Friday, December 31, 2010

Because I'm Broken

It's New Years Eve again, a time where I look back over the last year and see how I've changed and how I've grown.  I've made mistakes this year that I regret.  I've learned things I didn't even know I needed to learn.  I went through some hard times, but I me jpgwas given amazing opportunities that still make my head spin.

While I don't throw everything into my New Year's Resolutions like most people do, I still make goals for myself and for my future.  I'll share my New Year's Resolutions with you tomorrow on actual New Years Day.  Perhaps you can hold me accountable.  Today I want to share with you some of my goals of how I want to grow as a person and as a follower of Christ.

Next year is going to be a huge change for me.  I'll be graduating high school and entering college.  I'll be making new friends and living in a new place.  I know I'll be vastly different by the time December 31, 2011 rolls around.  By the end of next year, I want to have improved myself in the following ways.


I want to be more patient.

I want to be more self-sacrificing.

I want to be more nurturing.

I want to be more bold.

I want to be more forgiving.

I want to be stronger in Jesus Christ.

I want to be less afraid.

I want to be more confident in myself.

I want to be more confident about what God has planned for my future.

I want to be more joyful.


I want to strive to develop these things not only over the next year, but over my entire lifetime.  I am such a broken, sinful person.  There is so much work that needs to be done on my heart, and these are only a few of the areas in which I need to improve.  Thankfully, I know that if I ask Jesus to help me and if I truly work at improving myself, I am capable of becoming who God wants me to be.

New Years isn't the only time to work on improving myself or to set goals, but in a way, it is a new beginning.  It's a good reminder of the journey I've begun as a little girl striving to be like Jesus.  And each year, I think I'll get a little closer.

How would you like to improve yourself and/or your relationship with God this year?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Overcoming Timidity

I'm naturally shy.  When I was younger, my shyness basically controlled my life.  In fact, many people have thought I am arrogant and rude because when they greeted me, I could barely stand to give a half smile and say "hi."  I could hardly even look someone in the eye.

Shyness can easily step between you and God's plans for you.  In Mark 16:15, God called us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.  This means that the Lord wants you to step outside of your comfort zone and start telling people unashamedly about Him.  Terrifying, right?

Even the Bible has something to say about shyness, which can also be called timidity.  Check out 2 Timothy 1:7.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
The Lord did not make you to be timid.  He wants you to be empowered with His love and His strength.

Many famous Biblical figures were shy.  Moses was terrified of speaking in public.  Paul was self-admittedly timid around people.  2 Corinthians 10:1 says, "By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you- I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away!"  Paul struggled with shyness just like you or me, but look at how the Lord helped him to overcome his timidity and do great things!

Over time, I've learned to stand up against my shy nature.  It's been difficult, but I've realized how much my shyness hindered me as a witness and as an individual.  Being shy has never helped me.  It doesn't define who I am.  It has only caused me to lose both potential friends and respect, and while I still struggle with timidity, I'm eager to throw it into the dust as much as I possibly can.

I've been given many opportunities to overcome my overbearing timidity.  I've served as a summer missionary through Child Evangelism Fellowship.  I've volunteered and interned at an inner city ministry where I've had to stand up and teach large groups of kids and teens about Jesus Christ.  I've traveled to ten different countries outside of the United States as a student ambassador and on mission trips.  I'm not nearly as shy as I once was, thanks to the help of my parents, friends, and Jesus Christ working through me.

You may be struggling with timidity right now.  If so, I understand what you're going through... shyness is tough to overcome.  Today I'm going to give you a few tips on how to overcome timidity and use the power and strength that the Spirit of God has given you to stand up and be a witness for Him.

Smile, even if you're afraid to talk much.
As horrifying as it might be, when you're shy, people often think you're stuck up because you don't say much, even when you don't mean to appear that way at all.  I've been in that situation more times than I can count, and I'm always mortified when I learn about the awful first impression I gave.  When you're struggling with timidity, be sure to smile, even if you can't bring yourself to speak.  I know that smiling can be difficult too, but it's vitally important.  When you have a smile on your face, you'll be viewed as friendly and sweet.  Smile at everyone, friend or stranger.

When you keep a smile on your face, you might start to make friends without even realizing it.  You'll appear more approachable, which means that people will go to greater lengths to walk up to you and get a conversation going.  If you have an intense, serious look on your face and you're standing quietly with hunched up shoulders, you aren't going to seem very approachable and people won't want to be around you.

Say something as simple as hi.
Force yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and say hi to people.  Say hi to your peers when you walk down the halls at school.  Say hi to the person sitting behind you at church.  Say hi to the cashier at the grocery store.  Say hi to nearly everyone you meet.  Not only will you create a new impression of yourself- people will see you as friendly if you initiate a greeting- you will also be training yourself to reach out to others.  Yes, it's frightening to take a step and say something to a stranger... but it's one word.  Just one simple word.  Be sure to say it with a smile.

Ask yourself, "How will speaking hurt me?"
Why is speaking to strangers so daunting?  What will they do to you?  If they don't like you, it doesn't really matter, right?  When you're feeling timid and anxious, keep reminding yourself that the worst that will happen is someone won't like you, and that isn't a big deal.  Luke 21:17 says, "Everyone will hate you because of Me."  Think about what Jesus had to endure.  He was mocked, spit upon, and beaten.  He was killed.  If you're given a weird look for speaking His Name, it will be worth it if you're trying to further Christ's kingdom, right?

Force yourself to take steps to enter conversations.
You won't be able to shake off your timidity right away.  It takes time and practice to overcome shy habits.  Take deliberate steps.  When you're standing with a group of friends, force yourself to speak up and enter the conversation.  Next, walk up to your group of friends and enter the conversation without an invitation.  Then try to start a conversation.  The more you force yourself to step out and speak to friends and then strangers, the less intimidating speaking will be.

If you're struggling with timidity, apologize.
In some situations, you'll feel more shy than others.  If you're having trouble conversing with an acquaintance, let them know.  Say something like, "I'm sorry I'm not talking much.  I'm shy."  They'll probably understand and make a stronger effort to help you into the conversation.  Nearly everyone has felt shy at some point, so most people will be able to empathize with your situation.

Put yourself in situations that are way outside of your comfort zone.
Challenge yourself.  When you put yourself into situations where you will have to speak and interact, you'll discover how quickly you can overcome your timidity.  Sign up for the speech class at your school.  Volunteer at a ministry and ask a leader to give you a job that will involve you interacting with strangers or speaking to a group.  Become a counselor at a camp.  Start a Bible Study.  Join a Bible Study and force yourself to enter in the conversation.  Go on a mission trip away from family and friends.  Witness to someone.  Volunteer at a Sunday School class at your church and teach the class once or twice.  Serve dinner at a soup kitchen.  There are so many opportunities in which you can be forced outside of your comfort zone... and as intimidating as they may seem, all they will do is help you.

Ask friends for help and accountability.
Talk to a close friend or two about your struggle with shyness.  She's probably already noticed.  Ask your friend to help introduce you to strangers or push you into a conversation.  A friend's gentle guidance can be all you need to help you feel comfortable in a nerve-wracking situation.  You can even find another shy friend and become accountability partners, praying for each other and pushing each other to enter new and intimidating situations that will help you overcome your timidity.

Remind yourself of God's will for you.
Read the Bible and continue to remind yourself of God's perfect plan for your life.  He wants you to be unashamed and bold.  He doesn't want your shyness to hold you back.  Place verses like 2 Timothy 1:7 and Romans 1:16 on your bathroom mirror and in your purse and in your locker at school.  Memorize encouraging verses.  Pray and ask the Lord for assistance.  The Holy Spirit is there to encourage you and strengthen you when you struggle to witness to others.  God will be there to help you when  you can't overcome your timidity on your own.  Remember that nothing is too difficult for you to overcome with God's help.

Practice, practice, practice.
Remember: the more you step out of your comfort zone and practice boldness and courage, the less you will feel timidity pulling you down.  Yes, pray.  Yes, read the Bible.  Yes, ask for advice.  But taking steps to deliberately speak to others is just as important.  You must step out and act in order to overcome timidity, however daunting that may be.

You will be faced with situations where you will be able to share your faith and be an example for Jesus Christ.  Don't let your shyness be a burden.  It will stop you from sharing your faith.  The enemy will try to use timidity as an excuse for you to stay away from God's plan for your life.  Don't let that happen.

Be bold.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Today I'm answering questions from YOU.

I thought that today I'll go ahead and answer some questions that I have been asked in comments and emails.  I'll be answering ten more questions in a week or two as well.  If this doesn't interest you, feel free to exit out.  I won't be offended.  At the end of today's post, I'll be asking you five questions that I'd love for you to answer.  I want to know more about you, my readers.


Hay.jpgIs your name really Emily?
Yes, it really is.  I didn't make up a name for the sake of this blog.  I have been called Emily since I was born.

How old are you?
I am eighteen.  My birthday is October 14, in case you'd like to mark your calendars. :)

Where do you get the inspiration to write about what you do?
I get my inspiration in a lot of different ways.  Sometimes a song or the weather will inspire me to write.  Seeing how much apathy dwells in the lives of young Christians inspires me to write quite often.  I try to find hope through my writing.  Hope gives me a lot of inspiration.

How long have you been a Christian?
I gave my life to the Lord when I was fourteen.  You can check out my testimony here.

Why is this blog called "EmilythePerson" or "Emily is Smiling"?
- My little blogs and things from the past have been called "EmilythePerson" since I was in early middle school.  In middle school, everyone has to have a stereotype: goth, emo, prep, skater... you know the drill.  I hated the idea of being classified into one group that controlled the way I dressed and acted, so I called myself Emily the Person, if anyone ever asked me what my label was.
- Emily is Smiling actually comes from a Facebook status.  Original, eh?  Through my past, I have suffered through depression more than once.  At one point, it was a big deal if I actually was smiling and feeling happy.  I don't ever want to go back to the dark place I was, so titling my blog Emily is Smiling is a daily reminder of the joy I feel from knowing Jesus.

Where can I contact you?
You can contact me at, but be warned: I rarely check that account, so there's a chance it could be a long time before I see your email.  The best and quickest way to contact me is through the comments.

Why do you write so much about modest trends?
I was homeschooled when I was younger, so I know the tendency people have to believe that homeschooled girls are "modest," but total nerds.  I believe that you can dress modestly, but still look cute.  That's why I write a lot of Modest Trends posts.  I like to give style options for girls like me who strive to be modest.

You review a lot of books.  What are some books/authors that you recommend?
Tosca Lee and Ted Dekker are my favorite authors.  I'd recommend anything by them.  Frank Peretti is another great writer, although he hasn't come out with anything new in a long time.  I'm currently reading the "Left Behind" series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.  I recommend those books as well.  "Deadline" by Randy Alcorn is also amazing.  Khaled Hosseini is an amazing author as well.

How do you have the time to write something new every day?
To be honest, I don't have a whole lot of time.  I'm a senior in high school with a crazy-busy schedule.  It's time to let you in on a little secret... I don't actually write all of my blogs on the day they're posted.  I write a lot of my blog entries before the actual day and schedule them.  This way a lot of stress is taken away and I don't feel as pressured to post everything on time.  Some entries I do write the day I post them, but things like the Modest Trends, poetry, and Music Artist Reviews, I schedule to post ahead of time.

How much time does it take to maintain a blog like this?
If you're considering making your own blog, let me tell you: Keeping up a daily blog takes a lot of time and dedication.  I plan what I'm going to write on little calendars that I keep on my desk.  I write lists of blog post ideas when I'm at school.  Planning is time-consuming, but fairly easy.  The writing is hard to keep up with at times, I'll admit, but I have a huge passion for writing, so I enjoy it.  I wouldn't bother keeping up a blog if I didn't love to write.


Questions for You-
1. What is your name?
2. How old are you?
3. Do you have a blog... if so, what do you write about?
4. Who is your favorite author?
5. Do you read blogs regularly (doesn't have to be mine)?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Worst of These

The Worst of These

The worst of these; the worst I am,
With all my many sins.
Your great and loving justice, Lord,
I cannot comprehend.

Every single day I fail
And add to all my shame.
Of excuses, I have none.
Only I'm to blame.

You touch my heart and make it pure,
And I can start anew.
I fall upon my knees in awe
Of the mighty things You do.

The worst of these; the worst I am.
I will never be enough.
You've forgiven every sin,
And filled me with your love.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

$3 Worth of God

This is something I wrote on August 3, 2009.  I wrote this a few weeks after visiting Kenya, Africa and right after volunteering at a camp called Angel Tree Camp, a place where children whose parents are in prison can relax and have fun.  I came across this piece of writing again the other day and thought I would share it on this blog.


"I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.  Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.  I don't want enough of God to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.  I want ecstasy, not transformation.  I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.  I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.  I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please."  -Wilbur Rees

Isn't that what we all want?  Just enough of God to make us feel good, but not enough to break our hearts?

This summer has been exactly the opposite for me.

I've seen enough of God this summer for my heart to be broken again and again.  I have been shattered into a thousand pieces, restored, and shattered again, and yet I feel like this is something that God has been planning for me to experience over these past three months.

Seeing the street boy sin the cities of Kenya, high on glue, unable to walk straight.

The little children in the slums, shrieking with excitement over a little piece of candy.

Students, who are even sponsored, but don't have shoes that fit right... and yet they would absolutely call themselves blessed.  You know why?  Because their neighbors don't have any shoes at all.

Children sticking their scrawny arms through the gates of the school, watching the students eat lunch, wishing in vain for the education they will not have.  For a future that is not to be.

People who have NOTHING, who are STARVING, and yet want to give what they have to those who have less... or more, in my case.

A little girl at Angel Tree Camp, sobbing into my shoulder because she is so ashamed of the sexual abuse she has suffered at the hands of her own father.

Children praying over lit candles for their loved ones who have hurt them, setting the candles on a cross, and letting them float into the middle of the pond, shining through the darkness.

"We get THREE good meals a day here?  I've never had so many meals in one day in my whole life!"

A balloon pops and a girl screams out in a sudden burst of panic, thinking someone is shooting in the cabin... just like they do in her backyard.

Kids who live in MY town who have never had a pillow... pajamas... a tooth brush... underwear... a Bible... a father... a hug.

How are you supposed to take this and remain whole?  When little children are hurting, being hurt, enduring pain with silence that screams louder than sound, how can my heart not break into pieces?

But how can I ask for a mere $3 worth of God?  How can I not open my eyes to see the TRUTH?  I don't want to be blinded to the problems until things change.  And they still have a long ways to go.

I'm throwing away that tiny paper sack.  I'd like to buy a million gallon tank that's wide open for everything God has in store for me.

Open my eyes, Lord.
Let me see the truth.
Let me see the pain.
And let me see the goodness too.
Restore me.  Transform me.  Break me.  Delight me.
I want to see it all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bittersweet December

This is a song I wrote in memory of my friend Gatlin.

Bittersweet December

The snow falls in wheeling white clouds.
Each flake is unique in its way.
Here I sit upon the snowy white ground,
Wishing you were here today.

Bittersweet December,
The month you left us behind.
It's two weeks 'til Christmas,
But you've never left my mind.

Craggy trees are bare beneath a gray sky,
While I sit here and think about you.
Three years seems like a very long time,
But it's passed by so quickly too.


I will graduate in May,
Go to college in the fall,
And man, I gotta say,
I can't believe you've missed it all.
Life can sure be hard,
But the joys are much more.
You sure seem so far,
Up in heaven with the Lord.


Bittersweet December,
A tribute to you, my friend.
Even though I miss you,
I know I'll see you again.
I still remember, Gatlin.

Emily Whelchel
December 15, 2010

Three Years

Dear Gatlin,

I wouldn't believe it if I didn't have a calendar sitting right in front of my face.  It's been exactly three years since you died.  1,096 days.

There are so many things I wish I could tell you.  I wish I could show you how much your little sisters have grown.  I'd show you the videos I finally had the courage to put up on YouTube of me singing and playing the guitar.  You always knew I could do it.  I wish I could play you the songs I wrote about you.  For you.  I'd show you the guy who actually made president in 2008, just so I could hear you rant and rave about how awful our government has become.  I wish I could talk about a boy, just so you'd get mad.  I'd play for you on my new guitar that you never got to hear.  We were still trying to think of names for it when you went away.  I'd send you my favorite rap song and laugh when you sent me five "real" songs in response.  I'd probably yell at you.  'Cause sometimes I still feel angry, you know.  I'd probably cry.  No, I know I would.

I've stopped blaming myself.  You'd probably be glad about that.  There are still some days when I think, "If I only would have..."  But then I have to remember.  You were the one to make the decision to end your own life, Gatlin.  That was you.  Not me.  How can I honestly blame myself if I would have stopped you had I known?  That's irrational.  It's just hard to be rational sometimes, you know?

To be honest with you, I still don't understand why you took your own life.  You had a bright future ahead of you.  You had one of the coolest families ever.  You had friends who adored you.  It was a selfish decision.  You hurt people you loved.  You promised never to hurt me, Gatlin, but you've hurt me more than anyone else has so far.  Some days, when I think of you, I feel a lot of anger.  I wonder how anyone who said he loved us so much would turn around and do something this cruel.  I wasn't the same for months after you died.  You know that?

I don't like to be angry at you, though.  What's the point in that?  Why be angry at someone who's already gone?  I try to think about the good memories instead.  There are lots of those, hidden beneath the painful memories of your funeral and the emotions I felt the night I learned that you died.

The good memories, when I think about them, still make me smile.  I remember when you started capitalizing "you" every time you talked to me online. "Emily, You are worth more than You think You are, so I'll capitalize 'you' to remind You until You get it.  Okay?"  I felt so special when you did that.  We stayed up all night talking sometimes.  When I cried to you over the phone one time, you answered immediately, "Who do I need to beat up today?"  I told you I'd always wanted a big brother and you immediately volunteered, even though you were a month younger than I was.  I like to think about those memories, Gatlin.  Not the bad ones, because I know we had those too.

It's comforting to me that you were a Christian.  I know you're in heaven.  Are you sorry for cutting your life short?  You would have been an incredible musician.  You were the best guitarist I knew already.  You left me amazed when I saw your YouTube videos.  I'm so grateful for a God who forgives us even when we screw up bad, aren't you?

A few years before you went away, you told me that if you died, everyone would forget about you after three months.  It's been three years now.  Three years today.  I doubt anyone has forgotten you.  I haven't, and I wasn't even your best friend.  You're not forgotten, Gatlin.  You're remembered.

I feel sad when I think of the way you died.  Of how young you were, of how young I was.  Fifteen is too young to experience death.  Now I'm eighteen -and you would be too- and I'm growing up, slowly but surely.  When I think about our friendship, I'll admit it: We seem young in my mind now.  But I still treasure those memories and I treasure the friendship I had with you.  You were a good friend.  I'll never forget you, not in three years and not in thirty years.  You'll always hold a place in my heart as the boy who offered to play the role of my big brother once upon a time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Defined by Him

Instead of a book review today, I decided to post something that has bothered me for a while now.

I want people to like me.

That's just the truth.  I want to be liked.

Do I usually rebel against conformity?  Sure.  I often don't dress like everyone else on purpose.  I am quiet when others are loud.  I listen to my own style of music.  I value originality.  Even though I like to be unique, I desperately want to be liked.  If I'm not liked by someone, I'm bothered.  A lot.

Sometimes my struggle to be liked can be my downfall of sorts.  I often try to please everyone and end up ignoring my own needs.  Sometimes I focus on pleasing others instead of God.  Trying so hard to be liked can end up making me doubt myself as well.  I'm generally a confident person.  However, if someone dislikes me, I can quickly shut down and doubt myself.

I'll make up an example off the top of my head.  Let's say I'm trying to reach out to some younger girls and I overhear someone say, "Emily acts so fake.  I can't believe she's pretending to like us."  I might immediately question my actions and words, asking myself and my close friends if that's how I appear.  If I feel disliked enough, I might even throw up my hands and walk away.  I think to myself, "It's not worth it.  I'm obviously bad at this.  Bah.  I give up.  Find someone else to minister to these girls, God.  I don't want to do this anymore."

Giving up is never a part of God's plan.  When I give up, I fail.

I hate the feeling of failure.  Don't you?

The other day, I overheard some girls at school talking about me behind my back.  I haven't been through an experience like that since eighth grade!  To be honest, their words weren't that mean.  They were mocking a leadership role I've taken at school and the way I spoke to a group of kids.  It was obvious by what they were saying that they didn't like me all that much.  At first, I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear.  A thousand horrified thoughts flew through my head all at once.  "They don't like me.  I've failed.  I've ruined this leadership role.  I've failed at being liked at school.  I'm such a failure.  How can God even use me at all?"  For a split second, I wanted to forget being any kind of a leader, withdraw into my shy shell, and not talk to anyone ever again.  I mean, they didn't like me.  After a few moments of self-pity, I realized how silly I was acting.

Is my life defined by what those girls think of me?  Am I not a leader anymore because of the things those girls were saying?  Does God not still love me?  Has the purpose He gave me at my school been turned into nothing?  Of course not.

People are going to dislike me sometimes because of who I am and Who I stand for, and I'm going to have to learn to deal with that, as hard as it can be.  Jesus had haters.  People murdered Him and gambled away His clothes, for crying out loud.  His disciples were all persecuted and most were even killed.

Even though it might sting to face meanness and dislike from others, I cannot allow my hurt feelings to get in the way of what God has planned for my life.  He wants me to be a leader at my school, whether or not some kids make fun of me behind my back.  He wants me to stand up and make friends with people I don't know, even if I'll face rejection sometimes.

God's opinion is what matters in the long run.  I just need to please Him.  Everyone else is secondary.

I've given up many times after facing dislike from others.  I've failed.  I've let down the God who gave me life.  I don't want to give up anymore.  I don't want to care so much about what other people think of me that I'll give up on plans God has for me in order to keep everyone happy.  That isn't what He wants.  I'm so thankful that God loves me enough to give me an unlimited number of second chances.

I want people to like me.  That will never change.  If I had my way, then everyone would like each other, even though I know that's unrealistic.  I'll continue to be nice to people and smile (I am Emily is Smiling, after all).  However, I know I will not always be liked.  I don't deserve to be liked by everyone, if I'm honest with myself.

For now, I guess I'm satisfied with the fact that Jesus Christ likes me so much, He thinks I'm to die for.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Postmodernism: A Poem

Just wanted to make it clear that I am not a postmodernist nor a fan of postmodernism.  We were learning about this subject in Bible class at school and I decided to write a poem about postmodernism that captured its silliness.  This is the poem.


The sky is green.  The grass is white.
There is no day.  There is no night.
The dankest caves now give off light.
What once was small now has great height.

The stars have formed a box of stairs.
The knowing eyes are unaware.
My heart is laughing... over there.
Come paint the sunrise, if you dare.

The silent lips can only scream.
The earth is tearing at the seams.
When I'm awake, life is a dream.
So tell me: what does it all mean?

Absolutely nothing.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

No More Excuses

Last week's article was about being different.  I strive to be different.  Not necessarily in the way I dress (although that matters too), but instead in the way I shape my actions and words.  I know I'm an example of Christ.  You may strive to be different as well.

The biggest obstacle to being different is apathy.  I'll give you the definition of apathy, just in case you aren't familiar with the term.

apathy ap-a-thy (āp'ə-thē) n. Lack of interest, concern, or emotion; indifference.

The chaos of life is difficult to overcome.  Believe me, as an honor student finishing my final year of high school, I get that.  Some days, I'm so exhausted that I simply want to fall into bed and sleep for three months straight.  When you're busy, apathy hits hard because you can easily become exhausted.  When you're lazy, it hits even harder.

When you're feeling apathetic, it's easy to think, "Yes, I believe in God.  Yes, I'm different.  Yes, I abstain from what the 'bad kids' do.  Yadayadayada... but today, I don't feel like being different.  I'm not changing the world.  I'm just a kid.  What does being different even matter?  I just want to blend in with the crowd today.  I just want to be normal."  Sound familiar?

"It's true!" you might be ready to shout at me from the safety of your computer screen.  "What does it matter if I don't do anything important today?  What does being different even do?  My life is hard right now, okay?  Why should I even care about this stuff?"

I get it.  I promise you.  It's hard to stand up for what you believe in, and it's hard to stand out from the crowd, especially when you're feeling weary.  Especially when apathy is beginning to set in.  It's tough.  When it comes to apathy, I easily fall.  I am shy, timid, and often filled with doubts.  It's hard to stay strong.  But it's possible.

Why does it matter?  There are two big reasons why you should strive to be a city on a hill that come to my mind.  Because God called you to be different and because there are people watching.  It's as simple and as difficult as that.

God has called us to stand out from the crowd and be different for Him.  One of my favorite verses is Matthew 5:14"You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden."  As a Christian teen, you are a city on a hill, meaning that you are an example to everyone around you.  If you're an outspoken Christian, then when people see the things you do, they think, "He's doing that because he's a Christian."  If you screw up and make a fool out of yourself, many will blame it on God or on Christians in general, and not only on you.

As soon as you make a confession for Christ, you're putting a burden on your shoulders.  With your words and your actions, you're showing people the words and opinions of Jesus Christ, whether you mean to or not.

According to God's Word, you're not of the world.  Your focus should not be the focus of other kids.  Miley Cyrus's latest scandal shouldn't be the first thing that comes out of your mouth.  When you log on the internet, why do you need to be watching YouTube music videos where women flaunt their skimpy clothing while dancing provocatively?  You're not a part of that world.  You're a part of God's kingdom.

A famous verse you've probably seen around before is Romans 12:2"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is- His good, pleasing, and perfect will."  If that isn't clear, I don't know what is.  Many Christians read that part of the verse and take it to heart, but they leave out Romans 12:1, the verse that comes right before.  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship."  Not conforming to the world isn't merely avoiding drugs and sex.  It isn't merely knowing the cool Bible verses and wearing the clever Christian t-shirts.  It's not knowing the words to the worship songs you sing at church.  No, not conforming involves giving the entirety of your life for the purpose of following Jesus Christ, the One who died for you.

You were made to be a city on a hill and a living sacrifice for the purpose of leading others to the Lord.  That means that no matter how exhausted and weary and sick of religion you are today, as a living sacrifice, you were meant to be stretched beyond your limits.  You are a cup meant to be filled to the point of overflowing.  You were meant to go beyond the constraints of religion and into the realm of true faith.

Apathy is a difficult thing to overcome, yes, but God has called you to make that effort.  It's time to stand up for Him now.  Are you in?

Sunday, December 5, 2010



I stand at the edge of the ocean,
Breathing in the wet scent of the air.
The waves touch my feet in foamy sheets,
As I ask, "Lord, are You there?"

I stand alone on a rocky hilltop,
Looking over the curves of the earth.
The rocks an the trees, the rivers an streams.
I wonder at all of its worth.

I stand amongst the sands of the desert,
Soaking in the heat of the sun.
The earth burns my skin. I can hardly breathe in.
In Your presence, I dance and I run.

I stand at the base of a mountain,
Staring up at its towering peak.
Its evergreen trees, snow adorning their leaves.
Beneath it all, I feel tiny and weak.

I stand beneath a sky full of stars.
A great canvas- glitter spilled on a page.
Your presence is there; I have been unaware.
I can now feel Your wonder and grace.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

I'm Different. Are You?

While some teenagers want desperately to fit in, many teenagers strive to be different, although not always in a good way.  I saw a cartoon once that featured two stereotypical rebellious teenagers.  They both had crazy-colored hair, baggy clothing, and studs all over their faces.  They were first encountering each other on the first day of school.  As they looked upon each other, one of them said grimly, "It's getting harder and harder to look different anymore."  Even though I'm a teen who revels in starting my own trends and not following the crowd, that cartoon sure gave me a laugh.
Being different doesn't always involve the way you dress and look.  You don't have to have purple hair and a nose ring to be different.  You don't even have to have your own unique style of clothing to be different.  People can consider you to be very different, merely by the way you act and the words you say.

If you're a teenager and you're a follower of Christ, then you stand out from most young people.  You're different.

It's hard to be a Christian in today's world, especially if you're in between the ages of twelve and twenty.  When you're young, you're expected to rebel and do illegal things.  Most adults would say it's natural... the advantage of being young.  You're expected to experiment with sex and drugs.  You're expected to lose your virginity, dirty the air with a few choice cuss words when you get angry, and crash your car a few times because you were texting while driving.  You're expected to make low grades, sleep in until three o'clock in the afternoon, and yell at your parents when they ask you to make your bed.

When you're a teen, you're definitely not expected to be a Christian, at least not someone who acts like it.  No way.  Why settle down and do what's right when you're young?  You have so many years left before you need to follow God, right?  Absolutely not.  But if you're like me, you know that already.

If you're a teenager and you're a Christian, then you've probably faced baffled questions from fellow teens, just like I have.  "Do you ever have fun?  Do you think you're better than me?  Why can't you loosen up and have some fun?  What makes you so different?"  Some questions are harder to answer than others.

It's easy to think to yourself, "I'm different because I'm a Christian," but a lot of people say that.  In fact, three out of four young people would easily say, "Yes, I'm a Christian," but have absolutely no idea what they're talking about and would not even be able to coherently answer the most basic of questions about their religion.  Check out this article by CNN, titled "More Teens Becoming 'Fake' Christians."  It sure gives a lot to think about.

According to the article, "committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future."  Is this something you have?  

As a devoted follower of Christ, what puts you in a different light from other teenagers, 'Christian' or not, is what you don't do and what you do.

What You Don't Do
If you're different from other teens, then you abstain from what many teens enjoy.  Sex, drugs, cussing, and underage drinking, for example.  Adults might think of you as a model teen because you don't do these things.   A lot of fellow teens might look at you strangely because you don't go to the drinking parties and you don't sleep around with your boyfriend.  You're different because of what you don't do.

What You Do
If you're different from other teens, then you strive to make your actions and words honorable and admirable.  You work hard to be "excellent" in your school work, because you know that's what God wants.  You use your words to honor both God and others.  You step out in your community with a will to be an example of God's crazy, awesome love.  You know that you're a city on a hill.  You're different because of what you do.

Both of these are important factors in being different from other teenagers.  Obviously, you are going to fail sometimes because you are human, but if you strive -truly strive, not just pretend to strive- at both of these things, then you're different.  You're a city on a hill and a light in the darkness.  People will look at you like you're an alien from another planet.

According to the Bible, you're not of this world.

Before you stop reading this and turn off the computer with a smile on your face, reveling in the fact that "Hooray, I'm different!", please remember something important.  Being different isn't what your goal should be.  Go ahead and cover your car with "Jesus Freak" bumper stickers.  Blast that Lecrae from your stereo.  Wear the t-shirts that say witty comments like "Arrest Me: I Prayed at School Today."  But remember: your goal isn't to make people whisper and stare.  Your goal isn't to stand out from the crowd.  Your goal isn't to be unique.

Your goal should be to become an example for Jesus Christ and that in itself will make you unique.  If you follow God's will without shame or reservation, you will stand out from this world like a flood in the Sahara Desert.  It's not the material things that matter.  It's the way you act, the things you say, and Who you follow.

We can be different, you and I.  We're different because of Jesus Christ, and that is something we must not forget.  Amen?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In Real Life

More than anything, my friends and I love to watch spy movies.  You know the type.  Mission Impossible, Taken, Red, James Bond...  Any movie involving a secret agent, crazy explosions, shoot'em ups, car chases, and neat gadgets has been watched by my friends and me at some point.  You could say we're a bit obsessed.

There's something about watching a spy movie that causes your heart to pound and adrenaline to race through your body.  For the two or three hours of the film, you literally feel like you're a character in the movie, fighting desperately to save the world from a terrible danger.  You get to feel like a hero.

My friends and I often talk about what life would be like if we were spies: what positions we'd be, who we'd fight against.  It's exciting to think about and even better to plan.  In reality, life as a secret agent probably isn't nearly as glamorous or romanticized as the books and films make it seem, but who cares?  It's fun to dream.  Sometimes when I'm in bed at night, I stare up at the ceiling and wonder, "Would I actually do it?  If I was given the opportunity to be a secret agent, would that even appeal to me in real life?  How would I feel, pushing away those I love for their own safety, facing danger every single day, pulling a trigger and actually killing someone?"  It doesn't sound so fun and exciting when I think about it that way.  Even though I'll plan and pretend with my friends, I don't think I'd have the guts to actually make such a huge commitment.

Being a secret agent sounds totally awesome, but actually going on a dangerous mission would be far different from talking about it with friends.  That's the simple truth.  In real life, I know I could never be any form of a spy.  You might feel the same way.

What about when it comes to standing up for your faith in God?

If you've ever gone to a church camp, youth group, Christian concert, or even a church service, you've been faced with the question: "If someone pointed a gun at your head and asked if you believed in God, would you answer truthfully?"  In the heat of the moment, it's easy to say, "Yes, of course I would!"  But think about it.  Truly put yourself in that situation.

There's a gunman pointing a deadly weapon at your head.  You're literally facing death head on... despite the fact that you know you're going to heaven, death is a dark, frightening unknown.  You're not the first person the gunman has confronted.  You've seen a few of your friends die after answering the same question, crumpling in bloody piles onto the floor.  Lifeless.  You're scared.  You don't know if the bullet will hurt.  You're young.  You don't want to die.

"Do you believe in God?" the gunman demands.  The cold edge of the weapon presses against your temple.  Your hands begin to shake.  A thousand thoughts run through your mind.  If you lie, you can apologize to God later.  You could be alive and have the opportunity to witness to thousands of people.  Your family wouldn't be devastated because of your death... if you just told one little lie.

Makes things a bit different, doesn't it?  Not so romanticized.  People aren't cheering you on, clapping for you as you enter the gates of heaven with a huge smile on your face.  You feel alone, scared.  You might even doubt.

The other day, my sweet little brother told me something that stopped me in my tracks.  He said, "If Jesus walked by and told me to follow Him like He did His disciples, I know I would be supposed to say yes and follow Him right away, but I think I'd probably ask Him if we could have breaks before I agreed."  Oh, the honesty of a child.  But isn't that the truth?

"Jesus, I want to follow You... if I can have some breaks... if I can go home on the weekends... if I can see my family again... if I can keep safe and warm at night... if I can stay in my comfort zone... if I can do what I want to do sometimes... if I can keep my life."

I encourage you to sit and think about what you would actually do if someone pointed a gun at your head and said, "Do you believe in God?" or if Jesus Himself walked by and said, "You, follow Me."  Don't automatically assume you'll do what Christians are "supposed" to do.  Think about what you'll do when you're put into a situation when your faith is drastically tested.

You might be honest with yourself and come to realize, "I don't think I'm going to be able to stand up for my faith if it comes down to it."  If you do, then it's time to re-evaluate your priorities.  Jesus Christ should be the number one thing in your life.  Yes, of course you should be willing and ready to abandon everything for Him, including your own life- be it through death or giving your dreams up for a life that God has planned for you to have.  It's easy to say that you will, but it's a lot harder to do in real life.

To be honest, if that gun was pressed to my head, I think I would be able to admit to being a follower of Christ without a second thought.  I'm not afraid of death.  However, if Jesus walked by and told me to drop everything and follow Him, I would have a lot of doubts and second thoughts.

Giving up your life entirely to Christ is a terrifying, difficult thing.

If you struggle with the idea of giving your life fully to the Lord, I encourage you to pray about it.  Talk to God about your struggle.  He'll give you wisdom and insight.  He'll show you that His plans for you are far bigger than anything your earthly mind could ever imagine.

In real life, I know I could never be an awesome secret agent like James Bond or Ethan Hunt from Mission Impossible.  I'm not wired that way.  But I do know that I could be an agent of Christ, because that's who God made me to be.  He wants me to give my life for Him, whether it's by putting my own life on the line to witness to others or by simply giving up my own dreams to follow God's plans.  It's going to be difficult, but I know with prayer and a lot of dedication, I'll be able to do it, because that's who I've been called to be.

God has a purpose for you too, and He's waiting for you to offer up your life to Him.  Are you in?

Romans 12:1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship.

Luke 9:23
Then He said to them all: "Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me."