This is My Crowd

This is My Crowd
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So What Now... Q & A Part 1

So, last week I posted a blog named So What Now?, which was a follow up to a previous post I had written about really assessing my life and, more specifically, how I spend my time.  Neither post was earth-shattering or totally original, but both carry the potential to change my life, if I allow them to really take hold and sink down deep.  A wise man once requested of God:

                     "Search me, O God, and know my heart; 
                          test me and know my anxious thoughts.
                                    Point out anything in me that offends you,
                                              and lead me along the path of everlasting life."

I can, in the very least, simply follow suit.  In light of this, here are the first three questions on my list.

1.  What will this "life" that I'm expecting look like, really?  Can I reasonably assume that it's possible?    

WARNING:  If you are confused, offended, frightened, or angered by the use of words such a "miracle," "healing," "church," "evangelize," "sacrifice," "give," "tithe," or "Jesus" please continue to read under the pretense that I am incredibly sane and of above average intellect.

Illustration by: Idea Go
So, most of the time when I consider my life, I don't really make it much past the last known agenda item on my calendar.  Sad, I know.  I've never been one for 5 year plans or 10 year plans, with incremental increases of success and responsibility.  I've never climbed a corporate step stool, let alone a corporate ladder.  I'm kind of a day to day, week to week, paycheck to paycheck kind of gal.  I don't have a 401k or a retirement plan of any kind.  I suppose my plan is to work until I drop dead, which, come to think of it, isn't much a plan at all.  That being said, something you should also know about me is that I don't care about these things.  I feel as though I have so much to spend time being concerned over for the day at hand, that I don't really have much time to commit to the future.  Yes, I know.  I am in my mid-thirties and have four children, how could I not have a plan?!  It's appalling, I get it.

But, when I consider my future, I don't see retirement and playing golf or knitting.  I'm not saying that those things won't happen, you never know, I may learn to golf yet... or knit.  However, those are not my dreams.  Aside from an occasional vacation, I don't dream of relaxing on the beach or in a condo in Tahoe.  I don't really know what the setting will be for my future, but ultimately, I dream of speaking to ladies of all ages and encouraging them.  Speaking truth and breaking the bondages of the lies of the world.  Praying for people and seeing the miraculous manifest as God pours out His grace and mercy.  To see lives changed and souls saved.   To see love spread like wildfire, never to be contained. 

I dream of watching my children walking this earth with indelible footprints left wherever their feet tread.  I see a life filled with the annointing of God and to see that annointing crash over onto my children and their children like a flood.  That's all.  Short.  Simple.  Sweet.

All that said, I don't intend on going into full time ministry.  All of this in the context of working a secular job and raising a family.

2.  What uses of my time do I employ that I find wasteful?  Take a few moments and jot them down.  Really, think about it.    

Television.  Facebook.  Twitter.  Pinterest.  Movies.  My phone.  Worrying.  Being angry. 

3.  What uses of my time do I employ that I find beneficial?

Studying the Word of God.  Praying.  Reading books that are designed with spiritual growth in mind.  Spending time with my Husband.  Spending time with my children.  Attending church services, bible studies, retreats and conferences.  Connecting with women that I can influence and with women that can influence me.  Writing.  Praise and worship.  Working at my place of employment.  Spending time outside.  Sitting quietly.  Cleaning my house.  Spending my time serving others, be it at church, on my own, or through outreach organizations. 

These are my honest answers for these questions.  I can't wait to get through the next set. 

Please, please feel free to go through and answer these questions for yourself.  How you see your future shouldn't look like mine, or at least it doesn't have to.  Even if you aren't a Christian, these questions are great for doing a little internal inventory, so to speak.  So, jump in and leave a comment below!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Most of the time when people are trying something new, they ask their friends, acquaintences and sometimes the guy in front of them in line at the grocery store if they have a recommendation.  Need a recommendation for a restaurant?  Look no further, but before I answer, let me ask you this, "What kind of food do you like?"  Thai?  I have a couple of options.  Japanese?  Pizza?  Chinese?  Indian?  Burger Joint?  Bistro style?  Bakery?  Mexican?  Breakfast?  Greek?  I have a recommendation, most likely a few recommendations.  Granted, when you start asking about fancy, more expensive places, I can really only tell you what I've heard. 

Photo by Suphakit73

You need a recommendation for a movie?  I got-cho back.  What kind of movie you wanna see?  Horror?  Romance?  Comedy?  Romantic comedy?  Drama?  Suspense?  Action?  Documentary?  ROCKumentary?  Oh, yes, I have some recommendations for you. 

Wondering what shows I might think are worth a peek?  I don't typically watch T.V., but I have a few shows you can catch on Netflix. 

I may not have driven every type of vehicle on the market, but I can recommend vans similar to mine.  I can tell you which banks I've had a great experience at.  Need a doctor?  What kind, I may be able to help. 

Recipes?  Websites?  Blogs?  Books?  Baby products?  Yep!  I have some concise opinions on all of those subjects, all of which I am more than happy to quickly provide to anyone caring to listen.

But when you come to me and ask me something important, like:

My marriage is falling apart, what should I do?  Should I just say forget it and leave?  I never thought I'd get a divorce.

I've been struggling with depression for a while now.  I've been to a couple of doctors and they have me on these pills, but I'm tired of living this way.

I lost my job and don't know what to do next.

My children hate me, how can I fix this?

My life is a mess. 

I feel lost.

There must be more.

Am I so quick to answer then with my true recommendation?  You see my answer for all of these will be the same.  Jesus.  Sound too simple?  Not enough variation for the multiple issues you might have or the complexity of your specific situation?  That's ok.  The answer is still Jesus. 

Though sometimes I may fall prey to my own conceit and respond with what my brain and experience can produce, the answer remains unchanging.  I might even start by telling you about counseling or temporary employment services or recommend books penned by human authors,  though my first answer should always be the Author of Life, Jesus

Not sure how out of millions of life equations constructed by hundreds of thousands of variables based on circumstance, personal preference, geographic location, the actions of certain individuals, poor choices and perceived acts of God Himself, can result in the same answer Jesus?

Married too young + alcohol abuse + financial stress + I still love him though = you need Jesus
Can't pay rent + vehicle is broken down + we fight every day + I don't even want to get out of bed = you need Jesus
She doesn't believe in me anymore + I'm struggling to support my family + All I want to do is have a few beers and crash out = you need Jesus 
Bad diagnosis + Fear + Lonliness = you need Jesus

The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15 - Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

My reason?  He saved me.  My marriage was falling apart and He saved it.  I struggled with depression and He brought me joy.  My life was a mess and He got in the dirt with me and cleaned me up.  I was bitter and miserable and He changed me.  I was lost and He found me. 

Everyone's road is different, just like everyones life equations are different, but if you set your focus on the Star that always points true north, then you will make your way out of your issues and into a life of peace that can be found only in Him. 

Photo by Luigi Diamanti

Even if the problem you face isn't found listed above, your answer will always be Jesus.  He is the reason for the hope that I have. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

So What Now?

Now that I realize that I do not have as much time for fruitless deeds as I had thought (see blog post here for what that means), what now?

It's an excellent question.  One which I hope to answer over the next few posts.  After some consideration, I decided that since the internal Q&A had worked thus far, I would continue in that same vein.  As such, here are the questions that I plan to explore, saving any God inspired adjustments, redactions, inversions, corrections or additions.  My plan is to be as honest as I can be and hopefully by the end of the series, I'll have figured something out.  I would imagine that in turn, God will have used something to speak to you as well so that it won't be an utter waste of your time.  Being that I'm exploring my wasteful time spending habits, I wouldn't want it to be an ironic ending for you.  

Here are the pertinent questions that I've come up with so far.  I've  chosen to leave them somewhat generic in terminology so that you can ask yourself these questions along with me.  Are you ready?  I'm not sure that I am, but here goes!

1.  What will this "life" that I'm expecting look like, really?  Can I reasonably assume that it's possible?    

2.  What uses of my time do I employ that I find wasteful?  Take a few moments and jot them down.  Really, think about it.    

3.  What uses of my time do I employ that I find beneficial?   

4.  Using Jesus as the posterboy of a life well spent, what were some traits He possessed that were integral in Him accomplishing His purpose?  What traits do I possess that are the same?  What traits do I lack?

5.  Other than Jesus, list three (3) people from the bible whom I would most like to emulate.  What traits do they have that I already possess?  What traits do I lack?

6.  What keeps me from making the adjustments that I already know to make? 

7.  How do you balance worldly expectations and duties with a life crucified for Christ?  Is there a balance?  What do you think God expects?   

8.  Can I really walk with the kind of anointing and in the same power and influence that can reveal Jesus as the One true savior and God, cause the sick to be healed and the dead to be raised?  Am I crazy?  

I'll stop here for now.  If you think of a question I should be asking myself, or want to answer some of these for yourself, please be sure to share in the comment section at the end of each post.  It would be nice to know that I'm not alone.  Depending on how long winded I am, I'll probably tackle one or two questions per post.

Personally, I like to laze about watching t.v.  Anime is a favorite of mine, well, certain anime anyways.  I love Raising Hope and The New Girl and Big Bang Theory.  I like to watch movies and spend countless hours reading blogs, looking at all of the neat stuff on Pinterest, reading Facebook posts and whatnot.  But since most of those things don't produce anything all that useful in my life, save a few blogs I follow, there must be something I'm missing.  There must be a direct correlation between the time I waste and the fact that certain aspects of the life I believe God wants for me remain still afar off.  Maybe I'm wrong and God just pours out His power and anointing on people that generally loaf about, but based upon what I've read in Proverbs, I'm thinking not.           

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Balentime's Day Special

I'm a self-admitted dis'er of all things Valentine's Day.  It's not that I don't like the concept of "love" or that I'm a bitter old cat lady or a man hater.  I just think that Valentine's Day is the perfect picture of how our society is so broken (in addition to the commercial celebration of Christmas and Easter, for that matter).  I would celebrate it happily if Valentine's Day created an opportunity to actually love someone sacrificially.  Instead it's a mandate for waste.  We buy flowers, jewelry, candy, stuffed animals, cookies, cards and the bevy of other Valentine's Day marketed products that we can't afford, don't need and send in bulk.  I myself fall prey to the holiday, buying boxes of Valentine's Day cards for my sons to address and hand out, only to receive a bag full of other cards from their classmates.  Sure, it's a great return on investment for the kids, but think about the herd of parents being shepherded to the "holiday" aisle in their local Target so our kids can all give each other thoughltess cartoon character cards that will be placed in the circular file of life, never to be thought of again.

Photo by Vichie81

We are training our children to be thoughtless.  I am training my children to be thoughtless and wasteful.  Take the socially accepted caricature of Valentines Day, add to it the socially accepted caricature of marriage and it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out why we have such a high divorce rate. 

I know what Love is.  It's a sacrifice and not just a minimal financial one.  It's a choice to be gracious every day.  It's a verb, not some fleeting concept that is synonymous with my hormone levels and emotions.  Love is more thoughtful and more beautiful than a fist full of roses grown and harvested by someone other than yourself for just this occasion.  Love is sweeter than a box full of chocolate squares.

It's unique and special and Valentine's Day, as we celebrate it, has turned it into a product that can be uniformly manufactured on a mass scale and distributed to anyone with a buck in their pocket, but in reality if you want to really show someone you love them, $1 will just not do. 

I believe in Love, I celebrate Love, I express Love, I accept Love, I share Love - and I do all of this all year round. 

If Jesus is the picture of Love, which He is, then how can anyone accept this fake representation of something that is so sacred.

I leave you with this: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends."  John 15:13

Today and every day so many single, divorced, abandoned, lonely, hurting and bereaved people will drive home and wish they were loved because the great mistress of Valentine's Day says they are not.  Jesus says that they are and not just that they are loved, but they are loved more than anyone.

You see, I'm not hating on Valentine's Day or anyone that celebrates it, heck, I even wore a dress with pink polka dots on it today.  I cherish love.  But to me, love becomes a prostitute every February 14th and that makes me sad.       

Monday, February 13, 2012

What Are You Preparing For?

Last year I got the foggy headed notion that I wanted to run a marathon sometime in the next year or few.  It's a good plan, despite the fact that, aside from chasing my kids, I don't really run. 

Not my kid.  Photo by Chrisroll

After deciding that this was something I was interested in, I began doing research on what other successful start-up marathon runners did to accomplish this goal.  I found out that they adjusted their diet and schedule, reprioritized their lives and also started to... well, run.  After reading many articles, perusing several websites and even going so far as to sign up for weekly emails designed for new runners, I started to get my head around what I would need to do to begin this adventure.  I realized that it would involve adjusting my diet and getting up early and running... like... every day. 

It's been roughly 8 months since the idea floated through my brain and I've done none of it.  Aside from the cute and comfortable pair of shoes I bought, the truth is there is nothing in my life that reflects my goal of becoming a runner.  I sit here today, not one step closer to registering for a marathon, half-marathon or any type of competitive long distance run; in fact, I would venture to say that perhaps I'm further.  Let's be honest, I'm not getting any younger and the donuts I ate for breakfast on Saturday didn't help anything either. 

For the record, running twice a week is still on my agenda for this year (see previous post), but this marathon business may be a 2013 kind of a goal. 

At this point, you are probably wondering where I'm going with this.  No, I'm not converting this blog into a beginning runner's blog or a food blog that tells you where to get the best donuts in Fresno (which, by the way, is Judy's Donuts).  I am, however, going to relate this to a little internal convo I recently had with God.  Mind you, my internal conversations end up being ALOT like take-home pop-quizzes (does such a thing exist?).  In the midst of praying or contemplating scripture He'll drop a question into my head.  It's typically never fun, simple or easy. 

"If you (Brina) want to see the power and anointing that was on Paul and Peter and the other apostles in your life, as you suggest you do to both Me and other people, how is that desire reflected in what you spend time doing?"  (this is my interpretation of the question)

My first response was, "Well, I work." 

"Yeah, so did Paul."

My second response was, "But, I have a brood of children."

"They eventually go to bed and you do have some free time, right?"

My third response was, "Not really, I have laundry to do at night and other stuff.  Plus, I read the Bible, pray, go to church and even volunteer, so that's good, right?"

"So, you do laundry and 'other stuff' every night from 8:30pm to midnight?"

"Well, no, but I should."

This is where God goes silent, leaving me space to ponder.

I hate to admit it, but I watch T.V. and movies on weeknights and weekends to "relax, decompress, check out, rest" or whatever word I can think of, when I'm not doing what I should.  One night I actually set a reward of T.V. following my time in the Word.  Let's just say once I realized that's what I was doing, I didn't watch T.V. that night.  I felt horrible.  I realized that doing what I want cannot be the carrot to "get through" doing what God wants.  Doing what God desires should be its own carrot. 

My point is not to condemn relaxing or T.V. or movies or taking long baths, all of those things can be wonderful and just the thing you need at the end of a stressful week or day.  My point, and ultimately, I think, God's point, is that if I desire to have the results that Paul and Peter and John saw in the New Testament, then I also have to put forth the same effort and commitment.  No, I'm not saying I intend to ditch my family and travel the world, but what I am saying is that if I intend to see what they saw, then there are some things that must become irrelevant in my life, because ultimately they are not just irrelevant to the cause of Christ, but actually take up valuable time. 

In sports, in the business world, in the realm of the educated, basically, in every field of occupation, there are levels and playing fields.  Those levels and playing fields reflect the commitment, training and skill of the people that operate there.  Professional level athletes have put in the time and commitment and have the natural skill that is needed to play at that level.  Neither a mediocre talent with great commitment, nor a great talent with mediocre commitment can ultimately operate at the top of their field, in sports or in business.   

Why would the same not be said for the Christian life? 

Now, I'm not talking about fame or riches, I'm talking about being an effective and anointed force on the earth for Christ.  As for talent, I'm not saying we'll all become worship leaders, or preachers, but 1 Corinthians 1:7 is clear that we lack in no spiritual gift and Romans 8:11 says that we are filled with the same spirit that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.  What I am saying, however, is that whatever it is that God puts in front of us to do, we absolutely have the God given talent/gifting to do that.  So, lack of spiritual gifts can not be an excuse.   

Remember, it requires not just the great talent, but also great commitment.  It is in the realm of commitment where I tend to fall short.  I desire to play ball with the big boys, but my life is reflecting the life of a community league player.  Yes, I'm doing more than some, but has it overtaken my life?  Has it become my identity?

No, these things will not cause God to love me more than He does now.  It's not about being teacher's pet.  It's about my desire and expectation to experience the power of God on one level, all the while, not making the necessary adjustments in my life that are equal to what I expect or can justify those results. 

Again, no, God is not a gumball machine, where if I do and say just the right things at the right times for the right amount of time, He spits out a miracle or two.  I can however expect that as I build up my spiritual muscle's and flexibility; attune my ear to His voice with practice; and step out in faith in the areas He sets before me, then I will certainly see His goodness in the lives of those around me.  How better to prove the goodness of God, then to pray that God heal a sick friend and see it manifest?

I'm not suggesting that everyone must want to operate like Paul or Peter or John, but what I am suggesting is, if that is my expectation, then my life should reflect it.  Perhaps I don't have as much time for fruitless deeds as I thought.  I have to choose, you have to choose, what greatness will we sacrifice for this American dream that hopefully results in 2,080 work hours per year, 40+ hours of vacation time, 2,496 hours of weekend down time and a mix-n-match schedule of varying amounts of holiday time.  Employment can be necessary; housework is necessary, but can be negotiated; commitment to family and community should be a necessary joy; sleep is necessary within reason; the rest of it, we each deem as negotiable or necessary based upon its importance in our individual lives.  What's important to you?  What are you preparing for?           

Monday, February 6, 2012

Do You Ever Get The Feeling... 'cause I do.

Photo by Sura Nualpradid

... that the things you worry about aren't worth the time, let alone the energy?
A week from now, you'll have to make yourself remember what the problem was and will probably fail.  The truth is that after your next paycheck, this bill will be paid and make room for your next worry.  The fight you had, the decision you must make, the symptom you feel, they will all get solved or resolved.  It may not turn out as you hope, but worry or no worry, the result will be the same.  So what does worry benefit you? 

... that the things you choose to "entertain" yourself with are just marijuana for the soul?    
It's not addictive... mostly.  Or rather it's just speculation that it may be.  It's numbing and enjoyable for the moment and leaves you hungry for more.  Leaving you with lingering regret that the time could have been spent differently, the calories better, the money more wisely.  It doesn't benefit you, really, other than to help you relax... and relaxing is good... right? 

... that the people milling the earth around you are worth your time?
Our society is increasingly isolation based.  We don't talk to anyone out of our "trusted circle" and even then we don't talk; we facebook, we text, we pinterest, we tweet, we email.  We look at our phones while waiting in line for, well, just about anything.  We avoid getting out of our vehicles if possible and prefer to order it online... for the cost savings, of course.  But what is it costing us really?

... that your money might be better used to warm your hands from a barrel?
It pours through your hands like sand, so quickly.  You just toss to anyone that asks, except those that need it most.  We invest in an other men's work ethic; recreational eating and doses of entertainment; cars we don't own and houses we can't afford; and insurance for, well, everything, yet people go hungry and cold and ignored. 

.... that as technologically advanced this age is, we've still missed it?

I'm against worry, but I'm not against relaxing, entertainment, spending money, shopping online, watching t.v., using facebook or any other thing mentioned above... I do them all, including worry.  I'm simply (ha! simply) contemplating if much of what we consume is processed and designed to fill the void for a short time leaving a desire for more of the same, all the while breaking down the health of the consumer. 

I had a thought a couple of Saturdays ago... I am a being designed for creation, yet much of what I do is consumer based.  I know that one does not have to be mutually exclusive of the other, but the balance, it's the balance that is lacking. 

So, what now?  For me, I have chosen to seek my Creator.  To seek out His plan for me.  I was not just designed for any creative act, but for a purpose and if I ask, it will be revealed.  He brings peace in times of worry.  He provides joy that can outshine any Hollywood movie; true and lasting emotions based upon MY life that I can take with me.  He opens my eyes to those around me, causing my heart to swell with love for His people.  He is my provider and provision in times when lack seems so near, and in that moment He blesses me with the opportunity to bless others.  There is no void in me, for He is there and though I find myself hungry for more of Him, there is a purity in His sustenance that never leaves me feeling bloated and tired, just rested and energized.