Sunday, September 28, 2008

In God We Trust

For several years I worked in fundraising for a Christian university. I made some great friends there, believed in the school, and I knew I was working for a noble purpose. But honestly, much of the time, I didn't enjoy asking people to give. I worried that I was bothering or annoying them. I found that while a few reacted with anger, others would graciously agree to give, or just politely decline.

Why does it feel so awkward to ask for money? Why do people get so offended at being asked?? At the time, I think I had trouble maintaining the biblical view that God calls His people to give, and promises to reward them for it - either here or in eternity.

Earlier this week my teammate Wendy Pope wrote a devotion that illustrated how just one person being obedient to Christ and reaching out to help others can make a difference. If you missed it, read it here. Then ministry president Lysa TerKeurst stepped into that sometimes awkward but necessary role of fundraiser with a letter to our web friends - read here to learn what the ministry's monthly budget is and how donations to the ministry are spent . I would leave it at that and not revisit my days at fundraising, except that I know this ministry is an excellent place to invest in the lives of others by giving. I give monthly to this ministry myself.

So here goes ... would you prayerfully consider being one of the ones that helps us reach others with the truth and love of the gospel? Would you consider giving to P31? Even one dollar would make a difference. And if you can commit to giving on a monthly basis, any amount, that would allow us to accurately budget and plan for the upcoming year of ministry by knowing how much income we can count on coming in.

We would love you to join with P31 - in any way that you can - in this exciting journey of spreading the gospel and building the Kingdom of God in women's hearts and homes. Ask God what He would have you do, and then if you'd like to donate by mail or online, simply click here. We are trusting God to provide the funds we need in these trying financial times, and trusting Him to provide for you, sweet friend, as well.

Stay tuned for details of my recent trip to California ...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Q&A, Bible study plans, prayer request

Madalyn asked: "Hey Rachel I was just wondering are you planning on continuing the women of the bible study or is it through? I miss it!"

I do want to finish the remaining women of the New Testament in our study of women of the Bible. I've just been in a busy season. I keep thinking I'll start us back up when this busy season lets up. But looking at my calendar, deadlines, and speaking schedule, honestly, it's probably not letting up anytime soon. If you'd like, starting in October I can begin posting the readings for us, and then let you gals take it from there with the comments. I just can't promise I will be able to post my usual lengthy essays about the characters. Though I might be able to sneak a few comments in here and there. Would that work for anyone?

Kathie T. asked: "Do you do your writings in cafes because it's more peaceful or because you get more inspiration or something else?"

First of all, yall do know I don't spend all my days sipping lattes and writing in cafes, right? I also teach classes part-time, grade quizzes, scrub toilets, do laundry, run errands, volunteer at my church, watch the travel channel with my daughter, sweep floors, do more laundry, make beds, work for Proverbs 31 part-time, prepare for speaking engagements, travel and speak, do more laundry, spend time with with my family, drive carpool, grocery shop, etc.

But I do a lot of writing - as a ministry, a hobby, and a job. I do probably 70% of that writing at home (particularly in the cold winter months). I like to write at home. But sometimes I need to come up for air and venture out among people for a change of scene. Cafes are not as quiet or as comfy as home, but then again I'm not responsible for cleaning the floors there, or doing the dishes there, or waiting on the customers there. So though it may be busy around me, I can focus on my task because I'm not surrounded by 12 other things I need to do. Plus, a change in my environment, a little people watching, or browsing the bookstore shelves can spark my creativity when I need it. Plus - they have frappachinos. :)

I leave town on Thursday morning for San Francisco. I'll be gone 5 days to lead a women's retreat in the Santa Cruz area. I'm really looking forward to it! But I've still got a few loose ends to wrap up and all my packing to do. Will you please pause and pray for God's anointing on the retreat, my sessions, and the attendees? Also for safe travel, and for my family I'll leave behind for several days. It makes a difference I can feel when God's people pray.

Got a question you want to ask me? Fire away and I just might answer it here. Oh, and Happy Birthday to Kelly T!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Savoring a Wednesday

Note: Please pray for Texas and a weakening of Hurricane Ike!

I wish you could see what I’m seeing. Today I’m sitting at a little table with my laptop, working on my book. This time I’m inside a Starbucks; this one is inside a Barnes and Nobel. My table is tucked in the corner by the big picture window that looks out onto the sidewalk. Between paragraphs or streams of thought, I look up and gaze outside as I think.

It rained this morning, and looks like it just might again in the next hour.

A moment ago I looked up and noticed a young, twenty-something couple outside. She’s wearing a blue jean skirt, and a short-sleeved twin-set, small rimmed glasses, and flip flops. She’s pretty, but she wouldn’t normally turn your head. Her long brown hair lifts from the middle of her back to blow in the wind. He is about her same height, maybe a couple inches taller. He’s in brown slacks and a causal short-sleeve button-down. His looks seem to match hers.

They were walking along towards the Starbucks when they stopped on the sidewalk and turned to each other. Something was said, one of them smiled, and I wondered if they were in love. Their arms raised at the same time as if they were going to hug. Her hands stopped and rested on his shoulders, elbows slightly bent. His hands stopped and rested on either side of her waist. They stood still a second looking at each other, and then down at their feet.

No sooner than I could think, “that looks like a dance hold,” they began to move. With jerky, slightly unsure steps, they began to travel in unison:

Forward, Side, Back, Side

Forward, Side, Back, Side

They were dancing a box step in the courtyard right outside of Starbucks – just as I wanted to do on Monday evening in my last post! They've put the biggest smile on my face.

There is no sunshine out today, and no moon shining either – only cloudy grey skies in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon. Yet this couple is savoring the day – and I’m savoring watching them.

After a few minutes, the rain started back up and the couple dashed for cover out of sight. But their dance will continue because I will think of them later when I meet up with my 7 year-old son and ask him to dance with me in the kitchen. I will think of them this evening when I’m on the elliptical machine with dance music filling my ears through my I-Pod. And I will think of them at the end of the day when I curl up with my husband.

Can you tell that I’ve secretly always wanted to live in a musical?!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Savoring a Monday

It’s Monday and I’m sitting at an outdoor cafe table on a balmy September evening. A woman just walked by and exclaimed, “Can you even see that?!” I’m typing on my laptop outdoors at night by the light coming through the windows of the Starbucks beside me. Smooth Jazz and Big Band songs (I actually love both) alternately flow from the outdoor speakers above. The Big Band notes tempt me to dance around the patio. If Rick were here, I just might make him dance!

People occasionally wander past eating ice cream, drinking coffee, or enjoying an evening stroll. If ever there were a night made for a full moon, this would be it. But the moon is only 65% full tonight. No matter, because visibility is so good I can see the creators on the illuminated half. I’m happily sipping my decaf pumpkin spice latte. It’s my first one of the season. I feel fully content.

I could launch into a spiritual point about the happiness coming from knowing my God, or having a clear conscience before Him. Yes, that is very, very true. But really, what’s doing it for me right now is the opportunity to savor this lovely evening and this delicious cup of coffee. Life is not perfect, but for right now – for the moment at least with my spicy pumpkin latte – life is good. And I don’t want to miss that. I don’t even want to take note of it and then move on. I want to relish it, and be thankful.

Sometimes it’s hard to just be in the present - not thinking about past mistakes, or missed opportunities, and not worrying about tomorrow and what it will bring. I’m not a very past-oriented person. I am strongly future-minded. I’m essentially optimistic, so I don’t worry about the future a lot. But I can spend too much time focusing on my hopes for next month, next year or the next phase of my life. So much so that I can miss the right now. Being fully in the moment and enjoying where I am now is something I want to do more of.

Two guys just sat next to me to eat their frozen desserts from the Cold Stone Creamery across the street. They are discussing their girlfriends. Do you think I should offer them some pointers? I decide to resist. But if you were here, we would surely chat. And I would ask you, what helps you slow down and be in the moment? Is there a certain song? A certain activity? A certain time of the day? Or a certain ritual that does that for you? I’d be really curious to know -- because I want more of these moments in my life.

PS. Hazel, know that I’ve been praying for you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ever been shipwrecked?

Good morning, bloggy friends. I hope that you, like me, are praying for protection from the hurricanes that seem to be lining up in the Atlantic to take aim at the US coast. I've weathered my share of hurricanes living here on the Carolina coast, so my heart goes out to the people on the Gulf coast. Am I hoping and praying we're not next! I still remember the sight of big boats sitting up in trees after a hurricane here.

I'm wondering if any of you have ever found your "boat" up a tree ... damaged ... out of commission ... shipwrecked? Read this verse written by Paul to Timothy:

"Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked." ~ 1 Timothy 1:19

I am hoping that you are you willing to share with me - anonymously if you prefer - a time that you deliberately violated your conscience. What were the results of that action? What did it do to your faith? Have you moved past it? How did you get your boat sailing again?

I'll be thinking a lot about this over the next few weeks as I work on some writing and some teaching I'll be doing, so I'd really love to hear your thoughts on keeping a clear conscience. Oh, and let me know if its OK to quote you. :)