Monday, 23 December 2013

See Amid the Winter's Snow


See amid the winter’s snow,
Born for us on earth below,
See, the gentle Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Refrain:
Hail that ever blessèd morn,
Hail redemption’s happy dawn,
Sing through all Jerusalem:
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, within a manger lies
He Who built the starry skies;
He Who, thronèd in height sublime,
Sits amid the cherubim.

Say, you holy shepherds, say,
Tell your joyful news today.
Why have you now left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?

“As we watched at dead of night,
Lo, we saw a wondrous light;
Angels singing ‘Peace on earth’
Told us of the Savior’s birth.”

Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this.

Teach, O teach us, holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee,
In Thy sweet humility.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
     "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

     May God fill your hearts with joy this Christmas.



Sunday, 15 December 2013

Developing in the Dark

Do you know what happens to a roll of film when it is exposed to light? It's completely ruined. Once the light strikes it there is no going back.

Today I learned that faith, like film, develops in the dark.

81/365 Mar 22, 2011 by becca.peterson26
81/365 Mar 22, 2011, a photo by becca.peterson26 on Flickr.
I heard a message from Sue Gilmore, a woman of strong faith whom I greatly admire. She spoke on Luke 1:26-38, the Annunciation, the time an angel came down to a simple girl from Nazareth and told her the mind-blowing news that she had been chosen to give birth to the Messiah. 
...God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
"Troubled" is probably an understatement. If an angel greeted me right now I might just have a panic attack. No wonder Gabriel's next words were, "Do not be afraid." He announced to the girl that she would conceive and give birth to a boy named Jesus. "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end."

Naturally, Mary was curious as to how this was going to work. She was engaged but had never slept with a man, and was no doubt nervous about what this was going to look like.
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."
It's a well-known story, and I tend to glaze over whenever I hear it, but put yourself in that place with Mary today. How would you feel? Scared? Vulnerable? Confused? Anxious? The truth is that Mary was kept almost completely in the dark. She knew the basic facts: angel, favor, baby, Son of God. What she didn't know was the step-by-step guide to coping with an unplanned pregnancy in the kind of culture where sexual immorality could result in ostracization, or worse.

Something I had never realized about this passage until today is that this is what happens to every Christian. You won't be called on to give birth to baby Jesus, but you are called to give birth to the Spirit of Christ within you. The Holy Spirit comes to overshadow us, completely envelop us, and do what we are unable to do. This does not result in an easy life, but just the opposite. It throws us into the world's teeth, like lambs surrounded by a pack of wolves. Discipleship is a challenge, and a dangerous one.

But God knows what He is doing, and it's far more wonderful than we could ever imagine. He is the one who effects the miracle, but He waits for us to respond.
"I am the Lord’s servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled."
If God is keeping you in the dark, rest assured it's for a good reason. Your faith is putting on muscle right now; this is the place where you are meant to grow strong.

Today God is asking for our obedience. No matter your current situation, there is probably some area in your life that you hesitate to turn over to your Lord. I know there is in mine.

Will you choose to believe His promises and say "Yes" like Mary, allowing the Spirit to work in your life, or will you squelch Him and refuse to take the dangerous step of obedience?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Thanking the Lord for Shattered Dreams

There have been many times in my life when I’ve not gotten what I wanted. I’ve had many desires and longings, dreams and plans that just haven’t worked out the way I would have wished. I’d like to say I’m always trusting and full of faith that God knows what He’s doing when I’ve had those upsets and disappointments, but I can’t. However, when I lose my focus and my faith wanes, He remains faithful. Somehow, each and every time I haven’t gotten my way, I have been able to look back and say “thank you” as I see the goodness and mercy of the Lord sparing me from my own desires.

Psalm 27:14 by Sapphire Dream Photography
Psalm 27:14, a photo by Sapphire Dream Photography on Flickr.
Right after a major upset of one of my dreams, someone close to me told me, “I know you’ll look back at this and be so grateful that this didn’t work out the way you wanted. You’ll see God at work in your life sparing you from something you’d later regret. Even though it hurts now, I know you’ll be grateful for this.” At the time, I didn’t really like this comment at all. Why would I thank God for destroying my desires and dreams once again?

I can smile now as I look back. Life is hard. God is good. And I am so grateful He spared me from my desires and longings once again. It’s good to be alive and I have so much to be grateful for in my life. When I’ve been a complete mess at times, He has remained faithful. I’m testimony to His abundant, unmerited graciousness and love.

Yes, my life isn’t going the way I foresaw it, but that’s okay. I have so many opportunities, so many plans, so many new dreams. God is filling my life every day with new challenges and new ideas. He is so faithful.

In those times when I was at my darkest, when I was crying myself to sleep wondering where my life was headed, I begged God to give me joy and peace and a new dream. He has fulfilled that and filled my life with good things.

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. (Psalm 34:6, ESV)

I realize now that what I wanted so badly at the time was not at all what the Lord wanted for me at all. There were so many times when He was trying to gently grab my attention and show me the truth, but I stubbornly drove headlong to see my dream through. It took an unexpected jolt to make me see the light and even then, it took me awhile to admit the truth.

I can look back with regret on those times in my life when I stubbornly ignored God’s gentle promptings and instead strove to fulfill my desires. It’s easy to wallow in shame and regret, bitterness and remorse. However, if I confess my sins, He is faithful to forgive and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) He wipes my slate clean and gives me a new goal, new purpose, new desire.

Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:5, ESV)

Maybe one day I’ll learn to focus on the Giver of my dreams instead of the gift. Hopefully, I’ll learn to pursue Christ as I worship Him through the gifts and dreams He has given me. He’s spared me from myself and my own selfish desires once again and I can’t be more thrilled. I know my life would have been miserable if He would have granted me the desires of my heart. Thank you, Jesus for being faithful in my life yet again!

Because of Christ, I have new beginnings, a bright future, joy in my heart, and the promise of His help every day. May I purposefully live only to His glory and not ignore His gentle guiding Hand.


“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13-14, ESV)

 - This guest post was written by Melinda Ruth of MelindaBlogs.com, where you'll find her original scribbles, heartfelt praise, and hopeful dreams.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

For I know the Destiny I have for You

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm You are probably very familiar with this verse. It is quoted often to us in times when we don’t know what is coming next. I know that I have heard it many times. I have often flipped to Jeremiah 29 just to read that eleventh verse. However, when I read it I always imagine it differently.

In day to day life, we are always making plans. We have calendars, day planers, and electronic organizers to keep us to the plan. Yet, our plans often change or are changed for us. Things happen, meetings are cancelled, coworkers call in sick. In short, our plans not always what happens. So when I read Jeremiah 29:11, I like to put the word a different word in place of the word plans. God’s plans for us never change. They are not like our plans that have to constantly be adjusted. God’s plans were worked out before the foundation of the world. That is why I like to use the word destiny when referring to the plans God has for us.

Your destiny is not something that changes, no matter what you do. God’s destiny for each of us is something he mapped out for us before the world began (Ephesians 1:3-8). His Destiny for us is not changeable, and it is to give us hope and a future. Next time you fill worried or discouraged about what is coming next, read Jeremiah 29:11 and replace the word plans with the word destiny.
For I know the destiny I have for you,” declares the Lord, “a destiny to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. you, plans to give you hope and a future. 
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

--This guest post was written by Sarah Holman.
Sarah is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of three published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined. You can connect with her through her blog thedestinyofone.blogspot.com.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Confessions of a Failure

Do you feel safe talking about your mistakes? Is there someone you can go to who has your complete trust, and who doesn't mind knowing the worst about you?

As Christian homeschool girls, we have a lifestyle that separates us from many others. We have hiccoughs and hangups that other people just can't understand. But don't worry--we "get" you. You're in good company here.

There is power in being real and sharing our mistakes and the ways God has worked to change us. Just sifting through this blog's archives you'll find a lot of real-life issues and confessions: the truth about my idol, Jessica being forced to "adjust her sails," Rose's fear and depression, Mary Kate's struggles with getting up early, Sarah's doubts and questions about her faith. We all have our rough spots, our breakdowns, our failures, but if we stay quiet about them we'll never be able to help others through the same things. By keeping our failure to ourselves, we deny anyone else the benefit of learning from our mistakes. 

Believe it or not, God often uses the most broken part of a person to bring about the most good. The mother who aborted her child now campaigns for the right to life. The quadriplegic becomes a source of inspiration to millions. The lonely homeschool girl who never had any friends grows into a compassionate woman who constantly reaches out to others. It's happened many times before, and it can happen to you.

Even if you have always grown up in a Christian house and always considered yourself a pretty good girl, you've probably changed a lot over the years. God has smoothed sharp edges, healed wounds, and crafted you into something more beautiful, more like Jesus. I know that there are a few of those areas in my life, illuminated by a big, blinking neon sign that says "FAILURE."
  • Envy: I could write a whole blog post (or two or three or four) about looking at others and wanting what they have, i.e. artistic, musical, and theatrical talent that I lack, or a romantic relationship. I've fallen into the trap of feeling very possessive about a dear friend, and resenting people who are better than me in certain areas.  
  • Disrespect: Since I'm around my family all the time, I often treat them like they're second-class citizens. I'd never say some of the things I've said to my brother if he was just a friend and not a family member. I regret so many harsh and selfish words I've spoken to those who are nearest and dearest to me. 
  • Good-girl-ism: When you have a good reputation it's tempting to put on a mask that makes you look completely pure and blameless, hiding and therefore denying your own faults. That's called pride and hypocrisy, and it's ugly.
  • Judging: I've also fallen into the trap of condemning others who live a different way. I take one look at them, pull up the folder with their stereotype inside, and start thinking about all the negative aspects of their personality, looks, background, etc. 
Maybe you think I'm a dirty rotten scoundrel now, and shouldn't be writing for a blog like this at all. Hopefully, though, you realize that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Maybe you fall short in different ways, but we all fail. However, we know what God does with failure. Over the years He has worked on me. I haven't come full circle on all of these problems yet, but at least I know they are problems, and that's the first step.

What mistakes have you learned from, and how is God changing you?






Original Photo: 
Confessions of a broken heart, a photo by Dannyqu on Flickr.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

August 2013 Featured Girls: The Boyd Sisters

Alicia and Jharmaine are two girls on fire for the Lord! Through their blog and their passions for fitness and delicious food, these sisters are aiming to follow Jesus in every area of their lives. Let's hear a word or two from them about how God turned their lives around and made them a "new creation."

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What is your family like?

The Boyd Sisters are two sisters from Chicago, but we live in the Washington, D.C. area. We grew up in a fairly big household with four girls, mom, dad, and three dogs for the most part. We are two people who are sisters by blood and friends by choice that strive to put Christ’s love on display. We love to spread His love through fitness, food, blogging, scholarships, community service, or just our everyday lives. If we are a part of it, Christ is the center of it. Why? Because He loved us first!

What is your passion?

Our passion is to put Christ's love on display and make disciples. It’s impossible for us to not bring up Christ when we talk about our passion, dreams, or even desires because we find out identity in Christ. He is our reason for living and He defines how we live. Our passions consist of His purpose for our lives by using the gifts He has given to us. We love spreading the gospel through food and fitness.

Jharmaine is currently working to be a self-made chef. She has taken many cooking classes and is working with an amazing chef weekly. She has a cooking website called Get Nourishment that is actually being featured on “Curly Nikki” continually. She believes God has given us food for the heart, as David sang to the Lord in Psalms. We are to break bread with our loved ones to fellowship and build intimacy for the glory of the Lord.

Alicia loves working out and taking care of her physical health. She is currently training to be a personal and group fitness trainer. Alicia loves helping people feel good about themselves because our temple and life is a blessing from God to be used to give Him glory. She believes working on our spiritual and mental man needs to come before the physical. However, our physical is a temple of the Holy Spirit and we have to be healthy to be able to do God’s work and fulfill His purpose!

You and your sister have a blog that's all about "old self, new creation." What does that mean?

When we took the time to read the New Testament and learn about Jesus Christ, we started to realize that Jesus wants the heart. Jesus Christ is not concerned about our works, but our heart. Once He changes our heart, all those other things will follow. That is exactly what happened with us. We searched God for ourselves and realized how broken we were. It is so easy to get wrapped up in this world. To think like the world, do what the world does, and to promote the world. When you learn about Christ and His journey of servitude, you learn that He wants your heart. We gave it to Him. We constantly ask him to wreck our heart and make it like His. During our journey with Christ, he has shown us how unforgiving, prideful, selfish, and greedy (the list goes on) we really were. With every layer He pulled and continues to pull back that is not like Him, we have come to realize that we weren't Christians. We were Christian Atheists--believing in God, but living as if He didn't exist. We asked God to make us over. In Paul’s letters to the church, he teaches us that when we learn and choose Christ we are no longer our former selves. We are to put off our old selves and be renewed in our mind and spirit. Then we are to put on our new selves that are created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24. This is what being a true Follower of Christ is all about: becoming new in mind and spirit.

Jesus Christ came down here on earth to die for us so that we may live as a new creation in Him. He sacrificed His life for us and we know in our hearts and in His word that He deserves the same thing. We are to die to this world and our selfish desires. We are to live for Christ, bold and unashamed. When we choose to live for Christ, that person who craves to live for the world starts to die. He gives you a new heart and your desires change from your own to His desires for you. You care more about being obedient than making your flesh happy and this world. We let go of our old self and became a new creation.

Do you have a story about how you became a "new creation"?

Honestly, that is our entire blog! We have posted about how we learned to become forgiving sinners (click here), stop punishing people for hurting us instead choosing to love them (click here), stop using harsh words (click here), checking the idols we can easily worship without realizing it (clickhere), realizing how our sinful actions harm the body of Christ (click here), and so much more!

Who is your favorite artist (could be a musician, painter, photographer, writer, etc.)?

It is so hard for us to choose one, so we'll name a few. :) In the music realm, we love Andy Mineo, S.O., Trip Lee, Chris Tomlin, Marvin Sapp. This goes on if you're praising God. We try to choose to follow artists that are staying biblical, challenging us to be more bold with Christ, and keeping the focus on Christ and not us (i.e. prosperity movement). We love it!

As for writers, we love Gary Chapman and Francis Chan. They challenge us to put Christ’s love on display and not live for the world, but God.

Thank you for joining us, girls! 

Head over to The Boyd Sisters' blog to hear more of what they have to say.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

What is under your tent?

What are you willing to sacrifice for? Where do you go first when you're in need? What makes you jealous? What do you think/talk about most? What can't you give up? 


This is your idol. 

Where to Find Fulfillment?


When I took my trip to Britain I had all kinds of expectations, many of which were met. I had amazing experiences that took my breath away and made me giddy with happiness. Nevertheless. After only a few hours I had the terrible realization that something wasn't quite complete. As I went through the rest of my trip I grew familiar with the sensation that I couldn't fully appreciate whatever it was that I was seeing (the Parthenon Marbles, the unique copy of Beowulf, the real-life Pemberley, etc.). I did think them magnificent, but at the same time there was a nagging feeling that I couldn't get as much enjoyment out of them as I thought I should. Have you ever had that feeling when seeing something you expected to be impressed by?


Buried Treasure by Evil Cheese Scientist
Buried Treasure, a photo by Evil Cheese Scientist on Flickr.

Under the Ban

While at Capernwray Bible School I heard a message from a man named Peter Reid about the Israelite's defeat at Ai in Joshua chapter 7. To be honest, this isn't a Bible story that we hear very often (not quite as dramatic as Noah and the Ark or exciting as the lion's den). But the message hit me right between the eyes.

Before Jericho was destroyed, God commanded His people to take no spoils for themselves but to dedicate them to Him. This wasn't being petty or selfish, it was setting aside the "firstfruits" of battle for His glory. These things were put "under the ban" to establish who was responsible for bringing Israel into Canaan. After Jericho they were allowed to keep 100% of the spoils. What a great deal!

But Achan became impatient.

This man coveted "a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight." He hid them under his tent. These things that God had claimed for his own, these things which were under the ban, became his idols.

My Idols

An idol is anything that you love more than God. It might not look like sin, but if it's a product of lust and not trust then that's exactly what it is

Those questions above, how would you answer them? For me during school it was a certain relationship. In general I am fine with the single girl's life. I love my independence and don't really fancy a boyfriend, or husband or anything like that. But every now and then...you know how it goes. You see people splitting off into couples, you start to feel left out, you get lonely, and then you ask God why you don't have that

Maybe it's something different for you—the freedom to travel, enough money to buy what you want, a less dysfunctional family, more friends—and you're even willing to sin to get it. You covet what is under the ban, and you've got something sparkly under your tent.

The Secret of Fulfillment

I have discovered the secret. It's not something you've never heard before, in fact I can almost guarantee that you know exactly what I'm going to write. However, application is a whole different ballgame. James 1:17, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." God gives good things, and without him no good thing is good (tweetable, eh?). He has been telling me to concentrate wholly on Him. I can't get the most out of life if I'm longing for this thing or that person—I've got to be 100% committed to Him or none of that is going to satisfy me.

If I'm seeking fulfillment and happiness in anything but Christ—whether it be a feeling, an experience, a person, an item—then I am coveting something under the ban, and it will never, ever, ever work.

Speaking from personal experience, I know that it is only when I give thanks to God for the good things around me that I truly appreciate them. I was feeling discontented with my trip to Britain because I felt that it should be that important. I longed for a special relationship because I thought it would be that good. Only when I stepped back and realized that I was searching for joy and satisfaction in something apart from my Heavenly Father could I understand why they didn't fill the hole in my heart. When I stop holding the people and experiences in my life to such a high standard and instead concentrate solely on God, I actually appreciate the other things much more.


What About You?

Are you focusing on something thinking it will bring you pleasure, and growing impatient instead of trusting God to give you good things? Having true faith means that Jesus is sufficient for you, and you operate out of trust, not lust. Listen to what A.W. Tozer had to say about this:
When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the "and" lies our great woe. If we omit the "and" we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.
"...(H)e who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). When you seek the Kingdom first, you get the rest of the world thrown in.

Here is A.W. Tozer's prayer, one that would be good for us to repeat:

"O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long."


More than Enough

Last but not least, here is a song that perfectly encapsulates what I've been learning and writing about. Let these words from "Enough" by Christ Tomlin sink in and repeat in your mind throughout the day:

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love

And all I have in You is more than enough....


Monday, 29 July 2013

Tomorrow?

I was upstairs in my parents' bedroom when my mom came to get something. I flopped down flat on my back. "I just don't know where my life is headed," I sighed to her.

To be honest, I've been a little overwhelmed lately by just looking at my calender for August. Perhaps you're like me in the fact that if there's something going on, if someone is going somewhere and it interferes with the family schedule, I have something to do with it. So naturally, with back to school insanity, activities starting again, and seemingly a zillion things to do before school begins anew, the family calendar is packed. The stress is starting to mess with my mind.

Also, I seem to have a moderate case of pre-new-school-year jitters. Questions (most of them ridiculous) chase each other around and around my brain like cheetahs with jet packs.
What am I going to do with myself this year?
Will I get behind in school again?
Will I get all these projects done?
What will this year be like for my music classes? Will anything change? 

(Ad nauseum

Sometimes I think I want the sense of confidence and certainty, like George Bailey from "It's a Wonderful Life" when he announces, "I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that."

But, as we all know, his life doesn't go quite the way he plans.

This shouldn't surprise us, really. After all, do we really know what we're going to do tomorrow? How about this week? Or this year?

We don't.

You can plan and plan your wedding day when you're eight years old, but do you know when God will make it clear that you are going to marry?
Nope.
Do you know when tragedy will strike and leave your life in shambles?
Nope.
Do you know whether you'll die within the next 20 years or even the next 20 minutes?
No.

That's where the trust part comes in.

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

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." --Romans 8:28

I can worry all I want about what I'm going to do with myself this August and this school year. I can plan and plan and plan and plan some more. But really, if you matched them up, the plans that my puny little brain came up with probably will fall far short of the the plan of the One created everything out of nothing.

But my God has told both me and you--many times, in fact--that His plans are better, His thoughts are higher, and He knows what He's doing.

As a dear friend of mine has said, "Break my plans, Lord. I know yours are a whole lot better." 







Monday, 15 July 2013

Of Love and Loss

Today around noon, my sweet old yellow lab, Bonnie, passed away. This is a day I've been dreading for a while as I watched her grow older and weaker and watched her warm brown eyes cloud up. I remember when my family first adopted her. she had been abused by her previous owners and she was shy and skiddish, flinching at everything we did. Once she gained our trust, she was the sweetest, most affectionate dog anyone could ever ask for. I'll miss her dearly.


My dear sweet Puppy dog.


Isn't it amazing how even in times like this, God still makes Himself known and evident? Even amongst tears, I felt the hand of God against my heart, giving me peace. Even in loss, even in our darkest, hardest moments, God is there helping us fight through it. And to help us overcome our situation. We may never forget our sorrow, but God promises comfort and His peace to the broken-hearted.
" Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Loss is something everyone has experienced at one time or another. Maybe  your loss looks like a loved one passing. an opportunity missed. A word regretted. A situation you can't forget. Someone who robbed you of something precious. The sin that shackles you.

Loss comes in all forms. But no matter what your loss, our Lord promises us to be there in the midst of our hurt, our sorrow, our pain. 

I've heard it said that how we deal with our grief reveals our true character. If we truly trust in the Lord, we will not be afraid to hand the situation to Him. We may be upset beyond words. We may be angry at God. But if we still truly believe and have undying faith in Him, He'll take the situation . He can overcome!

Whatever your loss may be or whatever it may look like, our Savior is greater than our pain could ever be! Praise the Lord! Even when bad things happen, Life is still filled with beautiful things. Remember that even when the situation is hard, life is still beautiful. I encourage you to take your pain and turn it into praise! In the midst of our pain, it takes true spiritual strength to see beauty in the pain. Life in the suffering. Strength in the tears.

"Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have - life itself." - Walter Anderson 





Thursday, 11 July 2013

When Trust Doesn't Come Easy

I once wondered how anyone couldn't trust God. "He's the creator of the universe, the Alpha and Omega, he sent his son to die on the cross for us. What's not to trust?" 

Then I went to Bible school.

That experience challenged me in ways I'm still figuring out. At Capernwray I learned that I have major trust issues with my heavenly father. If you're familiar with my past posts, you know that I'm something of a perfectionist, a "good girl" who is passionate about doing everything the right way. What I'm beginning to realize is that this passion for perfection is not always driven by an all-American drive to succeed; more often it is a product of fear. Skull-crushing, heart-thumping, stomach-turning, blood-draining fear. 

And it's stopped me short of adventure my whole life.

People marvel at how I succeed at everything I turn my hand to. Sure, I have some natural talents, but do you want to know the dirty little secret behind my success? I never attempted anything I thought I could fail at. If the going got tough, I got going--in the other direction. The things that I had to muscle through (i.e. algebra) I abandoned as quickly as possible. In other endeavors where I was less-than-brilliant, I kept dragging along in misery day after day, unwilling to admit that I was a "failure" and quit instead of wasting any more time (i.e. piano). 

That was a dreary battle. 

Bible school taught me (again) that God's power is perfected not in my strength, but in my weakness. "Really? I don't have to be fantastic at everything I set my hand to? God can use me even when I'm not succeeding?" That's what I read in the Bible. That's the message I heard from the lectern.

So then the biggest test of my life came, right at the end of term. I was offered a job at the Bible school as an office assistant for one year. 

Can you imagine my fear? This sounds like the perfect opportunity: the job seems to fit me perfectly, the atmosphere is wonderful, the staff wants me to come on board, the school is located in England (a country I've always been absurdly passionate about)...what's not to love? Well, the thought that I would be away from my family for a year is enough to rip my heart out and stomp it into the dust (Homeschool girls, you know how close we are to our families!). At the same time, every indicator shows that this is God's will for me--confirmation from friends and family, circumstances working out perfectly--how can I ignore this clear call?

It comes down to trusting God. 

After several weeks of tearing my hair out, crying, seeking counsel, praying and praying and praying and crying out to God, I've come to the place where I believe this is God's will for me. He's giving me this chance, holding out the frightening opportunity to go out on a limb and do something entirely outside my comfort zone, breaking away from everything I've ever known to do something he's calling me toward. 

Would you take the leap? Would you ignore the pain in your heart and the angst in your spirit and say, "Yes, Lord, I'm going to follow you"? 

I've decided to take the job, and am now working toward getting my work visa and buying another ticket to fly to England this September. To tell the truth, I still don't feel good about it. I haven't experienced anything miraculous that I would call "the peace of God," but still I know that this is a chapter of the story that God wants me to write. Maybe the fear will go away, maybe it won't, but I know that trusting God is never a risk. He is faithful. He is the creator of the universe. No matter how I feel, he is with me and he cares for me, and he will reward those who diligently seek him.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Memorising the Word

Since I was about two, I’ve been learning memory verses. By now, I have quite a few verses committed to memory. Learning Bible verses is something that (I believe) every person should do. Working hard to memorise something is good for you, because not only do you hide the word in your heart (see Psalm 119:11), but you also have a huge bank of scripture in your mind for daily encouragement.

Bible Reading~Devotion by Chineka
Bible Reading~Devotion, a photo by Chineka on Flickr.
Countless times over the past years memorised scripture has been a treasure to those who memorised it. Although the initial memorisation might be a little harder for some people than others (some of my brothers especially struggle with it), it is still possible and even extremely helpful in cases! Let me give you a few examples.

One good example from history is Corrie Ten Boom. I’m sure you have heard of her. When she was put in prison by the Nazis during World War II, she didn’t have a Bible with her. For several months, she relied completely on what she had memorised as a child and adult. The verses she had in her mind could never be taken from her—and they became her Bible. They were a constant source of encouragement for her, especially when the Nazi guards were less than kind to her.

Another good example is the story of Gracia Burnham. Gracia, along with her husband Martin, were missionaries in the Philippines for quite a few years. In 2001, they were taken and held for ransom by a band of Muslim men. During their ordeal in the jungles of the Philippines that spanned a time of about 13 months, the only Bible they had was what they had previously committed to memory. Since they were captured by Muslim terrorists, they were only allowed to read the Quran—the Bible was off-limits.

In my life, I’ve never had any moments that I needed the verses I’ve memorised in the same way Gracia or Corrie needed them. I’ve never been to a place where I wasn’t allowed to own a Bible. I do know, though, that when relating to different situations, I was very thankful for the stash I have because they’re such an encouragement!
Over the past years, I haven’t only memorised verses. I’ve also memorised songs—great for road trips when you don’t have a hymn-book along! Songs can come in handy when you really aren’t feeling like doing a job (in my case sometimes it’s washing the dishes!), because they are so good at raising your spirits and helping you focus on the One who invented singing. 
  Poems are easy and fun to memorise. I really appreciate poems, because they’re a good source of “just-get-to-it-and-get-it-done”. For example, take the poem “It Couldn’t be Done”, by Edgar A. Guest. I like quoting the line, “Somebody said it couldn’t be done…” to my brothers when they’re stalling at getting something done!

For me, memorisation has been pretty easy and straight-forward to do once I sit down and work on it! Everyone has their own system, but the one that I’ve found helps the most is just repeating the verse five times or so. One thing I’ve found very helpful lately is www.scripturetyper.com. Basically, you put in your scripture verse (or verses) and then you type it over and over (preferably saying it out loud while you type) until you’ve memorised it! It’s extremely simple.

If you don’t like using the computer for memorisation, the same principle holds true. Before I used Scripture Typer, I would repeat the verse out loud about ten times each day for two to four days (depending on the length of the verse), and I would have it memorised. For extra reinforcement, sometimes I’d write the verse out several times just to get it “down pat”. After I’ve memorised the verse, I review it from time to time.

To help me to remember and review all the verses, I collected them into one document on the computer and printed it off. I made a set portion for each day (about one to one and a half pages single-spaced), and then each day I review a portion besides practising my new verse. After memorising a verse, I add it to the end of my verses list, and review it every two to three days. After reviewing it every two to three days for two weeks or so, I up the time to once a week and then add it into the daily portion somewhere. So far, this system has worked well for me, although others might find different ways to do it. :)

Memorisation, like I said previously, is a very important thing to do. I strongly encourage you to try to memorise some of the Bible, because now is the best time to do it. The more you get into your mind now when you’re young the better because as you get older it gets harder and harder to memorise anything. By the time you’re fifty or so you’ll have processed so much more by then that it will be a lot harder to memorise verses. And who knows, it might just come in handy some day!


This post was written by Esther Rose, a young teenage woman with a love for the LORD, a passion for writing, and a vision for encouraging other young women her age. She blogs at
 
Joyful Maiden, where she tries to share (in a nutshell) her life as a daughter of her Heavenly Father.
 
She has never been blessed with sisters (she has six brothers, all of whom she loves), but tries (through her writings in Jewels of Jesus) to bless her sisters in Christ around her. Her life motto is: "Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can." (famous saying of John Wesley's
 ) 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Beyond the Labels: The Dating VS. Courting Debate

If you've grown up in a Christian environment, you're most likely well-aware of the dating vs. courting debate. When it comes to love, romance, and relationships, there tends to be a lot of confusion in the Christian community... some common questions I've heard and that I've had are:

- Should I date or should I court?
- When is the best time to date/court?
- How involved should my parents be?
- How physically intimate should a couple be   
   before marriage?

and of course the oh-so-popular question:

- What IS this courting business even about anyway!?

Before we look further at these questions, we need to dig into the Word about what God says about relationships. Part of why the church is confused as to what's okay is because the Bible does not specifically outline "courting is better than dating" or "thou shalt not date until thee is 21." But from what the Bible does say, we an paint a pretty detailed picture of what our relationships should look like: 

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14

"Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." 1 Corinthians 7:1 - 4 

"Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body." 1 Corinthians 6:18

These verses are just the beginning of God's layout for good relationships.

And although the Bible does not flat-out give us an answer, when we look at verses like this, we see God's opinion on the dating/courting debate - neither one is the right way to go about relationships. 

Okay, okay, don't have a cow. Y'al may be confused by this statement, but let me elaborate. When we look at this issue as an argument in which to choose sides, we are missing the point - the main question at hand: is my relationship honoring to God? 

There's no formula or process that's more God-honoring than another - in fact, love shouldn't have a formula or process at all. Every situation is different.

I don't believe that courting is wrong, I don't believe that dating is wrong, I don't believe that kissing before marriage is wrong, or that having a relationship before the age of 20 is wrong. I believe those things because if a couple is 100% focused on God and what honors Him in their relationship, then they can't go wrong!

Putting labels and formulas and man-made rules on relationships is wrong. Sure, everyone can have certain standards for themselves, and the Bible definitely makes it pretty clear that some lines are not to be crossed until marriage under any circumstance (i.e. premarital sex or overt physical/emotional involvement). But our standards should not cause us to compromise God's real plan for us! If we are so hooked on not dating until we're 20, and we turn down every man that proposes interest until that point, we're being unwise and we could be missing out because of our selfishness. We have turned "waiting" - something that should be God-honoring - into stubbornness and selfishness. Instead, we should enjoy our time of singleness while we have it, and simply be ready whenever God may bring someone into your life. Don't simply turn someone down because of age, or situation, but in every situation, seek what God's will is for you in this season of life. When we simply pray about everything, and stop sticking to our silly list of rules, it gives us freedom. And the best thing is, we honor our Father, the true Lover of Our Souls.

If you're already in a relationship, then the same thing applies. Simply be ready for whatever God has for you. You're not compromising standards, you're simply being free and being ready and I promise you, you will have a fulfilled and pure relationship, whether you marry that person or not.

I encourage you to always question your motives for your actions in a relationship, make sure to always pray over everything, be ready for whatever God has for you, whenever, seek advice and counsel from your parents and pastors ALWAYS, and remember that love is not a formula.

So you may decide through prayer and seeking counsel that dating seems to be the best choice for you, or that courting seems to be an easier situation for staying pure for you, but regardless of your decisions, we need to learn to look beyond the labels and start looking at relationships for what they really are: a way to love others as best we can and to the glory of the King.
















    











Monday, 17 June 2013

Rise and Shine! 5 Reasons It's Great to Be an Early Riser.

I sat down, wanting to make this an article about the benefits of getting up early, but I know I can't be a hypocrite about it...

Fact #1: I am NOT by any means whatsoever a morning person. People do not like me in the morning because I am known to be slightly less than enjoyable to be around. Heh.

Fact #2: I need to get up early because (1) my mama is not a fan of me sleeping in, (2) I end up sleeping away half of the day that could be spent wisely, and (3) my accountability buddy depends on her to get up early.

Ahhh, yes. This subject is not one that is near-and-dear to my heart, but one that I can talk about on a personal level. And yes, I know it's summer time and no one wants to get up early when we can lounge around in our cozy beds all day. But then again, truth is not situational...Check out this verse on the subject: 

Proverbs 31:15 “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”

As women of the faith, we look up to the Proverbs 31 woman, but often, she makes us internally groan..."I have to do that!?" (see Philippians 4:13 for some encouragement). This one definitely made me do "bleh-ing" on the inside. But, this is what God calls of us. There are many examples in the Bible of people getting up early to spend time with God and in prayer and being about His work (see Exodus 24:4, Exodus 34:4, 2 Chronicles 29:20, Mark 1:35). There are so many benefits to getting up early. I've listed just a few that came to mind...


1. You have so much more time in the day. Rising at 6 or 7 A.M. rather than 10 or 11 gives you an average of 4 and a half more hours in the day (assuming you go to bed around 10). And if you're like me, with a to-do list down to the floor, you could really use those four extra hours. Your day has just increased! And time flies too. Why waste any of the precious life that God has given us?

2. You're able to get things done. With more time, you can finally begin to check off those items on your to do list that you've been putting of for "lack of time."


3. You feel more productive. Getting things accomplished feels nice, doesn't it? Once you begin, your stress levels go down and you have more time for the things you actually enjoy doing.

4. You can spend quiet time with God without distraction. If you have lots of siblings, you may know what it's like at my house in the mornings. My younger siblings wake up around 7 or 8 and bound down the stairs, which is oh-so-nice because then they proceed to be their crazy selves outside of my bottom-floor bedroom. Then, my dogs like to bark in my ear every morning promptly at 7:30 AM to let me know they need to go to the bathroom. I love my family and my pets are great, but it does get very loud at my house at times. I don't know about you, but I could really use those few quiet hours in the morning to get alone with God. It's hard to find silence sometimes, but getting up early could definitely change that. I do recommend getting out of bed first, though. I've fallen asleep facedown in my Bible more than a few times. :)

5. You can see the sunrise! Mornings are one of the best parts of the day as far as beauty goes. Birds chirping, fresh cool air, dew on the grass, the sun beginning to peep through trees and bushes. Mornings are wonderful things. 


Let's join each other in prayer that we'll use our days wisely and our best to get up early and make our days productive for Jesus! 


Ephesians 5:15-16 "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."



Thursday, 13 June 2013

Why You Should Bake Cookies… Erm, Build Community

This guest post was written by Rachelle Rea.

About fifteen young women piled into the small apartment that day and split into two groups. Most chose the living room as headquarters and plopped down on the couches and the floor. Their job? Writing Bible verses and encouraging notes on slips of paper to go in the bags of goodies we were making. A few of the girls—including myself—chose the kitchen as base. Our first order of business? Searching the cabinets for pans and bowls.

I love to bake, so when I learned that my Bible study group was meeting to bake cookies for a campus event, I knew I wanted to go. I thought I was going to bake. What I did was laugh, smile, joke around, and talk about Jesus.

You see, somewhere along the line of living this set-apart life I equated separate with loner. Big mistake.

Our Bible study met on Wednesday afternoons last semester in one of the dorm lounges, and Wednesday afternoons quickly cemented itself as my favorite time of the week. Those times of prayer, fellowship, and digging into the Word right alongside young women my age meant a lot to me—those are memories I treasure. The icing on the cake was that the girls who sat around me were just as in love with Jesus as I.

As the scent of cookies baking permeated the small apartment, music wafted from the living room. Bags that would soon hold cookies were beginning to take shape. The cookies themselves were starting to take shape, too, beneath several sets of doughy fingers.

After pulling a green bowl from one of the cavernous cabinets, I mixed one batch of cookie dough and rolled cookie circles until my wrists were sore. But I hardly noticed because we were laughing and talking and having a good time swapping stories of how our semesters were going.

Sister, don’t make my mistake. Don’t trade in the fellowship and think holy means lonely.

I learned last semester that spring can be a time of renewing in so many more ways than one. I saw God’s love play out every Wednesday afternoon and in our cookie-baking excursion. I see His love even now, because those friendships have endured.

If there’s one thing I could tell you today it would be this: make time for the cookie-baking, erm, community building. Find those kindred spirits and rub shoulders with them in a squeezed-tight kitchen. You won’t regret it.
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