Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oh Boy!

I wonder if the Arkansas Highway Department needs my assistance?

No More Boring Conferences!


The very word sounds boring.
"I went to a conference" (yawn)

"Let's go to a conference soon" (ZZzzzzzz)
Sometimes we can just know when a conference is going to be waste.
I can often tell by the name of the conference, whether it is something I want to go to.

Maybe the speaker looks dull or maybe even the topic sounds like a snoozer.

There are certain groups/organizations who are intent on keeping their conferences dull. Maybe that's not on their planning agenda,..but it happens anyway. Time after time after time.

The next year, they get the same old planning committee together to talk about why no one attended.

Then they plan another dull one.

Don't go.
Just don't go.

Go instead with the teenagers in your church to their conferences.
They are ALWAYS needing volunteers and "frins,...let me tell ya sompthin",...I promise,..you will not fall asleep at a youth conference!

Below are some photos I took at the recent LiveLove Conference in Memphis. It is hosted by StudentLife. I tried for days to upload the video I recorded but I don't have the "tech-y" gene. It's only given to a few people over 40 and I am not one.

Part of why I love going to these gatherings with the teenagers is that I am reminded that there are still so many young people who are willing to serve the Most High God. I assure you,..that when they are in charge of creating church culture,...their generation of the church will not resemble ours. How exciting!

Sometimes those teens are a real mess. They don't act right all the time. They are spiritually immature and often seem to love the culture more than they love God.

How'about that?
They are just like us adults.

Abby and Dillon.

There were computers in the hallways of Bellvue Baptist Church.

Imagine that.

IHOP at night.

(note the difference between the two adults in the front of the picture and the teens)

A homeless man followed Levi in.

The manager kicked the guy out and then tried to order Levi out as well.

(Poor Levi. He was lookin all homeless, I guess)

The bus ride home got long.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cheers for Amanda

A blogger friend (Amy, A Redeemed Sheep) sent me to a blog that I thought I'd add to my list. It tells the story of Amanda, who has about a hundred qualities I adore, some of which are:
A heart for God
Positive out look on life.....

Amanda also has osteosarcoma.

She's been dealing with this since the Fall of 2006, and is in a fight for her life.

Almost everyone I know that visits this blog is a real honest-to-goodness prayer warrior. How about y'all keeping track of her too so we can cover Amanda, her parents, her brothers and sisters and the rest of her family and friends in prayers!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Slaves and Brothers

A long long time ago,. there was this rich man who was a strong Christian. He owned several slaves, which sounds terrible to us, but was a completely acceptable practice in this time period and in his culture. Since he was a Godly man, his slaves were treated as if they were part of the family.
They were still, however, slaves.

One of this man's most trusted slaves yearned for freedom.
This man valued his freedom more than his life so he began to plan an escape to another country. To finance the getaway, he stole something very valuable from his master and fled with haste to a nearby country.
He chose this country because there were people there who had shown him love in the past.
Back home, the Godly slave owner was furious about the stolen property but also hurt because of his slave's abandonment.

In the new country, the slave met up with his friends from the past who gave him food, shelter and then taught him the way of salvation.
The slave became a new follower of Christ.

The slave's name was Onesimus.
The friend who led him to Christ was the Apostle Paul.
The slave owner was Philemon.

This book of the Bible is on my study list list this month and I have enjoyed reading Philemon as a human story.

Paul interceded for the slave, asking Philemon to take Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a brother. Paul wrote his friend back in Colossus,..."Dear Philemon,...Love this man and forgive him everything. I will repay for anything Onesimus owes you".

The short book stops without describing the details of the reunion between Onesimus and Philemon. But we really don't need them because we have the idea.

We are reminded that Jesus interceded for us in the same way that Paul did for Onesimus.
He paid our debt in full.
We are also reminded that even though we meet others daily who are different in our professions, finances and appearances. we are all in two classifications:
We are either slaves,..or freed slaves.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Francis Chan, BB Guns and Balloons

My new, most favorite preacher/teacher in the world is Frances Chan. I was able to spend several hours under his teaching this weekend and he told a story which moved me.

He spoke about a "fantastic illustration" at his church during one of his sermons. He then paused and said,.."well,..maybe it wasn't a good one. In fact, it was a really bad illustration and I would never do it again. I got into a lot of trouble for doing it. But it made the point really well!"

Frances taped a balloon onto one of the curtains on the side of the front stage of the church auditorium. He then brought out a BB gun and asked all of his church members to raise their hands if they thought he could pop the balloon from the other side of the stage.
He said about 75% of the congregation raised their hands.

He then asked if they really thought he was that skillful with the BB gun, would they be willing to come onto the stage and hold the balloon at their side while he aimed the gun and shot the balloon.
About 100 people raised their hands.

He then went one step further. He asked those that raised their hands if they would volunteer to come onto the stage, stand sideways with the balloon in their teeth while he aimed the gun and shot the balloon.
3 people raised their hands.

He invited one of the 3 onto the stage and had him sign a legal waiver that he would not sue if anything bad happened. Francis then placed the balloon between the volunteers teeth and wondered when the guy would back out.
Francis said that he had no intention of shooting the BB gun, but was prepared to take the illustration to the last possible moment before letting the brave guy remove the balloon and go back to his seat.

But as he drew out the moment,..he looked down the barrel of the BB gun and thought to himself. "I think I can do this."

The crowd was silent.
They were obviously nervous.

He decided to shoot.

The balloon popped and much to his surprise, his congregation was not impressed. Instead of applause and cheers, there were gasps and audible anger.
They were completely unimpressed with his skill, but were horrified at the risk he took.
He said that after the service, every leader and lawyer in his congregation rushed the stage to fuss at him. His lesson could have put the church in legal jeopardy.

Francis agreed.
His impulsive ending to the illustration could have gone terribly wrong.

The point of it all however, was this:
Lots of people in the room thought Francis could pop the balloon, but few were willing to trust him enough to hold it in their teeth.

Christians all over the world say that they love Jesus, would follow Him anywhere and trust Him with everything.
But I wonder,...how willing am I to go the distance with ALL that God has for me to do?

I raise my hand in church and say "Yes!",..but if God said "Right now Becky. Do it. Forsake it all and follow me"...would I?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Still Learning And Loving

I've learned some things this past month or so:
Important things like,....
When I try to improve my posture on an escalator, I fall backwards
I can park my car on top of my weenie dog and she will live through it.
watching a friend fall in love is just pert near the most rewarding and exciting thing I could be a witness to.

This month I have been concentrating on Love. Appropriately so,..Valentine's day,...romance,..etc.
I am one of the most blessed of all women to share Ralph E. Russell's name.

But I've been taking a different look at love.
From my perspective towards God.

Kind of like this:
I don't want my daughters and husband to simply act like they love me. I would be able to quickly tell the difference between their sincerity or their pretense.
I don't want them to feel guilty and fearful of my response or opinion.
I never want them to spend time with me because they are "supposed to".
How horrible for me.
And them.

I often wonder if I've lived my relationship with God like that?
I have a desire to love Him because of who He is, not what he can do for me.
I want to please Him out of a fervent love rather than guilt.

He is a mind reader.
He knows when I pray for things,.. forgiveness,... blessings,.... requests,.... concerns,.... He knows my motives and my sincerity.
I don't know about you,..but that's a scary thought for me.

I deeply love God.
Most days I feel it strongly,..but some days I feel distant.
Who's fault is that?
(There I go,..feeling guilty.)

Here's my very own "Love Dare" between me and the King of Kings. I dared myself :)
I have asked God over and over during the past few days to deepen my love for Him.
I am begging Him several times during each day to give me ways to demonstrate my love.

The scripture is full from cover to cover with stories and and demonstrations of what Love looks like. His word is clear:
Love is what He desires from us.
Yet,..we,....I,... still find that my actions are often automatic, bland and lacking compassion.

A life lived 24/7 for Him with pure love, abandon and devotion would be an unstoppable force.
I wanna be like that!
Lord, fill me up with love for You and others!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

T-Mobile Dancers

I'm not necessarily a T-Mobile fan,..but I'm loving their method of advertisement!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Graveyards At Night

My friend Beth asked me from a recent post "What makes you go to the cemetery at night?
You are a good friend to me Beth and have sought to understand me from the beginning of my grief walk.

It's a question that several people have asked me during the last 5 years so can I assume that others may want to know as well?

Maybe so.
Maybe not.

As most people know, mention a graveyard around a group of people where one person has experienced loss and you will immediately have a new insight on the phrase "conversation stopper".
Everybody squirms.
Most people will never discuss or bring the subject up.

Here's my thoughts on Jae's burial place.

They may not be very understandable.
Some may think them macabre.
Some may think "scandalous!"
Many will see me as not coping well in this area.

However,..the very definition of "cope" means to contend with difficulties.

I think I am contending just fine.

I count my hours spent at the cemetery as some of the most sacred times of my life. Sitting besides the earthly body of the oldest daughter whom I still love so deeply, but am unable to see or hold is agonizing.
Yet,.... a thousand horses will not keep me away.
Today, almost 5 years after her death,...it is there that I feel closest to her.

I can sit right up next to her beautiful black headstone and know that I am mere inches away from her beautiful blond hair.

I can stretch out beside the grave and recall the times we lay in a similar fashion on our beds, the beach or in the grass of our front yard.

I can sit on the bench at her feet and feel as if I am looking almost directly into her sweet little face.

Some people "talk" to their loved one in the grave, but I never do.
The conversations I have there are with God, not Jae.

As I lay on my blanket there beside her grave and look into the starry sky, I make an attempt to connect the two realms,...Heaven where she is and Earth,..where she is no more.
Those are both big subjects to ponder, and they have stretched my brain and heart beyond what I thought I could do.
The things I've learned in my cemetery pondering moments are things that can not be found in books.

I can't tell how many times I have stood beside the grave and looked up into Heaven and pointed down to her grave asking God "Do you see this catastrophe? Are you looking at this?"

Knowing that He does,..fills me with confusion and yet,...gives me comfort.

I often approach her grave and sink with despair onto the very piece of ground which covers and holds one of the most "alive" person I have ever known. Then other times, I quickly drop by to "check on things" and leave filled with peace and gratitude that she was mine for 16 years.
I marvel that it's possible to feel that way.

I hate it is in the middle of town. Surrounded by storage units, a dry cleaner and auto parts store. Then other times, I love that she is in the middle of town. People go by often to be near her.

I sit beside her grave and gaze at the thousand other graves which hold people who are no longer missed or mourned. For that reason, I get encouraged when people go by her grave and leave her mementos. It makes me know that she is not forgotten.

Rainy, icy cold weather causes my stomach to knot up. I hate that she is out there in it.

I'm a patient girl. But I just may get a little bit snippy with anyone who tries to tell me that "she's not there. She is in Heaven."

No one knows that as well as I do.

But few people say that to me.
I am blessed with friends who allow me, encourage me and would go there with me to the grave if I asked them to.

I think that giving attention to Jae's grave is scriptural. "Burial places" are mentioned throughout the Bible. Many of my favorite Bible character stories end with the phrase,
"....and then he/she died and was buried."
God could have said that they just "died".

Someday Jae, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, her friend Lauren who is just a few feet away and others will come out of their graves. I believe they will literally "come out" of that grave which I love/hate.
John 5:28 says:
The time is coming when everyone who is dead and buried will hear His voice and walk out into a resurrected Life.
I have trouble comprehending and understanding that,..but I try to imagine it anyway.

It is my hope.
It is my hope.