GUEST BLOGGER: OMG

I’m very pleased to introduce you to our next guest blogger. It’s my brother Ben! Ben is an incredible young man, and has always been one of my favorite humans on the planet. Yes, I’m totally biased. I am excited for you to read his post! – Sarah

If you were to listen to a conversation between two people, I would bet that it wouldn’t take too long for you to hear the phrase “Oh my God!” used in some form — whether it be “Oh my God”, “Oh my gosh”, “Oh my goodness”, or just plain old “OMG”.  This is one of the most frequently used phrases in our vernacular, and, in my opinion, one of the most interesting.

To further explain why this phrase interests me so, let’s examine one particular form: “Oh my goodness”.  Many people use this form so that they don’t use God’s name in a negative way, in order to abide by the law God put forth in the Second Commandment.  While this is admirable, I don’t think that using this form completely succeeds in keeping the Second Commandment.  Sure, ‘goodness’ is not the Lord’s name.  However, ‘goodness’ is God embodied in a single word.  God is goodness, and goodness is God.  Substituting ‘goodness’ for ‘God’ changes nothing, because there is nothing in this universe that better exemplifies ‘goodness’ than God.

Words and the way that we use them have always been interesting to me.  I’ve found that most of the time, we don’t fully understand everything that we say.  Sure, we know definitions and things like that, but, when we look closer, our words can mean a lot more than we think.  So next time when you’re shocked or surprised by something, think about what words you use to express it.  Goodness may seem worldly, but it’s actually not.  It’s the perfect embodiment of our Savior in just one word.

Until next time,
Ben

Find our guest blogger on the internet:
instagram: @benjamakosy
snapchat: @benjaminstephen
twitter: @benstemak

Badness Levels

The opposite of good is bad, so does that make the opposite of goodness, badness? When I think of the word ‘badness’ I think of the scene in Lilo & Stitch where Lilo pulls out the piece of paper and draws a scale of Stitch’s badness level. Let’s just say it’s not very good.

So I started thinking. What if that’s how God measured our sins? He pulled out His big red pen and filled in a diagram that would display how full of sin we are. That wouldn’t be very good either. But when God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, that level went way down. It became nonexistent. Our badness levels became full blown goodness levels.

Now that’s not to say we’re by any means perfect. In fact we’re far from it. We sin, and constantly fall short of the glory God has intended for us. But we are so richly blessed in the fact that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8b God knows we are imperfect. He knows we fail. He knows all of our sins and shortcomings, yet he still loves us. He still chooses to forgive us. Even at those times when we think there’s no hope left for us. God still loves us, and will continue to forgive us.

Until next time,
Sarah

P.S. Sorry this is short, summer season means camp season which means a lot less time spent sitting behind a computer!

 

An Act Of Kindness

When it came time to talk about kindness, the song “An Act of Kindness” by Bastille kept playing over and over in my head (see the end of this post for a link to the song). According to Dan, the lead singer of the band, “[“An Act of Kindness” is] about a kind of Good Samaritan narrative in the context of everything that’s happening at the moment in the world and being in a sea where everyone keeps their heads down, so in their life, just one small act of kindness can completely transform a day, or a situation, or a week, and can follow you all the time and that you can feel kind of worthy or unworthy of that.”

It’s so true, isn’t it? The world we live in is one where more often than not we bury our heads in the sand and try and pretend the things happening around us in the world, just aren’t happening. However, when someone goes out of their way in an act of genuine kindness, it changes your world. Even if just for a moment.

I’ve heard from so many people about the amazing feeling they get after being kind to others. I can even tell you from a firsthand point of view that it does feel pretty good. However when you’re on the other side of it, sometimes it can be confusing. If we don’t have an immediate #PayItForward mentality, we can begin to feel like we didn’t deserve it.  Why would someone go so far out of their way for me?  And that’s just the beginning of those thoughts that begin to circle our minds.

But who is to say that we don’t deserve these things? The only person telling us we don’t deserve them is ourselves (well, obviously under the influence of the devil himself). So why do we think so little of ourselves? Why don’t we realize how much effort God put into creating us just the way we are? And you know what else? He loves us this way. Sure, we can be a disappointment, but it doesn’t change how much He loves us.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

God created us and has plans for us. I know that He wouldn’t mind if we appreciated an act of kindness shown to us. Or if we paid it forward along the way.

Until next time,
Sarah

An Act of Kindness – Bastille

But I Hate to Wait

I feel as though the only appropriate way to start this post is to admit I hate being patient. I hate waiting. I hate not knowing when or how something is going to happen. Patient is not exactly the word I would use to describe myself…nor do I think anyone else would describe me that way. Though, despite my lack of enjoyment in waiting, I find myself in good company as the bible is littered with dozens of people who had to be patient and struggled in the midst of their waiting.

Taking things to a personal level, most times when God asks me to wait, I believe it’s because He just doesn’t care about what I want. Or He’s holding out on me. Or maybe He just didn’t hear me when I prayed asking for *fill in the blank.* And those are exactly the thoughts the devil wants us to believe and begin processing through. As these lies creep in, slowly we begin to drift deeper and deeper into deception and before long, the Voice of Truth is silenced, our sinful heart takes charge, and impatience masks the work Jesus wants to do within our season of waiting.

There is absolutely nothing easy about waiting and being patient, yet all over the bible, I find verse after verse encouraging my heart to continually wait on the Lord…

Psalm 27:14, Wait on the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord

Psalm 37:7, Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…

Psalm 130:5, I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.

These are the first few verses that jumped out to me for a few reasons…

Waiting is hard. Jesus knows that. In these three verses, there is a common phrase of ‘wait on the Lord.’ Maybe it’s just me, but I believe we all can identify with the struggle of waiting on Him. The closer the situation is to my heart, the harder I find being patient to be…at times I wish getting my prayers answered would operate like amazon prime, two day shipping guaranteed. Though, more times than not, it is in the seasons of patience that I find I grow closest to the Lord. Anyone else agree?

Jesus knows far better than I do what I need and when I need it. Just as I tell the kiddos I nanny to take a deep breath and have patience, so also is God asking me to do the same thing. I love how the bible teaches us to have a child like faith, children ask a million questions but also seem to get the gist of life far better than most adults. Where is your heavenly Father asking you to wait? In the midst of your waiting, be in communion with Him, talk about how hard it is, the places you’re doubting and struggling. He already knows your heart, but longs to hear you express what you’re thinking and feeling.

Do not dread this season of waiting and patience, instead allow God to continuously minister to your heart.Take this time and allow your relationship with Him to grow deeper and sweeter, remembering that His timing is perfect.

Until next time friends,
Christi

 

 

Patience is a Virtue

My 2nd and 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Hope, always said “Patience is a virtue”. Looking back on it now I’m pretty sure it had something to do with not wanting to answer the constant questions of “So, when is lunch?”. However as a 2nd and 3rd grader, I never really knew what that meant. I sort of assumed it just meant we all needed to learn to wait.

Many years later, when hearing the word ‘Patience’ I still think of this phrase. So, being the scholar that I am… I typed it into Google to see what it really means. Which led me to read, “Meaning: To be able to wait for something without becoming frustrated is a valuable character trait”. It’s pretty literal. Patience, waiting for something. Virtue, a valuable character trait. Guess I didn’t really need Google to figure that out, but typing it in was so much faster than taking the time to think about it. Right?

That’s an example of not exhibiting patience. I’m not the most patient person. I like immediacy. If I have a question, I want to immediately Google it and get an answer. Like today, I went to see a movie with some friends. The entire time I wanted to pull out my phone and find out who was voicing each character. It was eating at me the entire movie. I did end up waiting, but this lack of patience is probably what drives my easily distractedness.

I start out doing one thing, and then I remember, “Oh I was going to send that e-mail” Which turns into, “Wait, you mean Old Navy is having an online sale” which goes back to something else. It’s the immediacy of being able to do so many things at once that drives people, especially myself, away from taking time and being patient.

It’s something I struggle with especially when it comes to prayer. If I’m praying for something, for example the sun to shine, I’d be happy if the clouds rolled away, the rain stopped, and I could feel the heat of the sun beating down on my face. Immediate response. The quickness of things like search engines giving us answers right when we want them, makes it hard to be able to wait through those long silent moments to listen for God’s voice speaking to us. As soon as we are in the midst of the silence, our brains wander. Our attention spans are too short, and our patience meters are on empty.

Still God wants to speak to us. He is speaking to us and we just need to be patient, and listen. We need to have faith that even though we may not get our answer right away, we will get our answer. It may not be immediate, it may not be what we want to hear, but we need to stop, and push away all those distractions and really focus on what’s important. God’s plan for us.

Be patient, He’s got you!
Until next time,
Sarah

Peace defined by Children

 

As I was typing my first draft of this post I was joined (distracted) by two kids who came knocking on the door of the cabin I currently call home. It was an admittedly welcomed distraction. The first thing I asked them was to define Peace for me. I wasn’t sure what answers I would get from a thirteen-year-old and a six-year-old, but their answers made me smile.

The thirteen-year-old talked about a sense of calmness, sort of like a sigh of relief. I liked this image quite a lot. Thinking of when everything around me starts to go crazy and then once it’s over taking a deep breath. A sense of peace really does wash over you. It makes me think of  Psalms 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” It’s such a simple thought and yet it brings such a sense of peace and calmness knowing that we can simply put our trust in Him, and He will take care of it all.

Now the six-year-old responded with a response that was a bit confusing to me at first. When I asked him what peace meant to him, he said “God’s Love”. I responded, “What?” and he repeated, “God’s Love, sharing God’s Love!”. Now it made more sense to me.   God’s Love is the definition of peace. How do we find peace? Through God’s Love. How is peace even a possible concept for us to feel? Because of God’s never-ending love for us.

I feel blessed knowing that even though I’m a leader, and I teach different things to other people, that I can also be on the other side of the spectrum as a learner. Learning things, and realizing that people have different viewpoints, opinions, and ideas, is one of my favorite things.

Until next time,
– Sarah

GUEST BLOGGER: Finding Peace

Bringing you another introduction to preface an awesome guest blogger post! This month’s guest is Kayla! Kayla worked with Christi and I this past summer at Camp Sandy Cove where she was in charge of all things pool (and then some). I loved every time I had to lifeguard a little bit more because it meant I got to spend time in Kayla’s presence. She’s fantastic and is going to do incredible things. This is her first ever blog post, and I can’t wait for you all to hear what she has to say! -Sarah

Finding Peace

Every morning I am in a rush out the door, I try to find enough time in my day for a decent amount of sleep and time to get everything accomplished on my to do list. I am constantly thinking about upcoming assignments, my work schedule, keeping in touch with my family, and making sure my friends still know I am there for them! I am sure you know that overwhelming feeling that can flood your mind at times and is sometimes difficult to drain. When I find myself in this situation I think to myself, “there is no point worrying about the things I cannot change,” As Philippians 4:6-7 reads, “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,” I ask God to take care of those things and trust in Him that He will. After this thought goes through my mind, that is when I find peace.

Peace:

  • Freedom of war
  • Tranquility
  • Mental calm
  • Harmony

Peace is a universal concept yet everyone may have his or her own way to define it. Even for me it has multiple definitions; peace is a place, a state of mind, security, and stillness. How do you define peace?

Peace is somewhere I can go to get away from my extremely busy life. Most often I find peace in my truck as I am driving to class, work or the gym. I am thankful to have a peaceful place, which I visit multiple times a day. Peace plays through my speakers while the hustle and bustle of my college campus surrounds me. As I sit at the stoplight I watch the students hurrying by trying to cross the street before my light turns green. I hear a lyric break through the static on the K-luv station “be still and know that he is God.” I am reminded of Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” If peace could scream it would scream this verse but instead you must seek peace in order to find it.  So often in life, we are distracted by the hundreds of things going on in our day that we forget to be still.  This verse reminds me of the power God has, letting it be known He is lifted to the highest power on earth and in heaven! Knowing the most powerful force loves me feels like a security blanket. By trusting in the Lord you too can have that comfort that He has a clear path for you, to not worry about the things you can not change but find peace in that your plan is specific for you. Lean on the Lord for guidance and strength and you can find peace within. I want to encourage you to find peace throughout your day, reminding you to talk to thank God, give your worries to Him and seek comfort through Him.

May you find Peace,
Kayla

Find our guest blogger on the internet:
instagram: @k4yyyyl4
snapchat: @kkaylabbrand

Companionable Silences

April is upon us which means we are changing gears from Joy and heading into Peace! 

I can’t recall the first time I heard the term ‘companionable silence’. But this simple term has explained so much to me. Think of it this way: you are sitting in a room with a few of your favorite humans when a sudden silence washes over the group. It’s not an awkward pause, where thoughts come rushing to your mind of “Oh gosh, someone better say something soon. Should I say something? Did we run out of things to talk about?”. It’s not a deafening silence, where all that you can hear is nothing, and the nothingness begins to drive you crazy. It’s a companionable silence, where a sense of peace wells up inside you and you realize that your friendship is growing stronger by purely existing with those other people.

This term ‘companionable silence’ has become one of my favorites. I was standing on a mountain with four of my college friends in North Carolina when I first realized it to be true. There we all were coming down the mountain, and the sun began to set. A couple people stopped just to look at something and then we all ended up stopping, and just standing in almost complete silence together. Nothing needed to be said. I was at peace.

I like to think that these companionable silences that bring this sense of peace don’t have to come solely from instances where you’re with other people. There are times when I’m outside by myself where I just take a deep breath and simply exist. I sit and observe the world continuing to happen around me, but I forget about responsibilities and stressors and just focus on existing in that moment. No music, or electronics, or other distractions. Just me.

Even in those times when I’m alone, I know that the sense of peace I feel comes from believing that I’m never truly alone. That ‘companionable’ aspect is still there because Jesus is right there existing with me. I’m safe. I’m alive. I am at peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says that in every season there is a “time to be silent and a time to speak”. So much can be said in just a moment of silence.

Until next time,
Sarah

Joy in Trials and Suffering

There are times at the house where my roommates and I will either group text, or simply announce (when we are all together) it is an “honest *fill in your name* moment…” and then we proceed with our comment.

Well guys, honest Christi moment…I am coming into this post unsure how to even begin. Joy is something I am struggling to feel and experience in this season of life and now I am going to tell you how and why we can find joy in our suffering. I’ve been on a journey filled with being pushed outside my comfort zone, living with unknowns, and simply needing to place my faith and trust solely in Christ to guide my next step, knowing His promises are true. And it has not been easy, but I seriously would not change this season of life for anything because I am learning to live out what James tells us about counting our trials all joy. Before diving into James, I think it is essential to bring definition to this word “trial.”

According to Merriam-Webster, a trial is: a test of faith, patience, or stamina through subjection to suffering or temptation

James 1:2, count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…

Now, just reading this verse, my first thought is why? Why am I supposed to rejoice and how am I to find joy in the heat of the darkest nights during trials and hardships? First question I attempt to answer is the why. Why are we called to find joy in the midnight hours of life? I believe we have to look to verse 3 to find the answer.

James 1:3 …for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

There is purpose for the testing of our faith, it is never in vain or with no purpose. During these moments of suffering, which we are told time and time again in the bible that we will encounter suffering in this world, are meant to deepen and increase our faith. I’ve often found in my deepest suffering, my hardest trials, and in the greatest unknowns of life, I see Jesus the clearest. It doesn’t happen overnight, but at some point there is like a switch in my heart that goes on and I simply see Jesus in the middle of my midnight hour.

I’ve talked about why we ought to rejoice but I still have one other question of how? What does it look like? How do we keep joy when joy seems absent?

I wish I had some deep and insightful answer, but I am about to give the obvious.

Jesus.

Jesus is the how. I find my mind and my heart at times are clouded and my vision to see the truth of the gospel in times of trial and suffering are foggy and that is when I need to refocus my sight. The only way to do that is to look and see Jesus. I just started reading John, one of my favorite gospel accounts, and simply asking myself…who is Jesus? And Who am I in Christ? You see, my circumstances have not changed, but God is changing my heart and that is reason enough to rejoice.

I heard it said once at a concert like this. Back before GPS’s and maps, and the internet, and easy ways not to get lost, when sailors would sail at night, they would use the constellations in the sky as a guide. Which means, the darker their night, the more clearly they see the stars align. The same goes with our lives. In our darkest hour of our hardest night, God’s promises do not change or become more true, they simply shine a little brighter. We see them a smidge clearer. And when we stop looking at ourselves and our circumstances and place our eyes upward and on the cross of Christ, joy seems a little more natural.

Joy takes work, but also rests in Christ. I am struggling to feel joy. I am struggling to keep my eyes off my circumstances and keep them on Christ, but I know I can count this season of life as joyful because my trials are producing steadfastness, and I can rest in Christ, knowing this too shall pass and God is refining me and molding me more into an image of Christ.

Until next time,
Christi

Down in my heart. Where?

It’s safe to say I was feeling less than inspired on the topic of “Joy” this month. My first post was admittedly last minute, and I wasn’t exactly proud of what I’d written. It seemed forced and that made me a little angry.

I kept thinking, “You just need to write something”, “Throw some thoughts together”, “Write about the first thing that comes to mind”,”No one is going to benefit from reading this”, “Why are you even bothering”, but I was bashing myself and tearing myself down.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “We are our own worst critics”. Isn’t that the truth? We’re not content with anything less than perfection. Don’t you know that if being perfect is what you’re striving for then you are setting yourself up for failure? No one is perfect! Only Jesus was perfect, and last I checked I am for sure not Him.

So I’ve moved on from bashing myself about my previous Joy post. I realize not every post written on this blog is going to touch the hearts and lives of every person who comes across them (though that would be pretty cool, right?). Making this realization also helped me to understand something my mom told me about Joy.

What she said was along the lines of Joy not being something external, it comes solely from within. Recently I picked up a new study bible. In Philippians 4, there is a sidenote that really pairs nicely with her statement. It says,

“True contentment is the result of a heart committed to the risen Lord. Think of all the sins, pain, and brokenness that come from coveting. Adultery, murder, stealing, and lying can all be traced directly to a prior condition when hearts and minds are frustrated and discontent.
Notice what Paul says doesn’t come naturally; it is learned. The normal natural state of humanity is discontent and quiet desperation. It takes a powerful, spiritual presence to transform anxiety into joyous satisfaction. Ironically, it may be the shackles more than his freedom that schools Paul in the art of contentment. Despite the chains, Paul discovers this beautiful state of inner peace through the power of Jesus residing in Him.”

Joy, being one of the fruits of the Spirit, is a gift given to us from the Holy Spirit. Hard as we try to seek external means of joy, true contentment can only be found in Christ. By believing in Him and accepting him into your heart.

Until next time,
-Sarah