Only Jesus

“I lost Jesus in there. It seemed one could be a Christian without being a disciple of Jesus.”-Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts; Making Peace With An Evolving Faith.

Celebrity scandal. Wars. Gun control. Religious freedom. Republicans vs. Democrats. The 2016 election. Chaos. Crime. The economy. 

With so many issues in the world, distraction has become one of our most accessible vices. Even on Christian websites, the top news stories are drenched with current events and political jibber-jabber. The nightly news, like an addiction, pulls us in and threatens to keep us there.

I’m as guilty of it as anyone. People and current events fascinate me, and I’ve spent my share of time online, trying to figure out my stances on various issues. I love finding new information and sharing what I’ve learned with others, and I believe that learning about people and their unique places and journeys of life can help us to become more caring and compassionate human beings.

An interest in new information is not a bad thing. God wants us to be able to reason and think critically about different matters. Half the book of Proverbs is about wisdom, and the importance of it. Not to mention that God created our brains with unbelievable complexity to process life—both the present and eternity—with.

The problem comes when we become so consumed with the news, life, and viewpoints that we completely miss Jesus. Sometimes, it even gets so out of hand that we end up waging wars with those-who-disagree-with-us-on-topic-XYZ. I’ve seen this happen a lot during this point in history. Somehow, as a Christian culture we’ve reduced our faith to politics, rules, and religion, completely missing the amazing otherworldly story that God is writing in our lives. In the name of “being right”, we’ve turned to lecturing, shouting at, and hurting those who we’re called to love.

Suddenly, the story of the two sisters from the Bible comes to life, and we live as Marthas instead of Marys. We’re worried about many things, but we forget the one big thing.

A vibrant, feeling-alive-I-can-touch-the-sky relationship with Jesus. Living as a poem rather than an instruction manual. Loving vibrantly, the way Jesus did. Sinking into God’s peace when the world feels chaotic. Breathing a sigh of relief and realizing that we don’t have it all together, but knowing that Jesus does.

Sometimes, we need to let go of the worries, let go of the troubles, and look up instead of looking around. The world will always be crazy, but we serve a Savior who calmed the waters and walked on them. He can calm storms and raise the dead, and continues to calm the storms inside of us, making us come alive when we feel dead.

Only one person is big enough to do that, for you, for me, and for all of Creation, and that person is our friend, Lord, Savior, and redeemer, Jesus Christ; who bled on a cross so that we could have live forever. The things of this world may not be big enough to calm our seas, but Jesus always is. No matter how menacing the clouds and no matter how loud the storm, Jesus can always calm it. And, He always has been, and always will be, more than enough. ❤️

Stewardship

Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace.” 1 Peter 4:10

Stewardship is a concept that has been around for years. It’s earliest origins trace all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when God placed humans as stewards over the land. Many churches have taught courses by Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett and if you’ve been in church long enough, you’ve heard the “tithe talk”. But, is stewardship only limited to finances?

I used to see it that way. Admittedly, the past, when I’ve heard the word “stewardship” I’ve let out a bit of an internal exhale. As an extreme right-brain-creative-people-person, things that pertain money and numbers tend to make my brain feel like it’s going to spill out of my ears. I have a lot of respect for people who are interested in finances (after all, without them, we’d all be in trouble) but for me personally, financial terms tend to sound a lot like gibberish.

But, recently, God has helped me realize something: stewardship isn’t just a financial word. It relates to every single thing in our lives. Even if we’re young enough to not have much of an income, we can still be good stewards of our resources.

Our time? Stewardship.

Our relationships? Stewardship.

Our spiritual gifts? Stewardship. 

Our dreams? Stewardship.

Stewardship, in short, is basically offering everything we have back to God as a gift. Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” If your best friend asks you to look after her dog while she’s out of town, you’re going to take good care of that dog; you’ll feed him, take him outside, and make sure he doesn’t escape. This is what God wants us to do with everything that He’s entrusted us to.

Use our time well.

Invest in our relationships.

Share our talents for his glory.

Chase our dreams in a way that points back to God. 

God calls each of us, from the wealthiest to the poorest, to be a steward.

We are each called to steward different things, just as Jesus teaches through his Parable of The Talents, but we all have gifts that God wants us to steward. Stewardship, in short, is a call to obedience and wisdom. A call to wisely let our blessings overflow in a way that blesses others. A call to live, love, and give to the fullest.

How can we, in each of our unique places of life, steward our relationships, our dreams, our talents, and our time in a way that points back to the Creator of all of these things?

So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship.” Romans 12:1. ❤️

stewardship_logo_2008_flippedtext

1 Timothy 4:12 Girl Mission Statement

I have been blogging for a while now, and one of my hopes for this blog is that it is each thread of writing is a piece that inspires.

I’ve read many bloggers and authors who have inspired me in my own faith, including but not limited to Emily P. Freeman, Neta Jackson, and Sarah Bessey. These authors all focus on the beauty of living into God’s best, and that is a theme that I try to emphasis on 1timothy412girl.

Each one of us, regardless of are callings, backgrounds, and life situations are called to something beautiful by the God and Creator of the universe. This may look different for everyone, as we live in an incredibly diverse world of various callings and vocations, but I believe that whatever God’s plan is for our lives, it is bound to be out-of-this-world, which brings me to my next point…

I believe that we are living a story, and God is our author. We all have individual stories, but they are all connected, which is why I try to highlight different testimonies on this blog by posting links to the experiences of fellow believers. When I address different social issues on my blog, I try to take in account real-life stories that correlate to the topic. In one blog entry, I posted a link about a girl who overcame cancer. In another, I posted a story of a guy who found incredible friendship and community in college. Most of the time, I try to focus on positive accounts, but at times, I have linked to more downtempo stories to raise awareness for situations that I don’t believe are being handled well.

In many of my topic-centered-posts, I’ve chosen to focus on topics of faith, staying true to ourselves, and following our dreams, as those are all topics that are very important to me. We are all called to shine for Jesus through both our unique shades of personality and through our hopes and dreams. Thus, this is also a point that I have emphasized throughout my time blogging.

Ultimately, in each post and each letter, I try to glorify God. I try to follow where I believe that He’s leading and make my blog a song that sings to my Creator.

I look forward to continuing my blog and would love any suggestions that you have for future blog-entries. Feel free to post your ideas in the comments section! 😊

Role Models

A couple of months ago, I did a two part blog about being a role model; and lately, I’ve been thinking about something closely related.

Having role models. 

Speaking from my own life, I can testify that God has put many people in my life to help me grow. Some of have been friends, others have been teachers/leaders, while still others public figures who I’ve never met in person. At a time when I was struggling in my faith after a particular incident at my old church, God brought fellow Christians who became like a mini-church into my life. More recently, I’ve been inspired by authors like Emily P. Freeman, whose books shine in authenticity, and Karen Kingsbury, who managed to be super -successful in the humble genre of realistic-Christian-fiction.

I’m sure that if you looked to your own life, you can find similar examples of role models and friends who have helped shape the person you’ve become. Maybe it was a teacher, friend, or writer. Regardless of who it was, I believe that we all have crossed paths with people who have impacted our lives profoundly.

Since role models are people who influence us, I believe it’s important to pay attention to who we’re looking up to. From my own readings of Scripture and my own life, I’ve found that there are a couple of important things to keep in mind.

  1. When you look to a person for guidance and wisdom, make sure that person is looking to God-Hebrews 13:7 says “Remember your leaders who spoke God’s word to you. Imitate their faith as you consider the way their lives turned out.” It’s super important to have role models who share our faith. By having Christian role models, we get the chance to see what living out our faith looks like ten, twenty, and thirty years from now. It can also help us stay on the straight-and-narrow path.
  2. Make sure the person is wise, and known for making good choices.-1 Corinthians 15:33 says “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.“” Though no one is perfect, it’s important to find role models/friends who are committed to making good choices and following Biblical standards. As we set guidelines for ourselves of what we will and won’t do in life, it’s important to find others committed to similar patterns of living.
  3. Be sure that the people who you consider role models have good character-Galatians 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” This one is similar to the last one, but focuses on the character qualities of the person, or the “fruit of the Spirit” As Christians, we’re called to live out this fruit, and thus, the people we look up to should also share in these traits.
  4. Above all, always remember to ultimately follow in the footsteps of Jesus-John 8:12 says “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” Lastly, our ultimate role model should be Jesus, who calls us to a radical kind of grace. He taught to turn the other cheek in a world filled with violence, to love our enemy, and pray for those who persecute us. He is and always will be the best role model a person can have.

Who has impact your life? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

 

Self Image

“You are the only you God made… God made you and broke the mold.”
― Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot

Is this the right answer? I don’t want to sound stupid…

How will people perceive me based on my clothes, weight, height, hair color, etc. etc. etc. 

Does this tweet make me sound too quirky/serious/nerdy/ditzy? 

Oh great! I missed that shot! Now I look horribly un-athletic/un-cordinated!

At some point, all of us have dealt with these attacks. Attacks on our self image, and how we perceive ourselves. It can come in the a variety of forms, as shown above, ranging from appearance, to academics, to athletics.

Personally, I’ve always struggled with the tendency to define myself by my academic ability and competency. As a child, I literally used to feel a sense of defeat over B’s on tests, because in my mind, it should have been an A. And, If I don’t know how do something, I often get discouraged and refuse to ask for help. One of my most frequent phrases during my childhood years was “I’ll do it myself.”

I’ve improved in these areas, but at times, I still find myself reverting back to these patterns of thinking. Maybe you have a different aspect of self image that you struggle with. Perhaps yours is with the mirror, a hobby, or how others perceive you. It’s different for everyone, but it all has the same root.

Every time we see ourselves as less than God’s wonderful creation and child, we’ve believed a lie. Psalm 139:14 says “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well”. Emily from fearfullywonderfullyme.com once said in her post The Most Beautiful Girl, that if we don’t love ourselves, we cannot love God or others to our fullest potential. We are made in God’s image and we are His masterpiece. Matthew 22:39 even says that we are called to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

To paraphrase Pastor Dave from God’s Not Dead, if God is incapable of making mistakes, than can each one of us be a mistake? Of course not! We are all here for a purpose and when God made us, He broke the mold! As hard as it can be when society tells us that we’re supposed to live up to a certain standard, we need to remember we were never meant to be like everyone else. We were meant to be us. 

All of our quirks and appearance “flaws” are part of the the beauty of God’s creation. Just as a flower glorifies God by being a flower, and not a tree, we glorify God by being ourselves, and not someone else. Imagine how boring it would be if everyone looked the same and had the same talents. We were made to be different. God gives us different gifts so that we can glorify God through our own unique talents.

Next time you feel discouraged or struggle with self image, remember this.

Different is beautiful. 

And, in the words of Jonny Diaz, there could never be a more beautiful you. 🙂

 

A Letter To My Freshman Self

Dear Freshman Courtney,

First of all, congratulations on making it this far! You’ve survived Jr. High! Now…on to high school! You’re going to face some of your greatest and worst moments during this period of your life, so strap your seatbelt and prepare for the ride!

I know how alone you’re going to feel in that art class, but hang in there! You’ll make it through! It can hard to feel that you’re on the outside of things, but it will be that very feeling that will help mold you into the strong, confident person that you’re going to become! It will also help you gain greater compassion for others who have been there.

I also know that you’re struggling in your faith right now. You’re getting older and beginning to wonder how it fits in your current stage of life (Believe me, it does!). You have a lot of questions and are going to spend a great trying to figure out answers to every ideological/political/religious issue under the sun (Because that’s just how your brain works). You’ll find answers to some of those questions. Others, you’re still trying to figure out.

That’s OK! You don’t have to have every single thing figured out about the world around you. But, don’t be afraid to ask questions! That’s how you grow! God can handle the questions; He’s a big God.

And that “grand moment” that you’re longing for will happen, but somewhere along the way you’ll come to find that each and every day you have the opportunity to make a difference. You don’t just have the opportunity to let your light shine and make a difference on stage or speaking in front of a crowd; you have that opportunity each and every day just by living your life. You’ll eventually start your own blog and twitter account, which will give you the opportunity to share you’re thoughts and opinions with the world. Believe me, you’ll get a kick out of that.

I should probably also warn you that the time between Freshman and Junior year is going to spin a little bit out of control. You’ll lose friends, deal with various situations, and struggle to stay strong. But don’t worry! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel (I was there, so you can trust me)! You’ll meet a really nice girl during the summer between 9th and 10th grade. You’ll become good friends and grow closer to some of your current friends. You’ll also become friends with a girl from Texas and communicate via video chat. The age of the technology…

It will take time, but you’ll finally move on from all of the stress that hit you in the face during that time period. You’ll begin taking a theater class, which will quickly become your favorite class. You’ll love the craziness and camaraderie, and become good friends with your classmates. You’ll perform plays, act out skits, and laugh a whole lot!

You’ll also start going to a new church and feel very at home there. It will start out meeting in a movie theater and they’ll play really cool Christian electro-music. You’ll walk in and it will feel unlike any church you’ve ever been to. You’ll learn a lot from your new church, Christian blogs, and a really cool online Christian magazine called RELEVANT.

Finally, you’ll arrive here, writing this letter to yourself. You’ll make great friends, gain wonderful opportunities, and have some really cool classes. Oh sure, you’ll have your off days. But, you’ll grow to become confident and outgoing, beginning to see life as God’s story. And, if you had never experienced each chapter before this one, you may never have arrived where you are today.

Sincerely,

2016-Courtney

 

Waiting And Trusting

Hey everyone! I’m back in the blogging world! Sorry for the long hiatus (apparently my last post was twenty-two days ago…eek!). I’ve been keeping busy with school and revising a book that I’m writing (or, should I say re-writing?).

But, I’m back and I finally came up with a topic to write about (YAY!!!). This post is going to be about…wait for it…wait for it…It’s going to be about waiting! Yeah…I tried to throw in a little joke there.

Lately, as I’m getting older and closer to becoming an adult, I’ve been hyper-focused on my dreams and goals. A couple of years ago, things like a future career seemed so far off. Something to worry about in the distant future. But, suddenly, everything feels super close, which raises a million unanswerable questions to surface. Will my writing career sink or swim? And if it does work out, how? Should I make this change or that change to my book? Are my characters distinct enough? Are they relatable?

And then there are the more universal concerns.

In a couple of years I’m going to be living on my own, will I be able to handle it? I still only have my permit and haven’t even been practicing my driving lately. Will I ever get the hang of it? And, what will college be like? Will I be able to handle college math (My worst subject)?

I find myself caught between now and the future, half wishing I could ride in the crazy scientist from Back To The Future‘s time machine and be assured that everything will fall into place. But, I have something better than a time machine: God’s word.

As Christians, we’re not left alone to worry about the future. God speaks about this topic numerous times throughout Scripture.

““Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?” Matthew 6:25-27

“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.”” Jeremiah 29:11

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

God has our whole lives planned out, and His plans for us are beyond our wildest dreams! We may not be able to see the future, but God can. Plus, if we could see into the future, we’d miss all of the surprises that come with living! As scary as it can often be, it’s also exciting to know that God has good things planned for us that we can’t yet fathom. At times, we may wish that everything would just happen right now. But, sometimes He sees things we can’t and has us wait for a reason.

Two years ago, I would have loved to perform a song that I wrote right then and there; but God had me wait until it I got better at singing and composing the instrumental for it. As hard as it was at the time, I’m now thankful that He had me wait. I trust that this is true for all my other goals/dreams/aspirations as well. God may be growing us during times of waiting, and asking us to trust Him with what you can’t see. He may be planning opportunities that can only be found further down the path of life. We don’t always know why God asks us to wait, but we can know this-

We never have to wait alone, because God is always with us, and always has our best interest at heart. ❤️

This song, While I’m Waiting, is from the well-known Christian movie, Fireproof. I think the song fits this topic pretty perfectly. 🙂

Uplifting Article

I was amen-ing this all the way through. It’s so refreshing to hear people positively and Biblically talk about what has been such a divisive, hot-button issue.

Stories like his need to be heard in Christian circles.

#Peace #ChurchFamily #BrosAndSistersInChrist #GodLovesAll #BeautifulLifeForAll

http://www.crowncross.org/2015/04/17/finding-love-in-the-church-reflections-of-a-gay-celibate-christian/

Beautiful Article By Wesley Hill

In the wake of increasing discussion following the LGBT topic, I’ve stumbled across a powerful article by Wesley Hill, a prominent Christian speaker on this subject. I found it so good, that I felt compelled to share it with all of you, and I urge you to try to understand and be a friend to those whose struggle looks different than yours. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Hill and others like him, and hope that their philosophies, solutions, and musings, are continued in decades to come.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/07/15/yes-many-christian-communities-are-toxic-for-my-lbgt-friends-but-theres-more/

A Better Way (Part Two)

Jesus payed much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come-Casting Crowns

Good morning fellow bloggers and readers. Sorry I did not get a chance to blog yesterday. I had insomnia the night before, and thus, was pretty exhausted yesterday, with little energy to think in-depth about my current blog two-parter. 

Nonetheless, I’m feeling good today and I’m going to pick up where I left off. In my last blog post, I talked about a way for Christians to have a more compassionate response to the LGBT Community, and information and conclusions that I’ve personally come to find. Thus, today I’m going to be talking about what we, as the church, can do.

1. Accept singleness as a viable option. I think that is one that can apply to both gay and straight people. There have been times when the response to being single in the church seemed to be “What’s wrong with you?” In not so many words. If churches solely focus on marriage and the nuclear family, it can leave a gay celibate person in a very awkward position. If you look through the Bible, singleness is actually commended, not discouraged. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:8. “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” Nevertheless, the single person in the congregation should be looked at in the same way that the married couple with kids is looked at. Valued members of church and society.

2. Be a family.The last thing that I’d ever want to tell a gay person is to be lonely. This was a big reason why I struggled with my response to this topic for a while. Because whether you’re an introvert or an extravert, we all need people. We all need love, acceptance, and community. Someone to vent to after a long day and someone who we can share a pizza with. In the words of Bill Withers (I’m actually listening to a cover of this song right now!) “We all need somebody to lean on.” Nonetheless, I believe that if we, as Christians begin outreaching to this community and acknowledging these genuine needs, gay oriented people can find this love they need in friendships. Wesley Hill even has a book on this concept, called Spiritual Friendship. I believe that there are a lot of steps that we can take to show Jesus’ command to love your neighbor to the LGBT Community. Julie Rodgers recalls an experience once had in the video that I posted to my last blog entry. She said that her friend once told her that if she ever gets to a place in her life where she feels she’s not known, she’s welcome to live at her house and be Aunt Julie to her kids. Now, I recognize that we can’t all have someone live in our house, but I really love the aunt and uncle concept. What if nuclear families in the church did have an honorary aunt or uncle? I feel that this could be a blessing to both single people and nuclear families. The single people would have a place to go for Easter and Christmas, and a family to call their own. Meanwhile, the nuclear family would have someone to help watch the kids when they go out, or when they simply need an extra hand.

3. Don’t be afraid. I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to have at least some fear of gay people. However, I believe that once we become more informed, the topic no longer becomes one to be afraid of, but rather a people group that aren’t that different from you and me. I believe that pastors need to be especially careful about what they say from the pulpit. It would do immense good to create an atmosphere where gay people feel welcomed and loved, not outcasted and hated. I’ve read that gay people aren’t just out there somewhere in the world, they can be in your church, silent about their struggle.

4. Never Stand For Gay Bullying. http://www.bullyingstatistics.org says, “According to recent gay bullying statistics, gay and lesbian teens are two to three times as more likely to commit teen suicide than other youths. About 30 percent of all completed suicides have been related to sexual identity crisis. Students who also fall into the gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgendered identity groups report being five times as more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe after being bullied due to their sexual orientation. About 28 percent out of those groups feel forced to drop out of school altogether.” This is devastating. Gay people deserve to be treated like people. They do not deserve hate crimes or hate speech. No one does. If you see a gay person being bullied, stand up for them. Though this one ought to be somewhat obvious, we should never condone people being bullied. For orientation or for other reasons.

5. Don’t push for a universal mold-Though there are likely many gay guys who are athletes or soldiers, and many lesbian girls who are supermodels or fashion designers, some may not fit the stereotypical mold of what a guy is “supposed” to be or what a girl is “supposed” to be. Julie Rodgers wrote in one of her blog posts about being paranoid that someone would find out that she was gay, and how she’d even question if she was sitting gay. Granted, I’m sure there are many straight guys and girls who deviate from gender stereotypes as well. Basically, what I’m getting at, is to not freak out or turn your nose in disgust to someone who isn’t your typical model of “guy” or “girl”. If you look through the Bible, there is not one place that says that a guy can’t take ballet or that a girl can’t play sports. In fact, if you look at 2 Samuel 6:16, you see King David leaping and dancing before God. Furthermore, 1 Samuel 16:7 says “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”” (NIV) Furthermore, according to http://www.theguardian.com, in 1890, the Ladies’ Home Journal advised blue for girls, and pink for boys. “In the UK the Women’s Institute was still recommending pink for boys up until 1921.” Thus, I urge you to not make jokes about a guy acting “girly” or a girl acting too guy-ish. It would seem to me, that God looks more at the heart than what a person takes up as a hobby or their mannerisms. If we take the focus off stereotypes, and embrace people’s wonderful and unique personalities, I believe it will take a lot of pressure off of a lot of people and allow us to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.

This is the final post for my A Better Way two-parter, nonetheless, I hope that the information that I have posted within the last two blogs has been interesting and beneficial to you. I believe that we all have the opportunity to create a better way for gay oriented people. Change starts right where you are, as you interact with people everyday. I urge you to show kindness and God’s love to LGBT oriented people and people in general. Who knows, you could make a new friend, and you could impact a life.

I have no idea what the band Tenth Avenue North had in mind when they wrote their recent hit, No Man Is An Island, but this song has always seemed to fit very well with what I just blogged about. Thus, I feel it is fitting to post this song as a final conclusion to my two part series.