Archive of ‘Grow’ category

Running the Race

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A few months ago I decided I was tired of being tired. I had put on weight since my wedding…ya know, the whole “fat and happy” syndrome, and I felt sluggish and not my usual athletic self. I sought out my own routine – I tried Jillian, Insanity, going to the gym, and every tip I could find on fitness blogs, but I just couldn’t seem to get in a rhythm that stuck. A few ladies in town told me about a fitness group called Camp Gladiator, so I decided to check it out. What I found is that CG provides 60-minute intense workouts at many locations throughout the week in my area (including one across the street from my house…which makes it nearly impossible to find an excuse not to go **face palm**).

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They have certified trainers that write full-body workouts and provide accountability for its members. After the first month, I realized that I felt better, lost weight and most importantly, found a routine. I found a community of women that push me to run faster, go further, and show up to workouts at 5am. Long story short, I am now four months in, 15 pounds down, and feel better than ever.

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This is me and my trainer Heather the day I signed up for CG.

At the end of the summer I will be participating in a competition called CG Games. It is a unique physical test unlike any other that challenges its participants in endurance, speed, agility, strength, and all other areas of physical fitness. In many ways, I’ve realized that training for CG Games is like running the “race” God calls us to run in life. As I have prayed through what the future holds for this community of women, I continue to come back to lessons I’ve learned in physical fitness.

  1. Run with a purpose – don’t run aimlessly.

One reason training for CG Games has been good for me is because it has given me a purpose to run. I’ve never been much of a runner, but now when I pop in my ear buds and throw on my tennis shoes, I am running with a specific goal in mind. When running aimlessly, we tend to burn out quicker, stop short when our bodies could continue, and lack purpose. Just like training for a race, I believe that the Lord calls us to do all things in life with a purpose and to the best of our ability. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says,

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

As Kelsey, Andi, Amanda, and Lauren have previously stated the past couple of weeks, there have been many things… good things, like babies and changes in ministry contexts and new jobs… that have taken our time and attention the past few months. For this reason, we have not been able to invest the adequate time into GLOW to allow it to be all that it can be and reach its potential. After much prayer and deliberation, we believe that, for a season, we need to pause, exercise self-control, and take a break from GLOW to fulfill our other responsibilities to the fullest. Our plan is to return at the start of 2017 fresh, rejuvenated, and full of energy and passion to move forward.

  1. Slow and steady wins the race.

When I started my workout regimen a few months ago, it was tempting to eat far too few calories to jumpstart the weight loss or even worse, eat far too many calories because it felt like momentum wasn’t in my favor. If girls at workout could lift more than me or run faster, it made me want to either go to the extreme and workout twice a day (which is unrealistic with my schedule) or quit working out all together. Neither one of these are good options. What I realized through my training was that sometimes it’s better to jog for a long distance and finish, than it is to sprint a short distance and stop before I’ve reached my goal. It’s better to consistently work out and eat a balanced healthy diet over time than it is to workout excessively for a short time. With GLOW, our team has decided that it would be best for us to take a short break now to allow rest than it would be to continue “sprinting,” leading to a burnout. Each of us on the team has a heart for this blog, this community, and sharing our hearts for the sake of His glory. We believe that taking things slow and steady will lead to a win when we launch again in January.

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise.” Ephesians 5:15

  1. Balance is crucial.

In physical fitness, balance is key. I’m not just referring to literal core strength. The balance in nutrition (goodbye carbs), time spent working out, and consistent sleep patterns directly affect weight loss and muscle gain. I believe this to be true in life as well. I had to learn some hard lessons regarding balance the last few months. I bit off more than I could chew and found that I was consistently stressed out and feeling inadequate since I couldn’t do any one thing on my calendar to the best of my ability. I felt like a juggler, juggling so many balls that I would have just enough energy to catch one and throw it back in the air in the knick of time before it hit the ground and ended my performance. I decided I needed to cut back on writing weekly for GLOW for a few months until other commitments ended and I was able to get control of my schedule again. While I was still very much a part of the operations behind the scenes, I wanted to thank each of you for being patient with me and allowing me the break that I needed. At this time, our team has decided that as a whole we need to exercise balance as well. Said balance means that we need to take a short break from GLOW to allow everyone to fulfill their current commitments well.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven- A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

What will the next few months look like for me? I will continue my job at the seminary working in marketing and communications. This will include some travel to conferences and other events. I will also be taking seminary classes to continue my Masters in Theological Studies. Mike and I have been very busy with our church and, as a team, our passion to love God’s people grows each day. We have several trips planned to see family and I look forward to spending time with my nieces and nephews. While I have largely put my photography business on hold (as a part of that whole exercising balance thing I mentioned earlier), I have a few projects on the horizon this fall. Considering the topic of today’s post, I guess I should mention that I will continue to workout and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for tuning in every day to read. If you are a contributor or desire to be a contributor, please feel free to continue sending us blog posts via the instructions on the Submissions page. Our goal is to start fresh with many blog posts in the “bank” to be published after the new year. Check in with our media channels as they will be updated closer to the time of our new launch in January. Please be in prayer for the GLOW team and continue to keep in touch.

Just as Camp Gladiator offered a community of friends that provided encouragement, accountability, and consistency in physical fitness, GLOW provided those same things for me in my spiritual walk. GLOW has been an encouragement when times were tough, it kept me accountable to spend time in God’s Word, and it was a consistent source of “real talk” written by women who want to know God more. We want our team to be that for you, too! See you in January, friends.

Turtle Soup

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My dad loves to do yard work. He’s always been this way. The yard is my Dad’s domain, his kingdom, and each blade of grass bows to him.

My childhood memories are littered with grass clippings. I can remember him out in the yard all summer long in his white t-shirt and baseball cap. I remember how he would push that loud machine in meticulous rows all along the grass, leaving a trail of straight lines behind him, like he was a colonel and the grass stood at attention in perfect formation as he passed. I can picture him stepping back to take a break and locking eyes with my mom as she walked out to meet him, pushing down the freshly shorn blades with her feet, and handing him a glass of Arizona Iced Tea.

It was his thing. It still is his thing. When he’s out in the yard, he’s like Adam in the Garden of Eden, taming and shaping and perfecting the nature that is his.

There’s a picture that I’ve seen often of my Dad and me. I’m just a baby and my dad is just a twenty-something and there we are, in the backyard. My dad is standing behind the lawn mower with a huge smile on his face and I’m there, strapped to his back in a baby carrier. The sun is bright but my dad’s joy is brighter. He was in his kingdom with his princess at his back.

I’m told that he mowed the lawn like this a lot. That his thing became our thing.

Once I got bigger, too big to fit in that baby carrier, he figured out another way to include me.

“Hey Kels, I’m gonna go mow the lawn.” He would say to me and I knew what it meant. His announcement was an invitation. A call to join him in the yard.

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I would follow him outside and sit next to the aluminum trash can that he dumped the grass clippings in, waiting patiently for the bag on the lawn mower to fill up. He would finish a portion of the lawn, stop and detach the bag that caught the grass clippings. He would carry that bag over to me and the trash can and dump in that heavy, wet, earthy, confetti.

“Here you go!” my dad would say to me.

“Thank you! Turtle Soup coming right up.” I would reply.

That’s what I called all of those tiny, discarded blades of grass. Turtle Soup. They were green ingredients for imagination. I pretended to stir the trash can full of grass, pretended to sprinkle in seasonings and smell the concoction as it cooked on my imaginary stove and every few minutes, my dad would come over and add more to the pot.

Turtle soup became our creation, the result of our shared interest. He had invited me in, made me a part and had given me space to create my own iteration of the thing he loved.

I loved making Turtle Soup. I loved the smell of the grass and the way it looked heavy and fluffy all at the same time. I loved pretending to make something yummy and filling and I loved sharing the sun’s rays with my Dad. Mostly I just loved that part; sharing something with my Dad.

The picture of my childhood summers is drawn with grass clippings all in a mound in that aluminum trash can. Each blade piled high affirmed my dad’s love for me, his desire to teach me and spend time with me. His hope that the stuff he loved could become the stuff that I loved just because we did it together and it’s fitting isn’t it? While he cultivated our yard and made wild things tame, he cultivated my heart, pruning away any doubt that he loved me and wanted to be with me no matter what.

My Dad invited me into the garden to work and cultivate and create treasures from waste. Our Heavenly Father does the very same thing.

“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.” John 15:1 NIV

He’s constantly at work in our lives and in the lives of others. He’s shaping and pruning and watering and fertilizing the seeds that are there, dreaming of what they will become. He knows the potential that’s wrapped up tight within the hearts of people just like he knows the color and shape of every petal that lies within a flower’s seed. He knows it all, could cultivate it all alone if He chose to but instead, He invites us in to join Him.

He comes to us daily just like my Dad did with an invitation to join Him in the garden, to find a part in what He’s doing and to wait for what He will pour into our barrel’s to work with.

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’” Mark 16:15 ESV

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 NIV

So what has He given you? What has he asked you to do? What are you making with the portion of work that He’s poured out for you in the garden of His kingdom?

When I spent time with my Dad as a kid, I imagined that I was making turtle soup. I pretended that the smelly, wet grass could turn into something special, that the mess could be redeemed simply because the magic of a little girl’s imagination said it could. The thing about working in God’s garden though, with Him right along side you is that it actually can.

He’s in the business of pruning away the bad and transforming it into something good. He specializes in beautification and transformation just like any good gardener does. He makes all things new.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Set your hands to the work of His garden. Trust in what he’s pouring out for you. Make the most of it. Stir that mess, those hearts, those jobs, those opportunities, those people or trials or triumphs into Turtle Soup. Accept His invitation to join Him.

Accept what He’s given you and conquer that transformation well. While you do, don’t miss out on the knowledge that you are sharing in the work of your Father. That He has invited you out to work alongside him.

Don’t miss out on sharing something with your Dad. He could do it without you but instead, He’s waiting for you to join Him, the King with His Princess at His back.

Defining Discipleship

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Photo by Lauren Koski

Throughout college I wondered why my eyes would tear up when the word “discipleship” was mentioned. I wondered why I cringed at the term “D-group.” I wondered why I felt like such a loser when I saw two ladies from my congregation or student leadership team huddled over coffee without me.

I have been hurt by not being chosen for a specific discipleship group, but I never even asked to join. I have been engulfed by jealously at the faithful friendships I can’t seem to find with older women. I have felt sick to my stomach when asked, “Who’s discipling you?” I have asked someone to be my mentor and they have never followed through.

I secretly struggled with this throughout college because before college, I was never introduced to the practice of discipleship. Feeling like the oddball, I never broached the topic to anyone for fear of judgment. I felt very alone and, honestly, I was alone.

Discipleship can be defined as the act of molding one’s life to reflect the teachings of Christ, or it can be for the actual process of teaching Christ followers one step behind you while following those one step ahead of you. As Christ followers, we are all disciples of Christ — He is our Teacher, we are the pupil. All of this terminology is growing obsolete. As I type this out on a Word Doc, red scribbles appear indicating our dictionary’s confusion over the different forms of the word. But, I’m also afraid the practice of discipleship will soon be obsolete as well.

I see two main problems here:

  1. We are all too busy for relationship.
  2. We have allowed structure to compromise intimacy.

Now, I may not be the best voice for this argument — frankly, I know I need more discipleship from both Christ and sisters in Christ before making many arguments — but I have to believe I’m not the only Christian woman who has felt disheartened by the pressures of discipleship.

I am a huge believer in the practice of discipleship — Christ Himself literally commands it (Matt. 28:18-20) — and I have seen how encouraging, uplifting and beautiful it is.

But, with all these “life groups” and Bible studies and women’s retreats and, finally, “D-groups,” what is it that truly defines discipleship apart from all the other spiritual relationships we have out there?

Here are 3 thoughts I have about reconsidering the way we do discipleship:

  1. Go where the disciples are.

Where the boys are… If you want a boyfriend, go where the boys are, right? So if you want discipleship, go where you will find it.

Fellow younger women, don’t spend all your time with your own generation and expect to find yourself a mentor. Reach out to women who are in different seasons of life.

Older women, contrary to popular belief, we do have a desire to be challenged and spurred on in our faith — I just think my generation needs a bit of help getting there.

Maybe I’m speaking just to my own generation here, but we must be willing to enter into life with other believers — and not just believers who are the same age, like the same things or, dare I say it, have the same exact doctrine.

The times I was lonely throughout college were, in large part, due to the fact that I was too shy to reach out and ask for help. When encouraged to find a mentor, I simply retreated back into hiding. I was fearful of being raw with someone about my sin and I was fearful they would let me down.

  1. It’s not all about coffee.

Phew. That was difficult for me, a self-proclaimed coffee addict, to say but am I right? Aren’t we all just sipping coffee, talking about attractive hipster worship leaders and maybe breaking open the Word once in a while? Or, maybe we are too concerned with memorizing the “Bridge” diagram or moving on to the next event scheduled in our busy day?

Okay, I know that’s a little exaggerated, but discipleship is becoming so routine. Amid the coffee stains, various Gospel diagrams, prayer requests and checklists, I wonder where real life is able to come into play.

Maybe discipleship is as simple as spending an hour holding your mentor’s crying baby while she does laundry. Maybe it’s cooking a homemade meal for a college student. Maybe it’s playing Bingo with the lonely woman across the road in the retirement home. Maybe we ought to live life with others and allow spiritual conversations to arise with the different tides of life.

  1. We all have the same Teacher.

Our greatest Teacher is Christ Himself. As His followers, He has bestowed upon us the title of His disciples. This is our greatest and most important relationship, and out of that relationship is where discipleship with others comes alive.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. By this my father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15: 4-8

God has given us to one another. As we all plug into the Vine individually to receive the nutrients we need to produce fruit, we grow together as well.

It was last week that I felt as if I finally saw a glimpse of raw discipleship. With greasy hair and no makeup on, I was deep in prayer with three of my closest family-friends. It was 4 A.M. and I had slept on a cot in their living room that night. They had opened their busy home to me as a resting place before I had to drive the length of California back to my parents’ house. In the middle of life itself is where they met me and where I was able to meet them.

Early that morning, we clasped hands and, through tears, prayed over one another. For that moment, our chests seemed to be cracked open wide to reveal our hearts and the reality of life’s pain and joy was exposed. Together, we beckoned one another further down this road called discipleship and worshipped the God who sacrificed of Himself to even give us that opportunity.


About the Author

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetLauren Koski

Hello! My name is Lauren and I am a follower of Jesus Christ. As a journalist, I believe in harnessing the media’s influence for the Gospel and believe that storytelling will be a strategic tool used for the growth of His Kingdom. I am excited to be interning with GLOW and look forward to the ways Jesus will use this platform for His glory.

My will or His will?

Walk in His Will

Do I take the job? Do I pursue the relationship? Do I go? Do I stay?

Questions swirl our minds as we throw our hands in the air and say: “Lord, I just want your will!”

When big decisions come our way, we desperately want to know the will of God. But often, we only seek the will of God on our terms, with our decisions, and it becomes all about us.

When we want to do the will of God, we must turn to scripture and find the spelled out, known will of God and walk in it.

For how can we be faithful with the big decisions in life, if we are not faithful with the aspects God tells us are of His will in scripture?

Women of God, here are some questions to ask yourself and dive deeper into God’s know will:

Am I boldly declaring God’s name and goodness in every circumstance?

His will is for Christ’s name to be glorified.

“That at the name of Jesus every knee will bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” Philippians 2:10-11 (ESV)

Am I living in a way that unbelievers see a difference in my life?

His will is for His followers to be sanctified, holy, and set apart.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor… For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” 1 Thessalonians 4: 3-4, 7 (ESV)

Am I relying on works to feel adequate in my faith?

His will is for us to embrace the gift of grace. Our works cannot ever earn grace.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

This is not to say we should not lay our decisions before God and seek His wisdom. For scripture tells us:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5 (ESV)

God’s will is sovereign and we can be sure of Him for he is faithful even when we are not faithful. He is infinite and we are finite in our understanding.

The Word tells us that no matter the questions of life to be made, focusing on God’s steadfast love will directs us.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

God’s will is not always a direct path; it is about being faithful in the known parts of his will and walking in it.


About the Author

DSC_0772Brooke Biddle

Hello there! My name is Brooke Biddle, and I am currently a senior Public Relations and Journalism student at California Baptist University. I am an imperfect but avid follower of Jesus Christ

If you were to peek into my life on a weekday you would find me sipping a freshly brewed pot of loose leaf tea, while editing or writing stories for the Pursuit Magazine campus publication. Other days you may find me hosting events for the students I mentor as a FOCUS Intern.

Weekends include time with family, friends, exploring LA, and a yoga session or two.

Food for thought:
Meraki is a greek word meaning: to do something with soul, creativity, or love, to put something of yourself into your work.

For me, to work at something as working for the Lord not just people, is like meraki, it means pouring my full self into what I do to glorify God.

If I were to create a mission statement for myself it would be: “Selflessly serve others and relentlessly love God.”

The Vine and the Branches

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I was reading John 15 this week and stumbled upon a passage I’ve heard a thousand times over. I even know a song I learned in middle school that has some of this scripture in it, and I can sing it to you word for word! But this particular day, these words hit me in a different way. A way I understood more than ever before. You are probably familiar with this passage too…. the vine and the branches. Take a look with me at John 15:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (verses 1-5).

This is Jesus talking to His disciples at the last supper. Jesus is the vine. God the Father is the vinedresser; the one who prunes, trains, and cultivates the vine. We are the branches Jesus is talking about in this passage. If we don’t bear fruit, we are taken away, but if we do bear fruit, God continues to prune us to get rid of all the dead places in us that we may become healthy fruit-bearing branches once again. So how in the world do we go about bearing fruit? We must abide in the vine-Jesus Christ. He says,” the branch cannot bear fruit by itself.” He doesn’t say “it WILL not” bear fruit, as if it had a choice. He says, it literally CANNOT. The branch has no capability of bearing fruit on its’ own. Therefore, we cannot bear good fruits apart from Christ. Apart from Him we can do nothing, the Scripture tells us. We are worthless!

The passage continues:

“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (verses 6-11).

How do people know we are followers of Jesus? They know by our fruits! So, this “fruit talk” is pretty important, after all! Our mission here on earth is to take the Gospel to the nations and show Christ’s love to the whole world. So, I say bearing fruit is absolutely vital! This is the way others know we love Christ! Not to mention, these verses say God is glorified when we bear much fruit. Our purpose is to BRING God GLORY!

Matthew Henry’s commentary says this about bearing fruit:

“We must be fruitful. From a vine we look for grapes and from a Christian we look for Christianity; this is the fruit, a Christian temper and disposition, a Christian life and conversation, Christian devotions and Christian designs. We must honour God, and do good, and exemplify the purity and power of the religion we profess; and this is bearing fruit.”

When we bear fruit, we bear the image and disposition of Christ. We begin to look more like Him!

As I thought about all this throughout my day, I tried to evaluate myself a bit. How am I doing bearing fruit? If I’m honest, I’ve felt like a slacker lately. I can make excuses all I want…toward the end of both my pregnancies so far, I’ve gotten super lazy, So I haven’t been abiding in God’s word. I’ve noticed myself losing patience with Liam more quickly than I normally do. Not to mention, I’ve been snapping at my husband lately. So, how’s my fruit production? I’m going to go with pretty lousy! Moody, losing patience, being lazy…none of these sound like Christ.

So, here I am at a crossroads. I can remain complacent or fight this urge to be lazy with all that’s in me. I can pray through the seeming silence. And I can accept the grace God pours over me. I can place myself in the vine and rely on Him to produce the fruit through me. Who’s with me sisters? How’s your fruit production?

But I had hoped…

Looming storm

This weekend, I gathered with a small group of women on mission here in Zambia and we reflected on the lives God has called us to, other women’s testimonies we can relate to, and passages in God’s Word, all the while eating delicious food and enjoying one another’s company. We had gathered to go through retreat material created by an online community for women living overseas called Velvet Ashes. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get too much out of this half day of activities, other than some extended girl time, but God certainly met us there. Our morning retreat was a powerful time set aside to reflect on the most important thing in life, our relationship with Jesus. After coming away from our time feeling so refreshed, I didn’t realize how much I had needed this time.

One of the most powerful parts for me was going through Luke 24, where Jesus appears after his death to a couple of believers on the road to Emmaus. If you are familiar with this passage, you will remember that the pair walking together were discussing Jesus’ death with a stranger on the journey with them, but the whole time they were kept from knowing the stranger that was with them was actually Jesus himself. It’s a unique picture of how God is always with us, even when we aren’t aware of His presence. He longs to hear the deepest cries of our heart when we think no one important is listening, He is there.

In verse 21, they lament about how the chief priests and rules sentenced Jesus to death, and they go on,

“But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.”

Stop here.

Now, if we jump ahead, we know that Jesus actually rose again on the third day, he was walking among them, and not only did He redeem Israel, but his death redeemed all mankind. He had to die so that we might have life, but this was not yet revealed to them, they didn’t yet know the bigger picture. They didn’t yet know Who was listening to them as they walked.

But we had hoped…

I want to invite you, like the authors of my retreat study invited me, to think back to a time when you were as disappointed and distraught as those walking together on the road toward Emmaus looking for answers. What were the disappointments you were (or are currently) carrying? Take some time to just list them out.

But I had hoped (fill in the blank for yourself)…

Go ahead and list as many things as you would like.

This was so powerful for me to admit the things that I had hoped God would have done for me, the ways I had hoped I would have reacted, and the things I had hoped to feel. For me, to admit that I was disappointed about certain ways things had turned out lifted a huge burden. I knew that some of these disappointments were in the back of my mind frustrating my everyday life, but I was afraid to give voice to them.

Confession, even if first just to myself and God, is powerful. Life often doesn’t pan out the way that we expect it to, and as much as I wish I could just go with the flow and trust God in it all, often I don’t. It’s hard to admit it. I’m so worried about coming face to face with the not so great ways I am feeling and reacting, that I rob myself of the freedom I experience when I consciously confess my disappointments to Jesus. The truth is, he already knows, why am I so afraid?

Next, we were asked to take a look at our list of disappointments, and ask ourselves which of these God may be asking us to offer back to him. This is kind of a strange concept, and I don’t think it was meant to say when we exchange our disappointments to God He gives us what we want in return. Rather it’s the act of acknowledging our disappointments and opening ourselves up to Him that puts us in a position for true peace.

I invite you to also ask God what he wants you to do with that disappointment. Is he calling you to trust him with that disappointment? Is he calling you to let go of that disappointment? Is he calling you to just be still and wait?

For me, the answer was TRUST. Such a simple word and idea, but a deep concept to embody. I must trust, even though a lot of my disappointments were for good things, He is God, His ways are higher than my ways. He may fulfill the missing things my heart is longing for in a different season or in a different way, or I may never get an answer. But I found so much power in just confessing what I was longing for or sad about, and then laying it at his feet. He cares about how I feel, but He knows what I truly need, and he promises he has given it to me.

The other passage we went through at the retreat was Psalm 23, and as I sat there thinking about God’s provision co-existing with my disappointments, the first verse of the Psalm came to mind.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1

I lack nothing.

Though I am disappointed, though I fall short, though some things may never get answered, I lack nothing. As the Psalm proclaims, my Good Shepherd knows all that I need, he is leading me to green pastures and quiet waters.

This doesn’t mean that I won’t face difficult seasons or moments where my pastures feel anything but green and it seems the waters are far from quite. In fact, the Psalmist calls where he is at “the valley of the shadow of death.” However, even in my lowest of lows, God is with me, He is with all of us.

He is a God that comforts, guides, anoints and restores us. There is such peace in that. God is God, He is the one orchestrating all of the good and wonderful things around us.

May we find Him in our valleys and our disappointments, but instead of letting those things take center stage, may we conclude with finding fulfillment in our Maker.

May we find ways to stop running around and worrying about the things that haven’t turned out the ways we had hoped, but instead lay down in the green pastures He offers within the storm. Join me in finding peace this week, in pouring out our true hearts, but still fixing our eyes on the hope that comes only from Him.

The Meaning in the Meantime

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

Be Still. These two words can be some of the hardest for me to live out in the midst of a life that is fast and constantly moving. I love to be continuously going. My brain seems to race at 100 miles an hour, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. I love to be with people and I love to be busy, with many different things to juggle. That’s the way God made me! Lately though, I am realizing that God made us to rest. God made all of us (and even me) to function properly only after a time of rest. On the seventh day of creation, He rested! Sometimes, resting is hard for me to do, but I am in a place in my life where rest is the thing I need to do most.

Still Rep.

For the last six months I have been living in Southern Germany and completing the Bible school program offered through Torchbearers International. The last 6 months have been incredibly full of teachings, events and constant life in community. Needless to say, it has been a very very busy 6 months. For me and for many others, it was an amazing experience and I was very blessed by the relationships I made during this time. About two weeks ago, I came home after a crazy adventure and I was really excited to see my family and figure out my next step. As soon as I got back to Colorado, I felt a pit at the bottom of my stomach. I came back to a place that was completely familiar, but at the same time, extremely empty. I came home in the beginning of April and I quickly realized how lonely I was. I don’t live with 106 other students anymore and my days are filled by following my mom around everywhere she goes. I was going crazy in the middle of this new and much slower way of living. I don’t have any commitments right now, and that is really hard for me.

Why God? Why is this time so hard for me? Why is the quiet and calm so hard for me to handle? I think we all ask God this question. It might not be the exact question that I have been struggling with but I think it’s safe to assume that all of us struggle with being in the place God has us right now. It can be so difficult to be in a place of transition, and God has us in those places so often.

Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds me that “His thoughts are nothing like our thoughts, and His ways are far beyond anything I could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts higher than my thoughts.”

Something I have realized over the last week is how necessary these places are. I came back from a place where I was constantly learning and growing and moving and changing. I thought that I came back and all the learning and growing just stopped, but it didn’t. I’m learning different things now. I’m learning the importance of being still. I’m learning to enjoy the quiet times that God gives me so that I may have a chance to slow down and hear Him. I am learning to find the joy in the midst of the journey and the meaning in the mean-time. I have felt really lonely since returning home and I think all of us feel lonely sometimes. God is constantly reminding me that I am not alone.

John 14:16 says,

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.”

In the Greek language, advocate is translated from the word “paraclete.” Paraclete means counselor, comforter, advisor and encourager. Without this time of still and slow transition, I may have not realized that when I am alone and when everything else goes away, He remains. He is my paraclete. When I feel alone, I can lean on Him. When I am frustrated in the midst of the place I am right now, I can run to Him with that frustration.

Ephesians 6:18 says,

“Pray in the spirit at all times and on every occasion.”

Even in the places where we don’t want to be, our paraclete is there. He sees you, He knows you’re struggling and He knows you’re just itching to move on to the next chapter, but He also loves you too much to let you do whatever you want to do. He is guiding you as you take every step. You are in this place right now because He knows you even better than you know yourself and He knows you need rest. As hard as it is for me to enjoy this time of rest, I am learning to grasp every still moment I can, because God is preparing me for something that is too big for my small mind to understand, and that is such a beautiful thing.

Ephesians 3:20-21 says,

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”


About the Author

ME!Rebekah Ralph

My name is Rebekah Ralph, I am 18 years old and I live in Colorado. I love people and being busy doing different things. Two weeks ago, I got back from living in Southern Germany for six months, where I attended Bible college through Torchbearers International. Here is a bit of what I’m learning right now.

Learning to Sing

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“I can do it!”

“No, let me try!”

“I don’t need your help!”

If you’ve spent any time with children, chances are you’ve heard at least one of these phrases in their presence. Children have the desire to be independent and mobile, making their own decisions without the need for assistance. And yet, as adults, we lovingly watch and want to intervene. We say, “Please let me help you.” “I’ll be right here if you need me.” When the children in our lives suffer because of their own mistakes, we mourn with them. We are saddened by the consequences of their choices.

Can I let you in on a little secret? I’m twenty-seven years old, and my attitude often resembles that of a child. My obstinance is no longer cute and funny, though. It hurts me and others around me. And it hurts my God, a loving Father who longs to take my hand.

You see, in the past year or so, God has been slowly stripping away all of my pretenses, showing me who I really am and where my hopes and fears lie. He’s showing me just how much I need Him. And I don’t like it. I don’t want to need Him.

Sure, I can sing the songs with the rest of them on Sunday mornings, declaring my desperation for His presence in my life, but the bottom line is, I don’t want to need Him. I want to do everything on my own. I want to be able to love my husband unconditionally — on my own. I want to have patience and a smiling face for my precious third graders — on my own. I want to have more self-control and discipline with my eating and exercise habits — on my own.

The battleground for self-improvement is full of checkboxes, each one moving me to believe I have no needs. If I have no needs, I don’t have to admit my weaknesses. If I don’t have to admit my weaknesses, I don’t have to be vulnerable. If I’m not vulnerable, I don’t have to face the junk in my heart. And so the story goes.

God did not create me to walk through my life with a false sense of accomplishment as I put on a facade that fools the rest of the world. He created each one of His children with a purpose — to know Him and to make Him known. When I deny my need for Him, I deny myself the best life — a life full of joy and wonder as He takes me deeper into His presence. When I quench the Spirit by puffing myself up in pride, believing that I can do all things in my own “strength,” I’m exhausting myself and living a lie.

But when I lay it all at His feet and allow Him to strip me of the shame, insecurities, and lies- there is where I find breakthrough. He meets me where I am, holds me in His arms, and walks me through each season, lifting my eyes to see His light at every bend. He says:

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert… to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” Isaiah 43:18-19,20b-21 ESV

So I open my clenched fists and write my to-do list in pencil. I give Him my plans and my desires and say, “Have. your. way.” When I surrender, I let God be God. I step off the throne of my own heart and acknowledge that I am His child. I relinquish my right to do things on my own and admit that He knows better. I ask Him to fill me with His Spirit and help me to walk in His love. In return, He fills my heart with a new song. I open my mouth, the words flow out, and His peace rushes in.


 

About the Author

JESSICA MATHISEN

Hey y’all! My name is Jessica Mathisen. I am a twenty-something newlywed living in Athens, Georgia. I work as a third grade teacher at a private Christ-centered school for inner-city kids. I love my Jesus, my husband, and my job. Oh, and my sweet little fur baby, Bailey. Most often I am found reading, writing, relaxing, or hanging out with friends and family. I love encouraging others to love Jesus right where they are.

I Don’t Want to Miss It

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I had the most beautiful time of worship recently. It had to be one of the most authentic times of worship that I’ve had in a very long time. It was a beautiful Palm Sunday. My alarm rang at 7:30, beckoning me to GET UP. I’m not a fan of mornings, so I desperately wanted to silence it and sleep another 45 minutes before the “getting ready grind” HAD to commence. I drug my lazy self out of bed because I smelled coffee brewing in the kitchen (thanks to my handsome hubby). I poured myself a cup of joe, grabbed my Bible and favorite cozy blanket, and I nestled into the couch, ready to prepare my heart for a Sunday of worship. I spent some time in prayer and read through a chapter in the Gospel of Luke. Then I heard a pitter patter of tiny footsteps coming my way. My baby boy came in, and he was saying “Mommy! Bible!” Smart boy. I WAS reading my Bible! So we grabbed up his Jesus Storybook Bible, and lo and behold the child who never sits still sat there with me, allowing me to read TWO Bible stories to him. It was a miracle! He and I prayed, and then it was time to get ready! Let me tell you something ladies… this is not an every day ritual for me because like I said… I hate mornings. BUT this set my heart up for some authentic worship I was about to have during our service. THAT is worth getting up for. Meeting with our sweet Jesus sets us up for our day, sets our hearts on worship, and refocuses our minds on what is truly important. That is seriously worth the maddening alarm every morning.

SO back to this day… service was focused on the death of Jesus, His sacrifice, and His love for us. It was great, but I can guarantee our church service was not the reason I was able to encounter Jesus quite like I did this morning. As my heart and mind were already focused, the words of the songs were especially meaningful. The focus on the cross and Jesus’ huge love for us was clearer to me. I wept as I thought about Jesus looking over Jerusalem, knowing He had come and the people were MISSING it. They didn’t understand who He was. They didn’t care. They were quick to chastise Him. They were more interested in the entertainment of His miracles rather than the message of them. They were face to face with the Messiah, and most of them missed it. I wept because I think we miss it so often. I miss it so often. I cried out to Jesus, “I DON’T WANT TO MISS IT. I don’t want to be part of the crowd that MISSES IT.” We don’t always understand that we are truly able to have daily encounters with Jesus, before His face, watching His power unfold in our lives. We don’t take His call to “love the widow, the sick, the poor” seriously. We don’t love God and love our neighbor. We continually step into church, looking for a “fill me up” service, only to never pour out on others. We don’t serve with our brothers and sisters. We get caught up in meetings, dirty diapers, sporting events, cooking, cleaning, laundry, studying, and we don’t even bat an eye toward those who need Jesus… or even toward Jesus Himself. I’m GUILTY.

We have gotten caught up in the machine. The machine of selfishness. We prayed a prayer to “become Christians” but we don’t really feel the need to take up our cross daily and follow Christ. Surely, He didn’t REALLY mean everything He said in the scriptures. Surely it isn’t true when He says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25). Surely I can continue in this sin, in this negative relationship, in this partying lifestyle because “God’s grace will cover me.” This is cheapening and taking advantage of His sacrifice and grace. Are these really marks of a believer?

Maybe Jesus was serious when He said we must give EVERYTHING we have to follow Him. Maybe He really meant all those things He said in the Gospels about grace and love and service. Maybe He really meant we must give Him our whole entire lives. Maybe He meant it when He said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few,” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Oh, how my heart has been burdened lately. I don’t want to miss it. I want to take Jesus’ words seriously. I don’t know how exactly my life needs to change to better love my neighbors quite yet, but I do know that I need to do the next right thing. As soon as God reveals to me how to better love my neighbor like Jesus did, I need to be obedient. Let me tell you… I’m so far from perfect. I don’t have it together. I don’t heed Jesus’ instructions like I should. My life sometimes looks like I’m all about me. But as I continue to discover what a true follower of Jesus looks like, I pray He gives me the ability to follow Him boldly and fiercely.

And if you feel this same war inside yourself that I feel, let me share some words from the book “7″ by Jen Hatmaker with you:

“I don’t think God wants you at war with yourself. He sent the Prince of peace to soothe those tumultuous waters already. Self-deprecation is a cruel response to Jesus, who died and made us righteous. Guilt is not Jesus’ medium. He is battling for global redemption right now; His objective hardly includes huddling in the corner with us, rehashing our shame again. He finished that discussion on the cross. Plus, there’s no time for that. We’re so conditioned to being a problem that we’ve forgotten we’re actually the answer.”

So, now’s the time. Time to step up and be the Church Christ calls us to be. We’ve got to lay aside our guilt and move forward. Let’s serve the least of these together.

In Christ Alone

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One of my favorite songs is In Christ Alone. No doubt, many of us sang this song yesterday as we celebrated Easter Sunday. My favorite words of the song clearly proclaim the hope of the Gospel:

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid-
Here in the death of Christ I live.
 
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine-
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

As I reflect on the Easter message, I am completely overwhelmed at what Christ did for me on the cross and the hope He brings all of us through His resurrection. Both the tragedy and beauty of the cross is that “ev’ry sin on Him was laid.” He took what we deserved. But yesterday, we were able to celebrate that his death also brought his resurrection – Christ’s absolute triumph over sin and death. The death and resurrection of Christ brings us hope and rescue:

“Sin’s curse has lost his grip on me; For I am His and He is mine – bought with the precious blood of Christ.”

Often as I leave church on Easter Sunday, I am filled with hope. I feel the love of Christ penetrating every part of my heart. I feel energy to face the days ahead. I sing the lyrics “I am His and He is mine” over and over throughout the day and I believe it with every part of my being. But, more often than not (if I’m being completely honest), the pains and worry of life slowly creep back into my mind by the end of the week. And, in just a few days, the beautiful love story that was told on Sunday morning doesn’t feel so close anymore. I still believe it with my entire heart, but fear and worry often tries so desperately to steal the joy that Easter brings.

Isn’t this just like the enemy (who I might note has just been reminded that he is completely defeated) to step in right when we’re celebrating? He’s always there to remind us of our sin and to convince us that fear is better than hope. He tries to remind us that we are not worthy of the saving grace that the cross offers each one of us. Satan is always the ultimate party-pooper. And, this year, I challenge us as redeemed children of God to remember that our sin was nailed to the cross and today (and tomorrow and the next day) and we can live in absolutely victory and freedom from the “sin that so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1). The party is not over and will never come to an end.

In the days and weeks ahead, more than likely many of us will face problems and insecurities and fears. We’ll face temptation from the enemy to sin and doubt. We will be faced with the darkness that Jesus died to conquer. But, the GOOD NEWS is that we don’t have to walk in that darkness any more. The message of Easter is the message of every single day in the life of a believer of Christ. Don’t let the enemy discourage you to forget what you’ve just celebrated.

Write down these verses, meditate on them, tape them to your mirror, and memorize them. Look for the hope that comes from Christ and don’t be tempted to listen to the condemning words of the enemy.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1

“Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28

As we face this week and the weeks ahead, let us do so with humble and thankful hearts. Let us remember that we can never be snatched out of God’s hand. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. We may be smacked in the face by the enemy reminding us that we are unworthy of love. But, we can hold fast to the promise that Christ conquered the grave, death, and sin not just for Easter Sunday, but for eternity.


 

About the Author

profileKAREN TAYLOR

Hi, I’m Karen Taylor. I live in Jackson, Tennessee and for the past 11 years, I’ve had the incredible privilege of working in Student Life at Union University. I enjoy working with college students and teaching in women’s ministry at my church. In my free time, you would most likely find me reading, checking out local antique stores, traveling or hanging out (and laughing!) with friends. And, fair warning: I can’t be trusted in front of a bowl of chips and salsa. I love discovering all of the new things that God is teaching me. It is my desire to teach and encourage others in their walk with the Lord and to live out Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

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