Friday, November 30, 2007

The Jesus in the Stable (a re-post & a visual :-)

Helpless. Totally dependent. Unable to do anything on His own. Jesus. Born in a stable among animal dung and hay - a lowly birth by any standard. His parents had no money, no status. Mary and Joseph were considered commoners by the world, but extraordinary in the sight of God. I wonder if Mary felt Jesus jump in her womb when the innkeeper slammed the door in her face. Pretty humble beginnings for the baby who would grow up to be the King of Kings. Even though He is royalty, Jesus’ life on earth was not one of privilege. He came here as a Savior and a servant, totally dependent upon His Father.

Helpless. Totally Dependent. Unable to do anything alone. God’s children. Born into a world that is not our true home. Some have money and status, some do not. We are rejected by some and the rest simply do not understand a person can actually have a relationship with God. We are here to be servants of the Most High God, totally dependent upon our Heavenly Father. But are we totally dependent? Jesus told us we should come to Him as a child (Luke 18:15-16). The Greek word for child here is “bréfee” which means infant. We are to come to Jesus as a helpless infant who cannot even hold her own head up without His help. We are not supposed to come to Him as a whiny two-year old who hasn’t gotten her way.
Many times I approach God as a spoiled toddler presenting my demands and feeling unloved when He doesn’t immediately answer my requests. Believe me, I can out-whine any two-year old when in comes to telling God what to do for me. Or even more often, I approach Him as a person too “grown up” to have to depend on anyone. God wants us to rely on Him in every situation for every little thing. It is only when we are completely dependent upon Him and trust Him as an infant trusts its parent that we can receive His best for us. I think maybe God has not only called us to be like Jesus the man, but He has also called us to be like Jesus the infant in the stable at Bethlehem.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Completely Disorganized Thoughts

Warning: The following may be difficult to follow as it is more of a stream of consciousness than a complete essay. Read carefully and at your own risk.

I have never been a 'King James Version Only' person. I usually use the New International or New Living translation, but sometimes in studying or preparing to lead a class I like to check out other (more 'hip') versions of the Bible. My favorite is The Message. Now, before you start condemning me (note to naysayers: read Romans 14:12-21 before you judge :-), let me say that I do not believe that The Message is infalliable. I do, however, like the way it 'explains' some familiar passages. For instance The Message version of Romans 7:14-19 says this:

"I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time."

"Full of myself"? "I decide to do good, but I dont really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway!" Are you kidding me? I am not sure if Paul wrote this or if I wrote it. Can I get a witness? Can anybody give me an amen on that one?

SIDENOTE: When I think of sins that I commit over and over the ones that come to mind are sins of the tongue. Yes, folks, that's right I open my mouth alot and many times I do not know when to shut it. I don't use curse words, but sometimes the words I do use are just as vile in the sight of a holy God. Maybe an undisciplined tongue is not a problem for anyone else -- I may be alone in this :-). Job said "my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit". Unfortunately, Job and I have very little in common. Psalm 15 says, "and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman". Again I have little in common with this person either. Psalm also says, "I said, "I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence." Oh, how I need a muzzle sometimes! I love Proverbs 17:28 which says "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue". In other words, better to keep your mouth shut and make people wonder if you are stupid than to open your mouth and remove all shadow of doubt. Apparently tongue problems are not unique to me because God sure made a lot of references to sharp tongues in the Bible. I could go on and on with verses about the tongue, but I think you get my point.

I daresay each one of us has certain sins we revisit often. Maybe your weakness is not with sins of the tongue (or maybe it is). Maybe your weakness is a sin of thought or something you do that you know does not glorify God. Maybe you are flirting with a man who is not your husband, maybe you look at pictures/movies that you shouldn't, maybe you have a nasty habit that needs to be 'kicked', maybe you are jealous or bitter, maybe you have a negative attitude, etc, etc, etc. Only you know your personal weakness, well, you and God.

Romans 6:13 says, "Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God". You see, from the time we are saved (even before) the Holy Spirit is working to make us like Jesus. WE are the roadblock in that work. We DON'T ALLOW the Holy Spirit to perfect us. The truth is that most of the time we have too much of the world in us to identify with Jesus and too much of Jesus in us to identify with the world. We are stuck between this earthly life and our heavenly life and it is pretty doggone hard to find a balance. Romans 12:1 says to 'present ours bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God'. That is a difficult task when you are living on this evil planet we call earth.

I have said this before, but humor me here. We are not citizens of this world. When we were saved, we became citizens of heaven. For instance, if we go to Mexico, we don't drink the water because it might make us sick. We drink water that is consistent with the water that is in our homeland. Likewise, while we are visiting here on earth, we should drink water that is consistent with the water in our homeland - Living Water. The water here on earth will make us sick every time.

Our flesh is bent toward worldly desires, but our hearts should be bent toward heavenly desires (after al,l the Holy Spirit of God lives in our hearts). There are going to be times when our weak flesh wins out and we fail God - even Paul had this problem. Thankfully, we live under grace and not under the law (otherwise there wouldn't be enough lambs in North America to sacrifice for all my sins). Like Paul, we do things we didn't intend to do, but in spite of our sinful selves, the Holy Spirit is constantly at work in those of us who believe. Even though we are depraved in our flesh, God looks at us and sees the precious blood of His only begotten and His Holy Spirit is always working to make us like Jesus. We humans are so fickle, but God is so faithful. And thankfully He is even faithful when we are not!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just, Merciful, and Humble

I think I have a mental problem or maybe it's a learning disorder. For some reason, I can be told something a thousand times and yet I still cannot grasp the concept. I may be one fry short of a Happy Meal, if you know what I mean (okay two fries). I wonder if God feels like my son's first grade teacher - saying the same thing over and over patiently until His students finally get it (By the way, have I mentioned that my son's teacher has four kids of her own and is still a wonderfully patient woman in the classroom?).

Anyway, here is what I mean: I know that my salvation is a gift that I can do or have done nothing to deserve (actually quite the opposite - I deserve the hottest hell ya'll !). But, there are times when I find myself doing things in order to please God. For example, there are times when I take meals to someone who is sick not because I want to be a blessing, but because I feel that it will somehow make God proud of me (stupid, I know). Most of the time I love taking meals or blessing someone, but there are those times when I do it out of a sense of obligation (to God, not to that person). Or, there are times when I take on responsibilities at church so that God will know for sure that I am serious about serving Him (um, God knows my heart - why do I need to prove anything to Him? duh....I don't). I can think of a million times when I have done 'acts of service/kindness' not out of love, but out of duty. There are times when I am a Pharisee in the body of a true believer.

Now, don't get me wrong, I believe we are supposed to do what God has asked us to do (ten commandments, love one another, etc, etc, etc.). Where I believe we (ummmm, well, I ) go wrong is when we (I) do things to gain the approval of God. Isaiah 64:6 says "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away". You see, where I go wrong in my thinking is that I can DO something to make God pleased with me or love me more. I even find myself being critical of those who don't serve where they are gifted or those who aren't at church every time the doors are open. I am not just a Pharisee - I am dadgum, outright judgemental at times (Note to those not from the south: "Dadgum" is a southern word meaning 'extremely').

The first thing that is wrong with that thinking is that God already loves me so much He sent His only Son to die for me --- there is No greater love than that. The second thing that is wrong with that thinking is that the whole purpose of and premise behind grace is that I can do nothing to earn God's love. So, all my rushing around pleasing God is really just rushing around pursuing something I already possess. Does that make sense? I think I might need some counseling :-) (or maybe just a swift kick in the behind).

So, if my service doesn't make God pleased with me, then what in the world does He want from me? Micah 6:8 says "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" What God requires is that we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with him. What does all that mean, you ask? (Just pretend that you asked) Well, I wondered that as well, so I used the handy-dandy Webster's online to get the proper definitions of those words (I hate that Wiki - thing - too much information if you ask me).

Justice - the quality of being just, impartial, or fair

Mercy - a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion /compassionate treatment of those in distress /a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion

Humble - not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive/ranking low in a hierarchy or scale

What God asks of us is to be fair, love the mercy He has shown us / love to be merciful to others, and forget our pride and arrogance. I believe the Bible speaks in simple terms, because God was writing it to His children -- we wouldn't give our children directions that are over their heads. He also knew that we would be able to turn the simplest concepts into something difficult to understand (I believe most of us are really Pharisees at heart - fight it, girls!). Think about it, children know about being fair - "Mommy, he took my toy- that is not fair"! Children know about mercy ---

Child: Mommy, I broke your favorite flower pot.

Mommy: Honey, that's okay - you didn't mean to. I forgive you.

Children know more about being humble than any other people in the world. After all, who is less proud and arrogant than a child? Children ask for help often and they cry unashamedly when they are hurt. Children recognize their limitations and depend on others for things they cannot accomplish themselves. When was the last time you saw an adult do those things? God made it simple for us to understand, yet we try to make walking with the Lord so difficult. His love is not conditional. He doesn't love us because of something we have done, He loves us in spite of what we've done. And that, my friends, is yet another thing for which we should be forever grateful.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The More Things Change, The More He Stays The Same

After reading everyone's blogs over the past week, I noticed a recurring theme - thanksgiving ('tis the season). Everyone listed things they are thankful for (well, everyone except me - there isn't enough space on the internet to list everything I am thankful for). Like everyone else, I am so thankful for my family- the kids, the hubs, etc. I am thankful for our home and our church. But, the other day I was thinking about what I am MOST thankful for. After much thought and consideration, I have decided that I am most thankful for God's grace and for the fact that He never changes. In other words, I am thankful that I accepted His gift of grace and I am even more thankful that He will never take it back no matter what I do (because I have done some seriously stupid things in my life). If anyone deserves to have their grace revoked it is me, but He says that I cannot be snatched from His hand. I am safely held in the hand of God and nothing can change that.

When I was in college I took a class in post modern art. I can't remember the exact name of the class, but I remember it was very boring to me. I would love to say that I took that class out of my great appreciation for the arts, but the truth is I had to have another class to graduate and this art class was the only one that fit my schedule. Even though I was bored to tears most of the time, I did learn quite alot about art and ancient construction. One thing I remember talking about in class was how women in times past were viewed by the world. The most interesting thing to me is that women in the 1600's were seen as poor and destitute if they were not at least slightly overweight. I like to refer to the 1600's as 'the good old days'. I am telling ya if I had been alive back then people would have thought I was a billionaire! In those days, it was acutally seen as stylish to have belly fat! Oh, how I long for the good old days. My how things change! If you think about it, change is not only inevitable in our society, it is very prevalent.

Back in the 1600's it may have been seen as a good thing to be overweight, but today if you aren't stick thin you are overweight -- and today overweight is not seen as a good thing (which is why I would love to get rid of about 15 pounds, but whatever....). I remember when it was bad for your health to drink coffee and eat red meat and eggs. Now we hear that all those things are good for you (in moderation of course---again -whatever!). When I was in high school big hair was popular. I had seriously big hair - I mean 'wall 'o hair'! Then in early 2000 (maybe sooner for some of you - word travels slow to the south) it became popular to nix the big hair and make it as flat as possible. I would love to say that I love the 'flat hair' look, but I will always love big hair. I straighten my hair but only before a good teasing - sorry, I am a creature of habit. I am sure that at some point in my life, big hair will be 'in' again (at which time I will rejoice with thanksgiving in my heart because I say the bigger the hair the smaller your hips look).

Remember when skinny jeans were all the rage? Then flared, boot cut, and now skinny is back. (Fashion is cyclical- The problem is that some fashions were terrible in the first place and should never be brought back, but I digress..... ) In the 70's big cars (land yachts) were popular, then in the 80's it was the compact car, now we all have SUV's. I remember when I was little, we always sung hymns from a hymnal at church. Now churches all have huge screens from which we sing 7/11 songs (seven words sung over and over 11 times) or praise and worship music. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE those praise and worship songs - I am merely pointing out how even our church services have changed over the past 20 years.

Not only does our hair, makeup, clothing, etc. change constantly, but our relationships change over time as well. My relationship with Steve is much different today than it was 8 years ago when we got married. We are more comfortable with each other now than we were then. Back then, we were 'on our best behavior' now we are much more relaxed together. We arent trying to impress anymore - thank you, Jesus. I am not good at 'putting on' - I am a "what you see is what you get" kind of girl, so impressing is not in my nature normally. My relationship with my mother is also totally different now than it was when I was a teenager. I actually like her now - she really is smart - who knew? Even my relationship with the Lord is much different now than it was when I was saved at the age of 14.

When I got saved, I was truly filled with the joy and peaces that passes all understanding. I was on cloud nine and on fire for God. Over the next few years I became less and less on fire and more and more like smoldering ashes. I was far away from the joy and knee-deep (okay, over my head) in the world. Then one day it hit me that I was living like the devil and I turned back to my first Love. A few years later, I was again living a worldy, sinful life (I can't even think about it without cringing). Then after a season of sin and living like, well, living like hell, I repented and began to walk closely with the Lord again. I am determined not to waffle back and forth or waver in my faith like that ever again, because I know what it is to be at rock bottom in my walk with the Lord (and in life) and I never want to go there again. There is nothing worse than knowing that God is disappointed in you - NOTHING! You see, I was in a deep pit of sin. I was so engrossed in my sin that I justified it and glorified it to others. I was so far gone that I didnt even know I was disappointing God. I was a terrible witness for the Lord, but He loved me anyway. Like Paul said, we need to check ourselves often. We need to ask ourselves if we are really living for the Lord and if we are following after Him in the way He asked us to. Sometimes we are in a pit of sin and we dont even know it. Sometimes, we let the world get a foothold in our lives and we dont even see ourselves pushing God out. Sometimes, little sins lead to lives led without the Holy Spirit-- maybe we arent living outwardly sinful lives, but are living inwardly disobedient lives (that is a whole other post).

As I look back over all my changing hairstyles, clothes, relationships I see one constant - Jesus Christ. No matter how many times I have changed, He has always been there and always been the same. He watched in the 80's as I had the sides of my hair cut thus producing a mullet-like effect and He didnt care. He has seen all my fashion triumphs and disasters and He still thinks I am beautiful. He has seen all the stupid things I have done (trust me there are many stupid things I have done) and He forgives me. He looked down into my pit of sin and saw me at my worst and loved me anyway. He has seen me in places that I shouldn't have been doing things I shouldn't have done and when I asked to come home He welcomed me back with love.

The world changes everyday - a million times a day. The world has much different expectations for us than God does. The world expects us to have the best, look the best, be the best, but God says believe in me, love me, and I will take care of you. God says that His children are beautiful no matter what we look like to the world. He tell us to be in the world, but not of the world - which I have found at times easy for me to say, but tough to live. It is difficult not to let the world dictate how we look - I mean who WANTS to be an out of style, outdated frump? No one! The problem is that we easily get caught up in believeing what the world says about us instead of remembering what God says about us. We were made in His likeness and that is what makes us beautiful - not what we wear, what we drive, where we live, how we do our hair, etc. etc.

Hebrews 13:8 says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever". The Bible says His mercies are new every morning (and I really need those new mercies - I mean really). He loved me when I was born, He loved me when I was born-again, and He loved me when I was in the pit. God's grace never changes - God never changes. In a time when it seems like the world is spinning out of control, we have peace in knowing that the world is never out of His control. In an unstable time, we have complete stability in Jesus Christ. And that, my friends, is something to be forever thankful for.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday (A Random Post About Nothing)

So, everything went well yesterday. Lots of people, lots of food, and lots of stress for me. I tried to be a Mary, but that Martha just keeps rearing her ugly head (dang her!). Thankfully, at around 5 pm last night everything was cleaned up and my sister, her husband and her kids (ages 21, 19, and 16 - my sister is 6 yrs older than me - so is my husband by the way) and I played Texas Hold 'em for about 3 hours. (Not for money of course - just with chips.) We always have a great time playing games - we are all extremely comptetitive so it is really fun. I was so worn out that I could hardly hold my head up after everyone left.

The older I get the more I appreciate my mother. My mother went to work full time when I was 5. She worked all day, cooked supper every night, and got us to our practices and ballgames on time, too. She spent every Saturday cleaning the house top to bottom. She is OCD about cleanliness. I am sure I was the only kid in my whole school who had to clean the toilet with Comet every morning before school (I suppose it was a character builder to go to school smelling like toilet cleaner, but I can't really be sure). Needless to say our house was spotless ALWAYS! How on earth did she do it all? I don't even have a job (well, you know what I mean - two small kids IS a job, but not one I leave the house for) and I just can't seem to do all the things she did.

We had a debate at my house yesterday (well, actually it was me and my dad talking). My dad's side of the family is beyond huge. There are over 75 people - that is kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. We all grew up around each other and spent alot of time at my grandparent's house. It was fun to have so many cousins (it still is fun). Anyway, when we had a get together, the adults always got in line first to eat and then the kids ate last. Moms with little ones (preschoolers) fixed their kid's plates, but school age kids and teenagers were always last in line. It is sort of a respect thing. I grew up in a pretty strict household - much more strict than most today. We would have never thought (still to this day wouldnt think) of speaking to an adult without saying ma'am or sir (that might be a southern thing). Typical teenage talk today would have gotten my tail whipped back then (and I mean a whippin' with the belt!). We knew better than to ask for something when we went into a store. In church, if I would say something during preaching, my mom would pinch my leg and wring it then my dad would take me out and spank me for yelping. We would never go to someone's house and ask for something to eat or drink - we were to wait until we were asked. It sounds very strict, but my home was very loving and those rules (there are many that I didnt mention - not enough room) have helped me become who I am today. I consider myself a person who respects authority and those who are older than I. ANYWAY, Yesterday, my sister's kids got in line to eat first and later my dad mentioned that he thought it was disrespectful since my husbands parents were there and they are both 80. I sort of agree, but I wonder what you guys think about that. I also wonder what kind of traditions / expectations you guys grew up with. If you want to share some, I would love to hear them.

So, now my house is pretty quiet (unless you count the sound of the Playstation in the background). The rush to Christmas is on and I am already feeling the stress even though my shopping is done. I have to plan (and purchase everything) for our church preschool party. I do it every year and every year there are more children to plan for. I feel like it has to be something special and that I have to come up with something even more fun than last year. I am homeroom mother for my son's class and I have to organize the Christmas activities for his class (which includes contacting all the parents and asking for money - I am not good at asking people for money unless I am married to them). My husband will be out of town for a week the middle of December and I will be in charge of getting the builders and other people working on our house paid (right now I write the checks, but only when I am told). I have to get my kids to the mall to have their picture made with Santa - I hate that! (I really hate Santa - dont tell anyone - my husband says it would be cruel to deny our kids of the joy of Santa, but if he werent the head of our house I would so deny them, but that is a whole other blog). I have to get our 2008 calendars with the kids pics made and I have to address 150 Christmas cards. I begin leading a new Bible Study the first week of January and I have some studying to do for that I need to do it SOON! Do ya smell what I am cooking here? I have made so many "to do's" for myself that I have actually STRESSED MYSELF OUT! What is wrong with me? I could go on, but it would bore you and depress me.

I decided to stay home today. There were lots of sales that I could have taken advantage of (Target had kids movies for $4.98 and several other things I would have liked to have gotten) , but I decided it wasnt worth it. I usually go every year to certain stores with all the other nuts and try to get the great deals, but not this year. Last year I was at Wal-Mart at 4 am, the year before I was at Toys' R Us (does it bother anyone else that the r is backwards? Just asking) at 4 am and I lost my Christian attitude by 5 am. There were about 5 women (who were serious shoppers) jump right in front of me like I wasnt even there! - I was maaaaaaddddd!. They looked over me. Now I know I am short, but come on! These women were dressed in their fancy clothes and I had on my sweats - who gets up that early and dresses to impress? NOT ME! So, I think it is better that I stay home and away from temptation to become just like those women. You all will know I have lost it when I get up at 3 am and dress like I am going to the prom to go and buy my kids some toys.

Well, I am sure that I could totally bore you with many other completely random thougths, but I like you guys too much for that. I am off to play Chutes and Ladders with my two best boys! Have a great day and if you have been out shopping - I hope you kept your Christian witness in tact --- it ain't easy on a day like black Friday!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Feast

Today was the First Grade Feast at my son's school. The kids prepared a huge Thanksgiving meal (with the help of moms). It was great fun (and tiring too). The teachers had set up a store and a baking center. The kids read the recipes and decided what they needed from the store and baking center and then they made the recipe (rubber gloves were used to prevent snotty food). One class dressed up like Pilgrims and one like Indians. I helped the kids make my FAMOUS (well famous in my own circle) sweet potato casserole and all the parents and teachers asked for the recipe (it is awesome). So, I thought you guys might like to have the recipe.

Beth's Yummy Sweet Potato Casserole

Layer 1
Crushed Ritz crackers combined with one stick butter. Press into 8x11 or 9x13 casserole dish and bake at 350 for 12 - 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Layer 2
Combine 8 oz cream cheese (softened), 1 cup sugar, and 8 oz. Cool whip. Spread on top of cooled cracker mixture.

Layer 3
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (cooked)
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 egg

Mix all together and spread on top of cream cheese/cool whip mixture and refrigerate.
Top with crushed pecans before serving. This is served cold (but dont let that scare you - it is wonderful!).

If you are looking for something to do with that leftover turkey.....this is what we are haivng for supper tonight - you can substitute turkey for chicken just add a little extra chicken broth.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
4-5 Chicken Breast (cooked in boiling salt water)
2/3 Bag of Curly Noodles
3-4 Chicken Boullion Cubes
2 cans cream of Chicken Soup
Ground Pepper
1 small tub sour cream
1 can chicken broth
Cook chicken till done. When cool cut into chunks (big or small, whichever you prefer). Cook noodles in water that you cooked chicken breasts with boullion cubes and can of chicken broth added. Add cream of chicken soup, ground pepper & chicken. After simmering and when nearly done, stir in sour cream.
Oh, and if you are wondering why I am wearing short sleeves in the above picture, it is because it was almost 80 degrees here today. Go figure! I am off to clean my house !!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

And We're Back........(and I am a Martha in recovery)

Well, friends, we are back from a wonderful shopping weekend in beautiful Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. A great time was had by all (actually 'by both' since it was only the hubs and I). We spent all day Friday in Knoxville at Turkey Creek (awesome shopping center) and then West Towne Mall (I do love a good mall, don't you? I had me some of that sinful Chocolate ice cream from Marble Slab Creamery and as soon as I ate the last bite of that waffle cone I immediately repented :-) Friday night we ate at Chop House and then on to our hotel where we watched that show with Wayne Brady where you have to name the lyrics to win - I totally should go on that show!!! I rarely watch TV, but that show is so fun I might make it a weekly 'must-see'.

Saturday morning we got up early and went straight to Five Oaks Tanger Outlet after a delicious continental breakfast (okay it wasn't that delicious, but it WAS free). We spent most of the day there. Saturday evening we went to a few other shopping centers and then to dinner at Outback (UT was playing and hubs knew it would be on the big screen there - and I love me some Alice Springs chicken and a bloomin' onion). We finally arrived at the in-laws around 11:30 pm where we picked up our sleeping boys and headed for home. The great news is that we lots of neat 'stuff' and our Christmas shopping (with the exception of a few minor things) is DONE!!!! Anyone want to volunteer to help me wrap presents? I wish I had time to add some links of a few of the fun things we bought people (and some I bought myself - ya'll I rarely ever buy myself anything except when we go on this yearly adventure, so don't think I am bragging ). A few of the things I got: warm GAP hoodie (love a good hoodie), some sketchers that look like ballet flats, a pair of black flats, a short puffy sleeved sweater with a white long sleeved t-shirt to go under it, socks, warm fuzzy house slippers (or if you are from TN, they are called 'houseshoes' pronounced /howshooz/), a red top with puffy sleeves and sequins on it to wear to hubs Christmas party for work, and a brown blouse to wear to church. All on sale because I refuse to pay full price for anything. Call me cheap if you want, I take that as a total complement :-).

Thursday, we are having around 20 family members over for Thanksgiving. We always have Turkey Day at our house, so this is not unusual. What is unusual is that I am so not ready for company. I typically begin cleaning the house about 2 weeks before, but I just haven't had time in the past couple of weeks. So, I am kind of stressed out about getting the house cleaned and the cooking done well and in time.

Why do I make such a big deal out of how my house looks instead of focusing on what Thanksgiving is all about? I think one of the most difficult things is to do everything 'as unto the Lord'. I am trying to do just that, but many times my flesh wins out and I do things 'as unto myself'. Isn't it easy to live in the flesh and hard to walk in the spirit when we are stressed? I believe that god takes note of whatever we do for Him. I long to be a Mary, but sometimes the Martha (not Stewart) in me takes over! In my Bible there are 'Character Profiles' of Mary and Martha and here is what they say:

Martha - Expected others to agree with her priorities
Was overly concerned with details
Tended to feel sorry for herself when her efforts were not recognized
Limited Jesus power to this life

Mary - Perhaps the only person who understood and accepted Jesus' coming death, taking
time to annoint His body while He was still living
Learned when to listen and when to act

I so want to be a Mary, but I fear I am more of a Martha most of the time. Martha seems like such a needy, obsessive-compulsive type (Speaking of OCD, did I mention that I check to see if my car doors are locked at least twice before I walk away? Pray, sisters, pray for me :-). I think if we were given opportunity to spend the day with either Mary or Martha, we would all pick Mary. Can I get an amen? I pray that as we go through this week, with all the cooking, cleaning, and preparation for Thanksgiving, we will do it all for God. I pray that we will forget ourselves and our little aggitations and be completely preoccupied by God and how wonderfully blessed we are.

Dear Father,
I pray for every person who reads this blog entry. I pray that we will put off our flesh and walk in Your Spirit. I pray that instead of focusing on the chores, we would focus on the blessings. Lord, would you help us be more like Mary during this time of Thanksgiving? Thank you for all you have blessed us with. Thank you for our families, may we serve them as a Martha served Jesus with our eyes on you like Mary.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

We Thank Thee Lord for Outlet Malls AND A Meme

As I mentioned in an earlier post, hubby and I will be shopping our little selves to death this weekend in Knoxville and Pigeon Forge. The problem is that UT plays at home this weekend and our shopping bliss might be hindered by 200,000 extra people in that area. Pray I don't lose my Christian witness at any time during our trip. We will be back LATE on Saturday night. I am not good at leaving my children and I tend to make the first couple of hours kind of miserable for my husband. Anyway, it always turns out to be a fun time and I am sure this weekend will be no different.

On to further meme business.......I am such a blogging nerd that I dont know muchmuch about meme's, but Stephanie and Janel have both tagged me for this 7 random things about me meme. Ya'll, I am going to type 7 random facts about myself, but as far as meme etiquette goes, I have no idea. So, Stephanie and Janel, thank you for thinking of me, but please forgive me if I mess this thing up in some way (keep in mind my lack of blogging knowledge). Here goes:

7 Random Things About Me

1. When I was 8, I won a Little Orphan Annie contest at our local mall. It has been a real source of embarrassment for me over the years, but I feel that I can share this sad piece of history with all my bloggy friends. My parents entered me in this contest because I looked just like Orphan Annie. My hair was flaming red, I had the freckles, and my parents even bought me that crazy red dress. It was when the Annie movie first came out. My mother still has my picture with our local version of Daddy Warbucks. Please don't judge me because of this embarrassing fact.

2. I went to Europe for a month when I graduated from high school. My hair was still bright red at the time and when we visited Barcelona, the kids would come up to me and touch my hair because it was so foreign for them to see a true redhead.

3. When I was 9 months pregnant with Lake, I spent a weekend at a baseball tournament in Chattanooga TN. My husband was a college umpire and he wouldn't let me stay here in case I went into labor so he made me go with him. Thankfully, I made it home without delivering. Oh yeah, another fact about my hubs and I is that we started dating on January 7th 1999 and we got married on June 26th that same year. I came home from the hospital with my 1st child on June 26st 2001 on our 2nd anniversary. Oh yeah and my hubs is 6 yrs older than me. I just turned 35 - do the math and you will see that he robbed the cradle (only I was 26 when we got married so maybe robbing the cradle is a little harsh, but whatever............).

4. I am somehow related to the late June Carter Cash (like 3rd cousins)

5. The Schwan's man visits my house every other week and I always buy something from him because I feel guilty if I dont. I also buy things at Pampered Chef parties, jewelry parties, Tupperware parties ------all because I feel guilty.

6. My dad's side of the family is huge. Counting aunts uncles cousins spouses etc, etc......there are over 75 of us.

7. I used to think that it was 'chester drawers' instead of 'chest of drawers'. Hey, I am from way down south, give a girl a break :-).

Okay those might be the most lame and boring facts EVER! I will try to think of something more fun than these and replace the terrible ones I listed here.

I think most of my blogging friends have already been tagged for this, so I am tagging EVERYONE who has read this lame, embarrassing meme to try to come up with some little know/ weird facts about yourselves. I look forward to reading all of your random facts --- and I KNOW WHO VISITS THIS SITE, SO DONT TRY TO GET OUT OF IT!!! :-)

Thank you Stephanie and Janel for thinking of me - sorry I am such a bore!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree OR The Legend of the Three Trees

No, this is not a picture from last Christmas. I know what y'all are thinking ........and I know it is a little early for the Christmas trees to be up, but I thought we needed a little Christmas cheer before Thanksgiving this year. Actually, the truth is that next week is really busy for me so I decided to bite the bullet and get the decorating done early (like about 3 -4 weeks early, but who's counting). If you look at the outside of my house it looks like fall, but it is definitely Christmas inside (we even have the CD changer filled with Christmas music and I have all my Yankee Mistletoe Candles out -I know....amaxing). I have to say that I hate my artificial trees (my nephew has asthma so we can't have real ones). I say every year that I am going to buy new ones when they go on sale after Christmas, but I never have any money left, so I have had these trees for 8 years. The good thing is that we will be moving into our new house before next Christmas (hopefully by April) and we will have much higher ceilings (one room has a 24 foot ceiling - the rest are 12 ft) so these trees will not look right - I guess we will be forced to get new ones now :-). The angel on top of the tree above is actually one of the things we bought on our first Christmas shopping trip. She is really beautiful even though you cant tell much about her from the picture. The problem with her is that regardless of the fact that she was not cheap (or maybe I am -not sure) she makes a little noise when she moves (a barely audible noise, but one that can be heard if all is quiet). Her arms move back and forth to make her wings look like she is hovering over the tree (even though she is actually sitting very uncomfortably on the top branch if you know what I mean). When we first put her on our tree in 1999, we were so excited to have people over to our house to see all our hard work and Christmas decor. One night while entertaining some friends we were all sitting in the living room where this tree is and someone said 'What is that noise?' Steve and I looked at each other and laughed and said "I dont hear anything." From that night on we have referred to that angel as Mrs. Ricketts (because the noise she makes is like a faint rrriiiiicccckkkeeettttt). I hope she lasts forever because we have had so much fun with that angel.

This Friday, my hubs and I will be making our annual Christmas shopping trip to Pigeon Forge/Knoxville, TN. We do all our shopping in 2 days. We are like maniacs descending on the malls - we know what we want and we don't fool around. We will be leaving Friday morning after taking Lake (my 6 yr old) to school and then we will drop Kaden off at Steve's mom and dad's then we are off on our adventure. We will be returning sometime VERY late on Saturday night (hopefully in time to iron church clothes and go to bed - yes, that late). We have done this every year since we have been married (this will be our 8th such trip). It is something we look forward to all year. Yes, Ladies, you read that correctly, I have a husband who loves to SHOP! Praise the Lord all who are reading. He gets as excited to see a mall as I do. Not only malls, but we go to all the other stores that I never get to go to with the kids in tow.

So, I don't care if you make fun of me (I have been made fun of before, actually I am pretty used to it). I am ready for it since our families come to our house for Thanksgiving, I will be hearing a lot of jokes I am sure. It's okay if you think these trees/decorations are tacky - but one thing is for sure, no live trees were harmed in the decorating of my house.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Are You A Doubter / Denier?

I am always kind of fascinated by Peter (ie. I think I am somewhat like him). Peter left everything and followed Jesus. He was amazed as He watched Jesus teach and heal. He saw miracles happen right before His very eyes. He saw Jesus heal a man with leprosy, he saw Him heal the man with the withered hand, he heard the Beattitudes straight from the mouth of God, he saw Jesus raise the widow's son from the dead, he saw demons cast into pigs, he saw Jesus heal the woman with the issue of blood, and he saw Jairus' daughter brought back to life--and those are just a few of the miracles Simon Peter watched Jesus perform. Peter was actually there in the flesh when history was made. He saw it with his own eyes - his faith WAS sight (can't wait for my faith to become sight, how 'bout you?).

There are two stories about Peter that puzzle me. The first is when Peter and the disciples were out fishing and weren't catching any fish. Luke 5:5-7 tells us that "Simon said, "Master, we've been fishing hard all night and haven't caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I'll let out the nets." It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch". In other words, Peter told Jesus, 'We have been fishing on our own all night and haven't caught anything, but I will let the nets down again if you say so'. Do you hear a note of doubt in his words? He had been fishing all night and had not caught one fish, so he didn't really believe that Jesus would be of any help. Peter knew in his heart that Jesus had the power to do ANYTHING, but his mind caused him to doubt. Oh how much like Peter I am. I know that Jesus can do anything in my heart, but my intellectual side causes me to doubt Him time and again.

The funny thing about this particular story is that even though Peter doubted Jesus he obeyed. Peter focused on the command and not the promise. Peter doubted, but he obeyed and his nets came back full to overflowing. If only I could be more like that. Even when my mind causes me to doubt, I need to obey in order to get the blessing. What a great reminder this is for me today! Thank you Lord for letting me open up Your word to the book of Luke!

The other story about Peter that puzzles me is over in Luke 22, where Peter denies Christ. In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus basically tells Peter that his faith is going to fail. Then Peter says (my paraphrase) 'Lord, I would go to jail for you or even DIE for you' (ironic, huh?). At which time Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Him three times that very day. This same Simon Peter who had seen all the miracles and had listened to all the teaching, would deny that he even knew who Jesus was. The same Peter who cut the ear off the soldier who wanted to arrest Jesus is now saying "Jesus? Nope, don't know him". Amazing.

I hate to admit it, but I have so much 'Simon' in me. I have seen God do wondrous things in my life and in the lives of others, yet I still doubt Him. God has blessed me until my nets have almost broken, yet I still question His ways. Oh, I may never have actually said to someone 'I don't know Jesus' like Peter did, but my actions sometimes might say just that to others who don't really know me. I suppose Simon Peter's actions puzzle me so because I see so much of myself in him. I pray that like Peter in that boat, I will focus on God's commands and do what He asks every time. Unlike Peter (before the resurrection), I want to know God's power and presence in my heart AND in my head. I never want to be a 'doubter or denier'. Never.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Big 3-5

So, today is my 35th birthday. I don't know why, but I never pictured myself actually turning 35. I suppose I thought Jesus would have come back by now. Not sure why I never thought I would see this day. Can you sense my excitement here? Nah, didn't think so. I don't know why, but I am having a hard time with turning 35. Maybe it's because I remember when my mom was 35 and I thought she was old (of course I was only 9 years old, but whatever....). I remember when my husband turned 35 six years ago. Somehow, he didn't seem to be bothered by it. I think that I may feel strange about this birthday because in my mind 35 is the dividing line between being young and actually being an adult. I never aspired to be an adult. I always wanted to stay in my early twenties and here I am all the way to 35. I have so many friends who are in their 40's, 50's and 60's and they all seem so young to me - what's up with that?

I guess there is nothing I can do except choose to be thankful for my 35 years experience in this life. I have learned a lot-- most of it the hard way. I have 35 years worth of experiences to teach my children from. I pray they learn mostly from listening and not always from failure. I am thankful 35 years worth of undeserved blessings from God. My life is a true example of God's grace and mercy. Even though I was saved at 14, only in the past 10 years have I really experienced true growth in my walk with Jesus. I pray that the next 10 years (45? Hang on I need to take a deep breath) will be a time of unbelieveable growth in my relationship with the Lord.

Last night I was trying to think of some of the major lessons I have learned so far in my life and I decided that there are so many I could never type them all out. Here are just a few:

*God loves me even though I have offended Him terribly at times.

*There is no need trying to cover my sin - God will uncover it - and then cover it with the blood of His Son Jesus, so I may as well 'fess up immediately

*If you eat a whole bag of Hershey's Kisses you will gain approximately 1 1/2 pounds by morning

*When you hit 33 your metabolism does not slow down - it stops altogether

*Hating someone makes you their servant

*When I hold onto my sin (guilt) I am telling Jesus that what He did on the cross was not good enough

*When I ask God to forgive me He actually does it the first time I ask - when I continue to ask forgiveness for sins He has already forgiven I display a HUGE lack of faith and in turn sin yet again

*I don't look good in really short hair (learned the hard way)

*I shouldn't judge people who make bad choices or do wrong things - if given the opportunity, I may do the same - afterall we are all weak in our flesh

*When we go to the far country, we come back changed forever

*I am no better than anyone else in the eyes of the God who made us all

*Big shirts only make me look bigger - fitted is much more flattering

*Hang on loosely to 'stuff' in this life - in the end it means NOTHING

*Don't defend yourself against negative attacks - Jesus never defended Himself

*Keep short accounts of sin with God - if I don't confess my sins immediately I will forget them, but God can't forget them because His son died for them

*Be thankful for the valleys, that is where my faith has been built

*No matter where I am or where I go, I am a reflection of God to others - I can be a poor relflection sometimes

*Sin is sin - my sins are just as ugly and vile to God as the sins of those who are on death row

*Never wear mules with pants that are too short

*Jeans that are too tight might squeeze in the bottom, but you will look like the Michelin man up top -- better to have looser fitting jeans than to look like a muffin

*Vanity and pride go hand in hand --- oh how vain and prideful I can be! ;-(

*True friends are hard to come by - fake friends are easy to make

*A single word can crush a spirit - I have been the crusher and the crushed - no fun either way

*I am not good at having babies - c-sections both times - doctor says my body is not made for pushing out babies - --I thought big hips were a good thing when it came to giving birth?

*It is better to be happy than to be right

*Men truly ARE from Mars (or some equally strange place)- I dont know where women came from - jury is still out on us

*You can be happy no matter what your stage or position in life

*Don't expect your children to act like adults and adults should not continually act like children

*My past sins do not determine who I am today in Christ

*"Cast all your cares on Him for He careth for you"

*There is nothing I can do to gain or lose the love of God

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A 'Grand' Mistake

So, I have mentioned before that we are in the process of building a house. Here is a pretty recent picture of it. You can tell that it is nowhere near finished. This picture shows that the sheeting is only on the right part of the house, but now the sheeting is actually on the whole roof, but still we are far from done.

Anyway, today after working in my son's 1st grade class, I ran some 'house-associated' errands. One of those errands was to our local 'Grand Home Furnishings' store. I was looking at possible color choices for couches (or sofas depending on what area of the country you are from). I have picked out several fabric swatches and wanted to see if there are couches that would match them or if I am totally in la-la land when it comes to decorating my living room.

This week I have been trying to watch what I eat. I turn 35 on Friday and I am noticing that it isn't as easy for me to lose weight as it used to be. I would love (and I do mean love in the truest sense of the word) to lose about 15 pounds. Sound easy enough, but when you factor in my age and the fact that I live with two boys and a husband - not so simple a task. I have been trying to limit calories, bread, sugar, etc. etc. I know how to lose weight, I just don't always stick with the program (if you know what I mean).

When I entered the Grand Furniture store, a woman met me at the door with a Coke in a bottle and some popcorn (as they always do at this particular store - Ashley furniture on the other hand gives you bottled water and cookies - why do furniture stores want to feed you anyway?). I politely took the popcorn and Coke (who doesnt love a cold coke in a bottle?) and went on my merry way looking for the perfect couch. About halfway through my Coke and 'corn, I realized "Omigosh, I am not supposed to be eating this!!!" Not that I think Coke and popcorn are foods of the devil or anything, they just aren't part of my self-imposed eating plan right now. I messed up and never even had a second thought about until I was knee-deep in Coke and buttered popcorn. Do ya smell what I'm cookin' here? Can you see where I am going with this?

I have been to the Grand Furniture store before and I know they give out food and drinks, yet when I walked through that door I never thought one time about what I was supposed to be doing. There are so many times that we go places or get into situations that we know (or SHOULD know) to be dangerous to our walk with Christ, yet we go there anyway. There are people that we know to be gossips, liars, jealous of others, or just plain Life-suckers (people that suck the desire to lead a Christian Life right out of you), yet we choose to spend time with them. I hate to think of the times in college when I went to places that were not exactly wholesome. I put myself in situations where I had to make tough choices when it would have been better to just stay at home. We cannot let our guard down when it comes to doing what and being where God wants us to be. You never know the temptations that are waiting on you. Sometimes they are temptations or situations that we don't recognize as bad until we are smack-dab in the middle of them.

I wonder how many women in the world are flirting with someone who is NOT their husband? They know they should steer clear of him, but can't see the harm in simply 'talking'. Those are the women who end up in adultery. I wonder how many women associate with people who use unwholesome talk or are known gossips? Those are the women who end up with potty mouths or becoming a gossip themselves. I wonder how many women are friends with people who do not encourage their relationship with the Lord? Those are the women who end up falling farther and farther away from their own relationship with God.

My point is that there are so many temptations in life, we always have to be alert to the possibility that satan is at work in a heart or situation. There are times when we see something as harmless when in reality it is very harm-full. It all goes back to what I said in an earlier post. We have to pass EVERYTHING through the filter of Jesus Christ - EVERYTHING. Because just like the "harmless" Coke and popcorn, satan is always at work to trip us up in our walk with Jesus Christ and he is lurking where you least expect him.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What's Your's?

There are certain verses in the Bible that are huge comfort to us. For instance, my Sunday School teacher has told us several times about a verse that means a lot to him. When he was a teenager, his father was dying of cancer. The family had gathered around his bedside hoping for a good word from the doctor. When the doctor came in, the family asked him if he had any good news for them. The doctor replied, "Yes I have a good word for you - 'Cast all your cares on Him for He cares for you'". I think each of us has a Bible verse or verses that are like a balm to our soul.

This morning while I was taking my son to school, our local Christian radio station (WCQR 88.3) announcers asked people to call in and share their favorite Bible verse. It was such a blessing to hear these people call in and tell their favorite verse and what it means to them, so I want to do the same thing. I want to hear what your favorite Bible verse is and why it is your favorite. If you have more than one, that would be great too. By the way, a poll shows that John 3:16 is the #1 favorite verse and that the book of Ephesians is the favorite book of the Bible. So, here is my favorite (well, one of them).

Isaiah 43:1-7
But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you, I will give nations in exchange for you,
and peoples in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, 'Give them up!'
and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.'
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made."

I love these verses, because they tell me that God loves me. These verses have been a great comfort to me when things in my life were crazy or when I was going through a time of 'sifting'. God tells us not to be afraid because we are His and He will take care of us even in the worst of fires in life. He says He is WITH us--the God of EVERYTHING is WITH little 'us' and He sees us as PRECIOUS and HONORED. How in the world could I (sinful, proud, etc. etc) be precious and honored in the sight of a HOLY GOD? How could He save someone like me and love me so much when He knows me completely? AMAZING. TRULY AMAZING.

Okay, your turn. Start typing or just cut and paste from

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Set Apart

I have been thinking a lot about something lately and since this blog is my outlet to voice my thoughts, of course, I feel the need to write about it. I haven't blogged about this particular subject because I was afraid that people who read this might think I am preaching or being holier than thou. In fact, it is quite the opposite. If I am preaching, it is to myself. So, if you read this please, do not think I am pointing fingers.

Everyone knows that the Bible says 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy" (Leviticus 19:2). That verse has always had me a little perplexed because I am such a complete and wretched sinner, I could never be holy. It seems kind of like the verses in Proverbs 31 -- unattainable. Yet, holy is exactly what we are called to be. God Himself says we are to be holy. Exodus 19:6 says, "You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." That means we are to be set apart - some versions say a "royal priesthood, a peculiar people, a holy nation". Some Christians are definitely peculiar, but holy? Do you know anyone who is truly holy? I don't think I do.

So why did God give us this unattainable goal? We know that God knows our hearts, we know He knows our ugly sins and thoughts, yet He said to be holy because He is holy. In order for us to be holy, we have to understand what being holy actually means. I think becoming holy (as holy as we can be) means that our every action, thought, word, etc. is filtered through the blood of Jesus. In other words, we run everything we say and do by Jesus (whether through prayer or through Biblical testing). Being holy means that God is truly the Master and we are literally His servant. Becoming holy is more than just 'getting by' in our Christian lives, but it is going above an beyond and doing everything 'as unto the Lord'.

When I hear 'Be holy because I am holy', my mind says 'there is no way I can do that'. God says for us to be holy, so it must be possible. My take on this is that God knows our sin nature. He expects us to be like Him, but He knows we cannot be perfect. So, for us to be holy is to keep a short account with Him and as I said earlier filter everything we say and do through the blood of Jesus. Keeping short accounts means that we are to take our sin so seriously that it grieves us if we are not in right standing and every sin is confessed and forgiven. After all Jesus didn't die for just some of our sins, He died for each and every one, so we should ask forgiveness for each and every one. Have you ever heard someone pray and say "Lord, forgive us of all our sins". I find that odd, because we know He does forgive us for all our sins, but we each must ask forgiveness for those sins. If we sin so much that we can't even remember what sins we have committed in order to ask forgiveness for particular sins, then we have a real problem. (Remember I am talking to me not you).

When I say everything should be filtered through the blood of Jesus or through Biblical testing, here is what I mean: If I am sitting at home and a show comes on that I know will probably have foul language, nudity, or just a general evil theme - I should immediately turn that channel. If you hear or see something often then you become desensitized to it and it becomes commonplace. God never meant for nudity, vulgarity, and gore to become commonplace for His people. I realize that limits my choices of what to watch, but it puts me one step closer to becoming holy like God has commanded. I am not an avid TV watcher, and I hate anything that has violence or death, so this isn't a real problem for me, but I know for some those shows are an every night 'must see'. Or how about, when I am with a bunch of women talking and the opportunity for gossip comes around - I should shut my big mouth because I know what it's like to be the object of that sort of talk. And who am I to judge a person's heart anyway - my heart has been known to offend God on many, many, many occasions. Then there are the songs we listen to, the movies we go to, the clothes we wear, food we eat, drinks we drink, etc., etc., etc.

I guess a great way to become holy is to always remember that God Himself is always with us in everything we do (and I mean really believe it - we don't always think of it that way or we would never do bad things). He sees all and knows all. A great test of determining whether something will put you two steps forward on the path to holiness or if it will send you three steps back is this: If the Lord Jesus were with you right now in physical form, would He TRULY approve of what you are about to do? Would you watch that show with Jesus sitting right beside you? Would you drink that or smoke that if Jesus were sitting with you (btw, I don't drink or smoke just so you dont think I am a crackhead or anything)? Would you listen to that music with Jesus? If you were talking to Jesus would you say that about that person? I plan on using this test from now on in my quest to become holy and I have to say, it is the most difficult test I have ever taken.

Holy Cow, Batman!