God

gambling

yep, i’m a sinner.

now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about gambling. this past weekend i took a friend to one of the indian casinos in the area. i had never been to this one, so it was a nice little adventure.

once we arrived on the casino floor, we did our first lap to check out the space. by no means are we high rollers (and by “we” i really mean her… because i am broke… and that ain’t no joke…), so we scoped out the penny slots. as we were making our obligatory lap, we came across the non-smoking section. this was the asthmatics gambling paradise. the ability to breath fully without inhaling gross cigarette smoke, and choking up a lung, lets one think more clearly, thus making more wise gambling decisions.

i was playing it all… all $4 that is. (a donation by my friend… she felt guilty that i wasn’t sitting next to her having the same adrenaline rush as she did while pushing the pretty buttons) here’s my play-by-play: $2 into the machine… $1 lost, insert another $1… won $2… total now $4… cash out…. move to another machine, this one had a surf theme… realized that i’d upped the ante, it’s a two cent machine (i know… i live life to the fullest)… i could now win bigger, or loose faster… which is what i did. you know, $4 in a two cent slot machine goes kinda fast… just sayin’. well, as a fellow native american, i did my duty and supported a local tribe.

in the end we both lost… me $4… her $25. but that’s the chance you take. i am often amazed at how many people are there, and this being a holiday weekend, the place was packed. the slot machines, tables, the high roller rooms… they were all packed with people, not to mention the line for the buffet. (we already ate, so just did a walk by… but, isn’t that what people really want at the casino… a good buffet? i digress…) there were just a ton of people there.

at one point i began to imagine what it would be like if all these people went to church like this, or even what it would take to get people to church in masses like this. sure there are some of us who have the hankering to worship, but there are a ton of people who warm a pew on sunday morning because it’s the right thing to do… or it’s just what you do.

i recently began a small group study about spiritual disciplines. the author of the book we are reading talks about worship as an act of gratitude for what God has done for us, as opposed to an act of obligation. i know that i can’t honestly say that every sunday i am in church with a heart full of gratitude. and i will even go as far to say that i had more excitement walking into the casino, than i do on some sundays when i walk into church.

i want my heart to be full of gratitude and have the anticipation of excitement every time i walk into church. i want to be aware of the sacrifice that God made for me, that he sees the worth in me and choose to do what he did. i want to be excited to see and experience the spirit move during worship. i want to be excited for the words that God will revel to me during the act of corporate worship.

i want a lot. but is it really too much to ask of myself to raise my level of excitement to the place i was at when i walked into the casino? no… no it’s not.

Advertisements

the daily special

contrary to popular belief, I am not a big drinker. a bottle of beer has the ability to remain in fridge for several months before i even remember that it’s in there. and there are several good reasons that i do not regularly partake in libations… first, i’ve been blessed with alcoholism swimming around in my family gene pool, on both the deep and shallow ends. (i’ll let you determine which side is the shallow and which is the deep) second, alcohol is darn stinkin’ expensive… at least the good stuff. and is there really any purpose in drinking anything but the good stuff?

and finally… drunk people are only funny for so long. there really does come a point when it’s best to show them the door, or you leave yourself, before they puke on your shoes.

so now i find myself at an interesting point in my life… i’ve come to affectionately call it my semi-mid-life-maybe-not-really-crisis. within those set parameters i feel that i am able to do things that might seem… oh, out of character. or even something out of the ordinary. and so i did… i went to bar tending school.

mixology is a fine art… mixing your vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey is not for the faint of heart. in fact, it had been a long time since i had something so rigorous to study for. mastering the art of the one ounce blind pour sent some fellow class mates over the edge. and we aren’t even going to mention the nervousness that surrounded the pour test for some fellow students.

now, i can make a mean Singapore Sling or a Bahama Mama… not to mention a Brain Hemorrhage or a Cement Mixer. (there are just some concoctions of alcohol that i can’t imagine why people would drink them… ) the art of the muddle and shake is just as important as the booze you pour. from your inexpensive well drinks to your top shelf, the difference between average vodka and good vodka is tremendous… in taste and in the pocket book.

so, am i really going to get a job working at a bar? am i going to be pouring libations at clubs in midtown on friday and saturday nights? i am going to twist off caps off of longneck bud when the average joe bellies up to the bar for his daily drink? and, what does this mean for me as a christian… a christian who has a call to vocational ministry nonetheless?

i seriously doubt you’ll find me at the neighborhood bar restocking the bud light or pouring some type of sweet fruity tini at the hottest downtown night spot. maybe i’ll end up at some chain restaurant pouring from their drink menu, or even be the friend who can be the great bar tender at parties.

mostly what i’ll do now is pray. seek God for what he has next for me… for the calling he has given me. he’s cultivated passions and skills and talents in me that will all collide in a moment for his kingdom, and it’s my job to be ready and alert when that happens. the bar tending thing just happens to be the now thing… and has also given me the ability to pour a really good drink for my friends.

9: my faith, my tattoos

1.  Describe your tattoo(s):
i have two… the first is a large celtic cross, with the trinity symbol in the center. the second is a word in hebrew that means grace. because the actual word grace is not in the old testament, but the concept is. the cross is is traditional black ink, the hebrew word is in white ink with a subtle shadow.

2.  What made you want that tattoo(s)?
i had wanted one for a while… because they were cool. but i always talked myself out because of the needle factor. after a nasty breakup with a former boyfriend, i woke up on morning wanting the mark of God on me… permanently. i got in touch with my tattoo guy and we went from there.
the second was about six months later when i felt had come to pretty solid of understanding of God’s grace in my life and the importance of it.

3.  How did your faith influence your tattoo, indirectly or directly?
it’s my Jesus freak! i wouldn’t of have done it if it not were a direct demonstration of my faith. because of my aversion to needles and the family schism it would cause, i was looking to avoid it.

4.  What’s the relationship between your tattoo and your broader understanding of your body?
under the cross, i had romans 12:1&2 tattooed on it… this is my worship, my living sacrifice.  because i fully believe that we are first created to be in full worship with God, this is a part of it for me. it needed to be in a place that i could see regularly (and i really didn’t want it on my arms, wrists or hands) for that constant reminder of my dedication of worship to God on a daily basis.

5.  Was it worth it…do you have regrets?
completely worth it… no regrets at all!

6.  What funny story has happened because of your tattoo?
well, because my mom correlates tattoos with being in prison (she is a retired correctional officer), i hid it from her… and was successful until a faithful easter day about a year and half later. i was wearing pants, but at the angle each of us was sitting at, she had a direct view of it. my step dad sitting next to her saw it but didn’t saw anything about it. all of a sudden she jumps up off the couch, walking towards me with a finger pointed at my leg, saying, “what the hell is that?” i, of course knowing what is talking about but being me says, “what are you talking about? oh, you mean my tattoo.”
after a few expletives (remember she was a c.o.) i then added fuel to the fire and showed her my other one. to then add even more to fuel to the fire, my stepdad says, “well, now that abby has one, i can get one too!” then he got up, came over to me and gave me a big telling me how proud of me he was!
she’s totally over it now!

7.  How did your tattoo change your faith (and if not, why not)?
because of it, i am more bold. my faith is my serious business, and not that i didn’t take it serious before or wasn’t bold before, but now instead of me always engaging people, they now engage me. and the people who do engage me about it, were not they people that i would have engaged. it’s really gotten me to step out of my box.

purposeful advent

i have spent the last 30 years caught up in christmas. the good, the bad and the ugly of it all. i have been caught up in it all, and well frankly, i am tired. i am tired of the consumerism of it. i am tired of all the “family drama” the is associated with it. i am tired of feeling like i can’t shower my family and friends with gifts because i can’t afford it. i am tired of not taking the time to stop, take in a deep breath and enjoy the beauty of the season or reflect on the purpose as to why we have christmas in the first place.

all this to say, i am not boycotting christmas, but i am just re-aiming my purpose. for me, this past year has been a tidal wave of ups and downs, back and froths, side to sides and full tilt spins. has this past year been any different than any other year? emotionally… yes. everything else… no. i felt things this year that i never thought that i would feel. i felt things that i could never have imagined felt so amazing, then in a turn feel so completely horrible that i at times didn’t know how to move on from the pain.

in the tidal wave of it all… the rock solid foundation that existed, and will continue to, is Jesus. the tidal wave has subsided and the damage is manageable, but no matter how horrific i think the residual damage is, Jesus always makes it look like a piece of cake.

this season i am doing a few things differently…

taking time to breath
being more purposeful in my gift giving
spending more time with the reason for the season… Jesus
will only listen to “Christmas” music
open my bible everyday and blogging about the experience
acknowledging Christmas shenanigans as just that, shenanigans
not taking myself too seriously

showers & deep thoughts

i love the ritual of bathing. i am not speaking of this in the way of a religious ritual, but more of daily cleansing of the physical body. not only is it relaxing, i also have the time to think sole about myself. for some, that would way too self-centered, but if we really don’t think about our self at least once a day, then who is going to think about us?

today me thoughts shifted from several ideas and back. i started out thinking about shifting expectations and perspectives to singleness and learning how to enjoy this time in my life and truly embracing it to what messages the church is giving us single people when they all but ignore us or are just afraid of us, and back to perspectives. yea, it’s a lot… deep stuff… think about all this too much and it will hurt the brain.

i was thinking about a scene in the “sex and the city” movie where the gals are gathered for their routine meal and were talking about “coloring” and the shifting change that has happened in one of their marriages. (btw… if you don’t know what i mean by “coloring” then shoot me an email and i will explain all… or see the movie.)

i have learned that things never stay the same and change is always happening. we can’t avoid it… everything will change. the sun sets, and the sun rises… in genesis God called it good, we think of it as just another day, but really it a new change. when reading the  story we see that every day that God created was different, and i think He did that purposeful. come on, He is after all… God. if He wanted to create everything in one day, He would have. but He didn’t, nor do i think He wanted to. (i will end this here… because this it truly a whole other post)

and just as the day changes, so do our perspectives. what and how we think about something in one season of our life will completely change in another, and depending on what else is happening around us and what has happened around us, we will think of things different with different perspectives. i for one want to embrace change, but it scares the crap out of me. i want to be able to just shake it off and just another tumble, but truly it’s not.

so, i am left with two options… either rest in the solace of myself and search for something that truly could never be found, or seek hard after God, trusting that He will guide me, because He searches me and knows me.

I vote God.

voting

i am a big fan of voting. a week before my 18th birthday i couldn’t wait any longer, and i went down to the post office on day after school and registered to vote. it was exciting to sign my name on my voter registration form. on my way out of the post office that day, i grabbed a stack of voter registration forms and handed them out to all my friends.

just in case you have been living in a cave for the past year, we have an election coming up. for the first time in a while i am torn about who i am going to vote for and most likely i really won’t make my decision until i step up to the voting booth to cast my ballot. there is a little i like about each candidate, and a lot about each candidate that i don’t like. so for me, right now, it’s 50/50.

but i am still a van of voting. and i firmly believe that it is not only our duty to our country and forefathers, but anyone who calls themselves a Christian (which by most studies is about half of our country) has a duty to vote. this isn’t a choice people… not voting is not an option. and if you think it is… then move to canada! (yep, i said move on up north!) i don’t really want to share my country with people who don’t want to vote or who think it’s an inconvenience. there are people on this plant who have given their life for the right to vote, something you or i will never know. ok, enough about that.

i came across this video. it was made by a catholic group encouraging catholics to vote. it’s powerful. it moved me. it reminded me of my passion for voting. in a lot of ways, you can take out the word catholic and replace it with Christian. watch it… pray about… think about it… and go vote!

“America is a mistake, a giant mistake”

ok, before you get too excited and begin that post about how anti-american i am… notice that the above is in quotes!

in no way shape or form do i believe that our country, the one i love so much, is a mistake. as a matter of fact, i think it’s better than sliced bread… it is truly more than that, but hopefully there was a chuckle there, if not at least a smile! (it’s called defusing the situation people!)

one of my feeds into my blog reader is a quote of the day. i love quotes. great one liners that bring it all home. i thinking of starting a graffiti wall somewhere in my home where i can put quotes. today in the reader i found the above quote from sigmund freud and it got me thinking and propelled me to blog about it… hence the title… more eye catching than anything.

freud was a man who is credited for the introduction of psychotherapy and the such to the world. he is also know for his advances in the study of human sexual desire… which could be why is best know for being the guy who was all about sex. which is why i actually think the above quote is somewhat funny, considering the america is one of the most sexually repressed societies in the world today.

yes, i know this is a far reaching statement, and i truly do not have the credentials to really make such a statement. we live in a culture where sex is shunned and something to be embarrassed about, specifically in conservative evangelical churches.

if we turn to scripture, i know… novel concept, we actually see sex as a gift that God has given to a man and a woman who enter into marriage. (make sure you read that statement clearly… between a man and a woman) sex is a catalyst for a man and a woman to grow deeper intimacy between each other as well as God.

mark driscoll, teaching pastor at mars hill church in Seattle, is in the middle of a sermon series on the Song of Songs… and i think it’s brilliant! i will admit that there have been some statements from driscoll that have not set well with me, i find this series to be wonderful. i admire his transparency and his desire to see people know Jesus, fall in love with Jesus and live with Jesus as the center of their lives. i am impressed with his and his wife’s honest answers to the q & a questions at the end of the sermons. but most of all i am really enjoying hearing a man of leadership stand up in the pulpit and proclaim that sex is a great gift from God that we need to be ashamed about and it something that is celebrated in marriage between a man and a woman.

there are many governments in the world that would have sent him to prison, and possibly have had him executed, for making the statements that has has made during this series. we live in a country where freedom of speech and religion is part of the greatness of our country. i am deeply saddened that there are people on this planet whom practice other religions and i might not get to party with them and Jesus. my heart hurts thinking about the multitude of people who choose to not know Jesus or have been soured on him by other christians.

mr. freud… we are not a giant mistake… there is too much history that has happened for you to really know that.

nywc wrap-up

in the next couple of weeks i will be posting some wrap-ups about the convention. there is so much for me to process from this year that i want to take the time to do it justice, to do justice to what my heart and head are feeling and saying about it, and honor God in it as well.

a-team, day #5

early day… very early day… 7 a.m. early. but this morning, not only were we on time, but there was breakfast… a great way to start a really long day! this was the final day of the convention, which translates to winding down a-team activities and packing-up getting ready to ship out to Pittsburgh.

the team that i worked with took on most of the packing duties because i had a last minute meeting scheduled for this morning. we gave away the last of the snacks and treats that we had, took down the posters that so many youth workers created to honor fellow youth workers, packed everything up in the boxes and tubs they came, stacked them on a pallet and then i waited for the wrapping team to come in and wrap it all in super-duper plastic wrap.

we headed over to the book store and jumped in with that team to help pack it all up. luckily youth workers like to shop, so the number of books was less than what we started with.

when we were done i began to look around at everything, and it was sad. staring at the room that just a few hours ago was filled with the beautiful sound of brothers and sisters gathered worshipping has been transitioned to a pack-up state where even the fabulous disco mirrored ball was being packed away. it was all going away. it was all going to Pittsburgh and then on to Nashville.

but for Sacramento… it is done.

a-team, day #4

today was a pretty mellow day for the team. we helped out with the women in youth ministry lunch and did a seminar break in. we also organized some stuff, hung some stuff, affirmed some people and did some other things. i took some time today to walk through the hall ways. no agenda, no destination… just walk.

i saw people talking on their cell phones, people walking very quickly, people checking their email, people sitting together having a meal, people in deep conversation, people laughing together, people napping and people in prayer. all of it was so random, yet it all seemed to make so much sense. it all seemed to be natural, something that was expected instead of something that was so out of the ordinary that it seemed weird.

it always amazes me when i am in a place where i see all of these things and they all feel so natural. but i do remember when i didn’t feel so natural to me, in fact it felt kind of odd. i remember that point in my faith journey where praying in public or even talking about Jesus was such a forbidden subject for me. it wasn’t because i was afraid of people’s reactions, but it was more of something that just felt odd. it felt as though this was such a personal thing for me that i need to keep it just that… personal. i felt as though it was something that i didn’t need to share with anyone. i remember walking down the street or somewhere else and seeing a couple of people praying in public and thinking it was really odd.

the place i find myself now is full of relief and expectation. my relief comes from the place that i really don’t care what people think when i pray. yes, i do pray a lot in private. yet, at the same time it does not really matter when i do pray because that is me talking to God. either offering up a prayer for someone on their behalf or for myself, i am talking directly to God.

my expectations are full of wanting to see others be so comfortable with their relationship with God that they are willing to pray at a drop of the hat, no matter where they are or what they are doing. the see a need, hear about a need or meet someone in need, they pray.

i saw all of this today while strolling through the halls of the convention center. two people praying with each other, someone finding a quite corner in a busy convention center to catch some time with God, a group lifting up one of their own because they are going through some rough times… all of this brought a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart.