Sunday, September 30, 2007

Today's Decisions Determine Who You'll Be Tomorrow

I just finished listening to a great sermon by Rany Alcorn in which he challenges us to:

"Live a life of endurance. The closing question: at the end of this life, what will you wish you’d done more of? What will you wish you’d done less of?

Why not ask God to empower you to spend the rest of your life closing the gap between what you’ll wish you would have done and what you are now doing today in the little choices of life that will make us the people we will be"

If you can find the time, I totally recommend listening to this sermon, or at least reading the highlights of the message. You can do both by clicking here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

New Blog! Kevin's Shadowlands

Check out the Kevin's blog called Shadowlands! I met Kevin and Candi and their family through our church years ago. I think they've been at Fountain of Grace as long as I have. In the last 5 years of teaching sparks, I've thoroughly enjoyed teaching their three oldest children. I've had fun with the whole family on countless camping trips and games nights! Lydia, Anna and I have had enjoyed babysitting their kids many times, and Jubilee and Rachael an inseparable when together. One cool thing about their family is that they love to have fun and take crazy pictures. I don't know too many families who each have their own "funny face" they tend to make for cameras! As a family, they enjoy each other and are real about following God. Kevin may not have time to blog a lot, but I for one will enjoy reading whatever he has time to write!

(Note, you should be able to see the picture better by clicking on it to open it in another window)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Camping Countdown - 3 weeks!

I'm from a camping family. We have gone camping since before I can remember. I guess the camping tradition begin when my parents got married. Actually, it really started many years before that with my Dad's family. We have pictures of Dad camping with his family in Africa. They played games and had fun as we do today.

Thinking about our upcoming camping trip inspired me to take a look at some of the pictures from past camping trips. I've chosen some pictures - somewhat at random that show many different aspects of camping over the last few years. Instead of using all of them in one post, I've made them into 8 collages and will post 2 collages each Friday from now until our October 19th camping trip.

Before moving to Alabama, we always went camping as a family. I know we went to Mount Nebo in Arkansas at least once, and I'm sure we camped at several other places as well. We would spend time as a family hiking and playing games. Camping was always something I looked forward too.

Some things have changed. . . Our camping trips these days typically involve more than just our family. The many people make it so much fun. Many of our camping friends are busy in other towns, churches, and circles throughout the year. But camping brings us together each spring and/or fall. With 50 or more friends, it's usually not hard to find someone or even a group that wants to play a game or hike together. Its fun to see the children getting older and better at volley ball or the card game of the day. Yes, we still play games, but the games now include things like volley ball, kick ball, and ultimate frisbee. Those games are only possibly when camping with friends! I still look forward to the weekend of camping and can't wait for this fall camping trip to be here!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sibling Breakfast - Just us Girls!

At our siblings breakfast this week, we enjoyed our conversation and a somewhat unusual breakfast. I wanted to make something a little different, but only had a short time to cook and no time to shop. So, when I found a recipe for a French Omlettes, it was perfect. The girls got to my house before I had finished so together we made the bacon, omelttes and toast. We made a good cheese omlette, and a somewhat unusual (but good) fruit omlette with yogurt and blueberries in it. I never would have thought to mix yogurt and eggs, but it wasn't bad. It was actually pretty good, odd as it was! I've enjoyed continuing the sibling breakfast even with just the three of us. It's nice to get caught up on my sister's lives mid-week! I enjoy their company and am thankful to have a family that likes to hang out together.

Science Experiment - A Smothered Candle

Here's a shortened version of the experiment we did in AWANA this week from Science and the Bible Volume 2.

The gospel must be shared

Bible Verses: Neither do people light a lamp and put it under the bowl. Instead they put it on the stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house (Matt 5:15)

Materials Used: small candle, matches, large clear bottle or glass, shallow bowl, water and food coloring

Light illustrates our new life in Christ which we must share with others. Good deeds come from a Christ-centered life. We are to let others see our good deeds so they can praise God.

Illustration: Light the candle and set it in a shallow container with water in it. Cover the candle with the glass and see how the flame goes out.

Just like the candle could not burn when under a bowl, the Christian life is not designed to be sealed up and kept a secret. The good news is meant to be shared with others.
This is a fun experiment to do since the kids can do most of it themselves (except lighting the candle)! Note that it was crazy hair night at AWANA last night. We don't always look so wild! I always get the candles at the Dollar Tree (4/$1) and let each child have one to take home. That way they can maybe show their siblings the experiment too!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Games and Siblings !

My sister Anna has started a series on Siblings on Maidens of Worth (the blog she and her friend Miriam H. have). Her latest post, Sibling Snapshots: Games! reminded me of these pictures I had in a box.

On the top left you'll see our Aunt Ruth and Dad playing Take 2 with us. Take 2 is a much faster way to use scrabble tiles and is a game we have loved at times. To the right is a fun picture of dutch blitz. As Anna said her her post, it is definitely not a calm game, and is a lot of fun! The bottom left and right picures are just some fun ones showing all of us probably 10 years ago. The center picture was taken after we finished make a Risk board out of a map from Geography Songs. For a little while, we actually had a rule that you had to sing and point to all the contries in any continent you conquered. That took awhile and also took all the fun out of getting places like Africa, so it didn't last too long!

Thanks Anna for doing the siblings posts!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No Cliques! James 2:1-5

Last Sunday night, Pastor Tony preached on the first part of James 2.

James 2:1-5

1My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. 2Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

Here are the notes I took (not quite as many as last week!)

Don't have cliques (show favoritism)
Q: Is is ok to be closer to some people?
A: There were some people closer to Jesus than others. Being close to people is not a clique
- However, you compromise the truth of God (by placing different value on different people) when you favor one group or another
- Everyone struggles with racism and bigotry. It's in our flesh but goes against the gospel.

It's always best to be humble and take the lesser place
- "wearing a gold ring" - literally a gold fingered man. In NT times a rich man wore jewelry on his left hand. If he was rich, he would have a gold signet ring. This ring could be used to stamp bills (similar to how we scan credit cards today!). This was a wealthy man
- They thought the rich man had more value than the poor
- When showing favoritism through racism or bigotry, you became judges with evil thoughts (which is against the Bible)
- Be careful who you put on a pedestal - especially if they are ones with fame and wealth
- Don't look at the outward person to judge their importance

God exalted the poor and has chosen them to be rich in faith and inherit the kingdom.
- If you don't have much, you will pray more which deepens your intimacy with Christ

Friday, September 21, 2007

Girl Talk with Mary Mohler

The following Q&A is taken from an interview Girl Talk is doing with Mary Mohler. I'm posting this especially for Maria and Michele and also for any other stay-at-home moms who might read this post.

"What do you think is one of the greatest needs among mothers today and how would you encourage them?

As I said in the "Motherhood Matters" article that you kindly referenced above, I think moms need to stop apologizing for doing a full time job full time! I am not going to state that all moms must be stay at home moms but for those who are, they must stop feeling inferior for their decision. I am tired of the mentality that is becoming more and more prevalent that says women who stay at home raising their children are wasting themselves even as they serve to drag down the economy. That’s a lie. Women who are home raising their children should do so with gusto and no regrets. No one can love your children like you can. God made you to be their mother and no one else. Learn everything you can about how to be the best mom you can be by God’s grace. Hold your head high when you state that you are a mom—not “just a mom” but a mom full time. Love your job because the days are fleeting. Those precious little ones will be grown up sooner than you think. Motherhood is a high calling now just as it has always been. Those who think otherwise are deceiving themselves. "

Clouds and Stars

Psalm 8
1 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

The last few morning have been clear and cool. I could see the stars as I walked. At times I thought it was probable that I would trip since I kept looking up at the stars. Those verses from Psalms 8 about the stars and man kept on going through my mind. Looking at the stars reminds us how small we are in comparison and yet God still cares for us.

This morning was cloudy as you can see in the picture. I could not see the stars. But, they were still there. I guess that's how it is at times in our Christian life. We can't see that Jesus is with us, but he is in both the clear and cloudy times.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Science Experiment-Invisible Weight

From The Glad Scientist Discovers the Creator

Theme: The weight of Sin like Air is invisible but real. God frees us from the burden of sin.

Bible Verses: All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD (Proverbs 16:2)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

Materials Used: Two balloons (same size and shape), thin wooden rod, sticky tape, pencil with flat sides, two cans (same size).

Lesson: Air is around us everywhere and has weight. The Bible tells us about something else that carries weight in our lives called sin. Sin means disobeying God.

Everyone has sinned (Rom 3:10-12, 23). God even looks at our motives for doing things. We carry sin’s weight in lives like the balloon carries the weight of air in it.

Sin weighs us down, but Jesus died on the cross so we no longer carry the weight of sin. We will pop the balloon with a nail to remind us of Jesus’ death on the cross for us. There he bore the penalty of our sin. When we trust Christ as our Savior and believe he rose again, our sin is not held against us any longer. We are free from the burden of sin.

Illustration: We show that air has weight by first balancing a rod across the pencil on the cans and marking the center of the rod. Then we taped the empty balloons to the ends of the rod and showed it still balances. Next we blew up one balloon and saw that the full balloon pulled the balanced rod down on that side.

I did a little reading up on the science of this experiment and found that the explaination is not quite accurate. Read this to learn about how it's really the density of air in the balloons that causes the difference in weight. One balloon should be filled to bursting and the other filled, but not so much so that the rubber is hard. I guess I have misled my students a bit

Cool Mornings and Faith

The weather has finally turned to fall. The mornings have been cool which is great for walking! I'm trying to get back into reviewing memlok verses while I walk, and this morning Esther 4:14 made me think about the passage in a different way.

Esther 4:12 When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"
15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish."

Esther had previously told Morecai that she could not go before the king because she would probably be killed if she went without an invitation. Mordecai's response to her is interesting. He says "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

That doesn't sound like a very certain or faith filled response. God didn't appear to Mordecai and tell him that Esther should go before the king and would be safe. Or, if God did tell Mordecai, he seems to not have been sure of the outcome. Esther made her decision to do as Mordecai asked. However she too had doubts and said "If I perish, I perish." She made her decision and also prayed and had others pray for her safety.

It's interesting to see how God used their decisions as steps of faith (however shakey) to save the Jewish people. We know how that story turned out. God protected Esther and used her risk in a good way.

We don't know how our small uncertain steps will turn out. I know I often make a decision without being certain it's something that "God wills." There are so many examples of God appearing to individuals in the Bible and telling them exactly what they are to do. Sometimes I get discouraged since that is not how I've found God to direct me. This example of Esther is an encouragement that God can use and does direct us even when we're not sure.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Learn the Books of the Old Testament with Memlok!

Say the Books! is the best way I’ve found to teach the books of the Old Testament to my first grade AWANA Sparks class. It’s a fun story created by Memlok Bible Memory System. Check it out here! The book can be purchased online and then downloaded immediately in pdf form. In previous years, I’ve made the copies into coloring books for each child. This year, I’m making a handout each week that includes a few of the pictures from Say the Books! as well as our science experiment and a little about that week’s missionary story.
But back to Say the Books. In addition to the story line and coloring pages, each book of the Bible includes a fun action that the children learn. Each year I’ve taken pictures of the children acting out the books of the Old Testament. I have enjoyed doing a variation of the above picture each year using the children in my class. I don’t really know who has more fun in AWANA – is it the children I teach or me!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Six Flags Over Georgia!

On Saturday, Jubilee and I enjoyed an awesome day at Six Flags Over Georgia! We met Kevin and Rachael there as planned, and spent most of the day on the rides. We begin and ended the by riding the Goliath. This ride was once again my favorite. We actually rode it four times! The first two times we barely had to wait in line. The last time, we thought we might not get to ride (there was a problem and after that seemed to be repaired, they let other people go in front of us). But the last time was definitely worth the wait as we finally rode in the front and thoroughly enjoyed those steep hills in the cool dark park! It was an absolute blast!
In addition to Goliath, we also rode Superman (seemed short by comparison), Batman (always a nice ride since your feet can swing), Deja Vu (still scares me!), Mindbender (a fun older ride), and Georgia Scorcher (way too short). None of us cared to waste time on the Scream Machine, Ninja or Georgia Cyclone since those rides are quite rough.

We did spend some time in line, but the time flew by with conversation, picture taking and playing more than a couple games of go fish and one game of scratch. Indeed! We actually brought and used cards while in line. Yelling, "Jubilee, do you have a 9?" in the deafening snaking line for batman was certainly a different kind of card playing experience!
Jubilee and Rachael especially enjoyed the water rides. We all rode Thunder River once. I had already decided that if I made it of the boat without getting thouroughly soaked, I would not ride again. The last time I tried to make it through that ride twice, I was drenched the second time I went. I didn't get too wet the first time, so I found a good spot to take pictures as Jubille and Racheal rode over and over trying to get more soaked than the other! As they were both completely drenched, I think they tied!
Later we also rode Splash Water Falls, and were disappointed when we stood on the bridge afterward to get splashed, and the water didn't even touch us! They must not have had quite enough water in there! Overall the day was just about perfect! I wanted to write more, but think that getting to sleep would be even better!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New Blog - HITZ and Mrs!

Check out HITZ and Mrs a brand new blog that one of my best friends began today! If you read comments on this site, you'll recognize Ivory's name. She's been talking about starting a blog for a while, but was having trouble thinking up a name. After talking with Ivory on Saturday, I sent her some blog name ideas I had thought up and today she started the blog! I'm so looking forward to being able to read her posts in the time to come!

I met Ivory in our very first engineering class (from what I remember). . . . [Pauses to rummage through old journals in order to better share how we met] . . . .

Thursday September 10th, 1998: "I made it through my first day of classes. I only have two on Thursdays so it's not a big accomplishment. There is one other girl in my engineering orientation class! I was anxious because I thought I'd be the only one. I should have remembered Phil 4:6-7 . . . ."

Friday September 11th: ". . I know I shouldn't worry. I'm praying that God will give me some good friend because on a campus of 4200 there's got to be a good friend for me. But if there isn't, I'm willing to accept that too"

Saturday September 25th: "College has been going well. I've met a couple really nice girls. Last night I bought Dutch Blitz and Tamra and Ivory and I played for about an hour. . . "

Thursday October 15th: ". . . A couple days ago I had joy. I was so happy! Now, I feel down in the dumps. I know there are highs and lows in everyone's life, but we are supposed to rejoice - always. I don't know how to. I feel so alone here. Everyone I see always is with a best friend. I need to get close to God. But you can't sit at a lunch table with God and have a good conversation, or can you?"

Friday October 16th: "It's funny how quickly emotions change when I spend time with a friend. after band today I went to Ivory's room and we had supper together. After supper we sat outside for a while and then went to the library. There are some really good videos there. We decided that we should go and watch one sometime"

Saturday November 16th: "Thank you Lord for my wonderful friends here at college. God has met my needs and desires (Ps 37:4) more than I could have even imagined. . ."

Sunday January 24, 1999: "I arrived here around 2pm. Now that I'm back at college, it seems like I never left. This afternoon I talked, went to church and ate with Tamra, Ivory and Gema. I really enjoyed spending time with them. . ."

Monday January 25th: ". . . I'll be taking all of my classes except Old Testament with Ivory. . ."

And so our friendship begin. We met as you read in my journal excerpts in our very first class. Ivory probably didn't realize how happy I was to see her in that class (or maybe she felt the same way?)! By the second semester, we were pretty much inseparable. From that point on, we were in almost every class together and spent quality time studying and doing homework in each others rooms. Some thought we must be sisters since we spent so much time together. The pictures are a sample of the many fun times we shared from throughout our four years. Our friendship was one of the best parts of college!

Welcome to the blog world Ivory!

Science Experiment – Water of Life

You can find this Experiment in Science and the Bible

Theme: Water is a awesome gift and Salvation is an even greater gift

Bible Verse: Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (Rev 22:17b)

Materials Used: Two inflated balloons, one with water inside; Candle and lighter or matches.

Lesson: Water is the natural resource most often mention in the Bible. People living in the dry hills of Palestine in Bible times understood how important water was. In the Bible, water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit and the new birth. Here are some ways that water and salvation are similar:
-Both are priceless, but free
-Both are available to all
-Both essential for life (water for physical life and salvation for eternal life)

Although the gift of salvation goes far beyond the temporary, refreshing benefit of water, water gives us a constant reminder of the life that Christ has provided for us. Water is a gift that is valuable in many ways beyond quenching thirst. In the same way, salvation is a gift we can’t completely understand, but we should appreciate and accept it.

Illustration: This demonstration illustrated the large heat capacity of water. Liquid water can absorb and give off huge quantities of heat and so moderates the temperature of the whole earth. We first talked about (and demonstrated) what happens when an empty balloon is placed over a flame (it pops!). Next we took a balloon that is about ¼ filled with water and inflated. When we held that balloon over the candle flame and even it it, the balloon does not pop. The heat moves into the water so quickly that the rubber balloon does not break.

Each time I do this experiment, the children hold their hands over their ears and this year even asked if they could hide under the table. They were sure that the balloon with water in it would pop just as the empty balloon had and they did not want to get wet. I always like to eventually pop the water balloon too. We usually go outside (after demonstrating that it doesn't pop) and hold the balloon sideways over the candle so that an air-filled portion is touching the flame. It makes a mess of water - but it's fun to see!

Here's a picture of our sparks hearing from Candi the directions to the game Coons and Hounds.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Science Experiment – Lots of Cotton

This experiment is taken from the excelent book Science & the Bible Volume 3.

Theme: God blesses us beyond our imagination

Bible Verse: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us – Ephesians 3:20

Materials Used: Bag of cotton balls, small glass filled to ¼” of the top with water

Lesson: It may be natural for us to think that God’s power even though it’s great is limited. We get tired, so we may think that God also gets tired. Maybe that’s why some people think that it took longer than one week to create the word. God is so powerful, that he could have made the world in less than one second. In Genesis, we find out that God created the world in six real days. God can still do more that we can ask or think so we should be bold in praying to God. Through Christ, God’s power is also in us.

Illustration: We illustrated what seemed impossible by guessing how many cotton balls we could add to an almost full glass of water without spilling any of the water. Then to test our guess, we added the cotton balls one by one and counted how many fit in the glass.

As the large number of cotton balls that fit was unexpected, we may also be surprised at God’s abundant daily blessings

The children in my class guessed that between 5 and 10 cotton balls would fit in each of their glasses (I gave one glass to every two kids). We found that more than 50 cotton balls fit into the glasses before they begin to spill cotton balls or water or break their coffee cups.

Busy Week Update

Work: This is one of the three most busy and draining weeks of work each year. It's our fall training so I switch from sitting and working primarily on my computer each day to standing and interacting with people I don't know for three days. The three days of training actually mean that we spend the entire week on the class because we set up on Monday and will tear down some on Friday. This first day of class went well today - only two more days to go and it will be over again! I don't know if it's the teaching and interacting with people or the standing or the mental and physical preparation that makes this week tiring. But it does pass and it actually usually goes pretty well.

Car: My car seems to enjoy being repaired on Tuesday. Dad graciously replaced my car's cooling fan tonight. It decided to quit working yesterday as I drove to their house for Dad's birthday. I'm sure fixing a car wasn't exactly the birthday present Dad wanted! I hope that this Tuesday trend doesn't continue

AWANA: Tomorrow is my first full night of teaching AWANA. Each evening I have the 1st grade sparks class for one hour. The hour is the "counsel" and "sections" time. Churches do AWANA many different ways. In my church, section time is done by listeners pulling the children out of the class rooms to a hallway where chairs are set up. There the children say the verses to the listeners. Usually we have about 3 listeners and about 18 children in Sparks. So, for most of the hour, each teacher has the majority of their children in class. Last week I had 8 sparks in my class, so I will probably have a minimum of 5 children at all times. I like to have 3 or 4 activities that fill the hour I have in the classroom. We begin sparks with pledges and songs and soon break into our grade level classes. This year I am again using science experiments to illustrate Bible concepts. I am also once again using memlok's Say the Books during the hour to teach the books of the old testament. Say the Books has a running story line that we read, actions to learn, and coloring sheets as well. In past years, I've used the Sparks flannel graph stories, but this year plan to use other missions related stories. Ivory asked about the science experiment we did last week. Since I'm making a handout with a slightly shorter version of the experiment each week, I'm going to post the experiments here for reference for others. I've really enjoyed doing experiments in the past with the children. Experiments seem to be something they really remember and look forward to.

Church: We had a board meeting tonight (between work and picking up my car). Tomorrow after AWANA I need to see what was causing the wireless mike to make some noise on Sunday. I also need to get some more batteries since the rechargeable once I bought last year have more than once failed before the end of a sermon.

So those are the things on my mind this week. It will be over before I know it - busy weeks always go by quickly.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Looking in the Mirror - James 1:22-27

This evening Pastor Tony preached on the last few verses of James 1.

22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

verse 22 tells us that we are deceived if we just listen to the word, but don't act on it. We are given the truth of God's word to set us free, but we must act.

v.23-24 speaks of the man who looks at his face in the mirror and then goes away and forgets what he looks like.

Pastor Tony pointed out that the word forget refers to something not being at the for front of your mind. It's like we each do in the morning after brushing our hair or teeth while looking in the mirror. At the time we think about what we look like (and maybe see how bad our sunburn is!). But once we go about our lives, we are busy and other things occupy our minds.

That's what the person who just hears the word but doesn't do it is like. He realizes that things are wrong in his life, but forgets about it and allows his mind to be set on other things.

The comparison is to the one who looks in the perfect law of liberty and puts his full attention on it. He continues in it and doesn't forget about it. This person is constantly applying God's word and he will be blessed (see Psalm 1).

How often you you (or I) think about and meditate on the world of God throughout the day? Do we apply what we've heard to our daily lives? We as Christians think we love one another and know all about forgiveness, but what about the times when we are hurt deeply (whether in a real or perceived way)?

The Bible says to forgive (70x7 times) and go to the person. When we are challenged by what it says, and don't do it, it is sin. It's easy to rationalize and justify our selves, but that's self deception.

Verse 26 turns to another important issue - the tongue. It says that if you think you're religions (which is the outward practicing of an inward confession) but don't bridle (to put a bit in your mouth: note that a bridle controls a more powerful animal like a horse) your tongue, you deceive yourself and your religion is useless.

We know we shouldn't gossip or speak in anger, or demean with sarcasm, or tell bad jokes, but what do we do? If you don't bridle your tongue, the walking out of your faith has no value - that's pretty harsh, but it's what the word says.

Examine your conversation at home, at work and with friends. Religion always starts at home. If it's not real at home, it doesn't matter what it looks like at work or church.

Out of your heart, the mouth speaks. A good tree bears good fruit. Let your speech be seasoned with grace. Too much junk is discussed by Christians. If your tongue is not significantly changed by your religion, it's a useless religion.

It's not just your speech that shows your faith, we're also told what is considered to be a pure and spotless religion: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep yourself unblemished by this world.

The picture to bring to mind is of a woman wearing a white wedding dress and walking through a coal mine. She will be extremely careful to keep the dress clean. In the same way, we must purpose to keep ourselves pure in this filthy world.

We are told to go to people in trouble. We are to see the needs and act on it. It's not just saying we ought to religiously go physically visit people (although that's good to do). The world visit means to see that their needs are actually being met. When God reveals a need to you, you should act on it.

Make certain that your life matches what you profess in practical ways.

Bodysurfing at the Beach!

Saturday was a perfect day to be at Pensacola Beach! The yellow flag was out and the waves were great for bodysurfing! Gemma and I spent almost four hours at the beach and I probably spent at least three of those hours in the water. You know the waves are good if occasionally when you jump into the wave wrong and it smashes you into the sand! To feel the warmth of the sun and hear the sound of the waves is like nothing else. I was able to catch several great waves.

It's interesting being out there watching the waves and deciding which one to ride. I spend most of the time watching and deciding to wait for the next wave until suddenly I decide this is the one and jump in. I guess it can be compared in some ways to riding roller coasters. For roller coasters, you wait often for an hour for a ride that lasts only a minute or two. When body surfing, you try out many disappointing waves, but sometimes you catch one that pushes you along like nothing else and it's definitely worth the wait!

I wish every day at the beach was as perfect as that one was!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Prayer and Feelings

I read a blog article yesterday about prayer that was still on my mind this morning. Here's the part that I remembered most:

"Feelings precede out of faith, they don't produce it. Likewise in prayer; if we look to our feelings to tell us whether our prayers are heard/effective, etc. - we are looking to the storm and not the Savior." (click here for the entire blog article)

It's a good reminder to keep praying even if it seems pointless at times. We must remember that God does hear and answer prayer!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Things I learned at PCC

I graduated from Pensacola Christian College (PCC) with my Mechanical Engineering degree in 2002. It's a good college, and one that I would recommend to anyone who doesn't mind abiding by rules (whether or not they make sense). For those who want to go to a private Christian college but can't afford the private school cost, PCC is an option you should consider as it's the least expensive Christian college I know of (~$5,000 per year for room, board and tuition). I had gone to PCC for three week music camp twice during highschool so I knew that it was possible for me (a person who lived in jeans) to wear skirts for at least three weeks.

By extrapolation, I felt it must be possible to dress that way for an entire semester. It's as safe a college as one can find anywhere. Girls are not allowed off campus unless going with other girls until they are a senior, and then they can go off alone (but only until dark, or was that just a suggestion?). Because of the rules and the fact that if you break them continuously you will accumulate enough demerits to be kicked out, most of the student who are there really seem to want to stay. Though we didn't like some of the rules, we were willing to abide by them for the greater good (getting a degree).

But on to the things I learned at PCC (note these are not in order of importance and definitely not all-inclusive!):

1) How to play Dutch Blitz. PCC does not allow students to play games with regular playing cards. This rule doesn't make much sense, but I believe that because of it, games such as Dutch Blitz are much more popular than they would otherwise be. I learned it probably in the summer of 1996 and have played it regularly with my family and friends when home and with my college friends whenever we needed a study break. It's a fast paced game that raises your pulse to such a degree that it must be just about as good for you as fast walking! I can't tell you how many hours of fun that game has produced, but it's got to be a lot. Both on Sunday and Monday I played for probably two hours and I enjoyed the entire game!

2) How to appreciate sermons. I don't really remember sermons very well in the churches I attended prior to college. PCC requires it's students to attend the Campus church for Sunday morning, night and Wednesday night services and also has chapel 4 days a week for the students. So, with those services, you will hear 7 sermons a week. That's not counting Sunday school, your required Bible classes twice a week, or the sermon recap you might hear from your calculus teacher if his class is right after chapel (as I did)! In fact it doesn't count the devotional you'll hear or give at prayer group (5 nights a week) or floor meeting once a week. And don't forget all the prayer that will be offered up as every class will open with prayer. I was blessed to hear some amazing speakers and learned to enjoy sermons and even look forward to them. I was reminded that I didn't always like sermons when my youngest sister remarked with surprise that our brother Elijah enjoyed the chapels at his college. Don't take this to mean that I always pay attention as I should or that I have a great memory of what I learn. All I'm saying is that through immersion in many messages, I learned to enjoy learning something from the speakers. This next one follows closely with appreciating sermons.

3) How to take notes. When in college classes you have to be able to write quickly and take notes. Now, my notes never looked as nice as the notes that Julie took in our engineering classes, but the important thing was that I learned to take notes that I could read later. I took notes in class and also in chapel and church services. If you were to ask me how often I refer back to my notes, you may think that sermon notes are really a waste of paper, but I disagree. If I take notes, I am much more engaged in active listening to what is being presented. I may or may not learn something new, but if there was something that made me want to study further, I had a good set of notes as a basis for study.

4) How to take a punishment. Like I said earlier, demerits were given for not abiding by rules, I received demerits (though rarely) for an unmade bed, not taking out the trash, being late to class, not abiding by the dress code (remember the blue angels or the mall?) and other offenses. As I remember, those were minor offenses ranging from 1 to 5 demerits. Other things like skipping a class or church was 25 demerits and skipping Sunday School was 10 demerits. If I remember right, a person was allowed 50 demerits before a letter was sent home and 75 before anything happened to them like being campused.

We were assigned seats in chapel (for attendance taking reasons) and through the assigned seats ended up meeting new people that we would have otherwise never have interacted with. I remember as a new freshman sitting next to an upperclassman who gave me this advice when he found I was a new student: "You have a certain number of demerits each semester, spend them wisely." That made a lot of sense to me. Since my family came at least once a year to go camping at Fort Pickins, I chose to try to minimize demerits throughout the semester so that I would have enough extra demerits to be able to afford skipping church and Sunday school the weekends we were camping.

5) How to have fun with friends. It was friends that made college fun. I was blessed with the best of friends and we had fun even in the midst of study. Time with friends make life memorable and it's the time with friends that I miss the most about college. Wouldn't it be fun if dorm life with your best friends could last forever? Well, maybe one won't want to live in a dorm forever, but those days were definitely fun!

Tomorrow I'm heading back down to visit my college friend Gemma who still lives in Pensacola. We plan to enjoy a Saturday at the beach!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Cars and Dads

Cars and Dads make a nice combination - especially if your Dad is able and willing (as mine is) to help you out when your car is making a new noise or being a little greedy with its fluid needs. I hate having to drop my car off at a mechanic to get it fixed. It's a pain to find rides or even to feel like I'm bothering my family by borrowing a car from them. I also dislike feeling stupid when I don't understand what the mechanic says is wrong or know what the answer is to the kind of tires I want (good tires - but not too expensive?). Somehow being a mechanical engineer did not suddenly make me knowledgeable about all car parts though that sure would be nice!

I guess I don't hate fixing cars enough to drive a nicer one. My car standard thus far in my life is to buy something that is not any older than the year I first drove ('94) , that looks ok and gets me where I need to go, doesn't cost a fortune (defined as more than I have in my car savings category at the moment), and is not a "tank". That includes a huge range, but so far I've only bought two vehicles and both of them happened to be '94 Saturns. Both of my Saturns have/had problems with oil leaks and odometers that don't work. My last Saturn had noisy brakes and my current Saturn developed a coolant leak.

I only got rid of my previous Saturn due to a problem it suddenly developed upon my turning left at an intersection in 2005. I'm still not exactly sure how I missed seeing the car that was obviously right there, but it was quite an experience to wake up disorientated in an ambulance. I'm thankful to God for sparing me from injury by allowing my back wheel to absorb the impact instead of the drivers side door. After that wreck, I ended up getting another '94 Saturn that Dad and I found.

Now leaking fluids is not necessarily a big problem. I'm used to adding oil every other time (or so) that I get gas. But when I went from adding coolant every few months to every month, then every week then every few days, I knew that it was finally time to do something about it.

I asked Dad about possibly borrowing a car for a few days so I could drop of my car somewhere and get it fixed, but he had an even better idea. He graciously swapped cars with me for a day, picked up a radiator from a place he knows, got extra coolant and then installed it for me last night. Talk about amazing generosity! I "helped" a little as he installed the radiator and enjoyed the time we had to talk and work together on the project.

Now this is obviously not the only reason I love my dad, but I do believe that this is a good time to say that I love you Dad! and I think I have the best Dad in the world!

Thanks Dad!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Good Gifts, Listening, and Anger (James 1:16-20)

These notes are from Pastor Tony's Sunday night message August 26th at Fountain of Grace.

James 1:16-20
16 Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. 19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Note that every good and every mature or perfect gift comes only from heaven above (where Jesus is from). The earth rotates and the shadows have constant variation, but there are no variations in God's character. Everything has come from above and is good.

God set our value, not by our works, but through his Son by giving us the righteousness of Christ. Just like Christ's character, our value in his sight will never change. We're part of God's plan. We're actually his first fruits and part of God's harvest and in that we're something that glorifies Christ.

Only good comes from God. The same is not true of us. We need to ask God to give us the same kind of consistency. We won't totally reach it until eternity, but we are to strive to be like Christ. Verse 19-20 speak of anger. If anger is a person's response to you when you share a difficult truth with them, it's less likely that you will want to confront or correct them. We need to be quick to hear God's word, be quick to listen and slow to wrath.

Measure your temper by how you are with your family, not by how you are with strangers or people in the Church. Constancy is a fruit that should be in us (as it is in God). It can also be described as self control. When people know that you're consistent, more people will come to you for you to minister to them. A person's spouse is more likely to approach the other to correct and encourage if their spouse is constant in temper.

Be swift to hear. We should not listen to figure out how to respond, or listen to pick out words to attack and defend against. We shouldn't just listen to what is being said, but should have ears to hear what's really going on (the deeper issues). The most difficult thing to do is to really communicate. It's hard to really hear what people are saying. Realize that we do chose our responses. We often turn to wrath before we even really hear what's being said. Wrath doesn't produce God's righteousness in us. You will never regret being a peace maker, humbling yourself or really listening. If you don't understand what the other person is saying, sometimes it's best to discontinue the conversation for a time in order to separate and pray. Don't let the sun go down on your wrath, it gives place to the devil. Listen to others!

Loving others is impossible without God, but he has given us himself so Christ in us can handle very situation.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Equation of Rest





Add a little rain and quiet and you have the perfect mix for a restful afternoon! (Isn't it strange the things a brain can come up with between being woken up and being really awake?)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Lazy Saturday

I haven't been great about posting very often recently. I guess it seems like there's not a whole lot new going on. Lets, see . . . today was a nice relaxing day. I ran this morning (but not fast), made fudge (found that a candy thermometer makes all the difference in the world - thanks Trisha!), sat by a moon bounce thing this afternoon until rained out, then took a nap before supper. Not exactly the kind of exciting day one wants to blog about!

This week at work somewhat of a transformation occurred. Our company is being sold to a private investment group and they are visiting this week. So, we got to 5S everywhere. For us in engineering, that meant that we cleaned up our engineering testing area as well as our offices. We were able to purchase a couple cabinets for our stuff so for the first time we actually had a place for everything. We filled the cabinets with bins and even labeled them. It actually turned out really nice and feels good to have easy access to all our stuff. I don't think my office have ever been so clean. I was able to take many of my important parts and old versions of our products and move them down to storage boxes in our newly organized engineering area. I don't know if the organized look will last, but I hope that it will.