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 Bible Study, Devotion

Idols are more than golden calves

“Anything I put before my God is an idol. Anything I want with all my heart is an idol. Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.” 

These words come from Jimmy Needham’s song “Clear the Stage”, and they’ve made me address some of the idols in my life. No, I’m not building a golden statue, but in my mind certain ideas take up more head space than my thoughts of God. Those gradually become idols in my life. It’s not a conscious decision, but that’s how Satan works. He stealthily slips in a thought here and an image there until it consumes my thoughts. 

“Take a break from all the plans that you had made and sit at home and wait for God to whisper… Shine the light on every corner of your life until the pride and lust and lies are in the open.”

That’s what I did. I spent some time the past few days (thank you for fall break, God!) praying and reading the Bible. Every passage I’ve read lately has either revealed a dark part of my heart or given me strength and hope of destroying the darkness. Those are God’s whispers. 

“Then read the word and put to test the things you’ve heard until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken.”

Here is some of what I came up with.

“Think on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, of excellence, and worthy of praise” Phil 4:8

“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

When these thoughts begin to take up too much space, I’ll look to God instead. I’ll ask for strength, and I’ll praise him. 

“We can sing all we want to. Worship is more than a song.”

To listen to the full song, follow this link.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. You’re awesome for supporting me.

Posted in Bible Study

God, I’m so…(blank)

This comic was posted by someone on Facebook, and while I chuckled, I also had some deeper thoughts in relation to it. 

This may be how we treat God sometimes, or at least I know I have. I have a bad day, and I rush to God and start complaining. My complaints are even sometimes similar to Dagwood. I expect God to listen to all of my complaints, and then I expect to move on with life. Sometimes I feel guilty about complaining, so I throw in a few comments about how great he is. Mostly though I just vent.

I don’t think God completely minds when I come to him with my problems and complaints. He does urge us to come to him when we’re weak and weary. He is pretty great that way. In fact he’s better than Dagwood’s doctor in that he can provide a miracle cure for my ailments. 

My problem lies in the time though when that’s all I come to God for over a period of time. If I’m only coming to God when I have problems, what kind of relationship is that, and how does that depict how I view God? God is so much bigger and more capable than any problem I’ll ever have. I’m grateful for that, so when things are going well, I need to come to him as well and thank him. In fact I can also thank him during problems as well because I know he’s capable and willing to give me rest. 

Thanks God!

Posted in Bible Study

God, I’m so…(blank)

This comic was posted by someone on Facebook, and while I chuckled, I also had some deeper thoughts in relation to it. 

This may be how we treat God sometimes, or at least I know I have. I have a bad day, and I rush to God and start complaining. My complaints are even sometimes similar to Dagwood. I expect God to listen to all of my complaints, and then I expect to move on with life. Sometimes I feel guilty about complaining, so I throw in a few comments about how great he is. Mostly though I just vent.

I don’t think God completely minds when I come to him with my problems and complaints. He does urge us to come to him when we’re weak and weary. He is pretty great that way. In fact he’s better than Dagwood’s doctor in that he can provide a miracle cure for my ailments. 

My problem lies in the time though when that’s all I come to God for over a period of time. If I’m only coming to God when I have problems, what kind of relationship is that, and how does that depict how I view God? God is so much bigger and more capable than any problem I’ll ever have. I’m grateful for that, so when things are going well, I need to come to him as well and thank him. In fact I can also thank him during problems as well because I know he’s capable and willing to give me rest. 

Thanks God!

Posted in Blog, Life, Remembering

You want me to pray???

Recently I saw a Facebook post reminiscing about the times in youth group when the youth leader asked for a volunteer to pray and there was dead silence. I can certainly remember those moments, and often I was one of the silent ones. On the off chance that the youth leader called on me or I volunteered, there was a brief moment of panic. If I’m honest, there’s still that moment of panic when I’m asked to pray aloud today. My question is “why?”. Why are we afraid to pray aloud? It’s just talking to God after all. I do that frequently, so what am I afraid of?

After some soul searching, I have come to the conclusion that I think for me it’s a fear of the people listening more than a fear of talking to God. I panic that others will think my prayer isn’t “holy” enough or long enough. Maybe I won’t use the right words, or maybe I won’t have any words at all.

This morning I was reading the passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus teaches the crowds how to pray. If pointing out that pagans pray so that others can hear them wasn’t enough explanation, Jesus follows up with an example prayer of his own. Guess what? Jesus’ prayer isn’t long and drawn out. It uses fairly simple words and has a pretty straightforward message.

This example gives me courage that when I feel like talking to God, I should do so freely whether out loud or in my head. After all, when I’m praying aloud, it’s God’s ear that matters, not the ears of others.

Posted in Work

BCM Update and Prayer Requests

These past few weeks have been good on campus. The BCM have met three times on Monday nights for dinner and Bible study. We even have a couple new faces this semester. We’ve been studying through The Gospel Project from LifeWay. A local church was willing to give us their previous quarter’s books so that we can use this study for free. So far we have looked at God and why he should be praised according to Psalm 148 and Job 38. The next week we hit it hard with Satan’s fall as described by Isaiah and Ezekiel. This session produced many good questions about the origin of evil and showed us how God triumphs over evil. This coming Monday we will be back in Genesis 2 and Psalm 95 and discussing how God lovingly made this world for his people. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first to co-teach these lessons to what are essentially my peers, but it has proved to be an educational experience. I’ve learned about preparing lessons, seeking God’s guidance on what to say, and searching the scriptures when questions are posed.

In addition to Monday nights, the women and I have been meeting on Tuesday nights in a dorm to study Biblical truths about our relationship with God presented in a book called Spoken For. This book is written by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Bethke. It has nice short chapters that we all read prior to coming together and wonderful discussion questions. The best part about this book is that it points us back to scriptures that we can use to remind ourselves how God views us. Many in our group come from broken families of one sort or another and/or have been in romantic relationships that left us feeling less than. We are using those experiences and heartaches combined with the stories told by Robin and Alyssa to compare with how God has never abandoned us or hurt us. Of course God always wins! The book and the conversations that follow are healing to the heart for everyone in the group. I’m thankful that God has placed this group of women in my life. I don’t think I’m really leading this group as much as this group is leading itself. Even if we all separate after college time ends, I look forward to worshiping Jesus in heaven with these ladies.

Finally, I spend my time on campus manning a prayer table on Tuesday afternoons. I stake out a spot for three hours where I have an open invitation to prayer and requests. I ask for prayer for this specific ministry. It’s not been as fruitful as I’d like. It’s a busy time for this location but many students simply walk by without stopping. I’ve only had a few people stop. I know God can use it for even a few people, but it would be encouraging to talk with more people. It has been a bit of an eye opener though. Of the few people who have stopped, a couple have not exactly been open or understanding of the gospel. One girl stopped and asked if she could say no to prayer. I replied that she could, but I was a bit shocked when she wrote on the paper that I shouldn’t pray for her and proceeded to sign her name. Of course, I prayed that God would soften her heart and provide an opportunity for a Christian to talk with her. Another student stopped with a couple of prayer requests and I was able to talk with him about his faith. He believes in God and Jesus as God’s son but he also believes there are many ways to heaven. I pray that I will be able to talk with him further when he doesn’t have to rush to class. Please pray for me here at this table, that I would be bolder in talking to people and that more students would stop to talk and pray. I know God can use this table.

Well that’s about it for an update. I hope your January is turning out nicely.

If you feel led to financially support my missions work on this college campus, please visit my website.

https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/EKU/CathyHughes

Posted in Life, Weather

Do you have any sleds for sale?

I do not normally post about things that happen in my life, but tonight the story is too great to pass up.

Today I went sledding. The plan was to meet some friends on the big hill near campus and use these old lunch trays that were hiding in our dorm kitchen. They worked well last time so even though there was twice as much snow this time, we figured they’d work. While waiting on our friends, my roommate and I started trying the trays out near our dorm on a smaller hill. There was a cute little child and his father just a little ways over. The father let us use the sled (the child got more enjoyment out of watching us go down the hill than he did going down the hill himself). When they were ready to head out, the father (who turned out to be a professor) said we could borrow the sled and return it tomorrow. The child was a bit hesitant and even shed a few tears. The father was insistent and convinced the child that he needed to share.

We went sledding. The sled worked much better than our lunch trays. The snow was perfect and packed down enough. Some kids had even built ramps to jump over. We piled on and soared down the hill. It was grand fun.

Until it wasn’t. Until we put three people on the sled and hit a stick. Then it felt like a rock dropped in my stomach. That child cried because he didn’t want to share his sled. We were going to make him never want to share again if we returned a sled with a hole in it! The kid might be in therapy until he’s 25 over this incident. Okay maybe that thought was a bit exaggerated (in our defense we didn’t have that thought until much later when we were on the hunt for a new sled). We made a few more trips down the hill. Why not? We’d already broken the sled so we knew we’d have to buy a new one anyway so might as well enjoy the time.

Then the hunt began. In still wet clothes we loaded up to go to Walmart.

To find out that they were out of sleds.

As was every other store in our small town. Well Ace Hardware had some sort of roll-up sled but the guy on the phone said he was leaving in about 5 minutes.

Let me just say here that the internet and smart phones are very useful. While I continued driving, my roommate was calling every place she could think of that might sell sleds. The lady in Dollar General told us to try Ollie’s in the next town over. So we called. After convincing the guy on the phone that we didn’t want sweatpants, he said that they had sleds. Thank goodness! We hopped on the interstate with high hearts.

Until we started looking for an address. Turns out smartphones are not always so smart. My roommate had called the Ollie’s in another state. The one in the town we were heading towards said they were out of sleds. Must not be snowing in the state next door or maybe they already own sleds.

Hearts sunk again and freezing cold (we’re still wearing wet clothes at this point), we start trying to call various places in this new bigger town. Finally my roommate decides to call a lady from our church who she claimed “has all the answers.” The lady suggested Lowe’s. Since we were almost to Lowe’s, we decide to forego the call and make the trek in the store.

I’m sure the store employees thought we were crazy when we all started giggling over a stack of sleds in the front of the store. I can picture us now: three college girls in wet clothing and no gloves giggling over a pile of sleds while trying to find a green one. We couldn’t find a green sled so we settled for the tye-dye sled that had green in it.

Lesson of this story: Buy your own sled.

No really. I think the lesson is that God does answer even the smallest prayers. We were feeling very anxious wondering how we could face this professor and tell him that we broke his child’s sled. God provided though and led us to the right place. He used that lady from our church. He provided what we needed at that moment.