Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Laughter on the Lake

If the theme of yesterday was relaxation, the theme for today was adventure.  Now, this is certainly a vacation of rest, so adventure may be a bit of an overstatement, but we did all try something new today. 

Grandpa Frank and my dad got up bright and early this morning, so the rest of us met up with them a little later to have lunch.  I got to catch a glimpse of the golf course, and it was beautiful!  So far, I have been incredibly impressed with the beauty of God's creation in North Carolina.  Everything seems to be green and flourishing with life.

Each night, I have been putting the pictures I take throughout the day on Facebook.  My family noticed that I take a lot of photographs of everyone else, but there weren't really any of me.  So we decided to fix that today.

Ali and I took pictures outside, but we couldn't help but take a sorority pose (or three).  This is a joke, but at our universities, girls who are in sororities are known to stick their waists together, place one hand on the hip, and lean as far backwards as they possibly can.  So we posed this way.

And then we wanted to learn farther.

Laughter rang through the peaceful air above the lake on this morning.

I find so much joy in my close-knit family: watching my little brother ignore any video game he might be playing back in Texas to take silly pictures of two of his big sisters who happened to be giggling like school girls, coaxing our dad to venture out on the lake, sharing secret laughs with my mom as we secretly snap a picture of someone in our group, the willingness of my grandparents to take several hours out of their days to spend time with us.

Eventually we even persuaded my little sister, Amy, to come out and pose for a picture.

As the sun drew higher in the sky, Grandpa Frank borrowed a jet-ski from the sweetest neighbors you could ever meet.  He puttered up to the dock and picked up my little brother, and then Ali and Amy, taking them on rides across the lake, far beyond my own view from where I stood, shielding my eyes with my hand.

After they disappeared from view, my brother tossed a blue mat into the water of the lake, keeping an eye out for snakes and proceeding to doze off as he floated further and further away.  When it comes to water, this boy is fearless.

I watched them, torn between a fear of the water and a desire to experience some semblance of adventure on this vacation.  The night before, Luke had said, "Emily, you are not courageous!" and I quickly replied, "Where am I going this summer?"  To Africa.  I may be frightened by green lakes or the deep oceans, but I have courage in other areas of my life.

However, I finally mustered up the courage to venture onto the jet-ski.  My mom decided to come along, even though she wasn't wearing a swimsuit.  The others had come back with dry hair and wide-stretched smiles, telling stories about the "Redneck Riviera" and skipping over waves.

We climbed upon the blue jet-ski, both grinning (although I was the only one out of the three of us who was frightened).  Grandpa Frank was good about going as smoothly as he could at first, until my shaking stopped (yes, I am that afraid of water) and the worst of my anxieties subsided.  After a few minutes passed, I had great fun!  We were out for perhaps thirty or forty minutes, bouncing on the water and feeling the wind strike our faces and tug at our hair.

When we arrived back at the house, we were only smiles and breathless stories.  Do I plan to swim in the lake after this?  No.  Was I able to have fun on such a small boat?  Yes!  And this is enough for now.

As the night drew to a close, we attended a graduation party for a neighbor and met kind friends of my grandparents.  Before the party, Grandma Marcia brought out her camera and took pictures of Ali and me beneath an arch blanketed in sweet-smelling white flowers.

Their backyard is beautiful!   

After returning home from the dinner, Luke and I watched the sun set on the lake.  It was a beautiful night, a perfect ending to a day like this one.

Now, I know the water was calm and we were in no real danger, but I could not help but re-read this passage tonight and mull over the reassurance I have been given in Christ.

Matthew 8:23-26
Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him.  Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke Him, saying, "Lord, save us!  We're going to drown!"  He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"  Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Three years ago: To the Hopefuls ;)
Two years ago: Packing for a Cruise: Miscellaneous
One year ago: Odd

Monday, May 27, 2013

He Leads Me Beside Quiet Waters

Today was perfect.  We woke up, ate some fruit for breakfast, and got ready to take a ride in my Grandpa Frank's boat.

It must be lovely to live along a lake.  The water whispers as it moves, never ceasing.  Rich trees offer any shade needed beyond the breeze that cools admirers of the lake from the glare of the winking sun.  My younger siblings, Luke and Amy, were thrilled to get out on the boat.

The last time we were in North Carolina was five years ago.  We all took turns clinging to a tube that trailed behind the boat as it sped across the lake, churning the water behind it.  The challenge was to see who could hold on the longest.  Amy and Luke's greatest desire of the day was to ride in the tube again.  A sweet neighbor allowed us to borrow their tube, which had been in storage for the last few years.

So we set out, the summer sun warming our faces and resting merrily upon each strand of our hair.  The water was smooth and calming.

I was reminded of Psalm 23, which says, "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul."  This is what our trip has been so far: a sweet time of refreshment and fellowship as our Father has allowed us to sit back and admire the beauty of His creation.

We were out on the water for most of the day.  

At first, we were unable to get the tube, so we took a leisurely cruise for a few hours.

Luke is the youngest of our group, and he was enraptured by the boat ride.  He has since announced that whatever he does with his life, he would like to one day live on the lake and own a boat.  I could see him in this world, so different from the desert plains where we live in Texas.  He has certainly made himself at home here.

At one point, Grandpa Frank guided us into a small, green cove.  Trees hung softly all around us.  The water was perfectly still.  He anchored the boat, and a few of us began to gather the floating mats tucked in storage.  The biggest concern was that the flimsy beds wouldn't hold someone up, so Luke was the first to gather the courage to lie down.  Amy was next.  

Ali was the most nervous (as she can't swim), so Grandpa Frank blew up a floating chair, so she made herself comfortable on that, her feet dangling in the water (for the fishes, we told her).  We wrapped the end of a rope around her wrist and tied it to the back of the boat, not to drag her along but to keep her from floating away.  She soon fell asleep. 

The rest of us stretched out on the comfortable seats of the boat and dozed under the grin of the sun.  The homes, the trees, the sky were all beautiful and serene.

At one point on our cruise, we actually passed the state line between North and South Carolina.  Funny that a lake extends across borders.  A man and his neighbor might be from entirely different states.

We had lunch after we arrived at the house, and then the competitions began.  Ali, Amy, my mom, and I have been doing a plank challenge, and Lukie began to boast that planking isn't difficult at all.  "Plank then.  Right now," we said, so he got into a plank position.  After about twenty seconds, his arms began to shake.  He said, "The ground is too hard here," so he moved into the house.  He planked directly in front of a window so we could time him with a stopwatch.  He managed the three minutes of our challenge, although he struggled.  Of course, my funny 13-year-old brother came outside shrugging, saying, "No, that wasn't hard at all."  

Soon after, Grandpa Frank came out carrying a funny wheel with handles.  He had Luke try to exercise with this tool.  It was more difficult than it looked.

Ali also tried, but Luke beat everyone in this exercise.  

Soon after, we returned to the boat.  My dad came along this time.  We had the inner tube, although this one was much more comfortable than the tube we used five years ago (which dismayed Luke and pleased Amy).  We set out a ways into open water, and then Luke crawled into the tube, bobbing gently in the lake water.  We tethered him with a long rope to the back of the boat, and the challenge began.

At one point, we reached some rocking waves, and Luke's tube nearly flipped.  The rope went slack, so we were certain it had snapped.  We slowed down and returned to where Lukie was clambering to hold onto the yellow tube.  It turns out, the entire bottom had been torn off of the tube!  It was so old that it had been ripped to pieces by the waves.  And that was the end of our tubing adventure.  

A little later, Luke was even allowed to drive the boat!  This may have been his proudest moment of our vacation so far.  

We sat on the dock for a little while, just to talk, and watched with delight as a man paddled by in his canoe, with a little dog perched eagerly at the front of his boat.  I had to snap a picture. 

At the end of the day, our family went out for dinner and then ran to Target.  I brought an older suitcase I got right before I traveled to Europe when I was twelve.  This was the flight that ended its life.  When we were returned my suitcase, it was riddled with gaping holes.  We got a new, larger suitcase tonight on sale (that I will be bringing to Kenya in June), as well as the board game Taboo.  

And like always, Ali and I talked late into the night.

Three years ago: Poverty: Water and Sanitation
Two years ago: Packing for a Cruise: Toiletries
One year ago: Ten Books

Thursday, May 23, 2013



How good You are that I may seek You.
You answer. You answer.
Your voice gentler than the wind,
Yet raging like the sea.
You answer. You answer.

Your eyes are fire, yet You are tender.
You whisper. You whisper.
You comfort me when I am broken,
Yet still my heart wanders.
You whisper. You whisper.

You love broken clay like me, like me.
You are faithful. You are faithful.
I stumble and I fall away,
Yet even then You save me.
You are faithful. You are faithful.


Two years ago: I am so blessed.
One year ago: I like these songs.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Credit for this photo goes to Coca-Cola
I am a college student, and in one of my communications classes last semester, we spent a day discussing Coca-Cola's revolutionary advertising strategies.  Coca-Cola was the first to equate happiness with a drink... at least, with a nonalcoholic beverage.  Their "Open Happiness" campaign was hugely successful. 

Our society is desperate to find true happiness, and when we can't, we seek to have the appearance of being happy.  If everyone else looks happy, then we should do whatever it takes to look even happier.  If happiness is buying a bottle of Coke, then so be it.

We tend to fall into bragging by pretending to share our blessings.  I have sure done this.  How many times have you captured a picture of a yummy cup of coffee or a laughing group of your friends and posted it online with a hashtag like #blessed?  How many times have you taken to Facebook or Twitter to announce how fantastic your day is going?  It feels great to use social media as a tool of showing everyone around you that you're happy.  You're successful.  You have friends.  Your life is just as good as anyone else's, if not better.

It's easy to forget the difference between temporary happiness and joy.  The Lord sustains and provides.  He gives all joy, and no material thing, no relationship, no accomplishment can ever be enough without Him.

I'm not saying it's wrong to share about your good day on social networking sites.  It's great to be happy.  It's great to share your happiness with others.  It's great to praise the Lord with a joyful and sincere heart. But it's not great to boast, and it's not great to seek joy from anything other than the Lord, whether it's through a bottle of Coca-Cola or the number of likes on a Facebook status.  

Joy comes from the Lord.  Psalm 63:5 says, "My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips."  He gives every good thing. 

Christ is joy.  Nothing else of this earth really matters.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 
Psalm 73:25-26

Two years ago: Apology
One year ago: Ways you can win my heart.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How to Find Community in the Summer

The first summer after I started college is marked in my memory as a summer of trial.  In part, this is because my family was having a difficult time.  My grandma found out she had breast cancer, my little sister was struggling, and my household seemed entirely attacked by the enemy.  Another big struggle for me last summer was loneliness.

While I'm at college, I am a member of a few Bible studies, Christian organizations, and outreach.  My church is a place where I feel at home.  Community surrounds me.  This is where I was at the end of my second semester of college... and then I came home.

I suddenly felt stranded from the college-aged community that had blessed me so much.  I don't connect well with my home church.  There was no young adult Bible study or college ministry available.  Many of my friends didn't stay in town for the summer or they had drifted away from their faith since high school.  In a town you might call the buckle of the Bible belt, I struggled to find any form of community.  And it was hard.

You may be concerned about the same for this summer.  Whether or not you're returning from college, these next three months can be a time of spiritual drought or of sweet, refreshing time spent with Jesus.

Today I will share some tips that have helped me in finding Christian community during the summer.

1.)  Create community.  If you go to seek out a small group or Bible study within your church that fits your needs and you cannot find any, do not resign yourself to being stranded without community.  You are not stuck.  Perhaps the Lord has placed an opportunity to lead and serve in your lap.

If you cannot find community, spend time asking the Lord to provide it.  And be prepared to be the one He asks to take leadership.

2.)  Branch out.  If you are seeking out community in the form of a Bible study or small group, but it isn't something your home church offers, don't be afraid to seek out community from other churches for the summer.  You can continue to attend your home church regularly, but join another church's Bible study.

This is no form of betrayal.  Whether or not we use different buildings, we are the Body of Christ.  We have one Head in Jesus Christ.  Community must not only be found within the walls of your church and among the faces of your congregation.  If your church is not meeting a need and is unable to do so, allow another part of the Body of Christ to fill you in that way. 

3.)  Find community within your family.  You may have parents, siblings, or even grandparents who are devoted to the Lord and actively pursuing Christ.  If so, consider starting a time of worship within your household.  God created families as units of love and community.  Do not be afraid to seek this out from yours.

If you do not live in a Christian home, this may not be able to apply to you, but continue to lift your family up to the Lord.  He is so faithful.

4.)  Don't go into the summer expecting sameness.  If you are still in school, summers will obviously be different from the school year.  Your schedule and routine will change.  Your source of community will probably change.  And as wonderful or as difficult as your summer may have been last year, it will not be the same this time around.  Your emotions will be different.  Your experiences will vary.  Your family life will work in a slightly different way.  You will have grown further in your relationship with the Lord.

Do not rely on high or low expectations to define your summer before it even begins.  It's going to be different than it ever has been before.  Be prepared to spend three months in newness and growth in Christ.  In a summer of wilderness or a summer of refreshment, the Lord desires to fill you with good things.

5.)  Use this time to rest in the presence of the Lord.  With each tip listed above, you may be thinking, "This won't work.  I am completely alone this summer."  No matter how stranded you are from a community of believers, do not feel overwhelmed or alone.  You have not been forsaken.

This time may be a gift from a Father who desires to spend more one-on-one time with you.  Perhaps community and involvement have become more important to you than your personal relationship with Christ.  Community is sweet, but quiet time spent kneeling at the foot of His throne is even sweeter.

If you are approaching a summer of loneliness and lack of community, do not fear.  Use this time for resting in the presence of your Abba.  He longs to commune with you.  He is eager to spend this summer shaping your gaze until it rests fully on Him and His perfect, unfaltering love for you.

As long as you are in His presence, you are not alone.

Lamentations 3:22-26
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

One year ago: I can't frat snap.

Monday, May 20, 2013

5 Things: Chacos and Favor!

Five things on my mind today are:

1.)  I got my first pair of Chacos!  I love them.  Everyone said it would take a while to get used to the toe-strap, but so far, the shoes have been super comfortable!  What do you think?

2.)  I'm back to interning at Christian Relief Fund for the summer.  Working there has been such a huge blessing in my life the last year and a half, and I am so thrilled to be back serving orphans through this organization.  I've been blessed beyond measure. 

3.)  My little dog, Jack.  Being home for the summer gives us time together, which means I get to take all sorts of pictures of this photogenic dog.

Since I've photographed Jack since he was only six weeks old, I truly believe that he understands to an extent what it means when I want him to pose.  When I pull out the camera, he pauses for a moment and then goes on with his business (and boy, is he a busy little thing).

We've had to put a gate at the bottom of the stairs that lead to my bedroom or he'll leave surprises.  Well, this devastates him, so this is Jack's pitiful reaction to being locked out of my area of the house.

4.) I've been exercising every day and trying to eat healthier.  Last semester, I was overwhelmed, stressed out, and dealing with a lot of anxiety, so I let my health go down quite a bit.  I want to make that up this summer.  I've given up most of my soda-drinking.  I've been exercising for at least thirty minutes every day.  I've also been trying to cook a little more.  If you know me at all, you'll know how clumsy I am in the kitchen.

However, I'm taking steps!  A couple of days ago, I made some salmon.  I'm pretty proud of this meal.  And yes, those are two of my dogs begging for a bite of my salmon.

In two weeks, I have lost four pounds.  Since I wasn't even trying to lose weight, I am pretty pumped about those results. 

5.)  The Lord's faithfulness in providing for my trip to Kenya, Africa this summer.  I'll talk a little bit more about that soon, but He is providing daily in ways I never could have thought to ask.  I have received a camera to take on the trip.  Also, so many of my sweet friends donated their textbooks to sell towards my and my grandma's fundraising.  Through the textbook drive alone, we were able to raise more than $240.  Favor!

What are five things on your mind? 

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Let me write you a story about a woman named Grace. 

Grace is a widow in her sixties.  She is beautiful, in her own way.  Her brown eyes and the lines on her face tell a story, and this gives her an elegance that can only be admired.  She has lived a life of tears and joys.  She has much wisdom to share.

Grace is smart.  She knows how to work a field and coax crops into growing with hardly any rain.  She knows how to turn only a little into a meal for an entire family.  She can haggle prices in a vegetable market like no one you'll ever meet.  She can sew a hem and quiet rowdy hens and rock a child to sleep.  She is trilingual and loves her rich cultural heritage.  Oh, Grace has stories that can make you laugh and cry at the same time. 

She was born into a time of financial difficulty, with parents who struggled to keep food on the table.  This is why Grace was unable to finish school, not because she was unintelligent or lazy.  She isn't sure how old she was when Grace dropped out to help her father work their land and to help her mother raise her younger brothers and sisters the best she could. 

Eventually Grace married a farmer, just like her dad.  She loved and respected her husband, and he cherished her.  They had three children: two girls and a boy.  They were the apples of Grace's eye.  When they had children of their own, Grace could only thank the Lord for bringing her so much joy.  Twelve beautiful grandchildren, all with big smiles and eager minds and little hands ready to help out around the house whenever they came to visit.

Grace grieved when her husband passed away.  His body was older than his mind.  As a widow, Grace struggled with her own finances.  She tried to keep the crops alive on her own, but she faced her own physical ailments that made hard labor difficult.  A bad back and achy knee had plagued her for several years now.  Grace did her best, but each day was a challenge.

Sometimes life doesn't go the way you want it to.  One-by-one, Grace's adult children died from a terrible disease, leaving their children in their grandmother's care.  While Grace adored each of her grandchildren, her world crashed into a reality of fear and desperation.  She could barely provide for herself, let alone for twelve growing grandchildren that filled her tiny house beyond belief.  How could they all fit by the time they were in their teens, if they made it that far?

But Grace works on.  She keeps a smile on her face, because she'd rather work in joy than in sorrow.  Her desire is for each of her grandchildren to finish school, because this is what Grace wishes she could have had.  And at the end of each long day, after managing to find something for her large family to eat or sending her babies to bed with empty tummies and tear-streaked faces, Grace retires for a few hours.

Slowly and painfully, bad back and all, she gets on her knees and prays to her Heavenly Father to come and provide a way for her grandchildren to make it through the week,  She pleads with the Lord to provide food for the next day, to have compassion on her family.  Grace is getting older.  Her body is beginning to fail her now, just as it did her late husband's, but she refuses to give up hope.  Without her, her grandbabies will be alone.  Grace believes her God is a God who saves.  She repeats this to the children every morning and every night.  And she waits.

Grace's story may sound similar to the story of your own grandmother or even great-grandmother, although most likely filled with more tragedy and loss.  If you were to ask your great-grandma what she remembered about her childhood, she would probably share stories of working hard each day to keep food on the table, of living in constant worry that the crops would fail and leave the family hungry.

The story I shared about Grace is like the stories of millions of women in Africa today.  They aren't just nameless statistics.  They are people.  They are grandmas.  They are hard-working women who know what it means to sacrifice, to love, to lose everything in the world that is dear to them and keep on surviving.  These women are strong.  The Lord has not forgotten them.

God desires to use those of us who have been blessed with prosperity to love those who are needy.  His heart is filled with compassion and mercy and love.

The truth is that many adults in Africa are dying from AIDS, leaving their children as orphans.  And in countries like Kenya, the elderly are left to provide for their young grandkids with no means of income.

How can you change any of this?  Consider sponsoring a child and helping to support an impoverished family.  You can be one to lift the burden from the shoulders of the elderly.  You can provide a family with hope in Jesus.

Isaiah 46:4
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Two years ago: Making Memories

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Late-Night Prayer


It is very late tonight, but here I am, sitting beneath the stars You made, listening to Your voice in the wind.  It is an honor to sit here and speak with You, one-on-one, to sing to You, to taste Your love in the sky and in the grass.  Your majesty fills this place.

Tonight I lift up the girl who is reading this prayer.  I'm not certain who she is or what she is doing right now, but I ask that you whisper to her heart.  Transcend Your peace upon her in a way more powerful than she has ever experienced.  Speak beautiful stories to her.  Romance her through songs of love.  Make her blush at the sound of her name spoken from Your mouth, at the sweet desire and affection You have for her that shines in Your eyes.

Destroy any idols in her heart tonight.  Snatch the Baals from her lips.  Draw her deep into the wilderness, away from distraction and exhaustion and striving.  Beckon her into the wilderness and then wash away the dust until there is only restoration and new life.

Where there is fear, bring boldness.  Where there is weakness, bring transformation.  Where there is affliction, bring comfort.  Where there is pain, bring healing.  Where there is rejection, bring identity in Your Name alone.

Your song echoes in the stars tonight.  Your glory shines.  Your presence is so near.  Walk with me.  Hold my hand.  Hold her hand.  Let anything in this place other than what You desire flee.  Replace brokenness with what glorifies You.  You are worthy.  So worthy.  Let Your Name be praised, Father.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Burden of Love

Some days, I carry a heavy burden on my shoulders.  As I focus on college things, like all-nighters and rounds of coffee and buying new textbooks, I am often plagued with guilt.  There is a child right now living on the street with an aching stomach, literally dying of hunger, and here I am in line for Happy Hour at Sonic while studying for an exam for a class I don't even like.  And the burden grows heavier.

In January, I caught the flu.  My fever gradually inclined throughout the night hours until I woke around four in the morning, caught in a vivid dream I confused with reality.  Several ghostly African girls stood around my bed.  They clutched at my blankets, asking over and over, "Why didn't you help me?  Why didn't you help me?"  It took me far too long to entirely wake, and when I did, I was shaking so hard that I could hardly swallow the aspirin that would ease my fever.

The weight of the burden I place upon myself is heavier than I realize.

As clearly as I have been called by God to serve the hungry, I often get something completely wrong.  My call to love orphans is not meant to be a terrible burden.  When Jesus called me to look after orphans and widows in their distress, He didn't want the overflow of love from His heart to cause nightmares and anxiety and feelings of hopelessness at the state of brokenness of this earth.  These things are of a self-imposed burden, not of the Lord's call.

What I often forget is that Christ did not ask me to single-handedly end poverty.  He did not ask me to stand up and change the world.  And while this is a romantic, thrilling challenge, it is not what I was called to do.  God's love changes the world.  No human effort can ever come close to comparing.  I was only called to love and to serve in the joyous hope that His glory will shine throughout the nations.  And it will.

I was not called to end poverty, but I was called to serve the poor.  I was not called to feed every starving child on this planet, but I was called to look after orphans.  As long as we live on a broken earth, there will be poverty.  I am here to serve as long as my heart is beating, but placing the weight of the world on my shoulders will do nothing but spend me until every part of me crumbles.

The calling on my life was meant to be a source of freedom.  My life has been filled with so much love and so many blessings.  My heart is full to the point of overflow.  Jesus is merely allowing me to love others because He loves them and His Spirit is in me.  He is allowing me to be used as an instrument for His love, and this is an honor.  The fact that the God of the universe is allowing my hands and my heart to be used for serving others is precious.

Now, let me clarify.  The fact that there are starving children in this world should bring sorrow.  If it breaks the heart of God, it should break my heart as well.  But having a burden of grief for the ones who are lost is different than carrying a burden of complete responsibility on my shoulders.  Ultimately, I should feel joy, hope, and freedom because Christ's love is victorious.  

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 

Three years ago: Loss: The Initial Shock
Two years ago: Prank War: Ambushed
One year ago: The Explanation

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Maintaining a Fruitful Quiet Time in Summer (Part II)

If you missed last Tuesday's post, check it out here.

Here are a few more tips and encouragements to maintaining a fruitful quiet time during the summer months.

Journal during your quiet times.  Write down prayers as well as praises.  Keep notes of things you learn from your quiet time, questions you have, and where you are reading in the Bible.  Consider taking notes when you are at church.

Journaling, even if if it doesn't come naturally to you and you don't have much to say, is ultimately such a blessing for your spiritual walk.  In a matter of weeks and over the years, you can look back and tangibly see and remember ways the Lord has moved in your life, as well as how you have grown in your faith.

Don't be afraid to skip around.  While I encourage you to finish an entire book in order to get its full meaning, it's okay to read from a few places at once.  In a typical quiet time, I read chapters from three or four places in the Bible.  I go through each book (over the course of a few weeks), but I read from several.  For example, I am currently going through Ruth, Psalms, Jeremiah, and John.  When I finish John, I will probably begin Galatians, and so on.

I often use the idea of reading from two books in the Old Testament, at least one in the New Testament, and then a Psalm.  By moving around each day, I am able to see God's powerful plans from a broad perspective.  Seeing a passage from John relate so clearly to a prophecy in Jeremiah is amazing.  The Gospel is declared fully from Genesis to Revelation, and it is a precious thing to see God's love proclaimed from a book as obscure as Zechariah.  I've been asked how I keep track of where I am.  Bookmarks, of course!

If you are uncomfortable switching around in a day, try moving after you finish each book of the Bible.  There is something difficult in moving in order through the Bible.  It's easy to become burned out if in the last three months, you've only read from Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Bring balance to the time you spend in the Word. 

Mark where you've read.  One of the most helpful quiet time tips I have ever received came from Ben Stuart, the head of Breakaway Ministries.  He keeps a weekly podcast, and last summer he taught about quiet times.  The link for the episode is here.  I gained so much from his advice.

Stuart encourages listeners to mark in your Bible after you have read each book.  While some books are more difficult to read than others, they are all the Word of God.  Each page holds valuable treasure worth studying.  When you have your quiet time, it is easy to read from John and James a hundred times and never turn to books like Hosea or Habakkuk to find the truths held within them.

Each time you read a book of the Bible, make an "x" next to its name in the Table of Contents.  In a few months, look back.  If you have multiple "x's" next to some books and nothing by others, it may be time to change up what you're reading.  Keeping track of where you've read in the Bible will help you to read God's Word in its wholeness, which will be so beneficial to your growth. 

I hope these challenges and ideas were a source of encouragement to you.  Remember that these were all ideas I have personally found beneficial in maintaining a fruitful quiet time.  The time you spend with God will look different, and that's a good thing.  Spend time with Jesus in prayer, worship, and the Word, and your quiet time will be fruitful, no matter what tools you use.

Two years ago: Blogging: When to Write

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Praying for Freshmen

I'm involved with a Christian organization at my university.  We have the opportunity to love on incoming freshmen and pray for them over the year before they come to our school.

Today I'd like to remind you to pray for the class of 2017.  A bunch of high school seniors are graduating around this time, and if they are feeling anything like I was, they're utterly terrified.  College can seem like a vast unknown that holds so many fears and temptations.

I started college feeling so very frustrated with the church.  I planned to get involved with a Bible study and not bother to find a church home.  My jaded heart felt like the church was broken beyond repair.  On top of this, I was extremely anxious about finding any kind of Christian community at a secular college.  I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to handle living nine hours away from everyone I loved.  The summer before college was a time of anxiety and wondering.  

There were people praying for me long before they ever knew my name.  And the Lord was faithful.  He led me to become part of a church community that is focused on Christ.  He brought sweet friends and a wonderful community to my life.  He showed me that I could have two homes nine hours away from each other and be loved in both places.  College has been a blessing for me and a powerful time of growth in my relationship with the Lord.

So many incoming freshmen are uninterested in pursuing the Lord in college.  Perhaps they're burned out on religion and the church like I was, perhaps they are more interested in partying than in worship, perhaps they have never known Jesus.  And as they prepare to enter into the three months of anxious waiting before college begins, what we can do is blanket them in prayer.

Pray for the incoming freshmen, that they will hear the Gospel and open their hearts, that they will rise up as leaders for their community, and that they will be shining lights for Christ at their universities.

If you're a member of the incoming class of 2017, let me know.  I'm praying for you already, but I would love to pray for you by name.

Also, my friend Jack wrote an awesome blog post about loving homosexual people.  It's super powerful and Biblical.  Check it out.

Two years ago: Why I Wear a Purity Ring

Saturday, May 11, 2013

In Your Hands

In Your Hands

I am accepted. I belong
in Your hands, in Your hands.
When I'm weak, You are strong.
I'm in Your hands, in Your hands.

I live to worship You alone,
in Your hands, in Your hands.
See me dance. Watch me run.
I'm in Your hands, in Your hands.

You're bigger than my every fear.
I'm in Your hands, in Your hands.
It's joy to know that You are near.
I'm in Your hands, in Your hands.


Thursday, May 9, 2013


The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship by A.W. Tozer.  This is a compelling and challenging book about how we were created to worship God and about the emptiness of life without worship.  I am learning a lot from Tozer's words so far.

Tomorrow I will be leaving to return home for the summer, and every time I go on a long road trip, I listen to one of Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre tellings of the Chronicles of Narnia.  These audio books are so good.  I have listened (and read) each book probably fifteen times or more, but I continue to enjoy them.  I can't decide which book I'll listen to during my nine hour drive home this time.  At this point, I'm thinking I will choose The Last Battle.

In the Bible, I am getting a lot out of the book of Ruth.  I am inexperienced and naive, so as I have continued college, I have been asking the Lord to show me what it means to glorify Him completely whenever the time comes for me to enter into a romantic relationship.  Ruth has been a challenging depiction of a godly relationship that focuses on obeying the Lord. 

to the soundtrack for Pirates of the Caribbean I and II.  I've been studying for finals almost solid the last two weeks.  I like to study to instrumental music, and this soundtrack is phenomenal.  Over the summer, I am challenging myself to learn how to play this song on the piano (although perhaps a slightly easier version).  

uhhh... this one is difficult to explain.  I am trying to reduce the number of sodas I drink.  Although I like water, I get bored of it easily.  I love soda, but I know it is so bad for my body.  I have been trying a bunch of different flavored drinks lately.

Somewhat of a winner is Arizona Kiwi Strawberry Tea.  I like it, but it still has the slight taste of tea, which makes me not love it so much.  I also like Welch's Cran-Grape and Cran-Cherry juice, but they are high in sugar and I don't care for the diet versions.  My roommate, Rebecca, tried to get me to like Coconut Water, but I don't like the taste of coconut, so I tired of that quickly as well.

If you have a suggestion of something sweet and semi-healthy to drink, let me know.  I will happily check it out. 

about my long drive home tomorrow.  There is always something a little nerve-wracking about driving for nine (or more) solid hours.

I am also praying for the results of my final exams and class grades.  One class in particular is so important.  I would appreciate prayers for the Lord's provision through my grades.  I studied so hard for each of these classes, and I am trying to trust that God will be faithful during my time in college.  Stress is not of His plan for me at all!

about what to pack for my trip to Kenya.  Although nearly everything I own is packed up and stuffed into the back of my car, I have a little suitcase reserved especially for what I am planning to take to Africa this summer.  I will be gone for two weeks, so I need several days' worth of long skirts and modest shirts, as well as small gifts to give my hosts and new friends, toiletries, and lightweight travel essentials.  I am actually pretty far along in my packing, but new ideas keep lingering in my mind.

How do you remember everything to pack when you are going on a long trip?

Two years ago: Little Things

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Maintaining a Fruitful Quiet Time in Summer (Part I)

A common summer struggle is maintaining a regular quiet time.  During the school year, you have a routine: spending time in the Word before your first class, one-on-one time with God before you go to bed at night, but then summer begins and everything spins off-kilter.  Your schedule changes and it's far too easy to put quiet times on the back burner.  Suddenly, you sleep in late and stay out with friends until the early morning hours.  You spend a few weeks at a camp or on a family vacation and you just keep forgetting to spend time with your Father.

Perhaps you've been struggling to keep a quiet time for a while now and you would like to use this summer to focus on creating time each day to spend on prayer and growth in your relationship with Jesus.

While 2 Thessalonians 5:17 tells Christians to pray continually, you should still make time to sit and commune with God, the Creator of the universe, the Father who longs for you to know Him more.  Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."  It is important to live each day in conversation with the Lord, but there is also so much value in spending focused one-on-one time with Him.

If you are eager to begin this summer with a renewed focus on your quiet times, I will be sharing ideas and encouragements today and next Tuesday.

1.) Make goals, not rules.  One of the biggest mistakes I've made when having quiet times is planning a detailed routine instead of simply spending time with my Father because it brings me delight and because He is worthy to be praised.  Be cautious as you make quiet time plans, such as going through the Bible in a year or following a study schedule.  While these challenges are great tools to staying accountable and better knowing the Word, they can easily drain the passion and life right out of your quiet times.

A few years back, I committed to reading through the Bible in a year.  The tool I used had me reading through several chapters a day.  Reading five chapters of Numbers in a row and then ending my quiet time on that note was difficult.  On days when I was busy and only read one chapter, I found myself feeling stressed out because I had nine chapters to read the next day.  Needless to say, after a few months, I quit.  I felt burned out and tired because of the quiet time legalism I had created for myself.

Time with the Lord should not be burdensome.  It should be filled with restoration and great joy.  Communion with your Creator is a precious thing.

If you choose to use a year-long Bible reading tool, don't follow it religiously.  If you miss days, there is no need to overwhelm yourself trying to catch up.  If you finish in fourteen months instead of twelve, it's fine.

Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you as you study the Word.  Some days, you might spend a couple of hours worshiping and reading through the Gospels.  Other days, you might read a few verses from Proverbs.  There may be days when you forget.  Don't establish stressful rules for yourself.  Seek the Lord and spend the time with Him that you need.  A daily quiet time does not always need to look the same.

2.) Devotionals are not meant to replace spending time in the Word.  You may be searching for a devotional to use during your quiet time.  These are helpful tools to add growth and passion to your time in the Word.  During spiritual droughts, devotionals can offer encouragement, as well as helpful information when you are struggling to understand certain passages. 

There are some daily devotionals that are filled with joyful truths, like My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers and Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  If you choose to use a daily devotional, be sure not to become entangled in routine or allow your devotional to be more important to your daily quiet time than the Word.

From experience, I once used a year-long daily devotional during my quiet time.  It bothered me to miss a day in the book, so if I was in a hurry that day, I would read from the devotional rather than spend time gleaning from the actual Bible.

Devotionals do not replace time spent in God's Word.  They are only to encourage growth and understanding as you continue to study the Bible.

Sometimes, instead of a daily devotional, I've used inspirational Christian books during my quiet time, such as Crazy Love by Francis Chan, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, or Live Like a Jesus Freak by dc Talk.  These books have encouraged me to live a passionate lifestyle, while pointing me to truths in the Bible.  I have also read chapters from autobiographies and biographies of influential Christian missionaries like Amy Carmichael and George Muller, eager to see how they walked with Christ.  Again, these books are wonderful encouragements, but they do not replace time spent in the actual Word.

Finally, you could consider using a study Bible or Apologetics tools to help you further your understanding of the Word.  You could also use varying translations of the Bible.

Devotionals can be huge blessings as you take time to grow in the Word, but they are meant to be helpful tools for quiet times, never the focus.

Next week, I will finish tips for maintaining a fulfilling quiet time over the summer.

Two years ago: How Jesus's Sacrifice Can Make Sense to Muslims and Blogging: The Right Name
One year ago: Tatters