Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I AM NOT A SHOPLIFTER! (A REPRISE...)

A few weeks ago, I posted on here about my sudden occurrence of setting of the alarm every single time I went into or came out of Walmart.

Well it just so happens that a few days after I wrote that post, I returned to Walmart yet again. As I walked in, the alarm beeped yet again. I went on my way, made my purchase and headed for the exit. As I left, the alarm went off yet again (shocking, I know!) But this time, before I had a chance to explain to the friendly greeter that I had been recently setting off the alarm and perhaps it was the new purse, she asked me "Have you bought a new wallet recently???" BINGO! Not only did I buy a new purse back then, I had also purchased a wallet! Apparently it had not been deactivated.

The friendly Walmart greeter deactivated my wallet and now I am no longer looked at as a shoplifter!

Just wanted to update you guys on that. Now I know you all can rest easy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Where is the rest of me?????

I was asked that question by someone after church tonight. He said, "Where is the rest of you?"

Excellent question.

I haven't been around here, posting as much as I would like to. Part of the problem is that I just plain don't know what to write about. Writer's block? No, quite the opposite. I've got about 5 or 6 different ideas and thoughts for posts floating around in my head. Several of them could even be combined into one or two posts, because they're on similar topics. But I'm not sure. So I've just got these kind-of mixed up ideas to sort through and try to organize into something that makes sense before I can write. I made a little bit of an effort last week; I sat down Tuesday night and pounded one of them out; I finished it and published it when I got up Wednesday morning; only to go to church Wednesday night and be reminded in class of yet another post that I had intended to write months ago and never got to it. So now I'm back at square one.

*SIGH*

So there's that. Besides that confusion, there's also the realization that I'm just tired. This week has been especially draining. Even the weekend was draining. Friday night I went to hang out w/a friend that I only get to see about twice a year. I got up really early Saturday morning and went down to Arkadelphia for Henderson's homecoming game. It was a good game; I enjoyed it w/my friend Leigha, whom I went to church with all through college. She's truly one of my favorite sisters in the Lord and closest friends in this world. Oh yeah, and we won! We beat those Harding Church of Christ folks 22-19! Better than the game, though, was getting to see David Rollins, the former director of bands, back to visit on Homecoming. The circumstances surrounding "Daddy" Rollins' departure from HSU made for a bittersweet homecoming. But he was there, nonetheless. And that was amazing; I love that man.

After the game I caught up w/some other band alums, and we went to eat dinner at the Olive Garden in Hot Springs. We were there till after 11:00, just visiting, laughing, and telling old stories. So I was out late, got in bed last night (or should I say 'this morning'?) at about 1:00.

This afternoon has been busy as well; I've been incredibly productive. I cleaned my kitchen. I cleaned my living room. I took the trash out. I washed laundry. I put away laundry (that's a big one...I don't often get to the 'putting away' of the clean laundry!) I even went to Walmart (I hate goin to Walmart!) But I didn't get everything done. That's okay though; even the Lord didn't do it all in one day. So I still need to clean my bathroom and balance my checkbook so I can pay bills. (As you can see, I save the best stuff for last!) Then i took a nap. I think that was my biggest mistake, because I am not a nap-taker. But I was just so tired...so I slept from 3:15 till about 5:00, only to feel worse when I woke up than I did before. So I was exhausted in church this evening.

And I realize that I still am. I'm about to start a brand new week at work without really having had my ever-so-necessary day of rest, and I still feel drained; empty, if you will. On Friday, David U posted on his page a part of a verse from I Peter about being "redeemed from the empty way of life." That verse spoke to me, especially as I recalled it this evening. So I looked for it and found some more encouraging words. Read with me from I Pet. 2:13-25:

"Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'

Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, 'All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.'"

So where is the rest of me? The rest of me is gone right now...just physically and emotionally drained. But praise God that as I prepare to go out into the world, I can be renewed by Him, through my faith in Christ, as He fills me up with the imperishable--with His word; rather than being filled by the perishable things of this world that I tend to worry too much about.

What about you? Where is the rest of you?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fair Evangelism

This past week, the Arkansas State Fair was here in Little Rock, AR! Exciting, huh. I used to LOVE going to the fair. When I was in high school, one of the elders at my church down in Texarkana was also an agri teacher and FFA sponsor at one of the local high schools. So whenever the fair was in town, he was in charge of the barn that people could walk through and see everything from cows and horses, to pigs and chickens. (My favorite was always the little bitty chickies! They were so cute!) Anyway, our elder would allow us kiddos in the youth group to come help him out. So we would get to volunteer with him...and we would also get free parking and admission to the fair!

Unfortunately, I believe I have since outgrown my excitement. Fairs really don't have much to offer me. There are the games that are rigged...making it extremely difficult to win anything worthwhile. Hardly seems fair, if you ask me. There are some rides that would probably be fun if I weren't afraid of heights. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'll still go on rides; they just make me nervous. Even the ones that are supposed to be nice and relaxing, like a Ferris Wheel. Even those make me nervous, just because of the height. That and the fact that I always seem to be stuck up there w/some jerk (who's supposed to be my friend!) that likes to rock the seat just cause he knows it freaks me out! And forget about the price of everything! Five bucks to park, fifteen to get in and ride, and then another ten for a turkey leg! Does that seem fair to you???

Nevertheless, for the first time in years, I allowed myself to be drug out to the fair this past Friday evening. I did actually find a free parking spot at the church just a few blocks up the road! I also tasted my first fried oreo! It was yummy! But the fun ended there. The second ride I got on was called "The Storm..." something. It was my idea to get on it. It consisted of being strapped into a seat and spun around and around and around and...well, you get the picture. It was a bad idea. It looked like it would be something like a Tilt-a-Whirl...which I absolutely love! Unfortunately, it was nothing like that. It was a constant spin; it spun harder, and faster, and always in the same direction, so as to end up putting alot of pressure on one side of my head/neck. When it finally stopped and I stumbled off, I had an enormous headache, and was even beginning to feel a little sick to my stomach (which is absolutely NOT normal for me--I don't think I've ever felt bad after a ride before!) That concluded my rides for the evening. But before we left, I found a beverage to purchase, and a seat to sit and recover in. While sitting there, I pulled out a tract that I had been handed as I was walking in the gate.

You know what I'm talking about. There was the guy out front by the gate with the megaphone, going "Repent or perish!" and there was another guy (not sure if they were together or not) handing out these little cartoon tracts that try to convince people to give their lives to the Lord. So these people are out in front of the fair on a very crowded Friday evening trying to evangelize; a noble effort, indeed. But I have to say that I take issue with their methods. Not only do I feel that their methods are wrong/ineffective, I believe they are downright unfair.

First of all, trying to 'reach' people in this method presents an unfair picture of us as Christians. The little tract that I was given, which can be viewed in its entirety here, presents some of the reasons one might decide to remain a NON-Christian. One such reason is that they believe that God wouldn't send anyone to hell, and that "churches only use that garbage for scare tactics." I'm sorry, but am I the only one that sees the irony here? This method of evangelism--this method of passing out little cartoon tracts that teach people only about going to hell if they don't know Jesus and telling people only "Repent or perish!"--is this not using "scare tactics"???

I believe this is also unfair to the person to whom one is trying to reach. At the back of the pamphlet, at the end of the cartoon, is a page on what one must do to be saved. It says in bold, capital letters, "NOBODY ELSE CAN SAVE YOU. TRUST JESUS TODAY!" Now, don't get me wrong; I understand the importance of a person believing in Jesus and coming to a saving faith in Him. However, as my minister recently put it, "It's not important in the sense that we rush people through so quickly that they really don't understand what it is they're signing on for...we're not doing them any favors." When we try to push this on people so quickly, they may not really understand or truly believe what this is all about. Thus, their faith in God may not be a true faith that can sustain them for the rest of their lives.

Finally, this is incredibly unfair to Christ and the message that He wants us to tell. Indeed, it only tells HALF of the story! This method of evangelism speaks of Christ as only someone needed to save one from hell. That's as far as it goes. It tells almost nothing of the love God has for His people. It tells nothing of the relationship that I can have with God that will sustain me, not just in the life to come, but in the here and now. I don't just need Jesus to save me in the end; I need Jesus now. I think He wants us to know that as well.

So these are the thoughts that ran through my mind as I sat there with my turkey leg and fried oreos, flipping through this little cartoon pamphlet. But then the thought occurred to me, "Do I really have a place to be judging what these people are trying to do? Am I actively putting forth the effort required to reach people with the good news of Christ???"

And if my answer isn't "yes," is it fair for me to be making a judgement about someone else's method of evangelism???

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Questions from Ezra (part three)...

"There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, 'The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to Him, but His great anger is against all who forsake Him.' So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and He answered our prayer."--Ezra 8:21-23

How often to we want to put our trust in and base our sense of security on the things of this world rather than on our Father. The world's policy seems to be "Trust in God, but lock your doors." I'll admit that most of the time, it seems to be mine, as well. But is that the policy Ezra subscribes to???

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Questions from Ezra (part two)...

"When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: 'He is good; His love to Israel endures forever.' And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away."--Ezra 3:10-13

It seems to me that these people let nothing hinder them in their worship to God. Why are we not nearly as expressive in our worship???

I AM NOT A SHOPLIFTER!

But good luck trying to convince the folks at Walmart of that! You know, your friendly Walmart greeters that are there to welcome you to the store, offer you a shopping cart, and thank you for shopping as you exit. But beware of the greeters if you set off the alarm!

Which I did...

And have done for the past three times I've walked out of Walmart!

It even "dinged" the last two out of three times as I walked in!

And I have no idea why.

On Sunday, I explained to the friendly greeter that it had started happening alot. He said, "Do you have a cell phone? Sometimes they can set it off..."

I waved my cell phone between the detectors...nothing.

(Besides, I've got a new phone, but I've had it now for about a month and a half. The dinging just started last week.)

But when I stepped back in it (purse on shoulder) it dinged again. Maybe it's the purse. The purse is new...I bought it there sometime last week. But I don't know of anything on it that would make the alarm go off. (And I don't recall the alarm going off when I bought the purse last week.) Or maybe it's something in the purse? I'll have to empty my purse tonight and make sure there's nothing in there causing this.

Because it's beginning to get annoying when every time I try to walk out of Walmart, I have to stop, find my receipt, and wait on the greeter to copy down some info off of it before I can be on my way.

So I'll see if I can't get to the bottom of this. In the mean time, the next time you're in Walmart and you hear that beep...you never know, it just might be me!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Questions from Ezra...

Setting: After years of living in exile in Babylon, some 40,000+ Israelites are allowed to return to their homeland of Jerusalem.

"When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled as one man in Jerusalem. Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices. Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the feast of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day. After that, they presented the regular burnt offerings, the New Moon sacrifices and the sacrifices for all the appointed sacred feasts of the Lord, as well as those brought as freewill offerings to the Lord. On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, though the foundation of the Lord's temple had not yet been laid. "--Ezra 3:1-6

Do we ever let our fear interfere with our worship to God? If so, what can we do to correct this???

Thursday, October 11, 2007

How Convenient...

You know, I always tend to get sick, or at least not feel very well, at the most inconvenient times! AND IT MAKES ME SICK! Oh, how I hate it!

Two years ago, I had a horrible sinus infection, both during Thanksgiving and during Christmas! I remember sitting at work one day that December, head pounding, thinking only of how I was going to survive the Christmas party that I was hosting in my apartment later that evening. I must've looked as pitiful as I felt, because early in the afternoon, my boss was like, "Lacey, why don't you go home, you could use some rest..." You know it's bad when they're sending ya home from work!

Last year, it was at Christmas time. If you recall, last year, Christmas fell on a Monday. How amazing to get to spend Christmas Eve, which then fell on a Sunday, with brothers and sisters in Christ, in worship, praise, and prayer! Or at least, I would assume that it was amazing...I wouldn't really know, as the only praying I did that day was to the porcelain god. This is true...after a day full of family gatherings, I went to bed Saturday night at about 11:00 p.m. and did not get up (except to pray, of course) until about 9:00 Monday morning. Even then, I still felt about like I had been hit by a truck. I mustered up just enough strength to open a couple of gifts, go out to my sister and brother-in-law's place to watch my nephew open some of his gifts, and then drive the two hours from Texarkana to Little Rock. Merry Christmas, huh?

Well, guess what! It's happening again. This afternoon, while at work, my throat started hurting a little, and now, I can feel my head beginning to hurt w/some sinus pressure. You know how you can kinda feel it coming on? That's me right now. So wouldn't it be convenient for my dad to give me a call this evening, with news that he's got two tickets to see the Auburn game at Fayetteville on Saturday! (My little sister works at a bank, where a cousin of Tommy Tuberville used to come in on a regular basis. He had mentioned to her getting her some tickets for this game. Awhile back when I asked her about them, she said he no longer comes into her branch. So I had given up on this dream. Only to find out today that someone where one of my cousins works had given her these two tickets!) So now, guys, it is decision time. Because this game is a night game, I would be out in the cooler weather, and probably wouldn't even be leaving Fayetteville until 11:00 Saturday night. I would get home at some ungodly hour of the morning. Am I really gonna feel like doing all this in a couple of days? Based on how I'm starting to feel now, I'm not so sure.

Should I be responsible, give the tickets to someone else, take care of myself, stay home, and get some rest??? Or should I throw caution to the wind and do what I wanna do--have fun at what is sure to be an excellent game???

*SIGH*

Decisions, decisions......

......How convenient!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Altar and the Door

This past weekend, I went down to visit the family in Texarkana, and my older sister had purchased the new Casting Crowns CD, "The Altar and the Door," and she was so kind as to give me a copy of it. So on my drive back to The Rock Sunday afternoon, I did something I never do. I put in the CD and listened to the whole thing, from beginning to end! (It is a two-hour drive, after all, so I figured, why not!)

Recently I read a comment on someone's blog about more contemporary worship songs, as opposed to older ones. He said "I do find a fair number (but certainly not all) of contemporary praise songs to be of the 'Jesus is My Homie' variety, with that incessant refrain of 'Me, Me, Me, and Jesus too.' " I'll grant him that; some songs do seem rather shallow.

Which is why I was so surprised by how much "meat", if you will, was in the songs on this album. It speaks so deeply of the struggles we face as Christians, and it challenges us to live the life that Christ has called us to.

The CD starts out by challenging our walk as Christians with its first track, "What This World Needs", by saying that it doesn't need "another prophet in an Armani suit." Rather, we need to stop "blending in so well that people can't see the difference"--so that we can show the world the Father and Savior that they really need.

The third track on the CD is entitled "Slow Fade," and to be quite honest, I was shocked when I heard it, because it serves as a warning. It reminds you that as a Christian, the things you say, the things you do, the things you see, and the places you go...they really do matter. The song is reminiscent of the Sunday School song you learned when you were a kid, "Oh be careful little eyes what you see..." Powerful song, you gotta hear this one!


Next, of course, is "East to West." If you listen to any amount of contemporary Christian radio, you've probably already heard this one, as it was the single that was released awhile back. It deals with the emotions we all feel from time to time, when we have difficulty accepting God's forgiveness and allowing Him to change us into Christ's image. Beautiful song...I blogged about it here.

The title track, obviously, is "The Altar and the Door." When I first heard the title of this CD, I couldn't help but wonder what it was about. After hearing this song, I understand completely, and I believe it makes an excellent title track, as it encompasses what the entire CD is about. This CD deals with the struggles we all face as we try to turn our faith into fact, and live out our Christianity in a real way. This song speaks of that struggle. It laments how often we come to worship, and we come to His altar and lay our hearts out for Him...only to reclaim them for ourselves before we make it out the door. You'll hear the prayer, "Lord, I cry like so many times before, but my eyes are dry before I leave the floor! Oh Lord I try, but this time, Jesus, how can I be sure I will not lose my follow-through between the altar and the door?"

Another song also speaks to this paradox that we are caught up in--the struggle of putting our own lives aside in order to find life in Christ. The question is asked , "Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?" We try to hang on when we are called to let go. I like how fellow blogger Patrick Mead described this struggle not too long ago, as he said we are trapped in Romans 7, but called to live in Romans 8. We all feel like this at times, but God loves us still. The title of the song is "Somewhere in the Middle" and it is very quickly becoming my favorite song on the CD!

There is a very interesting song on the CD entitled "Prayer For A Friend." Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns, and author of this song says of it, "This may be the earliest of any of my songs to be used on a Crowns record. Maybe 15 years old. I was heartbroken before God for a friend who wouldn’t listen. God showed me that nothing is impossible with God." If you've ever poured out your heart to God for the sake of someone that you love, then this song will speak to you.

Yet interspersed with all of these songs that speak of the struggles that we face as Christians, you will also hear songs of praise that are often on our hearts as well. "Every Man" reminds us that there is, indeed, hope for every person. Jesus is that hope, and it is our job as Christians to make sure the people we come in contact with know that.

"The Word Is Alive" celebrates how God chose to make Himself known to us. His Word, living and active, has a message of hope for us that will not pass away. Yet the song "I Know You're There" also celebrates that He is not only in His Word, but He is active in the world. Mark Hall says of this song, "What a moment, when we realize that God is not a book, and we can have a relationship with Him."

Finally, the CD ends with the song "All Because Of Jesus." Truly, every good thing...even our life itself...is because of Him.

For more information about this wonderful CD which walks with us on our journey from the altar to the door, visit http://www.castingcrowns.com/.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Brothers & Sisters...

Nope, I'm not talking about the Sunday night ABC Drama series...

I am, however, talking about the new movie Rush Hour 3!

"Rush Hour 3???"

Yes, that's right...

"What on earth does that have to do with brothers and sisters???"

I'm glad you asked!

You see, Sunday night, this guy Ryan from my singles group at my church...a brother, if you will...was able to get me and 20 of our closest friends into the Riverdale 10 theater here in Little Rock to see a movie of our choosing...for free!

"How did he manage that?!?!"

Well, I could tell you...but then I'd have to kill you. No, really, I'm not sure. I guess he knows people. Anyway, on our nifty new myspace-ish/facebook-ish singles website, we all cast our votes for a movie to see, and the winner was Rush Hour! Although I'd already seen it, I decided to go again, just for the fun of it! And hey, it was free, right! So Sunday evening after worship and our almost-weekly trek over to the Firehouse Subs for a quick dinner, we headed downtown to the theater, and took in the show. A good time was had by all. And I've been thinking about brothers and sisters ever since...

Well...actually...more so about brothers. Although there is an incredibly hilarious scene in the movie involving a nun...you know, a sister! So there, it fits!

Seriously, though...on second viewing of this movie, I realized how heavily this motif of brothers and brotherhood was stressed throughout the entire show. It intrigued me, perhaps because I have little expertise in this area...considering that the Lord did not bless me with biological brothers. Indeed, I have two sisters, one older, and the other younger. Nevertheless, out of my limited knowledge and even lesser wisdom, I will attempt to tell you a little bit about this theme, of course, without ruining the movie for you!

The first, and most obvious, application is the relationship between Jackie Chan's character, Inspector Lee, and Chris Tucker's Det. James Carter. On the outside, the two are, seemingly, nothing alike. However, they are united for a common purpose, working together to achieve a common goal. They are both trying to do what's right, they just have incredibly different ways of going about it. Despite that, they are able to work together as an amazing team!

Sure, they're not perfect, but what brothers are??? Despite their differences, it becomes apparent that through the years of working together, each one has rubbed off on the other, at least a little. Indeed, in the midst of their disagreement, Carter storms out, and Lee stays in the hotel. However, Lee, flipping through the TV channels, stops on some African Americans, while on the phone, ordering fried chicken for dinner! Carter, on the other hand, goes out on the town, and stops to pick up...you guessed it... Chinese food for dinner! While waiting for his food, I believe he also catches a glance of a little Chinese boy on a TV screen!

Here's what all this boils down to...when Lee and Carter are able to swallow their pride, accept each other as brothers, and work together...that's when they are successful!

Oh, but the metaphors don't end there!

The antagonist in this movie is the character Kenji, a member of a criminal organization that Lee and Carter are trying to bring down. Kenji, a Japanese man, was born in Tokyo, but when he lost his parents, he was sent to live in an orphange in China...the same one that Lee was in. These two guys grew up always looking out for each other, always protecting each other. Indeed, they were brothers in the way that mattered most. However, Lee was adopted into a family, while Kenji ended up on the streets. The two lost contact with each other, and when they met back up, at the beginning of this movie, it was with guns drawn.

They are the perfect example of what can happen to a relationship when one brother is filled with hate. One of the scenes that was most striking to me was towards the end, when the two are fighting, and both end up falling from a tremendous height! Fortunately, there is some type of netting to catch them, and they bounce back up...

But as they are falling again, Kenji, armed with a sword, can be seen even still trying to land with his sword through Lee, still trying to kill his brother. He misses, and his sword ends up slicing the netting...leaving them both hanging by a few mere threads, that are becoming fewer by the second...

What happens??? Don't worry...like I said, I won't spoil the movie for you.

You should go see it. I will warn that it is rated PG-13 "for sequences of action violence, some sexual material, and language." But I doubt that any of my readers are under 13!

So I really do suggest you see it!

Perhaps you'll notice that "two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"

Or perhaps you'll be able to pick up on some metaphor to help in the way that you deal with your brothers and sisters.

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves...Live in harmony with one another...If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone...Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another...Accept him whose faith is weak...Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother?...Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way...If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love...Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification."--selected passages from Romans 12-14.