Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eclipses, Jesus and Us

As I write this I am laying outside watching the lunar eclipse. It
reminds me of a spiritual truth I realized years ago through nature -
through eclipses.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we can compare ourselves and our
relationship to Jesus and the world with the solar system. The sun is
the Son - Jesus. The earth is the world. The moon is followers of Jesus.
The Son, like the sun, provides light and life. Most often we do not
see it directly, otherwise it's splendor would blind us. But we know
that it exists because of how it affects everything else; we know that
it exists because we see the world by it. The earth is the
representation of all those people and powers that are not submitting
to the lordship of Jesus. We/I would describe them as spiritually in
the dark - they do not experience the light and life of the Son.
Within the representation of the world is also our three-fold enemy -
our flesh, the world system, and Satan. The moon represents people who
trust Jesus as their Savior and follow him as Lord. Per the
relationship and lifestyle, we are always supposed to be reflectors of
his light and life - just like the moon reflects the light of the sun.
In and of itself, the moon is dark and lifeless and has not much to
offer. But properly reflecting the light of the sun, it is visible,
yet because of it's nature must give the praise to the sun for
providing the light. In this way, the world can see the Son's light
in the dark and without being blinded.
Now that we have the basics, here are a couple of warnings. We, as
followers of Jesus must be careful of the solar and lunar eclipses in
our spirituality.
A lunar eclipse happens when the earth gets between the sun and the
moon. The earth casts a shadow on the moon and it becomes dark. The
world can often get between followers of Jesus and Jesus himself. This
happens when we choose worldly things over Jesus or when we give into
temptation. The result is that we stop reflecting the light of the
Son, leaving the world at night in the dark.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon gets between the earth and the
sun, blocking out the sun and becoming dark in the process. When we,
as followers of Jesus, become prideful and want the world to see us,
give us praise and glory instead of Jesus - that is when we have a
spiritual solar eclipse. We try to take the spotlight but in the
process we become dark to the world, no longer properly reflecting the
light of the Son. We also block out his light and leave the world in
darkness and death.
Our purpose as the moon is to reflect the light and life of the Son,
but we must be careful not to allow the world to overshadow us and not
to allow our pride to get in the way of the world seeing the Son.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Child in God's Family...a prayer

Heavenly Father, I am a child in your family.  I have entered your family by regeneration.  I have faith because your Spirit opened my heart to your Word.  I have been born again because your son died my first death.

I am adopted into your family - treated as an adult and given privileges in your family.  I have food and nourishment - your Word.  I am rich!  I have access to your wealth, and I can use it, for your glory.  I am rich with your grace, mercy, glory, wisdom, and goodness.  I have brothers and sisters with whom to share life - to be excited together about your glory and purpose and to encourage each other toward that glory and purpose.  Though we may speak different languages or look different or live far away, we have a lot in common - life in Jesus, love for Jesus, and concern for the world to know Jesus.  In our relationships we love, submit, encourage, care for, forgive and edify each other.  When we were born into your family, we got to throw away our old wardrobe, dirty and tattered.  In your grace, you lavished upon us a wardrobe of righteousness.  Instead of wearing out, these garments are continually renewed and strengthened so we look more and more like you!  And the best part is that this is only the beginning - what a future we have ahead of us!

As part of the family, we each have a unique purpose.  You want a big family and we have the great opportunity to welcome others into the family.  When we are united with your Spirit and with each other, we help others come to know you as Father too.  Then, as big brothers and sisters, we help each other grow and mature.  And then we live happily ever after (for realz for once, not like the movies).

Heavenly Father, thank you for bringing me into your family.

[This prayer is a reflection of my reading in:  Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be what you are:  12 intriguing pictures of the Christian from the New Testament.  Wheaton IL:  Tyndale House.]

Friday, November 12, 2010

Psalm 62 - first thoughts

God "randomly" directed me to Psalm 62 on Thursday.  I love it so much, and God is already using it to change my heart, so I just wanted to share some of my thoughts as I read through it the first couple times (so as you read my conclusions keep in mind that I have not fully studied this verse, so if my conclusions are off base or out of context, I am admitting to you right now that they might be).

Verses 1-2 and 5-8 are my favorite parts.

[verse 9] At first I did not understand what "balances" meant, but the second or third time I think I got it!
"in the balances they go up" - like, they do not bear much weight

[verse 5]
"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,..."
This is probably my favorite verse of the whole psalm.  I especially like that it is David talking to his own soul, and that when I read it, I am talking to my own soul (which I think has much power to affect change in me).  In addition to that, I feel like being positive and patient is my big struggle with my flesh right now.  I must confess and apologize for any negativity that I have conveyed towards this process of developing my team of ministry partners.  It may be challenging, but that does not give me the right or freedom to be negative, as I feel I have been doing.  God has called all of us to do everything without complaining or arguing.  So I like the directness and challenge of this verse to be silent in the waiting.  It helps me to not speak negatively towards something that is good, but to remain silent if all I want to do is grumble.
"...for my hope is from him."
My hope is from him, not from my partners, not from my efforts, not from money and not from my circumstances, all of which are things in which I have sometimes hoped instead of God.

[verse 6]
"...if riches increase, set not your heart on them."
I feel that this is a very applicable warning/reminder for me as I begin to think about receiving a bigger paycheck in the (hopefully near) future.  I must be careful not to put my hope and trust in money, but always in my Provider, Jesus.  My comfort and peace comes not from "enough money" but from my Lord, my Provider.

[verse 12]
"...For you will render to a man according to his work."
(As a side note:  I don't understand how this fits in with the context.  Hopefully it will be revealed to me soon, so I can have an accurate interpretation and application of this verse.)
I must admit, this verse scares me a little.  But only in my sense of guilt that maybe I am not doing enough or that I could/should be doing more.  Despite my continued effort in building my team of ministry partners, I frequently feel like I could/should be doing more.  I recognize that this may be conviction or may be a lie from the enemy (or maybe a little of both).  So I am trying to be careful with my conclusions from this verse, especially considering that I have not dug into it yet.  From that mindset, I wonder if maybe I would be closer to my financial goal if I had just done more or worked harder.  But I know that I cannot dwell on that for too long, or it will get me into trouble!
But, on a positive note, this verse is a good challenge for me to aim higher - to ask God for and pursue more opportunities, more contacts, and more dials.
Yet in all this focus on "my work", I recognize that even that is from the Lord.  For my abilities, skills and desires come from him.  I can work because of him and I see results because of him.

For about a week prior to stumbling upon this psalm I had recognized that I needed a perspective change and I had been asking God for just that.  Though it is only the beginning of it, I feel like this is the perspective that I need.  I really look forward to digging into this psalm more, and I am especially looking forward to God changing my heart through it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My blogging woes!

So I really do like to write, and it is my aim to blog regularly (like once a week to start).  I even have lots of ideas and topics that come to me and I think, "I should blog about that."  But I rarely take the time (because I feel like I don't have the time).  But today I had some time that I thought "Oh!  I could blog!"  Then I got on here and didn't know what to write.  Sometimes breaking the ice is just so hard!  So I hope that this will be the first of a long string of regular blogs.

With that being said, I really want to share some pictures from my "College weekend" with my friends.  The idea behind college weekend was to do crazy things and stay up late, as if we were in college again.  So the last day of our college weekend was Punk Day.  And instead of explaining it myself, I will direct you to a website where you can get a short intro and then see pictures, which are AWESOME!  So check it out!

And P.S. - Katie is an awesome photographer, so if you have any photo needs you should definitely give her a call!  She does family sessions - perfect for the holidays!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I had a brief conversation with a friend and partner today.  Usually, I struggle to put into words an answer to the question, "how are you?" but today had some success.  I thought I would share it in case you were wondering.
Friend:  How are you?
Me:  I am not really enjoying the rollercoaster that is life.  The undertone of my summer has been discouragement, so it has been rough some days.  I cannot wait for this season of life to be over.
Friend:  Still see Student Venture as the path the Lord is keeping you on?
Me:  Definitely.  It is just a hot fire of a process to get there - God is burning off impurities in my life, which is great, but as I am confronted with my vast wretchedness I struggle to thrive in His grace, and instead get stuck in my habit of guilt and same.

Sometimes I feel so far from experiencing the gospel in my daily life.  Please pray for the spiritual warfare that is going on for my heart and affections, for my mind and attitudes.  I long to experience God's waterfall of grace, yet I have a dam of guilt that keeps me as dry and weary as a desert.  Pray that God demolishes that dam of guilt for me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I feel like a parent

I went back to my youth group tonight.  It has been a while since I have gone to youth group back home.  It felt weird going into it, and the weirdness never really left.

Going into it felt weird, I guess, because I had not been there in a while.  One of my girls I knew would be off at college, and that was weird to me too.  After I got there, I found out that it is actually the last Sunday for a lot of the people that are headed off to college for the first time.  Last year I had one girl graduate high school and go off somewhere.  Next year I will have one or two graduate and go off to college.  But this year, four graduated and are headed off to college.  It is weird.  I cannot believe it has been four years since I began pouring into some of these girls.  I think I feel a fragment of what parents must feel when their children go off to college.

"Did I do a good job?" was the first question that ran through my mind.  But I remembered that it is not about me, so I thought about Jesus.  "Did I teach and train them well?  Was I faithful with those whom I was given?  Are they going to go off to college and their relationships with Jesus survive?"  For the first time I was realizing that I had only a limited amount of time to disciple these girls.  So many things ran through my mind that I wish I had thought of, or realized, years ago, when I was entrusted with these girls.  Lessons that I learned theoretically now became steeped in reality.  I feel like I finally realized practically, that my influence in many students lives will be short.  Looking ahead to whenever I start ministry with Student Venture, I will be able to go into it with a realization that I only have four, three, two years or less with these students, and then my time is up.  Discipleship is urgent!

I am glad I am learning this lesson now, instead of four years into my ministry with Student Venture.  I hope and pray that I always keep this in mind as more students are entrusted to my care and discipleship.

As for my girls that are now headed off to college, it is another lesson in faith to trust that God will keep them close.  It is difficult to let the birds fly from the nest, but it is time, and it is necessary.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lift.10 wrap up

My trip to Ridgecrest, NC went well.  I got an alignment and a whole new set of tires for my car, so it ran well.  I spent less on gas than I thought I would.  :)  It was a long drive, but having somebody with me made the time pass more quickly.

Here are some highlights from the week:
  • Beautiful weather in the mountains; definitely not as hot as Florida.
  • Afternoon adventures hiking the mountain trails.  Rattlesnake Summit was my favorite!
  • Passionate messages from Student Venture's national director.  I always like hearing from him.  His messages encourage and challenge me.  I am proud to have him as my National Director.
  • Corporately praising our great God and Savior through song.
  • Joining together in prayer for ourselves, our teams and our students.
  • Having time to connect and pray with our city and department teams.
  • Deepening existing friendships and starting new ones.  Student Venture really feels like a family.  I feel so loved and cared for, and just enjoy being with the team.
  • Sharing a burden with a friend during the car trip.  We talked extensively about a difficulty I am facing, and more so than that, got to lift it up to God in prayer.  It was wonderful!
A Student Venture conference cannot be complete without silly games during the sessions - this is one of those games.
     Table friends (Kelly, me, Kar-Lai, and Sheridan) and table fun!  :)  (the sweat bands were for a game we played later that day)
      My favorite time of the conference was the city time. I got together with the six other staff members on the Orlando team.  We shared a little about how our summer was going.  We also shared about what God was speaking to us through the conference.  It was really encouraging to hear that I was not alone in the issue God pointed out to me.  In fact, it seemed as though the whole team was struggling with the same issue - some facet of pride.  In hearing others share about it, I felt the freedom to be honest with them about my own struggle.  It is nice to be known for who I am, shortcomings and all, yet still embraced as a much desired part of this team, this family.  We also got to talking about the coming semester and the unknown that stands before us.  Our previous directors have moved on to a difference aspect of SV, so some of our team members are the new directors.  God also seems to be calling one family, potentially, to an international SV ministry.  We are not sure what that looks like yet, but it could mean that our team would become even smaller.  A theme that God seemed to be speaking to us separately, yet all together, is prayer.  As we look to this coming school year, prayer seems to be our strategy.  It is very fitting, since we do have so much unknown in front of us.  Since prayer was such a large topic of our discussion, we stopped talking and just prayed.  We prayed probably for as long as we talked.  It is awesome to be part of a team that is (or will be) committed to prayer.  It is awesome to be part of a team that is okay with tears and emotion.  It is awesome to be a part of this SV Orlando family.  I cannot wait to join them on the field.

      Thank you for praying for this trip and conference.  Please continue to pray for our team and the unknown in front of us.  Please continue to also pray for new financial partners to join my team so that I can report to the field as soon as possible, to reach more teenagers with the love and truth of Jesus.

      Friday, July 30, 2010

      Today, life sucks

      I don't even know where to start.

      I stopped at Big 10 Tires today to have my car checked over in preparation for my road trip to NC on Monday.  The diagnosis:  I need an alignment and two new tires (because the tires are wearing unevenly because they are out of alignment).  That is the bare minimum I need in order to get to NC safely.  But in addition to that, I have a transmission pan leak and I need my rear brakes adjusted.  AND THAT IS WHAT IS SO MADDENING!  I just had my 60,000 mile service done less than two months ago, I should not have problems with those things two months after they were just tended to!  I shelled out enough money that there should not be any problems with my car.

      Of course, money is a concern - I am just making it with a part time income.  And I was already wondering how I was going to pay for my dog's yearly shots and heartworm medicine next month.  I guess it is a good thing I have a birthday coming up.  There's nothing more fun than spending birthday money on necessities.

      What hurts the most:  missing out on quality family time because I have to spend tomorrow getting second opinions to make sure little inexperienced girl here is not being taken advantage of by car guys.  My little niece's voice over the phone saying, "No Aunt Katrina, you have to come" just twists the knife.

      To only make it worse, this is what is running through my mind:  "If only I had taken it in a day or two earlier like I had planned...I would probably be able to go tomorrow."  "If only I had gotten my tires balanced and rotated regularly, my tires would have lasted more than half their lifespan."

      So if car woes, lack of money and missing family time wasn't enough, I add a dash of guilt because I think that I could have avoided all of this.  And I probably could, if I took care of my car like I should have, getting my tires rotated and balanced regularly.  I hate that I had to learn this lesson the hard way, but I guess now I know.

      Conclusion:  yeah, today, life sucked.  I'm glad tomorrow's another day, and that in a month, my car stuff will be resolved.

      Sunday, July 25, 2010

      A funny thing

      I have to preface this story with a little background. It is not that
      often that I "dress up" (even remotely), nor wear perfume or smelly
      lotion. In the past, when I have dressed up, I always seem to put on
      some kind of scent. I guess it is a habit now to wear something smelly
      when I dress up.

      So I am getting ready this morning and decide to "dress up" a little
      since I would be going to a bridal shower after church service. Per my
      habit (which seems weird to me because it is totally unintentional), I
      decided to put on my Victoria's Secret lotion (probably my favorite
      scent, not that I am familiar with many for it to be a legitimate

      Flash forward to the shower: I was there for a few hours an every now
      and then I would smell something nice and think, "Oh, that smells
      good, I wonder what it is" then my thoughts would return to the
      shower. It could have been the candles burning or any other of the 30
      women in the room, but I was not that concerned about figuring out
      what or who it was. Finally, I am driving home, by myself, and realize
      "Oh, it's me that smells good." : P How silly...

      Tuesday, July 13, 2010

      Weekend Revelations

      So it is finally coming together in my mind and I think reaching my heart as well.

      Chapter 7 in Traveling Light by Max Lucado, I read a perspective that has become ingrained in my thinking and has been working on my heart - in a good way.
      We ask God, "Where is the path?  Where are you taking me?"  And he, like the guide, doesn't tell us.  Oh, he may give us a hint or two, but that's all.  If he did, would we understand?  Would we comprehend our location?  No, like the traveler, we are unacquainted with this jungle.  So rather than give us an answer, Jesus gives us a far greater gift.  He gives us himself.

      ...everything changes when your rescuer appears.  Your loneliness diminishes, because you have fellowship.  Your despair decreases, because you have vision.  Your confusion begins to lift, because you have direction.  Please note:  you have not left the jungle.  It hasn't changed, but you have...because you have hope...because you have met someone that can lead you out. ...Jesus doesn't give us hope by changing the jungle; he restores our hope [by changing us].
      And that is what God has been doing in me, restoring my hope by changing me.  (I did not even realize how hopeless I felt.)  What I have learned:

      The destination is not the point or the goal, and not even the journey is the point or goal, but Jesus is - Jesus is the goal, the prize...and I have already attained that.  :)

      My jungle is developing my team of ministry partners, being unclear as to what step to take next, and not knowing how or when I will ever reach my dream of doing full time minsitry.  This jungle may seem like a period of waiting - waiting for the day of which I dream - but it is a period of walking with my LORD, as is all of life.  I do not want to be looking forward so much that I miss what he has for me right now, that I miss more precious time with him.  He is my hope amidst the jungle, and even if I am "lost" in this "jungle" for a prolonged period of time, I have already been found in the most important way - by my Hope, my Guide - and so long as I am with him, that is all that matters - I have all I need and am not truly lost.

      Bottom line:  Life's value is not defined by our actions, but rather, by our relationships.  Living is not constantly looking toward the future; living is enjoying and taking part in the present.

      Tuesday, June 22, 2010


      So it has been a few days since returning from Getaway and there are some things on my mind and heart in the way of transitions.

      Most obvious to me is my feelings of loneliness.  Whenever I return from a trip that involves being around people almost all day, whether it be a week or 7, I almost always feel lonely.  I miss people and the intimacy that I usually experience every day on trips like that.

      At Getaway I had places to go every day and people to love and disciple - I had purpose.  Coming back home seems like such a stark contrast to that and I am struggling with feelings of purposelessness.  Without many interactions with people I feel like I do not have much purpose to my days.

      Overall, I think I am struggling with the basic fact that I am trying to fit a changed person into a home, an environment, a world that is not changed.  While at Getaway, I had experiences that do not fit into my "normal" life back in the "real world".  I am changed, yet the world I have come back to is no different than when I left and I struggle to be the different I have become.  It is very tempting to just return to the person I was and the ways I went prior to Getaway.


      As someone so recently and so clearly noticed about me, I am a doer.  I struggle with resting.  It seems a theme that has been spoken into my life by two godly women the past two days.

      As I read my thoughts and struggles above I wonder if my heart is even in the right place, for if I were finding all my satisfaction and worth in my relationship with and identity in Jesus, then would I not be okay?  There are such fine lines between love and idolatry that I feel like I am walking.  I pray that I do not focus on God for his benefit in ministry, for that would make ministry an idol.  I pray that I do not focus on God and his character for the benefit of knowledge, for that would make knowledge an idol.  I pray I do not focus on actions for or with God, for that would make work an idol.  Can I be satisfied with just him?  I pray that I can come to a place when and where I seek God just for him.

      I am beginning to see that maybe my challenge for now is to rest - to rest in the presence of my Lord, to rest in the truth that he supplies EVERYTHING I need - that he is my company and provides the intimacy for which I long, and that so long as I am in union with him, I will remain the changed person he is working in me to be, despite in what environment I am.

      I guess I am feeling the tension between my renewed spirit and my sin-stained heart and mind.
      22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
      Galatians 5:17 (ESV)
      For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
      But praise God for Romans 8:1-11 and Galatians 5:18!  What a wonderful God that loves me!

      Sunday, June 20, 2010

      Getaway 2010 - Wrap Up

      Days three and four we spent the afternoon doing outreach on the beach.  I was amazed and captivated by the creativity of the outreaches we did.  Some people did tug-of-war, some did slow motion football, and some just handed out free bottles of water.  The coolest part of our conference outreach was the battle.  We had two “armies” consisting of our guys painted up and armed with cardboard shields and weapons.  Buses dropped us and them off at two locations and we drew a crowd to follow us to the battlefield to watch.  The two armies came face to face and fought an epic battle.  With each of these activities the students would strike up a conversation and talk about spiritual things.  Many students had the chance to share the gospel and lead people to accept Christ as their Savior.  I also had the opportunity to share the Gospel with people and see some accept Christ as their Savior.

      The last two Chat Rooms that we had did not go in any way how I wanted, but I am sure God had a purpose for it.  One relationship in particular was really challenging for me, but God used it to help me and the other person grow.  God also used it to bring me to a depth in prayer where I have not been in a while, a place that I have missed and want to get back to.  He also used it to remind me of my utter dependence upon him in everything that I do, and that I fear him and not what people think about me.  Most of the time in ministry I can get away with loving gently; but there are times when a fierce love is called for – love that will speak truth boldly in the way of conviction and correction so as to restore one to a right place with God and others.  For me it is always a scary and difficult way to love because of how highly I consider others’ thoughts about me.  But when I fear and depend upon him, I can do all things.

      The last two evening sessions were filled with great teaching from James White.  I cannot even begin to describe it – it was the BEST teaching on the scriptures I have EVER heard.  Needless to say, I learned a lot from those sermons.  Along with that, the last night we had a Holy Ghost party, which I also cannot really describe, except that it must be the closest experience to what Heaven will be like that I have ever had.  It was off the hook!  Imagine 600+ people jumping, shouting, singing, rapping, dancing, etc. for an hour or so, all in praise and worship of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ – totally spontaneous worship.  No one wanted to leave or stop.  It was incredible!

      Tuesday, June 15, 2010

      Getaway 2010 - Day 2

      Last night I was hoping to talk with my girls about struggles in their lives.  The evening message was about being vulnerable in community and was really good.  The first half of our Chat Room we talked about emotions (something else the speaker mentioned).  We had some great discussion and one of the girls really got the idea that it does not matter what or how many bad things a person has done, that they are declared righteous by their faith.

      Somehow there was a natural break halfway through, and I felt like I lost them.  They got rowdy and could not get back on track.  We laughed a lot but eventually I sent them to bed.

      I do not mind them having fun, but at the same time there is so much growth and depth that I feel like they will miss if we do not get the chance to talk about deeper things.  Pray that we will get there when the time is right, and that I will have the discernment to know when to lead the discussion that way.  I certainly do not want to rush things, but also do not want to miss the window of opportunity.

      This morning during our staff meeting, one of the other Orlando leaders shared a story of how God is working in the guys' hearts.  One guy in particular, one of the student leaders, was struggling with something pretty big and it was weighing heavily upon his heart.  The leader could see on his countenance that somethings was going on inside so he asked.  When the boy finally opened up, he just started crying - hardcore crying.  The Orlando leader did not say much more before his buddies started rallying around him, hugging on him and supporting him.  Eventually, other Orlando guys heard about this guy struggling and they ran to the room to support him.  So picture all these young men, all of them crying for their brother, hugging him, supporting him, and encouraging him.

      I love to hear stories like that, to hear how God is working in the hearts of guys, raising them up to be men of God.

      I also want to share a story about another guy with whom God has blown me away.  I met him through our seminar times (he is actually from Chattanooga).  The topic of our seminar has been teaching students to reach out to groups on their campuses and to disciple others.  The one guy really cares about the lost at his campus.  He prayed for our table in regards to reaching out to others and his heart really shone through.  He had scripture hidden in his heart that came out in his prayer along with his compassion for his fellow classmates.  He asked questions about strategies and such.  It was really refreshing to me to hear these teenagers filled with such compassion like Jesus and wondering how and planning even to reach his campus.  He and another guy at the table want to go to Venezuela this summer on a mission trip.  I think this trip would be great for them - great experience and especially great training and equipping for returning to their schools in the fall with the intent to reach their campus.  The only thing that stands in their way is $3000 that they (collectively) need to raise in order to go on the trip.  So pray for God to provide financial partners for Jack and Trent to be able to go on this mission trip.

      Monday, June 14, 2010

      Getaway 2010 - Day 1

      It has been a busy almost 24 hours since we have arrived here in SC.  There are over 600 teenagers and interns/volunteers/staff here this week to grow in their relationship with God (or to begin that relationship).  Last night, the speaker gave a very clear presentation of the best news of all time and we have already had some students respond by placing their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Woohoo, praise God!!!!!!  This week we have the privilege of having the band Tenth Avenue North lead us in worship through music.  They have already been a blessing to myself and to students.  One of my girls was explaining last night that one of the songs really helped her connect with and experience God.  It was so cool to hear!

      I have a few more girls in my Chat Room than I thought I would, but I am so glad to have them all.  You can be praying for Lindsey, Susan, Kayla, Alison, Rachel, Maggie, and Kara.  I was so glad that during our first Chat Room they were really honest about where they feel like they are at spiritually coming into this conference.  On a scale of 0 (being "I don't care about God") to 5 ("could be better, could be worse") to 10 ("Godisthebestthingever, Ilovehim,Ilovehim,Ilovehim!"), the lowest was 2.5 and the highest was a 7 or 8, and everyone else was in between.  That may seem like a wide range to handle, but what I really like is that they all came to grow spiritually.  Their passion for change overflowed in their answers to my questions - they are all SO hungry for more of God.  IT JUST EXCITES ME!  Pray for me as I challenge these girls to grow in their faith and lead them to know what steps to take next.  I sometimes find myself surprised that they do not know, to me, what seems so elementary as far as a relationship with God goes; but it brings me back to the reality that they are still young spiritually, which is great!  (We were all babies at one point, right?)  I am excited that I get to reveal more of Jesus' love and redemption with these girls.

      Monday, May 24, 2010

      Reaching out

      Last Friday I was on my way to an appointment when I saw a man at an intersection asking for help.  Sadly, this is not an uncommon sight.

      << Rewind<<  A while ago I became discontent.  Driving by these people every week I wondered what I could do.  As a Christian, am I not supposed to be helping the less fortunate?  Many thoughts of safety and questions of actions went through my mind.  I continued to drive by these people and be reminded of my discontent.  I was frustrated with the call/desire to help but no idea how.  I kept praying.

      Finally, I had an idea - gift cards - a practical way to help, while not risking money being spent on drugs or alcohol.  So I decided to make a care package of sorts.  I bought some gift cards to healthy-ish food places and put it in a card with an encouraging note.  I, of course, do not want to meet only someone's physical need but want to make sure I minister to their spiritual need as well.  So in the card I included a small book that explains the Gospel.  I made a few of these care packs and put them in my glove compartment so they would always be handy.  My hope was that this care package communicates that someone cares about them and that they have worth, ministering to their felt-need and their real need.

      >>Flash forward>>  I decide to pull over and give one of these care packages to this man.  I parked and crossed the street.  I shook his hand, introduced myself, and asked him about his situation.  His name is Ronnie.  He has some kind of blood disease and lost half of one of his legs.  He is unemployed, thus the reason he was out there.  I gave him the card and explained I had to go because I was on my way to an appointment.  I told him I would pray for him.  He was very grateful.

      I wanted to ask you to say a quick prayer for him too.

      I also challenge you to think about how you can reach out to others in need.  Will you make care packs like mine?  Will you get creative and think of other ways to reach out to others in need?  If you do come up with other ideas I would like to hear them, so tell me about them.  Of course asking God to provide for others is good.  But we have to beware that we are not praying for God to provide for those in need only through other people.  If we have the ability would not our faith and love move us to take action ourselves and be the answer to our own (and others') prayers?  James 2:15–16 (ESV) says, "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?"  I would be so bold as to say that if we have the ability to reach out to others in need and are praying for God to provide for them, yet are not taking any action personally, then we are lying to ourselves and to God in that we really do not want God to provide for them.  So ask God how you can help others in need...and do it!

      Monday, May 17, 2010

      I shall come forth as gold

      Thunder rolls, the dogs stand up looking a little worried.  Emergency vehicle sirens ring out as the smell of fresh summer rain fills my nose.  There is a lot on my mind as I eat my banana with peanut butter and honey.  These cloudy, thundery, rainy moments seem to foster pausing life for reflection.

      I woke up this morning on the "wrong side of the bed".  I think I had been dreaming about a Friday workout with Trinity Fitness.  Friday is the day when we share prayer requests at the gym.  I awoke and my first thought was about a concern of mine.  This concern has been on my heart for a long while, but recently I have thought about sharing it with my workout buddies.  I guess that is how my dream was going.

      It was a difficult start to the day.  It makes for one of those days when you have to force yourself to do almost everything because you just don't care.  I searched some scripture for a little pick me up.  I got a little as I read that Jesus will be coming back one day.  I got dressed and rode off to the gym wishing it were Friday so I could share what was on my heart.  I knew that working out would be tough mentally; I usually do not have much mental endurance with this kind of weight on my mind and heart.

      I walk in to find lots of equipment, a pretty big group, and a hard looking workout on the board.  Another discouraging thought, "wow, this looks hard."  It must have shown on my face because one of the women said I looked worried.

      Mentally and physically I would say that I have strength.  I am strong enough to often lift the prescribed weight and stand up to whatever difficulty/discouragement comes my way.  But mentally and physically, I do not have much endurance.  I can do push ups on my toes, but can barely make it to 20 before dropping to my knees for the remaining reps.  Mentally, I think I give up too soon or think less of myself than of what I am capable.  Physically, I could probably do more, but because I cannot take the strain mentally, I take a break or go with lighter weight.  It does not help when I have the added burden of life concerns on my mind; then the weight is just too much to bear.

      I know it is at these points I need Jesus - to rely on his strength and hope in him.  I am not sure that I have quite figured out how to completely let go of trying on my own to letting him be my source of strength.

      As I was running the last stretch of the last part of the workout, Job 23:10 came to mind.  "When he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold."  It made me think of the heat of the fire that gold must go through to be purified.  I was hot.  Summer has come quickly here in Melbourne and with the heat and humidity I was extremely sweaty and needed water.  I wanted to quit and just walk.  But I thought about my gold, how I want to come out purified as gold after all the heat and testing.  It gave me the extra umph to keep going and to finish well.

      Likewise, I know these tough times in life turn up the heat to purify me even more and I will come forth purified, as gold, when the fire is over.  And that is where my hope is, that there is a higher purpose for this pain and it starts and ends with God, and is all for his glory.  :)  Such a wonderful thing to cling to my Savior!

      Wednesday, May 5, 2010

      Most influential person?

      Who (besides Jesus) has been the most influential person in your life? Why? Or how did s/he influence you?

      It is hard for me to pick just one person.  People make such great impacts in our lives and three come to mind quickly (mostly for their negative influence) and one comes to mind in the shadows, for that seems to be where she has always been, that quiet consistency of love and provision.  My mom has always been present and prominent in most things in my life, good and bad.  When I think about the other people that come into mind, it amazes me how their role in my life could play such a large part in influencing me.  One person's absence had a great influence in my life, or really, lack thereof, and I can see how I might have been different had that person been more present.  The other person's one action had an immediate and considerable effect in my life and had underlying effects that I have slowly learned of over the many years since that event.

      But I will settle on my mom as the most influential person in my life (besides Jesus, of course).  Her influence has been most consistent, most present and most direct.  The most important influence she has had on me was introducing me to Jesus at a very young age and putting me in the environments for me to build a foundational knowledge of God and the Bible.  I will present the rest of her influences chronologically. 
      Elementary School
      She encouraged me and gave me the freedom to be who I wanted to be (and to look like and to dress like how I wanted).  She never talked negatively about my tomboy-ish nature, so for the most part, I felt secure in who I was.  She encouraged and enabled most of my passions, so I was able to begin following my dreams.  She taught me how to make the best pancakes.  She did the best job anybody probably could have done at getting me through the big tragedy of my elementary school years.  The way she handled that situation instilled in me a healthy concern for emotional health, which has helped me to handle well the difficulties that follow.
      Middle School
      She started to become unavailable emotionally and I started to notice that I was missing something, though it was an unconscious awareness.  It led me to seek out a relationship that had a great impact on how I viewed vulnerability and emotions (a person which I mentioned earlier).  Because of her instability I experienced things and did things that matured me beyond my years.
      High School
      She taught me how to drive a stick-shift.  I continued to mature more than necessary for a teenager and I quickly learned how to be an adult, somewhat.  Her instability increased and I took on more responsibility than I should have.  It led to a poor understanding of boundaries and responsibilities in relationships, with which I still struggle today.  She afforded me the opportunity to love deeply, but also to hurt greatly.  The pain I experienced, partly from my relationship with her, caused me to harden my heart, which I am also still working on today.

      I am who I am today greatly because of lessons she taught me directly and because of lessons I inadvertently learned because of her own problems and how they affected me.  This is just a general snapshot of her influence in my life.  I still learn many things from her and because of her, and I imagine she will always be the most influential person in my life.

      Monday, May 3, 2010

      Biggest accomplishment?

      Hmmm, I have tried to give myself time to think about this hard question. I guess it is hard for me to answer because I feel like God deserves all the credit for anything good in my life - I could not have done it without him.

      That being said first, now I am not really sure, I don't really keep track. But here are some notable accomplishments.
      • In 9th grade I managed to take honors classes, play on the school basketball team, take care of my mom after school and practice, and still somehow manage to get all A's. 
      • I made it through college without any student loans. :D
      • I received the "Citizen of the Year" award one year in elementary school.
      But as I mentioned before, I have to give God all the credit for enabling me to do those things.

      Friday, April 30, 2010

      Longest road trip?

      As a kid, my brother and I would travel up (from FL) to PA with my Mema and Papa. We usually took a couple days, but it was lots of fun (when I was not feeling carsick).

      Myself driving, my longest road trip was going to a conference just north of Atlanta, GA, by myself.

      This summer however, I will probably be driving up to Ridgecrest, SC, and maybe taking some detours to visit peeps.  So that will probably be my longest road trip yet, and I will likely drive by myself.

      Tuesday, April 27, 2010

      Catching you up.

      There have been so many times that I have wanted to come on here and blog.  God has been doing so much in my life and has been teaching me so much.  I really want to start blogging more regularly.  I guess I need to set aside time every couple days to do so.

      Whenever I blog I always try to keep in mind the length, because I know that you do not have hours to read what I write.  So keeping that in mind, but wanting to unload the blog topics that have been building up in my mind, I have decided to write the short thoughts and not develop them (so this blog will seem all over the place).  Then I will try to blog more regularly so the topics do not build up again.

      My 5K went well.  I had a few friends come with me so it was nice to be able to hang out with and celebrate with them.  It was fun and I reached a new personal best.  My goal was to finish in 30 minutes (about which I was very skeptical), and I finished in 29:42.  Woohoo!  Running with others sped up my pace a bit, and the excitement and adrenaline from the event kept me pumped up and distracted.  So the running was good, but I am not so sure I am crazy about running in races like that.  I wrote before about liking the longer, harder runs because they emptied me and pointed me to Jesus.  I cannot really attribute my great success in this race to my dependence on Christ; I was more dependent on my adrenaline.  So whether I do another one or not I have not decided.  The good thing that came out of it was motivation to run that far on my own, and thus emptying me and pointing me to Christ.  So, we will see.

      Of the family with whom I am currently living there is a boy in high school.  They just had their prom last weekend and were talking about it on Monday.  The boy was saying how of the people that he had interacted with that day, about 47% of them were talking about having sex after prom.  : O  4 7 %  Ugh, it just makes my heart drop to hear the saddened state of our high schools these days.  And if that is not bad enough, it just pumps up my desire to be doing ministry with Student Venture.  If I am not careful with it I can quickly get frustrated with God for "taking so long" to bring enough partners onto my team so that I can get out on the front lines.  Sometimes it is so hard to keep myself in check.  But I cannot save the world and there are people already out there whom God is using.  So I guess I can wait until he is ready for me (or until I am ready) to get out on the field.

      I am currently reading through Judges...and it is aWeSoMe!  Previously I was struggling to get through the Old Testament.  I had the wrong perspective.  My goal was to get through it just to get through it.  Once I changed my perspective to seek to learn about God it became not only tolerable, but pleasurable and desireable.  Now I am excited each night as I climb in bed for my "story time".  Reading through Old Testament stories and looking at what, how and why God is doing is teaching me/reminding me a lot about God but also bringing up some questions.  Like last night, I read that God sent an evil spirit between to Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem (Judges 9:23).  How could God do that, does that not contradict with his goodness?  Things like that I just do not understand about God.

      Well, that is probably enough for now, but be looking for more posts coming soon!  : )

      Saturday, April 17, 2010

      "Maybe we're spiritually obese"

      Those words came out of my mouth while talking with a friend. I was confessing to her that I felt lazy in my relationship with God (amidst other things). I was confessing that I am not taking much initiative in setting aside time to spend alone with God and his Word. My hunger I guess is not there and I feel stuck.

      I was also sharing with her some other thoughts that had been going through my mind. A friend recently was talking about changes in their ministry and their life. The ministry has changed from a "holy huddle" to an actual outreach to people who do not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. In their lives, they are seeking to do life with and be friends with people that are not Christians. As full time ministers they are going against the grain, seeking to do ministry rather than just help others do ministry.

      Hearing what he had to say really challenged me and I have been thinking about my life. Part of a book I read recently was pointing out that it is a stumbling block for listeners if the message they hear preached does not match the preacher's actions. It made me think about when I will report to the field for ministry and when I am talking with teenagers, challenging them to reach out to their peers or family. Would my life be a stumbling block for my preaching to them? I am sad to say that right now it would be.

      She identified with what I was saying and we both tried to figure out what was different a few years ago when we did not feel so stuck. We thought back to being college students regularly having spiritual conversations with students on campus. We were regularly *exercising* our faith and not just consuming. We were pouring out ourselves. As it is now, I feel spiritually obese - consuming and consuming and not using what I am consuming. I feel stuffed, like after Thanksgiving dinner, when you just cannot take one more bite. So maybe that is why I feel stuck and am not taking much initiative. I am lazy in my fatness.

      But we have resolved to start exercising regularly - spiritually that is. We are going to keep each other accountable to serve weekly and have spiritual conversations weekly. Personally, I "got off the couch" this morning and am fighting the laziness, seeking God in his wonderful Word and in honest prayer. Boy it is hard work, but like I learned a couple weeks ago, it takes hard work to get to the top of the bridge. :)

      Wednesday, March 31, 2010

      The running continues...

      I went for a shorter run today, with plans to do some strength training afterward.  Today's run, a 2-miler, was quick and relatively easy.  I breezed through it in 16ish minutes (it was probably a little less than two miles).  I did not cramp up and my legs did not get tired.  I returned home and went on with some strength exercises and that was it.

      In reflecting on it just now, I realized that I prefer the longer runs.  I prefer the ones when I get exhausted, cramped up, legs tired, and wanting to quit.  I prefer the longer time, as opposed to 'blink' and it is over.  Seems crazy, right?  It probably is, but let me explain.

      Last Sunday I went for a run.  It was probably my hardest one yet, physically and mentally.  The day was dreary and I was not in the mood.  I did not want to go, but I made myself anyway.  And to make matters worse (or so it seemed) I left my iPod at home (to help me get used to its absence for the upcoming 5K).  So out I went, and I pushed myself, hard.  I kept up my pace, not letting myself slow down like last time.  I even jogged in place at the stoplights.  I did not want to stop to walk unless I absolutely had to.

      It all actually turned out quite well, but to one thing I must attribute my improvement and success.  The difference in that particular run was that I tried to be very conscious of God and the fact that he was with me.  I prayed (when I was not distracted).  And when I got distracted by thoughts of slowing down or walking, I just started praising him, literally clapping up praises because whatever insufficiency I was feeling, God was still soooo awesome.  So the more tired I got, the more I praised him.  Knowing and acknowledging that he was there with me encouraged me.  Remembering and praising his goodness encouraged me.  It was awesome!

      But it took the wasting of me to turn to him.  So I conclude:  I prefer longer runs, because the struggle points me back to God and the best way to make it through is to praise him.  I prefer longer runs because it empties me and fills me with him.  :)  What a wonderful thought!


      So I got an account on  It is this cool thing where people can ask you questions and then you answer them.  I am actually surprised at how many questions I have gotten so far.  Since I have the question box on this site (and it does not do a good job of directing people where the answers will post) I decided to just answer the questions on the blog as well.  Even though only one person asked the question, it might be fun or helpful for others to see it.  I also would feel more free to give longer, more complete answers on here.  So without further ado...

      What is your favorite song of all time?
      Gosh...that is a hard one. After some thought, I will go with a very deep and theological answer - the song of praise the Church will sing for all eternity. Something like the song in Revelation 4...and something like this:

      Friday, March 26, 2010

      Ever thought about what it takes to get to a spiritual high?

      I went for a run the other day (as I often do).  I was running up a bridge and was thinking about how it takes a lot of hard work to get up the bridge, yet going down always feels so easy.  Somehow my brain made a similarity to the spiritual life.

      In the Christian life we sometimes identify certain events or periods as "spiritual highs".  These are times when we feel close to God.  We can hear him clearly and seem to just "do the right things".  We are living the way we were meant to and loving it.  It is a time like that retreat you went to as a youth.  For the entire weekend you escaped the spiritual oppression from the world.  Those pressures and distractions were minuscule.  Everybody around you was trying to grow in their faith and relationship with Jesus.  It was a rich environment for you to clear your head and get things straight.  You grew in your faith and maybe even felt like God was giving you direction for part of your life.  You were on top of the spiritual world and felt like nothing could get you down.

      But remember a few weeks after that, when you really messed up with your parents.  And the direction God gave you was not so clear anymore - did he really tell you to do that?  The world had crept back in and fogged up your sights once again.  You no longer felt so close to God and your relationship with him was just...well...hard.

      So what does all this have to do with running up and down a bridge?

      As I was running up that bridge I thought, "the top is like a spiritual high."  A second later I thought, "but it takes so much effort to get to the top, and it is so easy to run down the bridge."  And there it was.

      It takes a lot of effort to get to a spiritual high.  It may take planning, rescheduling, facing persecution, traveling, isolation - any number of things.  It is hard work and tiring, and sometimes you may feel like quitting even before you get to the top.

      But the view is astounding!  Getting to the top is so rewarding.  That day I was runing, I saw a dolphin - how cool!  I could see boats, cars, buildings and all sorts of things for miles around.  It can be a great way to see the big picture, which often helps guide our plans and actions.  But the best part is just the experience of feeling like you are closer to God - it just seems more real.

      Just beware.  Before I knew it, I had breezed down the bridge and once I hit the flat ground my feet felt heavy again - heavier than before.  Sometimes it does not take long to come down from a spiritual high - it is often so easy you do not notice you are descending...until you plateau.  Then it seems like a struggle, harder than before.  You may even have lots of doubts.  Did I really see that dolphin?  Was that boat really that close?  The big picture may become skewed and you may start to doubt the things you learned, what you heard God say, or the guidance you received.  Weeks or months later you may even find yourself wondering, "Did I really run that bridge?"

      So work hard to get to the top and be attentive to the descent.  Record things during your spiritual highs so you can refute the doubts when they come.  (Just like this picture shows that I really was at the top.)
       Journals are a great way to record your thoughts and prayers, lessons you learned and what you felt like God was saying to you.

      And one more thought.  I think ahead to how I want to keep ascending that bridge (and training for my 5K).  I may not have been able to run the entire way up the bridge the first time, but as I continue to train I will be able to run the entire ascent, it will get easier and I will be able to make regular visits to the top.  So maybe those principles transfer to the spiritual life as well, not necessarily that you will have spiritual highs more often, but that experiencing a closer relationship with God becomes more natural and regular.

      Wednesday, March 24, 2010

      MPD like Israel's wanderings

      I'm reading Deuteronomy. Could it be that ministry partner
      development (MPD) is like this wandering in the wilderness? God is
      certainly leading and frequently humbling me and others during this
      process. I certainly feel that my faith and heart is being tested,
      whether I will walk in his ways or my own.
      It seems like it to me...just thought I would share.

      Tuesday, March 16, 2010

      The Redemptive Thrust of Scripture

      The following comes from a selected chapter assigned as a part of the Biblical interpretation class that I hope to take this summer.

      When composing a lesson to teach or preach, there are two focuses/perspectives that can be taken: 1) fallen-condition focus (FCF) and 2) redemptive-historical focus (RHF).  The FCF takes the experiential perspective by focusing on Jesus as the remedy for our experience of the fall - sin, suffering, brokenness, etc.  In considering a passage of scripture it asks the question, "What aspect of the fallen condition of mankind does this passage address?"  Each passage reveals the ways that I, you, we, humanity need the grace of God.  The RHF takes the theological perspective by focusing on God's divine plan of redemption, assuming that God has a divine plan.  It asks each passage, "What aspect of the divine plan does this passage reveal?"  Every passage in every book focuses on Jesus by revealing some aspect his person and work.  Each book does this uniquely.  "These two methods keep us from preparing messages that contain true statements and good counsel but are ultimately sub-Christian because there is nothing of the Savior in them."

      My thoughts and opinions
      The most important thing to notice is that all of scripture points to Jesus, period!  Regardless of whether you are looking through red or green lenses, you still see Jesus; you just see him in a different light - by light of experience or theology.

      As much as I like to ponder theology and learn more about it, my preferred perspective is the fallen-condition focus.  It is probably the teacher in me, because I want everyone I teach to feel the weight of their need for Jesus, so as to accept him gladly.  One of my favorite quotes says something like, "If they don't feel the weight of the problem, they won't care about the solution."  If people do not agree that they need something/someone like Jesus, then all our words will fall on deaf ears.  I want my audience to be captivated and convicted so that they are begging for Jesus' solution before I even finish.  It seems simple to me, but how can your audience not be attentive if you are talking about something they agree with and for which they crave solutions?  (I'll get off my soap box now.)

      Another important consideration for the fallen-condition focus is what is meant by "fallen-condition".  This does not only refer to sin, but anything related to living in a fallen world - sin, suffering, and frustrated longings.  Suffering for example, may be experienced because of our own sin, someone else's sin, this sin-wrecked world (illness, death, natural disasters), persecution and Satanic/demonic oppression, or just plain ignorance.  So fallenness encompasses more than just sinfulness.

      My questions
      Nope, I liked it way too much to have questions.

      Doriani, D. Getting the Message:  a Plan for Interpreting and Applying the Bible. (pp. 170-186) Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing

      Tuesday, March 9, 2010

      Bible reading - part 3

      (I finally finished this article on reading the Bible.)

      Reading the Bible for Personal Application - Personal application of the Bible is a mystery.  The contents of the Bible was written in a different time to different people in different situations.  Essentially, we are reading someone else's mail.  Yet, the Bible still speaks to us.  Personal application can be expanded in the following ways.  First, consolidate what you already learned.  Chances are there are some passages that you listened to and connected with right away and thus they were, and may still be, very applicable to your life.  Passages like these are usually straightforward where you can easily plug in your life's details.  Secondly, look for those passages that are directly applicable.  These are usually more general scriptures, such as those found in the Psalms.  Finally, recognize that many passages are not direct for personal application, but tackling those passages to apply them personally can be very rewarding.

      My thoughts and opinions
      This was probably my least favorite part of this article.  Though there was one part that I will take with me as I move on.  One big advantage to digging into the less direct passages to apply them personally is that they provide a different perspective.  These passages take one's focus off one's self and places them on the bigger picture.  This decrease in focus on one's self may be just what one needs.  The Bible is all about God, and thus our lives should be too.  The Bible is not for our benefit but God's glory (albeit through changing us), so this refocusing perspective is crucial.

      My questions
      I guess I got nothin'.

      Bible reading - part 2

      Wow, I feel like I have just been overloaded with information!  I thought I had a good understanding of what it meant to read the Bible as literature, but WHOA was I wrong!  There is so much more that I never thought of and can/need to take into account when reading and interpreting the Bible.

      Reading the Bible as Literature - There is a distinction that needs to be made between expository writing and literary writing.  The Bible is literature, with means rather than just informing and stating abstract thoughts (expository writing), it explains those abstract thoughts through stories of concrete human experiences (literary writing).  Authors do not write about characters, actions, and situations, but the use those to write about God, people and the world.  There is a form to this book of theology, and it is literature.  Thus, we must be able to understand the form in order to accurately interpret the theology of the Bible.  [Whoa!]  Taking all of this into account, there are then many things to consider - literary genres, literary subject matter (human experiences - which I have already mentioned), archetypes, motifs, stylistics, rhetoric, and artistry.  "The Bible is a literary book in which theology and history are usually embodied in literary forms."

      Reading the Bible in Prayer and Communion with God - That we could commune with the creator God is unthinkable.  How is this possible?  Because God took the initiative to reconcile with us poor, ungrateful, backstabbers.  "The first thing to say about the Bible in relation to communion with God is that the message of how to be reconciled to God for the glory of God is the central message of the Bible."  That is where we must start.  But it does not end there.  Communion here is defined as "not merely learning about God but enjoying fellowship with God in the truth he reveals about himself."  The Bible is where God reveals himself, and therefore a place of communion.  We pray to the Father, by the work of Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Prayer encompasses confession, praise, thanks, requests, and others.  God reveals himself in words through the Bible and prayer is our response to God using words (as opposed to responding through actions).  The Bible not only reveals God, but gives us instruction, examples and encouragement about prayer.  The Word allows us to pray, helps us to pray, and gives us our prayer - that God would be glorified and that others would be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

      My thoughts and opinions
      In regard to prayer and communion with God, not as many things were new or impactful.  Though a couple things stood out.  "When we pray for God to do what only he can do, he alone gets the glory while we get the joy."  What a sweet deal!  We pray, God does the work, and we get to partake in the benefits of his glorification.  Wow, how awesome is that!  I just cannot get over that we get so much despite our undeserving of it.  But then again, it is even there where he is glorified and we are satisfied.  Huh, wonderful.  :)
      "We speak to God the Father, on the basis of Christ's work, by the help of the Spirit."  This sentence made me think of how I and many others conclude our prayers - "in Jesus' name we pray, amen," or something to that effect.  I just thought of how cool it would be to encompass the whole Trinity when concluding our prayers by stating that "we pray to you Father/Almighty God, etc., on the basis of the work of Christ, by the help/power of the Spirit within us, amen."

      As for the Bible as literature, my mind was/is overloaded.  In order to interpret the Bible the way I desire (really well, accurately, etc.), there is a lot that I need to learn (or remember from school).  But the prospect of digging into literature is so exciting to me - it is more than just a boring, straightforward essay.  It is a artistically written book, full of variety of forms to keep us entertained and engaged.  We can (and should) read the book with vivid imaginations playing out the words on the page.  We can engage with the concrete human experiences and learn truths and lessons vicariously (much less painful, might I add, than learning them on our own, the hard way).  I think of a time when I was trying to memorize the whole chapter of Luke 15, and when I got to the story of the prodigal son I acted it out as a drama.  For the first parable I drew a comic strip and for the second story I rewrote the story for modern times.  Without really realizing it, I was taking advantage of the literary opportunity the Bible presents us with to relate to and engage with the scriptures.  Now if that does not make reading the Bible exciting, I don't know what does!

      My questions
      Hmmm...I do not think I have any this time.

      "Reading the Bible." (2008) English Standard Version Study Bible. (pp. 2567-2568) Wheaton, Ill:  Good New Publishers.  

      Saturday, March 6, 2010

      Bible reading - part 1

      I started reading an article in my English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible as part of the readings for my next Institute of Biblical Studies (IBS) classes.  The article is about reading the Bible (seems pretty simple right?).  Here's what I have gotten so far:

      There are various ways to read the Bible - theologically, as literature, in prayer and communion with God, for personal application, and for preaching and public worship.

      First things first, a few foundations must be laid.  The Bible is the Church's instruction book.  It is canonical, meaning it is the standard, literally the "measuring rod".  It is God's instruction and standard for faith and life.  Crucial to classification as canonical is the Bible's inspiration and unity.  The Bible is God's self-revelation to humans, by means of divinely illuminated humans writing in their own words so that we may understand.  However diverse in form and style the writing, the Bible is unified in content and themes.  The entirety of scripture tells one story, that of Creator God redeeming his creation and chosen ones through Jesus Christ.

      Finally, theological reading.  Theological reading of the Bible is a quest for God.  Theological reading must always be done prayerfully.  It is a prayerful search for God, in light of three guiding principles.  First, revelation of God throughout the Bible was progressive - from dreams and visions in humans to the Lord himself revealing himself through the incarnate Jesus - partial to full/complete.  Second, one must keep in mind the difference of everyday words when used in relation to God (reading "analogically", similar in meaning to reading metaphorically).  Third is to keep in mind the Triunity of God - three "persons" yet one divine Being.

      Secondly, theological reading is a quest for godliness.  "The goal of theological Bible reading know God personally in a relationship that honors him."  So, three questions guide readers.  1) "What is shown about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?"  2) What is shown about the world with its beneficial aspects along with its corrupted aspects?  and 3) "What is shown to guide one's living, today and every day?"

      My Thoughts and Opinions
      (I think I was so caught up in "regurgitating" that I did not really analyze what I learned/remembered, if anything.)  There is a lot there that is completely up to the interpretation of the article's writer(s).  Some things I have heard before, multiple times actually.  I have learned a little bit already about the canonicity of the Bible.  Though is not the purpose of this article, there could be more that could be mentioned.  Progressive revelation and "analogical" language were new ideas to me.  They are good things to point out and to consider.  I prefer the questions at the end, probably because I always prefer more practical concepts - and questions are very practical.  These are great questions to ask yourself when you are reading any part of scripture.  It forces you to look at the context and background of the scripture, which most likely is time consuming, but they will lead to a more accurate interpretation of God's Word and thus a more accurate revelation of God - which is the whole point of it all anyway - God.

      My Questions
       From where did the term "analogical" come?

      "Reading the Bible." (2008) English Standard Version Study Bible. (pp. 2567-2568) Wheaton, Ill:  Good New Publishers.

      Monday, March 1, 2010

      "What do you want the Lord to do for you?"

      I opened My Upmost for His Highest and ran across that question for the title for February 29th. Something in me would not let me move on to March 1st, but to consider that question. So I skimmed Oswald's thoughts and got stuck on the 'supernatural' idea. "What do I want God to do supernaturally in my life?" became the question to answer. I knew immediately the answer - I want to reach my full support goal by June 4th. In addition to and as a result of that, I want to staff Getaway and then take IBS classes the following four weeks. Then, for the rest of my summer I can work on more ministry partner development until the team returns and I start my training for Student Venture ministry. I know the Bible warns us about making our own plans, and all of these desires I state in a heart of surrender, with the attitude of "if the Lord wills" (James 4:13-15). I cannot do it on my own - I must have God act supernaturally in my life and in my world, but that (and more) is what I am asking of him. I ask you to join with me in praying for this.

      Wednesday, February 17, 2010


      Today I stumbled across some good reading relating to science and the Bible. I looked up 'circumcision' in the Tyndale Bible Dictionary to gain a better understanding of the topic while I was reading through Exodus. I found great information (that I have yet to finish reading), but here are my thoughts thus far.

      Circumcision was practiced even before the Hebrew people. Males were circumcised around puberty, often for fertility reasons, but also for preparation for marriage and full tribal responsibilities. Circumcision became established with the Hebrew people when God established his covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17). For the Hebrew people thereafter it became a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham. The Hebrew people were then the only people to circumcise during infancy. Today, it is often practiced for hygienic reasons and only within Judaism does it carry religious implications.

      My thoughts and opinions:
      There were a few things of note that I find fascinating. Most fascinating is how God's instruction about circumcision displays his Creator knowledge of physiology. "Medical research has determined that prothrombin, a substance in the blood that aids in clotting, is present in greater quantity on the eighth day than at any other time in life." In many Western nations today it is practiced a few days after birth because of the hygienic benefits believed to be a result - prevention of genital cancer for both sexes. Although it is regularly practiced in medicine today, I am considering waiting for the eighth day if I ever have a son.

      Another interesting point is that circumcision is not mentioned in the Koran. However, Muslims practice circumcision traditionally because Muhammad was circumcised. In contrast to Judaism or Western culture, males are commonly circumcised at age 13 because that is when Ishmael was circumcised. Ishmael is significant because Arabs trace their ancestry to Abraham through Ishmael.

      Finally, circumcision was a sign of the fulfillment of God's covenant with Abraham. The fact that it was done in infancy reaffirmed the covenant for each generation, regardless of faith or unbelief. By this, God made it so that no matter the response of the heart of the people, his covenant would be fulfilled. There was nothing the people could do to bring about or hinder the fulfilling of God's covenant. I guess I like Elwell's and Comfort's interpretation of that meaning because it points back to the Gospel - there is nothing we humans can do to earn or hinder our salvation and sanctification through the blood of Jesus.

      My questions:
      I guess I do not have any questions for now.

      Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference library (p 285). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

      Same goal, different strategy

      So it has been a few weeks since sharing my new goal. I have had plenty of time to search and rethink. The week following the establishing of my new goal I searched for books and resources that I already owned that I could read. I was disappointed at the lack of books devoted to each subject, though I found some decent articles. But then I thought about the classes that I have to take for the Institute of Biblical Studies (IBS). I know it requires significant reading, but the classes are only two weeks each. So I did some research and found that some staff read ahead of time and find the class experience to be much more pleasurable. It sounded great to me so I looked up the book information for each of my next four classes (that I may take this summer). So my new strategy is to read through those books primarily. They will cover the topics of Biblical interpretation, Old Testament Survey, Biblical communication, and doctrine of God, Bible and Holy Spirit. I have also adjusted my strategy to at least four out of the seven days of the week, but still at two hours each time, with some blogging. In addition to the topics of the classes, I may delve into some of the topics I mentioned before.

      Thursday, February 4, 2010

      New faith challenge

      So I have been working on a lesson I want to (and will) teach to the middle school students in my church's youth group. My faith, trust and dependence upon the Spirit are certainly being challenged to grow. The insufficiency that I find in my thoughts is that I do not know this passage of scripture well enough to teach it. "What if I am wrong? What if I am taking it out of context?" Because of these questions I feel I need to be an expert on this passage...and book....and entire Bible in order to feel confident that I am not taking in out of context and that I am keeping in line with the entirety of scripture. .....I have never felt so inadequate while preparing for a lesson. :\

      But that may be an indicator that I am relying on myself. I know that I have the Holy Spirit within me, which is the mind of Christ. He knows the Word and all the truths of God and has the ability to reveal them to me, inspire me and correct me if need be. So I must trust the Spirit within me to guide me (and to guide my youth) into all truth and to teach all truth. I am doubting my own insufficiencies, which I think is healthy, because I am imperfect. But I am stuck there instead of turning my gaze to him and trusting that the Spirit within me makes up for my insufficiencies and inspires my lesson with all truth.

      ::sigh:: I love these gentle, quiet lessons from God. :)

      Monday, February 1, 2010

      New Goal

      I was recently made aware of the fact that God took many, many years to prepare Jesus and Paul for ministry. When I think about my preparation for ministry it seems much shorter. But I do not want that to be an issue and I know that God can do incredible things in this time of preparation (while I develop my team of ministry partners). As part of preparation for ministry I took (and recently finished) a New Testament Survey class. I was sad that it had to end because I enjoyed learning more - I felt more prepared to talk with others about the Bible and what it says. I was praying about preparation for ministry and was inspired to continue this mental/intellectual preparation for ministry by studying on my own. I want to hone in on select topics that I think will be most beneficial for my future ministry (and am praying that God confirms these or leads me in directions he knows will be more beneficial). So here is my goal and strategy (and what you have to look forward to). I hope that by writing it out I will be more accountable to it.

      Goal: to prepare for ministry by increasing my knowledge about relevant topics

      : Spend two hours a day reading, studying, and reflecting on a particular topic. Topics include: science/creation science, world religions, apologetics, theology, emotional life/counseling, Bible study. The last half hour I will blog briefly about what I learned, my thoughts and opintions, and my questions. The blogging will really help me to process, especially if I do not have live discussions with people about these topics.