Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On a day like this...

"On a day like this...
clap, clap,
On a day like this...
clap, clap
On a day like this..
I need the Lord to help me..."

This goofy camp song sums up my day today.
It's a song where you add goofy sound effects each round and end with a a good ole' soulful lyric,
"I need the Lord to help me"

Multiple times today, I felt like another goofy sound effect was coming my way.
Things were just not going right.
It seemed to me that the world might be falling apart.
A few times I reached to the hair on my head, ready to pull it out  [but thankfully, I settled with just gripping the strands as to grip a stress ball].
Even a couple times, my frustration made me say a couple choice words to myself [just being real].
Things like...
losing a well thought out email that was ready to send [and of course, did not automatically save]..
dropping my already prepared lunch on the floor,
hearing sad news about a friend, 
stubbing my toe,
receiving zero phone calls for a job I so desperately want,
running out of toilet paper,
 waiting 30 minutes for water to boil but realizing that the stove top wasn't even working...
[and a bunch more silly things]
left me finishing my day off with a couple rounds of...

"On a day like this
clap, clap, snap, snap, boing, boing, woo, woo, bam, bam
On a day like this
clap, clap, snap, snap, boing, boing, woo, woo, bam, bam
ON a day like this
I need the Lord to help me."

My frustration meter was off the charts and an island far, far away from here was calling my name.
Today felt like a chain reaction of Dominoes and the end seemed no where in sight.
It left me downright discouraged and exhausted, looking up to the sky saying, "Seriously?!"
Do you ever have days like this?! 
Was today that day for you?!

As I look at the clock in front of me, 8:21 pm never looked so good.
At the same time, I feel terrible for whining about "this terrible, horrible, no good, rotten day" [side note- I actually found out that they made a movie based on the book, 'Alexander and the Terrible, 
Horrible, No good, Very Bad Day' & it's coming out soon!]
Things could've been worse...way worse.
A lot of today's mishaps were just silly [yet frustrating still] and sure, a few things were legitimately discouraging, but my perspective was "OH my gosh, this day is NEVER going to end!"

Maybe I need to work on just laughing at those silly things more, instead of kicking and screaming.
Maybe I need to say to myself "Woosaww" like in the movie, Anger Management.
Better yet, as I sit here at the end of this pooey day, all I can think is...
"Thank you Jesus, that your mercies are new each day". 

That's a beautiful truth, because through all of my silly, frustrating events today, I kept feeling worse because of the way I was reacting to everything!
Knowing that Jesus extends His grace and mercy to me each and everyday lightens my load a TON.
Knowing that I can wake up tomorrow morning refreshed and renewed, makes tomorrow EVEN better since this "no good day" will be in the past!

We're going to have days when things don't go our way.
We can be reminded that life goes on even if the toast burns, or we don't receive a phone call with a job offer, or the printer jams.
On days like these we should actively remind ourselves of Lamentations 3:22-23-
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.”

Perhaps we get so wrapped up in all the mess, that we can't even think of that truth...[because today it clearly took me awhile to remember] 
at least we can go to bed saying, "Thank you God that your mercies are new each day and I can start over-give me strength for tomorrow!"
Maybe even tomorrow morning, before our feet hit the ground, we can remind ourselves,
"Your mercies are new each day!" 
Perhaps we'd go throughout the day with a tad bit different perspective...
a better perspective.

There you have it folks, Jesus just spoke to me through my own blog...
I hope it spoke to you, too.  

Dear God, thank you for speaking to me. Thank you for extending Your grace to me each and everyday. Thank you for my husband, family and friends that extend your compassion to me, making my load a tad bit lighter. 
Help us all to remember the love, hope, and mercy you have for us and may we rest in it daily even during our difficult days.
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Great resources to open our minds!

My last post, Whose side are you on?, posed a challenge for us all...
Personalize, instead of generalize.
In order to do that, I suggested we explore different people, different religions, and different cultures.
Not to change ourselves but to change the way we think about God's children.

I figured I would offer some suggestions and resources to help you get started!

Our America with Lisa Ling - TV show that follows journalist, Lisa Ling, as she explores many different topics such as the foster care system, teenage pregnancy, gun violence, child abuse, racism, transgender lives and many more. She gets all sides of the topic and really shows us the reality of all of these. 
I LOVE this show because it opens my eyes to things that I usually generalize, but now can personalize.

Arranged - A movie that follows the friendship of an Orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim woman. This is such a good movie!!!

For the Bible Tells Me So -Documentary that explores how homosexuality and religion often intersect due to certain interpretations, which can cause stigma.
This simply offers another way of thinking.

Saint of 9/11 - Documentary that shares the life of Father Mychal Judge, a fire department chaplain in NYC.
Chely Wright: Wish Me Away - "This documentary profiles country music star Chely Wright, a devout Christian who struggled to succeed in the business while hiding her homosexuality." What a story!

Under Our Skin - A documentary about the Lyme Disease epidemic and the many controversies that go with it.
This is such a well-done documentary that really captures the pain that Lyme Disease causes. I cried my eyes out the first couple times of watching it, because I felt like I wasn't alone finally.


Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne - This book (except for the Bible) was the first book to really challenge me. It follows Shane's journey as he wrestles with poverty, suffering, homelessness, and much more. This is a must read!!

Torn by Justin Lee - If you've ever wondered about the gay debate in church, this is a great starting point. It offers a personal story of a man who struggles with his sexuality in the church and his desire to know the truth.

Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove - This is a neat compilation of stories about a hospitality house for all. It's an enjoyable, heart wrenching, easy read.

Unfair by John Shore - This book is a compilation of letters from people who have struggled with their sexuality. This is definitely an eye opener. I'm not finished reading this book yet, but every chapter offers a new perspective.

Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet by Karen Armstrong - This book (although I haven't finished yet) offers an in-depth historical and cultural perspective of Muhammad and the Muslim faith. Great insight & unique facts that I've never heard before!

Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said? by Shane Claiborne & Tony Campolo - I love this book because it covers an array of controversial subjects and challenges us to really think about what Jesus would think/do. Very challenging, but easy read!

I hope you will check out these awesome books/documentaries! Before I was introduced to these, it was hard for me to understand and empathize with these certain topics, because for so long they were generalized. Now they are "personalized".
I went to a Compassionate Communication workshop with my sister awhile back and we did an exercise that really struck me. We were to walk around the room silently and every 30 seconds we would stop in front of a person and look them in the eyes. The instructor would say phrases like, "Realize that the person in front of you has a heart" or "Realize that this person has undergone trials and suffering just like you". It may sound strange but it proved the point that we all have emotions and a story. It reinforced the truth that ALL people deserve respect, dignity, compassion and kindness, despite our beliefs.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When joy dies

So I told myself that I wouldn't blog about the death of Robin Williams, because everyone is doing it.
Well, clearly I have turned my back on my oath and now blogging about Robin Williams.
Everyone's Facebook newsfeeds have been covered in clips and pictures of Robin Williams. Just a little while ago, someone posted a video Jimmy Fallon doing a tribute to him so we watched it.
Before it began, I was wondering, "Wow, this man really touched many, many peoples' lives...what was so different about him than other comedians and actors?"
Now don't get me wrong, he is one of my favorite actors. In fact, Mrs. Doubtfire is one of my favorite movies. It has just been amazing to me what an influence he has had on SO many people.
As I was watching the tribute I found my answer...joy.
That was what was different about Robin Williams, I think.
He clearly brought so much joy to life. He didn't seem like he was different on camera, than off.
Joy seemed to radiate through him or at least that is what it seemed.
When joy dies, of course, many, many people are affected.
He was a source of joy for many and now he's gone.
That's a tough pill to swallow for many of us.
It makes me think when true joy died two thousand years ago.
I can't imagine how Mary, Mary Magdeline, and the disciples (along with many, many others) felt when Jesus was crucified.
It's tough to lose such an amazing comedian and actor because he brought so much joy to our lives.
However, it's even more tough for me to think of the day when Jesus died because he is the true source of joy.
Thanks be to God, our joy was not taken away forever, but three days later, our joy was risen again.
I feel like this post would be great for Easter time, but then again, I don't think we can ever be reminded enough of the amazing joy that the two Marys' and the disciples must have felt when joy was resurrected that very normal, yet sacred day.
This joyful truth can hopefully remind us in our deepest, most sorrowful times in life, that Our Joy of Jesus never leaves us. He's always here for us waiting.
I'm not sure what was going on in Robin's life or what he might have been facing, but this terrible time of loss for his family (and everyone else for that matter) can be a reminder of how important it is to seek joy and seek joy for others, as well.
Find joy in the deep crevices of life even when financial burdens, illnesses, and broken relationships seem to be filling in around us.
However, when depression takes over it can be hard, practically impossible to find joy, but realizing that we need joy is our first step.
Finding joy in Christ and his resurrection and sharing it with others who may be struggling should be one of our top priorities, because when joy dies...life dies.
Let's try our best to keep joy alive.
Prayers for Robin William's family, those who are struggling with depression, and the rest of us, that we might go out of our way to bring joy into someone's life.
Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Jack, and License to Wed will always be in my top favorite movies :)
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Friday, August 1, 2014

Whose side are you on?

Hey everyone!
Long time, no blog!
Here is why...

I got married on June 19th!!! 
It was a beautiful day and a fun filled week with our families that will go down in the history books as one of the best weeks of my life!
I was planning on blogging once we got back, but something unexpected came up.
A few days after we came home, I had to have emergency surgery. 
So the past month, I've been recovering from surgery.
With home healthcare nurses, excruciating pain, and a few annoying complications, our first month of marriage has been nothing short of interesting.
Dave has been wonderful throughout it all. He's definitely been fulfilling his vows already and I am so thankful!
Now, I'm just praying that no more complications will arise and it will be smooth sailing from here on out!

So that's my short little update for you! 
I'm sorry it has been so long, but I know that you know....life happens, right?
We just have to do whatever we can to get past the hurdles and road bumps.

Last night, Dave and I were reading the book, "Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet" by Karen Armstrong. You may be wondering, "Why are you reading that?" 
Well, Dave and I are kind of nerdy. We enjoy learning new things, including things that may not affect us personally. We realize the importance of having knowledge not just in our religion or culture, but in others, as well.

As he was reading out loud, my brain felt like it was going to explode!
Blog ideas kept rushing in! Ahh!!
As he was reading about church history such as the Crusades, all I could think about was how nothing has really changed. Yes, of course, there have been some changes, but when we look across the board and see the divisiveness with such a hostile foundation of religion, we haven't made much changes.
I look outside. I surf the web. I watch the news. I read articles. I hear conversations.
The only common denominator I find is division. The question of, "Whose side are you on?!" comes up often. Perhaps, my optimistic self is being pessimistic today? I don't think so.
 Perhaps, I'm simply being a realist right now.

Culture divided.
Religion divided.
Christianity divided.
Race divided.
Politics divided.
Economic status divided.
Nations divided.
Families divided.
A world divided.

We've been struggling with this since the beginning of time.
Sure, we may have made some improvements (especially here in the US), in terms of rights and freedom, but we are nowhere near perfect. In fact, not one nation is perfect, even America. 

Our red,white & blue tinted glasses should no longer hide the reality that is right in front of us.
We are divided. 
You may be thinking, "Well Chelsea, of course we are divided. We have 7 billion people here on Earth, all with different personalities and beliefs, so of course we're divided!"

Guess what? I agree.
However, when it comes to following in Jesus' footsteps, I feel like we need to tread carefully.

Where does Jesus ever encourage division amongst people?
Bueller? Anyone? 

Here are two examples:
Jews & Gentiles. The culture of Jesus' day were all about the separation of Jews & Gentiles, but Jesus, not so much. He supported equality amongst all people. Apostle Paul said, "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:27-28)
Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-26). Jews were not to interact with Samaritans, but Jesus did, and even offered her living water!
Tax Collectors  & Zealots. Two groups of Jews in Palestine with probably the most intense hate towards each other and guess what?! Jesus chose one of each to be his disciples, Matthew the Tax Collector and Simon the Zealot. I don't think that was by mistake or coincidence, but on purpose, to prove that in Jesus there is no division. The disciples shared life together and here we see 2 enemies living life together.

From these examples in the Bible, we see that division is a reality, but that doesn't mean it's right. 

From the words and actions of Jesus Christ, do we see that division is helpful?.
We may pat ourselves on the back when we "win" a culture war, but is Jesus standing nearby waiting to give us a high-five? 
I doubt it.

I feel like we often pick "sides" too quickly.
It's not about sides. (I think Jesus would back me up on this).
It's not always about who is right and who is wrong.

I feel as Christians, we are held accountable to not quickly pick a "side" and move on, but to look at the subject from all angles. Talking to someone of a different race, culture, religion will allow us to get to know the hearts of God's children. Instead of generalizing, let's start "personalizing". 

I used to have a certain idea of Muhammad. A dark, violent picture, but did I really take the time to learn about him?
No, I didn't. I quickly chose a side and moved on.
Although we haven't gotten far into the Muhammad book, I've realized that I've believed some things about the Muslim faith that were simply stereotypes and not truth.

As Christians, we are not called to pick a side and move on, we are called to love one another, to get to know one another, and to respect one another.
Instead of looking at hot topics like the children immigrating to the US, gender equality, and war, then picking a side based on politics or simple generalizations, I feel that we should be open enough to look from a different angle. To empathize. To wade in the middle of both sides instead of diving into one. 

As Christians, do we have to pick a side? 
I don't think so. I think that as long as we are faithfully following Jesus and His teachings of justice, grace, love, peace and mercy, we don't need a side. Sure we can have our beliefs and share them, but we are complex beings and generalized decisions will not do.
Jesus was not about culture wars, so we shouldn't be either.

My challenge for you is to explore! Make a decision to learn about something outside of your comfort zone. Do you have a bitterness towards something? Perhaps a different religion. Are you confused about something? Maybe gender equality. Have you always been interested in a culture and haven't made the time to dive in?

I struggle with making generalizations at times, but then I  am reminded to align myself with Jesus. Dave and I will continue to read the Muhammad book and I'm excited to learn about a different faith.

God knows our hearts and I think the best way to move forward, is to get to know the children of God (meaning all people of every race, nation, and culture) and their hearts.
I mean, would you like to be generalized into a certain category without any chance to explain yourself?

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

freaking out

Well, there's a reason why I haven't been posting much...
I'm getting married in.....drum roll please....
28 days!!!!!
That's right...28 days!!!!

This is what I look like...

And this is how I feel!
Don't get me wrong, I'M SO EXCITED,  just a little overwhelmed with to-do lists
 and packing lists! 

Woa, it's crazy how all of the sudden I feel like everything (I mean everything) is happening at once.
I have so much to think about, so much to do, and very little time, so please pray for me and Dave, as I might be a little hard to handle in the next few weeks :-/

Anywho, I wanted to keep you all in the loop.
I haven't fallen off the face of the earth (only the blogging world) or given up on my love for blogging...
I'm simply getting married!

I continue to remind myself that this is just a day (but a big day, too), the marriage is so much more important than centerpieces and cake.
So if I have another freak out, please remind me of that.
It would be very much appreciated :)

I'm going to try to blog right before the wedding and give some updates, but if not, I'll talk to you after June 24th!
Love & blessings :)
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Friday, May 16, 2014

Movie Review: Heaven is for Real

A couple weeks ago we saw Heaven is for Real
A few years ago, I read the book in about a day because it was an easy read and rather interesting. 
I didn't think too much about it, but mainly, "well, anything is possible."
However, a couple things stood out as a little fishy, which caused me to wonder, "Why do pastors always come out with books like these? Why can't someone who's not in ministry write about visiting heaven?"  But then again, I can't argue with his experience.

Dave, on the other hand, has read plenty of books like "90 Minutes in Heaven", "23 Minutes in Hell", and others. He was more of a skeptic than I was. So when Heaven is for Real came out in movie theaters, he wasn't so sure about seeing it. However, something must have peeked his interest because we ended up seeing it.

Guess what?
I was very, very impressed with it.
It wasn't a corny Christian movie (however, some people may disagree) with terrible acting, but it was very real, humorous, and thought provoking.

One thing I think they did very well, was the portrayal of doubting and questioning.
Although Colton (3 year old boy who visited heaven) was convincing, his dad (the pastor), had a really hard time believing him. The movie really showed Todd and his wife struggling with the revelation that Colton kept bringing up.
I've said before, there's nothing wrong to question. 
It is often in our questioning, that leads us to a deeper faith. 

I also liked how they focused on the goodness of God.
There is a scene where Todd is talking to one of his church member's who lost her son in the war.
Their dialogue consisted of showing that God didn't favor Todd over her because Colton was still living rather than her son.
He made it clear to her that God loves her just the same and that unfortunately, death is a part of life.
I think it presented such a profound truth, that just because something bad happens in your life, doesn't mean God loves you any less than anyone else. 
He loves us all the same with an unconditional love, but it doesn't take away the truth that evil still exists in the world and death happens.
However, Jesus says, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Lastly, I think the most important truth they portrayed through the movie was that "neither death nor life can separate us from the love of God" (Romans 8:38-39). Even if Colton was making all this up, he shed light onto the wonderful news that God gives us peace through everlasting life. We don't really know what heaven is like, but we should rest assured, that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. 
He offers us peace in knowing that He never leaves us, He loves us with an everlasting love, and He gives us the gift of eternal life.

So whether or not, you believe in near death experiences or visions, this movie is still enjoyable and portrays many important points that we should remember every day. 

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Strangers at my Door

If anyone needs an easy, inspiring book to read, I've got one for you!
Strangers at my Door by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

Strangers at my Door is a compilation of stories about this man and wife's journey of opening a hospitality house in a poverty stricken, crime infested neighborhood in Durham, North Carolina. Their motivation is to find Jesus in the stranger at their door. They invite people in to eat, to talk, to question, and even to stay and live. They function as a diverse family with responsibilities, fellowship, prayer, and struggles. Drug addictions, criminal activity, abuse, prostitution, homelessness are just some of the realities they face. The stories show us that it isn't always easy to find Jesus in the stranger at the door, but in the end, it is always worth it.
This book really tugged on my heart strings. It opened my eyes to issues I had never seen or heard of before. It broke my heart to read of the struggles that they face. It uplifted me in unexpected ways.

I'll share a few of my favorite quotes from the book, but don't let that take the place of actually reading it as a whole. I'm confident that it will be a blessing in your life to read about this hospitality house.

"To leave the door locked--to close ourselves off from another person in fear--is to reduce our capacity to connect, to love, to be fully human." 

"Welcome everything, and you'll witness miracles." 
Even in the most dirty and intimidating situations, miracles can happen.

"Is it safe? No. But companionship never is. It is drawing close to another person despite our fears. It is an embrace that comes int he midst of conflict, pushing us deep together, not further apart. It is, at its best, a glimpse of glory. But it's never safe."
I feel like this quote rings true for a lot of us. Maybe it's when we see a homeless person on the corner or when we meet a person who was just recently released from prison. Perhaps its when we're looking for neighborhoods to live in. I think this is a great perspective to have, because it's true...companionship (any kind) is never safe since we are imperfect beings. There is always a risk of being hurt by anyone, no matter their circumstances.

"But the dividing line between good and evil does not run between those who've been to prison and those who haven't. It cuts through the center of every soul."

"Those couple of hours int he library each week--they were the only time when I was locked up (in prison) that I felt like a human being."

Because behind the homelessness, the addiction, the abuse, there is a heart
A heart that was created in the image of God.
A heart that is loved by God.
A heart that longs to be loved and accepted by others. 
We can't ignore that truth, but we should embrace it.
No one is too far from redemption with God's immense grace.
Finding Jesus in the stranger, can give us all the strength we need to love them past their mistakes.

Check out this book-you won't be disappointed!
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