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.

 

5 Game Changers for Your Prayer Life In 2015

{By Ellery Sadler}

If you only set one New Year’s Resolution this year, let it be this.

5 game changers for prayer in 2015

I think prayer is one of the most overlooked sources of power in Christianity today. Prayer is the key to closeness with Christ. It’s the key to changing a culture. It’s the key to changing you.

But I’ll be honest, prayer is confusing and hard and often makes me sleepy. So, what’s the solution to groggily whispered prayers before you sink into sleep or a desperate “Please make me get an A. Please. Please. Please!!” after you submit a final paper?

I decided last year that I was going to commit to writing in a prayer journal every day of 2014. This year taught me a lot about prayer. But even more praying has taught me about God. 

So here are 5 ways to improve your prayer life in 2015.

1. Make Prayer Not About You

It’s easy to get focused on yourself and your own problems. And while I think it is critical that we do ask God for wisdom and guidance and feel free to talk with Him about ourselves, prayer shouldn’t be solely me-centered. If you continue day after day, to focus your prayers on yourself, you will be drained unbelievably fast. And you’ll find yourself quickly wrapped up in your own head. It’s almost like the power and joy you pray for slips through your fingers the harder you grasp for it. Let go. Let God. Just count how many times you say ‘I’ or ‘me’ in your prayers – see what I mean?

I once heard in a speech of a man who died in a car accident (I think) and in his wallet was a tiny slip of paper that simply said “God first. Others second. Me third.” It was his life motto. I don’t remember the rest of the speech, but that part stuck with me. I think we could use his motto in our prayers as well as our lives. Focus on getting to know God first. Listen. Embrace the silence and quiet your thoughts. Praise Him. Worship Him. And then pray for others. If you don’t know who to pray for, check out Voice of the Martyrs and their daily prayer app. It will change your perspective.

2. Write It Down

Finding time to pray is hard, but actually staying awake to pray is even harder. I love to write (as you probably know by now), so I decided to start writing down my prayers in a journal. This is an amazing way to keep a record of your conversations with God. One of the greatest benefits, I think, is being able to look back on your requests and see how He has answered them. Choose a few people to consistently pray for and watch how He works in their lives. Plus, writing it down will keep you awake.

3. Enemies

Got enemies? Start praying for them. And no, I don’t mean calling down fire and brimstone. I mean really pray for them. Pray for their faith. Pray that God would guide them. Pray that He would strengthen them. The boyfriend that dumped you? Pray for him. The friend who rejected you? Pray for her. The boss you hate? Pray for him. The co-worker who stole your idea? Pray. It’s amazing how your heart is tied to the people you pray for. 

4. Be Consistent

Easier said than done, but incredibly important. I think consistency is one of the most often overlooked virtues in Christianity today. We want big and bold and fast. We want answers ASAP. Like right this second. But prayer is more than that occasional frantic whisper. God rewards diligence and consistency is key for change.

Prayer is not merely an occasional impulse to which we respond when we are in trouble: prayer is a life attitude.

~Walter A. Mueller

5. Pray With Your Hands

Words are wonderful. They are powerful. But get up and pray with your hands. Do something. There is infinite power in prayer, but God is also looking for someone who will be an example of His love to a dying world. This doesn’t mean you have to hop on the next plane to Africa. This does mean you should smile the next time you hop on the metro. It means you should let every aspect of your life be defined and decided by love for Christ. Take your prayers further than mumbled words and translate them into action. 

A Guy’s Perspective on What Beauty Means

{By The Anonymous}

Taylor Swift. Carrie Underwood. Kate Upton. Kim Kardashian. Colbie Callait.

Pop culture produces almost as many airbrushed female celebrities (and apparently a fascination with country stars) as it does terms to describe their physique. Chick. Hot. Doll. Sexy. Nothing short of perfection is portrayed or admired. Flaws minimized or surgically addressed. Hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for one person’s outer appearance. Body has become god.

what is really beautiful

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ This antique cliché rears its head time and again, in every genre of life. But it almost universally accompanies some variable. ‘You really failed that last test at school.’ I need to study harder for the next one. ‘That outfit looks horrendous.’ Note to self: plaid shorts and striped tops do not go together. ‘Holy crap you shoot worse than my grandma.’ I can practice kicking with the inside of my foot instead of the toe.

‘You’re ugly.’ Suddenly, the variable skipped town. 

I cannot change my body absent unnatural intervention. How am I supposed to change how I look? Do I layer makeup? Do I hide behind designer clothing? How can I solve a problem I was born with? The words that could never hurt me just broke my heart. 

Regardless of the origin, self-inflicted or external, words that cut to the unchangeable core of existence hurt. They scar. They stare blankly, constant reminders of what I wish I could attain, but never will. I don’t live on a bird’s diet. I don’t have a full staff of dressing assistants. I don’t have curves like a Kardashian or hair like Rihanna (though she’s GOT to be close to exhausting the realms of the color palette). I don’t attract guys like flies to honey. I’m not on the cover of People Magazine. I’m me; plain, ordinary me. Unlovely and unloved. What did I do to get stuck with myself in the first place?

Denying the reality of this internal conflict – and of its external results that quickly become far too obvious – would be shallow and inappropriate. The pain, the hurt, the self-deprivation is far too real. I do not write to say the struggle does not exist, I write to say it shouldn’t.

‘Congratulations, writer!’, you say. ‘You have wasted nearly an entire page and five minutes of my time to tell me something that I already know. I know I shouldn’t worship my body. I know I shouldn’t be obsessed with reality. But ‘should’ is not reality. I can’t do it.

To borrow a weakly humorous phrase, ‘nothing is impossible. The word itself includes ‘possible.” Escape presents a difficult road, but one that promises freedom from bondage to the deity of Body. Accepting who I am and living content in that fact is not a method tried and found wanting, but a lifestyle found publicly difficult and left untried.

Do I honestly fool myself enough to believe those airbrushed figurines on magazine covers are happy?

Do I honestly believe they have it made?

Celebrity marriages last an average of three weeks for a reason. After three weeks, the thrill is gone; the emotional high; the searching for meaning. Even in their mansions with ‘friends,’ money and a perfect body, they still feel insecure. Because they wonder what would happen if they ever became less than perfect.

Body is a demanding god. It is also a treacherous one. It demands your entire focus, devotion and life, then abandons. Attachment to such a deity is not service. It is slavery. At the point where we submit to Body, our desires become insatiable. Nothing fulfills us. Perfection remains just one tuck, nip or trim away. Perfection means skipping one more meal, wearing one size smaller waist, weighing one less pound. Perfection never arrives.

You are beautiful for who you are. The bodies of airbrushed stars are just that, airbrushed. Unreal. Contrived. Those celebrities will never maintain their appearance; you shouldn’t try to reach it.

Those entities (the inhuman term used purposely) who call you ugly, who criticize your appearance, who condemn your being, are not worth your time. Don’t maintain friendships with entities who see your physique and nothing more. Their shallowness, their insincerity makes their ‘friendship’ status a liability to you. Lose it.

True friends go deeper than the skin, than the makeup, or the designer brands. They see you for who you really are. They see your soul. They see your compassion, your dedication, your love, your being. Individuals truly worthy of your friendship will affirm your beauty, not because of how you look, but because of who you are. Looks change. Being rarely does. Surround yourself with people who love you, with people think you look pretty without your makeup on.

what to guys think is beautiful

To those of you who are surrounded by true friends, but refuse to accept yourself for who you are, know that what you think never changes the truth. Culture worships Body. Remind me the last time culture got some life issue right? Oh. Yeah. Never. I urge you to rise above the storm, see yourself in new eyes. See yourself deeper than your skin. Realize all the ones who love you. Believe that you are beautiful. You are.

Ultimately, every single one of us goes to the same place: assisted living wearing diapers (again) rocking open back gowns as top fashion (ICU) and eating all meals in mush form (also a repeat from 70-some years ago). In the final analysis, Body cannot deliver on its promise. It claims to make you beautiful; it only subjects you to unbearable loads. It offers societal acceptance; the ‘society’ that accepts you on the condition of Body is no society worth participation.

You are beautiful for who you are. You are beautiful because you are fearfully and wonderfully made.You are beautiful because your being goes beyond the paltry two millimeters of skin covering your body.

You are beautiful for what you feel and how you love.

True friends recognize this in you. Best friends affirm it and stand as constant reminders so you never lose sight of who you truly are.

What do you see as truly beautiful? Share your thoughts below! 

If Life Is A Gift, Some Days I Just Want to Return It

{By Samantha Roose}

Who you are, ain’t what you’re going through
So don’t let it get the best of you
‘Cause God knows everything you need
So you ain’t gotta worry
You may be knocked down now, but just believe what he said

– (Group 1 Crew “He Said”)

Even if you’re living the dream life it doesn’t mean Satan won’t try to attack you, try to make you feel overwhelmed, try to steal your joy, or try to defeat you.

Sometimes living a dream feels like living a nightmare, but that’s only because we believe a lie. 

what to do when you feel like a loser

The lie is this: life is too much and we cannot do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

The truth is: life is a blessing and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

I’ll be honest, I had a melt down this weekend, because my dream life  – which includes being an artistic director, running a successful ballroom dance ministry for youth, working for my father in his business, being a personal trainer at my dream gym, reading a riveting book to my siblings three nights a week, and laughing so hard I cry with my sisters every night -suddenly seemed like it was crushing me.  Drowning me.  Sapping me of the desire to live, and stripping my will to get out of bed in the morning.

We can’t let the lies of Satan drown out the truth. 

I know firsthand how easy it is to let life make us feel overwhelmed. Our emotions soar and swirl and suddenly we’re left in a puddle of tears wondering what our perfect life has come to. You know what it’s come to? Face to face with the enemy who wants us to blame God or worse forget Him.

With tears tracing squiggly lines through my foundation and smearing my mascara I cried out to God, the one who had given me this good life.

I begged Him to show me why in the midst of my undeniably beautiful and successful life I felt like a loser.

Why I felt reduced to skin and bones. He didn’t answer my question.  Instead He told me to thank Him and reminded me of Philippians 4:4-7.  As read I found my answer.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Somewhere between God-given opportunity to God-given opportunity I had begun to believe the lie that life was too much and God was too little.

Lies distort your perspective on life. I had no joy. The last thought on my mind was that God is near. Anxiety was my engine. Security danced before me like a mirage while I felt completely out of control.

“In every situation … with thanksgiving” –  the words hit me like high-beams coming toward me on a night drive. So, I began to thank God. Immediately, I saw the abundant blessings that marked every single moment of my life. My “skin and bones” soul was revived with peace as I realized that God was not too little, in actuality He was more than enough.

So just in case you thought I live a perfect, dream-come-true life, I do. And more than ever I’m determined to thank God for it, even when I don’t feel thankful. Because chances are when I don’t feel thankful, it’s because Satan is feeding me a sugar-coated lie that is distorting my perspective of the beautiful life my more-than-enough God has given me.

Thanksgiving put your life into perspective.

[In case you wanted to hear “He Said,” which you should, this is the official music video!!] 

What do you think? How does gratitude change your perspective? Comment below! 

 

Why God Wants to Be Your Wind

{By Samantha Roose}

This morning as I lay in bed the only thing I could think about was how I might pass out if I dared to stand up.  

Like an avalanche, I realized that I was scheduled to chaperone a bus load of middle school to high school students through the night and airport security.  Crying out to the Lord I said, “Lord I feel miserable.  Breathing is hard; eating feels overwhelming.”

Then I waited, hoping He would speak to me, or fill me with supernatural energy.  I heard nothing.  So, I googled “verses about strength and energy.”

where is God when life is hard

Isaiah 40:29-31 stood out to me:

 He gives strength to the weary

   and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,

   and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord

   will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

   they will run and not grow weary,

   they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31

Copying it down in my journal I pondered it.  Eagles actually fly above the altitude that birds generally fly at.  When eagles fly higher they are able to catch wind currents and soar.  They are not flapping their wings to fly, they are simply gliding.

Immediately the Lord whispered, “Samantha, I have called you to fly above your circumstances and glide in my strength and joy.  You are tired.  Sac-run feels impossible, scary even.  You are not a night person.  You are an introvert not an extrovert.  Those are your circumstances.  But I am bigger and higher than your circumstances.  I am peace.  I am joy.  I am endurance.  I am love.  I am graciousness.  I am strength.  I am energy.  I am your wind current.  It is not circumstances I am calling you through.  It is me I am calling you to.  Soar, Samantha, soar.”

So, this is me soaring.  Not focusing on how I feel and what I see, but focusing on who God is and who He makes me in Himself – strong, joyful, and excited.

 

What do you think? Comment below! 

6 Things You Need to Know When You Feel Like a Failure

{By Ellery Sadler}

Failures don’t define us. But they do change us. 

With certificates of participation and no score-keeping and dozens of other attempts to shield us from the pain of failure, we’ve become thin-skinned and scared. We don’t know how to cope with failure because we’ve been sheltered from it all our lives. We don’t know how to deal with opposing opinions because we’ve grown up in a culture of political correctness  and government defined discussions. But as hard as society tries to save us, we can only live so long before we find out that failing is not an option – it happens to everyone. We don’t get to choose how it happens or when. But we do get to choose how we react.

So when we can’t be shielded or sheltered any more and failure sneaks in like a thief or comes charging at us like a football player, it can be scary. Here are 5 things you need to remember when you feel like you’ve missed the mark.

what to do when you feel like a failure

1. Look for Lessons in Your Defeats

every failure teaches you something

Whether it’s a failed relationship, a job you got fired from, a painting that didn’t turn out right, or a project gone wrong, look for a way to learn from your mistakes. There is always a way to grow, so you can be more discerning next time. For me, in relationships, I now value maturity more than I used to based on experiences I’ve had, and I’ve learned that words come cheap, so actions mean more to me than any text message ever could. When you’re in the thick of it, it can be really hard to see how the situation can be used for good. But there is always something you can learn or some way you can help someone else. I think we forget that our past, our failure, our pain, is usually the most powerful testimony. Opportunities are often masked as difficult experiences.

2. Realize Movement Isn’t Always Forward 

sometimes you have to go back to grow 

It’s easy to think that growth or motion means going forward as fast as possible, but sometimes going back is necessary. It isn’t a race of who can get a job fastest or find a ‘special someone’ soonest. Trying to figure out school has been quite a process for me. I really wanted to graduate within a year, but in order to do that I would have had to major in something that didn’t exactly interest me. So I’ve decided to take a year and a half, and spend the extra six months it will take to study what matters to me. No, I won’t meet my goal of finishing within a year. But that’s ok. I’m making a new goal. Don’t be afraid to go back to square-one and re-evaluate.

3. Understand Where You Are 

God has you here for a reason 

Why are you where you are? I believe in Divine orchestration. You are where you are for a purpose, you just need to look and find that purpose. Or maybe God has placed you here not for your own sake, but for the sake of someone near you. Look around and see who it is you can help or encourage or inspire. People need love. If that mission trip fell through, maybe God needs you to love on the kids down the street. God loves that freckle-faced banker’s son just as much as that brown-eyed orphan in Uganda. Love where you are.

4. Mix Things Up 

tomorrow is a new day. 100% new. 

If what you’ve been doing isn’t working – if you’re frustrated at your job, stressed because of school,  regretting relationships – mix things up. Change your schedule. (Or if you’re like me, actually make a schedule.) Try something new. Take an art class. Read a book of poetry. Try a new kind of food. Take a weekend trip to some quiet place and refocus. Write a list of your top ten priorities in life and then rearrange your days around those priorities. Every day is new – completely, totally, 100% new. So you get another chance. Mix it up & have some fun.

5. Know That Failing Doesn’t Make You a Failure  

you are not defined by your school/work/social/relational status 

Yeah it may feel like it when your grades come back low or your boyfriend breaks up with you or your boss threatens to fire you, but in reality: you are not defined by you. Even if you fail eleven million five hundred thirty two thousand times, you are still amazing. Why? Because your identity isn’t found in yourself, your achievements or your standing with the other people on this planet. Your identity is found in Christ. And you are amazing because He is amazing.

6. Get Back Up

the only lasting failure is failing to try again

It is hard. It takes time to heal from messed up relationships, from backstabbing friends, from rejection, from loss. Give yourself some time and then get back up. There are so many opportunities waiting to be seized, stories that need to be told, movies that need making, bridges that need building, school that needs finishing, pictures that need painting, people that need loving. If you still have breath in your lungs, you are here for a reason. God’s not done with you yet. Don’t give up on yourself – He hasn’t.

What do you think? What are some of the ways you’ve grown from past failures? Comment below! 

Are You Too Busy for Friendship?

{By Samantha Nicole}

Dear friend,

I’m busy, really busy. So, yes, I chose work over responding to your text. I chose reading and quieting my mind before answering your email. I’m putting me above our friendship. I just wanted to let you know so you can stop pestering me about not meeting you for dinner. But I love you and always refer to you as “one of my best friends” so there’s that. You should be happy with what you can get, because my life is overwhelmingly full.

That’s the honest text/email I could send you, but instead I’ve just left your message unanswered.

are you too busy for friendship

During these days when life is busy with work and college and serious boyfriends, it’s hard for me to make time for my friends. I’ve had huge changes that steal hours upon hours from my week and new relationships that need to be fed and grown. I keep justifying to myself that you’ll understand my lack of communication, but I still feel so guilty every time I see your note in my inbox.

I find myself reminiscing about the “good ‘ole days” when we were close friends, but then I realize that it’s my fault those days aren’t still going on. When we do finally get the chance to talk, I feel like all I do is ramble on about all the stuff I’m doing and the dreams I living, and I forget to focus on you and why we’re such dear friends in the first place.

My pastor recently pointed out that we as Americans are proud of our busyness, not of our productivity.

That really hit me in regards to our friendship and the way I’ve let us slide over the last months. If I took just a few moments every day and scheduled my life just a tad differently, I could easily make time to send you a quick text or even give you a call. But instead I choose to be busy with “life”. Because I’m always busy with “life”.

I guess I’m writing all of this to say that I’m sorry. I know that life isn’t going to change overnight, but I want you to know that I’m going to try to prioritize better. I don’t want the craziness of a schedule and the thrill of new acquaintances to drown out the joy and love of friendships that took years of cultivating. I need you, I need your smile and goofiness, I need your stress and tears, and I think you need mine. Our two-way street has been blocked into a frustrating one-way that needs the barriers removed.

I’m promising to try to knock pieces of those walls down.

I guess this calls for a different text, now doesn’t it?

It’s been forever since we’ve talked! I started a new job, switch majors, continued an awesome relationship, and forgot about you. I slid right past your texts every time I turned on my phone, and for that I’m so sorry. I need another chance. The chance to love you and be invested in you like a dear friend should. I miss you, and we need to find a time to talk as soon as we can!

I’ll be perfectly honest, that little message only took me two minute to write.

You’re worth way more than two minutes of my time. I promise to give you more.

I’m so sorry.

With love,

Samantha Nicole

What do you think? How do you balance busyness with keeping up friends? Comment below! 

 

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! 

Why Are Boys Bad?

{By Lori Chilton}

‘Boys are bad at making friends. And it’s at the heart of their violent behavior.’

‘Female-driven movies bring a welcome shift in tone to theaters.’

‘Do Father’s Day cards that portray dad as an incompetent boob reflect today’s fathers?’

boots

These are headlines from today’s Washington Post. It’s been said over and over, and I have no new way of saying it, no new revelations nor wisdom, but the fact that boys (and men) are being seen as superfluous – may I even say dangerous –  in today’s “enlightened” society mightily grieves this mom of two boys and wife of one amazing man.

Are boys truly bad at making friends or do their friendships not look like what we think they should look like?

Men were created to protect and defend, would we be willing for our boys to make friends at the local shooting range or hunt club? Men are competitive. Perhaps we should allow them to learn to play sports in an arena that actually keeps track of who wins and who loses.

Where did the idea that there are “no winners or losers” come from anyway?  Everyone on the sideline knows which team wins.  Why not celebrate the hard work of the winners and give the losing team something to strive for?

Do we really just want to see just “female driven” movies? There aren’t enough bad romcom movies already? Really? Any woman who is honest and who has spent time in groups of all women/girls knows that there is often no more awful, judgmental, catty place to be.  When we dress to go out, or diet to lose weight if we’re honest about our intentions we know that we are doing so to impress or be accepted by other women.

Most men could care less about what we wear or if we’re carrying an extra 5, 10 or 20 pounds.  They just don’t notice. I love my girlfriends and I love my daughter but I know that we are better for having our personalities balanced by the men/boys in our lives. Why must one sex be “better” than another?

Why are we not allowed to compliment rather than compete with one another?

Why are boys not allowed to be boys? Sometimes messy, sometimes loud, lovers of what seems to me to be the disgusting or the not-even-remotely funny but also helpful, respectful, and loving.  Perhaps their love comes in the form of killing spiders, digging holes for my garden, or changing the oil in my car and not bouquets of pretty flowers, dusting the living room or romantic, candlelit dinners.

But it is love.

Just because I  may have come home and found one of our children’s diapers held together with duct tape doesn’t make my husband an incompetent boob.  He changed a diaper, ran into a problem, and solved it.  I am grateful. I am loved.

I am worried that the boys that we are raising to be Men of God will be beaten down in this society.  I am afraid that the only young men my daughter will meet will be feminized versions of what they could be.  I pray continually for the young christian men and women I know.  That they will look to scripture and not society for their gender role models.  I pray for the unknown spouses of my sons.  May they be women who love men.

Real men.  Real men who love God. Because that is who we’re raising them to be.

What do you think about society’s view of boys and men? Comment below, we love hearing from you! 
Thanks to Lori Chilton for letting us post this fantastic article from her blog

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! 

 

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