Anna's Alcove

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Everyone Has a Story to Tell

“Hi, how are you?” 

“Good. You?”


Believe it or not, this could considered to be an actual conversation. It may be short, but this is all the interaction some individuals need in order to feel like they’ve done their duty in acknowledging the existence of someone they may pass on the street or in the hallway.

What could that say about our society today?

To me, it seems like communication and real conversation has gone downhill lately for several reasons:

1. People may feel as if they’re going to get stuck listening to someone’s life story if they stop and ask them how they’re doing.

2. The other person may be unsure as to how much they should share and whether or not the other person really wants to hear about it.

3. Nearly everyone has some type of technological device that keeps them in constant contact with their family, friends, co-workers, etc… without actually having to talk with them face to face.

This kind of reminds me of the song “(Everybody’s Gotta) Song to Sing” by Group 1 Crew:

“Everybody’s got a song to sing, so won’t you come now and sing with me,
It doesn’t really matter where you’re from or what you’ve done.
Everybody’s got a story to tell, times we’ve tried and times we’ve failed,
So when you feel like hope is gone, keep holding on
This is your song.
Everybody’s got a story to tell.”

I love that! And it’s something that our culture has shoved to the wayside. Not many of us actually take the time to intentionally ask how someone is doing in order to find out how things are going in their life.

We all like to put on a face when it comes with interacting with other people. Technology helps a lot with that and people have gotten so used to hiding behind their cyber personality, that it’s hard for them to have a real, face-to-face conversation with someone.

While surfing the Internet on this fun site called StumbleUpon (you click the “Stumble” button and, according to the interests you selected in your profile, it takes you to random sites that you may be interested in), I came across a website called Humans of New York.

This site has a homepage full of portraits of people the photographer had met around New York City: old folk, toddlers in brightly colored outfits, men with six-inch gauges, women with full-sleeve tattoos… you name it, he’s probably met someone like that.
Each individual featured in their own photo and each photo has a quote from that person. Some of them are longer than others, yet even some of the shorter ones can be very profound and moving, such as:

“I’m afraid of sliding back to a place when I didn’t have the tools to be strong.”

“Sometimes, when I go home to see her, I think: ‘Nobody should be this happy on a Tuesday.'”

“When I was 20, I made a plan to get a good job and be secure. Now I’m 35 and I need a plan to be happy.”

“I’m trying to keep him away from all the negativity so that he has a fighting chance. There are so many cracks to fall through. But I already got his older brother to college.”

See what I mean? This is what you get when you take an interest in someone’s life. You discover that there is more to someone than what you first see.

You ever hear the saying “Never judge a book by its cover”? It applies to people too!

That creepy guy on the corner? He has a story to tell.

That group of young boys skating down the sidewalk and attempting tricks that they’re not quite ready to do yet? Each of them has a story to tell.

That shy girl you pass in the hallway every day at school and who everyone else seems to avoid because she seems odd? She has a story to tell.

That NFL football linebacker who seems to be living the dream? He has a story to tell.

As Group 1 Crew says,

“Yo, everybody has a story and it needs to be heard,
So let it play and resonate from the hood to the burbs,
Whether your sky is gray and you been through it all,
There is somebody on this earth that is singing the same song.”

Each person in this world is on a journey. A journey to find themselves, to discover who God is, who He wants them to be and a journey to find out what life has for them.

Each journey results in a unique story. We may go through similar trials and experiences, but each person has a different perspective on life which brings about a variety of results. No one experiences life in the same way and it’s interesting to hear how others see the world.

So take the time to be intentional about the questions you ask. When you say, “Hi, how are you?” try actually making eye contact and stopping to talk with the other person instead of rushing off to the next thing on your schedule.

Don’t pretend to be texting/talking on your phone in the hopes that the person walking past you won’t try to strike up a conversation.

Take the time to listen. I can tell you from my own experience that it’s a really awesome feeling knowing that someone cares enough to listen to what you have to say.

Like I said, everyone’s got a story that’s worth listening to 🙂

Oh, and if you’re interested in that Humans of New York site (it’s completely worth checking out!!), I recommend the first story I read: The Boxer. Check it!

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For God so loved

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through Him.”

I’m pretty sure a majority of Christians (and even some none Christians) today could rattle that off no problem because it’s one of the more well-known Bible verses.

But what does it really mean?

The main idea is obvious – that we have an opportunity for eternal life through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection – but there’s more.

Read that first sentence again. Now break it up and read to the first comma. What do you notice?

“For God so LOVED the world that He gave His ONE and ONLY Son,”

Did you catch it that time?

The God of the universe chose to send His only Son down to earth to save us.

Jesus willingly came down to be that perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Not because they had to, but because of the unconditional, everlasting love that they have for us, a broken creation.

This is one of the reasons why the gospel of John is my favorite out of the four. He focuses on the fact that it was love that drove Christ to become human, to dwell among us for 30-odd years, to perform miraculous signs, to demonstrate what it means to “live like Christ” and then to allow Himself to be hung on a cross for crimes He never committed.

Our crimes.

What it must’ve been like to have witnessed all of that?

In his gospel, John gives us a chance to experience what he saw, felt and thought during his time with the Lord and it seems like the thing that impacted him the most was the love that was continually pouring out of Christ.

There was never any hint of hate or selfishness, only love and selflessness.

John had the privilege to develop a close relationship with the Lord by being a part of The Twelve Disciples. He also was a part of the “inner three” with Peter and James (as seen in Mark 5:37, 9:2-13, 13:3 and 14:33), which means that he was able to spend time with Him in a more intimate setting.

Have you ever noticed that throughout the entire book of John, the author never refers to himself by name? There’s a certain phrase he uses whenever he talks about himself:

“The disciple whom Jesus loved”

The love Christ demonstrated during His ministry here on earth had become a personalized love for John and this phrase illustrates how much it had impacted him.

One of my favorite examples of the relationship between Jesus and John is found in John 13:21-25

“After He had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray Me.’ His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him. 

Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said ‘Ask Him which one He means.’
Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?'”

John was comfortable enough to lean back against our Lord and Savior (he heard God’s heartbeat!) and that just blows me away.

Yet, that’s exactly the kind of relationship that God longs to have with His children. A close, loving relationship where we feel comfortable enough to talk with Him about the difficult things as well as rejoice in the happy things in life.

I love how Jesus sums up the kind of relationship He wants to have with us in John 17:20-26 (one of my favorite passages)

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message,
that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.

May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.
I have given them the glory that You gave me,
that they may be one as We are one: 
I in them and You in Me.
May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me
and have loved them even as You have loved Me.
Father I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory,
the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world.
Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent Me.
I have made You known to them and will continue to make You known

in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I, Myself, may be in them.”

Need I say more? 🙂

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A Time and a Season for Everything

Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013 – It was Promotion Sunday…

The first few rows of pews were full of kids, preschool through 12th grade, who were sitting with each of their Sunday School teachers upstairs in the sanctuary during the first service. Each teacher would present the students who were moving up from their class and talk a little bit about what they do during Sunday School.

The preschool teachers stood and presented the two children who were moving up from their class, gently coaxing the nervous kids to stand and smile at the congregation, and then they passed the mic on to the Kindergarten and 1st grade class.

Mr. Walt Semenyna, the kids’ Sunday School teacher, stood up in front of the congregation and said how glad he was that he had this chance to share with the congregation what their normal morning routine looks like. He was talking about how the kids enjoyed singing along with the songs he played on his keyboard and started to describe the lesson time, when he suddenly collapsed, clutching his chest.

Time seemed to stand still.

Then, it slowly seemed to pick up speed again, as people rushed up to help, including a local EMT who attends our services. The Sunday School classes were escorted out by their teachers, one person called 911 and one of our church leaders led the congregation in a group prayer. The ambulance arrived and we all filed out of the sanctuary to give them privacy to do what they needed to do.

Everyone gathered in small groups throughout the foyer to pray, talk or just to be together in silence while we waited to hear the news. When the ambulance took Mr. Walt away, we were told that he was still not responding and the situation seemed critical.

By the end of the second service, we received word that God had called Mr. Walt home to be with Him in heaven.

Having served in the children’s ministry (AWANA, Sunday School and VBS) at Bethel Memorial Baptist Church for 30 years, Mr Walt had been doing the work that he loved when God chose to take him out of this world.

It’s events like this that make you think. We live life as if we’re going to be here forever and as if it doesn’t matter what we do from moment to moment. Yes, we have the hope of eternal life with Jesus and we know that we’ll go to be with Him in heaven some day… but where’s the proof of that belief? Who are we to tell God what needs to be done or how we want things to go in our lives?

David makes a good point in Psalm 139:14-16

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”

Every single one of our lives, our days and our moments are written down in God’s book. He has this master plan that we’re all a part of and, while we may not see the big picture just yet, each of us has a significant part to play.

It was interesting too, because on that very same Sunday that Mr. Walt went to be the our Savior, our pastor’s sermon was based off of Ecclesiastes 3, which starts off like this:

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.”

There is a time for everything.. and our Creator is sovereign over time. We can’t rush things and we can’t slow things down. It may seem like God is too far away to care about us down here on earth, but there is evidence all around that He is very present in each of our lives.

My pastor then read Ecclesiastes 3:11, which says,

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

We may never fully understand what God is doing from moment to moment or how much of an impact we can have on someone’s life, but in the end, we have a hope… the hope that “we belong to eternity, but are presently stranded in time… that we can know our eternal destiny and can walk with God in our earthly lives.” (as my pastor said)

So, what are you doing with your life? Are you living as if nothing could take you down, as if you’re “unstoppable”? Or are you seizing the moment, using every opportunity you get to make a difference in someone’s life?

Take every moment and find a way to use it for the glory of God. That’s really the best kind of legacy to have once you leave this earth.. living a life that is glorifying to God 🙂

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There is no one who is youer than you!

“What kind of people are we? 
What kind of culture have we created?
What do we want our children to be?”
I Weep for Miley by Trevin Wax

These are the questions we should be asking ourselves on a daily basis. We may not realize how much of an impact we can have on those around us, but if you stop to think about it; every little Facebook post, every person you meet or text.. every little thing we do leaves a mark on someone’s life, no matter how big or small it may be.

I’m assuming everyone saw (or at least heard about) Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance. She pretty much came out of a robotic monkey’s belly, tongue hanging out and dressed in a sleazy teddy bear leotard, which she tore off half-way through her performance to reveal a nude bikini. Miley then proceeded to make inappropriate gestures and twerked against Robin Thicke during his song “Blurred Lines.”

It breaks my hear to think of all the young girls who had looked up to her during her career as Hannah Montana. What must they be thinking now? Is that performance considered to be cool or shocking to them? Is it the “latest fad” or something not to aspire to?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says:

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.”

Yes, I understand that we are all human and none of us will ever attain God’s standard of perfection, but that doesn’t give us an excuse to flaunt our sexuality and come across as crass and indecent.

A woman shouldn’t feel like she needs to reveal as much skin as possible in order to feel accepted or noticed. Women have been blinded by this false idea that we can appear “sexy” if we wear low-cut shirts, really short skirts or skin-tight jeans.

A bunch of my friends went to Musikfest in Bethlehem this past month and one of the major things they noticed was not the number of great bands that performed or the delicious food that was being served… the one thing that really stood out to them was the number of young girls (preteens and teenagers alike) who were wearing practically nothing!

Reality check… all these girls are doing is buying into the lie that they’ll be more attractive and socially accepted if they show off their bodies or act a certain way.

What girls need to hear more and more of these days is that they are beautiful just by being themselves. The Bible couldn’t make it clearer in 1 Peter 3:3-4:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Our Creator made each of us beautifully unique and special in our own way.. and guess what? No one in this whole wide world of ours is exactly the same! Yeah, there may be billions of people out there, but I’m not kidding you.. you’re the only one who looks like you, acts like you, dresses like you, thinks like you and lives like you.

“Today you are YOU,
that is TRUER than true.
There is NO ONE alive
who is YOUER than YOU!”
-Dr. Seuss

Please don’t fall for the lie that you’re not beautiful unless you slather on the makeup or show off more skin with the clothes that you wear. Remember that our heavenly Father made you the way that you are for a purpose and loves you unconditionally. You are not a mistake!

You are BEAUTIFUL! 🙂

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For I know the plans I have for you…

As I sat at a table in Applebee’s last Thursday, surrounded by at least 20 of my good friends from Awaken Young Adult Ministry, it was interesting to listen in on the various conversations that were happening all around me.

Some were making plans to hang out one more time before the summer ended, others were discussing their jobs and summer vacations and still others were talking about more serious topics, such as what God has been teaching them over the past week.

Yet, amidst the laughter, joking and animated voices, I noticed one underlying theme for each of these very different conversations:

What may be in store for them in the future.

Understandably, each of us like to have an idea of what’s coming our way so that we can be ready for it. In order to prepare for that future, most students in the U.S. graduate from high school and then make the transition to college in order to study various career fields.

It can be exciting and terrifying at the same time – heading out to college for another semester of classes and getting one step closer to earning that diploma and degree… but then the question is.. what’s next?

Let me tell you my story.

I had no idea what God had in store for me after high school. Coming from a homeschooling family, I didn’t feel like I completely fit in with the public school students and didn’t know where my place was in the adult world. So, I went with the money-saving plan of going to community college until I figured out which career choice best fit the talents that I have.

That’s where I fell in love with journalism.

After getting a bunch of my articles published on the front page of The Commuter (the college newspaper) and completing the necessary courses in order to earn my Associates Degree in Journalism, I was ready to figure out what college I should go to in order to get my Bachelor’s Degree. I felt like I was starting back at square one!

I prayerfully looked through the mountain of pamphlets and brochures that had been endlessly spewing from my family’s mailbox ever since I graduated high school and finally found a nice state college out in the middle of nowhere: Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. The best thing is that the college accepted nearly all of my credits and had the exact major I was looking for: Print Journalism!

This started the next chapter of my life in Edinboro, PA, and boy was that a crazy ride. Without going into every single detail, let’s just say many of the experiences I had during my time there really stretched my faith and helped me to figure out where I fit in ministry and how God can use little ol’ me to further His kingdom on a college campus.

Ultimately, my time at EUP allowed me to make my faith and relationship with God my own and discover who I am as a unique individual… who God created me to be.

Coming back home was bittersweet after graduating in 2012 and having to leave all of my new friends behind. I felt like, once I was home and back working at Red Robin again, I was just plugging along at life, wondering exactly what God had in store for me, and not really taking a step in either direction, whether good or bad.

This one verse kept popping up in my mind during this time and it really helped to cling to the fact that God’s plan will come to pass as long as we wait on His timing:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond
anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts”
Isaiah 55:8-9

Also, the well-known passage:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.
“They are plans for good and not for disaster,
to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

The bottom line is this: none of us can hurry or slow down God’s plans for our lives. He will fulfill it when the time is right and all we need to do is trust Him and rely on His guidance no matter how long or tough the road may get.

Easier said than done, right? That’s definitely what it feels like at times.

Like I said before, when I came back home, I wasn’t really sure what the next step was. Here I had my Bachelor’s Degree in Print Journalism, but no idea of where or how to even begin looking for a “big girl” job… and the motivation just wasn’t there. I was burned out.

Then, a crazy thing happened.

I took my laptop with me for our family vacation back in June 2012 (just on a whim, since I normally swear off electronics during vacations). The moment I logged on to check Facebook, I found an online message from my community college advisor (who I hadn’t talked to in a little over 2 years) and he alerted me about an opening at one of the major local papers. He told me that they were looking for recent college graduates and urged me to contact them as soon as possible.

I called the number, got a phone interview on the spot and set up a face-to-face interview with one of the editors for when I got back from vacation… and within the next couple of weeks, I was offered the job of News Assistant at The Morning Call in Allentown, which is only half an hour from my parents’ house!

It still amazes me how, when I was feeling completely overwhelmed with the task of trying to apply for jobs in my career field, a newspaper job dropped right into my lap!

And it’s different for everyone.

Some will land a job in their career right away. Others may have to wait a year or more before they get their chance. It may get super frustrating when doors keep getting shut in our faces, but in the midst of all this, we need to remember:

“Until God opens the next door for you, praise Him in the hallway!”

So, while listening to all of my friends talk about heading back to college and getting ready to start up a whole new school year, it’s exciting for me too, even though I’m not heading back with them.


Because I know that while the future may seem so uncertain now for them… there’s an amazing God behind the scenes orchestrating a plan that goes way beyond anything we’ve ever dreamed of! And I can’t wait to see what adventures He has in store for each of my family and friends!

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True Friends

As I was trying to come up with a topic for this week, I kept drawing a blank… and then it hit me.

The awesome way God always provides the right friends the exact moment that we need them!

529832_10201679331243037_1689637195_nThursday nights are always my favorite nights of the week. Why? That’s the night of my young adult Bible study at Calvary Baptist and the night that I get to hang out with some of my closest friends (a.k.a. brothers and sisters in Christ)!!

It’s been almost a year since I came into this group of amazing people and it still blows me away how God brings certain people into our lives right when we need them.

I’m a graduate of Edinboro University, Class 2012, and when I came home that summer, I felt as if I didn’t quite belong. Back in college, I had a huge church base with numerous fellow believers who were my age and it was such an encouragement to come back from a stressful day/week knowing that I had a fun night planned with them or that they would always be there if I needed someone to talk to.

I didn’t have that here at home. Most of my friends from youth group had gone away to college and either stayed out there or moved to another part of the U.S. While I love traveling and all, I’m definitely a “stick-around-home” kind of person… as in I really don’t want to move too far away from my immediate family… at least not on my own.

But I had heard of a young adult Bible study at one of the local churches that one of my friends had been attending. I went with her one week and enjoyed the inductive study and how everyone was willing to welcome me into their group.

It wasn’t until the next week that the group starting to truly make an impact on my life. When I walked into the room, the leaders remembered me by name and were asking about how my week had been (bringing up topics that I had talked about with them the week before) and the young adults I had met the first time greeted me by name and had a genuine love and care in their attitude toward me that I never felt like the outsider or the newbie.

After that week, the friendships just kept growing deeper and deeper the more time we spent in God’s Word and the more we hung out outside of the Bible study. This is a group of people who aren’t afraid to be real with each other and who, once they get to know everyone, let their guard down and act completely natural…


… because of God’s relational love.

I know that’s probably not an official term, but think about it, God’s love causes us to genuinely love others in His name. There’s no faking.

That’s exactly what John is saying in 1 John 4:19:

“We love because He first loved us”

This is what sets Christians apart from the rest of the world. We’re not loving others just because it’ll give us bonus points with our God or because it benefits us. We love because it’s in the “new us.”

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

Once we become children of God and accept his free gift of salvation (meaning there is absolutely no way that we can earn it.. it’s completely free!), we take on the image of God. Our old sinful self gets pushed out of the way so that Christ can shine and love others through us.

God created us to be relational beings for a reason. He desires us to get to know Him and, in His perfect timing, provides us with the community of believers we need to support and challenge us.

One of my favorite sections in the gospels is Jesus’ prayer for all believers in John 17:20-23

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and You in Me – so that they may be brought to complete unity.”

Isn’t that awesome? The God of the universe so desperately wanted us to get to know Him that He sent His only Son to come down to earth in human form in order to become that perfect sacrifice for our sins. He understand our need for relationships and community… because He created us that way!

So, in closing, all I’m gonna say is I’m so thankful for my Awaken family and am just blown away by how God brought me into this close Christian community when I was needing it the most.

Praise Him!

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Love is…

Most of us know (or at least recognize) the familiar 1 Corinthians 13 passage:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 
Love never fails” (13:4-8)

Yet, do we ever stop to think what that love would look like in action? What would it look like to love, really love, as Christ loves us?

In the book of Matthew, we find a passage where the Pharisees overheard Jesus talking to the Sadducees about the law of Moses and decided to question Him as to what He considered to be the greatest commandment. You know what He told them?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matt. 22:37-38)

It sounds simple, right? Love others as God loves us.

Yet, while it’s such a simple command, it can be easy to get stuck in the “good Christian” mindset. You know what I mean. The mindset that says, “Of course I’m a good Christian. I go to church every Sunday, I help out with the kids in youth group, I read my Bible every day. I post verses as my Facebook status.”

Those are all good things, don’t get me wrong, but the danger is when our heart isn’t fully in it and we start mindlessly going through the motions each day.

Kind of reminds me of the story of the rich young ruler. This guy had strictly followed the commandments, given a part of his earnings to the religious leaders and done everything that was required to be a follower of Christ… or had he?

“Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ 
But at these words he was saddened and he went away grieving, 
for he was one who owned much property.” 
(Mark 10:21-22)

Living a life for God should be about sharing the love that He so generously gives to us… and that can be a lot harder than it sounds. We can become so caught up in what others think or trying to get it right, that we forget to include the most important thing..


Each of us are gifted with different talents that we’re to use for the glory of God. Some are good with talking, others are better at listening and still others are better at hands-on/helping type of love.

I like how Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.”

Each of us are given certain talents to use for the glory of God and we’re all given a unique purpose for our lives, but there is only one command that overrides everything else: “love.”

That’s it. And the thing is, it doesn’t have to be anything huge. It can be as simple as…

…a kind look.

…a helping hand.

….taking the time to listen to someone or just be there for them when they needed a shoulder to lean on.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on  love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” 
(Colossians 3:12-14)
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Let my girls be Hermiones…

“It’s about what girls want to be, what they’re told they should be and how they feel about who they are. I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin.’ And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons.”

This is a quote that was taken from J.K. Rowling’s blog where she’s venting her frustration about how this world is so look-obsessed and how it tries to convince girls that the thinner they are, the prettier they’ll be.
Now, as girls and young women, it is very flattering to get compliments from others (especially guys that we’re interested in). It can be very easy to slip into thinking that if we lost that extra 5 pounds or worked on toning our “thunder thighs” we would be even more attractive than we already are.

That’s exactly where Satan and the world step in and twists our thinking to a point where our outward appearance is all we worry about and focus on. We can get so caught up in criticizing ourselves that we assume others are looking at us and judging us in the same way..

… and then world takes it a step further.

Take a look around. There are numerous examples of the world’s handiwork: billboards with the latest fashions on display, magazine ads with the sexiest perfumes, photos of models with the perfect bodies and movies with actresses who are made to look like the perfect woman with the perfect man and the perfect happy ending… and the sad thing is that girls these days are buying it.Over the past couple years of leading small group Bible studies and helping out in youth group, I’ve seen and heard young Christian girls talk about needing to go on a diet, how much weight they need to lose or how they don’t consider themselves to be pretty… and it’s heartbreaking. So many of them seem to forget or just haven’t realized yet that they are beautiful just the way God made them.

This reminds me of the song “More Beautiful You” by Jonny Diaz (check it out!). During the chorus, he says,

“There could never be a more beautiful you. Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops they make you jump through. You were made to fill a purpose, that only you could do, so there could never be a more beautiful you.”

The world around us is filled with girls who are falling for the lie that they’ll be beautiful if they hardly eat anything, wear as little clothes as possible, slather on the makeup and more… all striving for that unattainable perfection.

All these girls need is love. Seriously. They want to be noticed. That’s why they’re buying into these lies that the world and media is feeding them.. and the God of love is calling out, trying to remind them that they are unique…

… an original

… a masterpiece


I have to keep telling myself this daily. It’s natural for us to compare ourselves to others. The danger is when we start looking down on ourselves and criticizing God’s masterpiece (us).

Don’t buy into the lies.


“The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor Him, for His is your Lord.” – Psalm 45:11

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Follow Me

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.
Luke 9:23-24

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: what it really means to “take up your cross daily” or to “deny yourself.”

These are some powerful phrases that we, as Christians, don’t seem to take as seriously as we should. We bring them out for the big decisions that we face in our lives, but we don’t use them on a daily, moment-to-moment basis… you know what I mean?

The Sunday School class I’m in right now is doing a video series called “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman, (highly recommend for small groups!!) and this past week, he brought up this point:

“Carrying a cross isn’t comfortable”

Think about it. Back then, the cross was a symbol of absolute torture and humiliation. It was used as the ultimate punishment for crimes. Those that hung on the crosses weren’t exactly popular with the majority of the crowd.

Now, these days, people can be seen wearing crosses on a necklace, rings, earrings, tattoos, clothing and more.. but do they recognize the full meaning behind it and what it really represents? I kinda doubt it.

Becoming a Christian is so much more than obtaining a free pass to the golden gates of heaven and escaping eternal punishment in hell… it’s all about completely stripping you of your old identity and filling it with that of Christ…

… and being willing to follow Him wherever He may lead us.

I’ve struggled with this because I enjoy my comfort zone. I like where I live, the friends that I have and my routine that I follow week to week (with little bursts of spontaneity here and there).

We can get so comfortable with the idea of Christ being our Savior that we lose the mind-blowing realization of what He’s actually done for us on that cross… that He took all of our sin upon Himself and paid the price that was meant for us!

So, what does it mean to “deny yourself” and “take up your cross daily”?

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

That’s it. We are called to be different and separate from the rest of the world; to not care about what the world thinks of us and to live our daily lives for Christ, spilling His love for others into everything we do, say or even think.

We are called to die to ourselves (sinful nature), take up our crosses and follow His lead.

It could be as simple as lending a helping hand when no one else will. Or choosing to step out of the gossip circle even though that’s where all your friends are. Or maybe even as big as going on a missions trip to a different country to present the gospel to those who haven’t heard it yet.

Yes, carrying a cross will not be comfortable; Jesus never promised it would be. But, when the burden gets too much for us to handle… He does promise this:

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
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“Counterfeit Gods”

“You might say, “I don’t believe in God,” but the Bible says, “Not possible,”
Everyone has a God, whether or not it’s the God of the gospel…
Even the dictionary defines God as “whatever we make supreme.”
It’s a theme, a thread, it’s inside of all human beings,
The fact we all worship, and no it’s not just about singing.
I know some of you already like “Jeff I don’t worship, I put that on the shelf,”
But I say technically we all do, we just worship ourselves.”

This is the beginning of “Counterfeit Gods,” a spoken word piece by one of my favorite artists, Jefferson Bethke. He has made a number of videos that touch on a lot of hard issues that we, as Christians, face in our every day lives… tattoos, sex, identity, relationships and idols.

Many of us don’t like to admit it, but we tend to place our own personal interests higher in our priorities than God at times (and I’m speaking from experience here):

The anticipation of logging onto the social networks to see who commented on a post or who has the most “likes” on a photo.

The adrenaline rush movies and books provide; giving you the opportunity to escape from the real world and go on crazy adventures all without leaving the couch.

Having a knight in shining armour (or in a really sweet sports car) come whisk you away to live happily ever after!

It may not seem like we’re outright worshiping idols, but think about it… what are we really doing when something of the world takes priority over the God of the universe? Aren’t we just gently pushing Him to the side and asking Him to wait for when we have time to spend with Him.. special time that we set aside for devotions, prayer or journaling… when, in reality, He should be infiltrating our entire existence?!

“Yet, we mock and we laugh at the Israelites Golden Calf,
But we do the same right back; it just looks different than that.
So question, what’s on your throne?
What do you chase so you don’t feel alone?
So what defines you, what do you give ultimate worth?
And what if taken from you would bring ultimate hurt?
Now see, that is your God”

I know I’m getting deep on this one, but God did state in the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:4-6
“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God”

Did you catch that the second time? Our God is a “jealous God”! He can’t stand the thought of anything taking higher priority in our lives. Yet, we do it over and over again, sometimes without realizing it.

“And you ladies, no guy can love you more than Jesus already has,
So stop getting your worth from Magic Mike. Jesus is so much better than that.
I know you’re thinking,  “So Jeff, are you saying we should hate money, hate drinking, and never have sex.
No, I’m not saying that. The Bible says enjoy it all; in its proper context.”

While God is over here trying to tell us that we’re the most beautiful thing He has ever seen, we end up comparing ourselves to the friends in cyber world who have the most “likes” or settling for the fact that we’ll never live up to the Hollywood version of “perfection.”

Without even realizing it, we get so caught up in dreaming about what lies ahead for us (boyfriend/girlfriend, marriage, a career, fame), that we tend to forget that God is already taking care of our past, present and future.

So I ask you… does God have the priority spot in every little part of your life, including your things, friends, social networks and countless other way that you connect to this world? Have you given it all to Him? What would happen if it was all taken away in the blink of an eye? Would your world shatter to pieces around you, or would it stand firm on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ?

“He exchanged himself for us, absorbing all our sin.
God put on flesh and do you see how we treated Him?
The ultimate war veteran, because He was killed for our freedom.
Nonetheless, He was thinking of you and me, with every whip that beat em,
And to think he did that knowing full well we’d say, “Nah, we don’t really need Him.”
But like a Father, He couldn’t bare His children to not be free
So He thought up that tree, paid our fee, for specs of dirt like you and me.
So my plea is let Him restore His proper place,
I promise you He loves you right now. Just trust in His grace.
Because before I leave, I’ll leave you with this:
What of those other things you worship took nails in their wrists?
Or how about when was the last time money or sex forgave you?
When’s the last time your boyfriend set you free from all you’re enslaved to?
What else is there that died so you could be made new?
Or when’s the last time the world promised satisfaction, and actually came through?”

I’m still learning, just like you… so I ask that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, please pray for each other to not become to attached to the world around us. While it may be enjoyable for a while, it’s never gonna last.

But there’s one thing that can never be taken away… our awesome God who is overflowing with unconditional love and never-ending patience.

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