Wednesday, November 26, 2014

GOODBYE BLACK FRIDAY

Black Friday is no longer Black Friday.  Gone are the early hours of the morning, the crowded parking lots, the long lines, the excitement bristling in the air as the rush for an item begins.  Gone is the camaraderie of new friends as we search for items together.  Gone is the fun of traveling from store to store.  Gone is the exhaustion of returning home and crashing back into bed for a few more hours.

Instead, the stores are now  open on Thanksgiving.  Early in the evening rather than late at night. Will we one day say goodbye to this holiday and embrace a crazy shopping day that has replaced Black Friday?

I refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving.  I do not want this day of gratitude to the Lord and a gathering of families to be replaced with a materialistic day.  Thanksgiving is supposed to be a family day, a day when stores are closed and people can enjoy being with their families.  For the past few years, this day has changed into an early Black Friday.

I miss Black Friday.  Yes, this is a materialistic day, but I did not go out to grab the biggest deal.  I went out mainly to enjoy the craziness. And to finish my Christmas shopping, which was usually something within my budget and not at all expensive.   I miss waking up at 3 in the morning and driving at night to find the parking lot almost full of cars that have grown cold.  While in line, someone would strike up a conversation with me, and we would admit how crazy it was to get up so early in the morning for something that is not going to last.  I miss the camaraderie as people wander through the stores.  Several times, I have pointed them in the right direction.  Several times, I have been pointed in the right direction.  The help did not come from the already frazzled store workers, but from other shoppers.

Two years ago, I went out on Black Friday, like usual.  Rather than the crowds and the fun, I was the only one in the store.  The sales had ended, for the store had opened on Thanksgiving.  This year, I am sleeping in.  This year, I am going to enjoy a day off work and be grateful for what I have.

Will you be like me and refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving?  Let's bring back the joy and fun of Black Friday, rather than shorten our precious family time.  Let's give the retail workers a day where they themselves are able to enjoy a holiday with their families.  Not only are we sacrificing our families for the sake of a sale, but we are also forcing the retail workers to sacrifice themselves.  Is this fair to the workers?  Should we be so greedy that we forget what is truly important, our families?
Let's boycott Thanksgiving shopping.

Monday, November 17, 2014

CHILD OF GOD

CHILD OF GOD



Throughout my years of the Christian life, I have repeatedly heard the phrase, "I am a child of God."  However, what does that phrase mean?  A child of God?  

When I watch children play and interact with each other, I see the joy and the innocence they portray. Young children believe what you tell them, even if it is not true.  Does the childlike belief portray the meaning of a child of God?  I don't believe so.  The Bible tells us to test what we are hearing and seeing.  When we come to the Lord, we begin with a simple faith, a childlike faith.  As we mature (and children mature as well), our faith matures.  We become a teenager and then an adult in the faith.

I think of 'child of God' as being just that.  New parents will call their baby their son or daughter.  Biological and adoptive parents.  That child will always be their child.  When we first believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God is literally in the hospital room or in the airport (put another place in here), anxiously waiting to see His newest child.  Like all parents, God rejoices over each of His children and celebrates over each rebirth.   Once we become a child of God, we will always be a child of God. 

As any parent, God takes over the responsibility that comes with parenthood.  The frustrations and the joys of watching children grow.  Discipline and patience is needed, and God is no exception.  He teaches His child about Him, about His expectations, and about His grace and love.  Each of us is under His protection, just like a parent protects their child.  Each of us falls under His name.  God takes great pride and joy in each of us.

As a child of God, we can expect acceptance, love, and discipline.  In order to teach us, God has to discipline us.  God takes His role of Father seriously and joyfully.  He will not allow us to wander too far without warning and firm discipline.  When we do wander too far and turn away from Him, God anxiously waits for our return.  When we do return, He embraces us and forgives us.  We are  never too out of reach.

When you sponsor a child through Compassion, you become their second parent, the one they turn to for guidance and love.  We have the blessing of molding a young life, of discipling a child, of showing him/her the greatness of the Lord's love for them.  Will you open your heart and become a parent to a precious child of God?  If you do, please comment below and let me know.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

DOUBTING

I realized the other day that my blog is called one woman's faith journey.  How can I share my journey if I don't share everything?  I seem to focus on things that will uplift others rather than sharing everything.  I will share something that I struggle with when things get hard.  Doubt.  Have you ever been there?  No matter how 'mature' I become in the faith, there will be times when I doubt.

A few months ago, I stood before two roads.  I stayed in one place, praying and listening.  When I thought He had answered, I walked onto one road.  I'll choose the road on the right for this story.  At first, everything goes right.  I am confident this road is the correct one, the one the Lord has led me onto.  The path is smooth; the way is clear.  Everything is bright and new.  Life is full of hope and promise.

After a while, though, the path becomes rocky.  This is where I have been for the past few days.  The way is cloudy.  And I wonder if this is truly the correct path.  Doubts linger.  Have I gone ahead of Jesus?  Was I wrong to where He was leading me?

Right now, I am in a new job and a new career.  I have the education but not the training.  I knew this where the Lord wanted me to be.  The feeling grew as I applied for jobs, got a few interviews, and finally accepted a position.  The faith that this was in God's will is starting to fade.  Doubt is creeping in.  What if I was wrong?

Sometimes it is hard to discern God's will.  A choice remains for me.  Do I continue or do I quit?  What if this rough patch is only a test?  Will I give up just because this period of time is rough?

I have to pause and remember everything the Lord has brought me through.  I have to remember His promises, His reassurances.  I have to remember Him.  I  have to seek Him during this time of doubt.  And only, then, will His will become clear and my faith increased once more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

HAPPY SECOND BIRTHDAY!

Okay, I don't really know the EXACT date that I accepted Christ.  I do know it was in April of 1994.  Today is the day that I celebrate my salvation birthday.  I have since my first year.

I must say, 20 years is a long time to know the Lord.  Yet  it seems as if it is such a short time.  I want to share some of my lessons of knowing Jesus Christ for 20 long/short years!

First, He is faithful, even when I am not.  There have been times when I just didn't think that serving Him was worth it.  I was tempted to walk away.  One time, I nearly did.  These times of wanting to quit Christianity come when I am at my weakest and my most painful days.  It's hard to keep going when you're in so much pain.

His faithfulness is one of the things I love about Him.  Growing up, I was abused, neglected, and abandoned. My mom would leave me and my sister and head off to who knows where.  We were left with our aunt.  My family is not the best role models.  I became the black sheep of the family, not because of anything I had done, but because of the family's rejection of me.  My family favors one sibling over the other.  The favored one becomes the one that is set up on a pedestal.  The rejected one becomes the scapegoat for anything the favored one does.  Thankfully, Jesus favors me.  He doesn't set me up on a pedestal.  Nor does He refrain from disciplining me.  No, His favoritism is just what I have needed throughout my life.  Just because He favors me doesn't mean that He rejects someone else.  His favor surrounds me, just like it surrounds every one who belongs to Him.

Which leads me to the second thing I love about Jesus.  He accepts me for who I am.  I don't have to pretend to be someone else that I'm not.  I don't have to pretend that I have no feelings, that I am immune to people's insults and rejection.  I can run to Him for comfort, just like I have always wanted to do with my own father.  He doesn't try to sugarcoat or explain my hurt.  He wraps His arms around me and holds me close.  When I try to hide my true feelings from Him, He gently reminds me that He is the One who created me.  He knows me, so why try to hide from Him?  So, I let Him  have it all.  My fears, my excitement, my anger, my disappointments, my pain, my joys, and my doubts.  I confide in Him every feeling that comes my way.  Prayer has become one way of my emotional release.  Jesus doesn't rebuke me for having these feelings.  When I am in His presence, He doesn't rebuke me for things I cannot control (like my memory, losing things, and getting my hopes up only to have them crushed).  His acceptance draws me ever nearer to Him.

The third thing that I love about Jesus is His unlimited love.  I don't have to do anything.  I don't have to say anything.  He loves me.  I can hurt Him, if I really wanted to.  I can slander Him and reject Him.  He will still love me.  His love is limitless and complete.  That means that I cannot earn His love.  I cannot make Him stop loving me. I haven't met anyone with so much love.  He loves me unconditionally.  His love draws me closer to Him.

With everything I have been through these past 20 years, I can say with conviction that Jesus is who He says He is.  My heart is ever entwined with His, and I am eternally His.  My faith  has grown to the point where nothing can separate me from Him.  I know His presence, I have felt His love, and I have seen Him work in my life.  I am strictly His, and there will be no other to replace Him.  He owns my life, my heart, my soul, and my mind.  I am deeply in love with Him, and it continues to grow.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

CHRISTIAN TOLERANCE

There has been much debate about Christian tolerance and intolerance.  Christian businesses are expected to compromise their beliefs over birth control or other spiritual issues.  Christian charities are beginning to go against the Bible.  Pastors are marrying homosexuals.  Disciplining a pastor for marrying a homosexual couple is headline news.  The list grows every day.  Sin, no matter what it is, is glorified and celebrated in today's culture. To stand against the glorified sin is viewed as intolerant.  Christians are being sued and despised for their view on sin.  Either they are ridiculed and possibly jailed, or they must compromise the Bible truths.

I don't usually get into political views or anything that will cause an outrage.  However, perhaps it is time for me to voice my own thoughts in the hope of giving those Christians who are facing the decision to compromise or to fight the strength they need to continue.  I don't want my blog to become a source of hate and bigotry.  Jesus loves people, and so do I.  I am concerned for others, and I accept others for who they are.

This is my take on these issues.  If it offends you, then my salt is rubbing into a wound that needs to be healed.  Pray that the Lord will open your eyes and allow you to see why my words have offended you.  If it doesn't offend you, good.  My salt has not lost its flavor.  Praise the Lord that He is good!

 The world is more accepting of sinful behaviors (not just homosexuality but also adultery and lying, etc) than it used to be even ten years ago!  The church is also more accepting of sin as well.  And more and more Christians are called intolerant because of our stand against sin.  The Bible says to flee from sin, not embrace it.  We are called to be the light in the world, not add to the darkness.  People are going to HELL, and we are expected to whitewash their sin and ignore it rather than confronting it and praying that they will turn away before it is too late.  If we as a church compromise our stand on sin (no matter what it is), how are we shining our light and showing others the way to the Truth, who is Jesus Christ?  The Bible also says NOT to have anything to do with the sinful BROTHER/SISTER.  It is the unrepentant CHRISTIAN (who says self has a personal relationship with Christ) that we are to deal with, not the unrepentant non-Christian.  We are called to judge those INSIDE the church, not outside.  The homosexual should be accepted into the Christian community, but, very lovingly and firmly, told that choosing that lifestyle is sin.  The same  is true for those unfaithful in their marriage, for those who lie, for those who steal, etc (put in another sin).  IF he/she is not repentant, then follow the Bible's instructions in how to deal with them.  What the Bible says (Paul's letters) depends on whether the person claims to be a Christian or not.
And, another thing. . . The Bible says that good will be called evil, and evil will be called good.  This is just one sign of the many signs that Jesus is about to return.  Even though I am saddened by the state of sin in the world, I am not surprised.   Each sign fulfilled brings us closer to Jesus' promised return.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

SPRING FEVER

Okay.  I know.  It's not quite spring time yet.  However, I have a high case of spring fever.  I want to go out for a walk.  I want the children that I work with to be able to go outside.  Trouble is there is still snow on the ground, and it is still very muddy.  Plus, it is still freezing outside, with slightly warmer days giving us hope that winter is ending and spring is coming.  It's still too cold for the children to be outside, for me to go on a half hour walk.
Yesterday, I received a letter from Niphaporn, my beautiful girl in Thailand.  I suddenly had the desire to handwrite a letter to her and to send her some things.  For the past nine months, I have been emailing my Compassion kids response letters.  It saved time, mostly.  And, being in school, I didn't have a lot of time.
I am currently in my last course before I graduate in April.  April 6, to be exact.  I do have an opportunity to pursue my associate's degree.  However, I admit I need a full time job before pursuing that opportunity.  The school has assured me that my associate's degree will only be 5 months, if I want to be considered full time, 8 months if I want to be part time.  I am planning on going for the 5 month one.
I have a strong desire to return to my normal activities before school.  Handwriting my response letters to my kids, keeping up with this blog, getting more involved with church, etc.  I am feeling the stress of learning lift off me.  It is a great feeling.  I now have more time to do the things that I have given up while I was in school. Oh, I am still in school, but the course load is more bearable, and I am able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Another thing that I am going to continue is writing my devotionals.  I haven't written many since June of last year, and I miss it.  I miss encouraging others in their own walk of faith.
With the arrival of spring, I have a high feeling of expectancy.  The Lord is about to do something wonderful. I will be in a new career, for one.  What else He has in store for me, I do not know.  But I can't wait to find out.
If you're feeling drained, emotionally worn out, or depressed, be encouraged.  Jesus has a great plan for you. You are only in this position for a short time.  Continue to grow your faith, to lean more on Him, to be more aware of His great care for you.  Keep looking to Him to bring an end to your troubles (at least until the next one begins).  He is constantly guiding you onto the path He is on.  Keep following Him.  Keep loving Him.  Keep serving Him.  And, one day, your spring fever will come upon you, and you will know with certainty that Jesus is about to do a wonderful thing in you and for you.

Monday, February 3, 2014

ETC. MEANS. . . A TOILET!

Last year, I sent a huge birthday gift to Anabell, my sponsored child in Honduras.  She was celebrating her quinceanera.  For those who don't know, a quinceanera (I hope I spelled it right) is the girl's fifteenth birthday in most Central and South America countries.  It is a passing from childhood into adulthood.  It's kind of like the 16th birthday in America, but on a much bigger scale.

I wanted to provide Anabell a birthday celebration.  It was the only thing I could pray for, think of, and prepare for.  For an entire year, I set aside a certain amount of money every time I got paid.  At the end of the year, I was able to send the gift to her.  So determined was I that she celebrate her birthday in the tradition of her culture that I specified the gift be used for her quinceanera.  Compassion told me they would do their best to ensure the gift be used for it, but they couldn't promise me.
 
Once I sent the gift, I finally yielded it to the Lord.  Even though I wanted Anabell to receive a birthday party, I contented myself with the fact that it might be used for something else.

A few months ago, I received a letter from Anabell.  It also included a picture.  I was thrilled when I saw the picture.  It is the first one I have of her smile!  I am still pretty excited about it.  However, whenever I look at her picture, I laugh.  Or, on an extremely bad day, I will at least smile.  Why?  It is what she wrote and what the picture told me.

I wish I had a scanner, for I would post the  picture.  Maybe one day, I will.  For now, I will describe it to the best of my ability.

Her letter stated, "Thank you for the gift you sent me.  I bought 3 pants, 4 shirts, 3 shoes, ETC."  How like a teenage girl to list clothes!
 
Then I studied the picture and had to reread the letter again.  Anabell had a bright pink shirt on and dark pants with black shoes (loafers or dress shoes, I can't tell).  She is smiling softly while holding the rest of her clothes. Anabell is standing in front of huge dirt pile.  My precious teenage girl is standing beside a brand new, white toilet.  The toilet still has the white plastic over its lid.  Beside the toilet is a cardboard box filled with a white trashcan and white toilet bowl brush and holder.  Maybe she, her mother, and twin sister likes to color coordinate?
  
Have I mentioned that I would love to meet this girl?  Her letters always make me laugh, and this is no different.  In fact, everytime I hear ETC, I laugh and think about a toilet.