As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Promote with Enthusiasm

I had an amazing meeting with fellow youth leaders tonight. We just finished a killer summer 'roadtrip' theme and are preparing for a packed season ahead. These next two weeks are devoted to planning that season. Getting nearly 20 grown (opinionated) adults to work together takes Divine intervention, so I praise the Lord for the men and women who I am privileged to work beside.

Tonight was an encouraging challenge though (and those are the best kind). The crux of it all:

Are we as excited as we want the kids to think we are?

Pastor Doug (the youth pastor) mentioned multiple times about how the teenagers look up to leadership. That the presence and enthusiasm of leadership is a key motivator in the teens. They will begin to view important what we view important.

When someone looks at me, what do they learn?
As I teacher, and a former student, I know it to be true that teenagers catch excitement easily (unless you are cheesy, in which case you are quickly ignored). If you are genuinely excited about something, genuinely sold out, it becomes easier for them to understand because they want to. When I teach math, I try to make it fun. Now, there is a certain element to math that is academic, but I try to be creative. I have taken classes outside and done sidewalk chalk math problems before just to try and keep them involved.

I love math. I get it, and I want other people to get it. I'm not just "a teacher", I am privileged to teach. It is not a job for me, it is ministry, it is actually fun. There is no greater joy for me than to witness a lightbulb moment or to watch a student score an A on a test. I love that. LOVE it!!

Am I as passionate about my faith as I am about my math class?

I should be. I would like to think that I am, but I know there is still room for growth. I think I am one of the privileged few who wake up every morning and get to do something they love. I don't get to teach; I get to work with teenagers. They are my thing. My passion. If the world eliminated all teenagers, I would be highly upset and very lost. I love that six mornings every week my feet hit that floor with the assurance that I will be interacting with youth that day. That is what gets me up in the morning (it isn't the math).

We should be excited about God. Excited about serving Him and looking for those lightbulb moments. I should be just as excited when a girl faces a trial of faith. That is the crux of discipleship. I catch so on fire for God that someone else can't help but burn for Him. That is the idea.

What do you burn for?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This is the Life

No, literally, it is.

What happened, Jessica? Did you win the lottery? No. Did you get a boyfriend? No. Did you find five dollars in your jeans? I wish.

So what happened?

I guess it would be more something that is "happening." I am getting confirmation and not from people but from God. He is somehow showing me that all the ideas I have been bouncing around in my brain are viable and true ideas. A friend of mine was chatting with me last week and we somehow got on the topic of dreams and I told her I have big ones. She kinda laughed and asked something to the effect of when would I ever have enough. My response was this: "I am a big dreamer; God made me that way. So I dream big. When God blows those dreams out of the water, what choice do I have but to dream bigger?" And that is the truth!

Why would I stop? Why would I put God in a box when He has proven over and over again that He will not be put in one?

This morning, as I prayed, I had a session of praise, just thanking God for giving me such clear direction in life. I never said the way was easy. It has not been, it is not, nor will it ever be. But I know He is guiding me and He is making the steps very clear in His time.

This morning, I listened to part 2 of my podcast interview on Covenant Eyes. I sent an email to the producer just chatting about the podcast and the editing and such. Throughout that, I was introduced to yet another young woman, a teenager, struggling with pornography. My heart instantly broke for her. One of the questions asked in the interview was if we felt alone in our struggle. I thought I was alone, in hindsight, I really wish I was. I hate to think of the pain and emptiness those other women are feeling, and wish I had a little barcode scanner thing. I would just walk around and be able to tell who needed help. That burden, that brokenness was confirmation for me that yes, this is something I need to be doing right now.

But there's more. Is there allowed to be more?

Earlier this month, on Facebook (I have way too many blog things) I talked about how God was molding my life. How He was changing my desires and my emphasis on ministry. In that post (which is way too long to repost here)I talked about the hurt we see around us and how we need to reach out to help heal that hurt.

I decided to start throwing myself out of my comfort zone. There needs to be a label on the first step though. It's a doozy, and you should know, God never stops with the first step.

Every Monday and Tuesday, as I drive to babysitting, I pass by a little old lady on a street corner just a mile or so from home. She is there without fail, with her little cardboard sign, gnarled hair and toothless smile. I've given a dollar or two a couple times just to stave my conscience. I decided to do something else. Something bigger. I decided to actually treat her like she is a human.

See, she is a human. She was created for a purpose, just as much as I was. She has a story. A story only God knows. I don't know how she ended up on a street corner, but I know that many times, were it not for the grace of God, my family would have been on the street as well. It speaks nothing to her as a person, but it does speak to her heart. She is someone God loves. Someone God longs to be with. As someone who is supposed to be modeling Christ's love, I am commanded to see her as God would see her. Beautiful. Precious. Worthy.

This morning, as I prayed, I prayed for that little lady on the street corner. She hasn't been there for the past two weeks and I do not know why. I began to wonder if I was wrong, if I had gone off-focus. Then, through the same conversation with the producer, I stumbled across a blog of thoughts for the day. The thought posted today (which is actually for August 17) is this:
I was asked “if Jesus was here now where would he go to church?” I think he wouldn’t. I think the church would go to him. And if the church would go to Christ if he were here, and Christ said he was the least of these, maybe we know where the church should be.

Wow. All of the thoughts from my rambling Facebook note condensed into a mini-paragraph. I have to work on my writing!

My life feels like it is beginning to meld into the lives of others, which is weird. I feel like my passions are starting to find roots in the passions of others. It is an amazing phenomenon, but really indescribable. How amazing is it that God would give me this passion for purity, then connect me with a group of authors and singers with the same passion. How amazing is it that God would give me a heart for the hurting and then bring to light others with the same heart? How amazing is it that God would give me a desire to help people live livesof reckless abandon and then use mainstream people of influence to pave the way for that?

This is how the body of Christ is meant to work. This, my friends, is THE life.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The One Class I Failed

All throughout high school, I got As. Straight-As. I prided myself in rarely getting a B, and never being seen with a C. D and F were absolutely unheard of until college. College has a way of kicking smart people in the butt. I have found that to be oddly common and it confuses me, but it is true. It was in college, more specifically Bible school, that I failed a class for the first and only time. It was a class on prayer.

Yes, I failed, as in solid "F" a class on prayer. There is a life lesson in that alone, the fact that obviously I was passing all other classes in my strength, but the one on prayer, I just couldn't wrap my hands around it. So much has changed in the past three years.

I just finished chatting with a friend about prayer. It is a subject that has been on my mind and on the mind of other Christian authors as of late. Leslie Ludy shares a story on her blog from the birth of her most recent child, Avonlea Rose. After a horrific experience with their first child, Eric and Leslie prayed that this birth would be different, and it was. Leslie recounts that even while in labor, she and her husband would pray fervently. At one point, just before the transition stage, Leslie knew her strength was failing her. This had been the hardest stage with Hudson, and she did not want to go through it ok. So she prayed, she prayed specifically that God would work in her body and bring their new baby into the world without having to have the transition phase. According to Leslie, minutes later Avonlea made her arrival. Coincidentally, Eric and Leslie just finished a book on prayer. I don't believe it is on shelves yet, but after following what God has been doing in their lives, I can assure you, it will be good.

For the past six months, God has been teaching me about prayer. Since, obviously, I couldn't get it when a professor tried, God has given me a remidial class and has driven me into a deeper, bolder prayer life with Him. I could tell you the date. Well close. This class began on February 27. As I prayed, I felt a strong impression to ask God for a publisher for my book. It seemed foolish to me. Of course I need a publisher. Of course I want a publisher, but I didn't even have a book. To me and my human logic, there was no point in asking for a publisher. The next day, guess what He gave me.

I had not asked, but He had given. When I prayed after that, I realized the faithfulness of God. He gave me a desire of my heart and was faithful to provide that which I did not have enough faith to ask for. It would be the same if Peter had just thought, "Man! I wish I could do that!" and God teleported him out onto the water. God was giving me a taste. A small taste of the power of prayer. Since then, I have learned much.

Prayer needs to be bold. I guess I equate boldness with honesty. I get highly annoyed when people tiptoe around an issue. It drives me crazy. It takes all of God's grace for me to not throttle them and say, "Would you just tell me!" Yet, I do it to God so often. I pull the whole, "God, you know the desires of my heart so if you could please just give them to me, that'd be great." I wonder if God's response isn't, "Yes, I do know them. Humor Me, though, just this once and actually ask for them."

Unlike humans, God doesn't get offended when we ask for something. At least, I don't believe He does. He longs to bless us. He wants to give us abundant lives. He says in the Gospels that we have not because we ask not. So prayer is bold...

and specific. Beating around the bush drives me crazy. So does vagueness. Do not expect me to understand what you mean when you do not tell me what you mean. It is really an interesting concept, and it kinda ties in with boldness. Since June, I have been praying for a certain couple I know to get pregnant. I know they are wanting to, so it is not as if I am praying spite on them. More than that, based on the circumstances, I have prayed that God would give them twins. Specific prayer.

I finished reading the Kings last week, and there is an account of Elisha (or Elijah, can't remember) working with a widow. She is in debt and is afraid for her family, so the prophet tells her to gather jars and fill them with oil. If my memory is serving correctly, she had to lock the door. As she filled the jars, the oil didn't stop coming! Until she reached the last jar. She looked up for the next jar and there weren't anymore, and the oil stopped.

We really need to be expecting God to do big things. He is God, is He not? He is able. So, why are we so afraid to ask? Ask for specific things. I have one dream in this world that I have shared with one other person and I have begun to pray for that one dream to come true, and have, in that prayer, explained to God why I want that dream to come true. That may sound selfish, but it is not. I think God wants prayers like that more than prayers of "God please bless me today."

How would you like that blessing? Rare or well done?

Prayers need to be willing. We have to be willing to accept a change in our plans. We have to leave room for the will of God. Our prayers are not "God give me this or else." They are "God, I really desire this and I am asking You to make it happen and in the meantime give me the contentment to live without it." That is true, powerful prayer.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Trying to Figure out Tomorrow

I have learned lately that it does no good to try to understand exactly what God is doing in our lives. We will, without fail, get it wrong.

This morning, I taught on Genesis and all of the beginnings of Genesis. As inhabitants of the 21st century, we are blessed. We have the whole story, but Genesis is full of beginnings, and just that, beginnings. Genesis is full of promises, some of which have yet to be fulfilled, others which were fulfilled millenia ago, but long long after they were promised. I think specifically of the promise of a Messiah.

This promise is first mentioned in Genesis chapter 3. What we have to realize is Genesis chapter 3 occurred shortly after creation. If we say that the earth is 6,000 years old, then this promise of a Messiah is 6,000 years old. That means that it would be 4,000 years before the promise was realized. That is twice as long as we have lived after it. That blows my mind. The people of the faith waited for 4,000 years. For what, exactly, they were not sure but they were waiting, trusting God to fulfill His promise to them. When He did, it still caught them by surprise.

You just cannot figure out tomorrow. It cannot be done. But I love to try. I like to try and put together all of the pieces to the puzzle without having the picture. It seems to be my nature to fret and to worry.

Stuff has happened recently that can tend to be very distracting. It is nothing at this point, but being who I am, my mind races ahead to what might happen, what could happen, and I try to prepare myself for it. Problem being, it is conflicting with my now. Right now, I am called to have a ministry. A ministry which God is blessing immensely. I am not called to make a life-changing decision right now, as much as my brain wants to figure out the answer now. God gave confirmation in that twice already today- once with my Sunday School class and again with an email from Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand.

God works in mysterious ways. Both confirmed that my ministry has the right focus and that now is the right time. I need not worry about where this current situation may possibly might lead to and how these ministries will work there. I am not there.

God promises to guide our steps. He doesn't promise to sign off on a route and send us on our way. He walks with us. Which means the step we take tomorrow will be guided tomorrow, not today. It is tomorrow's step. If I focus on it today, I am going to trip and fall. But if I worry about today's steps today, then He will give me direction for tomorrow's steps tomorrow. I cannot make a wrong move if I am walking with Him.