Friday, January 2, 2015

Bells and Whistles

A friend and I have often discussed what type of church we are seeking.  It seems we are in the days of the mega churches with the entrapments of bells and whistles of light shows and bands and praise teams.  Why?  2 Timothy 4:3 tells us that the time "will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."  In other words, man wants to have his ears tickled; he wants to hear what will make him feel good about himself and his lifestyle.  That is why we have the "prosperity doctrine" preached in the mega churches. 

But, I digress........

That is so far removed from the church of Jesus' time.  AND, I think that is why there is a large faction of the population who want nothing to do with church; they don't see Jesus in that. The church He founded met in homes where people shared a meal together.  They showed concern for people, not how to pay a multi-million dollar mortgage on a stadium or multi-plex.  Recently, an acquaintance asked me about coming to a new church that meets at a local school.  I nicely cut her off and told her I want no part of it.  I do not need flashing lights and praise teams to worship God.  I need a community of like-minded people who want to commune in private homes over a home-cooked meal where they have a Bible study and plan ways of doing for those less fortunate in their community....where they pool their resources to fix a damaged roof of a poor shut-in...where they collect socks to hand out to the homeless (I recently found out that is one thing the homeless need a LOT of)...where they make sandwiches on one of the Bible study breakfast meetings and assemble bag lunches to give out to the homeless....that is the community of Jesus followers I want.  I once had that...and it was wonderful.  Now, there is just me....for the time being...so I wait.  I wait on the Lord.  He will bring that to me again...someday.  How do I know?  Because He says "Trust in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."  Jesus told his followers in Matthew 25:40:  "Truly I tell you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." 

So, I wait on the Lord to bring it to pass......the Church as He intended.....one of service to the least among us.......a pure, unadulterated church.....not one ensnared with the trappings of this world.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Intentional

Intentional---This is my "theme" word for 2015--my word to live by.  To me, the word means "on purpose with forethought."   I want to be intentional in what I do:  intentional with my finances, intentional with my relationships, intentional with my work, intentional with my health, and intentional with giving my time to others. 

I have been a "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" person.  This year I want it to be different.  I see 2015 as a pivotal year in several areas of my life, and being intentional will help me to achieve my goals.  My 2015 goals are as follows:
                
                           1.  Contribute *weekly* to my savings account using the principle of adding the
                                       amount that corresponds to the week of the year
                           2.  Pay off 3 debts
                           3.  Stick to "clean" eating as much as possible for my health
                           4.  Exercise at least 3 times a week
                           5.  Allot a specific day of the month to visit my parents, putting all else aside
                           6.  Read through the Bible in one year with a plan I found online
                           5.  FEAR NOT

With God's help, I will be able to live an intentional life this year, one that blesses others as well as meets some of my personal goals. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Reflection

As a new year dawns tomorrow, I am pondering this post from last January 1.  It focused on overcoming fear with the touchstone of these verses:  Isaiah 41:13:  "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and  says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'"

And my favorite:            2 Timothy 1:7:  "For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness;
                               but of power and love and discipline."


I think back over 2014 and consider how I have done in that area.  Last December God was placing a powerful blessing in my hands, and I was scared to death to reach out in faith to grab it and take advantage of it.  I was so scared that I ignored it for the Christmas holidays.  Once New Year's was past, I tentatively reached for it, and I haven't turned back.  There have been ups and downs in this new venture (adventure) He gave me in online tutoring, but each time I faltered, I looked back at those verses and snatched them, not tentatively reaching  as initially, but snatching them for dear life.  He has taught me so much through this compact between us:  faith, trust, and reliance.  It *is* a compact between Him and me.  He set this opportunity on a silver platter before me and said, "Here is an answer to your prayers, Ginger.  Take it, trust Me, and I will help you."  And *that* is exactly what He has done---beyond my wildest dreams.

So, as 2015 dawns, I am setting new goals---boldly---knowing that the same God who guided me and helped me in 2014 will be there to guide me and help me in 2015.  As I reach out my hand, He will continue to say, "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and  says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Resolutions: To Make or Not to Make?

We are on the cusp of a new year---2015---and that means the buzz on social media is about resolutions and whether to make them or not.  People tend to pledge to do the normal thing--lose weight, exercise more, etc...

I have never been one for really making resolutions, but this year I am.  And, I am writing them down as a visual reminder.  I got some not-so-great medical news this morning, so it is a necessity that I make some changes to affect that for the positive.  2015 will be a pivotal year for me financially as well as I pay off some big bills.   I have had many challenges in the last few years:  cancer, family illnesses, financial strains, etc..  Through it all, I have relied on one verse to see me through: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  (Philippians 4:13).  Notice the one little word allIt doesn't say "I can do some things.."  It says all.  All means *all*.  Christ equips us to victory through Him.  There are many things we can not do on our own power, and I believe trying to shows arrogance--an "I-don't-need-you" attitude.  I have been guilty in past years of giving up on resolutions before I have really begun---because I tried to do them in my own power.  This year, I resolve to rely on Him as the verse says:  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  If I rely on Him for the biggies, like I did cancer, then why not on the not-so-big things, too?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Ramblings

Christmas, and what it truly means, has been lost in our PC, self-engrossed society.  Several years ago I noticed school districts changed the wording of  "Christmas Break" to "Winter Break," so as not to offend anyone.  That is, except the Christians among us.  Let me give you a news flash:  If not for "CHRISTmas," we would not have a winter break. 

In addition, local municipalities were sued for allowing manger scenes on firehouse grounds.  This was a tradition that reached way back into my childhood and beyond.  Now, they are mostly a thing of the past....all in the name of not "offending."

When I was younger, I suppose I was preoccupied with what was under the tree or what Santa would bring me.  I can even remember as a child opening one end of each package to see what the wording on the box said.  Society has just gotten worse in the last ten years or so.  Worse, as in horribly me-centric.  As an illustration, when my school's NJHS did a food drive at Thanksgiving for needy school families, my homeroom contributed one can of pork and beans.  That's it....and that was after being told to bring in something they would eat for Thanksgiving.  pork and beans?  really?  It is very disheartening when I see where the younger generations are headed.  And, I don't just mean the kids I teach; I mean their parents as well, for everything starts in the home. 

I read certain blogs every day because they are generally uplifting.  There is one who does not put up a Christmas tree because she says it is an "idol."  Well, we can make anything an idol; it doesn't take a Christmas tree to do it.

I chose several years ago to scale back my Christmas traditions to focus on the real meaning of Christmas, and I suppose I did it partially in response to the above-mentioned greed I see all around me.  I *do* put up a tree, but I have cut way back on gift-giving.  My son is grown now, so the toy trappings are a thing of the past.  There is nothing he really needs, either, so he will get a few small things.  I have also curtailed my baking.  I fondly remember past years of having more goodies than we could handle, but we don't need them. 

What I *will* do is this:  I will continue my third year of delivering Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve to my shut-in, and I will add another component this year.  I recently read that fire departments are often inundated with goodies at this time of year, but people often forget the police departments.  So.....I will be making a very simple recipe to deliver to my local police department on Christmas Eve.

I labeled this post "Christmas Ramblings" because I feel they are just that...ramblings of things on my mind.  I am reminded of childhood Christmases where things were much simpler.  I am saddened by the commercialization of Christmas as merely a money-making holiday for merchants.  I suppose that is one reason I have curtailed spending as well.  CHRISTmas is named such for its namesake, Christ.  It is, after all, HIS birthday that we originally celebrated.  The giving of gifts was a nod to the wise men who brought Him gifts in that manger so many centuries ago.  Christmas is a reminder of God's gift to us:  His son who chose to come to earth as a babe and later die for us so that we could have eternal life.  THAT is the reason for the season, and I choose to celebrate it by doing what I feel He would have me do---in my own small way.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Remember to Look UP

I *used to* love to joke to people that I never get sick; I just get cancer.  Up until last week, that was true.  I have been as healthy as a horse my entire adult life, except for an annual winter cold....and the cancer that surfaced in the summer of 2007.  I had not had the flu since I was a child.  Last week that is just what I had.  It forced me to hibernate in my bed for two days, sleeping it off from Nyquil Cold and Flu.  At first I thought it was a stomach virus until I became feverish and every.part.of.my.body ached as never before. I   rebounded after the second day and four doses of the over-the-counter medication.

When I awoke yesterday morning to return to work, I had broken out in hives from my feet to my neck.  Luckily, they were not too itchy, and I was able to make it through work.  On the way home, however, they spread to my jaw line.  I have not had the hives in about seven years.  The only other time I had them was when my bff and I had them together at work.  As astute as she is, when I called her late yesterday, she was adamant they were caused by stress, as the earlier outbreak had been.

I didn't *feel* stressed, and that is when she reminded me that our bodies have their own way of dealing with stress that we can not control.  As what she said sunk into my mind, I realized she was right.  This last year I have been dealing with more stress than *normal,* whatever that means.  I have dealt with things with my son as most parents do; my father was hospitalized for over a week in September;  a beloved pet has been sick;  finances have been strapped for a variety of reasons, one of which included a deer last month; and I have had to contend with a lying, irreputable repairman; and, and, and....................

Being a single parent is HARD, and I am one of the lucky ones in that I have an advanced degree in an area that offers job security.  Even so, everything else that a single parent goes through, I have had to go through alone.....and that has resulted in living a stressful life.  When everything appears to be falling down around me, I have to remember to look up....up to the One who knows me as no one else does.  When everything narrows down around my head, He is the One who sends me a safety net.  It has often  been by unlikely means, but it comes.....by way of Facebook and the words from a student from a quarter century ago.....by way of this blog read by another favorite, long-remembered student from the same era who acted when God prompted him.....by way of part-time jobs (one of which was a total  unexpected miracle)....by way of earned bonuses at work......by way of answered prayers......by..................   This will be added to as He works in my life.

So.......when life bears down upon your head and you feel at your last rope, look UP to the God who made you and knows your needs more than anyone.  He will sustain you. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why I left the "church"

I stopped going to "church" over two years ago-----and I make NO apologies for that.  I was reared in a Methodist church and have attended non-denominational churches in my adulthood.  As I grow older, I realize they are not for me---at least not in the traditional form.  I am done with repeated liturgies...DONE....I am done with the bands and the flashing lights....DONE....I am done with the "entrapments".  Why do churches think they need all that "stuff"?  I surmise it is to draw members;  numbers seem to be what drives them these days.  For over two years I cooked for a homeless ministry on Sundays; now I carry on with one of those shut-ins in a poor area of town.

Think back to the church that Jesus founded.  How did He "do church"?  From what I recall, His church met in small groups in homes.  People communed together and did not exclude.  From my experience in too many churches, there are established cliques, and they exclude people; my personal experience as a divorced woman was that I was virtually always excluded.  The focus was always on "in-tact, traditional families".  Others were not valued.  Another example of an exclusionary process was the way bible school was done in the summer.  Kids could sign up to be in groups with their friends.  Whoa!  Where did that leave visitors and those without close ties in the church?  Left out, that's where.  The whole thing has left a bitter taste in my mouth for "church" as we know it.  I don't know that I will ever heal from the damage that was done. 

The way I spend my Sundays for Priscilla is far more important to God than sipping coffee or listening to the band warm up.  I would not go back to the old, "new" way of church. 

Go here to read why people are leaving church in the droves.  The writer is spot-on!  http://johnpavlovitz.com/2014/08/15/church-heres-why-people-are-leaving-you-part-1/

Sunday, August 10, 2014

God is on Facebook!

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel God is not listening, not watching.  At times He is soooo quiet.  I think it is in those times that He is actually working overtime, but He just chooses not to reveal that until "His" timing.  Back on July 20 when I wrote http://onedayatatime-ginger.blogspot.com/2014/07/following-jesus.html, I had no idea He was working.  While I don't feel it is appropriate that I reveal what He did here at this time, let's just say I (and my dear Priscilla) have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams....blessed via a "blast from my past".    With that blessing comes an unbelievable trust....a trust He has bestowed upon me.  Why me?  He uses the least of us to accomplish His goals.  Never, ever feel that if you are doing kingdom work, He does not see; He sees IT ALL and will honor you for your faithfulness.

P.S.  And HE used Facebook to do it!  Yes, God is on Facebook!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Engagement with the Creator

Because of http://denyingme.blogspot.com/2014/07/engagement.html, I have been pondering more what "engagement, " or a true relationship with God/Jesus means.  I have believed for some time that it is the "give and take" that my friend basically writes of above.  (You should truly read that post.)  What does that look like on a daily basis of walking with God?  Let me illustrate with a little vignette that just occurred to me.

For a few months now I have been working on a special online project that requires very specific computer capabilities.  While I can maneuver a computer for my job like a boss, the technical aspects of it are above my head---way above.  My personal laptop is 7 years old and very sluggish; its speed capabilities are limited, and it was showing with my online project.  I knew I needed to replace it.  I chose this weekend since it is tax-free in SC for back-to-school shopping.  Armed with the technical requirements I thought were comprehensive, I bought a new laptop at Staples.  I bought a year's worth of tech support and left it for a few hours for the technician to set it up.  When I got it home a few hours later, within 5 minutes I was up and running.  I was stoked!

Last night as I worked on my project, I realized my lovely, speedy new laptop did not have Microsoft Word, the one thing I forgot to write on my "technical essentials" list.  A year ago I would have panicked.  Instead, I said, "Lord, You have to make this right.  Help me."  He led me to a 30 day trial download of Word.  "This is great," I thought.  I have a month before I have to pay for it.  Later, it occurred to me that my real name was showing up in the comments I make on Word documents; for what I do online, that is a NO-NO!  Because this Word that is compatible with Windows 8 is slightly different from the one I am accustomed to, I couldn't figure out how to change my identity to "anonymous".  Instead of losing my mind, I simply went to bed at 1:30am and told God, "You can show me tomorrow."  This morning, on the way home from the grocery store at 7:30 am, I reminded Him, "Ok, God. I have a lot going on this morning.  Bring help to me in some form later."  That is what He did.  When I pulled out my new Toshiba, He guided me to what I had to do.  Now I am set for a month, until I have to buy Word.

So what can one glean from my little vignette?  Rely on God.  Engage with Him in your daily walk of life.  It is amazing what He will do when we walk with Him.  There are other times when I have looked for something I really needed but could not find for days-----and He came through and "showed" me where the item was.

Engagement does not just mean betrothel in the marriage sense; it is a sharing, a give-and-take relationship with the Creator.  Try it.  You will not be sorry.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Following Jesus?

What does it mean to follow Jesus?  To me, it means listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, doing what He guides/tells/instructs me to do.....even when it may hurt or seem impossible.  If He wants me to do something, He will provide a way. 

Sometimes it is easy; other times it is hard---a leap of faith.  For over two years I have been cooking for a shut-in in the poorer section of my city.  At first, there were two of us combining our resources to accomplish this, even ordering her a Dwyane Wade birthday cake two years running.  Then, one of us moved across country, and I found myself alone with this task.  It was financially difficult at times, but God always provided......sometimes by a paying cake order from school; sometimes from added tutoring; sometimes from another night of petsitting.  That is where the faith comes in.  There were weeks when I told Him, "You know I can not afford this, so You have to make it happen."-----and He always did.   Along the way, I added a homemade dessert to the menu---and He provided.  Recently, she accepted my offer for me to make her birthday cake this year.  Her son told me today that once they tasted mine, no one wanted the store-bought they had.  Then he requested that cake.  I am the one who offered it the first Sunday of each month.  I am taking a faith walk that God will provide the resources.  I know He will because He always does.

I have recently come to realize (I am a slow learner about some things.) that this baking-mania He has put on my heart is a ministry.  I bake from scratch for my school kids and sometimes for the staff.  I no longer question that voice when I "hear it".  I just obey.

That, folks, is what it means to follow Jesus.