8 Things I Would Tell My 16-Year-Old Self

{By Ellery Sadler}

A few key things to remember during the complicated years of high school.

8 things i wish i had known at sixteen

1. Love is Later

Yeah, I know that crush has you on cloud nine or that girl who broke up with you has you driving with the music up loud. I know the tears are real tears. And the feelings are real feelings. But most of the time true love comes later than early teens. I’ve been there. It’s really hard and can be incredibly painful or incredibly amazing. But love isn’t just a fluttery feeling or a flirty text. Love is commitment. Love is faithfulness. Love is sacrifice. And that comes with maturity.

2. No Matter What God is Good

Life can throw anything (literally anything) you’re way. From the death of a family member to a best friend’s betrayal to a move across the county and through it all, God is good. It takes time to realize this, but while you’re going through a hard time just stick a note to your mirror or save it as your screensaver on your phone: God is good. Always. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

3. Relax, Life Isn’t A Race

It is so easy to be caught up in the race for success. Who has the best boyfriend/girlfriend? Who has the best summer job? The best resume? The coolest friends?

For me, the race was always in regards to writing. At 14 I wanted desperately to be a published author. At 16 I was even more desperate. And today, I’d still like to get published. But I’ve learned that excellence takes time. And I’m willing to wait. Even if I don’t get published till I’m 50 or I never get published at all, that’s ok, as long as I know I’m doing what God wants me to be doing.

Really, life isn’t a race. It’s ok if you take a little longer to finish school or become famous or write that book or take that trip or start that business. Life is meant to be savored – not wolfed down as fast as possible.

4. Challenge Yourself, Invest in Yourself

Don’t just glide through school. Don’t just slide along on the team. Don’t just read the required reading over the summer. Challenge yourself. Dig deeper.

If you already are the best on the team, that’s great. But be the best you can be.

If you already do great in school, that’s awesome. But learn the most you can learn. Don’t just study to ‘get by’. Study to invest in yourself. And as you are investing in yourself, you are investing in the people around you, because the knowledge you acquire can be passed on to them.

5. You Are Young

Maybe it doesn’t feel like it, but seriously, sixteen is not the new twenty-five. So it’s ok. Enjoy being young – invest in your family, in your friends, in your education. And embrace where you are in life. This is the time to be experiencing and enjoying – not worrying. Don’t take life too seriously.

6. Girls, Girlfriends Are More Important

When you are sixteen, a guy is not worth giving up a girlfriend for. Girlfriends come first. In 5 or 10 years when you’re married, you’re not going to have a group of super ‘close’ guy-friends. But you will want to have a circle of good girlfriends. Don’t ditch or backstab or ruin a friendship for the sake of some guy who will probably move on and out of your life within a year or two. Having good, solid relationships with other girls is one of the biggest blessings in life.

7. Guys, Guys Come First

While media, movies, and everything else may tell you otherwise – right now, guy friends are actually the most important  in your life. Girls are fun to talk to and fun to be with and pretty, but your focus should be on making good, solid friendships with guys. Create deep and meaningful relationships with other guys of all ages, especially older guys. You have so much to learn from older men who understand what it means to walk as a man of God and live with integrity. Invest in those friendships.

Of course, its great to have good friends-who-are-girls too. Just be aware that in the end, you’ll have one special girl in your life. You don’t need twenty.

 8. Forget Yourself

As the very wise C.S. Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” While this holds true for all of life, I think it is especially important during your teenage years.

A life worth living is lived for others. 

Don’t get so caught up in your own thoughts or your own self-made drama that you forget about the outside world. There are so many people who need a smile today, a hug in the hallway, someone to sit with at lunch. Listen. Open your eyes to the people in need around you and then have the courage to do something about it.

I think life was never meant to be a solo, introspective journey. It is a trip, an adventure. And adventures are best when they’re shared. Otherwise they’re just scary.

So lose yourself in bringing joy to the lives of the people around you.

Bonus 9. Learn to Laugh at Life

Life is hilarious. Learn to look for the humor and make sure your laugh-lines are always deeper than your fears.

What do you wish you had known when you were sixteen? Comment below! 

Dear Self, You Need to Find Your Own Wave

{By Samantha Roose}

How to find peace emotionally in a control centered culture. 

Dear Self,

I know you’ve been struggling.  I understand, very well, the overwhelming emotions you are that are consuming you, because, after all I am you.  They crash upon you like a tidal wave, stealing your ability to breath, striping your control, and pressing you into its swirl.  You don’t know which way is up and even if you did you don’t know how to get up.  So, before you freak out and lose it for the fifth time this week and scare your family to death let me remind you of a conversation you had with God.

Jesus,

I don’t want to explode and lose control emotionally. It doesn’t glorify you.  It’s not healthy for me physically.  And, it sets a bad example for my siblings. Lord, how do I not become out of control?  I know I will still experience emotions but how do they not control me?  

“Samantha,

You are always controlled or directed by something.  The question is: what thing?

Who or what are you going to give authority in your heart, mind, and soul?  Your actions will be what be consistent with what is most important to you.  Just like Peter, your actions will always follow your beliefs.  As long as Jesus was Peter’s most important focus he walked on water.  The moment he took his eyes off Jesus, and the reality of science and probable sinking became his focus, he began to panic and sink.

Surfers have a goal: to ride the waves. But they don’t ride just any wave that comes at them.

They jump through some and wade through others waiting for the most important wave.  The wave frosted with foam. The wave that the will bring them in to shore, soaring.  When that wave comes they take it and ride it in.  But, remember, it wasn’t any wave and it wasn’t someone else’s wave. 

It was their wave. The right wave. The wave that they chose.

when your life is out of control

Similarly, you can’t ride any emotion you feel. Emotions are merely the thermometer of your soul.  They are not red, green, and yellow lights, telling you when and how you should go.

Truth is your traffic light.

Before the day begins you need to know which waves you are going to ride and the truth you are choosing.”

Remember these truths:

You are a child of the God (1 John 4:4)

You are an overcomer (1 John 4:4)

Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)

God will not give you more than you can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13)

God is for you, NOT against you (Jeremiah 1:9)

Ultimately, you are without excuse. The Spirit of the Most Powerful God lives in you. The same God is for you, trailblazing the way before you. He made you His own, giving you a wonderful inheritance. The old has gone and the new has come. You are a child of the Most High God, the Overcomer of the world, the Final Truth, and the Prince of Peace. He is greater than everything you can and will encounter and by His strength all things are possible – even not loosing control emotionally.

Instead of losing yourself to a tidal wave of emotions, master the art of losing yourself in bringing God praise.

Choosing God’s authority,

Yourself

Confessions of a Silent Christian

{By Ellery Sadler}

“Why are you so happy all the time?”

I froze. Words bubbled up. I wanted to refute the premise. I am not happy all the time – no one is. I wanted to have a conversation about where true joy as Christ-followers comes from, and how holding on to that joy is a journey. But the words died in my throat and instead, I just laughed it off. Opportunity missed.

“I’m doing ok, I guess. My son found out his wife was cheating on him three months into their marriage, and now he’s going through an awful divorce.”

Wow. What do you say to that? I look down at my hands full of groceries and try to nod sympathetically. No digging deeper, no offer of prayer, just a quick slide of a slick credit card and escape through the double doors. Opportunity missed.

I didn’t ask how I could pray for him because I was afraid it would sound cliché, that the words would come flat. I didn’t share about Who gives me joy because what if it came across arrogant or insincere?

I have a confession to make.

confessions of a silent christian evangelism witnessing

I have never walked up to someone and ‘witnessed’. I have never ‘evangelized’ or shared my testimony with a stranger.

It’s not because I am afraid of public speaking — I have debated in front of hundreds of people. It’s not because I am afraid I will be arrested or persecuted for sharing my faith, as people in some countries are. No, it is because I am afraid of the whispers, the avoiding eyes, the snickers. I am afraid the words won’t come out right. I’ll freeze when someone asks a crucial question. That I’ll sound preachy, a naive “goodie-two-shoes” from a land of sunshine and unicorns.

And I hate that. Because I have known people so sugarcoated with Christian-speak you never get to truly know them, so thick with platitudes and plastic smiles it makes me want to scream. And I am a Christian. Can you imagine how the non-Christians feel?

So I grew silent. I didn’t stand up or speak out.

The sidelines are a comfortable place to be. Quiet is safe because it seems reasonable and wise. But it’s cowardly at heart. And it’s dangerous. God didn’t call us to seem wise. He called us to be wise.

He didn’t call us to seem reasonable. He called us to be redeemed.

The danger of silence is what it spawns. Silence breeds apathy and apathy breeds ignorance. A complacent people become a weapon in the hands of the enemy. We lose our efficacy when we become satisfied with the status quo. If we never speak up about our principles – if we never share our faith – if we never defend our morals – we forget why we believe them at all. Dulled minds and silence-strangled hearts become our refuge from reality.

Real people are hurting. Real issues cry out for discussing. Real people are hungry for prayer. Real problems need solving. Words have power. Allowing the fear of cliché to silence that power is devastating to the furthering of Christ’s kingdom. 

Maybe thousands will never gather to hear you speak, maybe generations will never read the ink you put to paper — maybe it is only one. But if God placed that person in your path, and you speak, and they hear, and a seed is planted – that is enough.

That makes words worth speaking.

The fear of sounding cliché is deep-rooted in our fear that we will never be enough. Never good enough, smart enough, cool enough, knowledgeable enough. But what if the reason we are given these opportunities to speak is not because God chose us so we could impress someone with our knowledge or awe them with our skill, but so that we could touch them with our authenticity?

I doubt I will ever be a renowned evangelist. I don’t envision myself passing out tracks at metro stations or witnessing on sidewalks. But I can do things. And when people notice what I do, I can speak. Actions speak louder than words, but actions don’t exclude words. They have asked, and your identification as a Christ-follower obligates you to answer. The fact that you bear His seal requires that you also bear His witness. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Silence is deafening. It’s drowning out opportunities, it’s passing people by, it’s destroying the generation grown up in the church.

Coming from my own season of silence, I believe one of the best things we can do is listen. Listen. The simple act of listening is a witness. Then, once you have paused and listened, act in a way the world finds unbelievable. Love in a way that forces people to look twice. And when they ask, give an answer.

It’s not about our words coming smoothly. It’s about the God who prompted us to speak the words. It’s not about perfect prayers. It’s about the One we pray to.

It is time to end the silence.

 

What Is Your Life Theme? A Journey in Photographs

{By Ellery Sadler}

Life has a way of happening whether you ask it to or not. A way of throwing things at you or changing in a split second or slowly unveiling itself without you really noticing. But take a minute to think about what’s been going on in your life in the last few years, the last six months, the last ten days. There is a theme.

Because sometimes we need a reminder:

The God that created the vastness of the mountains,

God's plan for my life

Is the same One who fashioned the tiny wings of a bee,

did God create me

And chose to give the world a glimpse of an angel in the face of a child,

sweet little boys

The One who paints the stripes on a chipmunk’s back,

what is the theme of my life

And the wings of a butterfly,

what is the theme of my life

Is the same One who takes care of you,

what is God's purpose for my life

Who is the way of escape when you feel trapped,

where is God when I am trapped

Who is faithful.

God is faithful

He is always good. He is good, always.

I’m learning that He is good. That I can always trust Him. No matter who leaves, who betrays, who disappoints, who walks away, who shows up, what happens, what goes wrong or what goes right – He is good. Always. Circumstances change. Plans change. People change. He doesn’t. And neither does His goodness.

I’m only just starting to see His theme for my life. Take a minute and see if you can find yours. He loves you. Look for His fingerprints. Look for Him.

 

 

 

8 Books That Changed My Life

{By Samantha Roose}

There is power in words. And the words in these books and the truths they portray have changed my life. I hope you take a look & maybe add one to your reading list! (These are in no special order.)

 

1. Let Me Be A Woman by Elisabeth Elliot

8 Books That Changed My Life

Change: I see Singleness as a gift, for however long this season may be.

2. Completely His by Shannon Ethridge

Change: I see God as my friend, lover, and satisfier of all my needs.

3. Uncompromising by Hannah Farver

hannah farver quotes

Change: I live EVERY part of my life with passion for God – I have joined the “cause” (if you don’t know what the “cause” is read the book!).

4. Secret Keeper by Dannah Gresh

Change: I want to be modest, I see it as a gift and more beautiful, not as if I’m “covering-up.”

5. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

Change: I act instead of waiting for God to always make things happens.  As they say,” you can’t steer a parked car.”

6. Prayer Warrior by Stormie Omartian

8 books that changed my life

Change: I pray with power.  I live with power.  I pray more often.

7. When Dreams Come True by Eric and Leslie Ludy

Change: I believe, if God does have someone for me, He will bring us together and it will be more beautiful than I could imagine.

8. Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? by Carolyn McCulley

life changing books

Change: I can see value in singleness.

 What books changed your life and how? Comment below! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Reasons You Need to Stop ‘Saving Your Heart’

{By Taylor Turner}

If you are familiar with the “knight in shinning armor coming to save his princess” idea of relationships, the next couple paragraphs may hit home for you. [Side note, gals, if the armor is still shining, it may just be tinfoil because armor that is still shining has not been truly tested. Just sayin’.]

why you should stop saving your heart

After growing up in a community that promoted not giving your heart away and now realizing issues with it, I have called its bluff and found them to be just that, a bluff. The idea gained popularity quickly causing an extreme swing in the cultural pendulum ending in a belief system that breeds unrealistic, self-centered, and un-Christ like relationships. I don’t question the sincerity of the early proponents of this idea, the Ludys and Joshua Harris to name the most well known. I have read their books and other’s writings encouraging you to save your heart because it will almost guarantee a “good” relationship. Their catch phrase is emotional purity. However, as the saying goes, good intentions don’t equate to good policy. In fact, as C. S. Lewis is well known for saying, “good intentions can be the most oppressive” of all ideologies. And it is unfortunate this case is no exception.

What is emotional purity? What does it even mean to save your heart until marriage?

Technically, if you gave a part of your heart away, you would be dead. So not sure how that works out. The idea of emotional purity basically proposes that loving/being emotionally involved with someone before marriage is bad because once you get married you only have part of your heart to give to your spouse. And having anything but perfection is simply unacceptable. If you became emotionally vulnerable with someone or “gave part of your heart away” before marriage, you could never get back what you gave and thus you were not saving yourself for marriage. Moreover, you ended up as “damaged goods” with no room for redemption because how can God love someone who does that. (In case you wanted a reference, emotional purity is found in the Book of Second Opinions following the back cover of your Bible.)

There may be other superficial aspects, but fundamentally this is emotional purity: avoid vulnerability with anybody of the opposite sex until marriage. (There is much to say about this point, but suffice it to say that patterns you create before marriage will not magically disappear after you say “I do” – including an aversion to emotional vulnerability). There are three issues with emotional purity that stand in antithesis not only to reality but also a healthy relationship and the Gospel.

1. It’s a False View of Love

For starters, where else do you see this idea in life? Take a parent-child relationship for example. With the birth of their first kiddo, mom and dad experience a flood of love and affection toward the chunky, little baby. Here’s the rub: when they have their second child, it would be foolishness for the parents to say they have no more love to give because they “gave their heart away” to their first child. If a parent actually said that we would call them out for being unloving and preferential. This idea of love simply does not stand the test of reality.

2. It Cultivates Self-Centeredness

An even deeper problem with emotional purity is its cultivation of self-focus and pride. C. S. Lewis said of humility that it is “not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” Am I emotionally pure enough? Am I saving myself enough? Am I too vulnerable to that person? Does God still love me because I gave part of my heart away? Is there still hope? These are all questions that center on self, merit before God, and our future spouse. Not only is it self-focused but emotional purity is also condemning of those who fall short and elevates rule-keepers because “surely God loves them.” A culture of comparison and condemnation is cultivated.

3. It Forgets Jesus & Limits Love

The most fundamental problem with striving to obey the “rule” of emotional purity is its overt lack of Jesus. Life is all about Jesus: understanding Him and being in relationship with Him helps makes sense of everything else. Life will not be ducky on account of sin but we will understand the good news of Jesus and how that impacts everything else. In relationship with Him, we experience Jesus’s unending, unchanging love. Since Jesus is an infinite being, the love emanating from Him is also infinite. Thus, the love of Jesus working in us through the Holy Spirit is not finite either. As believers, we do not have a limited amount of love to give and once we run out, it’s over. This reminds me of the good ole’ days when I was about 5 years old. I would play with the hose outside my house for hours on end. The water kept coming so I kept playing. I would end up getting tired but the hose continued gushing water. Jesus’s love is like a limitless hose for a kid on a summer day – it never runs out and those who love it stay close to the hose. Purity culture says the love you have is like a jar of water. The message of Jesus, however, is one of unchanging and unconditional love. In Christ, we have a fire hydrant of love to give, not a finite mason jar.

I want to leave you with this thought from a very wise man – a hero of mine in case you couldn’t already tell. Recently, I read through C. S. Lewis’s fantastic book “The Four Loves”, which is part of the reason I sat down to write this post. As I read through Lewis’s book, I came across one of his most poignant and clear statements about love and relationships. Lewis says:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable irredeemable. To love it to be vulnerable.”

To keep your heart in one piece you must be so consumed in a hobby and other unimportant things. Remove yourself from emotions, relationship, and community that you ultimately become immune to everything – including Christ. Don’t give your heart away and it will be nice and pretty for now . . . but as time passes, it will harden. A hardened heart that is unbreakable will break other’s hearts. A heart that is impenetrable will plow through others emotions. And a heart that is irredeemable will not seek the redemption that Jesus brings into this world for our good and His glory.

Vulnerability, however, is actually the antidote for a hardened heart and a heart averse to emotional vulnerability. Reject the unrealistic, self-centered, and un-Christ like message of the “purity culture.” Instead, love as Christ loves: selflessly, unconditionally, and unendingly. What do you think about saving your heart? Comment below, we love hearing from you! 

Letting in Light: The Day I Learned to Live Again

{By The Anonymous}

I’m going to tell you a story. You don’t have to agree with this story. You don’t even have to believe it’s true. But I want you to believe it. I want you to believe it because if you believe it, you’ll want to live it.

And if you want to live it, you might just save a life.

be the sun

I spent the majority of my life learning how not to feel. It’s much harder than it sounds. I spent years learning how to rationalize euphoria, justify depression, embrace monotony, shutting down as much of myself as possible. You may think this absurd, but I assure you it was not. The same window that offers a panoramic view of pristine countryside allows a skilled archer to fire a lethal shot. I grew up surrounded by religious archers, by social archers, by academic archers. I wish I was exaggerating, but I am not. And so it became logical to cover the window, to armor myself against the barrage. People told me I needed to feel to be able to truly live, but all I knew was that not feeling kept arrows out of my heart.

Go without something long enough, and you no longer miss it. Sugar, nicotine, sex, happiness.

All supposedly addictive and yet all entirely containable. Sit inside a dark room long enough and you forget not only why you’re there, but also what the point is of going outside. Darkness, safety, armored solitude, becomes your wonderful existence. It became mine. I existed around everyone else, I interacted with everyone else, I played the game like everyone else, but I knew there was nothing anyone could do to hurt me because there was nothing to hurt. Everything was locked down, secure, emotionless.

The problem with armor, though, is that it degrades. It gets old and rusty. It weakens, maybe cracks. And the problem with emotionlessness is that you don’t care enough to fix it. Then a stray sunbeam comes by, shines through the crack. Then you remember the countryside.

The sun didn’t rise that morning any differently than any other. It wasn’t looking for the crack to shine through. It simply existed; doing what it did every other day. But on this one day, there was a crack for it to shine through.

It woke me up. It blinded me. It hurt. It was wonderful. It was terrifying.

I remembered the countryside. But I also remembered the archers. And every conflicting cognitive process came rushing back, reminding me of the risk of taking down the armor, the danger of re-opening the window, reminded me of the possibility of that arrow to the heart. It also reminded me of how long I had sat in that dark room, safe. How long I had been safe, and dead. It was a different form of death, but it was death nonetheless.

What did I have to lose?

I wasn’t really living, huddled behind an increasingly insecure barrier, desperately trying to justify my existence and the rationale for my safety. The thought of opening the window terrified me. Yes, I was miserable. But isn’t misery preferable to death? The crack widened, and the sun shown brighter. It was too much. I hadn’t felt in so long, what could be worse than this stoic mummified existence? Sacrificing all the rationality that I had heretofore clung to, I gathered what little energy remained and tore down the defenses covering the window. The light poured in all around me. I turned 360 degrees and saw emerald fields, sapphire streams, golden sun.

It was beautiful. I had never felt like this before. What was this chemical reaction? How could I make it continue forever? There must be a way. And then it hit me. Literally hit me. A perfect shot to the chest. I had never felt pain like this before. This was why I hid. This was why I didn’t want to feel.

I staggered, tripped, fell. Not to the floor, out the window. Ah, curses. I let my guard down for one instant and the means of my supposed happiness has both enabled my injury and caused my death.  But I wasn’t thinking that. One thought consumed my mind. A thought that should have never entered my neural pathways. An emotional thought. A wonderful thought.

I’m flying.

In that instant, the arrow disappeared. It disintegrated. And I stopped falling. I hadn’t hit the ground, but I stopped falling. Then I saw them. I had wings, beautiful, perfect, powerful wings. I could fly wherever I wanted, see whatever I wanted. I was no longer restricted to the ground.

I’m free. I’m alive. I’m flying.

_ _ 

A life without emotions is no life at all. A life without love is no life at all. A life without wonder, without hope, without joy, is no life at all. The arrows that pierce you will only kill you if you let them. They will hurt, but let the pain make you better. Stronger. Freer.

The sun has no special path designed to illuminate the cracks in shielded windows, in shielded souls. It doesn’t know where someone may be cowering, in desperate need of a reminder that there is beauty yet unseen.

Be the sun. Be the constant beam of sunlight. Be the one who saves a protected soul.

You may never know whom you save, but they will know. That flying soul will never be able to express the depth of his gratitude, but it will follow the sun to the horizon and beyond.

 

What do you think? How have you been set free? Comment below!  

 

Why I’m Done Being a Comcast Christian

{By Ellery Sadler}

I was already thinking about this before the Comcast customer service call went viral, but that made me think about it even more.

In a world of mediocrity, excellence is hard to find.

comcast christianity

There are so many in-name-only Christians. The kind that maybe grew up going to Sunday school or knows the basics of the Bible, but not much beyond that. They may try to be good people, but basically their performance is average. Or, like Comcast, maybe it is well below average.

I was sort of drifting, basking in the socially acceptable laziness of summertime, and not really paying too much attention to anything until my sister brought home some friends of hers for the weekend. And I was amazing by the evidence of Christ in them. It wasn’t that they talked about it so much, although there were some good poolside conversations about the will of God and prayer and things.

It was evident instead in everything they did.

These twenty-somethings talked with me and played with my twelve-year-old sister and genuinely cared about what we thought. They went the extra mile and cleaned up from dinner. They lavished the weekend with uproarious laughter and dove into life on the river with an abandon I had forgotten existed. They discussed deep topics and made hilarious jokes. I’ve never seen people so intent on living like Jesus. Instead of focusing on acting ‘Christian’ or speaking ‘Christian’ they simply were Christ-like.

If I could describe this group of friends in just three words I think I would choose reckless, joyful excellence. They did things with excellence, a wholehearted pursuit, holding nothing back. And that really made me think.

When is the last time you did something with excellence?

I mean really did the best job you could possibly do; let yourself dive completely into a project, held nothing back, committed the time and effort to creating something of quality?

I look around at the half-hearted tries, at the dabbling in this and then moving on to the next thing, at the offers to help that are made with the desperate hope no one will take them up on it, at the mediocrity, and it makes me cringe. It hits too close to home for comfort.

I’ve been writing a book recently, and having given in to the writer’s block for a while, I then forced myself to start writing again. And almost instantly the thoughts came creeping in. Is this the kind of story teenagers want to read? Does my writing really need to be that original or could I just use that cliché?

Excellence is a testimony that you can’t ignore.

It forces you to look twice. When someone is willing to do even the tiniest things with all their strength it is so unusual that it makes you stop and stare. And this doesn’t apply only to serving or work; it applies to everything. From painting to movie making to writing to photography to dancing to singing to skiing – doing everything with a passionate desire to really live it.

I think that Christians should be excellent, passionate, wholehearted people, the kind of people who do things to the very best of their ability.

It makes me think of talking with Rachel Spencer Hewitt about Return to the Hiding Place and how she advocates excellence. Her dad worked for almost two decades on a film that will be released this fall. Almost two decades. That is a commitment to excellence that blows me away.

I’m going to get back to writing my book, to dazzle my audience (of about four right now) with my originality, to hone my craft, to choose my words carefully, to write until the pages sing. I’m committing to living a life of excellence. I’m committing to pouring myself wholeheartedly into what I do.

So let’s give up mediocrity. Let’s shake loose from the shackles of simply ‘good enough’.  Let’s throw off okay and average.

Let’s stop being Comcast Christians.

Let’s embrace reckless, joyful excellence. 

What do you think about mixing mediocrity with Christianity? What are your thoughts? Comment below, we love hearing from you. 

I Will Be Free: The Manifesto of a Recovering Homeschooler & Reactionary.

{By The Anonymous}

I cannot write about that which I do not feel. Even when I feel, I often lack the emotional horsepower to collate my garbled thoughts into a coherent piece. In the rare event that I articulate some seemingly cogent sound bite, I fear its inadequacy. I attempt to avoid the above scenario entirely, by freeing myself of any requirement to write whatsoever. The supreme irony is that by freeing myself of a commitment to write I implicitly submit to the restriction of my crippling fear. This piece is as much a self-referential meditation as it is an encouragement to the reader.

My entire existence has been a massive, laughable rat race. Every fiber of my being from an early age resented who I was and attempted to be something, someone else.

making promises

I thought decorating a PhD level vocabulary with four letter words helped me fit in. I thought being an athlete would make me cool. I thought drinking excessively was a necessary escape to silence a screaming brain. I thought attending an Ivy League university would prove I wasn’t an academic screw-up. I thought working in a premier financial firm would make me happy. I thought that if I could just shake off the hyper-conservative, Christian-cult-ish, homeschooled, sheltered upbringing, if I could just be free of everything holding me back and making me an outsider, life would be amazing. I could not have been more backwards in my analysis.

In a desperate attempt to shape my own destiny, I ended up merely reacting to the conditions of my past.

Its stranglehold on me grew tighter the more I tried to escape. The more I sought to be free, the more enslaved I became. Reader, please understand that freedom is not the absence of restriction. Freedom is the ability to choose what restrictions I self-impose. My past inevitably shapes who I am and how I view the world, but it controls me, it restricts until the instant that I stop running away from who I am and start moving towards who I want to be. There is a world of difference between running from the fear of academic failure and moving towards the goal of academic excellence. Yes, it’s nuanced. But it’s true.

Promises are feared – avoided – because they seem to restrict our personal freedom. They are behavioral commitments made to others. In what world is that freeing? This analysis neglects the concept of individual agency, the idea that your freedom consists of your ability to make, or not make, certain choices. And realize that any choice by definition imposes a restriction. If I choose A, I cannot then choose B. But I have the freedom to make the initial choice. Let’s draw the link: Running from an external force, whether it’s my past, my boss, my significant other, my family, running [ostensibly towards freedom, and yet directly away from it] transfers the agency from me to the entity at issue.

I no longer make the decisions; I react to a changing environment controlled by The Other. That isn’t freedom. That’s involuntary commitment.

Juxtapose that scenario against one where I retain my agency, where I commit to academic excellence [whatever form that may take], where I commit to honorable living, where I commit to a degree of physical conditioning. Consider a scenario where I promise. Where I refuse to let externalities control me and take hold of my fate and my identity. Yes, I might be ‘restricted’, but I freely choose to put those restrictions on myself. I promise.

I promise because I am free, and I am free because I promise.

Allow me one final thought: promises are memory-less. And I switch from ‘me’ to ‘you’ because I want you to understand this fact. Your past is irrelevant. Your future is all that matters. Please do not sacrifice your ability to experience the freedom of promise based on some conceptualization that you are too far gone to change, that you never will escape. Rise above your past, start from ground zero and chart a new course, free from the weight of failure. Promises enable you to start again, free.

I will not engage in gratuitous vulgarity; I promise to speak with eloquence. I will not abuse substances for temporary escape; I promise to practice moderation. I will not seek meaning in hit-and-run sex; I promise to respect the beauty of intercourse. I will not let anger or envy or spite dictate my interactions with others; I promise to strive for gentleness. I will not let career success/failure define who me; I promise to accept the hand dealt me. I will not isolate myself; I promise to genuinely engage others. I will not hate that you are gone; I promise to always remember. I will not guard my feelings for those worthy of them; I promise to love unconditionally. I will not be a puppet of nature.

I promise, I will be free.

10 Ways Smart Christian Women Think Differently

{By Ellery Frost}

Christian women should think differently than the rest of the world. While the world may try to drown us in statistics and standards, we know what is really important in life. Here are 10 things you should always remember.

smart women think differently

 1. Beauty Isn’t Skin-Deep

Smart women understand that while Hollywood and magazines and media may objectify women into oblivion, true beauty isn’t just about how you look or what size you wear. As Coco Chanel says “Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside.”

 2. Education Matters

education

This doesn’t necessarily mean classroom education. This doesn’t mean you have to run off to Harvard or go get a master’s degree. It does mean that you need to understand the importance of education and go about educating yourself. We have a unique opportunity as young Christian women to show the world just how incredible we can be. So grab a stack of books, take some classes, get a job, go for an internship. Knowledge is power and you gain knowledge by educating yourself.

 3. Success Isn’t Always Obvious

It’s all too easy to measure your success by the numbers – the number of followers you have, the number of people you’ve helped, the amount of money you made, or the amount of money you gave away. But success isn’t about the statistics. Success can be measured by the number of times you smiled today, the way you show your gratitude, the number of people you are kind to, the way you laugh, the way you pick yourself back up after you fall.

 4. Value Comes From God

 Your value comes from Who created you. Think about this in terms of fashion. The value of a Kate Spade purse isn’t because it comes from a fancy cow, it’s because of the designer who made it. Or any brand – it’s about the Creator not the creation. Don’t let the world’s constant lies drown out the truth that you have value simple because God created you and you are you.

 5. Time is Precious  

 smart women think differently

A smart woman doesn’t waste her time. That doesn’t mean that she’s constantly running around and never has time to breathe, but it does mean that she values her time and understands how precious it is. You can’t buy back time. You can’t save it for later. Using your time wisely means embracing each moment as the gift that it is.

6. People Come First

 Smart women understand that people are the most important thing in life – more important than money or work or school. It’s so easy to get caught up in big ideas and big plans only to lose sight of what is really important: loving the people God has placed in your life.

 7. Girlfriends Matter More

You will always have your girlfriends, so make sure they know how important they are to you. Especially in groups of teenage girls, friendships often slip into competitions. This is completely unnecessary. You should never be competing with your friends for the attention of a guy. Never, never talk bad about a girlfriend to one of your guy friends. Not only is it unkind, it’s unattractive. After you’re married, you probably won’t have a lot of close guy friends, but you will have (or wish you had) girlfriends. Treat them how you would like to be treated.

8. Little Things Matter

When you look to your right and your left, maybe it’s discouraging. Maybe your friends are overachieving geniuses that leave you in the dust. Or maybe it makes you prideful – at least you’re doing more than person X or Y. Either way, smart women know that the little things do count. It’s not just the noticeable things or the big things or the obvious things that matter.

This can be especially hard to remember in Christian circles where ministry is the issue. 

Maybe you help out at the Food Pantry every Saturday in between juggling school and a part time job and church, while your friend Sarah has just decided to go to India to be an overseas missionary. It’s easy to feel like your service isn’t as good as hers. Or maybe God doesn’t care as much about you handing out food on a Saturday as He does about Sarah caring for orphans across the ocean. Or maybe you’re crazy busy working and can’t go to a food pantry, but you commit to praying for people. Now that is a very personal, hidden ministry. But it still matters.

A smart Christian woman knows that each act of service is important to God. Every person on this entire planet is known and loved by God, so anything you do to love or help them is important to Him. It can be orphans, or the hungry in your community, or the old people at a nursing home, or your own siblings. Small doesn’t mean less.

 

 9. Real Men Are Valuable 

real men

In a world where society cuts men down before they have a chance to speak, stereotypes them as  dangerous or incompetent, and women in the media are forever playing victim, it can be hard for men to actually be real men. Real men are ridiculously under appreciated, frequently mocked by society, and generally ignored or discounted.  Smart Christian women value real men. ‘Real men’ doesn’t mean necessarily some macho superman, it means a man who is willing to be a leader, to follow the call of duty, and who loves God more than anything else. Real men are valuable, and rare. If you have one as a father, brother, friend, boyfriend or husband – respect him, treasure him, understand how valuable he is.

 10. Optimism is Essential  

 optimism is essential

In a world of highly negative media, it can be hard to keep an eternal perspective. With billboards screaming at us and news stories shocking us and statistics scaring us, it’s all too easy to be like everyone else and get into a very negative mindset. But a smart Christian woman understands that God’s got this under control. And that since He does, we should be the most joyful, optimistic people on the planet.

Negativity is easy, but it’s a lie. Optimism is harder, but it’s the truth.

What do you think? What would you add to the list? Comment below, we love hearing from you! 

Beautiful In All Your Ways

{By Samantha Roose}

all your ways

As the last notes hung in the air I felt the Lord whisper to my heart, “Samantha, I am beautiful even when life hurts.  I am beautiful even when life doesn’t make sense.  I am beautiful even when I died on the cross.  Samantha, I am beautiful in all my ways, not just my comfortable ways.”

Immediately my heart cried out against His words.  I don’t want the pain in my life and uncertainty to be part of your beauty Lord!  And yet, He said it was.  Reminding me of a tapestry I had seen in Corrie Ten Boom’s home the Lord gave me a picture of what He was trying to tell me.

where is God when life is hard

Hung on the wall of the Ten Boom family’s dining room all one can see is a tangled mess of thread that makes utterly no sense; however when you turn it over a delicate and intricate masterpiece is revealed!  So it is with my life.  In the moment all I see is the back, scraggly, senseless, strings, but God sees the complete, complex, and beautiful masterpiece.

Truly, He is beautiful in all His ways.

What are you thoughts? Comment below, we love hearing from you! 

 

Go Ahead And Execute Me

{By Ellery Sadler}

I wasn’t expecting to have my day shattered by a simple photograph.

We’re surrounded by surplus. Fast. Constant. Uncaring. We pass hundreds of people and never look into their eyes. We talk to dozens of ‘friends’ and  yet wouldn’t know their birthday unless it popped up in our newsfeed. We don’t really know them except for the glossed over perfection of their lives we see on our computer screens.

That thought struck me today.

I had a normal day, busy but good. Grey outside. School work. Bible study. Phone call with a friend. And then I went onto Facebook.  And I saw her tiny face staring up at me from the arms of her father. Her dad’s eyes are almost smiling – caught somewhere between pain and the joy of a newborn baby. The headline on the article cuts deep and explains the pain I see. ‘By Choosing Christ, Her Children Will Be Orphans’.

voice of the martyrs

There is a woman named Meriam in Sudan who just gave birth to her second child, a beautiful baby girl. She gave birth in a prison clinic. And now she awaits her execution. Her crime? She refuses to reject her Christ.

“If they want to execute me, they should go ahead and do it because I am not going to change my faith.”

And my little world was shattered yet again. My nice and neat life broken to pieces.

We sit in out homes, in our schools, at our desks, and wonder how many likes we’ll get on that last Facebook post, how many people will comment on that Instagram picture, how many friends we can gather, how many fans we can get.  How many minutes will we use pretending that our online social status matters? How much time will we spend looking for the courage to get up and do something?

How many excuses will we make for the time that we don’t really care is slipping away?

How long will it take us to make that decision, make that phone call, write that letter, say that word?

I can’t help but think that we – the young people, Generation Y, the ‘go-getters’ and the ‘over-achievers’ – really aren’t getting that much or over achieving at all. We’ve kind of sold ourselves short.

Maybe we’ll never be abused by the guards in a Sudan prison, maybe we’ll never have to die for our faith, maybe we’ll never have to stand up and say “You can go ahead and kill me, because I won’t reject my faith.”

But if you were in that situation, would you stand and say it? Would you say it to the judge, to the guards, to your family? Could you look in the eyes of your newborn baby and still choose Jesus?

I think we could use a little more courage in the church, a little more boldness in our lives. Maybe faith isn’t as neat and clean and sterilized as we’ve been told. Maybe loving Jesus is messy. Maybe faith is hard.

Just maybe we are uniquely created to do hard things, amazing things. 

Even if you never have to face execution for your faith, or see your husband cry for you, or touch your baby’s tiny hand one last time before they take you away, maybe we should live with that kind of courage.

I don’t know about you, but to me, the little things we complain about – that B instead of the A you wanted on a test, the fact you didn’t get to see your favorite movie, the person who cut you off in traffic – really doesn’t seem that important anymore.

I think we were created for bigger things, bolder things. I think that the demons should tremble when we get up in the morning.

I think that our friends should know they can always count on us because we represent a Savior they can always count on. I think we should be the living embodiment of unconditional love. I think we should pray for miracles because our God is the one who invented them.

I think we should live with wild, reckless courage. I think we should live like Meriam.

 What do you think? Comment below, we love hearing from you!

Please pray for Meriam and her family and the lawyers who are working to help her.  You can learn more here.

Why Self-Esteem Isn’t Enough

{By Samantha Roose}

self esteem isn't enough

Last spring the Lord led me to re-write Ephesians 1:3-8(a) in my own words every morning for about two weeks.  Through that exercise the Lord re-established who I was in Him and it became my favorite passage.

            Praise be to my God, the Designer of dance, the Creator of the world, the Comforter of my heart, and the King of Kings, who has blessed me with everything that I need, including gifts that even the angels hope for.  He chose me, desired me, selected me, and wanted me, before the first cloud was ever hung.  Because of Jesus’ great love and desire for me He died covering my pitifulness in His perfection so that the Father would look on me and accept me.  With His whole heart Jesus died for me so that I could live with Him forever.  That’s how precious I am and that’s how God the Father sees me – perfect and flawless, covered in the brilliant righteousness of His son.              

                                                                                ~Ephesians 1:3-8 (personalized)

The world talks a lot about self-esteem, but this passage has challenged me to pursue grace-esteem.  To be honest, I made it up the term.  I define grace-esteem as: respect, acceptance, and awe of the freely-given and undeserved love of God.  Instead of trying to find out who I am and being confident in that, I have set out to discover who God says I am and being confident in who He says I am.  As I have proceeded on this journey the Lord has revealed truths about who He says I am which have brought incredible freedom.

Psalm 18:21 used to scare me.  It says, “the tongue has the power of life and death.”  I was so afraid of using my words in a hurtful way that I didn’t speak.  Often the Lord would place something on my heart to share and I would keep silent for fear I would communicate it in a hurtful manner.  But that’s because I was only reading half of the verse.  While the tongue does have the power of death, it also has the power of life. Satan will always use words to kill, steal, and destroy.  God’s words can only bring life, restoration, and encouragement.

If the Lord put something on my heart to share I need to share it because if I don’t I am stealing life from someone else.

However, I still struggled with fear that it wouldn’t come out right.  So He told me, “Samantha, I love you.  But I need you to trust me.  The same grace that presents you before the Father as flawless, covers the words that you speak for my glory.  If I give you something to say, say it, and trust that I will make it come out in a way that makes sense.  I have given you a tongue to bring life – use it!”

Today, I encourage you to pursue grace-esteem rather than self-esteem.  It’s a harsh reality, but without Christ you and I will never be worthy of our own confidence, much less someone else’s.  We’re full of failures, mistakes, and selfishness.  But Christ is perfect and He is living in us.

Embrace grace and wield the gift God has given you without  fear.

What are your thoughts? How has God given you confidence? Comment below, we love hearing from you! 

The Best Sermon I Never Heard Preached

{By Ellery Sadler}

beautiful hands

I could see him from where I sat, but I didn’t notice him at first. I was pulling off my coat, taking in the beautiful mixture of people around me. I sat munching on my donut. But I did not notice him.

People swarmed into the movie-theater-turned-church. Old, young, a homeless man off the streets – willing to listen to a sermon in exchange for a warm place to stay for an hour – a girl with hair so blonde and makeup so perfect she looks like she stepped out of a magazine, a grandmother in a wheelchair, her grandson tugging at her hand. It’s a gathering place for people of all kinds, just like the church is meant to be.

I nudge Hailey, thrilled to get to see the man who has inspired me to number my days and chase lions and pray daily – Mark Batterson – preach. Of course, this Sunday though, he isn’t preaching. A guest preacher is here instead. I dissuade my disappointment with another bite of donut and proceed to demand in whispers how it is that the one time I come up to D.C. he isn’t preaching?

But disappointment often leads to greater good. I was prepared to listen to one of my modern-day hero’s preach. I wasn’t prepared to listen to a sermon from someone who couldn’t speak, and didn’t know I was watching.

The music started, the movie theater screen played NCC’s latest promo. I sang and listened to the woman on stage use one of the most rich, powerful voices I’ve ever heard to sing a worship song I can’t remember.

My eyes drifted over the crowd. Hands in the air, blue jeans swaying next to tall heels and pencil skirts, and I see a woman to the side of the stage using sign language to go along with the song. I look for the people she is talking to.

And then I see him. He’s a row or two in front of me, to the left. Sandy colored hair just barely above his shoulders, face quiet but radiant, hands moving in rhythm with the music – if we weren’t in the heart of our nations’ capitol on a busy city street, he could have been a surfer just in off the California coast. And then I see a woman and another man and a girl, scattered throughout the congregation, all using sign language.

He was singing with his hands. He didn’t need the music. He didn’t need a voice. He sang with his soul and his hands told the story.

And he praised God – the God who had either created him deaf or, in His permissive will, allowed him to become deaf. I thought about that as I watched him and at first I was angry. Why had God let him be this way? How could God watch this? And then I realized, out of the hundreds of people crowded into that downtown movie-theater, he was the one I saw.

God uses each of our disabilities to make deeper testimonies.

I watched him, completely oblivious to the fact that anyone but God was listening to him. And my throat tightened. I have no idea if he was born deaf or became deaf. I don’t know his story or what his favorite ice cream is or if he was ever in love. I don’t know if he’s dealt with depression or knows what it’s like to be abandoned. I don’t know if he has a great job or no job at all.

But I do know this: his wordless testimony of adoration was more powerful than any sermon, more memorable than any book, more beautiful than any song.

Actions speak louder than words – we’ve heard that a thousand times. But have you ever seen it? The power of those two hands, those blue eyes, singing without a voice, speaking with no words, was one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had on a Sunday morning.

And I didn’t even get to hear Mark Batterson preach. One of these days I’ll head back up to D.C. and listen to him, but until then, his congregation is preaching for him.

No words. No flash of showy speech. Just two hands telling God they love Him.

Reminder: Jesus Loves Me

{By Lindsay Chilton}

DSC02645

Jesus Loves Me

This a familiar statement that a lot of us begin to take for granted after years of hearing it. The Lord loves us because we are His children. He doesn’t love us because we do good acts or attend church every Sunday; He loves us not because of who we are but because of who He is.

We can’t earn His love.

This concept has always been hard for me because I constantly try to keep all of the “rules” that we, as Christians, supposedly have to follow if we want God to love us. When you strip away all of the ‘rules and regulations’ you have freedom in Christ and His love and grace. “For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.” Romans 7:5-6

What is grace?

Grace is a gift. We didn’t do anything to deserve it but the Lord still showers us with it. Grace covers everything and Jesus gives it to us freely.

“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear.” Romans 3: 23-25

God freely sacrificed His only son so that we can live in Him. As you go throughout today remember that the Lord unfailing loves you.  “Absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”(Romans 8:39).

Jesus loves me, this I know.

 For the Bible tells me so.

 Little ones to Him belong.

We are weak but He is strong.

 Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me.

 The Bible tells me so.

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