Thursdays

In college, my roommate and I shared a blog “Hang of Thursdays” in reference to “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.”  It’s been a long time since I’ve been on here and a lot of things I want to journal/chronicle, so I am hoping to return and get the hang of Thursdays.  As a bit of a teaser, here are a few things in the works in my life:

New position at my job

Beginning weight loss

Preparing for graduate school (MBA)

Prepping for Disney World, Christmas 2014

and possibly more

 

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The power of Friday

For the past 4 or so years now I have felt strongly about Good Friday.  I believe it is the most powerful ‘holiday’ in the Christian faith and it gets looked over so easily.  Therefore, I am probably more annoyed than I should be about this sermon circulating called “Sunday’s coming.”  It feels like I am watching version of Groundhog Day that is a week long rather than a day.  Place the disciples in a week long repeat of the week before the crucifixion.  I can imagine them saying, every Friday through tears and the painful reminder of their teacher’s death, “but Sunday is coming.”  They didn’t fully realize what His death meant in that time, so their only hope and joy was Sunday.

but Sunday is coming.

but Sunday is coming.

But NOTHING!  Making it all about Sunday sounds like Friday was a curve-ball in God’s plan, unforeseen, and Sunday was needed to make it all better.  Friday was a part of God’s plan too.

Friday is when our sins are forgiven.  Friday is when the veil was torn.  Friday is when He said “It’s is finished.”

Friday is where we are made clean.  Friday is where we are invited into a relationship with God.  Friday is where God’s plan of a Savior is completed.

Yes, Sunday is coming and defeat over death means eternal life with God.  But let’s not forget the power of Friday.  Let’s not be like the disciples and just mourn this day, but let us rejoice for we know what it truly means and there is great power in Friday.

Do…or do not. There is no try.

I had a conversation this week with my boss.  I work in a call center and while I contribute to our team and am very professional, the metrics we use for annual reviews are consistently lower than they should be.  My manager encouraged me, saying she knows I can do it and once I improve, a promotion should be easy.  I ended the conversation with a “I’ll try” and started to walk away.

She stopped me and said “Really, after that kind of conversation and encouragement, that’s all you can say?!”  That’s when Yoda’s voice popped into my head “No! Try not. Do…or do not. There is no try.” (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, 1980)

“Try” is such a dangerous word to use when addressing  goals.  When we say “I’ll try,” or “I’m trying” it generally means one of two things.  Either we have failed and want to make ourselves sound better.  If you ask me about my goal of eat healthier, I very well might say I’m trying.  But in reality, I have eaten out more than I should have this last week, had too many desserts and certainly not enough veggies.  When I’m saying I’m trying, all I really mean is I have good intentions.  In reality, I have failed this week; I have not done what I wanted to.

The other time we use the phrase, we have reached only part of our goal.  I did exercise a few times last week, however, I am not where I want to be.  Trying, in this case, really is doing something, but it is detrimental to my overall motivation.  If I never end up working out every day of the week, I will always have to say I’m trying.  Instead, I have to redefine my goals and provide increments so that I have successes along the way.  So if my goal is to exercise more, I have done what I wanted.  I am not finished with this goal, but I have made progress.

Whether to hide lack of action or express partial action, “trying” is not helpful.  It excuses failure or diminishes success.  For work, I will improve.  I have made an extra effort and redefined my goals.

How will you take “try” out of your goals to allow you be more successful?

My 29th Year

I have never been one for New Year’s Resolutions.  I have plenty of areas of my life I would like to improve, but I generally lack the motivation to change (and I dislike doing something simply because it is a common practice in culture).  While yet another January 1st came and went with no resolutions, the weeks leading up to my birthday were full of conviction and motivation.  As a result, I have resolved to change many practices in my life, starting today, day 1 of year 29.

All of my resolutions revolve around a verse that recently convicted me: Proverbs 31:27 ESV “[An excellent wife] looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”  Unfortunately, there are many days it seems all I eat is that bread (and I should know better, having done the Atkins diet :-P).  I understand change takes time, so I expect to grow and improve over the year.  The following are my goals, which I will work on and share over the year.

Blog more: To be more specific, I want to blog weekly.  Currently, I have about 2-4 blog ideas floating around in my head, but I have yet to put them on paper.  The main reason this is top of my list is because of the impact blogging (or simply writing) my ideas has on me.  For a good ten years now, I have been writing little thoughts here and there; about faith, life, relationships, etc.  Everytime I do, it helps settle the thoughts in my mind and soul.  I have also felt for a long time that some day, in God’s timing, my writing will be for more than just me.  With that in mind, I want to continue to put forth my ideas and let Him use them as He wills.

Read the Bible more often:  With moving into a new home, fixing it up and in general settling into a new life, I have pushed aside my time with God.  I can also get easily overwhelmed when trying to read the Bible.  For me, it’s like trying to fill a wine bottle with a garden hose.  There is so much to catch and I want to catch it all while also focusing on a few topics I would like to write about.  For this year, I want to read it through fairly quickly, keeping three journals handy, one for each idea I currently want to write about.  All other insights will end up in the third one to be looked at later.

Eat healthier:  Many people speak of the freshman 15, but I am also a proponent of the marriage 30.  In an effort to lose weight and create better habits, I want to improve my diet.  My goal is to eat smaller portions, eat veggies as snacks between meals, and reduce sweets 10 fold from my diet.

Get in shape: In conjunction with eating better to lose weight, I want to be fit.  Ideally, I would love to start training to run a 5K, 10K and half mile.  I enjoy running (when I’m in shape) and know this would bring a great sense of accomplishment.  This goal will most likely take all year, starting with simple in-home exercises and stretches with free weights we already own (from the last time I was motivated).  There are a few 5Ks in the spring here that I would like to participate in next year.

Go back to school: While my current job does not require more education to excel, I am looking at other opportunities in the company, mostly in a leadership capacity.  For that, I want to begin pursuing my MBA.  Thankfully, my company will pay for it (some tax free, some taxable) and I don’t want to pass that up.  My emotions in this area are a mix of excitement for learning new things and opening doors for leadership and hesitation, knowing an MBA will be a lot of work, research and writing.  Going back to school after 6 years off is not an easy task.

Louder than the angels

There was a song years ago that went “I want to sing louder then the angels.”  I enjoyed the song and thought “I too want to sing louder than the angels.” But I wondered- how can I sing louder than them?  What about God do I know or be more passionate about that would make me sing louder than the angels?  They are in the presence of God ‘day and night’ and there is no way I can sing louder than them.

And then it hit me- forgiveness.  The angels know His glory, power and majesty first hand.  I know of His forgiveness, grace and mercy.  Angels can NEVER know these the way I do.  The only first hand experience they have of sin is Lucifer and God cast him away.

I have to sing of His forgiveness because it’s what I know best.  It’s truly the only aspect of God that I can know the fullness of. So I will make that my anthem- God has forgiven me!!

Conscience for your wallet

It used to be a part of our Sunday routine; after church we would stop by and get Starbucks.  My husband got a venti raspberry chai and I would decide between a peppermint hot chocolate and a hazelnut chai.  A few weeks ago I saw a letter to the store thanking them for supporting equality in marriage and it put a bitter taste in my mouth.  After a little looking online, I realized it was not just something that store had done, but Starbucks as a whole.  My mother-in-law got this response when she emailed that we will no longer be buying anything from Starbucks:
“At Starbucks, we deeply respect the views of our customers and partners (employees) and recognize that there is genuine passion surrounding this topic. Starbucks has many constituents, and from time to time we will make decisions that are consistent with our values and heritage but may be inconsistent with the views of a particular group.
From our very earliest days, Starbucks has strived to create a company culture that puts our people first and treats everyone equitably. Our company has a lengthy history of leading on and supporting policies that promote equality and inclusion, and we are proud to be one of several leading Northwest employers that support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality. We made this decision through the lens of humanity and our commitment to embracing diversity.”

It was easy to say we’ll never buy from Starbucks again, but it put a lot of thoughts in my mind that I have never thought about.  First, trying to figure out why companies need to take stands on things that don’t directly involve their business.  Importation taxation, fair trade coffee and the like are issues that relate to the business of Starbucks and make more sense to me than using their “guiding principle” of diversity to reach beyond the coffee world.  If a CEO wants to support political issues with his words and money, that is a better avenue to make a stand.

Secondly, I began to wonder how much business decisions should affect my purchases and if so, how do I find out what companies believe and support.  Starbucks is easy to pass over since there many other coffee shops.  In my looking for articles to link to in this post, I found out Microsoft and Nike supported the same bill Starbucks was supporting.  Nike is easy since I own nothing from them.  However, this post is being typed using a Windows 7 operating system and giving up Windows will be a much harder thing to do.

I am left with wondering how much influence company ethics and political views should have on my spending habits.  What do you do, if anything?  One thing is for sure, I am going to be more aware of where I spend my money (and I don’t want any gifts cards to Starbucks anymore).

Footnote about gay marriage: I firmly believe that marriage is between one man and one women.  And while I don’t condone the lifestyle, homosexuals should not be ridiculed as individuals.  The line is clear on marriage, but it’s a little more difficult to explain in individual relationships.  Maybe a post for some other day….

Why today is “Good”

“And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” Mark 15:38

The temple/ tabernacle was designed and purposed back in Exodus, though it had been rebuilt by the days of Christ.  Solomon puts it all so well when he finishes building the more permanent temple in the Promised Land. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! “ (1 Kings 8:27) The temple was not so that God could have a place to live (1 Kings 8:28-30), but for our good, so that God can be near us. And when we turn toward the temple we would remember God is with us and listens to us and forgives.
The temple was about us having a good relationship with God.

The curtain was made to look just like the others that made up the temple, with blue and scarlet and purple fine yarns and “with cherubim skillfully worked into it.” (Exodus 26:31) But there was something special about this curtain; not how it looked but the purpose it served. “The veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy.” (Exodus 26:33) Why was the separation needed?  Here are just a few examples of people who got a little too close to God and His holiness.

  • Moses asks to see God’s glory. God says He’ll show Moses His back, not His face. Otherwise he would die. (Exodus 33:17-23)
  • Moses comes down from the mountain after talking with God and his face is shining. Not like a light around his face, but the skin on his face shone, so bad that Moses had to veil his face so he could interact with the Israelites. (Exodus 34:29-35)
  • Little background- the ark of God was housed in the Most Holy place, unless it was in transit. Once while in transit, the oxen carrying the ark stumble and good little Uzzah tries to keep the holy ark from touching the ground. But God gets angry because he touched what was holy without being clean. Uzzah died on the spot. (2 Samuel 6:6-7)

The curtain was to keep us from death, distancing us from God.

So what? God had promised that He would change the way things were done in regards to our relationship to Him. The old way was sacrifices and laws and a God who dwelled in a temple. The new way promised an internal law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), forgiveness for all our sins without constant sacrifices (Jeremiah 31:34, Isaiah 53:6,12), and a personal relationship with God (Jeremiah 31:34). Jesus Christ was the means to this new way of doing things. His death replaced the need for constant sacrifices. God accepted the blood of goats and other animals as a sacrifice worthy of making us clean. Then He provided the perfect sacrifice- the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:13-14). At the moment of his death, all our sins were forgiven and we were made clean. There was no need for the curtain anymore as separation from God and His glory. So God got rid of it, hence the tearing from top to bottom.
It’s all about having a close relationship with God!

It’s not what you do, but how you do it

It’s been a crazy week for Denver sports fans.  Even if you aren’t a fan of the Broncos, you can’t help but talk about Tim Tebow being replaced by Peyton Manning (a decision I’m excited about, but that’s not the point).  There has been A LOT of talk about Manning coming to be Denver’s new quarterback and Tebow going to the Jets out in New York.  There are two groups that most of the talk I have heard falls in.

It’s not what you do: Sports talk
Very few people in the sports talk world give Tebow any credit for his playing ability.  He doesn’t pass well, he squeaks out wins rather than dominating, he isn’t versatile, on and on and on. And they have a point.  While he was 8-6 (win-loss) in his two years with Denver, his passer rating is 75.1.  As comparison, in the last two years Manning has played with the Indianapolis Colts, he had a passer rating of 95.9.  (To give you an idea, the highest ever for a season is 122.5).  Yes, Tebow had some wins and took the Broncos to the playoffs.  But his skill is just not that great.  I’m sure I could spill over stats that show he’s not great at what he gets paid to do, but I’m not that big of a fan, that big of a stats nut, and that’s not my point.  Suffice it to say, Tebow is not that great at what he does.

But how you do it: General public
John Elway, Broncos former quarterback and current executive with the team, said it best “Tim Tebow is a great kid. If I want someone to marry my daughter, it would be him.  But I think with the opportunity to have Peyton Manning’s services, we had to take advantage of that.”  I have overheard at least people at work talking about Tebow leaving and how bad a decision that is and what a great guy/player he is.  While that may be unfounded (see above), why do some people talk this way?  It’s because he plays with character, heart and courtesy.  I have yet to hear anything mean or biting out of Tebow’s mouth (though I admit, I may just need to get out more).  The way he plays is what has drawn so much attention to him and gotten people to rally behind him, even if they don’t follow football.  From “Tebow-ing” to his well spoken interviews to his good looks, he has caught nearly everyone’s attention.  Love him or hate him, you know him for HOW he plays and lives.

So what?
What do you do?  What is your job, your daily tasks?  It doesn’t matter what you do or how well you do it.  People will take notice if you do it with honor, integrity and character.  Strive for that in everything you do and people will notice.  It will make the tasks you do appear even greater because of how you do them.

One question

A few years ago when I was working at a summer camp for troubled teens, I was challenged by a fellow staff member to ask the right questions. I was learning to understand the many different places people can be in their relationship with God, and if you don’t ask in the correct way, you won’t find out where they are. “Are you a Christian?” means so many different things to different people. “Do you believe in God?” is too narrow. After a bit of thinking, I realized what I really wanted to understand about people was “What is your relationship with God?” Now I admit this isn’t the most clear question, so I hope to explain myself here.

Most people will respond back “What do you mean ‘relationship’?” Here are examples of answers that would fit the question. “What is your relationship with God?”

Like my relationship with Casper the friendly ghost- I don’t believe in ghosts but they make for fun little stories.

Like my relationship with Erin- we were best friends when I was younger but we haven’t spoken since then. And I really don’t care to start that relationship again.

Like my relationship with the Queen of England- I know she’s out there but what she does has no influence on my life. So I really don’t care.

Like my relationship with President Obama- I don’t know him personally but I don’t like what he does. I want to avoid him at all costs and get him out of my life (sorry for the politics, but it made for a good example)

Like my relationship with my distant family- They are family and I love spending time with them once every year or two. But I’m not really close to them and I don’t have the desire to build that relationship.

Like my relationship with Sarah- We get along well but it is a long distance relationship and requires work to get to know her better. Therefore, the friendship gets dropped to the side.

Like my relationship with my husband- I love him greatly and know much about him. But there are still many things I don’t know. It’s not enough to know him as I do now. I want to (and am excited) to get to know him, to be able to love and serve him without having to ask how.

Those are just a few examples of possible answers. There are many different relationships in our lives. What is your relationship with God?

Moving beyond “Nugget-and-Fry” Christianity…

…to “Steak-and-Veggies”  (without the formality of eating with the CEO)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. ~Hebrews 5:12-14

What I’m not saying: I am not calling all Christians babies, living on milk and unskilled in righteousness.  I am not knocking those who feed on milk or those who provide the basic teachings.  I am not saying the Christian basics are not truth.

I led a small group with girls from my dorm in college and for one semester, we looked at commonly quoted passages.  Through that study we discovered that some of the most well known and commonly used verses in the Bible are often used in a very different context than was intended or shallow when compared to the truth of the whole passage.  All too often, we are never weaned off of the milk that brings us to the truth and onto the meat.  Just like nuggets and fries, the basics are food and provide sustenance.  But we must move to better tasting, better for us, more rewarding food.

The problem is that our culture loves nuggets of things, as opposed to the whole picture.  We quote just a line or two from a movie, every company has a small catch phrase, and even some of the greatest songs have lyrics which can be repeated in short little phrases.  Single Bible verses are helpful for meditation and building blocks, but to truly understand Christianity, you have to go beyond and study it all.

The Bible our guide book for life and our opportunity to know the Creator.  Though the presidential candidates may try, describing a person in one word just doesn’t quite do it.  While the word or small phases may be true, you miss the depth of who the person really is.  To grow in our faith and truly know God, we must push past the little sayings and reach for the fullness of the who He is.  I hope to do just that as I share thoughts about my faith and the Bible.  I have only one semester of seminary, so I don’t come with fancy words and high thoughts.  I pray that this will be the fullness of the truth, without the formality.

So what?!  Next time you hear or think of a Bible verse, go look it up (use an online search if you don’t know the reference) and see if your thoughts on that verse change based on the context.