To My Parents (Christmas 2009)

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This is a letter I wrote to my parents for Christmas of 2009. I’m posting this because it may, perhaps, motivate you to think about the people in your life who matter most to you. Hopefully, after reading my letter, you’ll want to tell them why they’re important to you. If not, well, at least maybe you’ll be slightly entertained by my own affectionate ramblings. 


Dear Mom and Dad,

Merry Christmas. Even though I’m only writing this on December 14th, I’m not going to give it to you until Christmas because, hello, this is a five-page letter. I’ve never written such a letter (that I recall), so I think it deserves an occasion. Like Christmas.

My final exam for my Death & Dying class is to write a 5 (yes, 5) – page letter to someone I love sharing thoughts and ideas I’ve gained from the class. You guessed it: I pick you. I choose you because it was you two who gave birth to me, planned for my future, loved me without limits, and shaped me to be what I am today. If anyone on earth knows me inside and out, it’s you guys. And if anyone has grasped the primary concept of Dr. Mark’s class, which I would say is “Death is, so live,” it’s you. Keep in mind that I’m writing this after two hours of sleep last night and it is, after all, finals week, so coherency and organization may not be the two shining features of this letter. Consider yourselves guinea pigs of a class assignment that I hope turns out to be more than just a class assignment.

I’m twenty-two years old. When I graduated high school four years ago, I thought of it like a threshold into the rest of my life. The beginning of being grown-up. The end would be my death. Boy, was I mixed up. I’ve learned that life is a series of thresholds. Each one is filled with uncertainty and fear of the unknown horizons awaiting me. I’m about to cross a brand new threshold into post-grad life, whatever that is. As you know, I’ve been doing a whole lot of thinking and praying about where I’m going when I leave this place. I’m still unsure about a lot, but I’m so thankful when I remember that, whatever I decide, I have your support 100%. The other day, Dad reminded me that since I was a little girl, Dad told me that I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up (even if that meant working at McDonalds so I could “play in the playland whenever I want”), as long as I remained a faithful Christian. I hope you know you have nothing to worry about. Regardless of where I go from here, I have no intentions of leaving my first Love—not now—not ever.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I suppose I should talk about a few concepts I gleaned from Dr. Mark’s class. I really didn’t know what to expect out of a class called “Death and Dying,” but it turned out to be a class I looked forward to every Tuesday and Thursday because on most days, it was simply a reminder to slow down, learn to laugh at whatever circumstances in which you find yourself, look into the eyes of the people you love, remind them you love them, and live each day as if it were your last. I often thought about you during class whenever Dr. Mark or members of the class would talk about their families and upbringings.

The day that shook me the most was when Dr. Mark had a lady come in and talk about how she lost her entire family—a husband and two children—in an automobile accident. She showed us pictures of her late family members, the wreck itself, and the funeral. It was one of those reminders of life’s fragility that you’re just not prepared for when it hits you. I cried during the class and my mind kept creeping back to those pictures throughout the day. The very last pictures I wanted to look at were the ones I couldn’t take my eyes off of. This woman had real feelings–Hopes that if the chicken pox struck members of her family, they could all get it over with at once. Fears that her little girl’s first date would come before Mom and Dad felt emotionally ready for it. Dreams that both her children get accepted into the schools they want and grow up to be whatever they’ve always wanted to be.  She was the queen of her home, making up fun traditions that the whole family enjoyed, preparing her children’s favorite dishes for dinner sometimes, playing taxi-driver to soccer practice and piano lessons, kissing her husband goodnight at the end of every happy, eventful day. And then in just a moment, none of that existed anymore. Her world was shattered.

I sat there and thought about my own life and how shaken my world would be if I lost my immediate family today.  The realization of the void I would likely feel for the rest of my life hit me like a slap in the face. The thought of losing you two and Caleb made me appreciate afresh just how much it means to have you guys in my life—to have you in my corner at all times and to know that there are people in the world who will always love me and understand me. That day, I felt the need to call you periodically just to make sure you’re okay. For a couple of days after that class, it was a relief every time I heard your familiar voices.

One thing Dr. Mark emphasized was that when someone dies, the memories you’ve made with that person shouldn’t die with him. You should keep that person alive in your heart by remembering all the good things you possibly can about him. For the remainder of my letter, I’d like to provide you a list of a few things I would want to remember about the two of you, should God decide to take you today (These are in no particular order—remember, order is not my greatest trait today):

  • Dancing with Dad in public (the Bathroom Dance especially)
  • Mom’s caramel popcorn balls every Christmas
  • Dad’s preaching (still my favorite—who cares if I’m biased)
  • Mom carrying 18 things to church with her every Sunday to hand out to someone who might need a friend, a pick-me-up for the bereaved or depressed, a spiritual tool for a babe in Christ, a celebration treat for someone who’s successfully gone 30 days without smoking or drinking, or something to help nurse someone to back to health.
  • The way Dad used to wake me up in the mornings: Turning on Frank Sinatra and tracing my face until I gradually woke up.
  • Mom’s Bible trivia games for me and Caleb
  • The games Dad and I played, including trying to run each other into poles and garbage cans.
  • Mom’s brilliant ability to write HH songs in a matter of seconds. Everything I learned in elementary school was because Mom could make up a song to help me remember it. Even in college, I still make up songs in my head thanks to Mom.
  • Those moments when no one else at the table was laughing, but Dad and I were laughing hysterically, tears streaming down the corners of our eyes. Dad could make me laugh any time he wanted (even when I was in the hospital with pneumonia and he ordered me pizza and cracked jokes until I could not help but laugh).
  • The ways Mom taught me how to be a girl—pantyhose (wretched things), make-up, hair tips, even feminine products.
  • Dad’s Valentines to me.
  • The way Mom would make the interior of our house like a wonderland every holiday.
  • I might SOMETIMES miss the way Dad would try to embarrass me while I was on dates with guys. Okay, probably not. Not sure why I said that.
  • The way Mom would invest a million bajillion hours to be in the community theater plays with me and Caleb while we were growing up.
  • The way that every time I called Dad and asked if he was busy, he would answer, “Never too busy for you.”
  • The way Mom would remember every little thing about me…everything I liked and disliked, all of my interests, all of my new discoveries and curiosities—she knew them better than she knew her own.
  • The way Dad would drop everything he was doing to talk about the Bible with me when I wanted to understand something more fully.
  • The way Mom would “beg on” Dad for us whenever Caleb and I really wanted something (like a Frosty from Wendy’s after church).
  • The way Mom looked for the friendless and somehow always made them feel wanted. She listened to them and always made them feel important, with heaven as her primary focus in every relationship she had.
  • Dad sitting in the “rock box” for hours playing the prettiest rock game with me.
  • Traveling overseas with Mom to share the gospel with poverty-stricken people hungry for truth and someone to show them a pathway to hope and a feeling of belonging. I’ll never forget the way I felt sharing Jesus with people living in huts in Jamaica. Mom is the reason I got to do that.
  • Dad’s consistent logic and reason when I felt like the world was completely unreasonable.
  • Mother-Daughter nights when Mom would set everything aside just to get to know her daughter better during my crazy adolescent years.
  • The way Dad would wash my car and check my oil without me ever asking him to do it.
  • The way Mom would leave presents on the garbage cans outside for the garbage men.
  • Unconditional love.

As I’ve exceeded my 5-page limit, I should probably stop there. I love you both more than I know how to say. I’m sorry I haven’t always showed that to you. Together, you are my rock and my constant. If I can be half the parent either one of you were to me, my children will be blessed. I don’t want to lose either one of you for many, many years. But if I lose you tomorrow of if I lose you when you’re both in your 90’s, I’ll still remember this list of things, and many other lists that would never fit in a 5-page limit.

Thank you for raising me.

Your Daughter

Encouragement Changes Everything

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In a book called Encouragement Changes Everything by John Maxwell, Mr. Maxwell referenced a study performed on how much pain humans can endure without passing out or dying. The study revealed that a human can endure twice as much pain when someone is beside him offering support and encouragement than when he must endure it alone.

While I may not agree with everything Mr. Maxwell teaches, his point was dead on. The same concept that applies to physical pain rings true for emotional and mental pain.

Galatians 5:25-6:2 :

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

I talked with a sister my age recently who was very discouraged at her new church home in a large city where she was attending graduate school. Her discouragement stemmed from a lack of communication and warmth from the members. She said that people were distantly friendly, but no one seemed to really care about what was going on in her life or about the specifics on how she was doing in her walk with God.

As a family—as the body of Christ—this should never be said about us.  Christians ought to be so tight-knit that none of us ever have to think twice about who our best friends are. The people you feel the safest confiding in and from which you look for support should be Christians, and WILL be if we’re loving each other as Christ loved the church (John 13:13).

I can’t help but wonder whether the example I used at the beginning would also apply in reference to Christian support. Would I be twice as likely to avoid watching that movie I know is wrong for me to watch if another sister was avoiding it with me? Would I be twice as likely to be careful not to gossip if my sister was being equally cautious in what she said? Would I be twice as likely to tell others about the Lord if my local Christian family was soul-conscious every day?

Is it any wonder that God said we have the ability to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds?” (Hebrews 10:24)

What have you done this week to encourage and just be there for a brother or sister in Christ?

Muddy Feet

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While I was a student at FHU, a community series was conducted at the Estes Church of Christ in Henderson, Tennessee by Dr. Brad Harrub. That weekend, Dr. Harrub, founder of Think magazine, defended the existence of God and discussed current societal issues like abortion and stem cell research. At least two weeks prior to this uplifting event, after the Estes church spread the word through newspaper advertisements and other methods, Christians in the Henderson area began inviting members of the community by going door to door inviting each resident personally.

To fulfill a class assignment, one of my friends and I participated in this outreach for at least 10 hours—two Saturdays and a couple of weekdays. While this method of evangelism (door-knocking) was a first-time experience for my friend, I was familiar with it. I’ve participated in door-knocking efforts several times before during my high school years. I have not, however, had a lot of experience with door-knocking in such rural areas within the states (I have, however, done work in foreign mission efforts in 3rd world countries).

We arrived the first Saturday morning to work and were encouraged by the Christians who greeted us at the church building. They reminded us of the purpose of the work we were doing, and worshiped with us briefly before going over instructions about the routes we were to cover.

The route we were given was an area where many of the residents lived in mobile homes and were far enough from their neighbors that we had to drive to each house rather than parking the car and walking house-to-house. We didn’t know what to expect about how people would respond to our personal invitations, but we certainly faced a wide variety of reactions. Some people would crack the door, grab the flyer, and shut the door in our faces. I’m happy to say those people were in the minority. Most people politely listened to our invitation, took the flyer, and thanked us. Some people told us they were members of a denomination (usually Baptist). One man said to us, “I’ve been Baptist my whole life, and my daddy’s a Baptist preacher. If I ever went to ANYTHING at the church of Christ, I think my family would disown me.” We talked with him a while, emphasizing that it was a community series, not just a “Church of Christ function,” and by the time we left, he said he was interested and might come. We ran into several people who told us they were members at Estes, which brings me to a story.

On that first Saturday we worked, we drove down a long, narrow dirt driveway with deep ditches on either side, and no room to turn around by the two mobile homes at the end of the driveway. It was very muddy everywhere because it had rained most of the day.  We knocked on the doors, and the people who answered told us that they were members at Estes and planned to attend the seminar. We told them we would look forward to seeing them there, got back in the car, and then I struggled to back out of the narrow driveway slowly. Unfortunately, my tires slipped off and my friend and I landed in the muddy ditch.

As we stumbled out of the car and climbed out of the ditch (I was wearing a skirt, by the way), one of the men we spoke with came outside and, with an attitude of kindness and good humor, attempted to help push my car out. Due to the depth of mud and the depth of my car in the ditch, pushing wasn’t enough. The gentleman pushing went and found a neighbor of his who owns a large tractor, and his friend laughed at me and was kind enough to pull my car out. We thanked him over and over. He laughed and winked in response.

As we were leaving, the quiet, gentle man who was a member at Estes talked with us a bit. He thanked us for what we were doing, and begged us to keep going as much as we could. He told us it meant a lot to him to see young people working for the Lord as we were. We thanked him, and apologized for causing him trouble. He told us that it would be difficult NOT to fall into the ditch like we did with the rain making it slippery and the driveway being so narrow. We thanked him, and finally left to find the next house.

Although the experience was somewhat embarrassing and humbling, I cannot help but think it was providential that it happened at the home of a brother in Christ who was loving enough to patiently help us as needed. The things he said after helping with my car reminded me of the seriousness of what we were setting out to do. It was just what I needed to hear. I needed to be reminded that our efforts were not about a class assignment, but about lost souls who need Jesus. It was refreshing.

Participating in door-knocking efforts always gives me a variety of emotions: Excitement, discomfort, joy, sadness, and sometimes a hint of anger. The excitement is always there right at the beginning before I actually start exiting my comfort zone and talking to people about the Lord. The discomfort comes whenever awkward situations arise, like the overweight man who came to the door in only his boxers without any embarrassment on Monday of our door-knocking days. The joy is almost overwhelming when someone responds well to the invitation and commits to coming. The sadness comes when someone seems to care little or nothing about spiritual matters based on their response. Occasionally, however, I feel angry when the response is rude or spiteful towards us. In times like those, I’m reminded of what it means to love as Christ would love. If Christ could come and die for people who were hateful, cruel, and unloving, it’s the least I can do to be patient and kind with people who are not kind to me.

While I believe the effectiveness of door-knocking efforts pale in comparison to that of “friendship evangelism,” if one person came to the community series because of a flyer I handed them and because of a kind word of personal invitation, it was worth every moment we spent. The existence of God was defended, His word was taught, and His holy Name was glorified. I’m thankful I was able to attend. I’m also encouraged by the thought that, even if many of my contacts never showed up for the seminar, they were given clear information and what I hope was a pleasant impression of Christianity.

“…How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” –Romans 10:15

Can feet be muddy and pretty at the same time? You bet!

A Prayer

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My junior year at FHU, I took a class called “Christian Worship.” In the class, we analyzed in intricate detail how a Christian can work to perfect the meaning of worshiping in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

One of our assignments included taking particular passages of scripture and inserting them into our own personal prayers. The idea was to encourage us to conceptualize having an actual reciprocal conversation with the Father.

It was a challenging and thought-provoking exercise. I encourage you to try it!

Here’s the prayer I wrote for the assignment:

Pray It Back to God (Taken from Matthew 6:7, 19, 20; 5: 13-16)

Dear Father,

Please know that this prayer is from my heart. When I pray, help me to avoid heaping up empty phrases. I know you will hear me and know what I need before I even ask. I know that you know my heart and it’s unnecessary to be anything but myself before you, because you know my innermost thoughts.

You have instructed me not to lay up for myself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, so my prayer is for nothing material or worldly. What I do need is whatever will draw me closer to you and your grace. Help me to lay for myself treasures in heaven, where nothing decays and I can be with you and my family forever.

Father, you know that forgiveness is such a hard concept for me to grasp, but help me to learn to forgive limitlessly to those who ask it of me, up to 70 times 7. I know that if I cannot forgive others their trespasses, neither will my Father forgive MY trespasses.

Finally, I know that you’ve instructed me to let my light shine before others so that they may see your good works. Help me to glorify you by simply being a set of hands, a mouthpiece and a light for your words and your love.

In Your Son’s Holy Name,


I Just Wanna Be a Sheep (Baaah)

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One of my favorite books is called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Philip Keller. If you haven’t read it, you need to. It’s short and insightful, and it will make you think about the 23rd Psalm like you never have before—that’s a promise!

In the book, Mr. Keller analyzes the lives and habits of sheep, and makes dozens of connections between sheep and God’s people—a metaphor so richly described in the scriptures.

These are a few things I took from the book, all of which I cannot help but dwell on every time I read that famous, timeless Psalm (Most of these will also refer to John 10):

1. Shepherds recognize their own sheep easily.

John 10 is one of my favorite passages because the metaphor is beautiful—it’s a picture of trust, safety, and security. It’s a picture of what we, as Christians, can feel when we’re safe in the arms of our Shepherd.

In verse 3, we read, “…the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name.”

If you look at a picture of the earth taken from outer space, it’s simply a pale blue dot. That means that every single person you’ve read about in your history textbook, every celebrity that ever lived, and every monarch from every country lived on that little blue dot in the midst of billions of little dots. We’re so small. We’re so insignificant. And yet, for some reason, God, our Shepherd, loves us and wants to have a personal, intimate relationship with each one of us (Matthew 11:28, Luke 12:7). In other words, the same God who runs the Universe is listening to you and loving you when someone hurts your feelings in 3rd period Biology class or when you’re nervous about a scary History test. The same God who spoke to Abraham and Moses wants to be your best friend. Try that on for size!

2. Shepherds are ready day and night to protect them from predators.

The good shepherd keeps a close eye on his sheep during the day, and at night, he sleeps with one eye open and a rifle next to his head, ready to jump out of bed like a ninja and run to the rescue of his beloved sheep if he hears the slightest indicator of disarray outside.

Parasites are a big problem for sheep. There are bugs called Nasal Flies that torment sheep by laying eggs inside the noses of the sheep. If the shepherd didn’t treat the sheep regularly for parasites, the sheep would kill themselves by beating their heads against anything solid to try to get rid of the flies. They would not be able to eat or to lie down because of their agony. The only way to treat them is for the shepherd to carefully assemble a special ointment and anoint the heads of the sheep thoroughly. Please note the perfect metaphor:

“He makes me lie down in green pastures…You anoint my head with oil…” (Psalm 23:2, 5)

Our Shepherd offers us peace if we allow Him to work.

3. Shepherds lead their sheep outside of the gate sometimes (John 10:3).

Sometimes, shepherds will lead their sheep outside of the fence, which is very much outside the comfort zone of the sheep. They will follow the shepherd anyway, though, because they trust him implicitly.

We’re called outside the fences of our comfort zones, too. Mark 16:15 calls us to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

The scary thing is that sharing the gospel with others usually requires saying something. What is it that makes our palms sweaty and gives us that funny feeling in our stomachs every time we think about talking to someone about the Lord or asking someone to study the Bible with us? It’s not the Lord that does that—it’s the devil! He wants you to be terrified to step outside your “fence.”

I’ve done a lot of overseas mission work, and I think everyone should try that at least once because there’s really no words to describe the excitement and fulfillment in touching people’s lives in 3rd world countries with the gospel and a feeling of hope for which they are desperate. All the same, I would never say that overseas mission work is the hardest kind of mission work that I do. The hardest part is right here in my own hometown. Why is that? Because here, I’m right inside my own fence. When I’m overseas on a mission trip and I lay it all on the table to someone about the Lord, about salvation, and about the promise of an eternity in hell to those who ignore the warnings, I’m not going to be so worried about that person’s reaction. If she laughs at me, talks ugly about me to other people, or stops being my friend, it’s really okay with me because I will likely never see her again after traveling home in a couple of weeks. But when I think of saying something to someone here—someone I see every day—I’m terrified because at lot more is at stake for me—I will have to deal with that person’s reaction every day. All the same, that person is not just a person, but a soul. We need to be the kind of people who see the mail man, the lunch lady, the girl who sits behind us in Chemistry class—not just as people—but as souls—souls that will spend an eternity in heaven or hell.

Oftentimes, stepping out of your fence can make the difference in someone’s eternity. We have to be ready to accept that challenge (I Peter 3:15).

4. The shepherd walks in front of the sheep.

“When He has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (John 10:4)

The best thing about having a Shepherd is that we never have to do anything alone.

We can never use the excuse that no one knows how we feel. Why? Because someone left heaven to come to earth so he could know exactly how we feel. Hebrews 4:16 says:

We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

And we know, of course, that He really was tempted to sin (Matthew 4). As our Shepherd, He came before us and therefore, knows what it’s like to deal with human temptations and desires. He also knows just how much we’re able to handle. Check out I Corinthians 10:13:

“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

5. Shepherds are willing to risk their lives for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:11

He didn’t just come to earth to experience being a human. He came to earth to die an agonizing death for us. He didn’t have to do it. He did it because he loves us.

After this study, words can’t even express how happy I am to be a sheep. If you’re a Christian, praise God you’re part of the flock and that you have a Shepherd Who’s worth trusting.

Coffee and God

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I was talking with a friend recently about the topic of evangelism and of each individual Christian’s responsibility to share the good news of Christ at every opportunity. Knowing him to be a highly effective individual for influencing others, I coveted his thoughts. He said to me,

“You know, I just heard about something a man did that I would really like to try. Let me tell you about it.”

As I listened, he proceeded to tell me the story of a man who sat outside a coffee shop in a busy downtown area of a large city with a cardboard sign on which he had written, “Let me tell you about my experience with God and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.” He had several takers and some good, long Bible studies with people who were searching. On the second day, he did the same thing again, only this time his sign read “Tell me about YOUR experience with God and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.” According to my friend, there was a line out the door that didn’t go down until the end of the day.

While I’m not sure his approach was the best (the very best is what’s called “friendship evangelism,” meaning you form relationships with people and then try to touch their hearts with the gospel), I think the story makes a very valid point. Some people are interested to hear you have to say about the Lord, but a lot more people are more anxious to tell you about their relationships with God than to hear about yours. Don’t get me wrong—it is so important that you share what you know about the Lord and about salvation, but your message will likely be much better received if you treat that person as though their point of view is every bit as valid and important as yours is.

I remember numerous times growing up when my dad would answer the door and two Mormon ‘elders’ would be at the door asking if they could come in and talk to him about the Bible. My dad would stop what he was doing and eagerly welcome them in and serve them sweet tea as they talked to him about the Mormon doctrine. When the conversation allowed him to comment and ask questions, he would ask them questions using scriptures that he knew they would be unable to answer with scripture while adhering to the Mormon doctrine. His questions were kind and polite and his comments were loving and calm. Oftentimes, they would sit in our kitchen for hours–deep in study and deep in thought about simple Biblical concepts the Mormons had never been taught.

I would venture to say that evangelism isn’t just about teaching. Half of evangelism is just about listening.

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” –Proverbs 29:20

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” –Proverbs 18:2

Money and the Church

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I was talking with Ben recently when the topic of money as it relates to Christianity came up. He admitted that, as much as he loves the thought of driving a Mercedes Benz, he didn’t know how, as a Christian, he could justify ever spending $60,000 on a car. He talked about different reasons why it would be unwise, like the numerous ways in which that money could be used to support the growth of the kingdom and the doubtless negative impact driving a car like that would have on certain evangelistic efforts. I was inclined to agree with him, but as I always try to do, I wanted to make sure his argument was consistent.

So I started thinking about all the ways we use money in the church. How often do churches financially focus on the perishable things instead of the eternal things? Maybe not even instead of, but in the place of an incredibly more substantial amount of good the church could be doing with that money? How often do churches spend inordinate amounts for things like stained glass windows and extravagant steeples while there are missionaries and Christian families in third-world countries who are struggling to survive? How often are we fretting about the color of the carpet when there are desperate Christian teenagers who will never have a chance at a better life because they cannot afford a college education at a Christian school? Just one instance of either of these happening is too many, and yet it happens far too frequently.

That train of thought led me to an all-together different one. The church’s money–whether it be spent on mission work, youth events, VBS, food banks, or stained glass windows–is right from the pockets of her members—amounts which, if members are giving as God commanded, are generous and deliberate sacrifices.  I began thinking about how seriously young people consider the symbiotic relationship between church members and financial contribution. Typically, the answer is that it just isn’t a big deal. Even at Christian universities, seeing a college student participate in contribution on Sunday mornings is rare. That’s something we can do when we’re older, right?

The truth is, regardless of our ages and stations in life, we’re to give out of whatever income we have (I Corinthians 16:2). Even if we’re just working summer jobs, we’re commanded to set some aside just for the work of the church. As a child, I was taught that it was simply “God’s money.” For me, as a little girl, God’s money was 10% of my weekly allowance. Even at that age, I was learning the importance of contribution, and was reminded often of the value in being a “cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7).

While this point seems irrelevant to the discussion I had with my husband, I think there are some distinct connections between the two. If people understood the importance of setting aside money every week for the direct purpose of helping the kingdom to grow, we would care a lot more about what the elders decide to do with that money. We would care a lot more about that money materializing in the form of modest church buildings in Africa, scholarships for Christian teens who are full of potential for Him, help for the homeless, medical bills for the sick and impoverished, and evangelistic efforts everywhere. And maybe–just maybe—the brand new Mercedes Benz cars would lose some of their appeal.

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” –Mark 12:41-44

Barbie Girls in a Barbie World

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My last semester at FHU, I wrote a 12-page paper for my Advanced Composition class on the influence of Barbie dolls on young girls of America. As a disclaimer, let me just say that I’m not a fanatic and I’m not personally condemning mothers who buy Barbie dolls for their daughters. I, myself, was a huge Barbie fan as a little girl. For the sake of an A on my paper, however, I was passionate in my arguments against the little blonde beauty that’s revolutionized toys in America. When I did my research, I was shocked at just how influential the things our children play with and the things they see on TV can be.

Something you may not know about Barbie:

In 2002, The New York Times published a story reporting the death of Ruth Handler (inventor of Barbie). In the article, Sarah Kershaw wrote that “if the 11 1/2-inch doll were 5-foot-6, her measurements would be 39 [chest]-21 [waist]-33 [hips].” In fact, according to Kershaw, “one academic expert calculated that a woman’s chances of having Barbie’s figure were less than 1 in 100,000.” With such unrealistic proportions, it seems doubtful that a real person with such a gigantic upper region supported by such a tiny waist and little hips would be able to stand up without topping over because of the excess upper-body weight. Barbie, with her numerous careers, would have to spend every workday on all fours were she a real person—and you thought heels made it hard to walk around all day.

…and this is just the tip of the iceberg about sweet little Barbie.

We live in a society that screams at our youths the beauty of materialism rather than the beauty of simple gratitude and the importance of outward appearance rather than the importance of character, honor, and integrity. Children feel pressured to fit a certain mold that the media tells them will equal success, but that mold has little to do with the qualities that will truly make them happy, successful adults. Instead, they are taught to love things and not people, to love a good hairstyle more than a pure heart, and to favor fashion, movies, and pop music over intelligence, scholarship, and responsibility. Parents blame celebrities like Britney Spears and Lady Gaga who so easily infiltrate the minds of our children, but how often can the problem stem directly from what most parents are giving children right in their very own homes?

What the toy stores won’t tell you are stories like that of Cindy Jackson, who holds the Guinness World Record for having more cosmetic procedures than anyone else in the world. She told reporters recently,  “I looked at a Barbie doll when I was six and said, “This is what I want to look like.” In effort to reach her goal of looking like Barbie, Jackson has had 31 plastic surgery operations and spent over $100,000.

During this study of Barbie Doll’s affect over youths, I couldn’t help but think about how God responds to women who will pull out all the stops and spend any amount of money just to appear physically attractive, which, admittedly, our culture has deemed the most important quality a woman can have. In 100 years, how will Cindy Jackson’s perfect body look? Well, let’s just say it won’t be anything worth the money she’s spending now. Why not? Because everything on this earth–everything that you can touch with your hands—is perishable. One day, everything we can see right now will burn up (II Peter 3:10).

My body doesn’t belong to me. Everything I am and everything I have belongs to Him. My body will turn to dust one day. What will remain forever, however, is my soul. Living for God doesn’t just affect my life on earth (which by the way, will be abundant if spent in His light, according to John 10:10). Living for God affects my eternity, a concept that’s difficult for any of us to grasp. Godliness and faith are imperishable, meaning they will never die. If I spend more time focusing on maintaining my soul’s appearance before God than my outward appearance before men, I will be doing well.

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning bethe hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” –I Peter 3:3-4


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During one of my spring breaks at FHU, I had the opportunity to travel to New York City with a friend of mine whose grandmother lives in Brooklyn. It was my first time, and to say I was excited would be the understatement of the century. While we were there, we got up early every morning and went to bed late every night, filling our days with all kinds of adventures. We saw two Broadway shows (Wicked and Mary Poppins), both of which completely blew my mind.

Besides all the cool stuff I got to see (like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the John Lennon memorial in Central Park, and everything Times Square has to offer), I also came face-to-face with one of the most humbling experiences of my life.

One of the things I made sure about before leaving for the trip was that I would be able to worship with the saints somewhere in the city on Sunday and Wednesday. I take Matthew 6:33 and Hebrews 10:23-26 very seriously, so I wanted to make sure I did not convey to God or anyone else that visiting NYC was more important to me than worshipping God and honoring His wishes.

On Wednesday night, we had plans to visit a small congregation that met in the preacher’s apartment. In order to get there, we had to take the subway, switching lines a few times, then a bus, and then we had to walk a few blocks and find the apartment building.

This proved more difficult than we thought, and after getting lost trying to decipher the subway system, missing our bus, getting on a different bus going the same direction but dropping us off at a different location, and walking more than a couple of blocks in effort to find the apartment building before the service was half over, I began to complain. I remember it like it was yesterday.

“You know, if we were in the South right now, none of this would be necessary because the preacher would have offered to pick us up the moment we called and asked to worship with them. Isn’t it just natural to offer a ride to two college girls alone in New York looking for a place to worship? Instead he sends us on a wild goose chase all over the city, and even when we call him and tell him we’re lost, he STILL doesn’t offer to pick us up—just gives us more directions. The very idea…”

I’m not proud to admit this, but it happened. I was frustrated.

Somehow, we found the apartment building 20 minutes late, and because the church was so small, they waited for us to arrive before beginning their Bible study. When we walked in all out of breath from hurrying down the city sidewalks to find the church, the preacher’s wife greeted us and led us to her husband who stood still and waited for us to walk over and shake his hand. He was friendly, but I noticed indignantly that he didn’t even mention anything at all about why he wouldn’t give us a ride that night.

When he began his lesson on kindness from Ephesians, my eyes welled up with tears as I noticed his hands—rapidly moving back and forth over the pages of a large book of Braille Bible lessons he had written himself. This stuffy Northern preacher that wasn’t considerate enough to jump in the car and come pick us up for church….was blind. As I realized the error of my harsh judgment on a man I’d never met, I began to feel about 3 inches tall. I had whined like a child when I saw that certain subway lines we needed were closed for repair. I whined when I saw the bus we needed in order to make it to Bible class just in time drive away just as we made it to the bus stop. I whined when I saw someone pressing the signal tape to alert the bus driver they wanted to stop at every…single…stop, putting us further and further behind schedule. I whined when I looked at the numbers on the businesses when we got off the bus and saw that we were more than 8 blocks away from our destination. I was complaining about all these things I was seeing, while he couldn’t see anything at all. How much would a man like him give to see one of the things I saw during the hour I was stressing out?

Needless to say, the kind preacher put me in my place after leading us in an awesome discussion about kindness, morality, and Christian love. Afterwards, his wife served us all apple pie, and then she and her husband insisted on walking with us several blocks to the subway station since it was dark and they wanted to see us safely back.

While walking back, a scantily clad woman was walking the opposite direction as us, and the preacher accidentally brushed shoulders with her, knocking the fast-walking woman a little off-balance. Not knowing he was blind, the woman turned around and shouted a rude insult at the kind man. Embarrassed, I thought to myself…I’m really no different from that woman. Had she known about his life, his disability, and his determination to passionately throw himself into mission work for the Lord, maybe she would feel exactly as I did at the Bible study.

Bottom line: Be very careful about what you assume about a person. You never know what that person’s story or background may include.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” –Matthew 7:1-5

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” –Ephesians 4:29

Toy Story

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Two summers ago, I went to see Toy Story III at the movie theater with my family (opening night, of course). Ever since the original Toy Story’s release in 1995, I’ve absolutely fallen madly in love with Pixar films. I could write several blogs about all of my favorite characters and scenes from all of my favorite Pixar movies, but I’ll just focus on Toy Story for now, since I can’t stay up all night (after all, tomorrow’s the Lord’s Day!), and since something about the storyline from the first movie to the third one has recently caught my attention. { I could also write about how I actually cried in the last Toy Story despite my ardent attempts to never cry in public—and despite the fact that it’s a movie about toys, for cryin’ out loud…but that’s too embarrassing, so I’ll skip to something more substantial. 🙂 }

The story contains lots and lots of hard-core jealousy. Perhaps the most obvious example of this occurs in the first movie, whenever favorite toy Woody is replaced by super cool space toy, Buzz Lightyear. In the second movie, it’s the other vintage Woody’s Roundup toys that are jealous of Woody, who has a child to which he can go home and actually be loved. In the third film, it’s the toys at the daycare center who are threatened by and are jealous of Andy’s toys. These toys feel that their original owners replaced them with better and newer toys before they allowed themselves to be “washed up” at a daycare center. In their growing bitterness, the forsaken toys gradually transformed the daycare center into a ruthless prison for toys. It’s jealousy that drives the plot in all three movies.

Have you ever had a friend who was jealous and maybe a little possessive of you? Maybe he/she didn’t like it whenever you hung out with your other friends instead of him/her. This can be a dangerous predicament if you’re ever dating someone who allows his jealous tendencies to make him want to control you. In general, we think of jealousy as a very bad thing, and it usually is. When passed around among humans, jealousy usually represents bitterness, heartache, selfishness, and often cruelty. Shakespeare even called jealousy the “green-eyed monster” in his play, Othello.

But have we forgotten even God can be jealous?

Check out the first five verses of Exodus 20:

“And God spoke all these words:

‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.’

Our God was not hesitant in admitting his jealous nature. Like the faithful husband knows the pain of his wife’s infidelity, God feels the hurt of unfaithfulness. God uses this metaphor often in the scriptures. If you’re looking for something new to study, I suggest you look at passages where God compares his relationship to the church to a husband/wife relationship. You will grow to appreciate more and more just how much God loves you. Deep, beautiful stuff right there.

We all know the damage caused when a woman cheats on her husband with another man (and vice versa). Adultery is condemned time and again in the scriptures (Matthew 19:9, Exodus 20:14, I John 3:4, Luke 18:20, Matthew 5:27-28, for starters). Are there ways that we can commit spiritual adultery? In the passage I mentioned earlier from Exodus 20, God tells us that He is our God, and because He is our God, we are not to make anyone or anything else gods to us.

When the passage was written, the problem was literal idols–made of gold and silver—that people created to worship instead of the one true God who created them. The modern day equivalent would be worshipping a Buddha statue (I never understood why the little fat, happy man was anything but merely comical to people). But in America, literal idol worship is not that common. Today, the idols we worship might be less obvious but every bit as dangerous and condemning as the golden calves the Israelites were tempted to worship.

How often do we go absolutely crazy at a Saturday night concert of one of our favorite artists—singing at the tops of our lungs, screaming and cheering after every song, and nearly passing out with excitement if we happen to actually shake hands with the artist or even get close to him, and then on Sunday morning, we arrive late, forgetting our Bibles, sit through worship with our eyes half-open, barely hearing anything the preacher says and barely mumbling the words of each hymn sung?  Don’t fool yourself. God isn’t blind. He can clearly see who your god is. What would happen if Christians transferred that kind of excitement they have at a big concert to worshiping God, evangelism, and benevolence? God gives us a VIP pass to get as close to him as we please, and to talk to him as long as we want any time of the day, and so often, we ignore it.

For many, money is a god. They’re so busy making money that they forget to make time for God, or to use that money to His glory. For others, popularity can easily become our idol. When popularity takes precedence over God, we are quick to compromise our standards in reference to things like alcohol, sexuality, immodest clothing, or gossip in order to be considered “cool.”

God is zealously eager to protect and hold on to what is important to Him, but he wants us to choose Him above all other gods. The gods that try to drag us into their clenches on earth might seem innocent and provide us with temporary pleasure, but everything on earth that takes us away from our focus on God and His will for us is an idol that will burn up with the rest of the earth one day, and the people that we idolize over God will be waiting in line with you at the Judgment Day, and it’s not going to matter at all how famous or popular they were on earth. They will have to face the Lord alone, just as you will.

Don’t be an idol worshipper.

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)