Sunday, December 18, 2011

An empty church filled with people

What does God think about "Christians" that attend church, but do not live out their faith? Is He content with knowing that they're at least hearing the message? I mean, the church is for the sick, not the healthy... right?

We all know these people: they come (most) every Sunday, but you rarely see them serving others in the church or otherwise; they occasionally throw a couple bucks in the offering box, but they don't tithe 10% of their income or give until it hurts; they often say good things in church, but if you look at their life at home, work, or school, it's a completely different story. What does the Bible say about these people?

"Through him [Jesus Christ] and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith." (Romans 1:1)

Our actions as believers do not earn us our salvation or get us to rightousness--on the contrary, they are the result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, if someone's life is not showing obedience to God, what is that saying about their faith?

"For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." (Romans 2:13)

It is not merely our vast understanding of the Bible that will lead us to righteousness (or right-ness in the eyes of God), but salvation and faith through Christ Jesus, lived out through our obedience.

"Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.'
Jesus replied, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.' "
(Matthew 8:20)

Jesus didn't seem to be interested in building his numbers as quickly as possible. There are several accounts of Him warning people that --if you want to follow Him--you have to make major sacrifices in your life.

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15-16)

Speaking to the church in Laodicea, God makes it clear that He is uninterested in the lukewarm Christian. Following these verses, in verse 17, He goes on to describe them as "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" . . .I guess I never looked at the average pew-warming, lukewarm Christian in this way.

"Then He will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me othing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I need clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
They will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
(Matthew 5:41-46)

This was the most convicting passage for me; God's requirements for eternal life was not solely based on the redemption of Jesus Christ, but also on how we live our lives as a result of His free gift. What good is a dead faith to God?

All of this being said, I believe that God is not interested in people following Him with a noncommitted heart. . . because He wants all of our heart. He sent His own son to die for us so that we could be saved (John 3:16-17), and every single person is in desperate need of that salvation:

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace throught the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:22-23)




*All Bible verses are taken from the New International Version.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Sprit intercedes for us through wordless groans...

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Romans 8:26

Last night, I wasn't doing so great. Overwhelmed from my day, I sat in my room as tears streamed down my face. I whispered prayers without words, my heart unable to express to God how much I needed Him in that moment.

I was about to just go to sleep when I felt the desire to pray. Knowing that I needed God's comfort, I pulled out my Bible reading plan. The first chapter for the day was Psalm 42, and from the very first line, I knew that God's Spirit was speaking my prayers through the words of the chapter. When I didn't know the words to express my pain and need for God, the Spirit knew.

Here are the words of that Psalm; words written thousands of years ago by a distant and foreign king, yet still somehow the words my heart could not find.....


Psalm 42
1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
   so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
   When can I go and meet with God?
3
My tears have been my food
   day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
   “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
   as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
   under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
   among the festive throng.

 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.

 6 My soul is downcast within me;
   therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
   the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
   in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
   have swept over me.
 8 By day the LORD directs his love,
   at night his song is with me—
   a prayer to the God of my life.

 9 I say to God my Rock,
   “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
   oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
   as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
   “Where is your God?”
 11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thinking or Planning? A Look Into Jeremiah 29:11

            Four hundred years after the completion of its first printing, the King James Version of the Bible is still commonly used and accepted as one of the most trustworthy English Bibles. Because of its widespread credibility, the King James Version has penetrated the English language to the point where scholars agree that it is one of the strongest influences on the development of the English Language (Crystal, 62); however, in more recent years, the King James Version is slowly becoming obsolete within the evangelical Christian culture. New translations are overtaking the King James Version's monopoly of Biblical authority because the newer versions are written in a form of English that is easier for the common man to understand. In addition, today's Biblical translators have both a better understanding of and an older source for the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts than the translators of the King James Version had in 1611 (Hamlin, 19).
            With both the old and new translations coexisting, debate about which translation to accept as “correct” is prevalent. Theological differences often arise because of the variations in the words chosen for each translation. An example of this type of difference can be found in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, verse 29:11. At first glance, the King James Version appears to be saying that God has good “thoughts” towards the Israelites, yet the New International Version states that God has good “plans” for the Israelites. This word deviation could add to or detract from the debate of whether God has a plan for Christians and is actively orchestrating their lives or not. When comparing the New International Version's translation of Jeremiah 29:11 to the King James Version, the two may appear to be contradictory; however, upon digging deeper, we find that the two translations convey the same message about God's providence.
The New International Version
            “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Zondervan NIV Study Bible, 1188). In modern Christianity, the New International Version's translation of Jeremiah 29:11 is often quoted as a verse that reflects the good plans that God has for His followers. Christians frequently find hope in the belief that God has their life planned out for them and plans to give them “hope and a future.” In contrary to the belief—or maybe complementary to the belief—of free will, Christians accept the promise of God’s plans as an assurance that they don't have to worry when they go through hard times. One renowned Christian author, Leslie Ludy, writes about her own experience of surrendering her will to the plan that she believes God has for her:
I remember when God first challenged me to give up trying to write my own love story and allow Him to do with this area of my life exactly as He saw fit. I hesitatingly gave the "pen" of my love story to the Author of romance, worrying that I would end up with a bleak, drab, dismal, second-rate version of love as a result . . . . Now I laugh at my ridiculous fears. Jesus Christ takes very good care of the things we entrust to Him. The love story that He wrote for me was completely beyond anything I ever could have hoped for or imagined (Ludy, 34).
This passage from Ludy's book, Set-Apart Femininity, is a reflection of how Christians believe that God has good things in store for them. Bible verses like the New International Version's Jeremiah 29:11 can encourage this belief because of how it states that God has good plans for His people.
The King James Version
            “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (King James Version). In this translation of Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord is admitting good thoughts toward the Israelites. His thoughts for them are “of peace, and not of evil,” but they do not necessarily carry any providential weight. Whereas the New International Version speaks of specific “plans” for the Israelites, the King James Version uses the word “thoughts” and does not appear to support the theology of God having an active plan for His people. To look beyond this initial interpretation, English Baptist pastor and theologian John Gill (1697-1771) brings into perspective the usage of the word “thoughts” in Jeremiah 29:11 and how it applies to the Christian life:
these [thoughts] were within him, and known to him, and him only; they were remembered by him, and continued with him, as the "thoughts of his heart are to all generations"; and so would not fail of being performed; men think and forget what they have thoughts of, and so it comes to nothing; but thus it is not with God; he has taken up many thoughts in a way of love, grace, and mercy, concerning sinful men; about their election in Christ; a provision of all spiritual blessings for them; redemption and salvation by Christ; their effectual calling, adoption, and eternal life (Exposition of the Entire Bible, Jeremiah 29).
Gill breaks down this passage clearly by contrasting human thoughts with God's thoughts. Whereas the thoughts of humans are fleeting, the Christian view of God is that He is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. God's thoughts would not fail to be carried out.
            Gill's commentary is not merely a fluffing of the original text because the verse concludes by saying that God's thoughts for the Israelites will lead to “an expected end.” This end implies that the believer's life does in fact have a God-planned ending for them.
Conclusion
            To the common reader skimming over these verses, the word choice alone could make the two translations appear to be contradictory. The substitution of “thoughts” for “plans” in the King James Version could cause a crisis of faith; the promise and assurance they had been relying upon could come crashing down. After a comparison of the New International Version to the King James Version, we find that the two translations convey the same message about God's plans for the Israelites.
            In light of all this, why would Christians desire for God to have a plan for their lives—it seems to contradict the idea of free will. Renowned Christian author, C.S. Lewis, faced head-on the debate of free will versus God's plans for each person. In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis says that
free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having…. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free (53).
As with the former excerpt by Leslie Ludy, the idea of surrendering to the will of God is not often viewed as a loss of free will within the Christian life but the choice of accepting God's plan over their own. Jeremiah 29:11 is a beautiful verse that speaks of the plans that God holds for His people, whether accepted from the King James Version or the New International Version.


Works Cited
Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge University Press, 1995, 2003. Print.
Gill, John. Exposition of the Entire Bible. Book of Jeremiah. www.freegrace.net/gill/. Accessed 11/16/11. Print converted to Web.
Hamlin, Hannibal; Jones, Norman W. The King James Bible after 400 years: literary, linguistic, and cultural influences. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.
King James Version. www.biblegateway.com. Web.
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: Touchstone, 1996. Print.
Ludy, Leslie. Set-Apart Femininity. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008. Print.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Zondervan Publishing Company, 2002. Print.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Heart's Desires

Gaze drifts over my shoulder
Rose-colored eyes fade to grey
My heart mistranslated
Turn past my title page

I lay and dream that winters surround me
Yet fire's heat dance on my cheeks
Petals of sweetness kiss my lips
And I gently succumb to sleep

Take me beyond my dreams to reality
Fulfill my secluded longings
Whisk me away and prove to me love
That finds my heart's depths

I sense our path before us bears
To redeem my every dream
Silk conceals my toes by you
Rise to cherish me

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pink Polish Panick!

Nineteen months ago, my parents adopted a beautiful baby girl named Alyssa--she is such a joy to our family, and I love her to death! A beautiful addition to my life from having her around is that God has been teaching me about His character and His relationship with us.

The other day, Alyssa had her toenails painted for the first time... quite the milestone, I know! Well, as odds would have it, there was quite a meltdown when mom tried to put Alyssa's pajamas on her.

Why? Because they were footie pajamas! How dare we try to cover up those pretty pink toes?!?! We eventually put normal, open-toed pajamas on her and then we were able to find peace for the evening...

...yet, as I headed to bed, the situation really stuck with me. How often do I waste my time screaming at God because I can't see my pink toenails??

Earlier that night I had a good tear-fest while driving home in my car. I cried out to God, asking Him why the blessings in my life weren't turning out the way that I'd been anticipating. One specific promise He made to me long ago.... God, what happened to keeping that promise?

Now I think of my toenails.

God isn't taking away the blessings in my life, and He is still keeping his promises... but maybe right now they're just a little hidden. Just because I can't see my pink toes doesn't mean that they're gone. I need to have faith in God's character even when the blessings in life aren't easily seen. Because He has true character, and He never fails us.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart...


Saturday, October 22, 2011

to feel what You feel

I feel like I can be such an selfish, apathetic person.

The other day I was reading a blog written by my dear friend, Mariah, and I realized just how numb my heart has become. She was talking about all the pain we see in the world: forced prostitution, starvation, slavery... and how she was moved to tears as her eyes were opened to their pain.

It hit me as I read this that I felt nothing. I was thinking, "Oh, how sad... that's all so terrible." But my heart wasn't broken like it should be. How could I be so ignorant that I looked at a homeless, starving child and didn't feel gut-wrenching pain for them??

I know that God takes this seriously--how we treat the lowest, most hurting people. Right after I finished reading Mariah's blog, God led me to Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus is talking about the end of time when He'll separate the people from each other, "as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (32) He will say to His sheep,

"Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (34-36)

But then he turns to the goats... and he sends them away from him "into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (41). His reason for doing this? Because they failed to do what the sheep did. Both groups ask Him,

"Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirst and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" (37-39, 44)

...Jesus' response to them is what shook me: "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (45)

Watch this video by Eric Ludy... He talks about this very issue. I know that it caught in my throat.


I acknowledge that my heart isn't where it should be... yet. My prayer is that God will give me His heart; that my heart will break for what breaks His heart. That I will feel what He feels, and love who He loves.


(Check out my friend's blog post as well -- Mariah Fowler: Give Me Your Heart )

Thursday, October 13, 2011

For it is by faith you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

God has been teaching me a lot about forgiveness lately.

The first and most important step in forgiving someone else is remembering how much we need forgiveness: It is only through pride that we could hold a grudge against someone else. When someone wrongs me it's so easy to think ". . . how could they . . . they need to apologize to me first . . . I don't deserve this . . ."
When in fact I do deserve it--we all deserve the very worst.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which  you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Ephesians 2:1-3

I know that I was broken and lost before I knew Christ, but my heart winces at the description of who I once was: Dead. Following the ways of the world. Gratifying the cravings of my sinful nature. The object of wrath. This is the bleakest way to describe the brokenness in those that don't know Christ. And I once was one of them.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:4-7

I did absolutely nothing to deserve God's forgiveness. When I was still dead, an object of God's wrath because of my wickedness; that's when He saved me and He gave me life. God did showed me grace so that His grace will be shown through my life... but how is it shown? God's grace is exemplified in my life when I humiliate myself and remember what I was saved from--when I truly forgive.

Now that I remember my wretchedness, the next step is is forgiving someone else.

Forgiveness is so much more than words spilling from your lips as you tell someone that they're forgiven--forgiveness comes from the heart, and forgiveness is complete. Once you forgive someone, that sin is gone. You've wiped clean their impact on you, and you can no longer hold any hatred or pain over them.

This seems like a good idea in print, but in practical life it seems a little extreme. How do you forgive someone that killed a family member? How do you forgive the person that cheated on you? We so easily justify our grudges when it comes to the deepest pains in our lives, but the Bible doesn't allow room in the margins: It's about radical forgiveness.

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matt. 5:39) --- Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1) --- But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2:13)

When someone hurts you, forgive them; let them hurt you again, and forgive them again. In love. Any sin that someone else commits against you pales in comparison to the sins that God has forgiven us for. We wallowed in unpardonable sin, and through Christ's sacrifice we were pardoned.

I won't pretend that I have this all figured out... when it comes to forgiving others, I still grapple with when to surrender and forgive. But God is teaching me forgiveness and working in my heart as I forgive those who have hurt me.

As you walk away from this, I hope you're asking yourself: who do you still need to forgive??

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lightbulb!

Do you ever think about lightbulbubs? They play a significant role in our daily lives, and yet they're such a dependent object. Pick up a lightbulb by itself -- what is it? A glass bulb with some filament in it, designed in such a way as to conduct electricity and produce light.

But what makes the lightbulb really so special? Unless it is plugged in to a consistent energy source, that lightbulb is worthless. You can hang it from the ceiling, but the room will stay dark. You can rub it in your hands and wish for light, but no light will appear. You can even hang it above your head, but regardless of pop media, it won't create an idea!

Without a source of energy, a lightbulb is worthless. But, screw it in and something amazing happens: light radiates out of the lightbulb, affecting the entire area around it! And only with that constant energy source does the light stay lit.

Just like a lightbulb, we as people aren't anything special on our own. It takes the light of the Holy Spirit flowing through us to create beauty.

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
(John 9:5)

There is nothing special about me. There is nothing good about Leslie.

Sometimes people look at my life and want to commend me for something. Whether it be for school acomplishment, commitment to Christ, or dedication at work, people sometimes look at my life and say, "Hey, that's cool" or "you're such a nice person," but there is nothing good or nice or special about me.

Anything good or commendable in my life is nothing short of the work that Jesus Christ has done in me. All goodness is just a glimpse of who God is. I can tend to get puffed up about myself, thinking about how awesome I am, but then God uses my brokenness to remind me of who I really am. I'm nothing apart from Him.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
(Galatians 5:22-23)

I challenge you to look at the verse above and see how it applies to your life. Do you believe that you can honestly look at that and say that you have all of the fruit of the Sprit shining in your life? Go through and put your name before each attribute:

(Leslie is love . . . Leslie is Joy . . . Leslie is Peace . . .)

I know that I sure don't measure up -- but the beauty of the matter is that Christ does! Where we fail, He fills. If we stay plugged in to Him, He will shine in our lives and hopefully people will see Him when they look at us.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5:14-16)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Waiting on Hopes and Prayers

A message that I sent to a dear friend the other day... Hopes:

There are a lot of times that I feel lonely... and I know that you do, too. Like, even with friends and God, there's this part of my heart that still longs for that one-on-one romance I was made to desire. And in my weakest moments, I start to miss having a boyfriend.

...but then God reminds me that he wants me to live a set-apart life. That he doesn't want me to be with just any guy. He had "the one" picked out for me before He even said "let there be light." And when I start to feel weak, I remember the person that I trust God is preparing for me:
  • A man that is totally lost in Christ, that has no greater desire than to live for Jesus and love and serve other people.
  • A man that can treat me like a princess, with honor and respect, cherishing me as a forgiven daughter of God.
  • A man that can lead me spiritually, will help to challenge and encourage me in my faith... that will be able to be, really, a leader for me.
  • One that I can rest in, trust, and believe that he will take care of me and treasure me.
When I remember this person, whom I pray for often, I compare him to past relationships, I can't help but think, "uh... nuh-uh. God saved me from that destructive relationship because He has more in store for me."

Not that I'm saying my future husband is going to be perfect... I mean heck, that wouldn't work! No perfect guy would fall for me! lol. But I trust that, even in his sinfulness, he will be embracing the desires of God and daily living in forgiveness.


A recent entry from my "Future Husband" prayer journal... Prayers:

I think about you often.
Not just in loneliness, but in expectation and wonder. It amazes me that God prepared us for each other even before He created the Earth by His voice. He has set you apart just for me. It amazes me that you are out there somewhere, living your life. It often feels like you will rise out of the dust of the earth and magically appear in my life... but I know that you are living right now... and at this time of night, probably sleeping!

I like to try and picture you as I pray.
Not what you look like, but what you are doing. My prayer sometimes is that you'll also be praying... praying for me. That God is using yo uas an intercessor in my life long before we are made aware of each other, and that you are already stepping up as a spiritual leader and warrior in my life. And I pray that you will think of me... not as a distraction from the Lord, but as a reminder that God has a beautiful love story planned ahead for us, and hopefully that will affect you in the present. May thoughts of me, the one you will dearly love, give you the motivation in your life to pursue God with even more fervor, and to guard your heart, your mind, and your body to save yourself for me.

As my favorite character, Mr. Darcy, says in Pride and Prejudice, "I love you... most ardently."
Leslie Joy


Monday, August 29, 2011

In Your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9)

"So then, it was not you who set me here, but God."
Genesis 45:8

        When we go through trials in life it can be easy to blame our circumstances. "People are evil, life sucks, life isn't fair..." and we hold on to grudges because we blame those people for our hard times.

        However, God is bigger than people. He is bigger than our circumstances. And often, He has us in a place of difficulty for His purposes, not to torture us. Like Joseph... he was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, blamed for something he didn't do, thrown into jail, forgotten about for years... then God lifted him up.* Out of the ashes, out of the rubble. And Joseph was able to recognize that it wasn't his brothers' hatred towards him that got him there, but God's plan for Egypt and the surrounding countries!



"Dear brothers, and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed,  you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."
James 1:2-4






*Check out Genesis chapters 37 and 39-41 for the full history of Joseph.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

At the Start






Nearly two months ago, I embarked on a journey to the Czech Republic with three other friends.

 The trip was incredible. I made some amazing friendships, was stretched beyond my boundaries, and even felt God tugging my heart into a new direction...





After thirteen hours of travel, we are finally just 20 minutes outside of Prague. Excitement bubbling up inside of me, I pull out my Bible and journal to prepare my heart for what lies ahead.

Prague.
     I can't believe that I'm finally here again! Me, Lonnie, Laine and Deb. God, You are amazing. Your provision for us is incredible, truly only something You can do.
     God, may Your Spirit be with me right now. Grace me with Your presence, and help me to be aware of You with me always. Father, deal with my unbelief; help me to see You more clearly in these next few weeks than ever before. And Father, regardless of how I feel, I will praise Your Name, because You are worthy of all glory, honor, praise and power.
     I submit my will to Yours. I love You, my Father and my King. Be with me.
     Also, I ask that You will give me discernment and help me to not get distracted. Discernment to see what situations You don't want me in, and when You want me to step out. Give me tunnel vision for You; to be focused only on Your Will, and that which brings You glory...

While writing, our pilot announces to fasten our seatbelts, we'll be arriving in Prague shortly. As he says those words, I am hit with emotion like a bucket soaking me through and through... an emotion that can only be described as, "I'm home."

I am so excited!! We're really beginning our descent into Prague! My love country... I feel so at home here...

Out of nowhere, a prayer emerges onto my paper. Unpremeditated, I write,

Give me Your direction, my Love, if You desire more for me here.

Where did that come from?? Okay, God. I guess that's it. Show me if You want more for me here.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beautiful Things

It's been a very long time since my last post, and many things have happened in the past month and a half... things that have changed me, things that have shaped me more into who I believe God wants me to be. Memories that I cherish and people I've met and learned to love, and for now I don't know how to put it into words.

Here's a little preview...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR7VOKQ0xJY

"Beautiful Things" by Gungor

You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of dust.
You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us.


You make me new, You are making me new.
You make me new, You are making me new.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day #1

We're finally here! Two months of planning, fundraising and spiritual warfare... and we're actually here.

After traveling for 13 hours, our plane landed in Prague at 9 'o clock this morning, and we were picked up by Mike Young, the missionary and friend we'll be with for the next two weeks. We walked out of the airport and into his car, driving for about three hours to get to Brno, where Mike and Wendy live.

Because we all got two hours of sleep or less on the flight, the Youngs had their work cut out for them to keep us awake until 8pm-ish so that we'll get accustomed to the time zone. I am fairly certain as I write this blog that, because of my fatigue, it will probably be rambling and uninteresting to read.

Keep praying for us! Tomorrow we drive to the English Camp where we'll be spending our weekend with high school and college-age students. Pray that God will bless our time with the students, that the lessons will go well, and that relationships will begin to bond.

Oh! And I got to eat Fried Cheese and Kofola for lunch! I am one happy camper.  :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

God Provides

A little over a week ago, I wrote a blog titled "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? (Matt. 7:9)" ...and the passing week, God has made His promise even more evident in my life.

In the verses immediately following Matthew 7:9, Jesus goes on to say: "Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matt. 7&:10-11)
I think it's easy for me to expect so little from God. I pray for good things, but that nagging voice in the back of my head makes me doubt that God is really going to provide....

You know, if you really surrender control on this issue, it's not going to turn out well.

God says He'll give you good things, but His life of purity is going to make you miserable.

God just wants to make you sweat it out until you give it up to Him.

Maybe He's not really going to give you everything you need.

What if you don't get that ___ in time?

That last question has been posed to me over and over the past couple of months. As my team and I have prepared for our trip to the Czech Republic, I've repeatedly heard the question, "What's the plan for if you don't get the money in time?" And my response would always be, "We don't really have a plan for that. I know God wants us on this trip, and He'll provide what we need. After all, God owns the whole world. A couple thousand bucks is chump change."

Yet, in the quiet of my heart, my unbelief has been difficult to silence. Even two weeks away, I struggled with the looming burden of another $3,000 my team had to raise before our trip. I personally still had a need of $500 in addition to the funds required to make it posible for my Czech sister, Andy, to join our team when we arrive. It's been hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

However... God is bigger than all of this. He's bigger than my fears, than any problem. He saw my every thought before He even created the world. And He had a plan. Sometimes I wonder if He chuckles at me, saying, "Oh my child, if only you knew..." 

But I don't have to know.
'Cause He knows.
And all I need to do is trust Him.

I need to do a final tally of funds left to raise, but let's just say that God has provided for my team and I in ways that still bring me humbly to my knees. God provides.

Friday, May 27, 2011

---Love---

My Love is so beautiful.

He sees every part of me, deep into the darkest shadows. Even though He sees my every mistake, He loves me with a deeper love than I can imagine.

As a single woman, I can have my lonely days. With many of my friends dating or getting married, I often want to ask, "Why not me, God?"

But as I seek God more and more, I'm discovering that He alone can make me feel loved like I want to.

A boyfriend will hurt me, a husband will fail me... but my Love will never let me down.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? (Matt. 7:9)

With the Czech Republic mission trip coming up, only two weeks from Wednesday now, I can really feel the pressure setting in. With fundraising difficulties, emotionally draining friendships, illnesses and personal financial problems, our team of four has really been facing a lot of struggles within these past few weeks.

I went to church today feeling more burdened than I have in a very long time. Exhausted, worried, pressured and stressed... I felt like there was a large bag of bricks strapped to my back. As my team and I met this afternoon, we shared the struggles we've been facing and the weight on our hearts. We recognized the spiritual warfare surrounding our team and spent some time in prayer over the trip and our struggles.

What a weight was lifted off of me.

I know God has a purpose for this trip on June 8th. And I remembered today that it's not about me. It's about what Christ originally did for us, and God's love for His people. Only around 2% of the people in the Czech Republic are Christians... they don't know that God loves them so deeply, and He sent His own son to die for them. He has a lot more on the line for this trip than I do... and He desires so much for His people to know Him.


*Please continue to be in prayer for my team and I, now only 17 days away from our departure to the Czech Republic. We still have a large amount of fundraising to be done, and there has been a lot of spiritual warfare surrounding us. God is circling His angels around us, but we also need your prayers covering us as we prepare and as we go. We know that God will provide.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Shield Around Me

Years ago, I recall hearing a story about a girl that avoided being mugged because the attacker later claimed to see "a man walking on either side" of her, when in reality she walked alone. Whether this story was true or not, it's a reminder that God protections in ways that we don't often see.

Tuesday morning, my good friend Mariah and I made plans to go downtown for a girl's day out. After walking through a beautiful park and taking silly pictures of each other, we settled down for a quick lunch of fast-food Chinese. After enjoying fairly good food and stellar conversation, we decided to go for a hike and headed back towards the nearby parking garage where I'd left my car earlier.

Having parked somewhere around the fourth level, we began walking up the rounds of the concrete building. As we neared the top of the third floor, I catch a glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eye. Glancing to the right, I saw two men coming around a corner right next to us. Black wifebeaters, tattoos, spiked hair... and silence. They fell into step about 3 feet behind my friend and I, not saying a word to each other. I abruptly ended the giddy conversation we'd been carrying, and the floor echoed only our footsteps. My heart began to pound, and as I clung tightly to my keys and purse, I felt blood rush to my face. We quickened our steps, and my mind raced frantically, bouncing around and stopping at: "Do we need to start running?"

We began to walk a little faster, my mind frantically attempted to remember the self-defense tips a friend had mentioned during coffee the week before. I could almost feel the movement... waiting to feel the tug of a hand on my purse, or around my neck. As I grew ever more anxious, the two men abruptly changed direction and climbed into a nearby SUV. Heart still racing, Mariah and I rounded the next turn as quickly as possible, eager to get out of their view. Once I paused for a moment to look around, my stomach dropped and I realized that in our tunnel vision to get away, we had walked right past my car. We nervously headed back down and around the corner, and I dreadfully noticed that my car sat only two spaces down from the mens' SUV.

The men hadn't yet started their car, and as we hurried past them I tried my best not to glance over. We climbed into the front seats, and I hastily locked the doors and started my engine. It was not until we were locked into our car that the men started their own and left the building.

Finally able to breathe, I waited just a moment then pulled out of my space. As we drove down the levels, we both attempted to calm our nerves, and Mariah recognized that we had been protected. In truly the scariest moment of my life, we walked out with only a story.

An hour later, we were safely in my home and preparing to for a hike. I ran upstairs to change into my sneakers and Mariah scrolled through her text message inbox while waiting for me. When I came back downstairs, she was so excited to share a blessing with me: You see, Mariah is subscribed to receive daily Bible verses texted to her cell phone. While we had been talking over lunch, she'd merely glanced at the Verse of the Day, thinking nothing of it. However, after our experience in the garage, the words took on a whole new life:

"He alone protects and saves me, He is my defender, and I shall never be defeated."
-Psalm 62:6

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

College Isn't a Fraternity: Sexual Pressure on College Students

Composition II Final Paper

     Sex has consumed our American society. Nearly every car commercial, beer commercial, or even fast-food commercial capitalizes on sex appeal. A recent Carl's Jr. commercial was advertising its new Char-Broiled Turkey Burger, and in the commercial an attractive woman is shown walking by the side of a pool, first in a stunning dress then stripping down to a bikini. While we see footage of her, a man with a sexy voice narrates:
  • "To help you remember our delicious new char-broiled turkey burger, we hired Miss Turkey. to help you remember Miss Turkey, we put her in a bikini. And to help you remember Miss Turkey's bikini, we had it designed with little tiny pictures of our char-broiled turkey burger."
     In most cases, the average consumer would not mentally connect a turkey burger to any sort of sexual image. However, sex sells, and Carl's Jr. knew that people would remember their product if it were associated with a sexy image. Sexual content has permeated every part of our modern media, creating a culture of people obsessed with sex and often unrealistic expectations. While in college, these social expectations can feel very extreme, with students still learning how to be independent from their peer's opinion and discovering their own self. In this self-discovery, students often cave to the peer pressure to be consumed with sexuality and become sexually active. College students are indeed pressured to engage in sexual activity, and there are several factors contributing to the pressure, including the fact that students thing their peers are having sex more often than they really are, virginity is considered socially awkward, and marriage while still in college is discouraged.


1. It's All About Perspective

     College students think that their peers are frequently having sex with multiple partners, feeling pressure to also have sex, while in reality most college students are not as sexually active as society portrays. this belief is perpetuated by popular movies and television shows in which college is often described as one big frat party with students gallivanting around having sex with new partners every night. An example of this is the popular television series, Greek. First airing in 2007, this ABC Family show is about students that attend the fictional Cyprus-Rhodes University and immerse themselves in the fraternity and sorority life. While these students are supposedly attending college to further their education, the cast spends little time on their studies and instead focuses on parties and nightlife. According to PluggedIn Online, a family-oriented website that reviews television shows, Greek's portrayal of college life includes "...taped sex acts, homosexual kisses, scenes featuring lovers writhing in the sheets, and a slew of double entendres. Sorority sisters parade around in bikinis and other skimpy outfits" (Pluggedin.com). With modern media portraying college as "party central" instead of an academic resource, many college students believe that they're expected to impersonate the college lifestyle that is being modeled to them.

     The problem lies in that college students aren't really having sex as much as the media portrays and society believes. When comparing students' perceived number of how many sexual partners their peers were having to the actual number of sexual partners, the numbers don't add up. According to the 2006 results of American College Health Association's National College Health Assessment's survey of nearly 24,000 college students reveals that while the average female had 1.2 sexual partners in the past year, her perceived number of partners is 3.3, and for men, the average number of sexual partners in one year was 1.6, while the perceived number was 3.1 (ACHA-NCHA). College students are not having as much sex as society assumes, but this survey shows that students feel that their peers are having at least three sexual partners in one year. The perception that their peers are extremely sexually active puts pressure on the college students who aren't sexually active to have sex as well.


2. Against the Perceived Norm

     Because of the belief that all other college students are frequently having sex, the decision to remain a virgin and live outside of the perceived norm creates awkwardness and social tension, which may serve to further pressure students to have sex. Modern media capitalized on this awkwardness in the recent movie The 40 Year Old Virgin, where comedian Steve Carrell plays Andy Stitzer, a middle-aged man that is portrayed as nerdy and awkward because of his virginity (or perhaps he's a virgin because of his awkwardness). Taking notice of their friend's plight, his co-workers make it their goal to help him get laid, taking him to bars and speed dating services. Throughout the course of the movie, the characters make it a point to speak graphically about women and sexual interactions, capitalizing on Andy's inexperience for humor's sake.

     Interactions such as this serve to reinforce the social ides that for an individual to be considered well-developed and normal, they must be sexually active. As a college student, it is common to hear from every corner, "all students are going to have sex, they just need to do it safely," and there even tend to be free condoms available in university clinics. When people interact with college students, it is often assumed that they are sexually active, even to the point that medical officials are required to ask if there's a possibility of pregnancy if the patient is over the age of 18. This stress, while it may seem subtle, whispers to the minds of college students, "all college students are having sex. You're not normal if you're not having sex."


3. Too Young to Commit

     Modern society is discouraging college students to get married while still in college, and the expectation to finish their education before getting married makes it difficult for students to have patience with their current desires. Alexandria A. is currently finishing up her freshman year at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. As Alex finds the balance between studying for finals and working part-time, she also manages to squeeze in spare minutes to plan her upcoming July wedding.Getting married while still in college was a natural decision for Alex and her fiancee to make, and yet while many of their friends and family members are supportive of their decision, not everyone shares in their excitement. Alex's older sister is against her getting married so young, and when she had received news of the engagement, instead of responding with congratulations, she reacted with negativity: "Why get married young when you know you will change so much when you are in college?"

     Unfortunately, this reaction is an all too-common occurrence with college students that desire to commit themselves to marriage before graduation day. This negativity may be a result of people generally getting married at older ages, causing young marriage to be the exception. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1965 the average marrying age for a woman was 20.6, and the average age for men was 22.8. In just 40 years, however, the average marrying age has risen by nearly five years on both accounts, with the 2005 average marrying age for women resting at 25.3, and the average age for men 27.1, which are the highest average ages for the past 100 years ("Estimated Median Age..."). If a freshmen in college wanted to commit to their significant other, society claims they should wait at least four more years before they would be considered marrying age. Four years is a long time to wait, so college students often cave to physical and societal pressure, having sex with their other while still enrolled in college.


Conclusion

     We see that college students are indeed pressured to engage in sexual activity, and whether or not they cave to this pressure, society looks on them with expectation. Students often think their peers are having sex more often than they really are, feeling that they must have sex to be considered "normal," and virginity is considered socially awkward, swaying from the perceived norm. In addition, marriage while still in college is discouraged because students are considered too young for that commitment while still in college. The combination of these pressures, as well as others, is contributing to the decision for college students to begin having sex.



Works Cited:
  • American College Health Association. American college Health Asssociation - National College Health Assessment (ACHA - NCHA) Web Summary. Updated August 2007.
  • "Estimated Median Age at First Marriage, by Sex: 1890 to the Present." U.S. Census Bureau. September 21, 2006. Web. May 1, 2011.
  • Greek. ABC Family. July 9, 2007 - March 7, 2011. Television.
  • Miss Turkey. Carl's Jr. Commercial. Television. April 7, 2011
  • PluggedIn Online. TV Reviews: Greek. Web. May 9, 2011.
  • The 40 Year Old Virgin. Dir. Judd Apatow. Perf. Steve Carrell. Universal Pictures, 2005. Film.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Dearest Love,

I don't know where you are, who you are, or what you're doing, but my prayer is that you will be thinking of me. Praying for me, your future wife. Being a spiritual intercessor even before we meet. I pray that your heart will be only for me, and your attraction to other girls will fade as you wait patiently for me.

I already love you with my whole heart, and I think of you every day. I am waiting for you and loving you. Please wait for me, my love.

If I could whisper just one thing to your heart right now: "Your wife loves you!"

All my love,
Leslie.

Praying for your future husband

Thursday night, my mom and I were guests on Teen Talk Radio, hosted by Nicole O'Dell. We were talking about Praying for Your Future Husband, my mom's newest book, as well as some of my experiences as a college student praying for my future husband. If you're interested in hearing some of my story as well as Nicole's and my mom's, check out the podcast here:

http://nicoleodell.com/2011/05/ttr-tricia-and-leslie-goyer-praying-for-your-future-husband/

No one is abandoned by the Lord forever.

What comes to mind when you think about God? My thoughts tend to be along the lines of Prince of Peace, Lover of My Soul, Savior, or King.

The other night I felt prompted to read Lamentations, and before I started I prayed that God would guide me as I studied His word. As I started in chapter three, I saw some descriptions of God that I'd never seen before.

"He has hidden like a bear of a lion, waiting to attack me.
He has dragged me off the path and torn me in pieces, leaving me helpless and devastated.
He has drawn his bow and made me the target for his arrows."
(Lamentations 3:10-12)

To be put simply, these verses caught me off guard. What happened to the benevolent God that I personally know?? The God I know doesn't seem to be waiting to attack me. In confusion, I paused and prayed that God would give me discernment. What is the Truth that He's wanting me to learn?

The beauty was revealed a few verses later:

"Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his merces begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, 'the Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!'

.........

For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love.
For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.

If people crush underfood all the prisoners of the land, if they deprive others of their rights in defiance of the Most High, if they twist justice in their courts -- doesn't the Lord see all these things?
Who can command things to happen without the Lord's permission?
Does not the Most High send both calamity and good?
Then why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins?

Instead, let us test and examine our ways.
Let us turn back to the Lord."
(Lamentations 3:21-24, 31-40)

We as people often tend to blame God when we go through hard things, and an often-used argument against the  love of God is the question of why He allows bad things to happen in the world. But in the midst of our trouble, in the midst of our grief, His love never ends.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Living Water

Last night as I crawled into bed, I pulled out my Bible for the first time all weekend (I admit, the family went on a vacation and I forgot to bring it). Opening up the pages felt so... refreshing. I realized that just a couple of days with no alone time with my First Love left me so hungry for him. I found myself praying, "God, I've missed you so much. Fill me right now, fill me with Your Spirit. I'm thirsty for Your Living Water."

Here's some living water for your day:


"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
(Joshua 1:9)

"Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth, for your love is sweeter than wine."
(Song of Solomon 1:2)

"Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love"
(1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

"For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."
(2 Corinthians 3:17)

"So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."
(Genesis 1:27)

"I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes."
(Job 42:5)

"I took mmy troubles to the Lord. I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer."
(Psalm 120:1)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dear mom,

You know, you're just about the best mom ever.

Not because you're a world-renowned author with over 30 books published or on contract.
Not because you're friends with awesome famous and rich people (that send me money for my mission trip!).
Not because you've traveled all over the world and spoken to audiences of thousands.
Not because you gave birth to such amazing children... *cough, cough*...


If these impressive reasons aren't what make you so wonderful, then what does?

Your unbelievably good memory for where I happen to toss all of my junk.
Your thoughtfulness when life gets so crazy for me and you make my bed while I'm away.
Your glorious patience for putting up with me when I get crabby.
Your hugs for me when life gets hard.
Your ability to remember my favorite cereal while shopping and surprising me.
Your inspiration to live a life of Christ-like servanthood instead of just saying the right things.
Your sacrifices to be there for me when I need someone to talk to.
Your beauty, as you've shown me how to be beautiful on both the inside and out.
(I'm lucky. I look just like you!)

You are amazing because you are you. I've gotta say, I was very blessed that God gave me you.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

In the midst of it all...

Tuesday morning I wasn't feeling very well. Fighting a cough and frog-throat, I had to run to the back of the store for the multiple times to cough. Around the 36th time, co-worker came back me,

"Leslie, you gotta be taking care of yourself. You need to rest."

"Oh, I don't have time to rest. I can't take days off of school with finals coming up, and work doesn't let me call in. Plus, I need the hours..."

"Leslie, you're going to eventually reach that point when you can't get out of bed, and you're not going to have any choice but to let yourself rest."

The next day, my coughing had gotten so bad that I could barely walk across the house without having a terrible fit, and I missed my first day of school this semester. That afternoon, I went into work to let them know I couldn't come in the next day, and guess what co-worker came up to me...

"Leslie, I thought you couldn't miss school? You couldn't miss work?"

A humbling experience for sure, and the past four days on my couch with bronchitis has given me plenty of time to dwell on it. I've realized that if I keep pressing on without rest, attempting to rely on my own strength, I'm going to collapse. These struggles are a reminder that I'm not strong enough.

While preparing for this upcoming summer, I often feel overwhelmed. Finals this next week, trying to work and save up money for both the mission trip and a visit to my hometown. Coming down with bronchitis and being forced to miss two days of work and three days of school isn't helping either of those... At least, from my perspective, it seems not to be. But when I stop and look up to my Father, He reminds me that He sees so much more. He sees just what I need, and He will provide.


The hardest time to see the whole picture is when you're standing in the middle of it.
Like an abstract painting, I look in every direction but only see random brush strokes.
Some light, some dark, all swirling around in an endless twister of color, nothing making sense.

I take comfort in Christ's provision. 
I'm just one person, stuck in the midst of the story.
He is the one painting it around me.
He sees the whole picture and the finished product.
When things feel out of control, it's because He's reshaping the picture to make it ever more beautiful.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places

Forgive me, now, 'cause I have been unfaithful.
Don't ask me why, 'cause I don't know.
So many times I've tried, but was unable.
This heart belongs to You alone!

......

Forgive me, I'm ashamed. I've loved another.
I can't explain, 'cause I don't know.
No-one can take Your place, there is no other.
Forever Yours and Yours alone!

("Forgiven," by Skillet)


It can be easy to fill our minds filled with so much stuff. Family, friends, work, school, guys, movies, and so on... For me, it is very convicting to look at how much time I spend dwelling on these things. I vocalize that Jesus is my priority, but how much time of my day do I spend with Him? In America, I feel like we often trivialize how important God truly is. If an individual generally spends 15 minutes every day (give or take snooze button days), they're doing great, right? I just can't help but wonder... is there more to being a Christian than that?
 
Even if I do manage to squeeze in 15 (or... gasp... 30) minutes of God-time into my day, how does that compare to the rest of my life? How many hours did I spend on facebook or hanging out with friends today? What percentage of my thoughts were consumed with that cute Christian guy? I know that it would be an extremely humbling experience to math out how much of my day isn't for Christ. What does God have to say about that?

"You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3)

Now, I've been a Christian my whole life. I've never worshiped nature or a statue... but I worship other things. My dreams, guys, friends, my desires to be appreciated, loved, and thought of as beautiful. But if those things are being put above God on my priorities list, they're becoming gods in my life. Idols. I want my life to be different from this, I want it to be 100% Jesus.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Pray continually. I can't even picture what that could look like in a person's life. Imagine, prayer can be more than "rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for this grub," or even the more devout "God, please help me to not kill my brother today..."  Whatever a continual-prayer-life looks like, that's what I want to look like. I want to be so consumed with the love of Christ that He truly is the biggest focus. I want to get to the point that I would be joyfully willing to give up everything else in my life.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spiritual Warfare

Yesterday a lady from church commented about our upcoming mission trip to the Czech Republic:
"The more bad things happen, the more you know you're heading in the right direction."

Well, I think I might just be heading in the right direction.

Friday night while spending some time praing and reading the Bible, I decided to commit myself to getting up 15 minutes early every morning to spend some time with Jesus before starting my day. Consequently enough, even though I set two alarms every morning...
  • Friday I woke up 5 minutes before I had to leave for work
  • Sunday I slept through first service (I was going to bring a friend from school to church with me, too)
  • And today I slept in until 15 minutes before I was supposed to leave for school.
While rushing out the door today, I fought back my frustration and recognized that there must be something trying on to keep me from getting that quality time with Jesus. Instead of letting myself getting worked up, I tried over and over to re-focus that energy on praying so that these circumstances would strengthen my spirit instead of break it. But the more I focused on Jesus, the more satan showed that he wasn't ready to give up...

On my way to school, I had to merge into the left lane. I checked the area, had plenty of space to merge, turned on my blinker, and started to pull over. Well, the lady I was pulling in front of did not want me to enter that space, and tried to speed up so that I couldn't pull in. She nearly rear-ended me, blared her for merging into "her space," then turned on her brights and followed me for 10 minutes.

Later, I spent 45 minutes in the library editing the final draft of a paper I had to turn in at 11. About five minutes away from being ready to print, all of the computers in my row blacked out and wouldn't turn on again, making me not only unable to print my paper, but I lost all of my edits. (Thankfully, that teacher was gracious and is letting me turn it in this afternoon.)

Looking back over my day, I can't help but see that there's more going on than meets the eye. (It probably didn't help that last night I was praying that God would work in me and refine me... no matter what it takes. A dangerous prayer!) But I've seen God bring beauty through it, encouraging me through the song "Forgiven" by Skillet, and through Christians around me. One of my classmates sent me this bible verse today, and it really touched my heart:

However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
1 Peter 4:16

I have a feeling that these trials are far from over, but I have peace and confidence in Christ that it will be worth it in the end... even if the more I seek Him, the more the enemy will try to stop me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Miluju tě

Czech to English translation: I love you.

     The Czech Republic is one of my favorite places in the whole wide world. I've been there twice before on mission trips, teaching English at a family camp and building relationships with the awesome people that I met! It was an incredible experience to work alongside other Americans on my team, long-term missionaries, and the local church from Vysoke Myto. As well as those trips, this last October I spent one month back in the Czech Republic, spending time in Prague and Vysoke Myto, visiting not only good friends and brothers/sisters in Christ, but also my European sister, Andy! You see, during my Junior year of high school, my family hosted a Czech foreign exchange student. She is my very best friend, and God has blessed my life immensely through knowing her!

     Warning: be careful when asking me any questions about the Czech Republic, because I could talk your ear off for many hours. It's hard to explain, but there's this passion in me that has a heart for the Czech Republic. I can picture it now... the cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, cathedrals, metros, trams... the culture, the language, the food (kofola, schnitzel and fried cheese with tartar sauce!).... the people. Some of the people dearest to my heart live in the Czech Republic; Michal, Zuzka, Andy, Bondy, Tatiana... I would give my life for these people.

     However... my heart also breaks when I think of the Czech Republic. The darkness and hopelessness of the country. The Czech Republic is one of the most atheistic countries in the world, and it's such a heavy feeling to realize that nearly every person I come in contact with does not know the love and grace of Jesus Christ. These faces in my mind, these people in my heart... so many live their days without the hope that I have.


"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)


     I know that God has called me to the Czech Republic. This passion, this love... I know it's not coincidental. I can't wait until July 8th, when I will hop into a plane and fly acrossed the ocean to the country that I love!
Miluju Českou Republiku!

Translation: I love the Czech Republic! (Thank-you to my good friend, Michal, for helping me with the grammar!)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mission Trip to the Czech Republic

Hello everyone! I just wanted to make you aware of my upcoming mission trip to the Czech Republic. This upcoming June, from the 8th-20th, I will be joining some other members of my church on a mission trip to Olomouc, Czech Republic! We will be serving side-by-side with local missionaries, building relationships with high school and college students.

Quick Facts About the Czech Republic:
1. The Czech Republic is one of the most atheistic countries in the world, with less than 1% of the population practicing Christians.
2. The Czech Republic was under Communist rule from 1948-1989, and is now a parilamentitary representative democracy.
3. According to a 2009 census, the Czech Republic has a population of 10,489,970 people.
4. Olomouc, the town in which we are going, has a population of 641,555 people (2010 estimate)

If you're interested, Mike Young (the missionary that we are joining up with) has a video with more information that was prepared the summer of 2009: http://reachczech.org/home/partner-with-us/

How we'll be reaching out:
In most of the world, English has a huge draw to non-native speakers. The "language of commerce", English is an important tool if an individual wishes to succeed. Using this as an opportunity to draw in the people, we will be hosting English classes to not only provide an opportunity for the Czech people to practice with native Engish speakers, but also to get to know them and begin building relationships.

God thrust this onto our team extremely last-minute, with about two months to prepare and fundraise. I totally have faith that if He wants for us to go, He will provide financially! Each member of the team must raise $2,500 by June 1st.

Thanks to Chipin.com, below I have an opportunity for you to help out financially if you feel compelled to! You can donate using a credit/debit card, or by transferring with a PayPal account. (Note: using ChipIn does not qualify you for a tax write-off. If you are interested in donating with the ability to get a tax write-off, email me and I'll let you know how!)





Also, I understand that many of you are not in a place to be able to help out financially. That's totally okay! What I would appreciate even more so is to pray for my team and I as we prepare and travel to Europe!