Monday, December 20, 2010

Give and Take

This culture has a mindset of give and take. You give to me and then I'll give back to you.

But guess what? That's the culture, and, as New Testament Christians, we are called to be opposite of culture and what is popular with the world. Just look at Romans 12:2

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

So, if we're supposed to be opposite of the world, what does New Testament "giving and taking" look like? Well, if you look at scripture it's a whole lot more giving and very little taking, except for taking part in the immeasurable grace and lavish love of our amazing Father. Which, if you think about it, is enough to satisfy us for eternity. So give into His love and take part in His grace. For those of you keeping score at home, that's a win-win situation.

My wonderful brother-in-law, Whitt, has been sharing ways to "Give this Christmas Away" on his supremely awesome blog that you should read here. The inspiration for his daily posts encouraging giving come from Matthew West's book, appropriately titled, Give this Christmas Away, and the purpose of the devotionals is to recognize that God has given to us so we can give to others.

"You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." -2 Corinthians 9:11 

We are called to put others before ourselves and become servants, following the example of the greatest servant the world will ever know, Jesus Christ.

And, as I've been striving to live radically different from the world, God has heightened my awareness to different ways we can give to others, and as mom and I were standing in the check out lane at Walmart this week one of His ideas came to me.

Lets think about this, the Christmas season has become so commercialized that the hustle and bustle of the season have added two new buddies: stress and press (through the crowds). And who has to deal with these pesky little joy snatchers more than the workers in retail stores? They have to put up with inconsiderate people pushing and shoving, sometimes clawing their way to get to the best sale or to get that last toy on the shelf. Speaking of shelves, customers mess up the displays and don't put unwanted items back where they belong, they don't take the time to wait for others but are too caught up in the moment and the hunt of finding that certain gift to check off their list that they temporarily (or not-so-temporarily) lose even the simplest concern for the workers who must fix the displays, round up the carts left scattered across wintery parking lots and run the cash registers for them while dealing with a less than pleasant 'tude.

Okay, so not every shopping experience is like this. In fact, sometimes Christmas and the "spirit" of the season brings out the best in people (which the Bible says is like filthy rags...) and they're sweet, thoughtful and patient with every person they encounter, but, lets be honest, those occasions are few and far between.

But what if we purchased gift cards from stores or restaurants and carried them around with us and gave them to store workers who seem to be having a particularly rough day? Or maybe give one to the employee who seems to have joy unexplainable and isn't letting their stressful circumstances affect their attitude? Pray for the Spirit to show you who is to recieve the gift, sometimes it won't make sense but just be obedient and leave the results up to God.

Why should we give to others?

Most importantly because the Bible says too.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." -1 John 3:17-18

"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." -Luke 6:35

"Give and it will be given to you; a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put in your bosom for with the same measure that you use, it will be measure back to you." -Luke 6:38

"You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." -2 Corinthians 9:11

We love because God has loved us. We give because He has given to us. When we didn't deserve it. When we thought we could live without it. When we didn't want Him. When we spit in His face. When we rebelled.

So why shouldn't we pour out what He has poured into us? We are called to love the world and extend a picture of the Gospel to them through our lives. And you might notice as you read through Scripture and follow God through the highs and lows of life, that He didn't just give to us one time. No, He gives to us over and over, His mercies are new every morning. So this whole "season of giving" should be a life of giving, I mean, Jesus gave His whole life. Literally.  

Will you join me in living and giving radically to the world Jesus died for as He has so generously given to us?

Let's take less and give more this Christmas and throughout the rest of our lives.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Radically Different

That’s what we’re called to be… right?

By the way, I was going to try and see how many times I could incorporate the word ‘radical’ into this blog, but decided against it. Anyway, I finished reading Radical by David Platt this week and let me tell you it was such a blessing to read, despite how convicting it was at times (meaning from the first page to the last page).

In the book, Platt calls Christians to live as the Bible commands, radically different from the world and in the last chapter he encourages everyone to take a one year challenge:

1. Pray for the entire world.
2. Read through the entire Word.
3. Spend time in another context/culture
4. Sacrifice money for a specific purpose
5. Commit to being part of a local community of believers

So far I have number five down. The others? Well, I’m working on them. Operation World is helping with the first challenge, they feature a different country each day and you pray for them. You can even sign up to be emailed the new country each day.

Number four was especially heavy on my heart… How was I, a college student with limited funds, going to sacrifice money for a specific purpose when almost every expenditure feels like a sacrifice? As I prayed about how God would have me sacrifice money for others, He showed me exactly what I was supposed to do (funny how He does that… answer our prayers. Shocking).

So, for the next year I won’t be buying any clothes (or accessories) for myself, but will use the money I would have spent on clothes for someone else. I figure I typically spend at least $300 on clothes a year, so that’s the amount I’m starting with. I keep thinking about clean water for the world, as in building wells in Africa or the Dominican Republic but I know $300 won’t do that.

I’m going to Passion 2011 in January and they have their awesome “Do Something Now” center filled with solid ministry opportunities to share the Gospel with people who haven’t heard about Jesus as well as missions to bring health and life to the people hurting from diseases without aid in their own country, so maybe there God will show me a clearer view of where He wants the money to go.

Over the past year God has awakened my heart to global missions and this is another step in sharing the Gospel that is Jesus with the world, which is the cry of my heart at the present time.

I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for the future, I simply want to be obedient to whatever He wills, whether that be sharing the Gospel in Africa, Murray or Paducah, I just want to be closer to Him.

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."” –Isaiah 6:8

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

As much as I like to be original, I'm following in the path of my brother-in-law (Whitt Madden ) and others like him who have made lists of what they are thankful for.

So on this day, the last Thursday of November, I will share a few of the things that make me thankful.

  • Salvation from the horrible sickness of sin that is given only from and through the Lord Jesus Christ. "Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free//For God the just was satisfied to look on Him and pardon me."
  • The cross. This life doesn't make sense without it.
  • The Word of God that is living and active and real.
  • My family. I've been so blessed with godly parents who love Him and desire to live in a manner that brings glory to Him.
  • Murray. The cute little city and school, but especially for the family of believers God has allowed me to be a part of. I am continually overwhelmed by their faith, testimony and desire to serve the Lord in all things, I'm so blessed to have friends my own age who are seeking the Lord's will for their lives and striving to live according to it.
  • God's amazing provision.
  • C&C (coffee and conversation) with my sister and brother-in-law.
  • Music. Especially worship music like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Tenth Avenue North, and others who sing the truth and display God's majesty through song.
  • Books; like Radical, 50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die, When God Writes Your Love Story, and more.
  • This summer and all the lessons God taught me through the experience.
  • The Church.
  • Scripture that says I am the bride of Christ.
  • Fall.
  • Spring.
  • Baseball (St. Louis Cardinals).
  • My iPhone.
  • Cameras.
  • Christmas decorations.
  • Love. Infinite, free, matchless, deep; the Love that came to die so we could live. Love that covers all.

It is so important for us to be filled with thanks before and after we are filled with food. Be thankful today and everyday.

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." -Hebrews 12:28-29

Friday, November 19, 2010

How Many Ways Can You Spell Responsibility?

Only one way, really. (R-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-y.) But it's spelled out pretty clearly in these verses:

""So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die!' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.""          -Ezekiel 33:7-9

Thanks to my sweet friend, Lauren for sharing these verses with me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

God's Unchanging, Amazing Character

God is so good. Through my time at Murray (and where has the semester gone?!) God has revealed Himself in ways that I never imagined; He is constantly overwhelming me with His grace and surrounding me with His faithfulness. He is just so good!

I went to my sister's church for "Gathering of Worshippers" Saturday night, and it was so refueling! So many people there just to sing praises "with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the One who gave it all," and it was such a great time of fellowship. During the laid back time of worship we took communion together and one guy in our group said as he thought about the bread representing the body of Christ this thought came to him: He was broken so we could be whole.

Basically there were instant tears pooling in my eyes at that amazing thought. Since then, that fact hasn't been far from my heart but has been joined with a couple other little ironic thoughts.

  • Jesus took on our sickness (sin) and became sick so we could be healed.
  • Jesus became death so we could live.
  • The Father turned away from the Son so we could be joined with Him forever (separated so we could be joined together).

Little as they are, those thoughts melt me into a puddle of thankfulness. God is just beyond good. Despite our complete worthlessness, He sees value in us because we are hid in Christ.

"Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that Faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
"For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise."                                            -Galatians 3:23-29

I hope you are experiencing the beautiful love of the One who gave Himself for you. If you arent, ponder the words of the Lord:

"Come to Me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David."     -Isaiah 55:3

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Uh... what's that in your eye?!

Confession time...

*Deep breath* Here it goes:

I am extremely judgemental.
I place expectations on myself and others that no one will be able to attain.
Sometimes I find it easier to love people outside the church. Lost people. At least they have a reason for acting like a sinner.

We are to be set apart from the world and be different but we are still fallen creatures who will only be perfected upon arrival in heaven, yet I judge others as if they've already attained perfection.

Forgive me Lord for casting judgement on others. For pointing out the speck in their eyes while I have a log in my own. Help me to love them the way You love them, unconditionally and seeking nothing in return. We are the Body, an organism knit together by You, our High Priest, and as a member of that Body I am called to love and serve others the way You have loved and served me despite my complete and total undeservingness (and extremely long sentences).

*Sidenote- if you thought undeservingness was a new word, you were right. Fortunately, God doesn't mind new words.

I'm not trying to play off the seriousness of my sin, but this cartoon is perfect and super humbling. I'd like to introduce myself, I'm Sophie and I have a tree in my eye.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Not me, but You

So yesterday I was laying in bed praying for the people in my life and telling God I wanted to give myself away until there is nothing left to give. Then it hit me.

I don't want to give myself away, for the Bible says there is nothing good in me. However, I am a new creation whose heart has been replaced by the Holy Spirit and I want to give Him away for it is He alone who can make an eternal difference in someone's life. And, since He is the Maker of everything, the giver of life and because He is everywhere- He will never run out of Himself. He will always have more to give. Amazing.

Dear God, hear my cry and make Yourself so intensely apparent to all those around the world whether it be in Kentucky, Africa or the Dominican Republic. ...Shine Your light and let the whole world see we're singing for the glory of the risen King.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bittersweet Goodbyes and Happy Beginnings

It’s hard to believe four months ago we were praying about going to Murray and an awesome internship opportunity and now I’m at Murray State University after spending the summer on the internship. Time flies by seriously fast. Too fast maybe.

It’s been hard transitioning from the summer to the school semester, but harder still adjusting to being alone again. I use “alone” loosely because I know we’re never really alone. God is always with us despite the times it feels like He’s no where to be found, His Word promises that. However, after being with six people 24/7 for 92 days straight then leaving them and learning to be alone again was harder than I ever imagined.

But, once again, God has shown me that He is my comfort. He’s my friend, provider, protection, and security when I’m completely insecure.

He’s amazing.

Classes are going well, and I love (!!!) writing for the newspaper- just praying for a staff position. Speaking of jobs, God has given me a fantastic job that works with my school schedule and allows me to work from Murray. Such a blessing.

My first week back home included:
• Moving into the dorm
• Going home and visiting mom and dad
• Getting caught up on classwork
• Church (and lots of hugs)
• C & C with Camillia, Whitt and Eric
• Disc Golf with Jesse and Joseph
• Cookies with Ben and Beth
• Lunch with Amanda
• Working out with Aimee and catching up
• Sleep. Lots of sleep.

This weekend is a big deal for me. Tomorrow we celebrate my mom’s birthday and Sunday is especially important. It’s the first Sunday of the month which means we have a fellowship meal after the morning service. For those of you who aren’t following this fantastic news let me spell it out for you: I’ve had restaurant food for the last three and a half months straight. First Sunday Fellowships means a whole buffet of homemade food made by the best cooks in the world- Church ladies! Green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, chicken and dumplins, fresh desserts and SWEET TEA. I CANNOT wait!

Below are some pictures from the end of the trip… We met the sweetest kids from the Dominican Republic and even though they didn't speak a bit of english it was as if there wasn't a language barrier at all. God has moved half of my heart from Africa to the DR… I want to go to both places now insanely bad. I just want to tell the world about the hope of Christ and the power of His cross and His love.

I pray you are experiencing that power in your daily life.

Laodi and I. He pitches 86 mph. He was so sweet.
Ethan and Hunter with Eduardo, Alex, and Laodi.
At the Orioles-Rangers game at Camden Yards.
On the way to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We met Amish people and I loved them!
New York scenery- it is SO pretty there. I'd be fine moving to Cooperstown.
Crossing the bridge into Manhatten!
At the Yankee-Red Sox game. Amazing!
Last night with the team...

I miss them so much!

"God's deliverance isn't always in taking you OUT of a situation, but preserving you through your situation."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Documentation: Part Three

So this summer has flown by. This is only my third blog and we only have 25 days until we get back home. Crazy!

Lots of things have happened since the last time I wrote- We've been to six different states, set up at a bazillion different tournaments, made oodles of kids smile (and, consequently, lots of parents broke), and had lots of fun. I went to the ER for the first time- heat exaustion is no fun and IVs aren't as bad as I expected (it still hurt though). I'm so thankful for being placed on Ethan's team and for him making me take it easy and taking care of me when I didn't know what was best for myself. It showed me a lot about God's sovereignty- When I thought I was okay and fully capable of continuing as always, Ethan knew better. He didn't give in to my pleas (more like whines) to continue working, but made me rest and reccuperate, wanting the best for me when I didn't even know what that was. That's a lot like God- He always knows what's best but sometimes we try to do it our way and end up making things worse and hurting ourselves in the process. A good lesson to learn but I don't recommend going to the ER for it.

We're down from eight people on our team to seven, Lizzy went home and Ben is leaving for home this weekend. It's going to get harder without them but we'll make it happen- we always do. We really do have the best team, and I'm so thankful I was placed here with them.

We drove from Myrtle Beach, SC (probably my favorite stop so far) to Richmond, Virginia last night and arrived here about 2 am. Thankfully this is an off day, so we slept in until 1 pm. I finished all of summer classes today which calls for a big sigh of relief but also a big ol' groan since I probably failed miserably in chemistry- hardest class ever.

I've had an amazing time this summer, and while it hasn't been easy it's been a huge learning experience and I'm without a doubt a much stronger person than when we started two months ago. I miss home cooking, church, my family and friends, and shooting. My bed, my shower, and Camillia and Eric only being two miles up the road, but I know in 26 days I'm going to miss the East tour of the Baseball Youth Roadtrip Fanfest, palm trees (I already miss them and I've only been away for 24 hours), experiencing new things in new places, and taking care of people.

Thank you for your emails, texts, calls and love. Please keep praying for us!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Documentation: Part Two

So it's three weeks into this summer adventure and it is definitely an adventure. We're traveling, having fun, and most of all working our butts off. It is hard work packing and unpacking, setting up and tearing down, but I love the little kids' excitement and seeing their faces light up when they win something.

We've been in Georgia for the past couple weeks and it was so hot! The people are so friendly down south though, and even the little kids are all about saying "yes, ma'am." I love that with all of my insides.

We got to Florida early this morning (my first time in Florida) and will be in Palm Beach until Thursday when we drive to Clearwater where we will stay for the weekend before driving to Kissimmee.

We spent the biggest chunk of the day at the beach (my first time in the ocean!) and it seriously was one of the greatest moments ever. The ocean is such a visible reminder of how small we are and how big our Creator is. Ricky, Assistant Sports Editor for the Murray State News, said "It's hard to believe that on the other side of this ocean is Africa."

Then I just wanted to start swimming and make my way to Africa. But that's a terribly long swim so I decided against it.

We have a tournament tomorrow afternoon/night and it's supposed to rain but hopefully it won't because we need to do some major selling. We're working hard but sometimes people just aren't interested. That's life.

School is so hard. Chemistry especially- it's all math and numbers, two of the most difficult things for me to do. I just can't understand numbers, so this is really hard. Astronomy is easier and then online yoga is kinda ridiculous... Yeah.

God has been showing me a lot lately, some of which I'm still processing and therefore can't share yet, but He is definitely active and showing me more and more everyday how weak I am and utterly incapable without Him. My verse this week:

"I beseech you therefore, bretheren, by the mercies of God, to present yourselves a living sacrafice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed to the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." -Romans 12:1-2

Kids I want to adopt:

Cummings, Georgia

The Hilton, Palm Beach. Our hotel.
The pool area at our hotel
The beach!
"How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand." -Psalm 139:17-18

Please keep praying for us, we need it desperately.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

He Apologized? What?!

So yesterday after watching the first base umpire ruin Galarraga's perfect game I was mad. Super mad. But today I read this article, the umpire apologized to Galarraga after the game. That is practically unheard of in baseball. I'm not super mad anymore, I'm super amazed.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Summer Documentation: Part One

Okay, so first I’m just going to say that this will probably be a short blog but there will be lots (several) pictures at the end to give you visuals of what’s going on in our daily life.

This needs to be said: The East tour is really awesome, definitely the best team. We all mesh fairly well and have a lot of fun doing everything. I really like them all a lot.

The first couple of days were spent doing some intense training and some equally intense eating and sleeping. What we’re doing is a LOT of hard work but it is so much fun, I really enjoy every part of it, even the loading and unloading of the 35’ trailer.
We started off in Morehead, Kentucky and then went to Louisville for a tournament and now we’re enjoying several days off until our next tournament in Knoxville on Friday. We went to the Louisville Slugger Museum today and then ate at Hard Rock CafĂ© (ridiculously expensive… geeze) on Fourth Street Live before driving to Knoxville.
Note to self: Don’t drink Gatorade, or anything with sugar, before or during a road trip no matter how short the distance- my bladder just can’t take it.
Anyway, God has really been so amazing through this whole adjustment period. I love that no matter where I am or what I’m doing He is always the same. That is so awesome. The verses that God has used the most are Philippians 2:14-16-
"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life."

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us, please keep those prayers coming.

The group: Ben, Paige, Hunter, Lizzy, Ethan, Shana, Ricky, and me
These are the tents we set up at each tournament...
I work the Topps Attax tent and this is my little buddy Carter who became my best friend on day one in Morehead.
These are some of my buds in Louisville, they have the greatest smiles!
This is the guys filling up the truck after they ran out of gas on I-64... Funniest thing ever.
Ethan, Hunter, and Paige, and me at the Louisville Slugger Museum with a legit Johnny Bench bat.
The gang at Louisville Slugger.

Summer classes start this week... I'm nervous about time management, so please continue to pray for that. I hope you guys are having a fantastic summer and are remembering that by not complaining we are shining like stars in a crooked and depraved universe.
Much love,


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