Shades of Regret

Shades of Regret

When you are a mother of two small children, you spend a lot of time in public restrooms. It was my fourth trip to a public restroom in the last two hours, and I didn’t want to make another trip once our movie started.While waiting on my daughter to come out of the stall, an older woman was washing her hands and offered,

I just watched 50 Shades of Grey. I didn’t’ need that. My curiosity got the better of me.

She shakes her head and wrings her hands with soap. I nod and wonder what on earth I can tell this woman. What hope should I offer in a few seconds in the bathroom? It seemed she simply wanted to confess to me. She continued as I listened and nodded,

You know the man is just messed up.  Save your eight dollars and go get Chinese instead.

She shook her head, flung up her hand, and walked out the door while I meagerly offered a few remarks. This woman was clearly disturbed by the sadomasochistic movie that is sweeping the nation and was first within the grasp of teens, moms, and people of all ages at major chains such as Walmart, Target, and all bookstores and e-readers since 2011. It is reported to have sold 100 million copies in 52 languages worldwide.

An estimated 900 teens in Orlando (see here) stormed a movie theater in attempts to watch the rated R movie earlier this week.

The Christian community has not remained silent on this topic. Consider Dannah Gresh’s book, Pulling Back the Shades. (Read about it here.) Or, this thought provoking article by Dr. Russell Moore, Women Stop Submitting to Men? (click here). However, in the case that you have missed these, I want to warn you: flee the temptation to see what all the hype is about!

Men and women of the Church, do not use this as an opportunity to research pop culture. Consider this a call to be in the world and not of it. Protect your minds and relationships from this obvious working of evil. Many times we can fall into a spiritual pit of despair and sin we were not seeking, but consider this your warning that the pit is within your vision and the choice to descend is up to you.

Sex is so perverted in our fallen state post garden– post forbidden fruit. The good gift that God created from the time He introduced Adam and Eve has been polluted by the sins of this world. We worship the created act of sex above the Creator and pervert the original gift of sex within marriage. 50 Shades of Grey is another proof of this fact.

Don’t let curiosity rob you of your peace of mind and spirit. Heed the lesson from the woman I met, and warn your friends likewise.

Fight the good fight of faith and finish the race having won the battle over curiosities that God’s Word blatantly speaks over as evil and destructive.

Did I miss an opportunity to share Christ with this woman? Perhaps. I pray that she will seek out, or already knows the truth for herself. However, I didn’t miss an opportunity to pray for her. Further, I don’t think that it was any accident that I was in the right place at the right time to hear her confession and tell her story to you.  I can see her distraught look even now. I pray that the shades of regret will not be mirrored on your face.

Choose life.

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Performance Pressure

Have you ever experienced stage fright even in an off stage moment? Your desire to perform well was overwhelming to the point of paralysis. Instead of giving your best, you fell short of even attempting your goal at all. My son recently had an experience like that.

Our children began ice skating lessons a week ago. I’ll tell you, there is nothing more precious-at least to date-than seeing my daughter and son attempting to skate. They look like little penguins starting to waddle on the ice. The faces they, along with their friends, make during their first attempts on the ice are priceless.

It is amazing to see how the children tackle the challenge of gaining their footing and making ground on new turf. Some of the children flail and zoom as fast as they can from point A to point B, with little care whether they fall while making it across. Form and beauty play no role in their thought processes; rather, let’s do this is the self-talk ringing in their minds.

Then you have the apprehensive ones. The ones (as in the case of my children) who aren’t willing to let go of the teacher for a moment for fear they will fall or fail in their advancement across the ice.  Gracefulness or success is close to the last thing on their mind either; survival from one side of the rink to the other reigns supreme.

With the two beginners attitudes towards learning to skate, I think the focus is on two different planes; group one is motivated by success, group two by fear.

The first week my son attempted everything the teacher asked of him; albeit with fear and apprehension written over his face at least 15 or 20 minutes of the 30 minute class. The second week, my husband came to watch the kids, and our son uncharacteristically started crying and wanted to leave his class and sit with his mommy.  We thought he was scared of the ice and may be too tired or experiencing a sugar crash from his birthday pie and ice cream that I had made him for breakfast. Maybe, we pondered, he was a little nervous having his daddy there to watch him for the first time.

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Later on, we would discover that the later thought was correct. Our son was worried that his attempts wouldn’t be good enough and therefore he stopped trying at all. All he could think about was getting to his mommy who would be waiting with hugs and kisses. In this case, both Ron and I weren’t letting our son off the ice until the class ended. We wanted him to give his best; even if his best meant trying with the aid of the instructor the entire time. For us, and I propose for the Father, our efforts are what matter. The heart that says, I am afraid, but I will face my fears and give my best, that is the heart that God delights in. That is the heart that we as parents delight in seeing our children put into visible action.

Our daughter was tempted to follow her brothers lead and stop and stand on the sidelines, but she dug in and decided to keep trying. In the end she stayed after class for free skate and hugged the wall off and on around the rink 10 times! That is effort that deserves praise. Was she up to speed with other skaters her age who had taken lessons longer, or peers who left the security of the wall earlier than she? No. However, she pushed past her own fears and insecurities and in that found confidence and reward that will push her farther the next time on the ice.

Approaching our car, our son told me-after a little prompting-with head down and shoulders slumped, “I was afraid dad wouldn’t like my skating.” Wow. That he could articulate his feelings was remarkable. More surprising, even though it shouldn’t have been, was the fact that fearing he wouldn’t impress the most important man in his life lead him to quit trying. Ron is an encouraging and patient father beyond any other I have ever met, but our son still wanted to impress his daddy and feared not doing so.

Minutes after I sent Ron a text to let him know of our son’s fears, my phone rang. Ron called to reassure our son that he maintained his father’s favor and pride in him. Our son’s face lit up at simply the call from his dad and kept beaming even after the good news filled his five-year-old ears.

What about you? Is there a new task that you are attempting and the fear of falling short is tempting you to halt trying at all? Are you afraid that somehow you are going to let your Father down? Well, its a good thing that God doesn’t look at the outward appearances, but rather, He looks at our heart. When we give his calling on us our all, He sees the heart and the intentions of our heart beyond simply the success or failure of our feet, and He proudly cheers on His sons and daughters from the sidelines. He doesn’t compare us with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but rather looks simply at us individually and prods us to become more of who He created us to be.

 For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7b)

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Homeland: A Christmas Series

Homeland Part 1

When I was young in the mountains, I never wanted to go to the ocean, and I never wanted to go to the desert. I never wanted to go anywhere else in the world, for I was in the mountains. And that was always enough. (Cynthia Rylant, When I Was Young in the Mountains)

I have spoken to several men and women whom desire to live in a different place than where they are. Admittedly, several times in a given week or month, I am one of them. I often love the place I live and other moments I desire a grand adventure far, far away. This phenomena has prompted me to contemplate whether this is a perspective shared by historical accounts of men and women documented in the Bible. So far my search has turned up empty.

I believe the desire for novelty and adventure are good, and God-given, but I also wrestle with the reality that it can be a sign of ingratitude, discontent, and a blinding of my eyes to the mission God has given in the present, to the gifts of here and now. This Christmas God has guided my thoughts on the matter to the account of the shepherds and the wise men.

There are two groups of men that were called to worship and witness the Christ-child: the shepherds and the wise men. The shepherds traveled walking distance to witness the new born King of Kings. These men, by vocation, were homebodies often sleeping among the sheep they guarded and never going far from their flock.

And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  (Luke 2:17-18, ESV)

Conversely, the wise men traveled up to two years to witness the Messiah. Their journey started when they saw the star rise and set out to worship him.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasure, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10-11, ESV)

In considering the missions of both these two vastly different groups of men, a few similarities stand out:

  • Their mission was to find the Christ and worship Him.
  • They were given a sign to know that they had found the Messiah.
  • They obeyed their assignment.
  • Their response was worship and joy.

Whether shepherd or wise man, pauper or prince, native or foreigner, those that are in Christ Jesus are each traveling to the same homeland. They are each integral parts to the story of the world, redemption, and the promised restoration of God’s creation. We each work in our areas of influence so that it too can be said of us as the cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11:

For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:14-16, ESV, emphasis mine)

Shepherds heeded the heralding angels and the wise men followed the star; we are all called to follow the King. Each of us as part of the story should look to our homeland and work toward that same end. Let us find something in our surroundings today to be grateful for and to recognize the hand of God in our adventures near or far.

Have you encountered any men or women in the Bible who desired a grand adventure away from the place they were living? I would love to hear your answers if so. You can leave a comment below or e-mail me at Brooke.Cooney.1@gmail.com.

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The Changing of Seasons and Our Faith

 

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Autumn has always been my favorite season. The burnt oranges and reds of changing leaves paint the horizons with blazing new brushstrokes year after year as the weather turns cooler and the crunch of fallen leaves are heard underground. I welcome steady change and the faithful return of fall, skies blazing. The return for man’s work is a comfort and a constant echoed in this season.

Just mention the word fall and dozens of memories flood my mind:

A tall glass of sweet tea, the smell of fresh cut grass and the voices of football announcers on TV—these sights, sounds and smells trigger Saturday memories from my childhood autumns past. My dad worked full days in the hot Alabama sun and still managed to cut the grass just in time each Saturday. He would settle into his recliner with a large glass of sweet tea and enjoy a day full of college football. We talked about anything and then sometimes nothing at all, but it was the time we spent together that was important.

I also remember the smell and rich taste of homemade oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies my mom would bake and place in her handmade, hand-painted pumpkin cookie jar. She was called nearly every Friday to make her signature cookies, either for the football players or for some of my friends.

Read the rest of the post at iBelieve. (Click here.)

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A Letter to My Younger Self on Adoption

John 1224

I know you will remember a time in your childhood when you wondered if you were adopted. Never mind that you look like your parents and laugh at your own jokes exactly like they both do; but, just the same, you will wonder if you were adopted and never told. You will naturally gravitate towards books about orphans.

This is the planting of a seed.

Next, you will have a desire to adopt. You will make this a topic of priority with your fiancé and subsequent husband. Being the Type A planner that you are, even a few months into trying to start a family, you will again give adoption consideration and state, “If we can’t conceive on our own we will adopt.”

This is the watering of a dream.

Two kids, and a few years later, you will read Kisses from Katie and determine that if a twenty-something woman from Tennessee can adopt and foster children on her own in a foreign country, then surely you can foster one child on the way to adoption.

This is sunlight upon fertile soil.

Next you will complete the nearly 10 months of work that it takes to train and paper-approve families to foster. It will be a never ending cycle to prove your family fit to parent a child not your own. You will complain and you will wonder why on earth it will take so much to do a good deed.

This is the breaking forth of a seed out of the dark soil into the sun. 

At last, when you thought the day would never come, you will get the call to pick up your foster son. You will go expectantly with his Thomas the Train backpack and snuggle animal from Target. Then you will meet a child who your heart will forever call son. He will be blonde and beautiful and wild and covered in spaghetti sauce and you will have many long days ahead of you.

This will be the stalk rising from the ground.

For 13 months you will labor, love, and advocate on this child’s behalf. You will sing to him, Jesus Loves Me, and do all the things a mother does. You will watch every single person around you love this little boy like he was your very own son—because in many ways he forever will be your son. You will train him in the way that he should go and pray on his behalf.

This will be the wheat ripe for harvest.  

Finally, at the end of 13 months, you will say good-bye to your little boy as he is reunited with his biological family. It will be one of the hardest and perhaps the most impactful goodbyes you will ever say.

This will be the kernel falling to the ground. 

Months will pass, tears will fall, a new normal will encompass your days, and you will wonder how you ever did it all. You will wonder: can I ever do that again? The answer will not come right away–at least not the answer you think others will expect. But in all the waiting, you will say: Loving another child changed my lifemaybe the world in some small way. Then you will tell his story, your story, so that other families may open their homes to make the difference in the life of a child.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

John 12:24

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100 Little Gratitudes

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 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:15

Thank you.  Two simple words which can have a significant  impact not only on the receiver but on the giver of the words as well.  The one who is thankful is choosing to shift his focus from that which  he does not have or cannot change to what he has, is blessed with, and enjoying.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.- Phillipians 4:6

When I pause to reflect on my present and past blessings from God, the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17), my mind is more clearly focused on that which I should truly petition and request in prayer. I am more apt to see life in the proper perspective.

I was challenged several years ago to write a list of 100 things that I was thankful for.  It was truly a sweet time of reflection to think on at least 100 people, circumstances, and experiences for which I was thankful.  I hope that this simple exercise in gratitude will spur you to do likewise.

Graciousness is caught in addition to being taught.  I realize more and more that my actions speak so much louder than my words.  I want to live out a life that is authentically gracious and obedient to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, so that I am modeling a life that I want my children to pursue.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking time out of your full day to read this blog.

Here is my list in no particular order.

  1. for life
  2. my husband and best friend, Ron
  3. our children
  4. my parents
  5. my wonderful sister and her husband
  6. all of  my in laws
  7. my nieces and nephews
  8. our family’s collective health
  9. salvation in Jesus Christ
  10. forgiveness
  11. the ability to read
  12. access to almost any book in the world
  13. my Bible
  14. a good nights sleep
  15. our home
  16. two cars (yes, we now are a two car family once again)
  17. fresh fruit and vegetables
  18. my church
  19. friends
  20. furniture
  21. our ministry together
  22. my gym
  23. Emily’s artwork
  24. quiet time in prayer and Bible study
  25. throwing the football with Joshua
  26. toothpaste and a toothbrush
  27. water and warm showers
  28. access to good healthcare
  29. Target, Walmart, Ross, and Michael’s
  30. mercy
  31. hope
  32. a future
  33. my grandparents and extended family
  34. autumn (my favorite time of year)
  35. mentors in the faith
  36. a baby boy on the way for friends who have tried for seven years to have a baby
  37. hiking
  38. kayaking
  39. camping
  40. mail and packages from Nana…and Amazon
  41. God’s provision!
  42. education and the ability to learn
  43. soy vanilla lattes
  44. Costco
  45. time to spend with those we love
  46. freedom
  47. missions
  48. road trips
  49. Jesus’ unending pursuit of my heart
  50. Jefri and Jasmine (our Compassion children)
  51. a camera and photographs of memories
  52. a dining room table to eat at with my family and friends
  53. a bed
  54. clothes and shoes that fit
  55. writing opportunities
  56. a purpose
  57. good music
  58. vegan mayonnaise
  59. dancing
  60. chiropractic care
  61. naps
  62. holidays
  63. protein powder
  64. Auburn University and my experience there
  65. University of South Florida and all that I learned
  66. Pinterest
  67. groceries and money to pay for them
  68. a washer and dryer
  69. wifi and a computer
  70. the Grand Canyon- hiked it four times and it never gets old
  71. science
  72. Classical Conversations
  73. homeschooling
  74. organization
  75. Emily learning to read!!!
  76. electricty and indoor plumbing
  77. travel
  78. children’s books
  79. my memory
  80. thrift stores and consignment shops
  81. my weaknesses because when I am weak then He is strong
  82. Chick Fila, Chipolte, and Olive Garden
  83. second chances and lessons learned the first time
  84. that first impressions aren’t always accurate (Amen?)
  85. laughter
  86. the beach
  87. the moutains
  88. my coffee maker
  89. Christian apologetics resources
  90. funny YouTube videos
  91. my workout playlist
  92. Colorado Pinion Pine Cones (pictured above)
  93. mom’s red velvet cake
  94. Christmas movies
  95. Christmas tree farms
  96. flowers
  97. the sun and moon
  98. Easter
  99. free will
  100. love

 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. ~1 Chronicles 29:13

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Providing for the Poor

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As it pertains to responding to the requests of the poor and homeless, it seems we have questions as to the right way in which to respond. I wrote at iBelieve about one such positive experience I had. Please join me there today as we explore this topic approaching the Thanksgiving season when opportunities to give abound.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. ~Matthew 7:7

My family was eating lunch at a local restaurant amidst dark, black clouds threatening an approaching thunderstorm. I glanced out the window to survey the progression of the storm when I saw a man ride up on his bicycle. It was apparent he was homeless by his unkempt appearance and his beard that hadn’t seen a trim in many months, perhaps years.

I looked at this man and thought: what a hard life. Not knowing where the next meal will come from, not sure of where to spend the night or pass the time until storm blows over. I remarked the same to my husband and his response surprised me, maybe he looks at us the same way. I was stunned. What if my husband was right? Maybe the homeless man sees the unrealistic expectations that I cling to, the purchases I make and the hours that were necessary to work in order to make those purchases. Maybe he looks at my choices to take care of two children and prepare their three meals–and seemingly equal three snacks–a day and think: that’s too much work.

Please head over to iBelieve to finish reading this post and join me in the discussion. (Click here.)

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For Everything There Is A Season

For everything there is a season

 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

I feel a changing of the seasons. A time for me to keep silent as surely as there is a time for me to speak. I sense that a season away from blogging is in order. A time of refreshing. God is allowing me a season off to spend quality time with my children unhindered by a Tuesday/Friday writing schedule. Time which will allow an occasional skipping of naps to go on an expedition (thank you Christopher Robin); this break will mean the post I needed to write won’t be late. Writing two times a week doesn’t seem like much when I type it, but compiled on a list of other to do’s both maternal, matrimonial, ministerial, and homeschooling (too bad that can’t start with an “m” ) it is much.

Even Jesus need time away.

With that said, I am taking off the entire month of August and will determine if my break will continue in September and October at the end of the month. I believe that it will be a three month break which will pinpoint me coming back in November and December to celebrate our Savior’s birth with you. God will let me know once I have been obedient to take the break I feel is necessary. Being a naturally driven person, it is hard for me to follow through with a break. I have almost talked myself out of it several times over the last week after I made the decision.

I pray that my ministry here is effective in the hearts and lives of those of you who read these posts; that these words I type would be an encouragement to keep fighting the good fight and to arm yourself with the belt of Truth and the breastplate of righteousness and to seek the eternal in the everyday. Thank you for your prayers for me  and my family as well. I will be re-posting past posts over at iBelieve.com during that time so feel free to join me there every Tuesday if you can’t stand the time away. (I almost completely say that tongue-in-cheek!)

May our days apart be a time to plant, to laugh, to dance, to build up, and a time to gather stones–may God’s intended time be beneficial to you while we are apart.

See you in the fall,

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Getting Ready as in the Days of Noah

Getting Ready Noah

The Bible tells us–even more specifically Jesus tells us–that in the last days it will be as in the time of Noah:

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. (Luke 17:26-33, ESV)

God determined to destroy His creation and created because of the rampant sin on the earth.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:5-8)

The sins of our day are not unlike the sins of Noah’s day; in fact, sin has been the same since the days of Adam and Eve after the fall. Murder, lying, adultery, covetousness, sexual immorality, and idolatry to name a few. The sins of our times are not unique to our times; they are, however, more rampant and championed–like the days of Noah.

Once God gave Noah the command to build the Ark, Noah knew that the time men had to repent and turn to God was limited. Scripture leads me to believe that Noah preached repentance and faith in God to save those who would listen. The people of his day decided they would mock Noah and his God and not heed the warning of impending doom.

God protected and preserved human life and animal life on the Ark in his abundant grace. God provided a way out–a wooden ark. Today, God continues to provide a way out of damnation and judgment: Jesus Christ. Just as the Ark provided the only way to survive God’s judgment of sin by water, Jesus provides the only way to salvation when we face God’s  judgment of fire. (See 1 Corinthians 3:13 for the believers, and 2 Peter 3:10 for the destruction of the earth by fire.)

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3-5)

I believe we are living once again in the days of Noah. I believe that everything we are seeing on a national and international stage is preparing the way of the Lord as in the days of John the Baptist. That is why it is so very important for us to know the Scriptures so that we are wise unto salvation and prepared to heed the coming of the Lord Jesus. Noah’s Ark may seem archaic, or like a children’s story, but in reality it is a pivotal picture of what is to come.

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Pinterest Perfect

Pinterest Perfect

I recently had a woman from my home town ask me if I cooked all the recipes that I pin on Pinterest. I had to laugh! She was almost convinced that I mange to homeschool my children, write a blog, and actually try my hand at the pins I pin on Pinterest.

First of all, I was flattered. However, I was also a little unnerved because I somehow managed to give off the impression that I may have achieved what the rest of humanity has yet to do: have it all together. Let me put your ponderings to rest: I am not that good.

Anytime I cook real meals for dinner more than three nights in a week, I joke that I am in the running for wife and mother of the year awards. I do not believe that any of my friends will accuse me of being Sandra Lee or Ma Ingalls! Secondly, my staple meals are black beans and rice with guacamole or homemade chicken salad with Vegenaise mayo. Not quite a Pinterest perfect spread now is it?

Would you join me at iBelieve for the rest of the post? I would be so grateful. (Click here.)

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*Fantastic and fun photo by my husband Ron.

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