Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Attack of the Squirrels

This morning, Lola (my toy poodle) and I were sitting on the deck enjoying the sunlight. 
I was drinking my coffee and reading, while she was exploring the perimeter of the deck as if she were an inspector.
When all of a sudden, we heard a rummage in the trees up above. 
We both look up and see about 5 squirrels chilling in the branches.
Not only did we see them, but they saw us...well, they saw Lola.

One squirrel in particular was extra curious about Lola and decided to jump to the tree closest to her and run down about 15 feet away from Lola. 
The squirrel stopped and stared.

All of the sudden, I have a flashback to the classic, old movie, "The Birds." Instead of "The Birds", our movie would be entitled, "The Squirrels." Doesn't sound so scary, but if you had 5 or 55 squirrels staring at you, maybe it would be. 

Anyway, at this point, Lola and Mr. Squirrel are having a standoff.
I'm not sure exactly what was running through the squirrel's mind, but I would imagine it would be thinking something to the effect of, "What is that fluffy, white thing down there?
He stands there for awhile just staring at Lola, while I'm ready to jump to the rescue in case he wanted to hop on the back of Lola for a poodle ride or worse...breakfast.  
She continues to look up at him.

Meanwhile, the other squirrels are running and jumping through the overhang of the trees.
I guess Mr. Squirrel got tired of staring at Lola or perhaps the other squirrels were coaxing him to come play. So Mr. Squirrel turned around and joined his friends.

Lola looks back at me with her head cocked as if to say, "Why won't they play with me?"
Again, she looks above and continues to watch the squirrels frolic in the trees.
If only we were in a Disney movie like Bambi, the squirrels would befriend Lola and they would play for the rest of their days.
Unfortunately, Lola doesn't live in a Disney movie so she was left alone on the deck without anyone to play with, but me.

This interaction made me think of life in general.
Why is it that we like to separate ourselves from people who are different than us?
Just because people are different than us, doesn't mean we can't get along.
Out of the squirrels, Mr. Squirrel was the most curious of Lola.
However, he wasn't curious enough to interact with her. He only stayed at a safe distance.
Poor Lola, that had to feel so isolating. 

We can either be like the other squirrels in the branches, who don't even want to try to interact with a fluffy poodle or we can be like Mr. Squirrel, who is curious enough to get a closer look.
Perhaps there is a better option than those two.
Perhaps we can go the extra step or as Jesus said, "extra mile" to interact with people who are different than us, no matter how uncomfortable we may feel. I bet the more interactions we would have, the less uncomfortable it would be.

This isn't a new issue either. We've been dealing with this problem since the beginning of time. The victims just seem to change. Why haven't we gotten this right after all these years? 

If Jesus were here, I would hope that our reality would turn into a Disney movie, because I know Jesus would expect us to love those who are different than us. 
He tells us to love God and love others, just like He did.
I don't think He was uncomfortable when He hung out with the poor and the sick, but I'm sure it didn't feel good when He was ridiculed because of His act of service to all. That didn't stop Him though.

The Kingdom of God, I think, looks a lot like a Disney movie without the bad guy, of course.
It looks like a poodle and some squirrels hanging out.
It looks like a lion and lamb lying together.
It looks like us interacting and loving ALL people despite our differences, because ALL people are made in the image of God. 

It's funny how some animals can reflect what we're dealing with today. 
Let's show people the Kingdom of God and if we struggle with that, we should pray asking for strength to love like He loves us. 

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Music Monday: Humble

I believe music can be so powerful and transcending.
Audrey Assad's music, especially. 
She is one of my favorite singer/songwriters because her music is not surface level, but so much deeper. 
It's relaxing and moving, centered on God's loving and gracious character.

I have all of her albums, but her newest album, "Fortunate Fall" is by far my favorite. 
I can't necessarily say that today's song is my favorite from the album, because each song is wonderfully unique.
However, this song sheds light on one of God's most powerful characteristics to me.

Humble and human, willing to bend You are
Fashioned of flesh and the fire of life, You are
Not too proud to wear our skin
to know this weary world we’re in
Humble, humble Jesus

Humble in sorrow, You gladly carried Your cross
Never refusing Your life to the weakest of us
Not too proud to bear our sin
to feel this brokenness we’re in
Humble, humble Jesus

We bow our knees
We must decrease
You must increase
We lift You high

Humble in greatness, born in the likeness of man
Name above all names, holding our world in Your hands
Not too proud to dwell with us, to live in us, to die for us
Humble, humble Jesus

We lift You high
We lift You high

Jesus' humbleness amazes me. Gosh, I love every word of this song, but "humble in sorrow, You gladly carried Your cross. Never refusing Your life to the weakest of us. Not too proud to bear our sin, to feel this brokenness we're in" paints a beautiful picture. Even during the long trek up to Golgotha, with a heavy cross laying across His beaten and broken flesh, Jesus didn't act out of pride or put up a fight. He carried His cross with a humble attitude. He never said, "I'll die for you, but not for you." He said, "I give life to all, even the weak!" He was so humble that He took our sin and felt all the pain we've endured.

The chorus, "We bow our knees, we must decrease, You must increase. We lift you high" comes from John 3:30. John the Baptist was telling people about the coming Messiah and he ended his testimony with, "He must increase, I must decrease." John the Baptist was humbling himself before Christ. He was showing us to do the same. 

"Not to proud to dwell with us, to live in us, to die for us." Often, I focus on Jesus dying for us, but tend to forget that He also humbled himself by living here on earth and also in us
Think about that.
Not only did He die for us, but He lives in us.
How humble.

He's the only person that had every right to say, "I don't need to carry this cross. I don't need to live among the poor and sick. I don't need to live in sinners." But if He had said that, He wouldn't have been the Son of God. 
How humble. 

That's just incredible to me that the one and only perfect person would die for me, an imperfect person, but not only that, live in me. Because He was humble, we should humble ourselves, as well. We humble ourselves to God and others...not feeling superior to anyone, but equal.

We have a lot to learn from Jesus, that's for sure.

What lyrics speak to you? Do you struggle with humbling yourself?

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's not about rules like you may think

This past Sunday, Pastor Fuller titled his sermon, "Surprised by Jesus." 
It was based around the passage of Matthew 5:21-37
This reading is shortly after the beatitudes where Jesus presents us radical reversals like, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" and "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me." 

After this He talks about His followers being salt and light to the world, and then follows with a conversation about the Law. For instance, "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell." Jesus is challenging us once again to look outside the box of rules. Of course, Jesus isn't saying, "Forget the 10 commandments, do whatever you want ," instead He is saying, being angry with your brother or discouraging toward another is just as bad as murder so don't do either. Don't say, "Well I won't murder, but I will be rude and angry towards people." 
Instead say, "I won't murder and I won't be rude and angry either, because none of them are life-giving."

Jesus continues to challenge us. He's good at that, isn't is He?
"You have heard that it was said, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your whole body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell..." 
Here He goes again by going outside the tablet of rules (10 commandments) and says, don't even think about committing adultery for it is as bad as the act. He says if one eye makes you stumble, tear it out, not literally of course, but to get rid of the sin in our lives for it is better to repent, than to continue to sin. 

THEN, Jesus talks about a common issue in our culture today, divorce.
"It was said, 'WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." 
This one can really make people feel uncomfortable, but I was so glad Pastor Fuller talked about it. He said that with any passage, learning the context and history is vital to understanding. 
I learned that back in biblical times, divorce had become a casual thing. The Hillelite rabbis had created the "any cause divorce" because they believed the word 'cause' in Deuteronomy 24:1 meant a divorce could occur for any cause. Men could divorce his wife for whatever reason, even the smallest reasons like forgetting to sweep the floor. This became extremely common among Jews so that's why some Pharisees asked Jesus (Matthew 19:3) if  any cause divorce was lawful and Jesus answered with a bold no. He wanted the any cause divorce to end. He took it serious, but the Jews of the day did not. They only took advantage of divorce. [Check out this article for more info about divorce]
Here again, we see Jesus taking the rules a step further.

Now, He wasn't challenging us to simply add more rules and regulations to our lives. That was one of the reasons why Jesus always challenged the Pharisees, because they were focusing on religious customs and losing sight of the real reason  of faith in this life. 
Jesus didn't come to get rid of the Law (10 commandments), He came to fulfill it, meaning lets go even further than these commandments, not so we can feel boxed in but, so we can be free.

Jesus says the most important commandments are, "love God and love others, including your enemies." Pastor Fuller explained that Jesus doesn't have a problem with the 10 commandments, but Jesus wants our sole priorities to be loving God and others. When we do this, the 10 commandments are checked off. If we love others, we will not murder. If we love others, we will not commit adultery. If we love others, we will not steal. If we love others, we will not lie and so on. 

Many people think that being a Christian means that you have to follow a long list of rules, but being a Christian means to follow Jesus, which in turn, translates to loving God and people. Instead of being scared off by the intimidating 10 commandments, we should focus on God and who He is. When we do that, we can only love Him and because we love Him, we want to obey Him and make Him happy. Everything else falls into place. 

Pastor Fuller said, "Jesus wants to get us past the rules of living to the heart of living."
Jesus' heart is love.
Therefore, as Christians our hearts and lives should focus on love. 
It's not about rules, it's about heart.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Music Monday

So I thought I would start something new...Music Monday.
In the past, every once in awhile I would add a music video pertaining to the blog post of the day, but I figured I would post a song each week that is inspiring or moving. 

Today's song has been going through my head the past two days and I can't seem to get it out of my mind.
Oceans by Hillsong United
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown, where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep, my faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours, and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed, and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours, and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior 

The chorus has to be my favorite part of the song...
"And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours, and You are mine."

Instead of being drowned by our troubles, keeping our eyes above on God will only get us through. When we look past the chaos around us, we can be uplifted because our "soul will rest in Your embrace...for I am Yours, and You are mine." 

What is your favorite lyrics in this song? What speaks to you? 
I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014 isn't always easy

Guess what?!
I got my PICC line taken out after almost 6 months!!
My doctor decided that I'm doing well enough to take it out. Hallelujah!
I was so excited...well, I'm still excited!
Now, this doesn't mean I'm done with treatment, unfortunately.
I'm on a strong cocktail of oral antibiotics to eliminate the cyst form, l-form, and biofilm of the Lyme bacteria, which I'm already starting to feel pretty rough from it.
At times, it feels like this journey is never ending, BUT I've never been so close to the finish line and I'm stoked. My goal is to be able to start working part-time (I learned my lesson from working last time...patience & don't push it) this fall.
I'm especially excited to be able to take a shower without a plastic sleeve on my arm (to keep the port dry). Oh the little joys of life! Actually, this is a BIG joy.
On top of that, I'm feeling really motivated so I'm going back to an almost 100% raw diet, detoxing like crazy (infrared sauna here I come!) and start slowly with Pilates [eek!]. My immune system is still weak so hopefully by doing these things, it will strengthen and help my body heal faster.
Whew, this is a full time job...that's for sure.
If you'd like, please continue to pray for me...I would really appreciate it!


I've been reading the Gospel of John and two things have stood out to me:
1) Jesus said, "truly, truly" a lot!
2) People, including His disciples really had trouble believing that He was the Son of God.

It makes me wonder if I were there to walk the same streets Jesus walked, witness all the miracles, would I have believed? 

I'm not sure. I would hope I would have believed. Here we are today, not able to experience Jesus' life here on earth (although His Holy Spirit lives with us) and at times it's really easy for me to believe, but why were there so many people who didn't believe even when He was right in front of them?

What was the barrier that was keeping them from believing?

Maybe it was...
false preconceived ideas
or simply not open.

Nicodemus, in the third chapter of John, asks Jesus how he can be born again. His lofty intelligence made it hard for him to believe the "born again" concept that Jesus was teaching. Just like Nicodemus, our intelligence can get in the way of our faith, while other times it can help us.

In chapter four of John, the Samaritan woman at the well was stumped by Jesus' actions. Jews and Samaritans weren't allowed to interact with one another. She didn't understand why a Jew would ask for water from her. After Jesus told her that he was the Messiah, she went out and told about what had happened. She questioned if He could really be the Messiah. Other Samaritans began to flock to Jesus and soon realized that He was the Messiah, not because of what she said, but by what they had experienced. The Pharisees didn't believe either because they believed that the Messiah would obey the Law by keeping the Sabbath holy, would be a political leader and would bring judgment. Instead, He healed people on the Sabbath, didn't care about politics, and practiced forgiveness.
Preconceived notions prevented them from believing.

Later on in the tenth chapter, Jesus told many parables (stories) to prove to the Jews who He said He was...the Messiah. He didn't just tell one story, but several stories. He didn't say, "You don't get it...I give up trying to explain to you." He tried to show them with His miracles and present them with words, but they didn't believe. They demanded that He would simply tell them and He tried, but were they actually listening?
Were they truly open? It doesn't seem that way to me.

I think we all struggle with these barriers during our lives. Our brain, preconceived notions, and narrow-mindedness along with other reasons, tend to build up walls around faith. When these walls are built, its hard for faith to be freed. Faith can't be boxed in. We can't let these issues suppress the beauty and power of faith. We must let faith run free..

It makes me think of skydiving. Although I've never done it, I'd like to try it one day. I can imagine that while your standing at the edge of the plane, you must feel a wave of emotions...good and bad (I would think mostly bad haha). If you don't jump, you're enclosed in this little plane with walls of anxiety. If you jump, although it may be difficult, you are released from those nauseating emotions. You're free. Towards the end of your flight, it may get bumpy, but you land and, I can imagine, you feel a sense of relief.

I think that's what faith is. It's a risk that allows you get past yourself, be freed from those barriers and rest in relief that you have someone walking along side of you.

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