keep going.

Life isn't like Insanity and T25. You don't always know how long you will need to endure hardship and struggling. There isn't a timer under us showing us how much longer we have to keep going. However, we do know that suffering is only temporary.

Like at the end of a workout, when you see the results in your body and you feel good about what you did, Christians know that suffering will end with awesome results. We will be stronger mentally and spiritually, and we will have the greatest rewards of all in heaven.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spiritual leadership in the church

So, a whole week has passed since I blogged. Sometimes life goes by and you don't even see the time passing.

I had a good excuse for not blogging though --- Nate was off work for three days and we spent some good quality time together. It was nice.

Today he's back at work, so I'm back to blogging. I bet this looks bad me on my phone during the church service, but technology is increasing and let's me take sermon notes right as I hear them. Plus, it saves the middle man of paper notes, so it's good for the environment. Win win.

We're still in 1 Peter and now talking about sheep and shepherds.

A church is led by its shepherd --- the pastor --- and the elders, who are men helping to lead. These don't have to be old men but men of any age who are spiritually wise and are called to help shepherd the flock.

Sheep are dumb animals. If they get lost, they can't find their own way. They will walk in circles until they die unless a shepherd finds them. They are also easily led astray. There is a Judas sheep that is trained to lead others to slaughter. He is put in a group of sheep and walks into the slaughterhouse and all the other sheep follow him.

We need shepherds to find us, protect us, feed us.

I have met people who don't think they need church. They read the Bible and watch TV sermons and pray in their own. That's great, but what if something goes wrong? There is no one to find you, to protect you, to feed you and help you grow spiritually. You need church and a good pastor and elders.

That is one thing I've loved about my current church. The pastor delves so deeply into Scripture and goes back to the original language and brings out points I never would have known on my own. I have grown in my knowledge of the Bible through his shepherding, and otherwise I would have been walking in more circles and not growing as well as I could have been.

God has put people in charge of the church, and we are to submit to that leadership. Like any leader God puts over us --- government and police, husbands, parents,  pastors --- we are to submit to that authority because they are submitting to God's leadership. They are there to teach us and lead us. That is God's plan.

Use the biblical model to find a church that follows the map of spiritual leadership so you can trust that leadership in your life.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sermon notes 1 Peter 4:12-19

1 Peter talks a lot about suffering, and coming to church week after week to talk about suffering seems a little depressing.

Think about it though. Church isn't supposed to be all rainbows and butterflies. It's supposed to train us for life, and suffering is a part of life. If you're not suffering now, be prepared for some kind of trial and suffering in the future. We will endure suffering better if we're prepared for it.

The heading of 1 Peter that starts with verse 12 is "Suffering for being a Christian." That suffering is expected. People will not be happy that you are a Christian, and the more you are like Jesus the more you should expect to be hated.When we live righteous lives in an unrighteous world, it makes people uncomfortable and annoyed.

Suffering is actually good for us, and it proves our faith. It is even a blessing.

"If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." What a way to look at things when you are suffering for God. Think about someone making fun of you for your beliefs and you look at them and smile and say "thank you," and you really mean it.

Don't be afraid to talk about Jesus. We will be blessed on Earth and in heaven because of it. We will be filled with God's glory. It might not look like a blessing -- it's not necessarily financial or tangible -- but is a manifestation of God's presence. Nothing is a greater blessing than that.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A perfect Valentine's Day

It's not Valentine's Day unless it includes a bouquet of at least a dozen red roses, a box of gourmet chocolates (not those stupid Walgreens kind) and a dinner out --- including fine champagne.

Valentine's Day needs a pretty card and some nice underwear to top it off. Oh, and candles. Candles make the day perfect.

This is how most women think. Valentine's Day can be quite stressful on men who are trying to make sure their girlfriends or wives are satisfied. If they don't measure up, those women can make the day a living nightmare.

Instead of thinking all that you want, think about all that you can give on Valentine's Day. Nate and I are on a pretty tight budget, and we went out for dinner last weekend so it was a home-cooked meal for us tonight.

We also don't do presents for holidays, instead saving up for vacations, and so it might not seem like Valentine's Day was that special.

You know what made it special though? My wonderful husband.

I thought about how Valentine's Day shouldn't be concentrating on what I get but on how I could make the day nice for him. It was simple, but I got up at 5:30 a.m. when he was getting ready for work and I made him an egg sandwich and some French press coffee that he could take with him.

He has been craving cookies since our oven has been broken, so I made a giant cookie cake and baked it low and slow (for 1.5 hours) in the top oven of the double oven. (The heating element is too close so it's not good for baked goods. They burn.) It turned out OK in the end.

Then I made some heart-shaped homemade raviolis, because Nate loves homemade ravioli. They are tedious, but I knew that he loved them.

After dinner, he was all smiles. He said it hit the spot.

That smile was all I needed.

That smile makes a perfect Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Quality items, not quantity shopping

For a long time, my expendable income was often spent on clothes. When you're a teenage girl and a college student, what else do you need to spend money on?

That changed when I got married and had a home of my own. Then there was decorating, going to restaurants, spending time with friends, items my husband wants, let alone groceries and toiletries and cleaning supplies and...the list goes on.

For quite a while, neither Nate nor I bought any clothes. We have closets full of clothes that we have had for eight or more years. Half of my clothes, and I don't think I'm exaggerating, are hand-me-downs from my mom.

I'm proud that we are not obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses, but there also comes a time to invest in some new clothes. I think we're about there. However, now that I do need to buy some new items, my philosophy needs to change. Instead of purchasing those pieces that I can get a large quantity of and are not high quality, I need to buy pieces that are going to last. I'm not going to grow anymore, so I might as well get stuff that's going to last.

Plus, I need certain items. Usually, I just bought good deals when I found them. That usually meant I had lots of tops and dresses. Those are not the items that I need in my closet. I need a pair of leather pumps that will last. I keep trying to find a deal, and I'm not seeing it.

Then as I shop, I'm tempted to buy the deals --- to get more tops and dresses and bikinis that I can use on vacation. However, I go on vacation once a year and I need these other items much more.

I had a new bikini in my shopping cart online tonight. I almost bought it. It was exactly what I wanted, and it was a great deal. However, I don't need it. I have four for vacation, which is quite enough.

I finally stepped back and thought about what we needed. If anyone needs a swimsuit, it's Nate. He has one pair of good trunks that he wears every day when we're on vacation. We should invest in his swimwear needs and not mine.

When I stopped the impulse shopping and started to think about investing our money in wise ways, I X'd out of the store and started to look for items that we actually need.

My shopping habits are going to have to change a bit. That might take some time!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sermon notes --- Pray, Love, Serve

Judgement day was set for May 21, 2011, according to Harold Camping.

It's February 8, 2015, and Christ has obviously not come back, so he was wrong.

Today's sermon is on 1 Peter 4:7-11. Read it for yourself real quick.

It starts off with "The end of all things is near." It's been about 2,000 years since then, so near doesn't mean in a few years. It simply means the return of Christ is the next thing we look forward to.

How do we live if we know today is "the end of days"?

To sum it up, wisely.

This has been a topic on Nate's and my mind. When we consider having children in the future, we ask if we want to bring children into this messed up world. We wonder if the end is near, should we start a family? There's not an easy answer, and we turn to prayer to ask for God's will in this.

Prayer is the first thing Peter told us to do in these times. "Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." Prayer is powerful, and should be the first place we turn not what we do after we think we have solved the problem ourselves.

Second, in these times we're supposed to show love.  The second half of the verse says "love covers over a multitude of sins."

This is great for marriage. Our love for each other should cover over a multitude of sins. We should forgive, again and again.

As Christians, we should love and forgive beyond our marriages. We need to show love and forgiveness. The pastor put it as we should be hard to offend. Think how hard to offend Jesus is --- our sins are serious but he forgives his children so readily.

That love then should overflow. It turns into hospitality. We use our gifts to serve.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Life-giving water


There are 16 ounces sitting in a fluorescent green water bottle next to me, just staring at me.

"Drink me."

As a part of our health insurance for work, we're given health challenges to participate in for deductions on our insurance and gift cards. The first one this year is tracking water intake and sleep. Sleep is not anything I have to worry about. Water intake is.

Even as a kid, we had a glass of water with dinner and were to drink it before we left the table. Today, that glad usually gets overlooked and then dumped after dinner.

There are many days I realize by 9 p.m. that I haven't drank anything, other than coffee.

I know I should drink more, and this challenge will hopefully get me into a better habit, but I just don't like drinking water. It's boring.

Water has a ton of health benefits, like most healthy habits. But that doesn't make it enjoyable.

I relate it back to my walk with God. Often what is best for me -- reading the Bible, praying -- I mean to do but I overlook. It's boring, and I'm sorry Lord that I feel that way. But there would be so many benefits if I would do it as much as I'm supposed to.

If I didn't have clean water to drink and had to go without it, it would be horrible. If I didn't have access to a Bible and had to rely on memory, it would be horrible. I need to soak up the good that has been provided to me and make those new habits.

I know I will see the good.  I just need to empty the green bottle.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Guy time

I had to work today --- most people do on Wednesdays --- but Nate's schedule gives him odd days off so he had a free mid-week day.

He got to use that free time to go snowmobiling with a friend, and although I haven't talked to him more than just a quick "Are you coming home for dinner?" I could tell from his voice it was a good day.

When we started dating, it took me quite a while to realize that Nate needed guy time. I grew up with parents who hardly ever spent time with friends; they just spent time together. That is wonderful, and if it satisfied both of their needs, that's great for them. I lean more toward that way. I have beautiful, kind, sweet, intelligent, supportive, awesome girlfriends. I love to spend time with them. But if I'm being completely honest, I could spend all my time with Nate and not really need anyone else.

The difference in our personalities was hard to overcome when we were younger. I didn't understand why Nate didn't always want to be with me, and he didn't understand why I couldn't understand his need for male companionship. It led to frustrating conversations, butting heads and tears on my part.

Although it sometimes still aches a little when Nate wants to do something without me, I've come to grips with the fact that he needs other people more than I do. Then when he comes home, he truly wants to be home and wants to be with me and has a happy demeanor. How can I fault that?

Marriage is so much about compromise. So many people think that their perfect match is going to be just like them and, well, perfect. No one is. And no two people are completely compatible. It takes a lot of time and learning to see what your partner needs, and then it takes patience and selflessness to allow give it to them.

I try to let Nate have enough guy time, but he has also realized that I need to be with him and he allows me to butt in on his guy time and come along often as well. In fact, he lets me come along way more than he has time to himself with his male comrades. What can I say? He's a wonderful husband.

Sometimes when our spouses want something that doesn't make sense to us, we have to stop and take a step back and think --- is this making them happy? And if it is, just let it roll.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sermon notes 1 Peter 4

Sometimes we have to choose to suffer.

That sounds weird, but think about it for a second. You are with a group of people who are gossiping and the name of a friend of yours is brought up. Others look at you and wait for you to add your own comments.

You know you need to stand up for your friend and not fuel the gossip. However, that will mean you are shunned from this group and soon they will start talking about you. They might even start making fun of you right then and there.

You can choose to sin and join in or to do what's right and suffer for it.

"Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves in the same attitude, because he who had suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires but rather for the will of God." 1 Peter 4:1-2

It is always better to choose suffering. Yet again, that sounds weird. Why would we choose to be in pain?

That's why we can't see this life as only this life. If these 80 or 90 years are all we have, of course we choose the easy, sinful way. If we realize that this life is so temporary compared to eternity, a little suffering doesn't seem quite as weird when it leads to a lifetime with God in heaven.

Choosing suffering shows ourselves we have made a break from sin. We don't have to live for human passions. We have a choice to do what's right. That's the freedom offered by God.