United We Stand

I read an article that blamed “white Christians” for the election of Donald Trump. Mainly because of this sentence. Not all white Christians voted Trump. Most of the ones I know voted Johnson or Clinton honestly. 

I agree that there are many things wrong in the world. There are many things wrong in the church and more “white Christians” have been protesting in their own church, even leaving their church. I know this sentence says “especially those who voted Trump.” But depending on how you read it, it could be interpreted as “all white Christians even if you didn’t vote Trump.” My first time reading it that’s how I felt. I’ve preached unity and community far before this election and will continue to as well. Many of the “white Christians” I know are in similar places as myself. We don’t support Trump, but we do believe that God has a plan for whatever is coming. Right now honestly that blind trust is not easy. I’m terrified for friends, family, and even myself. I am far from perfect. I think there are many factors at fault that led to this outcome but I do not believe blaming a group of people is the right thing to do just based on a generalization. 

Maybe I’m naive. I really think as Americans it is up to us to bind together. It is up to us to fix our nation together. Not one general group of people needs to be the sole fixer, and not one general group of people should be to blame. In order to move forward we need to work together. 

Will I continue to be an ally to the LGBTQ+? Yes. People are people. Humans all have rights and as American citizens we need to protect those rights for ALL Americans. Being a Christian does not entitle us to judge others but calls us to love others. Show compassion. Be a shoulder to cry on. If I can help someone feel safe, I will. If I can protect someone from being harassed I will. 

No matter what group or generalization of people you enter, there are bullies. There are jerks. Do I think churches need to really get out there and minister to those hurting or living in fear because of the election results- yes I do. Do I believe that anyone should be persecuted for their beliefs- no.

I used to be a very in your face Christian as a kid. I was abrasive and constantly flaunted my Christianity. I have found as I have matured that being a Christian has nothing to do with screaming the Bible at people or arguing over beliefs. I do think it has everything to do with extending love, grace, and acceptance to all people. 

Christians reading this who think people have nothing to be afraid of with Trump being the projected President elect, you are wrong. There is a lot to lose and be afraid of. Think about America’s history- one of the main reasons we came to this new land was to be free from oppression. Don’t bring down others because you don’t agree with their beliefs or lifestyle. Be there for them and encourage them. Give them the strength they need to get through the day and all the days ahead. Show them understanding and compassion. 

Non-Christians reading this who think I’m narrow-minded or part of the problem, I am sorry you feel that way, but most likely you don’t know me. You don’t want to live in fear, neither do I. I also don’t want you to live in fear. Name calling and playing the blame game will not help. Find people who care and lean on them. 

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You Are Not Your Yesterdays

Philippians 3:12-16- Not that I have already reached the goal or am fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I have also been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue my goal as the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, all who are mature should thing this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you.  In any case, we should like up to whatever truth we have attained.

I think this lump of scripture is huge, it causes us to come to grips with the fact that once we accept God’s forgiveness, we are no longer our past.  All of our yesterdays may have gotten us to today, but they are not the composition of who we are.  This passage also tells us that we are not going to do a 180 and change overnight but that it takes time.  Once you accept salvation, you are supposed to grow in faith daily.  Some days you will be making progress in baby steps, and you’ll have leaps and bounds as well.  Other days you will stumble, and that is all okay.

No one’s journey to salvation, and after that no one’s faith journey is the same.  If God made us all unique and different with different purposes, surely it makes sense that our journey to Him and our life path and story would be different and unique. He’s right there, and has us by the hand like a parent with their toddler.  He will guide you if you let Him, but you have to let go of the burden of your past.

Take a few minutes today.  I’ve written a few times about how you are worth the cross.  Grab a slice of paper and draw a large outline of the cross on it.  Fill up the whole page.  Write down what you think makes you unworthy of the cross- write it all down right inside the cross.  I do this when I’m anxious- I write down words like “fear, anxiety, judgement.”  If I were to do this exact activity I would still have those words.  It’s scary to let go of your past and become a new person, even if that new person is protected by God’s love.

I have spent years dwelling on my past while saying I wanted to trust God.  I was stuck.  I was trying to move forward in Christ but literally couldn’t go too far because I was still holding onto my past- mistakes, hurts, regrets, fears, all of it.  Once I was finally willing and emotionally able to let God take it, that was when I was able to take baby steps again, and walk, run, and stumble towards Jesus.  It’s a messy, beautiful journey that I take everyday free from the fear of my past catching up with me because it’s so far behind me.  It’s still a part of who I was because I can not change my past, and someday God may choose to use that part of who I was to help others.  As the character Anne said in Anne of Green Gables: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”  Tomorrow isn’t promised, but you can look forward to a new tomorrow in life and more importantly in Christ.

Challenge yourself.  Between telling yourself “I am worth the cross” and having a picture of the things you think you can’t give to God that Jesus already died for, you can do this.  Lay it all down, let it all go.  Follow Jesus.  Forgive yourself and allow His merciful forgiveness to cover all your sins.

Playlist:
Linger (Warr Acres)
Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been (Relient K)
Healing Rain (Michael W. Smith)
Nobody Else (Warr Acres)
The Arms of My Savior (Lincoln Brewster)

Worth It

Psalm 40:2- He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure.

A little while back I wrote a post titled “You Are Worth the Cross” and I still stand by that post.  I’ve taken a few days off from posting because there is someone very special to me that doubts that God can and does forgive.

Let’s start at the dawn of time, the spark of creation. Eve was tempted, ate the fruit from the one forbidden tree.  When God went to visit his friends Adam and Eve in Eden, he couldn’t find them- they were hiding because they were naked, and not just because they were naked but because they only knew they were naked because they ate from the one tree, the one place God asked to not get food from.

God forgave Adam.  God forgave Eve. Right there from the beginning of mankind, God forgave those who sinned.  He forgave the first sinners who literally, they could do anything they wanted but eat from that one stupid tree.  They ate from it anyway.

I do it too.  God says “no” and sometimes I still say “yessssss” just like a parent telling you to not lick an electrical outlet or touch a hot stove.  When God says no, He really has our best interests in mind.  When we disobey, yeah there are consequences but He forgives us every single time and keeps re-writing our story.

Remember David?  The tiny, lowly shepherd who God used to bring down the massive Goliath?  David eventually became king.  Well good old David saw a woman he liked, and slept with her- this lady was already married.  So he coveted, committed adultery and then had her husband killed.  I know God sees sin and sin and nothing is worse than other things in His mind, aka you break one Commandment you break them all, but David went to town.  In time, David repented, and God forgave him.

You remember the woman at the well that Jesus asked for a drink from and promised her living water in return?  The one with multiple husbands who probably had a bad reputation? God forgave her.

Meet me.  I grew up in a Christian home, did all the youth group stuff, only listened to Christian music, did missions…I made a mess of my life as a young adult.  I made choices that I am not proud of, even to this day.  God forgave me.  I know that God can use all the stupid choices I made and use them for HIS glory.  I also know that I forgave myself.

I think that’s it for a lot of people.  I mean there are examples all over the Bible of God’s forgiveness. I think we know it in our heads that God forgives us, but we won’t let our hearts accept His forgiveness because we don’t even forgive ourselves.  It all goes back to getting to a place where you can let God have your baggage. The first step is letting go and forgiving yourself.  Only then can you truly be able to accept God’s forgiveness.

There is nothing you have done that keeps you away from God’s grace if you repent and ask for His forgiveness.  In God’s eyes, you are worth the nails, the lashes, the crown of thorns.  YOU ARE WORTH THE CROSS.

Write it down.  Put it all over your life- in your car, on the bathroom mirror, desk computer: I AM WORTH THE CROSS.

Listen:
From the Inside Out (Phillips, Craig & Dean)
There’s Nothing My God Cannot Do (Charles Billingsley)
Rescue (Desperation Band)
Nothing is Wasted (Jason Gray)
King of my Heart (Love and the Outcome)
All I Need is You (OBB)
Lay Down My Guns (Sanctus Real)
I Just Need You (Telecast)
Chain Breaker (Zach Williams)
My Glorious (Worth Dying For)
Day One (Matthew West)

Get Out of the Whale

One of my least favorite characters in the Bible growing up was Jonah.  I couldn’t imagine why someone would choose to run away from God because they didn’t trust him.  Then again, I was about 13 and thought that I would always be in God’s will.  Go ahead and laugh, I was incredibly naive.  Read Jonah 1&2 real quick, just to freshen your memory.

When I was younger, I’d like to look back on my life and say that I was following God’s plan for me pretty well.  I hated little kids.  Like I really could not stand them.  One of my youth group friends told me about CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship) and I was hesitant so they brought me with them to the winter retreat for the teens that work with CEF in my state over the summer.  That weekend was a ton of fun- better than any youth group retreat and like a short version of a Christian summer camp I had been to the previous three years in the Adirondacks.  So I prayed about it and even though I was sure that I hated kids, I raised the funds I would need for the two-week intensive training camp and went.

Those first two weeks of training camp were difficult, lots of tests and studying, but the friendships and memories made over the same twot, weeks are still warm in my heart.  That first summer of doing 5-Day Clubs was amazing.  I went from a young teenaged girl who refused to babysit to one of the teachers who’s lap was overflowing with kids.  I fell in love with reaching out to kids for Jesus.  I did CEF for about six years, and even started a weekly Good News Club in the local elementary school.

My fifth year of CEF was the summer following my high school graduation.  I went off to college after clubs were done and felt God tugging on my heart to pray about a more long-term mission with CEF in Bulgaria.  Over that year of college, I went on a Spring Break missions trip with the Christian group on campus and thought, maybe another year of regular CEF would be what would be best.  I don’t think I could go out of country with no friends and make a difference.  That summer was my last year of CEF.  I was on the older end of the teen summer missionaries, but it was a pretty good summer.  Once more, I felt Bulgaria tugging at my heart and this time, I did nothing.  I ran even further away from God’s dream for me because I didn’t even do CEF.  I did no ministry or outreach at all.

I follow CEF now on Facebook, and still know a bunch of the adults who work for it in my state.  I miss it.  I’m going to let you know something, since I stopped doing CEF at all and since I stopped trusting where God wanted me to be, I’ve been chillin’ in a whale’s stomach, and it stinks.  The past year for me has been a year of God carrying me a lot and helping me through storms as I have been coming back to Him and trusting Him.  I have a tug at my heart again to go somewhere and serve God.  Possibly out of country, possibly with CEF, honestly, I am not sure on the details yet.  All I know for certain is that sometime in 2018, I will be on some sort of missions program.

I am not running away.  Instead, I have a year and a half-ish to pray.  Praying that I will stand close to God and glued to Him as I await more details.  I don’t want to get spit out of a whale only to hide from my potential in Christ all over again.

What about you?  Ever get swallowed whole by fear?  By the world?  Try to run and hide from God?  He’ll find you.  Pray about it, why do you think you need to run away from God?  Ask Him to help you narrow that down and then give what ever is holding you back to Him.  Learn from my mistakes.  Learn from Jonah’s mistakes.

Playlist for today:
-Lion and the Lamb (Big Daddy Weave)
-Here I am Send Me (Delirious?)
-Like a Match (TobyMac)
-Completely (Among the Thirsty)
-We Are Yours (I Am They)
-All Eyes on You (OBB)
-Start a Fire (Unspoken)

Trading Post

Today I was checking my Facebook, and on my news feed was a message from a diner that I didn’t get to a ton in my adult life, but some of my fondest childhood memories were over a plate of chocolate chip pancakes there.  The message was that their doors were closed, and not just for the day, but unless someone buys it and keeps it the same, forever.  We didn’t get there a lot because it was almost two hours away from the house I grew up in.  But there would be times on vacation from school where mom and my step dad would wake the family up at four am to drive the two hours to have breakfast at the Muffin Patch bright and early in the morning.  Before I knew it, I was in the middle of reading this post and I was actually crying. When did I get so sensitive- crying over a diner closing because the owners wanted to retire?  I realized what was going on almost as quickly as it took for me to break down in tears- one more memory and nostalgic place of dad was being closed.

As I’ve said, my step dad was the best human father I could have ever prayed for.  He grew up on the farm and had a love of food and adventure that he shared with us.  There are tons of diners and food places that he made special to us that have closed since he passed in 2012, why should the Muffin Patch be any different?

It’s different because I’m different.  When other food places closed, Top of the Hill in Fulton, Danzer’s in Syracuse, I was still bitter about my step dad’s passing.  I was still bitter about a lot of things.  I’ve become a young woman who accepts my emotions more instead of hiding them away.  I’ve traded my sadness and pain over losing my dad over to allow God to fill my heart with joy.

A year ago even, hearing of this diner filled with personal nostalgia would have wrecked me and I would have been in my feelings for days about it.  Crying over something I could not get back and withdrawing myself from present life.  Today, I spent about ten minutes in my feelings.  I did not let losing a place of nostalgia and fond memories change who I wanted to be today.  I prayed thanking God for reminding me of some beautiful times and asked Him to bless the retirement of the owners, and moved on with my life.

Lots of people have lost loved ones.  Grief affects us all differently.  Because of God really changing my life over the past year and teaching me how to give Him my burdens, today was a day of victory and not a day of retreats.

Do you feel overwhelmed sometimes?  Does a bad day or a sad day come out of no where and debilitate you?  Give it to Him.  He can use all things for His good.  I’ve sad this before and I’ll say it again, God wants your baggage.  Let Him lighten your load and fill you with joy so that He can use you for your purpose.

Read: Psalm 30.

Listen to:
-Trading My Sorrows (Lincoln Brewster)
-Oh, Me of Little Faith (Matthew West)
-Every Single Tear (Scott Krippayne)
-I’m Not Who I Was (Jeremy Camp)

Guard Your Heart

Proverbs 4:20-23- My son, pay attention to My words; listen closely to My sayings.  Don’t lose sight of them; keep them within your heart.  For they are life to those who find them, and health to one’s body.  Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.

A little over a year ago I called off my engagement to a different man than who I fell in love with.  When I first met him, it was coming up on the one year anniversary of my step dad’s passing and he was nice.  He came from a Christian family, had a rough time in past relationships, but seemed like he was trusting God to help him get it together.  I thought I had found the perfect guy, the man of my dreams so to speak.  We spent two years together, and for me that was huge.

I don’t stay in relationships long.  I’ll talk to someone for a bit, then if talking works out we might date.  I’ve always had a good gut sense of whether or not it will work out or not after a few months.  I don’t have any regrets over those past relationships.  Before my ex that I was engaged to, let’s call him David, my longest relationship was six months.  When David and I hit that six month mark, and I decided I felt good and happy about the relationship, I thought “finally, God finally found him for me.”

David and I were together for two years, but the last eight months of the relationship were a nightmare that I struggled to admit.  I lost friends because they had told me things they had seen in him that I refused to see, and they couldn’t bear to be around me.  Everyone in my life saw the broken wreck that I was becoming, but I refused to look in the mirror and come to grips with what was going on.  He showed me a fake, made up version of himself, but everyone else saw the monster beneath the mask.

I finally started seeing what was going on.  Long story short, David abused me- mentally, physically, and emotionally.  He stole from me- money and pride and self-esteem.  When I finally called it off and sent him packing, I fell apart.  I looked to family and close friends for support and realized how many people I had ostracized.  My sister told me “if you can’t keep someone who abused you, you’re going to end up alone forever.”  Issues with my sister are a whole different story for another day, but what she said to me stuck with me.  I allowed Satan to use that to make me feel unloved, unworthy, and useless.

Its been just over a year but I have finally realized that none of those things are true.  I have found new amazing friends, and rekindled old friendships.  I have realized that I am a beautiful young woman who is deeply loved by God.  I have learned that being single has been a blessing.  I have learned that in no way, shape, or form did I deserve the abuse I had endured.

If you are in a bad relationship, please get out.  For yourself, be brave and then let God piece up the pieces of your broken heart.  Chase God first, with all your heart, he’s keeping the right one safe and preparing that man for you for the time God needs you to enter each others lives.  Trust His timing.

Besides my friends and mom getting me through, God was really there for me.  He led me to a book that changed my life and helped me work through a lot of my insecurities.  Untangled by Carey Scott was the book, and I encourage anyone with any insecurity to please, please get a copy and read it.

For Such a Time as This

I am a huge history nerd.  Like honestly, I am constantly watching documentaries or reading historical accounts of specific events.  Don’t even get me started on the random stories of different battles and wars I have learned over the years, or I’ll never shut up!  I was watching something about immigration in late 1800’s today, and like you’d imagine it, the famous poem was read.  Yes, I’m talking about the poem written by Emma Lazarus to raise money for the construction of the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty in the early 1880s.  I’m sure any US citizen has heard these lines at least once: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Fun fact: the first time Lazarus was asked to do something for the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund, she turned them down.  She had a friend who persuaded her to see the importance of what the Statue of Liberty would mean to all the souls that would embark on their journey through Ellis Island, and Lazarus gave in.

Those famous lines remind me of God.  He for some reason wants us and still loves us at our most vulnerable.

Give me your tired: Matthew 11:28-29; Psalm 62:1; Jeremiah 31:25; Isaiah 40:29; Psalm 73:26.  I can go on, over and over again in the Bible you can find examples of God calling us to rest in Him.

Give me your poor: Proverbs 31:8-9; Proverbs 22:22-23; Psalm 12:5; Luke 6:20-21; Zechariah 7:8-10.  Again, I can continue.  Not only is God willing to battle for people in need, He calls us out over and over again to help Him in those battles.  He tells us to practice hospitality.  He teaches us caring for the poor and those in need.

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free: Isaiah 10:1-3; Proverbs 17:5 and many, many more.  What comes to mind most with this part are stories in the Bible: God delivering Moses, protecting Esther and Mordecai.  Joshua and Jericho.  God led people into battle to free their people.

I see a lot of people who argue that America is not a nation under God and that it never was.  This gets me.  People came here and risked everything in the pursuit of freedom- one of the freedoms they fought for was religious freedom- it was and is literally in the very first amendment.

I’m also huge into musical theatre.  One of my moms and my favorite shows is 1776– its the perfect combination of history and Broadway.  Every single time I watch it, I cry.  When you see all those men, knowing the consequences of declaring America and themselves a free nation, still signing it, it just tugs at my heart.  Those men were willing to fight for their freedoms.  If you read accounts of some of those men and their families, they were willing to do that because they trusted God.

Before the poem was written, by more than 100 years, people knew that they needed freedom in a new nation to worship God.  They trusted God when He said to give Him everything- tired, poor, oppressed.  After signing, almost every man and his family were persecuted for the actions they had made in faith.  They defied the king to trust the KING.

So what’s holding you back?  Fight for God.  Have faith.  Give Him every broken piece of you.  He will not fail you or let you down, but the adventure ahead of you will be incredible- filled with praises and trials, He will see you through all the same.  He created you with a purpose, and perhaps, just for this moment ahead of you.