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 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....

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