Your Word Is True: Truth Challenge

  
For the first time since The Journey Church began student ministry 2 years ago, we have embarked on the journey of using one curriculum for the full year. We chose “Your Word Is True” by Children Desiring God for a few reasons but the biggest one for me was that I saw a need in our students generation on discerning what is truth is. It’s been 2 weeks and I already can tell it’s going to be a great year. 

This past week though the lesson called me to realize the importance of memorizing the word regularly. Many of us can recite a verse or two but after our formative years of Sunday school I feel we loose the framework of hiding Gods word in our heart. Which is why I made the decision that this year our student ministry would undertake  a Truth Challenge. 

Our Truth Challenge is simple: memorize one verse a week. Thadd and myself are doing the same verses with the students. We’ve told the students that the end of the year, which ever students have memorized all of the verses would be treated to a special event. A celebration of a years growth of understanding but my prayer is even greater than their physical reward. My prayer is that these students would begin to be changed by the word. That they would become so close to the word that their actions would no longer be based on things of this world but by His word. That we would grow a generation so encouraged by each other to be in the word that they realize they have brothers and sisters in Christ who are leaning in and on them for support. Just this past Sunday night as we announced the challenge we heard our middle and high guys make the deal that those who didn’t memorize the verse couldn’t have a dum-dum from our dum-dum tree (fact: I love that even our teens enjoy this element in our home. )

  

My hope is that throughout this challenge that hearts and minds would be changed. That teens would learn to love the word and seek it as their source of truth now and for the rest of their life. That they would grow in confidence in sharing their faith with others. So here’s to a Truth Challenge- may they truth challenge us to grow and seek His face daily despite all of life’s demands. 

When We Need Each Other

It was just a typical bench day. But at the same time it wasn’t. It was AMRAP day. The day I tested my training to see if my numbers were improving. I worked my way up to the last set, started the video camera, and went for it. Then this happened:

  
This was rep 8 of 105#. But it was also the rep when I realized I needed someone. I needed a spotter. In a room of men and a gym where I knew at least 5 people by name at that point my pride said I got it. The video proves I didn’t. The bar hit chest and on the press I couldn’t get it up. I knew there was no lock out. So I dumped a side and got the bar to the bottom rung. I racked my weights and went and hid in the ladies locker room hoping no one caught my defeat. 

But in that moment I learned a valuable lesson: we all need someone. 

Whether it’s a spotter behind the bench for safety, a friend across the lunch table to help process life, a spouse to hold you when life has exhausted you, or a hand to pray with when life is hard- each moment echoes that  man was not created to be alone. 

We are called to live in community. To join in corporate worship not for the sake of numbers on a roster but because when we come together we:

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭27:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

AND

“For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!‭‭”Ecclesiastes‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We sharpen, lift up, encourage, and help one another not for our name sake but His. 

So today, join together with someone. Take a moment for a heart check with that friend who you’ve noticed hasn’t smiled as much lately. Grab a friend to workout together for safety and support. Take coffee to a mom who’s at home with the kids this week. Call the friend in another state to see how you can pray for them. Join together to remember it’s better there instead of being alone. 

What Disney Won’t Teach Our Daughters

Recently a dear friend of mine sent me a text that had us laughing, but made me think deeper. Her simple text was brought about after sharing a recent Disney princess purchase and it’s unrealistic standards of beauty,then this:

“but seriously what do we do about Disney?”

I responded with the only thing that came to mind and heart:

“Disney- you treat it like Santa and the other make believe things of the world- you teach your child the truth. Show her the Godly women of the Bible and remind her no matter what Disney creates, beauty can not be airbrushed or created- it is birthed from the love placed in our hearts by the resurrection power of Jesus”

And then I might have wanted to post a fistbump emoji.

In all seriousness, though, our daughters will never learn true beauty from Disney. They will never see the work of Christ in a princess ( although, if they ever did that might be a huge score for Disney.) Yes they will see happily ever afters, dream of Prince Charmings, and hope for fairytale weddings, but in the end they will one day face reality.

In reality, life isn’t full of happily ever afters. It’s full of darkness birthed from sin, broken hearts by men they thought were Prince Charming but ended up being just duds in tin foil, and weddings that end up not a grand as they imagined because going into debt over a wedding wasn’t worth it ( if only we had Disney’s bank account number!)

And what Disney taught them will begin to crumble like the man who built his house upon the sand.

Because Disney taught them with a “Bippity Boppity Bop” all their troubles would disappear.

But for our daughters who grow-up hearing stories of the women of the Bible, in the midst of the Disney fame, may they learn things that only the Gospel can teach, and begin to see that beauty is indeed only found through the cross and not the glass slippers or tiaras.

The Gospel teaches them that with the cross, things won’t necessarily disappear but the burden won’t be theirs alone. They might have darkness, but Jesus brings them light. They may never met Prince Charming but they will meet the Prince of Peace. They might not have the fairytale wedding but they can have the Christ centered marriage.

My prayer is that daughters everywhere would be:

As curious as Eve, and not just Ariel,
As full of courage as Esther and not just like Rapunzel,
As brave as Rahab and not just Mulan,
As caring as Ruth and not just Snow White,
As sophisticated as Anna and not just Aurora,
As self-sacrificing as Mary, sister of Martha and not just like Belle,
As hardworking as Lydia and not just Cinderella,
As invested in the future generations as Eunice and Lois and not just the Fairy Godmother.

Because while the princesses may teach us those things, the Gospel shows us how Eve’s curiously brought forth sin into the world but she still birthed the family line that would lead us to our Savior. Esther was courageous despite what it could have cost her. Rahab through her bravery was turned from a harlot to a heroine. Through the caring loyalty of Ruth we are shown a beautiful submissive woman. Anna’s devotion to serving God both day and night, gives light to a sophisticated life despite her being a widow. Mary, the sister of Martha, sacrificed not only costly perfume but also her humility as she boldly spilled her feelings out at the feet of Jesus. Lydia was a hardworking business woman, yet she still found time to worship Jesus and was willing to serve God’s people. Eunice and Lois took their responsibility to invest in the future generations seriously which led to the spreading of God’s word.

Our daughters might still “ooh” and “ahh” over the princess dresses. When they pose in front of the mirror and twirl around and round, I pray that they may see themselves just as beautiful as they see their favorite princess. Because when I see them, I see them as a princess of the King of all Kings with a much deeper beauty that flows through them that never ends.

That my friends, is the happily ever after Disney won’t teach.

A Season of Struggle

“Hi, may I take your order?”

It’s a phrase I had began to hear more frequently. It’s one that I spent a good part of my day dwelling upon my response. Which place would I go to? What would be my feast today?

I had developed the relationship with the drive thru again. So much, I thought the attendant was beginning to recognize me week after week.

I’d become addicted again, and I was struggling bad. My binges would range from a variety of different places and leave me used and abused later as my body ached from it’s intoxicating overdose of food that I’d let creep back into my life. I’d stop at one place and not get full enough, so after I finished whatever task at hand ( while dreaming up my next drug of choice) I’d race to its supplier for yet another late night meal.

Because, Fourth Meal y’all.

It didn’t matter the calories, I just craved more. I wanted to feed an emptiness inside me that had grown because of one forgotten thing- the word of God. When I stopped feasting there I feasted elsewhere.

The struggle had to end.

So while sitting in my favorite drive thru after placing my order, I said I was done. I went home, ate that last meal and decided that as the season of Lent was beginning, I would no longer be bound to the chains of drive thrus. So for 40 days I’m fasting from fast food. Most likely I’ll continue you this afterward, however during this season, I’m replacing the thoughts of tacos, chicken nuggets, waffle fries, frostys,  and sweet tea with the reminders of God’s word.

Are you engaging in the season of Lent this year? If so, what are you laying down at the cross to allow you to reflect on Christ more? 

Standing Out: A Youth DiscipleNow Weekend

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It wasn’t long ago I stood where they stood. Armed with sleeping bags and backpacks full of outfits for the weekend to come, excitement filling their hearts to the brim, and an unknowingness of what was ahead of them. 

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We arrived shortly after worship began due to traffic. The boys were trailing behind us due to phone issues and traffic. As the night unfolded they heard the gospel and of young students who stood out in their faith despite the persecution they’d receive. I prayed that each one of you would take away just a fraction of that confidence to do the same in your life. 

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The next morning we’d travel the 1.5 hour drive again, this time I asked them to spend time reading God’s word to prepare yourself for the day. One of them suggested Matthew 13- The Parable of the Sower. I prayed that in the weeks to come you’d share the seed of God’s word in your schools, and that some would fall on good soil. 

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More worship would greet us that morning. I let you all rush down to the mosh pit, much like I did when I was your age. 

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We’d listen to David Nasser as he taught us how to Show Up,Shut Up, Grow Up, and Speak Up in our communities. Then we prayed for the nations. I would pray again you’d take these words to heart and begin to make changes to stand out in your own schools. I’d also shed a single tear as I recalled listening to David as a young teen. I also watched you each struggle with praying aloud amongst your friends and prayed for confidence to grow inside you as you journeyed through your faith. 

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After lunch we’d gather around to dive into God’s word some before our final session. I’d have the students lead the discussion in the midst of the chaos and noise around.  Because in the world, that’s what you’d face- chaos and noise trying to keep God’s word from being heard. They’d then race through the doors and excitedly claim the front row. I’d pray you’d let God have the front row of your hearts. 

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The final worship session came and I watched them be big brothers and help their youngest see over the crowd of people. They would learn what raising their arms would mean. They’d also crush on this guy:

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Then later on the drive home, they’d learn he’s happily engaged and all the fathers said

” praise Jesus” because 1/2 the girls wanted to marry him. 

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Finally Leonce Crump would take the stage and help the students understand the reason why we stand out and how the gospel is about creating a family of God that knows no diversity. I prayed a prayer of thankfulness that you all were so accepting of diversity and prayed you’d continue to invite all to our group. 

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After a long day, we’d gather at the church where a taco bar was so graciously set up. We’d sit and crack jokes and laugh, then got down to business. I asked two questions: 1) What was something God placed on your heart that you need to change to stand out more for Him, and 2) What were something’s we as group could do to stand out more in our community? As they listened to each other, they saw a common theme: they each needed to engage in God’s word more. So they decided to do it together. They picked a book of the bible and committed to read a chapter a week and discuss it at our gatherings. I prayed a prayer of praise as you all displayed an act of maturity. I also prayed for movement in your hearts as you unpacked His word together.

As a young family ministry director, I’m proud of my students. Proud that they’d give up their time to share the weekend together and grow in their understanding of God’s word. Proud that they’d support one another on their journey. Proud that they’d want to stand out in their faith. I’m thankful they were able to attend the Student Life Conference this year and look forward to attending in the years to come.

Joy in the Presence of Crazy

My life is crazy right now. Not that other’s aren’t, but when others get winded from you sharing what all your doing- you know your season is best described as crazy. With a 40 hour work week, 3 days of strength training, leading a family ministry, school, photography here and there, wedding planning, house hunting, dating that handsome runner of mine, and somehow making time for others- this season is short of time, but full of joy.

But it wasn’t always like that.

See, I was that person for part of my season who saw the negative in things. It was easy to do. Something small could throw off the whole day. A wrongly read text would send my heart spiraling downward. Alarm go off late and now you have to deal with buses on the way to the gym? Guess the rest of the day will be more of the same, always trying to play catch up.

Then a friend reached out and challenged me to find the positive. She insisted that I stop letting other things steal my joy like I had. This season of my life happens once. I’m engaged. I”M GETTING FREAKIN MARRIED ( in 166 days I might add) to the first and only love of my life- that’s a blog all in itself.

I daily get to interact with several people, and my heart motive has the chance to bring joy to them. Today one of them told me I was her personal hero. When I smile, they smile back. My photos get the chance to capture sweet memories the mind will one day forget. Leading ministries means I get to invest in the future generations as well as be a part of their families lives as they grow in their understanding of the gospel. I do life with others who daily lead me back to the word of God.While in school, I enjoy the bond being build between my mentor and I as well as trusting that this season will open new doors down the road.I get to train my body for a sport that continually challenges me to push myself to new levels, which equips me with the strength to be a solid vessel of the word of God. In the midst of house hunting, I get the ability to see how God will use Thadd and I live in community with others. As we are preparing for our life together, we get to use this season to continue to grow in our understanding of each other as well as the ultimate purpose of marriage.

In all areas, there is His presence which is the fullness of joy.

Why?

Because this is the path of life that God prepared for me. My life is full. Crazy, but full of his presence and joy. With that, I rejoice.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
p s a l m 16:11

Thirst

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Tonight I did something many folks did almost a month ago. I took down my Christmas tree. Because I had gotten a real tree, every oranment I took off, every strand of lights I pulled, needles fell. The scratched my arms again, they broke branch by branch revealing a truth- for a month this tree was without water. For a month it sat in the corner of my house, unlit and unfed. It thirsted. But because it’s life was dependent upon my care and because I neglected it, it began to do what all living things that go without proper nutrients- it began to die.

Tonight it’s death lies upon my floor awakening a deeper thirst inside my soul.

See much like this tree, I thirst. Surely my flesh thirsts for the things of this world like words of praise and accolades. But man can not live on those words. The words of man fail and fall. They are unreliable. They can leave wounds that sting like the dry and broken branches. So my soul thirsts for more. My soul thirsts like David in Psalm 63:

1O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
5My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Nothing can fill my soul like the power of God. Nothing can be as satisfying as His power, glory, and grace. My body knows the satisfaction fat and rich food provide, but the fullness of God is something that takes this dry soul and returns it to the fountain of life. It’s what reminds me of where my strength comes from. It’s what keeps me singing for joy even when life is full of stress. It’s what keeps me clinging to Him, knowing that without Him I’m nothing more that a dry soul who’s thirst can not be quenched.