Thursday, April 28, 2011

Daddy's Money


A couple of years ago, my dad had a nasty fall off of a second story roof. During his recovery period, he had my name put on one of his bank accounts so I could take care of some financial matters for him. He’s almost fully recovered now, but he still has me handle some of his banking when he is out of town on business.   I noticed that, when I’m depositing a check or making a withdrawal for him, I don’t worry about what I’m doing or whether it’s something I would want to do.  I just do exactly what he’s told me and then forget about it. 


With my own account, I am a little more concerned about how much I have, and I’m usually more reluctant to spend. But when dad tells me to do something with his money, I do it. Why? Because it’s not mine! I have no say in how it’s used.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

nybblin' on some Joy...or something like that!

 
I wrote another guest blog for a friend of mine, Jonathan Martin. You can find his newly launched, self-designed site at nybblr.com, and my post, "Two Sinners and a Saint" by clicking on the title. (Not here--back there--about a dozen words ago!) 

Writing guest posts for all these computer geniuses' sites makes me a little self-conscious of my own humble "blogspot.com" URL, but alas--programming has never agreed with me very much. :D

Anyway, "Two Sinners and a Saint" is about two of Jesus' disciples, Judas and Peter, and what made the difference in how their lives turned out. 

Well, what are you waiting for? I've given you three links already... Go read it! :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Resurrection Day!

I heard a wonderful gospel song on the radio yesterday.  I'm not really a southern gospel person, but all yesterday morning, I couldn't seem to change the station!  This song particularly gripped me with the idea behind it. "To pardon iniquity, He had to die. But to bring me the victory, He had to rise!"

First Corinthians chapter fifteen says, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (verse 17).

This reminds me of C. S. Lewis' allegory, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."  Edmund had betrayed his family to the White Witch, and in so doing, he had also forfeited his own life. The only way he could be saved was if another--an innocent victim--would willingly take his place. Aslan, the lion king of Narnia, did just that, and was brutally killed by the White Witch in Edmund's stead. 

But even though Edmund was pardoned, the White Witch was still waging war against Edmund, his family, and the rest of the Narnians. Now that Aslan was gone, they had no hope of winning. It seemed that his death had been in vain. For although Edmund had been saved from execution, he would surely be killed or enslaved if the battle was lost. Just when some began to despair, Aslan was raised to life and came rushing in to save the day. He defeated the witch once and for all and reestablished his kingdom in Narnia. 

If Aslan hadn't come back to life, the Narnians would have been overpowered by the witch, and Edmund, though he had been forgiven of his trespass, would still have met with a terrible fate. 

Jesus' death, like Aslan's, was absolutely necessary to take the wrath and punishment we deserved and save us from eternal death. But if he had not been raised from the dead, the grave would still hold its power over us. Instead, we have the victory, and death has lost its sting! "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:55-57)

"To pardon iniquity, He had to die . . .
But to bring me the victory, He had to rise!"

I would encourage you to listen to this beautiful song as you celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and the victory that we have in Him.

HAPPY EASTER!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Time to Mourn


When I was first offered the part of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in my church’s Easter production, I instantly thought of dozens of reasons why I shouldn’t have that part.  I’m too young!  I can’t sing immediately after pretending to cry. And besides, I’m more inclined towards the happy, rejoicing parts, like Mary Magdeline at the resurrection! Surely someone else can do a better job, and surely there is a more fitting part for me. 



But for some reason, I couldn’t let it go, even when offered another part. After praying about it, I felt that this was, for some reason, the role I was meant to play. I accepted the part, and I began to learn the song, practice the staging, and contemplate how to put myself in Mary’s shoes.  

For the weeks and weeks of practices, I put myself in the role, cried at all the right times, and sang the song in an emotional, yet clear voice.  But I didn’t really get it. Not yet. In fact, even up through the dress rehearsals the day before and the day of the production, I was just acting. 

Yes, I know it was just a play, and I was supposed to be acting. But sometime during the final dress rehearsal and the two performances, an incredible transformation occurred in me. The tears, the sobs of anguish, and the groans of despair were not Mary’s, nor were they that of an actress just playing the part.  They were my own.  From the depths of my soul, I truly mourned my Savior’s agony and death. For a few moments, I was there.

In the days following the play and leading up to Good Friday, I have often been reminded of those incredible moments during the play, and of the remarkable, unfathomable love of my Savior. 

He didn’t have to stay there on that cross dying in excruciating pain. It was my cross, and he could have let me die. He didn’t have to take my sin upon his spotless, innocent soul and face the flames and agony of hell for me. But he did. 

Furthermore, since He is God and is outside the confines of time, the pain that he accepted, the separation from His father, and the wrath that he absorbed were not momentary, as our earthly trials are. They were, for him, forever.  A piece of him—like the nail marks in his hands and feet—remains eternally scarred by the price of his unimaginable love.  As Revelation says, He was slain from the foundation of the world.  And he is, though fully alive, slain even now. His death remains a part of him throughout eternity.

When I think of this, I am compelled to mourn. I need to mourn. Sometimes, all of us must take the time to mourn. In so doing, we can truly begin to grasp the depth of Christ’s love for us. I have been a Christ-follower since my very early youth, yet never have I so felt in my heart the richness of Christ’s love, never have I felt such deep and bitter loss, and never have I so anticipated the celebration of His resurrection, as now, having sobbed and wept and shivered with anguish at the foot of the cross. There is a time—and a reason to mourn.

Do not look away, my child
But gaze upon Him well
His face is love and agony
As Heav’n descends to hell

Oh! Do not hide your tearful eyes
From bloody nails or thorn
Look well upon the sacred wounds
Then bow your head to mourn 

Consider what has held him there
Though angels wait on call
His love has paid the bitter price
The ransom for us all

Look back, my child as he cries out
In loneliness and pain
The Father turns his face away
Let teardrops fall like rain

Yes, soon the resurrection comes
With joy no words can say
But for this moment watch and mourn
Remembering the day

Related post on the Crucifixion: The Last Words

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Love Talks #1: I Kissed Dating Goodbye . . . For Now


From the time I was nine years old and one of my peers told me to go out with the kid across the room because we “would look cute together,” I’ve had a solid response: “I don’t believe in dating; I believe in courtship.”  At that time, however, my idea of what “courtship” meant was a little bit skewed. I kid you not, the word brought to my mind visions of a young man and young woman sitting on couches across from each other and fielding questions about themselves and their ideals from interrogating parents.  

I’m nineteen now, and, as you might have learned from my incredibly popular post in March, I’ve never been kissed.  I’ve also never been on a date. (And the only “courts” I’ve been involved with were basketball, tennis, and volleyball.)  However, I now have a very different perspective about what courtship and dating really are and what their purposes should be. 

I’ve discovered that there are two kinds of dating. The first kind I decided to “kiss goodbye” forever.  The other kind—though I “kissed it goodbye” for a while—could be just around the corner for me.

The first kind of dating is what I refer to as “casual dating,” which means going out with someone just for the sake of being in a relationship or “just for fun,” without any goals for the future of the relationship. Although I must admit it worked splendidly for my grandmother (that’s a story for another time), all I see is that people get hurt from this kind of dating. The argument I get all the time is, “Well how will I know what kind of people I like when it’s time for me to get married if I don’t date around and ‘practice’ while I’m young?” I maintain my position that you don’t have to get romantically involved with someone or spend hours alone with them to find out your preferences in the opposite sex.  I can find out everything I need to know about a person by simply being friends with them. And while there will still be emotions involved, they are nothing like the rollercoaster of superficial highs and broken hearts that accompanies a lifestyle of casual dating. Millions of dating relationships end in failure, because they have no purpose besides personal fulfillment and “fun.” 

The second kind of dating is actually what some people refer to as courtship. Unlike my nine-year-old definition, what I mean by “courtship” is simply the process by which a couple determines whether or not they should get married. This is what I like to call, “dating with a purpose.” In entering the courtship, the couple should know each other as friends and be interested in the possibility of marriage to each other. The courtship ends either with the decision that the couple should not marry, or with an engagement.  Either way, the courtship ends as a success, because it has fulfilled its purpose of finding out whether the man and woman should pursue marriage.

Needless to say, “purpose-driven dating” is geared toward an older age group than casual dating, since most middle schoolers are not considering marriage. So if you’re not old enough to be thinking about marriage yet, or you have kids who are too young for courtship, you might be wondering:  Do I really think that you (or your kids) shouldn’t be dating in high school (or any time you're not considering marriage)?  

Yes, I do. Now, I’m not going to condemn you if you decide to go that route. But it is my opinion that casual dating is dangerous and unwise. If you don’t believe me, watch the Disney channel for about 10 minutes. Then realize that all that ridiculous drama from those shows actually happens in high school dating relationships. Only in reality, it’s not that humorous, somebody always gets hurt, and you can’t change the channel to escape the devastating consequences of taking things a little too far.

That’s the kind of dating I “kissed goodbye” forever. And amazingly enough, I still find my life to be exciting, complete, free of unnecessary heartbreak and stress, and full of lasting love!  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

And the winner is . . .

The readers have spoken!!! As I could have predicted, the winning topic (with 66% of the vote!) for my new blog series is "Relationships."  Runners up were Modesty, Biblical Fiction, and Current Events. (Don't worry--you'll still see regular posts on these topics!)

I'm going to call my series: "Love Talks"

Although this new series will mostly focus on dating, courtship, marriage, and other aspects of romantic relationships, I may throw a thing or two in there about family relationships and friendships as well.

"Love Talks" will be featured on the 17th of each month on thoughtsofjoy17.blogspot.com

Start counting down to "Love Talks"!

Like it? "Love" it? Think Dr. Seuss could have done better? Well, let me know what you think! If you come up with a better title for me before the 17th, drop me a comment and I just might use it!

Friday, April 8, 2011

When the Government Shuts Down . . .

God is still in control. 

In fact, he's in control no matter what. Today I was reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot. In one chapter, she said that although she knew God was in control, sometimes, she wondered if he still cared. Then she quoted part of Isaiah chapter 40. 

I don't usually post whole chapters on my blog, but this chapter is so powerful, comforting, and beautiful to me that I could not bring myself to cut any of it out. So now I will step back and allow you to read the words of your Creator, your Lover, your Father and King. I pray your soul will be blessed.

Isaiah 40

Comfort for God’s People
 1 Comfort, comfort my people,
   says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
   that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
   double for all her sins.
3 A voice of one calling:
“In the desert prepare
   the way for the LORD[a];
make straight in the wilderness
   a highway for our God.[b]
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
   every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
   the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
   and all mankind together will see it.
            For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
 6 A voice says, “Cry out.”
   And I said, “What shall I cry?”
   “All men are like grass,
   and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
   because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
   Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
   but the word of our God stands forever.”
 9 You who bring good tidings to Zion,
   go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem,[c]
   lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
   say to the towns of Judah,
   “Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
   and his arm rules for him.
See, his reward is with him,
   and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
   He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
   he gently leads those that have young.
 12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
   or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
   or weighed the mountains on the scales
   and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has understood the mind[d] of the LORD,
   or instructed him as his counselor?
14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,
   and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge
   or showed him the path of understanding?
 15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
   they are regarded as dust on the scales;
   he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
   nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
   they are regarded by him as worthless
   and less than nothing.
 18 To whom, then, will you compare God?
   What image will you compare him to?
19 As for an idol, a craftsman casts it,
   and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
   and fashions silver chains for it.
20 A man too poor to present such an offering
   selects wood that will not rot.
He looks for a skilled craftsman
   to set up an idol that will not topple.
 21 Do you not know?
   Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
   Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
   and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
   and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
   and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
   no sooner are they sown,
   no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
   and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
 25 “To whom will you compare me?
   Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
   Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
   and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
   not one of them is missing.
 27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
   and complain, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD;
   my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
   Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
   and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
   and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
   and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
   will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
   they will run and not grow weary,
   they will walk and not be faint.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Being Clark Kent

The "Man of Steel" floats in the upper atmosphere, looking down on the tiny little problems of the planet called Earth. He smiles, recalling the faces of those he's saved, all in a single evening. A euphoric feeling of satisfaction floods over him as he thinks, "This is exactly what I'm meant to do. I was born for this; I'm living my dream."  Then, slowly descending back to the surface, he effortlessly morphs back into his mild-mannered alter ego. 


Clark Kent isn't anybody special; just an average, goody-two-shoes Joe with a big heart and bigger glasses. But the illustrious hero realizes, as he steps back into everyday life, that as much as Superman is needed by the masses on earth, Clark Kent is needed by a small, but significant handful, namely: Superman himself.


Jon Acuff, during an interview with Dave Ramsey, inspired this illustration for me, pointing out that even though living out normal, average, day-to-day stuff can be boring and tedious, at the end of the day, everyone--even Superman--needs to just be Clark Kent sometimes. 


When you have a dream in your heart that you're just aching to live out, it can be torturous to be forced back into everyday life after glimpsing that dream. But remember, the Superman story would have been shallow at best without Clark Kent. Kent often showed us what Superman was really made of. While the Super-side of the Man of Steel showed us his strength, the regular-guy-side of him showed us his character, and his heart. Your character is most often evident in your little everyday habits, mannerisms, and words, not in your heroic accomplishments.


Here are some of the takeaways I got from Jon's discussion on The Dave Ramsey Show about his new book, Quitter, which comes out on May 10th.


1. Everyday life is a stepping stone to your dream. 
You have to take practical steps in your every day life to make it to your incredible, superhero career goal. Managing your money wisely, learning interpersonal relationships with your relatives, and keeping your home neat and organized may seem like trivial chores, but they may be just what you need to help you become the kind of person who will work the job you want.


2. Just because your job isn't your dream job doesn't mean it doesn't count.
Viewing your job as a stepping-stone to your dreams is good, but you have to make sure the stepping stone mentality doesn't lead to a "stepping on" mentality. Jon recalls that at times, though his job was to help and reach out to people, he ignored the very people who were right in front of him: his coworkers. I've often found myself doing the same--looking into the future instead of working with what and who God has given me now.


3. You can't work halfheartedly at your day job and expect to be diligent and successful at working toward your dream.
Your character is being developed through every choice you make! (See my blog, Escaping the Dark Side). So don't think that you can spin around in your chair, goof off on Facebook, and chat with buddies on Skype at work and then turn around and work like a cramming medical student on your dream when you get home! Jon also cautioned against dreaming on your company's time. Don't steal time from your job in order to work on your dream. Work faithfully, diligently, and efficiently at your "Clark Kent Job" or tasks, so when you get home, you will be ready and eager to get busy on your dream. 


As Solomon said, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." (Eccl. 9:10 NIV) He also says, "Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well." (Eccl. 11:6 NIV) In case you didn't know, Solomon was the wisest and richest king of Israel. I'd take his career advice, if I were you. ;)


Although perpetually living in the clouds of a dream job would be nice, even people with "perfect jobs" regularly have to face the realities of life. The question is, are you going to let your alter ego be a second-rate, grumpy, lazy citizen? Or are you going to use him to reach the people closest to you? Remember, your Clark Kent might just be your most valuable partner in achieving your dream.



Sunday, April 3, 2011

Seventeenth Special!

(Yes, that's a cheesy title. But I have time to come up with a better one...) ;)

I've decided to begin a new series on my blog, which will be posted on the seventeenth of each month.  In addition to my regular posting, I'll post on each "17th" about a yet-to-be-determined topic. And guess what? YOU, my readers, get to choose what that topic will be!

I need your help in deciding what my new blog series should feature! There's a poll on the sidebar of my blog, right below the archive links. You can also shoot me an email at quizbygrace17@live.com.

If there's a topic you think would make a great monthly series, and I don't have it listed as a choice for the poll, please leave a comment or send an email! Otherwise, cast your vote! But hurry, I'm only taking votes until the 13th, so I have time to plan and release my first edition on the 17th!

Thank you ever so much, my friends, family, and fellow bloggers. :)


LaJoie :)