Friday, July 19, 2013

Author: Katie

On November 7, 2011, as a 2nd anniversary present to my husband, I wrote up a testimonial and sent it in to Christian Cafe, the Christian internet singles site where we met. Here is our story:
In 2001, I unexpectedly became a divorced parent of two. My son was ten and my daughter was almost eight when this happened. As of 2009, we had been living with my best friend for nine years. (Because I was struggling so hard trying to provide, God moved in her heart to take us in shortly after the divorce.)
Being a single mother was probably one of the greatest challenges of my life and most certainly the most rewarding. In the 9 years I was single again, my main focus was on raising my children and trusting God for a husband in His time. For fun, I tried some online dating services and eventually signed up at Christian Café. I paid for a membership for a brief time, but did not seriously desire to connect with anyone so I let my membership expire. However, since I had signed up, I would often get email notifications when there was a free trial period. Since I had to be frugal, I decided that I’d just play around whenever I got a free membership. Eventually I even stopped taking advantage of the free memberships and for about a year I did nothing with it. I got busy going to college and working full-time. I was quite content at being single so I stopped going to the Café altogether.
Then, on March 23, 2009, I got another notification for a free trial. So, I half-heatedly decided to take advantage of the free offer. I was really too busy to get involved in a relationship but I really had nothing more interesting to do at that moment. So, for entertainment, I decided to go in and check my inbox to see if there were any funny emails to read (I got them from time to time). I had no idea that God was about to use the Christian Café to bring about a complete overhaul of my life. My Heavenly Father was also about to provide for a huge transition into a totally new phase in my walk with Him.
As I sifted through emails, I responded to a few potentials. My original plan was just to check the emails and be done. But, since I had nothing better to do at the time, I decided to go ahead and just browse the café and see any new faces I was matched up with. It was at this time that I came across a profile picture of a man from Alabama who was very handsome, but in a wheelchair. My first instinct was to just move on to the next profile because I just did not think I was selfless enough to date a person who was handicapped. But, I was curious as to how he ended up in the chair. I wanted to read his story. I wanted to find out more. So, I read his profile and was blown away. I thought, “If could place an order for a husband, this would be his profile”. I really asked myself if I could overcome the handicap and take a chance on this wonderful man. After praying, it didn't take long to realize I’d be crazy to pass by this potential opportunity. He had mentioned in his profile that it was important that the wheelchair wasn't a problem.
It also said on his profile that his membership had ended. But, I still had to at least make an attempt and see what God would do. I knew that He is a God of making the impossible possible according to His plan.
So, on March 23, 2009, at 10:23 pm I sent my first email titled, “Pick Me!” (I wanted to make sure my email stood out among others…and it worked because it was the first one he opened…and the last…
Here is what I wrote:
“Hi, I am not usually this forward on here...but I can't wait until you get a free trial so we can (hopefully) chat. I LOVED your profile and don't worry about the wheelchair issue...if I am so blessed that we might engage in a conversation...I won't be concerned with you being in a wheelchair.
You seem like a really good person who loves our Lord as much as I do... and I'd love to have the opportunity to correspond with you. So, if you have even the slightest bit of interest while you are thinking about which of your many emails to respond to...I hope that it might be possible that you would pick me!!!! :-)
My trial here will end tomorrow...I don't know how our paths will cross at the same time...but with God all things are possible...right?
Who knows..maybe you have already found that special someone.
Blessings to you”
Out of all the emails I responded to that day (prior to finding Michael), I only anticipated one reply. However, since I could not afford a membership, I had to wait until the next free trial. Normally, the free trials came months apart, but for some reason, only two weekends later, I received another free trial. I didn't realize it until a couple days later because I was at a sleepover with some friends and unable to check my email. On the morning after the sleepover (April 5), I was talking to an acquaintance who informed me that in her prayer time earlier that week, she felt that God had given her a “word” for me (oblivious to what was going on with Christian Café). It was Isaiah 62: 2-4.
“2 The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.
3 You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate
But you will be called Hephzibah,
and your land Beulah;
for the LORD will take delight in you,
and your land will be married..”
It was received as such a message of hope. I had been through so much and had struggled so long and when God’s word was spoken in that moment, I believed. I knew God had given this person a word of prophecy and I could not let it go. I didn't know who or what it was speaking of…I just believed. Then, I told her about the email I sent to Michael and how I was anticipating hearing back. I also told her that his membership ended but that I believed that all things were possible with God. So, when I went home that evening and realized I had another free weekend, I couldn't sign in quick enough! As soon as the page popped up, I began looking for his reply and there it was!
On April 9, 2009, this is the response Michael typed to me:
“Well, I kept getting notifications that I had mail here on Christian Cafe, so I thought I'd come back for one more month and I have to say that I'm glad I did because I LOVED your message and your profile! You sound like such an engaging, interesting woman with a true love for the Lord!! But, unfortunately you're not active right now here on CC!! But, you are 100% absolutely correct when you say that with God, all things are possible!!
So, with that being said but without rambling on too much for lack of not knowing when (or if) you'll get this message, I'll just leave it at this for now. I do have a paid membership for 1 month, so maybe you'll pop back on within the next month ... but if not, since I'm paying for this membership this month, I am permitted to send my contact information…
Hopefully we'll be able to hook up and communicate with each other ... provided you haven't already been spoken for.
I was so excited! This began a plethora of email exchanges that quickly led to phone conversations and video chats. Although things were going great, I was very apprehensive and guarded my heart not to get carried away too quickly. As the relationship began taking a more serious note, I wanted to slow things down. I was going through some difficult personal circumstances and began to be very insecure about a romantic relationship. But with every doubt came affirmation from God that I needed to hold on and not run. Every time I doubted, something would happen that would tell me that this relationship was part of God’s plan.
One example of this would be the fact that my best friend and I were doing a Bible study by Beth Moore on Esther. The reoccurring themes just happened to be, “Who knows…” and “…for such a time as this”. One night, just after watching a video on these themes, I was talking to Michael. I believe we were discussing the difficult circumstances I was going through and how I didn't want him to get caught up in it. He responded, “Who knows? God may have brought me into your life for such a time as this”. Well, you can imagine how the conversation turned at that point. I do not believe in coincidence. I believe in a God that is always aware and in control of all circumstances…I especially believed in that moment!
I have to go back in time for a minute in order to prepare for another example. A couple years after my divorce I heard a song on the radio that made me cry. I said out loud, as the tears rolled down my cheek, “That will be the song played at my wedding if I ever marry again!” One morning, not long after Michael and I started communicating, I got this email from Michael in which he explained that he usually leaves the radio on when he gets ready for work in the mornings. Usually, he can’t hear it from the back room but the song really grabbed his attention. He said it described exactly how he felt about me and wrote down the words. Before I even read them, something inside me said, “It can’t be…” Here are the words to the song:
It’s always been a mystery to me,
How two hearts can come together,
And love can last forever.
But now that I have found you I believe,
That a miracle has come when God sends the perfect one.
So gone are all my questions about why,
And I've never been so sure of anything in my life
Oh I wonder what God was thinking, when he created you.
I wonder if He knew everything I would need,
Because he made all my dreams come true.
When God made you, He must have been thinking about me.
I promise that wherever you may go, wherever life may lead you,
With all my heart I'll be there too.
And from this moment on I want you to know,
I'll let nothing come between us, and I will love the ones you love.
(guy):So gone are all my questions about why (girl echoes):about why
Oh I wonder what God was thinking when he created you,
I wonder if He knew everything I would need,
Because He made all my dreams come true.
When God made you He must've been thinking about me.
He made the sun He made the moon,
To harmonize a perfect tune,
One can't do without the other they just have to be together.
And that is how I know it’s true,
Your for me and I'm for you and my world
Just can’t be right without you in my life
He must have heard every prayer I've been praying (girl echo)
I've been praying (both) He must've known everything I would need
When God made you, He must've been thinking about me.
Under any other circumstances I would have thought it too soon for a person to feel this way about me. But, even though I was apprehensive and careful of getting carried away too quickly, I couldn't deny the “coincidence” of this song. I knew even before I read the words that it would be this song…This old song that I had not heard in eight years and only heard the one time…This old song that he had heard for the first time that morning.
It had only been a few weeks. We had never met in person. But so many things like this just kept happening. So on May 09, 2009, Michael and I had plans to meet in person for the first time. I was so nervous I could hardly eat. I felt sick. When we met, he treated me so sweet, but, for some reason, I began to feel uneasy about the whole situation. We had a wonderful dinner. Then, I went home to change for our symphony date. I was suddenly so uncomfortable with everything and knew I would never meet a nicer man but at the same time… I think I knew inside that this really could be it and it scared me to death. I cried out to God in tears, on my knees and prayed for wisdom and guidance. I asked Him to remove my fear.
When we were at the symphony I was afraid that he would want to hold hands or put his arm around me. I didn't know what I would say or do. It was so terribly awkward for me, but not for Michael. He knew from the beginning. He had settled it in his heart and he waited patiently for me to get it settled in my heart (which took much longer!).
The moment arrived when he had an opportunity to put his arm around me. I was freezing. He gave me his jacket and as I had anticipated, he took advantage of the opportunity to “hold the jacket up” on the other side…and it felt WONDERFUL! The next morning we went to church together before he returned home. Later he told me that it was the best first date he had ever been on and even admitted being a little misty eyed as he left. These words brought tears to my eyes. I was overwhelmed.
The second weekend we got together (two or three weeks later), we sat out in the church parking lot after a date, watching lightening off in the distance. We held hands in the car that night for the first time. I have butterflies as I write this…just like I did that night.
In early July, I made my first trip from West Tennessee to Central Alabama. He took me to a very romantic restaurant for dinner that overlooked a beautiful river. Then we spent some time together before he took me to check into the Fairfield Inn, where he had reserved a room for me. The next morning was when I would be introduced to his church family and friends. Here is another one of those “examples” of how God was showing us that He had brought us together for marriage. One of his friends took me aside and asked if she could sing at our wedding! I responded, “Ummmmmm we haven’t even known each other for two months!” But, before I knew it she had drawn me into making plans (and she DID sing at our wedding…you’ll never guess what song it was)! Neither of us knew that her husband was talking to Michael about the same thing!
During the last week of May, Michael attended my college graduation (I never anticipated my future husband being at my graduation). My son had joined the navy a few months earlier and I had decided it was time for a change. Previously, my daughter and I were presented with an offer to move to Atlanta and start a new life with friends there. It was a hard decision that took several months to make and accept. I had lived in West TN for most of my adult life and (prior to meeting Michael) I couldn't imagine ever leaving. But, the invitation from our friends seemed like an opportunity to move forward and I thought maybe God had opened this door for us to walk through. So, we were planning to move to Atlanta in July. God was about to throw a wrench into my plans.
What I was unaware of was that God was about to take me through a very difficult pruning season…one which would not involve a move to Atlanta but to Alabama. God would use this time to bond Michael and I even closer to Him and one another. The Atlanta plans fell through at the last possible moment when my daughter chose to move in with her estranged father (who ironically just happened to live only two hours away from Michael). I had already turned in my notice at work and there were no open doors in Tennessee. I didn't know what was going to happen to me…but God did. Marriage and a move to Alabama was not something I had planned for, especially not this early in the relationship with Michael. I had come to a place in my personal life where I had put my friends, church, career, and children in first place…the place reserved for God alone. I needed to have God in that place before I could have a successful relationship with anyone…God knew I needed pruning. Michael knew God had put him in my life for “such a time as this” and He was my lifeline to Jesus through an excruciating season of heartbreak and transition. God used Michael to be a beacon in what would have otherwise been a very dark time in my life.
As time went on, our friends, coworkers, family, and both of our church families were all pushing the marriage buttons! We kept telling them that they were moving too fast! However, it got us talking about it, just a couple months after the first incident at his church, we were shopping for wedding rings. We wanted to be prepared but had no intentions on being married within a year from meeting. (I think God may have actually been laughing out loud at our plans.)
On the weekend of August 9, (Just three months after meeting in person for the first time and a little over a month after the Atlanta plans fell through), Michael had come to celebrate our three month anniversary of the day we met in person for the first time. Due to circumstances at the time, and conversations we had been having, I knew that a proposal was in the air at some point, but Michael wanted to do it when I least expected it. I expected it at least by August 9, the day Michael was scheduled to return home after our anniversary date. We went to the restaurant where we met in person for the first time. I thought maybe he might propose then. Dinner came and went. No proposal. So, I had resolved that it was too obvious and he wasn't going to do it. As fate would have it, his car broke down and had to be put in the shop for repair. It wasn't going to be ready for several days. So, because he had to work early the next morning, I ended up having to drive him back to Alabama that evening where he had another vehicle available. We got there just in time to catch the most beautiful sunset from what is now our front porch. It was such a romantic gift from God that set the stage for what was about to take place.
With the long day coming to a close, and a much unexpected ending, I had given up on a proposal. We were about to say goodnight with the little game that we began playing after we picked out wedding rings. It was a conversation that would go something like this….
Katrina: “I want to marry you.”
Michael: “You do? You want to marry me?”
Katrina: “Uh huh”
Michael: “So, you want to marry me huh?”
Katrina: “Yeah”
Now, at this point he would normally say something like, “Well, you never know.”
But this time he said something different…
Michael: “So, will you….marry me?”
Not believing he was serious, I responded jokingly.
Katrina: “Yes! Now I just need a ring on my finger!” Then I held out my hand.
Michael: “You mean like this one?” Much to my surprise, he reached around and pulled out the ring.
Needless to say, the moments following involved lots of squealing, crying and shaking as he placed this beautiful ring on my finger. He accomplished his goal. I was definitely caught off guard! At 10:00 pm I began waking all of my closest loved ones to tell them the news before announcing it to the world on Facebook the next morning. They all affirmed and celebrated with us.
Originally, we had set the date to be the weekend of the anniversary of our first email connection, April 9, 2010. The move to Atlanta turned into a move to Alabama. But, the wedding date turned out to be much sooner than expected. Unable to secure a job, I would not be able to afford an apartment and I was not going to move in with a man I was not married to. This would not glorify the One who brought us together. More and more, Michael and I were encouraged to move up the wedding date. I was filled with fear. It was all happening so fast. But while sharing my dilemma with a co-worker and mentor one day, she asked me, “Are you going to let a spirit of fear keep you from doing sooner what you know is destined to be anyway? Why not marry him now?”
After much prayer and so many circumstances moving us to marrying sooner, we moved the date up from April 9, 2010 to November 7, 2009. We chose November 7 because November is the season of Thanksgiving and the number 7 is God’s number for completion and perfection.
And so it was, Michael Dunkin and Katrina Blakely became Mr. and Mrs. Dunkin on November 7, 2009. We are a three cord strand with God at the center, growing ever happier in our marriage with each passing day. This testimony is completed on the day of our 2nd anniversary and presented as a gift to my “Hubby” from his “Wifey” with so much love. I give all the praise and honor and glory to the only One who deserves it. Thank, you Father for blessing us both with this gift of marriage. It is our desire to have a relationship that will be a testimony to others of Your great love. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”


Author: Katie

Surprise, Sue!  It's been a loooonnnnggg time since I posted here.  I've been on a very long hiatus trying to adjust to my new life as an empty nester and wife.  It wasn't easy but, I can honestly say, I am happier than I have ever been in my life!  The thing that makes me most happy is that leaving everyone and everything behind to start a new life has opened my eyes to see how I had made idols of my relationships.

Losing everything that meant the most to me (kids, friends, church, job, familiarity, comfort of the known, etc...) caused me to run to God and place Him back on the throne that was only made for Him.  I have learned that life is not about me and that I can let go and trust God with everything.  He's truly got it all!

These words are so small and just a brief summary of so much more than I can put into words.  As I read previous posts, it's almost as if a stranger wrote them.

God doesn't miss a beat and He truly uses everything for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose!

By the way, aside from an amazing new husband (I have the best one) and a new adorable mini weenie, I am now a Mimi!  I have the most adorable sweetheart angel of a grandson!  Brently Carson Blakely was born to my daughter, Tiffany on November 15, 2011!

My first moments as Mimi to my newly hatched grandson!

Here is a pic of me and my awesome hubby:
Isn't he gorgeous??!!!

And here is our baby, Zoe

Tiffany just graduated college with her associate's degree and has already begun working on a bachelor's.  Justin is currently in Oregon planting a church with the International Missions Board.  He graduated from the Navy in 2013 and will begin working on his degree at Liberty University in Virginia this fall.

Well, that's the last 4 years in a nutshell.  I am working on a new ministry called RhemaJoy.  I won't be blogging much here because most of my energy is focused there. Just wanted to throw in a quick update here....because somehow I have this idea in my head that people are actually interested in the rest of the story!  LOL.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

You Took Offense

Author:  Susan L. Prince

Today I heard a bit of insight on the radio, and it was one of those things that I caught mid-message and I have no idea who was the man responsible for the message. I don't even know what station I heard it on since I listen mostly to WSCAN. LOL Anyway, when he said it I immediately grabbed my pen and wrote it in my journal so I wouldn't forget it!

This is the thing he said that I found interesting:
Taking offense at something someone says or does when they did not intend to offend you, is your sin.
I only listened to about 3 minutes of this message that may have been 30 minutes long, but that was all I needed to hear of it today I guess. The snippet that I heard may have only been a side-note of a message on a completely different subject, so my "commentary" on it may not have a thing to do with the message in it's entirety.

The holiday Christmas season is a good example. I bet if I had left this sentence to say "holiday season" some Christian somewhere would have a fit. In fact, leaving it say "Christmas season" may offend someone else. Guess what, not my problem. I'm not meaning to offend a Christian if I wish someone "happy holidays" and I'm not meaning to offend anyone by saying "Merry Christmas". If someone is offended by my choice of words when I had no intention of using them to hurt, then I am guilty of nothing. 

The same is true in reverse. If someone says or does something that I find offensive, but they never intended to hurt or offend me, it is my problem. I think some Christians can be too complacent at times and not be offended by things they should, but this guy made a good point about Christians sometimes being overly sensitive.

Ever been slighted? Did the gang at work organize a spontaneous get-together at a local coffee shop and fail to mention it to you. You may have been on break or something and missed the word going around, but no one meant to exclude you. The next day, when you found out about it, you were bothered and upset that you weren't invited. You took offense.

Many Christians like myself work in a secular world. We have co-workers who pepper their language with terms no Christian should, or live a lifestyle that is very worldly. Should I cringe every time certain words are spoken in conversation when that person is simply sharing a story and using their own vocabulary? They are simply telling me a story about something that happened in their life, they haven't set out to intentionally offend me by what they say or how they say it. They have done nothing wrong. If I am offended, it's all on me. I took offense.

Offend means "To cause displeasure, anger, resentment, or wounded feelings in." (The Free Dictionary) or "a. to cause difficulty, discomfort, or injury b. to cause dislike, anger, or vexation"(Merriam-Webster)

Notice in each definition the part that says "to cause"? That means intent. If there was no intent "to cause", then you shan't be offended! If you are, it is only because you took it! You took offense!

This isn't to say that some behavior isn't offensive, it can be, but this little statement of wisdom that I heard today has caused me to consider what actually causes the "displeasure, anger, resentment, wounded feelings, difficulty, discomfort, injury, dislike, or vexation" in me. Is what caused it valid? Or am I allowing my arrogance, pride, and haughtiness, to cloud reason? If I am, then I am taking offense.

Taking offense is like stealing something that isn't mine. Taking offense is sin.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Friendship with God

Author:  Susan L. Prince

These are just "outloud ponderings" of something I read this morning in Robertson McQuilkin's book, Life in the Spirit.  It may or may not make sense.  I'm formulating some of it while I type.   McQuilkin mentioned that God wants to be our best friend.  He pointed out that "best friends have to know one another and like what they know.  They take every chance to get together and they work hard at doing what the other one likes."  That got me thinking about my relationship with God and if I put as much effort into getting to know Him and doing what He likes as I do in my relationship with my best friends.  

I do a lot of thinking, and just because something like this causes me to ruminate, it doesn't always mean that I conclude the negative.  It doesn't always mean that if I question it in myself, I must be reaching the conclusion that I fall short.  I simply ask myself these honest questions.  I ask them often.  If ever I do discover a deficiency, I hope to be quick to change a practice, a habit, or whatever I need to do to correct the situation.  

That being said, I've been thinking on this question recently.  Does my relationship with God reflect a "best friendship?" I thought about those I am closest to.  I thought about those couple of people I have allowed to know me more intimately than anybody else, about those I trust implicitly.  I thought about the effort I put into those friendships.  I do invest in my friends.  I have always invested deeply into those I believe God put into my life.  I consider my friends a blessing beyond anything I can explain.  I treasure the relationships that I have and care for them the best I know how.  I thank God for my friends on a daily basis and pray for them.  I do arrange things in my life in order that I may have time with my friends.  My friends pour into me, so it only makes sense that I would want to spend time with them.  I pray that God can use me to pour into them as well.  I think when God gives a friendship, it is somehow mutually satisfying and is sustained in a special godly love; we mutually exhort one another and this allows us to strengthen each other in the faith, and also, because there is trust and we understand that Christian love is the basis of all we share, we can speak into one another's life when a rebuke is needed.

Now, as I thought about my investment in my friendships, I started to consider what time and effort I put into my relationship with God, my Father, my Lord, my friend.  I have to admit that I at times recoil at saying, "I am a friend of God...He calls me 'friend.'"  It seems so small, and (I really HATE the I am a Friend of God song, but I digress.)  I live alone, therefore I have less distraction when I am home.  I can go to bed when I want and spend time with the Lord in quiet.  Nobody is here to ask me to get them something or listen to what they need to talk about. Do I take advantage of that?  You bet I do! :)

I spend so much time thanking God for my blessings that if God ever needed encouragement for a job well done, He would do well to get that from me!  I am mindful of the Spirit all day, every day.  Sure, there are moments in which I push Him aside when my worldly self takes over and I become selfish, but I usually come to my senses within minutes, and/or after a short ranting time (lol - to one of my best friends!). I believe that if I share my heart with God, even, and maybe especially, when it is not right, He alone can help me get it right.  He is totally aware of my bad attitude, so it is not like I'm telling Him anything He didn't already know. ;)  This is me spending time with God.  

I'm serious about Sabbath rest.  God commanded it and it was made for man. I do take one day a week, almost without fail, to just rest in His love.  I break from work, I break from tasks, and I just set out to enjoy my time.  It may be spending time with a friend, it may be time at the lake thinking about Him and enjoying creation as I walk through the woods or just sit and ponder, it may be going and doing something I enjoy (movies, carpool, drinking coffee at the Frog or Sbux, etc.), and possibly spending time in His Word...but, God gave me the day!  Of course I want to embrace it!  I have liberty in Him and try to enjoy it to its fullest!  Like a friend who gives me a gift, I open it up and enjoy it. :)

There is no awkward silence with a friend, instead, it is often comforting.  There is no awkward silence with God.

Here's something kind of whacked...I absolutely LOVE getting to know my friends.  I LOVE going through old pictures, scrapbooks, asking about their past and if I am so blessed, visiting the places that mean so much to them.  I learn about their passions seeing what they spend their time and effort doing.  With God, I have thousands of years of history to read about to learn about Him! I LOVE His Word and seeing all that He has done and learning about His passion for His people!  I've concluded that in many ways, I enjoy a special friendship with God.  

I do put the time and effort into knowing Him as much as I can. This is not to say that I am perfect about making the time, or saying and doing the right things, as either of my closest friends would attest to, but it is a friendship nonetheless.  I am an imperfect friend with a perfect God.  It may be onesided at times, but that is what makes friendship work.  Forgiveness, mercy, grace and love exists in my relationship with God, and He makes that evident to me on a daily basis.  Why the heck would I not want to be friends with Him? 


Author: Susan L. Prince

Been thinking about betrayal, the ultimate breakdown of trust.  How is it that after the disciples, and yes, all of them betrayed him at one point, especially as He went to suffering and death, was Jesus able to commission them to go out and make disciples.  How was he able to trust them with such a large responsibility after how they had just all failed Him?

Judas we all know died the ultimate betrayer.  He killed himself.  What if he had repented instead? 

Peter repented and Jesus restored him.  He restored all of the disciples.

Jesus, who knows the hearts of men, understood that his friends had weaknesses and His love covered over those weaknesses.  He was able to send them out to represent Himself and trust their repentance. Jesus knew the hearts of the men He surrounded Himself with, and therefore He was able to trust them, despite their failings.  The relationships could be restored. 

It doesn't seem so easy for humans.  Jesus, afterall, created humans, so He knows our hearts.  I can't know the hearts of men, or can I?  What if I took the time to really get to know somebody.  What if during conversation over coffee, I looked into the eyes of the person sitting across from me.  What if I asked deep, personal and intimate questions?  What if I didn't assume I knew somebody well, but really dug into their lives by spending time with them, by listening to them without offering advice or commiserating, but just listened.  I think after some time, I might *know* that person.  At least I would know them better.  

But, what if that person betrayed me?  Would I question myself?  Would I question the heart of that person?  

I have been hurt by people.  I am not easily offended, so it is not easy to do, but it is possible.  Thing is, I really try to know the hearts of the people I surround myself with.  I could never *know,* really KNOW, the hearts of all of the people in my life, but those that I make time to *know,* I trust.  

I have been hurt by people I have trusted, but love really does cover over a multitude of sin.  It can only really happen if I know the heart of a person.  If I know the heart of that person is bent on repentance and reconciliation, and I see behaviors that line up with that, trust can flourish again.  In fact, in some situations, the trust never waivers.  

It's an odd thing, this Christian life.  

God, help me to never betray my friends.

Help me to never betray You.

Monday, December 19, 2011

What Does Christmas Feel Like?

Author: Susan L. Prince

I was talking with a friend the other day and I observed that it didn't feel like Christmas to me.  She asked, "What does Christmas feel like?"

I answered, "I don't just feels happier, people are nicer, families gather together, there are great meals...," decorations and commemorations, and people think about Jesus.  I said that I can remember as a kid how exciting Christmas was, that I couldn't wait for it to come, and that now, the appeal is just gone.

Then, last night as my friend and I sat around watching George C. Scott portray Ebenezer Scrooge, I was struck by the thought that it felt like Christmas. All I was doing was sitting around wrapped up in a blanket, watching a Christmas movie with a friend.  Her home is decorated with greenery and lights, ceramic, snow-covered villages and many scented candles glowing, and I was sitting there observing all of it.

She had just finished making a tasty dinner for me, poured sparkling cider into my glass, made sure I was comfortable and warm, and that her home was inviting and seasonally appealing while being entertained by a classic holiday film.  It felt like Christmas.

It felt like Christmas because of the the holiday decorations, the sights and sounds, but most of all because I was spending time with a friend.  This special friend had just spent a part of her day making me feel comfortable and happy by serving me.  It was her good pleasure.

When I think about Christmases past and why they were so anticipated, (obviously as a child, getting presents is the big appeal), but as one grows older, it's the family time and the meal we all share that starts to be the important part.  I think about my Gram making that turkey gravy, and Grandpa challenging me to eat all those mashed potatoes.  I think about Grandma's laughter and seeing to it that everybody is happy, and then taking pictures of us that leave off our heads, feet or the people on either side.  I miss those people.  I miss those times.  They can never be again, because those people are no longer here. I live so far from home and miss my family.

Spending that time with my friend yesterday made me realize that it is the people I miss.  It's the people in my life who have served me and have seen to it that I am happy. My joy has been one of their greatest concerns. You know what?  I am so blessed that even though the people that I miss are gone from my life on this earth, He has seen to it that I've never been without people in my life who love me and want to see me happy, and show me this through serving me.  They are pleased to give of themselves to me, their time, attention, resources, talents and gifts.

At Christmastime I'm remembering how God leads us to do this for each other.  He first did this by giving us life, then He gave us His Son, and His Son gave us salvation.  We should rejoice that our names are written in heaven. It has been His good pleasure to serve us!  That bloggles the mind!

What does Christmas feel like?  It feels like I'm loved.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Avoiding the Appearance of Evil?

Author: Susan L. Prince

"Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1 Thess. 5:19-22 KJV) has often been used to caution Christians about doing anything that might look like sinful behavior to another, or further, might cause somebody to stumble in the faith.

The verse has always kind of bothered me because I am conscientious about my behavior and would never want somebody to stumble because of something they saw me doing. It also would bring up discussion about doing things that appear evil to one person, may not appear evil to another, we all have different opinions about what constitutes "questionable behavior," like going to the movies, or maybe into a bar, or what we watch on tv. 

 I often think about Jesus and his ministry and how he hung out with "sinners" and was around people who partook of wine at parties and spoke to tax collectors and prostitutes. If His behavior had the appearance of evil, how the heck am I going to avoid appearing evil? 

It's also interesting to note how different generations in the church view certain things. The older generation might say the guitar or drums in church is evil, or that rock music is "of the devil." Dancing or smoking a cigar might be a problem for some, or possibly having a tattoo, but when we start avoiding things that others' might deem "questionable," we start infringing on a believer's liberty in Christ. We can easily become legalistic and start calling things "unclean" that simply are inconsequential to God or are pure in His eyes. It also can cause us to start judging one another, our actions and motives, so I think properly understanding this verse is very important.

I heard something on the radio yesterday that brought this to the surface of my brain and I thought I'm going to research it. It turns out that I could only find the "appearance" term in the King James Version, and that in the translation I use, NIV, it says, "do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil." It says "avoid every kind of evil. Other translations use, "every form of evil," and I like what The Message says, "Throw out anything tainted with evil."

It became clear to me just from that little revelation, that Paul wasn't saying avoid questionable behavior, he was saying avoid anything sinful. It is important to weigh what is said, or prophesied, and determine if it is good or bad and if it is bad, avoid it!

"Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1 Thess. 5:19-22)

I think it is better understood that we avoid evil, no matter how it appears to us, or in whatever form it takes. Evil can appear to us in many ways, even as "an angel of light," which is why we need to first determine if what we encounter is good or evil, and if it is evil, throw it out and run away!