Feb 29, 2012

American Idol Contestant New Music...

Ever wonder what some of the American Idol contestants do after American Idol?..

Kurtis Parks made it to the semi-finals on season 4 of the show (in 2004, and the year Carrie Underwood won), and he also wrote a number one song Forever Changed after the Virginia Tech shootings several years back... Since then, he has written hundreds of songs, and is part of a new group, Kurtis Parks and The Anthem, and they are releasing their first self-titled EP March 30th. This is actually his 10th album, which is just crazy to me since he's just a few years older.. That equates to a LOT of song writing and album producing!

I got the chance to get a sneak peak listen (sometimes it pays to have connections!) of his band's new self titled EP; and, by sneak peak, I mean I pretty much had to protect it with my life (kidding... sorta haha), but, I am allowed to share what I think about it, and it is great, I definitely recommend getting it! The sound is a really solid blend of good music and engaging vocals. The style of music is perfect for fun and easy listening while you get things done around the house or while running errands... but, then the lyrics pull you in and cause you to really pay attention and engage in the music... Needless to say, I am a huge fan and have several favorite songs already... Once the EP is released and I can actually give up more information on my thoughts of each song, I definitely will.

Until then, thankfully, I got the ok to share the new single City of Lights... Which, Kurtis also let me in on the fact that he and The Anthem are letting their first single off the new EP be downloaded for free tomorrow! (whoop whoop)

Head over to www.kurtisparks.com to download it for free (tomorrow March 1st)!... If you are anything like me, be sure to listen to it several times in order to let the full dynamic of the song register, it is pretty sweet!

Also, if you are in the DC area, the CD release show is happening on March 30th, 7:30pm at Barracks Row Theater in Washington DC. They are doing a benefit concert for Champions in Action, an organization that works with high risk and at risk street youth in Guatemala City (and most of you know Guatemala stole my heart years ago, as does working with teens...). The show is a $10 cover, $8 in advance, and the first 100 people in the door get a free pair of 80's themed sunglasses!

Hope to see you March 30th, 7:30pm, at Barracks Row Theater!
Pre-order your tickets here 

Feb 27, 2012

Am I Ugly?...

I read an article last week about the latest fad of young girls posting on YouTube asking if they are pretty or ugly... My heart broke.

When I was in college the version of "Am I pretty or ugly" that a lot of my friends used was, "Hot or Not" ... Remember that?.. I hope not, because I hope like me you stayed far.. far away from that site. I did not venture even remotely close to that website because truthfully, I did not want others to rate me... Partially because I know my worth is so much more than a button someone clicks, and partially (if I am being completely honest) it was because I was afraid of the answer I would get... And then, I was fairly sure I would become obsessed with checking to see if anyone had said "hot" or "not."

Today, I read a blog by Pete Wilson, I do not know him personally, but I follow him on twitter and read his blog (love social media!). He posted a letter today from his friend Annie that speaks to a fear lots of women have.. It is well worth the read.

This has me thinking.. How sad that we (women/girls) are so broken and so hurting that we post videos to YouTube asking MILLIONS of others to tell us if we are pretty or ugly... At such young ages.

First, parents, PLEASE remove your daughters video, and spend some serious quality time establishing her worth in who she is because of Christ.. NOT because of her outward beauty. Remind her that she is worth so much more than that.

Second, whether you are skinny, fat, chubby, tall, short, big boned, blonde, brunette, redhead, tan, ghost-white...
You. Are. Beautiful. 

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are worthy to be chased, and you are a treasure because of who you belong to, not because of your perceived imperfections.

Do not get me wrong.. I have my days.. I have my moments... standing in front of the mirror wishing my stomach was flatter, my posture was better, my calves were not as muscular, my skin was clearer, my (fill in the blank)... I have been there (last week actually).. If I am being totally honest, I struggle with these same thoughts on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. I have to stay vigilant in reminding myself that my worth has nothing to do with the extra weightloss I feel like would make me much more attractive... My worth is not attached to anything I am or am not, can or cannot do, have or do not have...

What if I was shorter or less muscular, would the guys like me then?.. No.

My favorite (I'll punch you in the face) question:
"Why ARE you still single?" ..
It always brings out the (worst) best answers I have such as:
"It's my violence that keeps the men at bay..." or "Because I'm actually a Witch (insert different word...) behind this smile and laugh..."

The reality is, only God knows why I am still single, why the men do not chase after me like they do my pretty friends (referencing the letter Annie wrote)... When I guarantee, my beautiful friends (I swear I have the highest ratio for beautiful friends possible) struggle with these same thoughts... The truth is also that, I am (you are) worthy, and I am (you are) beautiful.

Are you ugly? If you let Him, my sweet savior will whisper the truest response to that question: Not a chance.

Feb 24, 2012

Act of Valor Movie...

I saw the Act of Valor movie tonight, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were definitely parts not for squeamish, and other parts not at all good for those who get motion sickness while watching movies... However, if neither of those things apply to you, go see this movie.

I am naturally a huge fan of action movies, I enjoy as my roomie calls them "shoot 'em up, bang bang" over most any other kind of movie. Probably thanks to my brothers and dad, I really enjoy military movies, and appreciate when things are done right, and realistically... This movie, is definitely all of those things. The sacrifice made on both the sides of the men who are the Seals in the movie (who actually are Seals in real life as well), and their families is definitely highlighted in this movie.. Which I am very thankful for.

At the end, they show the names of all the Seals who have given their lives to protect us since 9/11, my friend counted and said there were 60 names.. That is so many... But, really considering how high the number COULD be, and the fact that is has been more than 10 years now, that is not very many at all...

There are several scenes in the movie that are just crazy, and amazing... and really awesome. The fight scene they go through to rescue the CIA agent that was taken captive is fantastic, and definitely on the side of "guns blazing." Several points throughout the movie the camera takes the view of the Seal, and gives the feel of a Call of Duty style video game, including listening to the breathing... There were also a couple moments that were confusing as to why they were doing something a particular way as they set themselves up, then as you got to see it unravel, it was crazy to see how well they know and were prepared for what was going to happen.

While pretty much everything about this movie is awesome (even from this girl's perspective), you cannot help but walk out of the movie completely thankful and so very humbled to know that this is a fictional story inspired by real people.. real families, and real sacrifice.

I highly recommend going to see this move.. and would even say it is a must see... (unless you're a little squeamish).

Feb 23, 2012

True Joy...

My name is Krista Paula Beata (bee-ah-tuh). While it is unusual, and may sound odd, my name is very dear to me, there is an incredibly rich history behind my name... and I enjoy having two middle names.

You see, my parents named me (and all three of my siblings) based off of the meanings behind the names, they prayed for us, and felt compelled by the meanings they felt held true to who we were meant to be. My beautiful little sister and I both have two middle names, a tradition my older brother and sister in law kept when they had my most adorable niece (known to mankind), and one I will likely keep as well if I ever have a daughter. Making the history even deeper, both of my middle names come from my grossmama (German for grand-mama) and grosspapa (grand-papa), but even more than that, my name literally means "joyful little Christian."

I love it because every part of my name and the history behind it fit me. I very much enjoy the uniqueness that is the story behind my name, I love that the meaning fits me exactly...

Joy has typically been a fairly tangible characteristic of mine, and even more than that, I (like my dad) have a fairly loud laughter that gets more comments than anything else. It took me a while, but now I love the laugh that is often just a little too loud, very distinctive, and causes my entire body to partake in the laughter. One of the things I have found is that my laughter has a direct correlation to my joy... I laugh easily and often... and usually loudly when joy is down the core.

Joy is a choice, joy is hard... But, joy is also a gift I am so thankful my parents have been praying over me since before I was born, and one that seems to be woven into the very fibers of who I am because joy is where I am the most comfortable in my own skin. 

There have definitely been periods of my life where I literally could not find joy, it was as if it had evaporated like the mist in the morning, and all that remained was a sweltering day followed by a pitch black night. During those times in my life, when I laid in bed at night, I remember thinking several times, "where has my joy gone?... Oh Lord, find it and bring it back to me..."

Every single time, the joy eventually comes back, not always right away, and sometimes it takes much... much longer than I would ever willingly choose, but it also brings with it an unexpected layer of faith that once again my sweet savior protected me through the heat of the day and carried me through the overwhelming darkness. Each time joy returned to my life, it brought with it an additional understanding of the difficulty it takes to choose joy, but also the absolute importance of joy as well.

True joy is not a result of naivety or a way of choosing not to see reality, there is something about true joy that ushers in hope, that paves a way for faith, and that replaces fear with peace. More specifically, the joy I am speaking about is not to every be confused with happiness, and definitely not to be mistaken for fake or fleeting. I am talking about an unmitigated joy to the very core. The type of joy that could only come from my Lord, my king. The kind of joy that resonates from within and somehow finds a way of reaching to the very core of those it touches as effortlessly as a feather wafting along on a breeze. True, authentic, unhindered joy... That is the joy that returns to me faithfully, brought to me like a perfectly wrapped gift from the God of the universe.

I am so thankful for true joy in my life.

Feb 22, 2012


So, I have clearly taken a little hiatus from blogging.. It is not that I did not have things to say or share (I pretty much always do), it is that I needed to instead get my life together, and spend some serious time just thinking...

I had an extended weekend, that turned into hang out time, organizing my life, cleaning my room... and let me just mention, I have the cleanest most organized room that I have had since... maybe ever. Since I have moved 14 times in 9 years, I typically never completely unpack. I either do not care enough to unpack everything I have and love or I do not have places to put it. Along with that comes months upon months of bills, paperwork, cards, letters etc.. that I usually stick in a box somewhere and catalog it away in my head to remember which box I put which month's/year's stuff in. So, this last weekend I bought file folders and commenced to cataloging and organizing for real. I filed (no joke) the last 8-10 months of bills and paperwork appropriately.. I cleaned, unpacked, and put everything In. Its. Place.

How bizarre.

How refreshing.

This must be what people feel like who have a stable place they have established "roots."

It only took me 5 hours on Sunday night before I was able to look around my room and see it mostly accomplished.. I mean, there are still clothes to organize, hems to fix, and jeans to patch... but that can wait until another weekend.

I even went so far as to get a couple baskets for the mail that I will inevitably set down to take care of later... I am pretty sure I have never had my personal life this together. Weird.

On a totally different note, today marks day 8 of the 21 days or prayer my small group is doing... What a week it has been. This 21 days of prayer has been dramatically different than the last, and I have found this time that I more often than not, do not have words to speak... Almost as though I have spent more time praying with feelings than words... Which proves to be challenging for my mind to be still for extended periods of time, especially when it feels like I am not getting anything done.

But, through it all these two verses keep coming up as relevant (two versions of the same passage):

"But Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.'”- Exodus 14:13-14 (NASB)

"Moses answered the people. He said, 'Don't be afraid. Stand firm. You will see how the Lord will save you today. Do you see those Egyptians? You will never see them again. The Lord will fight for you. Just be still.'" (NIRV)

Ok, I get it. I am working to be silent and still while the Lord fights for me...

This is... interesting.

Feb 15, 2012

Colossians 1:9-12...

"For this reason also, since the day we heard of it,
        we have not ceased to pray for you
                                                           and to ask that    you may be filled    
with the knowledge  of   His will   in   all  
                                                     spiritual wisdom and understanding,
 so that   you    will    walk   in   a   manner   worthy   of   the   Lord,
to please Him in all respects
bearing fruit in every good work
                                            and increasing in the knowledge of God;
strengthened with all power,
                                                  according to His glorious might,
                for the attaining of all  
                                     steadfastness and patience;
joyously giving thanks to the Father,
                                    who. has. qualified. us.
                                                               to share in the 
                                           inheritance of the saints in Light."
~ Colossians 1:9-12

So Frustrated...

Today has been like nails on a chalkboard on the inside...

Not in the physical sense, meaning I am not ill nor do I feel like I am getting sick. I literally mean it feels like the aggravation you have when someone is grinding their teeth or scratching a chalk board...

I am lacking a serious level of patience, I have little grace today for those who frustrate me, and I certainly have no place in my vocabulary to be understanding and helpful.

I have no idea where this is coming from, and have spent a decent amount of time just praying for clarity.. maybe it is just me, maybe I feel like being a jerk for no reason, there is always the chance that I am feeling tension because of my own issues, and maybe it has more to do with my own pride than anything else.. I don't know.

What I do know is I am aggravated, I lack patience, I am frustrated... and something is wrong. I wish I could place it. Slide the missing piece back into its place and move forward. But, instead I am sitting here just frustrated.

I want clarity. I want understanding... If I am supposed to be feeling this way so I listen to what God's trying to tell me better, I am not sure it is having its desired effect, but I certainly am talking to God about it more.

All I know is I am aggravated and frustrated, at mostly nothing in particular... Awesome.

Feb 14, 2012

Bold Yet Humble Prayers...

Tonight at my small group we were discussing The Circle Maker, which is a fantastic book about prayer... We watched an accompanying video, and then talked about various things that stood out to us, that we were struggling to understand or were just excited about. One of the biggest things we settled on discussing is, how do you pray bold expectant prayers, yet remain humble? What does that look or even sound like?.. Does that offend God?

We mulled over these questions, and did not necessarily come to any concrete answers...

How do we pray humbly before our God, yet approach with boldness?..
Is it even Biblical to approach with boldness?..
Is it even Biblical to pray expecting God to answer?...
Is it a cop out to say "if it is your will..." at the end?..
Is that our "back door" way of saving our faith so we have an explanation in case God did not answer?

HOW do you pray boldly to your Lord, Father, Savior, yet humbly?

There is a scripture in James 4 that talks about how we have not because we ask not.... and how even when we do ask we do not have because we do not have pure motives... How does that fit into it all?

Are there really prayers and miracles that God does not answer or grant because we do not pray for them?...

How does this fit into God knowing everything, yet granting us free will?... Is it really that dependent on us to pray in order for God to move?...

I definitely have a few thoughts on these things.. and I have a few vague passages of scripture I am going to have to go refresh my memory on... But, I think for right now, I need to mull over this and... Pray about it some more...

Tomorrow, we start our small group's 21 days of prayer. I am excited, I am amazed at the things that happened in January when I did this prayer challenge... so, I am looking forward to the things God is going to do this time. However, mostly I am looking forward to becoming even more acquainted with the voice of God in the next 21 days. I mean, I am looking for some definite answers to things going on in my life, some direction and guidance.. and some miracles to happen. But, mostly I just want to feel to a much greater degree the familiarity to God's voice in my life.

I want to learn what it means, what it looks like to pray bold, yet humble prayers before my God.

Feb 13, 2012

Valentine's Eve Thoughts...

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day... I am single.

I think technically I am supposed to be some sort of combination of bitter, jaded, lonely, depressed, wallowing or anti-relationships...

Yet, I find myself none of these things.

I am content, happy, grateful, fulfilled, inspired, and loved.

Life is never easy, I say or mess things up all the time. I am too abrupt, too harsh, say things with the entirely wrong timing, miss opportunities to show love to others, and often hurt people with my selfishness.

I do not deserve the love and care of my family and friends. I am not deserving of the prayers and petitions uttered on my behalf, and I am certainly not even close to worthy to have a savior...

Yet, I have all of these things. How can I be anything but content, happy, grateful, fulfilled, inspired and feel completely and utterly loved?!

Let me tell you,
Life is hard,
                 Life is busy,
                                   Life is chaotic,
                                                         Life is messy,
                                                                             Life is painful,
                                                                                                  Life is worth every bit of the challenges.

I am sure one day I will have an amazing man who will blow me away, and I look forward to the Valentine's Day when I have someone special to celebrate (much like birthdays) the love we share, but I find myself completely willing to let that day stay exactly in the timing it will be found in... I am content to let God go before me and lay all of those things in order. Tomorrow I am happy to be exactly where I am.

I have a hope and a future, and I know this, but until "someday" becomes today, I am content to be in my moment and not worry about tomorrow. I am genuinely happy for those who have a reason to celebrate Valentine's Day with someone they love, I feel bad for those who feel like tomorrow is nothing but salt being rubbed in an open wound, and I rejoice with those who are happy to face tomorrow with a joy even in their singleness.

Catch this...
(How many times does it say God's faithful love continues forever?..)

"Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the greatest God of all.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the most powerful Lord of all.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the only one who can do great miracles.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 By his understanding he made the heavens.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He spread out the earth on the waters.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He made the great lights in the sky.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He made the sun to rule over the day.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He made the moon and stars to rule over the night.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the One who killed the oldest son of each family in Egypt.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He brought the people of Israel out of Egypt.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He did it by reaching out his mighty hand and powerful arm.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the One who parted the Red Sea.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He brought Israel through the middle of it.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 But he swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the One who led his people through the desert.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He killed great kings.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He struck down mighty kings.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He killed Sihon, the king of the Amorites.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He killed Og, the king of Bashan.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He gave their land as a gift.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He gave it as a gift to his servant Israel.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the One who remembered us when things were going badly for us.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He set us free from our enemies.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 He gives food to every creature.
   His faithful love continues forever.

 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
   His faithful love continues forever" (hint it's 26 times in this one passage)

-Psalm 136

Feb 12, 2012

Be Still, Then Move...

"Moses answered the people. He said, 'Don't be afraid. Stand firm.  
You will see how the Lord will save you today
Do you see those Egyptians? You will never see them again.  
The Lord will fight for you. Just be still.' 
Then the Lord spoke to Moses. He said, 'Why are you crying out to me? 
Tell the people of Israel to move on.'"

- Exodus 14:13-15

I find this passage fascinating, simple, difficult, and totally fascinating.

Don't be afraid.
Be confident.
Watch as the Lord saves you TODAY.
The Lord WILL fight for you.


Then, move on... move.. GO.

So fascinating. So incredibly simple in concept, so ridiculously difficult to carry out, and completely and utterly captivating in the idea and process.

Feb 11, 2012

Gay, Lesbian, Laws, and Christ...

There are so many times a day that I hear, see or read something having to do with the gay and lesbian community's situation, stances, legislative pushes, marketing campaigns, protests or the opposing positions from various "conservative communities" on all of the same topics. I have been thinking for quite a while about where my stance, my feelings, and my beliefs fall in line with these "issues."

A few (ok probably several) thoughts I have specifically in regards to the gay and lesbian or transgender "community," all the media, and issues regarding this topic...

First, it breaks my heart when anyone (gay or otherwise) attach their main identity to one random thing, be it sexual orientation, race or gender etc...

Hear me:  
You were made for so much more than these shadows of who you are clinging onto as your identity. 
You were made for more.

I, like everyone else, have personal views on the things that I read or hear about (regardless of the topic), such as legalizing marriage for all, don't ask don't tell, Hollywood's portrayals of gays and lesbians etc.. However, after thinking about these things for a while, I always come back to caring more about the individual's state of salvation and brokenness, and not really caring about the laws, the public policies or the media's dogging of the issue... If I am going to say I believe in the Bible and its Truths (capital T), and then if they come into conflict with the government's laws, I have to choose the Biblical laws over the government's.

While I understand that politics can really accomplish some good things, ultimately we are charged to fight the corruption of our society with the gospel, not the ballot box. We want to change their hearts and expose them to Christ. Really, laws are primarily to protect the weak or innocent from those who would harm them (i.e. do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not lie, etc.), laws are NOT about changing hearts. We DO need moral laws, and while realistically, you can outlaw some particularly destructive behaviors (especially those that harm others), you simply cannot outlaw temptation... There are some places where God’s law can encroach on the heart, but human law has no place (do not lust, do not covet, etc.). The political and legal fight on homosexuality (from both sides) tends to cross over the boundary of what only God can forbid (because He can read the heart) and what man should stay far away from (because we cannot read the heart).

"We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers. And it is for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me." (1 Timothy 1:9-11)

"Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

"You are not to have sexual relations with a male as you would with a woman. It's detestable." (Leviticus 18:22)

Through all of this, above all else, I care about the individual's salvation, and whether or not Christ's love is being shown to them (and I am not referring to the all things are acceptable or permissible type of love, I mean the authentic I'll walk through anything and die for you kind of love and dedication). I care so much more about whether the person (regardless of the issue or the sin) is being reached out to, exactly where they are in their brokenness, than I do about whether the government says something is or is not acceptable. That is where my heart lands in the end every time. 

I think we (myself definitely included) forget so often, and too quickly how prevalent sin is in our lives.. in my own life. Regardless of the sin, pride, lust, adultery, drunkenness, homosexuality, lying, cutting etc.. etc.. Are you "born this way"?.. Quite frankly I have no idea, maybe, probably. But, that is not an argument to STAY living in sin, it merely means that regardless of the sin or the struggle you were born with, we ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. Due to the nature of how fallen, broken, and sinful we are, it is literally born in us because literally no one even has the chance of being perfect (It is by the grace of God that we are saved).

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal human beings and birds and animals and reptiles. 
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done." (Romans 1:18-28)

The things I see regarding the issue of being gay or lesbian is this: it is not a new thing. It is not suddenly something we as humans are dealing with now, it is not more prevalent now than it was in years past, it is talked about numerous times throughout history (and in the Bible) as things humans have been dealing with for thousands of years.

Laws and policies are not going to help the situation or make it worse, laws are not where people's salvation is won. I understand that everyone has their role to play in the body of Christ (head, foot, mouth, ear, hands etc..) and I am not saying anyone else should or should not pursue legislation or laws, all I am saying is that my personal place is firmly planted in the exclusive care about the person's eternal salvation, not whether the government has deemed something appropriate or not. While I understand that this is a slippery slope, I am not actually making or explaining my position on any law or policy... What I am doing is explaining that when comparing someone's heart, their soul, their salvation to a law or policy, I could careless about the law or policy. I only care about the individual's salvation.

I talked with my dad about this topic, and he pointed out a few things that I think are worth mentioning, there is no evidence in scripture that becoming a believer “sets us free” from temptation. We find ZERO guarantees of being set free from ANY temptation in this natural life. It is very likely temptation of any kind will need to be resisted for the entirety of your life. What Jesus can do, is give them (us all) the wisdom to avoid the temptation (whether it be homosexuality, sexual temptations of any kind, alcohol, etc.. etc..), and the strength to resist that temptation (AND if they have been engaging in that sin and it has become a genuine spiritual bondage, Jesus CAN set them free from the bondage – temptation to sin, and bondage to that sin are NOT the same thing).

I also think it is SO important to point out, just because I am not tempted by the same sin as my neighbor does NOT make me more holy. It just makes me a different person. Different people have different weaknesses, but the fact is: we all have (and were probably born with) weaknesses to some kind of sin...

Also, please.. please hear me... A person who is a Christian and “living the normal life of a homosexual (i.e. regularly engaging in homosexual sin)” is just as problematic as a Christian who is constantly lying, constantly cheating on their spouse, constantly stealing or constantly doing any other sin... That is not to say they will lose their salvation, but the ramifications of their behavior WILL cause problems in their life, both naturally and spiritually (one of them being constantly separating us from real intimacy with God). Since Jesus calls us to holiness, continual, intentional sin of any kind is not OK, and can have serious consequences in our heart (including, I believe, that it could, not necessarily will, but could eventually hardening our hearts so that we just might abandon our faith). On the other hand, homosexual sin is no more or less wrong than any other sexual sin. All are wrong, and all have serious spiritual and natural consequences. 

Jesus calling us to a life of salvation in Him is a call to moral cleanliness, and the moral part is NOT optional. Responding to Jesus’ Lordship (meaning not just acknowledging He's real and brings salvation, but that He is Lord) includes repentance of sin, all sin, including any and all sexual sin. Repentance means “to feel genuine remorse, and to turn away from." However, the really neat part is that merely refraining from sin is NOT at all what makes us holy. Faith in Jesus alone makes us holy, and that holiness from Jesus then empowers us to resist temptation, and make moral decisions. 

In other words, real faith in Jesus cleanses our hearts, and makes us actually ABLE to resist temptation and lead genuinely moral lives. Praise the Lord it actually has little to nothing to do with us!

Feb 9, 2012

Life Recently...

I have started attending a new small group.. although "new" is sort of a misnomer since I have not attended a small group of any kind in almost two years. It was a really bizarre series of events that brought me to this small group, but events that I am very happy about and more than slightly amused by... The group consists of a great blend of guys and girls, which as much as I love my girlfriends, I literally have no guy friends here in DC (I even have very few guys at work!), and I greatly appreciate the chance to add some more Y chromosomes to my life regardless of the capacity to which they will be in my life.

Anyway, the small group is focusing on the book The Circle Maker by our pastor Mark Batterson. If you have not read or heard of this book, I highly recommend it... especially if you are struggling with prayer in any capacity or struggling with feeling stuck and like maybe God is not hearing you... This book does an absolutely wonderful job encouraging, building up, and inspiring you to want to become better at praying.. I never once had the feeling of "another thing to do or another thing I am failing at..." instead, as I read the book (the first time), I really felt inspired to make a much more concerted effort to pray and pray well. So, obviously this group will be doing a lot of reading, a lot of discussing, and a whole lot of praying... which I am really excited about.

It is things like this, people that I meet, and books that I read that keep my life interesting... It is challenges like the 21 days of prayer (which our small group will be doing another one soon), and the teaching of my pastors that really inspire me towards the next goal, the next challenge, and the next step in not only my faith, but also towards the me I was designed for.. I pray often as I lay in bed that I will be more who God wants me to be tomorrow than I was today... It is moments, things, and people like these that inspire and help exactly that to happen. I am constantly amazed at how God orchestrates things in my life that I was completely clueless of the purpose until I am smack dab in the middle... or completely on the other side feeling slightly dazed and confused because of the whirlwind of it all.

On a completely different note, my schedule is representing something that is ridiculously packed and busy once again. What is funny though is that I feel almost like I have returned home with this schedule... I am not entirely sure how or why a completely booked schedule feels familiar, especially when nothing in it is familiar or at all resembling what I used to fill my time with, but there is still something innately comforting in the controlled chaos. I love having to schedule time for people, I love adding to my calendar "Call (or skype) with ____" just so I know to reserve their time and make room for the ones that I love and cherish. I enjoy putting the time on my calendar that is dedicated to exercising. I enjoy marking the times I will be at church, and then fitting school work, food, sleeping, and any errands in between all the things that I value highly.

I love having a busy and packed schedule not because it keeps me busy... but because it causes me to siphon out the things that do not matter to me, like watching TV or going shopping for yet another piece of clothing that I likely do not need at all... or to lazily kill way too much time on facebook. It forces me into a much more defined and productive lifestyle.. The useless and unimportant things are set aside until they require enough time together to be worth putting the info into my calendar as a to-do item. Somehow the ridiculousness that is my packed schedule brings a familiar cadence to my life... which is ironic since any given day includes work, gym time, phone calls with various people catching up on life, homework, laundry, cooking, cleaning, errands, reviewing other people's business plans/resumes/cover letters/marketing materials etc.., and my slowly progressing business.

I enjoy being productive.. but I enjoy even more using my controlled chaos as a means to get rid or reduce the unnecessary things that clutter my life and focusing on the people and things that truly matter.

Feb 8, 2012

On the Cusp...

Today is brought to you by the word...

point, apex: as  
a : a point of transition (as from one historical period to the next): turning point; also : edge, verge cusp of stardom>  
b : either horn of a crescent moon  
c : a fixed point on a mathematical curve at which a point tracing the curve would exactly reverse its direction of motion  
d : an ornamental pointed projection formed by or arising from the intersection of two arcs or foils e (1) : a point on the grinding surface of a tooth (2) : a fold or flap of a cardiac valve 
cus·pate adjective
cusped adjective
I feel like this word is important in my life right now... I have no idea why, but this word means something.. or will mean something. It describes exactly what I feel like is going on in my life

I feel as though I am running full steam ahead and about to jump off the cliff; I have yet to make the edge of the cliff, I cannot yet see what is below.. I am currently just before the edge.. just before the jump.. and just before the sailing through the air.

I am on the cusp.

Feb 6, 2012

Are you Born Again?...

It was a simple conversation followed by a couple knowing smiles, and my heart just swelled.

One of my co-workers walks past my desk usually a couple times a day on their way to and from the kitchen for coffee or tea. Thanks to my strategically placed cubical, I see virtually everyone who comes onto my floor, and I do not mind in the slightest saying hi, good morning, have a great day or just smiling at everyone who walks by. It is not a big interruption to my day, and often times it provides enough of a break from what I am focusing on to help me re-focus for another little while.

Anyway, this particular co-worker is always pleasant (like virtually all of them are) with a very genuine smile. Today was similar to the other days, except, just as they were about to reach the door to walk back down the stairs, they turned around and paused, then made their way back to my desk saying, "I have a question for you, which you do not have to answer if you are not comfortable..." I had no idea what was coming, and knowing the totally random range of things I get asked on a daily basis, I just laughed and responded with, "Okay."

"Are you born again?"

I smiled, and just responded with a simple, "Yes I am."

I got the sweetest knowing smile in response, then a satisfactory nod, and an "I thought so."

That is when I laughed and asked what made them wonder that, and I got the biggest compliment I can recall in the last few months:

"I just thought so."

With a satisfied smile, they turned and began walking away, at which point I called after them, "Are you?" They paused in the doorway, turned around, smiled again and said, "Yes." and were gone through the door back to work.

I sat in silence for a few moments and just smiled, it was one of the most profoundly impacting conversations, yet entirely simple, "Are you born again?" It was clear, it was direct, it was void of non-nonchalance, and it avoided the common "are you a Christian?".. it was deeper, it was specific, and it was more meaningful.

But, what impacted me the most was the knowing smile and the satisfactory look afterwards, almost as though they were glad to know they were correct in what they saw. As if something struck them as distinctly different, and they were glad to know that they had guess exactly right. For this, I am so thankful.

I am amazed at how my sweet savior works, and I am completely humbled that someone who passes by my desk a couple times a day and has fairly limited conversation with me knew exactly what they were seeing.

"Are you born again?"

Feb 3, 2012

Komen and Planned Parenthood...

Before you read this, I realize I will likely start a firestorm with this post, and for the record, I am not looking for a fight, and I am not looking to be persuaded... I understand the issue.

I am amazed at the latest firestorm over the Susan G. Komen pulling funding from Planned Parenthood (and then subsequently re-funding them). On one hand I understand people revolting due to the great things they do for women who are unable to afford breast cancer services... I completely understand that fighting to find a cure for breast cancer is a big deal, I have several women in my life who have fought this fight and won, I know a few who have lost.. and I understand firsthand the fear and worry of finding out you need additional testing just to make sure the routine test that found something abnormal is nothing to be concerned about.

So, I get it...

What I do not get is, how no one is paying attention to the other side...

Planned Parenthood was founded in "1916 by eugenics advocate Margaret Higgins Sanger. She saw birth control as the key to limiting the numbers of people she considered inferior. Sanger wanted to protect the rights and power of those she believed to be of an elite superior breed as they would be needed to rule over 'the hordes of irresponsibility and imbecility.'"

So, regardless of how it is touted today, the start of this company was not to be this great grand gesture for women or a beacon of hope... it was to rule over the hordes of irresponsible and imbecilic women who reproduce inferior children... Aka... She sounds like a Nazi.

And, while "only 3% of their funding goes towards abortion" .. it also commits more abortions than any other single entity in the United States... So, what does that look like? (at least) 329,445 babies in 2010.

"Planned Parenthood admits to “surgically” killing 329,445 preborn human beings in 2010 alone (down less than one percent from 2009 -- the first time in 16 years that the number dropped; up nearly 1.7 percent from 2008), generating an estimated $135 million. Only 841 customers were referred to adoption agencies (down 13.9 percent from 2009; down a whopping 65 percent from 2008)... In 2010 Planned Parenthood sold 1,461,816 “emergency” birth control kits." (found here)

That is a cute number.. Three hundred and twenty nine thousand, four hundred and forty five precious, beautiful babies were killed, and possibly one million, four hundred and sixty one thousand, eight hundred and sixteen more were killed. When was the last time we saw a war with the casualty number that high? The American people would REVOLT if Obama sent us into a war that killed that many of our people.

So, here is my question.. why are we not asking Planned Parenthood to stop abortions, but continue their other work?.. Why is that not even a part of the discussion?

Why are we ok with 3% (329,445)?

I do not understand, and it completely breaks my heart that we are accepting an "ends justifies the means" mentality... Which means, in this case, we are willing to accept the death of babies in order to fund the survival of women.

To me, this is a no-win situation and it breaks my heart. I understand that this is a HIGHLY emotional situation for everyone involved, whether you are on the side of focusing exclusively on the benefits they offer women struggling with breast cancer or if you are on the side fighting against killing small children... Regardless this is an emotional fight, I understand. But, I literally, I hate this fight, I hate that people are willing to stand up for breast cancer but not for killing a baby.

I hate that we feel like we have to choose one or the other.

Breaks. My. Heart.

Feb 2, 2012

Prayer is a Game Changer...

I have been amazed lately at how much prayer is a complete game changer.

My friends are and have always had a significant impact on my life, they provide clarity, perspective, laughter, tears, and stability. The Friends I have at work, friends at home, friends from church, friends from home/school/various places I have lived. Friends change my outlook on life, on my perspective of the world, and even my perspective of God and the things He is doing in my life. But, what I had not been considering or thinking about is how much prayer ties me to them and becomes a force entirely different.

I have been thinking a lot about how involved I feel in the lives of my friends now that I am making a real concerted effort to pray for the things going on in their lives... I mean for a couple years now I have my 3x5 cards that I write prayers on, not every prayer I pray, and usually not menial prayers, but regardless I have definitely seen God's faithfulness come through because of the documentation of my prayers. However, lately I have been really working at praying through situations that impact my heart or the situations I spend a lot of time thinking about. Some of the things I find myself praying for, my friends have asked me to pray about, some have just updated me on their perspectives or the situation they are facing, and still other situations I am praying because it has been laid pretty heavily on my heart.

I never really considered before the idea of how much of a game changer increasing due to the amount of time I spend before the Lord on behalf of my friends. I mean, it makes TOTAL sense... But, I have never really experienced it in this way, this strongly or this viscerally. I am finding that I have key triggers reminding me to pray all the time now.. when I lay down to sleep, when I drive to work in the morning, (depending on the day) when I drive home at night... when friend's text message me.. when I get e-mails.. And now I have begun praying while I run... (although there are definitely days I struggle for focus)... One thing has become clear, I feel closer to them, close to God, and much more at peace the more I am praying for my friends (and family too).

I had never thought about the feelings associated with someone else's situation, and the level of involvement I feel purely because I am praying for it... Not meaning drama or assuming someone else's troubles (I do that if I do not pray for them/the situation). The amount of joy I feel when something happens in the life of a friend that I had been praying for is ridiculous.. the level of sorrow I feel when the situation does not turn out how we had prayed for, and yet how much my faith, my understanding, my hope, and my confidence that the Lord will be glorified in the end is solidified more than I have ever experienced before... It really is awesome, and exciting.. and very perplexing to experience...

This week has been a rough week at work.. for lots of reasons, but last night I laid in bed and just began asking God to solve the problems, restore what has been broken, and that enough is enough, the devil has had plenty of time to play in the halls of my building... So, this morning, I woke up early, went into work about half an hour earlier than I typically do, and walked the halls praying... What is interesting is that my building's halls are a circle... every floor is set up in a circle. So, I started in the basement, walked around each floor touching the walls as I walked and praying for God to come, to invade, to bring His peace, and to restore what should rightfully be His. A couple times I stopped and said hello and touched base with a few co-workers, and then continued on my way... five floors and about 30 minutes later, I felt better, I felt like hope was restored, and that even though I felt silly initially as I made my way down to the basement to begin my prayer circles, I also knew I needed to be faithful, that I would laugh if anyone asked what I was doing, but I would tell them... Because, I believe that my God is exactly who He says He is, and I believe He will come.

Prayer is a game changer... I am just now beginning to realize how much I do not truly comprehend this concept. I mean I should, I have after all experienced God's presence and impact in my life for 27 years now, but at the same time I am really excited that I do not get it... because that means there is more to get, and I will not get bored haha! And, it is pretty intense and exciting because of the possibilities that are presented because of this fact!