Time with Max Lucado, Randy Alcorn, Andy Crouch, and more

cast-1On Friday, I’ve been given the opportunity to assist in interviewing Max Lucado, Randy Alcorn, Alex and Brett Harris, Andy Crouch, Sue Edwards, and Dawn Herzog Jewell at the Christian book expo here in Dallas. We’re shooting the interviews in a private room which makes it all the more exciting. The day will probably be crazy and really fast paced but I hope to interject some good questions and take some pictures. We’ll be asking questions specifically related to who they are, what they’re doing, and how it relates to small groups and twenty and thirty-somethings.

Max Lucado and Randy Alcorn specifically have impacted me through their writing when I was in high school. I was given Lucado’s book Just Like Jesus from a friend and it radically changed my view towards what it means to look like Christ. He is a master-storyteller. In college, Alcorn’s fiction book The Ishbane Conspiracy, couldn’t be put down by mom, sister, or I. It reminded me a lot about the C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters in that Satan is real and will do anything he can to destroy us even in the tiniest every day things.

The Harris boys are doing great things in their ministry with their blog TheRebelution.com and their book Do Hard Things is influencing teens and young adults everywhere. I am so proud of them.

As for Andy Crouch, Sue Edwards, and Dawn Herzog Jewell, I look forward to learning even more about them.

A Day at the Park

On the days I’m at work, Jeremiah and John get to have “Daddy day-care” together. When daddy’s present, John gets thrown high up in the air, gut laughs after daddy blows on his belly and tickles his armpits and feet over and over again, and loves looking up at the birdies and breathing in the air on their walks together.

Yesterday, they went to one of our favorite parks a few blocks down from our apartment. And here is their beautiful creation. John is mastering his poses.

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Video: You’re Beautiful

No matter how eloquently I try to describe the beauty of the Lord through words, they would never do justice. One thing I know for sure is that as the years pass by, the more I realize just how badly in need I am for a Savior. As I’ve drawn closer to him in these 20 years of being a Christ-follower (since I was 6!), the peculiar thing is that the more I see my sin and ugliness.

But because of his beauty, perfection, and holiness I continue to see who I really am– absolutely nothing apart from him. I’m a sinner saved by grace, nothing added. Nothing taken away. But yet I am everything because of him alone and what he does through me.

It’s truly the place we all must come to grips with- that a life lived a part from Christ is really no life at all.

The video below was produced by a very gifted guy at our church and captures just a glimpse of the perfection and beauty of God. The song put to the video is “You’re Beautiful” by Phil Wickham.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DEL0R32eU8]

SmallGroupExchange.com: The Place for Small Group lovers

PrintIt’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Scott (our Director of Operations) and I got on the phones and started calling small group pastors and leaders across the country to see how they might contribute to SmallGroupExchange.com.

I like to say that SmallGroupExchange.com is the place for small group lovers. It’s our desire for small group leaders, pastors, volunteers, and more to exchange their ideas about small groups and to share from their own wisdom and experience. My role in the site is communicating with all the contributors and collecting their articles and editing them. I love my role because I too, am passionate about the life-change that occurs within the small group setting.

I was immediately plugged into a small group of 6 women at Liberty as a freshman on the dorms. My leader, Kristie, had a tremendous impact in my life (still today). Her love and devotion to our group made me want to become a leader. So I did the next year and the next. Jeremiah and I were leaders earlier in our marriage. And today, we’re involved in one focused on young married couples. Our leaders John and Pam mentor us and take us through key issues in marriage like communication, finances, sex, past/present baggage, and more. We just love getting together with them. I think all of us in our group can say our marriages are stronger because of the haven it provides to reveal life struggles and the accountability to help overcome them.

If your church presently does not have a small group model, I would encourage you to be the catalyst to help usher them in. If you have them, are a leader, or interested in becoming one, please check out our site’s plethora of free video training, resources, reviews, and articles. You’ll also find that this is an unbiased resource so we have quite a variety when it comes to the teachers, authors, and writers you’ll see.

You can also become a fan on facebook.

Save, Save, Save

samanthakrieger.com

376-savings-jarI was in conversation with a girl my age this weekend about finances and the economy (as it seems to be the hotbutton of late!). I shared with her some of the research I had been doing about where certain people think we’re headed as a nation. I proceeded to say how much my family and I are really trying to save, save, save.

She looked at me in disgust: “Save? I’m not saving. I work hard. I’m going to spend what I want, when I want. As long as I’m being responsible, I’ll be fine. Who needs a savings account?”

Her expression and gestures kind of made me laugh under my breath. She didn’t care at all about what was going on in our economy. I am wondering if she’s even watching the news. But then I began to think more about her response and the fact I have had the same attitude before. In fact, growing up with a father who was extremely successful and not having to worry about finances, early on in our marriage I would spend like I was still under my dad’s roof. It was scary. My credit card proved it. So in essence I lived out her words in some way, shape or form.

But now things have changed. My whole mindset is radically different. While I’m still far from perfect, I really value saving more and spending less. Last year around this time, we were about $40,000 in debt. Thanks to the help of Dave Ramsey, we’re now $10,000 in debt with just a small student loan left and Jeremiah’s car. We’re so thankful that our mindset and behavior has changed. I know we can all admit as Americans that we love living above our means. I mean, who doesn’t love it? But the  better way is to be wise and to be content with what we have. I wish it was easier done than said.

Wasteful Time Online

www.samanthakrieger.com

Last weekend, we had our CARES core team over for a brunch. Jeremiah and I get the privilege of serving alongside friends who share in the same vision we have to bring the love and hope of Christ to our community. Our core team helps us set up for our resident events. They clean, cook, and engage in meaningful conversations with our residents. They truly make our ministry what it is.

Joe faithfully serves alongside us. He’s a bachelor, has a cushiony job, a well-decorated apartment, and comes from a good family. Around the table, we got on a conversation about the internet in our culture today- how we live and breathe technology.

Joe chimed in unexpectedly, “I just did away with internet completely.”

We all gave him the look.

“I just didn’t want the temptation to even be in my presence.”

I knew exactly what he meant. Pornography. It’s always there. Just one click of a button. Well, Joe proceeded on and said that he didn’t want that kind of temptation being a single guy and living alone, but also the temptation of wasteful time. He also said he’s the kind of guy that can’t get on Facebook for just a few minutes. He’ll be on there for hours and hours and never know it. He said because he’s done away with the internet, he has so much more time. He can still check what he needs to online at times, but when he’s at home, it’s not a choice.

I know I have the tendency to be addicted to checking email, facebook messages, or whatever else, but lately I’ve been overwhelmed by it. I can’t get to everyone’s requests and I can’t answer everyone’s questions. Having a newborn son, however, often makes it easier not to. But I decided a few days ago to challenge myself with a goal I think is attainable: After the days I’m at work, when I’m at home, I’m not going to spend any more than one hour online. The same goes with the days I’m home with John. The rest of my time will be spent offline enjoying the relationships God has given me. We’ll see how it all goes.

After I decided what I would do, the next day  I was on Anne Jackson’s blog, who is a renowned blogger who I’ve been in communication with some at work. And she is actually doing a technology fast. She isn’t blogging until Easter and she’s turned off her comments (for various reasons). After seeing her commitment, I didn’t think I was so crazy after all!

So, I want to challenge you. What is a goal you think you could have when it comes to your technology habits? What things could you replace with online time?

America becoming an undeveloped nation?

celente

www.samanthakrieger.com

I was doing some research today and ran across some startling info. I don’t know what to take of it yet. Gerald Celente–who I’ve never heard of before today– is the CEO of Trends Research Institute. He’s renowned  for his accuracy in predicting future world and economic events. He accurately predicted the 1987 Stock market crash, the Fall of the Soviet Union, the 1997 Asian currency collapse, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and what’s happening right now in our economy. His track record is at trendsresearch.com.

Well, Celente is now forecasting revolution in America, food riots and tax rebellions – all within four years, cautioning that putting food on the table will be a more pressing concern than buying Christmas gifts by 2012.

According to his recent Fox News interview called “Predicting Obama’s Impact” (posted on YouTube on Nov. 10, 2008), by 2012 America will have become an undeveloped nation. There will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and holidays will be more about obtaining food than gifts.

This all just seems too crazy! Doesn’t it? For some reason something in my heart tells me I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened though. I’m not at all saying I believe this guy. I’m really cautious of wacky people who try and predict the future but Celente has made his life following trends. He knows and understands history. His track record is insane.

Regardless if we think he is on to something or not, I really think all the more that it’s time for America to wake up and begin seeing what’s at stake. Is the media blowing a lot of this up or are we in denial as to what America’s future could  look like? Right now, I am trying to ask myself what changes I can make financially on a day to day basis to better prepare for the future. For our family, since we’re just about debt-free, it means saving, saving, saving. And of course praying nothing like this would happen, but still preparing for a potential rainy day. Would love to hear your thoughts.

My Dad’s Surgery Approaching

In my first year of seminary, I was taking a break from classes to visit my parents at our lakehouse in VA. That weekend, my dad came down with an awful sickness. He was throwing up, felt dizzy, couldn’t see or barely walk. He was looked at by a doctor in the small town our lakehouse was in. The doctor didn’t have much to say. He and my mom decided to travel to Lynchburg where my school was for a second opinion. I was standing in our kitchen when I heard the news. My mom called me to say that dad either had an aneurysm or a brain tumor. They would know soon. She sounded anxious and a bit fearful. I knew it was serious especially in the way she relayed everything.

At that moment, I broke down into tears and was tempted to call all my friends and spill the news. Instead I set the phone down and headed over to our big comfy chair that overlooked the peaceful water. I grabbed a pen, my journal, and Bible and spilled all my fears and frustrations out on the pages. In that time, I felt God’s peace and presence like never before. Several hours later, I heard the news that thankfully dad had a brain tumor and not an aneurysm and would be operated on soon. I packed my bags for the hospital.

My family camped out in the hospital for several days praying for dad and awaiting his return out of surgery. I was joyfully overwhelmed by all the calls and emails we received from friends and the seminary faculty praying for my dad. Through it all, he made it out and recovered well- even though it was tough.

Fast-forward five years later and we are in the same place again. Dad’s tumor has returned and he’ll be operated on tomorrow at 11AM at Baylor University Medical Center here in Dallas.  Many thoughts and emotions run through my mind right now. Why must he do this all over again? Why the pain again? Will the doctor do his job correctly? How will his recovery be?

Yet through it all, like what I learned in the chair at our lakehouse– God is sovereign over everything and he cares deeply for me and my family. Despite everything, He’s in control. He is with my dad and knows all the circumstances. So the question remains: Will I trust him again?

May my dad rest in your care tonight as he prepares for this surgery tomorrow God. Comfort his heart and may your glory be made known all the more. Calm his spirit as I know he is nervous. In your awesome name. Amen.

My Son & My Selfishness

n55713931_5260Life with a child… there’s simply nothing in the world like it. It’s pretty wild the influence our culture has had on me  when it comes to having children: they’re too much work, they’ll ruin your fun, you won’t be able to do anything anymore, you’ll become older faster, your career will be over, they’ll be a burden to you and others… the list goes on.

While children are certainly hard work it is the best hard work I’ve ever done. I’m only four months into it all, but I feel like I can say that getting up multiple times at night, nursing non-stop around the clock, changing 25 diapers a day, washing spit up out of my hair and clothes, taking multiple trips to the doctor, and putting whatever need John has before my own has been worth all the sweat and tears. He has been everything but a burden. He’s been a beautiful addition to this union of marriage.

img_8684Most of all, my son is teaching me to be Self-less which is something I think our world doesn’t want. It’s hard to give up self. It’s painful sometimes to put someone else’s needs before our own. Sometimes I just want things my way, when I want them. And don’t tell me anything different. But God calls me  to deny my self. He calls me to higher living because life’s more abundant when I’m not looking into mirrors all day. 

My friend Bethany’s mom would always tell her, “Marriage strips away one layer of selflishness and having children strips away the rest.” I couldn’t agree more.img_8680

Rethinking Bethlehem & Redemption

bethlehemOne of the most amazing things about my job is being able to hear and reflect upon solid teaching from our video shoots before I write. I’ve been writing the discussion guides for our Bluefish TV 2009 Small Group Kit that releases soon. Some of our teachers/pastors in the kit include Erwin McManus, Todd Phillips, Mark Batterson, David Nasser, and more. Right now, I’m working on the Christmas small group series called “A Savior is Born: Experience the Wonder of the First Christmas” with Pete Briscoe- the Senior Pastor at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship.

Let me tell you… this series is beautifully taught. Pete’s teaching has helped me to better reflect on why God chose certain details in bringing his son into the world. For instance, Shepherds. They were the poorest of the poor in that time. Considered ceremonial unclean. Not allowed to worship in the temples because they worked with animals (who were unclean). So why did God choose to bring the good news that a Savior was born to them first? He could have chosen the chief priests or the elders. Well, God always exalts the humble and they were watching for Him.

Bethlehem? The town wasn’t anything special. But it was great in the eyes of God. A manger? No newborn infant at that time would have been placed in a feeding trough. Why wasn’t he born in a palace? Why didn’t he come in apparent glory like many expected? 

And Mary? She was a simple human touched by divine power. People try to exalt her today above God but what made her extraordinary was the Spirit coming upon her. His grace and favor was on her, but not because of anything amazing she did. He chose her to bring His glory.

I’m so perplexed that God came into the world as a humble servant- for me. For us. He chose lowly Bethlehem and took upon a criminal’s death on a horrific cross to save me from my sin and to heal my brokenness. Why did he do it? Because of His relentless love, grace, and redemption for all mankind. There’s no condemnation here. There’s no pomp and circumstance. 

If that doesn’t cause me to sing, I don’t think anything else will.