Thursday, March 29, 2007

Alcohol


There have been so many issues within our family and friends with alcohol that I wanted to present my point of view here. I don't ever want anybody around me to look at me and think that I think that I'm better than anybody. I don't want to seem judgemental at all --- and I don't want to seem anything less than loving and forgiving. But I also can't help that the purity and light God has allowed to be shone through me offends the sin in others. Like my post below -- I want to step on people's toes without scuffing up their shoes. I want their sin to feel a bit challenged in my presence -- but not their character or themselves personally.

I want to find out specifically how to do this.

My viewpoint is this:

Just like my post about TV below. There is nothing inherently WRONG or EVIL with TV or alcohol. Like most things in this earth - it can be used for good and even used for God's ministry Ecclesiastes 9:7, Psalm 104:14-15, Amos 9:14, Isaiah 55:11 - OR it can be distorted and manipulated by the enemy and his demons. It can be used for a very self destructive and society destructive tool. It can be a way to tear apart churches, break down individuals and families - and be a vehicle for a lot more sins to enter in (a gateway).

So my belief is that it is OK to drink. The Bible makes me believe Jesus 'drank' and hung with those who did... John 2:1-11; Matthew 26:29; Luke 7:34...... I do believe it's OK to have a glass of wine with dinner. It's OK to have a beer while celebrating the New Year. BUT there are two big IF's.

a) IF you don't get drunk Pr 23:21 - Eph 5:18 Getting DRUNK is clearly something that the pagans chose to have in their lives -- and since our society is running toward that direction of the pagan lifestyle --- that shows me I need to run the opposite way.... Nothing should have control over our bodies - except us. 1 Peter 4:3

and b) IF there is NOBODY around that would be offended or anybody that has fallen into sin through alcohol that could be tempted I Corinthians 8:9-13


Drunkenness and addiction are sins.


So I won't drink even a drop anymore in front of anybody that has had problems with drugs or alcohol or even just having a little too much to drink. I won't even have a taste of something or provide it at my parties if I know there will be somebody there that will be tempted and doesn't have control or will abuse it.

I think I can count on my hand the number of times I've seen my parents drink - I didn't see them drink until I turned 18! So alcohol isn't a huge part of my side of the family at all - I really won't miss it and I don't even care for most of it.

I just don't understand why some people don't ever learn from their own mistakes or the mistakes of their grown KIDS or the mistake of their siblings or spouse or PARENT! I know they don't believe alcohol in itself is bad --- they believe it was the person that was drinking it that didn't have control --- but no matter whose 'fault' it is -- why play with fire!??! Even if it's just a glass a night. Just get it out of the house and it's one less thing to worry about! At least it won't be on your heart if somebody falls to sin because of something YOU have directly provided or taught. Sin always comes in ONE little step at a time. It's never the HUGE things that kills us - it's the small things we let slip without even thinking about it. Like the frog that gets boiled in the pan! You remember that right!?

I just pray I can do this all in a way that won't seem like I'm trying to separate myself from ones I love. I pray that people won't look at me in contempt and want to say, "take off your robe (judge)". I pray that it won't seem like I think I'm so much 'better' than anybody. and I pray that even though I know my light will offend the sin in others --- I pray that people can look at me and see Jesus. I believe He offended the sin in others but never offended the person. He is love and was love while He was on earth. I want to be accepting and forgiving of others always.
So just like my post below --- I have to make sure I understand and help those around me understand that my actions are NOT what makes me a christian. What makes me a christian is that I accepted Jesus into my heart and believe He died and rose for ME. It is simply my duty AS a christian to raise the bar (no pun intended) for my life and truly follow what the word of God is teaching me.
It's my duty to show that the only true FUN and JOY and PARTYING comes from God! So let's have FUN fellow christians! Let's show that He is the one that can fill your heart so that one little drop of Him will be enough to satisfy. Let's be light hearted and smily and friendly and accepting and loving and FUN!!! Enjoy all the beauty and fun He has given us!!! When non-christians see how much fun we have, see how much we love each other and see the joy and peace we have... THAT is when hearts are changed!!

So I think that's all I have to say about that for now.

So here is what I'm thinking ----- a good rule of thumb for my life: *** Observe the masses - do the opposite! ***

Monday, March 26, 2007

Books



Well I finally finished Culture Warrior and I'm trying to decide what book to read next.

I saw Candy's blog and the 2 she just bought sounded incredible. I think it's time for me to read a book on parenting and discipline. I know Raymond is only 8 months old but he really is getting so strong and verbal and getting into things so I am ready to start reading another book on discipling with love! :)

So if anybody has any suggestions let me know!

My Favorite Books and Authors:
1. The Bible
2. Captivating - Eldredge
3. anything by Francine Rivers
4. anything by Jan Karon
5. Gone With The Wind
6. Wild At Heart - Eldredge
7. Personality Plus
8. The 5 Love Languages
9. Culture Warrior
10. The Marriage Builder
11. Becoming Baby Wise
12. The Magic of Thinking Big
13. Rich Dad Poor Dad
14. anything by Mary Higgins Clark
15. anything by Nicholas Sparks
16. Matilda
17. Charlotte's Web
18. anything Disney
19. any Fairy Tale
20. Babysitters Club (man I lvoed these growing up) - I was so sad to give these up
21. Berenstein Bears (another favorite! - I look forward to when Raymond will love these so we can read them together)
22. Sweet Valley High Series!

I'm sure I'll think of more but that's all for now :)




I thought I'd do this for fun too --- so months from now or years I can see if I have finished any of these other ones I want to read someday:

The Book List
*Bold the ones you’ve read
*Italicize the ones you want to read
*Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) - my project when I was pregnant with Raymond! :)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible - working on going all the way straight through this year. I'm determined to do it. and I'm in I Chronicles.
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)

53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)


Just talking about books gets me so excited! What a dork I am! I LOOOOVE BOOKS and I LOOOOOVE to read! Books are some of my best friends. Yes, my love language is words. I really feel the only way we get better and grow are by the books we read and people we meet.

In my dream house, all I want a HUGE library full of books I've read or want to read ---- like this:




Or better yet like this:



I remember watching Beauty & The Beast in the theatre with my mama when it came out -and my favorite part was this part - man I was jealous of Belle! :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

He's Here

Pastor Kelly had another incredible sermon on Sunday - he really is such a wise preacher and I see a lot of potential in this church.

What he preached was Truth and I love that he preaches the Truth whether he thinks people want it to hear it or not. LET US step on toes - but do it in a way that doesn't mark up the person's shoes. The Truth and the Light in us as christians should offend the SIN in others --- it should offend the sin in ourselves too. We should never offend the PERSON but we should offend the sin!

The Truth is an incredible thing. When you hear Truth, you know it's Truth. Truth was created one time by the One and Only God and can't be changed ever and can't be recreated or adjusted to what we WANT it to be(as much as these liberal "moral relativism" followers will ever try to coherce you otherwise). I love that about God. His laws are so unchanging and the difference between truth & un truth is black and white -- no grey!

So my point is --- I heard this and I knew it was the Truth. When I hear the truth - I feel like I've always known it. I feel like I've been taught that truth a million times sometime, somewhere but I just forgot it!

And the part that struck me the most from the sermon was, "God doesn't pull away when you sin. He's there. You are the one that pulls away." WOW.... I think I might have forgotten that somewhere. The guilt you feel (which is NOT from God if you've repented) makes you feel you have done something to deserve to be left alone, left behind, set aside. but it's not true -- He doesn't leave! and guess what - none of us deserve Him - but He's there! God sent His son Jesus to rescue each of us sinners that would never be able to connect to God without Him because of our ugliness. Jesus finished His flesh ministry and God brought Him back home, but He did not leave us alone! Jesus the flesh could not be with ALL of us --- so He sent the Spirit - which IS Jesus, which IS God to reside in ALL! The Spirit is not some watered-down, less powerful copy of God or Jesus - it IS JESUS! The Spirit IS God! He is here! He is with all of us who believe! That is incredible! :) It's not impossible - it's the TRUTH and it's REAL!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

TV

Well while I'm "talking" about TV - I'd like to add these notes I found about TV watching. To connect with God we need to be still - and being still does not mean SITTING still on the couch - it means sitting quietly, TV off, with or without Bible, just sitting and communicating. We have so much stimulation all day long, God can't really GET His messages to us unless we are open to them!

But besides the fact that the messages TV's send are sooo horrifying and are blatant LIES - there are also some secular reasons NOT to watch TV.

Television cuts into family time, harms our children's ability to read and succeed in school, and contributes to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity. Here are just a few of the facts:

On average, children in the US will spend more time in front of the television (1,023 hours) than in school this year (900 hours).

Forty percent of Americans frequently or always watch television during dinner.

As US Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher said at the Kick Off of TV-Turnoff Week 2001, "We are raising the most overweight generation of youngsters in American history...This week is about saving lives."

Turning off the television gives us a chance to think, read, create, and do. To connect with our families and engage in our communities. So turn off TV and turn on life.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

More Lessons and a Great Sermon

Today's sermon from Pastor Kelly was one of his best. And what do you know it - it was from 2 Samuel which I finished reading last week! I LOOOVE how God always does that! When I am trying to learn and grow - He always lets me receive the same message from so many different areas or 'venues' or whatever you want to call it - I LOVE that! :) Today the lessons all tied in and came from my own reading, the pastor, mom's version of Joel Osteen's sermon, and of course my wonderful hubby, "B".

So I'm reading the whole Bible this year - I made a promise to myself and God - and I'm already in 1 Kings - so I just read 2 Samuel - and what do you know the pastor basically recapped 2 Samuel and the life of David - and I was able to hear what He took from it - and it really let me expand on what I was learning! :)

So I wanted to share the bullet points of the service *His teaching is in blue, my thoughts are in green*:

Becoming a Person After God's Own Heart

(Which is just incredible -- because I was looking for words as to what I want with my own life and what would make me feel fulfilled daily and when I heard this --- I was like that's it! I had just read about David (1 Samuel 13:14) He was a man after God's own heart - If I could be known as anything, I'd want people to know me as a woman after God's own heart. That is certainly what grandma has shown me over the years. She LOVES the Lord and everybody knows it.

Four Tests of a Great Heart - How God defines Greatness:
1. The Sin Test -- David's response was a repentent heart.


He didn't blame others, blame his circumstance or make himself out to be a victim - he simply told God, I messed up, I sinned please help me like I know you can and will. "I have sinned" (2 Samuel 12:13). God will not reject a repentant heart ever!!! This goes along with my forgiveness blog a while ago. This is what the non-christians need to hear -- or even some christians that are not growing -- God forgives, ALWAYS, so repent, and move on! He will wash away the guilt and remember the sin no longer! David was a very sinful man. and God loved Him so much - there is more writing about Him than anybody else in the Bible except Jesus. So it goes to show God uses people who will let themselves be used, He doesn't use perfect people and He doesn't EXPECT perfection! What a relief! It does not mean my standards are less, it does mean that I can be used in much greater ways because I am relatable, I won't get a big head because my sin will keep me humble and make realize that without God I'm useless and just a sinner, and it means I can do much more because I will not be strapped down by guilt or other negative chains given to me by the enemy. God uses David, a great sinner, He can use anybody!

2. The stress test: David's response was a trusting heart.

Everybody else was afraid of Goliath - but he trusted. He knew that God was always enough and was all he ever needed. What is your first response in stress? It should be to RUN to God! This is one I will be working on. David endured more stress than most people in his day and our day combined! But some of the most beautiful Psalms and spiritual maturity came out of these times. God loved him so much He wanted him to be GREAT not just average. He wanted him to continually be stronger in faith and so He would put him in situations to help his faith muscle grow. Of course that was David's choice if He would grow from the struggle or wilt and quit but He always ran to God! David knew that God would let him have great success (1 Sam 18:14) and he knew that promotion and power come from GOD ALONE (Ps 75:6). That's incredible when you really can let that sink in. Promotion and power come not from earth. God just uses whoever it seems is promoting you or giving you power -- it's really God doing it!

3. The Service test: David's response was a servant's heart. He was whole-hearted.
Did everything he did 100% with ALL his heart (Ps 119:10).
He was focused!
Scraping off of his plate whatever was not going to get him closer to fulfilling his purpose.
He was sacrificial.
2 Samuel 24:24. Everything you do for the Lord WILL and SHOULD cost you something! Looking to go above and beyond not just have our normal 'minimum mentality' aka Mediocre mentality aka average thinking!

4. The success test: David's response was a humble heart.

He ran toward God during stress - but he also ran toward God during the victory and praise. How you handle success, praise and adoration is a great test of where your heart lies. Are you you-focused or God-focused? God WANTS to make you successful --- for so many reasons - but He can use you the most when your focus is on Him and His purpose for your life.

It's all about focus --- all these things directly relate to what you focus on DAILY. Daily turns into monthly - monthly turns into yearly - yearly turns into yoru own earthly existance.

So what are you doing daily to keep your focus on God so He can use YOU to show others what He can do through a willing servant with a repentant heart, a trusting heart, a servant's heart and a humble heart!!?

2 CHRONICLES 16:9!



Lessons from Eagles



Mom sent me some lessons she was learning through Joel Osteen this morning. Good stuff right here:

When the crows peck at you just fly above them. Don't let critical voices take the joy away from flying! You don't have to fight the crows - just rise above them! Just run YOUR best race to the best of YOUR ability - we are called to be EAGLES.

(For those that don't know --- eagles are a very important part of our family life. We wrote a letter to Raymond before he was born based on him being our little eaglet...and his middle name is Isaiah after our favorite family verse Isaiah 40:29 -31.....I really have to add this lesson on to Raymond's letter some day --- maybe at every year birthday I will add on some lessons we learned that I want to teach him -- this is one to add!)



But these lessons mom passed to me really goes along with what I was going to type today. I was laying in bed last night thinking about my post from last night and I thought that some people's challenge is making sure they keep a high standard in their lives. We can't compare ourselves to others and just say, "well I'm a christian so I know I'm going to heaven so it's okay what I do - God will always forgive me". Yes God WILL always forgive you when you repent - that is why Jesus paid the ultimate price --- BUT when we become christians our standards now change.

We are above the crows and it is our time now to rise above the norm and go beyond what is expected of the status quo. We need to set higher bars for ourselves --- continually making it higher! The bar should be set just a little bit higher than the level we're at (so not to get discouraged) but then it should continually be raised for life - while on this earth, we are never going to be able to say, "okay I've arrived - this is as high a standard as I can go". That will never be true -- we always have to continue to make ourselves better. God will always forgive - but He knows your heart and He wants you to grow and mature. If you don't learn the first time - He loves you enough to send challenges and bumps and struggles which increase your faith muscle and help you grow in maturity with Him.

Struggles and bumps will come in everybody's life no matter if they are christian or not --- so I'd rather hit those bumps knowing God is in complete control and will help me get through me -- rather than thinking they are just coincidental and something I have to deal with all myself.

So here's to the journey of becoming an eagle and stretching our wings daily! :)




Friday, March 2, 2007

Quiet time and an incredible lesson by John Fischer

Well I made it through the first week of work! No more 10 - 2 schedule!! So that's exciting!! :) Starting Monday it is 3:30 - 7:30 which will be my regular schedule. I'm ready to get on a routine - so I can figure out when I'll walk Lennox, Raymond's meal times, nap times, my reading time, my work out times, etc.

I always get a daily devotional by email from Joel Osteen and then one from the Purpose-Driven ministries. Unfortunately I don't read them both every morning - some times I only read one at night and sometimes I don't read any at all. But I know especially now that I'm starting work, I need to set aside time specifically for Bible, devotional and quiet time. Before working, every time Raymond had a nap was basically my Bible and quiet time, but now I'll have to make a new schedule. And I believe my time 'off' has really taught me a lot about time management and how important it is to set aside time for every area of your life: spiritual, physical, financial, emotional, family and career. I have felt SOO blessed to have all the time I've had in the last 8 months or so to really just enjoy the blessings around me and enjoy quiet reading time. Yes I am a very social personality - but I NEED my alone quiet and reading time just like I believe everybody does. I LOVE to be surrounded by people - but it's almost like when I don't make the time for my Bible time, I am just not as nice of a person to be around! It's like you've got to take time out to sharpen your ax. You've got to take time away from serving others and always doing to make sure you are alone with God sometimes - no tv, nothing except you and God -- maybe a book or worship music. Jesus Himself was the master of this --- there were many times where He withdrew to a garden by Himself or drew away from a crowd --- He knew He needed to be with the Lord and make sure He was on the right track. Every second He had on earth was obviously precious - a lot more than what I do daily - so if taking time out from HIS schedule was important -- GEESH! I imagine that ANYTHING I am doing can wait until my time with God comes first.

Doing that let Jesus refocus Himself to make sure He was focused on the most important things. Making sure He was serving the people the best He could and teaching whatever He was meant to. In our case, I believe it lets us reflect on our actions, our words and our daily routines and it lets us see where something needs to be added, something needs to be fixed, or if something simply needs to be 'scraped off our plate'. If nothing else, it reminds us to spend some time with God and be thankful for everything we've been given. He gives us SOOO much all day long - the little things we usually don't notice are sometimes the biggest blessings and I believe quiet time will reveal all this.

So what does that have to do with this following article? Nothing really --- this was just one of the devotionals I received recently and I think this guy nailed it right on the head. Read this * my thoughts are green, his writing is blue*....

It’s not about being a good Christian
by John Fischer

Here’s one of the greatest things about being a Christian: You can accept yourself for who you are.

Here’s one of the most tragic things about being a Christian: You can be one for a long time without knowing this.

I was. I was what you might call a model Christian. I filled the bill. Any church or Christian school would have seen me as a poster child Christian. There was only one problem: I thought I was, too – when all the while I knew I wasn’t. I knew it was all pretty much a game.

All this was back when I thought a Christian was all about being a good person – someone who would rank high in relative goodness when compared to others more spiritually challenged.

This was before I realized that Christ died to save sinners, and to qualify for the free gift of salvation you have to realize you are desperately in need of being saved. You are drowning. You are dying. As a sinner, you are among the worst.

Once you make “being good” the criteria for being a Christian, out of necessity you become the judge of others because you have to judge others in order to remain good in your own eyes. So if you have not come to this, (i.e. you are still pretty good in your own eyes), and you preach the Gospel (many do, from this perspective), it becomes a Gospel for other people – not for you. And something doesn’t ring true.


(WOW! This is so true.... first of all I really believe people can sense (either subconsiously or not) where your heart is at and what your intentions are without a word being spoken. They won't even listen to you if they feel you are trying to teach/preach.I really think I might have been guilty of this for a long time. In my mind somehow I had decided I was more 'christian' than others because I was 'good' --- or at least to others I seemed 'good'. I had it all wrong. People don't need to see christians hiding all their flaws and feeling so guilty about everything that they never truly are themselves --- they need to see that we hurt, we sin, we mess up, yet we are forgiven, eternally accepted and unconditionally loved. This is so powerful -- so much of the 'bad reputation' the church has is because of how christians have messed up and treated others when they are pretending they have it all together!!!)

You also remain aloof to just about everybody because you can’t really know anyone for fear they might come to know you and find out your secret, that you really are a scoundrel like everybody else. It’s a lonely life. Believe me. It’s much better to be a sinner whom Jesus Christ loves and for whom he died so you can spread the Good News about him to other sinners like you. Then you have nothing to hide, and only Christ – and a lot of friends – to gain by telling the truth.

I think this is one of the things that made Billy Graham such a good evangelist.
*When he preached about the Gospel, he never excluded himself from needing it*
He knew the Gospel wouldn’t preach if it were not, first and foremost, for him.

Which brings us back to being a Christian and accepting yourself as who you are. That’s why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we all have unveiled faces. We have nothing to hide because we are reflecting the face of Christ whom we worship in continual gratitude for our salvation.

Thank goodness. I never liked being a good Christian anyway.

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Wow!! I can really really relate to this. Brandon from the first day we met really challenged me and opened up my eyes that I am just as bad a sinner as anybody else. Even if their sins are more public --- all sin is the same to God. I never should judge anybody for their actions - and the way that Brandon has been able to forgive himself and some people who have done him so much harm in his past was remarkable to me right from the beginning. It was just really hard for me coming to North Carolina because I was really excited to be in the Bible belt! I knew I was going to a public university - but I was so excited to be surrounded by people who I believed would have grown up good southern christians and would know the Lord and everything...... so it was so challenging to me when I did meet people who loved the Lord, grew up loving the Lord --- but yet had sin ful lives, and they were not hidden sinners either. Why did that bother me so much? I knew we were all sinners.... but I guess what was crazy to me was that in New Jersey it was like black or white. Are you a christian or aren't you? If you were a christian, everybody knew it and you pretended to be very Christ-Like and a 'good' person --- if you weren't a christian, everybody knew it and you had no problem showing you were not Christ-like. and then when I got down here -- there wasn't that black and white anymore. The Christians were not afraid to sin Saturday night and go to church Sunday morning. Was what they were doing right? Absolutely not --- does God expect them to change their ways? Absolutely. Does He desire for us to want to change and grow and be more Christ-like every day? YES!

But were they still Christians? You betcha. Did they still love the Lord? You betcha. and would God want them to leave the church until "they had it figured all out and wanted to try not to sin anymore" --- absolutely not. He loves us in every stage of our maturity.

But do you know what the devil's sin was? He wanted to be like the Lord and thought he did not need him anymore ---- much like what is happening here on earth. The more you pretend to be Christ-like and try to be as powerful as God, pretend you have your life all together and have everything under control --- that is when you are most like the enemy. But there is no telling what any one person specifically is doing - pretending or really truly having a heart for the Lord --- that is between them and God, we are not to be the judges of that.

So thank you God for loving me at all stages of my journey. and I'm sorry if I ever displayed the message to anybody that you have to have it all together to be a Christian. Actually it's opposite --- knowing Jesus will actually set you free from pretending you have 'to hold it all together'.... you'll be able to realize you don't have anything together really without the Lord. It's great to be able to know that you are just the co-pilot and that your path will be lighted and blessed when your heart is in the right place. Above all else we are thankful for forgiveness and knowing that anybody can change, it's never too late - love always perseveres.