Posted in Devotion, Holidays

Spiritual Hangover Remedy

I’ve never had a hangover, so this analogy will be based upon movies and hearsay. This week has been particularly busy for me with organized “church” events. I attended a church service Sunday that spoke to me, and then at school this week, we have special evening services for Spiritual Emphasis week. I’ve been preparing for a Bible study that I’ll attend this Thursday. Much like many others, I’ll attend Good Friday and Easter services and maybe some other services. I’m feeling very spiritually full; it’s as if I’ve sat down to a Thanksgiving feast this week when, if I’m honest, I’ve been metaphorically eating on the Atkins diet for the past few weeks.

Now I don’t know a whole lot about alcohol, but the general idea seems to be that when people imbibe a lot in a short period of time, there tends to be consequences the next day. Right now if I was comparing my intake of God’s Word with alcoholic intake, I would say that I’m imbibing the amount that could lead to a spiritual hangover.

All too often it seems that churches and Christians have these great revival times or mission moments where people feel full of God and excited, but the next day when they return to “normal life” the high starts to wear off. The excitement lessons, and then they start to feel guilty for losing the high. That’s a spiritual hangover, and I foresee the potential for such an event in my life simply because it’s happened before.

So what happens Monday when all of the Easter holiday is finished? I don’t want a spiritual hangover. I want my relationship and communication with God to remain just as alive and vibrant as it is now. So what do I do now to prevent such a fall?

What did Jesus do? I look to his last few days for answers. He had this awesome sweet time with his disciples at the Last Supper, telling them of things to come and encouraging them. After that, he went to the Garden and prayed. Even until the moments before his death, he was in communication with God the Father. Bam. There’s the answer. If I want to avoid the spiritual hangover, I keep imbibing the spiritual drink. Unlike alcohol, continuing to take in God-time and his Word won’t produce negative effects in my life. It’s okay to keep drinking in his Word, so after this weekend I’ll do my very best to fight against the temptation to slip back into the ordinary. I feel most alive when I’m in communication with God, so I’ll just stay in communication with him.

Happy Easter weekend, folks. Be sure to keep your eyes focused on the true reason for celebration and to keep drinking in the Word of God even after the celebrations die down.

Posted in Life

Church

In the past month, I’ve been in four different churches because of various circumstances such as flooding and travelling. All of them are teaching the Bible, and there are people in each one who are genuinely seeking God. None of them, though, leave me feeling completely content with how I imagine the perfect church to be. The music is too slow or too loud; the lights are too bright or the building too cold; the people are too old or the crowd is too large; the drive is too far or I don’t want to go alone. These are just a few of the complaints that run through my head as I leave a service.

I know being plugged in to one church is what I desire, but the grass looks greener on the other side. Lately it seems as if there’s always something better somewhere else. That’s not normal for me, so I started praying. After some heart-searching, these are the answers that God gave to me. Maybe these thoughts will help someone else in a similar circumstance.

What I need to remember is two-fold. First church is not about all of the frills, which I’m honest is where most of my complaints lie. The most important part of church is God. God can speak with old hymns, new rock, bright lights, a yelling preacher, a long sermon, or a quick devotion. God is not bound by any circumstances. The only thing that binds me from hearing his words is myself.

Secondly, all of these churches are run by people. Granted, I think all of the churches I’ve been at lately are led by people seeking God. Still though, I find myself wanting certain circumstances to worship. Rather than looking for perfection in the man-made aspects of church, I should look for perfection in the God-driven aspects of church. My focus should be on praising God and leaning toward him rather than examining the layout of service.

Lastly, even with all of the imperfections I can find in churches, I still find church to be very important to my faith in God. Yes, all of the answers I need for my relationship with God are found in the Bible and through time with Him, but God made us for fellowship. When Jesus left the Earth, he left a group of believers and told them to stick together. God didn’t design me to navigate this world alone. He intends for me, and others, to meet together regularly to worship Him and study his Word. While I can, and should, worship and study all week long, there’s just something special about gathering with other believers no matter which building I do it in. I have no answers about what the perfect church service or atmosphere looks like, probably because it doesn’t exist, but I do know that no matter where I end up on Sunday, my one focus should be to worship God and learn more about Him.

Posted in Book Review

The Debt

Ah, Christmas break is amazing. After finishing the last day of school, I was able to sit down and just read for pleasure for several hours. I finished a very interesting book entitled The Debt by Angela Hunt. 

Set in a fictional Kentucky town, a pastor’s wife must rethink her view of the church when her grown biological son shows up in her life. Her son, whom she never met nor told her husband about, is a minister of a different kind than her husband; he goes to less-than-obvious places to build relationships with people who might never set foot in a church. She begins to see the flaws in the way she and her husband have been doing church.

This book’s purpose wasn’t to condemn church work or even to say that every church member needs to visit bars and impoverished neighborhoods. Rather, it asks us to pause and look at the opportunities God gives to us to be carriers of his word. For some of us that may mean doing work within the church, but for some of us that may mean carrying his work beyond the church walls.

Another main idea of this book was the idea of the church in connection with the world. The church in the book launched a nationwide boycott of a bookstore chain because a book with which they disagreed was being sold there. The pastor’s wife begins to question the effectiveness of such a boycott in spreading God’s love. She begins to see that the church is simply pushing agendas against sin rather than spreading the hope of God’s remedy for sin. One particular quote stands out: “don’t be shocked when sinners sin”. Just like the characters in the book, we need to examine what we’re fighting against. If we spend all of our time telling sinners that their sin is wrong without telling them about Jesus, we’ve missed the call. Remember, God meets us in our sin and then begins to change us, not the other way around. 

If you want a thought-provoking yet easy read, this might be a book to add to you Christmas wish list. 

Happy reading!

Posted in Gratefulness, Life

I’m not superwoman, but I have a super God.

Don’t try to be superwoman: that’s the lesson of the weekend.

I had grand plans of trying to make it back to Oneida for the 11 am service at my church after attending the early service at my brother’s church. I probably could have made it fashionably late if I had been cautious and smart. Instead I was on the side of the road with a defunct car, a policeman, an ambulance, my brother and his girlfriend, and many tears at 11 am on Sunday.

God had his hand on the entire situation though and still does. I wasn’t hurt, and I didn’t hit the car coming towards me. I only spun and hit the ditch a couple of times before I ended up back on the road with a busted tire and quite a bit of damage to the car. Roxie (my car) has been treated kinder, but God used her to shield me from any physical damage.

When I was in high school, I wrote a poem about slowing down. Metaphorically I was speaking of slowing down to enjoy life, but in light of this past weekend, I think slowing down while driving is a good idea as well. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to be superwoman and fly back to Oneida (good intentions and all), I wouldn’t be driving a rental minivan right now and worrying about Roxie. One lesson I’ve learned is to not rush. If I can’t be part of everything, so be it. God has a plan for each location I’ll be. While I write that last sentence though, I also realize that God has a plan for my accident as well.

It’s hard to say yet what good will come of my accident, but I know God has a plan to take even this unwanted situation and bring glory to his name. Already he’s provided for me through many concerned people and a good insurance company, so I have no doubt he has a plan. For now, I’ll wait on the prognosis, and in the meantime I’ll take life a little slower.

Most of all praise be to God that I am safe and that no one else was involved.

Posted in Education

I AM a teacher…hear me roar.

I AM a teacher…hear me roar. (I am reposting this from the other blog I write with my friends. It’s quite old, but it made me smile to remember just a few months ago.)

“You look like a teacher.”

It may have been my professional work attire or the fact that he remembered me from children’s church, but I chose to believe it was because there was something about my aura that screamed “TEACHER”. That made my heart warm a bit and settled the butterflies in my stomach.

It was the first night of teaching AWANAS. Middle school AWANAS. I think the butterflies were there for good reason. Middle schoolers can eat a person alive if she’s not careful.

AWANAS stands for something that I can’t remember, but basically it’s a Bible study program for elementary and middle school students that runs on Wednesday nights at my church. They eat, play a game, and do a Bible study together.

This first night I had a lesson planned but I didn’t intend to actually need it. I wanted to lay some ground rules and get to know my students. I had them write out three things about themselves on index cards. Rule #1 was created. No flying objects. I then read the cards aloud and asked them to guess who each card was describing. No difficulty in this activity. I should have thrown in my own card to mix it up. I was pleased when the first thing one student listed is that he is a Christian. Pretty cool.

After that, we laid some ground rules. I let them suggest the rules. They are old enough to know how they want to be treated in a classroom. They got all of the major ones that I would have listed, even if they were written a bit differently than I would have said. One rule says “don’t yell at the top of your lungs.” I quickly added to not yell at the bottom of your lungs either. They laughed at my pitiful attempt at a joke. Success!

I almost forgot to pray at the end, but other than that, the meeting went well. They didn’t even complain too much when I gave them homework for next week. I’m excited about this opportunity to teach. I think it flows in my blood because I just feel so much more at ease when I’m in the front of a classroom watching students think.

Posted in Life, Work

A New Chapter

side shot

On Sunday, I graduated from college (hence the subtitle change to the blog) and in a couple of weeks I will receive my certification to teach English to high school students. It’s an exciting yet scary time of life. Even though I know that God has equipped me to teach and he’s given me a passion for English, right now I am not going to teach full time. Beginning in January of 2015 (which is approaching very quickly), I will gain the title of Campus Missionary Intern for the Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) on my college campus. It will give me an opportunity to pour back into the group that has given me so much over the past couple of years while also giving me some time to get quiet and still before God and wait for directions.

As I step into this new role, I want to take a moment to look back on what I’ve experienced while at college. Recently the college asked me complete a survey about my college experience. It asked questions about how much I feel the college has taught me in several different areas, but my struggle was deciding whether the college had taught me some of these core values (such as respect of diversity) or I had learned them other places during my time in college. I know I’ve grown over these past four and a half years, but so many other groups and organizations besides the college have impacted me.

The more I thought about that survey, the more I realize that there is no good way to differentiate who taught me what, but the two institutions that were a stronger influence than the college as an institution were church and BCM. This is not to say that college has not influenced me greatly, but I feel that the impact church and BCM have made on my life will go farther in this life and eternity. They have worked together to teach me about myself and about my faith. There were many times that, without these two organizations and the people who comprise them, the stress of classes and work would have sunk me. It was beneficial to have a church family whom I could call whenever I was sad, stressed, or some combination of the two. They have also been there to support me the numerous times my car has decided to give out these few years. The church also provided a place of refuge. Yes it was a time commitment to attend services three times a week, but the benefits outweighed the cost. There were actually many times I felt more prepared for life after going to church than when I went in. Of course, in all honesty, it wasn’t the church or the people who did that; God worked through the church to provide peace, strength, and growth.

The BCM became part of my life freshman year, but it wasn’t until my first senior year that I began attending meetings. During freshman year, I joined a dorm group that met once a week to study the Bible, and it was led by a college student and a lady from the church I ended up attending. Actually it was because of this group that I began attending my church. They both went there and made me feel more welcome than I felt at other churches. That group was small but it provided me with yet another source of encouragement, refuge, and connection. The leader left college after one year but I began leading the group for a while. Through the experience of leading the group, I learned about teaching and leading, and I learned to really listen to God. After returning from England, I began attending BCM with my best friend because we weren’t getting as much from the other Bible study we had been attending previously. In this group, I found a role model and many great friends. Mondays are the best days of the week now because I know I get to go to BCM.

All of this that I’ve said leads to one point. The value of connecting with other believers far outweighs anything I could have learned in a classroom at college. While coming to college provided the opportunity to make these connections, this wasn’t something required by the college. That’s why I am super excited to step in as CMI; I want to encourage the kind of connections I have found through church and BCM in other college students. I want them to know that it wasn’t anything the college provided that made me who I am; only through God and his people have I been able to survive college and life. As I step forward into the next chapter of life, I step with confidence knowing that God is already there.

Posted in Gratefulness

Day Three and Four: Friends and Church

How is it that I missed yesterday’s gratefulness post? Oh no! I figured this would happen at some point though. I’ll just play a bit of catch up.

Day Three (abreviated version):

Yesterday I spent the majority of my time watching The Great British Bake Off and writing papers. I also made some jewelry but since I can’t find my card converter I can’t show the pictures to anyone. Finally, my friend and I went to see Ender’s Game. Yesterday I was grateful for friends. Because of many changes in mine and my friends’ lives, we just don’t get to see each other as often as we would all like. Senior year is busy. On Friday night though we got to hang out and do a scavenger hunt around campus which ended in pizza at a local pizza place. Yesterday I spent some time watching a movie with a friend, even though I’ve never read the book. It’s good to do something that maybe you wouldn’t have chosen to do simply because your friend wants to and then discover that you enjoyed it as well. This semester, with all of the time I spend alone, has taught me to be grateful for the time I do get to spend with my friends. I am grateful for my friends.

 

Day Four:

Today, our pastor showed a video about a church in Nigeria. The small church was meeting for a normal Sunday service. In the midst of praying for persecuted churches, some Muslim hate group came in to the service with guns and opened fire. A 13 year old girl told her perspective of the event where she watched her father die in church. She told how he was the one that always talked about Jesus and brought them to church. Then he died. She told how she was running out of the church and felt scared and cold. Then she realized that she was bleeding. She cried Jesus because “that was all she had.” It amazed me that even after watching her father die in church she still had a strong faith in God. That’s the power of Jesus.

I am grateful today that I was able to sit in church without fear of attack. That girl mentioned that her church did not fear attack either, but it happened. I realize it could happen in my church here but I am grateful it has not. I am grateful that I can go to church at all, because there are some places where Christianity is not welcomed. I am grateful for church because it helps to revive my spirit and reminds me of my faith. The fellowship is sweet; God’s presence is sweeter though. I know what I believe and it breaks my heart that others do not see the need they have for God. What also breaks my heart is that different belief systems cannot get along. I realize that people do believe different things but killing each other is not going to make anyone change their mind. That’s not necessary.

So I am grateful for church.