Monday, February 28, 2011

I'll Cherish These Forever

"This is my command-Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

Jeff, this one is going to be dedicated to you. This way you'll quit bugging me about it. :P In honor of the year-ish that we have gotten to know each other, I'm going to write about the adventures we've had. 

There are those people in your life, that you wonder how you lived before you met them. There are people that God put in our lives, so that we could be inspired to be the best person we can be everyday. So, Jeff here's to you.

I've met a lot of those people in my life, and I'm grateful for every second that I've been able to spend with them, and they are people that I'll never forget. 

If I could, I'd talk about all the people that have changed my life. But, I'm pretty sure you'd be here reading this for a number of hours. So, since Jeff is leaving to go start his new life with his AMAZING FiancĂ©e Melody, I'll just talk about the impact and change that he's made on my life. 

Last Summer, Ashleigh and I had many, MANY conversations on the topic of religion, because up until then, God wasn't in my life. But, Instead of telling me how screwed up I'd be without God in my life, she invited me to their Church Lock-In. It would be centered on God, but I wouldn't feel the pressure of an actual Church environment. I decided to go. I can't even begin to tell you how glad I am that I went. It's where I met Jeff, and in the beginning, I think I weirded him out. :)

We had a great time bowling, and I even managed to beat him. I don't think that he was very happy about it though. We went back to the church and we had pizza, watched a movie, played sardines, and then we had a devotional. 

When Jeff said that we were going to have a devotional, I froze. I knew nothing about the bible, and nothing about Jesus. I've never had a problem being the smart one in a class, but sitting in that pew listen to all of them talk I felt extremely out of place. I had no idea what they were talking about, and I couldn't keep the conversation straight. I became lost in this...'fog' if you will about how much I actually needed to know this stuff. It was from that point that I knew I needed Christ in my life. 

Even with everything that I went through as a kid, no one told me that there was a savior out there who wanted to take all my pain, and keep me from collapsing from the weight of everything that I had to carry. No one told me that there was a God who loved me so much that he would send his son to die on the cross, just so I could spend eternity with him up in heaven.

That lock-in changed my life. I know that God was working up there that day. I've met many great, amazing people, and they are people that I hold very near and dear to my heart. Jeff, you're one of those people. 

We've had our own set of adventures, ranging from the Scary Mold in your fridge, the hole in the wall, the pie in my face, and who could forget Rake 'n' Run? And who could possibly forget Fernando, Statewide, and CIY? Those are memories that I won't forget, and I've come to grow quite attached to you. I'm really going to miss you.

Life will move on, with or without us. We can try and fight it as hard as we can, but in the end life wins. I'm so blessed to have been able to met Jeff, and Melody and I know that I will miss them as much as they miss me, but I know that they are just starting a new chapter in their own lives. 

So, as sad as I am, I'm so thrilled that they get to start another chapter in their lives, but together as a married couple. I know that I'll see them soon enough, and they just won't disappear on me. 

God put them in my life for a reason, and getting to know Jeff, I can't help but feel blessed at the opportunity to see him begin this new chapter of his life, with an amazing person as his soon-to-be wife.
I, personally, can't wait to see what God has planned for their lives. 

So, Jeff here's to you. And all the crazy things that we've done, and to the memories that will never fade. I'll miss you greatly, but I know that you'll make an impact on the people that you meet down there, and I know you'll have plenty of adventures living this new chapter in your life. I'm really going to miss you, and thanks for all the great memories, I'll cherish them forever.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

You Create It Into Beauty Once Again

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)

How often do we speak before thinking of the consequences of our words? We’ve all had negative, offensive words spoken about us at some time that we’ve never forgotten. We may forgive, but it’s nearly impossible to forget. 

I've come to know just how true that is. From the time I started going to school, I had a hard time fitting in. I got picked on a lot because I was different than everyone else. Everyday I was tormented by my peers. They all picked on me, and took every insecurity that I had and tore it to pieces. I didn't talk to anyone in class, and I never participated in class. I lost myself in book after book. I became extremely withdrawn from everyone around me. That didn't stop them from picking on me. When I walked home from school, I'd get attacked because they were waiting for me. When I was younger, I switched schools a lot. There was a lot of crap going on in my family, so we were bounced from school to school. Even at schools that I was new to, I'd get picked on. No matter where I went, I could never fit in. I felt so alone growing up with the abuse at home, and the torment that I faced at school. It felt like I couldn't escape to a safe place.

I learned very quickly that the phrase "Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." was a lie. Words hurt. Personally, words hurt more than any physical abuse I could be put through. But, why do words hurt so much? They hurt because, when someone says something negative to you, it hits right at your insecurities, and it's like someone took an emotional knife and stabbed you. Words pierce our minds and hearts, they leave scars that take a long time to heal, even longer than physical scars. 

Words are filled with power. I don't believe that any of us are truly aware how much power are contained in words we say recklessly, off-handedly. But the truth is, the hurt is real, and the pain cuts deep when we are careless with our words. It seems that when we are hurt we reserve the right to take the gloves off and wound in return. But that's not what as Christians, God calls us to do. 

God calls us to be responsible with our words, and build the people around us up with our words, not tear them down. We are people created in the image of God. He took special care into making us the people we are today. We are made just the way he wants us to be. Something to keep in mind is this: Reckless words can tear the ones we love into pieces. Words that build up and are kind, gentle, patient, and loving create peace. Before you speak, think of the life you want to live. 

What kind of life do you want to live? Do you want to live a life of Peace, or Pieces?

There are days where I let my insecurities get the best of me, and I feel like I'm back in middle school. The days where anything and everything is getting me down. The days that all I hear is that I'm not worth anything, and that I'll never make something of my life. On those days, I just want to give into it all and break down. But then I remember, there's a God up there who loves me. And then I remember that HE thinks the world of me. On those days, when I'm sitting in my room fighting back tears, There's something that I try to remember. God made me in his image, and when people try and tear me down, I remember that I mean the world to Him, and to him I am beauty beyond compare. 

I find comfort in a saying that I read somewhere. I can't remember where I heard it, or who it is by...but it is something that has stuck with me ever since. It says "Man looks at our outward appearances, and judges us, seeking out our flaws. But God, God looks at our hearts and loves us despite our flaws." 

I hope you also find encouragement in those words. When the world seems to get you down, just remember this; God loves us. It's okay to feel hurt, but you should never forget to see your incredible value to God. He's there for us when we are hurting, and he will provide us with everything that we need, and he will carry us when we are hurting. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

All It Takes Is A Little Faith

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

When I had decided that I would start doing this devotional everyday, I really struggled with starting it. I was afraid that people would read it and they would critique me because I was completely missing the point of what I was writing. Sometimes I have doubts because I’m so young in my faith, that I completely miss the point of what is being said. It’s only been about three days since I started this, but the initial feedback is all positive and supportive. This fills me with happiness, because that means I’m actually doing a good job at this.

So, as I’m flipping through the concordance in my bible looking for a new topic to write on, I saw the word ‘Faith.’ Intrigued I started to look up all the verses and thinking about how I could write on Faith. There’s an interesting characteristic of my bible. It’s a teen devotional bible, and it highlights verses and gives little devos on the verses, and how it can be applied to the problems that teenagers face. It’s actually been a great help while writing this. It gives me some insight on the verse that I probably would have missed otherwise. I just wanted to acknowledge that, because it really helped me in writing this one.

Going back to my favorite personal assistant, my Webster’s Standard Dictionary, I looked up the meaning of the word Faith. Faith: unfailing trust, belief with out firm proof, fidelity. Faith; Unfailing trust, there probably isn’t a better definition for that. It’s not really a surprise when you stop and think about it. God will always be there for us, the times that we’re hurting, and the times that we heal. God promises to never forsake us, and his love for us will never end.

To me, that’s the best promise in the bible. God will always be there for us. He’ll be there for us when our lives get rough, and he’ll be there when life is clear water, and a gentle breeze. But, get this, an all powerful, ever-present God, the creator of the Universe only asks one thing. Faithfulness, that’s it. Every single time, it never ceases to amaze me.

God promises us peace, and he only asks us to be faithful to him. The peace he promises isn’t the ‘everything in my life from here on out will always be perfect, and I’ll never be sad, or upset ever again’ kind of peace. The peace that God gives us is the confidence and security that everything that happens to us in this life will be used as an opportunity to get closer to him. The peace that God promises us is the courage to reflect him in everything that we do; knowing that whatever comes of it will be used to further his kingdom.

It’s still something that continues to amaze me how a glorious and perfect God could give us so much, and continually bless our lives, and ask so little in return. God wants to see our lives filled with joy, our bodies healthy, and our faith grow stronger and deeper. When we are going through rough times, we need to turn to God and let him turn a hardship into a blessing. There’s such satisfaction in giving all of our struggles and burdens over to God, and watch him turn our lives around in such a way to further his kingdom.
God can do so much with our lives; everyone has the potential to be someone who does amazing things in their life, and furthering God’s kingdom. We just have to have faith, and trust that God knows what he wants to do with our lives, and how he wants us to get there to do them.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Will My Heart Feel?

In Acts 15:22 it says: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”.
This one verse contains a truth that most of us don’t really want to ponder. The average person doesn't sit there and think "Hey, I wonder what kind of pain I'll be put through today."  For the most part, the things we struggle the most with are the pains that come upon us unexpectedly. We're not prepared for the sudden dose of reality that life sends our way. 
When life does hit us however, we often forget that we have the best team in the entire universe. Why? Because we have God on our team, and you know he always wins. God will never give us more than we can handle. 
When we have to endure and fight through our momentary struggles, we will be granted a reward that will last for all eternity.  We are in a very real battle on this earth as the enemy of our soul seeks to rob us of our joy and darken the hope that we have in Christ.  He is unrelenting in his attack, but we also must be unrelenting  and unwavering in our faith as we stand on truth as conquerors in the army of the living God.  We cannot be defeated for our victory was paid by the royal blood of Christ on the cross. 
 But the fact is that if we have put our trust in the finished work of the Christ and have made him our Lord and Savior, we will go through trials and testing as our faith is proved genuine.   Paul tells us in Romans 8:17 that we are co-heirs with Christ  “if indeed we share in his sufferings that we may also share in his glory”.
Just because we go through trials, hardships, and pain here in this life, doesn't mean that it won't be worth it when we stand before him. This is told everywhere in the bible. My favorite one is this: "If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name." 1 Peter 4: 14-16 How will it feel to stand before him, and hear him say "Job Well Done, Faithful Servant." Everyday, I try to live my life in such a way that when I stand before him, he'll be proud of the life I've lived in this life. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Make Me Salt, Make Me Light, Let Your Holy Fire Ignite

“And he said to them. ‘Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket, Or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lamp stand? For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.’ ” Mark 4:21-22

Often times, we are called the light of the world. We are the ones responsible to spread his glory to all of those who don’t know it. And we are here to remind others that do know his word, that we are the ones to hold each other responsible to his plans. I know too many people who go to church just to make it look like they feel the full glory of God. Once they get home though, the bible goes in a dresser drawer, their Sunday best comes off, and they go back to living their lives according to what they think is right. Completely forgetting what they were told that day in church, it becomes placed on the back burner until the next time they need to pull it forward to impress someone. They don’t take the word to their hearts, and go on living their life completely unaware what they are doing is only fooling themselves. I often wonder how they’ll look standing before him as he’s going through their life. Will he be angry? Will he be hurt? I know I would be hurt, because pretending to be something your not is far worse than admitting to yourself that the life you live is a lie.

There are so many Christians out there that feel like they don’t need to spread God’s love, grace, and hope to the lives of people who need it the most. Why? Because someone else will take care of it. But there comes a time, where we need to be that someone. We often pray for things that we need God’s help with. Examples that come to mind are things such as; strength, wisdom, patience, compassion, and guidance. God could just bestow all of these things on us, but would we truly grasp the lesson behind them? You pray to God for strength, so he gives you opportunities to be strong. You pray to God for wisdom, God will give you the chance to be wise. You pray to God for patience, God gives you an opportunity to increase your patience. You pray to God for compassion? God gives you situations to show compassion to people who need it most. You pray to God for guidance, God will show you where he wants you to go in life.

Do you see the pattern here? God doesn’t just GIVE these things to you, Because if he did, it would be like a person who is struggling pay check to pay check, winning 13 million dollars from the lottery. Things become lost from perspective when that happens. God wants to help us reflect as much of him to the world as we can, but he doesn’t want us to forget why they are important in the first place. So, instead of just handing us everything that we want, God wants us to remember that he should be the center of our lives, and all of our values should reflect him. Core values are not important unless they reflect God’s values.

Our values come from the lessons that we learn in our time here on Earth. There are so many lessons we learn in life. Some we learn through unfortunate circumstances in our own lives and those lessons are the ones we tend not to forget. There are also lessons we learn from the pain and hardships of another’s life. We learn that the stove is hot and not to touch it by watching our older brother touch the stove and burn his hand. Lessons we learn through watching the other people around us are lessons that we try hard not to forget, less we end up making the same mistake in our own lives. Even though we make mistakes, there is a God up in heaven who is willing to forgive our deepest sins because he loves us so dearly. He loves us so much, he sent his one and only son, the perfect one, the one who shouldn’t have to carry the weight of others, came down here to Earth, to die on a cross, so that we will never have to forget who loves us the most.  Even when it feels like there is  no one down here on Earth that cares for us, we are comforted by the fact there is a God who loves us so much, and is willing to look past our flaws, our imperfections, our sins, just to tell us how much he loves us.

There is so much more that could be said about his love for us, but I’m afraid that would take me farther away from my original topic. While writing this, I happened to hear the song “The Motions” by Matthew West. One of my favorite lyrics from this song is “I don’t want to go through the motions; I don’t want to live one more day, with out your all consuming passion inside of me. I don’t want to spend my whole life asking “What if I had given everything, instead going through the motions? This song hits a spot in my heart that I try to fulfill everyday. I don’t want to have any regrets, knowing that I could be a better person than I was. I try to be the best person I can be every single day.

I don’t want to be a person who when I get looked at have people wonder if my faith is genuine or if I’m just a pew warmer, here because it will look good when people see my life, and what I’ve done with it. I want people to see me and say ‘yep, she’s filled with God’s love for the least of us.’ I want to change the world, but I want to do something that will make a lasting impact on the lives of people, and their families. I want to stand before him, and hear him say ‘Well done, faithful servant.’ I want to be filled with the peace of knowing that I have done everything in my power to make life on earth as great as possible for people who are hurting.

People often say that I have a big heart, but I like to think that I’ve just lived a lot of life in the 17 years that I’ve been here thus far. I know that there are people who have been through the pain that I have had to go through, who shut down, and lock out the entire world. They want to have all their pain to themselves. They don’t realize how selfish that is though. God gave us pain so that we may know happiness. God gave us tears, so that we realize how beautiful our smiles are. There’s darkness in the world to give us a better appreciation for the light.

No one said that life is easy. In fact, that’s the farthest from the truth. Let’s face the truth, in life, no one has ever made it out alive. Our lives will be tough, we will be faced with uncertain times, pain, grief, despair, and we might even question our own faith at times. But if we hand everything over to God, and let him carry us through our rough times, we just might make it out ok.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Encourage One Another

I was reading a magazine when I came across this article. I didn't write this, but I did take the time to type it all out and post it here for you to see. This article was actually written by a man named Dr. Tim Woodroof, and I really liked the message of it, I do hope you enjoy it. :)

A Message of Encouragement.
In 1957, a scientist named Curt Richter conducted a series of experiments with rats on the subject of persistence. How much stamina do rats have? How long will they keep going? What help or hinders their ability to persist?

He devised an experiment that could not be done today. He filled a tank with water. The sides of the container were too steep for the rats to climb out. The water was too deep for the rats to stand.  The tank forced the rats to swim, swim, swim.

Here’s how the experiment went. Place a rat in the water and start a stopwatch. Watch the rat carefully as it swims around the tank. Observe how long it takes for the rat to reach exhaustion. When the rat gives up, sinks to the bottom of the tank, and drowns, click your stopwatch and note how much time has elapsed.

Guess how long the average rat kept swimming? On average, 15 minutes.

At this point, Carl Richter threw in a wrinkle. He put rats in the  tank, let them swim to the point of exhaustion, and just as they gave up and began to sink he picked the rats up, dried them off, and let them rest and get warm.

Then, back to into the tank and start the stopwatch.

Now, how long do you think the rats swam? At 24 hours, they had to take the rats out of the tank. One rat swam for more than 72 hours before finally being rescued.

A Picture of Encouragement?
I’m not sure what to make of this experiment or how to explain this remarkable change of behavior. Do rats feel hope? Having been rescued once, do they keep swimming in expectation of another rescue?

Whatever this means about rats, I see in the results of this experiment a picture of the power of encouragement for human beings.

You are swimming along in life, cold and tired. You reach the point of exhaustion. You’re ready to give up. You start to sink. And then someone reaches in and lifts you up, warms you, strokes you, and lets you rest.

Nothing has actually changed about your life-the water is still there, more hard swimming lies ahead, the hard work continues.

But something has changed about YOU. You find fresh energy. You face the future with fresh enthusiasm. You feel like you can swim forever.

No Pain, No Gain. Really?
According to the wisdom of the world, people only change as the result of pain. They must be coerced into changing-corrected, critiqued, compelled, censured, condemned. Undesirable behaviors should be punished, penalized, reprimanded. The best tools for changing people (in the world’s view) are disapproval, fault-finding, and criticism.

How at odds this is with the gospel. According to Jesus, real change happens in the lives of people only when they are loved immoderately, forgiven excessively, shown grace and mercy constantly, granted second chances freely, and encouraged, and encouraged, and encouraged, and encouraged.

Many Christians want the changes promised by the gospel but use of the means offered by the world. They are far more comfortable with the critical remark than the encouraging word. They try to prompt change with sledgehammers. They believe that harsh words, strict judgment, and unsparing truth are more likely to result in godly changes than patience, trust, and forgiveness.

They are stuck in Deuteronomy. They have not grasped the essential dynamic of Calvary. And they are allowing people in their families, their churches, and their jobs to swim to the point of exhaustion-to despair, give up, and sink slowly into the “slough of despond.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. Christians can pursue a different course. It begins with a commitment to encouragement. Trust that what people need most is a warming word, not a warning word. Trust that lifting up people with your words and actions, offering them rest, giving them a pat on the back, speaking your confidence in them will do more to strengthen and hearten those around you, than all the well-meaning criticism and helpful corrections you could offer.

People, just like rats, need a reason to keep swimming. 
Be the person to give them one.