October 7, 2014

MYTH: Perfect vs. Permissive

In my last post, I discussed God's will for our lives. His will is a very important concept to grasp as we plod onward in this 31 Days challenge to hear the "Word of God Speak." So let's delve a bit deeper, shall we?

From my teen years (when I became a believer), I was taught about God's perfect will. This seemed to be the ideal route, where best-laid plans actually led to greener pastures. I was taught that God "knew the plans He had for me...plans for welfare and not for evil, to give me a future and a hope" a la Jeremiah 29:11. The name tag slapped on those future plans was God's perfect will: a wonderfully plotted-out journey that I could be a part of if only I stayed close to Him and far from sin.

October 3, 2014

What is God's will for my life?

As I begin this 31 Days challenge to have the "Word of God Speak" into our lives, I must consider the following question:
What is God's will for my life?
This question is one that has haunted many a believer. In fact, some have become paralyzed by this query…agonizing over every, little decision, overanalyzing every seeming "sign" out there as to whether or not it is pointing them in a Godward direction.

October 2, 2014

I am going to share my heart with you today...

I am going to share my heart with you today

First off, today was a rough day. It wasn't rough in the sense that anything "bad" happened to me. It was rough because it was a full day. And it was rough because there were unexpected kinks in the schedule all day long. If I'm completely honest with myself (and with you!), it was rough because I was being selfish with my time. When I realized this, I repented and tried to walk through the rest of the day in a more unselfish manner...taking time to breathe, worshiping the Lord through song, and spending time with people who matter to me. You know, really being there in the moment with them - not wishing I was doing something else on my crazy busy schedule!

October 1, 2014

31 Days: "Word of God Speak"

This month, I will be linking up with The Nester to write for 31 consecutive days about the same topic: "Word of God Speak."

Since I am currently pursuing my biblical counseling certification, I have been doing a ton of studying lately! And most all of my studies here recently have had to do with the sufficiency of God's Word for the decision-making process. So...I will be putting all that study to use by blogging about what I am learning for the next 31 days!

September 30, 2014

#InfluenceConf 2014 RECAP

I'm not quite sure where to begin. I am still processing all that I learned last Thursday through Saturday, and I'm not quite certain I'm ready to share that half-digested nugget of knowledge with the world.

Last year, I attended the Influence Conference for the first time. I had no real expectations, as I had never been to a blogging conference before…let alone a Christian women's blogging conference. 

September 16, 2014

#InfluenceConf 2014 (meet + greet)

HELLO!

I am SO looking forward to meeting and connecting with all of you this year. Even more than that, though, I’m excited to meet with the Lord and hear from Him at Influence 2014.

I had an amazing time at last year’s conference. Part of that was (obvi!) due to being there with my sister, who lives long-distance...but the rest was due to the fact that God truly works through the women who put on this conference. I actually almost flubbed it up this year, as I waited too long to buy my ticket. But thanks to someone who couldn’t attend, I was able to transfer her ticket last-minute.

September 15, 2014

Priorities.

Having recently reentered seminary, I have found myself reordering my life around a new set of deadlines - really, a new set of priorities. If you've ever begun anything new (or started back to something that's been absent in your life for a while), you'll know that it is hard work to get everything accomplished - especially at the beginning!

In recent weeks, I have found myself trying to shove my husband, job, schoolwork, friendships, Bible study time, and ministry opportunities into the tiny bag that is my life…until it was bursting at the seams! Getting it all in there is tough stuff. Picture this: it's like the carry-on suitcase that is too small to now zip up around the entire wardrobe you want to take with you on vaca. No matter how much you squish, tuck, fold, roll, cram, and sit on the case - it refuses to close. What's a girl to do?

August 29, 2014

Paralyzing Perfectionism


I struggle with perfectionism…the type that is pervasive and sometimes paralyzing. Now before you write me off as "type A," one who seeks to be "better than" others, or just a freak of nature - please hear me out. And take time to evaluate your own heart, as you read. For I believe there are many more closeted perfectionists among us.

According to the Counseling Center at the University of Illinois, many college students struggle with perfectionism. I mention this fact because I have recently re-entered seminary and am taking a full load of classes [#thestruggleisreal]. Here, they list the following questions to help students diagnose the problem:

August 12, 2014

Visit "Reflecting His Glory"!

Hello, all!

Today, I'm sharing part of my story over at "Reflecting His Glory." This is the blog of a dear, new friend of mine - Jacqui. I was honored to meet this sister in the faith, avid lover of reading/teaching the Word, ministry wife, and mom of 5 just this past year. From the moment I met Jacqui, I knew we were "one in heart and one in spirit," as the old hymn says. So click the pic below, and jog over to her site to check it out!



August 4, 2014

Birthday Evaluation

This is it. My birthday. At 1:32pm today, I officially turned 35 years of age. 

That's weird to me. 35. A new box to check. A downward slide into 40 [snort]. I am not so concerned with being another year older. I am, however, concerned with being another year down the path toward Heaven yet nowhere near where I want to be in light of the holiness that radiates from my God.

When I was small, birthdays were filled with fluttery anticipation of parties, presents, and cake. [Ohhhh, the cake!] But as I grow older, birthdays have become a time to "be still" (Psalm 46:10) at my Savior's side, to be ever so grateful for the fragile blessing that is and continues to be…my life.

May 26, 2014

Why Inviting People to Church Won't Work...

Gone are the days when simply “inviting people to church” was enough to get the salvation ball rolling, so to speak. Today's average Joe (or Jane) doesn't care much for getting up early on a day off work, dressing up (to some measure), and taking his/her family to a church service. And with the bad rap that health/wealth preacher-thieves, priestly pedophiles, and the terminally unfaithful have given the church…most viewers of the nightly news think that houses of worship are disdainful. Heck - due to technological advances, even many so-called Christians prefer "streaming" services online to an in-the-flesh gathering of believers these days. So, how can we expect to non-believers to get all hopped-up about attending church?


May 22, 2014

We Are God's…Sons?

If we are in Christ, we are daughters of the King. How awesome does that sound?

In Isaiah 43:6-7, God called out, “Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.”

In 2 Corinthians 6:18, God said, “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.”

May 20, 2014

ALL YOU YOUNG, WILD GIRLS: The Sexploitability of the "Scene Girl" Subculture

Girls' ministry involves long talks with young women about their hopes and dreams, their walks with God, their frustrations with parents, their questions about relationships...and the way they choose to present themselves to the world.

I was talking with a young woman the other day who gravitates toward the "scene" look. [For those of you who are unfamiliar, the scene subculture applies to both guys and girls who identify largely through fashion and music. Having been labeled everything from emo to grunge to punk, scene kids generally have the same "look": an ultra-slim frame, outrageously-colored hair, dark makeup, facial piercings, tattoos, etc.] If you are involved in youth ministry of any sort, I'm sure you have seen your fair share of scene kids (ba-dum-tsss!).


May 12, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: A Call to Prayer

"How is it possible that 276 girls could be taken from their beds in the dead of night in a place that is supposed to be...safe?"

This quote from a CNN World report attempts to make sense of the horrific, April 14th abduction of nearly 300 teenage women in Nigeria. Over the past few weeks, awareness of the atrocity has traveled worldwide - largely by means of the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. For the few of you who may be currently positioned under a rock somewhere, militant Boko Haram terrorist group (whose name means "Western Education is Sin") kidnapped these girls in order to enact their extremist view of the Islamic faith upon them. Since it is reported that the girls' school was "Christian," their captors - of course - are trying to convert them to Islam. And, claiming that these girls should not be pursuing education or careers, the terrorists also declare the girls will be sold as brides or sex slaves to make their point heard 'round the world. 

April 29, 2014

Context is King


Context matters. In fact, some would say "context is king"…and I wholeheartedly agree.

The above statement applies when seeking to understand everyday conversations, and it is crucial to interpreting Scripture.

You've all been there: sitting in a coffee shop, overhearing a verbal interaction that sounds nothing short of awkward, looking over to see the people engaged in said convo, and seeing that neither one is as perplexed as you are by what was just relayed. And then you realize what has occurred. You have overheard a "bit" or a "piece" of a bigger conversation, and you have incorrectly interpreted those drips and drabs to mean one thing when the original speakers clearly meant another.


April 26, 2014

How to Teach Purity: 10 Tips for Youth Leaders

Teaching purity to teens can be a daunting task. Oft-times, you may feel "put on the spot" or unable to handle questions that come your way. Let's be honest: this can be a touchy topic for many - both leaders and listeners alike. Below are ten basic tips to help youth leaders teach biblical purity in a way that will (hopefully) keep your palms dry and your heart from beating out of your chest.

1) Have an "open door" policy with parents. I realize that some of your youth's parents may never darken the door of the church. But when dealing with matters as heavy as God's view on sex, it helps to let parents know that you are open to talking with them about the topic as well. Many parents want to be the ones to teach their children about sex, so it is good to collaborate with them (if possible) to share what you will and will not be covering. Also, we cannot neglect the fact that the members of our youth groups spend countless more hours per week with their parents than they do with us. So we are unlikely to see changes in them if their parents aren't on-board with (or at least aware of) the subject at-hand.

April 23, 2014

Why Teach Purity?

Little girls don't know how to be sweet girls:
"Mama didn't teach me."
Little boys don't know how to treat little girls:
"Daddy didn't show me."

The above are lyrics from Erin McCarley's song "Love, Save the Empty." As the  tune tumbles on, we learn that a sexual encounter has taken place. The singer bemoans "giving it up" too soon to a guy who showed her "false affection," causing her to "break down inside" upon realizing his ruse. She croons on about wanting true, genuine love to come and "save" her from her resulting emptiness. 

Heavy. 

I first heard this song when it debuted in 2008, and even though it's cut-to-the-heart words were cleverly set to a whimsical beat, the true sorrow contained was not lost on me. The words hit me like a gut punch - not because I've had similar experiences, but because I haven't. And because I desperately long for young people to skirt this kind of devastation as well - by living pure and holy lives before the Lord.

April 21, 2014

EASTER: "He is Risen!" - OR - "I am Barren..."

Yesterday was Easter Sunday: the day when Christians everywhere celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I greatly prefer it to the Christmas holiday, as Christmas only points to the beginning of the wonderful gift God gave us. Easter, on the other hand, commemorates the completion of that gift. Having fulfilled the Law by living a perfect, sinless life, Christ died in our place and took upon Himself the full cup of God's wrath. On the third day, He rose again to prove He'd defeated sin and death and thus made a way to reconcile us to God. So I enjoy the focus that Easter brings to the "it is finished"-ness of the Gospel of grace. Praise Him, for He is risen!

April 9, 2014

Gospel Nails

Anybody remember the ole' tried-n-true power band? You know, that bracelet made with six colors that represent the Gospel story? Well I recall making those way back in the '90s...and apparently, they haven't fallen out of style with the younger set. But we're talking really young - like lower elementary grades - and I work with middle/high schoolers. So what's a girl to do?

Lest a good way to "wear our witness" lose steam, I googled more teen-friendly ways to use the colors and landed on the idea of Gospel Nails. All you need are the correct six colors of nail polish: black, red, white, blue, green, yellow. This is where order comes into play. These colors must be painted on the nails in exactly that order. Why? Think back to the Power Band:

April 7, 2014

Conscious Uncoupling: A Nice and Flowery Term for Something God Hates

Conscious uncoupling.

It's become the catchphrase of the month, thanks to actress Gwyneth Paltrow's use of the term to define the dissolving of her 9-year marriage to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. But what is it, exactly? Why use the term "conscious uncoupling" rather than separation or divorce?

According to a recent Huffington Post article on the matter, the phrase is "ridiculous," "New Age-y, pretentious, [and] righteous." Of course, what the writers probably meant by that last descriptor was self-righteous, because the dissolution of a marriage - Christian or not - is never a "righteous" act. In fact, God clearly states that He hates divorce in Malachi 2:16.

April 2, 2014

Where Everybody Knows Your Name...

Remember the theme song from Cheers? Well many of you don't, because you are what I like to call...wait for it...young. But I am not so young, and so I think of this tune almost every time I enter our local Starbucks. 

From what I gather, this is not common at many of the 'Bucks stores; however, it's more the case here because our SB is small town. Almost every barista knows my name, and a large chunk of them know my drink...that is, if I haven't changed it up too much recently!

March 31, 2014

When Your Day Job Eclipses Your Dream Job

They say that "absence makes the heart grow fonder." Maybe this will apply to my blog, as I have been quite absent as of late. 

PFFFTT!

I'm obviously more of a realist than that...so I know the reality is that you've probably not even noticed that I've been on a posting hiatus. However, I'd like to address why I haven't been writing lately.

March 4, 2014

Memorizing Scripture, Part 2: The "How"

Yesterday, I wrote about the "why" of memorizing Scripture. Today is the "how."

So, what is the best method for memorizing God's Word, anyway? While there is no one way to go about this task that will work best for every person, there are a few methods that seem to be more user-friendly than others. I have listed seven of these below. "Why seven?" you may ask. If I were playing super-spiritual girl here, I'd say it's because seven is the biblical number of completion. [Snort.] While that may be the case, I can assure you that I am not playing super-spiritual girl today. I can also assure you that there are far more ways to memorize Scripture than seven...so my list is in no way "complete." Yesterday, I gave seven reasons as to the "why," so today mirrors that in the "how." My list below is but a meager attempt to share the methods I have found most useful for me over the years.

March 3, 2014

Memorizing Scripture, Part 1: The "Why"

A few days ago, I mentioned my challenge to memorize the book of James. This is an ongoing journey that I first began in the summer of 2005. Shortly after making it through the 27 beautiful verses of chapter one, though, I moved off to seminary. The busyness of juggling full-time school and full-time work, followed closely by the immediate need to memorize other things (like church history and theology-related facts for grades) quickly took over. Soon after, I met, courted, and married my husband and then moved out of state. Whew! No wonder I never got any further than chapter one!

February 24, 2014

In the Night Watches...

Over the years, I have heard many people say, "The Lord woke me up in the middle of the night..." Claims like these always make me bit uneasy, because I'm not sure God is always the one awakening us. Of course, in the greater scheme of life, the Lord is with our "going out and coming in" (Psalm 121:8). And we know that He is ultimately in control of everything, in His divine sovereignty. But in the Bible, we see God awakening His people only a few times, mostly by visions or angelic messages (think: Ezekiel, Zechariah). So more often than not, I believe we are awakened by humanly circumstances (e.g. a crying baby, an illness, a loud noise).

February 22, 2014

Best New Love Song

Year after year, the debate rages on about which love songs rank among the best. 

If you are a teen, you may gravitate toward the recent, puppy-love pop tunes by Bruno Mars and the like. If you're a single adult, your choices could range from the wistful and lovelorn to the angry and bitter. And if you're middle-aged or more, married or single, you probably gravitate toward the old school...depending on your era of preference, anything from Jim Croce's "Time In a Bottle" to Perry Como's "When I Fall In Love" might tickle your fancy.

February 14, 2014

First Kiss

I pulled up the ever-trusty Google search on my smartphone today and saw that the featured artwork was (of course!) Valentine's Day-themed. On the mobile site at least, "first kiss" was the heart candy message. But I was curious to see what the desktop site had to offer, so I clicked over on my compy later in the day and realized there were a bunch of different heart-shaped, virtual candies that you could click on and hear "true stories of love" from "real people."

Why not?

February 11, 2014

Have We Become TOO Culturally Relevant?

For Olympiphiles (like myself), this is a time of great rejoicing. Nearly every hour of every day for over a fortnight is filled with media coverage of medal hopefuls doing their thing. Every two years (alternating summer and winter), this happens. And usually, the opening ceremonies would cue me to pull up a piece of the couch and fall under the magical spell that accompanies the beauty of worldwide unity mixed with nationalistic fervor.

January 31, 2014

"You Are My Drug, You Are My Addiction" (Connotatively Difficult Words to Sing in Worship)

In my personal time with the Lord, one of my favorite tunes to sing right now is called "It's My Joy." It's a throwback (2003) praise song by the band Enter the Worship Circle. The lyrics are pretty plain and simple, and the sound the band strove for was very stripped-down and folksy. But it packs a punch, because some of the words used by the songwriter have a negative connotation.

January 29, 2014

Everything That Kills Me...Makes Me Feel Alive?

I've had to do a lot of driving over the past few weeks. And as I cruised from appointment to appointment and training to training, I listened to a lot of "Top 40"-style radio play. [I know - GASP - secular fodder!] But you know how they do...the top songs cycle through at least once per hour, earning many tunes the coveted title of the "most overplayed" songs of the year.

The song I inevitably kept hearing as I hopped in and out of my little '98 Civic was OneRepublic's "Counting Stars." Now, the lyrics that stood out to me time and time again were the ones pictured above: "everything that kills me makes me feel alive."

January 24, 2014

An Appetite for Community

Have you ever been hungry? I mean with pit-of-your-stomach growling somewhat akin to that of a rabies-ridden mongrel hungry?

A few weeks ago, my husband and I spoke about hunger in our small group at church. Only it wasn't about food hunger but a hunger for community - the kind of authentic, biblical community you can only get from the closest of believing friends. 

In the past, I enjoyed this type of community time and time again. But those times have begun to feel "not so recent." The Lord blessed me with two very intense settings that greatly fostered biblical community: North Greenville University and Snowbird Wilderness OutfittersThe former being a college - a Christian campus that built community by having a network of hall chaplains, numerous dorm Bible studies, and close-knit professor/student relationships. The latter being a Christian youth camp and retreat center that fostered community through the staff's living together, experiencing small group Bible and prayer time together, and entertaining open and honest feedback in highly accountable relationships with one another. And though I have experienced seasons of true community within local church bodies, the college and camp settings exceeded by far.

January 15, 2014

Who's the Boss of You?

My work affords me endless encounters with families that are in differing stages of disrepair. I enjoy this part of my job - not because these families are hurting, but because God allows me to take part in the mending of broken units. 

Oft-times, the kids are identified as the "problem" in these families. Many of the kids I work with have backgrounds of trauma and abuse. And since these children have grown up with so much chaos, they tend to find chaotic situations to be their safe place - their "normal," if you will. Kids like these often seek to create chaos wherever they go, and they readily prey upon the loopholes in their parents' reasoning in order to split them and manipulate situations. These are learned behaviors, survival skills to help them get what they need. So it's no wonder that the "normal" styles of parenting rarely work with these fragile souls.

January 11, 2014

ONE WORD for 2014


Many of my friends have been writing about their "one word" for the new year. I have hesitated to do likewise because I really wanted to think this one through. I also have a steady stream of perfectionism running through my veins, so I wanted to wait a bit beyond January 1st in order to shock my system out of it's bent toward obsessively on-time compliance.

If you are not familiar with the "one word" concept, there are two fairly prominent Christian websites charging their readers to pick one word of inspiration for the new year. [FYI: those websites are located here and here.] The idea is that you encapsulate any new year's resolutions or goals for the year into one word that either motivates you for what lies ahead or describes what you envision the year to hold.

January 8, 2014

SNOW DAY! (a.k.a. Project "Hoardery Be-Gone!")

If this year's "Polar Vortex" has rendered you house-bound for the last few days, you are not alone. The start of 2014 has blasted many states with sub-zero temps and inches (upon inches!) of snow accumulation. 

Of course, with snow and cold come SNOW DAYS. 

My husband is a teacher, so snow days greatly affect his work. Since I counsel youth and families through a community mental health center, snow days affect my schedule as well. So with 3 days of indoor time under our belts, we have gotten both "a lot" and "not so much" accomplished at the same time.

January 3, 2014

New. Year's. Resolutions.

New. Year's. Resolutions.

Some people make 'em; some people don't. Some people stick to 'em; some people don't.

Wait. Virtually no one actually sticks to 'em...at least, not not for the entire new year! I can't even begin to list all the ways I have failed in the past at keeping these January-fresh plates spinning!

Why is this? Well, a lot of the reasoning can be attributed to the fact that we are all striving in our own strength and willpower toward some preposterously huge goal that we quite possibly could never attain.