Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Where have I been?

Where have I been, you might ask?

Looking for houses. With no luck.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Martin Sexton

This weekend Andy and I were able to squeeze in a concert of one of my favorite musicians, Martin Sexton. We actually first found Martin Sexton a couple of years ago by accident when he opened for Nickel Creek in Austin at Stubbs. At that point, we had no idea who he was and were floored by his performance. He has such a great energy on stage, and we enjoyed him much more than Nickel Creek. So when I saw that he was going to be playing in Dallas at the House of Blues on the very same weekend that we were going to be in the Dallas area, we immediately bought tickets.

I have to say, I honestly enjoyed his last performance better than this one. I think the songs on his album "Live Wide Open" are better than the songs on his newest album "Seeds". With that being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed this concert. We were front and center - literally. So close that he told me "bless you" when I sneezed. I decided after this concert that I appreciate different artists for different reasons. Martin Sexton's songs aren't necessarily lyrically deep, but the things I love about him are that he is so very unique in his style, and he is extremely passionate. He does the most incredible things with his voice and is able to sound like a full band by himself. On top of that, he really has an incredible and unusual ability to get the crowd involved. My favorite was when he performed the song "Gypsy Woman"!

If you get the chance, you should definitely see him perform! He's certainly much better live than on CD, but if you're interested, "Live Wide Open" is definitely my favorite of his albums. The pictures above and some I snapped from the front row!

By the way... Andy owns the same shirt Martin Sexton was wearing. Random.

Monday, April 21, 2008

God's Faithfulness (Wedding Thoughts)

This weekend Andy and I headed to Ft. Worth for the wedding of his cousin. This was a special wedding because his cousin is 35 years old and has never been married before, so everyone was particularly excited for her. Her groom is 40 years old and has never been married before either. In their wedding program they wrote a note that I found really beautiful:

"As the years come and go with unfulfilled dreams, we tend to wonder if God has forgotten, or if He really has our best interest in mind... But, as we are witnessing today, God has not forgotten, and brings His best for us in His own good time..."

I'm in the middle of a really frustrating and discouraging situation right now (as I'm sure many of you are), which I have prayed and prayed and prayed about for months. It seems like there is no end in sight. It was really nice to be reminded of God's faithfulness to His people. Our prayers never rise to deaf ears. He is listening and is working ALL things together for our good. I am so quick to forget this. What a sweet reminder!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

10 years ago today my dad died.

10 years ago today my dad died. A whole decade. That sounds like a long time. When I think back about how it all happens, I'm still astounded by the whole thing. If you're interested, here's my story:

My freshman year of high school was a great year for me spiritually. My parents had put me in a private Christian school, which I loved, and I had come to the school year from some wonderful summer camps that had really challenged me to dig in and seek the Lord. The second semester this year, I remember I had a Bible teacher named Mr. Smith that had everyone in the class keep a prayer journal. It was split up into sections: prayer for family, the government, myself, my friends, etc., along with a section for me to journal what I was reading in the Bible. During this same time I decided that I wanted to learn to play guitar. So, I bought a little guitar, and began to teach myself how to play, mostly by playing old worship songs. I began to spend long amounts of time in the evenings doing my prayer journal and playing worship songs, and was really growing and seeking the Lord. I distinctly remember an old worship song that had a line that said "Though my world may fall I will never let You go." And, I was pondering this… I had never had anything major happen in my life. I didn't know if I would cling to the Lord, even if my world fell apart, but I knew I wanted to cling to Him.

Also, during this same time I had a friend named Emily. Emily had the most bizarre thing - she had dreams that would later come true. She had had this happen all her life, and we were talking about it. I want to have a dream that comes true, I told Emily.

My freshman year of high school was my also my sister's senior year of high school. Seeing that my dad was a good OU graduate, he convinced my sister, who had her heart set on attending Texas A&M, to just submit an application to OU for his sake. So, she did. And the weekend before Easter in 1998, we loaded up in the family van and took a trip to see the OU campus. When we got there, my dad became instantly excited! Memories began to flood his mind, and like an excited child he drug us all through campus. He showed us the dorm he lived in, the spot in the library where he would study late at night, the Baptist Student Ministry building he went to. We walked all the way to the north end of campus, called the North Oval, and he stopped. Pointing across the street at a building with a yellow awning (the awning is no longer yellow, as you can see in the picture of Campus Corner above), he began to tell us a story. "That's where it happened. That's where I first became a Christian." It was Jesus Week on campus, which happens every year the week before Easter where different campus ministries hold events to honor Jesus. My dad was a freshman at OU, it was towards the end of his freshman year and he was failing all of his classes. He was partying, and partying hard, and was being put on academic probation because he couldn't keep up with his school work for all of his partying. He was nearly an alcoholic at this point. While walking across campus, a stranger stopped him and asked him if he could meet with him to talk. Sure, my dad said. So, they met at this building with the yellow awning on Campus Corner. There, this stranger from Campus Crusade shared with my dad from a tract called the Four Spiritual Laws. He did his presentation of the gospel, and left. There, my dad sat and pondered this story. Struck with the gravity of his sin, my dad prayed "the prayer" (or whatever you want to call it), and was filled with joy! He jumped out of his seat, and began running down Boyd Street in front of campus with tears streaming down his face. He was a new man. And he was changed. From nearly failing out of school, my dad became the salutatorian of his entire engineering class at OU. And everytime he would meet with his academic advisor who had put him on probation after this, the advisor would look at his grades from his freshman year, look at his grades after that, and shake his head. "I don't understand," he'd say. To that, my dad would say, "You see, I changed. I became a Christian and I'm different now. Jesus has changed me." To which the advisor would still shake his head and continue saying, "It just doesn't make sense…"

What an impact this story had on me! First of all, I was struck with the boldness that this stranger had to share Christ with my dad. If it weren't for his boldness, I very well would myself not have become a believer. I was humbled by the means the Lord chose to use to bring my dad to Himself - a tract. I despise tracts! But, the Lord uses them, nonetheless. I came back to school the next week thinking about these things, and about God's absolute goodness to me.

We went to visit the OU campus on a Thursday. We returned home to south Texas late Sunday night. Wednesday night, April 15th, I had dream. I don't remember all the details of this dream. All I remember is in the dream my dad had died. I woke up with such an odd, heavy feeling from this. When I was at school, I naturally told Emily about my dream (we always talked about dreams), "I had a dream last night that my dad died."

That day at lunch my principle pulled me aside with a serious look on his face, "Your dad is having problems and you need to go home right now. There is someone here to pick you up and take you home." So, I packed up my things and got in the car with a family friend who drove me the 30 minute drive home. When I got home, my mom was there and greeted me at the door with a simple, "He's gone."

What an overwhelming feeling for a 15 year old! But to be honest, people ask me what it was like to lose my dad, and I have to say that there was such a peace. Sure, it's hard to lose someone you love, but God had been preparing my heart and was teaching me how to rely on Him, my only true Father. He had allowed me to hear my dad's testimony firsthand just a few days before this. He had prepared me down to giving me a dream the night before. He had been drawing me to Himself and causing my heart to love Him and cling to Him throughout the year. Despite being overwhelmed, I felt the presence of God so strongly that there was almost a calm surrounding the whole event. When I saw my dad's lifeless body for the first time, I dropped to my knees was able to thank Jesus for His goodness, thank Him that He is a High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses, who has been tried and tested in every way and succeeded, and who knows pain much better than I did even at that moment. I was able to ask that He would teach me how to consider this trial as pure joy, and that it would develop steadfastness in me, that I would be mature and complete and lacking in nothing. Looking back now, I don't know if I would be able to handle such a trial today like I did then. God had really prepared me, and taught me so much from the trial. It resulted in some really sweet times with the Lord and an increased awareness of my complete dependence on Him.

Not that this was a walk in the park. I've had times where I've been so overwhelmed with sadness from losing my dad. I was 15 years old, which means my actual "adult" conversations with him were very limited. I was just at the stage where I realized he wasn't just my dad, but he was an actual person. I never got the chance to really get to know him as a friend. There is so much that I missed out on as a result - his counsel, support, encouragement, wisdom, and so much more. I've caught myself questioning the whole thing at times, "Lord, why did you take him? He could have done so much, he wanted to be transferred overseas with his work so he could do missions, he was such a wonderful teacher in the church and could have been used to reach so many people," I've asked God. But, I've come back to the prayer that I would not believe the wicked lie that my dad died "too soon" or "before his time". God ordained his death at this exact time. Scripture says our days were numbered; it was not an accident. Everything God does is wise and good and right - I really believe this, it's not just an abstract theological principle we talk about. My prayer is that through his death that the Lord would use his testimony, even through me, to bring many to His Kingdom!

So ten long years later I'm still pondering all of these things. To me, a decade seems like forever. After all it's almost half of my life. But to my dad, a decade is only a tiny speck on the timeline of eternity being spent in eternal gladness in the presence of God Almighty.

May God would grant us the grace to see His goodness even in the midst of our suffering. And may we be constantly reminded of the beauties of heaven. May He give us a longing every day for the restoration and unimaginable joy that is to come. I pray that as we consider these things that it would give us a desire to share the beauties of Jesus with those who do not have this hope, like the stranger who shared Christ with my dad.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Jesus Storybook Bible

Andy and I for the first time ever officially read a children's Bible together and we thoroughly enjoyed it (no, we are no expecting babies anytime soon). I had been hearing about The Jesus Storybook Bible for quite some time. My pastor has gone through it with his son and he highly recommends it. Since we don't have children, it wasn't exactly at the top of my to-buy-soon list. However, a few weeks ago we stumbled across a huge chunk of store credit at Mardels, and I decided it would be a good opportunity to pick up this book. When I brought it home, I stuck it on our shelf with lots of unread books. A few days later, I happened upon an article on Christianity today called, "A Very Grown-up Children's Bible" and after reading this, I pulled the book off the shelf and asked Andy if he wanted to read it with me. We had a blast reading it! The illustrations are awesome, and we found ourselves laughing at lots of them. Not only that, but there is so much rich theology throughout the book, but in children's language. I find that most children's bibles make heros out of particular Bible characters, but downplays their weaknesses. On the contrary, The Jesus Storybok Bible takes each story and talks about the failures of the Old Testament figures and how Jesus fulfills all the promises and keeps the Law perfectly.

My favorite depiction in the book was the contrast between Adam and Jesus. In Genesis, you see Adam succumb to the temptation of the snake as the snake jeers at him, "Does God really love you? If he does, why won't he let you eat the nice, juicy, delicious fruit? Poor you, perhaps God doesn't want you to be happy", and Adam fails. When Jesus comes and is being tempted in the wilderness by the same snake, you see Him overcome this temptation! "Jesus wasn't like Adam. Jesus was a new kind of man. He would not believe the terrible lie that the enemy spoke. Jesus knew God loved him. And he would trust God. No matter what. It was just as God has promised to Adam and Eve all those years before. Jesus had come to do battle against the snake's work. He would get rid of the sin and the darkness and tear. And he would suffer - but he would win."

So exciting and so true!!! I'm so thankful that Jesus' righteousness counts for me!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lessons learned from working at a bank (or from common sense).

Lesson # 1: If you are trying to cash a stolen check and they tell you the computers are freezing, they are probably calling the cops on you.

Lesson #2: It's probably not a good idea to cash your check from the local prison and a stolen check at the same time.

Lesson #3: Don't steal checks right after you get out of prison. You probably don't want to go straight back to prison.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Early morning garage sale-ing.

I thought this was a fun picture that I needed to share! This is from a week ago when myself, Andy, Anna, Ben, and Beth woke up early enough for breakfast at the Ranch House and for 8am garage sales!

Even More Free Stuff

Andy thinks it's really dorky that I'm posting pictures of stuff I got for free on my blog. It probably is.

I'm getting better! You can see my large stash of free to almost free items I got the last week. After rebates, I'm going to make over $20 on the above items. I did pay 99 cents for the razor, 32 cents for the cereal, and 16 cents each for the organic diced tomatoes, but even when you figure these in plus stamps for the rebates, I'll still make about $15. Pretty cool!

(By the way... The Just for Men was just because I'm making $10 for buying it. If any of you wants this, let me know and you can have it for free :) )

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Should I laugh or get angry?

Christian sub-culture is a strange thing. Maybe even an contradiction in a sense (aren't we supposed to be persecuted?). It's interesting the effects of it. Above are some pictures a friend of mine took at a Christian bookstore. I think every time I go into a Christian bookstore I see things like this, and am flooded with mixed emotions - do I laugh hysterically or puke?

Along the same line of thought, here's a link to an interesting article on Justin Taylor's blog called, "Why Should Conservative Evangelicals Have All the Bad Music?" (reminiscent of the old Larry Norman song, "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music").

Just this week, my good friend Nikki was forced into going to a church where the pastor began to pray for millionaires in his congregation. He said, "I pray for not just one millionaire to be raised up in this church, but for 10 or 12." He proceeded to address all college aged people in attended if they would like to be millionaires some day. Hands shot up everywhere. He then gathered them around himself at the front of the congregation and prayed for all of them to become millionaires some day.

Oh, and he did tag on at the end, "So that you can give so much to the church."


Great Jonathan Edwards Quote

On the Desiring God website, there was a great Jonathan Edwards quote from his book "Religious Affections":

"All gracious affections that are a sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy, are broken hearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble broken hearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires. Their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is a humble broken hearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit; and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior."