Sunday, July 24, 2011

Your Dream Home.

In sixth grade I had a rather eccentric English teacher, who also happened to be my homeroom teacher. 6th grade is a big year for kids in our school district, because that's when you leave the comforting yellow halls of the  elementary and head up to the scary middle school where everything becomes a whole new ballgame. Mrs. D. was a somewhat strict older woman, but she had a sincere soft spot for kids, especially kids entering middle school. She was passionate about English, clipping coupons from the newspapers people would drop off for her, and, the number one thing she loved - entering incessantly for the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes.
Mrs. D. would tell us every morning in homeroom how she had entered yet again, convinced that one day the people would come to her house with the big check congratulating her on winning. She wanted a huge house where she could retire to and garden, clip coupons, and just relax.
What would you do if you had won a contest like Publisher's Clearing House? Receiving that much money would allow you to buy tons of things that you would want, including a new house, or even let you build the house of your dreams. What would you put in that house? I would have a library filled with tons of books that I could read, because yes, I am a total nerd. I'd have a wrap around porch covered in cute porch furniture, complete with a porch swing. I'd have a sheep-themed kitchen, just because I could. My house would be strange to some, but to me, it would be absolutely everything that I could dream of. It would be perfect.
You know, there is a way that we can get the house of our dreams one day. No, don't go rushing off to get a lottery ticket or enter for contests or things like that. Just read this:
"My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." John 14:2-3
In these verses, Jesus is telling us that in Heaven, God has a huge "mansion" of sorts, filled with many rooms. He doesn't list a number, but I'm guessing it would be hard to pinpoint exactly how many there are! Jesus says in the verse prior to this to not let our hearts be troubled. If we believe in God, we also should believe in Jesus. (John 14:1) He's saying that we can trust Him to prepare a room for us in God's house, and when He does, He's going to come back and take us there so we can be with Him. In other places, it says how God has prepared a banquet that we all can enjoy when we're in Heaven with Him.
There's a joke that every Steelers fan loves to tell:
Tom Brady, after living a full life, died. When he got to heaven, God was showing him around. They came to a modest little house with a faded Patriots flag in the window. "This house is yours for eternity, Tom," said God. "This is very special; not everyone gets a house up here." Tom felt special, indeed, and walked up to his house. On his way up the porch, he noticed another house just around the corner. It was a 3-story mansion with a black and gold sidewalk, a 50-foot tall flagpole with an enormous Steelers logo flag, and in every window, a Terrible Towel. Tom looked at God and said, "God, I'm not trying to be ungrateful, but I have a question. I was an all-pro QB, I hold many NFL records, and I even won a few Superbowls." God said, "So what's your point Tom?" "Well, why does Roethlisberger get a better house than me?" God chuckled and said, "Tom, that's not Roethlisberger's house, it's Mine."
Obviously this is just a joke (I'm pretty sure God doesn't have a Steelers themed mansion up in Heaven, but it would be pretty interesting!) but it shows how God will prepare a place for you in Heaven that you would love. Sure, maybe Tom Brady was a bit jealous and convinced that he deserved a bigger house. But really, when we're in Heaven and surrounded by the majesty of God, are we really going to complain about trivial things like that? Someone once told me that once we're in Heaven, all the problems and things of everyday life fade away, because God's glory is all we can focus on. That's pretty sweet! 
It's pretty hard to comprehend how the creator of the universe is up in Heaven right now, preparing a place for me to stay with Him after He calls me home. I can't wait to see what He's done, but even more so, I can't wait to be with Him forever! Forget the swimming pools, or the wrap around porch, or anything else that you would want in your dream home. The best dream home we'll ever get to have is up in Heaven, with the number one aspect of it being Jesus Christ Himself!
Here's your NR challenge for this post. Imagine everything you would ever want in a house on earth - and then compare it to the place God is preparing for you in Heaven, with Him. No matter how fantastic our visions of what we want here on earth are, they'll always be nothing compared to the splendor we will receive with forever living with the King. 
Mrs. D never won the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes, but who knows? Maybe one day she will. I know that there's something far greater than money or a new home that I can have without having to win it, though, and that's an eternity with my Lord and Savior in the place that He has prepared for me. So, think about it yourself. What would you rather have?
Are you in?


Saturday, July 23, 2011

I've always been bad with dates

And I totally missed the fact that it's been a year since I started this blog!
(Well, it was a year on the 6th. But for the sake of arguing, let's just say it's been a solid year since it started!)
I'm not going to make this some long, sappy post or something that compliments myself and says what a totally wicked job I'm doing and how I'm so creative and blah blah blah...because I'm not. From day one, every post on here has been something that God has either opened my eyes to or laid on my heart to share with you guys. So, a big and major thank you to Him! 
Also, I want to say a thank you to you guys, my readers. I would never have kept this blog going and kept it public if I wasn't getting some feedback or a sense that people liked what they were reading, or if I wasn't getting any encouragement. At first, this blog was just going to be something that I did by myself, writing these ideas down in some spiral notebook that the cave under my bed would be sure to eat sometime. Instead, I took a leap of faith of sorts and threw my ideas out there, and you guys were always so loving and supportive. You supported me when I thought my writing was crap, or I thought that the idea didn't leave my head in quite the right manner. You complimented me on my crappy writing style and eccentric topics. You yelled at me when I took a hiatus and didn't post for a while. (Shout out to Pete, ya meathead.) Mostly though, you let me continue doing what God wanted me to do - write all this madness down and be able to use it as an outlet to share God's love with others. So, thank you.
It's been a wild year. Not only have dozens of you responded in some way or form - comments on Facebook, comments on the blog, face-to-face conversations - but my blog has even been mentioned in some pretty cool ways, like being used at Whitehall for ideas for devotions, or when it was featured in my church's monthly newsletter. Pretty awesome stuff just from an idea from an even more awesome God!
So, thank you to everyone for sticking around and reading this jumbled mess of post. I hope you like what you read, and I hope something that God gives me to tell you sticks with you.
No challenge for this post other than to stay tuned - I can't wait to see what God will do in this next year!
Are you in?



Oh, Willow Smith. Only the daughter of someone as insanely great as Will Smith could get away with a song based on, well, whipping your hair back and forth. In this incredibly repetitive but strangely addictive song, Willow sings of whipping her hair back in forth in just about every situation. When she arrives at a party, she whips her hair around. When she goes onstage and hears some applause, she whips her hair around. After she hops out of bed and turns her swag on (sorry, couldn't resist) she ignores all of the people who speak and think badly of her and she - once again - whips her hair back and forth.
It seems like her fix-all solution to every situation is to throw her head  around and whip her hair. Let's look at a line in the bridge: (before the 238927382 "I whip my hair back and forths")
Don't let haters keep me off my grindKeep my head up and I know I'll be fineKeep fighting until I get thereAm down and I feel like giving upI whip my hair back and forth! I whip my hair back and forth!
Haha, sorry. Got a bit carried away there.
Here we see how Willow is feeling a bit down, thanks to all of the people that are thinking poorly or speaking poorly about her. She knows that she shouldn't feel bad because of it, and that she'll be fine, but she's feeling at the end of her rope - and what does she do? Whips her hair back and forth, of course.
Doesn't really seem like a logical solution, does it? Well, maybe, for the sake of the song. Still, though! It's not really what you should do when you're "down and you feel like giving up," right?
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30
God is telling us in these verses that, whenever we're feeling tired and run down, unable to go on with whatever we're struggling with, we're to turn to Him. Instead of head banging along with Willow, ask God to take over and stop trying to fight whatever battle you're facing by yourself. Psalm 28:8 says that "The Lord is the strength of His people, a fortress of salvation for His anointed one." In chapter 27 verse 1, it says "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" 
This is one of my favorite verses, which I think goes along with this pretty well:
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." - Psalm 46:1
The common theme in all of these verses is that, no matter what we're dealing with or what we're going through, what we've done or what we're facing, God is always there to turn to. We can give Him all of our troubles and problems, and He will willingly take them on and guide us, helping us fight whatever we're struggling with.
I don't know about you, but when things get tough, I'd much rather turn to the Creator of the heavens and the earth for help and relief, rather than whip my hair back and forth for a supposed confidence boost. 
So here's your NR challenge for this post - I challenge you to forget about what Willow says, and instead turn to the only one who can fight your battles and carry your worries and burdens - Jesus. Realize that, no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to do these things on your own. Your strength should come from God, not anything from a song! You have a choice - turning to the One who made you for strength, or relying on something as silly as whipping your hair back and forth. One option will give you strength, and the other will leave you with a nice case of whiplash. What do you choose?
Are you in?


Friday, July 22, 2011

The Last Thing You Expected...

Hahahahahahahah, didn't see that one coming, did you?
While this song is a little old for me - it came out 5 years before I was even born, maybe that'll make some of you feel nice and old - I, along with millions of others, have come to know of it through the beautiful prank known as "Rick Rolling," what I have just (maybe!) done to some of you. It started out as a number one hit in the United Kingdom, where Rick Astley is from. It soon escalated to the United States, where within years it became a classic. It's now a classic prank on the internet, where a simple link which is supposed to take you to some video of your choosing instead takes you to this video.
For as ridiculous as it is, this song has some pretty legit lyrics. Take the chorus for example:
"Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you. Never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye, never gonna tell a lie and hurt you."
Obviously, Astley's promising someone that he's pretty much never going to leave them, hurt them, or disappoint them. That's a pretty big promise to make, don't you think? I mean, I've promised the same things before, and unfortunately I've had to break some of those promises, just like others have made and broken the same ones to me. You may mean it when you say it, but more often than not, something goes wrong and the promise is broken.
That happens a lot though, don't you think? We're only human, and as hard as we try, we're going to do things we said we wouldn't. We're going to make someone cry even though we tried our hardest not to. We may have to leave someone for their own good, for our own good, or for other reasons we can't control. All of these lyrics seem ideal, but, at the end of the day, they can be darn near impossible for anyone.
Anyone, that is, except God.
"And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age." - Matthew 28:20
"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." - Deuteronomy 31:8
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." - Hebrews 13:5
"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'" - Isaiah 41:13 I have to spell it out for you some more, or do you catch my drift?
God has promised each of us dozens of times that He will never leave us nor forsake us. God's not giving us up, or letting us down, or deserting us. God also says in the Bible how He has plans for us to give us each hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11, if you're wondering!)
I'm sure if you searched you could find a verse for just about every promise mentioned! Isn't that pretty amazing? It's like God's personal song right to you, written down thousands of years ago for you to enjoy anytime.
So, here's your NR challenge for this post. I challenge you to read God's love song to you - the Bible - and memorize these promises for yourself. God's never gonna give you up, or let you down. He's never gonna run around or desert you. He may make you cry, but He has plans for you which will make tears of joy rather than sadness run down your face! He's never going to say goodbye to you, and He would never tell you a lie to hurt you. Rather, God wants an intimate relationship with you, so He can tell you personally every day and in every way possible that He isn't going anywhere - as long as you let Him stay with you.
Pearl Bailey, an actress and singer, once said it best:
"People see God every day, they just  don't recognize him."
You have to be willing to pay attention, open your eyes, and see that God is always at your side.
Are you in?


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lasagna for Life.

Just call me Garfield.
My absolute favorite food is lasagna. If I could, I would eat an entire pan of it all by myself. The best part of lasagna is, other than the numerous layers of deliciousness, you could eat it everyday for a week after you make it and every day it would taste better than before. (Sadly, this never happens in my house, because it's normally gone 2-3 days after it's made, partially because I eat it for every meal when we have it.) 
There have been 2 different times in my life where my taste buds have exploded from lasagna-y goodness. The first was last July, when I was down in Orlando, Florida for IYC. The few days prior to the convention, we went to Disneyworld and all of the parks there. Our youth group was at Epcot one day around dinner time, and we all chose the Italian restaurant there in the Italy section of the park. My friend Jake and I each ordered lasagna, and when our food came out we tried it at the same time. The looks on our faces were probably priceless, because it was the best lasagna I had ever eaten to that point, hands down. Those bites were pure bliss, and Jake and I about cried when we realized we were down to our last few tastes. The second time was a month or so ago, when I crashed a friend's family reunion one night after drama. Theirs is a big Italian family, so of course the reunion was filled with all kinds of Italian goodness. When I went in to eat with my friend, I spotted the lasagna. He laughed and gave me a huge helping of it, which I started eating right then, even though it was cold. It was, amazingly, even better than the lasagna from Epcot! Obviously this makes sense, considering that was a restaurant in an amusement park, but you get what I mean. I found who had made it - the matriarch of the family, no less! - and plopped a big kiss right on her cheek. She didn't even blink. She must be used to crazy non-related kids kissing her on the cheek because she's a lasagna-making goddess. 
Based on these two slightly strange lasagna filled stories, I think it would be a safe call to say that, if given the opportunity, I would and easily could eat lasagna every day. 
In Isaiah 55:1-2,  God tells us this: 
“Come, all you who are thirsty,    come to the waters; and you who have no money,    come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk    without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread,    and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,    and you will delight in the richest of fare."
It's verses like these that make me like Isaiah the more I read it.
Imagine being able to sit down and eat as much lasagna and Dr. Pepper as you wanted, all without costing a cent. (Ohk, substitute lasagna and Dr. Pepper with your favorite foods and drinks to get the same effect...) Wouldn't that be great? I would never move from that table. If you had everything you ever wanted with your food and your drink, would you still go out and waste a couple bucks on Ramen noodles, TV dinners, and tap water? I think not! This would be like me saying, "No, thanks!" to the table full of lasagna and heading over to WalMart to stock up on the terrible Banquet TV dinner lasagnas. Not the same - at ALL
You wouldn't do something like that either, right? Then why would we do it with our faith? God is telling us in these verses how, no matter how hard we try, we can't satisfy ourselves with, well, ourselves. We need God and what He offers to be truly satisfied. He's offering us the richest and best food and drink for our souls - a free, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As much as I love lasagna, I love the idea of that much more! 
Your NR challenge for this food-themed post is this - don't walk to the kitchen and expect to be satisfied with the few things that are inside. The only way you'll truly be able to be happy and content is when you walk over to your bookshelf and dust off the Word of God, then opening it to learn more and be satisfied with Him. Remember that no matter how hard we try, we won't be able to satisfy our souls with ourselves. Accept what God offers, and you'll find that your "soul will delight in the richest of fare." And that's way, way better than lasagna.
Are you in?