I grew up in Virginia and every Sunday driving to church we passed tobacco fields. I thought everyone grew tobacco, until we moved farther north. Now on the way to church, we pass corn fields. Every summer, we went to a beach in North Carolina, and every summer I fell asleep on the drive. When I woke up, I knew we were close when the tobacco had given way to cotton and soy beans. At the beach, my granddad always prepared a fish fry with seafood that he bought from a local fisherman. When I moved back to Maryland 8 years ago, for the first time I had a real Maryland crab cake.
Now I’m in Honduras. There are mango groves, coffee plantations, and fields of bananas, plantains, and passion fruit. Fruits that I have never seen before, juices I have never heard of, and flavors to which I am unaccustomed fill the dinner table. The crops that are grown, and the subsequent meals that are prepared, truly represent the region of the world that I am in.
If I have learned one thing from all my travels it is this: The fruit that is grown is indicative of the region in which we are in.
Shouldn’t that be what our lives are like? We are living in Christ. Those things, the things of Christ, should define us. It should be obvious that the things of this world are no longer growing in us. We shouldn’t cultivate anger, jealousy, slander, malice, sexual promiscuity-sin. But rather, we should let the fruit of the Spirit take over our lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
We had to memorize a passage of scripture for the trip, and out of the 17 verses, 5 words have resonated within my soul. “…Christ, who is your life…” Christ is our life. He is the life blood that is running through our veins. And just as the water that runs underground makes the growth of all crops possible, Christ is what is needed to cultivate the only fruit that truly matters.
In North Carolina, I see cotton. Here in Honduras, I see mango. If we truly are living in Jesus, and if He is our life as Paul told us in Colossians, then in Christians, the world should see Christ.
- People’s opinions and feelings are valid, even if they don’t make sense to me.
- The Gospel will always, always, always be opposed.
- I actually like Peppermint Patties.
- Turing the alarm code off at the church is stressful.
- “Where anger and bitterness thrive, prayer dies.” ~Pastor Hahn
- Not everyone is going to like me.
- I have to be okay with that, and not let it bother me.
- It is okay, even healthy, to not invest in non-durable, toxic friendships.
- The amount of energy (and patience) I have is directly proportionate to the amount of caffeine I have had that day.
- Always take notes.
- Be organized.
- If you aren’t organized, chaos and stress abound.
- 50 wet middle schooler’s on a hot school bus stink.
- The Devil is not in the details.
- Details are important.
- I still stink at 4 Square.
- Musical Chairs is still competitive.
- As much as I want to make myself, I just don’t like watermelon.
- Drama doesn’t last past tomorrow.
- The destruction that drama causes lasts for a long time, and can ruin relationships.
- Chill out.
- I can’t take myself so seriously.
- Fear can’t be a motivator.
- People aren’t projects to be handled.
- Red nail polish and chocolate can make even the bad moments good.
- Gossip is 100% of the time destructive, and 0% of the time a good idea.
- My water infuser water bottle is the best investment I ever made.
- It’s okay to ask for help.
- I can’t do everything on my own.
- Sometimes rest is a good thing.
- Jesus loves me, despite my failures.
- I’m still not a morning person.
- Team work is essential.
- It takes much longer to repair a bridge than it does to destroy it.
- People don’t always receive things the way I intended them.
- Always apologize, even if I don’t think I did anything wrong.
- If people are hurting because they misinterpreted something I said or did, I am still accountable for that pain.
- There is a difference between resting and being lazy.
- My enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking for someone to devour. He comes to steal, kill and destroy.
- Unopposed ministry is ineffective ministry.
- Farmers markets sell great things for my water infuser.
- Nothing is more divisive than a competitive, defensive, selfish spirit.
- Other people’s jealousy isn’t always my fault, but I have to be cognizant of it.
- I can’t try to purposefully step on someone’s toes.
- I can’t let the fear of stepping on someone’s toes keep me from doing what I know is right.
- Foster relationships with students for the sole purpose of befriending them, not fixing them.
- Being an intern really does mean bringing my boss coffee.
- It’s possible to do ministry for God, and not with God.
- That leads to burn out.
- The Broccoli and Beef from Chop Stix is delicious.
- Coffee is necessary for ministry.
- Not letting people drag me into their made-up drama is always a good idea.
- Sometimes not responding to texts isn’t ignoring.
- Do everything I can to live in peace.
- Living in peace with unpeaceful people is hard, but necessary.
- Take the high road, even when I can rationalize rolling around in the mud.
- I have to focus on pleasing The Lord, not pleasing people.
- There is a difference between high expectations and unrealistic expectations.
- When you grow mint plants, you have to water them a lot.
- When I drink a lot of water, I feel better and have fewer headaches.
- Keeping a note pad in my purse is important.
- “To do” lists help me.
- The Honey BBQ wings at Buffalo Wild Wings are too spicy for me.
- The Teriyaki wings are okay though.
- Parks and Rec isn’t as good as The Office.
- Always show grace.
- Loving people through it sometimes means receiving their unkindness with love and patience.
- I still don’t know how to use a key.
- Hurting people hurt people.
- It’s not always personal.
- The Keurig in the Pit doesn’t work with K cups from Ollies.
- Live like life is, not like the way I want it to be.
- Communication is important.
- In everything I do, do it as unto The Lord.
- Applying to be a youth intern at MVCC was one of the best decisions I ever made. ❤
To the students who are going to Honduras (or Pittsburg), or who want to make the perfect southern biscuit, because this applies to you too:
To the biscuit makers:
First, you make your flour mixture. Next, you cut the cold (not room temperature) butter into small cubes, and add them into the floor. Then you do what is called cutting the butter in.
And you have to cut in the butter. And the only way to do that is make sure it is cold. Not room temperature. Not melted. But cold. The colder the better.
But here’s the thing. Cutting butter into the flour is hard. It takes some serious elbow grease, patience, and umph. It would be so much easier to melt the butter, pour it over the flour, and bam. You’re done. Easy peasy lemon squeeze. But if you want flaky, buttery, southern (real) biscuits, pies, doughs, crusts, or cakes, easy just won’t cut it. You have to cut in the butter. There simply is no other way.
And there is no machine that will do this for you. You have to do it for yourself, by hand. There is a tool that cuts in butter called a pastry blender, but if you don’t have one (or can’t find it, like me), you have to use two forks. And it takes forever. The butter has to evenly incorporated into the flour mixture, but because it is cold, this takes some effort. You want the butter and the flour to all be the same consistency, almost like sand. Only then can you add your wet ingredients, knead the dough, and form whatever it is you are making.
Tonight I was making made from scratch strawberry shortcakes and I realized just how hard cutting in the butter can be. Sure, I could have melted it. That would have been quicker. Easier. But I wanted the shortcakes to turn out buttery, flaky, and delicious, not dense, so I had no other choice.
If you want the finished product to turn out well, you can’t cheat. You can’t take the easy, minimal effort way out. You can’t cut corners. You have to cut the butter in.
So promise me. When you are in Honduras, always cut the butter in. And always make sure it is cold.
Three years ago, almost to the day, I too was preparing for my first trip abroad. I was scared. I was young. I felt unqualified. I was you. So I know how tempting it is to not give it my all. It’s tempting to skimp on memory verses, to not pay attention in the sessions, to blow off your daily quiet time. Because it’s hard work. Standing for twenty minutes over a bowl using arm muscles (that, if you are anything like me, don’t exist) makes almost no sense when you can put butter into a microwave safe dish and press the “add 30 seconds” button. But I promise you. That won’t give you the desired result.
Even though, like you, this is my first time to Honduras, I can promise you 5 things about the trip.
- You will be hungry, even though you just ate. The foreign food will lose the luster that “exotic” brings in a matter of minutes, and it will be just plain weird. You won’t trust it, because you can’t trust what is in it. You will ache for the familiarity and comfort that frozen pizza can bring. I remember eating something in Ecuador and thinking “Back home, I could buy this, alive and squeaking, in a pet store…”
- You will wake up more tired and exhausted than you were the night before. Your body will scream at you from overuse and under-rest, your mind will wander, and you will wonder why you ever left the comforts of air conditioning, cable TV, and wifi.
- It won’t be a vacation. It will be work. It will test you. Try you. Break you. It will be hard.
- Lenor gave you a daily schedule. At the end of the week, you will look back on it and laugh. It won’t look anything like how the days transpired, and you won’t even recognize it as a trip that you were on. Our plans will be wrecked. And it will be Divine Chaos. Sometimes I think God changes our plans just to make us rely on Him, and to remind us who really is in control.
- If you let him, God will use this to change your life. And you will never be the same again.
You see, God asks us to cut the butter in. To do the work. Mark 16:15 says “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation!” It isn’t easy. Our job is to cut in the butter. But the baking? That’s God’s job.
We are not going on a missions trip. We are joining God on His mission– His mission to bring the world back to himself. We aren’t starting or initiating anything. We are joining in, joining with God in something that He put into motion long ago.
In Genesis 11, after the tower of Babel, God dispersed the people, creating different cultures, languages, and people groups. This created the need for missions. But our God is beautiful. His timing is perfect, and He doesn’t miss a beat. In the very first verse of the very next chapter we read some of the most profound, characteristic, and loving words in all of scripture. You see God’s plan to bring His scattered creation back to Himself.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
In Genesis 11, you see the problem. And in Genesis 12, you see God’s solution. God chose a very normal guy. Abram just arrived on the scene in a very unexpected way. He came out of seemingly nowhere. But he was on God’s radar. God saw Him, and chose to use him to bring back a lost and hurting people. Remember when I said I felt scared, unqualified? Guys, maybe you feel like this trip is coming out of nowhere, and you feel unqualified.
- “My Spanish is terrible”
- “I’m shy”
- “I can’t sing”
- “I’m a picky eater”
You are on God’s radar. Remember that. You don’t go on a trip like this just for the heck of it. You are called. Believe it. Act like it.
When tracking the Abrahamic Covenant throughout Genesis, several interesting things can be revealed. Not only do you see God’s continued faithfulness to Abraham and those who inherited the Covenant, but you see how important that faithfulness is to Him. God repeats His promises time and time again (over 40 times). If he is willing to put that much time and effort into them, you know he must mean it. And not only does he mean it, but he wants us to get it. He wouldn’t breathe this promise over and over and over again over the pages of Scripture if he didn’t want us too to understand his faithfulness.
You can track not only the historical narrative of the people of Israel, but you can see the beginning stages of God’s redemptive plan. Mankind was created to live in harmony and community with God. Now that was broken during The Fall, but with the dispersion of the people there needed to be a way to reach them. So through Abraham, God created a people called Israel, through which the Savior of the world would be born.
Guys, pay attention, because it is important that you understand this. Through Christ, we have inherited the Abrahamic Covenant. Those promises apply to us now. But we aren’t doing anything new. The need was long ago made known. And the answer? God too made that clear.
So doesn’t that give you peace?
- Your Spanish does not have to be understandable.
- You are allowed to be tired.
- It’s okay not to like the food.
- You are normal if you get homesick.
Because at the end of the day, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. We are just joining God on His mission, one that began in Genesis chapter 12. We are called to be obedient. We are called to sow seeds. God will make them grow. Don’t worry about being effective, because anything done in your own power is vanity. Let God work through you. If you let him, He will.
We only have to cut the butter in. It’s hard, yes. But worth it. God will do the baking. It’s his recipe, after all.
All my love,
your summer intern,
To the Students of Mountain View Community Church:
As I look forward to this summer of serving you as intern, I have become incredibly retrospective. I remember when I was in your shoes. I remember when I was a student attending SOS. Or more accurately, I remember when I was a student who never attended SOS.
Looking back on my time in high school, I don’t regret skipping this party or not dating that boy. I don’t regret not buying the newest jeans or not having the nicest phone. I don’t regret not sitting at the best lunch table or even that time I didn’t study and consequently failed a test. I don’t regret not wearing name brand clothing or deciding to shop on the clearance rack. To be honest, I don’t really remember or care about any of those things anymore. But I do remember my time spent inside the walls of Mountain View Community Church, and I wish that there had been more of it. There is nothing that I miss more. And there is nothing that I regret more than waiting until the end of my junior year to get involved in SOS.
If I could offer you one piece of wisdom as we start this summer of doing life together, it would be to get involved. And once you get involved, stay involved.
- No date is worth skipping SOS for.
- No dance is worth skipping the Fall Retreat for.
- No late night party is worth skipping Sunday morning church for.
- No school friend group is worth compromising a relationship with your small group.
- No trip to Ocean City is worth skipping out on a summer missions trip.
I think back to when I was a junior, when a senior asked me to homecoming. I had never been to a high school dance before, and I was excited to be going with him. I got to dress up, someone did my hair, and I bought all new jewelry to match my new dress and my new shoes. He came to my front porch, shook hands with my dad, and together, we went to Homecoming. During the first slow dance that night, the boy who took me to my first dance became my first boyfriend. He was a swimmer, and I felt safe in his swimmer arms. He was applying at (and later accepted into) one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. He graduated with a 4.7 GPA, and he made me feel like I was the only girl in the world.
10 weeks later, the relationship ended in fireball fashion, and we have had little communication since.
During my two month long relationship, my excuse for not going to SOS was that I needed to see him. I worked and he was very busy, so Sunday nights were the “only” chance we got to spend time together (we went to the same high school and lived in the same neighborhood, so I saw him all the time). Now, over three years later, I look back on that relationship with regret. Not because he wasn’t a good guy, because he was. I don’t regret dating him, but I do regret what I let him keep me from. When I look back on that time of my life, I don’t remember the movies we watched together, our conversations, or even what we did on those Sunday nights. Looking back, I only see missed opportunities. I didn’t go to the Fall Retreat so he could take me to homecoming. I didn’t go to SOS so I could see him. But you see, those things were not his fault, or his decisions. They were mine.
I didn’t know it was possible to forget the things you experienced and remember the ones you didn’t, but it is. Three years later, it is not him who I miss, but rather, with all of my heart, I miss the missed opportunities.
Learn from my mistakes, and yes, they were mistakes. I’m not asking you not to date in high school (though I could make a compelling case for this). But I am begging you not to let those you date, the sports you play, the jobs you work, or the activities that you are involved in keep you from what really matters.
I graduated two years ago. When I come home from college, it is not my ex boyfriend who I want to see. My high school friends (with the exception of a very small minority) are not even in my contact list anymore. But those friends I met at church? Those are the durable relationships. The ones that last. When I am having a bad day, they are the ones I call. When I fantasize about my wedding day, it is them who I envision standing beside me as I say “I do”.
Now, two years removed, it is SOS that I miss most about high school. But you are still in high school. Take advantage of it. Every time the PIT doors are open, you better be there. Because when you are there,
- Jesus is Life
- Everyone is Welcome
- Relationships are Crucial
- Students are Celebrated
- Love Compels us
- Anything is Possible
If you are looking for a safe, fun, God-honoring atmosphere, there is no place better than SOS. Pastor Steve has made sure of that.
- If you just graduated: you have one summer left. Make the most of it.
- If you are just starting high school, start it off right. Start it with the people who will be there for you when you graduate, and who will still be with you long after.
- For everyone in between, stay involved. If you aren’t involved, get involved.
And now that we have established that you will indeed be involved, I can say I can’t wait to get to know you,
All of my love,
your summer intern,
God knows the desires of my heart, because He himself put them there. I know deep down I am called to a life of missions, as is every Christian. But I also know my future won’t fit into the cookie cutter “American Dream” box. I have no doubt I one day will buy a one way plane ticket to Latin America.
But this past semester I struggled with my calling. If I was called to go, why was I staying?
- The summer of 2013 I had a long term trip planned. Canceled.
- The summer of 2014 I had a trip planned. Canceled.
- And this summer. I was supposed to go to Honduras. And work in an orphanage. For reasons outside of my control, a few weeks ago it too was canceled.
And I was wrecked. Could God be trying to get my attention by closing all these doors? I knew that wasn’t the case, but it seemed so easy to believe. Both of my brothers are going to Honduras with my church to work in an orphanage. Neither one of them want to study missions or Spanish in college, and I study both. I was happy for them, but silently, privately, I grieved. Patience has never been a strong suit of mine, and this life of “waiting to go” has stretched me far beyond my comfort zone. I’ll stick with my own plan thank you very much. My plan does not include this waiting, this happy for them, private silent grieving. But my plan never works out, the Holy Spirit prods. So I submit to the waiting, once again.
Knowing that they were leaving the country and I again would be staying wasn’t easy.
But somehow, surrendering it to The Lord was. It’s funny. Surrender shouldn’t mean winning. But in this Christian life, it does. The victory has already been won. I just have to give up my selfish, carnal fight and let Christ win. I had to believe that God not only knew the desires of my heart, but that he had given them to me to bring glory and honor to his name. (Isn’t that what I claim to want: to bring honor and glory to His name?) And that in His time, he would give them to me.
And He did. In less than a month, I will join the team from my youth group to do missions work at an Orphanage in Honduras. I am spending the summer serving as Summer Intern for my youth group. Now, I will be serving alongside those very same students in Honduras. After a series of circumstances that can only be described as Divine Chaos, He is sending me.
And the name of the orphanage we will be serving in? Providence.
Surely by now you have heard about Bruce Jenner and his intention to move forward in the process of having a sex change. I have two questions for those of you who claim to share my faith, but choose to express it by posting harsh and derogatory comments that do not reflect Christ.
For arguments sake: What if you are right? What if what Bruce Jenner and the thousands of other transgender Americans are doing is wrong? What if they are wrong?
And, for arguments sake, let’s say they are. Do you really think that your mean spirited status updates and article shares will do any good? Whose mind do you expect to change by being so harsh?
“For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
If you are right, and they are wrong, haven’t you too fallen short of the glory of God? Aren’t we all sinners in need of a Savior? That time you rolled your eyes at your mom when she asked you not to wear so much eyeliner, when you didn’t clock out at work when you took a break, because it was only 5 minutes and you knew no one would notice, that time you sped because you were running late, those hateful thoughts that popped into your mind when you heard about Bruce Jenner’s decision: those things render you just as Hell bound as he.
So if you are right, and these people do need Jesus: Why aren’t you showing Him? Why aren’t you acting like Him? Why aren’t you obeying Him?
We are called to love, and to be salt and light to a hurting and broken world. How then, will be reach those who are hurting while acting this way? We simply can not fulfill the Great Commission and reach those who appear to be living outside of the will of God if we spend all of our time pushing away the very people we are called to reach.
A few months ago I was at Chick Fil A eating dinner with a friend before we went to campus church. After ordering and sitting down, I whispered across the table “No one is that tan in January”, referring to the girl behind the counter who had taken our order. “She is darker than the fried chicken.” He looked up at me and said
“Ellen. You need to read 1 John”.
I knew to what he was referring and was crushed. I felt even smaller when I went back to my dorm that night and read the five chapter long book about loving others. 1 John 2:3-11 says this:
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
The sixth verse in the first chapter says this: “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” The point is, we have been commanded to live out the truth of God’s word. We are called to show Christ’s love. And, generally speaking, we aren’t.
Earlier today I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw someone who I know was raised in the church post something very derogatory about Bruce Jenner and his decisions, along with a link to an article that can only be described as hateful and vile. And a few minutes later, the same person posted a verse explain the Gospel. And it got me thinking.
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” – Romans 6:4
I was disgusted by the hypocrisy that was displayed by the juxtaposition of those two posts. We were buried with Christ in baptism, and raised to walk in newness of life. The old is gone and they new has come! That hypocritical, condemning spirit? That should be long gone. Christ died to free us from that sinful spirit. Jesus did not bleed and die on a cross for us to judge, belittle, and slander a fellow image bearer of the Living and Holy God. Because that is exactly who Bruce Jenner is. And all the plastic surgery, electrolysis, and hormone pills in the world could never change that. This was true before the sex change and it will be true after: he was created in the image of God.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:1-14
As true as this is for you and me, it is also true for Bruce Jenner. Christ died to save him too.
So, to my saved-by-grace friends and followers, here is my second question:
That grace you claim to be so amazing? Where is it? That grace that you say is so life changing? Where is the evidence of it in your life? In your social media profiles? In your conversations? Because if your condemning status updates and article shares are the only exposure to christianity that this world sees (and far too often, that is the case) can you really blame them for hating us? I can’t.
Because at the end of the day, when it comes to how we treat and how we speak about Bruce Jenner, it doesn’t matter if what he’s doing is right or wrong. It really, truly doesn’t. Because we are told that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Just because your sins are different, you are not a “better sinner”.
But again, if you are right, that is where Christians should identify his need for Jesus. If you are right, and he is wrong, he needs your prayers and petition, not your petty, proud commentary. Our hearts should break for him and we should become desperate in our desire to see him come to know the Lord.
That is what should define Christians: Our obsessive desire to see the world won for Christ. Not our eagerness to sit in white washed pews, under stained glass windows, and tear down the very world we are called to reach. We should preach salvation for the oppressed and freedom for the prisoners: not a social commentary. Grace. Never Gossip.
Harsh criticism and hate-filled, self righteous opinions have never won anyone for Christ, and they never will. But they have pushed a lot of people away.
When Christ came into contact with prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners, he didn’t act “holier than thou” and refuse to be seen with them, nor did he post publicly on social media about their transgressions. Even though he did say “go and sin no more”, He loved them. So should we.
Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ
If we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
While not addressed here, there is a time and a place to call out sin, and I promise you, social media will never be the proper place, nor should condemnation be your spirit of delivery. Here is great resource, written by a dear friend, to check out when it comes to confronting sin. Click here.
***This was written before Bruce Jenner appeared as a woman, and in respect of his wishes, the male pronouns are used.
“Have you ever realized that turning the other cheek doesn’t mean you walk away; it means you offer them the rest of you to hurt?” ~Krysti Courchesne
Sitting and listening to lies spread about me is painful, and not being able to say anything to convince my accusers otherwise exacerbates the wound. Being confronted time and time again by those whose opinions I respect the most for all of these things that I never said and never did, and having to just sit and take it certainly has not been easy. Whenever I corrected one of the rumors, I was accused of lying, being fake, and being manipulative. When I refused to gossip about a private situation to outside parties, again the attacks on my character ensued, and I was accused of hiding a (nonexistent) incriminating truth. By choosing to honor God by keeping my mouth shut and not talking poorly about a friend, I opened myself up to a whole other slew of attacks.
It surely would have been easier to just walk away, to give up, to stop caring, and I’ve been fighting the urge to do just that and quit caring about these people for some time now. That feels like the right thing to do. It would protect me from a lot a pain. But unfortunately, I don’t think that is what we are called to do. We are called to love, to forgive, to show grace. That is simply part of the great paradox that is the Christian Life. So often, Right feels Wrong. I don’t want to love them. They haven’t loved me. They have refused to believe me, and instead willingly believed the very worst things about me, and then spread those things like wildfire. Turing my check doesn’t mean walking away, as I wish it did.
In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus says this:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 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. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Growing up, I thought that this passage was rather confusing. I couldn’t understand why I should allow myself to be physically attacked. I have found though, that the passage doesn’t exactly mean that.
“Jesus is speaking here of the principle of non-retaliation to affronts against our own dignity…He was calling for a full surrender of all personal rights. Turning the other cheek means not to return insult for insult in retaliation, which is what most people expect and how worldly people act. Responding to hatred with love just might grab someone’s attention and afford us a chance to share the gospel. When we respond in a manner that is unnatural, it displays the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus was the perfect example because He was silent before His accusers and did not call down revenge from heaven on those who crucified Him.” ~Got Questions
Grace. All grace. Showering insult not with injury, but with grace and forgiveness isn’t easy, but through the power of the Holy Spirit I can do it.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times“. ~Matthew 18:21-22
I’m growing wearing of waiting for 70 X 7 to get here. I’m tired of being hurt and I am tired of caring. But Jesus was not giving me permission to stop forgiving when I get to 490 times. What he was really saying was to keep no record of wrongs. He was telling us to not count, to not hold grudges, and to forgive. Without limits or caps. As many times are you are wronged, you forgive all the greater.
Immediately following Peter’s question, we see the parable of the unforgiving servant. I have been forgiven for every lie I ever told, every time I rolled my eyes at my mother, every time I cheated on homework. I have been forgiven this enormous debt by a perfect, sovereign, Holy, Just, God. Shouldn’t we be willing to forgive that much greater?
When the soldiers beat and spit on Jesus, he turned the cheek, he offered the rest of himself to hurt. With his help, I can do the same.
Let me just start off by saying this: I love the hall life. I love late night pillow talks about not using Scripture outside of context. I love doing lamp-lit homework in someone else’s room and having a cactus (or three) growing on
my windowsill. And yes, I even love the communal bathrooms (you would be amazed the conversations that take place when you are doing your makeup). But the best part of hall life, especially hall life here at Liberty, is the community. I see my friends who go to public colleges posting about sororites and pledging and their sisters, and to be honest I can understand the allure. Everyone wants community. Everyone wants to feel like they are part of a family. Well, here is mine.
* * * *
I remember complementing Lindsey last semester on the outfit that she was wearing, and she told me that the dress wasn’t hers, only the necklace was. Jokingly, Karla, her roommate and the owner of the dress said “Together, we make an outfit.” I doubt Karla thought anything of it, but that simple phrase has not stopped resonating in my soul all year. Together we make an outfit. The sum is really greater than its parts. We need each other. We need community. We need to ask for help. We need vulnerability. We can’t do it on our own. A statement necklace is only a statement once it is paired with a great outfit. On its own, it may be flashy, but it really is meaningless. It can’t shine without going together with something else.
Cheetah print Toms Wedges, flannel, a flower headband, and a pencil skirt individually are not significant. But when you add them all together, you have an outfit knit together by the Creator of the Universe Himself. Together, this is the outfit that we make, that God knit us into.
Isn’t that a beautiful picture of what this Christian life should look like? We can’t do anything on our own: we weren’t created to! Scripture is very clear about the need for Christian brothers and sisters.
- Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. ~Proverbs 27:17
- Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. ~Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Growing up, girls were mean. Well, let’s face it. Girls are mean. And when they get bored, they pass the time by making up drama for other people. I’ve heard gossip countless times before, and I have lost several friends to rumors based in vindictive fiction. What girl survives middle or high school without it? But this time, it’s different. For the past few weeks, I have heard some horrible things about this group of women, and never have I been so offended, so hurt, so protective, and so broken by rumors. I go a little bit Momma Bear. I love these girls, it hurts me to see their character attacked, and it saddens me that people would even take time to make it up. But to be honest, it also makes me laugh. Because these women of the Lord SHINE. It reminds me of this verse in Matthew:
Let your light shine before men, so that they might see your good deeds, and glorify your Father in Heaven.
These ladies do that! They live in a such a way that there is no room for people to question their motives, their heart, or their walk with The Lord. They live above reproach. And laughter really is the only response to such baseless attacks! Anyone who knows these women know they are so focused on the Lord, they have time for little else.
Last year when I was picking a hall, I didn’t really pay much attention to the Hall Theme. Sure, they are a nice idea, but I didn’t think that it even mattered. It didn’t dictate prayer groups, it was just sorta there. But how wrong I was. The hall theme this year is SHINE. Looking back over this year, no one has shown Christ’s love brighter than these ladies have. When my life was dark, deep, and desperate, they were there shining His light, love, and glory into even the hidden places in my life. When my life was good, easy, and trial free, they were there to celebrate with me. I have never met another group of ladies who exemplify this command from Christ the way they do.
When I was a little girl, my mother always told me not to stare at the sun. And I never listened. I remember looking up and squinting so much, that I lost sight of the sun itself, all I could see was the light coming from the sun. That is what I want my life to look like. When people look at me, I want Jesus to shine so brightly in me that people have to squint, and I disappear. All they can see is Jesus.
That is what life on this hall has been like. That is what doing life with these ladies has been like. You watch them live their lives, you speak to them, and you have to start squinting. They disappear. This world disappears. And all that is left is Jesus.
Provers 13:20 says this:
He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.
And 1 Corinthians 15:33 says this:
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
I have learned so much from them. This year, while the hardest season in my life, was the best season in my life, because of them. I have grown in wisdom. The outcome was good. They taught me to confront when I wanted to cower. They taught me to love when I wanted to leave. They taught me to fight when I wanted to forfeit. And they taught me to surrender when I wanted to succumb.
- Confront sin and evil in my life, and rebuke it. Not cower to it and the influence it could have.
- Love the unloveable, when leaving would be easier and far less painful.
- Fight for the things the Lord has called me to, and not forfeit to the attacks from the evil one.
- Surrender my plans to the Lord, when succumbing to pressure seems easier.
I will be forever grateful that The Lord in his sovereignty handpicked this team. I have never grown so much in all of my life. It wasn’t because my quiet time was always consistent, because it wasn’t. More often than I would like to admit, my devotionals laid untouched on my desk, and I only read my Bible when it was for homework or I was preparing a lesson. And this growth was certainly not because life was easy this year. I have gone through some of the deepest valleys, experienced the most gut wrenching pain, and seen some searing losses. The growth was because of each and every one of these ladies. They carried me on their knees when I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. They loved me when I thought I was underserving. They served me when I couldn’t give anymore. And I will forever be grateful.
To M33-1: Thank you showing me Christ. Thank you for being Christ. And thank you for leaving me better than you found me. I love you.
Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite stories. I have plush characters from the Disney movie on my bed, teeshirts, the soundtrack, and a dream to see it on Broadway. It’s an amazing love story, rivaled by arguably only one, at least in my opinion: The Story of Easter. But never, not until today, have I ever put them together.
In Max Lucado’s He Chose the Nails, there is an entire chapter dedicated to this powerful parallel. Easter took on a new meaning for me, a more poignant one, and so did the movie. Maybe this is why I have always loved the story: I could relate. Jesus saw the beauty in our beastliness.
I couldn’t retell it better than Max wrote it the first time. So I’m not even going to try.
What would have happened to the Beast if the Beauty hadn’t appeared?
You know the story. There was a time when his face was handsome and his palace pleasant. But that was before the curse, before the shadows fell on the castle of the prince, before the shadows fell on the heart of the prince. And when the darkness fell, he hid. Secluded in his castle, he was left with glistening snout and curly tusks and a bad mood.
But all that changed when the girl came. I wonder, what would have happened to the Beast if the Beauty hadn’t appeared?
Better yet, what would have happened if she hadn’t cared? Who would have blamed her if she hadn’t? He was such a … well, such a beast. Hairy. Drooling. Roaring. Defying. And she was such a beauty. Stunningly gorgeous. Contagiously kind. If ever two people lived up to their names, didn’t the Beauty and the Beast? Who would have blamed her if she hadn’t cared? But she did care.
And because the Beauty loved the Beast, the Beast became more beautiful himself.
The story’s familiar, not just because it’s a fairy tale. It’s familiar because it reminds us of ourselves. There is a beast within each of us.
It wasn’t always so. There was a time when humanity’s face was beautiful and the palace pleasant. But that was before the curse, before the shadow fell across the garden of Adam, before the shadow fell across the heart of Adam. And ever since the curse, we’ve been different. Beastly. Ugly. Defiant. Angry. We do things we know we shouldn’t do and wonder why we did them…
The apostle Paul had similar struggles. “I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate” (Rom. 7:15). Ever felt like saying those words?
If so, you’re in good company. Paul isn’t the only person in the Bible who wrestled the beast within… King Saul chasing young David with a spear. Shechem raping Dinah. Dinah’s brothers (the sons of Jacob) murdering Shechem and his friends. Lot selling out to Sodom and then getting out of Sodom. Herod murdering Bethlehem toddlers. Another Herod murdering Jesus’ cousin. If the Bible is called the Good Book, it’s not because its people are. Blood runs as freely through the stories as the ink through the quills that penned them. But the evil of the beast was never so raw as on the day Christ died.
The disciples were first fast asleep, then fast afoot. Herod wanted a show.
Pilate wanted out.
And the soldiers? They wanted blood.
So they scourged Jesus. The legionnaire’s whip consisted of leather straps with lead balls on each end. His goal was singular: Beat the accused within an inch of his death and then stop. Thirty-nine lashes were allowed but seldom needed. A centurion monitored the prisoner’s status. No doubt Jesus was near death when his hands were untied and he slumped to the ground.
The whipping was the first deed of the soldiers.
The crucifixion was the third… Though his back was ribboned with wounds, the soldiers loaded the crossbeam on Jesus’ shoulders and marched him to the Place of a Skull and executed him.
We don’t fault the soldiers for these two actions. After all, they were just following orders. But what’s hard to understand is what they did in between. Here is Matthew’s description:
Jesus was beaten with whips and handed over to the soldiers to be crucified. The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s palace, and they all gathered around him. They took off his clothes and put a red robe on him. Using thorny branches, they made a crown, put it on his head, and put a stick in his right hand. Then the soldiers bowed before Jesus and made fun of him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Jesus. Then they took his stick and began to beat him on the head. After they finished, the soldiers took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified. (Matt. 27:26–31)
The soldiers’ assignment was simple: Take the Nazarene to the hill and kill him. But they had another idea. They wanted to have some fun first. Strong, rested, armed soldiers encircled an exhausted, nearly dead, Galilean carpenter and beat up on him. The scourging was commanded. The crucifixion was ordered. But who would draw pleasure out of spitting on a half-dead man?
Spitting isn’t intended to hurt the body—it can’t. Spitting is intended to degrade the soul, and it does. What were the soldiers doing? Were they not elevating themselves at the expense of another? They felt big by making Christ look small.
Ever done that? Maybe you’ve never spit on anyone, but have you gossiped? Slandered? Have you ever raised your hand in anger or rolled your eyes in arrogance? Have you ever blasted your high beams in someone’s rearview mirror? Ever made someone feel bad so you would feel good?
That’s what the soldiers did to Jesus. When you and I do the same, we do it to Jesus too. “I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matt. 25:40 nlt). How we treat others is how we treat Jesus…
Believe me, I don’t like to say it. But we must face the fact that there is something beastly within each and every one of us. Something beastly that makes us do things that surprise even us. Haven’t you surprised yourself? Haven’t you reflected on an act and wondered, “What got into me?”
The Bible has a three-letter answer for that question: S-I-N. There is something bad—beastly—within each of us. We are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3 nasb). It is not that we can’t do good. We do. It’s just that we can’t keep from doing bad. In theological terms, we are “totally depraved.” Though made in God’s image, we have fallen. We’re corrupt at the core. The very center of our being is selfish and perverse. David said, “I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5 nlt). Could any of us say any less? Each one of us was born with a tendency to sin. Depravity is a universal condition. Scripture says it plainly:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way. (Isa. 53:6 nkjv)
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9 niv)
There is none righteous, no, not one…. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:10, 23 nkjv)
Some would disagree with such strong words. They look around and say, “Compared to everyone else, I’m a decent person.” You know, a pig might say something similar. He might look at his trough partners and announce, “I’m just as clean as everyone else.” Compared to humans, however, that pig needs help. Compared to God, we humans need the same. The standard for sinlessness isn’t found at the pig troughs of earth but at the throne of heaven. God, himself, is the standard.
We are beasts… Our deeds are ugly. Our actions are harsh. We don’t do what we want to do, we don’t like what we do, and what’s worse—yes, there is something worse—we can’t change.
We try, oh, how we try. But “Can a leopard change his spots? In the same way, Jerusalem, you cannot change and do good, because you are accustomed to doing evil” (Jer. 13:23). The apostle agreed with the prophet: “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot” (Rom. 8:7 nrsv, emphasis mine)…
Then we have a problem: We are sinners, and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23 niv).
We have a problem: We are not holy, and “anyone whose life is not holy will never see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
We have a problem: We are evil, and “evil people are paid with punishment” (Prov. 10:16).
What can we do?
Allow the spit of the soldiers to symbolize the filth in our hearts. And then observe what Jesus does with our filth. He carries it to the cross.
Through the prophet he said, “I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting” (Isa. 50:6 niv). Mingled with his blood and sweat was the essence of our sin.
God could have deemed otherwise. In God’s plan, Jesus was offered wine for his throat, so why not a towel for his face? Simon carried the cross of Jesus, but he didn’t mop the cheek of Jesus. Angels were a prayer away. Couldn’t they have taken the spittle away?
They could have, but Jesus never commanded them to. For some reason, the One who chose the nails also chose the saliva. Along with the spear and the sponge of man, he bore the spit of man. Why? Could it be that he sees the beauty within the beast?
But here the correlation with Beauty and the Beast ends. In the fable, the beauty kisses the beast. In the Bible, the Beauty does much more. He becomes the beast so the beast can become the beauty. Jesus changes places with us. We, like Adam, were under a curse, but Jesus “changed places with us and put himself under that curse” (Gal. 3:13).
What if the Beauty had not come? What if the Beauty had not cared? Then we would have remained a beast. But the Beauty did come, and the Beauty did care.
The sinless One took on the face of a sinner so that we sinners could take on the face of a saint.
Last semester was not fun, but then again, pruning never really is. Going through life together, in community, made it easier though. It is never easy to admit to being broken, but admitting it to silent aloneness magnifies the pain. Praise God I didn’t have to. During that season in my life, a friend showed me this verse:
For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal. ~Job 5:18
In a word, pruning. The constant, continual chipping away at my sinful state, at shame and sin and secrets that held me in bondage. The ‘chip’, ‘chip’, ‘chip’, of the Potter’s chisel on my already shattered clay-pot-of-a-soul hurt. But it left me longing for His healing touch. For him to bind me up. For his hands to heal.
And bind me up he did. Heal me he did.
For the past several weeks, it has been this verse that I have been meditating on and praying though. Praying, and praising. The Potter who made me whole again. The Gardener who pruned away the dead.
This semester I have been taking a Genesis class, and last week we finished studying the story of Noah. While going through some of these familiar stories, I prayed that the Lord would reveal himself to me in a new way, and that it would be as if I was studying the passage for the first time. Unfortunately, familiarity can take away the wonder of the story. And I wanted to read it with clean eyes and a fresh heart. I wanted to be wowed anew.
Noah and his family boarded the Ark, and then proceeded to wait for the Lord to shut the doors. For seven days that undoubtedly felt longer than the year they had spent building, they waited alone inside the Ark for the Lord to seal the doors. I can only imagine what that week must have felt like. For starters, they probably felt silly. They had been telling everyone for a year that a flood was coming, and no one believed them. Most theologians today believe that prior to what has become known as Noah’s Flood, rain had never before fallen upon the earth. They were waiting for an unknown future. They were waiting alone, ridiculed by those who thought that their obedience was ludicrous.
Praying over scripture is always a dangerous thing, I’ve found, but these two passages together made for a very painful combination.
Pruning. Waiting. Ridiculed. Alone.
For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal.
From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will touch you.
In famine he will deliver you from death,
and in battle from the stroke of the sword.
You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
and need not fear when destruction comes.
You will laugh at destruction and famine,
and need not fear the wild animals.
For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
and the wild animals will be at peace with you.
You will know that your tent is secure;
you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.
I guess that answering the call of the Lord will hurt sometimes and leave you waiting alone in a boat for Him to calm the storm and return you to dry land. The hand of The Lord will shut the door and keep you secluded as he prunes away the things that are keeping you from Him. He wounds, but he also binds up. He injures, but his hands also heal. And I don’t have to worry about the ridicule and gossip that are happening outside the boat. You will be protected from the lash of the tongue. The Lord sings over me. He delights in me.
The storm that awaited Noah was unlike anything that mankind can even imagine. 40 days and 40 nights of constant downpour. Geysers sprung up from the deep, and combined with the constant rain, the currents and waves that came with that storm destroyed all of life, and redefined tumultuous. The waiting continued, this time a new kind of difficult. Waiting for the ridicule to end. Waiting for the storm to begin. Waiting for the storm to end.
The storm is raging. The pruning is painful and thorough. But I will know that my tent is secure. As He chips and clips away, I feel like I am losing things that I need. But, I will take stock of my property and find that nothing is missing.
Let perseverance finish its work, so that you will be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~James 1:4
I’m safe inside the boat.