Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy in a Cup

I'm in St. Louis again.
Yes, I know. I should just move here already.
I'm trying, alright. Back off me.

Anyway, I have to tell you, Internet, what happened this morning.
First, you need a little back story...Last night, Lyra and I were talking about things that make us happy. (look for a future post)
Not hugely expensive happy things. Just small insignificants that make us smile, feel all warm inside or depending on the day, talk me down from the ledge.

Well, a couple of things came rushing to mind. But one came first.
And what is at the peak of my happiness you ask? 7 marvelous words.

Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato (nonfat, sugar-free)

Starbucks coffee my friends. And it is "happy" in a cup.
So because my friends love me (and love Starbucks as well- no matter what Jared says about them being capitalist bastards), The Lees and I stopped at Starbucks this morning on the way to church.
I sighed a little inside about the outcome of my Battlestar Gallactica/ Starbucks name origin quandary...yet ordered in bliss.
I paid, grabbed my cup, began to swirl the silky colors until they mixed, took that first heavenly sip and placed it securely in the cup holder and finished putting on my makeup in the back seat of the van.
Well, we were running late. So when we got to church, I steadied my venti cup on the floor, grabbed my purse, stuffed my journal and Bible inside and crawled out of the minivan.

And that is when I was stabbed. Straight through the heart.

I accidentally grazed the green straw and my liquid pleasure was sent tumbling out of the van and proceeded to spew all over the Heritage PCA parking lot.
Wide-eyed in horror, I opened my mouth for a hefty obscenity and realized 1) there were children with me and 2) shouting the f*word in the church parking lot is just in bad taste.
So I took a breath. My eyes started to water.

So help me God, I considered stretching out and sucking my love off the cold, clean pavement. But I had a white shirt on. I had to watch my liquid joy disappear.
I don't know if I'll ever view the church parking lot the same. I do know that recounting this story, even after 8 hours, makes me not so much want to dash out to the nearest Starbucks, but jet back to the church and see if the caramel is still glistening on the pavement.

Something is seriously wrong with me.

Maybe Starbucks IS the man. Maybe they're like KFC with their addictive chemicals.
Oh right, that's caffeine.
Capitalist bastards.
Whatever. My apathy wins that war and I side with a 4 dollar cup of coffee every time. After all, it's my happy in a cup.
Even though now, at this very moment, it rests in peace in the Heritage parking lot.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Shifting Sand

I have been on quite an emotional roller-coaster lately. And we're not talking about any roller-coaster. We're talking, Six Flags-Top-Gun-gotta be 5 feet to ride this- roller-coaster.
And I am ready to get off.

It's so hard not to live by our emotions.

I especially get caught up in other people's emotional issues. Lately, My heart has been heavy for someone else. In the middle of thinking, "I pray he would stop buying into the American dream and wake up," I realized I have bought into an American dream myself. Hook, line and sinker.

But my American dream is sort-of a "Christian" version.

I stopped believing years ago that money and success, a great career or an awesome condo in Paris would satisfy me. But somewhere along the line, I started believing that while being a believer, a Godly husband, 2.4 kids and great friends in an awesome church would satisfy.

Either way, I struggle in believing the truth. NOTHING will ever satisfy outside of my relationship with Christ.

I need Jesus. I need Him to change my heart. I need Him to be everything to me. I need just HIM.

My best friend, Shannon, often reminds me of the words I said, through broken sobs, at my Grandparents' funeral. After sharing the Gospel the best I knew how and replaying all the questions I kept getting asked from friends about how I was "keeping it together," I said the truest words I knew at the time.

"Jesus is all I have. Jesus is all I need."

Everything in me believes that. Now, more than ever. And with every passing day, those words become more true. This life is so difficult. The only thing that is worth holding on to is the passionate and gracious love of my Savior.

Praise to Him! He has saved us from death! He is saving us from this life and He is saving me from my dreams.

I will leave you with some of my very favorite lyrics by Caedmons Call.
They ring true so often.

Shifting Sand

Sometimes I believe all the lies
So I can do the things I should despise
And every day I am swayed
By whatever is on my mind

I hear it all depends on my faith
So I'm feeling precarious
The only problem I have with these mysteries
Is they're so mysterious

And like a consumer I've been thinking
If I could just get a bit more
More than my 15 minutes of faith,
Then I'd be secure

My faith is like shifting sand
Changed by every wave
My faith is like shifting sand
So I stand on grace

Monday, October 08, 2007

Another Reason to Love the Sabbath

Myspace Graphics - Chicago Bears

I love Sundays.

I love sleeping in (somewhat.) I love going to church. I love Sunday lunch and everything the Sabbath is supposed to be. Rest and gratitude and the newness that is to come tomorrow.

I especially love Sundays in the fall.

One word. FOOTBALL


I freakin love it. I am utterly enthralled. I started watching football last year (because of a guy, of course) and of course, the guy didn't stick, but the Bears did. (Hey, It's more than I got from most of my doomed relationships.)

I tried to be a Panthers fan, but honestly, for some reason, it's not as fun as being a Bears fan. I watch Panthers' games. I cheer for them and am glad when they win. But it's NOTHING like the passion I feel for the Bears. They both had victories today. I said an unenthusiastic "yes" when Kasay made the game-winning field goal for the Panthers.
You should've heard the screams and seen the couch-jumping antics I displayed in the living room tonight when the Bears won. I was completely engaged and you would've thought I mean with a 2 carat diamond.

Anyway, if Sundays have lost their luster, go to church. Then go home and watch a football game.

Myspace Graphics - Chicago Bears

Saturday, October 06, 2007

What Every Girl Wants to Hear

(ok, so I only speak for me.)

"Take Me There"
by Rascal Flatts

There’s a place in your heart, nobody's been
Take me there
Things nobody knows, not even your friends
Take me there
Tell me bout your momma, your daddy, your hometown
Show me around
I want to see it all, don't leave anything out.

I want to know, everything about you
And I want to go, down every road you've been.
Where your hopes and dreams, and wishes live
Where you keep the rest of your life hid,
I want to know the girl behind that pretty stare,
Take me there.

Your first real kiss, your first true love,
You were scared.
Show me where, you learned about life,
spent your summer nights, without a care.
I want to roll down main street, the back roads,
Like you did when you were a kid,
What made you who you are,
Tell me what your story is.

I want to know, everything about you
And I want to go, down every road you've been
Where your hopes and dreams, and wishes live
Where you keep the rest of your life hid
I want to know the girl behind that pretty stare
Take me there

Yeah,I want to know, everything about you
Yeah, everything about you baby
I want to go, down every road you've been
Where your hopes and dreams and wishes live
Where you keep the rest of your life hid
I want to know the girl behind that pretty stare
Take me, take me, take me there.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

When Does God Become 100% For Us?

Answering a Good Question

October 3, 2007
By John Piper

I have asked the question in public, “When does God become 100% for us?” And I have given an answer that rightly troubles thoughtful, biblical people. So this article is an effort to answer their question.

In my message to the Desiring God National Conference on Sunday, September 30, I answered the question like this:

What the Bible teaches is that God becomes 100% irrevocably for us at the moment of justification, that is, the moment when we see Christ as a beautiful Savior and receive him as our substitute punishment and our substitute perfection. All of God’s wrath, all of the condemnation we deserve, was poured out on Jesus. All of God’s demands for perfect righteousness were fulfilled by Christ. The moment we see (by grace!) this Treasure and receive him in this way his death counts as our death and his condemnation as our condemnation and his righteousness as our righteousness, and God becomes 100% irrevocably for us forever in that instant.

The question this leaves unanswered is, “Doesn’t the Bible teach that in eternity God set his favor on us in election?” In other words, thoughtful people ask, “Did God only become 100% for us in the moment of faith and union with Christ and justification? Did he not become 100% for us in the act of election before the foundation of the world?” For example, Paul says in Ephesians 1:4-5, “[God] chose us in [Jesus] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.”

Is God then not 100% for the elect from eternity? The answer hangs on the meaning of “100%.” With the term “100%” I am trying to preserve a biblical truth found in several passages of Scripture. For example, in Ephesians 2:3, Paul says that Christians were “children of wrath” before they were made alive in Christ Jesus. “We all once lived [among the sons of disobedience] in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

So Paul is saying that, before regeneration, God’s wrath was on us. The elect were under wrath. This changed when God made us alive in Christ Jesus and awakened us to see the truth and beauty of Christ so that we received him as the one who died for us and as the one whose righteousness is counted as ours because of our union with Jesus. Before this happened to us, we were under God’s wrath. Then, because of faith in Christ and union with him, all God’s wrath was removed and he then became, in that sense, 100% for us.

Similarly in Romans 8:1, there is the crucial word “now.” “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The implication of “now” is that there was once condemnation over us and now there is not. A real change in God’s disposition toward us happened in the moment of our regeneration and faith and union with Christ and justification.
Notice the phrase “in Christ” at the end of Romans 8:1. This is why God’s disposition toward us is different when we believe in Christ. When we believe in Christ, we are united to him—that is, we are “in Christ.” This means that his death counts as our death and his righteousness counts as our righteousness. This is why there is now no condemnation, whereas before there was. Before Christ bore the curse of the law and we were united to him by faith, we were under the curse of the law. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

When Paul uses the language of God being “for us,” he speaks of it in the context of what Christ has done for us in history. For example, in Romans 8:31-32, he says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Not sparing his Son is the act that secures God’s being 100% for us forever.

So was God 100% for us from eternity because we were elect? In one sense, yes. It was 100% certain that he would bring us to faith and save us. But when I ask the question, “When did God become 100% for us?” I mean more than: “When did it become 100% certain that God would save us?” I mean: “When did it happen that God was for us and only for us? That is, when did it happen that the only disposition of God toward us was mercy? Or: When did God become for us so fully that there was not any wrath or curse or condemnation on us, but only mercy?
The answer, I still say, is at the point when, by grace, we saw Christ as a supremely valuable Savior and received him as our substitute sacrifice and substitute righteousness. In other words, it happened at the point of justification. The implication of this is that all our works, all our perseverance, all our continuing faith and obedience does not cause God to be 100% for us, but is the result of his being 100% for us.

Paul’s logic in Romans 8:32 is that because God gave his Son to die for us therefore he will give us all things with him. That is, God will see to it that we persevere to the end not only because we are elect, but because Christ died for us and we are in Christ. That is the logic of 1 Corinthians 1:8-9: “[God] will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” The call is mentioned as the ground of God’s faithfulness to sustain us to the end.
Therefore, exult in the truth that God will keep you. He will get you to the end because in Christ he is 100% for you. And therefore, getting to the end does not make God to be 100% for you. It is the effect of the fact that he is already 100% for you.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Renewed Faith

It was a typical Tuesday. Get up, yell at dog, sit outside, eat my cereal, take shower, pack, head to work, blah blah blah.

I got off work around 4 and had to run to my friend Stacey's to take photos of her sweet new baby. Then skirted out, hopped on a conference call at 530 and headed to Raleigh to teach a class tomorrow.

I love babies.

Well, on the way, it was getting late and even though I had my heart set on eating japanese when I got to Raleigh, I was starving from skipping lunch. I had to stop.

And here is my dilemma. I hate fast food. Detest fast food. I tolerate chic fil a but other than that, it almost always sucks. I don't even like the idea of fast food. I hate sitting and waiting and the thought that what makes it fast is the utter deterioration of all quality and freshness.
Well, I was in a hurry, like so many of us are, and saw a sign for "Cookout." My friend, Chris wanted to take me there a couple of weeks ago and when we arrived, I was kinda relieved that the line was so ridiculous we couldn't get in the parking lot. I chalked it up to all the rednecks and construction workers in the area were on their lunch break. Foley, I'm sorry I doubted you.
"Cookout" is freakin awesome! Ohmygod! The burger tasted just like my Dad took that baby off the grill. The coke was all "biting" and had that teeny pebble ice. I thought it was July 4th.
So anyway, my faith has been renewed in fast food.
Other than that, like I said, typical Tuesday. I'm holed up in the hotel for the night.
I have to share a sweet song I've been listening to for a few days. I can't stop singing it.

So Small
by Carrie Underwood
What you got if you ain't got love
The kind that you just want to give away
It's ok to open up
Go ahead and let the light shine through
I know it's hard on a rainy day
You wanna shut the world out and just be left alone
But don't run out on your faith
Cause sometimes that mountain you've been climbing
Is just a grain of sand
And what you've been out there searching for forever
Is in your hands
And when you figure out love is all that matters after all
It sure makes everything else seem
So small
It's so easy to get lost inside
A problem that seems so big at the time
It's like a river that's so wide it swallows you whole
While you're sitting around thinking about what you can't change
And worrying about all the wrong things
Time's flying by, moving so fast
You better make it count cause you can't get it back
Sometimes that mountain you've been climbing
Is just a grain of sand
And what you've been out there searching for forever
Is in your hands
Oh, and when you figure out love is all that matters after all
It sure makes everything else seem
So small
Sometimes that mountain you've been climbing
Is just a grain of sand
And what you've out there searching for forever
Is in your hands
And then you figure out love is all that matters after all
It sure makes everything else
Oh, it sure makes everything else seem
So small
(Check out the video at www.myspace.com/ahardyphoto)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Life is hard

Freakin hard.

Sometimes, it seems, circumstances are all that matters. We get caught up in what we have or don't have. We compare ourselves to others. We look to relationships, to money, to comfort, to success, anything and everything that we think will satisfy us. And sometimes, it does, for a brief moment. Then it all fades and we wake again to the reality that life is supposed to be more.

I spoke to a friend today who is dealing with this struggle. He is neck deep in a world that is chaotic and he is tired. So tired, he wants it all to end.

So what do I say to him? What could I say to him? Does anything make it better?

How do you express the peace found in your relationship with Christ? A relationship that is so intense and gripping that even in the middle of feeling hopeless and exhausted, you can survive. HE makes it bearable.

I've been there. I've been blinded by my wounds and anything anyone says doesn't help. All I felt was hurt and in the middle of that, it's the only thing real.

Quite a few years ago, I heard a speaker at school say...

"Our feelings are real. They are not always true, but they are always real."

So what is true? It's so hard to not rely on your feelings. "The heart is deceitful above all things." We want to believe our heart. That gut feeling. We want to rely on what we see and feel but to walk in truth, we have to think. And focusing on truth is sometimes damn near impossible.

I love my friend. But I can't say anything. I can only look to the One who has carried me so many times, through what I thought I would not survive. He alone can change hearts. He alone can make it better. And I trust He will.