Read and Pray

I am a bookworm. There isn’t anything I have ever done that I didn’t buy a book for. When I got a dog, I bought dog books. When I planted a garden I bought gardening books. When I discovered I was going to have a baby I read books on pregnancy and child-rearing. I have even read books on successful co-parenting. When I became a Christian I read even more. I am reading the Bible, and reading books written by popular pastors.

I am a Christian. Since being baptized in 2006 I check with God before making every major and most minor decisions. If I am not sure what His will is in an area of my life, I wait and pray some more. If I disagree with what is His will for me, I pray that I can accept it and surrender with a joyful heart. I desire to bring glory to God and seek His kingdom. 

I am a single mother, and now that I have had time to heal from my previous relationship I feel ready to start dating. Before I did anything I prayed to know God’s will for me in this area. Then I turned to scripture to see what it says regarding Christian dating, the behavior of an unmarried woman seeking marriage, and the type of man I should be looking for.

As a Christian woman I am not to engage in intimate physical contact with any man who is not my husband, nor should I encourage nor tempt a man in such behavior. We are both Christians and our bodies are temples, dwelling places for the Holy Spirit. It would be wrong for me to sin, or to lead him to sin.

Romans 12:1-2 NIV
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 NIV
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.

1 Peter 2:11-12 NIV
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, although they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

I should be looking for a Christian man. The Bible states that the husband is the authority in the marriage, and the spiritual leader of the family. I should be looking for a man that is obedient to Christ. Only with a Christian man can I model for my child a Christ-centered marriage.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NIV
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Ephesians 5:24-26 NIV
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word

What about dating? How am I supposed to date? What does the Bible say about that? Is coffee too intimate..too compromising? How long are we to date before marriage? Is dating even scriptural?

It would seem there is more reading and praying to be done.

To be continued…

The Block

You may or may not have noticed that my writing has slowed lately, and collected a secular tone. Although I still include scripture when applicable, I still struggle a great deal with my writing right now. To truly understand my current handicap I need to describe how it was before.

Prior to this current literary drought, I was writing posts daily, and at times up to three posts a day. The words came forth like water. I had only to read my daily scripture in the Bible and I would find at least a dozen ideas to write about. I had started carrying a book around with me to capture Christian revelations spotted in everyday activities. I felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to share the glory of the Word and my discoveries in it.

Then one day, out of the blue, I sat down with my little notebook of ideas and tried to write. Nothing came out. Since I consider this blog to be more a product of God than of myself, I decided to wait. When the spirit moved me I would write. So with no sense of drama, I walked away from the computer for the day. That day culminated into many, and before I knew it weeks had passed with nothing new to post. At this point I became concerned. Doubt started to creep into my thinking and I developed the dreaded “writer’s block.”

I was determined that nothing would keep me from doing what I felt was God’s call for me. If I was drowning in negative self-talk I would never be able to share with others the glory of God’s word. So I sat down and forced myself to write about one of my ideas. From my perspective it was not good, but it was done. I assumed the block had been beaten back by my faith in Jesus.

Wrong. I had forced myself to write by relying on myself and my own sense of being clever. I forced out words that were not inspired by God, but driven by a fear and self-doubt. The thoughts pouring through my brain were so negative. Perhaps God had not called me to write and inspire. Perhaps I was fulfilling a self-appointed task in sharing my joy with my savior. So I again stepped away from the computer and allowed my blog to remain untouched.

Last night I found myself reading Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. In Chapter 6 I read about a period in her life when she felt stymied by self-doubt, and trapped. When she prayed about it, she realized that she was being bound to stop her from serving God. She called them Mind-Binding spirits. I started to wonder if perhaps I were under the same attack. Joyce likes to say that when God calls you to a new level, you get a new devil.

It is important to realize that as Christians were are at battle with a real and devious foe. We are not just saved and then left alone to revel in our own personal relationship with God. The enemy does not want us serving the Lord and drawing new people to the message. He doesn’t want us bearing good fruit, or bringing glory to our savior. He wants us to fester in doubt, forced into inactivity, and lost in ineffectiveness. He wants us blocked. Am I paranoid?

Ephesians 6:12 NIV
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Sounds pretty terrible? What are we to do as Christians when we find ourselves in a battle against the one that would have us separate from Jesus? What can we do to defend ourselves?

We must trust that nothing is beyond the power of Jesus Christ. When you consider how big a problem is, consider next how big God is. There is nothing He cannot conquer if you turn to Him. Protect yourself with scripture. Turn to your father in prayer. Praise your creator for your salvation. Then watch as the devil’s attempts to stifle your joy and stymie your works fails again and again.

Ephesians 6:13 – 20 NIV
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth

buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Whatever area of your life that God is calling you to service, whether it be a blog with twenty-five fans, a ministry with thousands of followers, or merely the greeter at the church door, arm yourself with God’s protection. Even if your battle is merely struggling against fatigue to attend a weekly church service, turn to the word for the strength to persevere for His glory. Drop to your knees in prayer for the strength to do God’s will in your life and do not be surprised when He lifts you up so that it can be done, not because of you but because it’s His will.

Picture Perfect

Genesis 1:27 NIV
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

God made man in His own image, so each of us is perfect in the sight of our Lord. How many of us truly look in the mirror and feel perfect? We wish we were thinner, taller, or prettier. When I look at my reflection I am struck by all my imperfections as if a giant magnifying glass were showing them all to me. For example, I will never wear size four clothing. Even if I were to lose the weight necessary to wear size four clothing my bone structure would still make the feat impossible and ridiculous.

When I leave the mirror and look to the television, I see a parade of beautiful people. I see them advertising products promising to make me thinner, taller or prettier. They find beautiful people, hand them their product, and demonstrate what your life could be like. Buy our product and be beautiful. Buy our product and look perfect. I see what the devil wants me to see, that I am not perfect. I see how far from their definition of beautiful I am. I see a world where all the men are tall and dashing and the women are petite and gorgeous.

On television we get to watch the lives of the beautiful people as they fall in and out of love. We see their triumphs and failures. We see them struggle and succeed. We get to sit first row in their false world. It is a world where all the people are skinny and beautiful. Every once in awhile we see a more common looking actress but they are cast in the support role. They never get to play the stunningly beautiful lead role. They get to be the homely friend that provides support and advice.

That was true until Grey’s Anatomy cast Sara Ramirez to play the part of Dr. Callie Torres. She is not a size four woman. In her scrubs she looks like any other person. She looks normal. She looks like a real person. When seeing her walk onto the screen you expect her to be the sidebar, the woman that no one ever dates. You expect her to experience pitfalls and provide the comic relief. What you don’t expect is for her to be cast as the beautiful, single doctor who is dancing in her underwear. You don’t expect the biggest man scoundrel to be attracted to her like a magnet. The writers of this show didn’t type cast Sara Ramirez as a small pitiful bit part. They allowed her to be beautiful…and not a size four.

What’s funny is nobody from the show ever pressured me about it. Nobody every said “You’re getting a little heavy.” Instead they wrote scenes for me to dance around half-naked in my underwear! – Sara Ramirez

When I see Callie Torres I see a woman that is not ashamed that she is not a petite fashion model. I see a woman that knows she is beautiful and is confident in who she is. When I see that doctor walking through the halls of Seattle Grace, I see her strut like a woman that knows she is made in the image of God and isn’t apologizing for it. Sara Ramirez is a size 12 and is not looking for acceptance. She accepts herself exactly as she is.

When I see a woman like that, I take another look at the mirror. I take a look at my reflection with sudden appreciation. I see in myself the things that God made for me that are extraordinary. I let go of the guilt and the shame, for I know that shame and guilt are not God feelings. I see my eyes that are extraordinary. I see my smile that can be stunning and full of light. I see the little laugh lines and I remember all the joy that put them there. I see my strength, courage and compassion. I look at myself through God’s eyes and I am stunningly beautiful.

I am a woman made in God’s image, and I strut.

I Was Wrong

“I was wrong.”  These might be the three most seldom words heard.  I consider them to be even more rare than “I’m sorry.”  I imagine that you are wondering what prompted this topic, so I will tell you.  Today, during a moment of panic and self-pity, I said something, and in reflection I realize that I was wrong.  The curiosity must be overwhelming so I will share.

Today I was panicking due to the employment opportunities available for teachers in Southern California.  For many weeks now I have been faithful to God’s promises.  If He brings you to it, He will bring you through it.  A friend asked me why I was suddenly so afraid and upset, when I had been so mellow up until now.

I told her that for a long time I had trusted that when the time came, God’s hands would move things around, and even though it seemed unlikely all would be well.  Then as things began to crystallize and the time for teacher recruitment and positioning drew closer, I wasn’t seeing God’s hands.  There are not enough words to express how terribly wrong I was in saying that.

God has been moving and working in my life, just not in the manner I had directed Him to.  I wanted a secure teaching job for next year, and that’s what I expected from Him.  I failed to recognize the other things He had done for me.  It is true that I do not know what I will be doing for employment, and that I must wait patiently and watch Edjoin with all due diligence.  So what did God do for me during this period?  He gave me the greatest gift I could have hoped for.

God in His infinite wisdom, grace, and mercy has surrounded me with loving and supportive people to make this waiting bearable.  Today in my moment of weakness there was a person I could go and talk to.  For the last few weeks as I listened to the rumors of little birds, there were friends and colleagues there to provide encouragement and a listening ear. God’s gifts are beyond comparison.  They will last beyond this period of frustration.  In the years ahead this job will matter less than the friends I have made. 

This last year was hard.  It wasn’t fun.  Despite it all I was never alone.  When it seemed impossible it was a friend that lifted me up.  When it seemed darkest a friend brightened my day with a smile.  He has never left me alone.  Best of all, I have a little girl to show me just how much my Father in Heaven loves me.  He is there inside every kiss, smile, and tight squeeze she gives me.

I was wrong.