Friday, June 13, 2008

Casual Friendships With Guys

I want you to swear, O daughters of Jerusalem, do not arouse or awaken my love until she pleases.” (Song of Solomon 8:4) Is it possible to have casual friendships with guys without awakening love? I believe it is not only possible, but it is necessary.

Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” It is no secret that men and women are different. Yet, the image of God is found in both of them, and therefore, is only complete with both of them. If we deny ourselves the company of the opposite gender, there are aspects of God’s character that we will never fully understand.

In today’s culture promiscuity and immorality are the norm. When the only women that men see are provocative and worldly, it would be very easy for beauty to be tainted and for them to lose hope in finding a virtuous woman. If we are looking to be world-changers, we should not be abstaining from relationships, but cultivating pure God-centered ones. Listen to the command in Hebrews 3:13 where it says, “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

It is easy to develop unhealthy emotional attachments, and that is why we must be active to keep our hearts and minds centered on God. How then are we to treat the guys that we are friends with? Because men are so different from women, this can be a challenging question to answer. However, we should treat them like what they are – our brothers in Christ.

Everyday, our prayer should be as David said in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” When God’s glory and the encouragement of the body of Christ are our focus we will be fulfilling the command in 1 Timothy 4:12 where it says, “…in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” So then, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

...the goodness of the Lord...

I closed my eyes as the rain poured down and the thunder sounded over head. Bursts of lightning pierced my eyelids, trying to unnerve me.

"Father, help me!"

My cries seemed swallowed by the clouds. I closed my eyes tighter as the thunder intensified. When would I see the sun?

I hear the rain falling around me, but something has changed. Above me I see an Umbrella shielding me from the storm. I look beside me and I can't help but smile when I hear, "I love you."

The Son is shining and I am basking in His warmth!

Psalm 27:13-14 "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord."

Monday, May 5, 2008

Photography Scavenger Hunt!

One of the assignments I had to complete for Advanced EXCEL was a photography scavenger hunt! I am pretty sure they made that assignment just to make me happy, but I could be wrong. I hope you enjoy the following pictures - I know I had a blast taking them. Comments are always welcome and appreciated :)

Stapler - Punching a hole in something isn't always enough.

Reflections - Sometimes it's best not to look back.

Leap - But be sure to look first.

Fears - Some are rational...

Coffee - Because Tall Decaf Non-fat Caramel Mocha Latte with extra whip is too complicated.

Time - Make the most of every second.


White Trash

Date anyone?

Police - Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

Self Portrait

Making a Statement

Green - I do it for the street cred', not the environment.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

...But In Everything...

The words danced around on my tongue again, knocking against my teeth, trying to escape. But again, they were locked inside. Frustrated, they turned to wage war against my mind. This was nothing new…it was slowly becoming routine. As I drove home, questions ravaged my thoughts until finally, in the early hours of the morning, they came to the same answer they had the night before: now is not the time. Tears flooded my eyes as sadness began to creep in, leaving only one question: how long…? It was one I could not answer.

The next morning I awoke with my heart still in a fog. Throughout the day I tried to push the feelings aside, but little reminders waited around every corner, making it almost impossible to ignore them. On the outside I forced a smile, but inside I was falling apart. I knew I couldn’t hold it in any longer, so I retreated to my bedroom as I fought back tears. Lord, why do I have to wait so long? Why can’t I know Your plan now? My heart was breaking as I buried my face in my hands and cried. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard.

As my emotions drained, and the room became still, a verse came to mind. Philippians 4:6-7 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

The tears stopped, and a new understanding came over me as those verses sank into my soul. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything…let your requests be made known unto God…and the peace of God…shall keep your hearts and minds…

I still ask questions – but I can live without the answers.

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away
And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
~Praise You In This Storm, by Casting Crowns

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It's All Right

The minutes passed as I stared blankly at the computer screen. I could feel the gears of my mind slowing down, exhausted from getting nowhere. One hour left to finish three projects. I could do it. Sending assignments in late two weeks in a row was not an option…I was determined to finish. After saying a prayer, and asking God to write through me, I expectantly waited for words to flow. He had done it before, countless times, and I knew He would do it again. Right?

An hour came and went. Two hours came and went. Three hours…gone. And still, I had three projects to finish. It’s funny how foggy your head feels after 3:00am. I knew I was not going to finish anything by depriving my body of rest, so I climbed into bed. I had failed. As I pulled the covers over my head I wondered why God hadn’t helped me this time. There had to be a reason. Right?

There have only been a couple times in my life where I thought something and knew it was from God. Lying there in my bed, buried under the covers, I felt God speak to my heart. He reminded me of a truth He has been patiently teaching me over the last seven months. He said, “Not finishing your assignments on time doesn’t change who you are. Right?”

Ah! I understood. When I asked Him to help me finish my projects, I was asking Him to help me do something. But that’s not what He’s been trying to tell me. He wants me to BE His handiwork, not DO my handiwork. My worth in His eyes is not tied to my worth in my own eyes. Failing to turn assignments in on time is not failing God. Nothing I do makes Him love me more, and nothing I don’t do makes Him love me less. He loves me because I am His and He is mine. Right!!!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What Holds You Back?

I slowed to a stop and gently put the car into park. I had looked forward to this moment for eleven weeks now. My hands still in the 10 and 2 o’clock position, I could feel the excitement pumping in my ears. A click signaled the latch disengaging in the car door and I pushed it open. The cool spring breeze guided me toward the church. After such a long wait, I couldn’t believe this day had come. Youth group had started again! As I walked into the youth room and flopped onto the couch, a rush of emotions came over me. I knew I belonged here and nowhere else. I was officially home.

You know the line from the Counting Crows song “Big Yellow Taxi” that says “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone”? As I sat on the couch with my friends surrounding me, that idea ran through my head, but a slightly different version. It was more like, “I missed these people, but I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I got them back and saw what I had been missing!” I felt pieces of my heart knitting back together that I didn’t know I had left behind.

As Daniel began to write on the dry-erase board, I could feel God preparing my spirit for deeper insight into my relationship with Him and my current circumstances. By this time, I had become accustomed to the calm before the storm and I found myself actually getting excited. The words on the board jumped at me, throwing a smile on my face. They read, “What holds you back?” O, the thoughts I had when first reading that question! People throughout the room gave various answers: fear, other people, etc. Although those are all things that tend to hold us back, Daniel decided to talk about how our name, more specifically, our reputation holds us back. He made the point that the things we do and say are often influenced by how we want people to perceive us or how we think they expect us to act in a given situation.

Does my name hold me back? Or is something else standing in the way? This required some soul searching. So I reasoned with myself.

*The following is the conversation that transpired in Dana’s head as she pondered the question “What holds you back?”*

Me: “Is your name what’s holding you back?”

Myself: “Holding me back from what?”

I: “…The lesson was about what holds you back from living…”

Me: “Ok, what holds you back from living?”

Myself: “Well, what do you mean by living?”

Me: “…What did it say in that song ‘Live Like You’re Dyin’’ by Tim McGraw that Daniel played?”

I: “It said ‘I went skydivin’, I went rocky mountain climbin’, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu…”

Myself: “What holds me back from skydiving and riding a bull?? Not enough money!”

I: “There is more to the song than that! The rest of the chorus goes like this ‘And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying. And he said someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dyin’.”

Me: “This helps. What does it mean to live…? Ok, live like you were dying…saying everything you’ve always wanted to say and doing the things you’ve always wanted to do…”

I: “Yes, this is good. Now we’re getting somewhere!”

Me: “Ok, here is the real question! What would you say and do if you were dying?
What holds you back from doing the things you really want to do? What holds you back from telling what is in your heart and showing people how you truly feel? If doing that is living, then what holds you back from living? Is it your name, your reputation?”

Myself: “Honestly, no. What people will think of me doesn’t really stop me from doing or saying much of anything.”

Me: “Well, if your name doesn’t hold you back, what does?”

Me, Myself, and I: “Timing…”

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.”
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Abundant Life

There, at the top of the slope, I stood, my nose already a rosy pink from the cold. Tighter and tighter I held on to the poles until not even an atom could get between my fingers and the plastic handles. The burning in my leg muscles had long since gone numb, so nothing stood between my brain and the command to “GO!” One deep breath - maybe my last - and I pushed off. Immediately I regretted my decision to try a more advanced hill. After a mere fifty feet I picked up speed that I was not sure I could control. Yet, by some miracle I maintained my composure.

The entire world seemed to be coming together in one glorious symphony, playing me down the mountainside. The sky turned a stunning shade of baby blue, clouds rolled away, birds chirped, and animals came from behind the trees to cheer me on. Already I had conquered half of the slope. Life was beautiful and I was in the center. The melody of the world began to climax, announcing my triumph. Louder and louder it swelled until my skis sliced the air and a piercing crash of cymbals played me flat on my back in the snow. The blue sky was suddenly filled with stars. Rabbits fled, squirrels laughed and birds screeched off into the distance.

My world was upside-down. The reality of what had just happened came to me as hundreds, maybe thousands, of other skiers breezed past, heartlessly ignoring my plight. I was left out in the cold. As the tears froze on my cheek I knew there was only one thing I could do…put on my best damsel-in-distress face and wait for the next knight in a ski jacket. One-by-one they came from every direction and kept on going. The minutes passed as my situation grew increasingly dire. A dozen failed attempts to stand up wore out my knees and pushed me closer to the edge of the cliff and impending doom. I flopped back in the snow and prayed for my misery to end.

As I bade farewell to hope I caught a glimmer of something coming down the hillside. It approached quickly and before long it skidded to a stop right below me. So much time had passed since I had seen another human being that at first I thought it was some strange animal, possibly from Narnia. I stared at it, wondering whether its intentions were good or evil. “Need some help?” it asked, and I knew I had been rescued! “My name is Matt,” he said, helping me to my feet. “O, kind Sir,” I gasped, “I am forever in your debt! How could I ever…?” but before I could finish my declaration my skis were sending me down the slope once again.

Although I was sad I had not properly thanked my rescuer, nothing could push aside the joy of knowing I would soon be reunited with my family and friends at the base of the mountain. I only hoped I would arrive in time to call off the search party. Finally I came safely to a stop and everyone ran to meet me. Adrenaline still coursed through my veins as I exclaimed, “Let’s do that again!”

Several lessons can be gleaned from this story. “Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Or perhaps, “Wherefore, lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” However, the lesson I learned was a beautiful picture of God’s love for us. Many aspects of life are not necessary for living. The color of the sky, the sound of birds, the feeling you get when flying down a mountain on skis, even the feeling of crashing in the snow. They are all things that we could have survived without…and yet, purely for our enjoyment, God created them anyway. O, to see the smile on God’s face when His creation makes us smile! “I am come that they might have LIFE, and that they might have it MORE ABUNDANTLY.”