July 8, 2014

the heart condition

the following is a fictional story that i wrote in order to portray a "heart" condition that i have suffered and struggled with as a christian. it is written as an analogy to show just how much we all need a DOCTOR:

i had been brought there for as long as i could remember, but i wasn't the one who was sick. my parents always took me with them to the hospital as they made their visits and encouraged all of the patients. they volunteered their time and energy to serve the sick, and they were greatly loved by the patients and staff. going to the hospital became a weekly ritual in our family and a natural way of life.

at first it was a joy. i loved the hospital. i didn't have any apprehension toward germs and appeared to have a distinct affinity for the sickest people in the room, always walking straight to their wheelchairs and requesting to sit in their laps. at my young age, they would hold me and chuckle at my innocence and affection. i was ignorant to disease, oblivious to death, and unaware of the concept of health.

as i got older, i learned what health and disease were and that disease leads to death. i learned ways of preventing disease and ways of treating diseases that occurred. despite the risks, my parents and i continued to volunteer and visit at the hospital with the understanding that i could continue to touch the patients while using universal precautions to keep from catching their illnesses.

at first it was all about the patients. despite the obvious illness in their lives, i loved them. i wanted all of them to get better. i was not afraid to touch any of them, and i had to be frequently reminded by my parents to wash my hands in order not to become ill as well. i would listen to the nurses as they would tell them what the DOCTOR said would make them better, and i would watch as some would listen to the DOCTOR'S orders and heal while others ignored them and suffered. i would encourage them all to listen to the DOCTOR.

i eventually became obsessed with health. as a child i began getting involved in sports and caring about my own health and fitness. i was introduced to a health book that i read cover to cover, and i started following it to the best of my ability. as a teenager i started sharing the information that i was reading in my health book and sharing little tidbits of how to stay in good shape. i continued to volunteer at the hospital regularly, and by the time i reached college, i knew that nursing was the major for me.

over all of these years, i had developed a deep relationship with the patients. i continued to love them, and they continued to love me. i shared with them teachings from my health book, and i began to see a change and improvement in their health and in their lives.

but soon something happened that started to change me. one day, after spending so much time at the hospital, another visitor confused me for a patient! she thought that i too had been admitted into the hospital. that i too was sick. that i too needed a DOCTOR. that i too needed treatment. and she began treating me in such a way.

i then began taking a new approach to distinguish that i, in fact, was absolutely NOT a patient. i began wearing scrubs when volunteering. i wore a pair of latex gloves at every moment. i created my own personal nametag for my scrub top and would even wear a yellow "isolation" suit and mask when necessary. i did anything and everything to show my position. to show my good works. and to prove to all of my observers that i was anything but sick.

i started volunteering so much time and effort that i began being named "volunteer of the month." for january. and then came february. and soon for 6 months in a row. my picture started being posted on a plaque on a wall, and soon i had my own hallway.

i started exercising so often and reading my health book so much that i soon had all of the answers. nurses were actually coming and asking me questions, and sometimes they didn't even have to ask, i would just gladly volunteer my information. and even though i exercised to the point of feeling slightly dizzy and short of breath, that didn't stop me from attempting to give it everything i had to be the "best" i could be.

i began competing with other volunteers who appeared to be getting close to my fitness level or getting close to my number of volunteer hours. i learned the art of back-handed compliments like a second language. i critiqued the other volunteers and looked for their one area of weakness and made every attempt to make them aware of it. i did whatever i could to make them feel just not quite as good enough as i was.

when asked about my own health status, i only shared the good things that i was doing: exercising, trying to eat healthy, and reading my health book. i would boast about how often i consulted with the DOCTOR and how close our relationship was. i never let on that sometimes i cheated on my diet. the beauty of eating junk food in the closet and having an unbelievably fast metabolism was that nobody else ever had to know. and the fact that my race toward health was all about its appearance was justified as irrelevant in my mind.

i no longer touched the patients. and the patients didn't want me to touch them. we really didn't have relationships anymore, and i found that i could continue to get my volunteer hours without really interacting with them. i might say "hello" or give a brief smile, but that was sometimes the extent of our interaction. most of the time i would look at the patients and think, "i'm just so glad i don't have what he has. compared to that girl, i'm in great shape. i'm so glad that i haven't made any of those choices. i'm just so healthy. so good. so strong."

and that's when it happened. ironically it occurred at the hospital as i was walking down my hallway, wearing my latex gloves and isolation mask and holding my head high with honor. the dizziness overcame me. i passed out. and i took a huge, towering fall straight to the floor.

when i woke up, i was in a hospital bed with what seemed like thousands of wires attached to me. something was beeping. there was something cold running through my veins. how did i get here? what happened? why in the world was such a healthy person lying in a hospital bed?

and then i saw HIM. it was the DOCTOR. HE came over to me and gently took my hand. "you, loved one, are very, very sick. you have a heart condition which has only worsened over time. over the past few years, your heart has gotten smaller. feelings of dizziness and shortness of breath were warning signs, but I imagine you never believed that you were actually sick. you have lived your life as one of the living, but the truth is that you have always been dying. there is a procedure that can save you, but first you must admit that you need it."

i had been brought there for as long as i could remember, and i was the one who was sick.

"the church is a hospital of sinners, not a museum of saints." abigail van buren

November 28, 2013

30 days of thanks

1) i am thankful for JESUS CHRIST. i am grateful that GOD chose to create the world and that HE chose to create me. i am thankful that i am fearfully and wonderfully made in the likeness of CHRIST. i am grateful that when i decided to sin and fall short of the glory of GOD, HE decided to rescue me. and i am so thankful that if i continue to walk in the light as HE is in the light, i continue to be cleansed from all my sin.

2) i am thankful for heaven and the hope of salvation. i came to a full realization and understanding of heaven when i was 9 years old, and i was scared out of my mind. i was afraid to leave this world and petrified by the idea of existing forever with no end. i loved my life and could not fathom exchanging this earthly life for a heavenly one. now that i am older, i am so grateful that this world is not my home and that one day the suffering of this life is going to end. i cannot wait to spend eternity with the ONE who died for me and decided to give me second life.

3) i am thankful for the grace of GOD. my favorite definition of grace is receiving something which we don't deserve. i am grateful for all of the things that GOD has given me that i could have never earned or deserved on my own.

4) i am thankful for the mercy of GOD. my favorite definition of mercy is not receiving something which we do deserve. i am so grateful for the punishment, pain, and destruction that GOD is sparing me by showing me HIS mercy.

5) i am thankful for GOD'S amazing creation which naturally demonstrates HIS existence. i am grateful for getting to visit extraordinary places that reaffirm my faith and belief in a CREATOR. i am grateful for those goosebump moments of witnessing something so unbelievable that only GOD could have created.

6) i am thankful for my daddy. i cannot believe that GOD let me be born to the best man that i have ever known. i am so grateful to be his little princess and to now be his good friend. i am in awe of his courage and boldness to deliver the most amazing sermons that i have ever heard anyone offer, but i am even more impressed by his ability to let his life speak more than his words. i am envious of his ability to infect the world with JESUS...including every postman, cashier, and craigslist buyer with whom he interacts. i am grateful that he instilled the same love and passion for JESUS in my heart from the very beginning of my life. i am grateful that he taught me how to mow the grass, fix a computer, and build furniture, and i am grateful that he continues to teach me how to live and how to love more abundantly. my only complaint is that he's made it ever-so-hard to find anyone who even barely compares to his awesomeness.

7) i am thankful for my mommy. i cannot believe that GOD let me be born to the sweetest woman that i have ever known. i am so grateful to be her baby girl and to now be her good friend. i am in awe of her ability to say something kind and find the best in everyone, but i am even more impressed by her ability to lead a quiet life and to not draw attention or praise to herself. i am envious of her ability to do things in secret and not let her left hand know what her right hand is doing and to touch people who don't even realize that they're being touched. i am grateful that she instilled the same love and passion for people in my heart from the very beginning of my life. i am grateful that she taught me how to cook anything, clean the house, and be a godly woman. i am grateful that she continues to teach me how to live and how to love more abundantly. my only complaint is that she's made it ever-so-hard to be negative and unhappy about anything.

8) i am thankful for my brother. i am amazed that GOD provided me with my very best friend at the very moment that i entered this world. i am thankful for the many wrestling matches that ensued on the couch, the many forts that we built, the many games that we played, and the many laughs that we have had. i am grateful for someone who knows me better than anyone else, accepts me as i am, allows me to confide in him, and encourages me in all of my hopes and dreams. there has never been a truer or better friend.

9) i am thankful for my grandparents. i'm especially thankful for the legacy and heritage that they created for me. i am thankful for their history with CHRIST and the deep roots that they cultivated in living godly lives. i am especially thankful for my grandmother and for her truly giving me the world. she has given me my passion for travel, my strong will and drive, my love for life, and the courage to always keep going and to always remain faithful no matter what life brings.

10) i am thankful for my extended family. i am so grateful that my parents and aunts and uncles decided to raise my cousins and me more like siblings than as relatives. i am grateful for the examples of my aunts and uncles and their passion for GOD and for life. i am thankful for my cousins and the incredible memories that we have made all over the world. i am thankful that i will always have a group of people to trust, rely on, and laugh with as i travel through this life.

11) i am thankful for my raising. i'm so grateful that i was introduced to GOD from the beginning of my life and that i was raised to both love HIM and to fear HIM. i am grateful that i was raised with core values and morals that were deeply instilled in my heart by my parents. i am grateful that i was protected from but still exposed to the truths and hardships of this life. and i am grateful that i was raised to be faithful unto death.

12) i am thankful for my true friends. as i get older, the more i learn that this life has some great pretenders who turn out to be false friends, but as i continue to encounter these people, the more i realize just how wonderful and amazing my true friends really are. i am so grateful for my best friends of this life and the girls who operate more as my sisters than as my friends. i am grateful for the honesty, love, and accountability that they provide.

13) i am thankful for my career. i cannot thank GOD enough for allowing me to find what i believe i was created to do. i could never have found a more perfect career than being a speech-language pathologist, and i thank GOD daily for giving me a job that never feels like work. i also thank GOD for giving me a career that allows me to be a christian and a servant every day and that has the amazing reward of giving another person the gift of communication.

14) i am thankful for my specific job. i cannot believe that GOD led me to such an ideal position of working in the school system and of working at my specific school. i could not love my principal, assistant principal, co-teachers, and special ed team any more than i do. i am so grateful for my speech mentor and for waking up every day excited to go to work, and i am so thankful for leaving work every day feeling that i am making a difference.

15) i am thankful for my home. GOD has blessed me so abundantly by providing me my apartment. i am so thankful for the roof over my head that provides me comfort and safety and for every piece of furniture and decoration that has allowed it to feel like me. i am so grateful for the opportunities for showing hospitality that it has given me and that GOD is allowing me to use my home for HIS glory.

16) i am thankful for my luxuries. i have always been a fan of the simple, little things that i usually take for granted. i am so thankful for my morning cup of coffee, and the world can be thankful for it, too. i am thankful for my queen size bed and that i can sleep in it peacefully and happily at night. i am thankful for movie nights, blankets, pajamas, cooking, and feeling comfy. i am thankful for things that smell and taste good. i am thankful for laughter that results in tears. i am thankful for dresses, high heels, boots, scarves, and the other luxuries that make me feel pretty. and i am thankful for music and writing that allow me to express myself when speaking fails.

17) i am thankful for my education. i am so grateful for my parents' efforts to send me to a christian university and for their hard work in helping me afford it. i am thankful for all of the memories, friendships, and accomplishments i gained during that time, and i am so grateful for finding my career. while i am very thankful for the degrees i received, i am more thankful for the knowledge and teaching that i gained.

18) i am thankful for my professors. my professors at college were not simply my teachers, they were my friends. i am so grateful for the personal relationships and impact that they so freely gave to me, and i am so thankful that they allowed me to be so involved in their families. they have changed me forever, and i thank GOD that they are still a part of my life.

19) i am thankful for my travels. i believe that the greatest education that i have received has been through traveling and experiencing the world. i am forever indebted to my family for allowing me to venture to 50 states, 25 countries, and 5 continents at this point in my life. i never imagined that at my age i would have gotten to experience the places which i have gotten to visit, but i have never been more thankful. i am grateful for the memories and moments and the new friendships that i have cultivated in each place, but i am most grateful for the flexibility and new perspectives on life that each place has offered me. i strongly believe that traveling has made me a better american, christian, and overall person, and i cannot wait to continue on my adventures. on to antarctica!

20) i am thankful for my life experiences. i am grateful for all of the adventures that this life has offered me so far that have made me who i am.

21) i am thankful for GOD'S providence. i have never felt more certain that i am where i am supposed to be and that i am doing what i am supposed to be doing. i believe that GOD led me exactly where i am right now, and i am so thankful for the plans that HE has for my life and that they are different and better than mine. HE continues to keep blowing this little planner's mind with HIS unbelievable providence and timing.

22) i am thankful for my current circumstances. i think the majority of people view the life of a single, twenty-five-year-old girl as lacking, but i happen to be extremely grateful for my present situation. i am so thankful for this time of learning that i would not be experiencing if my circumstances were different, and i am so grateful for every single moment that GOD is giving me to use to HIS glory. i firmly believe that GOD is allowing me to be more devoted to HIM at this time in my life (1 corinthians 7:34).

23) i am thankful for my daily bread. i am so grateful for the daily needs that GOD delivers every day, whether i acknowledge them or not, and for all of the worries for which i never have to worry.

24) i am thankful for the things GOD hasn't given me. it can be easy to disregard the good things that GOD has given and to only concentrate on the things that HE hasn't yet provided, but i am actually thankful for the things that GOD hasn't given me and the things that HE has spared me. when i see ways that my life could be or could have been and when i consider certain roads that my life almost journeyed, i am so grateful that GOD kept me from those routes and am perfectly at ease that i have not received those things because they weren't what i needed. i completely trust my JESUS'S timing and trust that my JESUS knows just what i need.

25) i am thankful for closed doors. along with feeling grateful for not being given certain things yet, i am also thankful for the doors that have been closed. for the definite "no" and not the confusing "maybe." for the u-turns, the wrong ways, and the dead ends. i believe that GOD allows doors to close so that we may see the passageway which we are supposed to take even more clearly, and i believe GOD allowing a door to close may open up windows that we never noticed or appreciated.

26) i am thankful for my failings, trials, and struggles. i am grateful for the things that cause me to feel uncomfortable so that i might continually change and grow. i am thankful that i am not perfect and that i don't have to pretend to be. i am grateful for the moments that make GOD'S grace even more real and precious to me. and i am thankful for a SAVIOR who became my sin so that i might become HIS righteousness (2 corinthians 5:21).

27) i am thankful for my sufferings. i am thankful when people are mean, when things don't go my way, and when things aren't always easy because i know that it's during those times that i am being perfected and refined (james 1:2-4). i am even more grateful during these times for the example of CHRIST who said nothing while suffering and allowed himself to become the ultimate shame and suffering.

28) i am thankful for my quirks. i am happy to be considered a character. i am grateful for my OCD and that i can visualize where every item in my apartment is in my mind. i am thankful for my nerdiness and the fact that my favorite subject is neurology. i am grateful to have a list of words that i cannot stand hearing and for the fact that the youth group boys love saying those words just for that reason. i am thankful that i have always loved to read, to perform, and to be silly. and i am most grateful that i have learned to laugh at myself so that others are no longer laughing at me but are laughing with me.

29) i am thankful for my past. i am thankful for every broken road and every failure that has made me a better person. i am grateful for the foundation of faith that my life has been rooted in and for the hope of heaven that i have been given. and i am thankful for every single thing whether good or bad that has allowed me to see and love JESUS more clearly and more really.

30) and i am thankful for my future. the story of my life remains very much unwritten, and i have no idea what all GOD has in store. but i have a feeling based on past experience that HE'S got quite a life waiting for me, both in this world and the next one.

November 18, 2013

let's be real: prayer

two and a half years ago, i wrote a blog post called how to: pray more. it was a practical list of solutions on how to create more communication with GOD. but now, even though two and a half years have passed, this thought is still on my mind.

let's be real, prayer is hard! either we're so tired in the morning that we lose our train of thought. so busy during the day that we can't seem to find the time. or so tired at night that we fall asleep with no amen.

sometimes we're too upset, mad, or hurt to pray. sometimes we don't feel worthy to pray. and sometimes we're simply too happy to pray.

and while i have tried to put into practice some habits that encourage more conversation with GOD, i very much still struggle with praying as i should. casting all my cares on HIM because HE cares for me. praying without ceasing. making my requests known to GOD. praying for my enemies and those who persecute me.

and it is in thinking about this that i decided that it is time to be real about my prayer life and put something in place that will make prayer even more real to me. so i considered and discovered that out of all of the hours in my day, the only true free time that i have is when i get ready in the morning and when i get ready for bed at night.

for this reason, i decided to create the board pictured above and to intentionally place it on my bathroom counter so that i will be forced to read and consider it each day as i get ready. i am a total visual learner who needs a lot of structure, and by having a visual reminder with categories to consider, i feel i will become more successful at increasing my conversation with GOD.

so i share this with you just as a thought and a simple way to create more prayer. the following categories are the ones that i feel will make the greatest difference in my life and will help me be more real about prayer.

daily bread includes the daily necessities of life or the things that i do every day like work, eat, sleep, etc. i believe in praying about these things because JESUS did.

current struggles are naturally the specific temptations and/or situations that satan creates in order to discourage me or remove me from GOD.

future plans are my hopes and dreams that have not come about yet. they are born about out the hope that comes from delighting myself in the LORD and receiving the desires of my heart.

friends and family include the specific requests that i have regarding the loved ones in my life.

the sick includes those that i know who are dealing with a physical, emotional, or spiritual illness.

the hurt includes those who are trying to hurt me. i was raised to limit the number of my enemies, and so i don't consider this group of people my enemies. the longer that i live the more i am learning that people who are hurting on the inside enjoy hurting other people to alleviate their personal pain, and these people need my prayers for healing more than anyone else. therefore prayers of blessing are to be delivered regarding the hurt.

the sad includes those who are grieving or who are overwhelmed with the world's weight.

the happy includes those who are rejoicing over an excitement and joy in their lives.

personal goals are the specific actions that i want to take in order to reach my future plans.

thankfulness includes everything for which i am grateful.

forgiveness includes everything for which i desperately need forgiveness.

and joyfulness includes everything for which i smile.

August 22, 2013

$10 tricks

the following creations are ones that i have made for my classroom for $10 or less.

this crayola crayon wreath is hanging above the door inside my classroom. i started by buying a styrofoam ring which can be purchased at walmart, hobby lobby, and even some dollar stores. i then covered it with fabric that i already had by using hot glue. i then hot-glued a box of 64 crayons all around the ring, and i created the rosettes simply by wrapping pieces of fabric and setting them with hot glue.
this artificial flower arrangement is very deceiving as it is a vase full of the pens that the parents of my clients will use to sign their paperwork. i found everything that you see here at the dollar tree. i simply cut the artificial flowers and hot-glued them to the ends of the pens and placed them in a plastic vase so that if it falls over it won't break.
this is one of my favorites: boy and girl germ-x! i purchased the germ-x at walmart but found the fake bugs for the boys and the plastic butterflies and flowers for the girls all at the dollar tree for $1 for each pack. i then simply placed the pieces down in the germ-x and used the pump to set them in their places.
my boss shared this idea with me and the other slp's in our district. you simply write all of the letters of the alphabet on 3 cups and place a paperclip on the first one. you then rotate the other cups in order to change the words. you can change the onset (first consonant), nucleus (vowel), or coda (final consonant) in order to target whatever you are addressing in therapy: articulation, initial or final consonant deletion, phonemic awareness, rhyming, etc.

and i've spruced up some of the baskets in my speech room in order to disguise their contents by turning them into artificial flower arrangements. baskets were purchased at the dollar tree, and the flowers were purchased at hobby lobby for 50% off.

July 29, 2013

the reason why

i will never forget a story that one of my high school youth ministers told me when i was a senior in high school. he had visited with a woman in her home in alabama in order to study the bible. the specific subject that they had decided to study was baptism. during the bible study, he read several different verses that indicated that baptism was essential for salvation. after he finished reading those verses, the woman spoke up and said, "you won't find those scriptures in my bible." puzzled, my youth minister asked her what she meant, and she handed him her bible. as he flipped through the pages, he discovered that whole passages were missing. the woman had taken scissors and literally cut out the scriptures that she didn't believe in or agree with.

through this story, i was introduced to the term "proof-texting:" using scriptures from the bible in a way to prove a point that we have already decided to be true. this includes both ignoring certain verses in GOD'S word and taking other verses out of their context in order to defend whatever it is that we believe or are practicing. and i believe proof-texting is something that we all do, regardless of whether we physically cut out certain passages or not.

being the daughter of a minister and a member of the church of CHRIST, i get asked a lot of questions. the question that i receive most often is why i choose to worship in the way that i do. why do i not use instruments when i sing? why do i feel it's not appropriate for me or other women to lead the LORD'S supper or a prayer during a service? why do i think the LORD'S supper must happen once a week? why do i get so dressed up for worship? why do i act so formally and reverently during worship?

but recently when having this very discussion with someone, it became more like a battle of proof-texting. despite the fact that i was the one being asked the questions, i felt as if i was having to defend an argument. for every verse that i offered, another verse was given to "refute" it. the other person's opinion was already determined, and no scripture that i suggested was going to be accepted because it had already been proof-texted out of his/her internal, personal truth.

so i then took scripture completely out of the discussion, and instead i created these analogies for why i choose to worship GOD in the way that i do. and these actually made an impact, so i share them for the purpose of us all reconsidering how and why we worship the way that we do.

you know the feeling all too well. it's your birthday or christmas, and you're unwrapping your presents. you begin to open one from a very dear friend who is standing right beside you. this friend knows you so well, and he or she just knows that this present is the perfect gift for you and that you will just love it. but then it happens: you unwrap something that isn't anything that you would ever ask for or pick out. you have no use for it whatsoever. it does not match or coordinate with anything in your home. you immediately begin thinking of who you know that could use it instead. and while you are so grateful for the time, energy, and thought that went into this gift, it wasn't what you asked for at all.

let's take it a step deeper. it's your 16th birthday, and all you can think about is your upcoming party. your family will all be there. your friends will all be there. that certain guy or girl that you have the biggest crush on will be there. the setting of the party will be formal, and everyone will be dressed in dresses and suits. there will be an extravagant meal and evening entertainment. and because you love broadway musicals so much, you have asked a friend to sing ballads from different musicals throughout the evening. you don't set specific parameters for your friend's performance, but you assume that your friend can conclude that because it's a formal setting and you've asked for broadway musicals, that she will try to look her best and will perform the songs in the same style as the original broadway singers.

this day is all about you. it's about celebrating your life and giving you the perfect party. but your friend who will be performing decides that she just really doesn't enjoy singing broadway tunes but that she will make an exception since it's for you. but in order to improve the quality of the performance, she decides she will bring her banjo since she feels it's her true gift. she also really doesn't like wearing formal clothing, and she just knows that you won't mind her being more comfortable.

so on the evening of your 16th birthday party, in the presence of all of the guests that you have invited who are all dressed like it's the royal wedding, your friend walks out on the stage in jeans and a t-shirt with her banjo in hand. and she begins playing your favorites, "think of me" from "phantom of the opera" and "i dreamed a dream" from "les miserables," on her banjo with a nice, deep country twang. she has the audience start swaying and clapping to enrich the experience, and you watch as your sweet, little grandmother is lifted into the air and is crowd-surfed across the room.

let's take it just one step deeper. it's your great-grandmother's funeral. she was a very religious and devout woman, and she could always be found wearing a dress and heels, even to the grocery store. she touched the lives of hundreds of people, and she was the sweetest and kindest lady that you ever met. and for her funeral, she made the simple request that the song "i'll fly away" be sung during the ceremony.

when you arrive to the funeral, you see that most of the crowd is dressed in black and acting somberly, but one group of people has decided to honor your great-grandmother by wearing matching t-shirts that read, "keep on rocking, granny." they are smiling from ear to ear and laughing at stories of funny things that she did, and there is a rock band at the front of the auditorium who is jamming out to "i'll fly away" as people find their seats.

how do you feel right now? uncomfortable? shocked? mortified? hurt? angry? repulsed? vengeful?

are you hurt that the friend buying you a gift didn't know your taste at all or didn't look to see what you had actually asked for?

are you mortified that your friend considered her pleasure and preferences above yours in determining her performance at your birthday party?

are you enraged that people were totally defying the essence of your great-grandmother at her own funeral and acting totally irreverently and inappropriately toward her death?

these stories may be just a little dramatic, but isn't this what we do to GOD?

when it comes to giving GOD our gifts, why do we think that we know GOD so well that we can make adjustments to worship and just know that HE will be pleased with them? is GOD saying at the end of our services, "I appreciate the time, energy, and thought, but it wasn't what I asked for at all?"

when it comes to celebrating GOD and JESUS'S sacrifice on the cross and worshiping our LORD, do we put our enjoyment, improvement, feelings, gifts, likes, and knowledge ahead of what GOD has asked? do we find ourselves asking why we shouldn't do something or why we should do something? do we find ourselves pushing the boundaries to see how many of our preferences and opinions we can bring into the mix so that our sacrifice will still be acceptable, or do we put GOD first and weed out anything that HE hasn't asked for or has forbidden so that we might offer the best sacrifice?

do we demonstrate greater reverence at a funeral than we do in a worship service? do we forget that we are to take the LORD'S supper in remembrance of CHRIST'S death? is our worship so entertainment-driven and emotionally uplifting that we seek to feel good after it's over and that we hope we don't hear anything that might actually convict us or allow us to feel bad?

there may be a whole lot of gray area. i might be allowed to do certain things. my preferences might still be acceptable. i might be able to stretch the boundaries to fit in my personal pleasure and enjoyment. but why would i want to?

worship is all about GOD. it's not about me, and it's not about my preferences or opinions. it's not about proving a point or engaging in an argument. i can proof-text all day long, and if i do, i am even more likely to yield an unacceptable sacrifice. i might sacrifice my time, energy, and thought to giving to GOD, but it might not be at all what HE asked for or what HE was expecting.