Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ponderings on Prayer

For quite some time now, I've been meditating on prayer. How to pray? Why to pray? Where to pray? When to pray? Postures in prayer? Prayer and fasting? I could go on...

They seem like elementary questions, but I admit that it's something I struggle with sometimes. This is evidenced by the fact that whenever a part of my spiritual life starts to diminish, prayer, for me, is the first thing to go and the last thing to pick back up again. It's just hard for me. It's harder for me to pray for myself than it is for me to pray for others. Perhaps that's because it's harder for me to pray when I don't know what to pray for. Praying for others is easy, because most of the time, I know what they need/want. But when I come to myself, it seems most times, I just don't have the words.

But even that doesn't make sense to shouldn't be that way. Why would I worry about prayer when I don't know what to pray for? It's not harder for me to talk to a friend when I don't know what to talk about. Seems prayer should be so simple, like a nice conversation with a close friend, at least in one aspect. So after 13+ years of Christianity, it seems I still don't 'get it' and that bothers me.

I'd like to spend the next few posts looking at some of those ideas, trying to answer some of the questions from the beginning of this post. So I look forward to basically doing some of my personal Bible study on prayer 'out loud' on this blog. Because I tend to learn better and retain more when I write something down. And if you actually take the time to read all of these ramblings, bless you.

Much love!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Groundbreaking Blog!

This past Friday evening was amazing. Something that I know I don't blog about enough in relation to how strongly I feel about it is the importance of fellowship; at least, in my opinion, it is extremely important. I might even venture to say that the time that I spend w/my brothers and sisters in Christ outside of the few hours on Sunday and Wednesday is just as important as the hours we spend in "worship services" (I despise that term...but can't think of a better one). The reason I say this is because it is outside of the "corporate worship" that we can spend time building those one-on-one personal relationships that make us into the family that we are supposed to be. And who's to say that time is not "corporate worship" as well??? My belief is that worship is all the time; it's a way of life, rather than something that happens only when we are specifically participating in 5 or so particular acts.

With that in mind, this past Friday evening was amazing, because several of the girls from my singles class at church got together for one of our "Girl's Nights!" Every once in awhile, we like to get together for dinner; sometimes we'll go out to eat, other times we'll stay at someone's place and cook. Then we'll spend some time hangin' out; sometimes we'll watch a movie, other times we'll just visit for a couple of hours. We try to do so once every month or so. But here lately, it seems like it's been awhile.

However, one of my friends, Amanda, received, as part of her X-mas package from work, a coupon for a large cheesecake sampler from Honey Baked Hams. So she decided to invite us all over and share the wealth. Friday evening 6 of us met at Amanda's to go to dinner at Johnny Carino's. (A 7th person met us there for dinner, then had to go meet her parents, who were coming into town, so she was unable to hang w/us later that night.) It was during dinner that we got into a pretty deep discussion; so deep that we decided it was blog-worthy. You see, we have a new, nifty, facebook-ish/myspace-ish singles website, on which we can blog, and here recently, the blogging activity is beginning to pick up. So we decided this conversation was definitely worth sharing. I believe it was my friend Cynthia that came up with the groundbreaking's first ever group blog!

Back to Amanda's house we went, where we stayed up until midnight, enjoying cheescake and coffee/hot cocoa, with each of us contributing a portion to the groundbreaking (at least for PVSingles) group blog. Unfortunately, unless you register an account there, you are unable to view this blog. So I have taken the liberty to post it here and share our dinnertime conversation with all of you. Be sure to leave your feedback, and I'll share it with the rest of the girls! Enjoy!

Are You A Hoarder, A Pack Rat, or A Purger???

A conversation had by a group of girls over dinner...

Jess: "So on Thursday I had to skip my workout and just so happened to make it home to catch the last 30 minutes of Oprah. Just to clarify, I was not skipping the gym to watch Oprah. On the show there was a woman who had what I like to call a possession separation anxiety disorder. She would shop every day for things she thought someone might like or that she might need...and then never give anything away or use it! What a waste of money! It got so bad that there was literally 75 TONS of junk in her 3000 sq. ft. house. It took 2 months to clean it all out. Professional organizers had to be brought in. They found black mold, mice nests, and food from 1994! GROSSSICKNASTY!!! "

Kim: "I felt a sudden pang of panic and, just having bought a 1,865 sq foot home complete with a separate 20 x 20 storage building which is currently 50% occupied by stuff I could not yet part with. Would I be this woman in 30 years? I took issue with Oprah calling this woman a hoarder. A hoarder is a discriminating collector of items to buy 1, 2, 3 or 10 of in all possible colors, flavors and sizes (think Warmack and his doll, oops, I mean monster collection). A pack rat lacks this ability to discern the important items from the mundane and ends up keeping everything for no apparent rationale. Oprah show lady clearly falls into this category. At the opposite spectrum is the purger who retains items only for their utilitarian or aesthetic value. To deflect the squirmy feeling of self recognition in Jess's tale I proposed to the group the question: Are you a hoarder, pack rat, or purger?"

Eden: "Ok, so now I'm coming from almost the other side, the side of the purger. Well, actually I'm a forced purger, after all I've moved every year since high school. After the first move I decided that there was no point in moving a lot of stuff just to have it sit in a box and wait to be moved again. So now I'm faced with a new dilemma, how do a purger and a pack rat get along, especially in the same house? Also, does your family affect what tendency you lean toward?"

Amanda S.: "I'm not really sure what I am. I guess the best time to catch me is when I am moving. You truly find out just how much stuff you have when you have to box it up and move it. When I move I am always trying to get rid of stuff just for the sake of not having to move it. Some might call this a philanthropical purger with an ulterior motive. Like the time that Jess knew a lady whose house had just burned down. I donated a full six place setting of formal dishes with cloth napkins and napkin rings to match. So anytime you hear of me moving, it might benefit you to stick around."

Cynthia: "How do you know what you really are? I'm probably a combination of both. Some things are well organized while other items are in disarray. Since this is such a deep dinner conversation, this is worthy of a blog post."

Lacey: "As I was listening to this conversation, I couldn't help but ask myself the same question. I seriously have no clue what I am. Eden asks how your family affects what tendency you lean toward. If that's the case, I'm doomed to be a pack rat...because that's what my parents are. I can already notice the effects, as I see myself beginning to collect all of these things that I just don't need. So I aspire for more. Oh that I could be the philanthropical purger that Amanda is! I go into my closet and clean it out, gathering up a whole bag full of clothes to donate to goodwill. They sit in my car for over a month.


So I press on, still aspiring for more.

What about you? Do you know what you are? Are you a hoarder? A purger? Do you have a lot of stuff? Or are you a utilitarian minimalist?"

Kim: In lieu of not having a Wed night class discussion next week, The Inaugural Group Bloggers Association Incorporation Chapter 1 invites you to comment on where you stand - in the clutter or out with the trash?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thanksgiving (Yes, I know it's a week early...)

A couple of weeks ago, both my minister, Chuck, and my singles minister, Hans, stumbled upon my ramblings here at this place. After reading some of what I had written, my singles minster accused me of only writing about our Wednesday night class (taught by Chuck) while never writing about our Sunday morning class (which he teaches). Come to think of it, I do write ALOT about our Wednesday night discussions. I guess I didn't realize how much.

But at the risk of Hans "developing a complex" I wanted to share some more from this past Wednesday night. Since our class will not meet next week, Chuck wanted to spend some time just talking about the things we're thankful for. Some are "deeper" than others, if you will. However, all of them, I believe, were worth mentioning. Because you can never be too thankful.
So as people mentioned things, I compiled a list. Here is that list:
--FREE salvation
--Good jobs and coworkers
--Being able to help others
--Microwaves (we'll just not let Chuck operate them)
--Spiritual growth that comes from the hard times
--Our singles class there at PV
--The ability to overcome fears, such as that of flying (Way to go, Steve!)
--Hair (Hans is especially thankful for this.)
--Good health
--Individual and unique talents
--The ability to write [the guy that mentioned this said he'd been working on a book awhile back and started back on it again...Keith are you reading this??? Did you catch that last night??? I hope so... ;) ]
--Good books [perhaps I'll have another of these if Keith is reading this or was paying attention last night ;) ]
--Close friends who will stay up late at night with you, holding your hair back while you throw up (you kinda had to be there...and know the girl that mentioned it...)
--Modern convenience and technology (such as the internet, cell phones, etc.) that make the world a smaller place
--Changing seasons and the beauty of the earth
--A place to get away
--Good classic rock
--Good hairstylists that know how to cut curly hair (mentioned by the same girl above that also mentioned close friends...but I'm with her on this one, being the curly girl that I am!)
--The fact that there are alot of restaurants in Little Rock

Funny as some of those were, I find myself agreeing w/every single one of them...I, as well, am thankful for everything that was mentioned last night. And I think we should spend more time sharing that with each other and expressing that thanks to God.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."--James 1:17

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."--I Thes. 5:16-18

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Year Ago Today...

It seemed normal enough to me. It was a regular Friday, November 10th, 2006. I went to work, went to dinner, came home and watched some TV, then went to bed.

Only to be awoken at 12:30 a.m. by a friend of mine POUNDING on my door. He had driven over an hour out of his way to deliver the news to me in person. A 12-year-old cousin of mine, Jordan, had been involved in an accident earlier that evening, when she ran out into the highway and was hit by a car. She died instantly.

If you'd like to read more details on that particular weekend, you may click here.

I'm not sure my life has been "normal" since then. Oh sure, I've gone about my business, and carried on with my life. But it's not been "normal" in the sense that it's different than it was before. This sudden and unexpected death of someone so young still, at times, seems somewhat incomprehensible to me; the fact that she was literally here one second and gone the next is something I still can't quite wrap my brain around. At the same time, it has given me a whole new perspective on my faith.

I was not necessarily as close to Jordan as I had been to other family members that I'd lost in the past. But before, I had lost grandparents, not a 12-year-old relative. And the death of my grandparents was gradual. Though not necessarily easy, because it was expected, it at least made sense. Not so, with Jordan. I saw my aunt and uncle and their 14-year-old daughter mourn her death. I'd never had to see a parent mourn the loss of their child. Even now, the only thought running through my head is that it's just not right. It just didn't make sense to me.

I love the thoughts that Keith shared in a comment on another blog not too long ago. He spoke of a time when his life seemed most difficult and the fact that at that point he started doubting. But "what made sense was the book of Job. While religious folks were touting the end of the book as proof that God wants believers to be rich and comfortable, it amounted to only a couple of paragraphs of happy ending. The rest of the book spoke loud and long about the fact that God doesn't make sense. You can't understand Him. He lets bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. And it doesn't change the fact that He exists and He cares and He wants us to keep seeking Him even when it doesn't make sense anymore. Job made sense."

That speaks so incredibly powerfully to me. Because my world never made less sense than it did on that following Monday, when we laid this young cousin of mine in the ground next to my grandparents. I couldn't help but think, "So what now, Lord?" Interestingly enough, I received my answer Wednesday evening. In our Singles class at church, we had been studying the book of James, and that week, we just so happened to be on the verses in James 4:13-17, which speak of our lives being a “mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Our minister’s encouragement to us that evening was to continue to have faith in the will of God and to continue to do good.

But not only was this circumstance a challenge to continue in faith, even when it didn't make sense, but it was a reminder of how real my faith is supposed to be. It was after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays last year that this challenge really hit home, because as my family gathered that season, we celebrated, but the emptiness was real. There was an unmistakeable sense that "she was supposed to be here." It was then that I made the connection: my faith in Christ which is my hope for life after death is as real as the fact that she was not there. The emptiness that we feel here on this earth...the reason she is not here with us because she is with Him!

A couple of days after Jordan passed away, I discovered that she was a blogger! Well, sort of. I found her xanga site, which had a couple of posts on it. Now it also has multiple comments on it. I love where she's talking about how much she loved her dance recital and writes that she is "going to dance FOREVER!!!" Now, a year later, I have no doubt that she is dancing for Him today.

And that's what it's all about, isn't it? My faith is in a God that came to this earth, lived, died, and rose again, so that we, also, could rise again and live with Him FOREVER!!! And if that's not real, then I'm to be pitied more than all others. There's a bookmark with Jordan's picture and obituary on it that stays in my Bible, simply to remind me of that fact.

So tomorrow I will go to worship, and I will partake of the Lord's Supper, as is our custom every Sunday. I will participate in His body and His blood, and proclaim His death yet again. Often times, during communion, we are encouraged to meditate on the cross. I must confess that, during communion, although my mind may start out at the cross, it doesn't stay there long. It quickly moves to the empty tomb, because that's really become it for me, over the last year.

The resurrection.

His resurrection.

It's the only thing that gives me hope when my world doesn't make sense.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

'Tis the Season......Almost!

Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la la la la la!
'Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la la la la la la la!

There. That's probably the closest you'll ever come to hearing me sing. You're welcome for that.

Normally I am one of those that gets irritated when stores begin to commercialize Christmas, even before Thanksgiving (or sometimes even before Halloween!) Indeed, I couldn't resist rolling my eyes and shaking my head last Thursday, Nov. 1st, when, while walking through Walmart that evening, I saw some of the store workers assembling a Christmas tree right by the front door.

Last night I went back to Walmart, only to be greeted by that Christmas tree, fully lit, and a sign pointing to the left that read, "Our Christmas shop is now open!"

Seriously??? It just seems too early to me! I'm a firm believer that the Christmas tree goes up on the day after Thanksgiving, NOT the day after Halloween!

However, I believe I'm beginning to change my attitude about this, at least a little bit. As a matter of fact, I technically did a little Christmas shopping last night while there. I didn't intend to. But after seeing the decor, I walked right by something that I know my older sister has been wanting for awhile. I looked for this item last year for her and never could find it, and I don't believe she's found one since. At least I hope she hasn't. Because I picked it up for her last night to give to her as a Christmas present! I gotta admit that's not normal for me. This born procrastinator is usually the one that gets up at about 6:00 a.m. on the last Saturday before Christmas to go do all my shopping at once. But it feels good to be ahead of the game for once, you know, not waiting till the very last minute to get stuff done! Maybe I could get used to this and it will spill over into the rest of my life! (Yeah, right!)

So there is that. There's also the fact that as much as I may roll my eyes at the super-commercialization of Christmas, a small part of me deep down inside gets excited about all the things that I love about the season! I love Christmas music. I love all the Christmas specials that come on TV...whether it's special movies that they run, or just all the old Christmas episodes from my favorite sitcoms that I loved to watch when I was a kid. I love making Christmas cookies. I love gathering with family and friends for Christmas parties, where we can just visit and enjoy each other's company. I love being reminded again and again that it is more blessed to give than to receive. And I love the fact that, at least for once a year, the world is focused on the Reason for the season.

And I suppose it's never too early to start focusing on the Reason.

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."--I Pet. 3:15