Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What Motivates You?

As a kid, I practiced the violin for hours. Not because I liked practicing, but because I loved perfecting a song. I still love to put on a CD of an orchestra and play along. When I worked on piano, I practiced scales and other technique, not because it was fun, but because it made me a better pianist.
Some people say no to chocolate because they want to be healthier. Some people walk to work because they want to protect the environment. Some people get rid of their TV because they want to spend better quality time with their family.

What motivates you to live your life the way you do?

As Christians, we are called to live a life that is pleasing to God. He has called us to do certain things and not do other things.

Why do you do what you do? (No, this isn't a rehash of this post). I mean, what motivates you? You get up each day and make choices. Why do you make the choices you do?

Pastor was preaching on Sunday evening from Luke 18 and 19. I've been reading the gospels in my devotions recently (finished Mark today). I've been reflecting on all Christ has done for us. He left Heaven, where He was respected and had everything to come to earth, where He had nothing and was cursed, spit on, and treated worse than a servant. He came to earth to serve, when He was used to being served and worshipped in heaven. Not only that, He travelled for 3.5 years teaching, preaching, doing miracles, and sharing the love of God, knowing that He and His message would be rejected. If that wasn't enough, He suffered horribly and was ultimately killed. Why? Well, because the religious leaders didn't like His message and were threatened by Him. But was that the real reason? They didn't take His life. He gave it up. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe, Ruler of Heaven, gave up His life.

For me.

For you.

Because He loved us. And wanted us to have the chance to live eternally with Him.

Wrap your mind around that, if you can. 

What a great God we serve. We as Christians have the opportunity to give our lives to God. In fact, Romans 12:1 says that we should "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our

REASONABLE service".

It just makes sense to give Him our lives.

That was a really long introduction. I'm sorry. It's late and I'm rambling. But I promised someone I'd write this tonight. So I'm writing.

We as Christians are motivated to serve God by basically 1 of 2 things: grace or guilt.

We can look at all Christ has done for us, and make it all about Him. Because of His sacrifice, because of all He has done for me, I can give Him my life. He allows me to serve Him, and I am blessed with so much, it just makes sense to give it all back to Him. That's grace.

Guilt says "I've messed up. I know I've been saved, but I've done a lot of bad things and I want God to love me so I'm going to work really hard to be a 'good Christian'." We know we're saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and not through works, but often we don't live like it. Or maybe it's just me. I don't live like it. I spend a lot of time feeling like I've made mistakes and I have to fix them. I have to work to earn forgiveness somehow. We know God is "faithful and just to forgive us" (I John 1:9). So why do we live like we've messed up 1 to many times and He may not forgive us if we make another mistake? To say (or think) that God can't forgive us is saying (or thinking) that the cross was a waste of Jesus' time. Am I wrong?

I don't know how to define being motivated by guilt. I would say that a sign is "consistently feeling like a failure". Thinking "I keep messing up and I fail at life". Feeling like you have to earn forgiveness. Giving up. Telling yourself "I'll never succeed, so why keep trying?".

If you've read my blog much at all, you know Peter is one of  my favorite Bible characters. Mostly because I can understand his whole impulsive thing and a lot of his other character traits. Remember when he denied Jesus 3 times before the crucifixion? Not a high point in his life, I'm sure. The Bible tells us that he went out and "wept bitterly". After Jesus died, Peter went fishing. Earlier in the gospels, 3.5 years earlier, Peter had left everything and followed Jesus. He gave up fishing to spread the story of the Kingdom of Heaven with the world. He vowed he would never leave Jesus. Then he messed up.

Big time. 

He majorly failed. He denied Jesus--the one who, not long before, Peter had declared as "the Christ, the Son of the Living God". He failed, and left it all and went back to fishing (John 21).

I'm going to speculate a little. This isn't in the Bible. This is just me thinking the way I usually think (coming from the frame of reference of one who is motivated by guilt and failure all too often).

Peter knew fishing. He knew the fish and the sea. He was confident in his fishing skills there, and the fish wouldn't care if he cursed or denied them. He couldn't hurt anyone the way he had when he was following Jesus. When Peter was being motivated by guilt, he gave up. He couldn't serve God the way God planned.

When Jesus showed the depth of God's forgiveness to Peter on the beach, and when Peter really grasped the concept of the unfathomable grace of God, his motivation changed. Suddenly, it wasn't, "I have to do this because if I mess up again God will never forgive me." For Peter, it became "God has given me so much and I want to serve Him with my life!"

Peter's life changed. God's grace changed Him. And it has changed my life. As a Christian, everything I do should be for God's glory. Not because I'm scared of punishment or need to earn forgiveness. I can't earn forgiveness. But God gave it (and continues to give it) to me anyway. And I can never lose His love, no matter what I do.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Give Thanks...

Have you ever had "one of those days"? Those days where you really should've just not even bothered?
Today was one of those days. I should've just stayed in bed and not even tried. I had no patience with my kids, and their noise level was higher than normal. Way higher. Which was bad news for my migraine. Most of them weren't bad (most....), they were just hyper. And it seems that the days they are the most energetic, I'm the least willing to put up with their fun. I'm not as likely to be able to match their energy level on these days.
Anyway. I don't know why I wrote all that. But I Thess. 5:18 tells to give thanks in everything.
And this week has "100 day" at school. So in the spirit of "100 day", I decided to make a list of 100 things I'm thankful for. But once I started counting my blessings, I realized I couldn't stop at 100. So, in no particular order, here are 150 things I am thankful for.

  1. Friends
  2. My job (this is second because I wasn't feeling thankful for it at the moment)
  3. Oversized, ginormous, comfy hoodies
  4. Brownies
  5. Starbucks Frappucinos
  6. My students (again, wasn't feeling thankful, but decided I love them anyway)
  7. Jeans
  8. Hiking
  9. Family
  10. Travelling
  11. Promises of God
  12. My salvation
  13. Webcasts
  14. My college education
  15. Sunshine
  16. Snow
  17. Fuzzy PJ pants
  18. Keds
  19. Summer break
  20. Reading
  21. Music
  22. Musical instruments
  23. Sour gummy worms
  24. The Ocean
  25. Facebook/Social Media
  26. Facebook Messanger
  27. My fellow teachers
  28. One-pot, easy-to-make, recipes
  29. Maxi skirts
  30. Bed time
  31. Netflix
  32. Technology
  33. When my school day ends
  34. #2 pencils
  35. iPod
  36. Art
  37. Skiing
  38. Weekends
  39. People I can trust
  40. Airplanes
  41. Chinese food (Specifically, Sweet and Sour Chicken)
  42. Smooth, inky, pens (no idea what they're called. I just like them)
  43. Clean water
  44. My Apartment
  45. Heels
  46. Sticky tack
  47. Second chances
  48. Glitter
  49. Yellow
  50. Crayons
  51. Finger paint
  52. OCD-ness
  53. Board games
  54. Forgiveness
  55. Security
  56. Health 
  57. Laughter
  58. Change
  59. Time with friends
  60. Alone time
  61. Cadbury Cream eggs
  62. Kettle corn
  63. Candles
  64. Fireworks
  65. Drivers license
  66. Choices
  67. Smiles
  68. That single message that makes your day (or possibly your week)
  69. Christmas
  70. Dreams
  71. God's word--in my language
  72. Hugs
  73. Memories
  74. Google
  75. iTunes
  76. Writing
  77. 86,400 brand new seconds every day
  78. New days, new chances, new opportunities
  79. Compassion 
  80. Teachers I've had
  81. Chips and Dip
  82. Emails
  83. Ping Pong
  84. White boards
  85. Grace
  86. Scrapbooks
  87. Hurt
  88. Poutine
  89. eBooks
  90. Canada
  91. Christmas lights
  92. Rules
  93. Communication
  94. Joy
  95. Working appliances
  96. Good times
  97. Bad Times
  98. The resurrection
  99. Notebooks
  100. Being able to be thankful
  101. A God that loves to give good things
  102. Eternal Security
  103. Mountain Dew
  104. Hebrews 13:5
  105. BJU
  106. Uniqueness
  107. Heaven
  108. Seat belts
  109. Jeremiah 33:3
  110. Wi-fi in airports
  111. Bacon
  112. Movies
  113. TV series
  114. Friday night chats/movies with my friend
  115. People who take time to talk to me. Even when i'm being annoying and obnoxious.
  116. Air condition
  117. Clothes
  118. Bonfires
  119. And marshmallows
  120. Winter
  121. Flip flops
  122. Wifi
  123. Growing up in a place where I know what freedom is
  124. Fresh-baked stuff
  125. Public libraries
  126. Peanut Butter
  127. Rain
  128. Post-it notes
  129. Caramel/chocolate
  130. Opportunities
  131. Goals
  132. Ice cream
  133. Musicals
  134. Cheesy Garlic Bread
  135. Walmart
  136. Thrift stores
  137. Nail polish
  138. Opinions
  139. Opinions different from mine
  140. Fuzzy blankets
  141. Sweater weather
  142. Delivery food
  143. Pinterest
  144. Good grammar
  145. Proofing papers
  146. and spell check
  147. Blanket forts and movies
  148. Gingerbread houses
  149. Checklists
  150. Second chances. 

What should I add? What are you thankful for? In everything, good times and bad, no matter what it is, give thanks. 

P.S. I'm also thankful for snooze buttons and days when I don't have to wake up early :D

Friday, January 9, 2015

Job, the Hurting Human

Haven't written on this blog for too long. I've missed writing. I've missed thinking through stuff by writing. Which is what I'm doing here again. I know I don't have everything right--but I was so excited about what I was reading, I wanted to think through it.

Also, I know the title is lame. If you've got a better idea, let me know.

Lately, I've been reading the book of Job for my devotions. Job is a powerful story of a humble man who was willing to give God everything, and ended up doing almost that. He lost everything he owned and even his children. His own wife told him to "curse God and die". But in everything that happened, he trusted God through all his trials.

Job has a faith that I dream of having--that I pray for, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to get there. Through everything that happened to him, he never gave up on God.

His wife says to him in Job 2:9, "Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die". I was thinking (hence, I'm blogging again...) There are different responses to trials. I had never considered this before, but Job's wife was in (almost) as much pain as Job was. Everything he had lost, she had also lost. Her children were also killed in a tragic "accident". Everything they owned, everything that they depended on, was taken from them. She didn't know what was happening anymore than Job did. They couldn't see the heavenly conversations between God and Satan that we can read. They didn't know what God was doing, because God didn't choose to show them. (Actually, the bible never says that God revealed to Job why He had done what He did, but that's another blog post for another day). Through out all the pain, Job continued to trust God. He retained his integrity. He looked at what was going on and said "My God is bigger than this, and I can trust Him. I know He is still good. He is still my God. He still loves me. And I can trust Him."

Mrs. Job did not. She looked at the same situation, the same pain, and she reached the conclusion that God could not be trusted--that He was out to get her. Basically, the whole "Why do bad things happen to good people?" argument. We don't know much about her--there aren't details pertaining to her character. But she was married to Job, a man God described as "a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil" (Job 1:8). And she knew of His integrity. They had 7 adult children--they'd been married for a while. She had seen his response over and over again, and knew that He loved His God. But when this, the biggest trial they could imagine happened, she decided that God could not be trusted--she had been hurt too much. There came a point where she could no longer see God for who He really is--good, loving, close, and just. She saw vindictive, hurtful, and unreachable. And she couldn't serve a God like that.

When we do not see God for who He really is, of course we aren't going to want to trust Him. People who view God as a dictator, distant, or "out-to-get-me" don't trust Him. They fear Him. I can trust my God because I know that He loves me, He cares about me, He wants a relationship with me, and He wants what's best for me. Even if "best" hurts, I know I can rest in the fact that He sees everything that is going on. I, like Job, have a limited viewpoint--I only see right now. I don't see what God is doing. When I loose sight of that, I start to get angry at God. When I forget Romans 8:28 (We know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose), I'm afraid of what God might do and fear the pain of what He allows into my life. Job did not lose sight of God's character. He had experience God's faithfulness in the past, and knew that, even though he did not understand what God was doing, He knew God was still in control. Job could continue to trust God. Mrs. Job could not, because she forgot what she knew about God. Job was focused on his God. Mrs. Job was focused on her pain and what she had lost.

However, I was also thinking about something else. When we think of amazing, perfect examples of people who loved God in the Bible, Job is one of them (along with probably David, Daniel, and Joseph). And yes, Job is an amazing example of responding to trials, of integrity, and of faithfulness to God.

But Job was human. And he's hurting. Maybe I'm reading into the text, and I shouldn't. But what he says sounds to me like he is in incredible pain. He asks "Why was I born?" (Job 3:10) He was questioning, struggling, and hurt. It didn't help that his own wife was telling him to curse God and die, and that all his friends were telling him that everything that happened was somehow his fault. He knew this wasn't his fault. He knew he hadn't done anything to somehow cause God to take everything from him, including his children. But he didn't know what God was doing. I read through what he says, and how he talks--he's confused and hurting. He doesn't understand what God is doing. He cannot see, and his faith is being tested in a way he never imagined.

But Job kept trusting. 

He kept looking to his God. He couldn't see through the darkness of the pain around him, so he looked to the God who created light. Instead of looking around at all the hurt, he looked up to the Savior who promised to always be with him.

So often, when something goes "wrong", and I can't see what God is doing, I want to fix everything and make it better. I hate waiting. Patience is not something I'm great at. I need to work on that, I know. Because in pain, God is still with me. When something happens I don't like or understand, my God is still good. He is still my God. He still loves me. and I can rest in that.

One final thought, then I'll stop. I have heard people say that Christians shouldn't struggle. They should let God take the hurt and go on through life with hurt. I've been told "You shouldn't struggle with ________. Let God handle it and go on with your life." I've been told that hurting is sin. Because I know God works things together for good, so I need to let Him take control and not worry about anything. I need to let go of hurt and pain and let God take control. I need to shut up and let go of the pain. Because real Christians don't hurt or struggle.

May I respectfully say that is not only unscriptural, it is very damaging to someone going through a trial? Jesus Christ himself was in pain. He struggled, He wept. We are called to be like Him. There is nothing wrong with pain. Often through pain, we are brought closer to God--we see Him shining brighter in our darkness and hurt. God uses trials in our lives to draw us towards Him. He wants us to be like Job (not Mrs. Job). Trust in God through the trials. Respond rightly. It's ok to ask "why", as long as you're willing to listen to the answer and apply what you learn. As long as you're actually trying to understand what God is doing.

"Come to Jesus"
Chris Rice

(Verse 5)
Sometimes the way is lonely, 
And steep and filled with pain.
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain,

Then cry to Jesus, 

Cry to Jesus,
Cry to Jesus and live. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

While I'm Waiting...

So I completely forgot about my blog. OK, not really. I just haven't really had the time to write. OK, I have. But I've been putting that time to other uses because it's been really crazy. But today, I'm sick in bed. So I'm writing again.

I just realized that a lot of my posts start with "Have you heard the song _____" I'm doing it again.

Have you heard the song "While I'm Waiting" By John Waller? (It's in the movie Fireproof).
Here's how it goes:

I'm waiting. I'm waiting on you, Lord.
And I'm hopeful, I'm waiting on You, Lord.
Though it is painful, but patiently I will wait.
And I will move ahead, bold and confident.
Taking every step in obedience.

While I'm waiting, I will serve you.
While I'm waiting, I will worship.

While I'm waiting, I will not faint.
I'll be running the race.
Even while I wait.

 This song has been running through my head a lot lately. And I'm willing to guess a lot of you (especially you recently graduated people), feel the same way as I do. Waiting on God, seeing where and how He is going to lead, and wondering what He has planned for us.
And deciding which step to take--which road to start off on, can be a little scary. God doesn't usually put flashy lights telling you which way to go. That faith thing comes into play a lot, and it can be a tricky balance.
But while you're waiting, are you trusting? Are you serving?
To many people are waiting on God to lead, and they just sit around not doing anything. Get involved. Serve. Let God lead.

This post makes no sense. My brain is too fried. And it was supposed to be longer. But I don't know what else to write. So yeah. While you're waiting, trust God. Know He has a better plan for you than you can come up with on your own.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Are You Living Like a Prisoner?

I invite you to consider 2 scenarios with me.

1. A man is imprisoned for life. He is placed in his cell, and the place is pretty disgusting. Dirty, grimy, and just basically nasty. This man cleans up his cell. Makes it spotless. And as he is allowed and provided with stuff, he really fixes up the cell and makes it homey. He adds some personal touches, pictures of family, a few sentimental items, etc. (I am not claiming this is an accurate representation of jail, and I'm not trying to be political in anyway. Just go with it.) This man, though, for all the cleaning-up he's done in his cell, still lives in a cell. No matter how many personal items he adds, this will never be his home. He will never be free while he lives here. His life will be spent in jail. No matter how clean his cell is, he's still a prisoner with a life sentence.

2. Let's suppose the above man is called into court, and the judge says "Someone has offered to take your place. In jail. You are free to go, and they will serve your life sentence." The man leaves prison, but often he will come back, stay a while in "his" cell and visit. He basically considers this a second home. The length of time of his visits varies, but he keeps coming back. Keeps living in his cell.

Those are the scenarios. You are the man, and the cell is sin. God is the judge, and the person who offers to pay your sentence is Jesus Christ.

Which scenario are you?

Are you the first scenario? You're living imprisoned. A slave to sin. And no matter how hard you clean up your life, no matter what you do to make it look like everything's ok, you are still a prisoner, owned and controlled by sin.

Every person is born living in the cell of sin. We were born there and we will stay there, unless we recognize that no matter how good we make ourselves and our lives look, we are still condemned sinners. No matter how hard we clean up our lives, we are still living in a cell. Just this one isn't a physical cell--it's spiritual. And it will lead to death.


We accept the sacrifice of Christ. Who went to the perfect Judge, God the Father, and said "I want to take the place of that sinner, living in that cell. I want to take his place. And I want to take the punishment for his sin so that he can leave the cell and live free.

We then each, personally, need to accept Christ's sacrifice. He can offer to take our place, take our punishment, so that we can walk out of the cell of sin and live a life of freedom. But we must accept it. We must give up the cell and walk out into whatever it is that is beyond our cell.

It takes faith. 

All we have known is what is inside our cell. We don't know what is beyond, what God has for us.

So have you done that? Are you still living in your cell of sin? Have you accepted Christ's sacrifice? If not, please do so. Contact me. Someone one who can help you. Don't live one more day a prisoner.


I'm really willing to guess though, that many of you who are reading this are more like the prisoner in scenario 2. You would quickly deny it, I know. But I know I do that a lot. I have complete victory from sin in Christ. Because of what He has done for me. I don't need to return to sins that I have struggled with in the past. 

You don't either. 

It may be anger, impure thoughts/lifestyle, worry, pride, gossip, or a lot of other things. I don't know what you struggle with. But please, accept the sacrifice of Christ. He died so you could have victory over those sins. Why do we think that His sacrifice was good enough to get us out of Hell, but not powerful enough to give us strength to defeat the sins we struggle with on a daily basis?

You've been freed from your prison on sin. Why do you insist on going back to that cell? I don't know what your cell is. Don't go back. That's what Satan wants. He wants you to live a defeated Christian life. He doesn't want you to live in the power of the Gospel.

The power that can change lives. On a daily basis. 

Let it change yours. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Never Have I Ever

Have you ever played "Never Have I Ever"? It's essentially a game to prove how lame you are. At least, that's how I view it. You go around the room and state something you have never done, that you think most people would have done. For instance, when I played once, one person said "Never have I ever eaten a hamburger." She has severe food allergies. I usually win this game because there is a lot of stuff i haven't done while here at BJU that most people have done.
For instance, never have I ever...

  • Been in War Memorial Chapel
  • Been in the Seminary Building
  • Been a Row Monitor
  • Been to a Turkey Bowl Game
  • Been to a whole Bruins Game
  • Been in Essential Science (nyah nyah nyah)
  • Been to Commencement or any of the commencement activities (that will change this week!!!)

But more than that, I have never seen my Jesus fail me. God has never let me down. He has proved Himself faithful to me over and over again. And now, as I look ahead to next week (after graduation), I can look back and see that God has been faithful and directed every step of my life. He's been faithful. Even though I have let Him down over and over--I have not been faithful, He has always been. 

I am so thankful that God's faithfulness is not dependent on what I do. His love for me is not based on how I act and what I do for Him. He loves me unconditionally. I can rest in His love for me. 

God will always love me.

In just a few days, I will walk across the platform and receive a diploma that I have worked for for 4 years. The past 4 years have been filled with so much. There were so many times I thought I couldn't keep going, but God gave me the strength I needed to get done each project, paper, test, and whatever else He sent into my life. There have been a lot of things that I wouldn't have chosen to go through. Things that God has allowed into my life that were hard, and not fun. But I can look back and see that God was in control of everything. Even though I don't understand everything He was doing, I know He is still good. Everything He has done, is doing, and will continue to do has been a part of His plan to make me more like Christ. I can trust that every thing He has allowed into my life has been good.

There have been a few not fun parts of college. But most of it has been awesome. I have made life-long friends. I'm not going to try and name them all, but you know who you are. You have encouraged and pointed me to Jesus. Over and over. You have annoyed and frustrated me, but this has caused me to learn to not stress and freak out. You've taught me how to respond when I'm upset. OK, mostly you all have been awesome. You've shown me what it means to be a true friend. You have shown Christ to me. And I am so thankful for you. I don't want to leave, but I am thankful that because of Christ, I will see you again. If not in this life, in heaven. Where we will have all eternity to worship our Savior again. I'm not excited for the goodbyes--I have already cried more this past week than I have in the last 4 years combined. I don't want to leave you. But God is moving all of us to serve Him in other areas. And I'm so excited.

I'm thankful for the church I have been a part of the for the last 2 years. God has used that ministry to grow me and challenge my walk with God. It isn't the kind of church where I can go and just sit back. There is a challenge constantly to grow, to change, and to become more like Christ. I have loved the ministry emphasis there. The people love God and seek to serve each other. There is an emphasis on reaching the lost, both in the community and around the world. I'm going to miss my church.

I'm thankful for the faculty and staff here at BJU. They honestly care about us and demonstrate this on a regular basis. My school is awesome. There are things that could be changed and I think would be better if ________, but overall, it's been an awesome 4 years. I know my teachers love me, and I hope to stay in touch with them as I go on.

I'm thankful for the memories I have. I can't list them all. There isn't enough room on the internet to store everything I could praise God for. No matter where I end up, He will be there with me. And I can praise Him.

As far as my future plans, I am not exactly sure. Last week, I was planning on staying in Greenville for grad school. This week, I'm looking at possibly going to China to teach. Next week, I could be in Timbuktu working a job I'm totally not ready for. Wherever God leads, I know it'll be awesome because He is awesome. He loves me, and I can trust Him.

Please, friends, keep in touch. Get a hold of me through facebook or email and let me know what's going on and what God is doing in your life. Depending on where I end up, this blog may end up not being updated. I will keep y'all posted though with what God does and where He leads me. I am going to miss this place and all God has shown me here. I'm going to miss my friends. I'm going to miss the safety and reliability of being a college student instead of a "normal" "adult". But God hasn't called me to be a college student forever. He's called me to trust and follow Him. And that's what I plan on doing. 

Never have I ever seen God fail me. Never have I ever seen Him let me down.

And He never will. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lessons from 11 Miles

Lessons from Eleven Miles.

Last week, 2 of my best friends (one who drove up from New Jersey, and one who got spring break during student teaching) and I got to spend a lot of time hanging out. I was able to work out my schedule so I had a couple days where we could just have fun, relax, etc. Since we are all graduating and literally going to different countries in a couple months, it was great to get this time to reconnect and spend some time just sharing. Girl talk. All that. Just having fun.

On one of the days, we decided to go hiking. Let me mention something. I am NOT an outdoors, exercise, lover. I’m just not. If you see me running, you should run too. Because there are only 2 reasons I will run—something is chasing me, or there is bacon at the finish line. My idea of having fun outdoors is reading a book in a screened-in porch. My favorite sport is ping pong. But I do love hiking. For some reason, not sure why. So we went to Caesar’s Head, and decided, since we are all seasoned, expert hikers, we would try an 11 mile hike to Raven’s Cliff Falls. We actually finished it too. In 3 hours, 40 minutes. Because my friends are beast and they pushed me. But it was a lot of fun. Caesar’s Head is a mountain. So there was a lot of uphill stuff at some point. And we found out that the trail back was closed, so we literally had to do every inch of the trail twice. 5.5 miles out, and 5.5 miles back. And every inch of downhill during the first part was torturous uphill on the way back. We learned that the hard way. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Lesson 1: God cares about the little things. We prayed for a nice day. We could not have put together a more beautiful day. It was perfect. The sky was clear, the weather was gorgeous. It wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t cold, and there was a nice breeze. There wasn’t a lot of people around, and none of us got eaten by a bear. OK, that isn’t a little thing. But we also didn’t see any snakes or giant spiders. So that’s a praise, right.

Here are my beautiful friends at the overlook. You can see Raven Falls way in the distance. About 5 miles away—we hiked over to it. 

Lesson 2: God is a God of Beauty. I’m not even going to try and talk. Just check out the pictures.  And it was so much cooler in person. There were times when all we could say was “Wow!”

OK, so this one got a little over-edited. I was having too much fun. But I still really like it. 
Lesson 3: God taught me again how important my friends are. We talked about everything--from the weather, to our devotions, to Sherlock (BBC version, obviously), to church stuff. school stuff, and future plans. In a few months, we could literally be in 3 different countries--on different sides of the globe. So we really needed this chance to get together, reconnect, and just have fun. My friends are awesome. I can't say that enough. I have the greatest friends in the world, and I love them so much. Phil. 1:3--I thank my God upon every remembrance of you--is a great verse for my friends.

Lesson 4: This is probably the biggest lesson that I’ve been dwelling on since surviving this 11 mile hike. The first 7 miles or so were no problem. But then we were on our way back and we hit a stretch that was a lot of uphill. By this point, I was getting really tired. We were on a mountain, the air is thinner, and I was running out of breath. Did I mention that I have asthma? I literally had to stop and fight to breath. It hurt to get air into my lungs. My friends were a little worried, and I was to focused on not dying to stress. OK, I wasn’t dying. But I was seriously having a hard time breathing. And I knew if I stopped, sat down, and took a break, I would not be able to finish. We were 4 miles away from everything and we had to keep going. So once I caught my breath, we started going again. We were so close to the end. We could see the glint of the sun off the roof of the car. And then we had to go down a hill and back up, across a road, and across the parking lot. Then we could get in the car and sit down. For some reason, Beca got a burst of energy. Not sure where she got it from. But Lisa and I—no such luck. We got the downhill part no problem. But then we looked and saw this.

We weren’t sure if we could make it up. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Physically, I mean. Make my feet move in front of each other to get up that hill. I had rolled my ankle a couple times, and every step felt like pure torture.

Yes, I know I’m a wimp. But my idea of a good workout is playing a round or 3 of ping pong. The longest hike I had ever taken before this one was about 7 miles.

We knew the end was so close. Literally about 200 feet away. But convincing our legs to make it the rest of the way? Really really hard.

Have you reached that point, friend? Maybe as a student? The semester is winding to a close, but you don’t know if you can make it? You’re so close, but you want to just give up and cut your losses? Maybe in life? You don’t know what the point is and why you try so hard to serve God, when it seems that nothing you do matters? Everything you do seems a failure. You feel like it’s better to just give up.  People won’t really care if you just quit.  It won’t matter if you stop trying. Someone else will pick up the slack.

We need each other. I couldn’t of kept going if I had been hiking by myself. I would of stopped, taken a break, and probably fallen asleep. Then getting up and walking would have been so much harder. Trust me, I tried later that night. Moving and walking was even worse than it had been earlier. My friends were there, and when I couldn’t keep going, they helped and encouraged me. When they decided that the whole hiking idea was stupid (which we all reached at some point that day), we came together to make ourselves believe that it was worth it. There are going to come days when you feel like you can’t go any farther. There are even days when you will collapse under the pressure. But reach out to those around you. Let them remind you of God’s goodness. Of His promises.

I read this really cool quote thing in my devotions the other day.

Christ has promised to give us strength and never to leave us. 
Claim His strength. Live in His power. Conquer that mountain! Don’t give up in the uphill stretch. And when you’re in that trial, that peak that seems to never end, keep pressing on. You don’t know where the finish line is.  It might still be 4 miles away. But it could be over the next hill.  God doesn’t always tell us when the trial will end. He doesn’t always tell us the point. He doesn’t always promise to make it easy for us and remove it when we ask. But He does promise to give us the grace and strength we need to survive it. And He promises to carry us through it.


I can trust when I’m climbing the mountain. Even though it seems insurmountable, the end will come. And God will be there the whole time.

And I will be able to look back and know that it was worth it. If we had not kept going, we would not have gotten to see the falls up close like we did. They were so gorgeous. And breathtaking. It was amazing. And now, a week later, I can say that it was totally worth it. I’m never going to forget what it was like. I’m so thankful I got to see it, even if it meant forgetting what being able to breath was like for a while.
God is good. He will carry us through. And it will be worth it—whatever it is. Because it was a part of His plan for our lives.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I can trust. God is good.

Let me start by saying that I am so thankful for friends that I can have fun with, but that I can also get serious with. That I can talk about what God's been teaching me and stuff, and that they aren't afraid to share what they've been reading.
I was texting a friend last night, and this is what we were talking about. (Note: I don't have a smart phone--I took the texts and put them in a generator online. Because I can't screenshot stuff on my phone. So it looks cool, but it doesn't look that cool on my phone. Also, this is a slightly edited version of our conversation. I did not add anything, but I didn't put everything up that we said. Because ain't nobody got time to read all that).

Again, I have awesome friends. I love being able to talk about stuff like that just completely randomly. When it isn't a Sunday and we aren't at church. God has blessed me. But I will stop talking about them. 

I looked up the passage mentioned above. Luke 9:10-17. 
You know this story. Jesus and the disciples are out, and a huge crowd of people follow them. He teaches them all day. At the end of the day, Jesus takes one lunch (5 loaves, 2 fish), and feeds 5,000 men + women and children. All the people there ate until they were full. The disciples gathered up the leftovers (from the one small lunch), and had 12 baskets of food.

I was really thinking last night about verse 13. Jesus turned to the disciples and said " You give them something to eat". They had no idea what to do. There was no food for them to hand out, and they had no money. Jesus just asked them to do something impossible.

And then He expected them to do their best to make it happen. They couldn't just sit back and say "nope, not going to happen".They went looking for a solution, brought what they had to Jesus, and trusted Him to do the rest. They had to do their part. 

Jesus took what they had, and did what He needed to to provide for the needs of everyone there, and to strengthen the faith of the disciples. They knew their abilities, and what they had. It wasn't much. But Jesus took what little they had and used it to feed as many as 20,000 people. 

God expects us to do our best and give Him everything we have. But He knows that's not enough. He takes what we have and uses it for His glory. 

That was last night's thoughts.

I re-read the passage this morning. I started thinking about the other time Jesus fed a bunch of people with just a little bit of food. (Matthew 15:29-39).  In the next chapter, we see the disciples and Jesus talking. (Matthew 16:5). The disciples realize they didn't bring any food with them. After Jesus fed the 4,000, the disciples gathered 7 baskets of leftovers. 

5 verses later, they are worried that they have nothing to eat.

Don't we do this? We see God provide in a miraculous way--something that we can only say "That was God." 2 days later, we are stressing because we don't know what's going to happen or how He's going to provide. I do this way too often. 

I can rest in the fact that God will take care of me. I can trust that He will provide. I can know that He is good. Always. 

I can trust. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What are we doing?!?!?!?!?!?

I should probably explain something about this blog. If you haven't figured it out yet, my facebook is where I share all the dumb stuff I do, my twitter ends up being my venting page, and my pinterest shows how random and ADD I am. My blog is how I try to figure out my thoughts. I write it and share it in hopes it will help someone else and point them to Christ. But really, it's just me working through whatever is going on at the time. So if it seems weird or odd, or if I'm wrong, I don't have it all figured out yet. Please feel free to tell me what you think. But this is just me thinking. So if this post sounds a little disjointed, it is. This is kind of how my brain works. I'm sorry.

That being said, I've been thinking (again). And though it sounds morbid, I've been dwelling a lot on death. I guess part of getting older means that I'm more aware of it's part in our lives. Not that I'm old. But supposedly, I'm getting more mature (bahahaha, whatever).

I have heard so many stories the last couple weeks about people who have passed away. A friend had a close family member die this morning. I heard about a baby that died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) last week. Another close friend has a friend that was given weeks to live. A student's dad died last week. One of my friends knew a lady who was in the morning service, then in heaven in the evening service. And I don't know very many people on this campus--I'm sure there are many stories you could share that I could add.

I read once that "Death is the only certainty in life". Someone else said, "We are all part of the ultimate statistic. 10 out of 10 die". Or "eat right, stay fit, die anyway".

None of the people I mentioned above are old. I'm sure they all thought they had years left in their lives. They planned to spend the rest of their lives serving God (well, except the baby--but he was a part of a Christian family).

My point is this: life is short. You don't have much time. Christian, what are you doing that makes your life count? And I'm not just talking about long-term plans. Like, "After I graduate, I'll make my life count for God. I'll get involved in a church then."

I've heard a lot of young people, people my age, say "Right now, it's about just hanging out, having fun, etc. I need to learn more before I can serve God. I need to develop my talents. I'll serve later." What? What in the world? Why are we doing this?

You don't know how long you have. I know you've heard this before, and you'll hear it again. I wrote this post, Don't Waste Your Life last year after a co-worker died suddenly. She was 42, and had a heart attack.

Don't Waste Your Life.

If you were to enter heaven tonight, would you want to tell God about what you spent your last day on earth doing? I mean, He already knows. But if He were to ask you, "What did you do to serve Me today?", what would you say?

Approximately 2 people die every second around the world. 11% of the world's population identifies with Protestantism of some denomination. So of the 172,800 people who die every day, almost 90% of those are probably in hell. Does that not bother you?

Why are we so worried about judging people? Why are we so surprised that sinners sin? I was thinking about this in the service Monday night (it's Bible Conference here), and the speaker was talking about how big of a deal homosexuality is and stuff, and how it's taking over everything. Yes, homosexuality is a big deal. Yes, I believe it's a sin. But, why is that the first thing we worry about?

Why do we say "oh, he's gay. He needs Jesus."? We should say, "He's a sinner. God loves him. He needs Jesus. Let me be the one to reach out to him." You were a sinner. I was a sinner. I still am one. Maybe I wasn't murdering people (I was 6 when I got saved), but I was a liar. I had rejected God.

What are we doing??? Why do we judge??? When you say "I'm a Christian" to a co-worker, they should not think "Oh, this one is someone I can't talk to, because they will look down on me." Love them. Reach out to them. Show them Christ's love. Christ talked to prostitutes. The one woman in John 8, who is referred to as "a woman taken in adultery. You remember her? The religious leaders brought her to Christ, telling Him all the things she had done. She broke God's law. According to the law, she should have been stoned. But Christ showed grace to her. Mercy.



John 8:10-11 "When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?
She said, no man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: Go, and sin no more."

I'm not saying that we should overlook sin. But when we are talking to someone who is unsaved, we shouldn't focus on their sin. We should focus on God's grace and forgiveness. He's forgiven them; why can't we?

As Dr. Bob likes to say "The most sobering reality in the world today is that people are dying and going to hell today". I never really thought much about this. If anything, it was kind of one of those "is he really saying that again?" things that felt overused.

I stopped and thought about it. I want that thought to change my life. I am not responsible to judge another person. My job is to share the love of Christ.

John 8:12, right after the above passage, talks about Christ being the Light of the World. My job is to reflect that light.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Remove the Mask: Why Won't We Be Transparent?

My sophomore year of college, I had the privilege of attending the graduate speech recital of my freshman speech teacher. She is someone that I look up to and greatly respect, and when I look back at all my favorite classes and teachers, she stands out in many respects. She didn't just teach freshmen--she touched lives. At her recital, she tackled the idea of transparency. Mostly the idea of why we aren't transparent. And she shared a lot of personal stuff. To an audience of 700 people, some of whom were friends, but many of whom were total strangers. She got a standing ovation (which doesn't happen at recitals here), and people walked out changed. I still occasionally hear people talking about it, and it's been 2 years. It changed me and the way I think. I've pondered transparency off and on for the past 2 years. It's a tricky idea. I mean, the idea of sharing stuff with people and knowing when you're being transparent and when you're just complaining. Being honest without sharing too much or finding the right person who will really care about you and pray for you can be hard. Finding a balance can be hard. Unfortunately, we don't even try most of the time.

I don't know if you go to a CHristian school. I do--a Christian university. I'm assuming you go to a church with fellow believers. In our Christian environments, we say "Be transparent. Be real. Talk to people. Share. We care. We love you. We won't judge you."

We create an atmosphere that says "If you tell me you're struggling, I'll look down on you. I'll probably share it as a 'prayer request' with 3 or 4 people, and we'll talk about you. You aren't allowed to have problems or struggles, and if you do, tell Jesus, but don't tell us."

At her recital, my former teacher shared the poem "We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The first 2 stanzas are as follows:

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask. 

Did anyone ask you, "How are you doing?" today? I got asked that. What was your response? "Fine, thanks!" "I'm doing well." "Hanging in there, keeping busy, but you know, God is good so it's all good."

Really? Are you really doing ok? All the time? Every time you answer that question with a "fine", are you really doing "fine"? I'm not always. It's our go-to answer.

It's a lie.

We teach children, "Thou shalt not lie". It's the 9th commandment. When did lying about how we are doing become ok? When did hiding what's going on become not only ok, but really expected?

Why do you wear a mask? Why do I wear a mask? Well, here's my excuse (the one I use most often).
"If people don't know, they can't judge or hurt me. If I get close to people, they may expect something I can'd do, and I'll let them down."

What does your mask look like? There are a lot of different ones, and we all personalize our mask to fit what we need. They all look a little different, which is part of the reason I think it is so hard to recognize someone else's for what it really is--a disguise hiding what's really going on in their life. I tend to be one of those people who always has to have it together. I'm that annoying person no one else in the class likes, because I turn stuff in 2 weeks early. I have to be on top of stuff and always prepared. I am always ready to go, and hate surprises or changes in my plans. I'm also a very hyperactive, sarcastic person. When I don't know what I'm doing, or if I'm in a new situation and am nervous, I hide it by being weird and obnoxious (in a good way, I'm sure). People don't know the difference between my "life is good and I've had Mountain Dew" hyper and my "I'm stressing out and worried about what is happening" hyper. When I'm not in control of a situation, I get either really hyper or weird or shy. Both of them are a mask. I wear them to protect myself.

What mask do you wear? What masks do you put on to cover what you are really thinking, feeling, or struggling with?

It can be hard to peel off our mask. I think it is harder to be the one being open and sharing than the person to whom we are talking. When we are transparent, we are vulnerable. That is a scary place to be. I don't want to go there, so I put on a mask. I hide it and no one knows. We have on  so many layers of masks, I don't know if we are really able to be honest with ourselves. We have a hard time even getting real with God. We've convinced ourselves that the mask needs to be there.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

To each other?

Why are we not willing to share? To get real? To be honest? Transparent?

May I suggest that we have been lied too? Has Satan whispered any of these in your ear (or screamed them in your face)?

No one would believe you if you told them that you _________?
You say you're a Christian, and you struggle with ______? Really?
God won't keep forgive you.
People look up to you, you know. They watch you. If they know you are dealing with _______, your testimony will be ruined.
Everyone deals with that. It's not a big deal.
You're in leadership. You teach Sunday School. You can't have struggles like that.
No one cares.
People come to help. They need you to be strong for them. They aren't able to help you, because they need you to help them. 

These are lies, friends. Satan knows that if he can get us to live an isolated life, we won't have access to the full potential of power found in the body of Christ. Once we start getting honest with each other and really working together, the church and Christians could do amazing things for God. We could change the world in huge ways. Satan doesn't want that. So he seeks to keep us isolated.

I want to build iron-sharpening-iron relationships.

I want my friends and i to have a closeness that allows us to be real with each other. That's going to take work. Being transparent ends 2 people--the person being transparent, and the person listening. And both of these people need to be willing to take both roles. 

Be transparent. In small areas--like "I am so exhausted, I'm struggling with staying awake to do my devotions. Will you pray for me and keep me accountable?" "I'm struggling with my thoughts towards a particular person."

Be transparent. In big areas--like "I don't know if God exists, and if He does, I don't know if he really cares about me personally." "I don't know if I even am in the right religion. I don't know if I'm believing the right things, and I don't want to miss out because I was taught wrong."

Be willing to listen. Look around at work, school, church, or wherever you are. Watch people. There are people everywhere who are hurting, but have a mask on and aren't willing to admit it. Take time to show them you care. Pray for them. And don't be discouraged if they won't open up to you right away. Removing a mask takes time. It takes knowing that someone honestly cares about you. And if you are going to ask someone to be transparent, be willing to be transparent yourself. 

Watch out for the people who are "rocks". You know who I mean--those people who have it all together all the time. They are usually the people that get asked for help or advice. Sometimes, they are the people who really need help and prayer the most. Those are the people we forget about, because they seem to be so put-together. Everyone needs someone who will come along and say, "I'm praying for you."

Paul Dunbar wrote a final stanza for his poem, "We Wear the Mask".

We smile, but O great Christ, our cries
To Thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

I want to be part of the generation that changes the world. But (and here's me being transparent), I can't do it alone. I need friends to help me out, support me, and point me to Jesus. We aren't called to go the Christian life solo. God has given us each other. Serve Him together.

If you need something, anything, even someone to talk to, please find someone. A friend, a person at church, a teacher, pastor, anyone. Don't live life hurt and alone because you can't trust anyone. If you can't find someone, email me. Message me. Comment below. That's why God created me. To serve Him, and minister to the body of Christ.

Remove the mask.

Practice transparency.