I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Posts tagged ‘Church’

The Blessing Tax: A Prayer Request

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (‭Malachi‬ ‭3‬:‭8-10‬ NASB)

It’s really a sweet deal when you think about it. God blesses you with a way to provide for yourself and your family. You give just 10% of that to your local church, they put it together with other believers who have done the same and do awesome things for the community, and then on top of THAT you get additional blessings in whatever form God sees fit for you. No sweat.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. (‭Matthew‬ ‭23‬:‭23‬ NASB)

Oh. So it’s like, it doesn’t matter if I give my tithe if I’m a jerk? Is that what you’re saying, Jesus? 

I was recently listening to a radio show whose topic was tithing. I grew up in a faithful home in which I saw both of my parents tithe so it wasn’t strange for me at all to think in this manner once I started working. Make a line item for it in my budget and go from there. I’m not going to pretend it’s not tempting sometimes to say, “I could save more,” or “ermahgerd that outfit is like, so HAWT,” but by God’s grace I (typically) resist. Indeed when I trust Him and give my tithe AND keep my eyes and ears open I do see how I’m blessed beyond measure. Those speaking on tithing, however, were talking about both money and “other resources.” 

Oh, dear. My time.

You know those financial blessings of which I give 10%? Well, I work some long hours for them. There has been more than one occasion where I’ve taken advantage of my church’s ability to tithe online just so I don’t have to be physically present to worship. I Does God hold us accountable to give him 10% of our time as well? He blesses me with income, I give 10%. I’m blessed with mobility/health/time – why wouldn’t I need to give 10% The church hour adds up to a mere 1-2% a week if you take 168 gross hours or 133 “net” (a believer’s gotta sleep!) hours. Does that mean I need to take 10 hours a week to do some volunteering or church activity or – something?

I know this is an area of my life I need to work on because God wants my whole life, not just my wallet. If you are reading this, please pray that I actively seek ways to serve Him with my time. I don’t wanna be a Pharisee! Thank you kindly 😊

Thanksgiving, Day 7

1. Provided that I don’t die of boredom on the elliptical, I’m thankful that I’m going to complete the challenge issued by one of the ministers.

2. The ability to go to church. There are many who wish to be able to worship in community with other Christians but are physically unable. I need to remember this when I am occasionally grumbling about one more thing on my to do list.

3. Prayer. I love that I don’t have to be at church to talk (and listen!) to the Lord.

4. Strangers. Most of them will remain that way, but I know God uses them in my life to help me grow, like in traffic and stuff.

5. Parents of my students. I am super blessed to work in a place where the vast majority of parents are invested in their children’s growth.

6. Workout gloves. Gotta protect the moneymakers.

7. The fact that I have to work fairly hard to maintain physical fitness. Some people seem like they can do whatever they want, which probably isn’t the case, but I know I can’t and appreciate it because it keeps me humble and driven.

8. The shape of my head. I can wear pretty much any style and it not be hilarious. Thanks again for the Caesarian, Mom!

9. Gas prices dropping!

10. Living a life that I don’t feel the need to escape from. So many people act a fool when they are out of work or away from home and seem absolutely miserable. It’s not my intent to judge others but dammit if you live in America and can afford to be bitching at a “Happy” Hour on a regular basis you should probably STFU and count your blessings.

That’s a wrap!

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Thanksgiving, Day 1

One of the ministers at my church issued a challenge to think of 10 things each day this week for which we are thankful. I thought to myself, “No big deal! I got a million!” It’s true. I really do have a lot for which I am thankful. However, the introvert/perfectionist in me rolled her eyes when I realized that all of my blessings are related to other people. This holiday is supposed to be about eating an embarrassing amount of food, not being humbled by all the good in your life, dammit. Regardless, I’ve chosen to accept the challenge.

1. My relationship with Jesus Christ. He is my source of strength and none of the good in my life would be there if not for Him.

2. Daddy! An amazing man who loves and provides for his family and still strives to grow spiritually and mentally. Btdubs, he has a six pack despite his proudly sporting a 0.0 shirt. Can’t stand him.

3. Mommy! She pushes me to the best Lady J I can be and now that I’m an adult, it’s a privilege to be able to push back and grow with her. She’s pretty neat.

4. Music. Both a source of pleasure and stress, it’s weaved inextricably through my life and has helped me become the woman I am today.

5. Teaching. I get to help people see how awesome they are! I can’t imagine doing anything else.

6. Running. What better way to see the world?

7. Triathlon. What better way to spend the limited money I make from teaching?

8. Having always had a roof over my head.

9. My education, Sallie Mae notwithstanding. Can’t stand that heffa.

10. My smartphone, so I can blog and express my thankfulness from anywhere!

The pictures at the end of each post for the next week will be one of my favorite foods. *giggles* 10 more tomorrow!

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The Trap: A Story of Breakfast, Triathletes, and Hope

I went to church today…

Eventually.

On today’s training calendar is my long run. Normally, this would give me a case of the yays but because I am just getting back into running after injury, I feel mentally unfit. Even 2 miles feels grueling at the moment. I awoke this morning with plans to run, but my foot was yelling at me. “Great, I didn’t really want to run anyway. I’ll swim later and put it off until tomorrow. I’m SOOOO responsible,” I said to myself as I rolled over.

I had made breakfast plans with 3M the night before. She was going running too because, well. She sleeps, eats, has an occasional shot of tequila, and runs. So I had planned to go run and get our food on afterward. She texted me in the morning to ensure we could still eat.

But now I wasn’t running! I don’t normally miss church for purely social purposes. The game had changed. But I didn’t want to cancel because I didn’t run, and the two of us had been wanting to do this for a while so I said I was in.

I was driving on I-75 to see her feeling suuuuuper guilty. All this hype about missing church and now I had a WIDE opportunity to go and was choosing not to.

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Oh, dear.

Breakfast was delicious. 3M is always great, of course. I couldn’t help looking at the clock, of course. First service was ticking by. Then two of my other tri buddies walked in. “Oh hayyyyyy!” Dressed in jeans and a blouse, it was clear that I hadn’t been training. “Did you go to church?”

Seriously, God. You sent a relay team for me.

I parted ways with 3M around 11. My dear friend was likely oblivious to my inner turmoil and I hope she doesn’t feel bad about anything. Totally my choice to say yes! I got in my car and headed toward home and was debating whether I should go to church late. Not a couple of minutes late, but QUITE late. In jeans. That’s not normally how I roll, though the jeans part is fairly inconsequential.

In the end, I did go. Y’all already know. I’m glad I did. Today’s sermon was from the Book of Judges. The judge of Israel at the time was Deborah (girl power!) and there she was having a talk with this guy named Barak. “Dude. God said you’re supposed to go to war with the people oppressing you and He’s gonna deliver you. What’s the hold up.” And Barak is all, “Uh, I’ll go if you’ll go.” So the God of the UNIVERSE spoke and Barak was still being a punk. He did end up going into battle with Deborah and a lot of other stuff happened. You can get a Bible app yourself. Anyway, Barak shows up later as *gasp* a good guy!

And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭11‬:‭32-34‬ NKJV)

Hebrews 11 is like, a roll call of awesomeness. People who served God like champs. And this dude, Barak, messed up and STILL made it in. Pretty cool. The pastor made the point that God will honor those who are faithful at the finish and Barak was. Today, so was I. I ended up where I should have been in the first place. Late, but I suppose better late than never.

I often fall into the trap of thinking that if I don’t have a great start, the rest doesn’t matter. I’ve messed up a LOT more than necessary because of this trap. I would have missed a great sermon today. It’s comforting to know that I can have less than stellar start and grow. Thank God that as long as I am blessed with another breath, I have another chance.

N.B. – I also missed a good chunk of the Gentlemen’s Final of Wimbledon. I didn’t even check the score on my phone during church. Well, it flashed once and I shut off the app. Now THERE’s some heaven-sent strength – if anyone could distract me from church it’s Novak Djokovic.

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Dear Christians, I’m lobbying for a new hobby.

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First, I’d like to let you know who is writing you. I count myself among Christ’s followers. I was raised and baptized in a Southern Baptist church. I regularly tithe, read the Bible daily and do not view it as merely good ideas. I am saved by Grace and work (and fall short) every day to show that I am thankful Christ gave his life for me. Theologically speaking, I am no liberal.

I count myself blessed to have been born in the United States, where I get to put on my church hat, grab my iPad, and choose which translation of the Bible I’m going to read without fear. I’m not talking about the kind of fear of losing a couple of friends or people thinking I must not be too bright if I think the Bible is God’s inspired word. I mean fear of the government. Fear for my life. I can worship freely and I love that the framers, whatever their flaws may have been, set us up that way.

I’ll speak to one of our favorite hobbies now – the pro-life movement. As to where I stand, I think abortion is tragic. I wish they didn’t have to happen. I wish no woman suffered the pain of a miscarriage. I wish no woman would ever go to the doctor to learn that her child would be born with an unimaginable defect. I hesitate to call myself pro-life because of all the mess it’s associated with. At the same time, I am not comfortable calling myself pro-choice for the same reason. I find it disturbing that people would picket and shout at complete strangers with whose situation they are completely unfamiliar. I also find it flippant and disrespectful to say “don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.” Everyone has a right to a voice. Christians, we have a responsibility to make that a Christ-like voice. A loving voice. The stuff that happens outside those clinics ain’t it. In a perfect world, abortions would not have to happen. Many things are not under our control. You know what we SHOULD do if we hate abortion so much? 1. Work to improve circumstances of mommies and 2. Work to educate children so children are not having children. Nothing unbiblical about that. Summary: put me in Clinton’s camp. It should be safe, legal, and rare. I think there are lots of things related to 1 and 2 mentioned above that the church can be doing to make it rare.

You know what will definitely NOT make it rare? Not covering birth control in an insurance policy. The recent decision of the Supreme Court disturbed me on several levels. I could only imagine if my mother worked for Hobby Lobby when I was a teen and needed birth control for hormonal issues that had nothing to do with the pill’s intended purpose. Our God made us free to follow Him. Jesus did not grab Peter by the throat and say “joker you better put that net down or else.” We cannot expect for everyone to believe what we do, and certainly not in this context. Aside from that, regarding the purpose of birth control – I am positive that many of the women who work for Hobby Lobby are in happy, heterosexual marriages. If the beef is that everyone should be procreating, why is Hobby Lobby covering vasectomies? Certainly Viagra promoting procreation is a joke too, right? Most in the market for an erectile dysfunction drug are not in the market for children. It just makes me suspect that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a non-issue. “Shoot, I’ve got season tickets. I can’t have this baby.” Just. Like. That.

Christ died and rose to save people. John 3:16 does not say “For whatever corporation believeth in me shall not perish but have eternal life.” If a corporation were a person, it would be a two year old. Selfish, having no interest except in the here and now for its own sake, regardless of how it impacts others. What do we do with two year olds? We don’t let them out of our sight for a moment. We appreciate two year olds and love them, but we – some more than others – are all too aware of the damage they can cause.

Christians, a decision like SCOTUS made is damaging to us. Don’t think for one second that it’s out of the realm of possibility that people will say they have a right to deny anyone, including us, a right to anything. Christ is bigger than this. We should be bigger than this.

I used to think that the thing I feared most about following Christ was that I wasn’t doing a good enough job with the rules to be known as a Christian. Now it scares me that because I am not shoving my theological beliefs in people’s faces like a jerk I will not be known as a Christian. We should be known by our love (with truth, of course) and not by trying to keep women from having access to birth control. Not even abortion. The thing that prevents women from having them!

I know my walk is imperfect. I share that with all of you. Let’s all walk more humbly, keep our eyes on Him, and leave the judgment to the Perfect One.

Love,
Lady J

Just As I Am: The Dangers of Knowing Too Much

Most civilians know how stressful music making situations can be. By civilians I am referring to amateur musicians, of course. I say amateur musicians (as opposed to professional) because all of us have musical experience. There is not one person who does not listen to music and analyze it. We sing along, even when it is by ourselves. Only a complete asshole a very unsure person wouldn’t participate in a communal happy birthday, right? Professional musicians just have the ability to express their tastes and preferences with a greater degree of specificity.

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Das right. I’m fancy. But nobody ever thinks of the perils of being fancy, least of all Iggy.

So I’m in church last week (this triathlete loves Jesus) and we’re worshipping the Lord in song. I must confess – this is my least favorite part of the church service. “But Lady J,” you say. “This makes no sense. You love music. You love Jesus. Music + Jesus = winning, right?” Only when done my way, silly billy. I love singing my favorite hymns on my bike. I love playing through them early mornings as I have tea and (not so) quiet time with The Lord. Meanwhile, this choir and worship leader are up there, singing songs that I may not know, invariably in keys that are uncomfortable for my voice.

“Still,” you insist. “You are a trained musician. Your voice cannot be that bad.” Please. When did I say my voice was bad? It’s just not the best it can be because I have not rehearsed the songs and the worship leader was not considerate enough to contact me regarding an appropriate key. Some
Christians, man.

“So, what you’re really saying is that the talent with which God has blessed you – you’re allowing your knowledge to get in the way of thanking Him for it.”

Guilty.

It’s not as though I am embarrassed of my voice, like others often are. Hell, I’d have to care about the opinions of those around me in church to be at that point. In truth, that kind of concern would probably be a step forward for me. My perfectionism is manifesting itself yet again. God, I want to give you my best. I hate when my technique is wrong. I hate when I yawn as I’m singing praises. But Christ’s death on the cross was probably not to pay for all the off key singing.

I’m sure it didn’t help, though.

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Do Triathletes Hate Jesus?

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“Good to see you here, guest!”

These words from the person sitting behind me in church today stung my guilty conscience. I smiled and shook her hand as I thought to myself, “Lady, I’ve been a member of this church longer than you’ve – anyway, ma’am, it’s been a long time.” Indeed, I’ve been a member of my church since I was baptized there 15 years ago and attending before that. I have great respect for my pastor and am always fed spiritually whenever I choose to go. Unlike that stupid “I really regret that workout, said no one ever,” meme, my currently injured, always battling perfectionism butt never regrets going to church.

However, as my sister-in-Christ inadvertently pointed out today, church attendance has not been a priority of mine lately.

When I started racing, participating in running races and training rarely came up against my church attendance. Race on Saturday, thank God for making me so awesome on Sunday. No problem. Then came triathlon. As I started looking for races to do, I noticed quickly that while most running races fall on Saturdays, most triathlons fall on Sundays. What’s up with that? Okay, let’s say I race 5 out of 52 Sundays in a year – 47/52 ain’t bad, right?

Then comes the training.

Open water swims. Sunday morning. Long rides. Sunday morning. Long runs. Sunday morning. I can only do so much physically on Saturday. Everyone seems to love training on Sunday and because I am new I am uncomfortable swimming and biking by myself. This time, it is really my desire to regularly attend church and not my distrust of others that makes me wish I were further along on my TriBaby journey. No one that shares my hobby seems to have this conflict. I’ve even secretly wished that I practiced faith in a denomination that had more service times. How twisted is that?

Not quite as twisted as having a new reason to miss church.

Some of the things I struggle with as a triathlete I struggled with first as a Christian. Those who know me closely know that I really value my relationships. Once you’re in, you’re in. If you’re not in – the word apathy comes to mind. Notice how I spoke of my respect for my pastor and not of my relationships with anyone in church. 17 years in and He is still working on my desire to fellowship with other believers. In fact, I would say that I feel much closer to God while racing and training than in church. I have no choice but to turn to Him as “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.” (1 Cor 9:27a) I’m no (complete) dummy.

I pray that I find resolution to this scheduling conflict, but more importantly, I pray that my heart is softened toward others. My soul needs way more work than my body. Real talk.

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