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Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

I got my feelings hurt really badly a few weeks ago. I was hurt badly enough that I felt paralyzed with grief and emotion. I didn’t want to lash out and hurt the person back and I didn’t want to run away, either of which I would’ve considered pretty normal reactions. But, you see, the person who hurt me was my own child. So lashing out and running away weren’t options. I had to figure out how to parent in the moment of grief.

Usually, as you can imagine whether you’re a parent or not, hurt feelings aren’t something I acknowledge with my children. Of course, it hurts me to see them hurting or angry or making poor decisions. But it’s not my job to consider or advertise my own hurt – it’s my job to teach and guide them. This time, though, the action taken by my child was such that I decided it was right to acknowledge my hurt. It was right to tell her how she had hurt me so that she could understand that her rash actions had consequences to the ones she loves.

Those were some of the hardest few days of my life so far as a parent. Relaying my pain just enough for her to see it then reeling it back in so that I could determine how to present the lesson. Lots of prayers went up during this time. At one point, I remember telling God I felt clueless. I had no idea how to act or how to present. It’s hard enough anytime to separate what is the rational choice for your child versus what is your own emotional reaction. Throw in this time the fact that I was intentionally letting her see my emotional reaction and it was even harder separating where to draw the line – what part of the emotional reaction was part of the rational choice and what part of it was just giving in to the inner ego.

During this particular prayer time, I heard God’s gentle voice chiding me. He pointed out that my direction during this moment wouldn’t have been so difficult for me if I had practiced more. I realized that all of God’s children deserve the same kind of self-denial from me as my girls do. I’ve been teaching my Sunday School class God’s greatest 2 commandments. Of course, the first is to love Him with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength. The second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Not just my children but all of God’s children. Whoa - what an exhausting concept.

I’ve been trying. It’s hard and my inner toddler kicks and screams. But I’m learning there’s beauty in it. I tell my Sunday School class that God gives us these rules in life so that we will get more from life; the rules are there to help us. I see that exemplified in this latest lesson from God. Since I’ve been trying to open up and love everyone in the way that I love my children, my eyes have been opened to how many people in my life are so easy to love. I’m blessed in absolutely every area of my life and I’m more aware of these blessings than ever before.

Thank you, God, for the blessings you create from life’s pain. Please allow me to mirror Your love to all I meet not only so they will know You through me but also so that they may show You to others they meet from my example. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40

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Five Words

About 6 weeks into this school year, I had some boys act up in my class. I talked to them individually about it, and while the problem hasn’t disappeared, they are more apt to listen to my “time to be quiet” look. A girl up front looked at me funny. “Mrs. Cain, why don’t you just scream at them to be quiet?” I wanted to tell her, “Because…Jesus!” and for her to look up Ephesians 4:1-3, but that’s apparently illegal. And she probably wouldn’t have looked up the verse either. So, at the end of class, I told her and a few others who were listening about 5 words.

I have been thinking about these 5 words for several months. I want them to guide my life and my relationships. I obsess over them and write and rewrite them. 5 words that are unattainable perfection, but trying for them makes me a better person. Are you ready?

Humility, Gentleness, Patience, Love, and Peace

These 5 words were written up on the board during a Sunday morning Bible study. They were taken from Ephesians 4: 1-3 “I therefore… beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bound of peace.” Do you see them?

Humility, Gentleness, Patience, Love, and Peace

I’m not sure why this particular Bible study hit me so hard or stuck with me so permanently. I just couldn’t stop thinking about them. Humility. What a good one. What a good trick. Humility – I don’t think I’m better than everyone. Yes, but you are thinking of yourself, aren’t you, Liz? I must constantly remind myself that “it’s not about me.” Just saying the word gentleness out loud or focusing on the word in my mind, relaxes me. And when I’m relaxed, I’m a lot more gentle. Aren’t you? Kindness goes hand-in-hand with being gentle. If I am gentle with others’ lives, bodies, emotions, and feelings; I am kind. If I am gentle in deed and thought, I am kind. Patience is a word that is just plain overused. I have been guilty of saying in a frustrated tone to my child, “Well, just be patient!!” Patience is a never-ending well. I must always dig deeper and deeper and deeper. Love sums up these five words. These words are Love. The Word is Love. Jesus is Love.

Humility, Gentleness, Patience, Love, and Peace

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Halloween and Christians

Should Christians observe Halloween?  I haven’t given much thought to this until recently.  I’ve always celebrated it.  I like the decorations, the costumes, and when I was younger, I loved the CANDY!  It was such a fun time. 

But others see it as celebrating the day’s pagan roots.  Halloween is thought to have started as a pagan celebration of the end of the harvest.  Halloween’s name comes from All Hallow’s Eve, because it was the day before All Saint’s Day.  It was thought that spirits were free to roam the earth on this day.  Some people think that Halloween is an evil ritual and should be avoided.

Although the bible doesn’t say anything about Halloween, it does caution against participating in evil deeds.  Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says “For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is an object of horror and disgust to the Lord.”

But, are we sacrificing our children on Halloween?  Or casting spells?  Or calling forth the spirits of the dead?  The Bible does not say that Trick or Treating disgusts the Lord.  So what should we do?

As Christians, why are we here in this world? Are we here to live in a safe and protected environment, guarded against the evils in the world, or are we called to reach out into a world filled with dangers and be the light of Christ? Halloween brings people of the world to our door step. Halloween brings our neighbors out into the streets. What a great opportunity for developing new relationships and sharing our faith!

And consider that negativity toward Halloween may only alienate others, and may reinforce their stereotypical view of Christians as rigid and judgemental.  It is a struggle to be IN the world, but not OF the world.


There is a saying about how Christians are like pumpkins:

“God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off.

Then He cuts the top off and scoops out all the yucky stuff.

He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, greed, etc.

Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for all the world to see."

So let your light shine!  

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Whom Shall I Fear?

I was having a random conversation with my guys at the dinner table the other night, when our oldest just blurted out....

"Mom, if you don't read your Bible your going to Hell."

Boom... where did that come from?

He's right in a sense though.  The Bible is our manual.  The Bible is our go to.  Every question we have, the answer lies right there in the Bible.  Yet, I know personally I overlook it.  I think it goes back to instant gratification.  When I have a question
I like to just Google everything.  I want my answers right then and there.

So many times I have started a Bible plan.   So many times I start out with great intensity, and then a few months in I fizzle out.  I've finally switched over to a "Message" style Bible that is easier for me to relate to.  Just my preference. 

As many times as I fall off the reading wagon... I get a message each time I pick it back up.

Recently, it's been Whom Shall I Fear?

There's a song that says   Whom shall I fear

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind

The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine

God is always there for me, but I'm not always there.  Why oh why do we always let the worldly things get in the way.  My life is so fast paced it's hard for me to even slow down at the end of the day to read my Bible. 

I do fear the Lord.   My ultimately destiny is in His hands.  I don't want to displease him any longer.  Our life has been a whirlwind these past two years, and not one single time has He left my side.  I really need to step up my game...
I really need to rethink my schedule....   I really need to simply read my Bible...

Psalms 111:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

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OK, this isn’t going to be a sexy, erotic, R- or X-rated post.  And it also isn’t going to condemn sex and tell you that if you are having sex that you are bound for Hell.  I used to present a class at a Christian retreat for youth, and I want to you to have an open mind and see what the Bible says about sex.  


Firstly, there are many bible verses describing what NOT to do when it comes to sex.  Even several Commandments (Do not commit adultery, do not covet…).  One verse tells us to “flee from sexual immorality…” (1 Corinthians 6:18).  All this can give the impression that sex is bad and that we shouldn’t have sex.  Why so many verses about what NOT to do?  I think it is because when we have sex we open our very innermost self to another person.  1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”  We should only share our temple of the Holy Spirit with someone that we love and trust and know that they will do the same for us. 


Scientifically, when you are physically intimate with someone, your body secretes a hormone called oxytocin (ox-ee-toe-sin).  This hormone helps cause a bonding or attachment, between a man and woman, and also between a woman and her child.  This hormone helps us feel close to our partner, and helps a relationship last.  God knew and created oxytocin to help us.  However, if we are having sex with many different people, there is a disruption in this natural bonding process which can lead to depression, or other negative feelings.  A Christian speaker Pam Stenzel talks to teenagers about sex and she uses a piece of duct tape to explain this “bonding process”.  When you have sex with someone, both of you are taped together, and “bonded”.  However, if you have sex with another person, that tape is ripped off you and the first partner, and now is less sticky and doesn’t “bond” as well.  The more people you have sex with, the less and less sticky the bond becomes until you no longer feel a connection.  Sex is no longer an intimate union with another, and it loses it specialness.  I think the bible warns against sexual immorality as a way to protect us from these damaging, hurtful effects. 


So is sex bad?  No!  How do we know this?  Firstly, God created Adam.  And then He saw that “it is not good that the man should be alone, so I will make a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).  So God created Eve, not from the dust as He had created Adam, but from Adam’s rib, or some translations say from Adam’s side.  So Adam and Eve are literally two parts of a whole.  Later in Genesis 2:24, it says that “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  One flesh, meaning the two of them will come together and be one.  God did this to show that male and female complement and complete each other.  “And God said to Adam and Eve, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth …. ”(Genesis 1:28).  So God created them for each other, and made the necessary parts for each so that they could “be fruitful”.  God made us (and all our parts) “in His image,” (Genesis 1:27) and even our ‘private parts’ are known to Him; He made them to work in just the right way.  Our bodies and all their parts aren't wrong or bad or sinful.


One of the books of bible, the Song of Solomon, sometimes called the Song of Songs, is basically a series of poems about a woman looking for her lover.  Lover??  In the bible?!  YES! J  Hebrew and Christian scholars say that this love story represents God’s love for humankind, and it is a description of the intensity of divine love within the human heart.  But it does get pretty racy and erotic.  This helps us understand that these feelings that we have for another person are not bad or sinful!  They are perfectly natural, and God-made.  God loves us and wants us to be happy, in many ways.  Sex is a good thing when used in the way that God intended, as part of a mutually exclusive long-term relationship/marriage.

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What a Wonderful World

I don’t know what I may seem to the world, but as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” – Sir Isaac Newton

These words from one of the greatest and influential minds of modern science have always seemed like music to me. I get it; I get the fascination with God’s great creation; I get the distraction that arises from marveling at a puzzle or at beauty or at the human spirit.


Today, I sat in the front of the car listening to my girls singing together in the backseat, laughing over something they heard through their headphones. I heard my eldest offer to help my youngest when she said she needed assistance. I saw my youngest stop to help another child in the hallway. My heart leapt at a baby’s smile; my heart melted at the proud look on my student’s face when he said, “Thank you,” when I told him how well he did today; my heart connected with a friend when, instead of “Thank you,” she said, “I love you, too.”


Newton’s work revolutionized the philosophy of science but that stemmed from watching the world around him and admiring the genius of God’s work. The kindness of strangers, the interaction of two beasts in the wild, the innocence of children, the drive within us all to continue improving ourselves and the world around us – these things are God’s everyday miracles. They’re intricate details of His glorious plan. They’re intriguing and beautiful and worthy of our praise.


We spend a lot of time asking God for the things we need. We even tend to remember to thank Him. We do a lot of begging forgiveness as well. Praise comes a bit harder to me, though – Until I look around and I see the results of His work. Wow, our God, our Creator and Author, is indeed worthy of praise and easy to praise. And how magnificent that a being as superior as our God would take the time to love each of us. Amazing. He’s my hero on a white horse.


"To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Philippians 4:20 (NIV)

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Why do you believe?


I recently uprooted my whole life. I felt God calling me back home. "Home" is a broad term but I guess you'd say Starkville area. And while I'll be working out of Winona, I was put in Aberdeen for my first few weeks of new hire training. And there is where I realized a glimpse of what God had in store for me. Or better yet...what He was trying to prepare me for. 


I was somewhere on the back end of a 72 hour shift when we were all sitting around the table talking. One of the young women from the other truck (that I had worked with earlier in the week) brought up the subject of faith. And to be honest, I'm not sure what her initial question was. She was asking some pretty intense questions of the three of us sitting there. I remember asking her why she chose to ask us these questions. Her reply took my by surprise. She said "In the short time I've worked with the three of you, God has come up numerous times. And its not just something you say. You seem to really live it out." See, this young woman was brought up in a Christian house. She's an Afgan war vet. She said she needed to know for herself what she believed. Not what she was told to believe. But what struck me deeper, and probably rang truer than anything, was when she said "I've been treated better by the Muslims I was there to fight against than I have the Christians in the 'Bible Belt'".




So I shared my story with her. A story I haven't shared with just everyone. A story of how I left the church after somethings out of my control. How I felt betrayed and questioned everything for years. How it forced me to go to the source (the Bible) and see what I believed for myself. And how I understood her journey and her search for answers. 


Her response was not one I was expecting. "I'm more inclined to listen to someone like you who has left and questioned and sought out answers over someone who believes something they were told to believe." Me? Why me? I'm a failure. But maybe that's the beauty in it. Maybe in my weakness and failure, He is honored and glorified. 


But her next question, I'm still struggling with. And I'm embarrassed to admit that. But that's what we here at BOWAB do....we're open and honest. 


She asked "Why should I bank my entire soul on something you say? It's almost like you're saying give me $10,000 and I can gurantee your eternity. What in your beliefs should make me say 'yes, this is the truth and what I should wager my soul/eternity on?'" I could only share how God has never let me down. Give specific times where He has proven Himself in my life time and again. I gave her a few Scriptures. 


But the whole conversation caught me by surprise. And then I heard in my spirit "be ready in season and out." Ouch. I'll go bandage my toes now, Lord. He reminded me of 1 Peter 3:13-18. I like the way the Message puts it

"If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.”

While I don’t think I blew that opportunity, I do think God used it as an eye opener for me, and maybe for someone else, to show that He is moving in the world. And that we need to always be ready to answer for our beliefs. No one can shake my beliefs. But can I defend them in the court of the world? Can I answer questions that hungry hearts are looking for? I can honestly say, I can do a much better job than I could 5 years ago. But I’m nowhere near where I need/want to be. Are you? Can you answer for your faith when put on the spot? 

I am challenging myself to seek to become more of an apologetic. More ready to answer whatever question may be thrown my way. To know Him on a deeper level than ever before. And I’m asking each of you to hold me accountable. But I’m also challenging you to do the same. To know why you believe what you believe. 
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Cohesion and Turmoil

That title sounds like the title to an Austen novel, doesn’t it? Don’t worry – this writing will be nowhere nearly as satisfying, I am confident.

I’ve been unable to blog for a while. I haven’t been dry; I’ve had Spastic Brain. I have so many little trains of thought that seem like brilliant ideas until I try to get them on paper then they get derailed. I even thought of doing a Reader’s Digest style blog, with lots of miniature tidbits of thought. But still – what’s the point in sharing all that turmoil with you unless I could find the unifying cohesion?

That’s where I’ve gotten stuck. Every time.

And it’s not just with y’all. I have unfinished conversations that are a month old on multiple fronts.

And, yet, no one is surprised. No one is pressuring me to finish the conversations. No one is chastising me for my Spastic Brain. I’m getting the same response I’ve grown used to hearing: “It’s ok. I know you.”

I really, really want that to be a conviction. I want to find in that reputation the motivation to change. But, instead, it’s a comfort. It’s a relief. I guess that’s my Spastic Brain’s way of telling me I know myself.

Without much hope for giving cohesive answers, I walked into a meeting today where we discuss how God has been messing with us. A few of my answers even ended with “That’s it. I know it wasn’t very cohesive but…”

I gave my Reader’s Digest tidbits and began to see a pattern:

BowaB has been on my backburner because I’ve been overwhelmed and, when I get overwhelmed, I tend to tighten up my range of priorities. It’s how I work – No offense intended to any of the areas of my life that get dusty for a while; it’s just my survival mechanism. But BowaB has other caretakers, and they’ve been busy. They’ve picked up my slack, without chastising me. I find that both comforting and motivating.

It’s yet another aspect of how community has become so important to me. Not just BowaB but, in my small little family or my responsibilities at church, I can’t be everything I want to be all the time. But I have a wonderful community of support. I can accept their support because it’s a two-way street. We’re all in this together. I hate to ask for help but they let me feel needed so I can accept help without feeling like a burden. WHOA.

I get a heaviness in my chest when I type those words. I think I just hit a vulnerable nerve inside me. Moving on…

In the midst of my Spastic Brain, I’ve had a couple of friends need assistance from me. I can help, or I can’t. They ask again anyway, next time. They don’t run out of favors and they don’t give up on me because I’m unavailable once or thrice. We’re all in this together and they know they're never a burden.

There’s that heaviness again. Seriously, what is it? Is it the word “burden”? Ugh!!! Now my hands are beginning to go numb. Lol… Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But, seriously, shake it off, Laurie. Push forward. Talk to your BowaB community.

One friend recently asked me for help with the right words in a particularly difficult situation she was facing. Her request tugged at a raw heartstring since, unknown to her, I’d recently been through a similar situation. I emailed her a prayer I had written during my trial asking God to comfort my grieving heart. I apologize for being vague but this is one of those stories that shares someone else’s personal details. That’s not mine to tell. The point of my sharing is that she went on to share the prayer with others who were grieving and I thought of all the players involved in my own story and how happy they would be to know that a rippling effect of our story was helping others. What a beautiful next chapter to pain.

You’re not seeing much cohesion in all of this, are you? Here’s what I realized in the meeting today: Despite how Spastic Brain I’ve felt and despite how disconnected that makes me feel from God, He’s still been there. Look at all the ways He’s still working in me and through me. God doesn’t derail when we do. He doesn’t go hide in a hole when He gets overwhelmed. He sticks around to comfort and to keep working His plan. When we’re too discombobulated to focus on more than the immediate task at hand, He’s still in charge and in control. He IS our community and He IS the cohesion.

I had that breakthrough today during the closing prayer of our meeting (Yes, my Spastic Brain was wandering. It derails even during prayer) As all the pieces finally slid neatly together, my focus returned just in time to hear the pastor pray, “The turmoil in our lives is a reflection of our own brokenness” then He thanked God for sending Jesus into the turmoil. How’s that for confirmation?

I hope all our BowaBites are doing well, and I hope you forgive me my Spastic Brain yet again. (And the million times in the future I will ask this kindness of you again) Thank you all for accepting my brokenness and I thank you for sharing yours with us. For there, we find our Savior walking around.

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“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:27, ESV

Is it just me, or does it seem a little rude of Jesus to challenge my reliance on fear and anxiety? After all, there’s a great deal of comfort to be found in feeding the flames of anxiousness. Think that sounds crazy? Consider this: anxiety allows me to concentrate my thoughts and feelings solely on what’s happening in my life. When my fears and nerves are central in my life, I can shut out having to worry about the thoughts and needs of others. Fear of how I am judged affords me a satisfying sense that I’m the center of attention, and that what I say and wear matters to others. Anxiety about tomorrow takes me out of the moment of today and relieves me of having to consider that my needs and wants might just be two separate things. So just who does Jesus think He is, ripping that warm blanket of fear away from my eyes and asking me to see a different reality?

We find these words of Jesus in Matthew’s record of the Sermon on the Mount (specifically chapter six, verses twenty-five through thirty-four). Throughout this discourse, Jesus challenges our notions and tendencies not just toward fear and anxiety, but also anger, lust, greed, judgmental behavior, and generally how we address God and our neighbor. Read chapters five, six, and seven of Matthew’s Gospel and you’ll see Jesus chipping away steadily at the cocoon of sin and selfishness in which we hide throughout our day-to-day lives. His words tear away the pain and loss we endure at the hands of sin, leaving us raw and bruised in the naked truth of our condition. Why does He do it? Why strip away so many of our understandings about the world? Jesus knows that before we can put on something new, the old must be shed. He knows that putting our faith and trust in what will serve us means abandoning what does not. The consolation of Jesus is the knowledge that ushers us through the pain of self-realization so that we can find true solace and comfort in the solution He offers through His Son. The temporary rush of believing we’re at the center of the universe pales in comparison to knowing that the true center of all things offered a truly selfless sacrifice for our lives. This is the gift of today, tomorrow, and all eternity. We need never fear losing it by straying from it because it was never merited.

The pain of letting go of fear is the pain of letting go of control. Our hope for something greater than what we fear is found in the knowledge that no amount of control we try to assert can replace the future won for us in God’s grace. Anxiety is at war with faith, and, yes, sometimes it feels as though the battles are too much to endure. The promise of Jesus is the promise that no battle or fear we face is greater than the God who stands beside us. Look to Him and the rest falls away.

God’s Peace,

Pastor Brock

“I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.” Psalm 91:2-3, NI

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            I have been standing in the same place for five hours, working on one task. It will end up being the most minute of details. The family probably won’t even notice it. I feel like I’m in the theatre shop again (undergrad degree). We used to stand over a project for hours and hours, working on the tiniest piece of a gigantic puzzle. You have to be satisfied with just your piece, because until everyone’s project is done, you won’t see the magnificent result. We would be stationed next to each other, and you never had to ask for help; we were working so intently on our task you could hear a pin drop, or the person next to you struggling, so help would just appear. We were all looking to the same destination: The Finale.

            Do you ever feel that way? Isn’t it wonderful to think that we are, as individuals, God’s tiny little projects? When He brings us together, we’re the magnificent result! 

            For many years I thought that I could survive as a strong Christian without the need to fellowship with other Christians. And you know what? I about lost my mind. If we’re going to continue with the whole puzzle motif:

-God is the wall.

-The bible is the board the puzzle is mounted on to hang on the wall.

-The church is the paste holding the puzzle together.

-Our ministers and leaders are the corner and end pieces.

-We are the ones in the middle.

We cannot survive on our own. We must fellowship to create the picture. If not, we just end up in the back of a closet somewhere, unused.

            Going back to theatre shop, the one guarantee I always had is that I could learn something from any person in the room. I never had to ask for help, it was just there. Essentially, that is the reason fellowship among Christians is vital. You can learn how to handle situations in a Godly way. You are surrounded by others who will offer up prayer for you. You can learn from others how to further your spiritual growth. I missed out on that for a long time. I don’t intend on doing it again.

            I have recently gained many friends who are focused on their walks in Christ. God has blessed me with many accomplishments in life, but nothing feels as good as the comfort I now have knowing I have people surrounding me who are like me, who are working on their tasks.  Who God is using to create a magnificent result as we await The Finale.

Colossians 2:2-

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.

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Wednesday nights are my favorites. The Church of the Pines has a contemporary service on Wednesday evenings. It’s very laid back and conversational. Where the sermon isn’t a sermon, it’s more like a discussion – a “sermussion,” if you will.  Last Wednesday night, things went from conversational to argumentative, well, I was being argumentative. I was fuming and extremely antsy wanting to say everything I was thinking. I’m very happy that I held back – at least until Pastor Brock got home. I find I can argue much more freely with the Pastor if he is my husband – my “Pastbund,” if you will. (Maybe “hustor” works better here.)


 It all started with one little word, “submit.” You know which part of the Bible I’m talking about, don’t you? Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your husbands...” (It didn’t say anything about Pasbunds.)  The more I thought about it, and the more I heard people explain away the negative context and, in fact, turn it into something pleasant, the more I wiggled in my seat until I had to blurt out, “Paul hates women!” and immediately regretted it. I especially regretted it when I listened to what Pastor Dick Thompson had to say.


Pastor Dick didn’t say what a man’s role is or what a woman’s role is. He talked about submitting to each other in a way I’ve never heard before. He said, “We should be Christ for each other.” It was so simple, so direct, so perfect, and so….difficult. And I so didn’t follow the advice. Once Pastor Dick finished explaining, I immediately (and a bit too angrily) turned to my Pastor/Husband and said, “Why didn’t Paul just write that?! Paul hates women.” Hmph. Mope. Sulk. “Well,” said the Pastbund, “he did. Look at the verses that came before it.” 


Ephesians 5:19-21 “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”


For almost a week now, I’ve been considering how to be Christ for other people. I see now submitting to each other (including wives to husbands, but also husbands to wives) is loving and forgiving, like Christ. Of course, there is always law with the Gospel. The law shows us our sins and points the way to Christ, to love, to forgiveness. Therefore, while there may be anger in my day, misbehavior in my children (my two at home and my 80 at work), and arguments with my spouse; I can still love and forgive. And what I’ve learned is that it needs to happen sooner than later. Like all Christians, I am a work in progress. I am a practicing Christian. I am practicing being Christ for others.  

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I don't know when or why it happened, but I'm distracted.  Every little thing seems more interesting then listening to my audio bible. I still put the Lord first in my thoughts and most of my actions, but I'm distracted from building my relationship with Him.  It, honestly, makes me sick to my stomach becuase I have let this happen.  I'm too busy to focus on anything.  I am disappointed that I've become so distracted.  I need someone to fan my flames so I can have that burning desire again.  I miss it.  And really, it's my own fault.  I don't know how I got to this point, but slowly over time I've ceased my good habits of reading my morning devotion, listening to my audio bible before bed, and jamming out to "THE BRIDGE" on the radio.  I feel unclean.  I feel like I've let my Father down... and definitely without good reason.  I haven't lost my relationship with Him, but I sure do have a lot of making up to do.  I'll never be satisfied with my "current relationship" with Our Saviour.  I'll always need to press on and make things better, but I seriously could high-five myself in the forehead right now for being so lazy as to let this happen.  Have any of you ever experienced this?  Why do we let this happen?  Why do the worldly things sound so interesting... when we know "He who is in me is greater than he that is in the world."  Jesus is way cooler than Facebook, yet so much of our time is wasted on the net.  I'm just so distracted.  Thankfully, it's so easy and He is so forgiving that all I have to do is ask Him to show me the way again, and we can pick right back up where we left off.


Although I knocked Facebook, someone did post an interesting Paul Harvey recording that really made me think.  It really hit home about the distractions I've been facing, and I thought I would share with you. 


(*Disclaimer  I tried to "embed the video" not sure if it worked... so here's the link if not



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John 20: 30-31: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”


With the 10th Anniversary of Katrina, we are REQUIRED to reflect on the destruction, smells, frustration and, ultimately, the outpouring of love from volunteers, strangers, and people who we will never know in the recovery.  One of the most vivid memories is that of televangelist Pat Robertson and others speaking about how Katrina was punishment for all sorts of sordid behavior, mostly in New Orleans.  I clearly remember thinking, "I didn’t do that" for the litany of sins that they listed and wondered why they wanted to kick us while we were down.  I also don’t remember the same condemnation of the Tuscaloosa area when they were struck by tornadoes, even though they had recently erected a statue of Nick Saban - but that is a different story.


While in Sunday School last week, I was able to uncover a limited argument to this type of talk while reading the footnotes in my Bible so that I could sound clever if a question came up.  In this particular passage, the footnote states, “People commonly and mistakenly think that Biblical books were written mainly to provide rules for godly living.  Speaking through John, God announces the Good News that Jesus is His Son and that by faith in His name, we have life and salvation – the core message of the entire Scripture.”  What an incredible statement!


The author very succinctly popped the balloon of the judgmental, Old Testament crowd that would have us believe that God viewed us as no more than Sodom and Gomorrah and was sending hurricanes to punish us for our wicked ways.  He showed us that God’s hand was in the recovery and in the promise that no matter what storms of life may bring us, He will save us.  I don’t know about you, but my faith became much stronger after the storm, which may have been the purpose all along.  It’s not an instruction book, it’s a love story.


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A New Song

You may have noticed from my previous blogs, that I frequently refer to Christian song lyrics.  I enjoy listening to Christian music, and feel that it is a beautiful way to spread God’s message.  But it hasn’t always been that way for me.  In the past, I thought of Christian music as fuddy-duddy and boring, like the Lawrence Welk show (if any of you are old enough to remember who he was).  It wasn’t cool, it didn’t have a good beat, it wasn’t exciting.


Once I had children, and they were old enough to start understanding the lyrics to the songs that played on the radio, a lot changed for me.  I started to become uncomfortable listening/singing along to songs that talked about sex while they were in the car with me.  And let’s face it, a lot of songs talk about sex.  Wow!  How can I talk to my kids about proper behavior when I’m singing a song that promotes just the opposite?  People may say, “It’s just a song!”, but to me, if I am listening to it or singing along, it means I am accepting and endorsing the singer’s perspective.  It sends an unspoken message that I believe in the words of the song.  And if I purchase the song/CD, then I am financially supporting that singer and the words that he/she chooses to sing which encourages them to record more of the same. 


And I know I can’t control the songs played at football games, at Mardi gras parades, at restaurants/bars, but I can control the songs I listen to in my home and car.  So I would change stations whenever an inappropriate song came on, and then I heard a song by Brandon Heath: “Give me your eyes.”  This song changed the way I thought of Christian music, so I started to listen to Christian radio.  At that time, there was only one station.  And they were sponsoring a challenge: listen only to Christian radio for 30 days.  I’ve read that anything done for 30 consecutive days has a greater chance of becoming a habit, so I knew the station’s ulterior motive, but that was OK.  And what I discovered is that I liked Christian music!  It wasn’t fuddy-duddy, many of the songs have awesome music, and many of the lyrics come straight out of the bible!  Wow!


And what happened after 30 days?  Well, when I went back to the secular radio stations, I was often appalled at what was playing.  I became sensitized to the lyrics and the messages that the secular songs were sending, and it made me rethink what I listened to.  What did I want to promote to my kids?  What messages was I sending them through the songs that I chose to listen to?  Yes, there are good and appropriate songs on secular radio.  And yes, there are annoying songs and DJs on Christian radio.  It just comes down to being more mindful of what I was choosing.


That has been several years ago, and now there are several Christian music stations available in my area.  While I don’t listen exclusively to Christian music, I do enjoy it.  During their annual pledge drives, the Christian radio stations often ask people to let them know what Christian music means to them.  It is inspiring to know the power of a song, and of a radio station that sends out positive messages of hope and love.  I love listening to these testimonies.  Many people speak of these songs and this music helping them make better choices, turning their lives around, remaining hopeful in spite of the difficulties of life.  In Philippians 4:8 it says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”  I find that it is much easier to think about these things when I am listening to Christian music.  It helps me remember that while I live in this world, and am surrounded by the messages coming from the secular media, I don’t have to live like that.  I can choose a different way.


Psalm 40:3 “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.” 


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What's in Your Closet?

So God used something extremely personal and embarrassing to teach me a lesson the other day. And when I felt that nudging of "blog this to the BOWABites"....I'll be honest. I cringed. So here's the raw, horrible truth. 


This summer I've had a fruit fly infestation in my apartment. (Fruit/drain flies....whatever you call the little bitty black terrorist with wings.) I had tried everything under the sun to get rid of them from home remedies to chemicals to praying them away. I was on the verge of losing what sanity I had left. My bathroom, kitchen, living room were the worst. But occasionally I would have one wonder into the bedroom and attempt to land on my face while I slept. After much cleaning, fumigating, and screaming, the situation had improved...but only slightly.


Until last Thrusday.


I went grocery shopping early that morning. Came home and put everything up but a bag of small red potatoes. I laid down for a few hours before getting ready for work that night. When I walked back into the kitchen I was met with more flies that I had ever seen in there. Turns out there was ONE rotten potato in the bag I just bought (Don't ask me how I missed it. I wish I knew.) That one potato turned to the Ryan's Buffet for these pesky black flecks. As I'm throwing them away, I had a "lightbulb" moment. I turned and walked into the walk-in pantry I have (and never go in). In there I have a canvas bin I keep my baking potatoes in. Weeeelllll I forgot about a few potatoes from weeks ago. The one potato may have been Ryan's, but that bin had become the Ruth's Chris of fly dining. I screamed. Wished for once I wasn't an adult that had to deal with this. And them preceded to throwing the entire bin away...flies and all. After a few days of further cleaning and spraying, I'm pleased to say I now can get ready without a fly nosediving my face. (Gosh...I told you this was embarrassing!)


So what does this have to do with anything? Well while I was cleaning out that pantry/closet, God dropped this question in my spirit: What's hiding in your closet? What is in the back corner of your closet that is rotting and causing you trouble that you don't even realize is there? Sometimes we have these things in life that we don't want to deal. And we keep pushing them back and pushing them back until all the other junk in our life has covered it up. We may have forgotten about it but we didn't deal with it. We didn't take care of the problem. Throw the potatoes out so to speak. Then when things start going wrong, the "flies" of life show up, we wonder why. Those "flies" may be bitterness, anger, relationship trouble, seasons of prayerlessness, sickness. Maybe you feel like you take care of one problem only to face another.


Maybe its time to stop and clean out the closet. Maybe its time to say "God, what is there that I haven't dealt with? What is there that I don't want to admit to but is holding me back?" Those are the hardest questions we can ask ourselves and Him in my opinion. Its easy to point out how dirty someone else's "house" may be. But we never want to admit that our "house" may be dirtier. But when we do, and God shows us things He wants to work on and throw out, it feels so much better. I promise you I sleep better now knowing I'm not going to be toted off in my sleep. Wouldn't you sleep better knowing that your "closet" was clean enough for God to hang His coat in? That nothing is holding you back from everything He has for you? 

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What Makes You Special?

A friend told me the other day that she was trying to figure out what makes her special. I suggested that she would only find that answer in her relationship with God. She countered that she knew why she was special to God but she didn’t know why she was special to humans. I don’t think there’s a separation between the two. Sure, if you want to talk in broad, general terms, God loves us all as His creations. But I think you can ask Him for guidance with your gifts and strengths and He’ll reveal those that are specific to you. They’re the key to fulfilling His plan for your life and they’re also the reason people glow inside when they think of you.


One of the ladies at my church is a gifted musician and a kind, welcoming soul to everyone she meets. Everyone! I can’t fathom it! No one seems to irritate her or make her uncomfortable. She just gives beautiful love to everyone! And I think of those qualities when I think of her, and her spot in my heart glows. Those are her strengths for God and for humans.


My sister is this brilliant, insightful treasure who knows just the way to touch another’s heart. She understands human nature and emotions better than anyone I’ve met. She uses her power for good, finding small ways to make the lives she touches richer. I think of that uncanny ability when I think of my sister, and her spot in my heart glows. That is one of her strengths for God and for humans.


A guy I knew in school is working with the teens at his church now, engaging them in fun, exciting ways and modeling for them a disciplined life. The same as he was always my friend and both encouraging and inspirational to me, he’s blessing those kids. My friend examines himself, is able to maintain a sense of humor, and above all has remained true to his faith. I think of those things when I think of my friend, and his spot in my heart glows.


The catch is that many of us don’t recognize our own gifts because those are the aspects of our personality that come as second-nature. God is able to send the right people to highlight them for us, allowing us to polish those skills and use them to further God’s kingdom. If you’re not asking for direction, though, you may miss out on them and focus on your areas of struggle.


For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,so in Christ we, though many, form one body,and each member belongs to all the others.We have different gifts,according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying,then prophesy in accordance with yourfaith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement;if it is giving, then give generously;if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:4-8

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Pick Your Spots

The other day I saw a story about an NFL player who was returning to practice after the death of his infant daughter. The Facebook page for this story had many comments. The top comment at the time expressed sorrow for the man and mentioned that heaven was receiving a “beautiful angel.” There was a response to that comment from a “devoted christian” who points out that “people that go to heaven don’t become angels.” And, “Angels have been in heaven since the beginning and that won’t change.” My thought about that comment whether or not the statements are technically correct is “Why would a person choose that time to make a technical point?”

One of my favorite aspects to Jesus’ personality is His snide streak. He did not shy away from calling people out. (Such situations were glorious.) He didn’t always call people out. He showed compassion when people erred but were respectful of Him and recognized His greatness and power. However, when people (commonly Pharisees) displayed arrogance in asking him questions to get Him to contradict or test Him or criticized Him outright, He offered rather snippy but thorough responses.

For instance, Luke 11:37-40 reads:

While Jesus[e] was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?

Another instance comes from Matthew 23:1-7, which reads:

“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

Finally, an instance from Matthew 23:16-19, which reads

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?

Each time, Jesus calls out the Pharisees for some bad behavior when their intent was wrong. Commonly, that behavior was hypocrisy, which God despises. So, I think we need to be careful with how we display the knowledge that we have. Just because we know stuff, does not mean we need to correct people – especially when such correction is essentially irrelevant to the situation. Showing that you are correct can be completely counterproductive. We need to be sure to pick our spots when we try to impart knowledge on others. And, if we aren’t sure, err to the side of caution and just offer compassion.

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We live in a time of instant gratification.  We constantly flip the channels during commercials.  Check Facebook every 10 minutes.  We’re always changing the station on the radio looking for a better song.  We want everything to happen right then and there because that’s convenient for us.  When did we get like this?  Why do we continue to be like this?  I feel like it’s an awful curse that we have gotten ourselves into.  We’re so used to it that we even expect God to make things happen instantly.

I constantly remind others… mostly myself though, that things happen in His time.  I really need to practice what I preach.  I pray about our finances a lot.  Things are just ridiculously priced these days and it’s never easy to make ends meet.  Living paycheck to paycheck stinks, especially in my case being a teacher.  As much as I’ve prayed about it, I’ve really been meditating on it lately.  God clearly knows our struggle, I talk to Him about it all the time.  The inner child in me wants to through a tantrum because I want Him to fix it RIGHT NOW!!!!  Why’s it taking so long God?  I thought you were going to help me get rid of some of this debt.  Take away the things we don’t need. 

I’ve finally come to realize He has already helped me.  He provides us with everything we need.  We aren’t starving.  We’re not homeless.  We have wonderful careers that we enjoy.  Our boys don’t go without.  He has provided us with several opportunities to make extra money to make ends meet.  Yes, we’ve had to work for it.  Yes, it’s been long hours.  But, yes, He has answered our prayers His way in His time.   Sometimes you have to put feet to your prayers.  Thank you, Lord, for the opportunities and blessings you continue to pour out to us.  We are forever grateful of Your love… because without love, we’ve got nothing.  Without love, we’re bankrupt. 

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Golfballs, Pebbles, and Sand

So, admittedly, I’ve been struggling with what to blog about . Someone told me to think of something I was either thankful for, afraid of, or waiting for and an idea would come to me.  So I did, and…. nothing.  Well, I was looking through some pictures on my computer and came across a story that I’ve read before and have always liked. Today, it served as a much needed reminder… and I realized how much I really was thankful for!  So, the advice ended up working. The story is about a professor who is at his desk and as students come in, they see him sitting there with a large empty mayo jar.  To start class he quietly reached under his desk and pulled out bucket #1, emptying the contents into the empty jar.  Golf balls. He then asked the class if the jar was full. They agreed it was.  He reached down and pulled out bucket #2 and emptied its contents into the jar.  Pebbles.  He shook the jar lightly and the pebbles filled into the empty spaces between the golf balls. He asked the class again if the jar was full, and they agreed it was.  Next, he pulled bucket 3 from under his desk, and emptied its contents.  Sand filled into the empty spaces between the golf balls and pebbles. The class laughed.  He asked again of the jar was full.  Again, they agreed it was.  One last time, he reached under his desk, producing 2 beers.  He popped them open and poured them into the jar, and the beer effectively filled the empty space between the sand.   They room roared with laughter.  The professor then said, “Now, please recognize this jar as representing your life.  The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions – and if everything else in your life was lost and only these remained, your life would still be full.  The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car.  The sand is everything else – the small stuff.  If you put the sand in first, there would be no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.  The same goes for life.  If you spend your time and energy fretting the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.  Pay more attention to the things that are more critical to your happiness.  Spend time with your children, your parents, and your grandparents.  Take your spouse to dinner, play another 18.  There will always be time to fix the disposal and clean the house.  Take care of the golf balls first and set your priorities.  The rest is just sand.”  A student raised her hand and inquired what the beers represented.  The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked!  The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend!”  This story makes me smile, every time.  And today, it served as a much needed reminder to stop and slow down.  To really allow myself to enjoy the important people and things in my life.  Being a single Mom, I get so caught up in the day to day, the routine.  I stress about work, about bills, and about being the only parent to my munchkin.  About my car always breaking down and not being able to afford a new one, or forgetting to buy dog food, again.  Hahaha.  But it’s easy to let the small things worry you and make you feel overwhelmed.  But really looking at it, my life is amazing.  It’s turned into something incredibly wonderful.  I am blessed beyond measure to say I have a healthy and happy child, who loves the Lord and sees the beauty, good, and innocence in everything.  My Mom is here with me now, sharing the burden of raising a child alone, and my Ace Man is so blessed to get to spend this quality time with his Granny.  I have great friends.  A job that I love, with a boss who is so understanding and kind.  He always lets me know that being a Mom is more important than anything else, and if something comes up my job is never in jeopardy.  I am so thankful for that. 

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How's God Messing With You?

How’s God messing with you is a question that is usually asked at least once a week in my life.  This question comes from a mission minded Pastor that started a Missional Committee called Dwelling 1:14.  Prior to knowing anything about this Dwelling 1:14 thing I had never really given any thought to acknowledging how God is messing with me.  After all, does God really do that?  Does God mess with us? Does He somehow try to get our attention?  My answer to those questions is YES! Sometimes God messes with me more than other times.  I think it depends on how stubborn I am being.  It seems as though it is when I start to get comfortable.  Just when I think I have settled in and I feel like I can breathe.  Then God says “Uhhhh Hope, what are you doing?  You can’t grow doing that.  I need you to get out of the boat.”  That’s when I take a deep breath and say “Thank You!”  I usually freak out later.  

The reason I bring this up is because I want to tell you just how God has been and is messing with me.  In 2007 I was getting a divorce for the second time, partying with friends and completely lost.  I felt as if I was a complete failure and that no one could understand what I felt.  And in 2008, I walked back in to the doors of my old church and I haven’t left.  I’ve never felt more alive in my life.  My whole life God has been messing with me; I just couldn’t see it at the time.  At the beginning of this year I was hired at my church to be the Outreach Ministry Coordinator. I cannot express to you how blessed I feel to get to do this. On top of that, I was asked to lead last night’s service at church.  How awesome is that?  God is so great.  I was scared to death to have that privilege but God knows what He is doing. Which brings me back to “How’s He messing with me “, again.   Almost every day this last week 2 Corinthians 12:9 has been in my face.  Oh and the preacher did His Sermon on this Sunday.  It’s amazing how Gods gifts come on time every time.  He knew I would need a scripture for the week.  He knows my fear of public speaking.  As I write this I just can’t help but smile.  God is so amazing and He loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us.  We don’t deserve any of it but we got it anyway.  If He could take a broken sinner like me and do all of this just think what He could do with you.  My prayer for anyone reading this is that you always know how much you are loved.  There’s nothing that you could ever do to change that. Even from out brokenness God can and will do great things.  Let yourself be weak so the power of God is greater.  And ask yourself how He’s messing with you?

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Counting It All Joy,


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