Last Spring our couples ministry went through the Love and Respect series and had such a great time as a group. This fall we were looking for something else to go through and really had a hard time finding something that we thought had the same quality and usefulness. A friend directed us to Fireproof Your Marriage, based off the movie Fireproof and we decided to head in that direction.  It has been such a blessing and I look forward to our community time as we head through it.

This group we are meeting with are in a very different place that our last group. Many of these couples are newlyweds who have been married before and want so badly to see God as the center of their marriage. They are all so humble. There is such a sweet spirit that permeates this group and a willingness to learn and grow. As with all our Sanctuary experiences, this one has been great. I am always so amazed at the attitude of believers at Sanctuary (and I say this having been at the church less than a year, but in ministry for the past 18 years),  no one has an agenda, everyone wants to learn. It’s so refreshing and familial. Isn’t that what our church experience should be? Like a family? Not to say we aren’t dysfunctional – we are, but we want to be healed and our marriages are no different.

At the end of the month our couples’ ministry is hosting an 80’s themed  murder mystery party, so sign up if you’re interested. I’m going to be Mary Lou Retton, so seriously, you have no excuse:)

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Thank You

October 20, 2010

I have been so bad at writing lately. I think I always begin my posts this way. But seriously, I’ve been very neglectful (if that a word, or is it negligent?) Anyway, I’ve been so busy the last month since going back to school. It’s been overwhelming, but completely amazing! I feel so privileged to be able to go and finish my degree; I only fear that now my husband is NEVER going to get me out of school – I love it.

While I was very excited about the opportunity, I was cautious because of the changes it would bring to our marriage and family dynamics. I have to say that I am completely amazed at how supportive my husband is – and it’s not just for show – he is absolutely supportive regardless of the changes and inconveniences it has caused him. He has been helping with homeschooling the kids, cleaning the house (don’t tell him I’m saying all this), running errands and all with a smile. Seriously, I never envisioned him calling and telling me how much he loves being with the kids.

So this is a shout-out to Mondo for supporting me in this next stage and to thank him for serving the family.

Ageless Love

September 17, 2010

My dad’s side of the family saves everything. My grandma still has my dad’s camp shirts from when he was elementary school age – he’s going to be 65 next month. My grandma’s house is a museum, not esthetically speaking, but historically; she has furniture, plates, jewelry and pictures handed down hundreds of years. Every once and a while we go through her numerous trunks and my kids have a great time trying on vintage clothes and laughing at their great uncles in old-fashioned clothes and curls – can’t really blame them, terrible fashion statement.

This weekend I was at my parents’ house and they decided to get out a couple of  trunks and go through them with the kids. It’s amazing the history lesson available to you once you open the trunks. There were pictures of my great-great uncle and all his papers and belongings from his years serving aboard ship in the Navy. There were pictures, books, a vanity set complete with antique brush, comb, mirror – everything. We like to tease my mom that since she comes from a Sicilian mafia background, all her family heirlooms were confiscated as evidence!

As I was looking through artifacts from my heritage, I found this picture:

It’s damaged and stained, but what it shows is beautiful. It was given to my parents as a valentine by my uncle, who I believe took the picture. They are not members of my family, but you have to appreciate a love that lasts this long, and not only lasts, but is memorialized by a picture, taken by the man who loved her.

Fireproof

September 14, 2010

Well, we have finally decided what study we are going through for the Couples’ Ministry this fall. Drum roll please…..

Fireproof your Marriage. We had toyed with the idea of doing Love and Respect again and were seriously planning on it, when we were asked to find something new – mix it up a bit. We looked through other material (there is a lot of lame marriage stuff out there) and found, through the help of some friends, Fireproof. Probably the hardest part about finding something new was that Love and Respect was so good, that most everything else, pales in comparison. So when I say “lame,” I mean it comparatively speaking.

One of the things we liked about Fireproof is that is seems real, and we LIKE real. Also, if you want to continue with the study, there are options like the Love Dare to encourage personal growth in your marriage. Also, it’s not about changing your spouse, but about changing yourself. That might not be as fun as pointing the finger at your imperfect spouse, but it is very much like the heart of Christ and becoming more like Him.

Here is a clip from the movie that the study is based on.

We will be everyother Friday night, beginning  Friday, September 24th, in Beaumont. The cost is $25 per couple and that takes care of the price of the book. We will also be having childcare at the home, if you need it – so no excuses!! If you would like more information, please contact me @ amanda.garcia99@yahoo.com

As always, you do not have to be married to attend. If you are dating, engaged, married, remarried – whatever, we invite you to come and learn about God’s heart concerning marriage.

We look forward to seeing what God has in store for our marriages.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to be talking about sex – I like my job, so I’m going to steer clear of too much controversy. OK, maybe I’ll talk about it a little.

While my husband and I did youth ministry for years, we were always asked to go to purity seminars and Princesses of Jesus this and that. We never did it, not because purity isn’t important (it is!) but we just never felt it was done right. You were either taught that sex is bad – and that is a hard idea to break once you’re married – or you’re taught that if you stay pure, God has prince charming waiting for you – also, not helpful, or true.

I ran across an article yesterday that really broke down the confusion that we as Christians tend to have regarding sex and are maybe telling our kids.  I encourage you to read it and let me know what you think.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationship/features/22742-4-ways-christians-damage-sex

Creativity, Blogging and God

September 6, 2010

My husband and I have friends who have been a part of our lives, both before we were married and since. They have in many ways been our mentors. They have spent at least the last 20 years as missionaries all over Europe and have such an organic way of showing Jesus to others – they are so amazing.

One of the things I most appreciate about them is how creative they are. It’s not just an aspect of who they are – they simply are creative in every way possible. They ooze creativity, if you will. They are a little “out there,” and I adore them for it.

Currently the wife runs a ministry out of Spain that uses the arts to express the love of God and to evangelize a lost people. It is not conventional, but it is so genuine; it’s naturally progressive without trying to be. The husband has been on a voyage of his own this last summer in Germany and when I saw him this evening, he shared with me about his personal blog. So, after everyone else went to bed, I thought I’d check it out. It’s so amazing – again without trying to be. He takes the everyday elements of life, sometimes even the ugly or mundane and he transforms them into artistic expressions that always lead back to Christ. He allows the reader into observations about cross-cultural living as if there is really no audience at all – I can imagine all these things as mere conversations in his head that accidentally got scribbled down and we stumble upon them. I encourage you to check it out. I appreciated it as a former missionary who spend years living cross culturally and as a creative person always looking for ways to express myself.

stevens.blog.com     Enjoy!

God’s Best

August 20, 2010

I just ran across this quote by C.S. Lewis and I thought it was so insightful (of course it is, it’s C.S. Lewis!)

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us;

we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

I few years back Philip Yancy published a book entitled Disappointed With God. I have to be honest and say that I did not read it. I heard it wasn’t orthodox in its reasoning and should avoid it and since I hate to give my opinion on things I haven’t experienced, I won’t. But I am intrigued by the title and if I’m honest, I have totally felt that way before. Sometimes, I am plain disappointed with God. At least, I direct my disappointment towards Him, when really, I am probably just disappointed in myself and my choices, but like to shift the blame.

I really like the way C.S. Lewis penned it; we trust God will do the best – He promised in a myriad of scriptures – but yet we are sideswiped when the best is so darn hard. I remember about 10-15 years ago, I was disappointed with God, disappointed in all He had to offer, which I had convinced myself, wasn’t much. I was struggling in my faith, was full of questions and I was confused and angry. I remember He spoke to my heart and said that if I was  disappointed in Him, I had only myself to blame, because I had stopped delving into Him – an infinite God has no end and there is no limit to what He offers and who He is. I had sold myself short.

To bring this back around to what C.S.Lewis says, God’s methods seem confusing and frustrating because we only choose to see the surface of our circumstances and fail to delve deeper and seek for a spiritual understanding of things. His best is not always easy, because His best wants to make us more like Him, which is (should be) the spiritual desire of all of us.  And as sinners, this is a particularly painful task. Producing His best in us, requires the stripping away of who we are, how we think, what we want, and what we think we know. To be made into His image, inch by inch, reflecting who He is, is truly and glorious calling, albeit painful. Sometimes we don’t see the purpose this side of eternity, because we do these things in faith, for His eyes and His heart.

Reality Check Pt.2

August 16, 2010

My other little dose of reality came in the form of a girl I met about a year ago. I have always been drawn to eccentric people and this girl is no exception. I realize that in some way we are all dysfunctional, some of us more than others. Without going into personal detail, she is the poster child for dysfunctional upbringing. It’s really heart-breaking actually.

Having been in youth ministry for years, we came across many different cases and situations, but most of the kids had some kind of churched background. So basically,  their parents had some kind of religious sense or knowledge even if the kids could care less. That is not true when you step out of the church; there are a startling number of people who have no true knowledge of a traditional God and even fewer who feel it necessary to find one.  I forget what the real world is like, I forget how insulated I am, how safely stowed away and protected I am.

So back to my story. Last week our paths crossed again after about a 9 month hiatus and we hung out one afternoon. She is very low maintainance and just likes to hang around, come with me to run errands, watch me cook or stick around for “family movie night.” She is hungry for a family.

She talked with me while I made dinner and shared about her friends and their search for universal enlightenment, oneness and a united cosmic awareness. Then she showed me some YouTube videos about changing your life through changing your mental state and altering your reality and then went on to show me music videos that really speak to her. My heart just broke. I was suddenly seized by fear. It was like God gave me a glimpse into her heart, her struggle for salvation and meaning, her overwhelming desperation to make sense of everything. I forget what it’s like not to know God. He has been weaved in and out of my life for years that I have no idea anymore what it’s like to live without Him, without hope. It’s one thing to grow up in a decent family, and party on the weekends -there’s still a spark of godly knowledge, but with her, there are years of lies stuffed into her through what she’s been taught, told and what she has witnessed. The love of God and the grace of Christ is completely foreign, but exactly what she longs for.

It’s amazing that when you show God’s love to someone who has no contact with anything divine, how quickly they respond to it; they eat it up and are hungry for more. I need to always be reminded how blessed I am to be found in Him and how desperate others are to know Him.

Reality Check Pt. 1

August 12, 2010

I don’t know if I would really say that ignorance is bliss, but I think I live that way sometimes. I had two wake up calls this week about my world versus that world that everybody else lives.  My reality versus the general reality. Let me explain…

Our nephew is in the Marine Corps and after a few years in, they suddenly sent him overseas. He had the option awhile back to sign up for overseas duty – these are civilian terms, so be patient with me if you have a military background and I’m not saying this right – he decided to do it since defending the country is why he enlisted in the first place.  We all hoped the day wouldn’t come when he would leave, but he did and we miss him dearly. As he cruised across the globe, my kids followed him on a map with the vague details he was able to provide; usually something like, “I’m 12 hours out from Australia, ” or “just left Sri Lanka and after seeing how most people live in the world, I’m so happy for what I have.” It’s these words that will make him a man, but also breaks your heart as an adult, wishing he didn’t have to experience the real world.

After being in Kuwait for a bit, he told us he was being sent to Pakistan to help with flood relief. This is where my reality was rather limited. Floods? What floods? It’s amazing to me that tens of thousands, maybe even millions of people’s lives can be turned upside-down and I’m completely unaware of it.

Sometimes I don’t want to know. It pulls at my heart, it makes me uncomfortable, it puts my life into perspective. My niece sent me a link that shows, in pictures, what’s happening around the world. It’s amazing how pictures are truly worth a thousand words. When I looked at the link, it was filled with pictures of the floods in Pakistan and I was able to see all that my nephew is witnessing first hand.

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/08/continuing_pakistani_floods.html

Sometimes it’s good to be shaken up, not for the sake of shock value, but to be stirred up to respond in a way God may show us: prayer, aid and more prayer. What’s your reality?

~amanda

Grace vs. Justice

July 30, 2010

The other night Armando and I watched a great movie that we’ve been looking to see again: Les Miserable. This is not the song and dance Broadway version, but the one with Liam Neeson – no music. As a believer, it is one of the most poignant films I’ve ever see that so clearly depicts grace versus justice. In fact, if you were not a believer, you would find yourself scratching your head at a man who can forgive countless times in the face of hatred and injustice.

It is so convicting as well, because you see the great cost at times to grace – grace always costs the giver something: time, pride, inconvenience and self-denial. Something has to give in the face of grace. In the film, a man is set free after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread, but his first act in the freedom is to steal again out of a similar desperation that drove him to his original crime. The response he is shown in the face of his crime is key to how he lives the rest of his life. He is truly someone saved by grace – not just eternally, but in this life as well.

Never has civil law and justice looked so vile as it is portrayed here. While the law is necessary for society to function properly, it is easily abused and the result is monstrous. I sat there unable to ignore the tendencies in my own heart towards it. While I hate every form of legalism, I had to ask myself if I truly understand grace. While grace is an inexhaustible subject, do I understand it in my own life and more importantly, do I give it freely to others? I had to be honest and say “no.” There are times when giving grace just seems not right, because it’s clearly not deserved in my mind. I guess though, that grace is never deserved, that’s what makes it grace.

~amanda