Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Christian's Response to the Christian's Response to Same-Sex Marriage

The United States is on the brink of a monumental decision as the Supreme Court gathers to potentially re-define marriage.  On Facebook and Twitter over the last few days, I've read some heated discussions about the topic of legalizing gay marriage.  You may have noticed more than a few profile pictures changed to the equal symbol at your right in support of same-sex marriage.

There are proper times and places to discuss the legalization of same-sex marriage and how this should fit into an increasingly secular nation, but an argument on Facebook is not one of them.  Shouting from a street corner will not change someone's political beliefs.  A cup of coffee, a listening ear, and a gentle voice are great tools to create a fruitful discussion about the topic of gay marriage.

Readers who share my faith, let me remind you of what the Bible says about arguing.  1 Timothy 2:23-26 says, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of truth."

Examine your words and actions, friends.  If your conversations have reflected something other than what the passage above says, then how are you shining the love of Jesus Christ?  You do not have to approve of the legalization of gay marriage.  You do not have to approve of homosexuality.  You do not have to approve of someone's religion or lifestyle.  But you should be living in love, kindness, and peace. 

As long as we do not follow the ways of the world, people will speak against us.  However, we are not called to argue with them; we are called to love them and respond with gentleness and respect as we remain steadfast in the Lord.  1 Peter 3:15-16 says, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason of the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

Do not be afraid to pursue conversations with people who engage in and approve of homosexuality.  I encourage you to do so!  Show the world that you can sincerely love someone without approving of everything they do.  With whom did Jesus spend His time?  He had dinner with prostitutes and tax collectors, beggars and thieves.  He loved the people that other religious men of the day turned away.  He loved people like you and people like me.  He spoke in truth, but He also spoke in love.

Many Christians I know have forgotten one or the other.  Often, I will meet a Christian who is so focused on speaking truth that he speaks fiercely against all who oppose his values, using sarcasm and anger to back up each point; or I will meet a Christian who is so focused on love that he forgets that our God is never-changing, and so he approves of everything when he should love without faltering in what the Lord has spoken as truth.

There is a balance, my friends.  Instead of engaging in pointless quarrels, let's live peacefully and sincerely.  Let's speak in love and friendship while we live in truth.

My dad sent me an article this morning by Doug Hankins over this same issue.  I encourage you to read it and open your heart.  Let's love today.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


to the Jesus Culture "Live from New York" album.  It's fantastic.  I actually didn't get into Jesus Culture until about a year ago, but ever since I stopped and listened to a couple of their songs, I haven't been able to stop.  Such pure, focused worship.  It's precious.

Also, I'm not usually a big fan of what I like to call "generic Christian radio" music (and if you are, I am more than happy for you), but I actually really like Matthew West's latest single, "Hello, My Name Is."  It's all about one of my favorite verses, 1 John 1:3.  Check out this amazing bridge and chorus:

What love the Father has lavished upon us, 
That we should be called His children.
Hello, my name is Child of the one true King.
I've been saved, I've been changed, and I have been set free.
"Amazing Grace" is the song I sing.
I am a child of the one true King.

So much identity is in this song, and I love it.

Some secular music I'm enjoying right now would be a large portion of the latest FUN. album, as well as the entire Imagine Dragons album.  I'd definitely recommend purchasing all of Imagine Dragon's songs, but be careful with FUN., because a few of their songs have family un-friendly words.

"Iscariot" by Tosca Lee.  Okay, this is kind of a lie.  I actually finished this book about a couple weeks ago, and I'm currently re-reading "The Scarlet Letter" for my English Lit class, but I want to talk about "Iscariot" for a little bit.  Tosca Lee is my favorite author of all time.  "Havah" is my favorite novel, "Demon: A Memoir" is fantastic, and Tosca Lee's collaborations with Ted Dekker are all amazing.

"Iscariot" did not fail to disappoint.  I've never looked at Judas in such a way before as Tosca Lee painted before my eyes.  I've always been able to relate with Peter and John and Thomas in their brokenness and faith in Christ, but for the first time, I have looked at the disciple Judas and seen my broken self in him too.  "Iscariot" is beautifully written.

Fun fact.  Once, after I reviewed "Havah" on my blog, I received a personal email from Tosca Lee, thanking me!  Needless to say, I was more than a little excited. 

and in the Bible...  
I'm occasionally messaged asking how I read the Bible during my quiet times, and perhaps one day, I will write an entire blog post about this topic.  Usually, I read from four different places in the Bible each day.  I do this so I can get a grasp of both the new and old testaments, and see more clearly God's love and promise throughout the entirety of His Word.  I'm not legalistic about this, so some days I might read in only one place and other days I might read in ten, but I have four bookmarks that I use.

A college minister also recommended that we mark down each book of the Bible after we've read it; this is something I have been doing ever since.  This way, I can remember what I have studied recently and what I haven't.  Each word of the Bible is from God.  I don't want to read James a hundred times and never once open Lamentations.  Reading in more than one place lets me re-read my favorite passages, while exploring unusual ones at the same time.  And I've found so many treasures this way.

I'm currently reading in Joshua, Psalm, Song of Solomon, and Romans.  Yesterday I finished Ecclesiastes, which is one of my favorite books of the Bible.

Community!  It's a comedic sitcom about a charismatic and self-centered lawyer who discovers his Canadian education is unaccredited, so he must return to college to get a new degree.  In the process, he befriends a gaggle of bizarre students in his Spanish class.

I finished season 3 of Downton Abbey two weeks ago, which left me feeling distraught and unsure of what I could watch next that would possibly measure up to my new favorite show.  I found an unexpected delight in Community.  Each episode is less than half an hour long, which is convenient, and they've all been hilarious so far.  I like to watch an episode of TV after I get home from class and I'm recovering from the day, so I'm always looking for good shows. 

how to play "Dawn" from the movie Pride & Prejudice on the piano.  Unfortunately, my keyboard is in my hometown, so I'm having to stall the progress I made during Spring Break until I go back in May.

about how the Lord has been moving this semester.  Totally because of His faithfulness and power, I've raised nearly half the money I need to go to Kenya this summer in less than two weeks.  Also, He moved in a big way today, so I'd like to share that experience with you. 

I was meeting at the on-campus chapel with a few of my friends this afternoon.  There were six of us in total, about to have a small meeting for our Christian organization.  However, before we began, a young man entered the room and approached our group.  "Hey," he said, "this chapel is called All-Faiths Chapel, so are you of all faiths or only one?"

"We believe in Jesus, so we're of only one faith.  We're just meeting here to talk about Him," we explained.  "What do you believe?"

"I believe in everything.  I'm a Muslim, but I believe in Christianity and Judaism too."  The guy, whose name was Zach, excused himself in a friendly way and left the room, but he was back in less than five minutes, asking another question about our faith.  Immediately, someone in our group invited Zach to sit down.

I asked Zach how certain he was of his salvation, and he shook his head.  "I'm not sure if I'll go to heaven.  I don't think I will know until after I die.  It's up to God."  When we asked him if he had any questions, he surprisingly had many.  Each question held depth and sincerity.  Zach wanted to know what it meant to believe that God was three-in-one.  He wanted to know the difference between Jesus the Prophet and Jesus the Savior (and God).  And he wanted to know why God would ever send His only Son down to earth to die a horrible death for our sake.  Although Zach said he was a Muslim, he did not know much about his own religion.  There was an empty, aching place in Zach's heart.

For two hours, we talked to Zach.  Every person in the room was able to share the Gospel with him in a lovely and unique way.  By the time we all said goodbye, Zach made no decision to follow Christ, but thoughts were turning in his head.  Seeds had been planted; love had been sown.  Zach clearly wanted to know more, and for perhaps the first time in his life, he was considering the idea that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. 

I've been thinking recently about how sometimes it seems like every person on my college campus has heard the Gospel and claims to be a Christian, at least by their words.  This isn't true.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of lost and hurting students on my campus alone.  They're seeking something, and God will be faithful to their searching hearts.

For the remainder of this semester, I want to put more of my focus into asking God to work through me to share the Gospel with everyone around me.  I don't want to care about what others think.  I don't want to care about my own shyness and discomfort.  If there are people walking past me each day who are searching for truth and have not found it, I want to share it with them.  I want to have the eyes and ears and hands and feet of the Lord.  I want to be used.

What are you listening, reading, watching, learning, and thinking?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Letters for Lavin: March

One of my goals for 2013 was to write a letter each month to my sponsored daughter, Lavin.  I sponsor her through Christian Relief Fund.  Receiving letters is a huge deal to these kids.  They are so grateful to the sponsors who reach out and support them, and having the opportunity to communicate one-on-one with the people who have literally saved their lives is a huge honor and blessing.

When I was in Kenya, I had the opportunity to pass out letters to some of the sponsored kids at a CRF school.  Shrieks of joy echoed across the schoolyard as letters and photographs and stickers were passed around.  Soon after, the children raced to find sheets of paper and pencils so they could write letters back to their "adopted" parents.

Even knowing the importance of our letters to these sponsored kids, I didn't write nearly enough to my sponsored daughter last year.  She wrote me more often than I wrote her.  In 2013, this will change. 

For March, I found an old, blank card in my grandma's house.  It had a printing of Navajo designs, and my grandma allowed me to take the card and send it to Lavin.  Tribes are a big deal in Kenya, so I thought I would give a little American history and share about how there are American tribes too.

On the back of the card, I shared a bit of information.

Here's the contents of the actual letter:

Basically, I talked about:
  • Music and one of my favorite songs.  Since the orphans in Kenya aren't going to know the American artists I listen to, I didn't use their names.  I simply shared a few lyrics I thought Lavin would understand.  Whenever I go back to Kenya, perhaps I'll teach her the song!
  • Church.
  • My favorite and least favorite chores (and skipped chores that Lavin might not understand, such as vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom).
  • School, so Lavin could both relate to my life and be encouraged to continue to work hard in her classes.  It's so important to emphasize the value of education to your sponsored child!
  • Weather.  As mundane as that might sound, it's an entirely different season right now in Kenya, so the children are fascinated about what the weather is like in Texas.
  • A Bible verse that has been on my heart for Lavin.
  • An update on the prayer requests I gave her the last two months and let her know that her prayers were answered.  God is good!
  • And of course, I was sure to tell Lavin that I loved her, was proud of her, and that I missed her.  She may not hear those words from anyone else in her life. 
Hopefully that gave you a few ideas of conversation topics in your letter to your sponsored child.  Don't be afraid to ask questions and share little stories about your day-to-day life, as long as they can be understood by a child who lives a very different life than you.

I didn't go too crazy on my additions to the letter this month.

I sent:
  • Five pictures, with names and descriptions of what I was doing at the time the photos were taken and who I was with.  Lavin loves receiving pictures.  They help her feel close to me and a part of my life.
  • Two sticker sheets.  One sheet was filled with little doodles of princesses of all colors.  The other was hologram animals, like a horse and a parrot and a lion.
Notice how everything fit neatly inside the envelope.  It definitely wasn't too heavy or bulky to send.  However, when Lavin opens her card, she'll be delighted by all of the little surprises inside waiting for her.

Did you send a card to your sponsored child this month?  If you did and want to blog about it, post the link in the comments below and I'll share it at the bottom of this blog.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Freedom from Self-Injury

Anonymous asks: How did you stop cutting?... because I self harmed for almost 5 years before I got saved July 22, 2012, and I kinda thought I would stop on my own, but it had become an addiction and I'm still struggling with it. I've told Christian counselors at my college and they are helping, but I don't think they fully understand how hard it is to stop. I went 7 weeks without any SI, but I recently failed. And what's really bad is that I still want to cut, but as a Christian I know I NEED to stop. What motivated you to stop despite being addicted to it? 

If any readers do not know my testimony, before I was saved, I struggled intensely with self-injury and suicidal thoughts.  I was depressed, I felt completely disconnected from any kind of relationship with God, and guilt and shame weighed heavily upon my shoulders.  When I gave my life to Christ, he helped me conquer my addiction to SI (self-injury) and gain freedom in him.

Don't let me deceive you.  The temptation to return to cutting and self-harm was often overwhelming.  The shame and horror about who I had become and what I was so eager to do to myself daily left me feeling unlovable and unworthy of the Lord's forgiveness.  With Christ's help and to his glory, I have not cut since 2007. 

Everyone's story is different, and while I can't give you an exact formula of how to end self-injury, I can give you some encouragement and some advice.

1.) You have been set free.  If you have given your life to the Lord, you are not a slave to anything, not even the worst of addictions.  You have been made free in Christ.  Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." 

My friend once compared the struggle with sin to this story: Before you gave your life to the Lord, you were wrapped in heavy chains that bound you tightly and painfully.  When Christ saved you, he broke those chains.  The cold, iron links that once kept you restrained and exhausted literally fell to the ground, powerless against you.  You were made free; a whole world of light and joy had opened up before you.  When you fall into your old temptations and addictions, it is as if you rebind yourself with the chains that once burdened you.  They are not locked.  You are free to go at any time.  But you've known little else, so you hold the chains upon yourself and abide by their weight and burden.

But my friend, you are free.

As long as we live on this earth, we will be tempted.  Addictions do not go away overnight.  It took me months and months to stop falling back into my old ways of SI and self hatred and suicidal thoughts when things went wrong.  But in Christ, there is always freedom.

Even Paul the Apostle struggled with his old temptations and sin nature.  In Romans 7:15-25, he says, "I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  ...Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

It is possible to overcome your addiction.  When you face the overwhelming desire to cut or the heavy burden of shame that you might feel after you do mess up, do not give into thinking, "I'm addicted.  I can't stop.  I'm a slave to this."  No, my friend.  You have been set free.  Christ is your deliverer.

2.) Do not be ashamed.  Sometimes you will fall back into sin.  You will still mess up.  There wasn't a specific moment when my addiction was completely through.  No, there were times when I would set a goal for myself not to cut anymore, something would happen, and I would mess up again.  And again.  Even when I didn't mess up, I was still angry at myself for wanting to cut.  Why should I want to harm God's temple?  Why should I have the desire to hurt my body? 

Nothing you do is bad enough to make Jesus stop loving you.  Hebrews 13:5 says, "God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"  This is a promise He made.  Nothing you do can cause these words to fail.

Romans 10:11 says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame."  One of the biggest hindrances I faced in overcoming self injury was my own shame and guilt.  When you begin to embrace the fact that not only were you saved by Christ, but that you are endlessly and overwhelmingly loved by him despite everything you do, the temptation to cut will become smaller and smaller in the wake of God's mighty love for you.  After all, as Isaiah 49:16 says, "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."  You are loved. 

3.) Find accountability.  One of my biggest fears was the people I knew finding out about my struggle with SI.  I thought they could never fully understand.  I was terrified about what they might think or how they would judge me.  Surely they would consider me a freak and unworthy of love because of the terrible things I had done to myself.  So when I needed it the most, I often cowered from the idea of sharing with friends my struggles.

We were made for community.  Galatians 6:2 says, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."  James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."

If you have shared with a counselor about your struggle with SI, that's a great start.  But I encourage you to share with at least two trustworthy friends who have a strong relationship with the Lord, friends who do not currently struggle with SI, and friends who are willing to live life with you and hold you accountable.  Good friends walk with you, pray with you, and encourage you in a way that counselors usually cannot.

It's a terrifying prospect to open up to someone who might judge you, but I challenge you to take that risk.  Allow a friend to enter that place in your life you don't want anyone else to see, and ask him or her to help you conquer it.  

4.) Get involved.  The more you are alone, the more you will be tempted to fall back into old ways.  Loneliness, depression, and shame were my biggest triggers when I struggled most intensely with self-injury.  If I was sitting by myself in my bedroom, dwelling on my struggles, I would fall into them so much more often.  When I was out with friends, sometimes forcing myself to smile and have a good time, I'd often forget the desire to cut.

When you are tempted to fall into self-injury, deliberately go outside on a walk, even if it is late at night.  Call a friend.  Go to coffee shops and meet someone new.  Go grocery shopping.  Stroll through the mall.  Spend time with friends, even if you don't feel up to it.  If you are out doing things, you won't be in positions where you can cut, even if you want to, and the number of your mistakes will happen so much less often.

5.) Keep in daily conversation with the Lord.  If I made a mistake, I would often feel too ashamed to approach God.  I felt newly-soiled.  My iniquities seemed to be pinned onto my chest like a scarlet letter, branded into my skin with each scar.  How could I speak to God after having done something so ugly, so horrible?

Even if you have nothing to say to God, let him speak to you.  Simply listen.  Don't allow your struggle to distance yourself from the only One who can help you overcome this addiction!  Before you even make the mistake, you have been forgiven.  Isaiah 1:18 says, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

Make an intentional effort to spend daily time in the Word and in prayer.  Praise God, even when you don't feel like it.  If you don't have words to pray, sit in silence and listen.  Read at least a chapter of the Bible a day (try Psalms and Isaiah and Galatians, for starters), even if you feel like you're getting nothing out of it.  Jeremiah 29:13-14 says, "'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,' declares the Lord, 'and will bring you back from captivity.'"

Never forget that the Lord desires to commune with you, despite every mistake you've ever made.  Draw near to him, mess and all.  He longs to set you free.


I know this was long, but self-injury is an issue that weighs on my heart.  If you have any questions, prayer requests, or redemptive stories about your own struggle with self-injury and God's victory in that, share in the comments below.  I'd love to pray for you and rejoice with you (or cry with you, if that's what needs to happen).

You are loved. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Goals for March

Last month, I shared my goals for the month of February with you all.  I gave myself a little report card yesterday and scored a B-, which isn't too bad, but there is definitely room for improvement!  I borrowed this idea from Kelli's blog at She Learns As She Goes.  My goals for the month of March are:

Blog at least ten times this month.
Last month, my goal was to blog at least once a week and I ended up writing eight posts.  I think I can do better this month, especially since there are three more days in March than in February.  I was a little hesitant to challenge myself to blog twice a week (maybe next month) because of the slight possibility that I will be traveling over part of Spring Break.  Ten posts seemed a good compromise and reachable goal.

Read at least one book this month.
My goal is to read twelve books this year.  The last two months I've already read eight books, much to my delight (since I didn't read very much at all last year), but I want to continue the goal of at least one book per month, so I'm continuing this for the month of March.

Make Bs or higher on my exams.
Last month, I made a couple of Cs on some difficult exams.  Now that I'm more used to each of my professors and the way they make up their tests, I am confident that with enough studying, I can make good grades on all of my exams this month.  Or at least I am going to try my best.

Longboard more.
In February, the weather seemed to consistently be chilly and rainy and all-around unpleasant.  Matched with my long recovery from the flu, I was often reluctant to longboard much at all, even to class.  I'm hoping that March will be a little warmer (although it may very well be rainy), so my goal is to longboard to class from my house at least once a week. 

Go through my closet and give away the clothes I don't use.
My closet is packed out with t-shirts that I get from all of the events and organizations I've been a part of, and it's almost too full to find anything!  I'd really like to narrow down my closet to a reasonable wardrobe and get rid of some of my clothes.  Some I would like to give away to the shelters and ministries in my town; others I would like to save to give to my friends in Kenya next time I go, as many of my shirts have the word "Texas" on them, which is a special treat for those who don't live in America.  I keep putting this off, but it's time that I go ahead and go through my closet.

If you are making a list of goals for the month of March, share the link below.  We can encourage one another.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

February Report Card

Earlier in the month, I shared my goals for the month of February.  I borrowed this idea from Kelli's blog at She Learns As She Goes.  Now that March has begun, I will go ahead and share my report card and hold myself accountable to how many of my goals that I actually accomplished last month.

Write at least one blog post per week: A
I managed this, although one week was pushing it.  I wrote eight blog posts for the month of February, which is a number that could definitely improve, but I also met my goal for the month.

Read at least one book: A+
I aced this!  I read Iscariot by Tosca Lee, Elsie Dinsmore, Elsie's Holidays at Roselands, Elsie's Girlhood, and Elsie's Motherhood, all by Martha Finley. 

Make a B or above on every single one of my first exams: B-
Unfortunately, not all of my exam grades were As or Bs, although some were.  I'm hoping to improve on the next round of tests. 

Go to bed earlier (before 2): F
Okay, I totally failed this.  Right after I wrote my February goals, I had a few activities for my college organization, and that Friday night, they kept us on location until after two in the morning.  Many other nights I was up studying and working on projects.  Although one night I made it to bed before midnight (because I had an awful headache), I would say about 70% of the time, I had no choice but to go to bed after two in the morning, which I still think is much too late! 

Get well: A
At the beginning of February, I was still dealing with many of the symptoms of the flu, which I got in early January.  Totally unacceptable!  My cough lasted forever.  I went to the doctor at the end of January and got some prescription medication for my cough and some antibiotics for a bacterial infection the flu caused.  It took a couple of weeks, but I can finally say I am 100% flu-free and healthy!

My overall monthly score was: B

Overall, I am not too disappointed with my score for this month.  Most nights, the sleep thing could not be avoided.  The grade score was the only thing that I really wish I could have improved upon.  Next month!

Tomorrow I will share my goals for the month of March!

Did you keep goals for the month of February?  If you did and shared your report card, leave the link in the comments below and I will share your scores on my blog.