An Open Letter to Our President

Dear Mr. Obama,

I sit in my political science class as my professor talks about Congress, you, your agenda and your party. We discuss polls and approval ratings constantly, so of course, we discuss your low ones.

Criticism comes from her, from my classmates and honestly, from me. But I typically don’t voice my frustration or concerns (thankfully I’m not graded on participation!), instead I sit in my class and I pray for you.

I pray that God gives you wisdom to handle ISIS, Ebola, immigration and all the day to day issues that you still have to deal with.
I pray that you don’t define your value and worth as a person based on approval ratings and newspaper articles, but rather allow yourself to rest in who Christ says you are.
I pray God gives you just enough strength for each day, but never too much that you might possibly think it comes from yourself.
I pray for patience and compassion for you, that the constant problems of politics, life and the world don’t harden your heart.
I pray for your time with your family, that you are able to leave all the stress of the day, the problems you still need solutions for, the frustration and anxiety, that you’re able to leave it all at the door when you sit down to eat dinner with them.
I pray that you’re still able to find happiness in the small things, that all the big issues don’t diminish the tiny joys of everyday life.
I pray that your love for and commitment to your wife will not be an afterthought.
I pray that you won’t always be too busy to dance with your daughters.

I sit in class and I pray for you, Mr. Obama, not because I agree with all you do or even all you believe, not because I support your whole agenda or even your party. I pray for you because you’re the leader of our country. I pray for you because I see your daughters as little girls, your wife as a woman and you as a person, because I recognize that who you guys are goes far beyond “president” or “first lady.”
I pray that you do too.

I constantly hear students complain about you, and often it’s those same people that did not exercise their right to vote in the presidential election. But you know what? Those mumbled complaints won’t do any good…they’re not doing any good. In all of history, complaints have never changed anything. No innovation, revolution or movement took place simply because people complained to one another.

I can’t help but  imagine what it might look like if Believers here in the U.S. would commit to seriously praying for you and for other elected officials. It would change things.
It may change y’alls hearts. It would definitely change some of theirs.

Advertisements

Heaven Won’t Look Like Our Churches

Recently I have visited several different Gospel believing, Jesus lovin’ churches ranging from charismatic to conservative. Yet time and time again I left frustrated. The churches were not teaching things contradictory to the Gospel, there were no snakes involved in worship and the pastor, elders and congregation desired to be about Jesus and not themselves, why then, was I so disheartened? Was I being too picky? Was something wrong with me? Was I being un-Christlike? No, my problem is rather simple:

I didn’t want to worship with a group of people who look exactly like me.

Repeatedly I would glance around and notice everyone looked alike: 95% of the congregation were under 30, white, middle class Americans. If I was lucky, no more than two couples would be over 30 and an average of 3 people would be a race other than Caucasian.

I thought back to church in Ethiopia where my team, all seven of us, were often the only non-black people in a church of a couple hundred believers, but I wasn’t bothered then, why am I bothered now? In the city I was in, the three largest ethnic groups (the Amhara, Tigrayan and Oromo peoples, all “black”) made up 98% of the city’s demographics. When all other ethnicities made up the remaining 2%, it was no wonder we were often the only Caucasian people in the entire church. Also, we worshipped right alongside mothers, owners of restaurants/hotels and homeless people – in other words, they all came from a variety of economic backgrounds. Lastly, as I worshipped I would occasionally make a silly face at the three year old in front of me while smiling at the 70 year old grandpa singing off  key behind me. That congregation looked like the city it was in.

In Spartanburg, however, 51.77% of the city is Caucasian, 44.09% is African-American and 3.46% is Hispanic. We have mothers, business people, restaurant owners and homeless. 23.8% of our population is under 18, 61.5% are between the ages of 19 and 64, and 23.8% of people are over 65. (Statistics courtesy of the US Census Bureau).

Young, white, middle class churches do not accurately represent our city.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that my problem is not merely not wanting “to worship with a group of people who look exactly like me” like I said earlier, but rather that I don’t want to worship with a group of people who don’t look like our city.

Once I was finally able to pinpoint that, I was then forced to determine if that issue was merely rooted in my wants, desires and preferences, or if that was biblically based. And then this morning I heard a great sermon on Acts 12:25-13:3 that helped clear things up.

When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark. Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

The speaker, Kyle Estepp, explained how this church at Antioch could be considered an “international” church, as the people mentioned were extremely diverse.

  • Barnabas: Levite from Cyprus, lived in Jerusalem
  • Simeon called Niger: “Niger” is a nickname that means “The Black”, suggesting that he was dark skinned
  • Lucius: likely a Gentile
  • Manaen: having “been brought up with Herod the tetrarch”(v1), he would have been extremely well off
  • Saul (Paul): Roman citizen, Jew, very educated

Mr. Estepp mentioned this morning how this church at Antioch was the foundation for all mission work and how they were responsible for bringing the gospel to millions of people.

“Different strokes for different folks” is the response I have received in the past when voicing my frustration with the lack of diversity among the Church down south. But after reading the above few verses in Acts, I now know why that idea doesn’t sit well with my spirit. A diverse church is not simply a preference I have, instead I believe it’s at the very heart of our Father.

Acts 17:26-27 explains how God’s heart is for the nations. The creation story tells us we are all created in the image of God. As Dr. Menjares puts it, “every person on earth, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or station in life, is to be valued because of the image of God.” Isaiah 61 explains Jesus came for the poor, brokenhearted, captives and prisoners, and Romans 1:16 says the Gospel is for “anyone” who believes, both “Jew and Gentile.” The people Jesus chose to be His disciples were not all one age, race and economic background, but were poor and rich, fishermen and tax collectors, young and old. In John 4, Jesus himself, a Jewish man, chose to share His love and truth with a Samaritan woman, something that would have been extremely controversial due to gender and race. Again I say, a diverse church is not simply a preference I have, instead I believe it’s at the very heart of our Father.

In the 800 square miles of Spartanburg there are 600 churches. However, 75% of our population remains unchurched. I read Acts 12:25-13:3 and know that this diverse church is what God used to bring the Gospel to millions of people and I can’t help but wonder if the reason ¾ of my city remains so lost is because our churches choose, consciously or not, to look the same. I’m not saying that God is constrained by our lack of diversity, please don’t hear me wrong. But I know this, people are more likely to listen to me (about whatever), if they can relate to me. I will have a much easier chance of witnessing to college students, rather than 80 year olds. In the same way, my Grandma can better reach people her age than she can college students. Wouldn’t a church be better positioned to reach our city with the Gospel if we could relate to our city? That would mean having a multi-ethnic, multi-generational body of believers.

So what? If you’re like me, a 20 year old, single college girl, you don’t have the option to go start and lead a multi-generational, multi-ethnic church and you don’t have a husband that you can support and encourage while he goes and starts/leads a multi-generational, multi-ethnic church. However, that does not mean I, we, can’t make an impact.

Who are the group of people you are hanging around day in and day out? Who are the people you are inviting to church? If we have friends from different economic and racial backgrounds that we’re sharing the Gospel with, then very slowly our churches might become more diverse. I challenge you, this week, to make at least one friend that isn’t exactly like you.

Also, the Bible constantly tells and shows us the power of prayer. Pray alongside me that God would give us, our friends, our elders, our pastors and our churches a heart for the nations, a heart after His own heart. Pray He would raise up passionate leaders who envision churches that transcend race and socio-economics.

Heaven will not look like most of our churches look like today; instead, young and old, Caucasian and Hispanic, African-American and Asian, poor and rich will come together to sing praises to our Savior…don’t you want a glimpse of that on Sunday morning?

 

Perhaps This All Sounds Crazy or Pathetic or Ridiculous, But That’s Okay

Recently I came across a random blog post written by a total stranger who took my feelings and elegantly put words to them. Reading her article What They Don’t Tell You About Mission Trips brought both exuberant joy and profuse grief. It details her transition back to the United States after spending 6 weeks in a village in Zambia, Africa and explains some hard truths, often unmentioned, about how challenging it really is.

At the end of my six weeks in Ethiopia, people cautioned me that our transition back to the States and the American lifestyle would be challenging; we went through four days of debriefing in a modernized city where we had to do things like go to the movies, walk around an overwhelming and overcrowded American style mall (yes, they do have those in Africa), and eat food such as pizza – all in an effort to ease the transition. In those moments my heart ached to return to the town I had grown to love, to see the people who had become my friends and to eat the food that I could only get in Ethiopia.  Over those four days I was on an emotional roller coaster, experiencing just about every feeling there is to feel.

I was excited to see all of my family and friends. I looked forward to telling them about what I learned, to relay stories of how God had been powerfully at work, and to get caught up on all the things I missed while I was gone for six weeks – internship experiences, high school graduations, new jobs, fun vacations and the small things that occur on a daily basis that everyone thinks is not worth mentioning when you can only talk for a few minutes on the phone once a week, but that you secretly miss.

Yet at the same time, there was not, within me, this deep longing to return home. My heart didn’t ache waiting to be back in a familiar environment where I understood and could communicate with everyone around me, where I had daily hot showers, weeks worth of clothing and a wide variety of food…no, if anything it ached for what I would, all too soon, leave behind.

But I didn’t want to feel those things then, and I definitely didn’t want to feel them when I returned. Tomorrow marks a month since I’ve been home and I have spent each day trying desperately to have an easy transition, but all I’ve done is have a busy one. I came back and resumed two big projects I had left off on when I hopped on a plane yesterday ten weeks ago (it still feels like yesterday), I am in the process of starting a business, I’ve planned out the next school year so that I can graduate a year early, I’ve had many meals with old friends, new friends and family. I have worked some, slept a lot, read a book and travelled back and forth from my home to my school on several different occasions. I’ve designed a website, photographed a proposal, and watched two seasons of a TV show in a matter of days.

It has taken me a month to realize, but busy doesn’t mean easy. Sure, it allows you to stay focused on so many other things that you don’t have time to feel all the hard things, but in doing so, I am withholding myself from learning more about my Awesome God. If I don’t allow myself to be sad, I can’t experience God’s comfort and peace. If I ignore the memories and beautiful stories of redemption, I’m not allowing others to witness the power of Christ.

So here’s the raw, ugly, painful, beautiful, joyful, untold, ignored truth.

The first Sunday I returned to Church my heart broke. As we sang Here I am to Worship I couldn’t help but think that this wasn’t worship. 300 believers gathered together in a room and every single one of them “worshiped” the same way: politely standing with somber expression filled faces, carefully singing to God. I closed my eyes in an effort to block out everyone else, but my mind quickly flooded with the memories of my first Ethiopian worship experience. I was crowded in a dimly lit, bare room with hundreds of university students. Some had seats, others lined the walls, the back, the front, and even outside despite the gentle rain. The keyboard was loud and the African drum rang out as each one of those students met with God. They jumped up and down as the joy inside them, over who Christ was and what He had done, overflowed and escaped. They clapped their hands on beat, off beat or to their own beat – often too unaware of what the beat actually was because they were too focused on thanking God. As I was taking it all in, I’ll never forget the moment when I looked over and saw one of my Ethiopian friends get on his knees, lift his hands up and bow before His Savior in humble, genuine, all-encompassing gratitude. In those moments my mouth could not praise God with them because I couldn’t understand the songs, but it didn’t need to because my Spirit was praising Jesus in a way I cannot fully and adequately explain.
Sitting in a cushioned chair in my church at home, I tried desperately to follow along with the message. I took two pages of notes, but left feeling emptier than when I had arrived. All I could think about was how, a few weeks prior, I would sit for a few hours and listen to a pastor I couldn’t understand, yet still leave having not only met with God but learned something from Him.
A few days later I found myself on the shampoo isle at Target, and twenty minutes later I had still not picked out some silly shampoo. Normally it takes two seconds, half a glance and not even a thought to grab some and go, but all of a sudden I found myself overwhelmed with all of the choices. There were too many different smells, colors and types of shampoo and eventually, like a six year old, I had to ask my mom which one I should get. She suggested one, I grabbed it and half walking, half running, left the store, only to discover when I got home that I had actually gotten two bottles of conditioner and no shampoo. Seriously?

Every time I see a little African American boy I think it’s Alazar – our four year old friend who had no shoes, no parents and no place to live. I think of holding him in my arms and twirling him around as he threw back his head and laughed, I can still hear the joy in his precious little giggle. I remember how his little hand felt in mine as we walked down the street, how his eyes lit up every time he saw us and how his happiness was contagious, because even though he didn’t have a loving family to offer him a safe house and food, even though he wasn’t in school, even though his only pair of pants were filled with holes, even though he had absolutely no idea where he would be in one year or five years or twenty, despite all that he still beamed with joy, his smile radiated with happiness.
I find myself going to the grocery store or Goodwill or to a friends house, and half the time I can’t remember how to get there, despite living here for 16 years, because I got accustomed to walking everywhere or taking a bajaj (a cute little three wheeled taxi), but either way we always had someone with us who knew where we were going and how to get there. The other half of the time I’m tempted to roll right through stop lights or stop signs (I may or may not have on one or two occasions) because there was only one stop light in Bahir Dar and people didn’t abide by it. And there still remains that knee-jerk reaction to honk my horn whenever someone cuts me off or sits a little too long at the green light because, well, every driver in Ethiopia thought that honking the horn would make traffic disappear, that it would make it okay to cut someone off or that the goats would cross the road quicker when they heard the beeping, annoying blare. (It didn’t).

Every time I sit in my bed or on the couch with my bible and a notebook there is a small part inside me that desires the little courtyard, some hot tea and the sounds of a cow mooing and children playing soccer in the background that permeated my quiet time each morning in Bahir Dar.

I am constantly craving beyanitu – my favorite Ethiopian dish, and the Coke never tastes as good here as it did there.

I have cried myself to sleep plenty of nights. I have cried at random times for no apparent reason during the day. And I have felt the need to cry way more than I’d like to mention. I even cried some while writing this, because, whether I like it or not, with each joyful memory comes a little bit of sadness that now, it’s just that, a memory, something of the past.

BUT….
God.

Ultimately through the last ten weeks, I have learned that the only thing that can satisfy that deep longing within my heart is Christ. A place won’t fulfill it, a person won’t satisfy it…only God can.
I have discovered that the exact same God that was with me day in and day out in Ethiopia is with me in South Carolina. True, since I’ve been back I haven’t had to rely on Him to help me answer a seemingly impossible question about suffering or faith or the book of Revelations, but I have found myself in situations where I desperately need Jesus’ strength to get up the next morning and He has always proved faithful. When I’ve been sad, He’s allowed me to find joy in Him. When I’ve been heartbroken, He’s brought healing. When I’ve been anxious, He’s given me His peace that truly does surpass my understanding.
The same God who brought me to Ethiopia brought me back to America. He has not forsaken me. He has not forgotten me.

Perhaps this all sounds crazy or pathetic or ridiculous. Perhaps I’m being too emotional or too dramatic. That’s okay. I am learning that the more transparent we are, the more glorified God is. Through all of this I see how broken I am, how silly I am and how much of a mess I am, and I hope you do too.

But, I also know that God knows all of that, He knows me fully and completely, He knows all of my mistakes – past, present and future – and He still loves me wholly. He still sent His Son to die for me.

It is easier to love someone that’s good, that has it all together. It is much harder to love someone who is broken and falling apart. When I’m transparent about how silly, pathetic, emotional and broken I really am, then I hope you might understand a bit more of how much of a sacrifice it was for Jesus to die to for me.

Africa will always hold a special place in my heart, but Christ has used it to show me that I am not called to Africa. I am called to worship Jesus and love His people…wherever I am.
What does that look like? Well, it’s being patient and kind, it’s not being envious or boastful or prideful. It means not dishonoring others and not being self-seeking, not being easily angered and not keeping a record of all the wrong doings that happen to me, or someone I love or even the ones that I do. It means not delighting in evil, but rather rejoicing in truth. It is protecting, trusting, hoping and persevering. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

God has called me higher than a specific village, country, or even continent. He has called me deeper than a certain place, and He is calling you.

If, at the end of the day, all we can say is that we loved God and loved people, it is enough.

Africa Showed Me How Poor I Really Am

When I left America I was very aware that 5,000 people die each day because they lack clean water. I knew countless women die each year because they lack proper pre-natal care. I knew girls can’t attend school because they spend too much time collecting water from ponds miles and miles away. I knew women are raped because they don’t have a safe place to go to the bathroom. I knew men often come home to their families empty handed because they can’t find work and, as a result, can’t buy food. I knew much of Africa lacks electricity. I knew human slavery still exists.

And because of all this, I thought I was blessed. 

I have clean water and it’s only a few steps away. I have access to thousands of doctors for any sickness I can think of. I go to school. I have a bathroom with a lock on the door in my big house with more locks. I have food on the counter, in my fridge and in the pantry. Every room in my house can be lit whenever I want, except during the occasional thunderstorm. And the only thing I’m forced to do are things my parents ask, such as picking up my shoes and taking my elbows off the table while we eat. I left America fully aware of everything I had that others lacked, and I thought these things made me blessed.

I arrived in Africa and things were much like I had heard – trash lined the streets, parasites lined the water and kids did not line the schools. Poverty was redefined. People still suffered from leprosy, homelessness was magnified, the same hole filled clothes worn every day.

Yet the more I saw this, the more I understood how poor I was. 

You see, despite the poverty, I met some of the most joyful people in those dirty side streets that I have ever met in my life. The kids with torn clothes also have bright eyes and happy smiles. Students skip class to share the Gospel. People are late to meetings to strengthen relationships with old friends, family members or a random stranger over coffee. People with little give anyway. They have community. They remember your name. They lay down their cultural differences and beliefs to laugh with you. They do what they say. They’re passionate – oh gosh are they passionate. They pray for hours. They dance, jump around, and bow on their knees while singing praises to Jesus. They know their neighbors. They willingly sacrifice themselves, their time and their often few possessions for their communities.

The longer I was there, the more I realized… I am poor. We are poor. 

We have poor attitudes without cause, we are poor witnesses. We have poor relationships and we act poor when it is time to give. We have a poor understanding of what it means to do what we say. We have a poor understanding of what it means to be blessed.

Thankfully, Jesus gives us a very clear picture of what “blessed” really means. Matthew 5:3-11 says,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

We are not blessed because of the things we have. Not only is that materialistic, it’s also very conceited. By believing I was blessed based on all the things I had that others didn’t, I’m essentially saying that I am blessed because of me. It becomes all about me, all about what I have.

Jesus shows us in Matthew 5 that we are blessed because of God. We are blessed because of what God has done for us, is doing for us and will continue to do for us. We are blessed because He will comfort us, because He will give us the earth, because He will fill us with righteousness, because He will show us mercy, because He will reveal Himself to us, because He will call us children, because He will give us the Kingdom of Heaven, and because of Jesus.

It is all about Jesus. It isn’t about us. It isn’t about me.

I will make Your faithfulness known…

“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” -Psalm 89:1

Currently my brain is waging war with my heart – my brain is reminding me of the 3 tests on Monday that I need to study for, the big presentation tomorrow that I need to finish preparing for, the $5,000 I need to raise for my mission trip for Africa and a plethora of other things I have to get done.
But my heart urges me to take a moment, slow down, brag on my God and offer encouragement…guess which one won? (Although my brain still hasn’t given up the fight!)

I started this morning off singing what was all too true: “Lord, I’m tired, so tired from traveling, this straight and narrow is so much harder than I thought” (Keep Running, Matt Papa). My body ached from the cold I’ve had this week, and I was overwhelmed with my large and ever-growing to-do list. I was anxious and exhausted and just wanted to crawl in bed for a few days and not care about school or my city or people.

But God sang right back to me through the chorus of the same song: “Keep running, keep running, don’t lose heart, don’t you give up now” and I told him okay, I would keep going, but that I would need encouragement if I were to succeed; yet in the back of my mind I doubted it would come, I doubted He would provide the comfort and words I desperately needed to hear.

Looking back on it now, I should have told Him that I needed him, not encouragement, just Him. That’s biblical and good, and while I’m ashamed to admit it, that’s not what I said. Instead of asking for my Savior’s help, for the Creator of the Universe, for the God of comfort and peace, instead of asking for the one thing I really need, I asked for encouragement. While encouragement wasn’t a bad thing to ask for, it definitely wasn’t the Best thing to ask for.

But even though I put myself and my desires over Jesus, He still faithfully scooped me up into His arms. 

Man, did God provide encouragement! He provided it through music, professors, friends, family and complete strangers. And every time I turned around today, God was already there handing me more of it.

Even more so, He gently showed me that I didn’t need encouragement nearly as much as I needed him. He reminded me of his faithfulness and love and care.
And he once again showed me that He is the loving Father, wanting to give out good gifts to His children if they would just ask.

As exams quickly approach and we all are even busier than normal, I challenge you to rely on God for everything. So many different people offered me encouragement today and now I want to offer you some. But even more, I challenge you to need Jesus and to admit you need Jesus.

So to all my tired and energized, busy and bored, overwhelmed and anxious, happy and confused, prepared and unprepared friends, take heart,

God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, 
abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)

Interruptions are Beautiful

During this wonderful, chaotic time of year as students pull all nighters attempting to learn a semester’s worth of material for one big test, as people rush around to several stores to find the perfect gifts for their kids, and friends, and family and each other, and…well you get the point. During this time of year when our already busy lives become crammed, our stress levels increase and our to-do lists only lengthen, the last thing we want is an interruption; something to mess up our flow, our shopping, our already packed day. 
In general, I don’t like interruptions. I don’t like it when people suddenly cut me off to interject their opinion, I don’t like it when something comes up that ruins the plans I had made, I don’t like it when my dog interrupts my sleep by barking, or when my parents interrupt what I’m doing to ask me to do something else. I try my best to roll with things, and sometimes I succeed and other times I fall flat on my face. But during this stressful time of year especially, it’s even tougher to go along with interruptions and I find my tolerance for them close to zero. 
However, over the past few weeks I’ve learned that interruptions don’t have to be bad. 
This past weekend my youth group put on a free photo event. We set up shop and invited families to come have their picture taken; we then edited the pictures, printed them and framed them for free. But the event didn’t just happen; we had one interruption after another. When we first decided to do the free photo event, we only had about a month and half to plan it. Originally, I had a location in mind: a friend’s store with open space in the back that she had already offered up. However, the first interruption came when, after actually seeing the store, it was entirely too small. That interruption put us in touch with two more very resourceful people who were able to help and offer up several wonderful ideas, and we finally nailed down a location (two weeks before the event!). The interruption set planning back, but as a result we met four new people all trying to positively impact our community and it reminded me that God provides. 
Our second interruption came when two Wal-marts, Chick-fil-a, Publix and Starbucks couldn’t help sponsor our event by donating food and drinks and our third interruption came when we were only able to raise half the money we were hoping to. I had planned on having food, on actually being able to offer a meal, and yet these two things interrupted my plans.
But in the end we were able to offer pastries, cookies, lemonade, water and hot chocolate and still have money left over. Those interruptions reminded me that God always provides, even if it’s not always how I expect.
The fourth interruption was a lack of volunteers. We had planned to have three photographers and enough jobs for at least 15 different people (10 at the very least), but we could only come up with two photographers and ten volunteers. The morning of the event, one of the volunteers couldn’t come, but another volunteer brought a friend. Also, one photographer originally had to leave half way through the event, but because the rain interrupted his plans, he was able to stay for the entire thing (we couldn’t have done it without him!)
Once again, the interruptions reminded me that God always provides, even if it’s not how I might expect. 

In the end, we were able to give free family photos to over 30 families who couldn’t otherwise afford it. We offered food, a craft for the little people while they waited, and a fun filled morning. Overall, the event was a huge success. God showed up.

This past weekend showed me that not only are interruptions beautiful, but they are also divine
You see, what we often think of as an interruption can actually be God redirecting us to something better. 

God interrupted Mary’s and Joseph’s lives when He sent us Jesus. Jesus interrupted the lives of the twelve disciples when He told them to drop what they were doing and follow him. And God interrupted my life, my future and my eternity when He called me to be his daughter. 

I’m so thankful for all the times the free photo event was interrupted; I’m thankful for all the lives – Mary and Joseph’s, Paul’s and Peter’s and Noah’s and Rahab’s and John’s and Moses’ and mine – that were interrupted.
I’m thankful that God is a God of interruptions. I’m thankful that God cares enough about me to interrupt my day, my plans, and my life to offer me something better.

As this season brings added worry and stress to your lives, I challenge you not to lose your patience when the next interruption comes along, but rather let it be a reminder of our caring, loving, providing, greatest interruption of them all, Savior.

Let it be remembered that interruptions are beautiful.

Let it be remembered that Christmas itself was God interrupting the rules and laws and religiousness to offer us something better: a relationship. Hope. A King. Peace. A friend. Jesus.


Why feeding the poor and dressing modestly isn’t always right

I belong to Jesus. You belong to Jesus. We’ve heard it in Sunday school, at Church, at youth retreats and Christian camps. We read about it in the Bible, in Christian books and pastor’s blogs. We even sing it in songs and wear it on t-shirts. But do we really believe it?

The truth is, we profess it and we like the way it sounds, but often times when it comes down to it, we don’t act like it. 

When you love somebody, be it a family member, a best friend or a significant other, you want to do what pleases them. I hear and read about countless stories exemplifying this, and at some point or another, I am one of those stories.

As kids, we want to please our parents. We want to do what they want: go to church with them, get good grades, hang out with good influences and volunteer at a local charity to help the poor.

As teenagers, we want to please our friends. We want to go to the school they go to, like the people they think we’re suited for, and have weekend plans that include them.

As girlfriends, we want to please our boyfriends. We don’t wear things that are too revealing because of them, we go to Church because that’s important to them, and we limit how far we go physically because they value purity.

As boyfriends, we want to please our girlfriends. We don’t do things we might otherwise do with the guys, we spend less time playing x-box or playstation for their sake, we try and play with little kids because we know how much that makes her smile, and we limit how far we go physically because they value purity.

But, after spending time in God’s Word, I can’t help but think that all of the above are wrong. Completely and totally wrong.  1 Corinthians 10:31 says,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AP)”> 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AQ)”> whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AR)”>— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way.<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AS)”> For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AT)”> so that they may be saved.”

Based on that, what we do should be driven by two things: our desire to see Christ’s Name glorified and our desire to see God’s Kingdom furthered.  As girls – single, dating or married – what we wear should not solely be based on the idea that we want to please the guys in our life and that we don’t want them to sin. Notice in verse 32, Paul says we should try to please everyone. However, try is the key word. We won’t always succeed. Regardless of what we wear, they are going to sin at some point or another. They’re humans and as humans, we have a sinful nature. What happens then, when they sin and we were completely modest? Did we fail? Well, if our only motivation for dressing modestly was so that the men in our life don’t sin, then when they do sin, we do fail. It becomes a reminder that we’re messed up people and that we can never be perfect. So why should we even bother?

But, before Paul says to try to please others, He says we should try to please and glorify God. If our motivation for dressing modestly comes from our desire to glorify God and to help the men in our life glorify God, then even when we’re fully clothed and they sin, we haven’t failed. It’s a reminder of how desperately we need Jesus, and while we’ll never attain perfection, God looks at us and sees perfection, because His Son took our place, our sin, on the cross.

Secondly, what we do should be driven by our desire to see God’s Kingdom furthered. I believe that in God’s eyes, doing the right thing for the wrong reason is just like doing the wrong thing. (See Matthew 6:1-4) So, volunteering to please our parents or playing with little ones to please our girlfriends is the same as not doing either. Matthew 6:1-4 shows us that doing good to please others doesn’t make God smile – in fact, He won’t even reward us. Instead, going back to 1 Corinthians 10:33, we should do what we do because we want to see others saved. We should volunteer because we want others to see God’s love in action, and we should play with little kids because little kids are important to Jesus (Matthew 19:13-14).

We do belong to Jesus, and when you love somebody, you want to do what pleases them. We should do things not because they please our parents or our friends, but because they please Jesus. After all, what parent, friend, or significant other gave up their life and left Perfection for you? You’re bought with a very high price, one you can’t re-pay. I often struggle with the desire to please others. It’s a good feeling to know you’re doing something right in their eyes. But after dwelling on this, my only goal should be to please Jesus…the rest will take care of itself.

I’m so thankful Jesus didn’t worry about pleasing his earthly parents, his friends or society. Had he, I’d be destined for eternal separation from Him. But just as everything He did was to please God, I too want to follow in His footsteps and strive to please my God; won’t you join me?