Sunday, September 17, 2017

Forgiveness

With tears in my eyes I accepted his friend request. I asked God to help me forgive- for the hundredth time in my life- but this time my heart finally felt ready. God I'm ready to start rebuilding this broken relationship. I sent him my letter and he responded. And healing descended upon my soul.

It's easy to talk about forgiveness but it's hard to forgive when the hurt is deep and the pain is real. It feels like you are letting go of a part of your identity. In a way, I've come to realize, you really and truly are. You are no longer the victim. And sometimes we enjoy playing victim.

Because we all have born to this world of chaos and sin- a world where relationships are broken; people deceive us; and lies are as common as cake, we have all been hurt. Sometimes the hurt is in ways we don't even realize and sometimes it's as clear as day and we want to ignore and ignore hoping that if we put off the conflict and pain one day the injury will just disappear.

But that's not how forgiveness works. That's not how healing works. At some point you have to take off the bandaid and look at the wound and damage done and then you have to ask God to heal you. Sometimes God might require you to take action in part of the healing process with him. He might ask you to talk to someone, to change a thought pattern or habit, or even to say I'm sorry. Other times, God might ask you to wait patiently on Him, to trust Him through the pain, to trust Him in peace even though it still hurts. Both are ok and appropriate in different circumstances under God's direction.

What's not ok, is choosing not to forgive. As a believer in Christ, you are a sinner. You are a selfish person who hurts others- probably each and every day- and Jesus forgave you even in the midst of being nailed to a cross, lying in agony and blood pouring down his face, He whispered forgive them. Thus we do not have the privilege of saying no to the calling of Christ to forgive. For Christ says of us that if we want to be in His kingdom, surely we will learn to forgive our brothers and sisters.

Friend, though it may be hard, I challenge you to embrace the forgiveness that Christ offers you. Forgiveness from every area of guilt and shame in your life, freedom to live with an authentic boldness and richness knowing Christ's love for you. And as you embrace this forgiveness, may your eyes look differently towards those who have hurt you. As deep as the wound is, their is healing potential and power when you submit it to Jesus. When you say "I am no longer captive." "I am no longer a victim of the hurt you have caused, because I choose to forgive you by the power in the blood of Jesus." Friend, may your soul and heart be healed in Jesus' name.





Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I want it all

I want it all and I want it to be good. Picture perfect and polished; I want my life to look shiny and maybe even- the best. Not just my home, but my car, my job, my school work, and my relationships. I want everything.. right now. And I want God of course, I want Him to reign in my life, but I want it to be one of those beautiful pictures...

I strive, I make to-do lists, and I run around.. I do good things. I study. I work. I accomplish. I read a chapter from my Bible and pray on the go. I am kind and loving to my friends and I smile when I pass people I don't know. I take three steps forward and two steps back.

And at the end of the day I ask myself Why?
I read Ecclesiastes and I wonder Why?
God reminds me of my time in the mission field and I wonder Why?
Why Brooke do you strive so hard? Why Brooke do you seek the approval of others? Why Brooke do you try to be successful in this world? Why Brooke do you value money that fades so quickly?

I listen to the song by Brian Johnson "Have it all" where he sings that God can have everything in His life. And I echo His prayer. I dream of days going back to the mission field and living simplistically- surviving on only a few dollars. It seems so much easier there- to give God everything- when you have nothing.

But here and now I struggle.. I want, want, want. I strive, strive, strive.
And the only answer I find- when I finally slow down
Is in the arms of Jesus.

Daughter, let me hold you.
Daughter, let me hold your hand. Slow down and walk with me.
Daughter, let me restore your joy. Let me teach you how to dance again.
Daughter, do not worry. You don't have to get all A's or have the picture perfect house. I will fill your life with purpose.
Daughter, I forgive you. Be free and love without limits.
Daughter, I heal your wounds. Live boldly and unafraid.
Daughter, let me tell you show you what it means to fall in love- let me love you.

Sometimes I feel like a fish out of water- struggling in the hands of a loving Savior. I fight His plans for me although I know they are for my good. I fight, squirm, and move because I don't want to wait. I make my own plans since His take too long. I try to perform...

But He finds me- he always finds me. When I'm tired and finally slow down, He gently picks me up into His arms. He sings over me and quiets my soul and tells me "Oh how I love you. You are mine."

You are His. You are God's. No matter where you've been, what you've been doing, where you've been hiding. He's seeking you. He's waiting for you. He wants to hold you and love you. Daughter- run to Him. Be satisfied.





Saturday, September 2, 2017

Why millenials are leaving the church

I was listening to a sermon that said according to a survey by the age of twenty-three 75% of baptized Seventh Day Adventists' would have left the church. I spoke to my Fit for Life teacher who said that the hardest most difficult thing to do was to reach a college student body where the majority though they knew everything they needed to know about Christ and yet had never experienced Him.

I know for me and many other home-bread Adventists' we have learned from our youth how to look and play the role of an Adventist. Take off your jewelry, pull your skirt down, pretend to care about the needs around you, and never find yourself too close in the presence of alcohol.

I'm twenty-three years old- raised in the church- and I love Jesus. But I think my walk with God would look very different if I didn't spend a year in my life in the mission field of Peru. I think at some time every collegiate or young adult has to unstrip from the motions they've been taught and actually get to the core of Who is Jesus? You have to experience Him and until you've experienced Him personally everything is going to be striving, or a show. And then when you experience Him you may jump back and say Wow this Jesus is alot different than who I thought He was.

I think part of the problem is being taught that following Jesus is easy. You don't hear as many sermons about taking up your cross and truly surrendering everything anymore. I know we say it, but we don't mean it right. Jesus doesn't want us to give up ALL our money, or give up our dream career, to marry someone different than the guy we picked out? No we can just follow Jesus and pursue the typical things of this world as well?

And that is how we get comfortable. Deathly, deathly, comfortable with our Bible friends and Jesus circles. We begin to pursue the same things this world desires: a good family, a strong career, a safety net for cash, and clothes that look flattering. And we justify ourselves, because these are all good things right? We look around and most believers are doing it. We look around and everyone in the world is racing around doing it. And all the while we may be attending Adventist education, Adventist church, and maybe even a lifegroup and we may feel supported and comforted.. but the odds are that we are not experiencing Jesus actively. And at the end of the day, even though we are labeled as a Christian and performing service for the Lord we are lonely, depressed, and wondering where the God of all joy is.

I don't see many Christians in the Bible living comfortable lives, striving for productivity like so many of us are today. Because when we are so very comfortable, so very self-skilled, we don't need Jesus. It's only when we listen to God's call to love when the risks are high, to give when we have no money left, to serve in a way we have no skill and are terrified that God is able to grow our faith. It's these times that we jump off the cliff- when Jesus calls us- and He catches us that create experiences and memories that deepen our experience with God.

And when we experience the loving and powerful hand of God, we won't want to leave Christ, and we will have testimonies.

I've talked to many college students and asked them if they would share their testimony and they told me they were afraid because they didn't have a testimony. And this is shocking, this is pathetic. Because if you are serving the same God I know, the God who shuts lion's mouths, and clears a body of water for His people to walk through, the God who gets down in the dust with prostitutes, and fills up the whole boat with fish, how is it impossible for you to be walking with God and yet not have something to share about your experience with Him. How can we walk with God for twenty to twenty-five years and not have one story to tell about our best friend or Savior? That's something I don't understand- but it demonstrates that maybe, just maybe the problem is that young people are not learning or getting the opportunity to experience God.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Growth from infancy

Psalms 1:1
1. Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
2. Or stand in the way of sinners
3. Or sit in the seat of mockers
4. But his delight is in the law of the Lord
5. and on His law He meditates day and night.
6. He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
7. which yields it's fruit in season
8. and whose leaf does not wither
9. Whatever he does prospers.

My number one goal this year is to grow up in Christ. To put behind me the childlike tendencies of Christianity and to grow into someone who is deeper rooted and producing proper fruits, and ultimately glorifying Christ with my actions. As Paul talks concerned about the Corinthians when he says he could not distinguish their fruits from the worlds' actions, and that they desperately needed to grow up and start taking their walk with God seriously (1 Corinthians 3:2).. this is my desire and my prayer.

Continuing in 1 Corinthians 3 Paul says that he has laid a foundation for the Corinthians in the truth and that someone else is building on it. But that each person must be careful how they are building. "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stray his work will be shown for what it is because the Day will bring it to light. Ultimately it says that the house we will build will be tested for quality with the purification fire of Jesus Christ.

So going back to Psalms 1:1 I want to explore how we may grow in Christ following David's advice.
1. Surround yourself with Christian influences and mentors. Do not be succumbed to popularity, attraction, or trying to make yourself something in the world.
2. Avoid sin. Take yourself out of the ways of temptation. Avoid movies, music, and distractions that will further you from Christ.
3. Do not mock others. Do not criticize or think of yourself as something great. Be slow to put others down and quick to be humble and serve.
4. Find your joy in Jesus. Spend time with the Lord for an hour each day. Love Him and delight in His love for you.
5. Memorize and reflect on the Word of God. Let it change your life. Don't just leave it on your shelf but study it dilligently.
6. If you do these things you will become rooted and closer to Christ
7. You will begin to develop the fruits of the spirit and discernment
8. You will develop strength to survive hard times and become steadfast in your beliefs
9. And ultimately you will prosper- not in the ways the world expects- but in doing your creator and in loving Him your heart will be full. This Lord is my desire. Teach me to walk in your truths. Redefine my life so I can praise you and give me the passion and endurance to search for you like a hidden treasure.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Do not be misled..

I told you that I was camp nurse this summer and also deemed camp mom. Many of the staff I worked with are high schoolers going into college. And if I could give any piece of advice to a new college student it would be this-- Be careful who you choose to be your friend. Because you will be influenced SO much by the people you hang around with.

It's not an innovative thought- yet I believe seldom do we realize just how much the people in our life change the way we talk, live, and even view ourselves as a person. The Bible speaks largely about it and even warns "Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good morals." (1 Corinthians 15:33)

I was never popular in school- and I'm typically still not. Elementary school, middle school, high school-- I struggled to make friends. I was never bullied and people always liked me. I normally had one or two good friends in the class. But I was never popular, I never had a clique.. and it isn't until this summer that I think about what a blessing this was in disguise.

Because when you are not popular, you aren't typically peer pressured like the popular kids. You don't get quite as bound by the expectations the cool kids are supposed to have and you may find yourself befriended by weird, shy, nice students- maybe even someone like you. I'm not saying it's wrong to be popular but I'm saying that sadly in highschool and college being in certain popularity groups you can really feel pressured to look and act a certain way.

I care alot about what people think about me- I want people to think I'm cool, kind, and smart. It's a natural desire right to want people to like us- to want to be a part. Yet it's so dangerous when I start to value what other people think about me above what God thinks. And it's dangerous when I don't surround myself with people who love God first. Because if an individual isn't loving God first, they won't have healthy relationship skills. You can only love another person as much as you love God. And people who don't love God will naturally be selfish. People who don't love God will naturally hurt others- not purposefully. But if you are constantly being the stronger person or more spiritualistic person in a relationship- I believe it will start to wear on you and bring you down.

Do not be misled by attraction. Do not be misled by the people that seem to have all the friends in the world, by the people who talk up front, by the people who seem to be something in the social scene- for often this people spend hours working on their image, and sometimes the most "popular" are actually the most insecure of them all.

Do not be misled by trying to stay cool, by feeling pressured to perform, play, or dress a certain way in order to be a part of a group. As much as acceptance may feel nice temporarily a true friend will see beyond the mask you wear and will love what is on the inside. A true friend will use uplifting words and encourage you to love and value yourself. A true friend will not leave you when things get hard.

I just encourage you to take a look at the people you come in contact with on a regular basis and at the closest friends in your life and see if you like their character. Evaluate how they make you feel as an individual and how they are affecting your walk with God. See if they are bringing you up closer to Jesus or taking you further away.

Proverbs 18:24 says A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. If you have one of those friends that always has your back- treasure them- and if you don't, work to become that friend and pray to God for a friend that will be there for you.



Jet lagged but home

Wow it's 11:20pm on a Friday night and instead of sleeping. I woke up from bed to analyze my life, goals, and fears. I guess Alaska jet lag will do that to you as it is only 8:20 over yonder.
I turn on some Christian music and go to my Facebook page and just look at pictures from this amazing summer adventure. It was GOOD. It was really good and my pictures testify to the fact that it was an adrenaline filled, bucket list- crossing summer.

Between flying over beautiful mountains, climbing remote glaciers, sailing in beautiful Whittier, spotting nine bears, seeing a mom and her baby moose crossing the waters, and catching my first salmon it has been a blast.

And yet despite how much fun I had, and the things I learned as a new nurse, I have just a few regrets from this summer. Thinking about how my spiritual life is at a new low and thinking about the ways I could have done better this summer. Thinking about God- where He wants to take me this year- and about the fact that I am such an easily distracted, traveling girl that struggles with waiting.

I guess the fact that I'm 23 has really hit me!! Thanks to my lovely YOUNG camp friends and the fact that I was nicknamed camp mom or nurse lady, I have decided that I'm officially in that awkward- not so much college student phase- and yet not a working young adult either. But I guess after this summer, where I feel like I just enjoyed life and lived spontaneously but a little irresponsibly, the reality of adulting and growing in spiritual maturity has kicked in.

God has truly blessed me with so many amazing opportunities that I have just jumped on and experienced lately. I mean I have traveled to Peru, Dominican, Nicaragua, Korea, Alaska and more places. I've traveled around the states, led mission trips, got random certifications at different gyms. I've made friends in many places and it's like right now the world is my possibility for the options of where I could work, travel, what I could do.

But I guess where I'm at right now is...
I want to prioritize my dedication to God and willingness to serve Him above any adventure, adrenaline, or bucket list goals of my own.

I don't want to settle for a "normal life" where I just live in one place, mundane schedule, content with working a job or being in a relationship I'm not passionate about.

Yet I want to have the peace to be still. I want to have the joy to be content whether I'm world traveling, or water walking, or just at a boring church service.

 I want to follow God more than anything in this world. I don't want to care what the world thinks of me. I don't want to be defined by the things I've done or the things I haven't done. Instead I want to be known for who I am. I want to focus on my character and I want to be Christ's daughter and His faithful follower.

It's late at night and I don't have all the answers. There's alot of things in life I want to do. There's alot of things I think I need. Yet God is the only thing that can truly fulfill the desires of my heart. And I want to give my life to Him. I want to seek Him above any treasure, love Him more than any travel destination, and trust Him more than any one on this earth.

Monday, August 14, 2017

This is Denali

Going to Denali has been on my bucket list ever since I thought about coming to Alaska.
To be honest though, like many tourists and travelers, I didn't know much about Denali before I started to do some research. And even after researching it still seemed confusing. Denali is really big and I had no idea where exactly I should go, what I wanted to hike, all I knew was I wanted a great adventure.

So here's what I first want to explain to people who aren't familiar with Alaska and Denali. There's 3 things that are Denali: first of all is the National park of Denali where 90% of visitors take the train into and then get on a bus and ride in to see animals and maybe even hike around. The second part of Denali is Denali state park to which the national park is in but Denali state park is much much bigger and there are less rules and regulations. The third part of Denali is the mountain Denali or Mount Mckinley. 

So our group originally was going to do Denali national park for a whole week but instead we opted to sail for half of the week and do Denali in 3 days plus travel time. And what we found cheaper and more practical for our group is doing the bus drive to Eilson and seeing the animals at Denali national park and then coming down and the next day doing a 2 day backpacking trip up Kesugi Ridge in Denali state park.

 Denali national park is awesome and it is huge but it is definitely a tourist trap. Getting up there seems to be the most difficult part for many people as a one way train ticket from Anchorage costs about $!40. Our group was able to save tons of money by finding friends and driving four hours from Anchorage to Denali. Once you get to Denali national park there is an enormous guest center and many things you can do at the base just to learn about Denali. The coolest thing we could have done that we didn't get to do is see a Denali dog sled show. Since we were limited at time at base camp Denali we watched a quick movie on the history of Denali and looked at some Mt. Mckinley exhibits.

Their are national park busses that depart from the base or guest center at Denali at various times each day and take you up to the higher places of Denali park where no vehicles are allowed to drive. We chose (and I recommend) taking the bus as far as it will take you which is up to Eilson. Eilson is a 4 hour ride up and 4 hours down but you increase elevation quickly and have the opportunity to see lots of wildlife.

Overall we loved Denali national park but would say it is pretty expensive and might not be worth it if you only have a short time in Alaska. If you are dead set on seeing bears and caribou though it is a definite must. Here's a picture of Lauren and I in Denali as well as a bear cub we saw from the side of the bus. We saw 9 bears and 11 caribou- quite the wilderness experience!!