Monday, December 13, 2010
Also, Jesus is willing to go first so His bride can follow. The husband is the spiritual leader in the relationship. However, submission is the wife's choice. I have to trust Christ to guide my husband & teach him to lead. Submission doesn't come easily to me. I have a tendency to think that I have a relationship with Christ, & since He talks to me, I know best. But I need to realize that in a Godly relationship, God lives in my husband, just like He lives in me, so God can talk to my husband too. This is why it's so important to choose a Godly husband. I should be more like Christ because of my relationship with my husband. If my husband is leading me in the wrong direction, our marriage is not serving its purpose.
Scripture teaches that my #1 ministry is my husband. If I neglect him, everything else I do is a joke. Since I'm not married, I still belong to my father. My family is my first ministry. I've been blessed with amazing parents. In the sermon about parenting, Josh said good parents first love Jesus, then each other. This is followed by love for their children, Scripture, & the church. My parents have been great examples of this. We are also taught that discipline must start with delight in the children. Parents should discipline because they want the best for their kids. They should instruct their children & teach them what to do before they mess up, & correct them in love when they do mess up. My parents do this for me, & while I'm not a parent, I try to do this for my sisters. None of us are perfect, so this can be frustrating for all of us at times, but I try to help them when they make mistakes, & lead them back to where they need to be. My prayer is that I am doing a good job of this.
Momma Burrough has also been like a second mother to me lately. I don't get to see my real mom as often as I'd like since she lives an hour & a half away, but I see Momma Burrough every Sunday. It's encouraging to have another mother figure nearby. I love the guidance she gives, as well as the girl talks & jokes we share. She's become a great friend & mentor to me.
Another thing I've learned a lot about recently is community. All gospel community comes back to the gospel. If it is not based in Christ, it is not truly gospel community. Community is not about isolation. Genesis 2:18 says, "The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” When you struggle, turn to your gospel community. Don't bottle it up inside.
For me, this means being more open about my problems. I tend to hide things & act like nothing's wrong. This isn't Biblical. While we're not told to constantly complain, Scripture teaches that our community is there to help us. When I struggle, I generally turn to Whitney or to my "Shawnee family" - Rebecca, Laker, Blake, & Momma Burrough. They've been such a blessing to me, & no matter what I go through, they're there to offer prayer, Scripture, advice, love, & support.
That also means I need to be honest about my medical struggles. I feel much better than I did a few months ago, but I'm not 100% back to normal. (On that note - I go to the cardiologist Monday for more tests, if you need something to pray for!) I have days where I feel awful, & times when my blood sugar hates me, & I still can't do much physical activity without becoming exhausted. I need to let people help instead of acting like I'm fine.
For example, Laker, Rebecca, & Blake have been trying to hold me accountable with my diet (No sugar, & I need to eat 5 times a day). However, I've reeeaally been wanting marshmallows lately. Laker & I went to Blake's, & he had giant marshmallows. Without thinking, they gave me one. I didn't say anything & took a huge bite. When they realized I shouldn't have it, we all got into a wrestling match for custody of the marshmallow. Obviously, the guys won. I yelled, "I just want to be normal!" & Blake replied, "You don't see crippled people trying to walk!" I thought this was hilarious, but it's also true. I want to have a normal diet, but I can't, so I need to follow the one that was given to me. (As I said, submission is a struggle for me.)
Isaiah 40:31 says, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run & not grow weary, they will walk & not be faint." This is my encouragement & prayer. I'll get better. Even though I get frustrated, I need to see that it could be a lot worse, & God is taking care of it. He'll use every bit of it for His glory.
Finally, God has been reminding me of the blessing of music. Blake, Rebecca, Laker, & I started a band called November Something. Sunday we all played together for the first time. We just did a cover of "I Can Feel a Hot One" by Manchester Orchestra, but for some reason, the 4 of us singing & playing together made me so happy. Laker, Blake, & Becc all play guitar, so they were helping me figure out the chords on guitar & transfer them to notes on my cello. It was complicated for me, so we were discussing it & working it out. Momma Burrough stopped us & said, "Coming from someone who is tone deaf & not musically talented in any way, I'm amazed by you guys. Hearing you play & discuss things is like hearing another language. Even though I can't understand it, it's beautiful. Think about it - Could you watch a movie in French without subtitles, simply for the joy of hearing the words spoken?" I'd never thought about it that way. Music is something I've always understood. But it truly is a gift from God & a talent that He blessed us with. I love the analogy of music as a second language - It's how some of us choose to speak to God, & a great way of communicating when words fail us. It's beautiful.
God is so wonderful, & I am so blessed. La vie c’est belle. Dieu est glorieux.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I tried to put aside all of the negative criticism that had to do with the subject, not the writing. Obviously, there are people who don't agree with my spiritual beliefs. But one person wrote, "If you take God out, I believe you could have a bigger audience. You have beautiful wording, but the faith just cuts me short." How sad is it that we live in a world where the content of the piece is unimportant if it doesn't reach a large audience? The point of writing the piece was to tell about my spiritual experience, not to reach a wide audience. Another person wrote, "I felt a little preached to." It's also sad that people can't hear anything about God or spirituality without feeling like they're in church. We talk about the things that are important in our lives - friends, family, boyfriends/girlfriends, work, sports, whatever. God should be included in that. Faith should not be a forbidden topic that we only talk about with our Christian friends. It should be brought up in normal, everyday conversation. It shouldn't be a sermon.
There were also some people that pleasantly surprised me. I got a few papers with very positive feedback. One guy told me to ignore the class & teacher's harsh words, & that he liked the reminder of God's glory as well. Another girl told me to "ignore their harsh criticism... I don't think non Christians can really understand this." It was nice to know that I wasn't the only believer in the class. It's easy to feel alone in my beliefs when I'm at school. However, though they wrote their remarks on my critique sheets, they didn't say anything in the class discussion while my other classmates & teachers were picking the assignment apart. This seems typical of so many Christians. When we're presented with a difficult situation, we will quietly support our cause & stand up for our beliefs. But so few of us will actually cause a scene & be bold about our opinions. Why is that? Our opposition never fails to get their opinions out, yet we sit back & let them have all the attention. I'm not saying we should be annoying or force our opinions on people, but we should speak our minds & stand up for our faith. I'm as guilty of this as anyone else, & I definitely need to work on being more vocal about my faith.
Anyways, here is the assignment, if you care to read it. (:
A Sunset to Remember
On an evening drive into the city,
I saw a sunset, oh so pretty.
Reds so strong, yellows so bright,
Such vivid colors that captured my sight.
I couldn't help but be amazed
At God's creation - this fiery blaze.
After I witnessed that sunset,
I wondered how I could ever forget
The mighty power of His thunder,
The feeling of awe, the sense of wonder
I felt when I first heard the stories
Of God's mercy, grace, & glory.
& now, I will always remember
God's love & that sunset in September.
Back in September, my friend Blake & I were on a drive to Oklahoma City to see a concert. A friend of ours was in the band that was playing, and we were both really excited to see the show. We were also a bit anxious because we were running late. We were driving & talking about all of the things going on in our lives - medical issues, money problems, ended relationships, struggles with friends. We had both had a rough start to the semester, and were feeling a little overwhelmed. Then we looked over to the right and saw the most glorious sunset.
The colors were the brightest I had ever seen in a sunset. The entire sky was lit up in oranges, yellows, reds, pinks, and purples. "Wow" was the only word we could manage to say. The two of us were completely entraced by the beauty of the sunset. It was unlike any we had seen before, and we were totally amazed.
"God's good, isn't He?" Blake said. I nodded my head, still too awestruck to say much. I couldn't help but think that I was so selfish and arrogant to be worried about the little things going wrong in my life. I was created by the same God who made this amazing sunset. The sunset alone is evidence enough that He is powerful and brilliant. There were so many things in my everyday life that pointed to His grandeur and glory, and yet it took this sunset to catch my attention. How had I forgotten His love and power? Now I only need to think of that sunset to remember.
I found a poem I wrote about these verses this summer, & thought I'd share it (:
This was my fault,
Yet You took all the blame,
Carried the cross,
Held the weight of my shame.
Nails stab Your hands
For the lies I have told.
Thorns pierce Your brow
For the things that I stole.
You were beaten and mocked
For all my mistakes.
For all of my downfalls,
Your body would break.
We all, like sheep,
Have gone astray;
Each of us turned
To our own way.
Yet You bore the iniquity
Of us all.
You carried the cross.
You took the fall.
You were punished
To bring us peace,
So through Your suffering,
Our pain could cease.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
"I am caught in a thunderstorm.
I've been caught in a thunderstorm before,
But not quite like this.
My sin weighs me down, like an anchor around my neck.
I've lost sight of the Father in this vicious hurricane."
I've screwed up. As the song says, I've dealt with storms before, but never quite like this. I became someone I hated & did things I never thought I would do.
Jump to Mark 4:35. Jesus is asleep on the boat & the storm comes. The disciples are terrified. "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" they cry. Jesus gets up, calms the storm, & asks, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" Key word: still. How many times has God gotten me through the storm, & I STILL doubt?
Back to "Bellow":
"I can't succumb to flesh, I won't give in.
I won't succumb to flesh, I can't give in.
Oh, tame this restless soul & fill this breathless hole.
My Redeemer, Redeemer, take my eyes from me.
This storm captures my sight."
We all try to resist temptation. I had given in to sin so many times, even when I tried to stop. The storm captured my sight. All I could focus on was the shame of where I was, the confusion of how I let myself get to that point, & how hopeless the future looked. I prayed for God to take my sinful desires from me.
"I want You first. I want You last. For this I fight.
Wrestle my heart to the ground, Once lost, I'm now found."
It only takes an instant to go back to Christ. He wrestled with my heart, & even though I was lost deep within my sinful ways, He found me & brougth me back.
"Through this torment comes understanding,
& at the end of this storm Your promises reign true.
The wages of my choices end in death.
I can't give in, I won't give in to this weight around my neck.
I can't lift this burden on my own, not by myself."
I still struggle. Having a relationship with Christ does not mean freedom from temptation & hardships, but it does mean I don't have to deal with it alone. He's with me every step of the way.
Also, Christ blessed us with community. I have such a great support in my life. I have a wonderful Christian FAMILY who loves & cares for me, & I am so thankful for them. I'm thankful for KATHRYN for being the first light I saw coming out of that dark tunnel... for CALE, DOUG, & TYLER for being my accountability... for MOMMA BURROUGH for being my 2nd mom - for understanding how difficult my medical issues are, for the meals, advice, girl talk, & friendship... for BLAKE for never giving up on me, & being one of the best friends I've ever had... for LAKER for the spiritual leadership, the constant support & care, & the great friendship we've developed these past few weeks... & I'm thankful for REBECCA, REGAN, & WHITNEY - my battle buddy, my go-to girl, & my lifelong friend & sister. These are my 3 best friends, & the examples of Godly women Christ has placed in my life. With all of these people giving me Godly support, I am never alone, & my burdens are never mine to handle alone.
"Grant me sight beyond this world.
Let me touch Your cloak.
Grant me sight beyond this world.
I long to see Your glory once more."
Go back to Mark. Check out chapter 5, starting in verse 24. Jesus meets a woman who "had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors & had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better, she grew worse." Wow, sounds familiar. 5 doctors, 2 & 1/2 months, & a couple thousand dollars in medical bills later, I'm still weak, tired, & left without an answer as to what exactly is wrong with me. In verse 27, the woman touches the cloak Jesus is wearing & is immediately healed. Jesus says her faith healed her. I need her faith. God will heal me, & He will use all of these medical issues I'm dealing with for His glory. I've just got to have faith.
"I cry out towards the heavens. I cry out at Your feet,
Oh my God, let my heart be tuned to You.
Oh my God, I am for You."
This is my prayer.
La vie c'est belle. Dieu est glorieux.
& follow them on Twitter! @eloieloiokc
In one part, a boy meets a youth pastor. They start talking, & the kid says, “I’m not really religious.” The preacher responds with, “That’s okay, neither am I.” I love that. Christians are not called to be religious. They’re called to live for Christ. That requires action.
The boy I mentioned, Jake, was speaking to his girlfriend about the boy who committed suicide. He explains that he feels guilty, because they used to be close friends when they were young, but then they stopped talking. She keeps saying, “It’s not your job to watch over him,” & saying that Jake shouldn’t feel guilty because he didn’t kill him. He says, “I know I didn’t kill him. I know I didn’t do anything.” & she says, “Yeah, none of us did.” & Jake replies, “That’s the problem!” This is so true. While the suicide may not have been Jake’s fault, it goes to show that every little action ultimately affects someone’s future. What if one act of kindness could have changed his mind? Ephesians 5:16 says to “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” & Galatians 6:10 says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” Take advantage of every opportunity to show Christ’s love. God cares for His kids, & we should do everything in our power to demonstrate that fact to everyone we come into contact with.
Later in the movie, after becoming a Christian, Jake’s life starts to fall apart. He prays & says, “God, I don’t know if I’m allowed to be mad at You, but I am.” It’s perfectly fine to be angry with God, but we need to realize that God is not the problem. New Christians/growing Christians are Satan’s prime targets. When things start falling apart, it’s not because you’re being punished. It’s because you are a threat to Satan & he wants you out of the picture. God does not exist to come into your life & magically make everything better. He comes into your life to be there for you & get you through the tough times.
Another big issue addressed in the movie is accepting people. One line in the movie is, “You judge this kid but you haven’t even bothered to get to know him.” How often do we do that? We write someone off because they don’t fit in, or they’re different, or just weird. But who are we to judge? The youth pastor in the movie uses an illustration that describes this really well. He holds up a $20 bill & says, “What would you do for $20? French kiss a dog? Take your mom to prom?” Then he holds up a penny. He asks, “Would you still take your mom to prom for this penny? Would you french kiss the dog for a penny? This is often how we see people.” We have $20 people & penny people. We’d do a lot to help the $20 people… our friends, family, & people we want to get to know better. But what would we do for the penny people… the ones who aren’t anything like us, who we don’t really know (& possibly don’t care to know)? Just something to think about.
Matthew 25:40 says, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.” When we love others, we’re loving Christ, & no one is too low to love.
Unfortunately, the church is one of the worst places for this kind of judgment. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a huge issue for all churches. However, I’ve visited several churches, & there were many times where I honestly felt like people could care less whether or not I came back, & I have friends who have had similar experiences. We got weird looks, or were ignored, or just felt awkward because we dressed a little differently, or were young, or didn’t really know anyone. There were even one or two instances where we literally were not spoken to by anyone. The youth pastor in To Save a Life said, “This is supposed to be a place where you don’t have to pretend you’ve got it all together & don’t have any problems. This is supposed to be a place where you can be who you really are.” Why aren’t all churches like that?
There was also a point in the movie where Jake says to the youth pastor, “I believe that YOU believe. But why are they’re so many fakers in there?” & the youth pastor responds, “They’re willing to settle.” There are so many people who are just faking it. They go to church & do good deeds because they’re settling for being “good.” That is not what Christianity is about! Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith. It is not by your own doing, but it is the gift of God, so that no man can boast.” God doesn’t want us to be good. He wants us to passionately love & follow Him, & to care for His people.
Towards the end of the movie, someone says “Life is a journey. Not so much to a destination, but a transformation.” Think about where you want your journey to take you, & take steps to get there. (:
Super Summer was all about being consumed by the glory of God. In Acts 4:31, the believers prayed, & “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. & they were all filled with the Holy Spirit & spoke the word of God boldly.” This is what I feel happened this week. As believers, we already have the Holy Spirit, but this week, we were FILLED with it. It was all we were focused on. God should NOT be our main focus. He should be our only focus. Everything else - careers, relationships, everything - falls under Him, & therefore, He is our only focus.
God continued speaking to me at Super Summer about the importance of living a Godly lifestyle. People will not follow us unless we are providing evidence that we are growing in Christ & have experience in the things we are preaching about. If we aren’t growing, we’re dying. There is no such thing as a stagnant Christian. & we are as close to God as we choose to be - He does not turn anyone away.Sunday night of Team Leader weekend, we had a consecration service. We were encouraged to pray over ourselves, & then our Exec staff prayed over us. We were told to ask God to:
1) Search us & show us anything ungodly in our lives.
2) Break us & let all of the sinfulness, shame, & worldliness out.
3) Stretch us to new limits this week.
4) Lead us in His ways.
5) Use us to further His Kingdom.
This was SO powerful. I cannot even begin to describe how freeing it was to finally let go of everything I’d been holding onto for so long, & then have God start leading me in the path He created specifically for me. & having my Exec staff members pray over me… I had no idea what they were saying (they all spoke at the same time), but I could literally feel the blessings from God pouring out of them & into me. I felt prepared to learn, as well as to lead & help the students grow.
On Monday the students arrived. I was in Blue School, which was for the incoming freshmen. I was blessed with a wonderful “husband” for the week, who treated me very well (Especially the morning he brought me a Monster energy drink!) & 9 amazing children, who I grew to love. It’s crazy how fast relationships can grow in a week! It’s also awesome to see how God can use these kids, who are 5 years younger than I am, to teach me. It reminds me of 1 Timothy 4:12, which says not to let anyone look down on you because of your youth. God can use anyone, no matter how old they are. We serve such a glorious God!
God also gave me several new friends from other schools (both team leaders & students) that I can already tell will be a big part of my life. I thank God for the new friendships He has blessed me with.
Another MAJOR, amazing, awesome blessing that I can’t even begin to thank God for is my roommate Rebecca. Those of you who know me have seen that I tend to “click” better with guys, & I don’t have the best luck when I’m paired up with random girls. I actually prayed that I wouldn’t have a roommate. I told God I just thought it would be easier if He didn’t give me one. & then God gave me Rebecca. She is one of the most incredible, Godly women I have ever encountered. Our friendship is truly evidence of God’s hand putting two people together. We are already so close, & I can tell that God is going to help us grow even closer together. Chris Plekenpol, our speaker for the week, talked about the importance of having a battle buddy - someone to not only hold us accountable, but to take with us to help fight our battles. After the service, Rebecca prayed with me & told me she knew that was why God put us together, & I realized she was right. Where she goes, I’ll go, & vice versa. Our first major battle: a mission trip to Alaska with Super Summer next year. I can’t wait! (:
I also had the honor & privilege of meeting her family & staying with them the weekend after camp. After spending time with them, I see exactly where Rebecca gets her amazing personality, heart, & faith. I can’t wait to get to know them better, & I can already tell they’ll be a major part of my future.
God really encouraged me this week to start seeing with His eyes & loving with His heart (“Give Me Your Eyes” by Brandon Heath was pretty much constantly stuck in my head!). We treat people like scenery instead of seeing them as they really are - lost people without any hope, just seeking answers. We have these answers, & yet many times we don’t share them with the lost. Plekenpol said “Once you’ve entered my world, you’re gunna get the Gospel. That’s kinda how it works.” That’s how all of us should live. No one should enter our world without hearing about the hope we have & the reason we live. Share it! If we don’t share the hope we have, the lost will always be lost. ALWAYS. How devastating is it to imagine someone being separated from God for eternity? Be bold! Do everything you can to make sure that will not be the fate of anyone you come into contact with!
We should live so that even if people don’t agree with our beliefs, they cannot deny the love we have for them. No one is too low to love. When asked why he would spend time with “someone like that,” Plekenpol responded with “Because Jesus spent time with someone like me.” When the love of Christ comes into you, it will also come out of you. We are called to love the unlovable, & we need to meet sinners where they’re at. Don’t expect them to come straight up to you & ask about Jesus. It’s great if they do, but realistically, they want answers, & they don’t know where to look. Provide those answers for them!
Pray for opportunities to share. Look for those opportunities, & take them when they come. Don’t wait around for someone else to go first. Start now. GO!
“Oh be exalted, be the King of my soul,
& I lay down my life, & forever I’ll know
that You will be there in the moment I need You,
& You have been here, only I couldn’t see You.
& I’ve been missing You.”
This made me think, what does it mean to miss someone? To not see them; for them not to be around. But God is always there, so why couldn’t I see Him? It became clear to me that the only reason I wasn’t seeing God at all times is because I wasn’t looking for Him. I realized that I’ve been praying & asking God to speak to me, then completely ignoring Him when He did because He wasn’t telling me what I wanted to hear. So I started listening.
One thing God brought to my attention this week is the importance of prayer. One of the speakers said, “If you’re not talking to God about your friends, you’re not going to talk to your friends about God.” This is so true. If we’re not praying for our friends & asking God for opportunities to share with them, then we aren’t going to share. Another speaker used the analogy of farming. He said that we have to plow the fields several times before the soil is soft enough to plant the seeds. This means that we have to pray for our friends over & over & over before their hearts are ready to receive the Gospel. So don’t give up on anyone! 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing.” I prayed for my older brother for 4 years before he came to Christ. No one is a lost cause!
Another thing God taught me about is the importance of forgiveness - & not just the forgiveness of others, but the forgiveness of ourselves. Guilt is ungodly & unnecessary. Jesus already died & paid the price for our sins. We can feel guilty, or even continue sinning, but it doesn’t undo what Jesus did for us on the cross. So what’s the point of feeling guilty? 1 John 1:19 says that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful & just & will purify us from all unrighteousness.” Just confess it & let it go.
The final thing God gave me to focus on at Falls Creek is the importance of living a Godly lifestyle. Everything I do needs to match up with God’s ultimate goals for me. For example, I feel called to counsel with kids/teens with cancer. If I go to college & get a degree in accounting, that’s great. But how is that helping me reach God’s goal of counseling with cancer patients? It’s pointless. Also, we (as Christians) are the Jesus people see in the world. Our actions are what they will know of Him. One of my all-time favorite verses is Proverbs 27:19, which says “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” Others should see Christ-like qualities & a Heavenly love in our everyday actions, because Christ is overflowing from our hearts.
Honestly, I have grown to love Edmond during my first year of college, & I was not excited about spending two months here in Ponca. But Falls Creek showed me that the Northeast Baptist youth group is the reason why I’m here. It was truly a blessing to be able to spend a week with these students & watch them grow closer to God, especially as God was also drawing me closer to Him. I have built some great relationships with these students this summer, & I’m excited to see how God will continue building these relationships in the future. God gave me 365 days of service between now & next year, & I plan to use them!