Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Power of Prayer (or why, God?)


Wow... anyone who is friends with me on facebook knows what kind of night I had last night. Terrifying. For everyone else, I will catch you up a bit... but this post isn't going to be all about the storm that hit us last night. A line of huge tornadoes hit Georgia last night. Record breaking in fact... there are areas that are devastated all across the southern states.  If you watched the news at all, you probably already know this.

Here is a  re cap of my evening and what God  showed me during it.  I was watching a movie and keeping an eye on facebook on my ipod.  I noticed a few people talking about the storms that were coming, so I turned off my movie and turned the news on.  This was at almost 10 pm.  The storms were starting to come in and I had heard some thunder rumbling though about this time. No big deal. I love thunder storms here in the south, it is so different from what I grew up with in California.  The weather guy was talking about how big these storms were and the damage they had already left behind in Alabama.  I was starting to get a bit nervous, and in my head started praying Psalm 91 (at least the parts I can remember).  Around 10:30 the storms were getting bigger and I realized they were coming right for us. I grabbed my bible and started walking through my house reading Psalm 91 out loud. Asking God for protection and to send His angels around us (really I was pleading!).  About 11:15pm our town was put on a list of tornado warnings, which means that conditions are favorable for a tornado to pop up and you are to take immediate shelter (either in a basement or interior closet). I had to run upstairs and wake my boys up and move us all to the basement, which once again I was thanking God that we bought a house with a basement! During this time of getting the boys downstairs I was crying out to God again to send His angels, He interrupted me and said, "Don't worry, they are already there, you will be fine!"

Okay, so God just told me I was going to be fine... You would think that should be enough to calm me, and it was for a bit. I got the boys settled into the basement and read Psalm 91 to them as they fell back to sleep. I stayed down there until I knew that the tornado warning had passed and then go back up to the living room to watch more weather news.  Maybe I shouldn't have turned the tv back on at this point and just went to bed... but I didn't. I sat on the couch and tried not to let the fear take over me.  BUT, then the weather man was saying how amazing it was that the huge storm kinda broke apart as it was entering Fayette County (where I live)... How cool is that!  I sat there thanking God... so, you think I would be okay, right? Here God told me I was going to be okay... He showed me on the tv how the storm moved around us and yet within 10 - 15 minutes I was in a panic.

I was sitting on the couch watching our back yard light up so often it looked like daytime, the thunder was shaking the house, the wind was blowing and rain was coming down in sheets AND our towns sirens were going off. It felt like a war zone. Then I saw lightning hit a tree outside and it burst into sparks and yes, I started crying... totally giving into my fear.  I was praying as well... which made me realize something else. Fear used to paralyze me. I would give into it and satan would win.  I would find myself in a place where I couldn't even pray. But, that doesn't seem to happen anymore... now I find myself praying more then ever. Kinda cool when you realize you have grown in areas without really realizing it!

So, here I am sitting on my couch crying and praying and still watching the news when I realize a huge tornado cell is headed right to some friends area. My first instinct was to get up and call them (this was 12:10 am, I remember looking at the clock as I was thinking of calling),  as I was getting up, God told me, "no, you need to sit down and pray."  What? Really? So, I did... and sat there and prayed and prayed and prayed.  What I found out the next morning is another friend of ours was at that same time calling them already.  There house was hit and it is an amazing story of God's protection. Their house is gone, but they all walked away from it okay.

So, here is what I am struggling with tonight. I was praying for protection and God did protect us. I know my friend was awake and walking around her house as well, and knowing her I am sure she was praying as well. Why was my house protected and her's wasn't? I know her family was protected, but they still lost just about everything. It is things like this that I have trouble wrapping my brain around. And why, if God told me I was going to be safe did I still give into my panic? Where was my faith? So frustrating.

We drove out to our friends house tonight to see the damage. It gave me a good opportunity to talk to the boys about stuff just being stuff... and how we shouldn't put our value in our stuff. It can all be gone in a matter of minutes. We talked about how to store up our treasure in Heaven, and what that can look like.  Here is an example Ty came up with... we should do everything we can to help this family in love.  That touched me.  I so want to live with open hands, to let the things that God blesses me with slip though my fingers and be a blessing to others.  I am so far from where I want to be in this area.  But, I guess I am still a work in progress!

God is so good, all the time.  In a matter of hours He showed me His power,  and the power that He has given us through prayer. He also showed me how far I have come in areas, and other areas maybe I still need to work on. Such a process... but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Psalm 91 (New Living Translation)

 1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
      will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 2 This I declare about the Lord:
   He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
      he is my God, and I trust him.
 3 For he will rescue you from every trap
      and protect you from deadly disease.
 4 He will cover you with his feathers.
      He will shelter you with his wings.
      His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
 5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
      nor the arrow that flies in the day.
 6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
      nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
 7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
      though ten thousand are dying around you,
      these evils will not touch you.
 8 Just open your eyes,
      and see how the wicked are punished.
 9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
      if you make the Most High your shelter,
 10 no evil will conquer you;
      no plague will come near your home.
 11 For he will order his angels
      to protect you wherever you go.
 12 They will hold you up with their hands
      so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
 13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
      you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
 14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
      I will protect those who trust in my name.
 15 When they call on me, I will answer;
      I will be with them in trouble.
      I will rescue and honor them.
 16 I will reward them with a long life
      and give them my salvation.”

By the way, I forgot to mention that Jon is out of the country right now...

Monday, April 18, 2011

To celebrate or not to celebrate...


Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

This is something I have dealt with for at least 12 years now. I am sure it started when Ty was born. When Jon and I had to decide which holidays were "evil" and what was acceptable for a true follower of Christ.  Every holiday that comes around I see different people's comments and blog posts about this very subject, giving their opinion. I agree with some, totally disagree with others... some I see their point, but does it have to be that way for everyone?

Almost all of our holidays have pagan roots. Christmas, Easter, Weddings, Halloween,  even Mother's Day. So, should we boycott all of them? Maybe. But I think we need to make up our minds. I don't feel like we get to pick and choose what we "celebrate."  I will just list some of what I have found about just the holidays I have mentioned above.

Christmas:

Consider these quotes from the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, under “Christmas”: “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church… The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” Further, “Pagan customs centering round the January calends gravitated to Christmas.” Under “Natal Day,” Origin, an early Catholic writer, admitted, “…In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world"

The Encyclopedia Americana, 1956 edition, adds, “Christmas…was not observed in the first centuries of the Christian church, since the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth… a feast was established in memory of this event [Christ’s birth] in the 4th century. In the 5th century the Western church ordered the feast to be celebrated on the day of the Mithraic rites of the birth of the sun and at the close of the Saturnalia, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”

It was 300 years after Christ before the Roman church kept Christmas, and not until the fifth century that it was mandated to be kept throughout the empire as an official festival honoring "Christ."

The Christmas tree, holly, mistletoe, and yule log all precede Christ's birth. So, they are pagan.  And yet, I still decorate my house with them every year.  Santa is a whole other can of worms. Personally Jon and I decided not to let our kids think Santa is real, but again I believe that was a personal decision and I don't argue with people who do play "Santa," or say "Happy Holidays," or "Merry Xmas" (Jon has no problem with "Xmas," since instead of seeing it as - as some people say - x-ing out Christ, he says that X is a proper abbreviation for Christ), or even sing Christmas hymns that are very un-Biblical... the idea of gift-giving we justify with, "Well, the wise men brought baby Jesus gifts." Although we forget that these weren't "birthday gifts."  Actually if you look up the origins of birthday traditions you might be quite shocked as well!

Easter:

Ahh... the holiday that is upon us now.  Do we celebrate it or not? My kids dye eggs every year and get an Easter basket (usually complete with chocolate bunny). We actually haven't done an egg hunt for the past few years... not really any reason for this, just haven't!  My kids know the meaning of this holiday. They know the importance of the resurrection. That it is what gives us our hope in the Lord. But once again I feel like Christians have just taken over a pagan ritual that proceeded Christ and tried to make it our own. Does anywhere in the Bible God even ask us to remember the resurrection? Of course the death of Christ and His resurrection go together, but from what I understand we are asked to remember the price that was paid by His death for our sins. Should we call it Easter? Does it matter? Even our days of the week are pagan words and we use them with no problem. Where do we draw the line?

Weddings:

Did you know our "traditional wedding" is full of pagan rituals? Everything from all the bridesmaids and groomsmen being there to confuse the evil spirits, to the superstitions of "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue"... I even had a penny in my shoe! Was I sinning? Maybe... although I had no idea of and didn't even consider the origin of it at the time...

The white wedding dress does symbolize purity, but it also was thought that white would ward off evil spirits. Tossing of the bouquet and garter symbolize passing along your good fortune, and throwing rice would symbolize lots of kids and a full pantry! All superstitions. Yet most Christian girls wouldn't dream of giving up their white wedding! I know I wouldn't have wanted too!

Halloween:

I know this is a favorite to boycott. Everyone knows the "evils" of Halloween. Yet, my kids get dressed up every year (our rule is nothing "scary" or "demonic") and go out to ask for candy. Early on when our kids where still too small to really trick-or-treat, I struggled with this one. And the Lord reminded me, "This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).  I don't decorate my house for this one, but we do have fun.

Mother's Day:

I was a bit surprised by this one. I thought that Hallmark and the flower business made this one up, but it does go back to the ancient Greek ritual of worshiping the mother god.  Mother's Day is celebrated all over the world with different countries giving it different meanings and also during different times of the year.

So, where am I going with this? Not really sure... just once again I wanted to get my thoughts out there. Maybe as Christians we need to be more concerned with being known for loving others, serving others, and bringing hope and healing to a lost world, instead of arguing over what a day should be called or how we celebrate it.  Why is it Christians are always in the news as people who disagree with everything?  Maybe we need more grace and more love.

 "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive.
 1 Corinthians 10:23