Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sermon notes --- How work touches eternity

Sunday morning today started off with work, as I served in the church coffee bar. Making coffee, arranging cookies, refilling sugar and creamer, washing and drying dishes.

That work is not only for the people who come in and feel loved by the goodies in the coffee bar, it's for Jesus. I had to remind myself of that yesterday too, when I was cleaning house. That not only serves my husband and my guests --- like my dad who is visiting today --- but also Jesus. That work is glorifying God because I am working in my capacity as wife, a job that he gave me.

The pastor today is taking about how work connects to not only today but eternity. Jesus came to Earth to not only save our souls, but someday he will also come back and will resurrect our bodies. At the same time, Earth will be restored and renewed as well.

The new heaven and earth will be much like our earth now, except with all sin and all effects of sin removed. Think about how amazing that will be. We love our earth --- that's why everyone wants to be healthy and live a long life. We want to stay here. But think about how wonderful our world will be without sin and sickness and pain.

That goes for work in the new heavens and earth. If I worked in a coffee bar, I wouldn't dread the cleanup process and emptying the garbage. I wouldn't get upset as I picked up at home and had to do load after load of dishes. It would be perfect and pleasing. Work there will be as it was originally meant to be.

Our work here also touches eternity I'm a different way. What we do with our lives, which includes a lot of time spent at work, will be examined and tested. What was done for God will be rewarded. If the time we spent at work was not given to God and was not done for God, it will not be counted toward our eternal reward. So spend your time, including your time at work and working at home, working as if directly for God. That will be credited to you. It will not be forgotten.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sermon notes --- Working for God

We work for Jesus.

Look at your job --- no matter what it is. If you are a truck driver, recycle scrap metal, teach kids, patrol the streets or answer phones in the church office, you are serving God through your job. Since God created work, we are showing him respect and worshipping him by participating in what he created.

In our jobs, our faith should shine through in a variety of aspects.

We live in a culture of disrespect, from kids not respecting their elders to wives not respecting their husbands to the public not respecting the authority of police officers. As Christians, we are to respect people as God's creation. Respect does not mean agree with or like but to respect the authority of. That is true in the workplace, and our faith should make us different in that aspect.

Respect also includes a good attitude. The Bible says bond servants are to be well-pleasing and honest (not stealing). Then our faith shines through.

So often we live our lives without much thought. We don't realize that such little things as supporting our bosses or staying positive in a difficult situation or taking problems to the person instead of taking behind his or her back can make such a difference. Life is fast, but I think if we slowed down and thought before acting we could make such a difference. People are watching much more than we realize.

But it's not just conscious decisions that we make. We also need to work on our relationship with the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit is active in my life, I will naturally act differently. I will naturally react in a way that is God-pleasing. Because we are sinful creatures we have to remember we aren't different on our own. We are different with the help of God.

Basically, Christian employees should be the best employees. We should be sought-after, because working for God means we try to be excellent in all our work. Are you sought-after?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vacation: Part 6 --- Trying ackee

One of the reasons that we love all-inclusive resorts is the opportunity to try new things with no downside, especially in restaurants. Since it's all prepaid, if you don't like what you order, you order something else or go somewhere else and eat something different.

In Jamaica, Nate was telling me about something called ackee.

"You mean acai?" I asked.

He insisted that this fruit in Jamaica was called ackee, but I knew he was just mispronouncing it, so I spelled it for him and told him it was pronounced a-si-ee.

Then we passed by a tree on the Sandals resort that grew the national fruit, and a sign in front showed that it was an ackee tree. Yes, ackee.

I had never heard of that fruit before.

We ended up ordering an ackee and smoked marlin calzone at the pizza place one day, and I expected a purplish fruit to be inside. What spilled out was cheese, sauce, pink smoked marlin and what appeared to be scrambled eggs.

The calzone was absolutely delicious, and I continued to poke around to try to find the ackee. I didn't see anything beyond these yellow chunks, and we finally concluded that this was indeed the ackee. It wasn't sweet --- it was kind of savory and even a little salty.

The next day Nate tried ackee and saltfish, the national breakfast in Jamaica. Fish, peppers, onions and ackee don't sound like a great breakfast, but it was in fact quite delicious. Nate's dad had told us to try it, and he was right. It's oddly good.

That's why I love to try new things. Yes, sometimes I don't end up liking them. However, other times I find something that I end up absolutely loving. It's so worth it to expand your palate and your experiences by trying a little bit of everything.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vacation --- Part 5: Ow

Ow.

I rolled over and the skin on my shoulder scrunched, causing pain on my sunburned skin, so I rolled onto my back again and fell asleep.

Ow.

I had rolled onto the other side in my sleep and scrunched that side's tender, burned skin. I fell back asleep on my back again.

Ow.

OK, seriously. How many times was I going to unconsciously roll over and cause pain? I might as well get up and start the day at this point.

"Want to play tennis?" I asked Nate.

"Sure."

I went to get dressed and winced as I pulled my sportsbra over my head.

"Ow."

I just looked at Nate and laughed at my painfully red skin.

"OK, so clothes really hurt. I'm not sure how I'm going to play tennis and lift my arms up!"

"Yeah, I was kind of surprised that you wanted to."

Well, that left the option of changing into my swimsuit, and that process was even more painful. I did it like a Band-Aid and just went quickly, but I had enough pain to make me quite content with staying still the rest of the day.

Breakfast. Relaxing in the shade of the grape tree. Lunch. Relaxing in the shade. Champagne on the patio.

We were invited to a martini tasting event as a part of our room package, and I decided to put on a strapless maxi dress that I had just purchased. I wanted to wear it, but I was a little skittish since the strapless look wasn't great with my "tan" (burn) lines. I got over it and went out anyway, figuring most people had probably gone through a burn before.

The tasting was fun, because we got to talk to people from Tennessee and even from Britain. We met one couple from Nottingham --- yes, like Robin Hood's Nottingham. They said they lived only a few miles from Sherwood Forest and regaled us with the tale of Little John's tree which is a huge tourist attraction and is dying but held up by steel beams so it tourists aren't disappointed.

Dinner of escargot and duck pate, plus duck breast for the main course. A quick show at Le Caberet and finally an evening of dancing in the martini bar. A vacation that includes dancing? Can't get better than that!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Vacation: Part 4 --- To be or not to be active

I forgot to mention yesterday that on my burning hot day, we also decided to include a tennis match at about noon.

There weren't any rackets or balls available to borrow by the courts, so we had to call the concierge to figure out where to get them. We were told to go the the entertainment headquarters, and we went to the open window where we saw tennis equipment, board games and books to borrow. I'm surprised the guy behind the counter didn't look at us oddly as we picked up the equipment.

You see, when I thought people were motivated and nuts to get up and become so active early on vacation, I soon realized why they did it.

Tennis was fun, but we were sweating within seconds. The heat index was at its peak, and the humidity made it even hotter. Every game, we took a second to sit in the shade and drink water. Being outside on the hot, green cement didn't help my sunburn either as I soaked in even more rays.

We learned our lesson that it's better to get up early and be active, so we instead got up about 8 a.m. the next day and started off with a game of tennis. We went to the entertainment center to get equipment again, but when we got to the court we saw workers there with equipment to borrow. Obviously they expect people to play tennis in the morning and not at noon. Go figure.

My skin had already started to tighten, and I learned that I need sunscreen in a more tropical atmosphere than home. I also learned the importance of looking at the UV index. Since the UV index quickly skyrockets in Jamaica, we decided to stay in the shade until it was below 8.

We made our home under the same grape tree that we had the day before and watched the UV index so we could go out in the sun.

Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the UV index didn't get to 8 until about 4 p.m. So we stayed in the shade for quite a long time. Finally, we just decided to head back to the room and sit on the patio while enjoying our complimentary champagne.

We dressed up and headed to dinner, and then were walking hand-in-hand by the pool.

"What do you want to do?" I asked, all the while thinking that I could honestly go to bed, even if it was only about 9 p.m.

"I could go to bed," Nate said.

"OK, me too," I said, smiling at our similarities.

So, that's what we did. And it didn't matter that it was early. It was our vacation, and we did what we wanted.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Vacation: Part 3 --- Burning hot

We woke up on Monday morning --- well, I woke up --- and I popped out of bed. It was around 8 a.m., and I just wanted to vacation to start. So I opened the curtain and let light flood the room. My gracious husband opened his eyes slowly.

We got ready for the day quickly and opened the door to head to breakfast. The air was already a bit humid and warm, but coming from the Midwest we were used to humidity and thankful for the warmth.

I looked at the resort below and saw people in jogging clothes coming back from morning runs, and I could hear tennis balls being hit on the nearby court.

"Wow, people are way more motivated than us," I said.

We were just ready to eat and hit the beach. We sat down for a beautiful breakfast outdoors and had eggs benedict, which is my favorite breakfast but one I hardly ever get. With fresh fruit to start off the meal, I couldn't have asked for more.

We walked down to the other side of the resort and pitched our stuff on chairs along the beach. Nate pulled his chair into the shade, and, as always, I pulled mine into the sun. I never burn, and he burns easily so it seemed right.

I started my novel, and he just gazed out into the beautiful blue waters.

We watched the waves, headed out to a floating hammock and soaked in the warmth and then went on our way to lunch. We ended our day in the main pool and then went to our room to sit on the patio to share a bottle of champagne as the sun set.

The view was gorgeous. The sun was bright and turned the sky a mellow pink, purple, orange as it set behind a tree-lined peninsula just within view. The sight made me relax immediately as I breathed in the moist air and settled into the white, strapped deck chair. My body seemed to melt without the pent-up worries and cares that come with daily life.

I showered and put on a brand new dress for dinner, one that I had picked up at TJ Maxx for $11. It was even Express brand, so I knew it was a good deal. I took the chance at curling my newly-cut hair, and it worked, although in that humidity it didn't last long.

I walked out to the patio and spun for my husband who was still relaxing, as it takes him a grand total of 10 minutes to shower and get ready, even for a nice dinner. He whistled as usual, and then when I sat down he realized just what I looked like.

"You are burnt."

My skin was a delightful shade of red, and my "tan" lines were obvious, although the dress straps hid them pretty well. As I said, I never burn so Nate found it comical that I was quite crispy after a day in the sun without sunscreen.

"I've got to take your picture."

"You want to document that I'm burnt?"

"Yes, in the 11 years we have spent together I have never seen you burnt!" I smiled for his iPhone camera, no idea what was to happen in the days to come thanks to my lack of sun care.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Vacation: Part 2 --- A sensitive place in Jamaica

Since we arrived at the resort about 3 p.m., we had plenty of time to still relax and enjoy the first day there. We showered and headed out to explore the resort.

It was beautiful; we loved that this resort was completely full of nature. There were swallows swooping around and cattle egrets walking along the shore. A variety of palm trees graced that landscape as did these giant trees with grape-like fruit on them. The whole place was just very natural, and that appeals to us.

As we were walking, a Sandals photographer approached us and asked to take some pictures. We haven't ever done this before, because we know we won't buy any, but we acquiesced this time. We took a couple of photos and told Tavon this was enough. He wouldn't let us go though.

Instead, he started intriguing us with bits of knowledge about the island. He told us the difference between a fox-tail palm and a fish-tail palm, and then he would show us different tropical flowers, all while dispersing it with photos.

No matter how we tried, he was really interesting, and although we didn't want anymore pictures we started to enjoy ourselves and kept following him along.

We got to what Tavon said would be the end of our photo journey, and he walked into a grassy area to show us one more item.

Before we left for Jamaica, I had talked to one of our volunteers at work and she told me about a plant in Jamaica that folds up when you touch it. It immediately became my goal to find this sensitive plant.

Well, Tavon started to tell us that Jamaica had a plant of which there are only three varieties worldwide. He said one variety of this plant is the Venus flytrap, because it responds to touch. That's when it clicked.

"Are you going to show us a sensitive plant?" I almost squealed...OK, I did squeal.

Tavon looked at me oddly, surprised that I knew what he was talking about. He said yes and led us to a patch of this odd plant with small leaves. I bent down and touched it, and the green leaves folded up on themselves.

I squealed again.

This vacation was already turning out so cool.

video

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Vacation: Part 1

We arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and were greeted with a turquoise-clad woman holding a sign "Nathan and Kiley Roth."

She grabbed our custom cards and then led us right to immigration, ducking past people in line. "I'm sorry" I mumbled as we cut ahead of everyone thanks to the small price we paid a company called Club Mobay. It led us on a Fast Track right through immigration and then customs. Beautiful.

Our bus was soon called inside the Sandals Lounge, and we headed out with the other people who were going to our resort, 90 minutes away.

We got to the bus, and in order to put himself at ease, Nate started to chat with the bus driver while he made sure our luggage got on the bus and that the bus driver was going to be safe. Nate and Brian, the driver, bonded and Nate finally felt comfortable, or at least as comfortable as he was going to be.

It took about 10 minutes, the moment we got out of the city, for me to start feeling a bit ill. The roads were already windy, and I knew it was going to get worse from what my mom told me. I got out the dramamine and chewed one disgusting raspberry tablet up, passing them to a new friend who also was feeling the turning match the churning in her stomach.

Halfway through, we stopped at a jerk shack to use the restroom. Nate bought our new friends a drink, and they asked if we wanted some jerk chicken. We said "No," because we weren't sure about eating something from this hole-in-the-wall. However, they brought us a tin foil wrapped package of chicken, making us step out of our comfort zone. It was really good. The chicken was smoky, and the jerk sauce added just a little kick.

It was 45 minutes before we finally reached our resort, the jungle atmosphere sailing by as we entered the driveway. We were handed moist, cool towels to wash up and then headed inside to check in. Beverages in hand, we got our stuff in order and went into our room.

The view from the door was gorgeous, of the tree-covered mountains and even the very natural-looking resort. We haven't had great "ocean" views before, so we didn't expect a ton. However, walking to the patio, we were surprised with a gorgeous view south over a pool, white sand beach and turquoise ocean. To the right we could see a small peninsula with trees, and that evening we could see the sun set over it.

This was perfect for the first view of our resort.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Would life really change?

Laying on the beach, isn't the usual place to do some soul-searching, but the books I read in Jamaica really made start pondering life as I watched the waves beat against the shore.

"Crazy Love" by Francis Chan asked a simple question, and it was one that made me think. How much would my life change if I suddenly stopped believing in God?

What in my life really reflects that I'm a Christian? Well, I guess it's that we go to church and serve at the coffee bar there. We tithe, and I help the pastor proofread his sermon manuscripts. I try to read my Bible, although it isn't super regularly, and we pray before our meals. So, some time would be freed up if I stopped believing in God.

However, if I didn't believe in God, I would probably still volunteer someplace, so my life wouldn't change that much by giving up my service at church. We probably would still donate money to worthy causes, so that wouldn't be a huge difference. I could help people proofread their books. And the 30 seconds we pray before our meals wouldn't really change our lives a lot. So, maybe changing church involvement wouldn't change that much if I stopped believing in God.

I try to be a nice person, and I spend plenty of time talking to our volunteers at work. That shows that I'm a Christian and a good person. But if I stopped believing in God, I would still want to be a good person, and getting to know our volunteers is part of my job. No, that wouldn't really change.

Nate and I try to live out a biblical view of marriage. I do my best to support him while still letting him be the leader at home. I really do try to be the Proverbs 31 wife who does her part and honors her husband. That might set us a little apart, because if I didn't believe in God I probably wouldn't care about letting my husband be the leader and I might be tempted to fall in the footsteps of other women and bash him instead of lifting him up. But is that all that really sets me apart in my faith?

Our TV watching habits probably wouldn't change. The way we spend our spare time wouldn't change to much, although we might go out and party more or spend our money a little more recklessly.

I don't know --- would my life really be that different if I stopped believing in God? That's a hard thing to think about. I know my life should be completely different if I didn't believe in God. I should be living a life that makes it obvious that I'm a Christian and set apart. But I'm really not sure that I do that. And if I'm not sure, then how is God sure that I'm following him?

I think a lot of what I've been debating with myself goes back to the fact that I don't spend much time in the Bible and I don't spend much time praying. If I really knew God, perhaps my life and my heart would be much different. I think it's about time that I start to get to know him.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What really does freedom mean?

The last month has been kind of crazy, from a dance recital to work to visits from relatives to our trip to Jamaica last week.

I was laying on the beach reading a novel about the apostles after Jesus' death and resurrection. In it, they told someone about how he could have freedom if he believes in Jesus.

That stopped me for a second. I've come to realize that the idea of freedom is a huge struggle in my faith life.

Growing up in the United States, we're taught that freedom is basically the right to do whatever you want. Yes, we have laws, but we have freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom to swear and freedom to drink, freedom to have sex with anyone we want and freedom to buy anything we want. We're free to do pretty much whatever makes us "happy."

Then, we're told that we have freedom in Christ, which means freedom from sin. But to me, sometimes it feels more like we have rules to follow. It means that we can't swear, drink, have sex with anyone and can't buy anything we want because we have to be good stewards of our money (not saying that I want to do all those things, just generalizing here). It doesn't feel free at all. It feels restrictive.

So what does freedom really mean? Who is right?

The obvious question for a Christian is that Jesus is right. However, that doesn't help me when I'm feeling restrictive. I have to be convinced that freedom in Jesus is really freedom.

Even the dictionary proves these two ways of looking at freedom, the first definition I saw read "The power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint." The second definition is "the absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government."

I guess the question really comes down to how you view life and the future. If you think life is only 70 years and you have to make the most of that, freedom probably does mean to do whatever you want. Why not? Life is short.

The second way to look at life as it is a temporary time. On Earth, Satan is ruling, and we're all subject to this world that is dominated by a despot, a terrible person who is wreaking havoc. However, God offers freedom from that despot. We can choose to buck the trend, and although that despot may be really upset, we can have the absence of subjection to foreign domination through God. And we'll be soon taken away to a future without that subjection.

Well, I believe that this life is short. I believe that God is waiting for us in heaven, for a life that is perfect and FREE from sin and sickness and death. If that is freedom, then freedom on Earth means following him and looking forward to that perfect place in heaven.

I know it's not that easy. I know this is an issue I'm going to deal with, but I guess it's good to ask questions and search through my faith to make it stronger.