August 26, 2015

For Such A Time As This

I– like many other young women– have struggled off and on with my self-worth. Especially recently.

It’s easy to feel that way. Friends not putting in much effort into being friends. Making slow progress in school. Failing at money-making endeavors. Struggling with a mysterious illness for over a year.

At certain points, I had trouble keeping my eyes fixed on the Author and Sustainer of all life. As though God wasn’t there for me.

At certain points, I felt lazy (I couldn’t do a lot of my chores because of my illness). As though my worth was in the things I accomplished.

At certain points, I was ashamed– I hated the way I looked, acted, and felt. As though my family loved me less because of those things.

At certain points, I felt depressed. As though my life wasn’t worth living anymore.

Several times, I was to the point of breaking. In His mercy, God prevented me from doing anything rash.

He prevented me by sending me encouraging friends. By showing me that ultimately academics are nothing in light of eternity. By reminding me that He will provide for all of my needs. By giving me patience (by way of the Holy Spirit) through my illness.

God showed me that I was walking through this fire so He could refine me– could mold me more into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Peter 1:6,7). He showed me that I didn’t really believe He loves me and that I have to daily choose to believe that He does.

I was assured that not only God loves me, but my family does too. They don’t find me burdensome.
God called me beautiful when He fearfully and wonderfully made me (Psalm 139:14). And even though that beauty was tainted by sin’s curse, He has re-beautified me by the death of His Son (Psalms 149:4). I’m no longer a slave, I’m His daughter! (Galatians 4:7)

And just like Esther in the Bible, I know God has placed me on this earth “for such a time as this…” Already, God has used this trial to draw me closer to Him, and to use it as an encouragement for others who struggle.

So be encouraged! Keep your eyes on God– He began a good work in you and He won’t give up on you! (Philippians 1:6) He can use your “such a time as this” as a spring-board to draw others close to Him. Daily choose to believe He loves you!!! He has proven it so many times, and ultimately by giving up His only Son on the cross!!!

August 19, 2015

Youth Ministry + Church Membership

As a youth leader in my church, I am experiencing first hand the upsides and downsides to youth ministry in the modern church setting.  And even though I didn't grow up in a youth group, I can still see the good and bad parts of this extension of the local church. 

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I understand why parents like youth group: it gives their kids an opportunity to mingle with other like-minded youth, in a safe, God-centered (hopefully!) environment, which encourages spiritual growth, ministry, and fun.  And while I spent years opposed to youth groups (and still am to an extent), I appreciate their value when it comes to outreach.  However, one concern I have is for the mindset it may put into the hearts of young people, who grow up with a typical youth group experience. 

At my church, the youth are treated as an extension of the larger church body, and participate in the service.  We don't have a separate youth service, just for the young people.  That is what I find to be dangerous, when the youth are removed from the context of the church, separated by themselves, worshiping in a different area.  

And while there may or may not be something more to this method, I think we should consider the fact that the youth of the church will one day be the 20-somethings, young marrieds, middle agers, etc., and so should have the same worship experience as everyone else.  I believe this brings a certain maturity to their spiritual lives which cannot be achieved if they are isolated. 

The church is a whole body, not segregated into different parts which function separate from each other - everything has to be connected in order to fully function.  So, when our youth are separated from the rest of the church body, they suffer, everyone suffers.  Organic interaction between all ages is the healthiest option, and the most biblical.  

I really appreciate the mindset of our youth directors - each Sunday morning the youth meet in the "prime timers" class to sing hymns and prayer before going to their Sunday school class.  This breeds unity among two groups who would ordinarily (sadly) not cross paths much.  I hope that our church will continue to seek opportunities to bring "groups" together to work side by side, since we are all on the same team! 

The youth are the future leaders and members of the church, and I want them to be truly committed, passionate Truth seekers and sharers who know what they believe and aren't afraid to proclaim those things in their communities.  We need to seek to spur our youth towards spiritual maturity - and I believe that incorporated worship is just one key to this growth.  

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 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12 


August 14, 2015

"Some of the ink" {ordinary miracles}

One week ago today, I went garage saleing with a friend from church.  We stopped at various sales across our town, some with fascinating finds, others with almost-worthless junk.  There was an estate sale we stopped at, and while they had a lot of neat and nice things, only a few were things that fit our "to buy" list.

I did however, notice in what I call the "art room" some old-world calligraphy pens, and inks.  They grabbed my attention immediately, and I found myself regretting the fact that I didn't have ten dollars to get the pens at the least.  So, I walked away from that sale, wishing, hoping to somehow get those pens.

You see, I am one of "those" people who is trying to maintain some old-worldness in this fast-paced, and overly informed (or mis-informed) world.  And for several years, off and on (more off than on, sadly), I have practiced calligraphy using a lovely fountain pen my dear Mom bought for me one Christmas.

The beautiful pens
Alas, a few years ago that pen broke, and I have been empty-handed, and forlorn in my pursuit of an important, but overly neglected art - penmanship and ink art.

Back to my story: the next morning, I got up fairly early (for a Saturday), and with an idea in my head.  Now, I know that debt is bad, and that "the borrower is servant to the lender" but I had this scheme in mind which I thought feasible, if Phoebe didn't mind lending me the needed funds.

I presented her my plan, and she said it would be alright, I promising to pay her in return as soon as I had the money, and so I set off, hoping, praying, that no hipsters had showed up to that estate sale and landed upon this forgotten treasure.

It was a little after 10 o'clock in the morning when I arrived at the sale, as any faithful shopper knows, this was late when it comes to really getting a good deal.  But, I was still hoping that those lovely little pens would still be there.

I was pleasantly greeted by the ladies holding the sale, and invited to look around, one of the ladies informing me that there were "items in every room, so be sure to check them out."  I nodded in return, and immediately headed to the "art room" to see if those pens were still there.

Much to relief, I saw the tattered box lying on the table, untouched and in place.  I grabbed it up, eager to finalize my purchase.  I longingly eyed the bags of colored and black ink, but shoved all thought of them from my mind, knowing I had only enough money for the pens.

Walking back into the living room, the three pleasant ladies noticed my smile, and as I handed them the money I exclaimed "oh, I am so glad these were still here!"  And handed them the ten dollar bill.  They looked slightly shocked, but pleased that a customer had found a treasure.  They wished me well, and I was soon out the door and down the steps, towards the driveway.

The loot - The calligraphy pens came with an accompanying box FULL of various nibs
I was contemplating how long it would be before we could buy some ink for these lovely little pens, when my revere was broken by a voice behind me gently calling "Ma'am? Ma'am?"  There were other female customers of varying ages in the vicinity, so I assumed she was calling one of them, but she persisted, and since I was still standing there, I turned and asked "yes?"  She said in reply "Ma'am, I know you're not a ma'am, but I wanted to give you something."  And so I retraced my steps up to the doorway of the house, where the pleasant lady was offering me "some of the ink" (which just happened to be all three bags).

"some of the ink"
I was shocked, and wildly pleased all at once.  I asked her if she was sure, and also communicated my thankfulness and surprise at this kind gesture.  And then, walking away with a million dollar smile on my face, realized that the problem of not having any ink, which I was just moments before contemplating, was suddenly taken care of.  And as I shut the door to my car, I whooped!  And thanked God, for blessing me with something so seemingly small and unimportant.

I think I wore that smile the rest of the day. 

Why I am Pro-Life

I come from a large family, and have 5 siblings of my own, I have worked as a nanny to small children, and I enjoy helping in the children's ministry at my church.  All of these are good things, but they are not the reason I am pro-life.

It may surprise you to hear me say "I am pro-life" while it seems many in my generation are abandoning Christian values for worldly ones (if they ever had them), and are choosing to live what we can consider a Libertarian-hedonistic lifestyle whose badge is "do no harm to another" and "to thy own self be true." But I am not among "those" young people who are choosing to be personally responsible and at the same time pursuing a pagan, me centered lifestyle, free from moral boundaries and restrictions.

You see, there is a higher law than Natural law which is so esteemed among my peers - God's law.  And while many of the original concepts which have inspired people taking up natural law as something to be admired and followed, it is lacking in several areas.  Because some might consider aborting an "unwanted fetus" as a personally responsible choice.  But how is it responsible?  Would not the better, more personally responsible choice have been to abstain from sexual relations until in the stability and protection of a marriage commitment?  I would argue that it is.

But then again, so many of my peers have thrown off marriage as an "old fashioned" "irrelevant" and "unnecessary" commitment.  Why?  Because, if two people "love" each other, isn't that enough?  Sadly, this society has moved way beyond cohabitation to merely hooking up when we feel like it.  All commitment has been removed, and with it the reality of true love.  Because if you really, truly love someone, you will be with them through thick or thin, and not just for the sex, which seems to be the driving force behind this thinking.
So if marriage is dead among my peers, then why is it so wrong to abort the child you didn't mean to make while sleeping around?

It is wrong because God made that life.  He formed its tiny body parts that make it a human, not a dog, fish or cow.  It is made with God's very image imprinted onto it's DNA, the very building block of humanity. 
If we don't go back to the foundational reasons why killing unborn children is wrong, we have really lost the battle.  Because ultimately, what I think, or what you think doesn't really matter.  What God thinks is all that matters in the end, whether you acknowledge God or not.  He has set up His law as a protection for our lives, not as a way to "rain on our parade.". He wants to protect us from making bad choices that hurt us, and hurt others as well. 

In the end, all that really matters in this debate is what God said: 

"Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”   So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

Genesis 1:26-27

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

1 Corinthians 1:25

It all comes down to whether we are going to take God at His word or not when it comes to the precious uniqueness of life.  Do you believe God?

August 11, 2015

Live your dream

In our world crammed with social media perfect pictures, YouTube videos showcasing the latest vloggers international adventure, it can be difficult to be content with the dream God has placed in your heart.  I know from personal experience, that I have struggled with being content with where (geographically) God has placed me.  We are a generation obsessed with exploring new places and living adventurously, and while there is nothing wrong with that, I fear that we have lost something important: living in the place God has planted us.

But (that's an important word, isn't it?), since I have been in Oklahoma, I have been able to do a lot of things I have wanted to accomplish off my "bucket list." And it got me to thinking:

Are you living your dream?  I don't mean this in a selfish way, but in a "what has God called you to do" way.  So, are you placing yourself in a position to do His will?  Or are you seeking greater thrills?  I know how easy it is to get off the right track, and on the path of something that seems better, more adventurous, exciting and fun, but I don't want to live someone else's life, I want to live my life, and live it well.

If I am always looking at what others are doing, and wishing it was mine, then am I really living the life God has for me, or lusting after something I can't have, or don't need?  With YouTube, Instagram and SnapChat giving us easy access to other people's adventures, the struggle to go and do something other than what we are doing, is real.  

I want to live the story God has written for my life, and do so to the best of my ability.  And the neat thing about each of us, is that our stories are going to be different.  And we shouldn't be envious of what someone else gets to do, because they are called to something that we are not, and that's OK.  We each have a mission to accomplish on this earth before our time is up, and we should have that as our focus - not on what we don't like about our lives, or what we missing out on, or could be doing.  What are we doing?  How are we building God's kingdom, now?

Make yourself available to what I like to call "God opportunities" and hey, there are lots of little adventures to be had when we are serving God and his people. Not everyone is going to travel the world, or go half way across the globe to serve as a missionary, or work in the inner city.  More often than not you'll be like me - in an ordinary small town America setting, where there are plenty of ordinary people with ordinary problems, needing extraordinary Hope.  Are we going to be selfish and wish we were somewhere else?  Or serve God where we are?

Just a challenge I wanted to issue to my brothers and sisters, and something that I have struggled with myself, so this is coming from my heart.

Peace!