Bystander Effect

Three weeks ago I was in a car accident where a driver ran a red light and t-boned the vehicle I was driving on the driver’s side. I was very blessed the injuries were not more severe. I did suffer from a concussion which is why I am just now posting this, as the hypersensitivity to light made it impossible for me to use the computer without squinting and having a ferocious headache (it is down to a dull roar now).

I wanted to create this post to express how grateful and touched I was by the kindness of strangers. Anyone who has ever taken a psychology or sociology course has most likely heard the term “Bystander effect”. This is a social phenomenon where individuals are less likely to offer help or respond to an emergency if other individuals are present. In other words, the more people who witness an emergency or need for help, the less likely anyone is to stop and offer assistance. I am grateful I was not a victim of the bystander effect as there were several kind individuals who assisted me during the accident. The driver behind me was kind enough to check on me and offered to be a witness to verify I had the green light. A driver in scrubs stopped, asked if I were okay and contacted 911. An off duty police officer checked on me as well. I think the most touching of all was the elderly gentleman who was a customer at the bank across the street who brought be a cup of cold water. His gesture may be seen as minor to many, but the biblical application of this act shouted volumes to me.

My work, church family, friends, and family have been very kind and supportive during this time. They have covered the gaps while I was out and have been extremely understanding and have encouraged me and made it possible for me to care for myself. I am truly touched and grateful to have so many amazing and wonderful people in my life. God has truly blessed me with awesome support. Thank you everyone for your care and concern. You Rock!

 

Potato Chip Cookies

Once when I was a kid, our church had a bake sale. I was very eager to make a contribution. I remember carefully searching through a recipe book for the perfect baked good. After many pages, I enthusiastically chose, what I believed would be a truly unique and tasty item which would be intriguing enough that no one could resist. I chose to make potato chip cookies. I presented my recipe to my mother and you know what my mom said? Okay. So, I made potato chip cookies for the church bake sale. The day of the bake sale, I proudly presented my creation, certain they would be an instant hint. Individuals would approach the table, scan the goodies, and several asked about my cookies… they asked if they were chocolate chip. When the truth was revealed, the reaction was not as I had anticipated and needless to say, the church did not get rich from potato chip cookies. I learned some important lessons that day. 1. Most people are not adventurous when it comes to their taste buds. 2. People really like their chocolate chip cookies and if you want to make money at a bake sale, make chocolate chip cookies.

You may be reading this, and thinking, “Vanessa, you are weird. Why would you even make potato chip cookies, and why on earth would you admit to ever making them, and on top of that, why would you write an entire blog on potato chip cookies?” This blog isn’t about how weird I am for making potato chip cookies, this blog is about how awesome my mother is for allowing me to make potato chip cookies.

My mother dared to let me be weird. She endured all the fashion nightmares, the hideous hairstyles, and every other freakishly, funky, crazy, idea I created (Okay, maybe not EVERY idea, I had to settle for bright yellow walls instead of bright orange, but now I recognize the wisdom in her redirection). My mom said okay to potato chip cookies.She said okay to being creative. She said okay to being outside the box. She said okay to me being me, which allowed me to become who I am, a crazy sock wearing, bracelets to my elbows, funky colored hair, children’s pastor who doesn’t quite fit the cookie cutter. My uniqueness allows me to do what God has called me to do. I can better relate to others who are not quite normal. I can connect with those who may consider themselves different from the main stream. I can use my creativity to teach in a way others may not have heard. I can be my weird, crazy self, and God uses that, in fact it is one of the reasons He made me that way. He purposely created me with a potato chip cookie making mind and He uses my potato chip cookie way of thinking for His glory.

So thanks mom for allowing me to make potato chip cookies.

The Worst is Yet to Come?

Most often we do not find encouragement in words which predict certain doom. Starting a blog with the title “The Worst is Yet to Come” may have even scared a few readers away, but you are here, inquisitively searching for the reason behind my discouraging word choice. I will not say this is a post designed for easy reading (lost a few more readers), I don’t promise you will feel warm and fuzzy after reading this. It is not light-hearted or for the faint of heart. This post is for warriors, for fighters, for those willing to stand their ground, draw a line in the sand and refuse to surrender. This post is for those who are bold enough to dream big and have faith to believe God will do what He says and is not afraid of what may come to deter them. That is right, because there will be deterrents, there will be struggles, there will be moments and events and circumstances and whispers that challenge your dreams, confront your faith, and contradict ever word God spoke to you.

Don’t stop reading because it does get better, but not before it gets worse. When we determine to believe, and stand strong in our faith, all hell will attempt to fight us. When we dare to declare our dreams to others, the dreams God has birthed in us, distractions and difficulties will attack and attempt to dash our dreams. When we confidently claim God will do what He says, circumstances will arise that contradict what was spoken. Satan fears faith, so when we make a decision to have faith, he attempts to distract and contradict. He will create difficulties that challenge every fiber of faith that pulses through us.  How awesome is that! You are giving me that confused look where you crinkle your nose and raise your eyebrow, but this is where it gets good. If Satan is daring to challenge you, then you are on the right track. You have him nervous so he is coming against you. Your bold faith is making him sweat, your dreams from God scare him and you daring to embrace and believe those dreams terrify him. He will try to crush your confidence in what God spoke, he will attempt to destroy the dreams God placed in you, but he will fail. Standing in your faith, the worst is yet to come, but if you keep believing, keep declaring, keep dreaming, keep standing strong, there is something beyond. Beyond the worst that Satan can ever do, is God’s Words coming to fruition. It is your dreams giving birth, it is your passion coming alive.

When we stand in our faith, the worse may be yet to come, but the hope of what awaits on the other side, is so much greater. So be prepared, buckle down, hold fast, do not be swayed, stand firm, and continue to dream, continue to pursue that passion, continue to believe in that Word God spoke, and dare to scare Satan. The worst will pass the best is still yet to come.

The Breakup

Dear Fear,

So we have been in a relationship for quite a while. I knew you before I knew much of anything else. When you first entered my life you protected me and kept me safe from danger. I don’t want you to feel I am unappreciative of that, because I am, but as I got older and bolder and attempted to venture out on my own, you did not approve.

You held me back from pursuing my dreams. You convinced me people would laugh and mock me. I was told I would never make it and failing would be my only destiny if I were to step out of the comfort zone you created for me. Any attempts to engage in a new adventure was met with a condescending whisper and a disappointing glare. I was discouraged from making new connections as they may be a poor influence on me, actually encouraging me to pursue my passion. When I did dare to believe, and something happened which temporarily set me back, you were there reminding me of how ridiculous I looked and how I should never attempt such foolishness again. You persuaded me that there was too much hurt in the world for me to venture out and try to love. You said I may be rejected so I should not bother making the effort.

You told me…

“I would not amount to anything.”

“I would be rejected.”

“I would only fail at my dreams.”

“I would be hurt.”

“I would look foolish.”

“I do not have what it takes.”

Your words are hurtful and they hold me back. I know you believe you are doing what is best for me, but I need to be able to dream and pursue and love. I have met someone who has told me it is okay to do these things.

He told me…

“I am loved”

“I am never forsaken”

“Through Him, nothing is impossible.”

“I can do all things through Him.”

So fear, I am going to have to ask you to leave now. You have protected me, but you have held me back for far too long. I have someone who makes it okay for me to dream again. I have someone who not only believes in the passions I have, but actually placed them there in the first place. Don’t worry fear, Jesus will take good care of me and if I fall, He will lift me up and if I am rejected by all others, He will always love me, and if I look foolish in pursuit of my dreams, then I am in good company because people thought Jesus looked silly but the things He accomplished made it totally worth it. Jesus has me now and He will take good care of me. So long fear, it’s not me, it’s you. This just isn’t working anymore. We are going down different paths now. It just wasn’t meant to be. I just don’t need you any more. Sayonara fear.

Nevermore yours,

Vanessa

 

Crazy

There are times in our lives when we feel forgotten, forsaken, excluded, unwanted, uninvited, unloved, etc. We question our placement and assignment from God. We attempt to remain faithful, standing on what we believe God spoke to us, but wonder if we have gone completely crazy, questioning ourselves and questioning what we thought we heard. We struggle, we debate, we deny, we yell, we cry, we scream, we repeat, sometimes multiple times throughout the day. We finally determine to believe, but are so easily swayed by the winds of circumstances that we find ourselves questioning our sanity at every turn of events.

We square back our shoulders and insist that this time will be different and we will stand firm on what we know was heard, but the current circumstance only seems to mock us and taunt us, throwing in our face, just how far everything seems to be from the promise God made. We search for comfort, support, and help through prayer and scriptures, reading of those strong in their faith, waiting out the odds. We recall the great stories of the bible and inquire how to have faith like that. We recollect from our own lives and become inquisitive, searching for where that faith to move mountains went. It was there. It spoke to storms and told it to halt. Faith to move when God said move, even if the details were not completely worked out.

There was faith enough to believe God would provide what seemed like impossible financial support. Where is that faith? Where did it go? What happened to it? Did the weight of the current circumstances crush it like a delicate flower after a heavy rain? Has this situation frightened it away, causing it to cower in the dark corners of the soul? Perhaps the faith is still there, but buried so deep underneath the layers of hurt and brokenness, smothered beneath the anger and confusion like a seedling buried under a late winter snow. Perhaps it is still there, but you just can’t see it, or feel it, or barely remember it.  What was it like to really have faith? How did it feel to look at the improbable odds that were stacked against you and laugh, completely confident God was going to work in your favor? Do you remember? Can you catch a glimpse?

Dig deep, deeper, deeper. It has to be in there, it has to be, it is needed, it is required. If there is any way of making it through this situation with our sanity, then it has to be found, recovered, pulled from the depths, whatever it takes. It is like diving into the drink cooler, searching for your favorite soda. Your hand enters the chill, your nerves sends chill bumps up your arm, your fingers tingle, but you just can’t seem to find the right can, so despite the early warnings of frostbite, you dig deeper, up to your elbow now, scouring the bottom of the cooler, passing can upon can, but never settling, desperately searching, your fingers are numb, your hand is pulsing, but you keep going, determined to pursue until you can emerge victorious.

Perhaps that is what it takes. Dig deep. Dig in pass the anger, the hurt, push aside the bitterness and brokenness, shove pass the confusion, dig deeper than the doubt, and determine within yourself to reach that faith, no matter how buried it may be. No matter how cold your hands get, no matter how numb you feel, or how difficult it becomes, determine to keep digging until you arise triumphant. Until your faith can be seen again, felt again, heard again. It only takes the tiniest of a hole, the size of a grain of a mustard seed it big enough to give your faith room to grow. You just have to give it a chance.

Allow yourself to believe in the long shot, tell yourself it is okay to pursue that passion, let yourself trust what seems to be impossible. Does this make you crazy? Probably, but do it anyway. Keep pressing forward, keep believing, keep standing on that yes when everything around you screams no, keep chasing that dream, despite the roadblocks, keep believing it will happen, regardless of the naysayers. Keep believing in that crazy, impossible, improbable, totally outrageous, wacky, zany, implausible, thing, dream, passion, word, whatever it is, dig it out and let it live because it won’t seem quite so crazy and impossible when it comes to pass.

The Legacy Continues

I had the esteemed privilege of being able to speak at my grandfather’s funeral this past weekend. He was a wonderful man who lived a long and prosperous life. He was 93 when he passed and though he will be greatly missed, we rejoice with him as he is united with His Heavenly Father and Savior in heaven. These are the words I spoke.

Whether you knew my grandfather for a moment or a lifetime, you most definitely heard at least one of his life stories. My grandfather loved to share. When I was younger I thought he told his stories only because he enjoyed talking, but as I have grown I realized he was not just sharing stories, he was instilling values and teaching lessons.

His stories taught us the importance of being kind in a cruel world as he shared about the neighbor boy he would play with when he was little. The boy did not attend school because he was a special needs child and back then they had no classes for children with special needs. The other children were cruel to him so the mother would not send her boy to school or allow him to leave the yard because the other children were mean, but she did allow my grandfather to play with the boy because he was kind to the boy, patient and accepting.

He showed us what it meant to  love in sickness and in health, for all the years my grandmother was sick, he never left her side.  My grandfather even completed household chores even though he was raised in an era when that would have been considered “woman’s work.” He served and tended to my grandmother’s needs, to the very end.

His stories revealed true undefiled religion as he cared for the widows by delivering food to their homes.

His lessons taught us to work smarter not harder. Anyone who has ever done any work at the Bluff received the wheelbarrow lesson at least once. Always turn the wheelbarrow the direction you are going to go while the wheelbarrow is empty. Work smarter not harder, but never be afraid of hard work as my grandfather was a hard working man.

We learned the benefits of stability. He purchased his piece of land and raised his children there, his grandchildren grew up considering it a second home.

He lived a life of discipline, rising early, always reading his Bible, departing for work, providing for the family, tending to the garden, going to bed early so you can rise early and begin again.

He demonstrated how important it is to have a balance to life. He was a hard working man, but he also took plenty of time to sit on the front porch to swing.

My grandfather’s stories make us a part of history.

We have a first hand account of what life was like during the depression. We can use our imagination to create images of mill work as my grandfather described in details what work was done in the mill and even how the machines were made. We have experienced Alaska in a way few have, from the life of a sailor.

His stories bring us joy.

We laugh when he told us that grandma really went to visit him in Pensacola while he was in basic training because she just wanted  a baby.

We snicker every time he mentioned loading “bums” on planes, because never once in my grandfather’s life did he ever day bomb.

We giggle at how he fell off the porch the first time grandma kissed him.

His stories provide us with hope.

Hope of a better future.

Hope that this is not the end.

Hope that death is only the beginning of an eternity with our Father.

Hope in life beyond this world.

These are grandpa’s stories, but his stories do not end here, they continue in us and with us. As we recollect, learn, and share his stories, then the values, the joy, and the hope will endure.

This is the legacy my grandfather left us.

 

Dare to Be

Oh, to be anyone else than who I am. To be the fun loving, high energy, life of the party, or maybe the extremely popular pretty girl, or how about the star athlete everyone adores. The book worm, the math genius, the computer nerd. Anyone but me.

Have you ever felt that way? I am sure we have all felt it to some degree, the urge, the desire, the envy to be someone we are not, even if it was only for a brief time or in response to a specific event.

We have a tendency to focus on our flaws and imperfections. We see the worst of ourselves.  I am the quiet and shy girl, often invisible to the world. Insecure, and awkward. I over analyze and over process. I am over emotional at the wrong times, and too reserved at other times. I am less flexible than I try to convince myself. I take comments too personally. I try to please people far too often, and think of myself far more frequently than I would like to admit. I struggle connecting with people. (One of the many reasons I envy the high energy extremely extroverted personality type. They make it look so easy). I stumble over my words all the time, and more often than not, I have no words at all.

These are but a few of my many faults. They are a part of me, I resist them and even resent them at times, but these parts of me that I have despised are the exact components God has used to make me who I am. These deficiencies are what God has used to do His work so He gets all the glory.

No one ever thought the quiet and shy awkward girl standing in the corner barely noticed by anyone would ever be seen on stage standing before hundreds. Or how about that girl who could barely say a sentence without flipping words and stuttering over phrases, who would have ever thought she would one day be speaking into a microphone before a crowd. Could you see that insecure and overly reserved kid ever becoming a crazy animated children’s pastor?

This is who I am.

I could struggle to be someone I am not, or I could dare to be what God has designed me to be and allow Him to work through me despite my imperfections. This way no one could ever say I did anything on my own and God gets all the glory. After all, it is only God who could take an imperfect and flawed individual and make her into something valuable and useful.

I dare to be me. Who do you dare to be?

Peeling the Apple

Dig way back to your days in Sunday School. Back to when you were just a little tike learning the basics. Where do we start? At the beginning.

Sunday School Question: Who were the first people created in the Bible?

Sunday School Answer: Adam and Eve.

Sunday School Question: What was the first sin committed in the Bible?

Sunday School Answer: When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

Sunday School Question: What type of fruit was it?

Sunday School Answer: An Apple

Sunday School Question: How many commands did God give to Adam and Eve?

Sunday School Answer: 1, do not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

I am not here to bash Sunday School curriculum or the hard working and dedicated Sunday School teachers out there. I am not attempting to topple our primary biblical foundations. I am only encouraging us to dig a little deeper. To see beyond the basics, to explore hidden truths that possess profound power.

Truth- Adam and Eve were the first humans created on the earth. No challenge there- The Bible makes that very clear so we are good so far.

Onto the Apple.- I did not skip the question about the first sin, I am simply going to cover it later.

Truth is, Adam and Eve did not eat an apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. How do I know, you ask? Because in Genesis 1:11 The Bible states God made all vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit to bear fruit “according to their kind.”and repeats it in verse 12 “…and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, according to their kind. “We see this law of nature even today. Apple trees produce apples, orange trees produce oranges, and pear trees produce pears. We do not go to a banana tree looking for a mango, because all trees produce fruit “according to their kind.” So what type of fruit did the knowledge of good and evil tree produce… knowledge of good and evil. So does this mean Adam and Eve literally ingested the ability to recognize good from evil? (Just a random thought) All fruits and vegetation were created to provide the body with something. Oranges are high in vitamin C which helps support healthy immune system. Bananas have potassium which aid in heart, muscle, and kidney functions. Carrots have carotene which is good for the eyes. God created the fruits and the vegetation to provide something for the body, the knowledge of good and evil fruit provided one with the ability to recognize good from evil. Only, that was not a fruit God wanted for man to eat. God desired for mankind to live eternally in innocence. God desired that He be all that man needed for knowing what is right.

Now I am going to combine the discussion of the first sin with the commands God gave.

Commands- That is right, God gave more than one command to Adam and Eve.

1st Command-Genesis 1:28- “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth.” – God told Adam and Eve to have offspring. Now I have no idea how long Adam and Eve were in the garden or if they had ample time to reproduce from the time they were given this command to the time they were expelled from the garden, but it was a command they were given.

2nd Command- Genesis 1:28- “Fill the earth, subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” God gave man authority over the animals. It was the animals who were to listen to Adam and Eve, not the other way around.

3rd Command- Genesis 2:17 “But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” This was not the only command, but it is the only one where God gave a specific consequence.

So what was the first sin? Would the first sin being breaking any of the commands, or just the one with the consequence mentioned- Perhaps it would be helpful to define sin- Sin is disobedience to God’s command. Any time a command is broken, that is a sin.

So was the first sin the actual consumption of the fruit or is there something a bit deeper?

In Genesis 3 we see where the serpent comes and speaks to Eve regarding eating from the trees in the garden. He knows the answer to the question, but he is setting her up. He is hustling her, puts on this image of ignorance, while painting God as harsh and cruel. “Did God REALLY say ‘You can’t eat from ANY tree in the garden?'” (Essentially the serpent is saying, What type of God would place His creation in such a beautiful garden and tell them they can’t eat any of the fruit). She responds they can eat from any tree except the one in the middle, they can’t eat or touch it. In Genesis 2, God’s command is to not eat from the tree, He doesn’t say anything about not touching it. (Side note, I would say as a protection from possible sin, setting up boundaries to not even come close to sin is a good idea, but God’s command was not to eat it, if Adam and Eve had decided to set up that protective boundary for themselves, then that is great, but you can’t quote that part of what God told you). Technically, the laws about not adding or taking away from God’s word have not yet been written, and stating God said not to touch it, doesn’t  technically break one of the 3 commands they were given, but do you really want to risk trying to get into heaven on a technicality? (And just to clarify, lying is not acceptable behavior and just to clarify again, I am not saying Eve was innocent, I am attempting to provoke thought)

If that is not crazy enough for ya, get this. The serpent continues to speak and contradicts God. He says, “No you will not die!” Home girl should have drop kicked his lying tail half way across the garden at that point, but no she continues to listen. At this point, she relinquishes her authority over him, by listening to his lies. God’s 2nd command was to rule over the animals and subdue them. Subdue means- overcome, or bring under control. At the moment the serpent spoke contrary to God’s Word, it was Eve’s responsibility to bring him under control, but she failed to do so. She did not act on the authority which was given to her by God and she did not subdue an out of control inferior being.

I am sure some of you are thinking, “You just said it was okay for Eve to lie” Which is not what I said, but people read what they want. I am not focusing on the serpents actions because he was just a vessel used, I am addressing Adam and Eve’s behaviors to encourage us to think deeper than just the surface level of this story. They gave up their authority! How many times have we done the same thing. God tells us we have faith to move mountains. In Matthew 18 Jesus tells us “Whatever we bind on earth will be bond in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” God has given us authority to operate in His name and how many times have we relinquished that authority over doubt, or bad advice from inferior beings?

Adam and Eve’s sin did not begin with the consumption of the fruit (not an apple), that is where it led them. Their sin began when they voided their authority by listening to lies. God’s Words are true and the authority He has given us is greater than any lie from Satan. Don’t sacrifice your authority over an inferior being.

Not a Beggar

There is a song played on the radio and the young lady sings “I’m on my knees, begging you please.” The song speaks of her desire for God to remain with her and not leave her, even when she is a punk sometimes. The song is a fun song with an important message, but I am not writing about the song, I am writing about this one line which was really the only part of the song I heard the first time I heard it. I turned on the radio and heard the line “I’m on my knees, begging you please.” I had no idea to what the song was referring, but I said out loud, “I’m not a beggar.” God gently spoke to me and said, “No you are not.” You see I am a child of the King. I don’t have to crouch at the end of the table, and beg for scraps. I pull up a chair to the table and I can eat freely of all my Father has for me. If I need healing, it is on the table for me. If I need courage or strength, it is already on my plate for me. If I need peace, hope, or an extra dose of love and compassion, it is right there at my fingertips. If I need financial provision, it is there for me. Anything I need, I can pull up to the Father’s table and accept what God has for me. I can even come back as often as I need a refill.  I don’t have to live on yesterday’s blessings, I can come to the table every day, as often as I need to get full. God is a good Father and a mighty King who provides everything I need. I don’t have to beg, I just have to pull up to the table and eat freely.

One of Our Own

This past weekend I had the immense pleasure and amazing opportunity to speak at the Virginia Girl’s Jamboree. Being asked to speak at such an esteemed event is quite an honor. I enjoyed the chance to speak into the lives of these beautiful young ladies. As a part of my introduction, I was honored with prestigious accolades and acknowledgments of past accomplishments, but the statement which made me feel the most loved and accepted and appreciated was when the comment was made, “She’s one of our own.” Now don’t get me wrong, I am an Eastern North Carolina (ENC) girl and that will always be my home state. You may take the girl out of ENC but you can’t take the ENC out of the girl. With that being clarified, there is something to be said about being accepted. I have been in Virginia for only a few years. I was not born or raised here. I am an outsider. I did not grow up at the campgrounds of Virginia, I don’t have Virginia Youth Camp stories or tales to be told. I can’t say, I have known and grown up with anyone who is here. I do not have connections which extend back to the first time we ever met at a Virginia state function. I have only attended 2 years of Youth Camp in Virginia. I have only worked 3 Girls’ Jamborees. I have only attended a few Campmeeting services and I have been to even fewer Ministers’ meetings. I have attempted to connect and become involved as I have been here, but I don’t have memories spanning my lifetime of growing up and experiencing Virginia Church of God state events. I am an outsider (I do not say this in a negative connotation, but as a simple statement of fact). So to be accepted in this amazing group of Virginia Church of God folks, to be called “One of our own.” Makes me feel loved. So thank you Virginia for accepting me and allowing me to be one of yours.

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