Saturday, September 19, 2015

What if it took more than one stone?

Last Sunday, the youth pastor at our church preached on David and Goliath. During the sermon, the question kept popping into my head, "What if David hadn't defeated Goliath on the first try?" Don't ask me why, but sometimes these thoughts pop into my head. 

Tonight, as I was studying for Sunday School tomorrow and Awanas this week, I was reminded of this question. It got me to thinking. What if Goliath hadn't fell the first time? Would we still teach it to our children? Would we still encourage them by telling them that God is on their side? That He can overcome any situation no matter how difficult it may seem? The answer I keep coming back to is, yes, we should.

You see the miracle of the story shouldn't be focused on the fact that Goliath was killed. Yes, that's awesome and God totally made it happen. But, you know what else He made happen? David's courage. And, that's a miracle in itself. 

You see, David was a scrawny little thing. He was no where near the size of Goliath and he wasn't even in the army. He wasn't trained to go against Goliath. He could have easily said, "Nope. Swerve." or the Biblical equivalent. But, he didn't. He refused to back down. He knew God had prepared him for this moment regardless of how it turned out. 

David had no clue how the end would turn out, but he had faith. Faith enough to know that God would take care of him regardless of the outcome. He knew God had plans for his life and he used his past experiences to guide him. He had killed a bear and a lion for Pete's sake! 

But, see, here's the thing. Sometimes Goliath's don't fall down with a single stone. Sometimes they don't fall down with a thousand stones. Sometimes they just stand, hovering, waiting to knock you when you're down. And, what do we do? Do we just sit there and wait for another David to come and fight for us or do we continue fighting for as long as it takes? 

How long do you think David would have spent throwing stones had the first one not worked? I mean, he had five but do you think he would have went back for more? What if he used up all the pebbles he could find? I think David would continue having the courage to stand and fight. Why? Because he knew that God was there. He knew that God had been there before and would continue to be there again. 

Life isn't fair. Sometimes it tries to knock us down. Sometimes our Goliath's won't fall. Sometimes we'll be the ones trying to put our Goliath's back together because we don't have the courage to live without them. But, God says, "Look. There's the bear you slayed before and here's the lion. You do what I ask and I'll take care of the rest." The only question that remains is will you continue fighting even if Goliath doesn't fall?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Let nothing be wasted.

"When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." - John 6:12

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I have been working my way through the New Testament. Because of this, I have been re-reading parables and stories I have heard dozens of times in sermons, including the feeding of the five thousand. 

Although I have read and heard this story and it shows up in every Gospel, I found something new the other day. Yes, it is super cool and fantastic that Jesus fed all of those people and that is super important in giving us deeper insight into God as our provider, but the part that stuck out to me was Matthew 14:20 ("They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over"). Why? Why did Jesus need left-overs? For some reason, this just bothered me. I could not understand why Jesus who could easily conjure up His own bread would be concerned with left-overs. Couldn't He just make them disappear? 

So, why did Jesus want to collect the left-overs? The good thing about the Gospels is that a lot of the same stories are told in all four, the feeding of the five thousand being one. So, I perused through Mark and Luke. I still found nothing on why these left-overs were collected. Then, I found the verse mentioned above in John ("Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted"). Although this verse shows no indication as to what the left-overs were used for, it does tell me what Jesus thought about the left-overs. 

Jesus knew something that we don't. You see, to get to these left-overs, Jesus had to first break the bread. Like physically, take five different loaves of bread and break them. Then, He fed the people. Then, He told His disciples to go round up the extras. Maybe the extras were all in one spot or maybe they were scattered among the five thousand. We do not know, but He still wanted them gathered. 

Now, for just a second, I want you to think about yourself as the bread. Have you been broken lately? Not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or all at the same time? Maybe you have been hurt by friends, a boyfriend, girlfriend, family members, or even the church (I know these are all so shocking). But, did you ever think that these people aren't really in control of the breaking? If Job in the Old Testament is any indication, sometimes God allows a little breaking. Sometimes He allows us to feel shattered. Sometimes He allows bad things to happen so that He can use us. And, that's okay. It's okay to let God break you. 

But, here is the comfort. In this story, He collects the left-overs, the broken pieces of bread, whether they were all in one spot or scattered throughout. He gathers them, because He says, "Let nothing be wasted." You might be like me. You might be searching for a reason as to why the left-overs need to be collected, but maybe we should focus more on the fact that the need was there regardless of if we understand what the need is. He was not going to let the left-over, broken pieces of bread be wasted. That is our comfort: Jesus will not let anything be wasted. We may not know the reason. We may not understand the reason that twelve basketfuls of broken pieces need to be collected. The point is that with Jesus there is always a reason. He will not let your brokenness be wasted. So, be willing to break. Be willing to say, "God, break me so you can use me." The bread was no good in five whole pieces just as, sometimes, we cannot truly be used until we are vulnerable and broken. 

So, be hopeful. Let yourself be broken for none of the scattered pieces will be wasted. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Doer: the person who does something

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." - James 1:22

Nothing ruins your plans to go to sleep early like being wide awake. Well actually, it's being so wide awake that you decide to check social media and see an adorable photo of a super sweet guy kissing a baby (if you're reading this, aca-awkward). It's in that moment that I realized I was not at Passion anymore.

For those of you who don't know, I spent the weekend in Atlanta at Passion. There I got so close to God that it felt like me and God were in our own little bubble. But, now, the bubble seems to have burst. I feel like a little kid who tries to blow this really huge bubble only to have their sibling stick their finger through it and end up with a sticky face.

But, then, something happened. I opened Pandora. I don't really know why. It was either that or play "Dear John, " by T Swizzle, and considering I haven't listened to that song in about a year (not on purpose anyway), I decided to leave it be. But, anyway, I digress. So, I opened Pandora and my Andrew Ripp radio was playing. He has an amazing voice, but that wasn't the best part. The best part was that his song "Peace Like a River" came on. No, this is not a Christian song, but one of my best friends shared it with me just because (without knowing I had the some of the toughest weeks of my life). In this moment, it was pure comfort. Because you know who planned that song just then, God. 

It was in that moment that I realized the bubble was still there. God is just waiting on me to continue drawing closer to Him. This past weekend we sang many amazing songs. One song repeated the lines "I draw near, I draw near to you. You draw near, you draw near to me." God didn't stop chasing after me this weekend. I just needed a reminder that I needed to draw near to Him. He is still surrounding me with comfort and peace just as He did this weekend.

The only problem is that when you aren't surrounded by 20,000 other people who are worshipping with you, it becomes a little harder to focus. For those of you who don't know me, my mind runs a hundred miles a minute. I'm usually thinking about either how attractive some boy is or how much is on my to-do list, and if it's the month of January, my birthday. This makes me sound really self-absorbed. Maybe I should clarify, these are typically what occupy my mind when I'm alone. When I'm surrounded by others, I'm usually good at focusing on them, okay I'm alright at focusing on them. Unless it's January, then I'm probably thinking, "Should I invite them to my birthday dinner or nah?" But, anyway, hundred miles a minute. I get so caught up in myself, even when I'm reading my Bible or praying. But this weekend, I was surrounded by people all doing the same thing: drawing closer to God. And, we learned a lot. But just like all that has been learned, it needs to be applied. God reminded me tonight that the things I learned at Passion needed to be applied in order for them to mean something.

We all go through these points in our life. We all have a really awesome church service and we leave and that's about it. We don't carry that feeling over for the rest of the week. We don't let what we learn encourage us to apply it. And, if I've learned anything in my education classes, application is an awesome learning tool. Students thrive off of it. Not applying something, is not okay. As a future teacher, if my  students know how to work a pedigree but have no idea how to determine the percentage of someone being born color-blind or how it could impact future generations, what does it matter? What does it matter if God is trying to teach us something and we don't apply it? I'm speaking as much to myself as anybody. So much so, that this weekend I told my family group at Passion that my relationship with Christ was suffering because of my lack of application. I read my Bible daily and attend church, lead Bible Study, and go to FCA every week, and God teaches me all of these awesome things. But I seldom apply them. I find comfort in them. I write them down in pretty fonts. I hang them on my bulletin board, and there they stay. I refuse to do this anymore and I don't want this for you either. I don't want whoever is reading this to say, "Yeah, that's such a great idea" and then never give it another thought. So can we all just make a promise, that we will start applying things? That we will let God use us for whatever? That we will draw near to God so that He can draw near to us? I am out of room to pin things on my bulletin board but I am not out of things to apply. Things that will make me a better Christian. Things that will help me draw near to Christ.

We need to stop quoting and start doing.

Be the person who does something about what God is trying to teach them. Be a doer.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Run to Christ

"But I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress and he hears my voice. He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me even though many oppose me." - Psalm 55:16-18

Psalms are absolutely beautiful. They can speak to us in times of joy and sadness, heartache and happiness, distress and peace, etc. The list goes on and on. And, do you want to know why they can speak to us in so many different ways? First and foremost, they are inspired by an almighty, caring God who knows our every need and responds to them, but also because most of them were written by David. Do you want to know who David was? He was a shepard, a giant slayer, adulterer, murderer, and a man after God's own heart. Now, those don't all exactly go together, but that's a story for another day. Regardless, the Psalms were written by someone who felt all the emotions we feel and he went through Old Testament versions of our own struggles. But, do you know what he did when things got hard? He turned to God. 

If you read all of Psalm 55, which I encourage you to do, you will get the whole picture of what I'm about to say. But, for now, specifically look at verses 6-8. They say, "I said, 'Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest -  I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.'" Now, I'm not sure if you all think those verses are as beautiful as I do. But, I think they are beautiful. Mostly because I have definitely felt this way on multiple occasions. 

Sometimes it would be so nice just to run away. And, sometimes you know what God says? He says, "Why don't you run?" In Matthew 11:28 he says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Why is it so easy for us to feel like running from our problems but so hard for us to run to the person who wants us there? Jesus does not promise to take away our problems, but he does promise us rest and that's what David needed at this particular point in his life. And, that's what God did. He ransomed him unharmed from the battle waged against him. 

We are going to face problems. You can't run from them but you can run to someone who already has them all figured out. See, that's why God can give you rest, because he knows what the end looks like. He knows what grade you will make on that test. He knows when your future husband will come along even if you think you have already missed your chance with the person you thought was "the one." He knows how much you miss that friend or family member you lost. He knows every intricate detail about every problem you are facing which means he knows just what to do when you come running to him. He knows how it will all turn out in the end. David knew that God would be there, and so do we. The last words of my Pastor's sermon the other day were, "If  you can just hold on to God, it really will be okay. It may not be the okay you want, but it will be the okay you need." And, that applies to every situation you will face. God has it under control even if sometimes you want to run away or you literally want to lay in your bed all day and watch Netflix while you cuddle with your pillow pet and avoid people. God knows what he is doing. Don't doubt that. Don't doubt God's unfailing love for you. And, always remember that God never gets tired of you. He never gets tired period. So, even when your problems are too much for you, they will not even be scratching the surface of what God can handle. And, that's why David could confidently say, "But I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress and he hears my voice. He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me even though many oppose me."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

God's Chocolate Fountains

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfullness." - Lamentations 3:22-23

This morning I had the pleasure of teaching my Mom's Sunday School class. It was super last minute. Like our teacher was running behind, so I decided to help him out. So, I opened my Bible to teach on Matthew 6:13 because I have been studying it for a devotional. I was then drawn to Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." I taught my lesson. And, by "taught my lesson," I mean I rambled on in that "oh, hey, I'm not sure what to say so let me just start rambling whatever comes to mind." Thankfully, God doesn't need any planning to say what He needs to. Somewhere in the midst of my rambling, I compared forgiveness to a never-ending chocolate fountain. Because who doesn't love a never-ending supply of chocolate? Ya know, besides me? I'll think of it as a white chocolate fountain and you all can think of it as a dark chocolate fountain, milk chocolate, whatever you would consume all day if you could. Over the course of the day I've thought of the truthfulness of that statement. We can forgive because God forgave us a long time ago when He died for our sins. He was completely perfect and CHOSE to die on the cross for us completely imperfect humans, because He loves us. He suffered and died for us. And, yet, we can't even forgive someone who cut us off in traffic three weeks ago. Why is that? It all goes back to us being completely imperfect humans. See, we run out of forgiveness because we run out of other things (i.e. patience, compassion, thoughtfulness). We neglect to that the world is full of people other than us. Maybe that person who cut you off had a medical emergency come up in their family or maybe on a more positive note someone they love told them they had found out some very exciting news and they were racing to find out what it is. But, we don't think of these things. We simply think "how in the world could they have cut ME off?" What if Christ had said, "How in the world could I forgive them when they hurt ME?" Imagine if Christ thought in capital "ME's." Where would we be? The good news is that He doesn't. He thinks in terms of love, compassion, grace, and forgiveness. And, He's got a never-ending supply of them! But, does Christ hold all of them for Himself? No, of course not, He shares them with us. He says, "Here's another round of grace for doing the same thing you did last week." Because His mercies are new every morning. He only asks that we share. He asks that we forgive as He has forgiven us. His segment of the chocolate fountain pours into our segment and it overflows into someone else's. That's what chocolate fountains do or else they wouldn't be fun to watch or dip things in. We know what it feels like to be poured into every morning and we should jump at the opportunity to pour into someone else so we can all enjoy some of God's awesome chocolate fountains. He has many flavors including: grace, forgiveness, mercy, hope, faith, love, etc. Which are you in need of today? Which should you be sharing more of? And, just think God's chocolate fountains are calorie AND guilt-free!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Why #foreveralone is not okay!

"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." -Psalm 37:4

You know what has become one of my biggest pet peeves lately? Putting yourself down. As girls, we are so quick to compare ourselves to other people and put ourselves down. You know who we're helping? No one. You know how much good that's doing? None. Now I won't pretend that I have never put myself down, because I certainly have. But, it's time to stop. 

And, I think part of this starts with this new-found notion that just because we don't have a boyfriend at age 16, 21, 30, etc. we are destined to be #foreveralone. We are so quick to use this phrase. "Oh, I look so rachet today #foreveralone." "I just ate a pint of ice cream, 20 oreos, and 15.2 girl scout cookies #foreveralone." We are all guilty of saying these things and more, myself included. But, you know what this says? I am alone because of me not because of any plan God has for my life. 

God's plans are so much greater than the sweatpants we rock everyday or the oreo, extra oreo milkshakes we consume almost weekly. His plans include the desires of our heart. That's a big deal! God has placed certain desires within us and He knows just when and how to fulfill these desires. Am I saying that every girl's desire is to be someone's wifey? No, but it is one that comes up a lot. And, by us constantly saying #foreveralone, I feel like we are basically saying that God won't ever fulfill the desires He has given us. And, to me, that just isn't Biblical.

But, this verse also says something else. It says, "Delight yourself in the Lord..." What does this mean for us? It means that we should take delight in who we do have in our life: a God who sent His son to die on a cross FOR US! That's really all we could ever need, but God chooses to give us much more than that. He gives us family and friends and the desires of our heart. So, on top of His rich love, grace, and mercy, God ices the cake with the desires of our heart. He loves us so much that He is willing to give us what we desire. This desire could be a job, a husband, etc. But, we have to trust in what God can do and not rely on ourselves. 

Romans 8:25 says, "But, if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." If your desire has not been filled yet, then you should hope for the desires of your heart and then wait for them patiently. You know what this means? It means STOP putting yourself down, and, STOP comparing your love life with others. Because, ultimately, you have no idea what God's plan for your life includes and your desires could change tomorrow. God knows just what we need, when we need it. So, STOP being that person who claims to be #foreveralone. I know, I know this is easier said than done, but it starts with you believing just what Psalm 37:4 says.   

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Before, In, and After: God is still Good.

"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.'" - Daniel 3:16-18

Over the course of this year, I have shed more tears than I probably have in my life second only to middle school career. And, I HATE CRYING! I really do. It makes me feel childish and most of the time my problems are pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but the tears still come. They have come because of grades, questioning God's plan for my life, boys, and, more recently, friends who have simply become acquaintances. 

So, tonight as I was thinking about this last week and, furthermore, this entire year, I was looking to expand a few of my boards on Pinterest. And, I saw this: 

It was one of the first pins I saw when I got on, and, boy, did I need it. I keep thinking that life gets easier. That life is eventually going to be like the series finale of a TV show or the ending of romcom where everything is rainbows and butterflies and they live happily ever after. But, it has yet to happen and maybe it never will. But, as I was looking at this pin and as I opened my Bible to read the whole story, I thought to myself that the ending isn't as important as the outcome. And, you know what the outcome is? God is good. Period. Point-blank. Done. That's the outcome. 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have died in that furnace. They could have been burned to ashes. But, they faced that furnace anyway, because they already knew the outcome. They knew that God was in control. They knew that God works all things for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28). Now, you may say, "Wait, that verse wasn't even around during the Old Testament times." And, no it wasn't. But, it's truth was. And, that same truth is still true today. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted in this fact. They knew that regardless God had things under control and they trusted in His goodness to get them through a literal furnace. Now, I'm sure we haven't had too many literal furnaces to walk through lately. But, if you're like me, there have been quiet a few metaphorical furnaces. And, you know, in the end, God is still good. 

But, there is no way that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would have even said what they said to the king without having a love for God. And, this love comes from the fact that God is good. They loved God, and they knew that He would take care of them. They trusted fully in his love and goodness to get through the furnace, because He had probably proven to them multiple times before that He would take care of them regardless. 

And, I know you're probably thinking, "Catherine, don't forget to mention the highlight of the story." Many of us know. It's what made us feel invincible when we were children. It made us feel like we could take on the world. If you want, I encourage you to read the whole story for yourself (Dan. 3). It's pretty great. But, if not, I'll go ahead and tell you: God got right there in the furnace with them. Three people went in. Four people were seen in the furnace. Three people walked out, clean as whistles. 

There is a saying that "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." But, I don't really think this is true at all. Instead, I think that when the going gets tough, the tough get God. I haven't seen any furnaces with standing room, but I have started a few fires in our wood stove. And, let me tell you, it is hot and dirty in there. I'm sure the furnace that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in was even hotter and dirtier. But, God was in there right along with them. He could have easily saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego without entering the furnace. He's God, remember. But, He chose to get right in there anyway. He's God, remember. He isn't afraid of our messy, dirty lives. He isn't afraid to wipe our tears away. And, if we're being honest, He's the only one who can even remotely understand the pain that you feel every time you look at someone. He's the only one that knows how worried you are about your life. And, He's the only one who knows why you sometimes cry some seemingly insignificant reason. He's the only one who understands you enough to give you just what you need at exactly the right time (even if it is a pin on Pinterest). Sure, people can say kind words to you and try to understand what you're going through. In the end, though, we're all humans struggling to get through life, which is why we need God. Because He is good. All the time. Before the furnace. In the furnace. After the furnace. He is good. He is God.