Monday, July 30, 2007

PRIDE

"The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil: pride,"
Proverbs 8:13


I have a bad habit of juggling books. I'll read atleast two or more at the same time. Must be some form of reading ADD. I've been reading "Intimate Issues" - a book about sex from a Biblical perspective - it has in many ways, been such an amazing blessing in my life. And I am also reading a Bible study by Beth Moore about finding liberty in Christ. Also, a huge blessing to me. During yesterday's reading in the sex book, the chapter was discussing what to do when we are attracted to other men outside our husbands. Since I do not face this issue, I made a note to store away the information should the temptation ever arise, but didn't take any personal convictions away from it. Just thought it was a very pratical way to deal with that particular sin.

Over the last few days while reading in Beth Moore's study, I've become increasingly convicted to "clean house." I know I did an inventory revealing how much LDS "stuff" I have, but here's a few pictures.




This is just from ONE bookshelf! And these are just the books I could allow myself just to take OFF the bookshelf!


This is just one row of DVDs alone that we have. This row is dedicated to children's movies and we actually have two rows of these - the second is MOSTLY secular (Disney, Pixar, and a few independents) but also has church movies for kids.

One shelf of adult movies. Just one. There's more.



When Beth Moore reviewed the rule of Jotham and his lacking in taking down the "high places" I realized I had failed to remove my high places. For crying out loud, the first thing I see in the morning is STILL the picture of the Las Vegas temple. I should have taken that down LONG AGO but have refused.

Today, it was almost as if the Lord was screaming at me through her - not in anger, but rather trying to make me see what I have refused to acknowledge, even though I kind of see it. (Make sense? )

Two things spoke to me. First, she reminded her readers that we had studied three godly kings - Uzziah, Jotham, and now Hezekiah. All three struggled and at times lost themselves to pride. She reminded us how this pride impacted them, their people, and future generations. When Isaiah tells Hezekiah that Babylon will take his kingdom captive - but in a later generation, Hezekiah is okay with this - because it will not occur during his reign. He is not caring for the future generations. The whole reason Babylon would be able to overthrow them was because Hezekiah's pride let his gaurd down and allowed Babylon to become familiar with his kingdom - personal tour guide given by himself, the King. His actions were to have resounding effects throughout generations. Just as Jotham's failure to tear down high places allowed his son to become entrapped in idol worship. The ripples of what we do today can affect the lives of our children, grand-children, and so on. This is, actually, a very simple LDS concept that is often taught and exhorted by leadership going all the way up to the First Presidency. Stay on the straight and narrow because any, even slight detours from the path can cause devestation to future generations leaving them in apostacy and darkness with the Lord. So why, hadn't this thought crossed my mind until now?

If my children are raised in a Christian home, surrounded by LDS movies, books, games, toys, music, and so forth - what else should I expect but confusion at the least and complete captivity by Satan at the most? I have to stand firm in my convictions now and let me children see my example. If I don't set it - someone else will. Am I willing to take that gamble?

The second statement she made resonated so loudly within me that I looked around to see if someone was with me. She shared a story of how she purchased a new Bible, but how since it was not broken in yet (the pages not turning easily) she had decided to continue to carry her old Bible with her on speaking engagements. She shares that the Holy Spirit whispered to her, "Sounds like pride to me.". Instantly, I understood. Which is completly unlike me - I usually have to read through a few times before catching where the pride entered in. However, the Spirit revealed it to me. Here, this godly woman had an issue of pride. She wanted to look like she knew her Bible so well because she could effortlessly flip to any given passage and show off her knowledge. Does she know her Bible? Of course I'm sure she does. But she wanted to show off how well she knew it by the effortless finding of passages.

The Spirit then confirmed my own pride. I wanted to keep all my books to look knowledgeable. Do I know my LDS doctrine? Sure. I learn new things here and there that I never caught onto before, but overall I'd feel confident explaining the LDS church, it's teachings, and doctrines to anyone who asked. I'd feel confident defending it and even being able to cite various sources for what I was teaching. It's not that I'm not knowledgeable - I want to also look knowledgeable. I want my knowledge to be recognized. I never realized this before. I've rationalized keeping my stuff, but to paraphrase a statement our Pastor made this past Sunday, rationlizing is simply conforming your thinking to fit your actions. And this was exactly what I was doing. There are other - also very prideful and fleshly - reasons I do not wish to get rid of my LDS stuff. But they are temporal, fleshly, sinful reasons.

When I realized this and decided to do what I had been prolonging for months now - I realized how much of a hold these items had on me. Critics often speak of seductive spirits that accompany the LDS church - and if I hadn't felt AND recognized them before, I did so now. Intensly. With every single book - a favorite or not - it was hard to simply remove them from the shelf. Then, once they were in my hands, I found it incrediably aching and emotionally hard to put them down. Thoughts were racing through my head trying to rationlize why I should keep these items. "These deal with families. You've got a young family. Keep this one." or "This one is about the temple, don't you want to study the temple so you can minister to people better about the contrasts before the temple and the Bible?" or "This one is an amazing apologetics book, keep it so you can study the replies some more with correct thinking this time and then be able to help more people." The worst by far was so much more than thoughts in my head, it was accompanied by an overwhelming amount of emotion, "Keep this one. In case you return to the church. You know you miss it. Perhaps you should read these items, and keep them - just in case." I knew I was doing the right thing. But it was so difficult.

Then, yesterday's reading from the sex book returned to me. I went to my phone and called my best friend, who also had to get rid of her own Jehovah's Wittness and Catholicism materials. Since she's also the one who sent me the sex book, it was easy for me to explain why I was calling her. I needed to confess my sin and have an accountability partner. I needed someone to help me through this. I knew, if left to myself - I would continue to not do it. We chatted while I finished clearing just ONE bookshelf. Each time, I would ask, "But what about this one? It deals with.... can I send you a link and have you review it for me?" I just wanted to find every possible reason to keep just one more item.

We had our pastor's family to dinner on Saturday and when I shared with him how I wanted to keep some books, but was concerned about the reliabilty of the content (in reference to early Christianity's history, context of the cannons, and so forth) he made such a simple comment that I absolutly did not want to hear. "I'd advise just getting rid of all of it." I tried to keep my composure. It seemed everyone was saying, "Just get rid of all of it." The worst part was, the first person in this everyone was God.

I'm taking this in stages. Praise the Lord I got one bookshelf cleaned out. Now just two more to go, plus movies, music, and more. The high places must come down. It's really hard for me - I just don't want to do it. But obediance to the Lord is a step to maturity. If I can't obey by simply cleaning my home of falsehoods, protecting my children and husband from them, then how on Earth am I to obey in other areas of my life?

Toddlers

I have two amazing, beautiful, priceless toddlers.



Paul, in the green shirt and Anya in the little toddler cart. (Their friend 'Kenzie in the pink.)

The last few days have been pretty tough in our home - Steve and I have been pretty busy with grown up stuff, I can't remember the last time we had a weekend where we weren't running around like chickens with our heads cut off and see no end in sight to that yet, and our poor babies have been stuck in the middle. Thursday and Friday they spent almost the whole day, excluding nap times, in the car running errands with Mama in over 100 degree weather (sure we were in the air conditioned car the whole time, but even full blast ac doesn't keep you cool when you're constantly getting in and out of the car). To sum it up, we're all exhausted and grumpy.

With toddlers on the other hand, grumpy is taken to a whole new level. The kids have wanted nothing but pizza the last few days, and everything they want or need or think they need - they want it done or given to them, like five minutes ago. For example, Anya wanted to brush her teeth last night, but both Steve and I at that moment had our hands full with something else. Patience is not her Anya's middle name. She waited a few seconds then starting screaming at the top of her lungs, "I WANT TO BRUSH TEETH!!!" Then when we attempt to discipline her so that she learns screaming is not the way to get things done, tantrums I never knew existed in such a munchkin erupt.

So when a friend of mine told me about a shocking story on CNN (you can read it here) about how a grandfather was found on top of his three year old grand-daughter apparently strangling her - I was understandably shocked. While reading the story, it is revealed that the grandfather and his daughter (the three year old child's mother) were performing an exorcism.

In the Exorcist, the possessed girl spews green slime from her mouth onto one of the Priests. My kids have spewed green slime on me more times than I can count. It was called avacado, peas, green beans - in short, it was baby food. OR it was coming out of the other end and it was by far, more disgusting When our itty, bity, petite Anya is screaming, throwing, hitting, bitting, shaking, and throwing herself around on the floor - I wonder what on Earth I did to deserve such an unruly child. When Paul takes up a toy and bangs his sister's head, yanks a toy from her hands, or scratches Steve or I until he draws blood - I never wonder about sin nature and how it's inherited in all of us. However, even though I make JOKE about my kids being possesed, I am NEVER EVER serious. I usually joke about it after days of cleaning up thrown food, slung poo, or wiping clean too many tears to count - mine included - with little or no sleep.

Can toddlers be little terrors? YES. A resounding YES. Do they need exorcisms? NO. Even if I thought every tantrum throwing toddler needed an exorcism (they sure act like it at times) - it wouldn't involve a grandfather sitting on top of his little 3 yr old grand-daughter, her mother naked and bloody and screaming enchantments to make all the demonic badness go away.

Do I wish it were as simple as reciting some prayer, spell, or snapping my fingers while flicking holy water onto my child's forhead to make the fury she or he is showing me go away? YES. But that's not what God planned for us, that's not what we are supposed to do. Prayer - constant prayer for our children and for ourselves that we deal in a godly manner with our children is what is needed. If we all stopped to pray before reacting to our children - how different would our interactions be?

Prayer is powerful. The Lord promised us that where two or more are gathered HE is there in their midst. Pray for this poor child, for her mother, and for parents everywhere to turn to God instead of the world for help.

Vision

Warning: A bit graphic in the first few paragraphs.

I went from being almost half blind (my perscription was at -.9.50) to being able to see, drive, and read without my glasses on. All by the modern science of Lasik surgery. I want to share a few blessings, other than the obvious, that have come from this.

During the consultation, they have you watch a seven minute instructional video that gives you an overview on what is going to be done, the recovery, and so forth. The video, is a bit scary because they explain that they will actually be slicing open your eye on the top and flip it open for the laser to do it's "magic". Ewk.... I cannot even stand for someone to do my eye makeup at a department store, let alone pry it open and slice it up like a tomatoe for a laser....

However, day of the surgery came and I was decided that I would do it, that the surgery was quick and painless and I'd be perfectly okay. They give everyone a dose of Valium before the surgery to calm the patient so they aren't twitching and therefore endangering their vision. I was feeling quite relaxed ..... until, they placed the numbing drops in my eyes, placed this circular thing on me eye to keep it open, and heard the buzz of the little slicer opening me up. Then, my heart was pounding in my ears and I was frankly terrified. I saw smoke coming up and realized it was my eye from the laser. The doctors stated that if someone paniks during the surgery, their eye goes into involuntary spasms - and they'd have to stop the surgery. Well, of course that's what occured with me. They paused the surgery and told me to calm down. I began slow and deep breathing and began meditating on scripture. With verses in my mind, I began to calm down and my eye stopped spasming.

Over the following days, while my vision is 100% improved and it's such an amazing miracle to me to open my eyes in the morning and see clearly without glasses or contacts. It's amazing. It takes up to six months for one's vision to fully adjust and settle - the biggest changes occuring the first six weeks. I can see so well - except small street signs, microwave and VCR clocks and some reading. Also, there are "halos" around anything lit - like cars. Tonight, I had to last minute run to my broker's office to fax docs out and realized I needed gas. My parent's store was only a short amount away and they have the cheapest gas anywhere in town, so I went down there. I had my Bible and Beth Moore study with me (expecting to be longer and waiting on faxes at the firm's office) and while turning into the gas station I was felt that I needed to check in on Ron (the homeless man I've been blogging about). He wasn't there - the other homeless guys said he was across the street at the park.

With halos around everything lite, I didn't feel comfortable driving while it was becoming increasing dark outside. I told myself it wasn't the right time tonight and began to wait for traffic to clear so I could turn home. Yet strangly, I went ahead and turned into the park. I wanted to go home, be with my family, feed my empty tummy - didn't the Lord know this? Yet, I turned in. In my mind I began thinking, "Okay, one drive around the lot to see if I see him." He was supposed to be in this soccer field - with it being dark now and my eyes dry and a bit hazzy, I couldn't clearly make anyone out. However, I looked and as I neared the exit, I told the Lord I was going home. No - I felt I needed to keep looking. Ah! I wanted to go home. "Okay Lord, but I'm not getting out of my car."

As I began to circle around again, I said, "Okay Lord, if this is Your will, point him out to me. Make him clear to me."

Hazzy, dried out eyes that couldn't make out any of the people in the fields suddenly saw Ron clearly as if he were standing right in front of me. Whoa. Okay Lord, I get it. I pulled up, parked, and called out to his retreating figure. It was him allright. We caught up since our last meeting last week. And then I shared with him the study I was reading by Beth Moore, he was very interested so I fetched it from my car and we sat down to read Day One - about King Uzziah and his pride.

After we discussed the selected verses, their application to life, and how we could avoid falling in the same trap, Ron looked at me and asked, "Do you think the Lord is trying to humble me? Am I prideful?"

A breakthough!! Finally! YES he's being prideful - he won't admitt his good works can't get him into heaven. He shared with me that he believes he has something to ponder and think over. When he asked me this question, while every part of me wanted to answer him in detail - I held me tounge and simply encouraged him to pray and seek the Lord.

Vision - Thursday is started out as something I didn't really have, to something that was seared into me, then was hazzy - creating halos everywhere, to finally clear - by the will of the Lord in a world lacking in clarity.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Nightmares

I have a whole ton of blogs I've had on my mind lately - but with the lasik on Thursday and being crazy busy with real estate, I haven't had the time to write them out. So I apologize ahead of time with the outpouring of blogs over the next few days. (My husband says at times I'm hard to keep up with.)

A quick thought on the power of the Word of God. In this book I'm reading, "Intimate Issues" they are currently discussing temptations and how to deal with them. Interesting that I reach this place in my reading when a dear friend of mine currently realized through a sermon that her fellow church members are slightly off in their worship and understanding of God's Word. In a recent sermon at her church, it was taught that to fight spiritual warfare we must always be joyful. She and I both caught that this is inaccurate. To fight against temptation, or spiritual warfar (which can be both to my limited knowledge or seperate issues), the only real weapon is the Word.

I have a past of nightmares, sleepwalking and sleeptalking. And when I was a child, on occasion I slept with my eyes open. How do I know I did this? The kids at the sleepovers always got freaked out and either woke me up or told me about it the next morning. This continued into my adolescence and have no clue when exactly, or if, it stopped. To my knowledge, it's not continued.

Everytime I've started a new job, been stressed or busy at an existing job, or excited about something (ie - high emotional patterns) I begin to sleepwalk. I will "wake up" and realize I'm at work and begin working. It's the weirdest thing, even talking about my work while sleeping. Steve's had to lay me back down once when he woke up and saw it. However, the most recent time that I began working at my parents' store - I didn't start sleep walking or talking.

I have been plagued by nightmares for the past few months. They come in waves and then receed and then return. One night, I went to bed before Steve. I had a migriane or something of the like and needed to get to sleep. However, I felt as if there was something in the room with me (you know the feeling you get after watching a movie that just freaked you out? Enough to maybe sleep with the lights on?). Whether there was or not something in the room with me is not the point. I suddenly felt overwhelmed with fear and was literally shaking in bed. I wanted to cry out for Steve, to run to the wall and flip on the light switch, to simply return downstairs - but my pride refused to let me. That day I had read in Psalms that the Lord was my refuge, my strong tower, my Protector. I couldn't remember the exact words, but I went for it anyways. Repeating over and over until I fell asleep, "The Lord is my refuge. I love you Jesus. The Lord is my refuge, I love you Jesus." Slowly, the fear melted from my body until I was completly relaxed and sleeping soundly. No nightmares that night.

Now, was there anything dark creeping up on me that night? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Did I feel an overwhelming fear because I ate too much pizza or spicy food or something? Perhaps and perhaps not. What stuck with me was the power the Word had in my life when I began to speak what little I had memorized. I was relaxed, calmed, and comforted.

While reading in my book today, it reminded us that when Satan tempted Jesus, He replied to Satan, "It is written" and spoke God's Word and Satan ran away. Rick Warren also shares this with us in teaching us about the Word, it's many uses and purposes, one being that it "scares the devil". The Word is powerful. Apply it to your daily life - even if it's only three words a day and watch how it roots itself in your life and brings new peace that cannot be found anywhere else.

That's the message - it hasn't changed


Joshua (2002)

Click on the link above to view the movie trailer for one of Steve and my all time favorite movies.
We first watched it about two years ago, shortly after attending the temple. The message we took from it was tolerance and love towards others. In chapters 11 and 12 Joshua and a priest he's befriended, Pat, are discussing a sermon Pat is trying to prepare on faith. Joshua uses various examples to show Pat how faith is. Towards the end of their evening together, Joshua takes Pat to what appears to be a "rock concert". After the end of Third Day's Come Together, a young man comes up to the mike and says, "Welcome to Lost and Found."
Puzzled, Pat turns to Joshua and states, "This is a cburch service?"
Without blinking, Joshua states, "One man's rock concert is another man's service." To us, this spoke loudly. After the service, we see Father Pat sitting down at his desk, obviously inspired, and writing his sermon.
To us, tolerance and love were the main themes and we only desired for others to show this to us as Latter Day Saints.
We haven't viewed this movie since leaving the LDS church - but now, it's almost as if a whole new message, while the same, is being taught to us. It's still about love and most importantly - unity. Unity of the body of Christ. Something we didn't exactly know or understand before leaving the church.
While watching the movie, Steve and I were amazed at how our eyes were open to the overwhelming amount of Biblical symbolism in the movie. We've seen this movie several times - however, never caught the symbolism that isn't directly addressed by a character in the movie (if you've seen the movie, you'll know what I'm talking about.)
This movie is so enriching, so powerful, so amazing - it's a must see for every believer. Steve googled the movie and found that it sadly only brought in 1.2 million at the box office - yet was 9 million to make. When the LDS movies, Work and the Glory came out - the first two experienced the same problem.


However, when the third movie in this series, "A House Divided" came out in theaters - Desert Book and many other LDS sources sent out several flyers, emails, and so forth to encourage members to attend so that the box offices would reflect that the public desired to see better movies. When Steve and I went to see this movie opening night in Las Vegas at the Suncoast, we were so overwhelmed by the sense of fellowship in that movie theater. At any moment, I expected my fellow Saints to begin singing hymns with the movie. It was amazing.

As a Christian community - we need to do the same thing. We need to support the good, decent, family movies that we want to see made.

The fellowship Steve and I felt when watching "A House Divided" we also feel when watching Joshua. With all the symbolism, all the various messages within it - we know this fellowship can be felt in a group setting. While watching the movie, Steve and I both felt so strongly that we should set up a movie night with friends and view this movie together. Then from this, discuss what was displayed in this movie and how it applies to our lives.

My favorite example of the subtle symbolism is when Joshua, a modern carpenter, creates a wooden heart and gives it to a married character named Joan. Her marital relationship is rocky at best, her husband and her constantly fighting. During one such fight, the husband becomes angry and throws the heart, breaking it. Meanwhile, Joshua is bringing the community together by rebuilding a destroyed Baptist church, an important endeavor to unite the community as one. However, when she comes to the building site and humbly asks Joshua to repair the heart, he gives her his FULL attention, wraps her in an embrace, and allows her to cry upon him. Afterwards, we see him healing this broken heart. What better place to be than in the arms of our Savior when our hearts lay broken, smashed in two? Who else better than our Savior to pray over us and heal us?

Once we have a study outline prepared, I'll post it here in my blog. If you live in Vegas and want to attend once we have it together - please let me know. We'll be serving a light dinner and if needed will provide childcare.

If you don't live in Vegas - I highly encourage you to seek out this movie at your local Blockbusters or other movie store to rent, or you can also purchase it from Amazon between $5.82 to $10.99. It's a movie you're family will enjoy again and again.

Taking one lesson from this movie now, I realize it's true message (although there are several ones). In an ending scene, Joshua is speaking with a Pope named Peter and says, "Deep in the hearts of so many people, there's an emptiness. That nothing of this world can fill, and that emptiness makes it impossible for them to love."
The Pope replies, "It's so overwhelming. What should I tell them?"
"Remind them, that I love them. That I died for them. Tell them that my love is real. And if they open their hearts to it, I will fill that emptiness and they will be able to love one another. That's the message, it hasn't changed. Tell them, tell them."
To any who read my blogs, yet are not believers - I want you to know, that Jesus' love IS real. It does heal. It does forgive. And it does fill that emptiness. In today's world - a message so simple, is often overlooked. Faith is simple, not complicated. Jesus is real, His love is real. And I pray, that you'll allow Him to fill you, heal you, and love you.



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

High Places

Beth Moore's study, "Liberty in Christ" is really speaking to me. Today's study was about our heroes in life. It reminded me that God is supposed to be first, second, and third. He is to be our all.

What really interested me, was Moore's commentary on 2 Kings 15:34-35:

" He did what was right in the LORD's sight just as his father Uzziah had done. Yet, the high places were not taken away; the people continued sacrificing and burning incense on the high places." (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Now read her commentary on the verses:

"Jotham sought God faithfully and walked steadfastly before Him, but he refused to demand respect for the One and only God. Jotham was boss. He could have destroyed the high places, but he obviously feared the people more than he feared God. Jotham conquered nations, but he refused to rule his own people. He chose to overlook a terribly grievous sin." (Bolding and italics mine.)

What did this say to me? It tells me that in our lives, our homes, our families - we are to give God the respect that He rightly deserves. When Isaiah had a vision of the Lord, he was confronted with his own sin and declares that his lips are unclean and confesses his sins before the Lord. However, afterwards, what did Isaiah do? He obeyed.

Awhile ago, the Lord made me aware of how much LDS stuff I have in my home and I felt the need to clean up. I began thinking of options of what to do with everything - gave away a few items. But after reading these passages and commentary, I realized that I had not obeyed and the Lord wants me to take down my "high places". The day of our baptism, another former Mormon was telling me about her sister - who after a long time of keeping everything, finally allowed her husband to burn it all. Egh! This makes me cringe! Besides the book lover in me who thinks it's outright obscene to burn books, I couldn't fathom burning the books that progressed me in my journey, taught me in LDS doctrine, and so forth. Yet, it's right there - the reason the people were corrupt was because Jotham failed to tear down the high places.

I'll have to seek the Lord in prayer to come to a resolution - but all I know is that the Lord is calling me to a simpler, cleaner, life that clearly makes Him number one, ruler, and Soveriegn God. I have to take out the falsehoods that have been residing in my life and truely make our home a place set apart from the gospel, foriegn in the world we live in.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Believing Christ

It is not easy. I've been listening to Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life and have been slowly realizing how much of a hinderance I am to myself. If the Pastor's message in his book wasn't enough - I started a new Bible study today by Beth Moore, "Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Christ a Reality in Life". I read the introduction and the words God first gave her really struck me:

"How would I have known that I was lost
Had You not searched and found me?
How would I have known that I was blind
Had you not made me see?
How would I have known my bleeding
'Til You bound Your love around me?
How would I have groaned my slavery
Until You set me free?"
p.6

She describes how she used to argue that Christians could not be in bondage, "with all the volume a person can muster with a yoke of slavery strangling her neck." I began to understand - that although I accepted Christ in my most broken moment, even though I surrendered to Him, and even though He led me out of bondage - I allowed myself to slowly backslide back into it. And I never even noticed. I enjoy how The Message states Galatians 5:1 -

"Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you."

I allowed the harness of slavery to come over me. From the legalism I found comforting and a form of security in the LDS church, to mismanaging my thoughts, to pride, and daily routines that do not glorify God or exeplify what it means to live a Christian life. The Word states:

"Have nothing to do with foolish stories old women tell. Keep yourself growing in God-like living. Growing strong in body is all right but growing in God-like living is more important. It will not only help you in this life now but in the next life also." 1 Tim 4:7-8

For today's study, I read about Uzziah - his successes because the Lord was his strength and he knew it; and his fall because he became prideful. I realized, that this is such a reoccuring theme with me - the Lord blesses me and I become prideful - almost thinking I do not need to depend on the Lord as much (subconciously of course - but it's very much spoken loud and clear through my actions).My daily living is to glorify God, not myself, my family, or anyone or thing else. Yet, this can be such a hard task to live each day.

The Psalmist tells us to "hide" God's Word in our hearts so that we might not sin against Him. Throughout the past year, I've done just this, memorizing verses and references. And I became proud because I do this and others I knew, could not. I allowed the praise of people that I "knew" my Bible to override my humilty that I all I know - is been a blessing and gift from the Lord. And in reality, I know very little truth. When I shared with Steve that we are to "hide" God's Word in our heart, he was confused. Why should we "hide" it?

I went to my Strong's concordance and looked up "hide" from this passage. It is a verb - an action. It means to "cherish or store up". We are to be activly storing up and cherishing God's Word in our heart. When we turn ourselves to Him, understanding we are slaves to our flesh, and in humilty seek His will first, we are moved to obediance. However, if we constantly rely upon ouselves and not God - then we are living in the flesh, thus hindering ourselves. Rick Warren gave a beautiful example of a motor boat set on auto-pilot to go East and a person steering the boat by force to go West. Eventually, we grow tired and will let go of the wheel and the boat will go back to it's internal programming - to go East. Paul also describes this in Romans chapter 7:14-25

14 We know that the Law is right and good, but I am a person who does what is wrong and bad. I am not my own boss. Sin is my boss. 15 I do not understand myself. I want to do what is right but I do not do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. 16 When I do the thing I do not want to do, it shows me that the Law is right and good. 17 So I am not doing it. Sin living in me is doing it. 18 I know there is nothing good in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do good but I do not. 19 I do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I am always doing the sinful things I do not want to do. 20 If I am always doing the very thing I do not want to do, it means I am no longer the one who does it. It is sin that lives in me. This has become my way of life: When I want to do what is right, I always do what is wrong. My mind and heart agree with the Law of God. But there is a different law at work deep inside of me that fights with my mind. This law of sin holds me in its power because sin is still in me. There is no happiness in me! Who can set me free from my sinful old self? God's Law has power over my mind, but sin still has power over my sinful old self. I thank God I can be free through Jesus Christ our Lord!

While my heart and mind want to serve the Lord, be obediant, and walk with Him all of my days - my flesh, my body does not want to. It wants to stay up late watching Studio 60 or LOST so that I'm too tired the next day to wake early and spend my morning quiet time praising the Lord. Even when the Lord wakes me from a deep sleep and almost shouts in my mind, "Get up! Spend time with me!" and I'm even wide awake - I do not obey. I turn over, pull the covers over my head, and force myself to sleep again. My body does not want to minister to my husband when he returns from work, or when I'm sleepy, or have a migriane, or have had a rough day - I want him to take over for me and give me some "me" time. And even when it hits me - the time isn't mine to take, but the Lord's to give and for me to spend with Him, I still do not obey. It's not about me. It's about Jesus Christ - my Lord and my Savior. It's about my daily living sacrirfice to Him, and it's about my exercise of obediance when the Lord comes a-calling at 3:45 am.


King Uzziah had a glorious reign - he fortified the Southern Kingdom when his father, Amaziah had left it vulnerable; he was properous; he served the Lord and recieved instruction by Zecharaih in the ways and fear of the Lord - yet he still sucummbed to pride and aargonantly went into the Holy of Holies to light incense - this was the only authority withheld from him and given to the priests. At the end of his reign, the Bible does not state that he was remembered or spoken of as a visionary, great, or properous - even though he was. But rather, he was only remembered as a leper.

2 Chronicles 26:23 - for people said, "He had leprosy."

Do I want to walk my own way, independent of God and being just another person whom Paul spoke of when he stated:

"having a form of godliness but denying its power." 2 Tim. 3:5

Accepting Christ is one thing. Believing Him and applying it daily, walking it daily - is another. No wonder Jesus told us to take up our crosses and follow Him. When I think of what God allowed His Son to go through - why on Earth should I think I deserve any better AND that I will get through on my own? Even Jesus prayed in the Garden - and so should I.




Sunday, July 22, 2007

Baptism

Today, Steve and I were baptized. Before I share the pictures - I want to share something from our "First Steps" small group that Pastor Devin wrote out for us:


Baptism does not save you.
1 Cor 1:17: "For Christ does not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel."

Acts of Obediance
Matt 28:19: "Therefor go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son of the Holy Spirit.

"Picture of Jesus' death and resurrection
Colossians 2:12: "For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with Him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised CHrist from the dead.

"Takes place after you committed your life to Christ.
Acts 2:38: "Each one of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

"Identifies you with Jesus and His church.
Gal. 3:27: "And all who have been inited with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes.

"Symbol of belief.
Acts 16:31-33: "Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.. then he and everyone in his household were immediatly baptized.

"Must be immersed.
The Greek word "baptize" (baptizo) means "to immerse, plunge, dip, or bury in water."
Acts 8:38: "The went down into the water, and Phillip baptized him."

It's all so true. Okay - now the pictures. I was so nervous that my clothes would become see-through because of the water so I layered them on.


The Baptism pool!



The Welcome Committe.





Here Pastor Devin is saying a little bit about us and our journey. Beside Steve in the GP Kidz Pastor, Jimmy Marr.



Dunk dunk - and down we went. This is symbolic of us dying with Christ and then being raised with Him as well.



Afterwards our kids, Steve and me, and Pastor Devin.

Paul wanted to go "swimming" like Mommy and Daddy. So Steve let him dunk his feet a little bit.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Homeless Update: Yearning for God

I'll try to spend more time on this in the future. But I wanted to let everyone know that tonight with the homeless men around my parent's store was really amazing. I learned that Ron is truly yearning for God - but I also saw that he is just not able to grasp the concept of a sinful man according to God. He is very much hung up on his own good works. I also was able to talk to Jim, Mike, and Greg. Rosa's coming to small group with us tomorrow - so it's looking up. I'll update this blog soon with more details about how tonight went.

Speaking of videos...

Speaking of videos we watched tonight - I LOVE Martina McBride. I practiced and practiced "Independence Day" over and over again to sing for American Idol auditions (feel free to laugh at me), but sleeping on the sidewalk only five minutes from the Strip didn't appeal to me.

Steve heard one of her songs on the radio tonight and we began looking for it. We found the music video to 2 incrediably moving songs and I thought I'd share them. Enjoy! Martina Rocks!





Of course if you want to see the actual music video (which is amazing too) then go here.

Nostalgia

Steve and I were looking through music videos on YouTube tonight and found a few worship ones. He asked, "What other songs do we sing in church?" Suddenly I remembered a video I made to a worship song a year ago. So I pulled it up.


While watching it and remembering our trip last Pioneer Day weekend, I began to feel that sadness over leaving the LDS church all over again. I'm totally pumped about baptism tomorrow - but at times, I really miss being LDS. The culture, the people, the history - everything about it. I remember how close I felt to God last summer, how deeply touched I was after spending 5 days in Hurricane, Utah (a small suburb about 15 minutes outside of St. George).

Just thought I'd share the memories.

Applying God's Word

The customers at the c-store have been driving me insane. I've been trying my best to remain calm and patient with them, but I as I left home yesterday I realized I was going to really try harder - mainly, leaning upon God. So today, I brought my One Year Bible with me to read before work. I decided to write down a passage from my reading and tape it to the screen to meditate on throughout the day. One of my earliest customers quickly challenged my resolve to lean upon God, be patient, and calm with everyone. I started my shift at 5:45 - before 7 am I had five passages taped to my screen. They were so rude! And they took joy in treating a store clerk with such disregard.

I kept reading and re-reading the passages taped in front of my screen. Every bit of my flesh wanted to scream, yell, and throw stuff at these people. Yet, if I felt angry, overwhelmed, or whatever - I would take a deep breath, read the passages in front of me, and then say, "Have a good time. God bless you." While I wanted to scream at them, "I hope God's wrath pours upon you!!!" I really did want God to bless them - with His prescence, comfort, whatever it was that they were lacking and in need of. I wear a cross around my neck and it is a constant reminder to me what Jesus did for me - and it's a clear outward symbol of what I believe in. I do not wish to bring dishonor to that cross and lower myself to worldly standards. Aware that my Christian faith was on display - I did everything I could to remain calm with these people. Note to readers: c-store clerks do have feelings. A thank you, please, and cleaning up after yourself (ie putting your trash in the trash can) are all little things you can do to serve a clerk. If you really want to go the extra mile, a kind word, a smile - little things can really bring a high spot to their days in the pool of angry, rude, ungrateful customers. It's an incrediably thankless job - but remember, someone has to do it.

Now I don't want anyone to think I was perfectly cool, calm, and collected today. I wasn't. I threw someone out today because they made me their personal eye candy. It was one of the other customers I've mentioned in previous blogs that truely make me uncomfortable - their sexual lust is just overpoweringly strong. I hate it. This particular customer has sexually harressed me for awhile - almost every shift I've worked. Today, the first time he came in and started up - I firmly stated that his actions were inappropriate, disrespectful, and not okay. I clearly let him know if he did not stop I would not sell him anything. Of course, when he came in later that day - he began again and I asked him to leave. Perhaps I was rash - but I set my foot down.

Of course, there were high points in my shift as well. I got to read to Romans a bit with Ron today. There were a few other things but I'm going to wait to share them.

So that's my vent for today. We're hoping to attend a Pioneer Day celebration tonight to honor our family's background. We're getting baptised TOMORROW! All in all - it's on the up and up.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dizzy Tired

I'm so tired! And it's 10 pm my brain is going a million miles per hour. Today, I invited Rosa (the co-worker from my parents' store) to our Sunday night small group. I'm hoping that it goes well and she enjoys it. She also fully understands the purpose of this small group is to discuss the Bible.

Baptism is only two days away. During our study time tonight, we read from Romans 5 and 6. Awesome way to prepare for baptism. I want to share a few of my favorite parts:

Romans 5:6-11

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

How amazing and simple this is. I love it. Christ saved us as sinners! Not, after we cleaned ourselves up, not after we have become pure in heart - no - He saves us just as we are - sinners.

Romans 5:18-21

18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Through Adam comes condemnation, through Jesus comes grace. And it's abundant.

And of course - the following passages really struck Steve and I - because we're getting baptised this Sunday:

Romans 6:1-4
1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

New lives with Jesus. While I'm a bit nervous about the baptism - it's a huge step for me - I'm incredibly excited.

I want to share about a ministry I heard about today on Focus on the Family. The segment was called, "Cries from the City" and it discussed inner-city ministries. The stories they shared would break your heart - the work they are doing for God is amazing and inspiring.

"All too often the church of Jesus Christ doesn't hear the cries from the city. Sometimes we don't hear because we don't listen. Sometimes we don't listen because we don't want to hear." -
Keith Phillips

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Uploading to the Hard Drive

Since I'm a bit short on time, I will not be able to write up multiple clean blogs with an organized train of thought. Therefor, I'm going to simply upload my thoughts to the hard drive - ie blog.

First, I've been pondering how to use the experiences God has given me for His glory. Whenever I've been thinking of this - my thoughts come back to my previous experience with Teen Pregnancy Prevention. I also am reminded how shy I've become - ironically, someone in our Wednesday night small group looked shocked when I revealed to her I'm a shy person. Really, I'm more bold online than I am IRL - but who is that not true of? I used to be a really vocal, outgoing person and occasionally I can painfully force myself to be again - but I hate doing it. I believe that the Lord wants me to get involved in my TP presentations again in order to serve a need in our schools (hello some Vegas highschools have to provide daycare to their students and one highschool has a high dropout rate due to Teen Pregnancy and gang violence). I took another step of faith and reached out to a school with a high teen pregnancy rate (and a daycare in it) and was met quite receptivly! I couldn't believe it. The Health teacher doesn't know me from Jane Doe on the street and yet wants to discuss with me my program, what I've done in the past, and the hurdles of getting district approval. I'm also going to get back in touch with my former advisor and see if she's willing to have me back in her classes as well at my former Alma Mater. It'll be amazing if this pans out as Clark County is ironically a conservative school district. I'm totally excited about this and taking this step of faith in the Lord. I had to stop doing my presentations before because I had had both kids and between finding a sitter and arranging transportation in a one vehicle family, it became impossible. I don't see it being an easy feat this time - but if it's the Lord's will, I have faith it'll get done.

Secondly, I saw the men (Ron, Phillip, and Jimbo) I've been serving today. I found out where they've all been - which hasn't been at the store - they made friends who helped them get into an apartment! I'm so excited for them. However, here in Vegas we have apartments that are paid for by the week (some even by the day) and so I'm hoping they will be able to stay in their weekly apartment. They are still interested in the Bible study and I've got two hard committments to start up again tomorrow. I have a possible third committment as well - from Jim. He was either actually hit or almost hit by a car yesterday. The drivers, after the incicdent, didn't even slow down, stop, or check on him - they just sped off. How sad is that? They could have killed him and didn't even care. I bought him lunch today and told him about the group getting together tomorrow night - he seemed interested (especially with the food part) and said he'd try to attend. We'll see.

Finally, today I learned the importance of getting God's Word in me. I went to bed late last night - even though I was actually in bed by 9, I just didn't fall asleep. In order to be on time for my shift, I have to leave the house by 5 am which means getting up at the latest by 4:30 am. Which means - alarm clock. However, I woke up at 3:15 am this morning - wide awake. I couldn't figure out why. Then I suddenly remembered I had forgotten to set my alarm - so I did. As I laid in bed trying to fall asleep - the thought suddenly crossed my mind, that I should praise God for waking me up in order to set my alarm and not be late for work and perhaps I should get up and spend time with God before work. I yawned, rolled over, and thought about how silly I was. Mistake. I got to work on time today - however I noticed a big difference between how I interacted with people today. I didn't like it. I realized that had I spent time with the Lord this morning, perhaps I'd have been better prepared to handle todays obstacles. Perhaps I would have been in a better spirit and not so cranky. It was for sure a humbling realization.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Imagine God in your bedroom

I've been reading from this book called, "Intimate Conversations" - it's a book that plainly answer 21 sexual questions for Christian women. No chuckles please.

During last night's reading, as they wrapped up a chapter the authors encouraged one to imagine God entering the bedroom during a steamy lovemaking session and giving His loving blessing (see Song of Solomon 5:15). Just another testimony to how the world has perverted sex because my first impression was, "No way!" I could not have felt more uncomfortable with that thought.

However, the authors remind us about the teachings of the Bible in regards to sex. Brings us back to God's opinion on the matter. Which, will take quite a bit of reprogramming - but one only needs to read the Song of Solomon to understand sex is not a sin (confined within the bonds of marriage of course).

One author (it's a co-authored book) points out what God declares about why He created sex: creation, intimate oneness (for really mind blowing info read Eph 5:31-32), knowledge, pleasure, comfort, and a defense against temptation. Then she goes a step further and reminds us, that our physical expressions of love are just one way that we minister to our husbands. I had never thought of it that way, what a true blessing!

I'm looking forward to reading more into this book. It's setup so one can create a small group from the material and I'm thinking of doing that with some friends I know - both Christian and non. In a city that practically worships sex - knowing what God has written about it - IMO - is very important.

for as he thinks within himself, / so he is; or for as he puts on a feast, / so he is
Proverbs 23:7 a

Foolish or Bold?

During my quiet time today, I was reading from Proverbs 18-20. I wasn't sure why - but for some reason, I could not put it out from my mind and kept returning to it.
Proverbs 18

6 A fool's lips bring him strife,
and his mouth invites a beating.

7 A fool's mouth is his undoing,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.



Finally, baby arrived for the last time (until end of August at least - she wouldn't let me quit ).

I recently told her that Steve and I were not LDS anymore and hadn't been for a little while now. She was a bit surprised - but was not bothered. Today, I reminded her that Steve and I are getting baptized this Sunday, gave her a flyer for our church, and asked her and her family to come. She took it and then asked, "So why did you leave the church?"

With everyone else I've been softening my words, trying to be kind, and trying my best to sidestep the whole, "true or false" conversation. Today, before I knew what I had said I evenly replied, "Because it's false."

I was registering the look of shock on her face before I began to understand what I had just said. So I went into "soften" mode and tried to cushion what I had bluntly said. "We didn't originally leave because it's false, we left because the Lord was calling us elsewhere. Later, while reading the Bible we suddenly realized it was false. Which sucks, because I really loved Relief Society and the temple." I chuckled - and I was the only one doing it.

Before she left, I assured her that I wasn't angry with the church and recognized God working through it. I reminded her that Steve was a hardcore atheist and that the Lord planted seeds for him as a child to accept the LDS missionaries, through friendships with LDS children. She was pretty quiet about the whole thing. I don't know what she's thinking since she didn't rise to defend the church nor did she ask more questions. Here's hoping that she attends our baptism and church services.

On my mind now - was I bold for the Lord or foolish with an uncontrolled tongue?

Proverbs 13:5
The righteous hate what is false,

Find a Need and Fill it

Paul's favorite movies all involve robots. We checked out the movie "Robots" to see if he'd like it. One line really struck me yesterday while watching it, "Find a need and fill it." Service isn't really service if the need isn't there.

By our house there is a lot of construction. Each day that Steve and I pass by I wonder aloud, "I wonder if they need any water." Steve always blows me off telling me that he's sure they have plenty of water (he used to work for the road crew in high school).

The turn signals on our car are broken, so everytime I approach the now 3 way stop and need to turn I can't signal. Yesterday, when I approached the inersection, I wasn't able to signal. The lady became irritated that I hadn't signaled, so when she had me roll down my window I explained that our turn signals were broken. She understood and waved me through. The second time I went to the intersection, I tried using hand signals (like when you're riding a bike) to let them know I was turning. Finally, I had to just roll down my window again and state, "I'm making a right hand turn, my signals are broken." As I began to roll through the intersection again - the lady waved at me and stated, "I remember you from earlier."

I asked her if they needed water and sure enough they did! By time I returned, they were already gone for the day. I'm planning on walking to their site tomorrow and bringing them the water I promised with some invites to church.

Find a need and fill it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Unforgotten

The Lord really placed something in my heart today. After blogging I went upstairs and spent some time with the hubby and suddenly, a single word formed in my mind. "Unforgotten" At first - I wasn't sure what this meant. But the idea effortlessly formed in my mind. Every culture, every city, everywhere - there are groups of people who are forgotten. They are seen as unsavable, useless, or whatever. They are simply forgotten. I feel very called to make these groups unforgotten. Who are they? I assume they are teen or single parents (perhaps young adults), homeless, and/or women who have been shunned by family, society, or what have you. But are these the people the Lord has in mind for me? I don't know yet. I do know that I need to make sure to have regular "holy habits" to keep me in tune with the Lord and heed His callings.

I have no idea what this will entail. I do know that I plan on continueing in my service efforts to the homeless. We had a mild scare - we thought one of the homeless men (you might recall Jimbo) had died. Recently, he came back around the store and he's alive - but not doing well. Please pray for him. This is just another reminder of why it's so important to serve these men, to be Jesus to them, and to hopefully help them want to pick up that phone (ie pray) and call out to the Lord.

Tribes International - Every Nation on FiRE

Today the Lord really reminded me about my purpose - service. I wanted to share what Tribes International is up to. Right now, Barbie is taking orders for various knitting projects (I'm not sure if this is up on the website yet). The money earned from these items go towards Tribes. Shoot her an email if you're interested in contributing your own knitting creations for Tribes to sell. Here's a picture of what the kickin' yoga bag she recently finished.



Looking awesome!

Sadly, I don't have any talent (yet - maybe someday) for knitting. So I'm leaving all the knitting to her. However, I do want to pull out my sewing machine and make various headcoverings to sell for Tribes. We want to possibly create a logo for Tribes and either handstitch it in or iron it on. So this is still in the works.

On the Las Vegas front, I'm canning! Yep, this former Maggie Mormon does indeed have some Molly in her. I make my own jam and doll it up really cute. It's a whole family activity. The first stage in this will be making my own jam, dolling it up with creative personalized labels (that'd be Steve's department - a whiz on Photoshop and such) and sell those for Tribes. So, if any of you want you're very own personalized jam - please let us know! Remember, proceeds go to Tribe (so it's a tax write off) and therefor go to either poverty striken families in France (who of course get their very own Bibles as well), or to Africa to build a damn and help with the building fund in the leper colony.

Finally, there is one other person (Liza I believe) who is working on the Tel Aviv front. Her husband and her travel to Israel a few times a year and take things to an orphanage there. We want to gather, make, or buy items for them to take - from baby blankets, toys, clothes, and etc. Any help here is also appreciated.

Barbie's been plenty busy - so the site isn't up to date yet. She's thought of a new motto for Tribes - from "Get in the River" to now, "Every nation on Fire".

If all you can do is pray for us - that's awesome and greatly appreciated. Remember, the Lord stated where two or more are gathered in My name I am there - so please, pray pray pray. I am also currently recruiting for the Las Vegas area - I'd love to get a women's small group together and we can make jam, sew, or knit if you know how and fellowship with one another. Let me know if you're interested.

Please pray for the Tribes Ministry.

One of those days....

When the Lord takes the medicore and makes it amazing. Today, due to my inability to renew my license I had to go to the county recorder's office and then the Social Security Administration.

I've with held telling friends from my first and third wards that we have left the LDS church because I care about them so much and don't want to see that look of dissappointment, hurt, and anything of the like on their faces. First thing, I went to the Recorder's Office and waited in line. When the person behind the desk asked if he could help me, I stepped forward. I knew this man! And of course, I blurted it out, "I know you!" Now imagine this - here I am in a layered tank top and wearing a cross necklace. Obviously, not wearing my garments. "Are you LDS?"

He was. Not only was he LDS but he was a presiding Bishric member who welcomed me back in fellowshipment Christmas 2005. When I told him my name - he remembered me. As I pulled my paperwork out to show him, I realized I had my small group binder (I wanted to read ahead during my waiting time) that had in large print, "Understanding the Basics of Christianity" and GP's name on it. Whoops. He also attended our temple endowment and sealing ceremony.

I felt like the Lord was saying, "Do you care about the feelings of others more than My will? Do you love this world more than me?" Who am I to with-hold the Lord's glory in my life?

Then when I went to the SS Office - I saw a woman wearing a beautiful headcovering. I recently saw another woman like this at a GP community event. I wanted very badly to strike up conversation then, but wearing a tank, uncovered head, and cropped pants - I didn't feel that I would be able to approach her. I felt the exact same way today - add to it, wearing a cross. Finally, I placed my faith in the Lord - that He is ultimatly in control. I took a deep breathe and went over to her, I commented on her headcovering and how lovely it was and inquired where she purchased it. Before long, she was asking if I covered and why, "To show respect for God's authority. To acknowledge it in my life." She nodded in approval and continued speaking with me. I excused myself for a moment and when I returned, she had found two seats together in the crowded waiting area and had saved me a seat. She shared stories from her life with me - including her conversion to Islam. She shared with me the heartbreaking stories of how her Christian family treated her after she converted - calling her a cultist, terrorist, and such. When she asked them where they got that they stated their Pastor told them this. After discussing how cruel Christians had been to her - she paused and softly asked - as if she already knew the answer, "What faith are you?"

"I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus." She paused again. We began talking about the Lord - how He is everywhere and sees all that we do. I agreed. I found myself agreeing with a lot of what she said. Living our lives for God. It was almost as if the Lord used this woman to perhaps answer my misgivings about myself and my salvation, my belonging to Him. The message I took from this woman was two fold - one from her directly and one from the experience I had with her. The Lord is calling me to more obediance - to stop crawling off the altar so much and try harder to heed His call. He is preparing me - to minister to the homeless. He is placing burdens in my heart for those who perhaps are forgotten by Christians - the women who are shunned from their families, the teens who become pregnant, and the homeless who have been forgotten. Those who need the precious love of Jesus the most and sometimes are the last to recieve it.

The lady gave me her information to stay in touch with her. Perhaps I'll simply plant seeds of a different type of Christian in her life and someone else will till them.Perhaps this one encounter was all God had in mind - perhaps this was more for me than her - whatever God's plan is the message is clear. I must heed His calls and be obediant Him if I truely want to have that intimate fellowship with Him, to serve others, and to most importantly - grow as a believer. It's common sense but sometimes completly is forgotten.

I receive further confirmation from Steve - whom I hadn't even shared all this with when I arrived home. He'd been reading Romans 12:3 and it states, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." He shared with me that he feels very impressed that this is the Lord's will for us. This is what we are supposed to be doing. So we're seeking the Lord in prayer for further direction - starting with simplifying our "stuff" that's really, not even ours to begin with. I'm not sure what we're going to do yet - donate it to teen parents, to families in need, to the homeless, or what. The Lord gave Steve and I vastly different life experiences - it's time I returned to what He has placed on me. Service. Through service I've always felt intimate fellowship with the Lord - through this reminder, He has answered my prayer. I am His, He is with me, and He loves me. Others need to feel His overwhelming, powerful love and grace too.

So, in the words of a dear friend of mine - shut up Satan.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

His

I've had something bothering for awhile. Today, it was like someone turned up the volume from headpones to that annoying car that always drives down the streets and makes your house vibrate because their stero is soooo loud.

As baptism nears, I've been thinking about my committment to Christ - about grace, the life of a Christian, and so forth. However, my mind always settles on one - now - annoying thought. Perhaps I've never been "legally" His. This really bothers me. I really dislike this thought and want to brush it off as the Enemy or my own over analyzing or even fear about public baptism (I'll explain later). Yet, it simply won't go away. At first, I simply prayed the sinners prayer (sincerely) every time my Pastor did his "altar call" (he didn't actually ask anyone to come up to the altar but rather pray with him if they wanted to take that next step and place faith in Jesus).

I'm annoyed because for so long I've been so sure that I am the Lord's and now I'm geniunly concerned. Baptism is next week - I know the Lord directed both Steve and I to be baptised - and I want to make sure I have all my "ducks in row". By the way, today Steve decided to be baptised next week and tonight made Jesus his Lord and Savior! I begin to wonder - did I make Jesus Lord of my life? I was broken, I accepted His sacrifice and understood it, and I (atleast thought I did) gave Him the only thing I could - my will, my life, myself. My life changed - it was renewed. However, now as baptism approaches - I'm a bit unsure - did I really make Him Lord of my life? Am I unsure because of anything I've got going on? No. This thought has just been burdening me for awhile and today became almost defeaning. At this point, I'm not sure if this is the Lord trying to make sure I understand that I still need to do this (even though I've been praying "the prayer" for awhile now) or if this is Satan trying to merely trip me up.

At this point, all I can do is pray, search the Word, and listen for the Lord's answer. I miss my rulebook.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Evan Almighty

Today we went and saw Evan Almighty. I've heard mixed reviews about this - from some (extremely) conservative Christians I've heard bad, angry reviews - especially about the line where "God" says that the flood with Noah and his family wasn't about God's wrath but about His love - and from many many others I've heard great reviews.

Now having viewed it, I can say - I totally loved it. Was it Biblically correct? No way - it's not supposed to be. Was it a way to expose people to God's love and to show us even when things look completely idiotic to do - they all have a purpose in God's plans? YES. I loved it.

What caught my attention the most was when "God" stated to Evan that to change the world - it all starts with "acts of random kindness". Jesus told us throughout the New Testament to serve one another with love.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Grace in my life

It is so beautiful in Las Vegas today! Sure it rained in the Summerlin area, sure it went from overcast to bright and sunny this morning. But it's so awesome out. At my house is a light breeze and the heat is not intense right now. It's the perfect time to sit outdoors and blog. Assuming, my spinklers don't go off on me again like they did last night. My parents got me a family pool for my birthday and the kids and I spent time in it last night. After they were all tucked into bed and the house was cleaned - I went outside, put my feet in it and began to blog - only to have the sprinklers go off before I finished my first paragaph.

So I'm going to try again now. I rarely get to blog while outdoors - because the heat is intense. But when I do, I find it really enjoyable. I can just look up and see the beauty of God's creation all around me. I used to be able to see it better before the houses were built behind us because I had a great view of the mountains. So now I'm content with either looking towards to the front of the house and seeing the mountains or simply taking in my messy yard. Which, isn't all bad considering it's messy because of the amazing children the Lord blessed me with.

The Lord is so good and blesses us all with differently in life. Four years ago, our blessings were that Steve went from a hardcore atheist to someone who believed in Jesus Christ. That I was turning back from my agnostic, druken, addicted lifestyle. (Please note: I was not addicted to drugs as I did not DO drugs but rather I have an addictive personalilty and was addicted to several other things in my life including porn, ciggerates, energy drinks and pills, and when I allowed myself - alcohol). When I started college - I started with quite a load on my shoulders. I had just given my daughter (who was 3) up for adoption, I'd had an abortion over the summer, and I had stupidly involved myself in sexual sin even deeper and more depraved which lead to rape by a local school teacher and finally the ending of a relationship of a longtime boyfriend. To say the least, I was a bit overwhelmed by trying to act as if everything was normal. When I found these three amazing friends - Jeremy, Remo, and Seth - I began hanging out with them all the time. They were seasonal friends and while the habits they introduced me to were bad - they still stuck by me as my life went from rock bottom to hell. As I hung out with them more and more, I began to drink more and more. At first, it was weekend nights. Then a couple of weeknights, and before I knew it I was waking up (now pratically living there) and drinking and watching porn with them. By the end of my first semester in college - I never came home to my parents' house because I was always drunk or getting there at the guys' house. When I finally did hit rock bottom - although I'd be back there shortly again - my parents finally tried to bring me out of my stupor and back to God.

I would have none of it - rebelling and deciding the life I was living was my own and not for them to decide how best to live it. By the end of my second semester in college - I would have another abortion, continue in my drunkness and become a stripper. During this whole mess - I met Steve. He was and still is - amazing. He didn't judge me - but rather was my sort of friend for awhile. We'd bump into one another on occasion as we were both involved with our Greek orginaizations (me an AXD and he a DSP). When we finally began dating it was awesome. However, I was a stripper and not the most clear headed at the time. When I finally got out of stripping I settled down for awhile. I continued in my drinking, but was finding Steve's prescence in my life very calming.

Before I finally came to Christ in 2004 I would return to rock bottom again - I've disclosed most of these items in an earlier blog. When I finally laid there broken before Him, aware of His sacrifice for me - I was in awe and deep sorrow. I didn't want Him to have died for me. I knew I wasn't worthy and thought of how dissappointed that His sacrifice extended to even me. I read a book by Stephen Robinson called, "Believing Christ" and it truely affected how I began to view myself and my walk with the Lord. It isn't so much about just saying we believe - but really truely believing.

I felt a deep need to confess my sins to my Bishop and did so which resulted in a Bishop's Council and disfellowshipment which should have only lasted 6 months but went well into 18 months. It was the best experience of my life. The past 4 years in the LDS church have been a blessing from the Lord. Just as the children He gave me, just as the home we live in, just as the messy somewhat ruined yard we have. All of them - blessings.

That's why I do not find joy, comfort, or anything of the like when I recieve personal messages here on MySpace (or even IRL) that say, "Congrats on leaving the LDS church!" or "We've been praying for this" or "Good to know God is reaching those people." I feel disturbed and even a bit saddened by this. The Lord is amazing, His will can be confusing, and the gospel is grace. Yet we never take the time to wonder - what does this look like?

For me it included the lack of judgement of two LDS missionaries who treated me respectfully even though I was dressed like a stripper when I first met them. It was two completly different Bishops who truely had the love for their "flock" no matter how wicked they were. For me, it was stepping into a church that was not what I felt comfortable with and being surprised by God. If we were to paint the pictures of grace of various people just here in Las Vegas - how colorful, how amazing would that painting be? How diverse would it be? I cannot even imagine it - but I can simply imagine the fullness of God's love and sacrifice being testified in each and every single image.

With God, we each walk our own walks with Him - when we draw close, He draws close. Yet He never abandons us, never stops loving us - never stops watching us. In all my depravity as a human being, in my time rebelling against Him, denying Him, hating even His people - He still safegaurded me from far worse things.

I was recently criticised for not being calling out the falsehoods of the LDS church. While the Lord has opened my eyes to untrue teachings - He has not laid it upon me to become some outspoken, vengeful critic of the LDS church. I do not either speak out against those accuratly or respectfully (meaning they engage in civilised conversations without resorting to name calling or the like) criticise it either - because even David stated that he had a perfect hate for God's enemies. Does this mean the people in the LDS church are God's enemies? Only they (individually) know so - I do not call them or think of them this way. However, I can see why some people do. I am not anyone's judge. The Lord used the LDS church to reign me back in, pull me close, and truely dicipline me. I am grateful.

I have done nothing good or praiseworthy - the Lord however, has. I didn't suddenly decide to leave - the Lord called to Steve and I. I didn't decide to suddenly open my eyes and see what was untrue - the Lord opened my eyes through His amazing Word. I do not claim any of these things nor do I pretend that I am to be the one to do the same for others. We all have to come to terms with God in our own time, we all have to be willing and humble to hear His voice. So please, do not congratulate me on something I did - because I did not do it - the Lord did. Please do not share with me your praise that the Lord brought me out as if the Lord does not speak or have a relationship with other LDS. Because He does. They may not be in a place that He is ready to pull them away from the Church. But instead, please - simply praise the Lord for His goodness and pray that His will be heard and heeded by everyone who calls to Him.

What grace looks like - can never be put on an assembly line, it can never be boxed, it can never be identical to every single believer. The only commonality is that we suddenly become aware of God's love and sacrifice and want to accept it. Outside that - our experiences, our paths, our lives will never be identical. The Bible states that we are to judge rightously - yet we know that our judgement is fleshly as even Jesus told the Pharisees. Let us not walk in the flesh but in the Spirit so we may simply heed God's call to each of our lives.