Sunday, October 30, 2011

do not fear.

This weekend has been super stressful. I guess it all goes back to last Wednesday. As you may know, I intern at a church. Halloween is tomorrow. Which means, we had a 5K and holiday market yesterday, normal Sunday programming today, and we have our Fall Festival tomorrow. Craziness. That's when all the madness began and blogging went down a few notches on the to do list. I had wonderful plans to schedule posts and stay up to date, but you guys- that just isn't happening. I have a huge paper due tomorrow (that I'm working on. I'm just stuck on the last page, so I'm taking a break) and I've felt sick and had roommate issues- and it's just not fun. It's frustrating. I find myself getting irritated all the time. But, there's a few things I wanted to share that have been on my heart.

Annie posted a beautiful post yesterday. In her post, she wrote, "i believe that in doing God's work, we will experience frustration. we will come to our wits' end. but God in our weakness is made oh, so strong. it is then we reach a crossroads: to trust, like a child, completely? or to run to tarshish, for whatever reason we might conjure?" This was so beautiful to me. I find myself running away all the time. I get frustrated when things don't work out, but I don't want to trust God to take care of the details. I'm fine with the big picture, but it's the little things that drive me nuts. But, as Annie put it, "God in our weakness is made oh, so strong". He has a plan. We can find beauty in our frustrations through Him. 

In my paper, I'm writing about fear. It's a subject near and dear to my heart. It's something that I struggle with- oh, like all the time. Here's a snippit from that paper to make up from the lack of blogging.
“For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.” This is reminiscent of a father and his child. When the child wakes up at night and is screams out that she is scared of the dark or what may hide in the closet, the father comes running. He holds the child’s hand and reassures her that it will all be okay. She does not need to worry because he is right here beside is. God walks beside us and is “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” This shows that God is a comforting God. He holds our hand and guides us through the trials.

I am that child so often. I am that child crying out for her Abba Father- her Daddy- because she is scared of the unknown. I think we all feel this at some point in time. God comes to us in our weakness. He comes and sits by our bed and holds us for awhile, reassuring us that he's got it under control and we need not fear. In these crazy days of papers, festivals, roommate issues and more...he's got it under control. I don't need to fear, because he is right here with me holding my hand and guiding my through the day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Change Your Blogging

Oh guys. Six more days left of this craziness. I haven't been the best at keeping up and I think I've missed a post here and there, but I'm going to finish strong! Haha!

We're going to finish up with some ways to change up our blogging. As you know, this is a blog. And since this is a blog, that means that blogging is important to me. So, for the next few days (well, five days..the last day of this series is a conclusion) we're going to talk about blogging and how we can change our blogging to make it better. I think we must start at the very beginning with this. I think that the most important thing we can ask ourselves is why we blog. Some people blog to preserve memories and share photos with family that is far away. Some people do it to keep a journal of what is going on at this point in their life for them to look back on some day. I'm not saying these are bad things- they are all really useful and good things. But, I don't think that this should be our main focus for blogging. Yes- it's cool to have a virtual scrapbook of your life. But, we need to make sure that the light of Christ shines through in our blogging.

If you notice on my sidebar, I wrote a little post about why I blog. In this post, I wrote, 
The greatest post ever written can't come from me. It can only come from God. I mean, he wrote the greatest story ever told. He speaks through writers, yes. But, I can't write that post. He can choose to do something through me, but I can't do it alone. I'm here to blog for a reason. That reason is God alone. I'm here for a reason. I'm blogging for a purpose that will be revealed by my creator.I only hope that I can bring glory to His name through my blog. That's my one desire. That somebody somewhere (or even me, right here) will get something through this blog. I'm striving to keep the negativity out and the positive thoughts in. I don't want to use my blog to bash anyone or to say anything that would not bring forth a good image of Christ.
Why do you blog? Are you blogging for you to get attention or for God to get attention? It is oh-so-easy to get caught up in how many visitors or followers you have. It's easy to get caught up in page views and what people comment. It's so easy to let the focus shift from God to you. But, we were created for a reason and we were drawn to blogging for a reason. It's fun to show the neat things that God is doing through our life with others. That's why we write posts like this one. It's encouraging to get support from blog friends in times like this and this. The blog community is like a mini-body of Christ. It brought me to sweet blog friends like this girl to do a bible study with. Blogging is a good thing. But, blogging can be a great thing if we use it for God's glory. That's why we need to refocus. We need to write down why we blog and come up with a mission and a purpose. We need to change our blogging and make it better. :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

big decisions.

I have some huge decisions to make in the coming days. It's really scary and I think it's finally hitting me that I'm really about to grow up. The Spring schedule has been posted on my school's website, so of course I am hard at work deciding what classes to take and what my semester is going to be like next Spring. I have two major options at this point, and I really don't know which one to choose.

  1. 12 hours this Spring/ 12 hours next Fall- This is the option I've been planning on since last Spring. I've pretty much thought it was impossible for me to graduate on time due to changing my major five times, changing colleges three times, and taking a semester off. This would definitely mean less work than option two, which would provide me with more time. The downside is that I still cannot keep interning (at least during the week) at my church because of the way classes fall. 
  2. 21 hours this Spring- This one sounds scary and intimidating. And it totally would be. But, I've looked it up and as long as I get everything approved, I can take up to 22 credit hours (and I only need 21). Downside is that all of the classes I have left are upper level Religion classes and a philosophy class. I'm more than a little frightened that I could get overwhelmed with everything- which I don't want. But, this would mean I wouldn't have to stick around an extra semester. But, this also means I have to figure out the Grad School Dilemma sooner rather than later.
So, as you can clearly see...I'm a little freaked out. I wasn't anticipating on things working out this way. I wasn't anticipating having 21 hours fall in my lap that didn't all happen at the same time. I was planning on taking an easy 12 and interning- but now that there is no way for me to do the latter...what should I do? I don't really have much of a social life as it is, but on the other brain is about fried from all of this theology this semester. Eek. Big decisions. I have a week or so to figure it out (and pray about it and talk to advisers and stuff), but this definitely changes things. I know that God has a plan for my life and I'm really trying to discern what it is. I mean, the job market isn't great right now...but is it going to be any better in December 2012 vs May 2012? I still am not sure what I want to do. I mean, I want to be a Children's Director. I want to disciple children and teach them all about Jesus and how he wants a relationship with each one of them. But, I also want to be able to pay the bills. Do I go to grad school? What do I go to grad school for? Do I stay on a ministry path, or do I try the Social Work route? What's the best time of year to enter one of these programs? Decisions, decisions. 

I've really been dwelling on the following verse this week.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11
I know that God has a plan. I know that he already knows what is going to happen. I have faith that he will take care of me as I head out into "the real world". But, it is scary. It's scary not knowing what is the best thing to do. I just have to remember that God's plan is not to harm me. He has my best interests at heart. It may not be easy, but it will be so worth it. He knows my future, so I can have hope. I can rest secure knowing that the God of the Universe holds my world in his hands. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Change Your Faith- Bible Reading

So, this may sound a little cheesy, but I think that the most important thing you can do for your faith is consistently reading your Bible. I admit, I'm awful at this. It's especially hard for me to get motivated and commit to do this because of my major. Because of my classes, there are some days where I'm reading 15-20 chapters of the prophets for class or reading some other passage for class. It gets hard to read the Bible for personal enjoyment when I see it as "just another assignment". But, earlier this year, I read the Bible in 30 days. Yes, you read that correctly. It is completely possible to read the Bible in 30 days. It takes commitment and time, but it was totally worth it. I know so much more about the scriptures now than I did before.

I tried finding my reading plan online (because I really liked it) but I can't find it! It was really neat because it split each day up into several different sections from different parts of the Bible. But, I have a few other plans that I've found online that I like and might consider using when I reread through the Bible again. I really want my next time to be chronologically because I think it would help from the historical side of things and seeing how things fit together.

These three plans are totally do-able. It just takes you sitting down and committing to do it. I promise that you won't regret the time you spend in the Word. I know, I'm a college student, I'm short on time. There isn't time for me to spend 1-2 hours a day reading my Bible. But, I can make time. I can decide to not watch Dance Moms or Toddlers and Tiaras. I can spend less time on Twitter and reading blogs. I can read my Bible instead of writing the 10 page paper I have due on Friday...okay maybe not this last one. But, you get the idea. Make time in your day for God. It will radically change your faith.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

new stuff!

If you haven't noticed, I have a new blog layout. It's really pretty and colorful without being overwhelming. I was just thinking it was time for a change (since it is the 31 days of Change here, right?)

In addition, I'd like to draw your attention to the right sidebar where we finally have a new blog button. I've had the old one forever and we definitely needed a change there. You can grab the new code beneath the button.

Learning how to design my own blogs has definitely been a skill that has come in handy. I like to change things up too much to pay someone else to do it for me! I've been thinking about doing a blog series when I get some time (haha, like that will happen. Spare time...what is that?) about blog design (just basic html stuff, links to sites that I've learned from, and some basic design stuff (buttons and headers)) I so don't claim to be an expert, but I think it could be really fun. Would that be something that you would be interested in? Let me know in the comments. I'd also like to have some guest bloggers for that series, so if you do anything in the blog design/web design realm and would be interested, email me at everydaycinderella{at}gmail{dot}com and we can chat. :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Change Your Faith- Scripture Memory

Okay, so this is not one of my gifts. I'm really bad at it. I tried to do Beth Moore's SSMT this year and failed miserably by February. There is just something about being "forced" to do something that makes it not fun anymore. But, I tell my kids in Sunday School about the importance of hiding God's word in their heart so that they can turn to it in hard times. So, this is something I want to get better at. I'm not going to make any promises or try to get a group together or anything like that, but I think that if we want to radically change our faith so that we can be better Christians, this is SO important. So, to get us started, I made up a few cards to help you. You can print them off and put them on your mirror, in your car, in your journal....hey, you could even frame them if you wanted (they are 4x6). If you want a better quality jpg file so that you can send them off to a photo lab to be printed, email me at and I'll send the originals your way! :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Change Your Relationships- Strangers

Late, late. I know. This 31 days thing is a lot of work when you're in school and battling a vicious virus. I wouldn't mind some get-well-soon prayers. I know that there are greater problems in the world and all, but my roommate is kind of convinced there's some kind of immaculate conception going on (to which I reply "If so God forgot to tell me!). I feel completely awful. My head hurts (well, make that my whole body), I'm tired, and I'm kind of grumpy now. So not a good combination for trying to love your hard to love neighbor. Since I'm kind of tired and really want to go to bed, I'm just going to post a snippet from Katie's book that really spoke to me as I read it tonight.

We need to love strangers. I'm not talking about in a creepy kind of way. I'm talking about loving them by meeting their needs. Much along the same lines as our neighbors, we should put their needs above our own. This is not optional- it's a commandment.

I believe there is only one truly courageous thing we can do with our lives: to love unconditionally. (Kisses from Katie, pg 251)

want to forsake everything to remain in the center of God's will for my life, that I want to give up everything for the sake of the gospel. I believe with all my heart that nothing is a sacrifice in light of the promise that one day I will get to live with Him forever. I want to obey. I want to give my life away. The life I live is full and joyful and wonderful, but it is not easy. It certainly is not glamorous. I do not expect it to be. Sometimes I am so tempted to look back, but I do not want to. I want to only look forward to what He is going to do. I believe that the words of Jesus are absolutely true and apply to me, right now today. I want to give everything, no matter the cost. No matter the cost. (Kisses from Katie, pg 231-232)

Above all, we were called to love. We were called to love other people. This includes our family, our friends, our neighbors, strangers, and our Creator. We are called to live a lifestyle of love. Rather than condoning people we do not know, we should seek to love them- we should seek to love them unconditionally. We should seek to love them so that they can see the love of Christ through us. Katie has done this for each of her 14 children. She could not waltz into their lives and expect them to call her "Mommy". They did not know love. They did not know the love of an earthly father, so she had to show them the love of a heavenly father by meeting their basic tangible needs. Yes, it has been challenging. But, she has changed lives. Katie can show us how loving strangers can change our relationships with them and create a change within ourselves.

Fall Reading List

I get joked on by lots of my friends for reading too much. Or rather, it's probably the massive quantities of books that I'm reading at one time. I don't like to wait to start a new one, so I normally have four or five that I'm reading at any given time. That's just how I roll. Proud to say I finished two of the five that I've been working on today, so I guess that means I need some new ones, haha! Since I know that some of you are book nerds like me (or might just be looking for a good book to read), I thought I'd post what I've been working on and what's next on my list. To make things easier, we're going to narrow things down to this month and we're not going to count books skimmed through for research papers or the Bible. Because obviously this religion major is reading her Bible and because obviously the books I read for research were very boring and I don't want to subject you to that kind of torture.

We'll start with the books I've read first. I'll do a mini-review for each just so you can get an idea of what they're about and all. Then, I'll post about the books on my "still to read" list later this week. :)

1. What Women Fear- Angie Smith
This book is me in purest form. Often while reading it, I made remarks such as "I feel like Angie went and got up in brain and then wrote a book about it." This amazing woman who blogs here is someone that I really look up to and admire. She has been though hard times, and yet she makes the most of it! I got to meet her when my mom and I went to Beth Moore last December, then I got to hear her speak at Women of Faith this past summer. She is just the sweetest person, I'm telling you. I could spend all day with that lady. But, even she struggles with fear and anxiety. These issues are so close to my heard and this book helped me so much. It's how I got to the point of writing my Chicago post. It's how I'm beginning to make small changes in my life and begin to live with faith- and not so much fear.

2. Grace for the Good Girl- Emily Freeman
I've read Emily's blog off and on for the last year or so. I really started getting into right after she announced that she was publishing Grace for the Good Girl. I mean, I'm a good girl. I live a "try hard" life as she calls it. This is me. Come on Emily. Did you team up with Angie to get into my brain? I got my copy of this book on my Kindle, which was a huge mistake. While you can underline in Kindles, it's a little different than hard copies. And I really want to mark this one all up. I want to highlight and post-it note it and tell you all about it. This unbelievable. It is the inspiration for this post and probably many others to come. Letting go of our "try hard" life is...well, hard. But, it's what we need to do. It's only then that we find out what true biblical Faith looks like.

3. Kisses from Katie- Katie Davis
Katie's my hero. I think I've already told you this before. My family went to Birmingham last weekend to visit Church at Brook Hills and listen to Katie as she shared with David Platt during his sermon on Sunday. She is just absolutely adorable. While we were there, we picked up some copies of this book. I laughed. I cried. I bawled. I threw things. Katie is who I want to be. If fear didn't hold me back, I would move to Africa. I wish I had just a snippet of the faith she has. She gets the gospel and goes, even when things are scary and don't make sense. Katie is living a life as Christ- which is something I think we all (if we take the call of the gospel seriously) strive for.
 And she writes like she blogs, so that makes me smile. :)

4. Stuff Christians Like- Jon Acuff
There are no words to describe this book.
It's funny.
So. You should read it. :)

5. The Great Divorce- C.S. Lewis
This book I had to read for my C.S. Lewis class. We actually have a paper that is due on it tomorrow that I still need to finish. My conclusion is just killing me though. A snippit from the paper that describes this book: In C.S Lewis’s The Great Divorce, Lewis tells the story of a journey from Hell to Heaven. The book begins in a grey city that is very unpleasant. There is a bus stop in this city where the residents of Hell can get on a bus and visit Heaven. They can even stay in Heaven if they want to. But, most of them do not want stay. Because of their natures, Heaven is not pleasant to them. Selfish people do not want to live in a Heaven where they must be selfless and worship someone else. Intellectual people question everything. So, since they do not want to stay in Heaven, they get back on the bus and return to HellWhat brings these three characters together is not just the fact that they return to Hell at the end of the story. It is the fact that they could not set aside their selfishness for the sake of their Creator.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Change Your Relationship- Neighbors

I don't know about you, but I get easily frustrated. I'm really not a huge fan of dorm life- and this blog post comes at quite an ironic time. Just this afternoon I was dealing with an issue with my neighbors. You see, it's kind of cold outside. And I really don't like for my feet to be cold, so I love coming back to a dorm room after class that is all toasty warm. I love falling asleep as the heater kicks on and warms me up. I really don't like finding the air conditioning on sixty-eight and freezing my hiney off. It's really not all that pleasant. I really don't like trying to study and write a paper when my suite mates are screaming and squealing. I really don't like loud music while I'm trying to sleep. But, that is part of living as part of a community. In the book of Mark, when asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) We are commanded to love our neighbor, even when it's not what we want to do. I can claim to be a Christian and love God, but God also wants me to love my neighbor as myself. I like to put my needs above my neighbors needs. I like the heat to be on 70. She may like it to be on 68. If I loved myself, I would start a "Thermostat War" and insist upon it being on 70. But, if I love my neighbor, I can act with love. This doesn't mean I'm a pushover, it just means I act in love. I give in sometimes. I don't start nasty arguments. I respect the person that God made her to be. Is it always easy? Most definitely NOT. But, it's what God has commanded. It's what Jesus commanded. It's in the red letters of the Bible. That means it's important. If Jesus is going to elevate loving your neighbors to the level of loving your God...I'm thinking that means we should do it. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Change: Your Relationships- Friends

Friends are a great part of life. I'm incredibly blessed that I have some amazing ones. But, this post isn't about me and how I have super amazing friends. It's about how we can learn to change our relationships with our friends so that we can be a good friend.

Just try Google-ing "What is a Good Friend?" and you will around 173 million results. This shows just how big of a deal this is to the society we live in. You can even Wikihow to learn how to be a good friend.  But, when it comes down to it, the way to be a good friend is to be the kind of friend that you would want. It's kind of like the Golden Rule. When I think of the kinds of friend that I want, I want someone who is fun to be with, someone who encourages me, and someone that I can trust. In order for me to say that I want this in a friend, I should try to do the same. Why would an encouraging person want to be a friend with someone that is discouraging? It wouldn't make sense! We would probably think they were crazy! So, remember this when examining the kinds of traits you look for in friends. If you wouldn't want your best friend talking about you behind your back, you shouldn't do that to them either. Think about it. What kinds of things do you look for in a friend? Do you look for a gossip or do you look for someone loyal? Do you look for someone that encourages you or someone that brings you down? Be the kind of friend that you would want to be friends with. Do you have a "best friend"? Why is this person your friend? What kinds of things do you look for in a friend? Let's chew on this and discuss it in the comments. :)

When doing some online research for this post, I came across this little "poem". It's kind of cute, goofy, and cheesy- which means I like it. I think we'll end with it.

  1. In kindergarten your idea of a good friend was the person who let you have the red crayon when all that was left was the ugly black one.
  2. In first grade your idea of a good friend was the person who went to the bathroom with you and held your hand as you walked through the scary halls.
  3. In second grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you stand up to the class bully.
  4. In third grade your idea of a good friend was the person who shared their lunch with you when you forgot yours on the bus.
  5. In fourth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who was willing to switch square dancing partners in gym so you wouldn't have to be stuck do-si-do-ing with Nasty Nicky or Smelly Susan.
  6. In fifth grade your idea of a friend was the person who saved a seat on the back of the bus for you.
  7. In sixth grade your idea of a friend was the person who went up to Nick or Susan, your new crush, and asked them to dance with you, so that if they said no you wouldn't have to be embarrassed.
  8. In seventh grade your idea of a friend was the person who let you copy the social studies homework from the night before that you had forgotten about.
  9. In eighth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you pack up your stuffed animals and old baseball cards so that your room would be a "high schooler's" room, but didn't laugh at you when you finished and broke out into tears.
  10. In ninth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who went with you to that "cool" party thrown by a senior so you wouldn't wind up being the only freshman there.
  11. In tenth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who changed their schedule so you would have someone to sit with at lunch.
  12. In eleventh grade your idea of a good friend was the person who gave you rides in their new car, convinced your parents that you shouldn't be grounded, consoled you when you broke up with Nick or Susan, and found you a date to the prom.
  13. In twelfth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you pick out a college, assured you that you would get into that college, helped you deal with your parents who were having a hard time adjusting to the idea of letting you go...
  14. At graduation your idea of a good friend was the person who was crying on the inside but managed the biggest smile one could give as they congratulated you.
  15. The summer after twelfth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you clean up the bottles from that party, helped you sneak out of the house when you just couldn't deal with your parents, assured you that now that you and Nick or you and Susan were back together, you could make through anything, helped you pack up for college and just silently hugged you as you looked through blurry eyes at 18 years of memories you were leaving behind, and finally on those last days of childhood, went out of their way to come over an send you off with a hug, a lot of memories, reassurance that you would make it in college as well as you had these past 18 years, and most importantly sent you off to college knowing you were loved.
  16. Now, your idea of a good friend is still the person who gives you the better of the two choices, hold your hand when you're scared, helps you fight off those who try to take advantage of you, thinks of you at times when you are not there, reminds you of what you have forgotten, helps you put the past behind you but understands when you need to hold on to it a little longer, stays with you so that you have confidence, goes out of their way to make time for you, helps you clear up your mistakes, helps you deal with pressure from others, smiles for you when they are sad, helps you become a better person, and most importantly loves you!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Change: Your Relationships- God

For today's post, we're going to take a look back at an old one. It's one of my favorites. Time to rewind, guys.

When Someone Calls You A Fat Cow, It May Be Time to DTR
March 10, 2011

I've written on many occasions about how I feel that one of the main duties of Christians is to look over the "least of these". I've probably gone overboard and some people may think I write on the topic far too often, but it's something that's on my heart. And since this is my blog...I'm going to write what's on my heart. Ever since beginning my new bible reading plan (just finished day 9 and it is going amazing!), I've realized that God had an awful lot to say about justice and looking out for the poor. I mean, like all the time. I was going to post every verse I found, but it got to be too many. So...I decided just to stick with the ones that really stuck out to me.
  • "You must not exploit a widow or an orphan. If you exploit them in any way and they cry out to me, then I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will blaze against you, and I will kill you with my sword. Then your wives will be widows and your children fatherless"-Exodus 22:22-24
  • "For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave." -Psalm 49:17
  • "Pour out you unfailing love on those who love you; give justice to those with honest hearts." -Psalm 36:10
  • "They refuse to provide justice to orphans and deny the rights of the poor." -Jeremiah 5:28b
  • "Then, when you swear by my name, saying, 'As surely as the Lord lives', you could do so with truth, justice, and righteousness. Then you would be a blessing to the nations of the world, and all people would come and praise my name." -Jeremiah 4:2
  • "Don't say 'I'm too young', for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don't be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!"-Jeremiah 1:7-8
  • "Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon." -Isaiah 58:10
  • "Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed." -Isaiah 59:14
  • "No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives that need your help."-Isaiah 58:6-7
And that's just the Old Testament, y'all. I didn't even get into the gospels and the words of JC. That's powerful stuff. I've just been feeling really convicted here lately. I know that I live a very blessed life. And, I want to use the blessing I've been given to bless others.  I sometimes feel like I define my faith by the "good things" I do. Which...these "good things" are good. I mean, going to church, reading my Bible and all that. But, I get so caught up in the legalism sometimes. And that is so not what God wants. He wants a relationship with me. He could have created humanity and not given them to option to make choices. He could have made a bunch of super-Christians that always did all the right things and had no choice but to do right. But, that's not what he wanted. He wanted (and still wants!) a loving relationship with you and me. True love does not exist without the possibility of rejecting that true love. That's why he placed the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. He gave humanity a chance to reject him. And since then, we have repeatedly rejected him. (If you don't believe me, read through 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. Actually, just read through about the whole Bible and see how his Chosen People have repeatedly chosen their selfish desires over their relationship with the Creator) 
So, what I'm trying to say's not that these works (and helping the poor) will get us a free ticket to heaven. But, it's just the idea that maybe if we really love God, why don't we want to obey him and love his people? Why are we so comfortable in our perfect little lives that we don't want to reach out and help the dirty people? In my bible class today, we were discussing the book of Amos. Amos was a prophet from Judah that preached in Israel. At that point in history, Israel was enjoying a time of peace and prosperity. This caused rapid spiritual decline because the people felt like they didn't need God anymore. The well off ignored the less fortunate. One of the main things that Amos spoke out against was the exploitation of the needy. In Chapter 4, Amos talks to the women by saying, "Listen to me, you fat cows living in Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy, and who are always calling to your husbands, 'Bring us another drink!'" He doesn't just attack the women though. In Chapter 3, he says, "The people of Israel have sinned again and again, and I will not let them go unpunished! They sell honorable people for silver and poor people for a pair of sandals. The trample helpless people in the dust and shove the oppressed out of the way." 
How does this relate to America today? What about the world as a whole? As we were reading through, I couldn't help but think that a majority of the time, you could have substituted "America" in for "Samaria" or "Israel". You would not really notice a difference. God is calling us to help others. It's not a matter of legalism. It's a matter of relationship. It's time to DTR and figure out where this relationship train is headed. How this affects your personal life is up to you...but I know that I don't want the wrath of God against me. 

And know I really don't want a prophet calling me a fat cow. Just saying. :)

I'm still alive. Promise
I somehow contracted an awful virus this weekend that put me out of business until yesterday. I'm still not feeling 100 percent better. I woke up this morning and still felt pretty puny. This is so not what I need this week. So, honestly, blogging has been at the end of my to do list. There were only posts on Thursday and Friday because they were scheduled. My 31 Days Calender is all in a jumble now, because I'm not really thinking that I can blog three posts right now. I have a bazillion thoughts running through my mind and a thousand things on my to do list. Sleep is number one. Reading books and writing papers follows at number two. I'm praying for Friday to hurry up and come already (which is bad because it's only Monday). This semester has been so stressful. I feel like I'm always reading a textbook and always writing a paper. And term papers haven't even been started yet. Yikes!

So basically, it may get a little quiet around here. At least until midweek when I can compose myself and get caught up on everything that should have been done last weekend. No worries, I intend on working on that 31 days thing once's just going to take some time for me to get back to reality and get all that in check first.

The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. -Exodus 15:2

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Change: Your Relationships- Family

We were made for relationship. We were created to live in community. So, we're going to launch off into our next section of the 31 Days of Change. Relationships. No, I'm not talking about the mushy-gushy kind. I'm talking about the "love your neighbor kind". I'm talking about caring for our family here. I'm talking about our relationship with our Father God. Today, we're going to talk about our relationship with our families.

I love my family. I really do. But sometimes, they get on my nerves. I mean, have you tried spending more than five minutes with a thirteen year old boy and a ten year old boy lately? Sometimes our relationships get a bit sour. Sometimes we let our little arguments get in the way. But, I always love them. Even when we yell at each other, when we throw stuff across the room at each other, or when they forget to put the toilet seat down...I still love them. They're my family. I hope that all of you have similar relationships with your siblings. One verse that I try to keep in my mind when I begin to get annoyed by these smallish creatures is Ephesians 4:29-32, which reads "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." I think this is so important to remember. Speak with words that uplift and do not bring down. Speak with words that would benefit others- not words of anger or rage. Be kind. Forgive each other.

Parents. The Bible gives us all sorts of reasons why we should obey them- even when they're more than a little crazy. A few examples:
  • "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." -Exodus 20:12
  • "Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching."- Proverbs 1:8
  • "A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother." -Proverbs 15:20
  • "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." -Colossians 3:20
I'm thinking this means that we need to obey our parents. While sometimes my parents make choices that I don't agree with, I need to respect them. They are my parents, and it is the wise thing to do. Don't I want my future children to treat me the same way someday? 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Change: Finding Your Purpose in God

We're going to wrap up our section on self-image by discussing what it means to find our purpose in God.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11

God has a wonderful plan for your life. We like to quote verses like Jeremiah 29:11 at Graduation parties and ceremonies a lot of times. These are generally happy events. But, when we look at the historical context of Jeremiah, we see that the aforementioned verse was written while Jeremiah and his people were in exile. Exile is so not a good thing. It's a pretty bad thing actually.But, in these dark times, Jeremiah wrote to encourage the people. He told them about how God had a plan for their life. How they should embrace their situation. How they should get married and build houses and not put their life on pause. God had an amazing plan for his people's lives. Just like God was watching out for Jeremiah and the people in exile, he is also looking out for us. He has an amazing purpose for each of our lives. You are here for a reason.

But, here's the thing. God didn't put us here to serve ourselves. He didn't place you on this Earth for you to find your purpose in yourself and your needs. He put you here to serve his purpose. It can be so hard to discern what this means for each of our lives. We have all been given different gifts. Not everyone is meant to be a teacher. Some people are called to be buisnessmen (and women) and some people are called to be stay at home moms. We each have a different purpose because God has individually placed us where he wants us, with the people he wants us to serve, doing what he wants us to do. Obviously, he gives us the choice to disobey him and not do his will- but why would we want to do that? It may seem crazy to other people. It may not make sense. But, the safest place to be is in God's will. Our lives are not for this Earth- we were made to serve an eternal purpose. Remember this when seeking God's purpose for your life. Does this seem to be something consistent with God's nature? Is this something that serves an eternal purpose? Am I doing this to benefit me? These are all questions we should ask ourselves when we're trying to find our purpose. Find your purpose in God- not yourself or the things you do. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Change: List 5

Okay, today is a quick post.
But, for the last few days, we have talked about self image and changing the way we look at ourselves. This is so important. So, today, we're going to do another little exercise. Today, we're going to do something that I call "List 5". For today, I want you to list five things that you don't like about yourself. Then, for each one of your items, I want you to come up with a positive. We're going to try and refocus some of the negatives and manipulate it into positives. I'm going to work on mine and post it when I'm done, and I've made up a worksheet to help you get started. Ready? Go!

Download worksheet here.
List 5

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Change: You Are Beautiful

What would happen if we stopped all of the negativity?
What would happen if we stopped seeing ourselves as ugly and instead saw ourselves as beautiful girls created in the image of God?
What would happen if we spread this knowledge with others and encouraged them?

We live in a culture that tells us to strive for beauty. That we need to spend hours each morning "getting pretty". I don't know about you, but I know I like an extra fifteen minutes every now and then. We live in a culture that tells us that in order to succeed, we need to be perfect. We need to look like we live perfect little lives in our perfect little houses with our perfect little families doing our perfect little things. And when this doesn't happen (which it normally doesn't because we aren't really perfect) seems as if we've failed and we jump into a pit of self-pity and self-doubt.

I want to issue a challenge to you today. We cannot keep this to ourselves. We all know how good it feels to hear someone tell us we're beautiful. It's like a super warm fuzzy feeling that makes us feel special. (or it's that way to me. I mean, my love language is Words of Affirmation). Or at least  I think we all secretly strive for this each morning when we get up in the morning. So, today, I want you to find someone and tell them how they are beautiful. Tell them face to face. Leave them a note. If you don't know anyone, leave a post-it on a mirror in a public restroom. Make someone's day. Remind them they are made in the image of God. Remind them that they are beautiful.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Change: Your Inner "Good Girl"

We all want to be "good". I mean, yeah sure, some people go through rebellious phases where they make bad decisions. But, I think deep down inside of each and every one of us, there is a desire to be "good" that is linked back to a desire for acceptance and love. Erwin McManus says in his book Unleashed, "How is it possible that, for many of us, being a good Christian is really nothing more than being a good person? The entire focus of our faith has been the elimination of sin, which is important but inadequate, rather than the unleashing of a unique, original, extraordinary, wonderfully untamed faith." We base our entire faith on our perceived goodness, when in fact we are completely inadequate.

I just started reading Emily's book Grace for the Good Girl this past weekend. It's completely amazing and I feel like she's inside my head. It has me completely humbled and has so convicted me. That's the catalyst for this post, I guess. This wasn't part of my 31 days blog plan, but God had other plans. We're going to talk about how we need to change our inner "good girl". Now, I recognize how having a good morals system is good. I recognize how there's good things in exhibiting good behavior, and I don't think that we can act like heathens. But, the problem lies in our reasoning. Why are we wanting to be "good girls"? Is it because Jesus tells us to, or is to maintain a good reputation? Are we doing it because it is right or because we want others to think we're "good girls". Jesus didn't value what people thought. He did what the Father said, regardless of what people thought.

Emily says in her book, "For many years, I lived as a believer in God but I did not live from God. I was a child of the God of grace, but I was looking for life in the law." We think that we have to perform in a certain manner in order to be accepted by our Creator. All this ends up doing is leading us to frustration. We feel like we're not doing enough...and it's because we aren't. We cannot measure up to the standard that has been set for us. Dudley Hall says, "When you get miserable enough to die, you can be free. Go ahead and live under the law give it your best shot. Ultimately the law will make you so miserable, you'll want to die. Then you will find someone already died for you." It gets tiring being a good girl. It gets exhausting trying to live up to the title of being perfect. We are imperfect. God is perfect. When we stand in front of our Creator, we seem completely inadequate. It's like a small child that has gotten caught doing something wrong and now must face his parent. We are ridden with shame and guilt.Emily says in her book, "I hide behind my list of rules so I can check off each one, as if I'm another step closer to God because I've followed them. I hide behind my mask of strength because I'm ashamed of my weakness...but God has drawn us to himself, like a Daddy who scoops up his girl into loving, strong arms and pulls her close, warm and safe." We hide because we are scared of what may happen. We don't want to trust that God has our back. But we have been rescued. We have no need to fear. But- we aren't expected to be perfect- he just wants us to give it our best shot. He sent his Son to die for us because he knew we could not be perfect. It's time to let go of our inner good girl. It's time to let go of perfection. It's time to take the leap of faith and let go.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Change: Your Self Image

Where does your self image lie on the spectrum? For the next few days, we're going to get inside our little bubbles and learn a little but more about ourselves. Now, I don't claim to be a psychologist, so please don't expect anything super profound. But, I think when we talk about change, we can't neglect to think about our self image. What is a "healthy" self image? I mean, I don't think its too great if we have a super good view of ourselves and think that we are better than everyone else. That causes pride. But, on the flip side, I don't think we need to view ourselves negatively. That causes self-hatred, which isn't very good either.

Here's the thing. We were made in God's image. Often, we talk about how we shouldn't hate other people because they were made in God's image, but we forget that this applies to us too! Psalm 139:14 says, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." We cannot change ourselves to find true love and acceptance from our creator. According to Psalm 139, we are loved the way we are. When God made man, he didn't just see that he made him good- he saw that he made him VERY GOOD. We were made in the image of God. We were created very good. When we look negatively upon ourselves and compare ourselves to others, we are disagreeing with God. It's kind of like we're sitting here complaining about how he made us. It sounds kind of ungrateful. Don't try to conform to someone else's standards of success, God made you the way you are for a reason! He made you good!

I want to challenge to to examine your self image. (Try not to be too critical or too prideful here- that's kind of against the point!). If you need a little help, I've made up a little worksheet. Just few simple questions that might get you started. You can go here and download it from Google Docs. I just want you to get basic understanding of what you're working on and what might need to change. I also want to encourage you and have you think positive thoughts about yourself. Not everything needs to change. You might have a great self image. But- you might be hiding something.Or you might not ever know you have a problem. Let's start this five day journey to changing our self-image together. You don't have to turn it or post your answers. This isn't a test. I just want you to work on this for yourself. Maybe you want to print it off and put it in your Bible or Journal. Maybe you're cheap and just want to write it down to save on ink. Whatever you want, however you want...let's get our hearts in the right place. Okay?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Change: It's Your Turn

For the last five days, I've told you about some causes that are near and dear to my hear. But, honestly, that's n not what change is all about. Yes, it's fun to talk about other people doing cool things to change the world. But, that is not it. That's not where it ends. It's your turn now.

Yesterday in Sunday School, I was teaching the kids about the story of Baby Moses. About how this big, evil king decided to kill all the little boy Israelite babies. And how this made one mommy and one sister very sad. So, Moses's Mom and Miriam took the baby boy and placed him in a basket. They trusted God to take care of things, and they thought big. When the Pharaoh's Daughter came across this cute baby boy floating in the reeds, Miriam came out of hiding and God did great big things that day. The bottom line for our lesson yesterday was to use your imagination to think big. We talked about different problems in the world. After we got through the recession and the president being problems (hey-I live in Alabama), we got onto what I really meant. Things like clean water. Things like the famine in Somalia and starving kids. Things like little girls being sold into marriage to old men. And you know what? They got it.

Even though I was talking to fourth and fifth graders, they got it. They understood the problems with these problems and wanted to do something to fix it. So, I put them in groups and had them use their imagination to think big about finding a solution to a problem. One group came up with the idea of doing a cookie sale to raise money to build churches in Africa so that people could learn about Jesus. Another group came up with the idea to tell people about Free Rice and to collect canned food and send it to Africa. Another group also talked about collecting food at our church's Fall Festival. So, I had them all get together and come up with a master plan. Now, they are excited about making posters in two weeks to hang up and tell people about our collection. While we aren't going to mail the food to Africa, we are going to collect food for our church's food pantry to give to the community.

Here's the thing. As I said yesterday, you are never too small, too young, or too insignificant to make a difference. Find a cause and support it. Advocate for it. Pray for it. If you can't find something for what you're looking for, start your own. Change the way you look at missions and make it personal.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Change: Amazima Ministries

Katie is one of my heroes. 

Here's the thing. Katie is 22 years old. 
Read that sentence again. Katie is 22 years old and lives in Uganda.
Okay, one more time. Katie is 22 years old and lives in Uganda with her 13 daughters.
During the summer of 2007 (right after she graduated High School), she went over to Uganda to teach at a Kindergarten for a year at an orphanage. She thought that she would go for a year, and then return home to Tennessee to go to college and live a "normal life". Not so. While she was there, she learned about the many needs that Uganda has. She saw many school-aged children sitting by the road when they should have been in school. God laid it on her heart to start a Child Sponsorship Program for some of the children. So, she started up Amazima Ministries International. As their website says, "The organization seeks to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people of Uganda who need it most. In the Lugandan language, Amazima means 'truth.' "She also started up a food program to feed some of the Karimojong people. From Monday through Friday of each week, they feed 1,600 children and provide them with medical care, bible study, and and an education. She began working with some of the women in the village and taught them how to make necklaces that the ministry sells to empower these women to sustain their families. Katie says on her website, "People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me good job. Well here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not really that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people." 

I like to use Katie's story to tell people about how we are never too young, never to small, never to insignificant to make a difference. Katie's story started when she was 18 when she took a leap of faith and went to Africa. When she was 19, she began to foster her first three girls. Her ministry has grown because she has allowed God to use her and mold her. She now has thirteen beautiful daughters. Katie has spent the last year writing a book about her experience. I haven't read it myself yet, but if her blog (and other reviews I've read) are any indication, I'm sure that it is amazing. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Change: IJM

IJM (International Justice Mission) is a cause that has recently broken my heart.Today, there are one million children that are sitting in detention centers waiting to go to trial, most for minor offences. Nearly two million children are being exploited in the commercial sex industry. Twenty-seven million people are trapped in modern day slavery. Over 50 percent of these slaves are children. And yet- here I am. Sitting in my dorm room. Comfortable. And yet--there is something more. There are women and children living outside these walls that are being forced to do horrible things. While I'd like to imagine it only is happening in third-world countries- it's happening here in the US, too. It's just not as accepted here. When people get caught, they go to jail.

But in other places around the world, the governments are far more corrupt than Washington. Even when cases are filed and the law enforcement try and send someone to jail- there aren't enough prosecutors to cover the cases. According to one source, it would take 350 years for Mumbai, India to catch up on the court backlog in their books. We need to work on helping these governments fix the corruption problem and help strengthen legal protections for the poorer people of the world. IJM investigators, lawyers and social workers intervene in individual cases of abuse in partnership with state and local authorities to ensure proper support for the victim and appropriate action against the perpetrator.  IJM says, "We can no longer stand by as billions in this world are daily ravaged by lawlessness. Without functioning public justice systems we will never make human rights meaningful and international development sustainable."

IJM's mission is to follow the tradition of leaders like William Wilberforce, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr.They stand against violent oppression in response to the Bible's call to justice and to seek to find justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Their website says that:
IJM seeks to restore to victims of oppression the things that God intends for them: their lives, their liberty, their dignity, the fruits of their labor. By defending and protecting individual human rights, IJM seeks to engender hope and transformation for those it serves and restore a witness of courage in places of oppressive violence. IJM helps victims of oppression regardless of their religion, ethnicity, or gender.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Change: Blood:Water Mission

The motto of Blood :Water is empowering communities to work together against the the HIV/AIDS and Water crisis in Africa.

Blood :Water seeks to empower communities to fight the HIV/AIDS problem and the water crisis by empowering communities to fight these problems themselves. Their website states, 
We seek to transform communities from the inside out, enabling them to be the agents of change within their own context. While safe water access, hygiene, and sanitation are core objectives within our water programs, the process of enabling these skills and technologies in a community ultimately leads them on a journey of self-discovery, giving communities a platform for understanding their own capabilities, assets, and most importantly self-worth. It's not until communities are able to understand and embrace their potential, that they are fully able to utilize and sustain the projects they have worked so hard to achieve.
Empowering communities to enact change on their own is the best way that we have to eradicate poverty. It is the only way that our efforts can have a lasting impact.  It doesn't matter how many people we send over, what matters is changing the hearts and lives of the people that live there.

2 Weeks of Sacrifice: Why don't you give up what you would normally drink (ie. Diet Coke and Capri Suns) and drink only tap water. Save the money that you would normally spend on these beverages and donate the money to Blood: Water and help bring clean water to Africa!

Blood:Water Mission Process Video (How We Work) from Blood:Water Mission on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Change: As Our Own

Okay, Day 6 has hit and we are on to our next section! Since this is a series on change, I thought it would be cute and fun to change gears every few days. So that we don't get stuck in a rut or anything. So, today kicks off the Great Mission Project. How we interact with the world around us has a huge impact on our lives. There is so much brokenness in the world around us. There are so many places we can enact change. But, sometimes we take the easy way out. We give money to this organization (or that one) but we fail to make an emotional attachment. We don't give sacrificially. What if money isn't going to solve the problem? Yes, these non-profits that work with needy people need funds to keep running, don't get me wrong here. But, I want you to do some research and find a cause that pulls at your heartstrings. One that you can become emotionally invested in. I'm going to give you a little help for the next few days by highlighting some causes that are close to me. Then, we'll talk about finding your cause and what that means. But, for right now, I want you to recognize that prayer and education and standing up for the broken is what will change our world. It's not about sending in $20 check and checking the box. $20 won't end poverty. $20 won't end the sex trade. It's about advocating. It's about praying for these people. I want you to get educated. This Great Mission Project isn't about raising bunch of money, it's about getting educated so we can tell others and ask them to join us in prayer. It's about uniting together to cause change to happen. So, at the end each day, I'm going to feature a project for each organization that might interest you.

Today, we're going to talk about an organization called As Our Own. According to their website,
There are 44 million vulnerable children living in India. Some live on the streets. Others are enslaved in brothels. Most are poor, hungry, and exploited. Hope is hard to come by.Yes—the magnitude is overwhelming, but that’s why we cannot sit still and why we cannot remain silent: Helping vulnerable children in their plight is our great calling.

As Our Own :: Overview from As Our Own on Vimeo.

Many of the girls that enter the sex trade don't do it because they want to. They do it unwillingly and are forced into it. 95% of girls born in the red light district become enslaved. And, because of the nature of the sex trade, the cycle of slavery continually repeats itself. These girls are raised in extreme poverty. They do not have a way out. Mothers are approached about their daughters from very young ages. While most of the mothers do not want their child to have to go what they are going through, they are trapped. There is not a way out.

"Life in the red-light districts of India is not typical. It’s a dangerous place to be—let alone work or live. Simply entering and exiting the area is a difficult and often risky endeavor. That’s why As Our Own is grateful to have a presence in the heart of this darkness. Miraculously, God has opened a door, connecting us to the mothers enslaved there. Our staff is actively present, rescuing the children from second- generation enslavement." As Our Own rescues girls from this extreme poverty. Mothers contact them about their child, and they become part of the family. These mothers do an extremely selfless thing to save their precious daughters.

The heartbreaking reality is that 95% of the girls born in the red-light districts of India will become enslaved there for life. They will live there and die there after a lifetime of neglect, abuse, exploitation, and enslavement. That is, unless someone rescues that little girl before she is sold.

For the first five years of Avishi’s life, it looked like she would follow this tragic pattern. She was born in the red-light district because her mom is enslaved there. They made their home in the basement of a seven-story brothel. It was dark and dreary and lifeless. This is no place for a child to grow up.
At 5 years old, Avishi was already approaching the age of sale into the trade. Children as young as 6 and 7 years old are being sought because of the myth that sex with child-virgins are a cure for AIDS. Avishi needed to get out of this treacherous situation before it was too late.
As Our Own staff connected with Avishi’s mom and shared how Avishi could grow up in a secure and safe environment. Recently, As Our Own staff orchestrated the rescue and brought Avishi out of the horrors in the red-light district. Since becoming part of the As Our Own family, her aptitude for learning has been nurtured and encouraged; she loves school and has become a top student earning high honors. She dreams of becoming a doctor—a dream that would have never been possible had she not been rescued from that brothel basement.

These girls are raised by As Our Own as if they were their own daughters. They are raised as part of a family, in a house safe from the sex trade. I think that this is something beautiful.

I Will Run: 10 Girls. 10 Stories. 10 Cities. (You have no idea how much I wish I was a runner so that I could do this.) They have chosen 10 half marathons in the next year and have a girl to represent each. This gives a reason to getting all hot and sweaty and gross! Choose a half marathon, join the team, and then raise awareness and funds. They ask each person to try and raise $750 for "their girl". Will you run for her?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Change: Your Faith Journey

Now, before I get started here, let me clarify for a minute. By "changing your faith journey", I do not mean that you need to do a 180 and become an atheist. So not my goal here. We want to make our relationship with God better, not worse. By changing our faith journey, I mean, maybe it's a time to take a step back and look at our relationship with our Creator. Where is it going? Where do we want it to go? Let's take a minute and, as I like to say, DTR (that means define the relationship, Mom and Dad).
Wrong things bring us farther away from the place we want to be. C.S Lewis writes in Mere Christianity that “if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer…progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.” If we continue down the wrong path, then we just get farther and farther away from our intended destination. Trying to pretend we are going the right direction and refusing to turn around will not get you to your intended destination. If you are trying to drive from Michigan to Alabama driving on an Interstate going north, you are not going to get there. You must go south. No matter how much you think you can go that way- you can't. Another biblical scholar I admire, Andy Stanley, says “Your direction, not your intention determines your destination”. Turning around and going back towards the end goal is the quickest way to get there. The sooner we turn back, the sooner we will reach the place we want to get. If our faith journey is headed away from God, we need to do a u-turn.

  • What parts of your journey do you need to do a u-turn on? 
  • Where do you need to stop before you go any further and make sure you are headed in the right direction?
  • Where do you wish you were at this point in your journey and how can you get there? Make a plan and write it out. Then, stick it somewhere (like your journal) so that you will see it. Set deadlines for reaching certain goals. Accountability is also a great idea. Find a trusted friend, show them your list, and ask them to how you accountable for it!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Change: Your Fears

For as long as I can remember, fear has been a part of my life. While some people called me a cautious child, I think it would have been better to go with “fearful”. I didn’t like being away from my parents. This meant I was not a fan of slumber parties and that overnight Girl Scout camp was an absolute disaster. There are even silly things that I was scared of. For example, I didn’t like getting my feet dirty. While I still don’t enjoy walking around barefoot, now it’s more a sanitary issue because I live in a dorm. My parents like to tell a story of when I was a preschooler. I was walking around outside, but every time I would take a step; I would stop to wipe the dirt and sand off of my feet. This obviously should tell you that I didn’t have any half-dressed baby pictures where I was playing in the mud! As I grew older, my fears grew more serious. I was scared of failure. I always wanted to succeed and be well liked. The most important thing to me in school was that my teacher like me and that I got good grades. That was the measure of a successful year for me. Sadly, this was not always achieved.

It’s strange. I have very few happy memories from my childhood. I remember a preschool program where I refused to go on stage, but even at that age I was scared of disappointing my parents. I remember being terrified the night my baby brother was born. (Hey, you would too if it was the middle of the night and you woke up in a car!) I remember in third grade arguing with two girls that I “thought” were my best friends over a photograph of the three of us. There were only two copies of the picture, and I thought that by securing that picture I was securing my place in that friendship. I remember my sixth grade teacher yelling at me. I remember “friends” that ran away laughing at me. You would think I had a horrible childhood if you just looked at these stories. But, I didn’t. I have two amazing parents that love me and have been married for twenty-five years. I didn’t come from a broken home. I have two younger brothers that show me their love and affection by annoying me. I graduated from high school third in my class. I have had the opportunity to go to college. I live a blessed life. I have a life that many people dream of, yet, this “perfect child” still struggles.
Fears of inadequacy.
Fears of failure.
Fears of what might happen.
Fears of what might not happen.
These fears have been a part of my everyday life. For twenty years, I accepted my fears as reality and lived a life of fear. But, as I entered my twenty-first year of life, I realized that a life of fear is not what God intended for my life. I want to live a life that is happy and that doesn’t fear the coming days, but rather embraces the present and runs with it.

I guess what makes all of these fears lies is the fact that God is bigger than any fear that I could ever conjure up. Satan preys on my fears and manipulates them to make me think that I am unworthy of the gospel. But, this is so not true. Here’s the thing. We can never be “good enough”. In Romans, it says that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Salvation comes from faith alone. It isn’t about me being “good enough”. It’s about his wonderful, magnificent love for is. In the Message translation of Psalm 36: 5-7 it says that
God’s love is meteoric. His loyalty astronomic, his purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness, nothing gets lost; not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks. How exquisite your love, O God!
This passage stirs up so many emotions within me. Sometimes I think that I am so small in the grand scheme of things. I mean, think about the size of the universe. It’s huge. Would the God that created the Milky Way ever notice if I was having a crisis? The psalmist answers that question with a resounding YES! I am not too small for God to notice. He created me, so he loves me! He loves me, even though I am unworthy. My fears of inadequacy are useless. In the light of sin, we are all unworthy. Yet, God still sent his son to die for us. Wow. That’s huge. Why should I fear that I’m useless, unworthy, or a failure? Jesus died for me. He thinks I’m everything. Wasting our lives by worrying doesn’t make anything any better. I don’t know about you, but worrying just stresses me out. Rather than worry, we should place our trust in the Creator. We can trust that he will never leave us. He will never abandon us. He stands with his arms wide open saying, “Come child. Come here and let me hold you. Let me wrap my arms around you. Relax. Don’t be afraid, because I have a marvelous plan for your life. Trust me on this one.” I take comfort in this thought. The thought that a God, so big and mighty that he can create the stars, would take time out of his day to comfort me. Wow. That is amazing!

Maybe you don’t know where I’m coming from in all of this. Maybe you live one of those “perfect lives” that I dream of. I don’t know. But, I do know that pursuing perfection is not as easy as it sounds. It is probably the hardest act to pull off. Even when things look great on the outside, sometimes the stuff that’s on the inside, isn’t as pretty. We try so hard to make others think that we have it all together because we think that this will make us seem like we are better Christians. We get it inside of our heads that God will love us more if we live perfect little lives. We hide inside ourselves thinking that if we don’t show everyone the pain that we hold inside that it will all go away. But, this is not how it works. What happens is that we find that we can’t keep up the act. The fa├žade falls down. The masked are unmasked. Before we know it, everything we’ve hidden away comes to light and everyone knows our dirty little secrets. I think it’s time to rebel against perfection. I think it’s time to let others see what’s going on. I think it’s time to let our lives become open books so that we can encourage others. 

So, let's rebel together. Let's conquer those fears. Let's face the facts. Let's encourage each other to keep the faith and finish the race.