Monday, December 20, 2010

Irresistible Revolution

Started reading this book yesterday, and I haven't been able to put it down. I think everyone needs to read this. Claiborne challenges us to simplify the gospel, living love and being "ordinary radicals." The last page of the introduction says this:

"So this is a book of stories. The things that transform us, especially us "postmoderns," are people and experiences. Political ideologies and religious doctrines just aren't very compelling, even if they're true. And stories disarm us. They make us laugh and cry. It's hard to disagree with a story, much less split a church or kill people over one. And certainly no one hurts others with the passion of those who do it in the name of God, and it's usually over ideologies and doctrines, not stories. Besides, people seem to loosen up after a good story. I think that's why Jesus told so many stories — stories about ordinary first-century Mediterranean life, stories of widows and orphans, debts and wages, workers and landlords, courts and banquets.
Nonetheless, I know this is a risky venture. Dualism has infected the church, a dualism in which folks separate the spiritual from the political or social, as if the political and social issues were of no spiritual significance, and as if God had no better vision to offer this world. These stories, whether from the streets of Philly or the hospitals of Iraq, are political, social and spiritual. The issues we will stir up can be volatile and gut-wrenching. But I think there are enough of us so discontented with the old answers and traditional camps — whether believers or activists, capitalists or socialists, Republicans or Democrats, pacifists or just-warriors — that the risk is worth it. The time has come for a new kind of conversation, a new kind of Christianity, a new kind of revolution."

Stories are powerful. People want something real. That's why I'm so passionate about telling stories... it's about connecting the world through sharing experiences.

I wonder what could happen if we all started living in this ordinary radical kind of way that Claiborne talks about in this book... I'm sure I'll be sharing more tidbits of it with you here, but if you're a reader — and even if you're not — I encourage you to read it as well! Come on, it's Christmas break. You don't have anything else to do with your free time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's the most WONDERFUL time...

It's my favorite time of the year: Christmas. I LOVE Christmas time... it's a free pass to be completely cheesy. I think I might be a distant cousin of Buddy the Elf. I love silly Christmas carols, I love tacky sweaters, I love to put on my footie pajamas and make hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies... the list goes on. But last night, at "Christmas on Campus," the true magic of Christmas hit me during some pretty awesome worship. The funny thing is, we add all of this "magic" to an already magical Christmas story (good job America). I mean, honestly, let's think about this for a second.

Mary. She's a teenager. She's not married. She's a virgin. And she's pregnant. Oh, and that bun in the oven — it's the Son of God. But it gets better! He's born in a BARN. I always thought that expression, "were you born in a barn?" was kind of funny... and anytime anyone asks me that (which seems to happen semi-often considering my lack of lady-like manners) I just say, "so what? Jesus was born in a barn." Haha. But really... I mean, picture that nativity scene you see every year, and then add all the gross stuff they don't actually include. Like poop and stinky animals and dirt. Then put the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE, as a newborn baby, wrapped in cloth, inside a manger. That's how God decided to send our savior. I love that! So ordinary... yet so extraordinary.

In Luke Chapter 2, when telling this story, there's one verse that I think people overlook a lot, but JR pointed it out in church last Wednesday night. Luke 2:19 says, in the midst of the crazy Christmas story, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." I think in the midst of all the madness, with shepherds and wisemen and angels and all that was going on, Mary knew that this was a moment — a simple, seemingly insignificant birth — that would change the world forever. Forever. And she wanted to treasure it.

I'm reading a book right now by one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning. It's called Abba's Child, and the chapter I just finished was focused on being alone with God and really learning to love ourselves when all the noise of our lives and the worldly identities we hide behind are stripped away. He tells a story about a moment when he realized that it's in this alone time with God that he can finally put to rest the noise in his life and realize that God is "the God of ordinary people. The God that grabs scalawags and ragamuffins by the scruff of the neck and raises them up to seat them with the princes and princesses of His people." And then he asks this question:

"Is this miracle enough for anybody? Or has the thunder of 'God loved the world so much' been so muffled by the roar of religious rhetoric that we are deaf to the word that God could have tender feelings for us?"

I wonder if that's what we've let Christmas become. Religious rhetoric. I wonder if we'll take a visit back to that ordinary night in Bethlehem, and stop with Mary to recognize the extraordinary moment. To treasure all of these things up and ponder them in our hearts. I wonder if we'll dare to be alone with God. I wonder if we'll dare to be ordinary. Because friends, ordinariness is extraordinariness. Sit in a room with your family this Christmas and treasure it, and ponder it in your heart as Mary did that night in the stable with Joseph a newborn baby Jesus. Because the reality is that our families are probably a little crazy. But wasn't that night in the stable in Bethlehem crazy? I think God has something to show us in these ordinary, yet crazy moments of our lives... and I hope we'll cherish them this Christmas. I hope that the ordinariness of being with the people you love far outweighs the overdone, overspent, over-Americanized Christmas we've created.

I hope we're all captivated and enthralled by simple yet extraordinary gift that a God, who loves us the MOST of all the things he created, sent to us on Christmas: his son, who would later suffer all the punishment that we would otherwise had to suffer ourselves, so that we could live in freedom. What a beautiful thing!

Today I told a friend of mine that I've really been amazed by the true magic of Christmas lately. I have kind of an infatuation with babies, and I jokingly (but kind of seriously) told her today, "You know how I feel about babies, and we get to worship one this month!" But really, what a sweet thing! To be thankful for the sweet and precious gift of baby Jesus this month. I hope we'll remember that HE is what this month is about. Without the gift of Jesus, what worth would any part of our lives have?

May your Christmas be blessed with ordinariness this year.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Praise the Lord, the end is near!

I've spent the last half hour reading old posts... remembering, reflecting and counting my blessings. I must say God has been good this year. Through highs and lows, he's been so faithful. I've found myself more often than not this semester in a state of exhaustion. "Warn out, beaten and bedraggled" as one of my favorite writers, Brennan Manning, would put it. But I look back on the things that God has done, the things that he's taught me and the fullness of heart that comes with those "harvest seasons" and it gets me through this kind of desert season I've been in lately. Nothing is going terribly wrong, but I'm so tired. I feel like this entire semester I've just been longing for the time to just rest in the presence of the Lord. Luckily the semester is getting close enough to the end where there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I can't wait to spend time with my family next week for Thanksgiving. I can't wait to come back and finally get this semester of school behind me. I can't wait until the smoke clears from the craziness of this last few months and I can look back and say, "God, your hand was in that. Thanks."

Here's to holding on and finishing strong. As the holidays approach, I hope and pray that we all are able to slow down a little and enjoy the company of the people we love the most. I certainly plan on doing that!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

and they will know us by our LOVE.

This song... love it. Just wanted to share it with anyone who happens to stumble upon the blog. What a beautiful message of the way we're supposed to live as followers of Christ... lovers of all His people...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

pockets of joy.

As I sit down to debrief on my last few days, I'm not really sure where to begin. It was wonderful, encouraging, refreshing, emotional — it was just a really sweet time for so many reasons. I think I'll just list them.

1. I got to spend some quality time with my dad. Just the two of us! It was great. We caught up on life, we ate pancakes, we watched football, we laughed... I wish I could stop time and hang out with him a little longer. I love my dad. He said one thing this weekend that I really needed to hear. In the last few months I feel like God's revealed a lot of things to me about my life, about how I know I'm supposed to be doing ministry of some sort, and about my hopes and dreams to combine my passion for journalism — for storytelling — and the calling I feel to ministry. I expected him to give me the typical parental, "OK dreaming is great but let's be realistic..." and instead he said this: "Sara, if you can dream it, then it doesn't matter what it looks like to the rest of us. Stay close to the Lord and follow your heart." What a freeing, comforting, encouraging thing to hear from my dad. To know that I have his blessing to follow my heart is such a sweet feeling.

2. My "sister" got married this weekend, which is why my dad and I were in Nashville together in the first place (dad did the wedding). Adrienne was a Young Life leader at my high school, but she was also a part of my family for 2 years and is such a huge part of my story. When I was going through a pretty dark time of being an angry, rebellious teenager, Adrienne was a light in my life. For about a year she was one of the only people I really talked to about anything. She loved me when I didn't feel like anyone could, comforted me and picked me up when I felt like my whole world was crashing down, and ultimately is one of the biggest reasons I know Jesus and am who I am today. For that reason she will forever hold a very special place in my heart. It was really fun to celebrate her this weekend.

3. Because Adrienne got married this weekend, I got to spend time with a lot of really special people. The whole Nashville Young Life family is so close to my heart, and it was great to be with them this weekend. Another one of my old YL leaders, Annie, holds that same special place in my heart as Adrienne. God used the two of them to pull me out of a dark place when I was about 17. Annie has 4 kids, two of which I feel like I helped raise while I was in high school... I pretty much lived at her house. At one point I caught myself holding her baby boy as I watched her oldest two run around the dance floor together, with Adrienne standing there in her wedding dress and Annie sitting at the table with a few other YL folks, I thought to myself, "this is why Nashville still feels like home... this is my family." And when it hit me that Annie's kids are growing up and Adrienne is getting married and settling down in Nashville, it made me feel like that's where I want to go when I'm done with school. I don't want to miss out on their lives any more. Those are some really special people in my life.

4. I was pretty bummed out to be coming back to Jonesboro today, just because I knew that the stress of school and the paper waited for me here, but when I got home there was a late birthday package waiting for me from my friend Ellie. There was a copy of her new EP which I was very excited about, a really sweet note, and my favorite: a journal. It's dated in a way that I can use it for years, just writing short little "God things" that happen in my life and in my ministry. The enclosed note ended with, "PS - enjoy writing HIS story!" And inside the cover she wrote in big, bold letters: Share The Love. When my friend Andrew and I first started brainstorming this future ministry of ours, I was having breakfast with Ellie and was telling her about it. That morning at Mitchell's in East Nashville, she named it "Share the Love," and something that was just a thought was given an identity. It hasn't been the same since! She's been such an encouragement with everything... it was really sweet to get that from her today. I'm so excited about the journey God has me and some friends of mine on in this vision he's given us, and I can't wait to see it all unfold over the next few years.

God is good...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lessons from Steph

I got to get away this weekend. It was wonderful, it was refreshing... it was exactly what I needed. I think the best part of my weekend, as God would have it, came from something completely unexpected.

I went to Knoxville and spent some time with my sister, which is always comforting, but this time it was a little different. She's graduated from college and gotten a new job since I last visited her, and I got to spend some time with her at work.

Steph is a social worker. She works at a transitional home for women who have just gotten out of incarceration and have both substance abuse and mental health issues. They're all convicted felons. They're all frowned upon by society. And they're all loved so well by my sister.

I always knew Steph had a heart for people that was far beyond what most people are capable of, but when I saw her this weekend with those women, something came alive in my heart—something that made me want to be a better lover.

She told me stories about some of them, the things they've been through and the labels they have to wear for the rest of their lives. Abuse... Rape... Addiction... can you imagine the loneliness? Sure, they did it to themselves. But they've paid a price, and now they're trying to earn another chance. But they wear these labels... Addict. Criminal. Sex offender. How do you get past that?

All this got me thinking of the difference between mercy and grace. Mercy was given to us when Jesus died and we were acquitted of all our sins. But grace is the freedom we get to live in as a result of that. Andrew Farley says in his book The Naked Gospel, "Grace is the system that the Holy Spirit uses to counsel and teach us on a daily basis."

See, these women have been given mercy. Mercy was given when they were released from prison, and they were admitted into this program. Grace is given to them daily when Steph grabs them by the hand and says, "you're worth something to this world."

I saw Jesus in my sister this weekend like I've never seen in another person before. Literally loving the people in the world that, by the world's standards, are not deserving of anyone's love. And even when they relapse, or they lie or try to cheat their way out of something, she loves them. She wants them to succeed. That's the way God looks at us.

When we were leaving the house on Saturday after dropping off all of Steph's clients, one of them turned around and said, "Stephanie, I wish me and my sister could be like you and your sister."

My heart broke. I literally had to leave before I broke into tears right there. I've always loved my sisters, but it was in that moment that I realized how lucky I am. What a gift to know that someone looks at you and your sister and thinks, "I want to be like them."

Since I was a little kid I looked up to Steph. Always wanted to be with her, always wanted to be like her... and for the most part, she let me. She let me tag along, and she let me be a bit of a copy cat. As we got older, she was careful about being a good role model. Of all the things Steph has done that I've looked up to her for, this weekend trumps them all by far.

To see my sister answer a calling to love the very least of God's people... I'll never forget what it was like to watch her this weekend. She is truly an amazing, inspiring woman of God. I'm blessed to be able to call her my big sister.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blogosphere, it's been too long.

Man, it's been a while... life has begun again. In the last month or so, I feel like all I've done is write. Papers, emails, articles... I write them, I edit them, I place them on a page that I spend hours designing two night a week. Writing, prewriting, reporting, editing... it's really all I do. But since I've been back in Jonesboro, I haven't done much "me" writing. It's time, friends.

I've been sitting here doing one of my favorite things: flipping through the last month of my journal. I'm not sure how anyone who doesn't journal keeps up with their own lives. I never would have remembered August if I hadn't written it down.

I think the biggest challenge I've been faced with this semester so far is stepping into new leadership roles. First of all, I'm an upperclassman. I am officially old on campus. Gross. Second, I'm now the news editor of the paper. Big role... lots of work, lots of responsibility--I never quite feel like I'm all the way caught up. And third, and most important, I took over leadership of my Monday night bible study group.

When the girl that's been primarily leading (with my help once in a while) asked me to take over, I was excited at first. I knew that the Lord had been filling me up all summer for a reason, and that I needed to be pouring out into the lives of others. So when the challenge to do so was given, I knew I should answer it.

And boy, does the devil act fast. It was almost instantly--later that same day--that I just started feeling these insecurities. I'm not good enough. No one wants to listen to me. I can't lead this many of my peers. I'm so average.

Classes started that same week, and the insecurities just kept building. I hid them behind my busy schedule. I wasn't coming to the Lord for guidance the way that I needed to because I just kept hearing this voice in my head say, "You aren't the leader you thought you were. You're too tired for this. You can't even make it through your own exhausting day, how will you encourage others to do so? You don't have the energy--I won't allow you to have the energy."

That Saturday morning I woke up, made my coffee and sat on the couch with my Bible... in my little reading corner. I told God I was sorry, that I didn't do a good enough job of speaking with him daily during my busy week. I told him I didn't think I was good enough to do what he was asking me to do in leading my peers. And I was just waiting for him to agree and tell me, "you're right, Sara. Good try, but you're not cut out for this."

Wrong. Instead he led me to Isaiah 61. "The Year of the Lord's Favor":

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
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2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

5 Aliens will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.

6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

7 Instead of their shame
my people will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
they will rejoice in their inheritance;
and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
and everlasting joy will be theirs.

8 "For I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and iniquity.
In my faithfulness I will reward them
and make an everlasting covenant with them.

9 Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the LORD has blessed."

10 I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations.

It was so sweet and comforting to read this on that Saturday morning. I was exhausted. I was feeling like a bit of a failure of a Christian. I felt worn out, and like I wasn't going to be able to do a good job of leading. And God just said, "I want to use you. Let me."

And as I sat there on the couch, coffee in hand and in tears, all I could say was thanks. Thank you for choosing me to be a leader and do your work. I'm so humbled by that. You don't need me to grow your kingdom, but you invite me to. Continue to reveal your will. Mine doesn't matter... my life is yours to use according to your plan. Thank you for anointing me and calling me a minister of your good news. There is nothing in the world that could be better than that. And I can't wait to see all the incredible places we go...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Appreciating the Journey

I'm sitting here in the room I've been living in all summer trying to recall the last 2 months of my life... it's been a whirlwind of unexpected occurrences. I think more than anything this summer has been encouraging. God has just confirmed so many things in my life... decisions I've made, places I've gone, dreams that I've yet to live out or even discover. Most of all his voice has been so loud, and if I could put it into a single phrase that I feel like he's been repeating to me it's this:

"Don't question where I have you--it's all a part of my plan."

Change has always been a struggle for me. But not really in an "I fear change" kind of way... more in an "I can't wait for what's next" kind of way. I want to skip the waiting and get to where God's taking me. This summer He's taught me to appreciate the journey.

There's an excerpt from a book called Between the Dreaming and the Coming True that I think helps describe one of the things I've learned this summer. Here it is:

I am coming to believe that the thing God said just before "Let there by light" was "Good-bye dark." And that Noah could not say hello to the rainbow without first having said good-bye to the world as it disappeared beneath the waters of the flood. And that something deep and mysterious about saying good-bye from the bottom of the pit made the hello that Joseph spoke to his father all those years later all the more wondrous. "Good-bye Egypt" turned out to be another way for the Israelites to say "Hello Canaan."
"Good-bye, Jesus of Nazareth," whispers Mary through her tears at the foot of the cross on Friday afternoon. "Hello, Lord of the Universe," she murmurs to the one she mistakes for a gardener on Sunday morning.

God has revealed so many things to me this summer that have confirmed that the goodbyes I've said in my life in the last year or so have led to some of the sweetest "hellos." Hellos that have changed my life and my relationship with Jesus.

Goodbye pain and heartache in my family ... Hello redemption.

Goodbye soccer ... Hello ministry.

Goodbye best friend since my first semester of college ... Hello room full of godly women pouring into each other every Monday night.

Goodbye 2-year relationship ... Hello freedom to re-dream up the rest of my life.

Goodbye ungodly beliefs ... Hello relentless faith.

God has taken this time of waiting in my life... this time that I felt like would have no purpose... and He has revealed purpose like I never could have imagined. He's done things in the last year that make it impossible for me to think that he couldn't do something. I've learned to take him at his word this year, because he's taken me at mine.

I asked him to heal the brokenness in my family and he did. When I felt like he wanted me to quit soccer and trust him, I asked him to show me what my ministry needed to look like, and he did. In the midst of a lonely fall semester I asked for community. I received it more than I could have fathomed in a group of girls that I meet with weekly. I asked for direction in my relationship with my boyfriend and he gave it to me. And when I obeyed, he poured out blessings... upon blessings... upon blessings. This summer I asked for greater purpose and He gave it to me, far beyond anything I could have dreamed up.

God has met me here this summer and given me more than I deserve, more than I asked for, and more than I ever could have envisioned. He's made it almost impossible for me to doubt. And he's taught me to be where I am, looking forward to what's next of course, but not jumping there without him.

So as I say goodbye to Nashville, it's a little bit bittersweet, because my time here has been so incredibly blessed. But it's only because of the perpetual presence of the Holy Spirit that it's been that way... and I'll be taking him with me when I go. :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Get Your Armor...

Three different times in one week, God brought me to Ephesians 6, where it talks about "putting on the armor of God." First it came up at church, then in a morning devotional, and then out of nowhere a friend that I haven't talked to in quite a while texted me and it said, "I don't know why but God just told me to share this with you: Ephesians 6:10."

When God tells us something once, I feel like we should definitely obey. When he tells us the same thing three times in 7 days, read it again. And again and again. So this is where I've been hanging out lately, in Ephesians 6:10-20. I've been really taking a close look at it, trying to decipher what it is God wants me to take away from it.

So let's get dressed with Jesus this morning, shall we?

1. Stand firm with the belt of TRUTH buckled around your waist...
So what do we wear belts for and why do they need to be made of truth? I know it seems silly to think of it so literally but there's actually some interesting symbolism here. Our belt holds our pants up, right? So when we put on our Godly armor, we buckle it all together with truth, and truth holds it up. After all, we don't want to be exposing ourselves here, people. We're putting on our God armor. Buckle that truth belt tightly!

2. with the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS in place...
Righteousness. Morally right or justifiable. Or in its informal definition from good ole' Webster: perfectly wonderful; fine and genuine. I think sometimes "righteousness" is a hard word to swallow in the pride of our flesh. But here God says to put on our breastplate of righteousness... to protect our hearts with righteousness. May our hearts be perfectly wonderful, fine and genuine. Mmm... good stuff.

3. and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of PEACE.
Here we're about to go to battle... our feet are fitted with readiness. I'm imagining the recent FIFA World Cup championship game. Spain and the Netherlands. Lined up against each other, awaiting the whistle, feet ready to go. And as 100 thousand people scream, chant and vuvuzula all around them--peace. God's preparing us for battle, and he wants us to be ready, but he wants us to be ready knowing that we've already won with Him. And so our feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

4. In addition to all of this, take up the shield of FAITH.
Think about the importance of a shield in battle. I don't know how many of you have seen the movie 300, but in the very last battle scene the Spartans create this fortress with their shields, and then out jumps Leonidus to throw his spear. The point here is that a shield will make or break your survival in battle. And as Christians, our shield is our faith. Confidence that what is unseen is real, that what hasn't happened yet will.

5. Take the helmet of SALVATION and the sword of the SPIRIT, which is the word of God.
Salvation: deliverance from sin and its consequences. Let your mind be protected by this! You are free. Let nothing convince you otherwise. And the sword--our weapon, is the Spirit. The living word of God. All of these other things protect us from the enemy, but it's the Spirit that allows us to fight back. Pretty freakin sweet.

And then, in verse 18, it says this: and pray in the Spirit on all occasions. Put on your armor. Be protected. Be in the word and in the Spirit, and fight back. But no matter what, on all occasions, under all circumstances, pray. Prayer is a powerful thing, friends.

I believe God is preparing the way for something big. Lately there's just been a stirring in my heart and soul, and he keeps leading me to this passage, telling me to get ready. It's time to go to battle.

And cue the bridge of Jordin Sparks' Battle Field... "Get your armor... Get your armor!"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cheerwine and fruitful conversation: food for the soul.

As mentioned in my last post, restlessness seems to be a regular feeling for me these days. So in the spirit of restlessness, I got off work on Friday night and decided to drive to Knoxville. Half way to Knoxville I thought to myself, "I need to go to Windy Gap this weekend." So I called up my friend Sarah, in Charlotte, and told her I thought we should meet in Asheville for the day on Sunday and go to camp.

Best decision I made all summer. What a breath of fresh air! We surprised my sweet friend Ellie and spent the afternoon with her just talking and hanging out at camp. There is no place that I feel more at home and in the presence of God than at Windy Gap. It's the place where I fell in love with Jesus. It was just really sweet to be able to be in that place with two people who are so encouraging and influential in my life, and just recap my summer and talk about all that God has been doing. It was exactly what I needed... so good for my soul!

As I drove back to Tennessee through the Appalachian mountains, I began to pray... and I was just overwhelmed with emotion. God has poured out so many sweet blessings on my life this summer. I can feel him preparing me for something big, so much that I lie awake at night just dreaming about it. I'm restless in a really fun kind of way... it's almost like I feel like God is constantly speaking to me and I just have to keep listening! Last night I think I only slept an hour... I was up, just talking to Jesus. And it was so incredible! Today he was just so present at Windy Gap. I'm so thankful for the people I've gotten to meet in that place, for the encounters I've had with Jesus there, and for the comfort of his presence that I feel every time I get to be there.

And as Ellie would say, "I think the new earth will have a sippin' parlor like the one at Windy Gap" ... topped the entire day off with a Cheerwine slush and some sweet, encouraging conversation. And as I fed my sweet tooth, my soul was fed as well. Thank you, Jesus, for days like today. My heart is so full!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Restless soul, clinging heart.

I have recently discovered that I have a strange and contradictory condition. Part of me is a bit of a restless soul. I can't stay in the same place or do the same thing for too long. As mentioned in my last post, I've been in Nashville for 8 weeks, haven't left once, and have done virtually the same thing every single day. And I can feel myself getting antsy. I'm ready for what's next. I need an adventure. I've got an itch to do something crazy... or at least different.

But then I think about the actual act of leaving this place that I love so much, full of people who love me so well, and it kind of makes me sad. I have a heart that clings to places because of the people that I love so dearly. Nashville will always have a piece of my heart for that reason.

I often find myself struggling to find a balance between resting and restlessness. Sometimes I feel like my naturally adventurous and restless heart jumps ahead of God's plan. But other times I think, "this is God pulling my heart to do this." And this summer, his voice has been undeniably loud. I think I've had a great summer full of resting in the Lord's presence. He's poured out unimaginable blessings and opened doors that I never knew existed. I'm so incredibly grateful for all of those things. But at the same time, I'm ready to move on to what's next. I don't want to get too comfortable in those blessings. I guess I don't want to cling to them for too long... I know that God has more to reveal. So I'm praying for patience but moving forward at the same time.

And really, I think that it's OK to be restless sometimes. I think there's an art to balancing it with stopping to appreciate the here and now, but I've always been a bit of a dreamer and I think that's good. I don't think any of us are ever supposed to be too comfortable. And as much as my heart often tries to cling to the here and now, I think that the fact that God always has me "on the move" in some form or fashion--be it physically, mentally or emotionally--is preparing me for something big. After all, Jesus was always on the move.

There's some food for thought. Jesus had an entire kingdom... but he never really had a home on earth. In fact, so many times in the gospels a story begins with, "and then he went to ___." Sometimes it even says, IMMEDIATELY. He was always on a mission. Never in one place for too long, never letting himself or his disciples get too comfortable... because he had to spread the love and he had to do it fast. He was on a mission to reach the cross. And now my mission is to share his.

Here's to a new chapter of my mission... of which not all future destinations are clear, although my eternal destination is. I pray that I stay "healthily restless"... never too comfortable and always learning. But at the same time, always appreciating the present, because it's the only place where I'm truly alive.

With just 8 days left of my summer in Nashville, I hope and pray that I take away from it all that God was trying to teach me. It's been a hell of an adventure, and I can't wait for what's next!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Monotonous. Repetitive. Tiresome. Routine.

How many other words can I come up with to describe what my every day life feels like right now? For 7 weeks, I've done the same thing every day. Internship, work, sleep... lather, rinse, repeat. This past week it started to wear on me. I told my friend Sarah on my way to work last Monday that I was getting restless and ready to move on to the next thing.

Then I went to church that night to a "young adults" worship service I've been going to the last few weeks. For lack of a better term, it was a swift kick in the ass. But a good one! I needed it... I needed an attitude adjustment. During worship, my heart was prepared for the message I was to hear. After the first couple of songs one of the guys on the worship team said, "I see so many tired hearts out there. You guys need to rest."

So I laid down on the floor and rested in the presence of God for the rest of worship. Sometimes singing, sometimes praying, and sometimes just laying there--just being. And then came the aforementioned "swift kick" via the sermon.

She started out with this statement: Your life the way that you live it is your message. If you were to say nothing about Jesus, would people know by looking at you what you belong to?

My first thought was, "yeah of course." Then she started preaching straight at me. I mean, I felt like I was the only one in the room. First she talked about honesty and integrity. Living your life with no gray area, and delivering truth with love and grace. "Alright," I thought. "I think I'm OK in that area. Whatcha got next?"

Then she started talking about patience. "Oh great," says Sara's brain. "Here it comes... God, be gentle with me. Please?" She defined patience as waiting for the appropriate moment and working with time and seasons. Here's the kicker: she tagged on, it ALSO means no whining or complaining in a season of waiting. And echoing in my head were the words that had come out of my mouth to Sarah that afternoon. "I'm starting to lose my patience with work... I'm ready to move on." I'M ready. Ugh. Gross. Listen to yourself. She talked about how patience is a 'fruit of the spirit' and that it says something about what's inside of us to the outside world. What a great definition of 'fruitfulness.'

No time to catch your breath, here we go with ass kicking number two: Hard Work. Oh, man. She didn't even have to say anything besides those two words. I already felt guilty. Let's just ask God what he says about working hard:

(1) Colossians 3:23
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if working for the Lord, not men."
(Yeah, that's tattooed on my wrist. Good job, Sara. Way to live out that daily reminder. Idiot.)

(2) 2 Thes. 3:10
"For even when we were with you we gave you this rule: if a man will not work, he shall not eat."

And then she said this: you're not working hard to be loved, you're working hard because you are loved. It goes back to, "the life you live is your message." Being fruitful, because our fruit says something about what's inside of us to the outside world. And then she said this: even when there are no jobs, there is always work. Go bless somebody. Work for God for a bit and see what he does.

All this left me feeling grateful for the job that exhausts me. It left me feeling refreshed and ready to take on 3 more weeks of it. It left me wanting to always be conscious of my "fruitfulness." To not let life, stress or monotony get in the way of living a life that says, "I love Jesus. Jesus loves me. And me and Jesus love you." And 'you,' as we learn in English class in elementary school, is an all-encompassing word. You=everyone. It made me stop and take a look at all that God's doing in my life right now and say, "3 more weeks? Bring it on. What else will you bless me with?"

Long story short: Love Jesus. Love people. WITH patience. Work hard because you're loved. Bear fruit that is noticeably delicious. (That sounds like a commercial for breakfast cereal. Fruit that's noticeably delicious! Haha.)

Love to you friends. Be blessed this week. Maybe even by blessing someone else.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.

This summer has been so different from what I expected it to be, as God usually has it. But it's been amazing to see God work. It's been a learning experience for sure, but not in the ways that I anticipated it being a learning experience. I've learned a lot from my internship at the Nashville Scene but the thing I've learned the most is that my passion for journalism is this: the art of the story. I love knowing stories I would have never known, and telling them to people who would have never heard them otherwise. I think there's a definite necessity for the main stream media, I don't think it's all evil like a lot of the Christian world likes to say. I think it's important to be informed. (Although yes of course there are always misleading messages) But I think the necessity for news in a kingdom sense is so much more important. The spreading of the "Good News"--the only news that matters. I've learned that God has given me a gift and a passion for that, and that I'm called to use it with purpose.

So I've been praying all summer about what that should look like. How do I take my "worldly" journalistic skills and use them for the advancement of God's kingdom? Friends, it has been so crazy to see God answer that prayer a little bit at a time. Through friends with similar passions, a dream has been established and a joining together in prayer to make that dream a reality has begun. I have a friend in North Carolina who told me 2 weeks ago that she has this passion for telling stories through photography, and she wants to use that to love on people and spread the gospel. I have another friend in Nashville who told me today about this vision he has of a ministry that he wants to start to basically raise awareness and draw attention to different missions all over the world by using people like me, and my photographer friend, and other "communications like" people. And so we've started to just pray about it... we don't know where it's going, but we know that there is an anointing on our hearts and our passions, and that God will use them and bless them so that we can bless his people. It's just been cool to see God open these doors and join together a group of people under this one common passion. We're all living in different places right now but we're all dreaming the same dream and praying the same prayer in hopes that we will one day be a part of God's mission together.

Tonight I was reading in Song of Songs... you may be thinking, "What the what?" But in this letter, this intimate love letter in which Christ is the bridegroom and we are the bride, he spoke such sweet words to me tonight. In Song of Songs 2:10-13, it says this:

10 My lover spoke and said to me,
"Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.

11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.

12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.

13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me."

And as he so intimately asks me to follow him, I'm answering. As this fig tree of his calling on my life forms its early fruit, I'm following. I'm praying that he continues to reveal his plan and open doors. I'm praying blessings over the hearts and mission of this group of people that I believe has been joined together by a divine intervention. I'm asking God to bless this mission so that we can bless others and spread His good news.

And friends, my prayer for you is this: that whatever it is God is calling you to do, whatever it is that he whispers in your ear and strikes that fire in your heart and says, "beautiful one, my darling, come with me" ... I hope you'll answer. I hope you'll follow and allow yourself to be blessed... because I believe God gives us our passions and our gifts so that we can bless others and magnify his kingdom.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

So thankful for my daddy today.

Missing my dad today... I wish I could be in Texas with him! Today is extra special for him because it's also his birthday! I know everyone says, "I have the best dad ever"... but I really believe that I actually do. No one has taught me to love better than this guy. To love Jesus, to love people, and to love life--no matter where you are. He's led my family through deep waters, he's been real, he's been gracious, and he's been the best role model I could ever ask for. He's shown me what a man of God looks like and has given me a standard for whoever it is I'm still waiting for. He's taught me to take risks, to make mistakes, and to not ever miss out on doing something that I'm passionate about. He's shown me how to be a servant. He's loved me through seasons when I was probably really hard to love. He's been my "buddy" for almost 21 years, and I'm so very thankful for him. Happy Father's day and Birthday, Dad! I love you.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

seasons of change...

Seasons of change are always interesting ones. This time of year tends to be a season of change year after year... people go various places for the summer, some grow up and some inevitably let summertime craziness get the best of them, losing themselves to reckless abandon of any sort of sense in their lives. Some graduate and go start the rest of their lives somewhere else. Whatever the journey may be, summer is always a time of change - whether it be temporary or permanent. Lately I've been trying to figure out what my journey is going to look like over the next 3 months.

In a very concrete sort of way, I know what it's going too look like. I know I'll be in Nashville, I know I'll be working a lot. I know where I'm living and what a typical day will be like. I know it will be different than I originally planned, since I originally planned to spend most of my free time with the boy that I was going there for in the first place.

I don't know what God's bigger purpose for me being there is. I don't know if I'll be lonely and missing the community that I have in Jonesboro or if I'll easily plug back in with the 'family' that I used to have in the people in Nashville. I don't know if it was selfish of me to decide I was spending my summer in Nashville for a boy, and I don't know if our recent break up is God's way of saying, "this isn't your life to live for you, it's for me" or if it's just a case of random irony that we broke up after me making a commitment to be there all summer. I don't know where I'll be 'spiritually fed' on a regular bases. I don't know who I'll spend most of my free time with.

I have a lot of questions, I guess. Was spending my summer in Nashville a good decision? Will my heartache only get worse when I'm in the same city as him for 3 months? Will I find community as rich as it is in my life in Jonesboro? Will it be lonely?

Here's the reality: God's not going to answer them right now. He might not answer them ever. Whether it was for the 'right' or 'wrong' reasons, my decision to spend the summer in Nashville has been made. My prayer now is that God reveals a greater purpose. That it would be sweet and full of joy even if it is lonely and hard at times. That relationships would be rich, and that growth occurs in ways that I can't even imagine right now.

Here's to a season of unexpected occurrences... may it be full of blessings, no matter how big the trials are along the way. May it be rich in relationships full of Christ's love, and may we all look back in August and say, "thanks, God... it was worth it."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Long week.

It's been a long week... breakups are not a good time. Things I've learned this week:

1. Battle Studies is a great breakup CD. Thanks, John Mayer.
2. Cleaning your room after a breakup can be dangerous... you find things.
3. Your Pandora stations probably need to be changed after a breakup... songs that used to be sweet are not so sweet this week.
4. I've never appreciated the craziness of the production room as much as I did this week... stress was a blessing this week. Distractions are good.
5. The silver lining of a breakup: everyone you know that you haven't talked to in months calls to check on you, and you get some sweet time of catching up.
6. I have great friends. There are no words for them... they just love me so well.
7. God is good... all the time.

I hope Easter is full of love and blessings for all... wish I was with my family, but I'm blessed to have a "home away from home" in Jonesboro. Thanks, Bakers. Haha.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

He had risen. And because of that, so had she.

It just so happens that the chapter I'm currently on in "the Blue Book" is titled "Resurrection"... just in time for Easter. Coincidence? I think not. Thanks God.

The last few days have been rough. I ended a two year relationship because I felt like that relationship was no longer pointing me towards Jesus. It was just as heartbreaking to me as it was him, but I know that the Lord's hand is in it, and we will both be alright.

My childhood best friend had a baby yesterday, 4 days before the 3 year anniversary of her dad's death. It's been emotional... a strange balance of celebrating new life while still mourning the loss of a father and friend.

And in the midst of all this, it's given the message of Easter some sweet significance. Yesterday I was reading in John, chapter 20... 11-18. This is when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb. After reading this yesterday, Mary's pain was so real to me. The thing I love about the Blue Book is that it also gives you some "outside reading" excerpts to relate and connect with the scripture you're reading. Yesterday's was awesome. Here's what it said...

The silence was deafening that early morning as she stood, gripped by a love that would not release her. Everyone else was gone back to their homes and their families.

"How could they forget so quickly?" she thought as she stood in the first light of dawn, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Did they not feel it too... the love? If they did, how could they leave?"

Her heart would not allow her to go, so she stayed--as near to him as she knew how. Was she waiting, was she hoping, or was she simply doing the only thing she could--to be near the place he was last near? She would rather be near him than anyone or anything. So she stayed and cried, longing to hear her name from his lips once more.

And then suddenly the voice... it startled her. Looking through the tears she could not see who it was.

"Have you seen him?" she asked. "Do you know where he is?"

It wasn't until he uttered her name that she recognized his voice, and at its sweet sound everything in her was raised to life again. It was Easter, you see... and he had risen. And because of that, so had she.

I love that. It truly paints a picture of Mary's love for Jesus, and her pain in losing him. If you've ever lost someone close to you, you know what that feels like. I remember when my friend Shea's dad died, me, Shea, and our friend Ashlee went down to his hangar where he kept his airplane. We sat there among all of his stuff, just being near where he had last been near, and we talked about him... sometimes laughing, sometimes crying. And I love how the story above says, "or was she simply doing the only thing she could--to be near the place where he was last near. She would rather be near him than anyone or anything." I can relate.

And the most significant part of that is the second sentence. She would rather be near him than anyone or anything. She longed to be where Jesus was. I think about the places where I long to be to feel God's presence. Worshiping with my church family. Sitting in the sun in the mountains of North Carolina, where I first fell in love with Jesus. At home with my sisters and my parents. We all have places where we feel most near Jesus, and we long to be there. Right now I'm in a place where I want so badly to be near Him, because my heart hurts, and it's too much for me to deal with alone.

But the next part is better. Jesus says one word... "Mary." And as Jim Branch writes in his version of the story, the sweet sound of his voice raised her back to life again. I think about those moments I've had... when I've been in darkness, and God does something to say, "Sara"... and I'm raised to life again. The last words of Jim's story say, "he had risen... and because of that, so had she."

There's pain in loss. Whether it be a breakup, a death, or whatever. Jesus felt it. Mary felt it. We all go through seasons of feeling it... but we are all risen to life, eternal life, all because Jesus felt the greatest pain of all time. He felt all the pain of the world, past, present and future, in one moment on the cross. I can't imagine.

All this being said, I found encouragement in this story, because I know that although I'm in pain right now, God is faithful. That doesn't mean that I am miraculously healed of all the heartache, but it means that as long as I continue to draw near to him, there will be a moment when I hear him say my name, and I'm risen to life again.

In the meantime, I am so incredibly blessed with people in my life who point me towards the Lord... to encourage me and lift me up in prayer. They are the tangible love of Christ in my every day life. To those people... thank you. You will never know how much you mean to me.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

my chains are gone, i've been set free...

Lately I have learned how incredibly freeing it can be to bring your weaknesses to the light and embrace them as an opportunity for God to use them for His glory. I know this is a repetitive theme of the blog lately, but I have to share what happened last night at bible study. Brittany asked me to lead, and at first I thought, "well, this should be interesting... I have to come up with some profound something in a little over an hour." Then I realized what an arrogant ass I was to think that I would be the one speaking... I needed to pray about how God could speak through me. I began to pray through what God wanted us to talk about, and here's where he led. Last week I had been reading in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12, when Paul is talking about boasting about his weaknesses, because "God's power is made perfect in weakness." So long story short... as a continuation of what that passage had been doing in my heart, that's what we focused on last night.

God did an amazing thing. We literally dug up our deep-rooted issues and shared them with one another, and we prayed for each other, and it was incredible. The Holy Spirit moved in some amazing ways... and He did it in the midst of us bringing out the darkest things about ourselves... these deep corners of our souls that we needed to be freed from. Because forgiveness is only the first half of our salvation. After that comes restoration... and that's why we have to daily return to the cross and give our weaknesses to Jesus.

Last night I saw the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9, "I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me," displayed in such a sweet way, through 6 girls sitting around a table at a coffee shop. It was powerful and humbling, and I will never forget it. Thank you, Jesus, for that moment. Thank you for a group of girls to be real with. To hold each other accountable to daily return to the cross and humble ourselves, and become more and more every day the women that God has created us to be. I am daily amazed at the ways that the Spirit is moving in Jonesboro... on ASU's campus... my heart is changing, and it's been painful and freeing at the same time.

If you're reading this, I want to encourage you to "boast about your weaknesses." Bring them to the light and let God use them. Return to the cross daily. Be who God has created you to be.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

shine your light--people notice.

Today in my News Reporting class we were discussing the new Arkansas Lottery Scholarship. My professor was explaining how she is opposed to it, because most people who are awarded it end up dropping out of school, and those who qualify for it and are going to actually finish their degrees aren't staying in the state to go to school anyway. Somehow that led to an argument on whether or not you need a college degree "to live a good life." My professor said, and I quote, "You will live a burger-flipping life if you don't go to college these days." Can't say I completely agree with that, since one of my best friends didn't finish school, and he is in full-time ministry as a worship pastor. My professor also said that "living paycheck to paycheck sounds too stressful, and she wouldn't be happy if she had to do that." So basically, most of our discussion concluded with the idea that money+status=good life.

I sat there listening, and I chimed in here and there, if nothing else to make the point that my dad is in ministry, we've never had much money, definitely lived "paycheck to paycheck," and I have a great life. For most of this discussion, I was just listening and thinking, "what if all of these people knew Jesus?" How different would that talk have been? If we had all said, "you know what--God provides. Regardless of education, class, race, gender... nothing is beyond him." Because that's what I was thinking, but I know I was the only one in the room with that perspective. I sat there thinking, gosh, I really wish everyone knew Jesus. What a world that would be. Although I guess that would be heaven.

JR has been preaching a lot about the Kingdom lately, and how we're supposed to bring the Kingdom to our world and be a living testament of the truth. I've been trying to challenge myself to do that. Today I had a moment when I was able to see that people actually notice when we're shining a light that they don't have. I was in the production room, working on the sports page, and my editor said, "Sara, you are the most light hearted and happy-go-lucky person I've ever known." Another one of the editors chimed in and said, "I know, I wish I was like that. How do you do it?" The truth is, it's Jesus. And the cool thing is that they SEE that. They don't understand it--it's something that they know they don't have, but they want it. That really challenged me to shine that light all the time. People notice.

And the reality is, people notice when we're claiming a faith but not looking any different than anyone else. That's something that Christians don't take seriously enough. People are watching us to see how we react when life gets hard. There's a song by Hillsong called "Desert Song" and the last verse is so powerful. It says:

This is my prayer in the harvest, when favor and providence flow.
I know I'm filled to be emptied again, the seed I've received I will sow.

I love that song. I wanted so badly to play it in class today and say, "this is why you don't need to worry about money... this is why God is so much bigger than any worldly thing that you think can make you happy... my God is the God who provides." This song is the reason that as Christians we don't need to lose our joy when life gets hard... we have a reason to sing. And when we shine a light at times when most people would exude darkness, people notice. And they say, I want what you have.

Take a listen yourself...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

bound by the law

I had dinner with a friend tonight and it was one of those meetings when conversation was just so rich. We got to talking about some high school girls that she leads a bible study with and just how growing up in the "Bible Belt" has made them so bound by the law. As "grace" has been the theme as of late, (and as God would have it) we started talking about the law vs. the grace of Jesus Christ. I happened to be reading in John chapter 1 this morning, and verses 16-17 stood out to me:

"And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

The gospels tell the story of Jesus... they're the truth given to us on how to truly live as a Christian. In order to be like Christ, we are to look at what he did. Now ask yourself this question: do Christians do a good job of that? What if we were to take away the gospels? What if Jesus wasn't the messiah, if he hadn't come to save us? The scary thought is, I think a lot of Christians would still look the exact same way. Because we're so bound by the law that we miss the point. Jesus came to rescue us from that. He came to give us a gift that completely changes the world, and for whatever reason, we still concern ourselves more with all of the legalistic stuff. Sure, there's a place for that. I believe there is a healthy balance. But the problem is that we don't display grace in the way that we are called to. We don't live like our lives are a sweet gift from God, being thankful and joyful always. We're too worried about how many "religious events" we can cram into our week, or any other deed that we think may make us LOOK like a "better Christian."

When did we lose sight of the humbling fact that Jesus died so we could live? When did we stop trying to live like him and start making our own rules? JR made a great point in church Sunday morning. He said when Jesus was on earth the sinners flocked to him and the religious wanted nothing to do with him. Now, 2000 years later, the religious are "all about" Jesus and the 'sinners' want nothing to do with him. When did we begin to make him look so unattractive? Why do we not wear his grace in a way that makes people want what we have? And what will it take for us to stop worrying about petty legalistic things and start doing what Jesus showed us and what God calls us to do? To go after the lost, and be a living display of Jesus Christ's love for us through the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

I wonder what it will take for us to obey his Greatest Commandment. Love God. Love others. He said that's way more important than the 10 commandments that he gave Moses.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

guilt... shame... grace.

My week in Ephesians was of course a learning experience, and as it so often ends up with God, led to unexpected places. Over the last couple of weeks I've really struggled with the guilt of my sin... dumb things I've done, darkness in my past... it's been tormenting me. To the point where I wasn't sleeping at night, and as the true definition of sin states, I really FELT separation from God. My journey towards truly accepting God's grace began in Ephesians chapter 2, beginning in verse 8, where it talks about being "saved by grace." But that verse is so overstated in Christian culture... and as vain as it sounds, it wasn't enough for me to grasp it. I needed more. I've been wrestling with the idea that there is a fine line between accepting grace and abusing it--and I was feeling like I didn't know where I stood on that spectrum. Do I know I'm forgiven for my sins? Yes. Have I forgiven myself? Not quite--I sometimes feel so unworthy. I feel guilty of abusing the grace I'm given. My guilt and shame got to the point where being a leader, something that comes so naturally to me normally, was hard. I all of a sudden had this insecurity that's never been there before, this voice in the back of my mind that kept telling me, "you're not good enough." I've started to have this doubt in my mind that the Lord wants to use me to bring others to Him. It's been a daily struggle for the last few weeks--every day I've had to wake up, feeling crappy, and try with all that's within me to cast my burdens on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) and allow him to show me the way. It hasn't been easy.

As I continued to search and wrestle with these insecurities I found encouragement from two women in the Bible who were seen as "unworthy"--but Jesus healed them, and saved them, and they were used for the Kingdom. Mary Magdalene was the first one I read about (Luke ch. 7). She was the "neighborhood whore"... everyone looked down on her. She was a sinner. And when she fell at the feet of Jesus in tears, kissing his feet and anointing him with oil, Jesus said, "she's forgiven--for she loves much." Even when Simon said, "if this guy was a prophet he would know what kind of woman she is--surely he wouldn't let her touch him." But Jesus saw the brokenness in this woman, he saw that she knew he could save her, and he said to her, "your faith has saved you."

Then I read the story of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. This woman who was seen as unclean by everyone... who felt so unworthy of even showing her face in public. But she heard that Jesus was coming, and she knew that if she could do so little as touch him, she would be healed. As Jesus is walking down the street he stops and says, "who touched me? I felt power go out from me." And this woman, ashamed, falls to her knees in front of him and tells him of her troubles and that she just knew that if she could only touch the hem of his garment, she would be healed. In the same way that Jesus spoke to Mary, he said to this woman, "daughter, your faith has made you well. go in peace."

After reading these two stories, something that I hadn't ever given much thought to in reading them before caught my attention. The way they end. Jesus says to both of them, "your faith has made you well." We're given this grace, and we know that, but do we have a FAITH that heals us? As much as I read it, and "think it", do I really BELIEVE that my faith is a healing faith? That if I would just believe that my God is so much bigger than me or my issues, I can be delivered from them.

My friends, this is the beautiful thing about our struggles and our sin. It humbles us and brings us to the feet of our sweet Jesus, who can heal us with a single touch. Because if we were perfect, we would be God. I will continue to struggle with my sin, feeling unworthy of serving such a powerful God. I'll continue to search for a faith that heals me... because I don't know if I'm there yet. But I know that daily I will fall to my knees before the God that saves me, despite my flaws, because he loves me that much. What a humbling thought.

Nicole C. Mullen goes to my home church in Franklin, TN, and I remember her singing this song one Sunday morning, and it left me in tears. It's such a powerful testament of Jesus' healing power and love for us. It's been one that I've clung to over these last few weeks, trying to remind myself that I am forgiven.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ephesians in a week.

I have a Bible that my grandparents gave me for my 19th birthday, and it's my favorite gift I've ever gotten. When I got it in the mail on the 28th of October, 2008, I found a sweet letter inside that made me cry. My grandparents had spent the previous year reading through the entire thing, carrying it around with them, praying for me and writing notes to me in it as they read. For a year, they dedicated special times of prayer to me, carrying with them everywhere they went a Bible with my name inscribed on the front.

Today I was flipping through the New Testament trying to find a particular verse, and on the last page of the book of Ephesians, a note from my grandpa stood out to me. This is what it said:

The book of Ephesians is probably the most quoted book of the New Testament. It is short, but full of great lessons for your life--How to live as a Christian, to be a wife (if your choice!), ways to keep your faith strong and alive. We pray that this book of Ephesians will be one that you read often as it is the shield of faith.

Feeling convicted that not only do I not read it often, I don't think I've ever read through the entire book, I decided to read through Ephesians this week. One chapter a day, and see what God has to tell me. I'm excited about it! I can't wait to read Grandma and Papa's notes either. :)

More notes to come...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Resolution sounds too cliche... goals, perhaps?

I hate saying, "New Years Resolution"... nobody keeps those. I think it's important to set goals though... to have some direction in what you're aiming to accomplish over a year's time. So I've made some semester goals for myself.

1. Less stress, more laughter. Hakuna matata! I let life get me too stressed out last year... this year I'm not going to "take on the world's problems" quite as much. I'm going to enjoy myself, my life, and the wonderful people who are a part of it.
2. Start working out again. I quit soccer and took a 6 month break from regular physical activity... it's time to get back to it. I can feel my metabolism slowing--we can't be having that.
3. Ministry... to pray earnestly for the development of Young Life in Jonesboro, and to be patient but diligent in hearing God's voice and following where He leads this semester.
4. Be intentional about really pouring into the people that mean the most to me. Less small talk, more real talk. Invest in people in a deeper, richer way.
5. Memorize scripture. This is a new one as of yesterday when a friend of mine challenged me to do so. I'm excited to see how it changes my relationship with Jesus.

So there we have it... my 5 points of personal improvement this semester. I think they're pretty attainable goals. I'm excited about the 6 months ahead of me!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2009 in retrospect

I've been meaning to do this for a few days now... a reflection on 2009. Looking back, it may have been one of the hardest years of my life, but I think it was also one of the best. To recap it in the shortest way possible, I'm just going to try to hit the highlights. In January '09 I decided I was over soccer... so I started looking into transferring. As God would have it, I was in a strange period of transition where I was no longer considered a resident of Tennessee and not yet considered a resident of Texas. So I stayed at ASU, thinking maybe I should just keep playing soccer. As the spring '09 semester went on, I found community and a sort of family at First Baptist Jonesboro. It was then that I knew I was where the Lord wanted me to be. Fast forward to summer... I spent a month at YL Camp in North Carolina. It was then that I realized Jonesboro is where I'm supposed to be, but that God has something so much bigger there for me than soccer. So, long story short--I quit soccer and am focusing on ministry. Besides learning a lot about myself at camp, I made some of the best friends ever! Two girls I'm still very close with--they have become some of my very best friends, even though we never really see each other. My summer at camp was a blessing on so many levels. The rest of my summer at home was a struggle--my little sister has gone through some tough stuff this year that's been really hard on my whole family. Her pain sort of plagued all of us the whole second half of this year. On top of that I was dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety with a friend in Jonesboro. Then Christmas happened, and it was just a really sweet blessing. For the first time in a long time I purely enjoyed the company of my family, with so much laughter and absolutely no drama, and it was incredible. It was almost as if God just said, "I know it's been a tough year--but I haven't forgotten about you." Just as He promises so many times in his word, He brought me and my family out of captivity. I have been so overwhelmed with thanksgiving for that. I spent New Years in Nashville, having a summer staff reunion, which was just awesome. It was the perfect way to ring in the new year--with so many people that I love so very much, who changed my life in 2009, and who's friendships I can't wait to continue to invest in during 2010.

Praising Jesus for a year of trials and blessings. I hope your 2009 was just as wonderful!