Aug 8, 2003

I've found a new obsession with photoblogs/fotologs/whatever-you-call-them (gee thanks Quinn... another thing to waste my time with!). I start out just looking at one site, but then I link to one of their favorites, and one of the next person's favorites, and so the cycle goes. The sites I totally love are A Closer Look, Flowerpower, and Black and White. My kind of photos, for sure!

I don't suppose I've mentioned this, so I will now. Allison tells me I should write a book. I still find that a bit humurous, but I figure I'll keep it in mind and see if I get "inspired" to write anything. I did tell her that if I ever actually do one, I will definitely have to include photography. For one, it will fill the space, for the lack of ingenious writing. More importantly, I love it! I guess I've always liked taking pictures, but a little over a year ago I got a camera that was worth while and started taking some "experimental" pictures, just to see how the different features of my camera worked. Some of them, to my delight, turned out pretty good. When I got to St. Augustine, I jumped on the opportunity to take pictures of Flagler, since the buildings are quite gorgeous. Some of those turned out nice (I think). My favorite pictures that I've taken thus far, however, would have to be my flower pictures. One sunny day during first semester last year, I walked around town snapping close-ups of all sorts of flowers. My two favorites are the hibiscus flowers: one pink, one red. I think I like photographing flowers and things in nature for the simple fact that they are not man-made. I look at those two pictures (which hang on my wall in 8x10s) and think, "wow, that's beautiful," yet I have no ownership of that beauty. The pictures are not beautiful because of expert photography; they are beautiful because the flowers which God made are so incredible. I like up-close pictures because we see "the big picture" all the time. If it weren't for an up-close picture of, say, tree bark, how often would we actually take time to appreciate the intricate detail of its texture? Not often. Anyway, just thought I'd share.

"Some people only like the kind of music they hear on the radio or at parties. What about classical? What about jazz? What about the sound of leaves blowing across the road? Music is everywhere. But hey, that's just me."
--a quote from a JCPenney's ad in September's YM magazine.
The Friday Five

1. What's the last place you traveled to, outside your own home state/country?
hmmm... oh, last week the family went to Jekyll Island, GA. The last (and only) time I traveled outside the country was to Europe... London and France: wonderful trip.

2. What's the most bizarre/unusual thing that's ever happened to you while traveling?
Wow... there's so many... where to begin? Brooke threw up on a bus trip once. On another bus trip, we had to stop and have the on-board port-a-potty cleaned out... very weird... water hose through a window... we were all still on board... truely unforgetable! And on yet another bus trip, this one to Tallahassee from Jacksonville, the AC broke! It was utterly rediculous. Late spring in Florida with 50-ish warm bodies... completely miserable half the way there and the whole way back. And it wasn't that the AC just wouldn't come on... it was blowing hot air! On yet another bus trip, this one with my senior class (the previous ones were all with the band), the bus driver began falling asleep on an icy road in North Carolina and nearly hit a Semi! I believe it was the same bus driver that cut a corner in a parking lot too close and hit a pole. Hmmm... any other stories...

3. If you could take off to anywhere, money and time being no object, where would you go?
First, make a stop in Atlanta to visit Rex and Marti. Then, I suppose I would head back over to London... I loved it there.

4. Do you prefer traveling by plane, train or car?
I have only really traveled by plane and train once each in my life, but I enjoyed them both. Out of the three, I guess I would choose plane. I like each of them for different reasons, but for a long trip I certainly would not opt to go by car. I do have this dream of traveling the country by train, but it has to be one of the cool ones with sleeper cars and everything!

5. What's the next place on your list to visit?
I don't have much opportunity at this point in my life to do a lot of traveling, but I guess realistically I could pick Miami. Last year I made it down to West Palm Beach with some friends and had a blast... maybe we'll make it to Miami this year.

What's your favorite place and why? Leave a comment, let me know.

Aug 7, 2003

I NEED YOU by Sonic Flood

You know who I am inside
You know when I lie
You can tell when I'm amazed
You can see my faith

You know when I don't believe
You know when I'm free
You can tell when I need love
You know I'm in need

Love, I need love
You are love
I need You
Love, You are love
I need love
I need You

You know of my deepest fear
You know when I'm scared
You can read my empty page
You can feel my rage

You're aware of when I dream
You see when I bleed
You can tell when I need love
You know I'm in need

I know we need You, Father
Much more than any other
Your love brings us together
We need You, we need You

Love, we need love
You are love
We need You
Love, You are love
We need love
We need You
I need You

Aug 6, 2003

Just when you thought I was finished...

Yeah, so I'm doing a third post on the same topic. Could be a personal record! First of all, Tuesday was a GREAT day. I got to spend the majority of it in St. Augustine with Laci. After coming home, we watched a movie at my house. Later that night, I got to spend some quality time with Allison. An all-around good day. While Laci and I were in the car together, we continued our ongoing conversation of the week about legalism. She and I have both realized that there's SO much that we never noticed until we moved away from the places where we grew up. I know personally, moving to St. Augustine last year was spiritually the best thing I could have done. In the past year, I have learned an incredible amount about God and how to approach Him. The things I have learned come not so much from Bible study lessons or sermons, but from personal experiences and interaction with other Christians with different backgrounds. There are so many things that we always thought to be "spiritual absolutes" that were not necessarily taught but implied, and now we are asking ourselves, as Laci says, "why did we ever believe those things? why didn't we question them?" I know at some point, someone who has known me my entire life is going to read these posts and believe that I have "gone off the deep-end," but I PROMISE I haven't! It's just that there are so many things that we seem to come up with on our own that we think make us more spiritual, yet they're not exactly Biblical. Some of them are not bad... if seen as personal conviction, but we tend to treat them as if they are laws set in stone by God Himself when that is just not the case. It's like saying there is a Biblical standard for dating: as much as some people like to think there is, dating is NOT addressed in the Bible. Plain and simple. Dating is not one of the subjects Laci and others and I have been discussing, but they are things like that that are either not addressed in the Bible, or the way we address them is different from the Bible. A good example of that is the raising of hands during worship. IT IS BIBLICAL!! Try getting a hard-core baptist deacon to be accepting of that, though! We may even preach that it's okay, but when someone actually does it.... look out because you are likely to get some discriminating looks from some people. Another thing, which takes a lot of guts for me to write about semi-publicly, is drinking. We preach against alcohol of all kinds and somehow fail to see that the wine of Bible times was an alcoholic beverage. There are those who try to say (which is what I have heard most of my life) that the wine of the Bible was different than it is today, and therefore it was okay. There were people in the Bible who GOT DRUNK from the wine they had, so how is that any different? I'm not saying that I support the use of ALL forms of alcohol. I do have many personal convictions on the subject. But the fact that we will look down on someone else who is okay with drinking wine is just rediculous. These are the kinds of things my "eyes have been opened to" over the course of the past year. Once again, I am sure there are those who will read this and think, "it's all down-hill from here, " but it's truely not. I just had to have a change in environment for God to show me that I don't have to believe everything someone tells me I am supposed to believe; rather, I must back up my beliefs with the Word of God. The whole situation reminds me of Quinn and how he left a church which he now calls "the prison church." Had it not been for a change in location, I believe he would still hold to most, if not all, of his old beliefs. My home church is certainly not a "prison church," but I still had to get away for a while in order to learn some things.

Allison and I got to talk a lot last night about friendship sort of things, as well as issues that come with moving away to college, which was cool because we have a lot that we can learn from each other's experiences. We got together with the intention of going to a movie, but there was a big delima with the show times, so we wound up just sitting around at her house talking with each other. I'm glad. Everything has a purpose... even the messed up schedules at AMC! Anyway, it was very refreshing for us to be able to share our hearts with each other. It's a good thing I have free long distance on my cell phone for when January rolls around!

I'll leave you with a Psalm. Psalm 19, to be exact.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end; and there is nothing hidden from its heat. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making the wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servent is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servent also from presumptious sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then shall I be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

Aug 4, 2003

Second verse, same as the first...

Yesterday I had far too much to say to actually remember all of it at once, so today is more of yesterday's story. Sunday morning my mind was still on the subject of legalism/freedom. In the morning service, we (the choir) sang a song called "Rise and Come Forth." It's a decent song, but not one that I would typically devote a whole post to, such as other songs I have mentioned. Most of the song is a call for the Church to rise up and be different because there is a dying world around us. The way I took it yesterday was that we need to be different from the world in that we shouldn't have "rules" that we expect people to follow in order to fit in. That's what legalism is. Like Laci said in her comment on yesterday's post, we've been forced into a mold for far too long, and it's time we break out of it. Sitting in the choir loft Sunday after Sunday, we stare out into the faces of the congregation, and nearly every week I wonder if any of them even have a clue how it feels to worship God. Their expressions are so stern and stoic. Granted I'm not an overly expressive worshipper, I still think you can usually tell by someone's face when they're really "experiencing" God. A line in the song says, "Loose them now and set them free through the blood of Calvary." When we got to that point, I just lost it. My lip quivered; my voice cut out; tears ran down my face. I wept for my church. "They have no idea," I thought to myself. "They're imprisoned by their own preconceived notions of worship. Set them free, God," I prayed as I attempted to sing. Singing was too much of a barrier, so I finally had to stop. Towards the end of the song I was encouraged by a 'LONE WORSHIPPER' in the front section. Actually, a woman and her husband. They are fairly new to our church, and I don't know them, but I see them week after week engaging in true worship. It's so encouraging. On one of the repeats of the chorus, "Church, rise and come forth," they stood to their feet with outstreched arms amidst the crowd of the seated. Eventually, by the last time through the chorus, with the big climatic ending drawing obviously closer, they had others join them in standing. But that's sort of typical... a few stand, "hey, that looks like a good idea," and others finally join in, but only when it's late enough in the song that they know they will not have very long to stand. I don't mean to make it sound as if I think those who stood later were insincere or anything; it's just that it seems they are the ones who are too afraid to branch out on their own in worship without someone else taking the first step for them. I am glad they stood. It would have been far easier (and possibly far more typical) for everyone else to remain seated and allow the two standers to feel completely isolated (not that those two are the type to care). So I am glad they joined in on that act of worship. It's just that I would love for more people in our church not to be afraid to do whatever it is that they need to do ON THEIR OWN. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free."

I jotted down a note to myself during the service that said the following:
"If a worshipful life is a sweet fragrance to God, a life of legalistic bondage must be a rotting stench. Allow yourself to experience the freedom Christ has saved you to."

Aug 3, 2003

Linsay of W:W:L.O.L. has a post that reminded me of something Leslea wants to do as a ministry with some other people from our Sunday school class. Danny works (as a cop) in the rough parts of downtown and encounters many various people. Leslea wants to start ministering to the prostitutes and homeless in the area where he works. The idea is on a Saturday morning to get together and hand out little bag fulls of personal things that we take for granted yet these people cannot afford. I think it's an awesome idea, for the simple fact that ministering to prostitutes is stepping out of the comfort zone for most Christians. And it's not like we'd be going out there and preaching at them. Instead, we're going out and just showing a little love for these people. Let them know somebody cares that they exist. I think it's a cool idea. I really hope it works out in an awesome way.

God is Awesome. The Edge was INCREDIBLE last night! Darrell Evans is great... a very powerful worship leader. Right off the bat, he said, "whatever you said you would never do in worship, do that." I knew I was going to like him! On the drive down there, Allie and Laci rode with me. We had a conversation about legalism and the lack of freedom many Christians seem to have. Once we got there and Darrell opened up with that comment, I knew God was going to speak. Freedom in worship was the theme of the night for me personally. It's not really what Darrell spoke about, but that's what God was speaking to me about. Darrell did say a few things on that topic, but the bulk of what he said had to do with meeting in a "secret place" with God because He desires to meet with us. Throughout the whole night, God's presence was just so thick. It was wonderful.

I was really quite excited to discover when we got there that it was STANDING ROOM ONLY! It was packed out! I wouldn't have had it any other way. I know personally I came with a goal in mind: worship. And that goal was fulfilled. It was such a great night.

The seven of us that had come together went out to Steak-N-Shake afterwards, since that is THE late-night restaurant. One of the guys said something in reference to worship that really kinda struck a nerve in me. It made me wonder if he and I had even been at the same service, since he obviously didn't hear the part about freedom from legalism. [The guys did sit out in the hall for lack of seats... it's not the same as being inside. I think they might have really missed out on some stuff.] I'm not sure if he meant his comment the way I took it, but I am certain that some of our slightly legalistic upbringing is still hanging on to him. Not really his fault, I don't think; he and I (actually all seven of us, for the most part) have had similar upbringings in traditional baptist churches and a baptist Christian school. Don't get me wrong, I love my church, as you know by now. But on certain issues they are still a little legalistic at times. His church is the same way. I just hope we are all able to hear the words of Christ above the words of our churches. While our churches teach the word of God, there are times--since we are human--that we live something that is slightly out of line. The "lived" messages are so much louder than the taught ones.

Anyway, back to the origional point, the worship last night was incredible. On the way home, Allison mentioned something that I had noticed, but I didn't really make the mental connection till she said something. She mentioned how during worship we seem to be opposite of how we are in our day-to-day stuff [but not in a hypocritical way]. In worship, she becomes quiet and more introverted; I become louder and more extroverted. She tied it in with something Darrell said: he said worship should make you uncomfortable at times because you are leaving your comfort zone. Normally, quietness makes Al uncomfortable. Normally, being loud makes me uncomfortable. But in worship, that's what God calls us to do. Thanks for the insight, Allie.

Freedom. It's a beautiful thing.

"Free me from the trap that is set for me for you are my refuge."
--Psalm 31:4

"I run in the path of your commands, for you have set me free."
--Psalm 119:32

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
--John 8:36

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
--Galatians 5:1

"I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts."
--Psalm 119:45

"In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."
--Ephesians 3:12

"Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
--John 8:32

When I got up this morning and started my quiet time, imagine my excitement when the title read "Freedom from Legalism"! That was totally unexpected and completely awesome. The passage was Colossians 2:16-23. From The Message, it reads:

"So don't put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.
"Don't tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They're a lot of hot air, that's all they are. They're completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us. He is the Head and we are the body. We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us.
"So, then, if with Christ you've put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? 'Don't touch this! Don't taste that! Don't go near this!' Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they're just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important."

I like the very first part: "So don't put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ." Let us worship God in spirit and in truth, and quit paying so much attention to what others are or are not doing. Rather, pay attention to what God is calling you to do, and DO THAT. Christ saved us so that we might have freedom. If we do not live in that freedom, are we not "wasting" our salvation? Do not make Christ's gift of no use in your life. Live in the freedom of Christ.