Blogging Break for 12 days

Hi Friends,

I’ll be taking a little break from blogging while I’m away on a much needed vacation. I’m so thankful for each of you this Christmas. Thank you for reading and interacting on my blog. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know a little bit about you in the past few months.

I’ll be back it at it, Lord willing, around the 2nd week of January. If you need to reach me or just want to say hello, feel free to email.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday spending time with those you love.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

In Christ alone,

Samantha

When it’s just plain hard… to walk in the Spirit

Last Thursday on my way home from work, I noticed something dangerous in the left turn lane. One lady had hit another lady’s bumper. They were handling their insurance info, but their lights weren’t on making it difficult to see them. The one who got hit was frazzled and angered and the other looked humiliated.

As I drove by, I rolled down my window and yelled, “Excuse me… Put your flashers on!”

I didn’t think they heard me so I yelled it again: “Put your flashers on!”

Then all of the sudden, the woman whose car got hit turned around and yelled: “SHUT UP!” really annoyed at me.

By that time, I was too far ahead to respond. But I thought, I’m just trying to keep you safe lady. I understood her frustrations and I probably sounded like I was nagging  but I really was out for her good. They would have been in really bad shape if another car hit them.

I feel that little situation was a good picture of the Spirit’s work in my life lately. There have been several times I’ve sensed the Spirit telling me: “Put your flashers on!” (or that sin is really going to hurt you and others).

I forget that every day I’m in a battle from the time my alarm goes off. Satan wants my heart, mind, and soul. My flesh wants to be critical, impatient, unloving, angry. It wants to steal my joy and keep me from singing (and writing.)

And I admit that some days are just plain hard to walk in the Spirit. I am so selfish and sometimes it seems like the more I try to grow in God’s word, the harder the struggle is.

But I’m trusting that God is doing something. He’s disciplining me. He’s teaching me to yield in obedience, instead of saying “shut up!” He’s letting me know that with God’s power, I have the ability to be led and controlled by the Spirit any time and any place.

I’m not sure if those ladies ever turned their lights on or not, but they reminded me of something that day.

Do you ever feel like walking in the Spirit is like taking one step forward and two steps back? Any interesting crazy holiday traffic stories out there?

What are your goals for 2010?

On Wednesday, I’m taking a 12 day Christmas vacation to visit Jeremiah’s family in Michigan. We have a lot planned and I’m really excited to get away, reflect, and think about some goals for 2010. Then before the ball drops in Times Square, I plan to write them down and Commit.

I have a history of setting goals that are tangible and realistic and some that are vague and unrealistic. Regardless, I love to set goals because it gives me something to aim for. Goals help keep me from being mediocre. And I always love a good challenge.

It’s not even Christmas yet so I haven’t thought really hard on my goals, but here are a few I have in mind:

  • Run a race in the Spring. 15k or more.
  • Utilize the margins in my new Bible (the ESV that Santa’s bringing me) to take notes and write prayer requests.
  • Pray for my husband and son daily.
  • Start a book proposal (start typing it in Microsoft Word)
  • Work hard with my husband to be debt-free by December (one car payment to go)
  • Try harder to have more common sense in the simple things

Since I’m not committing until the ball drops, I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any goals (silly or serious) brewing in your mind for 2010?

There’s a chance I might have to borrow what you’re thinking about committing to.

If you don’t have any yet, don’t feel bad.

Prayer for Matt Chandler

My heart broke today in hearing the news about Matt Chandler’s health via The Village Church blog. Matt has a wonderful ministry partnership and friendship with my work. He just spoke at our conference in November. And just in the last year, I’ve listened to a lot of his podcasts. He’s my favorite pastor (or should I say “podcast preacher.”)

God has used Matt to rekindle a passion in my heart for the gospel and God’s glory. A lot of the writing on this blog has been inspired by a mix of Matt Chandler sermons and God’s word.

I’ve asked God a lot today: Why Matt Chandler? Of all people, why him? And God continues to whisper: This is my calling right now for him to take on brain cancer. I’m sovereign. Will you trust me?

And all I can do is trust.

The hospital where Matt is getting rehab is a block from our apartment and I can see parts of it from my window on the 9th floor. This evening while in my son’s bedroom, I saw the sun setting over the hospital. Bursts of magenta, orange, pink, and navy blue filled the sky.

The sun set reminded me that God is sovereign and is in total control of Matt’s life. And I loved the tweet that Matt wrote today:

Path report is 2ndary at best…good report doesn’t mean much, bad report doesn’t mean anything…my days r numbered and nt by ths report

It is God alone who determines our days. I pray that Matt and his precious family will endure well and experience God’s strength and love in the days ahead.

We love you Matt, Lauren, Audrey, Norah, and Reid.

Why in the world did Jesus come for me?

Do you find it crazy how in the middle of such a joyous season of celebrating the birth of our Savior, so much pain and brokenness still exists all around us? I mean why can’t Christmas just make it all better?

A friend I grew up with just lost his mom, one of our ministry partner’s at work is in the hospital waiting on results from a brain tumor and is currently in rehab, people all over the nation have lost jobs, and a lot of families this Christmas won’t have any presents under their tree. Many people are wondering if all hope has been lost.

Can light even exist in such a dark, evil, messed up world?

Yes.

But only because God intervened for us. In his great love and mercy, He sent his son into the world as The light. He came as a baby in the most humble means to save us because we’re a desperate people.

People in need of a divine Rescuer.

A Redeemer.

A Restorer.

He knew how evil our hearts would be towards him, yet he still came to save us from that sin so that we would be in relationship with Him- back to the way we were created to be.

This is the real story of Christmas…

Even when it seems so hazy and is difficult to accept at times, it’s still the truth.

This truth means that whatever insurmountable thing I’m facing, I can trust in God. I can trust that even though this world is not as it should be, he’s in the process of redeeming it and making it new and right. He’s in the process of making me new so that I can be a minister of  reconciliation to a world who so desperately needs Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them….We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. – 2 Cor. 5:17-20

One day, Jesus is coming back and all our tears, pain, and sorrow will be wiped away.

And that is our great hope this Christmas that we can share with others.

5 Ways to Fight Consumerism this Christmas

Consumerism is the equation of personal happiness with consumption and the purchase of material possessions (Wikipedia). Consumerism reigns like a proud King in America. He’s captured hearts. Chained families to debt. Caused divorce. And has crept into churches.

But that’s not all. Consumerism is mainly an issue of the heart— the flesh’s desire for more, and a failure to trust in God to provide all things.

Here are five practical ways I’m trying to fight consumerism this Christmas:

1.) Remember former debt. It wasn’t a fun experience a few years ago paying off around $700.00 of credit card debt from Christmas time. (Thanks to Dave Ramsey, we cut our credit cards up so they no longer tempt us).

2.) Pray for a spirit-led shopping experience. Before I went out the other day I prayed that God would help me decide what I needed to get vs. what I wanted to get for other people. I  believe that prayer and being led by the Spirit helps keep me from over-spending.

3.) Accumulate experiences, not possessions (thanks Mark Batterson). I’ve tried to put relationships and time together with those closest to me in my life above accumulating stuff and things that don’t last.

4.) Be in authentic community. I’ve surrounded myself with friends who will ask me the hard questions. And they know our budget. While they don’t ask about this all the time, I know I have to be ready if they do.

5.) Give to those you know who are in need and love on them. This Christmas, we’ll be giving away some of the resources God’s given to us to certain family members who are struggling. Sometimes I think I’m only doing “good” if I give to a charity or other organization, but if a family member is in need- he or she really is who takes precedence.

Above all, the gospel is what transforms our hearts and keeps us from being led away by the desire for more. I’m thankful that as I daily surrender to the Spirit’s control, I can be victorious in the constant battle where consumerism tries to be King.

Have you thought of a plan of attack for fighting consumerism in the upcoming days?

Marriage: why it’s hard work

Recently, Jeremiah and I have been going through 1 Peter together before bed. After I turned out the light last night, I asked him in frustration:

“Honey, why does marriage have to be such hard work?”

This question was birthed out of the petty arguments we had that morning on the way to church (an argument I started). He thought about it for a minute.

“Because I’m screwed up. And you’re screwed up.”

I laughed and couldn’t agree more.

“Do you think anyone has a marriage that isn’t hard?” I asked, really really wanting to know.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Dead people.”

Well… next Thursday will be our four year anniversary (we’re so excited) and this is the year I think I’ve figured out why marriage is hard work. More than ever, I’ve realized that I’m broken, sinful, and selfish. I don’t always love God and if you had the supernatural ability to open the blinds to my house from the outside in, you wouldn’t always see a pretty woman.

You wouldn’t always see someone who’s allowing the Spirit to control my life, but it’s what I desire.

The Apostle Paul said that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:22-23)

God has given me everything I need for life and godliness and his Spirit is in me to empower me to love my husband and to love those closest to me. I am thankful that God is patient with me. He knows I’m in a process of sanctification. He’s come to set me free from my sin and brokenness- to embrace the gift of marriage as part of his will to conform me into his image.

He’s given me my best friend, lover, soul-mate and the only person in this world I want to be with as a gift to steward, love, respect, and serve well.

Marriage is really hard work because of me.

Sinful. Fallen. Human. But through Christ’s strength and empowerment, my marriage can be beautiful. It has been. It is. And it will be.

And I don’t have to wait until I’m dead for it to be that way either. And that is so encouraging.

So what about you… do you think anyone has a marriage that isn’t hard work?

To Twitter, or Not to Twitter?

That is my question for today friends.

I know, I know. I’m probably the last person that’s not joined Twitter. Or maybe not. (I still know quite a few people who haven’t!)

But, for the past few months, I’ve been thinking about taking the plunge to share tweets about my blog posts, where I’ve written new articles, what’s going on at Rightnow and Bluefish, inspirational thoughts, God thoughts, and other fun, completely random stuff.

I think I’d like joining Twitter for a lot of reasons regarding some of my hopes and dreams as a writer and more importantly to connect with you (my readers).

BUT, I fear the whole addiction thing and really whether it’s necessary for me personally or not. A while back, I told the facebook world that I’d never get on the Twitter bandwagon. (I have this issue with not wanting to do things because everyone else is). Besides, who needs facebook and Twitter?

The reality though might be that I have to get over my hesitations because I know it’s an awesome, powerful tool to connect lots of people and information. I also really enjoy seeing the tweets on some of your blogs.

I know… you still can’t believe I’m not on it yet.

What about you?

Are you on Twitter? What do you like about it?

I can’t wait to hear.


Latest article on Permission to Speak Freely

Anne Jackson has a book releasing in 2010 called Permission to Speak Freely: Essays & Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace. We’ve been in touch here and there since we had lunch together at the RightNow conference.

Recently, Anne asked if she could publish my article An Uptown Confession (originally published on Ungrind.org) on the blog of her book.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story (over there), and explore a little bit about her upcoming book and wildly popular blog Flowerdust.net. You can check it all out here.

I think you’ll be glad you did.

Being on Mission in Holiday Madness

While at Whole Foods the other day, I had to overcome some fears and I had to do it quickly.

As my cashier Jaime was loading my groceries into the bag, I asked him how the crowds had been with the Thanksgiving rush… He said they weren’t too bad.

I told him I shop at Whole Foods on special occasions. My husband was in seminary and our budget was tight.

“What’s seminary?” he asked.

Trying to think of a simple answer to what seemed like a complicated question, I said:

“Well, it’s a school where you learn more about the Bible and eventually become a pastor or something like that. My husband wants to help teach others the Bible… It’s a non-denominational, Christian, evangelical school.”

“Oh okay,” he replied.

I could tell the people behind me were anxious to get their groceries on the belt, but I had another question for him and those people were annoying me so I just blurted out:

“Do you have a church background at all?” I said extremely fast.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Did you grow up in the church at all?”

“Well, my family is Roman Catholic and I grew up in that but I’m not into the whole ceremonial stuff. You know…”

“Yeah I understand… Well, the church my husband and I go to is more about a relationship with God than it is about religion. It’s laid back and it really doesn’t look like a church at all. You wouldn’t think it was one.”

“Where’s it located?”

“It’s a big building off 635 and 75. We’re still in the building phase actually.”

He said he thought he’d seen it before from the interstate.

“I think you’d really like it!” I added.

He stopped and looked at me.

“Well I’ll promise you this- I’ll go and check it out sometime.”

I was shocked. Really? You would? I thought.

I smiled, said that would be awesome, and wished him a great Thanksgiving.

As I left that day, I was ecstatic that God used that 2 minute window for me to talk to Jaime. I often get this knot in my stomach before starting up a spiritual conversation. Even though Jesus is the most important person in my life who I want to proclaim to the world every day that I live, I still have fears. I still struggle with getting past “me” and other insecurities.

But I’m learning that the greatest way to overcome that fear is to dive in wholeheartedly, no matter the risk.

To lovingly engage people in conversation.

To live on mission.

To get past the distractions so that God can receive glory, even during the holiday madness.

I pray that Jaime will remember our talk and check out Watermark so he can learn what it means to have a relationship with God.

I hope you’ll pray with me too. In the mean time, I’ll be checking up on him the next time I need a treat!

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