Friday, 30 December 2011

Looking Forward to 2012

Another year has come and gone and now I'm here to reflect on the end of my teenage years.  This past year has been significant for me in many ways and was filled with both joy and sorrow.  I started the year in a state of discontentment, watched dreams fall to the ground, and came to terms with the idea that God wanted me where I was, even when it meant sacrifice.  I asked a lot of life question, some for which I received answers, or at least some insight.  I watched friends go through the unspeakable pain of losing a child.  I had new opportunities like going to Boston (my first trip on my own), I learned to understand what I have to offer, and I've walked alongside some amazing people who have been both mentors and friends.

Earlier this year, I was informed that I wasn't going to be where I was next year.  The business I worked for the past almost three years closed this week and for a long time I couldn't see past this year.  I knew I would be free to move on and do something else, but I didn't have a clue what that would be.  There were things I knew I wanted to pursue, like studying literature and writing.  I explored post-secondary education and prayed through other options, but it continually became clear they were not God's plan for me at the time. 

Every New Year in my church, we pick up a promise verse and come back the following year to share how that verse worked itself out in our life that year.  My verse for the year was Philippians 4:19: "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."  When I picked that up at the end of 2010, I thought I knew what it would mean for my life.  I was wrong though.  Before long, my income was cut while my expenses increased, but I always had enough.  Then it became evident that I would reach the end of the year unemployed.  Ironic, eh?  But God holds to His promises and I'm not unemployed.  I have a new position in a new field that I'm not qualified for, but I will gain new experience and have opportunities beyond anything I could have dreamed.  God's goodness never ends!

This week also marks the end of my teenage years.  It's kind of hard to believe that it's over and I've spent some time reflecting over the happenings in the last several years of my life.  Do I have regrets?  Yes and no.  I didn't live a "normal" teenage life in terms of education, work and life in general.  I followed a unique path and that I do not regret.  But I do regret not having lived more fully for the Lord, not having pursued holiness in my life more passionately and not having fought more against sin.  There are definitely many things I would erase if I could.

If I was asked to give my readers one piece of counsel from my teen years, it would be this.  Keep a pure mind.  Yes, it's extremely hard and I learned that with great difficulty this past year. I had originally expounded a lot on this, but it didn't fit, so let me just say this.  Sin begins in the mind, and we eventually act on what we think on.  By keeping a pure mind, we will save ourselves, those around us, and our future spouse a lot of pain.  Be careful what you dwell on.

When I look back on this year, it was good, but it could have been better.  I want to aim to make each year better, to grow more, love more and to follow Christ more faithfully.  I can say though that overall I am much happier now than I have been in the past.  Yes, a few chapters have closed in my life but I'm looking forward to new things and I'm excited for what 2012 holds for me.  I would like to wish all my readers a very blessed New Year!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Lies Young Women Believe

A couple months ago, the girls in my youth group started going through the Lies Young Women Believe: And the Truth That Sets Them Free study by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh.  In all honesty, before we started, I didn't think I needed it.  As it turns out, I didn't realize how badly I did need it.

Lies Young Women Believe examines the 25 most common lies Christian young women believe about God, Satan, themselves, relationships, guys, media, sin and their futures and reveals God's Truth about them.  There's a Companion Guide that goes along with the book, which I would definitely recommend using.  It splits the book into a nine week study and there are study questions and exercises that correspond with what you're reading that week.  They also make good use of colour and graphics so it's visually appealing.  Sure, you may wonder why you need to spend the money on two books (so did I), but it is well worth it.

When I started this study, I knew there were many areas of my life that needed to change, and as much as I wanted the change, I was afraid of the pain that would come with it.  This book doesn't just expose lies we believe; it exposes sin.  It doesn't beat around the bush.  It looks at gritty issues for what they really are.  There were many issues that came up in this study where God was already convicting me.  There were things that He was repeatedly teaching me and were coming up in so many different places, that I just couldn't run from them.  I had to face head-on lies I was believing about sin, purity, authority and media and deal with them.

One of the blessings that came out of this study was simply spending more time in the Word aside from just my morning devotions.  This study wasn't about the book, it was about the Book, and it sent you searching through the scriptures all the time.  It also emphasized memorizing scripture, something I always want to do, but have a hard time sticking with.  A verse came to me last week, that wasn't mentioned in the study, but I feel it kind of sums it up.

Psalm 119:11 (ESV)
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

I would definitely recommend this book to young women.  If you're around the age of 20+, don't look at it and think you're too old for it, especially if you're still single.  (I kind of did that.)  The issues discussed in the book do still apply to you.  If you're married, you can always look to Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. 

For more mature young women, I would also recommend And the Bride Wore White: Seven Secrets to Sexual Purity by Dannah Gresh, which I read a few years ago.  Earlier this year, she also published What Are You Waiting For?: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex.  I haven't read it in it's entirety, but I have skimmed portions and would recommend it as well to more mature readers. (She speaks frankly about sexual issues.)

As young women, we are called to be examples to the world.  If you want to grow in your relationship with God and be filled with His Truth, this study is a great place to start.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Young Man on Sexual Healing

This young man puts a very important issue into a poem, sharing God's Truth and forgiveness.  He examines the problem of sexual sin, the hurt countless young women face, and the forgiveness Christ offers And no, it's not just for the guys; girls can learn from this as well.  There are many good reasons to wait for God's timing.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

You Want Transparency?

In response to my post yesterday, I was told that transparency trumps significance.  Okay, I can believe that....but only sometimes.  For me, transparency begs the following question: Do we as Christians really want people to be transparent with us?  And how do we respond when they are?

I'm not always transparent with people. (That's an honest, transparent statement.)  I have several reasons for that.  The lighter ones include that I don't think people really want me to be, that they don't really want to hear what's going on in my life, or they don't care.  Other times, I just don't want to talk about it.  Deeper down, I'm not transparent because I'm afraid of being judged, I'm afraid of what people think, I'm afraid of rejection.  Sometimes, I even fail to be transparent with those closest to me, not for fear that they won't love me, but for fear of hurting or disappointing them.

To be honest, I don't always respond well when people are transparent with me.  Some Christians have no problem being open about where they're at, and it's not always in a pretty place.  I'm not sure how to deal with people when they have an ongoing struggle with the same thing and can't get over it. Sometimes, I have damaged relationships, because I couldn't accept a friend's transparency and hurt them instead.  In short, I don't always want to see transparency in others.  Sometimes, I'd much rather believe the mask they put on to hide what I'd rather not see.

When people are transparent with us, how do we respond?  Rather, how should we respond? What do we say when they confess the gross, ugly sin they've been hiding for years?  For starters, if we expect transparency, we have to put on love and cut the judgement.  That doesn't mean we have to be okay with everything.  Love is not okay with sin, but it doesn't join the ranks of the haters either.  Author Kevin Abell has excellent insight on what love really looks like and I hope to share that with you in the future.

For me, I have been able to be transparent with a few people about sin in my life and receive love. No, they didn't tell me I was okay.  Quite the opposite.  But I never felt judged by them.  They asked me straight questions that demanded honest answers.  And that's what I needed at the time.  I needed accountability, as unpleasant as it sometimes was.  Those were the real friends.

You might be among the number who can't stand fakers and people acting like they have it altogether when their life is really a mess.  Or maybe you've been there.  I have.  But before you ask people for transparency, ask yourself whether or not you want it.  And ask yourself how you will respond.  Chances are, the people in your life don't want to be transparent for the same reasons you don't.

Friday, 2 December 2011

How Can I Give....?

I've been searching my brain all week for something to write about, but I feel like I'm coming up empty.  It's not necessarily that I don't have ideas, but they all seem incomplete, it's not the right time, or I'm not sure how to make them work.  I've been mulling over my year end post, like I have down for the past few years, but I have to wait a few weeks to share it.  With other ideas, I just don't know how to bring across what I'm want.

If this blog is ever a disappointment to you, I'm sorry.  I really am.  But I don't want to put out pointless content for the sake of there being something new here for you.  There's enough writers with nothing to say and I don't want to add to the number.  I truly want to offer insight here that would uplift and inspire people, and if I'm not doing that, I don't want to be writing.

I started on a new journey of sorts a couple months ago.  Before this point, I often felt like I didn't have anything to offer, like I had nothing to give, like I didn't make a difference.  It took me walking through a process with a mentor of sorts to see that I did have a difference to make.  But there was still a question pressing on my heart that I had to put before him: "How can I give what I don't have?"  Yes, I recognized I had a difference to make (I do even more now), but I felt like it wasn't real in my own life.  How could I inspire other people to have vision, when my life was directionless, when I wasn't even sure I had one?

He helped me get past that, and many other things and I can't begin to describe in a few words how exciting this journey has been for me.  But it doesn't fix things.  Yes, God has blessed me with wonderful people to help guide me in a very uncertain time in my life, but there's still a lot to work through.  I honestly can't see past this year.  I have most of this next month here planned out, but as soon as 2012 hits, I am almost clueless as to what I will have ahead of me. I know I want to reach people through my writing, but sometimes, I just don't know how to do it.  I don't know what to share with readers.

About a week ago, I told a friend something like "God won't expect you give what you don't have.  He will fill you."  Today I have to remind myself of that.  I have been seeking God in many things recently, and my writing is one of them.  I believe He has shown me in part what He has in mind for me in this area, and it's much bigger than my own ideas.  But then I feel empty. I hit a phase of writer's block, and it doesn't seem possible.  I look at my life, and it seems like something that will never fly.  Ever.

As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of a lesson by a former Sunday school teacher.  He had an interactive way of teaching that made you remember his lessons years later. Even in my youth group, we still talk about the things we remember from years back, things like "start righteousnessing."  I could provide a whole list of things I remember.  I don't remember the exact topic of this lesson, but I remember the key verse he used.

Psalm 81:10 (ESV)
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

I remember this verse because he used a picture to illustrate it, like he often did.   It was a picture of a nest full of baby birds, with their beaks wide open, waiting to be filled.  If we open up our mouth wide, God will fill it.  If I continue to seek God, and take time to listen to His voice, He will fill me.  He does not expect us to go on empty.  Although this teacher no longer stands and speaks to us on Sunday mornings, his words, his message still rings loud in our lives in many ways.  His impact is not forgotten.

No, I don't know what my life holds.  I don't know how far my words will reach.  I don't always know what my words will be.  But if I ask God, He will fill me.  I don't have to give what I don't have.  If I don't always turn out something significant here every week, be patient with me.  As the Lord leads, it will come.