Contentment Irony

Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

One of my assignments for this week is to contrast secular contentment with biblical contentment. I have to confess, I have little contentment and joy with this writing class. In fact, taking this class reminds me of how much I hated scholastic writing when I was younger!

The weather where I live is finally starting to feel like Spring. My Okame Cherry tree is starting to bud; yet, I am a malcontent. Everywhere I turn people (myself included) are trying to process how to deal with all the changes that are occurring in our world.

Contentment is truly a learned behavior. Patience is definitely not the first word (nor the top 50 words) that my family and friends would use to describe me. If they were also asked to rate my level of contentment, it would also be really, really low.

We all know the Apostle Paul learned to be content with little or with much (Phil 4:11-12). Contentment is the context of Philippians 4:13 where Paul can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. I will be honest, I keep preaching to myself, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil 4:8 ESV); yet my mind is still set on myself and not God.

I praise God there will be a day when all this discontentment, anger and strife will cease. I praise God for the fact that the Kingdom that is coming has NO room for invaders, usurpers, exploiters, oppressors and con artists. I praise God that even when I am a malcontent that the Holy Spirit continues to call me to Himself.

Please folks, do NOT think that I have it all together! The person that I am online, is the same in person. God hates falsity and I do not ever want to have to stand before the Lord and hear Him say that my walk, talk and presence were inconsistent.

There is much in this world to dislike. Each day I am reminded of how little control I have over anything. Areas like thoughts and emotions where God calls me to exercise self-control, I am failing. I know that God is good. I know that God is Sovereign and that God is in control. Even though I absolutely loathe this one class, I know that God will help me see me through.

The greatest indictment on my demeanor at this moment is that I am choosing to have a mindset of a person who has no hope. I tell myself all the time that Christ is enough for me. But if that were true, I would be content “both in [my] circumstances and with [my] circumstances” (S. Ferguson, emphasis original).

Dear reader, how present is contentment in your life?!

Lord God, thank You for Your grace and mercy! Thank You Lord that You are greater than our fears, anxieties and circumstances. Lord God, help Your people to look to You rather than our circumstances. Lord God, help us to trust You as this world spirals more and more out of control. Lord God, as geopolitical alliances change daily, help us to focus on Your Kingdom that is coming, and not on the kingdoms of the world. Lord God, I ask that You bring more people to Yourself through these events. Lord God, help those who are truly lost and hopeless to know they have a hope and home in Christ. Lord God, may we never forget that it is in Christ and for Christ that we live, breathe and have our being. Lord God, thank You for this reader. Lord God, help this reader to cling to You today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

March 2022 Prayer

Lord God, thank You for this new day and month. Lord God, help us to stay connected to You this month. As a new war and rumors of wars have started, help us to keep our eyes fixed on You and Your Kingdom. May we seek You more this month.

Lord God, I pray for Your strength and guidance for my brothers and sisters in Ukraine and Russia. Lord God, thank You and praise You that Your Kingdom that is coming will be perfectly ruled. Lord God, may Christians use this failed world system as a means to point people to You.

Lord God, thank You for this reader. Lord God, for the reader who is in Christ, may they draw closer to You, their family and friends more this month. Lord God, for the reader who does not know Christ, stir their hearts Lord toward You. Lord God, thank You that You know each and every person who belongs to You!

Lord God, may we read our Bible’s more this month. May we think more on You this month. Lord God, help us this month to be salt and light to this dark and dying world. Stir our hearts to pray more this month. Holy Trinity prepare us this month to live more for You. Prepare us Lord to stand for You and Your truth. Prepare all of the people we are to meet this month for us. Thank You and praise You Lord that we can never escape Your presence. In Jesus’s Holy and Powerful Name I pray. Amen.

Why do I write?!

Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

“Why do we write” is topic for the week in my Excellence in Theological Writing class. Since there is no self-reflection question as to why I write, I find it necessary to share why I write with y’all!

In the event y’all cannot read my handwriting (I have NEVER had good penmanship either too small or too sloppy) my immediate answer was:

“I write for God, for the people who believe in me and for myself. I write to encourage others to love Jesus, to know Jesus and to make Him known to others. I write in accordance to Hebrews 10:24 which says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (ESV). I take this call seriously. Everyone likes to receive mail that isn’t junk or bills. I write to glorify God, it is my ultimate form of worship!”

[As to the thought of me writing for God, those who believe in me and for myself; I have recited that for every seminary paper I have ever written. Why? As a way to remind to myself that I have done my best and that I have learned through the researching and writing process regardless of my grade. In essence, I am always reminding myself why I write. If why and who I am writing ever changes, I know something has drastically gone wrong!]

I write (and take pictures) every chance I get. From journaling, to sending prayer texts and emails, to research papers, to blog posts, to sending handwritten cards via snail mail, I love (and live) to write! Other than cards from ex-boyfriends (they were happily discarded to the trash!) I have saved every card I have ever received since middle school.

I have journaled almost every day since 2006. My mom always asks me, “what will you do with those?!” My hope and prayer is that people will read them and see how the Lord worked in my life. They will read my personal prayers, my triumphs and some bitter struggles. Yes, I have written VERY unkind things about people in my journal; however, I do mention in later dates how I was wrong for what I said! I do not cross out those entries because they are real.

For those who never read, “What is a Blue Collar Theologian?” the one thing I strive to be above all else is real, authentic and genuine. Meeting people right where they are. While I get it wrong ALL the time, I praise God for the opportunity to write and to leave pieces of Mandy flair wherever I go. I pray that I am doing so in a manner that points people to jesus more often than not! My professor for this class defines writing as, “marking the world with our presence.” May our presence (communication) glorify God, encourage believers and point the lost to Christ.

For anyone willing to share, I would love to hear your why you write!

Lord God, thank You and praise You that You created and know intimately every language that will ever be written or spoken! Thank You Lord that You bound communication in history and that You love and value words and history even when the people on the earth do not. Lord God, may we never diminish the gift of writing. May we never diminish how You have preserved Your Word through each generation. Lord God, may we impress on our young people today the importance of reading and writing (as well as history). Lord God, thank You for this reader! Thank You Lord for allowing us to live in the digital age where a written message has never before been able to be seen as quickly as it is today. Lord, with this privilege comes GREAT responsibility. Lord, may we use our words wisely on social media platforms! Thank You again Lord for this reader! May they take some time to write a prayer or praise to you and write a card or email for a loved one. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Nazirite Vow

My reading today was from Numbers 6 and the Nazirite vow (vv 1-21). When I think of the Nazirite vow, I think of Samson (Judges 13) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15-17) who were Nazirites for life (Samuel was also under the vow in 1 Samuel 1). I also think of Paul being temporarily under the Nazirite vow in Acts (vv 18:18; 21:17-26). I have heard people try to connect Nazirite with Nazarene and in the Hebrew it is very clear that Nazirite is not at all affiliated with the Nazarenes or the place of Nazareth.

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD…” (Num 6:1-2). “The term Nazirite describes the person who has marked out a specific period for personal separation or consecration, a special time for unusual devotion to God. This text speaks of a restricted period of time for the Nazirite vow, though some persons took the vow for a lifetime” (R. Allen, Numbers REBC, 2012, p. 138).

I have read Numbers 6 NUMEROUS times and NEVER noticed that women were included in making this extraordinary vow to the Lord. “Though issues related to women are often subsumed under the heading of man (=humankind), the context explicitly emphasizes the potential of women entering into this consecration service to Yahweh. Women could not serve as priests in the Israelite cultus, but this manner of service was open to them and could fulfill their desire for holiness and special service to the Lord” (R.D. Cole, Numbers NAC, 2000, p. 121).

What were those under the Nazirite vow separating themselves from? “(1) absolute abstinence from all produce of the vine, (2) total forswearing of trimming of (and likely all caring for) the hair, and (3) utter separation from contamination by any contact with a dead body. Thus three areas of life were regulated for the Nazirite during the period of his vow: diet (ordinary pleasure), appearance (ordinary care), and associations (ordinary obligation). Every Israelite was under regulations in these general areas, but for the Nazirite each of these regulations was heightened” (Allen, pp. 138-139).

Numbers 30:1-16 does give fathers of young women and husbands permission to cancel/oppose a woman’s vow to the Lord. I am fascinated by the Bible resources that I have that do NOT mention that women are included in the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6; to not mention this is dishonest to the text.

This also has me wondering what would it look like for Israelite women to make a Nazirite vow?! Premenstral young women or postmenopausal women would be free to make this vow unless their fathers or husbands opposed it. Women of menstruating age would have to be VERY sensitive to the timing of this vow so as to not conflict with purity rituals, cleanness laws etc.

I need to do more research on this because, I am really curious to learn how often pregnant Israelite women would have made/put themselves under a Nazirite vow to the Lord?! Pregnant women would have months to devote themselves to the Lord without having to deal with their monthly period. Manoah’s wife (Samson’s mom) was put under the Nazirite vow by the angel of the Lord in which she was to be careful to not drink strong drink, to not eat anything unclean and to not eat anything that comes from the vine (see Judges 13:4, 7, 14).

I am so glad the Lord brought this to my attention today! I have often wondered about the vows Jewish women would have made in the Ancient Near East (ANE). While I am glad that women were able to partake in the Nazarite vow, I am SO glad and thankful that women TODAY have even more access to the Triune God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Lord God, thank You that the path to salvation is made clear in Your Word. Thank You Lord that what You began in the Old Testament (Covenant) is now completed in the New! Lord God, thank You and praise You for women! Thank You for the unique giftings and experiences that You have given women to glorify You and serve Your people, leading the lost to Christ. Lord God, thank You and praise You there will be NO sex and gender disputes in Heaven! Lord God, thank You for ALL the godly men in the world who are doing their best to live for You in this darkening world. Lord God, help Your men to lead well. Lord God, may Your people, males and females help each other to make You known in this lost and dying world. Thank You Lord for this reader! Thank You for their grace and patience with me as I share what You have put on my heart. Lord, lead this reader today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Fluffy snow and sunset 2/13/2022

Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn
Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn
Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn
Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn
Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

Lord God, thank You for today. Thank You Holy Trinity that You are intimately involved with Your Creation! Thank You Lord that for those of us who are in Christ we are no longer covered in sin and hell bound, but are a people alive with hope and purpose. Lord God, help us this week to live more for You. Help us to be more like Jesus. Lord God, stir our hearts to share Jesus while there is still time.

Lord God, thank You for this reader. May this reader take comfort and courage in You. May this reader be refreshed by Your Word and renewed knowing there is nowhere they can go that is out of Your grasp. Thank You and praise You Lord for this reader. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Anxious and Excited

So, I graduated from LBC/Capital Seminary and Graduate School summa cum laude (4.0 GPA) with a Masters degree in Biblical Studies (MABS). I do NOT share this to brag or puff up myself! I share this because the reality of returning to Seminary is getting ever closer, and is causing me to be anxious and excited!

While I want to work very hard at Westminster, I do NOT want this program to consume my life in the same way that my MABS program did. When I first started thinking about Seminary Nathan’s only concern was would I go into crazy mode like last time?! In fairness, I met Nathan halfway through the program. By the time I met Nathan I had a routine; and well, I do not deal well with routine changes. I am praying I will be better and do better with changes this time around!

Last night, new students in the MAR and MDiv programs had a meet and greet zoom conference. I was really encouraged to hear one of the current student’s say that he allots a certain amount of time per assignment and that he aims for good grades but not excellent grades. He accepts he has done the best he can with the amount of time that he has. Don’t get me wrong, he would like excellent grades, but he doesn’t want to sacrifice time with his family and ministry to achieve said goal.

I pray to be like this! I hope you will all hold me accountable. I hope that if I go for a prolonged period of time without posting that y’all will email me or leave a comment reminding me that it is more important that I worship God through my studies and other activities that God has for me more than only worshiping God through school and what grade I get. I do not want school nor grades to become a stumbling block/idol.

I have perfectionistic tendencies and so I can get very frustrated very quickly. And when that happens, I usually take my frustrations out on Nathan, my mom, my dad and yes, even PQ. I do not like this about myself. It is ugly and it is nasty. Praise God there will be a day when believers in Christ no longer have to contend with their sin nature!

So, why am I returning to Seminary?! Because I miss, need and love the challenge! I am attending Seminary to learn more about Jesus so that I can love Him more. I want to work hard for God, for those who believe in me and for myself.

I am thankful for this new experience. I pray to not compare it to my last experience. I pray that I will NEVER allow my studies to replace or become my quiet time. I praise God for the opportunity to learn online with other likeminded men and women. I praise God for how He will use me and I am genuinely confident that He will.

Thank you reader for all the support you have shown me! I pray that my Seminary experience will help me to be a better writer and communicator with y’all. I am humbled and grateful for every comment that y’all take the time to write me. It is a joy and an honor to pray for you through this outlet. Thank you all for praying for me too! Lots of love, hugs and blessings!

Lord God, thank You for this new journey, this new beginning! Lord God, prepare me for my classes now so that I won’t panic later! Lord God, help Your people to be content. Help us to not be frustrated and angry. Lord God, for the reader that does not know Christ may today be day their day of salvation. Lord God, may our work, regardless of the kind and type be done in a manner that honors, pleases and glorifies You! Thank You Father for this reader! Lead and guide this reader today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

February 2022 Prayer

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

Lord God, thank You for this new month. Lord God, remind us that no matter how out of control life seems, You are still in control! Lord God, thank You for the way that You intervene in our average, everyday lives! Lord God, help us to trust You. Thank You for the small miracles that occur each day: a man marrying a woman, a baby being born and an unsaved person coming to Christ.

Lord God, help us to look at what is in front of us. Help us to not turn to the right nor left but to again stay focused on You. Lord God, thank You for this reader! Lord God, may this reader love You more this month. Lord God, may this reader put You first this month. Lord God, thank You for the opportunity to live at this time in history. Lord God, may we cling to You more than the world in this new month. Help us and grow us in loving You and loving others this month. Thank You again Lord for this reader. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

LA Reflections

Camellia. Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

In less than 2.5 hours I will be heading to airport to begin my journey home (this time I will fly from LAX to Charlotte and from there fly to Harrisburg). This has been an incredible five days. I have experienced more love, hospitality and joy than I ever imagined! I came to love and serve and instead I was loved and served.

I am so thankful for the youth that I was able to meet on Sunday at church! That was an emotional moment! For the past year I have prayed for these young people and participated in online study with them and now I was able to give them a hug in the flesh! Thank you Jesus! This whole experience reminds me the church is so much more than we realize. There is our local church and then there is the worldwide church. Praise God there will be a day where believers are united in Heaven!

It was really fantastic to meet some of the guys who are in the Tuesday night Bible study. What a joy when God’s people are able to rejoice and worship together in person! I never want it to be far from my mind that this life is not about me, my wants and my desires, it is about Christ and loving others well.

What I have learned the most is how amazing Nancy is. I knew she had a heart of gold and served her family well, but wow, I want to be more like Nancy because Nancy exudes Christ and grace.

It was beautiful for me to see how much this family loves each other. And it wasn’t fake because there was a guest, it is a lifestyle for them. I know that God will help me reflect more on my time here throughout this week.

I am ready to see Nathan and PQ. God in His Sovereignty allowed me to have this experience as well as allowing me to have this week off before starting classes online at Westminster next Monday February 7, 2022.

It is my heartfelt prayer that we will all meditate this week on the fact that “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13 ESV).

Lord God, thank You and praise You for this time. Thank You for the opportunity to love and be loved. Lord God, may Your people love You and others well this week. Lord God, help us to grow in extending forgiveness, grace, mercy and love. Help us to be a genuine light in this dark world. Help us to put You and others first. Lord God, prepare us to live for You even though it may be costly. Thank You Lord for this reader. Thank You Lord for Jimmy and his family! Bless Jimmy, Nancy and kiddos for the love and kindness they have shown me. In Jesus’s Name I pray.

LA, here I come!

After a beautiful few days with my mom, I am now sitting at the Tampa airport waiting to board my flight for LA. Many of you who read this blog also read SlimJim at The Domain for Truth (I highly recommend his blog if you don’t already read it!).

Jimmy and I started reading each other’s blogs in the summer of 2019. After communicating with Jimmy through the blogging world, when churches were shut down due to Covid (Nathan and I were not part of a local body at that time), we asked Jimmy if we could join their online church service. From there I learned about the Tuesday night Bible study and I started attending that. (Praise God I was able to meet a BEAUTIFUL young woman through that Study who spent the 4th of July 2021 with Nathan and I!!!)

From there I heard the adults of the church were sharing their testimonies with the youth and I volunteered to share mine if the church was interested. That was a great moment for me because I have been able to share with the youth since that time. I am so blown away by the youths’ ability to show up on Saturday morning for Study!

The agony and the ecstasy of life is a tension that we continually experience. While I am still sad about my mom, I am absolutely thrilled for the opportunity to visit Jimmy and his family in person. Tears of sorrow will God willing soon be turned to tears of joy. Nathan has to work or otherwise him and I would have come out to visit together.

I can honestly say that I care very deeply for each reader of this blog. I do my very best to write like I talk so that when we meet (whether in this life or in Heaven) you will know it’s me!

Getting to know many of you outside of WordPress has been such an amazing joy and honor! I NEVER in my life imagined the people the Lord would allow me to meet through this platform.

While Covid has changed and disrupted all of our lives, it is not lost on me that blessings have occurred and friendships have formed through it.

Lord God, thank You for this blogging family. Lord God, thank You for all those whom You have allowed meet through WordPress. Thank You God for those who have wanted to communicate further outside of WordPress as well. Thank You God for the ministry of my fellow bloggers. I pray Lord that we will point others to Christ in a manner that glorifies You, encourages the Body and leads the lost to You!!!! Thank You and praise You Lord for Jimmy and his family. Thank You Lord for friendships that have formed through adversity. Thank You Lord for the gift of today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Bedtime Tears

Humble selfie by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

Tears flow as I think about my mom taking me to the airport early tomorrow morning. I will miss my mom so much! I have so many memories coming to my mind like when I was little my mom read and quoted repeatedly the book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. The line that keeps replaying over and over in my mind is:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my Mommy you’ll be.

As a kid, I hated that book! I thought it was the dumbest, worst book ever! Over time I have come to love and appreciate that book. I praise God for the love that my mom has for me. I praise God for the opportunity to love my mom and to be her daughter. (No worries, I can get really annoyed and irritated with my mom!) If I was ever forced to cry on demand, all I have to do is visualize the look on my mom’s face when I say something that verbally hurts her and that brings instant tears to my eyes.

I know that my mom hurts too because of our distance and that grieves my heart. I know that God loves my mom and that she has amazing friends. I pray that my mommy knows that no matter where I am, no matter what I am doing that I will love her, I am here for her and “as long as I’m living my mommy [she’ll] be.”

Since the beginning of 2020, there has been so much death, loss and grief all over the world. It is with a humble and sincere heart that I encourage you to tell and show your loved ones that they matter. Even if it is uncomfortable for you to show love and vulnerability to others, I implore you in Jesus’s Name to share yourself with them. We are NOT guaranteed tomorrow. I do not ever want anyone that I know to wonder if I loved them. I get this wrong a lot! I am thankful that God has mercy on me a sinner. I am thankful that even as I sit here typing and crying, I have peace. I have peace knowing that Jesus loves me as well as my family and friends. I am humbled and thankful that I am able by the Spirit’s power to love Jesus and my family and friends.

Lord God, confession is good for the soul! Lord God, thank You and praise You for this time with my mom! Lord God, thank You for the godly women that You place in Your peoples lives. Lord God, prepare my mom and I to say, “see you soon!” and prepare me for my next adventure in and with You. Lord God, thank You for this reader. Prepare this reader for their next adventure in and with You as well! Thank You Lord for Your encouragement and love toward me and allowing me to share my heart. Lord God, help Your people to live open, authentic lives in this dying and decaying world. Lord, encourage this reader to share with their loved ones how much they love them while there is still time. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.