A Cat Named Cheese

I feel like I should introduce you to a very special man in my life.  He has black fluffy hair, quite a personality, and jumps like Michael Jordan.

His name is Cheese.  He’s a cat.  I think you should meet him. (Please excuse the blurry pictures from my ancient less then cool phone).

He used to be really tiny- a pound and a quarter.

Now he’s not.

He used to sleep alot, but then he reached that “awkward” phase, and his personality started coming out.

He likes to drink out of people cups more then his bowl.

He likes windows,

Cuddling with mama,

Wrapping Presents,

Knocking things over,

Boxes,

Christmas,

Hanging curtains,

Making beds,

Eating people food,

Doing the dishes,

Journaling,

Cooking dinner,

Sleeping in drawers,

Flowers (are his favorite)

Bead-Dazzeling,

And tearing toliet paper to shreds.

It has been a year since this fifteen pound ball of fuzz became the man in my life (for now hopefully).  He makes life interesting that’s for sure.  More Cheese stories to come, but right now I have to go get him from the window.  He’s stuck in the blinds.

Advertisements

Provision

The day for camp had finally arrived.  I could hardly believe it was here.  I had spent the last sixth months preparing: calling the camp to make special food arrangements for allergies, calling parents asking them for their paperwork, writing scholarship applications, calling parents again asking them for their paperwork, booking the vans, and finding some volunteers to be counselors for the week.  The list was long, and I worked through it very slowly, but suddenly things were moving and we were on our way to camp.

It was a rocky preparation, a rainy drive, and a confusing first day, but God was so good.

The programming-like Paca the Pinata, who hosted the party, was pinata that exploded often (it was awesome!)- was phenomenal.

There was face painting,


Some of the boys let the girls paint their nails for missions,

It rained during OMC (Organized Mass Chaos) and I was the only one that stayed dry,

And the other counselors were such a blessing!

Our theme for the week was Shipwrecked: God Provides.  Every night, we would begin our Church group devotion time by talking about ways that God had provided for us that day.  Each night, we sat  in a circle talking about some of the ways God had provided for us- giving us a safe drive despite the rain, the food that we ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, only raining when we were inside- and we were all amazed.  We were focusing on how God provided for us and looking for it each an every day.

I am not the strongest leader.  I have known this, and have been growing in this area for years.  I have always related very well to Moses, and think that if we had been alive at the same time we would have been friends.  When God called Moses, he immediately started to give excuses, “But they won’t know I’m from you,” “But I stutter; I don’t talk very well,” (Exodus 4).  That is often my response to God, “It’d be great for me to serve you this way, but I just don’t think I’m cut out for this job.”  I love, though, that God sees us as more then we often see ourselves.  He had an answer for Moses at every excuse, “Perform these signs,” “I’ll send Aaron with you,” (Exodus 4).  God saw Moses weaknesses and excuses but chose Moses to be the leader of the Israelites anyway.

At the end of the week, when I was finally home and able to think about everything that happened,I began to see how God provided for me that week.  He provided me strength to be a good leader.  He worked through me continually.  I love that.  I love that God sees our needs- not our wants- and provides for them.  Never to much and never to little.

Sometimes we ask for God to fill those needs.  Like Moses, we see them and give them as excuses, and God reassures and blesses and provides direction in our weakness.  Other times, we know they are there, but do not give ourselves opportunities for our weaknesses to strengthen.  Even in those situations, God works.  He works through us, making us stronger in Him so that He is more glorified.

So today, let us put off our Moses attitude, and allow God to work through our weakness not only so that we become stronger but so we can be the witnesses of God’s incredible provision.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19.

A Prayer for an Ordinary Monday

Flood my heart so that I can see only your grace.

Renew my spirit so that I only want to serve you.

Quench my soul so that my trust in you satisfies.

Remind me over and over and over again, that because of salvation there is not separation, allowing my sin to draw me closer to you instead of pulling me farther away; living only in your redemption.

“You have taken up my cause, Oh Lord; you have redeemed my life” Lamentations 3:58

Awe-struck in Snow

There is something about catastrophic weather that fills me with fear and awe at the same time. There have been some storms- thunderstorms, snow storms, and ice storms- this past year that have been awful.  Look out the window today, “Hello, blizzard of 2011.”

This past winter has been one of the worst winters I’ve ever lived through.  Maybe that’s because I have developed a whole new fear to snow.  Three weeks ago, there was a wintery mix that I was driving through hoping to get to work on time.  I was driving slow, sitting up in my seat with my hands gripped around the steering wheel; I had gloves on, but I’m sure my knuckles must have been white.  I was two exits away from where I wanted to be, when all of a sudden I realized I was in the lane for the exit ramp and not the right hand lane.  Wanting to correct my error, I checked my mirror and cautiously tried to switch lanes, but I was not cautious enough.  My back tires lost traction and my car began to spin.

I spun three times, but instead of being panicked I was surprisingly calm.  I remember thinking, just let go and the car will straighten itself out, but that’s not what happened.  The back of my car hit one telephone pole and then it hit another one.  Before I could catch my breath, I was facing the wrong direction on an exit ramp with the back of my car smashed like a crushed soda can.

Weather has a way of filling us with fear.  The world that we live in suddenly begins to dissipate, hurricanes overcome cities full of life, earthquakes crush civilization, tsunamis destroy hope in an instant.  Weather of any kind changes are plans, and we enter the harsh reality that we are not in control.

One night at camp, we were in a general session during training and it began to rain.  This storm seemed to happen at the perfect time because we were all  in the lodge, getting ready for some worship and a speaker.  During worship, it began to rain.  It started off as a very light summer rain, the pitter patter, keeping beat with the acoustic guitar that had just begun to strum the chorus of Grace Like Rain by Todd Agnew.  As we continued to sing, the rain became louder.  It was hitting the windows hard and the wind had picked up and was howling as it traveled over the lake and through the trees. And in an instant, our humanity had become humbly apparent.

It is when we are most helpless, when we are not in control, that we realize how much we need grace- how much we need God.  It reminds me of the account that Matthew gives of Jesus calming the storm.  The wind and the waves picked up, and the disciples are afraid that they are going to die, but Jesus says, “Why are you afraid. O you of little faith?”

The Psalmist of Psalm 46, has the faith that the disciples did not.  The Psalmist acknowledges the mightiness of creation, “…though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar in foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” However, the Psalmist looks past the catastrophic acts of creation only to see the Creator.  Verse 2 says, “Therefore we will not fear.”

Storms stir my heart with fear because I realize that I am not in control.  I recognize the raw reality that I am in danger and there is nothing I can do about it. But it is in times when I am standing in the snow watching my car be towed away that I am in awe of God’s grace and my need for faith.  While we are not in control of the weather, God is.  He directs the direction of the wind, He knows how many raindrops are going to fall, and He paints the earth in snow.  It is during thunderstorms, snow storms, and ice storms that we not only see the power of the God we have faith in, but His grace.  His grace of revealing his power so that we may have more faith.  His grace of showing us His wrath, but saving us from it.  His grace of overlooking our little bit of faith, and helping us to make it stronger.

The awe of a weather is seeing God.  The last two verses of Psalm 46 capture the attitude that God desires from us during these times, “ ‘Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth!’ the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” The weather may change our plans and strip us of our control, but may it also humble us.  Let us take the time to be still and know that God is God.

Winter Soul

I have never really looked forward to winter.  It is cold and dark.  The roads are icy and the trees are bare, and if you are in the somewhat southern area there is next to no snow.  The only thing worse then being cold is being cold with no snow.

According to Greek mythology winter is the period of a grieving mother.  Demeter the goddess of agriculture has a daughter, Persephone.  One day Persephone is captured by Hades, the god of the underworld, and taken their to live with him.  While she is captured in the underworld, Persephone cries, wailing in hopes that someone will hear her and rescue her from the dark, morbid world of Hades.  Demeter, like any mother, hears her cries and is distraught because of her disappearance and all growth stops and famine strikes the earth.  One day, while Apollo is making his rounds over the earth, sea, and underworld he finds Persephone.  He reports his find back to Zeus, the greatest of all gods, who then orders Hermes, the messenger god, to bring Persephone back.  Even though Persephone was able to return to the world, because she had ate six pomegranate seeds she must live in the underworld for six months out of the year.  During those six months, Demeter mourns for her daughter and the lifelessness of winter overcomes the earth.

When winter comes to haunt our souls, life stops. Every day is a routine; smiles are forced and conversations are rare.  We only think of ourselves because even if we tried to think about anyone else we would fall apart.  Just like the season, this time seems long and dark and cold.  Just as Demeter mourns for daughter, we mourn for what used to be.

There is a power in winter that causes the pause of life.  The green grass turns brown, trees are naked without their multitude of leaves, roads are less traveled, and our attitudes become melancholy.  But in this pause, there is something beautiful.  For as the trees use this season to grow and store nutrients, so it is for our souls.

The other night as I was driving home, it was snowing and I was listening to Christmas music, and it was beautiful.  The road was quiet and the snowflakes fell like powdered sugar onto the dark pavement.  Even in the midst of the cold, icy and dark winter there was something beautiful.  The season no longer seemed dark and cold and empty and dead.    There was peace and wisdom that came with the reflection of the quiet road and hope and excitement that glimmered with Christmas on the horizon.

The beauty of winter is not what happens to the earth, but what  happens inside.  It is time.  The time it takes for trees to grow stronger and more vibrant, the time it takes for broken hearts to heal, the time it takes for Spring to arise.

Immeasurably More

I just want to point out the greatness of God.

His greatness is found in a shoe-box.  One single shoe-box packed with a toothbrush, a bar of soap, a wash cloth, some coloring books and crayons, a snoopy doll, and a puzzle.

His greatness is found in people.  A group of people that put aside their own time and their own toys so that they may give.

His greatness is found in children.  Children who laugh and giggle as they willingly pick out toys and candy that they will not keep.  Children who pray for their friend halfway across to world to know that Jesus loves them.

His greatness is found in wrapping paper.

His greatness is found in snoopy dolls.

His greatness is found letters.

His greatness is found when we forget that we want to be great.

On November 21 our church packed 5,684 shoe boxes into one semi and a few SUV’s for Operation Christmas Child.  Each of these boxes is sent to a child who probably has never received a gift before, but more importantly these children will hear- maybe for the first time- that they are loved and valued and important.  This is why God is great.  5,684 is not the number of boxes but the number of children that will hear that they have a Father, a Provider, a Comforter, a Refuge, a Warrior, a King, a Lover, and a Friend.  Perhaps one day, when we are in Heaven, we will meet these children, and they will tell us how one shoe-box changed their lives.

Now to Him who is ale to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

Indulge

There is nothing else in this world like chocolate ice cream.  It is smooth and creamy and will momentarily make everything in the world right.  The only way that chocolate ice cream gets better is by having chunks of brownie imbedded into the smooth delicious creaminess of the morphed cocoa bean. 

It is rich. It is deep.  It is full of calories.

 The taste of chocolate ice cream is at its prime in two circumstances the first is sorrow and the second is exhaustion.  It is in these moments that we need the momentary euphoria that everything is right in the world.

The last three days have been busy days.  Great days, but busy.  Besides, any day that begins at 5:30 is a long day.  Last night,  I decided that this day would be complete with brownie fudge ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s and America’s Next Top Model and sweatpants.  I couldn’t wait.

It wasn’t a hard choice.  It never is when you are tired.  Making a decision about anything else, like what jeans to buy or what restaurant to go to, is impossible when you are tired because you don’t really care.  The easiest decision to make when you are exhausted is what kind of ice cream you want.  It’s always the same: Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie.  At least it is for me. 

Minuets later we- my brother had come on the chocolatey goodness excursion with me- were waiting in the check out line.  We were behind a woman who was there with her three children.  The only thing that I noticed about her purchase was that she had seven yellow plastic bags filled with groceries and a 24 pack of Disani water bottles. 

It reminded me of when I was in college.  My roommate and I would go to Walmart every Friday and among other purchases, we would buy water bottles.  The water from the water fountain tasted like rust so we chose to buy water bottles instead.  A few times we thought of getting Disani because in its tastelessness it is fantastic.  However, the price of Disani verses the price of the Walmart brand has nothing on a college students’ wallet.

I thought that there must have been a sale on the Disani water at the grocery store or else this family is very particular about their water.  Either is valid.  When this woman checked out, she handed the cashier a ten dollar bill, and received some change.  That’s all her groceries had cost her, and at first I was a little confused.  The amount the cashier asked from her was probably the price of the case of water, but this woman had gotten so much more.  Out of curiosity, I looked at the screen tyring to figure out this pricing conundrum, and then all of a sudden it made sense.  There on the screen with a negative sign to the right, it said food stamps.  This woman able to feed her family using foodstamps, making her purcahse affordable.

I didn’t think much of this again, until the cashier asked for my debit card, and I realized that I had just spent almost twice as much as this woman had, except I had only purchased ice cream, and she was providing groceries for the week.  Grant it, I was buying ice cream for four people, but still. 

It made me think twice, this indirect encounter.  I often will try to find every excuse possible to indulge myself.  Tired always leads to ice cream, heart-broken leads to shopping, the desire to be pretty leads to a manicure.  I look for excuses to justify my selfish actions.  But, there is more to life then justifing a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream or a new sweater from Target or a freshly painted friar-friar-pants-on-fire-red manicure.  There are people who eat stale bread out of dumpsters because they have nothing else to eat.  There are people who have no choice but to be cold because they cannot afford a new sweater.  There are people who are forced to paint nails during the day and are sold for sex at night.

We often forget that there are other people in our worlds.   If we are honest with ourselves and choose to remember that everything is not about ourself, I don’t think we want the chocolatey goodness as much as we thought we did.  A spoonful of deliciousness may, for a moment, make everything seem right in our own personal bubble world, but in reality it does nothing but lower the number in our bank account and raise the number on the scale.   If we would only stop indulging ourselves, maybe we could- we would- be one step closer to making things right in the world.