Wednesday, February 25, 2015

You've Got A Friend In Me: The Infinite Value Of Good Companions

J.D. and Turk, Betty and Wilma, Woody and Buzz, Harry and Ron, Ted and Marshall, Laverne and Shirley, Wayne and Garth, Chandler and Joey, Shawn and Gus, Lucy and Ethel, Jerry and George, Ron and Kim, Timon and Pumbaa, Bess and George, Phineas and Ferb, Cagney and Lacey, Copper and Todd.
I don't even think I need to ask at this point but... what do all these duos have in common? They are all best friends. (Great respect to you if you got all those, by the way.) They are honest with one another, they know each other even better than they know themselves, they spend time together, and they laugh together. They are always there for each other through thick and thin.

Although friendship shines in the light times it is truly proven in the dark times. For example, when Buzz was chosen to be tortured by Sid and Buzz wouldn't fight, Woody fought for him. He risked his life to put together a team to save his best friend. When Lily left Marshall, Ted was there to pick up the pieces. Pumbaa and Timon took Simba under their metaphorical wings. Friendship is often proven in hard times, like when you are facing a trial and a friend sticks with you or even sticks up for you.

Friends are really the family that you choose. You know the saying blood is thicker than water? Well, its meaning is often misconstrued. The whole phrase is the blood of the covenant is thick than the water of the womb. Friendship is a strong bond. Friends don't always last forever but some friends may be in our lives for our entire lives. We all need friends in our lives. They are infinitely valuable. Thomas Aquinas once said "there is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship." In good times, friends help you celebrate when you get a promotion, have a child, get married, or get asked out and in hard times, true friends will be there when your pet dies, you get fired, your husband leaves you, or you don't get into the college of your dreams. Marlene Dietrich said “it's the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”

Never be too busy for your friends. Life can get busy but friends make life more meaningful. Leave time for your friends - in the good and the bad times. I love what Jon Katz says: “I think if I've learned anything about friendship, it's to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don't walk away, don't be distracted, don't be too busy or tired, don't take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.”

Its also important to always be open to making new friends. Step up and introduce yourself. That person may become your friend and they may just change your life. Life is too short to spend alone so strike up a conversation. Find out what you have in common. What do you have to lose?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

6 Reasons College Is Better Than High School

1. You get to design your own schedule
Don't like getting up at 7:00? Then sign up for later classes. Want to only have to go to math class twice a week? Sign up for a Tuesday/Thursday math class. You can choose how many classes you want to take, when you want to take them, and what courses you want to take. I am not a morning person so my earliest class has been at 9:00. This semester my first class starts at 10:45 and I have a two hour lunch break. You may not always get what you want (although, I have so far) but even if you don't, you have much more freedom than you ever did in high school.

2. Your student ID actually does something
I don't know about you but I never used my high school ID for anything. In college, your college ID can do a lot for you. It can get you discounts at your favorite clothing stores and restaurants. To pay for your meals or items at the campus store you simply swipe your card. You can get free tickets to school plays, musicals, and concerts. I've gotten 3 free tickets to plays and admission to a football game with my ID. Student IDs are powerful little cards in college.

3. You get to work towards your dream more directly
In high school your classes are usually either generals or fun classes that don't really mean much but interest you. In college, most of your classes are degree centered so you get to learn about things that will benefit you in your field of choice and help you in real world. In high school I got so bored with taking classes that didn't teach me anything that I would ever need in life or in pastoral ministry. American Lit class made me want to smack my head against a wall (even though I love reading). In college, I am working towards my dream of someday reaching people for Christ as a knowledgeable pastor.

4. You get to meet new people all the time
Even if you went to a big high school chances are your college will be even larger. I went to a small school where I ran into pretty much my entire grade of 50 every day. Everyone knew everyone. In college, I am constantly meeting new and exciting people. You also get the opportunity to meet people with similar interests. Many classes will be for your major and its in those classes you get the opportunity to meet people who have similar dreams and passions as you.

5. You get a lot of exercise just going from class to class
Some may see this as a downfall but I rather like getting the opportunity to add a little more exercise to days when I spend most of my time in class or studying. In the small high school I attended the longest it ever took me to get to class was approx. 120 seconds and if you so much as stepped outside you got into trouble. At college I get to walk to class with the cool breeze blowing on my face and snowflakes lightly falling in my hair all while breathing in the chilled air. I sure couldn't do that walking from history to lunch in high school.

6. There is simply more freedom
In every respect there is more freedom in college than in high school. You can eat whatever you want whenever you want. For example, during my first semester I wasn't able to make it to my normal math class so I went to a 7:50 class instead. During the lecture the guy next to me pulled out an economy sized jar of peanut butter and went to town. Interesting choice of breakfast but you have to applaud him for exercising his freedom. Speaking of class, honestly in many cases you don't even have to show up if you don't want to. Now some professors are strict on attendance but many don't really care. Also,  no one curses you if you are late. Some people walk into my history class 30 minutes in and no one seems to care one bit. You don't have to ask the professor permission to leave or for a bathroom break. You simply go. There is so much more freedom in college than in high school.

Some photos (courtesy of Pinterest) that accurately describe some interesting aspects of the college experience...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Dangers of Trying to Read and Reach Ahead

“We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take time to enjoy where we are.”
― Bill Watterson

Lewis, a young orphan inventor, is close to giving up on his invention. Little does he know that his invention will lead to more inventions and his work will change the world. Because he is on the brink of giving up, a young boy his age comes from the future in order to convince him to keep working on it. On this journey, he of course wants to know about his own future.

This is not an uncommon desire. Most of us dream and hope about our own futures. Especially people my age. We want to know where we are supposed to go to college, what to major in, who we are going to marry, what career we should pursue, where we should live, how much to spend on a car, and well, everything else. We are curious and we want to know what our lives will be like. Thinking ahead seems like a really good idea and people are generally applauded for thinking about their futures. And they should be. Having a plan for the future is admirable. But how much of our futures should we be reading ahead on?

There is no certain percentage of your time or a magical number of minutes a day you should or should not spend thinking about your future but you should remember to keep in mind the disadvantages to spending your present living in the future.

I have many dreams for my future. I look forward to someday leading people to Christ, starting a church, living in New Orleans, getting married, and raising a family. Some days I just want to be 30 already and get a move on my life. But then I stop and I think. What could I miss out on if I skipped to being 30? I would miss so much.

If we live in the future, we will miss out on our present. We cannot live our lives thinking "if only I had this I would be happy". Psalm 118:24 says "this is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it". We say carpe diem (seize the day) but how many of us do? It's easy to slip into a dreamlike state and walk around and think about how great life'll be someday. What's hard is living in the moment because there are problems in our present. There's struggles in every season of our lives. They are always different but they are always there. News flash: your life you won't be perfect when you graduate high school, go to college, get married, have kids, get a promotion, or buy a new house. There will always be struggles. When we picture the future we don't tend to picture the obstacles. We don't think about the stress having kids would bring - only what a joy they would be. We don't think about the struggles of living away from home - only what freedom it would bring.

But guess what, there aren't just struggles in every season of our lives. There are also great strengths in every season. When we are in our dorms crying because we have got so much work we are growing and more importantly, we are also forced to rely on God's strength and not our own. When we get a job and are the low man on the totem pole we are able to gain new respect for those people and work harder towards our goals. With everything we do we are able to grow from it in some way and we are always able to lean on God's strength through hard times.

What I want you to know today is this: God has a beautiful story written for you but He isn't going to let you see it. It's better that way. Trust Him on that. And although its good to do some planning about your future it is more important to appreciate and live in the season you are currently in in your life. And when you find yourself longing for another's life season remember that there are struggles in their season too. You only see their fruit. Very rarely do you see the fight they went through to make it all happen. Embrace the good things happening in your life now and don't forget to seize the day.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
― Henry David Thoreau

A lot of the ideas and phrases in my post were from a wonderful sermon by Steven Furtick. I would encourage you to listen to it. You can find it here:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Why "Grease" Should Not Be Our Favorite Love Story

Grease is the highest grossing musical to date, was selected by Empire as one of the 500 greatest movies of all time, and won the People's Choice Award for favorite overall motion picture in 1979. It is a popular musical, movie, and soundtrack. Most people can't help but at least tap their foot (if not break into song and dance completely) when they hear "You're The One That I Want".

But what does Grease really teach us? Well, just look at the first song after the credits: "Summer Nights". The first thing Danny mentions about Sandy is that she was crazy for him (note: he doesn't mention being crazy for her) and the first thing Sandy tells all her friends about Danny is that he is cute. Danny's friends then ask about the "important stuff". They ask him about how far he got and Sandy's friends focus on "important things" too. They make sure Danny had a great car (because of course the measure of a guy is by how great his car is, right?). Thankfully Sandy's friends do later get back to the real questions ("was it love at first sight?") but Danny's friends never seem to care much about love (their next question is "did she put up a fight?"). They both say it is a fling that "don't mean a thing" right in the song. Yet at the end they also say they made a "true love vow". What was it: a fling or true love? They don't seem to focus too much on actually being in love with one another and neither do their friends.

Still, the part of the movie I want to draw the most attention to is the end. Sandy changes herself completely for Danny. She starts smoking, she dresses in leather and dark clothes, and she changes her attitude. And Danny eats it up. He loves this new fake version of Sandy, not the real and true Sandy. Then they sing "You're The One That I Want" as a duet. I might buy that Sandy wants Danny but I don't buy that Danny really wants Sandy, not as she really is. Look, love is sacrifice but it is not changing who you are for someone. And that is exactly what she did. 

What kind of message does this send to people, especially young teens? Change yourself for a man. Pick up some leather pants, start smoking, and play hard-to-get and then he will throw himself at your feet. We shouldn't strive to be like Sandy and Danny. Enjoy the movie for its music but make sure you don't ever let yourself take the "love story" or terrible life lessons to heart. It may have catchy tunes but movies like Grease shouldn't be our favorite love stories.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Devil's Second Greatest Trick

In The Usual Suspects Roger Kint said "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist". I believe this is absolutely true. I think the devil is constantly pulling tricks on us without us ever realizing it because he has convinced the world he doesn't even exist. After he convinced us that he didn't even exist, his second greatest trick was trying to convince us that could never be good enough, that God could never forgive us, and that we don't matter.

The devil is constantly trying to tear us down. And that is why we must flood our lives with messages that tell us we are good enough, we are forgiven, and we do matter. The best place for us to find messages like that is the Bible.

In the Bible, we are constantly given reminders that we matter and we are loved.  In Psalm 139:13-14 it says "for you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." God knows us because He made us. Not only did He create us and gave us life, but He also gave us the opportunity to know Him intimately and have the chance to spend eternity with Him. God wouldn't do that for someone He didn't love and value. Matthew says in Matthew 6:26 "look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?". God cares for every being on Earth, even the birds in the sky. When we flood our lives with messages like this the devil doesn't have as strong a hold on us.

Inadvertently, the Bible also shows us that we are good enough. God chose to do some of His greatest works through some of the unlikely and unqualified people. Rahab was a prostitute yet God used her. Even after David had an affair with a married woman God still used him. Jonah ran from God but God never gave up on Him. Paul was once Saul and in his early days he killed Christians but God still used him. By simply picking up the Bible, one quickly encounters imperfect people being used by a perfect God. God uses everyone because everyone is good enough for God.

One of the greatest ways the devil tries to grab hold of us is to condemn us when we sin. He tries to convince us that God could not love us after what we did and when the devil has us in his vice grip of condemnation we are incapacitated. We cannot do what God has called us to, which is exactly what the devil wants. This is exactly why we must hold on to God's truth. In this life, we will make mistakes but God forgives us. In Isaiah 43:25 God said“I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins”. His love is over and underneath us. We could never be so good that we don't need Him but we could never do anything so bad that He would turn away from us. Mike Donehey from Tenth Avenue North says "we’re all so bad that Jesus had to die for us and that humbles us, but at the same time we’re so loved that He was glad to die for us... He went higher than the highest and lower than the lowest bearing our sins on the cross, so that gives us great hope in our fears of whether or not we can be loved".

If we live our lives knowing and accepting that Christ died for us then we have got a hold over the devil. If we bask in the love of God and know that He says we matter, we are good enough, and we are forgiven then we can fight the devil and evade his tricks.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cherry on Top: God's Final Creation & Why It Matters

This Is Not the Way It Is Supposed To Be
If you glance at a magazine in a grocery store, click on the TV, or watch a movie trailer on YouTube then chances are you will see some mistreatment of women. This is a commonplace scenario in modern times. Women are too often photo-shopped to impossible media standards, objectified, abused, and simply not taken seriously. Here is what I know: this is not what God had in mind. Yet, women have been mistreated for years. This is not new. Perhaps the ways women are being mistreated have changed but the fact that it has happened for years remains a fact.

Mistreatment of Women in the Past
In the years leading up to and following the famous Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, which was the first meeting where women's rights were discussed, there were many different struggles that women faced. They faced issues like the non-existent voting rights, lack of marital rights, downright small number of jobs available to women, and few opportunities concerning educational rights. The fact that women fight struggles is an age old fact, even if the struggles women are currently fighting are different than those that have been fought in the past.

The Need for Women
Even though women have always fought for equality, it doesn't mean that women are not equal to men. Women are very important. In fact, women are just as important to God as men are. Did you know that women were God's final creation? After creating light, dark, water, earth, sky, animals, plants, and man He knew the world was not yet complete. There was something missing. In Genesis 2:18 it says "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." No animal or other creation would do. A whole new creation was necessary. This is when God created the first woman, Eve. You see, God could have just created another man and worked out a different way to reproduce. Then Adam wouldn't have been alone but that wouldn't do. Adam needed something different. He needed a woman. And women were the final creation - the cherry on top. Women see the world differently. They think differently. Men and women are very different but those differences are needed. Aristotle once said “The community needs both male and females excellences or it can only be half-blessed”.

The Acts of One Woman
Although one woman cannot change how everyone sees women, one woman can change how a few others see women. Look how the acts of one woman have shaped our world. Esther and Ruth are the only 2 women with books of the Bible named after them. They are still widely talked about today. Dozens of books have been written about them and they inspire Christian women every day. Jane Addams was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Her work with the Hull House is remembered to this day. Oprah's talk show is the most popular daytime TV program in history and her network, movies, and books are quite popular. Oprah is known and respected by many. Clara Barton started the Red Cross which makes a huge impact in people's lives today. Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, which opened the door for more women in government. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, which showed women's independence and ability. All these women have together changed how the world saw women. They have shown women's power. And you can too.

How Every Woman Can Change How Men See Women
Maybe you won't win a Nobel Peace Prize or start a large organization but you too can show men a different idea of women. If you want to be treated differently than women who dress scantily and pose for advertisements you have to act differently than those women. Act how you wish to be treated. If you want to be treated with grace and dignity, then you should act with grace and dignity. If you want to be respected and not loved purely for your body you should act respectably and dress modestly. If you want power and responsibility then you should take a position of leadership. Is this guaranteed to work? Will men automatically respect you? No. Sometimes even if a woman acts in a dignified way she will not always be treated that way. But does that mean women should just give in to the way the world expects us to be? No. Everything worth having is worth fighting for. Respect and equality is worth fighting for.

The Value of Women
Even when we are not seen as women of grace and dignity it doesn't mean we don't have value. No matter how the world sees us we are daughters of the One True King. God loves and knows us because He made us. He values us highly. In fact, Jesus died for you and me. Even if you were the only person on Earth He would still have died for you. God loves us all - man and woman.

Women are not viewed the way God intended. Women are mistreated and have been for generations. However, women are still needed and important. Women are the cherry on top of creation. The world was not complete without women. Women have changed history and women of today can change the world we live in too. Women can work towards equality by showing that they are equal to men. They can act with grace and dignity and make a difference in the world. Above all though, women must always remember their infinite value they have because of their standing with God.