Saturday, December 31, 2016

Are New Years Resolutions worth it?

In church today the pastor said he didn't believe in New Years Resolutions. He said if you wanted change bad enough you would have started the day you desired the change. But I don't agree with him. I believe that YOU SHOULD MAKE NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS. Here are 5 reasons why I believe in NYR's.

1. Jesus teaches us to dream big and pray harder. When we make resolutions we are hoping for the future. We are giving ourselves permission to write down some dreams and goals- some objects to strive for and to pray for.

2. Writing NYR's requires us to evaluate where we are currently. If we write down we want to lose 25lbs it makes us realize that our fitness and health is out of whack and we desire to treat ourselves better. NYRs take away the excuses and let us personally and honestly admit some ways we have fallen short the past year.

3. Lack to plan is a plan to fail. We need a plan. We need to think about where we want to go in life and have the courage to start in a new direction. New Years Eve gives us that excuse we need to make a plan and change our life.

4. It only takes one New Years Resolution that you meet and fulfill to change your life forever. What if you DID that New Years Resolution where you drank 8 cups of water? You would literally change your physical health. You are striving to do all of them but even if you do one.. You didn't fail. Surely you did better than if you never wrote them at all.

5. Studies show that people who write down relevant goals are four times more likely to accomplish the goal than someone who doesn't.

As Benjamin Button writes "For what it's worth it's never too late or in my case too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life your proud of. If you find that your not I hope you have the courage to start all over again."


Monday, December 26, 2016

Home & Homeless

I had a WONDERFUL Christmas this year! So thankful to see many family members and enjoy time in Illinois.Tonight I arrived to my Okie house and I must admit I have to sigh... I LOVE visiting family I LOVE traveling but there is never no place like home.

A home is more than just a building, a country, a place but it's where memories are built and stories are told. I have many homes not just one because once you have a house somewhere it will always be a part of your heart for you have lived life in that place.

Tonight I wonder about Jesus's house- or really his home. The Bible doesn't speak a lot about Jesus's bedroom and where he rested. We know that he wasn't born in a real house- but a stable- and that he was raised in his home til around 14,15 years maybe.

In Luke 9:58 Jesus said "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Before this verse a scribe was asking to follow Jesus and Jesus is now telling him part of the cost and sacrifice of being his disciple. Jesus was functionally homeless.

Imagine being a homeless person for Jesus in this day and age. It would be irresponsible and even churches wouldn't welcome it. They would say "buy an apartment, be responsible, take care of yourself before you try to minister to others." Jesus was not conventional. He didn't care about the earthly kingdom. He didn't want to establish a home for himself. He didn't need earthly security for he had the heavenly King.

I wonder if Jesus ever longed for the comfort of his own bed, his own food of choice, his own house. Whether at times he was tempted or not, it is evident that he was so busy blessing others he hardly had time to miss out. He was constantly traveling, constantly healing, constantly teaching, reaching out and God provided his earthly needs to him and the disciples as they had faith.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Meditation

There's a verse that almost haunts me these last couple days and it's a verse I committed to memory a while ago that goes like this "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

It's a verse that challenges the very core of who I am. The verse that calls to a higher standard. For this verse says it's not enough to act nice like a Christian, it's not enough even to talk kindly at all times, but that God expects my thoughts to be pure and holy.

This verse is when I start to see the ten commandments in a new light and I fall prostrate on my face before a King and plead "I'm a dirty scandal Father save me from this selfish body." Christ calls us to mature and grow in Him and He judges our most inward thoughts that no one else can see nor understand.

But then the Lord reminds me of Psalm 119:9 which I had written across my dorm whiteboard which states "How can a young man (woman) keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word."

When I look at the world around me these days I see a lot of terrifying things. I see a lot of hatred, a lot of envy, pain, I see impurity. I see the Devil prowling about like a roaring lion seeking to devour men with his pleas of sexual immorality, lust, and pornography. But the Devil doesn't just target men who God created to be spiritual leaders but He makes woman selfish, destroys trust, creates fantasies and idols, teaches us lies that destroy and degrade value. The Devil knows that our thoughts create our actions, and our actions pattern to form our habits, and our habits eventually become what we are known by (character).

This is why Christ says we must be reborn. From the inside out, He must strip away the old and make us new and whole and pure. When God creates us, there will still be scars and marks from the past, but there will be an unmarked freedom, a change of character. And we must also expect a change of thoughts. But how can we be like Christ when Satan is out to get us and this world is a cold place. How can we be like Christ friends if we are not in the Word of God?

John 17:17 says "Make them holy (or sanctify them) by your truth; your word is truth. The Devil is a scandal and we know He is full of lies. But Christ's love has the power to release us from any negative or unpure thoughts. This Christmas I challenge you to get into the Word of God and pray for His Spirit to come and dwell in your hearts filling you up so that no evil can remain within you. Friends we must prepare, we must come to Jesus to be cleansed, for soon and very soon we are going to see the King.

My Jesus and Santa Clause

You hear a lot about two of my friends this Christmas season and at first glance they seem to have a lot in common.

1. Both are loved, dwelled upon, and drawn attention too more in the Christmas season.
2. Both bring promises of gifts to ALL people regardless of age, race, or culture.
3. Both are thought of as "good", kind, loving, and sacrificial.
4. Both have their pictures on gift packages and bags, cookies, and calendars.
5. You can talk to both by writing letters or having a little faith, believing in your heart.

I often wonder if Satan likes it when we think of Santa Clause and Jesus side by side at Christmastime. When the movie shows the Christmas Eve church service and then Santa Clause comes the next day making every dream come true.. when we think of the fables and tales Hallmark channel shares it makes the Great Controversy seem a little far away. 

I mean love always wins on Christmas day right? When we give the poor presents? And we gather round the Christmas tree to play dirty Santa and steal all the gifts. We stuff our faces with food and enjoy gluttony, greed, and a little lusting after our neighbors gifts.. of course there's always room for a little more family gossip.

Satan doesn't mind if we get a little festive this year. It doesn't bother him if we celebrate the season with gifts, and lights... The manger seen may threaten him a little but then he places a giant Snoopy dog next door.

Satan hopes we'll watch movies with our family, drain our money buying gifts we don't need, filling our hearts with fake promises of romance and holiday bliss.. because he knows when Christmas day is over and after Santa comes- reality will strike again.

The bickering, the children's whines, not getting the presents they deserved, the fatness from eating too much, and the promise that wasn't fulfilled leaves a Christmas depression and a sad truth: that we didn't find Jesus any more than ever on Christmas day.

Even after the Christmas story is read and the holiday carols preach peace and joy to all men... is it possible that we can sing the songs, read the stories, and attend the services year after year just to miss our on experiencing who Jesus really is. Is it possible that after Christmas day many people end with a lot more gifts and yet a lot less love and hope for the second coming in their heart. And this my friends is what Satan wants. Satan doesn't mind Christmas these days because Christmas is no longer about Christ it's about me, it's about you, gifts under the tree, things we want, and fantasies that will never become reality.

Lord Jesus, save Christmas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

nursing level 3 complete

Today with much prayer, I took and passed with flying colors my adult 2 nursing final which means 3 out of 4 levels are now complete! I am so beyond grateful to God and amazed at the way He has been helping me do nursing school- something I never imagined trying.

It's crazy to think that one year ago I was the level 1 nursing student who couldn't sleep because she was so nervous about clinicals and could hardly watch others put in an iv.

2 years ago I was in the hospital room with my dad vowing never to work in such a dirty place and that I couldn't touch anything- especially the incentive spirometer.

And 3 years ago I was in a country far away where I promised God He could have every part of my life including my career, dreams, and fears. And I found myself in a clinic crying as the doctor asked me to learn to give my first shot...

Today, I thank God because I know that I am only passing because of His grace. I can only overcome my own fears with His strength. And soon I will be a nurse because He promises to faithfully complete the good works that He starts in us. And now I am SO excited to be a nurse. I want to take care of sick kids and babies, help moms get pregnant, and help orphanage children across the world.

If God is calling you to do something crazy that you are afraid of, unprepared or unqualified for, I encourage you to do it. Because when you do that thing that "you" can't do it enables God to put His power in you to do it and your trust in Him grows so much! I will never regret the year I spent in Peru learning to trust God more and I don't regret the journey through health science and trying to search out what major I should do. Because God was working in my heart, working in my life, and He knows the perfect timing and the perfect way and His plans are ALWAYS better than ours.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Christmas lights

It's amazing what some little white Christmas lights can do to change up an entire apartment. It can make you see the whole place differently, change the atmosphere. Then we bring in a tree- fresh and green- it's magnificent and beautiful. You just find yourself wanting to dwell, wanting to be a part of the season.

Sometimes we just need a small light to help us carry on. It's amazing what one person can spark in the hearts of another- with kind touch, genuine prayers, a little love. It really can be miraculous when we choose to represent Christ with the little things.

These days you really can't take your friends for granted. They are some of the most valuable people in the world- they have the power to make you feel like gold or trash. And I'm thankful for the friendships I have been developing this year- especially in nursing. After a hard test, nothing is better than hugs and hot tea. Friendships take efforts and sacrifice though- that's a lesson I'm learning. Especially when life gets busy, long distance happens, true and genuine friendships don't come without work.

Christmas is an opportunity for generosity- for thanking friends and family. In between finals and all, I had some fun making a few homemade gifts this year with jars, glitter, ribbons, pine cones, and bells. It doesn't have to be about the gift or the money- it's more the thought that counts. You'd be surprised what a little effort could mean to someone whose lonely. This holiday people seem just a little more open for love and acceptance. Everyone's looking for light- will they see you?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Just my life


It's been a long time since I've written. And that's mostly due to the recent whirlwinds of feelings going on in my head. I can't adequately focus and honestly portray what I've been experiencing.

Thanksgiving break was lovely- a good time with family and friends spent in Colorado. It was a blessing. I thank God for my family and wait for the day when I will be a mom and in some way try to follow the teachings my family has given me on how to raise a child in the way of Christ.

 School is busy- it wasn't too bad until after break. Now it's a three week- now only week and a half mad dash- till the end. I'm just trying to pass, survive, and thrive without stressing or severely killing my health.

But lately I've had a deeper longing and wonder at Jesus and spiritual things as well as my own life at hole. A month ago I was gifted with the book "Desire of Ages" and I've been reading...

I never read Ellen White as a child or even younger teen because I felt she was fake or constantly being thrown into my face. I said that I preferred to stick to the Bible, I never gave her a chance though. I just didn't want her, didn't need her, I thought.

But lately spiritual things in my life have been almost like binge eating. One day I'm whining at God and trying to watch Netflix while texting on my phone and the next I'm avidly scavenging through EGW, listening to prophecy sermons, and trying to understand the last day events. I haven't been up on a mountain lately. But it's not a valley either. Somewhere in between in the middle- which to me- honestly that's one of the scariest places to be, especially when it comes to salvation issues.

This post has no resolution like many of my others. It's just a check up. I do encourage you though to read Ellen White if you never have- to give her a chance- in actuality, give God a chance to work through her. Her readings have given me light in a time of darkness and a new awakening to this world and what it offers.

I hope your doing well this holiday season- that in the midst of shopping and exams and relatives you haven't seen- that you look up to the heavens and talk to your best friend Jesus.

P.S. I've been working on a new missionary website with some resources for people who want to go serve and things I've learned in global community development classes. It's still in progress but you can check it out at missionarywoman.com

Sunday, November 20, 2016

airplanes

I love airplanes!  More than the flight itself, busy airplanes, or free peanuts- I love ascending. Love that feeling when you hear the plane's engine revving  into the air and you see your world, your own surroundings become clouded. You know that in a short amount of time you will be somewhere totally different, new surroundings, new people, new place. Goodbye old place, it's a brand new adventure waiting to happen.

For me airplanes bring back memories.. that first time when I was a naïve 16 year old going off to live at boarding academy in Colorado.. or the time I went to Korea with two of my best friends to teach English and travel for 3 weeks.. the time I went to Peru for a year to work as a missionary. Man- good times- I am so abundantly and infinitely blessed.

And as I look out the window seeing buildings that soon become as tiny as aunts and mountains and oceans come into view.. I have to put on my beats (best headphones ever) and whisper Thank you Lord! Thank you; thank you; thank you Father!

This Thanksgiving I flew next to my brother- which is an answer to prayer because I never imagined I would be so blessed to go to school with my best friend. But together we flew- to Colorado- land of the beautiful mountains to meet my family and spend Thanksgiving up in Aspen. Tomorrow we're going snowboarding and tonight we're cuddling up next to a fire.

Airplanes remind me that God is big- He's bigger than my dreams, than my imagination, than my knowledge can comprehend. Even when I can't understand what He's doing in my life, in time, He will show me that it is good.

I challenge you this holiday season to slow down and praise God; trust God. We all have insecurities, challenges in our life that threaten to stress us out- but God whispers to us- a million ways every day "I'm holding you." "I'm the King of your world."

I'm so thankful for airplanes. Thankful for family who sit down and eat together every meal; thankful my family lets me cook for them haha; and thankful that it's supposed to snow tomorrow. But most importantly I'm thankful I know Jesus and His peace this season and I want to share that joy of knowing Him with the people around me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Whitney

As I went to work today, heart heavy full of thoughts of Whitney- a beautiful, vivacious girl, I wished life could stop. That the world would mercifully pause so the everyone (or at least our Christian campus) could pray for this beautiful 21 year old girl who was losing her life! But as I walked into the gym, the TV's showed the news, sports, and a comedy show and guys lifted weights huffing and puffing. I wanted to scream to the world.. Wake up she's dying! Do you not know? Whitney is not ok! She needs prayer! She needs help.

Wake up! Wake up!

Stop what your doing. Turn off the tv. Stop listening to music, memorizing more drugs, trying to ace your test. Pause for a minute. Pray for a friend.

But not just for my friend Whitney. It's not just her. It's this world- friends. Jesus must be coming soon for surely sin has caused such devastation.

Compassion overload has caused us to close our eyes and act as if we don't care. We feel invincible- that disease will not plague our own skin and bones. We walk around blindfolded until it finally hits us..
Then sit stunned as we watch the people around us walk as stone soldiers and do nothing to help. Yet what can they do.

Friends we must open our eyes and start loving our brothers and sisters today.
Friends we must understand that Jesus is coming soon.
Friends we must get our oil because the time of Jesus' return is near.

Although Whitney is sick physically and needs your prayers desperately, all of us are sick mentally. We are all plagued by sin and selfishness. We must pray for Christ's healing. First in the life of Whitney so a miracle can be done in her and second in our own lives for a revival.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Waiting here

Hosea 12:6 Therefore, return to your God, Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually.

Waiting has always been one of the hardest things for me to learn. Especially as I strive to be a girl who is full of grace- I see the importance of self-control and patience.

One of my dear friends represents this character of grace so well. She is calm, slow to speak and act, but always ready to listen. She knows the word of God but waits for the Spirit to share it. She is gentle but full of poise and beauty. She knows how to wait...

But do I? I struggle so much..

It seems I'm good at moving, at doing things, getting things done and I'm not so good at having to sit still, having to quiet down, having to wait on God.

But then I hear God asking me "Brooke have you really been waiting on me?..
Because I've been waiting on you.

Wait you God?
You were waiting on me? The God of the Universe was waiting on me?

And I heard the King say yes because I love you.
I knew you had to be ready.

Then God I asked.. if you were waiting for me- who was I waiting for?

Sometimes I think that we find ourselves asking God for something or a specific petition instead of waiting for His guidance and character.

That we could perhaps be searching for a trinket or a prize instead of the glory of the Father.

That we may desire healing or a gift when instead Christ's presence is far abundant to meet our every need.

If we would look for Him; if we would wait on Him- ready to see His presence- then He could reveal Himself to us.

God I am so sorry for the times when I have been asking you for a thing instead of asking to know you more. For you alone are more than enough to meet every need. I want to seek your presence more than any other thing.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Short Term Missions

This year I have a new job which is titled "Uquest leader" for campus ministries. My job is to plan a "poverty alleviation/ transformational development experience" which will include equipping college students with information about world issues and taking them on a short term "mission trip" to Nicaragua.

I've been reading the book "Helping without Hurting in short term missions" with Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. I definitely recommend reading the book if you are a missions junkie, wanting to spend time abroad, or even wanting to attend a short term trip to "save the children." It is definitely eye opening and a painful but necessary read.

According to Corbett, short term mission trips have been quite the common trend aka voluntourism with around 2,200,000 people sent as short term missionaries to "save the world" in 2000 and rates still rising*. It is estimated that approximately 2.2 billion dollars is spent on short term trips every year*. If it could be shown that significant improvements had been made because of this money being spent or people being led to Christ who had never heard the Gospel, that would be one thing. But the terrible news is that many of these mission trips are doing more harm than good.

Let me address a few typical problems.

1. Short term participants often do not understand the language of the country they are traveling too to visit. Without understanding the language how can they bond with the local people? Must they hire translators? Will they be able to understand and learn the culture without knowing how to communicate?

2. Short term participants often GIVE free goods. They bring presents thinking they are saving the world, all the while destroying the communities' local businesses as well as pride. Americans often go to visit thinking they know what's best. But when free clothes are dumped it takes out the need for the villages to shop and barter. They are then encouraged not to work hard for their money but to beg and ask for more. No wonder when they see a white person they can't help but ask "Prestame... Give me.. please." No more. The free goods must stop. There is a difference between relief and emergency providence (after natural emergencies) and giving to the poverty trap.

3. Short term participants waste A TON of money. If the money they spent going on their trip could be given directly for the community to invest in education, infrastructure, health or create more local jobs, it could go so far. But instead trips of 40 people often spend 40,000 solely on airfare before even getting to the country they desire to help. Then there is the fact that so often participants on trips have no skills in the area they are assigned to work. For instance what is the point in charging $2000 per high school student to send them on a construction and VBS trip when in reality 85% of them have never done construction before in their life and will be slow not to mention miserable in the sun. Have they ever volunteered for VBS in their local church or is it just the glory of international service and tourism that interests them?

4. Short term participants develop a false view of the world and sense of pride. This is something I personally have a hard time with. I grew up wanting to help people and somehow my first mission trip I learned that I could do something small to change the world. The problem is not my attitude towards helping the problem is the attitude I begin to develop that I think I know the answers or that I can be someone else's hero when in reality I am "poor" too and Christ alone can save us all. We think we have all the answers for other countries or families' poverty. In reality unless we have done tons of research on the history of their community and spent time getting to know them personally, we have no idea what specific needs we could actually help meet.

I'm not saying we should just throw all efforts at helping people around the world out the window. What I am saying is we need to evaluate the actual impact so many short term mission trips are making. We need to research how to better invest our money to help not hurt people who are struggling with poverty. We need to seek to understand by learning from the people of different communities instead of coming in with our own game plans of what we think needs to be done.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My traveling friend

So many transitions, so many places to go see.
Adventures to live through, wonders to explore.
New places, new people, and new jobs
New experiences as far as the eye can see



Yet every time I move
Changing seasons, places, or even best friends
I have to find Him again
Not that He isn't there
no matter where I go, what I do, what I see

But He lets me find Him
He lets me choose Him
Each and every day
Even though He pursues me
He waits for me to follow Him



I don't know what I'd do without Him
I don't know where I'd be without this guy
I've crossed so many countries with Him
Journeyed so far away
And yet He's the only one that stays by my side
He'll never leave me

Three years ago I left for a country of Peru
And I asked my traveling friend
To take me on a new journey
On the best journey I'd ever been with Him

I asked him to marry me
And I told him he could have my heart
He could break it
Or remake it
It was His

He took my life and started painting
New colors and pictures
Painting over my fears, my insecurities
And asking me to be a nurse, to be humble
Most importantly to let Him lead me every day

And as I've followed
My best friend has shown my heart so much joy
So much love, so much passion, so much peace
It's incomprehendible

So I invite you.
Do you want to go on a crazy journey?
I hope you meet my best friend
I hope you let Christ love you passionately
I hope you give Him everything

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

ALASKA

This summer I experienced an amazing adventure deemed "Alaska camps". I spent eight weeks traveling to three different summer camps in Alaska being a camp counselor and a lifeguard. We visited Camp Tukaskoya (Palmer/Anchorage), Camp Polaris (Dillingham), and Camp Lorraine (Wrangell). I made amazing friends, saw some great wild life, and grew a different perspective of Christ. I want to share with you a few special memories and pictures that stand out to me from the trip but most of all I want to tell you TRAVEL; GO SEE ALASKA for yourself!



One of my favorite memories of Alaska is my 2 bear encounters- every tourists' dream come true. We were prepped upon going to camp Polaris that there were dangerous grizzly bears and that we were to carry whistles at all times. If we blew the whistle continuously it meant there was a bear and the camp ranger would go get out his gun. Well it was only a couple days in when I heard the whistle and everyone came running only to hear the bear was pretty far across the camp. We took some picture shots and then got in the canoes to go for a little bear hunt. We stayed a very long distance from the shore but were trying to make sure the bear was not getting close to the camp where the kids were. We continued to see the bear a few more times at night and had to stay inside but we fortunately did not have any serious bear trouble.



One of my jobs at camp was to be a skiing and wakeboarding instructor. Something we do at this camp to help kids learn to wakeboard or ski is to start them on a tube. So imagine with me that here I am sitting on a double tube holding onto a rope and then a camper jumps on with me onto the tube and my job is to show them correct starting technique and help push them into the water when they are ready. There is nothing so beautiful as seeing a little kid learn for the first time and ski out from the tube for me to be spun in circles left in the middle of the lake for 5 maybe 10 minutes as they continue their ride. As I sit on my tune in the middle of a beautiful large lake I see mountains that are tipped in snow and I see beautiful clouds in the horizon. The mountains dude they are awesome! Alaska is a crazy beautiful part of God's handiwork that really declare His glory.

At every camp our cabins would rotate activities including fishing, canoeing, hiking, tubing, and sometimes even showering our the great well known Mkay-eh. The Mkay-eh is what some natives use in smaller villages and it is basically a sweat house. You start a fire and then pour water on the rocks, sweat, soap up, and then bucket rinse off and declare yourself clean. Showering in the small Mkay-eh is a one of a kind Alaskan experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Hey the other option was a Polar dip into the freezing cold lake early in the morning. It would definitely wake you up, but it was NOT my preferred temperature.

At many of the camps we had Alaskan natives and non- Christians. This was cool because we got to rewind back to basics and share with them who Jesus was. Every morning and night we would have worship and frequently they would be outside with views of mountains, lakes, or oceans listening to the sound of loons over the water.

This picture above brings back lots of memories as it is deemed Jackknife Mountain. It is accessible easily by our camp but other fisherman or visitors sometimes visit just to climb it. It is a tough climb- especially for the girl who climbed it in old tennis shoes. There is a huge area that is covered in shell or rock which most hikers either love or hate. First most of the staff got a preview/ practice climb the Sabbath before the campers came. Then during camp the show called "Let's survive the mountain" started where our goal was to get as many campers to the top of the mountain and down without injuries. We had staff running back and forth, three radios, lots of sweat, songs, fun, water, and child motivational speeches. In the end about 15 kids (out of 40) made it all the way to the top and conquered the mountain.

Monday, June 6, 2016

heaven

"What is heaven like?" the little girl asked her dad. Are their butterflies and rainbows and dancing?
I don't know daughter. He said. The Bible doesn't tell us much about heaven, but their will be no more sadness, no more pain, lots of singing praises to God and spending time worshipping Him...

Oh the little girl sighed. Anything else? What about the animals?

Oh and there will be lots of animals the dad replied.

What else dad?

I don't know daughter. I guess we'll find out when we die."

I can't believe how easily we dismiss thoughts about heaven and teach little children and new believers to do the same. We make it sound boring, unrealistic, imaginary. This delights Satan who does not want us to meditate on heaven and a new pure world with Jesus.

 Heaven should be the thought most constantly in our heads and yet for so many of us it seems a distant fairy tale land that we feel guilty about thinking of when this world has so many problems.

Yet Colossians 3:2 says to Set our minds above not on earthly things.  Is it possible that thinking of heaven is what God wants us to do to gain strength for our current condition and passion and love for His kingdom.

C.S. Lewis says "Most of us find it very difficulut to want "Heaven" at all- except in so far as "Heaven" means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained; our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognize it.

I think we have a serious problem when Christians wait more eagerly for Christmas than they do for heaven. Beyond that, the truth is that many church-goers aren't excited about heaven at all. Like the song by Albert King says "Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to go now."

It's terrifying and tragic that as Christians sacrificing for the Lord we know and care not about heaven- where we are going to spend eternity. So often we act without thinking about heaven, without looking up, just doing the world's things, and it's almost prophetic of the time we are living in because it demonstrates that as a Christian people and church we are asleep if we are not awaiting heaven and looking forward to it daily.

Randy Alcorn believes that God has given us glimpses of heaven in the Bible to fire up our imagination and kindle a desire for heaven in our hearts. And that's why Satan will always discourage our imagination- or misdirect it to ethereal notions that violate scripture. As long as the resurrected universe remains undesirable or unimaginable , Satan succeeds in sabotaging our love for heaven.".. "What we need is a Biblically inspired imagination." Read the book "Heaven".

Think about the best things that have ever happened to you that are pure, good, and beautiful. The Bible says that all good and perfect gifts are from above, coming down from our heavenly Father. So think about each animal, pure beauty, innocent relationships without the sin, without the hurt, without the fear. Think of the things that make your heart come alive. Imagine us in our original condition pure and holy, undefiled masterpieces of God, and the world around us lively and lovely.

I don't know about you but I want to receive a Biblical imagination and I want to think about heaven more then I think about the things of this earth. Satan wants us to get caught up in everything this world has to offer us so we won't care about heaven. Let's pray to God to transform our thoughts and help us to think about heaven- the way He created it- so that we can look up to Jesus and spread his light to a fallen world.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Hide this mess

I remember when I was little and it was Friday- the day when I was supposed to make my room super clean- I would get distracted and play until finally my mom was ready to come look and inspect. So super quickly I would put all of the dirty things inside the closet or under the bed.

 Even as a little kid we quickly learn that nobody enjoys our messes and we learn that it is easy to disguise things in order to put our best foot forward. We learned the art of hiding what we didn't want to be seen.

I think as a society and as a church we have became pretty talented at hiding as well. We dress our best and say "Happy Sabbath" when we go to church and when we ask people how they are doing we rarely get more than a "I'm doing great", "Praise God", or "I'm blessed."

Which is awesome- praise God- if being in the house of God, His people really feel blessed. But if you talk to many people and their families outside of the church, without the makeup on or fancy clothes, you can find a lot of real struggles, sickness, grief, depression, fighting. People need help, support. Their is a lot of messiness that is hidden under the smiles.

Even though our natural instinct is to hide, hiding often hurts us by creating walls around our hearts and leaving us feeling all alone. Hiding means that we are afraid and it takes away our opportunity to be found and experience the art of healing.

In the first book of the Bible Adam and Eve, the first creatures, who were so loved and valued by Christ felt extreme shame after sinning and so they hid. They were afraid of their nakedness and what they had done. They knew that they had created a mess out a beautiful thing.

And God had to pursue them. He had to call for them to ask them "Where are you?" to help them come out of hiding. And Christ gave them grace for their mistakes and clothes to comfort them.

The amazing thing about God is he says that he wants to take our brokenness and our weaknesses and use them for His glory. So often when we share our struggles, when we boast about what Christ has done through our mess.. that's when other people stop feeling so alone and realize that everyone is struggling with something. That's how we learn to trust each other and that's how we build true community- we take off the masks- we reveal the mess that God is changing.

There is so much freedom and pure joy when you feel loved by people that actually know and understand you. I know for me, some of my best friends, in all my life have been given to me only by God in the weirdest circumstances. Like when I had lice, or when my friend passed out in a dirty place in Peru, or when I was forced to live with people for eight months or go on a longgg adventure with them. You see everything- the good the bad- and the beautiful thing is when you can look at each other and laugh and love and forgive each other anyway.

2 Corinthians 12:10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

struggles of faith

I ask my newly converted friend what he's going to do this summer and as he replies "I'm going to study the Bible more", I find myself rolling my eyes. As I walk through church to teach  the kids' class I find myself laughing at the "other convert" being an active recruit for prayer. He is always praying... I think to myself. Inwardly I can't stop myself from wandering... Can't wait to see you stick around and follow Jesus for a year maybe 2 years and see how peppy you are. Hang out in the church a little longer see what it's really like.

I know it sounds terrible, but I just can't help classify most of my Adventist friends as raised in the church or "converts" based on how excited they are about Jesus. Been in the church for a while? Your family was Adventist? You probably go to church most Saturdays, skip Sabbath School, don't really care that much about your faith...

Newly convert? Oh I see you praying, telling all your friends how great God is, going to all the extra meetings, sharing your testimony like it's golden and your on Operah.. No don't bother trying to give me a Bible study, I'm "good" and saved too, sorry I'm not as smiley as you are.

When did I become so cynical about a faith I've surrendered my life too again and again?

The problem is not the new believers or converts who are on fire for God.

The problem is me with little fervor, quick to judge and become burnt out... Why am I so
bitter? Why am I like the judgmental second son that isn't so happy when his lost brother returns home and his dad throws a party?

Do I think I am faithful because I have followed God for so long? Does that make me a recipient of extra mercy, extra blessings because I have followed God for this or not done that? Do I wish I would have sinned more so I could try it? Do I desire to be rebellious against Christ and the faith?

Why do I look around and see big sins and fail to see my own selfishness and pride that separate me from the character of Christ? Why is it so easy for me to live on the fence thinking that "I am holier than thou" yet not spending enough time on my knees or in the Word of God to defeat the enemy and fight the battle of God?

So often if I hang out in Adventist or Christian circles (at college, at church, at summer camp)  I see a lot of nice people with a really small amount of faith. I know that sounds critical, harsh, judgmental and it is. But I believe from my heart that so often following Jesus is reduced to wearing the goody good sticker on your forehead which means you are nice to people and say and do the right things.

But in my heart I feel the longing for a faith that is so much bigger and a Biblical Savior who is so much more powerful than politically polite. And I want to know this Jesus- this God- I want to see this Hero, this crazy romancer in my life, in my friends' and families' lives, and in the church. And when I see Him, when I experience Him, I awake from my sleep and worldly daydreams and become ALIVE.

How do I nourish my own personal EXPERIENCE with God to pursue a long term relationships with Him that will not easily fade?

Where do I get the authentic faith to marry a sex offender and love him as a husband? To leave my family and friends behind (for nonselfish motives) and go to another country to sacrifice my health, my career dreams, my money for them? How do I walk to a cross- the most painful death known to mankind- and let someone pierce nails through my hands?

Sometimes I listen to my friends talk about Jesus and their lack of relationship with Him. They tell me that they do the right things but they don't really know Him personally and they desire their faith to get stronger. And sometimes I ask them if they have ever experienced Jesus for themselves? And so many of them tell me no and that's something I don't get.

See for me, I know Jesus because I know He has loved me personally, healed me personally, rescued me when I needed it the most. I know He has called me, I know He has used me. I have confidence in Him and His plan for my life.

Yet sometimes I think the church has taught us about Jesus but not how to know Jesus. Maybe in the families many Adventists grew up in they were given "spiritual milk" and taught basic principles of Christian love like being kind to one another, sharing, saying happy Sabbath, forgiving our family and friends. Yet maybe they didn't learn how to eat solid food?  and instead were taught they could have the world and follow God too? (We think we don't have to commit suicide to our self and our own dreams and desires and pursuits of this world and that literally strangles us) Maybe I don't know how to eat solid spiritual food? And maybe it's easy to look at many professed Christians or people in the faith and say well they're doing that.. so it's ok for me to live like this.

1 Corinthians 13:2 says Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly—as infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for solid food. In fact you are still not ready, for you are still worldly.

-- Basically where I'm at right now, is I love God but I know my faith and love relationship with Him needs resurrecting. I want to follow Christ and His commandments but I'm tired of being defined by rules or high expectations. I desire authentic faith and I know that my spiritual walk can't be lived on the mountain alone but will journey from valley to mountaintop. Yet I need a spiritual attitude adjustment that will better equip me to love people for God commands me to love in every part of the journey. I want more faith and real food.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

God heals broken families

"Start a revival, revival in me." - Citizens Way.

I'm finally at home with my family for a month and it's definitely different. It's hard because you move away from home and start doing things differently just to come back it takes a little readjusting. It's easy to get selfish in college when you are solely looking out for you- one person- and meeting your own needs. And then you come back to a family and are reminded how much sacrifice and effort it takes to work together.

My family has been working on this family camp thing for our church with the theme "God heals broken families." I think it's definitely an important  topic because if you look around at familes anywhere (the grocery store or the pew behind you) you will see dysfunctional families. Families that are angry, divorced, or argumentative. Kids that don't behave and wives that feel overworked and husbands that feel disrespected. Despite the smiling faces at church for many families worship is the closest they may sit together all week.

God desires so much more from our families. But the only way we can start a family revival is by starting with ourselves and our perceptions and actions towards our own family. This transformation can only be possible with prayer.

I learned the coolest thing about God's love and families today. Basically God's character of perfect love is manifested by the fact that He is three in one- trinity- a third wheel relationship ( a heavenly family) and the way His love can best be demonstrated through us is how we "do family".

 We know that we humans are naturally self centered and love by definition is self-giving and other-centered (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). So in order for us to love there must be more than one person: a relationship.

 The problem with only having two people though is each is the sole recipient of the other's attention giving potential for self-centeredness. So if we think about marriage and we think about being selfless towards one another- that's a good start- and something many couples these days can't pull off even. Because we don't love God enough to even love one person like that. But...

The real test of pure love comes in when a third person enters into the relationship. Three is the minimum value of love in it's truest form because each recipient must also humbly defer attention to the third party and occupy the position of the third to the other two.Thus if the third person is accepted, self-centeredness will be forced to give way to a more selfless quality of love. In families today children often play this role of the third recipient and children can often strengthen or weaken a family demonstrating either a pure family after God's heart or selfishness.

Jesus expresses to His Father his hope regarding mankind "that the love with which You loved Me may be in them and I in them" John 17:26. Only through Christ we receive the power and redemption to love with the same kind of love Christ has demonstrated to us.

Even in the very beginning of time, the Bible shows that "doing family" and loving our family is not easy. Isaac and Rebecah start out being totally pure and dedicated to God. Isaac is a total man of the faith as he has witnessed the God of Abraham rescue his very life on the altar. Rebecah is the sweet and generous young girl Abraham's servant picks out- after a sign from God for Isaac. Surely their coming together was part of God's divine plan and their family intentions were pure.

We see a couple who struggle to have a child and pray for children.. to which God provides not just one but twins.

Yet somewhere along the process of raising kids, the focus of Christ is lost as favoritism and anger creep into the story. To the point where Rebecah loves her son more than her husband and chooses to help her favorite son Jacob (the deceiver) lie and manipulate to her own lover stealing from his own brother. Jacob tricks Esau and takes away his birthright. Esau is furious.

Yet the beautiful thing is the story doesn't end there.

Years later we see Jacob praying to God and God commanding Him to "go back to his country and relatives so he will prosper him." As he repents for his actions, humbles himself, and finds gifts for his brother and family, he wrestles with God and even gets a new name Israel. And then finally the day of restoration comes when Jacob meets Esau and and prepares to die, humbling himself and asking to be Esau's servant..

Yet Esau in his heart had forgiven Jacob as well and instead of being angry, he runs to Jacob or Israel with arms wide open to kiss and embrace him. Only by Christ their family was healed from anger and hurt. Christ always desires to heal our families and will often ask us to take initiative in the healing process.

In our culture today,media shows many different lies about families. I believe the devil is constantly throwing us counterfeit stories of how family, love, and sex should look and feel like instead of the truth about why God created families. Romance movies and books make marriages look so easy and statistics show us they lie. Satan tells us that families will meet our needs and help us work up the platform of the American dream to Disney World, cruises, and Santa Clauses.

What if we stopped taking our families for granted and realized that they are not easy? That family isn't just what you are born with but is what you make it and how you love/ or fail too. That as trouble arise, attraction fades, and impatience sets it, we have a new opportunity to love and forgive each other in the name of Jesus instead of simply walking away.

I know that I am blessed to have the family that I have now, and I also know that by loving my family, I can demonstrate Christ's love. Family's a verb that we make or break by our actions, words, and facial expressions. It's the things we do and don't say. The chores we fail to do or the secret ways we help each other. Love is to be given and shared and will require sacrifice, hard work, and commitment. May we love our families the way Christ has demonstrated His love towards us and may we pray for our families so they can be healed- in His name.



Thursday, May 12, 2016

love one another

In Galatians, Paul writes that he has identified himself so completely with Christ that he has been crucified with him. His ego is no longer central. The life he lives is not his own but Christ living through him.

Often we ask how we learn to love one another? And I think the simplest answer is we don't, we let Christ love through us. As humans we lack knowledge in what real love looks like, in what sacrifice costs, in patience, in generosity, in service... As many times as we try to represent Christ's name without His spirit we fail Him.

This doesn't mean we become apathetic and make excuses for our sinful nature it simply means we switch motives. We stop thinking how can I do this or that.. and we start praying Crucify me Jesus so that my selfishness dies and your spirit lives.

Oswald Chambers writes that "Love is the loftiest preference of one person for another, and spiritually Jesus demands that this sovereign preference be for Himself (see Luke 14:26)...

The knowledge that God has loved me beyond all limits will compel me to go into the world to love others in the same way. I may get irritated because I have to live with an unusually difficult person.  Am I prepared to be identified so closely with the Lord Jesus that His life and His sweetness will be continually poured out through Me? Neither natural love nor God’s divine love will remain and grow in me unless it is nurtured. Love is spontaneous, but it has to be maintained through discipline."

Paul's counsel is this: To Live freely, animated, and motivated by God's spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical , so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence? (Message)

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage, frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all consuming yet never satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community (Galations 5:19-21). These are the manifestations of selfishness and seeking after what we want. We see plenty of examples of lives today ruined by selfish pursuits.

Yet a narrower path and less common life of love reaps entirely different results. By loving someone through Jesus, we have the power to change their life, to heal their wounds. To free prisoners of anxiety, guilt, or shame from Satan's chains of bondage. To heal in the name of Jesus by showing how much we care and taking the time to touch someone else.

Christ asks us everyday will you let me crucify you so I can love through you? Will you trust me and give when you have nothing left? Will you fulfill the needs of someone else without thinking of what you want? Will you spend time with me in my word and through prayer so I can transform your heart and take away your worldly desires?

And when we let Him day by day destroy our idols, take away our old desires and selfish thoughts, we will find a joy and hope unexplainable and find ourselves in awe at the most amazing transformation by the loving Father of the universe.

This is grad

Life is more confusing when I can't write. It means too much is happening too quickly and my head feels like it's spinning so many directions far too quickly. Graduation weekend has come and gone and I am so proud of so many of my friends for their accomplishments and where God is leading them.Some of my friends are going to different countries, different states, and some of them are even getting married.




Waiting through graduation speeches and church services was like waiting for the promised land. At the end of the speeches I have to question whether the audience is really giving a standing ovation because they appreciated the talk or because after two hours it is finally over and we can all move on with our lives ;)

Monday, May 2, 2016

This is grace

I waited for him
Prepared for the stones

For the criticism
The failure
I was prepared to own

I waited for him to say
Good but...

But he didn't name my insecurities
He didn't list the things I did wrong

Didn't write my weaknesses along side my name
Instead he traced in the sand

I was expecting condemnation
But instead I got compassion
and grace

Undeserved and free
So this is how it feels to be covered in Christ's shadow
To have no fears because our insecurities, our weaknesses, our failures, our secret places
Are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ
This is grace

And as we follow God we will learn to dance joyfully in the rhythms of His grace
And nothing can make our heart so happy
As the pressure is taken away from us
It no longer matters how we perform or what we do
Because when we are serving Jesus
He is the only thing that matters

For me I have to praise God for so many miracles in my life
Sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference
With nursing this year, God has been so faithful to help me
Whether it be a friend helping me study for a test or hugging me when I'm sad
Or amazing clinical instructors who encourage me instead of criticize
For giving me mercy for tests I didn't study enough for
And peace when I am terrified in the hospital
God has been so faithful and so graceful to me and I am beyond thankful.
Only because of Jesus.. this year is almost over!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

For such a time

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 says "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to heal and a time to break down...
a time to weep and a time to dance...
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend
a time to be silent and a time to speak
a time to love and a time to hate..."

I think that one of the hardest things to accept gracefully is change.

In my life experience, I feel I am always growing, always changing, always altering my perception of things, always meeting new people. I love to travel; I love to taste the different beauties of the world, yet with discovery, with motion, with change comes goodbyes.

Saying goodbye is hard and exhausting mentally.
I believe that as humans one of our primary callings by God is to love. I believe that by loving others we glorify Christ. But love took Jesus Christ to the cross of calvary where He was crucified for our sins and when he died there for us He taught us an important lesson, love is not free.

Love is beautiful. It is a risk. It is worth it. It demands sacrifice, conviction, dedication; it changes the heart and the mind and makes it pure. But when love is broken, when people leave us- there is pain.

I don't believe that in a perfect world- or in heaven- we will have to say goodbyes.
Yet I do believe that in this life, to live to our fullest, learning to say goodbye and accepting change is necessary.

Sometimes God brings people into our life for just a few moments and sometimes He brings people into our life for forever. Both people can change our life and we also always have the power to change theirs. It's hard at times not to wish for people to come back into our lives or to stay with us but sometimes a small amount of time with a person is just what we need to grow.

It's amazing how much people can impact your life even in a short amount of time. As I look back on my life, I am so amazed at the people I have met and had the privilege of growing with and loving. I feel like with every loving friendship male or female, I see more of the character of Christ. And there are so many people, so many friends who I love, that have helped me learn more about myself and changed my perspective on God. I have been so blessed with meeting awesome people!

It's hard for me because I have met so many people that I have literally loved as best friends as brothers and sisters in Christ, that sometimes I don't want to let them go. I want to cling to them; I want to text them every day. I want them to promise me that they'll never leave me. I want us to stay close forever.

But that's not the way life here on earth works. One season comes and then the next. Life changes and people change too. If you live your life, waiting for them, hoping for them, thinking about people who are not in your life currently, you will waste your life and when you meet them you will realize they are not the same person you waited for.

My prayer is this:
God help me to learn to be graceful
In the way I make friendships and the way I say goodbye
Help my love to be unconditional
But protect my heart
Because you have said it's valuable
Help my trust not to be put in people of this world
Who can fail me
But only in You
Your truth, your salvation, and your promises
Help my heart not to be tired of saying goodbyes
But to always see the best out of seasons, situations, and other people
Help me to follow you
For such a time and season as this

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The healing has begun

As of this year, I became a painter. This semester I have painted 13 canvasses, each with different colors and a story.



 I paint to find freedom, to express myself, when I am stressed or worried, it helps to recreate something beautiful. Sometimes I love my paintings but other times I quickly become frustrated with them.

This peacock above caused some strife for about 3 months. I originally started with the outline and then I said it's ugly and I didn't want to work on it anymore. So I hid it under my bed along with four other "trash canvasses" which I decided weren't worth the efforts of fixing.

I hid them there, until finally a dear friend came over and said "Brooke these are not ugly. These are beautiful. You need to finish them." I sighed but I knew she was right.

Oh how grateful I am that our Father is our maker, our artist, our Abba, our Creator, and our redeemer. His mercies are new every morning and every day He offers to us to remake our lives. Like messed up pictures we have all been broken in different ways. And sometimes we feel that we have messed up so much that we are not worthy to be considered His masterpieces, His children any longer.

But everyday our Father picks us up like pottery, holds us in our hands, and tells us "You are mine. I am not through working in you."

It will not be a quick transition from a sinful, fleshful human to a purified light bearer that reveals
 God's glory. Yet in Ecclesiastes 3:11 it says "He has made everything beautiful in his time."

Every day we must continue to surrender our lives over to our Master so that He can keep remaking us. Isaiah 64:8 says 'Yet you Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.'

God is so good and as we spend time with Him, he will continually bring to our attention areas of our live that need to be remade, need to be healed. If we let Him change our lives to reflect His glory and image, when we look back, we will be in awe of who we used to be and who we are now. For we are remade, objects of art, that have been redefined, repainted, and recreated, purified only in the image of God.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Do you trust me?

As I paced back and forth in my room, I listed my problems for God.

(Go ahead- list yours right now, anything that's going on that you feel like you can't handle. Tell him everything and how you really feel.)

As I named my battles I heard the Lord ask me "Brooke do you trust me?"
My first response was Yes Lord of course I trust you
Just like Peter in the garden, yes Lord of course I love you
But then I stopped and I understood what He was trying to tell me
Oh God I don't trust you.
Oh Lord my anxiety has clouded my heart from belief.
Oh Lord  I do not believe but I want to. Please help my unbelief.

And I began to hear the Lord question me.
Do you know who I am?
Have you seen the way I laid the earth's foundation?
Have you seen the Ocean that I created and the way I calm the storms with just my voice?
Did you create the light that has dominion over darkness?
Do you take care of the wildflowers and every creature? Do you know their destiny?

Brooke, how could you forget?
I have called you and you are mine. I have called you to nursing not to fail you.
But so that you may glorify me.
I have a plan and a purpose for you.

You see so often I am just like an Israelite traveling to the Promised land.
I am following God, I am serving Him. When all of a sudden persecutions or challenges arise and I immediately feel overwhelmed and succumbed and grumble to the Lord why have you called me out to die?

Deuteronomy 1: 26 "But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You grumbled in your tents and said 'The Lord hates us; so he brought us out o Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us.' Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say 'The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.'

"Then I said to you, "Do not be terrified; do not be afraid o them. The Lord your God who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a Father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place."

In spite of this you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go."

Friends, we must not lose confidence or hope for the Lord our God is taking us to a land flowing with milk and honey. His glory will be revealed through us if we persevere through trials and afflictions for His name.

As children of the light, people are looking to us for direction and we have the opportunity to be representatives for Christ even in our darkest days. "If a man cannot prove his religion in the valley, it is not worth anything" but when we can sing praise songs to Christ though we feel we are drowning in the middle of the sea, others may find courage to persevere through their trials as well.

So let us not be shaken. Let us not lose heart. The Lord is good and He is coming soon to take us home!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Story

I can't believe it's finally here. The weekend I used to look forward too as a child for so long mostly for the hopes of Easter egg hunts, coloring eggs, and a special church service, has arrived. Good Friday has just passed and resurrection Sunday is here. It's the weekend we as a church dedicate to Christ's death and resurrection on a cross. A weekend we try to focus extra hard on the purpose of His death and how it changes life for us as Christians for all of eternity.

I can't help but meditate over the last few weeks and this semester and think that it was hard. That my life right now is in a place I never thought it would get. This semester has possibly been one of the darkest semesters of my college years and maybe my whole life, not specifically for one reason, but I've just been struggling through some things. Today though, as I helped with Sonrise, God reminded me of what He's done in my life and some ways He has worked in me and He reminded me that He will finish the good work He has started.

I think so often we hear the stories of Jesus yet we do not experience them. We hear about His death on the cross for us, so many times, that we may forget the power and the glory. We become numb to experiencing the emotional experience of what Jesus' death and life mean for us. In this way, acting is so powerful because when we can truly see and hear, we realize this is real. This is not just a children's story or a fable but this is my life, my destiny, and my Savior in His hands and He went through this for me. The thing I can say from the bottom of my heart, is that it is well in my soul and that is only because of Christ alone because He has defeated all darkness for my sake.

As I helped with Sonrise for a few hours yesterday ( which is an amazing, immaculate production of Jesus's death and resurrection), God reminded me of a huge miracle He did last summer for me and for Wewoka Woods camp. Last summer when I was spiritual director I had the opportunity of co-producing a drama called "The Story" which was a day two journey through the past to meet people whom Jesus' life changed and then ultimately to meet Jesus and experience His death and resurrection.

I think for me I will never be able to describe the way this story changed my life. Never before has His story  became so real: Jesus' sacrifice and the glory in the hour of His death. There were just so many miracles that went on week after week behind the scenes in the production of the skit and just in the story itself that I saw God in a whole new way.
--
It was one hour before the story and none of the cast was dressed. We were down three actors for the play and we had three brand-new people subbing in. 30 minutes later, we were all running wild, putting on the costumes, the makeup, trying to get ourselves and some of the new lines together. Something is wrong we thought. The atmosphere is different. Soon the blind campers had arrived and our program was still in shambles. We must start with what we have.

The play needed to begin. The blind campers were waiting. We gathered together and prayed and joked that we should pray some more.Then the story began.. just like it had many weeks before. The campers' met Jesus and walked with him..

 The Last Supper, then the Garden of Gethsemane. As I paused in my lines, I heard one of the adult blind campers' crying out to God "Why? Why did you suffer for us Jesus? He did it all for me." He was yelling out to God, vocalizing the intense feelings that many campers felt in their hearts.

Then came the trial and the walk to the cross. The walk was down a steep hill and we tried to see if a golf cart would make it down the trail, but our efforts failed. As the music played we wondered how we will get some of the campers down that hill. Then two of our male staff had an idea.

"Could we carry you? they asked *Sarah one of the campers who couldn't walk? Yes, she smiled with relief, eager to participate and see Jesus' death. Gently, carefully, step by step they carried Sarah down the rocky hill and gently placed her on the bench.

Jesus began to die and the sky began to darken. As we heard the final cries of Jesus, it all went quiet. The pastor began to make His call. After His call *Henry walked up and looked at Jesus. He cried out to Him "Father father I have sinned against your name. He began to cry out to God for forgiveness and talk to Jesus on the cross.

I stood beside *Henry in my angel costume. It was an awkward- yet beautiful moment and all the camp staff watched from afar curious of what was going on. Finally *Henry quieted down and asked for prayer. I stood beside Him as we prayed and thanked Jesus for His sacrifice for us and resurrendered our lives to Him.

My heart was heavy as I listened to His prayer and I longed for the honesty and genuine of this man. I wondered at his dedication. The way He ran to Jesus. The way He talked to Him. The way He didn't care what others thought of Him as He knew He must talk to His Savior.

My heart knew only one thing "this is why I'm here." This is the best part of camp: telling the story of Jesus. And I longed within me to break down and cry at Jesus' feet just like this man beside me. My heart felt heavy as I realized summer camp was ending. Today is my last day with the blind campers, and after that all we have is camp meeting.

How did summer camp change me? Did I make an impact in any of the staff or campers' lives? I don't know yet and maybe I'll never understand the full picture until the day Jesus comes again.

One thing I can say for sure is the story changed my life the most- this play- that started as only an idea that we doubted could really happen- became the highlight of camp. And I want this story- His story to be the gold and the stage and the heart cry of my life forever.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Grand Canyon part 1

It's hard to consolidate my thoughts over this  spring break GRAND ADVENTURE with friends. It was so much fun, but more than that- it was water to my soul, water in the desert that God blessed me with and restored my thirst for Him again.



A road trip indeed, through the planes and deserts of New Mexico and Arizona and time in Oklahoma and Texas (my home land)- beautiful sunsets, wild animals, and friends that felt like family.

Before the trip, I was tired of nursing- feeling a bit discouraged- a bit in a rut with my relationship of God. I felt like I was in a desert all alone. And though God provided nourishment, I was dehydrated, weak, and struggling.

The Grand Canyon trip was only some on a whim idea Ana and I had about 8 months before. We didn't really think we could go or pull it off. And when it was about four months til the Canyon and we applied they told us that they only had one more spot in the Grand Canyon left- nothing short of a miracle three days later we got the spot at Indian Garden Campgrounds.

The trek itself was vicious and we had a ranger at our campground tell us we wouldn't be able to do it before we went. It was 13 miles the first day- heading down to Phantom Ranch at the very bottom and then five miles back up to Indian Garden. The second day was five miles of intense climb lugging heavy backpacks up and down- our legs were shaky, but we were alive, and down for the journey! We survived the climb with flying colors (cramping legs and blisters) just going to show you not to let people define your limits or get discouraged.




"I will go where there are no easy roads with the comfort that I know. I will go where there are no easy roads. I will go. - Steve Green
It's about the journey, not the destination.

The Grand Canyon was BEAUTIFUL. It wasn't just the top that was gorgeous, it wasn't the bottom, it was the entire picture- the glory was in the vastness, the journey, the climb. The whole time we were backpacking I had this song in my head my mental clinical instructor sang "I love the mountains. I love the rolling hills. I love the flowers. I love the daffodils. I love the fire side when all the lights are low." The climb was hard. We were sweaty. We were tired. But we were all together, supporting each other (ok at times impatiently bickering or running on ahead)- and it was a glorious journey.


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Saturday, March 12, 2016

It's not about me

When I was in 5th grade I got baptized and shortly after I read a book called “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper which is a pretty intense book for a young person to read. Well I’m not going to lie to you, the book made me totally angry. It was actually the most frustrated I’ve ever felt towards God because the book told me something different than what I had grown up hearing about in church. The book wasn’t about “Jesus’s love for me” which was what I thought following Jesus was supposed to be about. Instead the book was about how my life purpose was to glorify God with everything I did.

This made me angry because isn’t a God that creates me for His own pleasure selfish? He created millions and millions of people and he names us all and makes us each uniquely for Himself? I couldn’t wrap my head around how this could be the same loving God who I had heard about for so long. The God who holds our hands, our dreams, and our tears, who pursues us, could it be that He really created us for Himself?

I decided that I didn’t want to serve a God like that. Because I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t do what I wanted, pursue my own ways- my own dreams, but instead my life would have to be all about Christ. I didn’t like that following Christ meant that I would literally have to surrender EVERYTHING.  I wondered if it was worth it- if following Christ (this God who created me for His own glory?) was worth my life.

The story of Job begins with the most righteous man of his day who diligently seeks and loves God. Satan goes to talk with God and tells God that Job only loves Him because of God’s blessings for Him. So God somehow, for some reason lets Satan mess up Job's life- totally mess it up (kill his children, give him a terrible disease, take away his reputation, prestige, and live a life of pain). And after all this suffering, when Job questions God, He replies like this “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself  like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know…. Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” (Job 38: 2,3,41)

We can accuse God all we want too for the suffering in this world, for letting it happen, for the injustice (because He gave us choice and we created sinful consequences). We can place ourselves on pedestools and look up at the Master of the Universe and say “I will never serve you” and He will look down at us and remind us that He gave us this right also. We can ask God how dare he create us for his own glory or we can recognize that selfisness is a result of sin and will never make anyone happy.

Yet when we will realize we are mere mortal sinners whose poor decisions lead us to a destiny of a fiery death. When will we recognize that we were created out of dirt and will go back to the dirt? That without God we have no hope. That this life is not about us (who can die any minute; who sin all the time) but about a bigger purpose- about a more just King, a better reign, a heaven to come.

If this life was all about me, then I would have to worry about death, about my influence on others, about my reputation, career, ect. Because my life is not about me I can find joy rejoicing in the best thing this Universe has. I can find joy in Christ. I can rejoice in the fact that my life is not significant but that His reign is. 

The Fact that this life isn’t about me changes everything. Glorifying God frees me from the bond Satan has over me. Glorifying God puts my eyes on the true Savior of the world instead of the deceiver. Glorifying God is the only way my heart can truly be filled from the inside out and I can experience the love of service that Christ died for me with. Glorifying God gives me purpose and peace beyond my own life.

How often we have it all wrong. The world teaches us to look after ourselves, to establish ourselves with a top position in a high paying career, to win the most sexy husband or wife who will help us live the life of our dreams, to spend money and buy buy buy striving to obtain for ourself. Yet as we try to take and get and receive and earn, we strive for things that are useless and wind up in a rat race never feeling content with ourselves, our own hearts, or each other. We become depressed and stressed trying to measure up to expectations. It is from this selfish heart and sinful consequences that God offers us freedom from.

Service, humility, and sacrifice change everything. By glorifying Christ, we are filled with a new love, transformed into a new lover, and we are changed into a new, truly set free daughter or son of Christ. It’s not about me. Jesus does love me but the question is do I love Him? Am I ready to glorify Him? For until I can give up my selfishness, my sin that Satan has captured me in for so long, I am not fit to walk with Christ. 1 Chronicles 16:29 Give to the Lord the glory that He is due to His name, bring an offering, and come before Him, worship Him in the beauty of His holiness.

how you judge

Should we judge a book by it's cover? Should we judge a person by their outward appearance, their first impression, their initial defining characteristics?

I believe we should and to venture beyond that I would definitely say that as a society and even as a body of believers we do. We judge our pastor by the way he dresses and by the way he shakes our hand and greets us after church. We judge our employees by the way they present themselves to represent our business. And we judge our friends to decide with whom we might like to make acquaintance with and get to know better.

This cover, this reputation thing is important. Psychology says that in the first three minutes of meeting someone people decide whether or not they would like to get to know you better. Thus if we are trying to reflect God's glory, we must scrutinize whether our first three minutes show the love of Christ.

Of course the most important thing is the heart. This is Biblical and this is what God looks at to judge (1 Samuel 16:7). Yet how can we see each others' hearts? Are not the words of our mouths and the look in our eyes reflections of our hearts and inner most souls? Love is manifested by actions and good intentions will never be enough in Christ's kingdom; our hearts are reflected by the way we live (Proverbs 27:19).

So should we judge others? I would venture to say that some judgement is necessary yet as Christians we should strive to look beyond outward appearances and look at the hearts.

Should it not be our personal goals to not judge other people by their covers yet to live in such a way that someone could judge us by ours and meet Jesus face to face in disguise? Wouldn't this be beauty- the ultimate witness is the one whom does not shout Jesus with his mouth nor wear the canvassing t shirt or goody two shoes sticker yet manifests a captivating character that draws in people by love and shows them a glimpse of a greater God?

When I was younger I believed that makeup and frivolous time doing hair and dressing up was an activity that displeased God and was vain. I thought this art of femininity was not necessary and that as Christians we should solely be focused on our inward thoughts and personality. Yet as I have matured, I have learned that Christ created beauty and is beautiful and pure. Whether it is right or not, society places a high value on external appearances. People are drawn to clean, beautiful, joyful people so I believe that women in particular can witness to the beauty and purity of Jesus' character by the way they dress and act (which are often judged by first appearances).

I don't believe this means that women need to wear, or should wear makeup all the time. I know far too many girls who look and feel like a ghost when they take their makeup off because they wear it so much that is their identity and security. I think this is sad and believe that God created individuals uniquely beautiful in His own image and that Christ wants us to feel secure in the body He has given us. What I do believe is that we need to recognize that as Christians the most powerful way to witness may not be the words we say but in the way people perceive us and if they see love written on our arms and shining thru our eyes.

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors as though God we're making his appeal through us. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

One thing you lack

Mark 10:21 Only "one thing you lack"- Go and sell EVERYTHING you have and give it to the poor.

I think it's funny because as we begin to follow God we truly and genuinely believe that we have surrendered and given up everything to Him. And we say here God take my life I lay it down and He begins the process of changing and remaking us into a totally new creation.

Yet somehow even after weeks, months, and years of following God- we hear Jesus' gentle voice "only one thing you lack,,," and I'm like what God, you mean after 10 years of following you I still haven't gotten it right? So day by day God asks me to lay down my one thing to Him, my everything to Him over and over again.

Sometimes I say but God I've already given you that and He says surrender it to me one more time. Sometimes I feel but God this is impossible for me to give up. How can I stop thinking about this? How can I truly surrender this to you?

And He reminds me that nothing is impossible.
And that for each thing I give up I will be blessed in abundance in one hundred times more in this life AND in the life to come.

I've realized that when I'm comfortable and think I have it all together, I'm probably not following God's call for my life. But when I'm totally out in the middle of the sea, in a storm, on a rocky boat, that's when God asks me to walk on water with Him. It's scary surrendering everything to God yet it's more scary following our own evil desires and dealing with the consequences of the flesh.

God is so patient and gentle with us. That's why He says "give me that one thing"; let's just focus on this right now. He doesn't want to overwhelm us; he doesn't want to burden us. Instead he says let go of this and let me lead you one step at a time to a better life =)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Touch me

Mark 10:13 People brought little children to Jesus asking Him to touch them. Jesus gently held each child in his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them.

Last week I went to a mental hospital where I was cautioned that many of the patients had experienced sexual abuse or were criminals for sexual abuse who were aggressive, bipolar, and schizophrenic. We were told that techs had initiated a new policy with fist pumps instead of handshakes so that we wouldn't have to hold the patient's hands due to uncleanliness.

Yet as I went to go talk to an older guy he reached out his hand for a handshake and I wasn't assertive enough to switch it around so I just shook his hand. And as I shook his hand he didn't want to let go of my hand. So I decided it was ok to just hold his hand for a while as we talked (we were being supervised for safety so I wasn't extremely worried). I was able to talk to this guy about some challenges he had faced with his family and friends and I could tell that he was very lonely. At the end of the conversation I prayed with him and told him I had to go so I needed to stop holding his hand and he told me thank you.

Shortly after, I met a schizophrenic lady who likewise wanted to hold my hand. And so I did. I decided that the people there must not get touched a lot and imagined that if Jesus were there, He would be holding hands and giving full hugs (not side hugs ;)

In our society, touch is dangerous. "You could be raped" they say or you could just be sued for something someone perceives as sexual assault. If someone touches your shoulder or arm, it is difficult to know if they are interested in you, being sexual, by showing touch or if they are just being nice.

I believe that Satan loves counterfeits and that he likes taking things that God has created to be healing and beneficial for us and perverting them. Touch is a beautiful a thing but I know for me personally I often struggle with giving and receiving healthy touch because of society, mistrust, or miscommunication.

 I am very guarded when it comes to touching other people, especially of the opposite gender. I do not give hugs very openly and I never put my arm around someone else. Yet when I went to Peru as a student missionary two years ago, I felt for the first time the warmth of a culture who embraced pure physical touch. Church members, friends, and family members hugged and kissed cheeks freely and warmly and it was such a loving sign of acceptance and love.

If we look in the Bible, we see that Jesus often used physical touch as a way of healing and showing that he cared for people. He rarely looked at a sick man and said "Get up and be healed" but instead would put his own hands on people to heal them (even on another man's tongue) (weird right? look it up?) Jesus was constantly touching people, washing His disciples feet, holding hands.

I think that if we will look around us, we can see that so many people are not receiving adequate amounts of physical touch and I think that this can have dire consequences. Touch is a way of communicating that is extremely powerful. Without touch, infants can actually suffer from growth problems. Adults that receive regular touch often have lower blood pressure and less stress than people who don't. Touch has been shown to slow the heart rate and help speed recovery times from illnesses or surgery.

 Did you know that there are people who are so lonely that they have to get sick or make themselves hurt so they can go to a loving doctor or nurse and receive physical touch? That's just so sad!

So here's where I'm at: knowing that we as individuals have a need for physical touch and that it is beneficial for our body, mind, and spirits, how can we appropriately learn to physically touch others and receive loving physical touch without being misinterpreted or offending others?